Knife Sharpening Setup Basics

For those who do not want to read, this video should help

Here are the essential items you will need for a sharpening kit. You can substitute any in this list with higher or lower cost items, so don’t worry if you cannot find the exact item in stock or if it is not available where you are.

Base: You don’t need anything fancy. A folded bath towel is fine, but I prefer something that offers grip. I use these Silicone mats on Amazon that work well – they offer grip and hold water. 

Whetstone Holder: If you don’t have the budget or can’t wait for something you ordered to arrive before you start sharpening, use a brick. Don’t forget to wrap it with a damp towel to hold the whetstone in place. There are dozens of whetstone holders on Amazon, but I prefer the Naniwa Holder, which uses stainless rods which do not rust. Every other one I have tried has rusted on me.

Water: You will also need something to hold splashing water. During sharpening, you will need to apply water to the whetstone. You don’t have to worry about this if you use a setup like the Burrfection Kit. If you only want the 4″ water bin I use, or you are over 6 feet tall, get the 6″ version. The 4″ version is a little stiffer. 

Soaking vs. Non-soaking Whetstones: Deciding between soaking and non-soaking whetstones, aka Splash-n-Go whetstones. Here are some tested and approved options.

Favorite soaking whetstones:

King Deluxe 1k – This whetstone has always been my best budget pick for knives up to 62 Rockwell. Any higher, and you will quickly notice dishing or gullying in the middle section of the whetstone. See my full review.


Suehiro Cerax 1k – This has been one of my favorite 1000 grit whetstones for years. Similar cutting speed as the King Deluxe, but can handle knives up to 64 Rockwell (tested). See my full review.

Suehiro Rika 5k – A favorite polishing whetstone for hand sharpeners, leaves a Kasumi (hazy) finish and offers a natural feel. See my full review.

rika 2560 x 1440

Favorite Non-soaking / Splash-n-go whetstones: 

Naniwa Pro 3K – My top pick for a medium (4000-6000 grit) polishing whetstone. The Naniwa Pro has always been my favorite series of whetstones. The Pro series is the same as the Chosera series, without the plastic base. I prefer the water bin and holder setup of the 

naniwa 3k

Burrfection Kit, so the Pro series is what I use. See my full review.

Kitayama 8k – An excellent polishing whetstone that leaves a mirror finish without the $100+ price tag. See my full review.


Combo Whetstones: An excellent compromise between buying separate sharpening and polishing whetstones. 

King KDS 1k/6k combo: Best Combo Budget Whetstone – The 1000 grit side offers solid performance for knives up to 62 Rockwell. Any higher, and you will quickly notice dishing or gullying in the middle section of the whetstone. The 6000 grit side requires no pre-soaking. Just splash water on the surface when ready to polish. See my full review.

kinds kds

Naniwa Burrfection Kit – My personal favorite. After years of reviewing their products, Burrfection and Naniwa formed a partnership. The opportunity came unexpectedly after a tour of Japan, where I had the chance to visit Naniwa’s headquarters. Being such an avid user of the Naniwa Pro series, I was very excited for the opportunity to collaborate on an exclusive series of whetstones. The Burrfection Series is an exclusive spin-off of the Pro series. See my full review.

naniwa burrfection kit 1

For drying: Dry Towel

For stropping: You can use the newspaper you have lying around. Newspaper works fine but only once, and you cannot get it wet. A leather strop is a must-have for those who do not want to deal with the hassle of unpredictable results. The raw equine is the strop I use most, mainly because I am too lazy to load and re-load it with stropping compound. See my full review.


Rust Erasers: I keep these handy rust erasers around my shop and home. They are great for cleaning stainless steel appliances, my Naniwa bridge, and loading up on my whetstones. I use the coarse eraser for deeper scratches, the medium eraser for light blemishes and removing load up from whetstones, and the fine eraser for hairline scratches. I even use them to remove minor scratches and rust from my carbon steel knives. 

Koyo Polishing Cloths: These polishing cloths are a cleaner alternative to the Koyo polishing compounds. After every knife sharpening session, I use them to touch up blades and any metal parts on the handles. 

See video here

Now you are ready to start sharpening! See my sharpening tutorial.



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