It’s one of the most timeless and worthwhile kitchen tools you can buy.

By David McCann
Updated February 20, 2020
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I admit it, I am a proud knife nerd.

I’m not the kind of cook who needs all of the latest silly, uni-task gadgets. But, I have 10 great knives. I love them, and I take care of them obsessively. And that is why I’m going to strongly suggest that you learn to use one of the oldest culinary tools still employed… the sharpening stone.

But, I can hear you say, I already use that sorta kinda blunt sword-like thing that came with my knife set. Isn’t that enough to keep my knives sharp?

In a word, no. The sword thingy is called a steel. And all it does is help to remove burrs, and some small imperfections in your knife caused by use. Think of your knife as a V shape, that over time, turns into a wavy U shape. The steel assists in partially returning the V.

However, that is not sharpening. Sharpening requires dragging the metal blade across something harder than the knife itself that has varying degrees of roughness. Sort of like sandpaper.

There are various ways to sharpen your knives. You can have a pro do it. That will cost you, and you’ll be without your knives for some amount of time. You can go the electric sharpener route. That will cost you the initial investment, and (this is the crucial part to me) you risk removing WAY too much of the metal each time you use it. There are also small hand held non electrical versions, but again, the risk of shaving too much metal off of your knives is real.

This, of course, brings me to one of my absolute favorite kitchen tools: the sharpening stone. It is exactly what it purports to be. A stone (actually 2 stones of differing roughness) that sharpens. Period. While I admit they are not free—you can spend anywhere from about $10 to $100 on a good stone—it is a lifetime investment. Plus I, nerd that I am, derive a zen like pleasure from sharpening my knives. And learning how to use the stone couldn’t be simpler. One or two attempts, and you are well on your way to being a pro. Trust me, once you get the hang of it, knife sharpening is really fun. And knowing that I’m not only not damaging my knives, but that they are about 1000% safer to use after sharpening is a great motivator.

Yes, you heard me. The sharper the knife, the safer it is. It is much less likely to slip or slide or bounce off of whatever you’re cutting if it’s razor sharp.

And the real joy of the stone? Your knives will last long enough to both give you a lifetime’s worth of pleasure in the kitchen, and they’ll be in such good shape you can put them in your will… along with your cast-iron and Le Creuset.