A Step-by-Step Guide for Sharpening Knives Using Bench Stones

Step 1: Select the proper coarseness for your bench stone.

Selecting the proper coarseness for your bench stone is an important first step in sharpening your knife. Not every knife needs to start at the coarsest stone you have, on the other hand a very dull knife can not be sharpened on only your finest stone. Starting with the proper coarseness will ensure that you achieve the edge you need quickly. If your knife is very dull or has a nicked blade, start with your coarsest stone. The coarse stone removes material quickly so a poor edge can be refined quickly. However, the coarse stone must be followed up with your finer stone to refine the edge. If your knife is only slightly dull and just needs a quick touch up, starting at a medium or fine stone can save you time. Starting on a fine stone requires fewer steps but must only be used on an edge requiring little work.

Step 2: Select the right bevel angle.

Selecting the right sharpening angle is the next step in sharpening. For more detailed instructions on selecting the right angle. Regardless of the method of sharpening, a bevel angle should be selected. This angle doesn't need to be exact but following some general guidelines is a good idea. Most knife manufacturers recommend a roughly 20 degree angle. Depending on the use of your knife, you can move up or down from that angle. A fillet knife is never used on anything hard so an angle a few degrees less will produce a sharper edge. On the other hand, a survival knife with various uses can benefit from a more durable edge a few degrees larger.

Step 3: Apply water or oil to stone.

Some stones need water, while other stones need oil for floating the swarf (small metal filings created when sharpening) away. Simply apply a few drops of either oil or water directly to the stone. (We recommend using an inexpensive spray bottle for applying the water.) The lubricant you need is determined by the type of stone you are using. Water stones and diamond stones require water. Oil stones such as India, Crystolon and Arkansas stones use oil for a lubricant.

Step 4: Sharpening the knife.

Starting with the coarsest stone needed for your knife, you will progress through each finer stone until you have reached the desired level of sharpness.

Rest your knife on the stone at your chosen bevel angle. An easy method for determining the angle by eye is to visualize a 45 degree angle and then take half that amount. That will give you a ballpark estimate of the angle and then you can adjust accordingly up or down. With a slicing action bring the length of the knife across the stone with a motion that starts with the heel of the knife on the stone and ends with the point of the knife. The motion should resemble a sweeping arc pattern across your stone. Be very careful to maintain the angle of the knife on the stone. Longer curved knives provide additional challenges but as long as you can maintain the angle you will be sharpening very effectively. Repeat this process on the other side of the knife and continue repeating until you have sharpened your knife though all your stone grits.