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6 Different Types of Sharpening Stones Available for Knives

Correctly sharpening your knife plays a significant role in its function and durability. A dull knife doesn’t only poorly cut and damage your food items. It also poses an occupational hazard. So, to truly make the most of even the best quality knife, you need to sharpen it.

But, before you opt for just about any option on the market, you need to learn about the different types of sharpening stones. Whether you want to sharpen a chef’s knife, santoku knife, or sushi knife, there’s always the right sharpening stone for each. So, check out our detailed guide to find out everything there is to know about sharpening stones.

What Is a Sharpening Stone?

Also known as a whetstone, a sharpening stone is a tool used to grind and hone the edges of blades on knives and other kitchen tools to make them sharper. A sharpening stone features an abrasive surface made from tiny rough-edged particles responsible for sharpening the edges when in contact.

How Many Different Types of Sharpening Stones Are There?

There are six different types of sharpening stones you can commonly find on the market. These include water, oil, natural, ceramic, Arkansas, and diamond stones. Each sharpening stone features a unique formulation and works for certain knives.

01. Water Stone

Water Stone

The most popular sharpening stone on the market, as its name suggests, a water stone is a whetstone that uses water. To use the sharpening stone, you must first soak it underwater for about 10 to 15 minutes. In addition to their affordability and versatility, water stones come with many advantages. These types of sharpening stones are available in both natural and synthetic materials.

Synthetic water stones are made from aluminum oxide, while natural ones integrate various natural materials. They have a high abrasion surface, which gives them an excellent sharpening ability. They are relatively soft to provide a faster cutting performance as their older material shades faster with every use. Additionally, since they use water, it is easier to remove swarf than oil stones.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Faster cutting
  • Work for most knives
  • Available in synthetic and natural materials

Cons

  • The softness promote faster wear down quickly

02. Oil Stone

Oil Stone

Oil stones are standard traditional western stones commonly used in households. They are traditionally made from three common materials, i.e., aluminum oxide, silicon carbide, or novaculite.

While the first two materials are synthetic, novaculite is a natural material. As their name suggests, oil stones use oil for removing the swarf (metal filling) to allow for optimal sharpening performance.

However, the use of oil makes them a little messier to clean up than water stones. Unlike a water stone, oil stones come with several grit levels.  These include fine, medium, and coarse grit. The purpose of the grit levels is to give your knife a varying finish and polished edge. Of the three options, silicon carbide offers the fastest cutting. However, it doesn’t offer a finer edge than novaculite.

Pros

  • Longer lasting
  • Sharpen most knives
  • Three main grit levels
  • Using oil reduces friction

Cons

  • Slower cutting rate than water stones

03. Ceramic Stone

Ceramic Stone

Ceramic stones are specially built for ceramic knives and tools. These types of sharpening stones are made using ceramic materials. The ceramic material allows them to deal with the harder and robust ceramic blades. Ceramic blades feature a thin but stiff, hard, and brittle finish.

Therefore, if not properly handled, they can easily break or snap. Unlike the latter options, you don’t really have to soak ceramic stones in water or oil. This dry nature allows the knife blade to achieve a finer angle when sharpened. Like oil stones, ceramic stones feature different grit levels like oil stones, ranging from 600 to 2000.

Pros

  • Long-lasting
  • Ideal for ceramic knives
  • Nearly as hard as diamond stones
  • Dry functioning to achieve a finer sharpened angle

Cons

  • Delicate and can break on impact

04. Natural Stone

Natural Stone

Natural stones are made from quartz material such as novaculite. Unlike the three common knife sharpeners above, natural stones are rare and more expensive. These types of sharpening stones are not only loved for their rarity and beauty. They also last much longer than artificial ones. When used to sharpen a knife, they offer a much slower cutting function.

However, they result in producing a more refined and controllable edge. Since you can find a range of natural stone types on the market, they also integrate different grain sizes and coarseness. A natural stone will have a grit level range of 6000 to 8000.

Pros

  • Rare
  • Beautiful in appearance
  • Different coarseness and grain levels
  • Produces a sharper and refined edge

Cons

  • Expensive

05. Arkansas Stone

Arkansas Stone

Arkansas stones are a type of natural stone sourced exclusively from the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas. Arkansas stones are made from quart material known as novaculite and come in four grades. These include soft, hard, black, and translucent Arkansas stones. Soft stones have a coarse finish, hard stones have a fine grit finish, while black stones have an extra-fine finish.

Additionally, translucent Arkansas stone features an extra-fine stone finish as well. Arkansas stones allow you to use either oil or water for lubrication, depending on your personal choice. Their versatility and impressive sharpening ability make Arkansas stones ideal for most types of knives and kitchen tools.

Pros

  • Hardness improves its versatility
  • Multiple grades and grit levels
  • Exclusively mined from Arkansas
  • Hexagonal shape for outstanding sharpening

Cons

  • Somewhat pricey

06. Diamond Stone

Diamond Stone

Diamond stones are designed by attaching small diamonds to the face of a metal plate. Diamond sharpening stones are among the hardest on the market. Due to this hardness, they can even sharpen brittle blades such as those on ceramic knives. Additionally, diamond stones are great for sharpening hunting knives, survival knives, and fishing hooks. Generally, you can use a diamond sharpener for high carbon, stainless steel, and ceramic blades.

Diamond sharpening stones come in two different types. These include the most common types, i.e., diamond stone styles with holes in the diamond surfaces to capture the swarf. Diamond styles cut fast and are extremely easy to use. The next type is a continuous diamond surface used for sharpening knives or tools with points that may get caught in holes of diamond stone styles.

Pros

  • Durable
  • Cuts fast
  • Sharpen harder blades
  • Come in two common types

Cons

  • Very expensive

How Long Do Sharpening Stones Last?

A sharpening stone should last you anywhere between 2 and 6 years. However, this duration varies with the use and type of stone. In fact, sharpening stones with a higher hardness rate, like diamond stones, will last you more, about ten to twenty years.

What Types of Sharpening Stones Do Professionals Use?

Professionals prefer to use diamond sharpening stones, particularly industrial diamonds. While expensive, they offer excellent durability and sharpening performance. Professional chefs like to pair their sharpening stone with a steel honing rod.

However, you will also find chefs who prefer to use Japanese water stones, which offer great sharpening performance equally. A Japanese water stone is perfect for steel chef knives and Japanese knives.

What Size Sharpening Stones Should You Buy?

You should buy sharpening stones with grits ranging from 700 to 1200 for normal sharpening. For rough sharpening, when you want to remove chips on the edge or restore a dull knife, a 120 to 400 grit stone is fine. However, you will need a higher size of at least 1000 to 3000 grits for harder knife blades.

Are Expensive Whetstones Worth It?

Expensive whetstones are worth it if you want a more durable option. In most cases, expensive whetstones are made from high-quality synthetic or natural materials and offer excellent sharpening function, with finer edges. They are also more durable. 

Final Thoughts

Learning about the different types of sharpening stones makes it easier to pick the right option for your needs. After all, a correctly sharpened knife will do wonders in the kitchen and prevent unwanted injuries. So, whether you own a Japanese knife, a ceramic knife, or a boning knife, there’s always a suitable sharpener stone for you.

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