What Grit Should I Use to Sharpen a Knife?

Published on: April 5, 2022
Written by Eric Devin / Fact-checked by David Rowan

Knife sharpening is an important issue in most kitchens. Being a crucial component of our everyday life, it plays a huge role in slicing, dicing, cutting, or chopping ingredients for cooking.

An effective knife must be edgy enough to get your job done. But even the best one can lose its sharpness over time. 

What will you do then? Buy a new one? Why so when you can sharpen the edges with fine water stones?

But you must choose the grit of the stones accurately in order to make this solution effective. Along with the coarseness, the grit size is equally important to consider buying a sharpening stone.

Our follow-up conversation concentrates on the effect of different grit sizes for sharpening different kinds of knives.

Stay tuned if you need further information. 

what grit should i use to sharpen a knife

What Does Grit Size Mean?

This is probably the most asked question by the new fellows who are using whetstone/water stone for the first time. They struggle to figure out what grit size actually refers to.

Well, this is an absolute must to know if you want to sharpen your knife correctly. Otherwise, you will end up messing with the whole process. In a word, you will not be able to choose the right sharpening stone for your knife.

The digit labeled on a whetstone is an indication of the grit size of the stone. This grit size specifically indicates the abrasive particles within the stone. Also, it points out the spatial density of the materials in the stone. 

Now, you might misjudge the number unless you know the correct information. The lower the number, the coarser the stone because of the rougher surface. 

Categories of Grit Size

There are three main categories of water stones based on the grit sizes. Each of them is engineered for knives that require different levels of sharpening. 

The three prominent sharpening stones based on their grits are-

  • Coarse Stones (#1000 or less)
  • Medium Stones (#1000 to #3000)
  • Finishing Stones (#4000 to #8000)

Let’s explore each range of grit thoroughly to decide the exact grit size for your knives.

Coarse Stones: Grit Range #1000 or Less

Need a rough sharpening to your entirely damaged knife sets? Then choose a grit size within this range and rely on the stone. 

These stones are tailored with both an unrefined side and a moderately refined side. They work for removing nicks and chips and for the usual sharpening, respectively. 

You can get your dullest set of knives back by using this. But never use it for general sharpening. It will not do any good to whet the edges of the blade. Instead, the finishing will be the worst.

Medium Stones: Grit Range #1000 – #3000

The medium stones are usually considered beginner-friendly whetstones for knife sharpening. You can have it as your fundamental tool to perform basic sharpening on a regular basis. 

You will love this grit range around #2000 – #3000 especially if you need to hone your knife edges more often. As they are not as coarse as coarse stones, they are less abrasive as well. 

Still, you should not use them quite often. It can hamper your knife’s performance. As a go-to sharpening tool, this grit range is perfectly fine. But it is not workable for protecting edges. 

So, be cautious when you are using it. Try not to affect the blade’s edges in the name of making them razor-sharp.

Finishing Stones: Grit Range #4000 – #8000

What if you need both exact sharpness and superfine edges? The above two will not do the job at a time, right?

Then you should try this grit number that ranges from #4000 – #8000.

Generally, a grit range of #4000 – #5000 is considered the perfect pick to balance between accurate arrowy and superfine finishing.

For a Western knife having a U-shaped cutting edge will be okay with a #5000 grit whetstone. You can also pick a #6000 or a #8000 stone based on your preferences. 

However, a #8000 grit stone is more suitable for cutting vegetables and fruits. You can lower the range to #4000 or #6000 in case your knife is for cutting meats. 

The reason behind this is that a #8000 grit provides the finest polishing possible. It will make your knife bending prone while cutting meats. 

Deciding the Right Grit Sharpen Your Knife

Although practice and patience are the two deciding factors to achieve mastery in sharpening knives with stones, proper grit number is also a matter of concern.

You have already learned about which grit range is applicable for which purpose. Now let’s discuss further details. 

A stone of #120 to #400 grit is the best to get rid of chips and hone a dull knife. Our recommendation is #240 grit in this case. 

For a usual sharpening purpose, we recommend a stone that has a grit number between #700 to #1200. You can go for up to #2000 grit if needed. 

While sharpening with a coarse stone, you might end up having scratches on the edges of the knife blade. For polishing them perfectly, start with a #2000 grit water stone. Although the maximum limit is not fixed, stones having grit numbers above #10000 is kind of unnecessary in this regard. 

For the starter in knife sharpening, we would not recommend stones with #8000 grit until you gain some experience. For beginners, going with stones in between #3000 to #6000 is more than enough.

So, make your choice based on your demands. If you need a significant amount of sharpening regularly, it’s better to have at least three stones. They will serve all the purposes of rough-grinding, normal sharpening, and honing. 

How Should I Use the Grit to Sharpen My Knife

1. Start by preparing a stable, flat surface to work on.

2. Place the grit on the surface and lay the knife across it.

3. Holding the knife handle with one hand, use the other to drag the blade across the grit in a steady, back-and-forth motion.

4. Make sure to keep the blade at a consistent angle (around 20 degrees) throughout the entire process.

5. Apply a moderate amount of pressure as you draw the knife across the grit.

6. After a few passes, check the blade’s sharpness with your finger.

7. Once you’re satisfied with the sharpness, use a honing steel to smooth out any burrs or rough edges.

8. Finally, use a cloth to wipe away any particles of grit and oil the blade to protect it.

What Safety Precautions Should I Take When Sharpening My Knife

1. Always use a sharpening stone or steel that is appropriate for the type of knife you are sharpening.

2. Make sure you are wearing protective gloves when handling the knife and the sharpening stone.

3. Secure the knife in a knife clamp so that it does not slip or move unexpectedly.

4. Keep your fingers and other body parts away from the blade when sharpening.

5. Always sharpen the knife away from yourself and any other people nearby.

6. Work on a stable and secure surface such as a countertop or table.

7. Use a light touch when sharpening, do not apply too much pressure.

8. Clean and lubricate the blade after sharpening.

9. Store the knife safely in a knife block or sheath when not in use.

How Often Should I Sharpen My Knife

It depends on the type of knife and how often it is used. Generally, it is recommended to sharpen your knives every two to three months, or after 10-15 uses.

Final Words

We have explained all the ins and outs of grit numbers in terms of water stones. Now it’s your turn to consider which grit will suit your needs the best. 

Selecting the exact grit to sharpen your knife is very important. Or else, your hard-earned money will be wasted in the wrong whetstone. Besides, your damaged knife will not be honed accurately. 

As a knife grinder is important to customize the sharpness of the blades, so is the grit. Only perfect grit can lead toward the perfect execution of a whetstone.

So, choose it wisely and make your knives last longer to serve you for years.

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About This Writer

author eric devin

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

Hi, I am Eric Devin and I am a professional interior architect. Since childhood, I've always enjoyed DIY projects! And, I have loved to solve simple household problems using essential tools and equipment. I have also acquired a lot of information about basic household tools settings by working with contractors.

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