Having a set of dull kitchen knives isn’t just inconvenient—it can also be very dangerous. Blunt blades require more pressure to cut through food. The more muscle you put into pushing down on a knife, the better the odds it’ll slip and injure you. A good sharpening stone keeps your blades razor-sharp, which makes them safer to use. This invaluable workshop and kitchen tools can sharpen the cutting edges of knives, scissors, planes, chisels, and other edged tools. Sharpening stones are actually blocks of hard materials, including Japanese ceramic, water stones, and even diamonds. Coarse sharpening stones restore dull blades, while fine ones hone sharp edges. Most stones have a broad surface area for sharpening and a nonslip base to facilitate the sharpening process.
If you have a set of dull knives that are in need of a good sharpening, read on to learn more about these mighty stones, and find out why the products below are among the best sharpening stone options on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Sharp Pebble Premium Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ShaPu Whetstones Premium knife sharpening set
- BEST BUDGET: Bora 501057 Fine/Coarse Combination Sharpening Stone
- BEST DIAMOND: SHARPAL 156N Diamond Whetstone Knife Sharpener
- BEST KIT: Finew Knife Sharpening Stone Kit
- BEST JAPANESE: Shaptonstone Traditional Homogenous Waterstones
- BEST CERAMIC: Suehiro CERAX soaking whetstone
- BEST NATURAL: Masuta Natural Sharpening Honing Stone
- BEST FOR KITCHEN KNIVES: SHAN ZU Whetstone Knife Sharpening Stone Set
- BEST FOR POCKET KNIVES: Smith’s Abrasives PP1 hunting knife sharpeners
Types of Sharpening Stones
There are four basic categories of sharpening stones: water, oil, diamond, and ceramic stones. Read on to learn more about each kind, and determine the best sharpening stone to suit your needs.
Water stones, as well as some oil stones, are made of aluminum oxide. The difference is water stones are softer, which results in faster cutting. And, since this type of stone uses water to remove the ground bits of metal from the stone, it’s also cleaner than using an oil-based stone. However, since this stone is softer, it will wear out more quickly than other stones, requiring you to restore the stone by flattening it periodically.
Oil stones are made of novaculite, aluminum oxide, or silicon carbide and use oil to remove small bits of metal for sharpening. This type of stone comes in a variety of grades, from fine to coarse, and is known for creating fine edges on tools and knives because of the stone’s hardness. The advantages of oil stones is they are inexpensive and low maintenance. Because they are so hard, they also rarely require flattening. The downside of oil stones is they have a lower cutting rate than the other stone types, which means it will take you longer to sharpen a blade than with a water or diamond stone sharpener. Keep in mind, because you have to purchase sharpening oil to use oil stones, there is also extra expense—and mess—involved in using them.
Diamond stone sharpeners consist of small diamonds attached to a metal plate. These diamonds are harder than other types of stones (in fact, they are sometimes used to flatten softer sharpening stones) and therefore sharpen blades more quickly. Diamond sharpening stones either have smooth surfaces or small holes for catching the metal filings and come in varying degrees of coarseness. Smooth sharpeners are useful for honing the edges of tools and knives with points or teeth that may become caught in the small holes. Diamond stones are the most expensive of the sharpening stones.
Ceramic stones are highly prized for their durability and their ability to create a fine edge on knives. These stones offer exceptional accuracy when it comes to grit levels and rarely need resurfacing. High-quality ceramic stones tend to be more expensive than other stones.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Sharpening Stone
A sharpening stone’s grit level or material type largely determines how well it will sharpen a blade. Read on to learn about grit, materials, and other considerations you should take into account when shopping for the right product.
Sharpening stones come in different grit levels. The lower the number, the more coarse the stone, while the higher the grit level, the finer. Levels of 120 to 400 grit are good at sharpening exceptionally dull knives or those that have chips or burrs. For standard blade sharpening, a stone between 700 and 2,000 grit works best. A high grit level of 3,000 or more creates an ultrasmooth edge that leaves little to no serration on the blade.
The material used for the sharpener has a lot to do with the edge it leaves on a knife. An oil stone will leave a toothier, sawlike edge on the blade, even with a higher grit level. Water stones offer higher grit levels for a smoother finish that slices rather than saws. Diamond stones at lower grit levels will leave toothier finishes for cutting soft materials, while a higher grit level will create a finished edge for slicing through harder materials. The material of the sharpener also determines how well the stone will hold up to repeated sharpenings. Softer water stones need resurfacing periodically, while harder diamond stones do not.
Most sharpening stones are shaped like blocks and are large enough to service most blades. Many have mounting blocks with nonslip bottoms that secure your block to the table or counter and provide a firm base from which you can sharpen. Some compact sharpeners have slots into which you place knives or blades. This design makes sharpening more manageable, if slightly less precise, because it creates the sharpening angle for you. You simply slide the knife back and forth in the slot to sharpen the blade. These slotted blocks typically feature a coarse slot for dull edges and a fine slot for finishing.
Sharpeners must have enough surface area to sharpen everything from small knives to large carving knives. Most sharpening stones are around 7 inches long by 3 inches wide by 1 inch thick to allow for enough surface area to sharpen different types of blades.
Our Top Picks
These sharpening stones are made of quality materials and will hone a dull edge into a razor-sharp blade without damaging the knife. Our top picks include products from some of the most reputable manufacturers of sharpening stones.
With its durable stone, two different grit levels, and substantial base, this sharpening stone is an excellent option for a variety of cutting edges ranging from kitchen knives to axe blades. The aluminum oxide Sharp Pebble whetstone features an ample 7.25-inch by 2.25-inch surface that rests on an attractive bamboo holder with a nonslip rubber base. A coarse 1,000-grit side hones duller blades, and a fine 6,000-grit side creates a smooth finish for fine edges. A black angle guide helps you find just the right angle at which you can perfect the edge.
With its attractive bamboo base, this is a sharpener you won’t mind leaving out on your kitchen counter.
With four double-sided sharpening stones, this knife sharpening set from ShaPu offers excellent value. It features eight grits ranging from 240 to 10,000, allowing you to sharpen kitchen knives, razors, even the occasional sword. Each block is 7.25 inches long by 2.25 inches wide, giving you ample surface space to make your sharpening strokes.
This set comes with the four sharpening stones; an acacia wood holder with a nonslip, silicone pad; a flattening stone; and an angle guide to take the guesswork out of sharpening. It is contained in a convenient carrying case.
This aluminum oxide sharpening stone from Bora is an effective means for sharpening your knives without slicing a chunk out of your wallet. At 6 inches wide by 2 inches long by 1 inch thick, this stone offers a substantial surface for sharpening your blades from a benchtop.
Its coarse 150-grit side helps get dull edges sharp, while its 240-grit side works that edge into a
This sharpening stone will work with either water or oil for sharpening. At a price point that’s a fraction of more expensive stones, this is a viable budget option for sharpening knives, chisels, axes, and other sharp edges.
Speed up your sharpening efforts with this formidable diamond sharpener from Sharpal, which consists of a flat, monocrystalline diamond surface electroplated onto a steel base. Its hard surface will sharpen dull blades five times faster than standard oil or water stones: Use the 325-grit side for standard edges and the 1,200-grit side for fine edges. This sharpener will work on high-speed steel, carbide, ceramic, and cubic boron nitride without the need for water or oil.
At 6 inches long by 2.5 inches wide, this whetstone offers an ample surface for sharpening a variety of blades. We like that its nonslip storage box doubles as a sharpening base, and that it comes with an angle guide that facilitates sharpening from four different angles.
With multiple grit levels and accessories that make the process of sharpening your knives more manageable, this kit from Finew is a worthy tool for sharpening your arsenal of knives. It features two double-sided whetstones with four grit levels, including 400 and 1,000 for sharpening dull knives and 3,000 and 8,000 for refining your cutlery.
We give this Finew kit’s accessories two thumbs up. It comes with a knife guide that helps you find the right angle for sharpening and a handy leather strap to polish the edge, while removing burrs, when the sharpening is over. This kit also contains a flattening stone to help keep your sharpening stones in shape and a bamboo holder that serves as an attractive and stable base from which to sharpen.
Shaptonstone’s highly specialized Japanese ceramic waterstones will hone your blades into terrific shape regardless of the condition in which they start. This sharpening stone comes in 10 different grit levels ranging from coarse 120 grit to ultrafine 30,000 grit.
Each block offers a large surface area at 9 inches long by 3.5 inches wide and 1.65 inches thick and comes with a plastic base that provides a stable sharpening surface. Be sure to soak the stone in water prior to use.
This stone from Suehiro has both substantial size and the superior sharpening power of ceramic going for it. At 8 inches long, nearly 3 inches wide, and 1 inch thick it is sized to sharpen kitchen knives, axe blades, and more.
You’ll be able to sharpen blades safely without this whetstone slipping because it comes with a nonslip, silicon “shoe” that wraps around the stone’s bottom. This set comes with a small Nagura stone, for conditioning the sharpening stone, and is available in grit levels ranging from 320 to 8,000.
The “ocean blue” color of this natural stone from Masuta is appropriate, given that it comes from an underwater cave off an island near Japan. This stone is renowned for its hardness, which gives it exceptional sharpening abilities. It has an ultrafine 12,000 grit for honing knives, razors, and other blades to a sharp edge.
At 8 inches long and 3.5 inches wide, there’s plenty of surface area on which to hone a variety of blades. A nonslip base allows for safe sharpening, while its handsome leather carrying case protects the stone when it’s not in use. This set comes with a Nagura stone for refreshing the stone after each sharpening.
With its two grit levels and attractive bamboo case, this knife set from Shan Zu is a worthy addition to your kitchen arsenal. It includes two sharpening blocks: a 1,000-grit block for dull blades and a 5,000-grit stone for bringing your kitchen cutlery to new levels of sharpness.
We love the pretty acacia box that houses the whetstones; the bottom half of the box also functions as a solid base for sharpening. This set also includes a convenient angle guide that fits over your knives to guide you as you hone them.
Pocket knife blades vary in size and are attached to a large handle, which can make them difficult to sharpen on a standard whetstone. This sharpener from Smith’s features two slots—a carbide slot for coarse sharpening and a ceramic slot for fine sharpening—making it a cinch to hone smaller blades. And, because it has preset angles, this sharpener takes the guesswork out of sharpening while you’re on the go: Simply slide the knife back and forth in each slot to whet it.
One feature we particularly like on the PP1 is the retractable, diamond-coated rod that sharpens serrated edges. This compact sharpener fits easily into the pocket of a backpack, allowing you to keep it close at hand while you’re on camping and hunting trips.
Tips for Using a Sharpening Stone
Sharpening stones can restore a set of quality knives to their former glory. To achieve that, it’s essential to follow a few crucial tips.
- Assess your knives. Determine how dull your knives are and decide what grit you should use. Cut test slices through a tomato or another fruit or vegetable. The harder it is to get the knife through the fruit, the duller the knife is. Use a knife you know is sharp as a benchmark if you need to.
- Soak the stone. Most stones need to be soaked in water to function correctly. If you’re using a water stone or ceramic stone, this is a crucial step. If you’re using an oil stone, you’ll need to prep the stone with cutting oil.
- Know the grit. Like sandpaper, sharpening stones have different grit levels. Research which grit level you should use to sharpen a blade properly.
- Find the 20-degree angle. Most blades should be sharpened at a 20-degree angle, but this angle can be a challenge to figure out. Begin by holding the edge at a 90-degree angle. Tilt it halfway to the countertop to find 45 degrees. Then halve the distance to the surface again to reach roughly 20 degrees.
- Place your stone on a damp washcloth. If you have a stone with a nonslip side, you can skip this tip. Otherwise, set the stone on a damp washcloth to hold it in place while you sharpen.
- Test the edge of your sharpened knife on a piece of paper. If you’re not sure if you’ve sharpened your knife adequately, hold up a piece of paper and attempt to slice down through one edge. If the blade is sharp, it should cut through the paper easily.
FAQs About Sharpening Stones
If you still have questions about sharpening stones and how to maintain them, read on for answers to the most commonly asked questions about these tools.
Q. How long do you soak a wet stone?
Soak your sharpening stone in water for five minutes before using it for fine stone. Ten minutes should be long enough for coarse stones to soak through thoroughly.
Q. How do you use a sharpening stone?
Begin by laying the blade across the stone at a 20- to 25-degree angle. Grasp the knife by the handle with one hand and the dull side of the blade with the other. Pull the blade toward you while making a sweeping motion across the block. Then flip the blade and make the same motion across the block in the other direction. Make ten strokes on each side, and then test the blade’s sharpness by cutting the edge of a piece of paper. Continue this process until the edge is sharp and slices through paper easily.
Q. How do you clean a sharpening stone?
It depends on the type of sharpening stone. To clean an oil stone, rub a small amount of oil in a circular motion down the stone. For water stones, use water. This will cause the stone to release the tiny metal particles you’ve sharpened off your blades from its pores. Rinse the stone with water, and wipe down with a paper towel.
Q. How do you flatten a sharpening stone?
Depending on the type of stone, wet the stone with oil or water. Use 100-grit sandpaper to remove any inconsistencies until flat. Then use 400-grit sandpaper to remove any scratches created by the coarse sandpaper. You can also purchase a flattening plate, which is designed for this purpose.