Work Sharp Whetstone Takes Guesswork Out of an Ancient Craft

The Work Sharp Whetstone uses integrated angle guides to assist knife sharpeners. We put it to the test.

I want to be great at sharpening knives on a whetstone. But it’s a tricky craft blending a bit of art and a lot of science.

And as much as I find whetstones romantic — the slow draw of steel over a sopping stone, the concentration, the repetition — I struggle to hold a perfect angle consistently.

Often, I find myself rounding over the edge and failing to create a burr thanks to failed muscle memory. The inconsistent strokes lead to sort-of-sharp knives.

work sharp whetstone

Work Sharp’s latest product, the Benchtop Whetstone ($30), aims to remedy mediocre skills with a simple but well-designed solution.

The brand uses magnetically attached angle guides on each end of the stone to give sharpeners a reference angle for every stroke. And while it still requires some muscle memory and consistency, the guides do work.

Work Sharp Benchtop Whetstone Review

Testing the Benchtop Whetstone, I started with a cheap kitchen knife. I didn’t want my clumsy strokes to take off the fine edges I’d honed on my nicer knives using a Wicked Edge system.

So with a dull Sharp Select chef’s knife as my canvas, I went to work with the palate of the Benchtop Whetstone.

Work Sharp Benchtop Whetstone

You start by soaking the Benchtop Whetstone in water for 5-10 minutes. It absorbs water well, and I found it remained wet easily with just a few drops applied every few minutes.

The stone sits in a sturdy plastic holder (and has an anti-skid mat), which reduces the mess of slurry that will get on your countertops or workbench.

With the stone prepped, I got to work using the 17-degree guide. The 15- or 17-degree guides, which have a rubberized face, set our angle perfectly at the beginning of each stroke across the 1,000- or 6,000-grit surface of the stone (it has two grits, one on each side).

In short: This whetstone’s guides are really helpful. While other solutions give you a little wedge to place on the surface of the stone, these remain in place on the end of the stone. In this way, they are easy to refer to constantly, and you don’t have to worry about the guide taking up space on the stone surface.

Work Sharp Benchtop: Using the Stone

Following the instructions, I pushed the knife across the surface of the stone, working to build a burr. The 1,000-grit surface quickly removed material from the soft stainless knife. Was that a burr I felt? It seemed so, even though it wouldn’t raise along the point of the knife.

Work Sharp Benchtop Whetstone
The Benchtop Whetstone magnetic guide

So I switched sides, then repeated the process with the 6,000-grit hone surface. The result was a pretty sharp knife in about 15 minutes. I was pleased with the results.

But like with any stone, the Work Sharp guides are only that — guides. You still have to maintain good form and hold the angle true to get good results. I struggled to get a good edge on the tip, finally calling it good enough after another 10 minutes.

This was by no means the fault of the sharpener, but mine, and I’m fine with admitting it. Sharpening on a stone is a skill. But the guides do make it somewhat easier and faster to achieve good results.

I enjoyed using the Benchtop Whetstone. It’s a great option for those who want to learn to sharpen by hand. It gives you a little bit of help but leaves enough to the user for the romance of hand-sharpening to remain.

Hiker's Dream Knife: Benchmade Bugout Review
The Best Knives for Backpacking & Hiking

Hikers want a light, reliable, versatile pocket knife on the trail. These seven knives will keep hikers happy mile after mile. Read more…

Sean McCoy
By

Editor-in-Chief Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.

Topics: ,