While a pull-through sharpener is an easy-to-use in home sharpening method, a whetstone or diamond sharpening steel may be more practical. These tools require a keen attention to detail; with the proper technique, they will shape a much finer edge than could be achieved with a pull-through sharpener and they will take much longer to wear out.
The whetstone is the most versatile sharpening device available — it can be used for both Asian and Western style knives. Most whetstones require submergence for five to ten minutes and reapplication of water throughout the sharpening process. When air bubbles no longer appear, place the stone on a non-slip base. Using the coarse grit of the stone, hold the blade away from the body placed on the whetstone at a 15° to 20° angle. Start at the tip of the knife and move the blade back and forth in a semi-circular fashion using light pressure. After a few pass-throughs, a fine edge will develop. Flip the knife and repeat on the other side of the blade. Repeat this entire process using the fine grit of the stone. It is extremely important to maintain a consistent angle through the entire process. Rinse the newly sharpened knife in hot water.
Made of either diamond or carbide, sharpening steels are used in the same fashion as a honing steel. Unlike a honing steel, sharpening steel materials are hardened enough to grind away steel and place a new edge on the knife. As with the whetstone, it is extremely important to maintain a consistent 15° to 20° angle through the entire process: the angle maintained will be the angle of the resulting edge.
These sharpening techniques may require practice and a certain level of attention to detail, but don’t let that be intimidating. Whetstones and sharpening steels are some of the best in-home tools available for knife maintenance. With a little time investment, anyone can learn to sharpen their knives at a professional level.