What’s a whetstone?

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Whetstones are tools used to sharpen bladed tools, available in varying degrees of hardness and grit. They can be made of stone, carbon steel, diamond, or other substances. Hand stones are good for fine honing work, while electric grinders can be used for sturdier blades. Sharpening techniques vary depending on the blade, and a bad sharpening job can ruin a tool.

A whetstone is a tool designed to help people restore the sharp edges of bladed tools. Whetstones are available for all types of tools, from knives to axes, with varying degrees of hardness and grit, customized for specific metals. Many hardware stores carry whetstones, and kitchen supply stores typically carry whetstones designed specifically for knives; kitchen stones are also called whetstones.

There are several ways to use a whetstone, but they all work on the principle that a blade can be sharpened by rubbing against a rough surface. Traditionally, whetstones were literally made of stone, although modern whetstones can be made of carbon steel, diamond, and a variety of other substances, depending on what they’re designed for.

Sharpening stones can be divided into two basic categories: hand stones and stones mounted on electric grinders. Handstones are good for fine honing work, like knives, while electric grinders can be used for sturdier blades like axes and machetes. Given that different blades require unique sharpening techniques, it should come as no surprise that some people refer to professionals when it comes to sharpening tools, as a bad sharpening job can ruin a tool.

Hand held stones can be designed as hand held blocks or as rods held by a long handle. The whetstone blade is repeatedly swiped across the face of the whetstone to sharpen an edge. Depending on how a blade was sharpened in the first place, it may need to be held at a specific angle or sharpened in a particular way. As the blade is sharpened on one side, a small lip of material called a burr forms; the burr is removed by turning the blade over and tapping it on the whetstone a few times.

Electric stones typically rotate in a circle, requiring the user to hold the blade in question against the grinding surface to sharpen it. Using an electric whetstone requires skill, as it’s easy to sharpen a blade or create an uneven grind by not applying consistent pressure to the blade. A skilled manipulator can use an electric grinder for knives, scissors and an assortment of other tools. Commercial-grade grinders are capable of sharpening very large, strong blades such as those used in paper-cutting machines in print shops.

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