Choosing a whetstone (2023)

Choosing a whetstone (1)

Finding that your knives, scissors or other cutting tools are dull and need sharpening, but not sure which sharpening stone to choose?

Discover the four most common types of sharpening stone: bench stone, water stone, ceramic stone, and diamond stone, and learn about the different finishes each stone type imparts.

Stone benches

Stone benchesThey are the most commonly used whetstones and are also known as whetstones or sharpening stones. As the term oil stone suggests, a thin layer of oil is typically used on this type of stone as a lubricant to improve sharpening performance and prevent glazing or stressing the sharpening surface.

Handmade bench stones come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and in a variety of grit grades: coarse (80–100 grit), medium (150–220 grit), and fine (280–320 grit). Bankstones are durable, wear out slowly, and retain their flatness much longer than waterstones.

Handcrafted bench stones are primarily available in two different types of cut: alumina (India stones) and silicon carbide (Crystolon stones).

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Norton Bank

indian stones

  • Indian Alumina Stonesthey are preferred to impart durable, smooth-cut edges. The abrasive grain is very friable, so the edges remain sharp even when used. Additionally, this brittleness means Indian stones remove slightly less metal during the sharpening process, extending the life of your knives and tools.

Glass stones

  • The grade of silicon carbide used in Crystolon stones is more durable than aluminum oxide, giving theCrystolon-Siliziumkarbid-Steinemore aggressive. By removing more metal with each sharpening pass, you can speed up the sharpening process, which is preferable when sharpening speed is more important than edge delicacy.

Since sharpening is often a progression of first repairing an edge with a coarse grit stone and then honing the edge with a fine grit stone, many people choose to purchase onecombined stone, which uses a coarse grit on one side and a fine grit on the other. It is also common to use a Crystolon stone for the initial coarse grit sharpening before moving on to an Indian stone and then finishing with an Arkansas stone, a natural bench stone.

(Video) How to choose a sharpening stone, whetstone, ceramic, diamond + Grit Size
Choosing a whetstone (3)

Benchstone von Norton Arkansas

Arkansas stones

  • Natural stones have been used for hundreds of years. The most popular natural stones available today are made from Ozark novaculite (silicone quartz), which is quarried in Arkansas and cut into what is commonly knownArkansas stones. These whetstones are very hard and dense and do not cut as quickly or as aggressively as diamond or artificial stones. Because of their unique composition, Arkansas stones are polished when sharpened, giving them an extremely fine and smooth edge. For this reason, they are typically used as the final grinding step after using an India or Crystolon stone, or to maintain an already sharp edge.
  • Due to the porosity and density of the quarried material, not all Arkansas stones are created equal.Arkansas Soft Stones (extra fine)They are the coarsest and least dense natural stones. They are mainly used to sharpen the edges of tools and knives and bring them to a smooth, polished surface, often after honing with artificial stones.Arkansas transluzente Hartgipse (ultrafein)They are the finest and densest natural stone available and are used to achieve the sharpest, most precise finish as well as razor polished edges.

Learn how to get the most out of your stone benches with our answers to the most frequently asked questions in ourStone bench instructions.

water stones

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water stonesit is synthetic stones that are becoming increasingly popular. They are much softer and more porous than traditional bench stones, and the stone's abrasive grain forms a fast-cutting slurry on the stone's surface during the sharpening process.

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Norton Wassersteine

Water stones should be completely soaked in water for several minutes before use, making sure the water has penetrated the entire stone. Waterstones are generally made from aluminum oxide or silicon carbide depending on the grit, but the combination of abrasive and bond makes these stones faster than benchstones and gives you a much smoother finish.

Waterstones are available in a variety of grits, similar to artificial pebbles, but are generally available in much finer grits than pebbles. Waterstone grits are generally measured using the Japanese system and are not directly comparable to the grits used for benchstones and diamond stones. For example, a 1000 grit waterstone has a similar surface finish to a 320 grit bench stone. See the table below for more comparisons.




JIS (Japan)

thick glass
fat Indian
medium glass
Norton 220 Extra Coarse Diamond (220)
middle indian
Fine crystal
Coarse Diamond (325)
good Indian
cute Arkansas 600 Fine Diamond (600)
fine-grained 800
Norton 1000
hard translucent Arkansas Norton 4000
ultrafein Norton 8000

Table 1. Relative sharpness comparisons for the whetstones discussed in this article

Because waterstones are softer than benchstones, they wear out much faster and need frequent smoothing for optimal performance.

For advice and recommendations on how to use and care for your water stones, see ourWasserstein FAQ Article Guide.

(Video) Choosing The Perfect Sharpening Stone | Knife Merchant

Ceramic stones

man madeAscent ceramic whetstonesThey are the newest on the market. Extremely hard and wear-resistant, these Ascent stones are great for adding the finest finishing touch to an already sharp blade. With an ultra-fine surface finish, these stones are comparable to Arkansas hard (fine grit rise) and 1500 grit (ultrafine rise) waterstones.

While ceramic stones can sometimes be classified as bench stones, they differ from classic bench stones in that they should not be used with a lubricant. Therefore, the surface of the stone should be cleaned with a pad, soap and water after each use for optimal performance.

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Norton Ascent Keramiksteine


Diamond stones are the fastest and most aggressive sharpening stones. They are made by attaching microscopic diamond crystals to flat perforated or solid steel plates. Diamond stones are durable, sharpen quickly, and retain their flatness longer than water stones and bench stones. They can be used dry or with water or oil as a lubricant.

Because diamonds are hard and aggressive, diamond stones remove slightly more material than bench stones and water stones of similar grit. They also generally give a less polished finish than other whetstones. Some sharpeners use hard ceramic Arkansas, Ascent stones, or fine-grain waterstones as a polishing step after sharpening with diamond stones.

What size sharpening stone should I buy?

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After you've chosen the type of sharpening stone you want to use, how do you determine which size to choose? In general, sharpening is most effective when the size of the stone matches the size of the blade being sharpened. Small pocket knives can be sharpened on 3" stones and large kitchen knives are best sharpened on 11-1/2" stones.

For best results, choose a size that allows you to sweep the full length of the blade across the stone with each sharpening stroke.

Choosing a whetstone (6)

Which sharpening stone is right for you?

There are many different sharpening stones, but once you are familiar with the most common types, you can choose the right stone for your project.

For a quick overview and comparison of the finishes produced by the bench stones, water stones, ceramic stones and diamond stones discussed in this article, see our summary below.

  • Stone benchesThey wear slowly and retain their flatness longer than waterstones. They are available in a variety of formulations and grits, allowing you to achieve a wide range of desired finishes depending on the type you choose.
    • indian stone: Gives durable, smooth cut edges
    • Kristallstein: Produces a less fine edge but sharpens quickly
    • Arkansas-Stein: Polished during sharpening for a fine, smooth edge
  • water stonesThey wear out faster and require frequent smoothing, but produce a smoother surface than bench stones.
  • Ceramic stonesProvides an ultra fine finish on an already sharp blade.
  • Diamantsteinethey retain their flatness longer. They are the most aggressive and remove most of the material when sharpened, resulting in a less polished finish.

To find the right sharpening stone for you,Browse our selection of sharpening stones, and for advice and recommendations on how to use your stones,Check out our whetstone videos.

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