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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This may not draw interest from a soul, but here goes. I make my own tools, like hand planes. I also "make" my own sharpening stones. I thought I would show how that was done.

It did not work out exactly as planned. It is a very good stone and I will use it for honing razors personally and in my business (I run a small sharpening shop too). I underestimated the hardness of the raw material and the smooth finish it would take. It is extremely fine grit, not my plan exactly, but it still will find plenty of use.
Ok, here is the raw material. I literally found this stone. It was a big chunk that interested me. I could tell it would cleave well and make a flat (ish) surface to start with. I did not think to take a picture of the whole thing, just the sliver I chose for this project.


I inspected the piece well and looked for any flaws that may cause a problem in the future. Rocks are kinda like wood, they have “knots” and separated grain issues that make for poor work surfaces. This piece looked “tight & straight grained”


This rock I found is not native to central Illinois I do not believe. But The last ice age brought some glaciers down and I find odd things near the river that erosion has exposed. It is a form of slate. From my study of sharpening stones I saw a resemblance to novaclite http://www.state.ar.us/agc/novaculi.htm . The very sought after material they make “Arkansas” stones from. It is a sedimentary rock with high amounts of tiny quartz crystals . There is a little more info on natural sharpening stones here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whetstone_(tool). And Japanese water stones here. http://masamiki.com/mono/tools/waterstones.htm . Not to get off subject here but I have studied Japanese sword polishing some, amazing.
Back to this particular piece of stone. I used cheap eBay silicon carbide (trade name carborundum) to hone the raw material. I think I paid $7 for a pair of 2 sided silicon bench stones, a total of 4 grits. Pretty basic, I just had some water and elbow grease. I started with the coarsest grit and worked the stone down.


After I flattened/honed the stone I inspected it closer for flaws, didn’t see any, cool. I was aiming for a large square or rectangle stone for final polishing of plane irons and chisels. I freehand sharpen and like to go in a tight circular motion, moving around the stone. The narrow “store bought” stones did not give me the work surface I liked.


I laid out and cut the stone with my crude technique, a diamond wheel on a grinder. If I were making more of these (which I have thought about, sell them ?) I would spring for a proper stone/tile cutter. Anyway, it worked.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Making stones part 2

I wish I could post a bigger picture…this is very pretty. In the sunlight you can see all the millions of little crystals twinkling. I used the “sacrificial” carbide stones again to round the edges/corners a little to avoid accidental damage in the future.


I then just hot glued the stone to a small piece of cedar to make it a bench hone. I did hone some chisels with it. I found the stone was too hard and smooth for doing it with any speed. Virtually no slurry is worked up from the stone. I was able to put a mirror polish on the one in the picture. But I decided this particular stone was better suited for honing razors, exacto-knives, pocket and carving knives. I have an almost worthless stainless steel straight razor I have always had problems getting a perfect edge on (SS is not good sharpening, high carbon steel is good steel) I was able to make a “shaver” out of it.


If anyone has any interest in more detail about sharpening stones, feel free to ask, I may just know the answer ;) I would also make another and post pictures (courser grit) if this post does not just fall flat.
I am calling this stone in the “Surgical black” class. It is hard, fine and blueish black.
 

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Thats pretty cool! I would have never thought to make my own sharpening stones.:thumbsup:
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
I have been using them for 30 years. I am kinda a "rock hound" too, I figured combine 2 of my interests. I have done alot of study about natural sharpening stones in the past (I watch eBay for natural Japanese stones, one is on there right now for $2300 :eek:, made the same way)

It took me a few hours to make the stone, but it will last my lifetime (and longer).
 

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I'd been getting by with a little diamond stone for years. I finaly broke down, and in the last few months spent a couple hundred bucks on good stones. It never dawned on me to make them myself. I do construction so I'm always looking thru the freshly dug up dirt for bottles and interesting rocks. Now I have another reason for the other guys to look at me like I'm nuts when they see me foraging around in the dirt. As a kid I would see the smooth stones by the creeks and think about Indians using them to sharpen things. I wanted to ask you about Stroping. I'm not even sure if I'm spelling it right. Do you use leather for you final touch up. Untill I got these last stones I was never in a position to need to. I used the side of my boot on one of chisels. I think it did something? Woodcraft has a piece of wood with leather around it for like 35 buck. Ridiculous. What your thoughts?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Woodcraft has a piece of wood with leather around it for like 35 buck. Ridiculous. What your thoughts?
Make your own strop too ,or buy one on eBay for 1/2 the price you quoted. If you make one just take a thick piece of leather that has been smoothed on one side and still rough on the other. (like your boot, it is polished on the outside, but still has the "grain" on the inside) My strop has jewelers rouge worked into the rough side. I hit both sides of the leather, the rough side a couple times then the smooth side a couple.

Yes I strop things, just about everything. For sure knives (I sharpen alot of cutlery in my sharpening business). Here is a picture of my shaving kit. There is a big difference between sharp and razor sharp. It's funny not so long ago every man had to to know how to sharpen...now it seems like a mystery to most ?
 

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I am a newbie and it is this post that brought me here...I was doing a google search for whetstones and found this absolutely brilliant article...
Right up my ally as I believe in making as much of my own gear as possible...
I was wondering if you could use slate for sharpening as I heard someone say that you could...( of course my local bar is full of experts in every field)....and the stone you are using looks kind of slate-ish...

Also I liked your comments on making your own strop....On the australian woodworkers forum there is a bunch of guys using leather glued to wood as strops for wood carving tools etc... Like yourself I use a cut-throat razor...(that's what we call em in aussie land...it sounds more macho)...and I made my own strop for my razor....it cost me about $7.00 as opposed to almost $100 for a store bought one...
I would also like to know...when I use my strop do I do like I have read on the net and go slow and roll the razor over on its back etc...or do I do like an old guy told me an sort of whisk it along the strop finishing the stroke on the sharp part...almost like trying to raise a burr...in other words as he said...to "strop the bloody thing..."
I tried the first way and seemed to get no results...I tried the second way and seem to get a better edge...
Any advice in this area would be welcome...
Thank you and thanks again for a great article...this looks like a great site
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
I was wondering if you could use slate for sharpening .. the stone you are using looks kind of slate-ish...
I will answer the strop question first ,shorter answer, maybe. I don't roll it over on the end of the stroke I pick the blade (or whatever ) up clean. I put it down on the strop like I am "backwards sharpening", if that makes sense. Just a slightly steeper angle than the bevel of the edge and drag it back. I can go relatively fast, from doing it so much, but it is not necessary. It only takes a few strokes. All you are doing is knocking off a nearly microscopic burr, if it was just honed. Or as hard as this is to believe in the case of a razor, your beard actually bent the edge over. You strop between shaves to straighten it back out.

Slate for sharpening. Depends. Slate is a generic term for a type of rock. Some slate (like in my pictures) has little crystals in it. Before I get too far I should say I am no geologist, and could easily be corrected by one, but just because I am not a trained expert on a subject has never stopped me from acting like one before :laughing:.

Ok back to slate. Like I said it depends on where it came from, it's make up (amount of abrasive material bound in the strata) and how "sound" it is, meaning consistent and defect free. I have had pieces of slate that were mostly just compressed clay, no abrasive content. So when rubbed on the slurry was like talc, just useless fine mud. Other pieces like this one made very little slurry, but still exposed fresh cutting crystals as I worked it.(something right in the middle of those 2 would be perfect for most general honing) I think this can even vary in a single "big chunk", it is layer after layer of deposited sediment that has been compressed for millions of years. Also you have to look at the "grain", you want to not have several layers exposed on the honing surface, just one at a time. If it wears through and is cupped and you are seeing "endgrain" of the next layer, it is time to flatten the stone by honing like I did in the pictures.

Off of slate for a minute for more examples of how these natural stones work. I have read about some Japanese water stones that come from a volcanic region that millions of years ago the volcanoes where putting ash into the air (and onto the ground) . This ash/pumice makes the stones good cutters. There is another kind of wet stone of interest too, the Belgian. There is a blue and coticule
. They have tiny garnets in them. Here is some more reading http://pacifi.ca/Temp/BBHistory.html .


I keep getting off the topic of slate in this evergrowing post. I guess the short answer to "can you use slate to sharpen ?" is MAYBE. Slate roof tiles, blackboard/chalkboard...depends on where they came from. If they have enough abrasive material in them, will clean them selfs when sharpening instead of just clog up with iron, and are sound and durable. The long answer is the rest of the stuff I typed (for your local experts at the bar ;)).

Oh welcome by the way (G'day mate) and you are right "cut throat" does sound more macho.
 

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Very :cool2: Daren!! Wish we had "rocks" like that down here..

Only sharpening item I've come up with is the element out of a 1000watt HPS light bulb. It's about 11" long and is a ceramic material of sorts. No good for SS, but is great for knife type tools made of good carbon steel. More of a tune up sharpening as you use a tool. Then hit it a couple of times on the strop and it's ready again.

Made my own strop too. Bought a pack of leather at a flea market years ago. Just tacked it to a peice of wood and been using it every since.

It's great to be able to come up with "homemade" tools.:thumbsup:

Jimmy
 

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I'd really love to learn how to... it seems to be a Dying Art. the Sharpening place we had in town Closed. Terry Decided to Retire and Couldn;t get anyone to take it over. No interst or Capitol I guess.......
 

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Andrew Close
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great thread Daren

do you make your own 'cut throat' razors too? maybe you should. we could start a whole shaving section since somebody was talking about the multi blade razors vs single blade bics in one of the other threads. :smile:
i'd love to learn how to sharpen things 'properly'.
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
do you make your own 'cut throat' razors too?
No, but I could. I have made many fixed blade knifes (I think there is one in my gallery ?). I am going to replace the handle on my red razor with wood, I bought with that in mind. It was a cheapie and I have the wood already picked out and setting on the workbench, just have not got around to it. The only difficult part (for most) would be the hollow grind on the razor blade, but I have equipment for that. Well not for that specifically, but it would work. Great, now you gave me another project :furious::laughing:.

I am making some plane irons soon. I am going to show how to do that, including tempering steel. And I guess how to make a small hand plane. Making the plane is easy, I am hoping to get some guys interested in making their own from scratch.

EDIT:
Yea there was a picture of a knife I made in my gallery. It's nothing special, just one I carry on my belt, it's seen alot of hard use. I think I put the picture there because a long time ago we were talking about sycamore. That is what I made the handle and sheath out of 1/4 sawn sycamore. There are a bunch of pictures of planes I made in there.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
No interst or Capitol I guess.......
I bought 2 small shops (well just the tools and a nice work trailer) One was a death in the family thing, the old boy who ran the shop keeled over, he was doing it in his retirement part time. The other shop I bought had been locked up for 3-4 years. The guy had tried to sell it to a bunch of guys...no takers. It is a dying art, at least in my area. Too many cheap imported tools (and knifes,scissors...), just go buy another one. I bought 2 shops lowball for everything they had, sold 1/2 the tools individually for more than I paid and got a basically free business.

I will be perfectly honest. My sharpening business in itself is not much more than a break even proposition most of the time, a couple hundred buck profit a week (?). If I was trying to do it full time, around here would not be the place.

BUT it ties in perfect with my other businesses. I sharpen chainsaws and meet guys who cut trees...logs for the mill. I have made some excellent contacts, got great free/cheap logs, bunches of them. On the other end when I am sharpening woodworking tools...they are coming to a sawmill/lumber yard (like kids in a candy store ;)) I may do a $20 sharpening job and the guy buys $400 worth of lumber AND tells his woodworking buddies. I have not advertised any of my businesses this year and had the best year ever, all word of mouth.

It's funny some of the guys I sold my extra machines to have huge business. One guy in California bought a carbide circular saw grinder off me. He sent me a check and showed me one of his invoices from the place they bought new carbide tips for circular saws...they where buying 5000 tips a month. I will not replace 500 tips in the next 2 years. Another guy who bought a planer knife grinder off me was a hardwood cabinet maker, he paid $1200 for a machine to do sharpening in house. In his small 8 man shop they were paying $125-$175 every 2 weeks in just sharpening planer knives and saw blades. I could handle that work from 20 shops by myself and still keep up ($6000 month), that is not that much work. Those shops are just not around here. I live in the middle of corn and bean country, dotted by Wal-Marts.

One more story. My brother lives in Tampa Florida. He knows a dude that has a van and a simple knife sharpener like I have posted a video of here before, a clipper hone and a scissors machine (about $1500 worth of tools). He drives around about a 100 mile radius and hits all the high end salons/restaurants and charges $20 to sharpen beauticians scissors, $15 for electric clippers and $10 for chefs knives. He works 3-4 days a week, 5-6 hours a day (and this ain't hard work) and makes $125K+....part time. If you watch that video, I can sharpen a dull chef knife in less than 60 seconds (I strop it too, not shown in the video so lets say it does take a whole minute) If I have 40 knives in front of me...which I never have had :glare:, I could sharpen them easy in an hour, and have a cup of coffee and a smoke. At $10 he is making $400 hr. I charge $2 a knife, that is the going rate around here.

Man that was a long post, almost a rant. I like sharpening, it's fun and I am good at it, but it is just a piece of my whole puzzle with the sawmill. And the entire operation is in my back yard, no commute.

If you have never seen that video, here it is (sorry if you have seen it, I ain't trying to bore anyone).

 

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Andrew Close
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I am making some plane irons soon. I am going to show how to do that, including tempering steel. And I guess how to make a small hand plane. Making the plane is easy, I am hoping to get some guys interested in making their own from scratch.
sweet. i'll keep an eye out for that thread. i don't have ANY hand planes and know i'll need some, want some, someday. that would be a great project.
i've seen the pictures of some of the hand planes you've made. very sharp ;)
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Before anyone misunderstands that video and cries foul, I have to explain it. I started this thread about sharpening stones, how I make them and why/how I use them and you should too....Then I link a video of me going at a knife with a machine :eek:.

First the machine. It has 2 cardboard wheels, one coated with 400 grit aluminum oxide, the other with jewelers rouge. It is used for grinding a new edge on a knife. The jewelers rouge knocks the burr off (then I still strop it) I was showing in the video I can put a razor edge on a beat knife in less than 60 seconds, even with a grinder.

The knife in the video. It was from a corporate cafeteria that I service. They hack apart frozen meat on a stainless steel counter with them. They trash their knives, they are a blunt instrument when they show up here. (same with deli, grocery, etc. for the most part) I have to put a whole new edge on them...in 2 weeks I will have to do it again. I have seen them stabbing can lids with knives just because "they where handy" to open them.

I did not want to confuse anyone. I make, use and promote good stones for good knives. I got off on a tangent about sharpening business in general without thinking about it.

I hope that clears that up :confused1:. I will try to stick to the topic of the original post.
 

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johnep
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Daren, always a pleasure to read your posts, you have the life I would have loved and my father even more.

I am a tungsten convert and just love my latest blade. However, just how do you renew a tip. They must be welded on in some way. Can imagine being done by a factory process, but in a shop?

Go on give us a video.

Up early christmas morning and just had a go at the ham knife with a diamond sharpener. Later will try the turkey carving knife on my bench grinder. Used it last night to cut wrapping paper and it was snagging, so must be blunt. I dream of floating a thread down a stream and cutting it with my sword - think some ancient hero did that.

Keep out the shop today, as if you could, and have a great time.

Will be drinking a toast to all at 9pm tonight.

regards and happy christmas,

johnep
 

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Discussion Starter #17
However, just how do you renew a tip. They must be welded on in some way. Can imagine being done by a factory process, but in a shop?
Yes, they are brazed on with silver solder. Just a block of tungsten, then it is ground to match the rest of the teeth. No biggie really, but am not terrible found of doing it. Not many people ask me to anyway, which does not bother me. I just sharpen alot of carbide saw blades, not much call for major repair around here.
 

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The knife in the video. It was from a corporate cafeteria that I service. They hack apart frozen meat on a stainless steel counter with them. They trash their knives, they are a blunt instrument when they show up here. (same with deli, grocery, etc. for the most part) I have to put a whole new edge on them...in 2 weeks I will have to do it again. I have seen them stabbing can lids with knives just because "they where handy" to open them.
I'm actually a chef by trade and i have to agree....that whole bit about tradesmen loving their tools and treating them with love etc is all baloney in the kitchen....knives are thrown about carelessly with little regard for their well-being...frequently losing their tips in the process... Being able to open stubborn glass jars...pierce an airhole in an oil drum...undo a variety of precision engineered screws...cut wire...shave wood and generally being able to stab, slice or bludgeon your way through virtually any known material is what is considered in the industry as 'knife skills'...merely being able to slice tomatoes is what is known as 'what Grandma does'

Thanks for the info on the stones etc Daren...I am a dit of a rockhound and have collected all sorts of pieces over the years...(just because they looked nice)... and I have several coal mines nearby that abound in sedimentary deposits so I will be searching for something suitable...
Also thanks for your insights on stropping....I have changed my attack...into something more like an approach and I think it is paying off...instructions are one thing but it's always good to talk to someone with real experience...

Your sharpening business sounds good...the guy that your brother knows sounds like he has a brilliant set up as well....I have often thought about setting up a truck and going into business for myself as a spare time earner....we have several guys aroung town who do it....the best I ever saw was an old asian man who sat downstairs in the carpark with a big old combination stone and lovingly ground away..(all for 5 bucks a knife)...
 

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johnep
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I have managed to sharpen my carving and ham knives so they will cut paper, but neither of them will shave hairs from my arm. I am going to try the scary sharp method followed by stropping on an old leather belt. However, managed best carving as yet on turkey and ham, so am progressing.
johnep
 

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I charge $2 a knife, that is the going rate around here.
At that price will you sharpen my planes:laughing: and then my kitchen knives, my chisels, my planer blade sand and and:laughing: . They wouldn't even give me the time of day at that price.

Richard
 
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