You’ll find that the cost of your sharpening stones scales with the cost of your tools.
More expensive isn’t going to mean better if your stones aren’t compatible with the type of steel you use.
If you’re using the types of tools that I recommend, things like the older Stanley’s and low cost chisels then you’ll find that the best sharpening kit is also the cheapest.
These run of the mill tools have such soft steels that the best sharpening stone is without a doubt a double sided Norton oil stone.
A Good Edge.
If you want to get a sharp working edge then just use a double sided Norton and job’s a good’un.
Don’t fret about high grits, it’ll work.
A Long Lasting Edge.
If you want to take it a step further and increase your edge life then you can make a strop. Strops are very simple to make. A bit of suede on a bit of wood and rub on some polishing compound. This Veritas one is very fine, but I find it works a treat.
A Fast Edge.
If you want to gain speed in the rougher sharpening area then you can replace the coarse side of that Norton stone with diamond.
Go for the coarsest diamond stone that you can get.
Choosing Your Sharpening Stones.
The Oil Stone
Sharpening can feel like a science and it seems that when people struggle they start looking for numbers hoping that finding some secret figure will make things click.
The real secret is in letting go of all of that scientific maths.
I don’t get in to that whole grit thing when buying an oil stone.
As long as one side’s fine and the other’s coarse it’ll kind of do the job.
Oil stones are very good at clagging up and burnishing so before you know it the fine becomes super fine. I say this as a good thing.
If you’re setting up your sharpening kit from scratch and going for the fully fledged option (complete with diamond stone) then you can skip the coarse oil. In place of the double sided Norton you could just pick up a single sided fine oil stone.
The Diamond Stone.
Adding the diamond stone to this kit is all about adding speed, so the coarser the better.
If you’ve got the money, the best diamond stone you can buy is probably the extra coarse DMT lapping plate.
It’s a beast, a massive thing that can burn a primary bevel on in seconds.
I use this type of diamond stone for multiple jobs including flattening other sharpening stones, general restoration and tool maintenance so it sees plenty of use.
If the DMT is stretching the budget then you can go with a much smaller diamond stone for this job. Since we’re using it for roughing the primary bevels precision is not vital.
Maintenance For Your Sharpening Stones.
While cheap tools allow cheap sharpening stones, a simple kit also allows for a simple sharpening routine.
A quick touch up once in a while is all that’s needed to maintain your oil stone. And to be honest you can get away without this at all.
Rub it a bit on your coarse diamond plate and job’s a good’un. It’ll freshen up the cutting edge and maintain flatness of the stone but as I say, it really isn’t essential.
My methods of sharpening are very, very forgiving in this regard so I haven’t flattened mine since we filmed the Get Sharp series. And it’s had a lot of use.
A Super Sharp Edge
If you’re worried that cheap and simple are sounding like compromises then don’t be. This is the setup for getting super sharp edges that can make your hand tools a true pleasure to use.
Just remember, don’t even look at an oil stone with A2 steel. The sharpening kit described here is for your softer steels only.
For a complete guide to sharpening your edge tools, including the set up for harder steels, methods, routines, angles, cambers and all the other scientific maths have a browse of our ‘Get Sharp’ video series.