Most cutting tools like knives, scissors, and others are made of steel and other hard materials. The cutting is enabled because the cutting edges have been sharpened and tempered to a point, where their tapered edges are able to cut the softer materials that they are required to. After constant use, these edges will lose their sharpness and require to be sharpened again with whetstones, or other sharpening devices that have constantly been undergoing development.
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The use of a whetstone allows knives and the cutting edges of scissors to be kept in the best of shape and condition so that these tools can remain active and perform the tasks for which they are used. A whetstone is basically a fine-grained stone that has been in use for sharpening tools for centuries, ever since humans discovered the use of metals and learned how to work them to make cutting implements. These sharpening stones come in a wide range of sizes and shapes and can be composed of different materials. These stones will generally be flat, though some may have complex edges that are useful for sharpening special tools used in woodturning. They come in various grades which are differentiated by the size of the grit that makes up the abrasive material. This size is denoted by a number that gives an indication of the density of the particles that can cause the required abrasion. High numbers mean the particles are smaller and will give a finer finish to the metal that is being honed or sharpened on the whetstone. In earlier times, natural stones were used for this sharpening, but their use though not completely stopped, has been reduced because of the high quality of readily and easily available artificial whetstones. Modern whetstones that are synthetic have a consistent size of the abrading materials and this allows for a superior performance in sharpening. Natural whetstones have now become more common as collector’s items that are often prized for their appearance and beauty. Artificial whetstones are made of silicon carbide or aluminum oxide that are bonded together, and these bonded abrasive surfaces provide a cutting action that is faster than what you can achieve with a natural stone whetstone. Some of these whetstones come with two cutting surfaces, one with a coarse grit on one side, and a fine grit on the other. This allows the cutting edges to be first brought roughly to the required degree of sharpness with the coarser side, and the final finishing is done with the finer side.
Most whetstones use water to give the required lubrication that helps in the sharpening process where the cutting edge is rubbed over the whetstones. Some stones also use oil as a lubricant. Whetstones can also have diamonds as the abrasive material, while ceramic stones are fast cutting stones that leave a consistent pattern, and are widely used for finishing the sharpening process. Whetstones can be mounted on workbenches or other locations but must be firmly anchored so that they do not move while the abrading is in progress. You can also place whetstones on flat surfaces where you have access to water, and at a height where it is convenient to create the required pressure that will allow the cutting edges to be finished to the required degree of sharpness.
Whetstones are superior sharpening tools because they create the sharpening edges gradually and do not take away too much of the metal from the cutting tool. The use of a whetstone does not require too much of expertise but does need you to know the correct way of using it. It is a skill that can be easily mastered with practice and can be cost-effective and save you time because of the simple process that its use involves. It is an action that has an average difficulty and may not require more than a few minutes.
Place the whetstone on a firm surface like a countertop or worktable, and see that it will remain immovable during the sharpening process. You can do this by placing a wet paper towel or cloth below the whetstone. If you have a two-sided whetstone, you need to start the sharpening process with having the rougher side upwards. Hold the knife, scissors, or other tool cutting edge with one hand so that it comes to the stone at an angle of approximately twenty degrees. Use the other hand to control the movement of the tool being sharpened as it comes to the surface of the whetstone. Exert moderate pressure while you slide the entire length of the blade, while you ensure that the blade has a consistent angle with the stone. This abrading action that ensures the necessary friction can be repeated a number of times, ten times if you want, and then the cutting edge flipped over to perform the same number of operations on the other side. Test the blade to see if it is now sharp enough, otherwise repeat the procedure, until you are satisfied with the sharpness. You can now repeat the process after flipping over the stone for it to display it fine grit side. You can use water to allow for easier sliding of the edges being sharpened. Using a whetstone in a dry condition is the best way of using it, as water or oil can allow the metal particles to be trapped in the liquid, and this can lead to your blade getting damaged.
It is important that when you are sharpening the edges you always use the same direction in all movements as this will allow the surface to be even and smooth. Rinse the cutting edge of the tool and the whetstone ad wipe them both down with a dry and clean towel. All cutting tools have tempered edges that have a particular depth. Sharpening is only advisable as long as you are in this tempered zone. Once you go into the normal area of the cutting edge, sharpening further will not give you the desired results as edges will wear out much faster. At this stage, you may need to buy a new knife, or scissors or other tools.