Please tell me about sharpening stones? - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum

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post #1 of 10 Old 12-08-2016, 11:33 PM Thread Starter
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Please tell me about sharpening stones?

I have officicially begun my Christmas shopping and am considering a chisel sharpening system for a close woodworker friend/work colleague. Trying not to break the bank. Ideally if I can find a couple decent stone(s) + some essentials necessary to get started, in the $60 range. More or less ready to use out of the box would be great, if such a tool exists at this price point.

Oil vs Water vs Diamond? Is there a good all-around stone that would not require buying multiple grits? Where to draw the line between quick sharpening and high maintenance? I was initially sold on Japanese water stones but after reading up on the need to be flattened frequently I'm now considering other options as well. Too many questions. Too much information out there. Sharpeningsupplies.com did a good simple breakdown of the different basic types of stones but obviously they're also vested in selling certain product. I would like to get the straight dish on here, a small sample size many of who really know what they're talking about. Any recommendations?

A little relevant info on my buddy. He's a fantastic craftsman that doesn't generally splurge on fancy tools and can build or fix just about anything with whatever he's got on hand. Worked in a cabinet shop for a long time before moving over to construction. He doesn't own expensive chisels but appreciates a sharp edge and mirror finish. Occasionally still dabbles in fine woodwork but more often than not uses what I'd call workhorse tools, and his chisels will see more use in finish carpentry than hobby work. If he was buying a sharpening system I imagine he'd honestly go to Harbor Freight and get something cheap, simple and functional, and still get better results than I would using a several hundred dollar water stone. That's why I'd like to get him something a bit nicer than the HF special. To me a well chosen tool gift is something the person will get good use out of but probably wouldn't think to go out and buy him/herself. What I'm trying to get across is he's a great carpenter and woodworker that knows a good tool when he sees it, but is very selective when it comes to shelling out for pricy tools -- which he does do on occasion, most always because of functionality. Never a toy to baby and keep around for show. I don't have a lot of coin to spare and know he wouldn't want me to. But if I can get a stone or two that are relatively simple to maintain, and don't require a whole mess of accessories or vast process to use, that's it right there. All that said (and maybe somewhat contradictory to everything I've told you about this guy) I'd still like it to be a "presentable", decent looking gift. I should add he's not gonna be sharpening after every single use. But as they say, dull tools are more dangerous than sharp ones, and there've certainly been days on the job when we both would've benefitted from one of us having a decent stone around for semi regular use.

Not opposed to an electric system like the Work Sharp. But that's too rich for my blood, and I'd be happy to be proven wrong about the anything halfway respectable existing @ under $75. I realize all this is a tough set of criteria. And maybe I'm barking up the wrong tree altogether. If anyone has ideas on other good gift ideas those are welcome too.
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-09-2016, 12:43 AM
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Well do you know what type of system your friend likes? Some people like me enjoy doing things free hand while others like their fancy gadgets to make sure they are doing it right.

As for what I would like (personal opinion here, but you asked) would be novaculite or what is more commonly called Arkansas Stones.

Color isn't important to them like some salesmen might want you to believe that. You would preferably need three of them. A soft stone (don't spend any more than 30 dollars on that, that's all they are worth and usually the least important) A hard stone, then one of the finer stones which will be labeled as such. Something like what they call a "translucent" or you can go a step above and get a black stone.

Black stones are usually but not always actually black but they would be the finest grit possible and would be the last and possibly most important stone you put your blade to. These will cost you a pretty penny though so maybe just a regular fine stone may be more in your budget.

Anyway, even with what ever info gives you here I highly suggest you do some research of your own on whatever stones or system you decide to buy. Good luck, and I wish I had friends like you.

Edit: Here is a site to help you possibly. They have pretty decent prices. http://www.naturalwhetstone.com/index.htm
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Last edited by Rodrat; 12-09-2016 at 12:46 AM.
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post #3 of 10 Old 12-09-2016, 01:40 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodrat View Post
Well do you know what type of system your friend likes? Some people like me enjoy doing things free hand while others like their fancy gadgets to make sure they are doing it right.

As for what I would like (personal opinion here, but you asked) would be novaculite or what is more commonly called Arkansas Stones.

Color isn't important to them like some salesmen might want you to believe that. You would preferably need three of them. A soft stone (don't spend any more than 30 dollars on that, that's all they are worth and usually the least important) A hard stone, then one of the finer stones which will be labeled as such. Something like what they call a "translucent" or you can go a step above and get a black stone.

Black stones are usually but not always actually black but they would be the finest grit possible and would be the last and possibly most important stone you put your blade to. These will cost you a pretty penny though so maybe just a regular fine stone may be more in your budget.

Anyway, even with what ever info gives you here I highly suggest you do some research of your own on whatever stones or system you decide to buy. Good luck, and I wish I had friends like you.

Edit: Here is a site to help you possibly. They have pretty decent prices. http://www.naturalwhetstone.com/index.htm
Thanks rodrat. My friend like you is definitely a freehand type guy who would prefer not to fuss around with fancy jigs and guides. I checked out that site and you're right about the prices being very reasonable. I like that they sell dual and tri-hone combos, most either mounted to bases or come in hardwood cases, which would make for a nice gift. I may have some more questions for you after I've had a chance to more carefully consider the different combination options vs buying two (presumably?) higher quality stones separately. Thank you for the head's up. As you can tell I know very little about sharpening systems, so I could research for days and still not know if I'm even headed the right direction. That website is a good place to start and gives me some sense of relief that I shouldn't have to spend a small fortune to get a couple nice stones.
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post #4 of 10 Old 12-09-2016, 08:00 AM
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Sharpening a chisel with only one grit would be like sanding wood with only one grit. It won't work very good. Sharpening a chisel is a process of polishing an edge on it. After grinding you start with a coarse stone to remove the grinding marks. Then it's a matter of finer and finer grits until the edge is polished. The final step is stropping on a piece of leather loaded down with a jewelers rouge. The leather being stretched over a piece of wood to make it rigid.

I like natural Arkansas stones which I use only with water. Honing oil ruins sharpening stones. It gets bits of the steel embedded withing the pores of the stones. Using and storing the stones in water rusts away any steel which gets into the pores allowing the stones to last a lifetime.
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post #5 of 10 Old 12-09-2016, 03:46 PM
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No problem. I will be happy to help with any questions if I can. What Steve has said is also true and something I failed to mention. I always use water with my stones and never an oil.
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post #6 of 10 Old 12-09-2016, 08:00 PM
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Ah, sharpening stones. Such a contentious subject, despite the fact that the metal doesn't really give a crap what's used to sharpen it. All you really need is an abrasive harder than the steel itself and a flat substrate. That could be anything from a fancy diamond plate to a Japanese waterstone to sandpaper stuck to glass to a cinderblock, all will work just fine. Oh, and I'm not kidding about the cinderbloc

That said, there are some that work better than others for certain applications. For knives, i like a long, narrow (in relation to length at any rate) continuous diamond stone. The length let's me work on longer blades easier, it being narrow seems to help cancel out any warp in the plate, and diamond cuts aggressively, even in some of the fancy wear resistant steels like D2. The one I use most is a double sided stone, bout 2x6, maybe a little narrower, and has what I believe is about 400 grit on one side with the other being in the 800-1000 range. I think. Dunno for certain. At any rate, it puts an excellent edge on a knife and cost me a whopping $6.

My chisels, funnily enough, never touch that plate. A chisel works better with a much more polished edge than a knife does, and to get the best edge the sharpening surface needs to be dead flat. The easiest way for me to do that is to use some spray adhesive to stick sheets of wet/dry sandpaper to a piece of granite. Dead flat surface, and I can do from 220 all the way up to 2500 grit when sharpening my chisels. It's also dirt cheap, which is a big plus.

As far as stone recommendations go, I'd go for a continuous double sided DMT stone in your case, in the coarse/fine grade. Diamond is a pleasure to sharpen with, it never really looses its aggressiveness, and DMT is m own for making a quality product. I like the continuous stones over the little circle pattern ones because the continuous stones can be used to sharpen small points, like a parting tool. The dot type plates have a bit of an issue with the same task.

I'm not a big fan of Arkansas stones, and have no patience for Japanese waterstones. The Arkansas stones are okay, I guess, but don't seem to cut very aggressively and have a hard time on stainless or wear-resistant tool steels. They also tend to clog easy, so you can't use them dry if needed, and are a royal b**** to flatten, which you'll need to do every so often. I still use an Arkansas stone from time to time, but it's not my favorite. Japanese waterstones are great, if you have the time to soak them before every use, dry them off when you're done and flatten them every 30 seconds. Personally, I don't have that kind of patience, if I needed the superfine edge one of those waterstones could give, I'd just as soon slap a piece of sandpaper on a piece of granite and be done with it
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post #7 of 10 Old 12-13-2016, 05:20 PM
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Ah, sharpening. The political discussion of the woodworking world...

Practically every decision about sharpening is based on personal opinion. I think everyone would agree that:

1) You need different grits, and
2) A flat surface is important.

Everything else can be argued.

Speaking only for myself:
1) I liked the idea of using sandpaper on a glass or granite substrate better than I liked the reality. For me, it never worked well.
2) Oilstones were fine, but the ones I had were too small and in the wrong grits for what I needed.
3) Waterstones scare me, both in terms of price and in terms of how much prep and maintenance is required.
4) DMT diamond plates are awesome.

So if I were going to make a recommendation, it would be this: buy a set of two 8" DMT DuoSharp plates. One double sided, fine/extra-fine, and the other either single-sided coarse, or double sided coarse/extra-coarse. Finish with a piece of scrap leather glued to MDF and charged with polishing compound.

Starting out with the fine/extra-fine plate would be reasonable, and runs about $65 on Amazon. It won't grind a new bevel, but it'll handle basic honing for a long time.

Like I said, though... Sharpening is an area where personal preference trumps everything.
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post #8 of 10 Old 12-15-2016, 12:49 AM
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Define what it is that you need to do. What the Hello is happening?
Did you just pound that 1" chisel through 25'/8m of old ceramic tile countertop grout
to find the joints to rip out for a total kitchen renno?

I was taught freehand sharpening and I am competent. Period.
Don't let anybody tell you that the carrier, be it oil or water, is a lubricant. That's BS. They are incorrect. It's the vehicle to carry away swarf and slurries are dung.
I expect that the grit is clean and cuts clean without a slop of smashed abrasive particles and metal shards. I just work faster that way.
Damage = I have 80, 120 and 220 grit oil stones to rough grind the metal back behind the damage.
Now.
I need an LED light, a felt marker and a 10X magnifier to decide what to do next. I will either measure the needed total included bevel angle
or I already know what angle I want.
Paint the bevel over and over again with black felt marker so I can see what happens. No theory. I need to see it.
Probably begin with 600 to smooth out what I hope to be a new bevel and (eventually) edge.
Then 800, then 1,000, then 1,500.
By this point, I really hope that I've got a fairly good edge.
I'm still looking in the LED for the living light sparks of a crumpled edge.

Steel is steel. You cannot improve the edge with 57,000 grit = there's no magic, sorry.
I tried to skip grits. It just took too damn long, jumping a grit, to grind the bevel face free of the previous scratches.

If you do not believe this, please examine the scanning electron microscope images of sharpened steel edges which are found in
Leonard Lee's book on Sharpening everything.
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-15-2016, 02:44 AM
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Steel is steel. You cannot improve the edge with 57,000 grit = there's no magic, sorry.
Err, i have to disagree with that. The smoother the 2 surfaces meeting to make the edge are, the sharper the edge will be. There is going to be an improvement going from 1000 grit all the way up to the hypothetical 57000 grit, just like theres an improvement going from 800 grit to 1000 grit. Whether or not the improvement is worth the effort is another matter entirely, but that doesnt change the fact that the improvement is there

Thats the end of my bladesmith rant

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post #10 of 10 Old 12-15-2016, 01:42 PM
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I thought so, too. Then I bought a copy of Leonard Lee's Sharpening book.
Then I looked at the 2 pages (32 & 33) of scanning electron microscope pictures of chisel edges, sharpened by various means.
So discouraging, I had to laugh. A steel edge is surprisingly plastic.
But whatever floats your boat.
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