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A whetstone is a fairly popular means to get a razor-sharp edge on your knife blade, but a whetstone can take some time to become accomplished with using this tool. While many people may be aware that they can ruin the knife if the whetstone is used incorrectly, but have you thought about whether the whetstone can be damaged by incorrect use? Are there ways of using a whetstone that will ruin it?
A whetstone can be damaged or even ruined if the following occurs when using the stone or it is mistreated.
- Uneven wear on the stone.
- Using the wrong lubricant on the whetstone.
- Storing a wet whetstone in freezing temperatures.
- Waxy coatings on blades.
- Dropping the whetstone.
Learning to use a whetstone correctly is a process that takes time and practice. If you are new to a whetstone, you need to be careful not to damage your whetstone in the process. A good quality whetstone can be quite expensive, so you want to take good care of your stones to make sure they last a good while!
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).
Ways To Damage Or Ruin A Whetstone
There are some actions that will damage a whetstone and others that will ruin the stone completely or result in a lot of time and energy to restore the stone to good knife-sharpening condition.
Uneven Wear On The Whetstone
Wearing out the stone in an uneven pattern is probably the most common way that people that are new to whetstones damage or ruin the stones.
Uneven pressure on the strokes while sharpening the knife, as well as not rotating the stone periodically while you sharpen, can lead to uneven wear of the stone. Ideally, a stone needs to be as flat as possible to create a good edge on the blade being sharpened.
Uneven wear of the stone can result in high spots and low spots on areas of the stone that will reduce its effectiveness in sharpening.
The most common consequence of uneven wear is dishing of the stone, where the middle of the stone gets worn away faster than the two ends of the stone.
Using The Wrong Lubricant On A Whetstone
Some whetstones are made to be used with a particular lubricant, and using a lubricant that the stone was not intended for can permanently ruin the stone.
Some whetstones are made to be used with water as the lubricant, and using another lubricant such as oil on the stone may result in the stone becoming clogged and unusable, or even the disintegration of the stone.
A prime example of this situation is the Japanese Waterstones. These stones are generally expensive and are intended to be used with water only as of the lubricant. Using oil on these stones has been known to destroy them and ruin your investment.
Storing a Wet Whetstone In Cold Conditions
If you experience cold conditions where you live, and the temperatures get down to freezing on a regular basis, storing a stone that is wet may cause you a problem.
If the stone is not dried out properly, the remaining water in the pores of the stone can freeze. The expansion of the water as it freezes can put enough pressure on the structure of the stone that it will crack and break.
Waxy Coatings On Knife Blades
Some knives come with a protective layer on the blade to protect them from tarnishing or from rust. Sometimes the compound used to do this contains wax such as beeswax.
As you sharpen a knife that has such a waxy substance on it, the wax is deposited on the stone, and it becomes smooth and loses its effectiveness in sharpening the blade.
The wax penetrates into the stone and can be difficult to remove to restore the stone to being an effective sharpening tool. While this cause may not destroy the stone completely, it will definitely create a lot of work for you to restore the stone.
Some methods to restore the stone from this kind of problem include heating the stone to melt the wax and then placing it on paper to absorb the melted wax.
Another method is to submerge the stone in boiling water, but care needs to be taken that the stone does not crack when doing this.
Dropping The Whetstone
The nature of the material that whetstones are made from, be they manufactured or natural materials, makes them hard and brittle and not able to bounce.
Dropping a whetstone on a hard surface can chip the stone or crack the stone, or even shatter the stone completely.
If a whetstone is cracked, it will be uneven along the crack, and you will not be able to use that area of the stone to sharpen a blade correctly.
Likewise, chips or divots on the surface of the stone will make that area of the stone unsuitable for sharpening. If the damaged area is in the middle of the stone, it may be ruined entirely.
Obviously, if the stone shatters after being dropped, it will be ruined and will just create more work for you to clean up your workshop. Your only recourse is to sweep it up and throw it in the dustbin.
TIP: Many people think that leaving whetstone in water for too long can ruin it. But it’s true? Find out more about leaving whetstone in water in the article below:
Can You Leave A Whetstone In Water? All You Need To Know
How To Maintain Your Whetstone
Whetstone maintenance can be an important aspect to getting a sharp edge on your blade when using the stone, as well as extending the life and efficiency of the stone.
If the stone is a water stone, make sure that the stone is thoroughly soaked before using it.
Most manufacturers recommend that the stone be soaked for 15 to 30 minutes before it is used to sharpen a blade. You will also need to add water to the surface periodically while you are sharpening.
When you are finished sharpening, wipe excess water from the stone with a cloth and let it air-dry overnight before storing it.
Some stones can be kept permanently in the water, but this is not the case with all stones, so you will need to check with the manufacturer before you store your stone this way.
If your stone is an oil stone, some manufacturers recommend all the oil be cleaned from the stone before storage, but others just require the surface to be wiped off with a cloth.
Periodically flatten the stone to make sure you are always working on a surface that is as flat as possible. This can be done with a cheaper, coarse whetstone and rubbing it over the surface to flatten the stone.
Another way to get the same result is by using a wet/dry, coarse sandpaper, something like a 220 grit, and placing it on a flat surface such as a piece of granite or and piece of glass. Wet the sandpaper and rub the surface on the stone to flatten it out.
Regularly flip your whetstone end to end; in other words, the end that was facing you is now facing away from you. This will help to wear the stone evenly and help to prevent dishing of the stone.
Cleaning The Whetstone After Use
Proper cleaning and maintenance of a whetstone are essential for its longevity and continued effectiveness.
Over time, metal particles, debris, and residue from sharpening can accumulate on the surface of the whetstone, clogging its pores and diminishing its sharpening abilities.
Neglecting to clean the whetstone can result in reduced performance, uneven sharpening, and even potential damage to the tools or knives being sharpened.
Failing to clean the whetstone can have several negative consequences. Firstly, the buildup of metal particles and debris can clog the pores of the stone, reducing its ability to effectively remove material from the blade during sharpening.
This leads to a less efficient sharpening process and can result in dull edges or uneven bevels. Not cleaning the whetstone can introduce contaminants to the surface, such as oil, grease, or dirt.
These substances can further hinder the sharpening process and potentially transfer onto the blades, affecting their performance and hygiene.
Neglecting to clean the whetstone can accelerate its wear and reduce its lifespan. As particles accumulate on the surface, the abrasive quality of the stone diminishes, requiring more effort and time to achieve the desired sharpness.
Regular cleaning helps maintain the abrasive properties of the whetstone, ensuring optimal sharpening results and prolonging its usability.
The following are some simple cleaning and maintenance tips to preserve the whetstone’s lifespan.
- Remove debris. After each use, thoroughly clean the whetstone by rinsing it under running water. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to gently scrub away any residual metal particles or debris. Avoid using harsh cleaning agents or abrasive materials that can damage the surface of the stone.
- Deep cleaning. Periodically, you may need to perform a deep cleaning to remove stubborn stains or buildup. Submerge the whetstone in a basin of warm water and let it soak for a few minutes. Gently scrub the surface with a soft brush or sponge to remove any remaining particles. Rinse thoroughly and allow the stone to air dry completely before storage.
- Flattening. As mentioned earlier, flattening the whetstone is crucial for maintaining its effectiveness. Regularly check the flatness of the stone and, if necessary, use a flattening stone or sandpaper to level its surface. This ensures consistent sharpening results and prevents uneven wear on the stone.
- Proper storage. Store the whetstone in a clean and dry area, away from moisture and excessive heat. Consider using a protective case or container to prevent dust or debris from settling on the stone between uses.
By incorporating these cleaning and maintenance practices into your whetstone care routine, you can preserve its lifespan, maintain its sharpening performance, and ensure the longevity of your tools and knives.
TIP: Did you ever wonder how long the knife sharpeners last? Can be knife sharpeners worn out? Find out more about wearing out different knife sharpeners in the article below:
Do Knife Sharpeners Wear Out? Answer for Various Sharpeners
A whetstone is considered by many to be the best way to put a really sharp edge on a knife. However, learning this skill can take some time and take its toll on the stones that you are using.
Whetstones can be quite expensive to purchase, so it may be a wise choice to use cheaper stones while you hone your technique.
Once you are comfortable maintaining the correct angle of the blade, and the even pressure across the entire surface of the stone, then you can move on to more expensive stones without the risk of ruining them with poor technique.
Poor technique is not the only way to ruin a whetstone, and it pays to give your stones some regular attention and maintenance to keep them in prime operating condition.
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