Originally published November 22, 2010 at midnight, updated November 21, 2010 at 1:59 p.m.
Sometimes considered a lost art by laymen, sharpening a knife with a whetstone is easier than you think. Whet means to sharpen and many will argue that a dry whetstone is better than a wet whetstone. Most manufacturers of whetstones encourage the use of oil or water to dissipate heat and float metal shavings away from the blade during the sharpening process. Others claim the liquid actually clogs the pores of the stone and gives the knife a jagged edge. All agree that once oil or water is used on a particular whetstone, it must be used with that stone for all future sharpening.
Step 1: Two stones are better than one. Most knives will need a medium and a fine grit stone to achieve the perfect edge. For extremely dull or damaged knives, a coarse stone is recommended first.
Step 2: Lay the whetstone on a wooden cutting board with the medium or coarse grit facing up. Lay the knife atop the stone at a 45 degree angle with the handle and cutting edge near the top of the stone. Grasp the handle of the knife with one hand and pinch the top of the blade with the other hand.
Step 3: Keeping the edge of the blade on the stone, raise the blade up from the stone to approximately a 22-1/2 degree angle.
Step 4: Apply medium to light pressure and slowly pull the knife from handle to tip along the length of the stone. Keep both the 45 and 22-1/2 degree angles consistent while working the blade down and across the stone.
Step 5: Repeat this process five to 10 times on both sides of the knife. Keep the same angles and pressure with each pass of the blade to assure both sides are sharpened evenly.
Step 6: Once the knife has been sharpened on the medium or coarse grit stone, repeat the process using a fine grit stone. Again, lay the knife on the stone at a 45 degree angle, but this time raise the knife up to a 30 degree angle. Pull the knife from handle to tip along the length of the stone, applying lighter pressure than before. Decrease the pressure with each consecutive stoke until the final pass is made with only the weight of the blade bearing down on the stone. Repeat the process equally on both sides of the blade.