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Whetstone sharpening of a knife takes time and practice to master. It is one of the most popular sharpening methods because of the control that you have to get the edge on your knife exactly the way you want it.
If you are new to sharpening a knife on a whetstone, you may have some questions about the process. Exactly how long do you sharpen a knife on a whetstone? This is a common question about whetstone sharpening.
To re-establish the edge on a chef’s knife with a whetstone will take about 45 minutes. A bushcraft knife will take about 30-minutes for a similar job. If the knife only needs a touch-up, the process could take 10-minutes. The time will depend on your skill level and the quality of the stone and knife.
Sharpening a blade on a whetstone gives you a great edge, but it does take some skill to get it right. The process needs constant checking and monitoring of the edge of the blade to assess your progress.
People often wonder how long this process should take and how long do you work a knife on a particular grit before you move onto the finer stones. We can clear this up for you and give you an idea of what to expect, sharpening a knife in this way.
If you are interested in checking out the best whetstones for your knives we recommend and use you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
How Long Do You Sharpen A Knife On A Whetstone?
If you are starting out on a whetstone to sharpen your knives, the first recommendation is to first try out sharpening a knife you don’t care too much about.
This is because you need to experiment with techniques to get a feel for sharpening on a whetstone.
If you are contemplating how long it will take you to sharpen the knife on the whetstone, the answer to that question will have several determining factors.
How Dull Is The Knife?
A dull knife will take longer to sharpen than a knife that only needs a slight touch-up. If the edge of the knife is in need of a significant recondition, it will take longer to repair the edge on your whetstone than a knife that is already sharp but just needs a little bit of attention on the stone.
If you are competent on the whetstone and the knife is not dull but only requires a touch-up, this can be achieved in as little as 10-munites on the stones.
If the knife has a damaged or very dull edge, the process can be substantially longer and can take anywhere from 30-munites to an hour to get the edge back to being sharp and smooth.
Re-establishing the edge on a dull knife can take some time to achieve, but the time taken will also be dependent on the other factors.
Your Skill On The Stone
Your skill in sharpening on a whetstone will determine how long it will take to get the knife back to the required level of sharpness.
If you are a beginner with this sharpening method, you will take some time to learn the correct movement and technique and the knowledge of when to stop on one grit of stone and start on the next one.
You can expect to take about 60 – 90 minutes to get a good edge established on a knife as a beginner practicing on a cheap knife.
As your skill level progresses, you will spend less time finding the right angle and getting the technique right, and your speed will improve.
Once you have reached a good level of competency, you could spend about 30 minutes to get a good edge on a bushcraft-style knife and about 45 minutes to sharpen a quality chef knife to scary sharp.
TIP: Have you ever wondered if you can oversharpen a knife? This question bothers many people, especially when sharpening their favorite or expensive knives. Find out the answer to this question in the article below:
Can You Oversharpen A Knife? All You Need To Know
The Quality Of Your Whetstones
There are different levels of quality among whetstones, and the cheaper quality stones may cause you some difficulty in getting the edge correctly established.
Cheap whetstones can be very poorly made, have inconsistent grits through the stone, and it can be impossible to achieve a good edge on some of the really cheap stones.
An expensive, good-quality stone is a much better choice and will make your sharpening experience quicker and more successful. However, expensive whetstones can be ruined by poor technique from the inexperienced user.
Our recommendation is that you go for a mid-range quality stone that will cost you a bit less than a good stone but will still give you a good edge.
Using mid-range stones will give you the chance to learn and improve your sharpening skills without worrying about ruining an expensive set of stones.
The mid-range stones will also cut better and put a more consistent edge on the knife than a cheap set of stones. This will cut down the time you will spend getting the edge on the knife.
Once you are proficient on a mid-level stone, you can think about moving on to higher-quality whetstones for your sharpening.
TIP: Are you looking to buy a new whetstone? Check out our recommendations (we personally use the first three ones):
Our PRO choice whetstones combo (Amazon links):
- Fixing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #320
- Sharpening stone: Suehiro CERAX soaking whetstone: Medium #1000
- Finishing stone: Whetstone SHAPTON Ceramic KUROMAKU #5000
Our budget choice (Amazon link): Sharp Pebble Extra Large Sharpening Stone Set
The Pressure You Apply While Sharpening
There is a certain level of pressure that you need to apply to the blade during the sharpening process to efficiently grind steel from the edge of the knife.
As a new whetstone user, it will take some time to experiment and establish the right amount of pressure to use to efficiently sharpen the knife. This pressure will change from knife to knife and from steel to steel.
If the pressure that you apply is not enough, it will take longer to get the edge to the desired level of sharpness.
Applying too much pressure could result in grinding away too much of the edge, and you would have to start the process again.
This would increase the amount of time that it takes you to sharpen the knife on the whetstone. It will also wear your whetstone away quicker.
The Type Of Knife You Are Sharpening
The knife you are sharpening can impact the time you will spend at the stone, putting the edge on the blade. A fine edge on a chef knife can take substantially more time to establish than that of a bushcraft knife, for example.
Different knives are also made from different types of steel, which all have a different sharpening experience on the whetstone. Some steels are softer than others and will be easier to sharpen than knives made of harder steels.
The profile of the edge will also affect the time it takes to sharpen the knife. A fine edge will require a more delicate touch or pressure on the stone but could take longer to achieve the edge than on a utility knife.
This means that a knife such as a bushcraft knife that has a more robust edge with a steeper angle on the secondary bevel may be quicker to sharpen than the fine edge on a chef’s knife.
TIP: Many people use magnetic holders for storing kitchen knives in particular. But can magnets damage your knives? Find out more in the article below:
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Counting Knife Strokes On The Whetstone
Some sharpening guides recommend that you need to pass the blade of the knife over the stone for a certain number of passes before moving on to higher grit of the stone.
It is a better strategy to constantly monitor the edge of the knife you are sharpening and feel the edge to see if the burr is being formed.
Feeling the edge with a fingernail and examining it visually will help you to know when it is time to change to a higher grit stone.
The reason you would count the passes of the knife over the stone is to make sure that you are grinding both sides of the knife evenly.
Common Mistakes Sharpening On A Whetstone
Sharpening a knife using whetstones is a skill that takes time and practice to master. Along the way, it’s common to make a few mistakes. Here are some of the most common errors and how you can avoid them.
- Incorrect Angle: One of the most common mistakes is not maintaining a consistent angle while sharpening. This can lead to an uneven edge and ineffective sharpening. Practice holding the knife at the correct angle (usually between 15-20 degrees for most kitchen knives) and try to maintain this angle throughout the sharpening process. Some people find it helpful to use an angle guide when starting out.
- Over-Sharpening: It’s easy to get carried away and over-sharpen your knife, which can wear down the blade prematurely. Remember, the goal is to sharpen the knife just until it’s sharp enough to cut efficiently. You can test the knife’s sharpness by cutting a piece of paper or a ripe tomato. If it cuts smoothly, your knife is likely sharp enough.
- Not Fully Raising a Burr: A burr is a tiny fold of metal that forms on the edge of the knife during sharpening. It’s important to raise a burr along the entire length of the edge before moving on to the other side of the knife or a finer grit stone. If you don’t, your knife may not be as sharp as it could be. To avoid this, make sure to check for a burr frequently during the sharpening process.
- Using Too Much Pressure: Applying too much pressure can cause the knife to dig into the stone, making it difficult to maintain a consistent angle and potentially damaging both the knife and the stone. The weight of the knife itself is often enough pressure for effective sharpening. Practice using light, controlled strokes.
- Not Properly Soaking the Stone: If you’re using a water stone, it’s important to soak it in water until it’s fully saturated before you start sharpening. Not doing so can lead to ineffective sharpening and can damage the stone. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for soaking your particular stone.
- Neglecting Stone Maintenance: Over time, a whetstone can become dished or uneven due to repeated use. This can lead to uneven sharpening. To avoid this, it’s important to regularly flatten your stone using a stone fixer or lapping plate.
Remember, sharpening is a skill that improves with practice. Don’t be discouraged by initial mistakes. Instead, use them as learning opportunities to improve your sharpening technique.
An even grind of both sides will ensure the cutting edge will be exactly in the middle of the knife and not off to one side.
Sharpening a knife on a whetstone takes time. This is not a process you can hurry or be impatient with. Take on the task of sharpening your knife when you have adequate time available to be able to focus and take the time it needs to get the edge right.
While this method may take longer than some other sharpening methods, the results are something that you will not be disappointed with.
A knife with a good edge will not require frequent sharpening on a stone. To keep the edge sharp, you would do more frequent honing with a strop or steel rather than sharpening on a whetstone.
The time spent on the whetstone is, therefore, time well spent and will not take up too much time on a regular basis.
TIP: Are you missing any whetstone in your collection? If you are planning to buy a new whetstone, check out this ultimate guide on how and which whetstone to buy:
How To Choose And Buy A Whetstone: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide