Home Economics: How to Sharpen Your Knives At Home


For many reasons, it’s a shame that home economics is no longer part of the standard academic curriculum. Home economics taught students much more than how to boil an egg; it reinforced the lessons learned in science and math; it taught others about the importance of hand-washing; and what real food looked like.

These days I guess it’s up to me and Martha Stewart.

I don’t need to tell you that a dull knife is dangerous– but I’m going to tell you anyway. A dull knife is dangerous. (Told you.) Yesterday, I spent 30-minutes sharpening my knives. Today, as I made fresh vegetable juice I was thankful for it. A dull knife is a time suck; a sharp knife makes prep work a breeze.

As much of a foodie and amateur chef as I am, it wasn’t until recently that I learned how to properly sharpen and care for knives. There are two ways to sharpen a knife: with a whetstone or with a steel. Because I don’t have room in my kitchen for something that so resembles a poker-cum-sword, I sharpen my knives with a whetstone.

How to Sharpen Your Knife With a Whetstone

Much like an emory board, whetstones have two distinct sides: a course side and a smooth side. As with your fingernails, begin with the course side of the stone.

**Note: I like to soak my whetstone for 10-minutes prior to sharpening.

  1. After soaking your whetstone, place it upon a damp towel (this will help to keep the stone in place).
  2. Course side up, touch the tip of your knife’s blade to the stone at an angle between 17º and 20º (see, I told you home economics reinforced math lessons). While maintaining and even pressure, move the blade away from you, so at the end of the stroke the part of the blade closest to the handle (and your hands) is coming off of the whetstone.
  3. Repeat, turning the blade each time, keeping track of how many swipes you make.
  4. Turn the stone, smooth side up, and repeat the process keeping the number of swipes the same.
  5. Wipe your knife clean before using.

General Knife Know-How

  • Never, never, never leave your knife soaking in water. Always clean your knives immediately after use to preserve their integrity. Chef Masaharu Morimoto cleans and sharpens his knives after every use.

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