When I was a kid my dad would very carefully sharpen his knives with a whetstone using oil. After I discovered my oil intolerance I didn’t sharpen my knives because our whetstone had oil on it. I had no intention of becoming sick from a trace of industrial oil. As a present my mom bought me a new sharp knife.
It is a thing on beauty and I love it. I had no idea chopping things could be so easy! Thankfully she also bought me a water whetstone. Unlike the traditional stones that are whetted with oil this one is soaked in water. I don’t have a honer which apparently really helps keep knife edges straight but I could probably get one. I probably should too.
Sharpening my knives properly was kind of scary at first. I’m not terribly good at using a real whetstone, I have always simply used a cheap rolling sharpener which didn’t work terribly well. The whetstone works better. Reading has taught me that sharpening has to be done regularly so I have started doing it every other week.
The only difference between using oil and whetstone and a water whetstone is that with a water one it needs to be soaked first. I generally soak it overnight but a few hours is fine. My mom got me one with a plastic base and I have to say having a base does make it easier to use.
Most of the time I will get the knife damp and then start sharpening. But because the stone has been soaked I don’t think that is completely necessary. I’ve made a short video demonstrating the technique my dad showed me.
I don’t do as many strokes as are needed to make a knife sharp but there is nothing quite like seeing something done. The first stroke I made was at the wrong angle and I had to start again.
My dad told me to angle the knife so that it feels as if you are slicing off part of the whetstone. It takes a few tries to find the proper rhythm, but it gets easier with time. The sound when it is at the right angle is distinctive and I always listen as much as I try and gauge the feel.
I keep my water whetstone in its original box when not in use and you might notice in the picture of the box that it is a little warped. This is because one time I did not completely dry the stone out before putting it away. It takes almost two days to dry out where I live, which has fairly dry air. I know this because bread doesn’t mold when left out, it dries into a hard rock. I imagine in a place with higher humidity there might be a bit more of a difficulty getting the stone completely dry. Which is the only downside I can see to the water stone. Over all I think it is a great piece of equipment.