To sharpen a knife you will need to get a set of stones. A "set" is usually composed of 3 steps. First step is a coarse stone, which shed more material from the knife. Second step is a sharpening stone "perse", which fine tunes the edge. Third step uses a finishing stone, which refines and polishes the edge of a knife.
In addition to this 3 basic steps, there are 2 other steps that are very important. One of this steps is the flattening & thinning stone. Which are super coarse and rough, shedding a lot of material from your "Set" of stones. This roughness helps rectify your sharpening stones and can help you re-profile your blades, fix chips, etc. Second extra step is a strop, usually long leather strip, usually associated with classic barber shops. This leather strop helps straighten the edge of a knife, let's think of it a comb for the edge.
As you can imagine stones need to be categorized somehow, this is were the #numbers start making sense. Stones range from very low numbers like #100 and run up to #30,000. "Lower" numbered stones are the rougher and coarser stones, "higher" numbered stones are smoother and polish more. This is were it can get complicated and technical, also the reason why there are really expensive stones and cheaper stones. In the future we will write a bit more on this, but for the time being knowing what the number means can help you understand a bit better the theory behind getting a dull knife returning its sharp edge.
Remember your knife is a tool, and the stones will simply "eat" away the metal to establish or restore an edge. How much to "eat" and at what rate is an educational journey, that requires experimentation, research, and time. The set you build will "eat" at a determined rate depicted by a #number on the stone. This number system helps us build and maintain knife edges.
Knifes are made of a wide range of materials, we will elaborate about this in the future. As a general rule, a stainless steel knife will be sharpened up to a #2000 grit stone, as this metal has bigger particles, and simply won't benefit from sharpening at higher numbered stones. This contrasts with high carbon steel, that has very small particles, and can be sharpened up to 16,000, but in reality #4000, is more than enough to cut fats, and #6000 and up for delicate cuts. The higher the number, the finer the edge and the more delicate the cut. This explanation is over simplified, as there are many kinds of stainless, and carbon steels, and edge applications.
Another factor that you will have to consider when buying a stone set is hardness and mineral composition which affect directly your knifes edge retention. As a general rule cheaper knifes will use softer metals, and higher priced knifes will use harder metals. Price is also affected by craftsmanship, finish, fit, accessories, etcetera. Bur hardness is a very important factor at the time of choosing your knife and a sharpening stone set. In the future we will talk about Rockwell rating that gives a number to this "hardness" factor.
As a general rule It is expected that an expensive knife will hold its sharp edge for longer, and cheap softer metal knifes will get dull faster in comparison. This is why some cooks can have the same style of knife and have different applications for them. If the knife is harder it takes longer to sharpen, and softer knifes take less time to sharpen. In commercial kitchens this softer nature helps a lot because employees can easily sharpen on the fly and continuer working, also not a bad situation for a beginner, as softer knifes will be sharp much faster.
If you enjoy knifes, or are a cook I would encourage you to invest in a set of stones. Below you will find 2 sets I can recommend. The first is a comprehensive set for the enthusiast, and the second recommended set for low budget beginners. Either way you will get a sharp knife. So don't worry about having a low budget beginning, this will probably result being a strength for you over time.
Stones sets for kitchen knifes:
Comprehensive sets should be composed of a minimum of 4 Stones & 1 Leather strop:
1. Flattening diamond plate (#140-#300)
2. Coarse Stone (#500-#800)
3. Sharpening stone (#800-#3000)
4. Finishing Stone (#3000-#10000)
5. Leather strop
If your on a tighter budget and can't really fathom investing on stones, I will recommend a minimum of:
1. Flattening diamond plate (#140)
2. Combo stone set (#800/#4000)
Additionally if your knifes ares completely dull, Its recommended to contact a sharpening professional for a fresh edge to learn on.
Hopefully we've piqued your interested in this topic. Plz let us know what you think and your journey. Next time we will delve a bit on basic sharpening techniques.