How do you think you’ll be storing whetstone? If you feel ashamed asking this question, don’t be. I was curious myself about this exact thing the first time I used whetstones. Aside from using them, I had no idea how to store them or preserve their integrity.
Although whetstone is named “wet” for a reason, whetstones are better stored dry. Make sure to leave your whetstones under a dry cloth and let them air dry for a few hours (most preferably overnight).
Whetstones are cold brick-like pieces of rock, and indeed they would not need such intricate handling, right? Well, it turns out that they do need complex handling, and in this article, let us talk about exactly that.
The Story Of Whet And Dry: Keeping Whetstones Safe
For me, a whetstone is like my knife’s best friend. However, unlike my knife that is straightforward to use and store, whetstones are basically like the amalgamation of an irony. As said earlier, while whetstones prefer being wet, they do not like staying wet for too long and like to be stored while dry.
Now that part made me think about it a lot, and it probably made you think about it as well. That is why below, I will explain the story of “whet” and dry: a guide to keeping your whetstones safe.
Why Do We Wet Whetstones When We Use Them?
As much as I want to keep the explanation short and sweet, this part will require a bit of science to explain. It is common knowledge that whetstones are stored or submerged underwater for twenty to thirty minutes before usage. However, why do I need to do that anyway?
Contrary to popular belief, whetstones do not need to be wet when used. If you want to feel the grit and want to increase friction when using your whetstone, you might want to use your whetstone while dry (although I highly do not recommend following this route). However, there is a reason why most people like using whetstone wet.
When you use your whetstone and grind your knife on the whetstone, the swarf may build up over time. Now, what is swarf, you ask? Swarf is an umbrella term used to refer to debris from both the whetstone and the knife.
When the swarf builds up over constant use of the whetstone, it will be harder to sharpen your knife since the swarf will cover the surface of the whetstone.
When this happens, the knife you are sharpening will require lapping through the entire surface of the whetstone before being honed. Now, this is where the lubricant comes in.
Lubricants commonly come in two forms. Most people use easily accessible and cheap water (preferably tap water), although others use oil. However, some whetstones do not want to interact with oil. Diamond sharpening stones, for example, do not like to be used with oil.
Why Do We Want To Store Whetstones Dry?
Now that we have covered whetstones and their need for a lubricant, which is most of the time water, why then do we need to store whetstones dry? Although it may seem like a pretty funny irony, there is a rationale why whetstones must be kept dry.
One of the most common enemies for all household devices and items is mold. These tiny plant-like organisms (most people mistake them for plants, but molds are fungi) are pretty invasive and like to live in damp and dark places. Most whetstones are wet and stored in shady areas, so they make for a perfect mold colony’s habitat.
Now one way to reduce the presence of molds is to keep your whetstones as dry as possible. This risk is why after using whetstones, we recommend air drying them and storing them in cloth. Moreover, try to avoid shady areas when trying to keep them. (source)
However, one thing you might need to know is that most of the time, even though whetstones feel like they are dry, they are most undoubtedly wet to a certain degree unless you have left them unused for over a year or so.
Keeping them one hundred percent dry is an impossibility, but mitigating the problem can help prolong the whetstone’s lifespan.
Can I Store Whetstone In Water?
Whetstones need to be wet when used and dry when stored. This ironic preference makes it so that when one tries to use a whetstone, there is a small thirty-minute preparation window, which, despite seeming irrelevant, wastes time and reduces productivity. Is there any way then to reduce the preparation time without damaging the whetstone?
Well, there is a way to do just exactly that. Since we do not want molds with our whetstones, we need to prevent providing an ideal environment for growth—the answer to efficient whetstone storing lies within two words: water bath.
When you use your whetstones regularly, preparing a water bath for your whetstone is optimal to save time. Since you are dunking your whetstone in a few inches of water, spores from molds will have difficulty reaching your whetstone.
Retaining Integrity: Tips To Preserve Whetstone
Although it’s cold and rock-hard features (literally), whetstone needs preservation to retain its integrity. After all, no one would want to use a whetstone that cannot sharpen blades. In this section of the article, let us talk about preserving the whetstone’s integrity and ability.
Three Tips To Preserve Whetstone
- Make sure that you have the right whetstone with you.
- Keep your whetstone flat at all times.
- Flip your whetstone occasionally.
The Importance Of Grit (The Right Whetstone)
Most people like to assume that almost all whetstones are the same; said whetstones are for sharpening blades. Although I won’t deny that whetstones are for sharpening blades, the truth is that whetstones have categories and have different uses. A whetstone that may work well with one knife may not bode well with another.
Whetstones have their classifications differentiated by their grit, and choosing the wrong whetstone grit may compromise the integrity of both your knife and your whetstone. For example, using a very dull blade on a whetstone with 4000 grit is a horrible idea.
Whetstone Use Vs. Storage
It does not matter how much you take care in storing your whetstones if you do not use them properly anyway. To retain the integrity of your whetstone, you must learn how to keep your whetstone flat.
When you grind your knife to the whetstone, particles fly off and, in turn, will turn your flat whetstone into an unbalanced mess. When this happens, your knife will not grind correctly, and you will be risking the safety of your blades and will be wasting your whetstone body.
One way to avoid the unbalancing of whetstones is to practice an easily executable practice. Most people unconsciously use one surface of the whetstone more than the other. To ensure that this does not happen, flip your whetstone from time to time to avoid overusing one side over the other.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What Whetstone Grit Should You Sharpen Knives With?
If your knife is very dull, you should use a whetstone with a lower grit, around 200 to 400. When the blade is not that dull, you can shift the grit level to 2000 to 4000. Following this guide is sure to prevent damage to the knife and the whetstone as well.
2. Is The Angle Of Sharpening Crucial?
While using a whetstone, having too low of an angle will wear out the whetstone and the knife by a lot. However, when the angle is too high, you end up putting too much pressure while not sharpening much.
3. Are Whetstones Synthetic?
Most mass-produced whetstones are synthetic whetstones, and most probably, the one you are using right now is synthetic.