All types of knife sharpening stones explained and compared (2023)

As an Amazon Associate, we earn on qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

Knife sharpening stones, or whetstones, come in such a variety that it can be challenging to choose the best stone to sharpen your knives. Understanding each type of whetstone helps you make the right choice to get the best results on the razor's edge, and in many cases it will be a combination of stone types.

Knife sharpening stones are available in various materials and use different lubricants or no lubricant at all. The main types of stones are oil stones, water stones, diamond stones and ceramic stones. Each type of stone has characteristics that make it ideal for certain knife sharpening tasks.

Whetstones have been used for centuries to sharpen knives, tools and weapons of war, and these sharpening methods have become even more effective with advances in materials and technology. We explain each type of stone so that you can compare their qualities and choose the best sharpening tool for your needs.

All types of knife sharpening stones explained and compared (1)

If you are interested in purchasing some of the sharpening stones mentioned in this article that we recommend and use regularly, you can find them in the table below:

Usetype of grainbest choice
setting stonegrain 320Shapton Kuromaku 320
defining the bordergrain 400Naniwa Chosera 400
Whetstonegrain 600Naniwa Chosera 600
Whetstonegrain 800Naniwa Chosera 800
finishing stonegrain 1000Suehiro CERAX
stone polishinggrain 2000Shapton Kuromaku 2000
stone polishinggrain 5000Shapton Kuromaku 5000
additional polishing stonegrain 8000Shapton Kuromaku 8000
mirror polishing stonegrain 12000Shapton Kuromaku 12000

What are the different types of sharpening stones for knives?

There are many knife sharpening tools and systems out there, but all of these new methods rely on the whetstone as the primary means of sharpening knives.

Many modern sharpening systems still use whetstone technology in their methods, but the system makes the process easier for the person doing the sharpening.

Maintaining the correct angle of the blade to the stone and correct movement across the stone are the most difficult parts of learning how to sharpen knives on whetstones, and sharpening systems look forreducethis hurdle for novice knife sharpeners and pre-program these factors into the sharpening system.

The whetstone is still the main method of getting a fantastic edge on your knife, unrivaled by many other sharpening systems.. This is because freehand sharpening on a whetstone allows you to feel the blade on the stone and make micro-adjustments to get the best edge.

Learning to sharpen your knives on a whetstone is the best way to sharpen them, and it's a skill worth spending time learning. Nothing is more satisfying than taking a dull knife and freehand restoring it on a whetstone to incredible sharpness!

However, with the variety of types of whetstones available today, how do you choose the best whetstones? Our discussion of the different types of stones will provide you with the details you need to decide the best whetstone for your purposes.

All types of knife sharpening stones explained and compared (2)

Oil stones for sharpening knives

Oil sharpening stones are probably the first type of sharpening stone that comes to mind for beginning knife sharpeners.

Oilstones generally fall into two categories;natural stones and synthetic stones. Historically, natural stones were the only sharpening stones available and were made from rock with quartz or novaculite as the main ingredient.

This type of stone was common in regions ruled by the Ottoman or Turkish empire, and there are large deposits in the Ouachita Mountains located in Arkansas, USA. This has led many natural stones to be calledarkansas stones, and some fine whetstones come from this region.

There are several other natural stones that are a combination of rock types such as various forms of sandstone and quartz.

(Video) A Guide to Choosing and Using a Whetstone or Sharpening Stone

Natural stones work very well and are of excellent quality, but they are relatively expensive, especially when compared to synthetic stones..

Synthetic stones are more easilyavailableand are cheaper than natural stones. These stones are made from hand-bonded abrasives such as aluminum oxide or silicon carbide.

Synthetic stones are generally better than most natural stones because of the consistent grain structure in the material. Synthetic stones have more grain variations, cut faster and cost less than natural oil stones.

Featurenatural stonessynthetic stones
Variety of grain sizes✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓
Grain consistency through stone.✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓
cutting efficiency✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓
ease of availability✓✓✓✓✓✓

Synthetic stones have become the oil stone of choice for knife owners because of their better performance at a lower cost.

Oil stones should be used withoil formulated for low viscosityto lift and wash chips from the stone during sharpening. This prevents the stone from clogging and keeps it effective when sharpening the knife's edge.

Some stones can be used with water or oil, but some are designed to be used with oil only. The manufacturer will indicate which lubricant is best to use with the stone. We have an article, “Use these oils with your whetstone”, to help you choose the right oil for sharpening knives.

If you choose to use oil with a whetstone, you must continue to use oil with that stone. You cannot switch to a different lubricant after oiling the stone.

Oil stones work well, but they don't cut as quickly as some of the other types of sharpening stones and are more complicated to use than other stones, making them less appreciated by many knife owners.

The need for oil as a lubricant also makes oil stones less suitable as a portable field knife sharpening option.

ADVICE:The naming of various types of stones and the incorrect use of stone names contributed to further confusion of an already confusing subject. See the differences between oil stones and water stones in the following article:
oil stone vs. Water Stone: What's the Difference?

Water stones for sharpening knives

To clarify some terminology in knife sharpening, some definitions are needed. A whetstone is not necessarily a whetstone, but a whetstone is a whetstone.

The word "whet" is an Old English word meaning to whet. Thus, a whetstone is any stone used to sharpen knives, tools, or other sharp instruments.

Consequently, all whetstones are whetstones, but not all whetstones are whetstones!

Water stones, like oil stones, can be made from natural stone or synthetic materials. The most common and readily available stones are synthetic stones, but some natural stones, such as Japanese waterstones, are highly prized and sought after.

Japanese water stones are made from natural rock with an exceptionally uniform granular structure, but they are a limited resource, making them very expensive.

synthetic water stonesare factsof aluminum oxide or silicon carbide, similar to oilstones, but the difference between the two stones is in the binder material used to contain the abrasive material.

(Video) How to choose a sharpening stone, whetstone, ceramic, diamond + Grit Size

Waterstones are made with a softer binding material that causes the stone to wear out more quickly, but also makes the stone cut through steel more efficiently.. As the binder material wears away more quickly, it reveals new abrasives underneath, making the stone's cutting ability better than oiled stones.

The main disadvantage of water stones compared to oil stones is thatwater stones wear out faster than oil stones. Water stones are less complicated to use than oil stones and can easily be used as a handheld or field sharpening option. Just add water.

Waterstones are readily available and are probably the most popular whetstone for sharpening knives because of their effectiveness and relatively low cost. The lower cost makes these stones more accessible to a wider range of people, which contributes to their great popularity.

ADVICE:Whetstones are the best option over manual or electric sharpeners, but they take time to master. Discover the main reasons why whetstones are better than any other sharpener in the following article:
5 reasons why whetstones are better than any sharpener

Diamond plates for knife sharpening

Diamond plates are another form of whetstone used to sharpen knives. Diamond stones, or diamond plates, come in a variety of shapes, sizes and grain levels.

The diamonds used to make these whetstones are synthetic diamonds made in a chemical process rather than natural diamonds, which are too rare and expensive to be used in whetstones.

Diamond stones come in two forms. The first is a thin sheet of metal, usually with small round holes in the sheet. Diamond shards are embedded in the surface of the thin metal, and the sheet is then attached to a backing plate, usually made of durable plastic.

This style is known asinterrupted surface diamond platedue to holes in the surface. The purpose of the holes is to remove chips from the work surface, prevent clogging and maintain sharpening efficiency. The chips fall into the holes, where they lie below the honing surface of the plate.

The second form of a diamond plate is asolid surface boardusually aluminum. The diamond abrasive is embedded in the top surface of the metal. The plate is solid, resembles other whetstones in appearance, and does not have holes in the surface like broken surface plates.

Diamond stones have the best cutting ability of all sharpening stones, making them the fastest and most effective stones, especially in low grit, for repairing knife edges.

Discontinuous surface diamond plates can be used without water as a lubricant and completely dry. This makes them a common choice for survival or field sharpeners.

Solid plate diamond sharpeners need water as a lubricant to remove chips from the surface of the plate. The oil should not be used as a lubricant on solid surfaces or discontinuous surface diamond polishing plates.

Many experienced knife sharpeners prefer to use high quality waterstones to sharpen or finish a sharp edge on a knife after sharpening diamond stones.. This is because diamond abrasive is very aggressive and does not leave as fine an edge on the blade at higher grit levels.

One of the most significant advantages of diamond stones is that they don't wear unevenly or hollow like other stones. Diamond stones provide a consistent, absolutely flat sharpening surface that requires no grinding.

This characteristic makes diamond stones better for precision work and creates an even edge across the entire length of the blade..

One of the main disadvantages of diamond stones is the price. They are more expensive than most oil or water stones but have a longer shelf life.

(Video) How To Pick The Best Sharpening Whetstone Grit

ADVICE:Diamond sharpening stones can be expensive, but cutting edge stones offer better value for money than cheap stones. See what's best in the following article:
Buyer's Guide: Best Diamond Knife Sharpening Stone Set

Ceramic or glass stones for sharpening knives

Ceramic whetstones are made from particles of a very hard material called zirconium dioxide. This synthetic ceramic material is extremelydurableand it works great for refining the edge of a knife.

Ceramic material is sometimes referred to as glass, so the terms glass and ceramic are interchangeable for these stones but refer to the same material.

Synthetic ceramic particles are combined with a binding agent in various forms, from sharpening rods to sharpening stones..

Depending on the binder used, ceramic stone can be used with water as a lubricant or without lubricant. Oil should not be used as a lubricant on ceramic or glass whetstones.

The ceramic stone manufacturer will stipulate where the stone can be used dry or if water is required when using the stone.

Ceramic sharpeners are generally not made in lower grits, but are only available in medium and fine grits.. This makes ceramic sharpeners ideal for sharpening or refining the sharp edge of a knife, but they are not as effective for repairing a damaged edge.

Ceramic stones are very flat and have an even grain throughout the stone, making them very precise and capable of creating a smooth, refined edge on the blade.

Ceramic stones can be cost effective, but better quality ceramic stones such asShapton glass seriesCeramic stones are generally more expensive than other whetstone options.

However, glass stones are extremely durable and will last a long time, making them cost effective in the long run. The main disadvantage of ceramic stones is that they do not have low grain and are used for polishing rather than sharpening.

ADVICE:Shapton Kuromaku stones and glass stones sharpen knives from 57 HRC to 62 HRC equally well. Discover a comparison between these two whetstones manufactured by the well-known company Shapton in the following article:
Shapton Kuromaku vs. Crystal Stone: What Works Best?

What are knife sharpening stones made of?

All types of knife sharpening stones explained and compared (3)

Oil and water stones are made from natural rock or synthetic materials. The use of natural materials for these stones is decreasing due to the limited supply and cost of mining these materials.

Synthetic whetstone materials are easier to obtain, cheaper to manufacture and last longer than natural alternatives.

Diamond sharpening stones or plates are made from industrial or synthetic diamonds embedded in a metal surface.. This plate can be a thin metal plate with ahard plastic holderor a solid metal plate into which the abrasive is embedded.

Ceramic whetstones are made from particles of zirconium dioxide, an extremely hard compound. These particles are manufactured industrially, so the grain sizes are very accurate and uniform throughout the stone.

(Video) Whetstone Sharpening Mistakes that Most Beginners Make

If you are interested in purchasing some of the sharpening stones mentioned in this article that we recommend and use regularly, you can find them in the table below:

Usetype of grainbest choice
setting stonegrain 320Shapton Kuromaku 320
defining the bordergrain 400Naniwa Chosera 400
Whetstonegrain 600Naniwa Chosera 600
Whetstonegrain 800Naniwa Chosera 800
finishing stonegrain 1000Suehiro CERAX
stone polishinggrain 2000Shapton Kuromaku 2000
stone polishinggrain 5000Shapton Kuromaku 5000
additional polishing stonegrain 8000Shapton Kuromaku 8000
mirror polishing stonegrain 12000Shapton Kuromaku 12000

What stones are good for sharpening knives?

Every experienced knife sharpener will have their own personal preference on which stones are good for sharpening knives.

Essentially, oil, water, and diamond stones are good for sharpening knives, and the only stones lacking in that department are ceramic or glass ones. Ceramic stones are better for sharpening than sharpening..

If you are looking for a portable field sharpener, the best option to take with you is a diamond stone that can be used without water.

I find that oil stones are simply too dirty for my sharpening needs, so I prefer water stones for sharpening my knives. These water stones do a good job and are inexpensive.

If money is not an issue, your ideal choice would be to have a low-grit diamond stone for repair work, medium-grit waterstone for general sharpening, and high-grit ceramic stones for sharpening and polishing.

ADVICE:When choosing whetstones, you must balance cost, quality, and quantity of stones and grit to maximize the efficiency of sharpening knives using this method. See the complete guide on how to choose in the following article:
How to Choose and Buy a Whetstone: The Ultimate Buyer's Guide

What is the best stone for sharpening knives?

It would be good to examine the characteristics of the different stones side by side to get an idea of ​​the best whetstones for sharpening knives.

The best sharpening stone for your knife based on the task you need to do:

Task / Characteristicoil stonewater stonediamond plateceramic or crystal stone
cutting capacity✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓
Easy to use✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓
necessary lubricantSimSimYes and noYes and no
Used for edge repair.✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓x
Used for sharpening.✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓x
used to sharpen✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓✓

From this comparison, waterstones are the most versatile and cost-effective option for a quality knife sharpening stone. However, we do not consider different environments and situations, such as portability and comfort.

For quick sharpening in the field, a small diamond plate sharpener would be the most suitable and best option.

Consequently, you must evaluate your knife sharpening needs to determine the best sharpening option.

ADVICE:Whetstone grains can seem like a daunting task to understand and decide which grains will be the most beneficial for your sharpening activities. Find a complete explanation in the following article:

Can you use any stone to sharpen a knife?

Many knife owners wonder if it is possible to use any stone to sharpen a knife. The simple answer is yes, you can use any stone to sharpen a knife, but you will have mixed success depending on the stone.

The best stones to use would be fine-grained stones with a flat, even surface. Water would be the best lubricant to use on these stones.

The only time I would recommend using any natural stone to sharpen a knife is if you have no other choice and need to sharpen your knife right away. Some rocks and stones can do more damage to the edge than sharpening.

(Video) Sharpening Stones - Oil vs Water


Most commercially made knife whetstones do a good job of sharpening knives, but some are better at certain aspects of sharpening than others.

In general, the best sharpening stone for knives, in my opinion, is waterstone. They are affordable and create less of a mess. Waterstones are available in a wide variety of grits and cut through blade steel efficiently!

ADVICE: People new to knife sharpening may be undecided about which oil to use when sharpening a knife and whether oil is the best option. Discover a complete guide in the following article:
Use These Oils for Your Whetstone (Explained Why)


1. Sharpening stones: types and uses
2. Are You Using the Right Grit? Ultimate Sharpening Stone Guide
3. The Best Guide to Japanese Whetstones -Watch before you buy one
4. The Biggest Beginner Knife Sharpening Mistake
5. The Best Way To Sharpen & Clean Knives (And The Worst) | Epicurious
6. Beginner's Guide to Whetstone Sharpening
(Ethan Chlebowski)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Last Updated: 03/14/2023

Views: 5717

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (76 voted)

Reviews: 83% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Amb. Frankie Simonis

Birthday: 1998-02-19

Address: 64841 Delmar Isle, North Wiley, OR 74073

Phone: +17844167847676

Job: Forward IT Agent

Hobby: LARPing, Kitesurfing, Sewing, Digital arts, Sand art, Gardening, Dance

Introduction: My name is Amb. Frankie Simonis, I am a hilarious, enchanting, energetic, cooperative, innocent, cute, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.