It’s no secret that behind every legendary blade there is a very special honing process dedicated to maintaining its properties and qualities, especially its sharpness. One of the best ways to get there is to use the best Japanese water stones that you can find.
Water stones, also called whetstones are a great tool to keep your knives sharp and in good condition. They are usually submerged in water for around thirty minutes so that there is less friction than it would be if a knife would simply pass straight against the stone. That’s where their name, water stones, comes from. However it is important to remember to dry them before storing it away as their porous surface can be vulnerable to mold formation.
For any knife enthusiast that values their belongings, this is a must have item. However that is not the biggest benefit whetstones carry. Not only they would increase the sharpness of your blade but will also be able to introduce you to the habit of taking care of your blades and if you previously didn’t need to have this routine it will prove invaluable to the health of your tools.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying a Japanese Water Stones
The most important characteristic of a whetstone is its grit level. It defines how harsh or soft the stone will be on your blades and therefore gives us a clue of how much steel will be removed with each pass.
The lower the number, the tougher it will be as well as a higher number will indicate a softer stone surface. For example a 240 grit stone is considered a whetstone capable of removing most blade chipping that a knife may have.
A 1000 grit stone on the contrast will be capable of removing the same chipping that a whetstone with grit 240 but it will do so with the need of more passes while degrading the whetstone faster.
From 3000 to 10000 are softer stones designed to refine and polish the blade. Above 10000 there is no practical advantage observed in the knife sharpening.
Just as you would use sandpaper on a wall, you want to start with the rougher stones to get rid of really serious damage and work your way up to grit 8000 to finish the honing process.
The stone will degrade over time in the areas that it was used. Usually around some edges it might become uneven and in some areas it may turn hollow or present small slopes. That is why it is important to have a flattening stone; to level the surface of the whetstone when these problems arise as if not attended will lead to an uneven honing process with unexpected results.
Japanese steel is usually sharpened at 10° to 15° degrees from the stone. This can prove to be quite challenging as it is easy to bump the precious damascus pattern a knife can have if accidentally you go lower than 10°.
Because of the movement involved in honing your blade, chances are, you are going to unconsciously change the attack angle at some point in the process.
To overcome this lack of angle consistency, manufacturers usually include an angle guide. It consists of a rubber support that becomes attached to the spine of the knife to direct the knife in a consistent angle over the whole process of sharpening as you now have a better idea of how high the blade is above the whetstone because the angle guide will be in the middle between both of them.
Every slight movement during the sharpening of a knife can lead to having to start the process all over again to actually chip the knife and leave it far worse than it was before. That is why it is crucial to have as much friction as possible between the stone and the surface where it is sitting so the stone doesn’t move with each knife pass.
That is why water stone kits will usually include some sort of base for the whetstone to be placed so it can hold on to something with a bigger surface area and therefore having less chances of a sudden movement of it.
They are usually made of different kinds of woods and depending on which one you choose it will determine how long they will last you. Bamboo bases are really good since its fibers are water resistant due to their high density. However there are better wood alternatives to choose from. Acacia is a great example of the sort of material that is superior to bamboo wood since its water resistance doesn’t depend on how hard their fibers are but rather of natural oils the tree provides during its growth resulting in added durability on the long term.
In our opinion, these are the Best Japanese Water Stones
Instead of coming with a bamboo base as most premium whetstone sets do, Shapu takes it a step further and includes an Acacia wood base to keep the whetstone from sliding during the sharpening process.
I’m blown away by how versatile this kit is. Ranging from 240 grit level for fixing knife chipping and more aggressive work to then continue with a 1000/3000 stone for blade sharpening to 10000 grit stones to remove any remaining burr left after the honing process. Every single whetstone you’ll ever need is included in this great combo.
It also included an angle guide which is perfect to maintain the right distance between the blade and the actual stone that is usually 10° to 15° degrees. It also comes with 4 silicone stone holders to further prevent the stone from moving away.
A case for carrying and storage is included as well in this kit. I love it and use it to keep my whetstones neatly organized when I’m not using them so they don’t get in the way of my everyday kitchen usage.
For professionals and home users that want to have detailed control over each step of the blade honing process this kit will prove to be everything you even need to have to take care of the health of your tools.
If you are worried about getting the perfect attacking angle for the pebble, this kit has you covered as it includes an angle guide to make your honing process much easier to perform and less prone to errors caused due to varying the angle while sharpening the blade.
The genuine cow leather strop is fantastic as it has its own base so I don’t have to worry about it dancing around the table. Instead I can simply focus on polishing it as it also comes with a honing/polishing component that will give blade edges a true mirror polish.
It’d be nice to have a greater variety of whetstones as when I had to fix some blade chipping it took more passes than it would have taken if I had a 240 stone. However it can still do the job with some extra work and that’s fine in my case.
If you’d like to get started taking care of your knives, honing them this is a great place to start as it has everything you need to have amazing results. Yes, it’s true that you may have to put some extra work if your blade is seriously damaged but it manages to get the job done regardless.
In terms of diversity this combo is great. For heavy duty fixing tasks like blade chipping its 400/1000 whetstone is very well suited for the job. When it comes to refined work the 3000/8000 whetstone will take off flawlessly.
Over time and with daily usage stones can experiment different kinds of deformations that may introduce entropy to the sharpening and honing process because of an uneven stone surface. To overcome this the Finew Sharpening Stone Kit also includes a flattening stone that will make sure you get consistent results across the whole stone.
I like the fact they included some leather strop. However It would be even better if it would be attached to a base instead of being able to move around because honing a knife is a delicate job and can easily damage the leather if you happen to hit it with the blade too directly. Even with this minor preference I would still consider it a great starting kit for its price.
This choice of grit level indicates that this kit will be useful to fix chipping and to start sharpening to a certain extent. Higher end knives will be much harder to sharpen to their fullest as the 1000 might be too harsh for a 63 rated in the Rockwell scale knife but it will definitely leave it sharper than it comes out of the box if you have experience with the sharpening process.
A base for this combo is not included meaning that you have better chances of having you sharp knife doing sudden movements as a result of the stone moving around if the surface in which you sit is somewhat slippery. To prevent this to a certain degree, Sharp Pebble included a standard non slip rubber base for it instead of including both the synthetic base and a wooden base to work together to create more friction.
We have explored different sets over the course of this article and it is time to come to a conclusion about what we think deserve special attention
If you want to make a safe bet and don’t have to worry about not having the right whetstone grit number, Shapu Premium Whetstone Set is a solid choice since it has eight difference grit levels that will make your sharpening and honing process smooth as you transition from harsh grit to silk smooth kind of grit. It also comes with a very durable acacia wood base that will last you for many years.
Although it could include a wider array of whetstones, what I love the most about the Sharp Pebble Complete Stone Set is that it has a leather strop with a bamboo base which makes the polishing of your knife a process so incredible easy and reliable. The 1000/6000 grit stones that it includes is ideal for all round usage if you have enough patience to do more passes to fix things like chipping with a 1000 grit stone.
For an entry level alternative the Sharp Pebble 1000/6000 Whetstone Set provides lots of value, specially to people who are just starting out to sharpen their knives as it includes good all round grit stones numbers, a bamboo base and a silicone intermediate base.
What do you think about this selection of the Best Japanese Water Stone? Which one do you think it best suits you? Please let us know in the comments below!