Waterstones Leave My Tools a Dull Gray

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Forum topic by donttry posted 03-30-2017 09:35 AM 1776 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4 posts in 599 days

03-30-2017 09:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening waterstones chisel plane

Hello all.

I’ve been having an issue sharpening with my waterstones and thought I might try here for help.

I’m new to waterstones and have a set of Norton’s; 220, 1000, 4000. 8000. The stones are leaving the tools I’m sharpening a dull gray color. It’s especially noticeable on the back of plane irons and chisels. I spent some time last night on a chisel and just couldn’t get it shiny. I then tried the same chisel on a number of different sandpaper grits, ending on 2000 and it was super shiny after that. Then I brought the chisel over to the 8000 stone and it got gray again.

Anyone else ever experience anything like this?


11 replies so far

View r33tc0w's profile


168 posts in 660 days

#1 posted 03-30-2017 12:17 PM

My 1000 grit king Stine is doing that too

-- Matthew 13:53-58

View jmartel's profile


8199 posts in 2326 days

#2 posted 03-30-2017 02:26 PM

Some stones leave a haze rather than polishing. You don’t need it to be polished. All you need is for the back to be flat and for the bevel to be as sharp as possible. As long as they work fine, I wouldn’t pay attention to it.

I know my 6000 grit stone polishes my tools but my 13000 grit stone results in less polish. But the tools are way sharper off of it.

-- The quality of one's woodworking is directly related to the amount of flannel worn.

View bridgerberdel's profile


50 posts in 1418 days

#3 posted 03-31-2017 02:58 AM

Shiny isn’t the same thing as sharp

-- occasional musings on my blog:

View Joel_B's profile


349 posts in 1557 days

#4 posted 03-31-2017 04:22 AM

If you want it shiny try a strop.

-- Joel, Encinitas, CA

View Lemwise's profile


80 posts in 793 days

#5 posted 03-31-2017 07:41 AM

Another one who thinks a blade needs to be highly polished. When will people ever learn?

View Jimintomahawak's profile


73 posts in 651 days

#6 posted 03-31-2017 12:13 PM

Whet stones are cutting not polishing which makes the hazy look. You should see what a shiny edge looks like compared to hazy in 100x microscope. Polished shiny edges many times will have edge rollover. A properly let’s call it a stoned edge will have 2 distinct angles no edge roll or radii near edge. The stropping wheel polishes the peaks and valleys left from the stone and removes burrs on the cutting edge. Strop process normally won’t remove any metal.

If you are finishing with a 8000 grit it should be razor sharp.

A tip for everyone is use a 5-8% solution of Dawn dish soap and water for using whet stones. It allows worn grit and metal particles to flow off the stone.

The engineer in me kind a took over. A third of my career was sharpening various cutting instruments in production environment.

-- Laziness drives creative thinking...

View donttry's profile


4 posts in 599 days

#7 posted 03-31-2017 12:52 PM

Thanks for the replies. I don’t need anything to be shiny, I just thought that the stones making my blades not as shiny as sandpaper meant that they weren’t as sharp. But if that’s not the case, I’ll stop thinking about it.

Also, before I posted this here, I gave a call over to Norton and the tech there said that I should be seeing a high polish after using the 8000 stone and that there might be a contaminant on the stone if I’m seeing a dull gray. I cleaned the stones and got the same result.

Another one who thinks a blade needs to be highly polished. When will people ever learn?

- Lemwise

I suppose I might learn after I ask the question on a forum and get some replies from folks that might know more than me. You might have been born with innate knowledge of the properties of waterstones, but I suspect most weren’t. But thanks so much for adding to the discussion!

Thanks again for the help.

View r33tc0w's profile


168 posts in 660 days

#8 posted 03-31-2017 01:07 PM

Ok good, my 1000 used to make the bevel shiny but since I’ve flattened it a couple times, figured I was doing something wrong. Since I sharpen with this in tandem with sandpaper, what grit should I be using to bring the stone back to flat?

-- Matthew 13:53-58

View djwong's profile


176 posts in 3396 days

#9 posted 04-02-2017 03:47 AM

Hi donttry,
Synthetic water stones should create a nice shinny surface since the abrasive particles are uniform. A natural water stone will leave a hazy or cloudy surface finish, due to the way the natural abrasive particles break down into different grits. A dull grey surface is not normal.

I do not use Norton stones, but according to the Lee Valley website, Norton stones up to 4000 should be soaked in water for at least 10 minutes. The 8000 only needs water splashed on the surface to use. In my sharpening routine, I use a lot of water to continuously wash away swarf and mud from the stone surface. I will also flatten frequently to clean the stone of stubborn swarf.

Flattening the stones regularly is good practice, but would not have anything to do with your dull grey finish. I use an Atoma 140 or 400 grit diamond plate to flatten my stones. If you do not have a diamond plate, use 120 or 150 grit sandpaper on a flat surface like a plate of glass or a granite surface plate. Flatten the 220 stone, then use the 220 stone to flatten the other stones. To save excessive wear on the higher grit stones, you can use the 1000 grit stone to flatten the 4000 and 8000 if you like. Always check the stones to make sure they are flat. use plenty of water when flattening with the 220.

I think keeping the stones clean while sharpening will get rid of the dull grey. The more I think about it, it seems like swarf on the blade.

I am not fussy when flattening my 100 grit stones. Anything of a lower grit than 1000 should be fine, depending on how regularly you flatten, and how out of flat the stone is. I use my 140 grit diamond plate on my 1000, but I will also sometimes use my 800 stone.

-- David W. Cupertino, CA

View Buckethead's profile


3194 posts in 2045 days

#10 posted 04-02-2017 01:21 PM

It doesn’t need to be shiny to be sharp. Totes agree. Still, I like shiny. Strop for the win!

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View noahm's profile


10 posts in 732 days

#11 posted 04-04-2017 05:35 PM

It doesn t need to be shiny to be sharp. Totes agree. Still, I like shiny. Strop for the win!

- Buckethead

In theory, shiny should help with the overall effort pushing through the wood. Once you pass the cutting edge, friction separating the wood becomes a factor, so while not technically necessary for cutting, it surely helps in some small way to have the immediate section past the edge be shiny/smoother as long as you haven’t undone the sharpness trying to make it shiny..

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