“Always take care of your tools” was a mantra that my father drummed into me from early on. Keep them clean, put them away after using them, treat them well, and they will work for you. Dad would set aside time every week to maintain his tools. On Saturday mornings he would pull out the whetstone and work his knife blade until it was sharp enough to shave the hair on his arms. Over the years, that smooth whetstone started to wear down a bit, curving where he used it, but it never wore out. And it kept his knives, the tools of his trade, honed to a fine sharpness.
You can have the fanciest knife with the coolest handle and fabulous pedigree, but, it isn’t worth anything if it’s dull. A dull knife can be dangerous. A dull knife is just a piece of metal with a handle.
Keeping your knife sharp and in good condition doesn’t require lots of fancy equipment….just a whetstone (sharpening stone), a bit of lubricant (water or mineral oil) and some know how.
How to sharpen your knife using a whetstone-
- Most whetstones have a rough side and a fine grained side. You can feel the difference by rubbing a thumbnail against it. If your knife is particularly dull, start with the rough side, otherwise, just go with the fine.
- Wet the stone well with water or mineral oil. Mineral oil will help keep the knife blade clean, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. Water works, and may be more available in the field.
- Hold the knife blade against the stone at a 15-20% angle. Some people prefer to pull the knife against the stone towards them; others pull away… totally up to you.
- Give the knife blade 5 or 6 easy strokes on one side (you aren’t trying to go THROUGH the stone). Work it at an angle to get the length of the blade. Flip over and do the same for the other side.
- Alternate back and forth, one side then the other, for a few more stokes.
- If you started on the rough side, switch over to the fine grained side now and repeat.
- Test for sharpness.
If you use your knife frequently, you should sharpen it once a week. Remember, take care of your tools, and they will take care of you. A great Basic Whetstone to get you started is made by Winco. It has a fine and a medium edge, It should last a lifetime.
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