Sharpening Stone Types & Preference

by | Apr 2, 2014 | 67 comments

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.

Choose the best sharpening stones

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.I've always prefered a simple, portable sharpening stone

Water Stone Dislikes:

Cold Water-
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.

sharpening stones - oil

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.

coarse diamond stone for flattening sharpening stones

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?

Learning To Sharpen With A Guide?

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Stephen P

    I used to use water stones. I too found them to be a pain. I switched over to the Paul Sellers sharpening method and I find it so much quicker and easier. As you say I may not be getting that nth degree of super sharpness but I haven’t been having any problems either.

    • Simon

      I’m exactly the same. When I first got into woodwork I had a set of water stones because everyone raved about them, but having to keep a tub of water topped up (no running water in my shop) just put me off sharpening. Then I did a nine day course with Paul and met his method and I doubt I’ll ever quit my diamond stones!

  2. Bill White

    Seems to me that sharpening has become some magical and mysterious art only to be attempted by the folks who wear black robes and tall, peaked hats.
    I follow the school that advocates “whatever works for you”.
    You won’t hear any flack from me. 🙂

  3. Chris Buckingham,France

    I find the easy way out is to use a large size diamond “stone”, at least it does not get grooves ploughed into it! Mine has lasted many years with just a good squirt of WD40 every time I use it to flush it clean. I think water stones are more for wood carvers.

  4. David Dougherty

    I recently switched from water stones to diamond stones (I’m using DMT brand) and it’s been a game changer for me. I still use a very little bit of liquid to float swarf away–Simple Green cleaner–so there is still a bit of mess, but it’s easily wiped away using a lint-free cloth. The cycle is now spritz, hone, strop, wipe and back to work. Taking the constant stone flattening out of the equation is a huge time savings. And, just like you, Richard, not having to plunge my hands into cold water to clean stones is a lovely change to my sharpening regime.



    • Kevin

      David, I love my DMT plates. They give me lots more time for woodworking since I spend less tjme sharpening. And they give a razor sharp edge!

  5. Richard

    I’m a waterstone user. I have a sink in my workshop right next to my sharpening table, and the workshop is always heated so cold water is not a problem for me.

    If I didn’t have a sink so close by, then maybe I’d think differently but my system works well for me.

  6. Ken

    Scary Sharp for me, but whatever you use if it gets your tools sharp, and you are happy using it, Job done 😉

  7. Bill

    My Story:
    I started with oil stones. It didn’t take long for me to learn that oil stones just take forever, if that is the only medium that you are using. They do work, they deliver a high polish, but your going to be there for a while.

    I switched to water stones years ago, they worked better, much faster, but keeping them in water all the time and dealing with flattening them all the time became a chore. Again, it was the only sharpening medium I was using. Outside of a grinder.

    I then took a look at everything that was on the market, which is a ton. Doing this I tried to ignore all that others were preaching, mostly because what people say is a regurgitation from the sharpening manufactures. I decided the best thing to do is to exploit the best parts of what I found on the market, both ease of use and ease of maintenance. What worked the best for each part of the process.
    What I discovered is this.

    I can quickly get an edge on Diamond plates, they cut faster than the majority of stones on the market and they stay flat, which is their strengths. However, they don’t polish the best. So, the next step was to find a medium that polished well, easily and quickly with little maintenance. I decided to finish off with some Shapton Pro Water Stones. They don’t need to be soaked, still polish quickly, and will last for a long time. They don’t dish out to bad and take only seconds to flatten with a diamond plate that I already have on hand. Yes, the Diamond Stones and the Shapton Pro stones are expensive. But, they will last for years and years, and for me that is worth it. I have been using this combination of stones for the past couple years and have been super happy with the results that I get. They work well for all my carving tools, chisels, planes, and other tools that require stone sharpening.

    Subsequently, by starting on the more coarse diamond plates, I hardly ever need to go to a grinder. I only need to grind if I need to shape a heavily cambered blade or if I get a massive nick in the blade.

    Another part of my sharpening deals with profile blades, molding irons, profile scrapers, and curved spokeshave irons. For those, which need just a little touch up from time to time, I use small profile oil stones. Again, I use them because they work the best for this type of sharpening, they sharpen a little slow, but I don’t need to use them all that often.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  8. Bernard Naish

    I have also gone over to DMT diamond stones for much of my sharpening and also have water stones. I will be going over to a finer DMT and an Arkansas stone for final polish when my waterstones wear out. I use a little water to clean the diamond stones because that is the method reccomended by DMT. Easy and clean to do and do not get wet hands.

    The same sort of argument goes for Japanese saws. I have stopped using them because I find they do not work well for English joinery. Part of this is that I discovered Pax saws made by Thomas Flinn. First quality sharp tools that opened my eyes to the extremely fine work English saws can produce. I have also learnt how to sharpen them and this is suprisingly easy once you have the files and the knack and setting is very simple.

  9. Michael Forster

    Water-stones got me my first experience of truly sharp tools, and so I have to have some respect for them – but I don’t have plumbing in my shop so ended up with not only the reservoir the stones were in but a bucket of water under the bench which must have an effect on the humidity of the shop. Like you, Richard, I found the flattening a chore, and an unhelpful interruption to the work-flow – and the temptation to skimp on that is quite dangerous because a hollow water-stone can quickly ruin a beautiful chisel. So I’m now using scary sharp – 3M film to be specific, mounted on float glass. When the film needs replacing I just peel it off and stick another one down. The grits cover a wide range, and betwen the two sides of the glass I’ve got all I want to hand. These are right for me – but others in different circumstances will obviously have differentn preferences.

  10. Alan

    I also use diamond stones. I obtain my polish with diamond paste (4 micron)on a flat piece of hard maple. Brian Boggs explained a method similar to this on the Shop Talk Live Podcast. I have obtained excellent results.

  11. Jim

    I too switched to Paul Sellers system (w/ WD-40) and couldn’t be happier with the results and speed. I can now quickly sharpen free hand – used to use sand paper, but it got too costly; I still grind with sand paper. I never liked hollow grinding.

  12. Simonm

    Oh Richard, what have you started?

    Coupla’ thoughts, trying to avoid the main, er, debate: an old friend, now sadly no longer about used to use Fernox (central heating corrosion proofer) at normal dilution instead of plain water on his diamond stones. This has two advantages over oil: cuts faster, and the swarf doesn’t go rusty. That in turn doesn’t encourage the blades themselves from rusting, like they do normally.

    I’ve tried it on my wet slow grinder with limited success. It certainly helps, as does distilled water – we’re in a hard water area and I’ve recently started to get limescale crystals forming on the stone if I let it dry thoroughly (honestly!).

    As an obsessive-arm-stubble enthusiast, I use Scary Sharp most of the time, with water. You can keep the wet+dry going for significantly longer by using a strong magnet in a plastic bag to lift the swarf off. Actually use two bags: a thicker one inside a thinner one. When it’s getting too furry, turn the outer bag inside-out and chuck it. That keeps the magnet clean.

    I’ve tried thinned oils in the past, similar to WD40 but don’t get on with them, as they make things clog too easily. Water seems to be good as long as you _can_ get rid of the crud and stop rust. I do take your point about cold workshops though – mine is – but I’d rather take in a flask of warm water (for SS you hardly need any really), than have that WD40 smell on my hands all day (same with white spirit – eugh!).

  13. Rob Stoakley

    I’ve tried everything, oilstones, ceramic stones, diamond stones, water stones and kidney stones and they all work to a lesser or greater degree and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages always outweigh the advantages which is the reason why I’ve changed regimes so many times. The 3M films from Workshop Heaven (so called ‘scary sharp’) is the only system I’ve used where the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, which is why it’s my ‘go to’ system now and has been for the last few years.

    Of all the options though, water stones are the pits…they really are utter crap.

  14. Eddy Flynn

    at present i use the Trend Fasttrack Sharpening System and a leather strop with polishing compound but i dont think its any better than the oil stone i inherited from my dad and if i’m honest its easier on the oil stone just simply turn it over to progress , but i will when funds allow move onto the diamond plates usd by Paul sellers for the simple reason not all edges are flat and a fixed angle system will only do flat faced tools ie chisels ,planes .

  15. Paul Chapman

    Like you, I couldn’t be bothered with all the flattening involved with water stones. And the thought of that cold water in an unheated workshop in winter would put me right off. I’ve used DMT diamond stones for years. I use them with 3-in-1 oil, so no rust issues. Finish on a block of wood with Autosol and oil for super-sharp blades.

    • Swanz

      Hi, can you give me some detail on that stropping method. You use a block of wood and autosol. Is autosol the abrasive?

  16. ken hatch


    i had to look and make sure I hadn’t written your post :-). I use diamonds now but….my oil stones are always at hand. Work, a lick or two on the stone and strop and back to work. No muss, no fuss, and that super sharp iron would fracture at the first touch of wood anyway. I’m a believer in “sharp enough” and good O1 iron.

    Interesting note from Lee Valley packed with the tapered plane irons. It said in essence that the iron’s back which was a dull gray was as sharp as you could make it. Any farther work would only polish the iron.

    Bottom line….It depends on what you want to do, polish iron or work wood with iron.

  17. Paul Bouchard

    Nth-ing the Paul Sellers sharpening vids. They changed everything for me. Started with a Krenov book, hand grinder, Veritas grinding jig and waterstones but little inconveniences and frustrations at each step kept me from getting much done in the limited shop time I have available. After about a week with the DMTs and strop, I had a razor finish on every edge I own. I’m having WAY more fun in the shop now, and have better quality work to show for it.

    If anyone is scared off by the price of the DMT plates, I’d recommend starting out with the coarse stone. It’ll re-establish your primary bevel straighter/easier than using a grindstone. Then you can still hone with whatever you’re currently using.

  18. Simonm

    Autosol – good point!

  19. Robert Easton

    Arkansas stones! Very coarse, coarse, fine, translucent. (and a hand cranked grinder that is only used to make a completely new profile) The fine and translucent get all the work. The others gather dust.

    For anyone who complains about oil being too slow, maybe it’s because they’re letting things get too dull. While I have half a dozen planes and a good set of bench chisels, it’s my carving tools that get all the work and I rarely spend more than a minute at the stones.

  20. Vic Tesolin

    I also used to use waterstones but in the last year or so I’ve swtiched to micro abrasive and diamond honing papers. I stick them down to a 10″ x 10″ granite tile that I got from my local home center for $6 CDN. The tile is flat enough in my experience, although I did get some odd looks while checking the stock they had with a straight edge. 😀

    I use a light oil for the lubricant which serves double duty as a rust inhibitor. I’ve always disliked waterstones because it seemed odd to use a liquid as a lubricant that can so easliy lead to rust. That being said, to each thier own and the important point is to get your tools sharp and get back to the bench. Vic

  21. johnnie skears

    Well put Richard, I was a bit of a sharpening slapper, moving from one thing to the next great thing in the sharpening world. The time and money I wasted, and I only wanted to cut wood.I started with granddads oilstone but thought there was better. I found water stones gave a good edge, but were a ball ache and a magnifying glass showed tiny rust scratches on rarely used tools,from the water or my not cleaning off adequately. Wet and dry was cleaner,but I had the amazing ability to round over the edges of flat backs,and it wasn’t that cheap.Ceramics as in artificial sapphires at 30,000 degrees, not the waterstones advertised today, Brilliant, see your face to shave in,took forever. Ezelap at last, flat, fast and easy, wd40 or, parrafin, baby oil if you don’t like the smell of the first two, everything I was looking for.Better still confirmed by experts when I saw you and Paul Sellers at the European woodworking show. Thanks for all your videos, and advice. Regards john

  22. Alan

    I use waterstones and yes I hate flattening too, but they realy not that hard to deal with other than that. I have a combo stone I keep in a tupperware container so it’s always wet and ready to go. I do have a seperate bench hood just for sharpening though. Anyone here use something like the Tormek? I’d like to hear experiences there/

  23. Michael

    After faffing about with sandpaper, I’ve come across my repeatable, successful solution, based on the Paul Sellers method. I use a 4-sided diamond stone from Aldi ($10), then finish on a fine Arkansas stone (also $10 from a second-hand shop). I don’t use any lubricants, due to something I read on the internet (!), just give the stones a bit of a wipe-down occasionally.

    My denuded arm and the polished end-grain of pine are testament that this way of sharpening works for me.

  24. Jim Beach

    Well after reading your comments I checked to see if they were written on April 1st. I have used water stones for a few years in an unheated garage with really good results. I think calling them crap is going a bit too far, OK they need flattening and a drop of cold water but I,m surprised that would be an issue for someone working in a cold workshop. Each to his/her own I suppose but they are not crap.

  25. Ed

    I switched to the diamond plates, too, but since I own the waterstones, I’ve been experimenting with adding my finest one after my superfine diamond plate. It doesn’t need to be soaked, a quick spray of water is enough, and it doesn’t go out of flat as rapidly as the stones used for grinding and first honing. The jury is out, but it certainly adds negligible fuss to the diamond plate process.

    • Martin Harris

      I agree Ed this is exactly my set up. It is the perfect compromise without the mess of the full waterstone solution. I use a 6000 waterstone with a jam jar of water by the side and a 1″ paint brush to wet the stone. I would not like to lose the water-stone completely as I love the sound it makes while polishing!

  26. Graham

    I use water stones right now but plan on switching to oilstones once these stones wear out. I think they do a good job but because of their characteristics they interrupt and annoy my work/sharpening more than I like.

    The dishing is a real problem for me because I have no convenient way of flattening them. And it isn’t fun having to wait to soak the stones either. These are problems I could solve but not without changing my sharpening habits. Since oilstones wear more slowly and just need a splash of oil before sharpening, I think they will fit my habits much better.

    • Brian Greene

      Huh? Lapping is easy if you do it every time you sharpen. Takes 1-3 min. I use drywall sanding mesh on plate glass or a coarse diamond plate. Easy and convenient.

  27. Fred

    Perhaps I am in the dark ages but I have tried some of the other sharpening devices and methods but considering their extortionate costs I am still using my old oil stones. They are very old but give me the edge I need to do quality work. Cheap, reliable and used by our ancestors to create fine craftsmanship. I am all for progress but when it comes to sharpening… I find keeping it simple works wonders for me.

  28. Rich Prehn

    I learned to sharpen while working on old wooden fishing vessels. The shipwright who taught me swore by Arkansas stones, soft and hard, with diesel fuel oil as the lubricant and that’s what I use to this day. Along with an old hand cranked grinding wheel. I was also taught to strop the edge on the palm of my hand after using the stones. And when, after planing a plank or two, the tool needed its edge touched up a bit, I was taught to strop it a few times on whatever flat piece of wood was handy. This last trick would only work once, I was told, but I’m not sure if it ever really worked or whether it was just my imagination at work. Still, I occasionally will strop my chisel or plane iron on a plank of wood when I’m fully involved with the task at hand and my stones are somewhere I am not. Still not sure it does anything but hope, as is sometimes said, springs eternal. I’ve been eyeing these new diamond stones, thinking water might smell better than diesel, but I have always had an aversion to mixing water with steel, so have not made the jump.

  29. dan

    I work in an unheated garage, so water would become a block of ice fairly quickly, especially during a winter like we just had. I use Arkansas stones. They do the job and it’s what I have. If had to do it all over again, diamond plates are probably what I would buy. But instead of spending money on a new sharpening system, I will use to buy material.


  30. Bill Murr

    I guess I’ll be the odd man out, but I use a Tormek. Can’t be happier. I do a lot of hand tool work, and the planes and chisels are all just fine. I guess I’m fortunate enough to have a large shop with heat and water, and knowing the need for sharp tools would always exist, I set up a dedicated counter for sharpening.

  31. BrentO

    I am a timberframer/logbuilder, so I use very large chisels and a 2 ½ inch socket slick. Nothing I have tried beats the 3M abrasive film on a flat glass plate. One simply cannot expect a flat back on a chisel or plane blade using a waterstone, and since that flatness is critical to obtain a good edge, I will never use a crappy waterstone again…..

  32. DenverGeorge

    I just got into hand tools about a year ago. I started on a grinding stone and water stones. I’m now proficient enough that it takes very little time to get a good edge on my chisels and planes. Soaking is a drag, but there is a solution for that – Shapton or Ohishi stones which only require a spritz. They are also harder than regular water stones, so cut down on the flattening time. I’m reluctant to change horses in the middle of the stream as what I am doing now works for me and takes very little time. I think all methods are great – if they work for you.

  33. mike murray

    Most of the hand planes I found for my woodworking are old and were in great need of sharpening. LIke most planes found in yard sales or junk stores, the blades required re-establishing the correct angle. When I first started working on them, I did all the sharpening and re-establishing the angle by hand first with sand paper and then an oil stone. Took forever it seemed to do one blade. I wasn’t impressed.

    I upgraded my sharpening equipment shortly thereafter to a used Duosharp that I found at a junk store. To go with that my son got me a 800/4000 water stone. Still it was a lot of work to re-establish the angle of a blade. So, I built a motorized disc sharpening system. I found a low RPM motor, bolted it in vertically to a mdf box with an opening in the top and cut some 6″ discs from mdf. I cut same size discs out of full sheet sandpaper and glued them to the mdf. I made a disc for 120 thru 600 grit. With this motorized sharpening system, it only takes a couple minutes to re-establish an angle on a plane blade. I keep a dish of water next to it so that I can touch the blade to the disc briefly then dunk it in the water. Keeps the blade from heating up too much that way. Once I am satisfied the angle is what I want, then it is off to the diamond stone 800/1200 then I move to the 4000 water stone and I’m pretty much done. I could get a finer stone I suppose but just haven’t looked into it.

    Overall before I made the disc sharpening system, I found sharpening a daunting task and didn’t care for it much. Now its fairly simple and requires far less physical work from me. I have to replace the sandpaper discs every once in a while but that is pretty easy to do. They are stuck on with rubber cement which releases quite easily.

    BTW, I use the 800 grit side of the Duosharp diamond stone to flatten my water stone. Works great for me. I use only a squirt bottle of water. I figure once the water stone gets wore down, I might just look for a new one at that time.

    Now that I have the plane blades I want to use sharpened like I want them, keeping them that way should only be a matter of touch up on the water stone. If I nick one, then that will be a different story. Back to the disc first most likely.

    The whole experience with plane blade and chisel sharpening is fairly new to me. I have somewhere around thirty plane blades from No. 2 to 7 that I have done and about 18 or so chisels. I’m getting better at it and faster and liking the results better. I’ve redone quite a few of them now too. I’m good to go with the sharpening tools I have for now. I actually like the 800/4000 water stone. Just spritz water on it and sharpen. Pretty nice for this beginner.

  34. Larry Jackson

    I hate the slippery oil residue that I never seem to completely rid my hands of more than I hate the feel of cold water and the flattening process, and I don’t get the feeling of suction (which tells me I’m flat) from diamond stones that I do from water stones, so I put up with water stones, and am able to avoid the stones as long as possible by stropping 2-3 licks on leather charged with chromium oxide…almost as frequently as I breath.

  35. Jim Linn

    I’ve used David Charlesworth’s method since 2005. I’m still using the same two waterstones I bought for that course. I can sharpen in less than two minutes, including a quick stone flatten, wiping mess with a paper towel and oiling the blade. Easy. Repeatable.

    The key is a dedicated setup for me, which like others, is next to the sink. I took the time to make a jig to hold the stones, create a little area for the Eclipse jig, flatening plate, etc. It’s all to hand and in sequence. Organized.

    Whichever sharpening method you use, it must never be a bind or a chore. When you feel your blade is dull, it should be a positive experience to just pop over to carry out your well practiced technique, then get back to work.

    There is no holy grail of sharpening. You can’t do it in zero time. But you can do it in a couple of minutes. Don’t overthink it; find your favourite way, practice, and crack on with the woodworking.

  36. Marcel

    Indeed… what have you started… 😉

    I’m in an odd situation having two shops, one in each of two countries. In my “big” shop I use a Tormek, which is perfect for me and for the restaurant we are running in our B&B ( think kitchen knives ). Especially the leather honing wheel is perfect for creating a wonderful cutting edge. Also you can sharp a variety of tools on the Tormek
    On my bench there I have a little piece of “Belgisch Brok” or nature stone from the Belgium Ardennes, what I use for quickly touching up a chisel.

    In my other workshop ( in the livingroom with a makeshift workbench ) I use the scary sharp system. I had de SSS before I had the Tormek and the reason I prefer to use it here is because it is less messy.

    To my opinion they both have their place and they both present the same result.

    I think that when the two workshops come together as one, the Tormek will see most use as it is easier to operate.

  37. Lynn Bradford

    I too am a firm believer of whatever works for you, and makes you happy, drive on. I used the marble tile with sandpaper of various grits. Works nicely, spray some cheap window cleaner as a lube, and it smells good, cleans up well, by throwing away the used sheets.

    I went to Dan’s Arkansas stones and bought three stones. I am still trying to figure out if I want to mount them side by side, or end to end on a piece of pine, with a cleat along one edge like a bench hook. I plan on using mineral oil, since it works nicely restoring the edge on my pocket knife this weekend on a pocket Arkansas stone. The diamond stones are too expensive for my taste, but seeing the Schwarz use Arkansas stones with olive oil with good results, I use those too.
    But do what YOU want after you weigh in the various opinions on forums and youtube.

  38. Chris Buckingham,France

    Reading through the foregoing posts I see that a number of people object to the smell of WD40, that can be a problem, so I also use a standard Anti Freeze mix (the real Blucol type)this not only washes away the clogging dust, but also stops steel from rusting (which is one of its functions when used in a car engine), it will also,obviously, not freeze in a cold workshop, it is so anti corrosive that I use this mix to wash out my gun barrels after using Black Powder, that is how anti corrosive it is.

  39. david

    90% of my sharpening gets done on my Norton fine India stone. Follow that up with the hard black Arkansas and a strop.

    I also have a coarse India that gets used first if I have to take an old chisel to the grinder. Btw, my grinder is just a bench top Harbor Freight model. Nothing fancy. Just use light pressure while grinding and dip the iron in water often and you won’t burn the steel. It isn’t hard to do.

    100% of my touch ups get done on my hard black Arkansas followed by the strop, or strop only the first few times.

    No jigs to hold anything. It’s all done by hand and I did it that way long before Paul Sellers came out with some videos on it. It’s not his method, it’s the way it’s been done for a really long time. Only thing he’s changed is going to diamond. I guess diamond is ok if you don’t mind big scratches in your steel. I’ve thought about getting a course diamond to flatten my stones but the concrete floor in my garage works fine. Being a toolmaker I have indicators so I’ve checked the stones after running them across the floor. One to two thousands of an inch is quite easily obtained, often less than that. Just rub it back and forth a few more times if it isn’t flat enough for you the first time. I’d say I do that once every 5 years or so, probably less. All this high tech expensive gizmo stuff they sale is making someone very rich. Lots of gurus out there making a nice living telling you that the company that pays them has the best equipment and you can’t do good work if you don’t buy their stuff. It’s baloney.

    • Polly Becton


      Have you posted your Curmudgeon License? And if you’ve ever actually seen a “guru” tell us we can’t do good work if we dont buy their stuff, it would be really helpful if you could post a cite to your source.

      Glad your concrete floor works for you. Mine is way too bumpy to do a good job.

  40. TC

    I use a Tormek. Works for me. Only downside so far is when you have a long blade it drags the water past the reservoir so i sit the whole unit in a shallow plastic tray. That and it takes up a lot more room than a couple of waterstones…and needs power…interesting comments on use of scarey sharp (have to look that up) and wet’ndry on flat ceramic plates.

  41. Jerry Dye

    What I find encouraging is the number of ways that people are finding to sharpen. I went from oil stones to water stones to scary sharp to diamond where I remain. I still have all of my previous but have not used any for a long time. I have also added a Veritas Mk2 to the mix and find it quite helpful.

  42. Tim Vermillion

    The truth is one will use what they can afford or stand. Buddy Rich could do anything on any drum, no matter what kind it was b/c he knew what the hell he was doing.

  43. George

    I received my Sigma Ceramic stones from Tools from Japan on March 14th, they were shipped February 12th. Not bad considering the distance.

    I have spent the last several days sharpening some of my plane blades and the results are superb. The 13000 stone puts a finish on in which I could shave.

    They are fantastic and the deal that T of J offers includes 1000-6000-13000 stones, a Atoma 400 for flattening, a tray and mounting block for the stone and a bottle to add water to the stones while sharpening.

    I would not hesitate to recommend these to anyone especially those just getting started in sharpening. The packaging was superb and dealing with T of J was a pleasure.

  44. mike murray

    Back in April, when I made my post in this thread, I said I was good to go with the sharpening equipment I had at the time. Well, I have since made a discovery on something that I knew about for a long time but had never thought too much about it. I went to a Habitat Restore here in my area. When looking around in there I found a used strop wheel laying on one of their tool shelves. I was intrigued, so I bought it and since have given it a try. I don’t have any ultra-fine rouge to use with it yet but am going to get some. This little leather strop wheel is fantastic. I am so glad that I tried it. It really makes a difference. I tried it on a couple chisels. I used the chisels for a bit before using the strop and after. WOW. I just chucked it up in my drill press set on a slow speed. It is so quick and easy to use.
    My point in sharing this is to say that if you haven’t given a strop a try, I think you would be impressed if you do. Maybe now I am really good to go with the sharpening equipment I have. : )

  45. Chris Bailey in Cheshire

    Very interesting reading everyone’s comments. I too have used water stones since attending a David Charlesworth’s (DC) course. Of late I seem to have been getting somewhat less than enthusiastic about them for various reasons despite having a dedicated area for sharpening; no running water though just a washing up bowl! It was by chance whilst searching the internet for articles on sharpening hand router blades that I came across Paul Sellers (PS) and his method. Talk about putting the cat amongst my pigeons! The more I watched his video(s), the more I started to get mentally into his way of thinking and his apparently simple approach to woodworking including sharpening and the reasons behind his method. Seemed so simple to reach under the bench, pull out a set of stones, a quick squirt of window cleaner etc etc then strop. Caveat. I realise he is very experienced and practiced…. However I decided I would try his method using wet and dry on my flattening float glass. Very interesting. Whilst not as quick as with diamond plates, it did seem to work remarkably well. I also have a Tormek (which I use to regrind the primary bevel when the secondary bevel gets too large as I was originally taught by DC). I used the leather honing wheel in place of his flat strop with the original Tormek honing paste. I have to say in all honesty that I got VERY sharp results on both chisels and a block plane (L. Nielsens). I have not done a comparative test against water stone sharpness, mainly ‘cos I don’t know how I would really set it up but, the blades felt as sharp as ever and perhaps more importantly cut beautifully. The strop I feel certainly had a big effect. The result of all this is that I am now seriously considering investing in diamond plates and using PS’s method which seems to return you to the main object of the exercise very quickly…. cutting wood!
    If I end up going down the diamond plate route, which I suspect I may, then I will add a further comment. DC, if you are reading this … sorry!

  46. Chris Bailey in Cheshire

    Further to my comments above, I can now add that I am completely sold on Paul Sellers diamond stone sharpening technique; it certainly works for me. In the past I had tended to be a bit lazy about sharpening (with the water stones) letting my edges go ‘past it’. Now I whip out the block with the diamond plates on and it a minute I’m back using sharp edges. I can thoroughly recommend the technique. Hope my comments help.

  47. Glen C

    I use the convex bevel method Paul Sellers advocates now. I was taught otherwise and that a convex bevel would destroy the cutting action in college – now I know that my teacher didn’t know what he was talking about.

    I use a coarse / medium whatever oilstone if the edge is just coming off the hand-crank grinder (which I will only use to shape the edge or remove a nick now), and follow up on a medium and fine arkansas and a leather strop with green compound glued to a piece of 2×4. I use mineral oil sold as “intestinal lubricant” at the pharmacy. It’s about $1.98 a bottle and I haven’t finished a bottle in two years.

    Most of my oilstones I got used from garage sales for a maximum of $1 each.

    I get great edges on tools and it costs me almost nothing. The next upgrade is a set of stones 3″ wide to make jointer irons a little easier to sharpen evenly.

    Beyond that – no complaints.

  48. Pete Aron

    We teach our students how to sharpen blades using water stones after grinding a proper angle in them. At times I’ve pondered if we’re really doing that simply because it’s the fashionable method. There’re so very many ways to achieve a working edge on a tool it really just comes down to personal preference and workflow. We also have diamond “stones” but for whatever reason they don’t seem to get much use unless I need them to flatten the water stones (ha!) or for a blade that has to be clamped to sharpen. I personally just keep my process as simple as possible: When the blades are new, I grind them to the proper angle, then use wet/dry paper on glass with a few drops of water to sharpen blades and I finish by stropping with green compound on leather. The strop stays nearby when I’m working and I touch up the blades between tasks. The wet/dry paper is replaced when worn out, which avoids the frequent flattening involved with water stones.

  49. Karl F. Newman

    Hi; I’ve been following you for less than a year, and read your recent post about sharpening, which linked to this post that I missed, which invited your readers to comment about sharpening.
    Like many people, one of the first things I learned to do with woodworking was to sharpen. I was a teenager, I had to sharpen my dad’s crummy no adjustment block plane to make shavings for my gerbils And I had to sharpen my pocket knife for whittling.
    I found that with a little care and a light finishing touch you can get a razor sharp edge from one of those cheep 2 sided AlOx oil stones. When I went to work in a cabinetshop most of the men there never used anything else. later When I started teaching woodworking at nightschool for adults I did a bit of research on the subject.
    It turns out Everyone used to sharpen their tools and knives Daily. or as needed. In the USA not sharpening your own tools started with a foolish managerial notion that sharpening a tool in the middle of the day was somehow wasting time so any worker caught stopping to sharpen would be docked fro that time. So the worker would not sharpen their tools until they became unusable and then refuse to work. So the managers would end up Paying someone else to sharpen the tools for them.
    Then comes in the inventor with some “hey! I’ve got a better Idea!” (that is a derogatory remark I reserve for inventors and engineers who have taken a simple thing and made it complicated) In comes a flood of inventions intended to make sharpening “easier”. But in order to sell them they first have to convince every one that sharpening is somehow hard.
    When I get to the part of the class where I show everyone how to sharpen their I tell them that they will be able to sharpen every tool and knife in their house after they learn this simple thing.
    Sharpening Is Simple
    it is a subset of the KISS rule (Keep It Simple Stupid!)
    With a good chisel or plane blade I can go from dull to razor in under 5 minutes, It is not “scary sharp” ™ but it is sharp enough for everything you are wanting to do.

    a few years back I worked for/with a very nice man who almost never used his chisels because it took so long to sharpen them (he would spend almost 2 hours on each one by his estimate). And when he did use them he almost always abused them. He would chuckle at my nearly constant use of mine, and the fact that I would take 30 seconds to touch one up a bit. And one day I asked why? He said (somewhat derogatorily but not offensively) that it was very “workmanlike” how I handled them. and after a brief discussion (mostly me asking questions) He expostulated on how with his chisels, so much sharper than mine, the amazing things that he could do with them, To which I pointed out that he never does those things in the normal course of work, so why hoard amazingly sharp chisels instead of using (every day) a good sharp chisel?
    I use a 2 sided AlOx stone,never using the coarse side, a soft Arkansas stone, and occasionally a leather strop (glued to a board), charged with emery, if I really need sharper.

    thank you for the Blog, it’s been fun reading it.

    • Richard

      Hi K, Thank you for your lovely and insightful comment, I very much enjoyed reading though. You’re spot on, understanding a working edge and finding a method which you’re fluent with is far more important than turning it in to an art form for obtaining the sharpest of edge.
      Cheers, Richard.

  50. chris bailey

    Hi all,
    Well further to my comments about going over to the Paul Sellers (PS) method of sharpening I would like to add the following…… having recently ‘invested’ in one of his courses and seen first hand ‘up close and personal’ this method of using diamond plates, I am even more sold on his method of sharpening.
    Whilst I understand that everyone will have their own personal preference of doing certain things in certain ways (that work for them), I would suggest that perhaps anyone who hasn’t tried his method of sharpening, give it a go starting with abrasive paper on a flat surface as I did……
    For me, the advantage(s) are that it is so quick and easy and you never (like I used to) put off the honing process because of all the ‘faff’ with water stones! Sharp tools cut easily!
    I asked myself a simple Q…. what have I got to lose by trying it……….?

  51. Jeff

    I’m coming late to the party but, I wanted to add something for everyone’s consideration.
    Commonly used fluids for sharpening do one of two separate things.
    They either promote cutting (ie, material removal ) or they inhibit cutting (ie, reduce cutting and reduce friction)
    All the fluids mentioned above would seem to be of the latter group to reduce friction.
    None of them are cutting fluids in and of themselves but, most do an excellent job of floating swarf and cleaning what ever sharpening system is being used.
    I have also found that many cutting fluids are often too viscous to be used effectively for hand tool sharpening so we come back to the thinner fluids that are good for floating/cleaning.
    If anyone wants to experiment, try a pipe thread cutting oil usually available from a plumbing supply shop or an animal fat based oil such as lard, tallow,….
    A caution would be that animal oils tend to harden up over time so a thinner of some kind is needed (like diesel fuel but not like WD40)
    Animal oils may clog up a stone if not enough thinning oil is used.
    Even though I use it (it’s often all that is available) I don’t recommend WD40 for a first choice as a sharpening fluid because it containes a suspended Teflon particulate that can interfere with sharpening and clog up a fine grit stone.
    I have found however, that if you buy WD40 in a gallon can, you can then let it settle and carefully skim clear oil off the top sans the Teflon particulate.
    As for me, I use a combination of a corse/ fine Carborundum block with a light thread cutting fluid.
    A slab of soft Arkansas and the same fluid as previous. And a peddle grinder with a 28 inch sandstone wheel and water in the warmer months.

  52. John Silver

    looking for stones i came across this article and it made me chuckle…


    all stone donations much welcome 😛

  53. Ocelot

    With me, it was always Arkansas stones; generally the white. I had a course ‘India’ stone for shaping. Then came diamonds! I never looked back; so easy, always flat, and tough as old boots. These, with a long strop of leather glued down to thick ply + brown (Tripoli) compound, and I want for nothing. More importantly, I spend far more time using my (razor sharp) tools, and far less time fiddling about with maintaining the stones! Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and admit that your cherished old ways are no longer the best.

  54. Michael Fling

    Well, we all have our methods. My experience dates back about 40 years when I purchased a set of oil stones from Woodcraft…..a woodworkers supply outfit here in the states……I tried and tried to get my chisels sharp, but to no avail. I have no idea where they purchased these stones, but being abrasive and flat (I checked years later as I became more knowledgeable…..and ,no, they weren’t at all flat)……we’re not characteristics embraced by these stones. After picking up a soft Arkansas stone at a local sporting goods store, I was finally able to get my chisels and plane irons kind of sharp. I had resisted buying Japanese stones as my reading at the time kind of indicated their approach to sharpening was akin to a religious experience. However, I finally succumbed about 20 years ago and purchased a coarse, medium and polishing stone set………haven’t looked back since. The only addition to these was a coarse diamond stone from DMT for “grinding” the bevel.

    During this period I was woodworking as a hobby, had I been a professional I’m not sure what course I would have chosen. Currently, as a professional….antique repair/restoration….my shopmate sharpens his chisels etc on a belt sander and a buffing wheel……..I use water stones…..and we don’t fuss at each other.

    Hence, Richard, as much as I have enjoyed your posts…..I find it disconcerting that you would chose to denigrate a perfectly legitimate technique.

  55. Tony

    The flatness
    The flatness
    Wins for me instantly. I was a white Arkansas lover for decades, then, BANG: I tried a diamond stone. No contest. The only thing but diamonds that I keep now is a green ceramic stone (Shapton, I think) which comes big (3″ x 8″) and gives a lovely edge for lighting touch ups. But then I have a good stropping set up; huge long mounted strip of leather dressed with Tripoli compound first, and then a smaller handled strop dressed with blue compound (Smurf pooh) for that glittery finishing. Getting the stropping routine working saves me a ton of honing on the stones – a quick strop replacing use of the stones most of the time.

  56. DJ Penton

    Paul Seller’s method is for me. I am a beginner, so I start with scary sharp. I detested it because it was too much fussing around. I could never manage to sharpen without a jig; always tore the sandpaper. Any additional steps (even putting the tool in a sharpening jig) was a disincentive & made me delay sharpening. Now with 3 DMT stones mounted on a board, a spray bottle, and my strop, I sharpen often without procrastinating.

  57. Harley

    I’m fairly new to hand tools and never really own much more than a beat up chisel that was used for pretty much anything from chopping to scraping. For the past two years however, I’ve upped my game and purchased several chisels, bench planes and hand saws. I went out and purchased some red oak, Brazilian Cherry and a few smaller pieces of ebony for a tansu chest for my fiancé. Needless to say I used up every chisel and plane trying to square my stock. I got really agrivated really quick because I kept losing my edge. In my desperation I went back to my 6″ bench planer to create some stock worth keeping for my project. It wasn’t long before it stopped cutting. 3 sets of planer blades, three hand planes and a bag full of chisels later I finally g had stock that I could use to start on my project.
    About four weeks ago I dug out the dreadful bag of chisels and the couple hand planes and found myself getting frustrated once again. Long story short; I went out and purchased a water stone to replace my smaller Arkansas stone. I loved it after the first sharpening session. Two weeks ago I sharpened more of the dull chisels and two of the planes. The mess that I made sharpening blades and flattening the stone was insane! The blades are doing great with the occasional Stropping but I really don’t want to use the water stone any more than is necessary because of the mess. Water and wood is a terrible combination in my small shop. I have a newfound love for working with hand tools and have the satisfaction you can’t get with power tools. Shop time is more of a spiritual time now versus a laboring ritual of loud noise and a room full of dust. I love the edge that the water stone gives me but the “crap” it creates has me really thinking of an alternate solution or a less messy alternative. I would like some suggestions on the softer metal planes that you spoke of. That would be a good place to start I think. Or even a process on sharpening my tools and then maintaining them. Thanks for the wonderful tips and content of your page. I’m building a work bench next and I would love for it to go smoother than the tansu project.

  58. Jeremy Hunter

    I’ve only ever known oil stones. I think the benefit of water stones is that they are less damaging to wood in the long run. Oil gets bloody everywhere, as does I imagine water. However, water dries off, unlike (obviously) oil. Clearly, nobody wants wet wood (heh) but a splash of swarfy water is considerably less of a nuisance than a splash of swarfy oil.

  59. Dean

    Hi Richard, I used to use oil on my stones but never liked the oil. Kerosene does a much better job of keeping the grit out of the stone for me but I’ve even done such wacky things as use water on a carborundum stone. Seems to work ok for me. I recently bought an Austrian scythe and the water stones that come from there are pretty good. I don’t know if other stones are available or not.


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