Good kitchen knives are a must if you spend time in the kitchen daily. Plus, having a set of chef’s knives will allow you to tackle all sorts of cooking challenges.
For example, Wusthof is a leader in the market for kitchen cutlery, and the two-century-old family business produces some of the finest blades in the world.
Hence, buying a Wusthof knife is a deliberate investment for honing your cooking skills. However, there comes the task of learning how to keep the knives in tip-top condition.
You can choose between several methods, like using an electric sharpener. Also, you can always hire a pro to re-sharpen your knife.
Naturally, this will add to the cost you’ve already reserved for upgrading your kitchen cutlery set. Learning how to do it yourself is the logical next step.
If you’re looking for a cheaper solution that won’t take too long to learn, there’s the classic method of using a whetstone. Even if a whetstone is not ideal for premium knives, it is nonetheless a viable option.
Yet, there’s some challenge in mastering how to sharpen a Wusthof knife with a whetstone properly.
This article is the ultimate beginner’s guide to using a whetstone to sharpen your Wusthof knife (or any other knife you may have).
At the same time, we’ll shed light on the common blade sharpening terminology so you can quickly get up to speed.
How to Sharpen a Wusthof Knife With a Whetstone: A Step-By-Step Guide
1. Set Up Your Workstation
You should set everything up on a flat surface like a kitchen counter or table. Then, lay out a towel. If it is not splash-and-go, you should have soaked the whetstone for about 30 minutes before using it.
If it is splash-and-go, wet it and set it up. A whetstone kit would typically come with the base, whetstones, and maybe a cleaning stone.
Depending on your knife’s dullness, you can start with a stone of 400 grit and then switch up to 1000 if you have these in your kit. Generally, you should go from a whetstone with the lowest grit to the one with the highest.
Also, if your knife is not very blunt, skip the stones with grits below 1000. Next, put the base on the towel and set the stone.
Some kits come with safety gloves. As a beginner, if yours does not come with gloves, we advise that you get anti-cut gloves to shield your hands.
2. Sharpen Your Wusthof Knife
The best thing to do is to determine the original angle the knife was sharpened at and follow it.
You can do this by angling the blade on the stone with the tip pointed up and moving the knife slowly downward from the heel. You should follow the blade’s arch at all times.
Slowly alter the angle as the spine gets closer to the stone. Do this until there’s zero friction between the knife edge and the board. Next, raise the spine a little bit and sharpen at that angle.
Alternatively, you can place your forefinger under the spine of your Wusthof knife to raise it to roughly the average sharpening angle.
Maintain that angle and move your blade in single strokes from the heel to the top of the whetstone.
Alternate the side of your knife with each stroke. In that way, you’ll avoid the risk of creating a burr and will also have an easier time keeping the same direction.
3. Switch to a Finer Stone
If you started with a coarse stone, move up to using a higher grit whetstone to finish the job. Maintain a consistent angle with each stroke like you did before.
As for how long it’ll take, it depends on the state of your blade. You can tell that your knife is sharp enough from the scraping sound it makes against the stone and by looking at it. However, be very careful when checking with your fingers.
4. Use a Stone Flattener to Even Out the Whetstone
Some kits will come with this tool; otherwise, you’ll have to get it separately. A rough whetstone surface can damage your expensive Wusthof knives by causing ragged scratches and bumps.
To use the flattener, rub it over the surface of the whetstone. The bumpy top surface of the whetstone will scrape off, leaving only a smooth texture.
Then, use the towel on your work surface to wipe the whetstone and apply the stone flattener.
5. Test Your Newly Sharpened Knife
A simple test is to get a piece of magazine paper. Hold it up vertically and try to cut through it from the top. If your knife is sufficiently sharpened, it should cut through effortlessly.
You can also test it with some common types of food, like the ones you usually prepare in the kitchen. So, you could get a piece of tomato, carrot, or meat and proceed to make a few slices.
If you did a good job, the movements should feel far more accessible to execute than before the sharpening operation.
Essential Blade Sharpening Terminology
Before we describe the process of sharpening your Wusthof knife with a whetstone, it’s important to know some essential terminology first.
Learning the meaning of specific terms will help you better understand the blade sharpening process. You will also get much-needed clarification about commonly used terms. Some of them include:
According to several dictionaries, the word ‘whet’ refers to the act of sharpening a tool by rubbing it against a surface. Therefore, the literal meaning of a ‘whetstone’ is a sharpening stone.
Whetstones have been the traditional tool for sharpening knives for ages, and they remain the most reliable if you use them skillfully.
They typically come in the form of a block of stones with different levels of coarseness, referred to as the ‘grit’ of the whetstone.
Many people erroneously use this as a synonym for whetstone. However, a honing rod is not a whetstone and does not perform the same function as one.
In short, this is a common misconception because honing steel has a related but different purpose.
While a whetstone is used to sharpen blades, a honing rod re-aligns your knife edge. Your knife edge should be straight from the top (heel) to the bottom (tip/point).
When you have bumps along it or curled metal, the honing steel helps you straighten it out. Although it does not sharpen your knife, it helps maintain its sharpness.
So, in practice, you should use a whetstone and honing rod to better sharpen your knife.
This is arguably the most confusing terminology regarding whetstones. The grit refers to the coarseness of the whetstone.
The higher the grit, the finer the whetstone is. The implication is that a whetstone with a lower grit will shave off more material from a blade and have a rougher finish than one with a higher grit.
Deciding the grit range of your whetstone depends on how blunt your knife is.
The general rule is that whetstones with grits below 1000 are for knives with damaged or chipped edges that need some work to repair.
The range between 1000-3000 is for slightly blunt knives that need sharpening. Then, whetstones with more than 3000 grits are used for refining adequately sharp knives.
In other words, it’s a tool for applying the finest finishing touches. However, note that the value of 1000 grits might vary between the brands. So, it’s best to examine the efficacy of several similar products before settling for one.
This refers to the angle you position your knife at while moving it against the stone. Choosing the ideal angle depends on the function of the blade.
You can sharpen knives for slicing soft things at lower angles, even below 20 degrees. The standard recommended angle is 20 degrees on both sides for regular cutting/chopping knives.
The Knife’s Edge
The knife’s edge refers to the point of the knife used for cutting. Moreover, the edge is parallel to the knife’s spine. When sharpening a knife, you should try as much as possible to sharpen the edge only, not the flat surface.
When you sharpen your Wusthof knife or any other knife with a whetstone, a burr will form after a while.
It is accumulated waste metal that has been shaved off the side of the blade you are focusing on. After a while, it will cluster and resemble folded metal that catches on your skin slightly.
If you are sharpening with a high grit whetstone, you might not get any burrs on your blade. Usually, when you feel an even burr along the length of the edge, you should switch to the other side of the blade.
In this ultimate guide, we have presented the process of sharpening your Wusthof knife. However, note that you’ll need to make the time to regularly sharpen your knife.
With practice, you’ll learn to spot when the knife becomes dull with time. As a result, you’ll adequately care for your expensive purchase, thus ensuring its durability.