When ordering whetstones for your sharpening needs, it can be a daunting task to figure out which stones will suit your tools best. On top of this question you may wonder if it is necessary to match all the whetstones to the same brand?
The honest answer is no – you do not ‘have’ to use the same brand stones throughout your sharpening progression. In an ideal world – yes it would be better, but for basically one reason only:
–Each company rates their whetstones at a specific grit (eg: 1000 grit). This in theory is fine, however in practice brand A’s 1000 grit whetstone may not match brand B’s 1000 grit whetstone.
If you mix and match too much, there is a small possibility you may get closer grit finishes than you expect (e.g: Brand A 1000 grit maybe closer to a 800 grit finish and Brand B’s 500 grit maybe closer to a 700 grit finish). So you can see the difference on your tool is no longer a 500 grit difference as you first thought – but in fact only 100 grit (so your buying two stones that could potentially be sharpening very close to each other and in turn you make no real advancement). This can actually be more an issue when mixing diamond abrasives to whetstones using aluminum oxide for a simple example. But never the less should be mentioned just to to fair.
Now, that is the only real negative outcome (although not that bad anyway). The positive side to mixing is increasing your options. Let us say you buy a Coticule or purchased a set of medium, fine and extra fine Arkansas natural stones. All is well as you keep up with your sharpening duties and these natural stones are all you need. But one weekend, you really ding your blade and chip it, or you work with your knife or tool all weekend and it gets extremely blunt and now won’t even slice through hot butter, or you wish to change the angle of your bevel from a 20 degree to 15 degree each side. These things do happen. Now, you may with sometime be able to restore your edge with a natural Coticule or your Arkansas set-up, but it will take considerable time to do so. So in this instance you really need to jump brands and go for a nice course synthetic stone or two, to get you back on track to either restore that very dull edge, remove those chips or change the bevel.
After you do this, you can go back to the natural coticules or Arkansas as usual. So in this example, mixing was necessary and was not a problem at all – it helped. In this instance, just ensure you rinse the tool well between stones (as you would anyway) to ensure all the slurry and swarf (steel particles) are washed away first and are not carried onto the next stone. This way each and every stone is approached with a clean blade.
If unsure, you can always ask!