My favourite type of sharpening stone has always been oil, but these are certainly not the most popular choice for woodworkers today.
I think it’s important to realise that there isn’t one type of sharpening stone that’s best for all. It’s more a case of choosing the type which best meets your particular needs.
The best sharpening stones are the ones that match the type of tool steel that you use, along with your woodworking methods. Our Online Sharpening Course teaches all you need to know about choosing stones along with understanding your edges, mastering the methods & getting the most from your hand tools. You can find the details here.
Sharpening Stones In My Workshop
Water Stones Are Crap…
…yep, they are nothing but a pain in the arse. In constant need of maintenance, they are soft and messy.
Most of the time that really is how I feel, but before I send you in to a raging protest please let me give a few more details.
Sharpening is one of those subjects that can turn up the heat on any discussion, and I think that strong opinion can be necessary. What I feel is more important, or at least more helpful though, is when the opinion is dished out with a full understanding of the context or circumstance behind it.
Water stones are clearly not crap. There are more than a few people slicing the hairs off the back of their hands and slightly frothing at the mouth that I would write such garbage. Many people would swear by them, but I’ve simply never found that they suit me all that well.
Water Stone Dislikes:
It’s the water part that puts them in my bad books. I’ve had to endure some pretty cold winters without any heating, and when it’s below freezing outside, putting your fingers anywhere near a tub of swarfy cold water can become more than a little off putting.
Disruptive To My Workflow-
With an emphasis on hand work, sharpening has become part of my rhythm.
I’ve never spent time concerned with getting my edges to within the nth degree of sharpness, as no matter how sharp I get an edge, frequent sharpening is still inevitable.
Because of this I prefer softer steels and a fuss free, few moments at the stones to touch things up free hand.
Whilst water stones cut fast, I find the need for flattening the stones is a disruption to my workflow.
My Sharpening Stone Preference – Oil
Oil stones aren’t generally that popular these days, but they tend to suit my work perfectly.
Keeping It Simple –
I learnt in a workshop where the stone had simply a coarse side and a fine side. That stone was the most scankiest thing I’ve ever seen, all wrapped up in it’s old rag. No one dared go near it. Oil stone? This was more like a Spit stone.
Needless to say I’ve never really thought too technically when it comes to sharpening grits, and I’ll go to a strop when I need a finer edge.
I rarely if ever work exotic or particularly troublesome timbers, and this is another reason I have not found a need to work on an edge for any great length of time.
Keeping It Portable –
I like my sharpening stones to be easily portable.
This has become more of a priority of late, while I’m traveling between workshops. I couldn’t be doing with anything messy or cumbersome.
Working without a fixed sharpening station also became important through building many workbenches.
I don’t spend a lot of time at a fixed bench for this, because I’m usually building a bench upon itself, as it comes together.
Instead of a set sharpening location, I prefer to take my sharpening stones across the workshop and dump them on the nearest surface, so they’re never more than an arms length away.
Diamond – The Modern Sharpening Stone?
I’ve nearly always used oil stones, but I did treat myself to some diamond stones a couple of years ago. I like that these cut quickly and need nothing more than a bit of spit, but I haven’t found them worth writing home about.
Once I feel their use has justified the expense I may well go back to the oil stones again.
For modern tool steel, these modern stones do offer a convenient alternative to water stones. Diamond stones don’t need flattening, or soaking in water. Oil stones loose out here, as they’re just too slow for hard and thick irons.
Your Sharpening Stone Needs?
For my needs water stones are a bit of a drag. I hope it now makes more sense for me to say that they are crap.
I’d like to hear your sharpening story. Be as strong as you like, but only if you give a good explanation.
How does your circumstance affect what you love or loathe?