My favorite whetstones


by Sami P., 01.08.2022

In January, I wrote a blog post on "What to consider when choosing a whetstone". Now I would like to go a little deeper and look at what the whetstone user gets by investing in a higher-quality Japanese grindstone.

I have made many whetstone comparisons and found that the only natural way to compare stones is to sharpen the same knife with different stones one after the other.  This is the best way to distinguish between feel, efficiency, and overall performance. However, testing is not easy, as many whetstones require several uses before all the characteristics of the stone are known.  There is plenty to learn about grinding stones and their characteristics for a long time

A general question I am asked is: As a beginner, what do I get if I invest €250 in a whetstone compared to, say, a stone from the Hiomakivi Pack V3?

This is relatively easy to answer. You get more efficiency, durability, and ease of use. 

On reflection, I have found that many users of the Hiomakivi Pack V3, for example, are perfectly happy with their stones and may not even need anything else. After all, Hiomakivi Pack stones are both large and efficient enough to withstand heavy use for a long time. However, if a user of these stones gets to try out the high-quality Naniwa Professional stones, the feedback is usually immediate and very direct. The difference in efficiency and usability is vast. 

WHERE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN whetstones ARE GREATEST


A common misconception is that only the whetstones' coarseness matters. Therefore, a 400 grit stone would be the one that would allow me to fix minor blade problems and put the angles in shape. 

The truth is revealed when you start testing the stone with different metals. After all, you don't need much if you only use the stone to sharpen basic market knives and ordinary chromium steel Puukko knives. However, the situation is quite different when you have a high-quality folding knife or a Bushcraft knife with a blade, say, Elmax steel. Over the last few years, several knife manufacturers have been turning to this quality metal. 

I have said many times that the Naniwa Professional series is a uniformly good - or even the best - whetstone for all steels. You won't get into trouble with it, whether sharpening Elmax, SN35VN, SG2, or any other powder or tool steel.


THE IMPORTANCE OF THE COMFORT OF USE OF A whetSTONE


If you only sharpen your knives a few times a year, it's unlikely to be an issue, and you certainly won't have time to miss the convenience. However, if you sharpen knives monthly, you will get a better feel for the subject. 

Strange as it may sound, cooking with a lousy frying pan or cutting a tomato with a dull knife gradually annoys you. The same phenomenon occurs when the whetstone is ineffective or when you feel an unpleasant grating sensation on your fingers when sharpening.

I have learned to value the comfort of the whetstone very highly: efficiency comes first, and comfort comes second. Therefore, I usually choose the stone I use based on these criteria. 

The comfort of use is a very personal matter. Different users value different things. For me, ease of use means a smooth, silent movement on the stone that reveals still loose metal and can be easily removed from the stone surface without using separate surface-forming stones.  

DURABILITY OF WHETSTONES


Whetstones have hardened considerably over the years. 

Hard stone brings with it durability. However, until ten years ago, many very soft, often soaker stones were available. These stones are still available, but this property is starting to disappear with quality stones.

There are still many soft, even sandy stones among the coarser whetstones. The effectiveness of these stones is based on their easily detachable abrasive material. However, as I have often said, the softer, more powerful stones require more learning before the demanding stone user can get the most out of the soft, coarse stones. 

One of the most exciting and effective soft stones is the Imanishi WZ400. Once you learn to control the amount of water and find the correct pressure to apply, you can work wonders with this stone. It's often powerful enough, even with more challenging metals. 

IMANISHI WZ 400
 
IMANISHI WZ 400
38.00 €
(3)
Available in stock

As a general rule, a hard stone will last and keep its shape for longer and will not need to be flattened as often. However, I want to remind you that even a surface hard stone will wear out in the middle during just one sharpening operation. Therefore, even if the eye cannot see this wear, it is necessary to smooth it immediately if the subsequent sharpening is a fillet knife, scissors, or razor. 

Whetstones rarely break down. Hairline fractures and cracks can occur if the stone is stored incorrectly. It is important to remember that if a stone is not sinkable, it means it is.  

After use:
  • Rinse the stone.
  • Dry it in a towel.
  • Please leave it to dry in an open area with its narrower side.

The stone will dry for more than 24 hours. Even if the surface is dry, moisture may still be absorbed into the stone. Do not place the stone in an enclosed space when wet. Plastic bags or tight boxes are not the right places to store the stone.


WHICH WHETSTONES I USE MYSELF


I am often asked what the best whetstone is. This is because my job allows me to test a lot of different stones, and I use them all the time for customer sharpening. Because of this, specific stones tend to stand out from others in my personal favorites. 

Over the years, I have learned how to achieve the best results. When the Global G-2 comes through the door, I know exactly which stone to use and how much time it takes to sharpen. Similarly, when a Victorinox appears sharpened, there are more options. 

Both of these examples fall into the so-called easy sharpening category. More complex cases are usually found in the switchblade, survival, or bushcraft sections.  
I could get away with many of the sharpenings with almost any stone I sell. But, strangely, that hand sticks to the familiar and safe stones whose characteristics I have come to know. 

All the whetstones below have a few things in common. They are S&G stones, meaning they require very little water to work. You can start quickly, and there's no need to use a surface-forming stone. Those can be used if you wish. 

HIOMAKIVI.FI FAVOURITES LIST


This list results from several years of testing and use and is the best combo for my needs. Please note that this may not be the best option for you. However, I bet you would be at least satisfied with these stones.  

GRIT #400


I usually start sharpening a knife in average condition with a 400 grit stone. This ensures a quick set of angles and allows me to repair minor damage with this stone.  

It will come as a surprise to many that 400 is not always a coarse enough stone. If your knife has visible damage or is missing pieces, it's usually best to go even lower. 

My preference for a 400 stone has been obvious for a long time. Although I often test others, this is always the first one that sticks out in my mind: the Naniwa Pro 400.





GRIT #800


From this 400 stone, I almost always jump to the Naniwa Pro 800 stone.  For some reason, the Naniwa Pro 800 stone has become the most important stone for me. 

If I had to choose one stone, this would be powerful enough and highly comfortable to use. 

The stone starts working immediately without any extra operations. It also lasts a very long time - I don't even know how many knives I've sharpened, but my stone is still like new. 



GRIT #4000


After this so-called sharpening phase, the finishing begins, and the options for my favorite list become many more. 

Since I intended to pick one stone among many good ones, I ended up with Morihei 4000. 

This stone is at its best when it comes to carbon steel. It's completely different in usability to the Naniwa Pro series and takes a little longer to learn, but once you get the water control right, this is a sweet finisher.  

MORIHEI 4000
 
MORIHEI 4000
79.00 €
(4)
Available in stock


LEVELLING STONE + BASE + STROP


I level my whetstones before each use. I have several flattening stones, and I also recycle them. This way, I get to know how each flattening works with different whetstones. 

However, the best flattening stone is the Atoma 140 diamond. Its absolute advantage is efficiency, and this rough diamond also acts as an effective knife repairer.  
The base is Naniwa's reliable whetstone holder. I also hone each knife with leather. My personal favorite is the Soft version of my strops. This lovely leather gives just the right amount of response. I don't use pastes or similar when stropping. 

ATOMA 140
 
ATOMA 140
86.00 €
(3)
Available in stock
Naniwa Stone Holder
 
Naniwa Stone Holder
26.00 €
(6)
Available in stock
Leather Strop 400x75 'Soft'
 
Leather Strop 400x75 'Soft'
38.00 €
(1)
Available in stock


 

I go through my favorite whetstones in the video below with more extensive explanations.