Proper Knife Sharpening Techniques for Beginners
Updated: Aug 9, 2020
Not sharpening their knives is the number one mistake that most home cooks make. Usually the reason that I hear is that it is too complicated or too technical. I think most of that comes from seeing celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsey honing his knives at 5000 mph in a series of fancy flourishes that aren't really changing anything. The reality is that sharpening knives is a lot easier than you'd think. With this simple tutorial and a little bit of practice you'll be the one sharpening knives for all of your friends.
Firstly, I did not cheat. This knife is a junk chefs knife that's been in my kitchen drawer (never put good knives in a drawer) for years. To make sure that it was thoroughly dull I took it outside and ran it over the sidewalk to kill any edge that it might have had.
The result was a completely destroyed knife...
How to start and what stones to use
The first step is to get your whetstones soaking in water for at least 10 minutes. The best way to do this is just a plastic container and cold tap water. If it's the first time you do this, you will notice air bubbles rising to the surface as the stones pores are filled with water.
Note: Place a damp paper towel or kitchen towel under the stone to keep it from moving when you start sharpening.
For this knife (thoroughly messed up from taking it on a sidewalk hike) I will be starting on a 400 grit stone. This is only ever needed for correcting chips in the blade. From there I will be moving to 1000, 3000, and finally finishing on 8000 grit. For normal home use I recommend getting a 2000/6000 grit stone. My stones were made by Knifeplanet (Not sponsored**I wish it was**) but any stone works. It is really easy to find a composite 2000/6000 grit stone for ~$20 online.
How to hold the knife
Hold the knife's handle with your dominant hand (I am right-handed so the pictures and videos display a right-handed grip. For left-handed people just reverse it). Use the middle three fingers on your other hand to hold the blade of the knife flat against the stone. Most knives are sharpened between 15 to 17 degree angles. Tilt the knife until the angle lines up with the angle the knife was set on. If you want you can adjust this angle slightly, although I don't recommend this for cheaper knives.
Use your non-dominant hand to apply pressure to the blade and move the knife forward and back across the stone. Move down the length of the blade as you go. See video below.
How to tell when to switch sides
Keep checking the edge of the blade. If you feel the side of the blade will feel a burr that builds up. Once that burr is formed you flip to the other side of the knife. Sharpening on the other side will remove the burr.
The process is repeated for each grit level.
The last step is to run the knife over a leather strap. This will remove any remaining burr from the knife and polish the blade. (EDIT** You can use a old leather belt for this step but it will scuff the leather so don't use a nice belt you plan on wearing)
As you can see all the chips are fully removed and the edge is sharp again!! This is a super easy process that only takes a few minutes if you are just maintaining the edge on a well cared-for knife. My one big tip is go slowly at first while you get used to the techniques focus on maintaining the same angle throughout the entire process.