japanese waterstones

In the same way that Japanese knives differ from European blades, Japanese sharpening stones resemble their Western counterparts but hide some very handy differences. You may even conclude they’re better, and they definitely have advantages in culinary applications.

Waterstones look much the same as whetstones, and like American sharpening stones do come in both natural and synthetic materials. Natural waterstones need about 24 hours to soak in water before use; synthetic stones need only minutes. The less expensive synthetic stones work as well as those cut from natural abrasives. What makes the waterstones different from western types is that these stones were chosen because they gradually crumble under the action of a knife blade. A good Arkansas stone offers a tougher abrasive surface, but clogs with steel particles unless continuously lubricated with something appropriately viscous like spit, expensive honing oil, or cheap kerosene. Any of those three makes an Arkansas stone unwelcome in the kitchen.

Waterstones meet the needs of chefs because they require nothing more than clean water and elbow grease to restore a knife to mint condition. The cutting action comes partly from the paste of grit that forms as you work, so you shouldn’t rinse away all the slurry on the waterstone’s surface while working. Flush the surface clean when finished. Waterstones do wear away faster than Arkansas novaculite or synthetic carborundum, but a waterstone of coarse grit rubbed over a stone of smaller grit restores the finer surface to an accurate level plane.

At least three grades of waterstones will be needed to completely restore a badly used knife edge. Perform the rough shaping and nick removal with the coarse grit stone, shape the bevel with the medium stone, and hone the edge to razor sharpness with the fine stone. Waterstones sharpen hard steel that might chip when stropped with a metal honing rod, and in expert hands maintain the thinner bevel angle of Japanese blades. The finest grades of waterstones bring the cutting edge to a mirror polish.

Some of our Favorite Waterstones:

Kai’s Combination Whetstone includes a stand designed for use on a kitchen counter and medium and fine grit stones bonded together in a reversible matrix.

Global’s rough Ceramic Stone with 120 grit reshapes harder Japanese steels quickly and makes a good backup for the Kai Combination.

The Yoshikin Global 5000 grit waterstone goes well beyond the best efforts of the Kai’s 1000 grit fine stone, polishing the final edge without disturbing its shape.

Read all of our Japanese waterstone reviews below


Japanese Waterstones

Shapton GlassStone Sharpening Water Stone | Japanese Kitchen Cutlery Diamond 8000 Grit

The 8000 grit Shapton GlassStone shapes the bevel of any plain-edged knife quickly, depending on the skill of the user for...
JT Hats
1 min read

KAI Combination Whetstone Sharpener w/ Kitchen Stand | Japanese Knife Sharpening Stone

The Combination Whetstone from KAI USA includes two grits for shaping and polishing edges plus a stable wooden stand to prevent...
JT Hats
1 min read

Medium Grit Ceramic Sharpening Waterstone by Global

Produced by Yoshikin for upkeep of their especially hard-edged cutlery, these stones bring more efficient materials to the old Japanese waterstone...
JT Hats
1 min read

Global Ceramic Whetstone | Knife Sharpening Stone, Rough Grit 120

Many modern high-end knives are built with steel so hard that the edge chips if used improperly. Micro-chips may not cause...
JT Hats
56 sec read

Yoshikin Global Whetstone | Fine Ceramic Powder Sharpening Stone

This fine 5000-grit synthetic waterstone from Yoshikin, maker of Global cutlery, is the recommended sharpening method for fine Global knives and...
JT Hats
47 sec read

Chroma Haiku Sharpening Stone | 800 Medium Grit Waterstone

Chroma Haiku knives are traditional blades that need matching systems of care, and this Medium 800-grit waterstone is one of the...
JT Hats
52 sec read

Shun Combination Whetstone | Japanese Waterstone for Sharpening | 300 and 1000 Grit

Many amateur chef’s are intimidated by knife sharpening. While unafraid to tackle a dinner party for twelve, they’ve been told that...
37 sec read