Thursday, January 26, 2017


The discussion of sharpening stones is like discussing cutting dovetails. Do you cut tails or pins first and do use machines to cut them?  Like many of us I too fell into the trap of believing everything you read without actually testing or asking a professional in the field.  

The subject for today is sharpening stones.  What sharpening stones should I buy and why?  The answer to this question is quite simple, well today it is.  For bench chisels and plane blades my choice is water stones. The main reason why I prefer water stones is how quick water stones establishes a keen edge. The only negative to water stones is they need to be flatten regularly.  Years ago water stones needed to be soaked all the time in a bucket/container of some sort. Today though we are blessed with ceramic water stones that don't need to soaked but rather sprayed with water before use. 
The stones of choice for me are Sharpton ceramic water stones and the grits I use are 1000, 5000, and 8000 grit.  

When it comes to sharpening carving and turning tools I use a totally different set up. I like to use oil stones for curved tools because the stones are hard and don't get out of flat.  While oil stones cut slower they allow you to focus on the tool rotation side to side.  While the stones are hard they still need to be maintained by wiping the stones with clean oil and rag. If you don't wipe down the stones than they can get glazed over. If the stone gets glazed boy you have your work cut out to bring them back to working order. The oil stones I use are from norton. The grits I use I is coarse, medium, and black surgical.  The lubrication for oil stones can be just about anything but I prefer mineral oil.  

My last must have stone for multiple reasons is the coarse and fine diamond stone from DMT.  I use this stone to flatten my water stones, flatten plane and chisel backs, and to help the process of sharpening the cabinet and card scraper. I use water as my lubricate because I use the diamond stone to flatten my water stones.  

This selection of sharpening stones are what I use and many other trained professionals in the field. But like everything in the field of woodworking there are always an exception of the rule. 

Free hand sharpening is a skill I recommend everyone to learn. This process takes practice. But there is nothing wrong with a honing guide. I own the Lie-Nielsen version and it works great. Lee Valley also offers a honing guide and it too works awesome. The only issue with honing guides is that they can't hold every tool so you will sooner or later need to sharpen free hand.  

Happy sharpening!

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