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Video:Sharpening Knives With a Whetstone

with Danilo Alfaro

Knife sharpening is a skill that will not only keep your kitchen tools from getting dull - it will also save you money in the long run. Learn how to sharpen your knives at home with a whetstone.See Transcript

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Transcript:Sharpening Knives With a Whetstone

Hi! My name is Danilo Alfaro and I'm About.com's guide to culinary arts and today I'm going to show you how to sharpen a knife using a whetstone. First of all, a whetstone isn't a wet stone - contrary to the way some people use these things, you really don't want to get it wet.

Sharpening the Knife on an Angle

The important thing when sharpening a knife on a whetstone is keeping the right angle relative to the stone. The angle that we're going for is about 20-22 degrees - the way you can kind of eyeball is, if this is 90 - straight up and down - and 45 is about half of that, 22 or so is about another half of that, somewhere down there. You can buy a lot of really fancy, hi-tech angle guides for your knife to help you keep that angle. But there's also a very hi-tech device here that will accomplish the same thing, and it is your quarter-inch binder clip. All you do is just clip it on there like that, and that will kind of help you keep that angle straight.

Sharpening the Knife on the Whetstone

Once you've established that angle, imagine that you are just trying to slice a very thin layer off of the top of that stone. You could do this about a hundred times - it takes a lot of strokes. But, the benefit is that you don't have to take it to a knife sharpener, you save a little bit of money, you do it yourself, and you definitely feel a sense of accomplishment afterwards. It's a little bit MacGyverish. If you can sharpen your own knives, you're definitely somebody that won't get voted off the island.

Sharpen the Knife's Opposite Side

We're then just going to flip it over and do the same thing on this side - you can see it's a little trickier with the other motion. Once we've finished with the coarse grit, which grinds away a lot of metal, we're then going to flip it over to the fine grit, which is a lot smoother and will grind away less, but it will create a much finer edge on the knife. And so we're just going to do the same thing here - okay, that's the idea with that.

Knife Sharpening With a Honing Steel

This is a good technique for a beginner using a honing steel, because you're always sharpening away from you as opposed to... if you should slip this way, oops, right? If you just stick it with the tip down on your, whether it's your cutting board or it's this mat here, and just hold it steady like that. Take the blade and, again - you want that same 20 degree angle with your honing steel - and, as you're pulling it toward you, you're also drawing it down the length of the steel. Unlike with the whetstone, this really doesn't take that many strokes - it should really just take a few. And, we're going to do it on the other side.

Now, the last thing to remember is - because we've just ground off all kinds of little, tiny metal filings as well as possibly little bits of stone - it's important to wash this thing off and dry it really well before you start to prepare your food because then otherwise you end up with little metal filings in your BLT, and that's not very good. And that's how you sharpen a knife with a whetstone.

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