There’s Never Been a Better Time to Teach Yourself How to Properly Sharpen a Knife

Jillian Lucas
·2 min read

Focusing on small, tedious tasks that you can teach yourself in your spare time can really help with stress relief. As the world leans on things like Animal Crossing, tending to gardens, or taking up hobbies like coloring or needlepoint, we’re here to posit a different skill: knife sharpening. Keeping your knives sharp can help you cook better at home and feel more confident in the kitchen. You can learn to understand a blade and the weight of a knife to make better cuts. But that means you need to actually sharpen them.

What Is a Whetstone?

Yes, you could run your knives through an electric sharpener or a pull-through model, but it’s never going to be the same as sharpening it by hand. The main tool you need, besides the knife, is a whetstone. What’s a whetstone? It’s a rectangular block that you scrape at an angle to help refine and straighten a blade. It basically acts like sandpaper as you slide your knife up it. I also just now realized that “whet” doesn’t mean wet but it means “sharpen.” Go figure.

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How to Use a Whetstone

To use a whetstone, it needs to be...wet. Submerge it in water until no bubbles release from it, about 5-10 minutes. A 20 degree angle is the perfect height at which to grind your knife. Since eyeballing angles hasn’t been something you’ve probably done since high school geometry, stacking a couple of pennies helps you get a hand of how high to hold the knife. Then, just get to scraping. Slowly drag the knife (both sides) against the whetstone. The stones usually have a coarse and a fine side, so if you’re really going to town on a dull knife, first go coarse then switch to fine.

Take stock of the knives you have in your kitchen. Any knife, except for a serrated one, can be sharpened with a whetstone. You’ll get into the groove of running the knives along the stone and it’ll become an almost meditative act. Like a buddhist monk tending to a zen garden, you concentrate on strokes and the angle and your muscles will remember how to run the knife correctly. That way, even if you go back to ordering takeout every night and never cook again, you’ll at least have extremely sharp knives.

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