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Forum topic by cuttwice posted 04-20-2012 07:48 AM 2284 views 1 time favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View cuttwice's profile


60 posts in 2888 days

04-20-2012 07:48 AM

Topic tags/keywords: waterstone lapping flattening contamination sharpening norton

Hi All -

I’ve been using “scary sharp” technique to sharpen my blades, but haven’t been very satisfied with it, so I recently bought a set of Norton combination stones (220/1000, 4000/8000, and a flattening stone). I’ve just begun using them, but I’m new to sharpening with waterstones, and am seeking your wisdom. I looked through the posts trying to find answers, and I apologize if this has been asked and answered many times, but I couldn’t find it. I have four questions:

1 – How long do you go between stone flattenings? I discovered that my new stones weren’t particularly flat out of the box, and went to town on them to get them that way, but I’m wondering how often I’m likely to need to take a layer off my stones to keep them reliably flat. I realize the answer to the question will have a lot to do with what condition the blades I sharpen are in before I start, but for reference purposes, assume I’m working with new 1” chisels that are rough ground, but never honed (RC60 hardness). How many would you expect to sharpen before needing to re-flatten the stones(and how long before I need to re-flatten the flattening stone)?
Also, I’d expect to go through more stone sharpening a plane blade, but I’m not sure about that – what say you all?

2 – I like to have sharpening sessions and sharpen several tools at once (this may be a mistake, but it seems more efficient). What do you do to avoid grit contamination? Do you keep each stone in its own bath while sharpening? Dip the tool in a separate bath to rinse the slurry off to look at the edge, or just wipe it with a cloth? Do you clean the swarf off the stone between uses? If so, what do you use (I was thinking of an old toothbrush, but I don’t want to load the stones with plastic).

3 – Because I’m a rookie at this, I’ve been using a Veritas honing guide, but I’m wondering about the roller getting charged with grit and contaminating the stones (or just damaging the guide). If you use a guide, how do you keep it clean when shifting from one stone to another? What do you do to keep it clean between uses? (If the directions provided advice about this, I missed it, and I seem to have lost the directions at this point – grrr…)

4 – Finally, do you completely lap a blade through a series of grits before honing the bevel, or can one lap and hone at each grit in turn, so as to avoid moving back and forth through the grits more often (which I suspect will require more rinsing and cleaning to avoid contamination).

Thanks in advance for any thoughts or advice you may have.

- John

11 replies so far

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2838 days

#1 posted 04-20-2012 09:19 AM

Heres a breakdown of what works for me. I use the veritas guide to do my sharpening. Once i get my primary bevel ground with a 220 grit stone, usually the next notch lower in angle on the veritas gauge that I want my angle at, and the microbevel set in the middle or lowest setting, I then remove the chisel or plane blade. You can rinse off the guide, but usually the grit left over flushes out before it makes a difference. Assuming the back is flat, or close to, I make a few passes on the back on a 8000 grit stone to knock of the burr. Then I set the chisel to the desired angle and lock it in place. Set the microbevel to the lowest angle and go to town on the 1000 grit stone. After you get the chisel ground to the edge, wipe it down with a paper towel. Then place it on the 8000 grit stone and make sure it is flat on the back. It can be tricky make passes on the back with the guide on, but if you’re careful you can do it without dishing the back. Make a couple of swipes then wipe it clean with a towel. Then move to 8000 grit bevel side then the back, wiping with paper towel each time.

I have never had a problem not rinsing the guide between grits. To me it seems overkill and a waste of time. I don’t really clean the stones between use either. I only use a finger to rub down the stones if they get a black covering from the metal and rinse them off, usually only with the 8000 grit. I always sharpen my main set of 6 chisels at once. Usually a plane blade or two while I’m at it. I don’t see any downside in sharpening a bunch of tools at once.

Now to flattening. I flatten my stones every 2-4 sharpenings. The longer you wait, the longer it takes to flatten them. Waiting too long to flatten can ruin the backs of your tools, and its not worth the frustration. I find a good way to tell its time for a flattening (although still a hypothesis of mine) is how the microbevel looks. If the microbevel is crisp and consistent along the length of the blade, your stone should be flat enough. If the microbevel is much larger at one end then the other, or is inconsistent along the edge, its time for flattening.

Another thing I do is roundover the edges of the stones after flattening them. Its surprising how much those sharp edges can become irritating when flipping the stones over a bunch of times.

View jmos's profile


902 posts in 2572 days

#2 posted 04-20-2012 12:16 PM

Here’s another very similar thread going that should help

1 – out of box Norton stone are NOT flat. I’ve got 4, some single grit and some combo, none were close to flat out of the box. Flatten a lot. If you’re working to flatten a back on a new blade, you might need to re-flatten the stone every 30 strokes or so. Work with it for a little while and then try to flatten, if it takes a lot of effort to flatten, you probably waited too long and should do it more frequently. The opposite holds also. You don’t want to develop a dish or you will be transferring that to your blade.

2 – I rinse stones and store them together. I rinse by dunking in a bucket a few times to wash off, usually after flattening. I flatten with sandpaper on granite, and I do rinse the sandpaper between grits (use 220 for 4000 and lower grit and 440 for the 8000). I haven’t found contamination to be a big issue. I also tend to do mass sharpenings, never had an issue.

3 – I use a cheap side clamping guide; just wipe the wheel of with a rag when changing grits, but I often forget and haven’t noticed a problem.

4 – I flatten the back once when I get a new blade/chisel. When sharpening I hone the bevel, when I’m done I flip and polish the back using the ruler trick to get rid of the wire edge (see post in other thread for more.)

-- John

View bondogaposis's profile


5092 posts in 2554 days

#3 posted 04-20-2012 01:11 PM

I flatten my stones after every use with a coarse diamond stone. One thing to think about when using combination stones is that if you allow one side to get dished out and then flip it to use the the other side you can actually crack the stone when applying sharpening pressure to the stone. Don’t ask me how I know this.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3317 days

#4 posted 04-20-2012 03:31 PM

the abow is correct in the way its all come up to yourself of what you are confident with
one thing you shuold avoid at all cost is just using one part of the stone .. like one end or
if you sharpening chiesels in the mitle
try to use the stone all over at the same time to ceep it flat as long as possiple

one thing you shuold do is rinse the tool between each grit to avoid contamination

if you have used a lower grit stone or sandpaper to flaten a stone with then rinse and clean the stone

when I sharpen tools and here I talk about staring them up again under a restoring process
I flaten the stones between each tool ….. that have been the best for me so far
I still havn´t used them very much so I don´t know how it will be when they just need
to be honed …. my gess will be for every 3-4 tuch up

what I like about my Japanese waterstones is they give a mirorpolish back and bevel
but not all waterstones do that

have fun and remeber to dry and oil after the watersplashes …. lol

View doorslammer's profile


108 posts in 3771 days

#5 posted 04-20-2012 03:44 PM

First thing to do is throw away the Norton flattening stone. It will soon dish and consequently dome your sharpening stones. Use 220 sand paper on granite or get a rough diamond stone. Then, I would flatten after every 50 strokes or so.

-- Aaron in TN -

View cuttwice's profile


60 posts in 2888 days

#6 posted 04-28-2012 12:45 PM

Thanks again to all for the advice. I’ve been following a good deal of it, and it’s producing results (not to mention providing some peace of mind).

I now have a follow-up question. I seem to be really good at carving small bits of skin off my fingertips (specifically, the tips of the first two fingers on my right hand, just below the edge of the nail on the side furthest away from my thumb). I guess it’s a measure of sharpening success that I can do this without realizing I’ve done it, until the stone starts to get blood on it (we’re talking about small amounts of blood here, not horror movie blood).

Does anyone else have this problem? I’m probably bearing down too hard on the chisel end with my fingertips, and I’ll try to stop that, but I’ve also been considering the semi-disposable nitrile-coated thin cloth cloves that one can buy by the 10-pack at the borg. Does that sound like a good idea to you? Does anyone else have any good strategies for not shaving your fingertips off? (These cuts are small, but they’re like paper cuts – they hurt all out of proportion to their size!)

Thanks in advance for any thoughts,

- John

View rockindavan's profile


299 posts in 2838 days

#7 posted 05-08-2012 12:18 AM

I’ve had the cut problem when hand sharpening chisels. This is completely eliminated completely when using a guide. You can leave your fingers clear away from the edge of the chisel.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3850 days

#8 posted 05-08-2012 12:34 AM

If you don’t develop a figure-8 sharpening technique,
which is pretty much precluded by the use of jigs,
your stones will get dished and require frequent

Learn how to lock your hands and wrists together
push your elbows into your ribs like a potter throwing
on the wheel and maintaining a consistent angle
without jigs is made easy and wear on the stones
is made even.

View ShipWreck's profile


557 posts in 3955 days

#9 posted 05-08-2012 10:32 AM

Loren.. so true about the figure 8. I dished out my 220 stone really fast by not paying attention when I was doing a few chisels.. Doh! I must have removed a 1/8” of stone before I got it right again.

Cuttwice…. I’m a newbie as well into the scary sharp and stone world. I use a little of both systems now. I got the idea from a guy who was answering a post I had generated on this subject a while back. I still use 220 sandpaper for the initial bevel, then move over to the stones. The 220 stones get eaten up pretty fast when you are working on chisels. Always check your stones for flatness after they have soaked…...not before. I’m not sure if you know that already.

Have fun….. John

View balidoug's profile


495 posts in 2681 days

#10 posted 05-10-2012 02:48 PM

I’ve been using norton’s waterstones for about two years now, and cannot imagine ever switching. Like you, I’m a beginner, but for what its worth here’s what I’ve learned in the last two years.

Flattening depends on use. the courser stones dish faster, obviously, but you shouldn’t be using them much. Like sharpening, the more frequently you flatten the less time you spend doing it, and, within reason, the stones last longer. Flattening a deeply dished stone will take a long time, and wear away a lot of stone. Too, you’ll spend more time trying to sharpen on a dished stone which will increase wear. If you draw a hatch work on the surface of the stone with a #2 pencil before flattening you will not over wear the stone as you will stop pretty much exactly at the bottom of the dish. So my short answer is flatten a lot. My current stones are about two years old, and judging by the amount of wear have lots of life left in them.

Sharpening is similar. Doing a “session” to get everything sharp makes sense, but after that you are mostly just maintaining the secondary bevel. If you hone that bevel regularly – before the blade gets dull – just a few strokes on the 4k and 8k stones will keep you going a good long time; that saves wear on the stones as well. I sharpen whatever I plan to use whenever I first sit down to work. If I’m doing a lot of planing, maybe every 20-30 minutes after that, chisels rarely need more.

True, the 220 dishes very quickly, but its only for serious grinding. I use the 220 and the 1000 only if I find a serious ding or corrosion on a tool i haven’t used in a while and have to restore the primary bevel.

To avoid “grit contamination” I just rinse the stones and the metal with water, I’m still getting a mirror finish so I don’t think its a problem.

FYI LieNielson has a great video on chisel sharpening on YouTube. Many of the same principals can be applied to irons. My sharpening-station jig is just a piece of router mat inside a tin cake tray. see the “” for details.

I use the Veritas mark II, and like it. I used the original for awhile but – not being big on instructions – neglected to oil the roller and it died. For amateurs like me a guide makes sense. It takes a lot of time and practice to freehand a consistent bevel. I learned to do it passably, but i get a better edge with the guide. If there is much more wear on the stones because of the guide, I haven’t noticed. I suspect that since with the guide I need to make fewer passes to get a consistent edge, it evens out.

I did my lapping once, on all grits, and then worked the bevel. The books and videos I’ve seen say to do the same thing. Can’t think of an advantage to doing it any other way, and if you use a jig all that switching would drive me nuts. Now I only lap to repair damage – something that fortunately is becoming less common.

I got the cuts, too, for awhile. Then they went away. Don’t know where they came from, don’t know where they went. Perhaps you found mine?

-- From such crooked wood as that which man is made of, nothing straight can be fashioned. Immanuel Kant

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5128 posts in 4163 days

#11 posted 05-10-2012 04:06 PM

I sharpen for pay, and have found that the pair of Kevlar knit gloves I have are one of the best accessories I ever bought. They won’t protect against “stab” cuts, but sure keeps me from slicing into the fingers.
Google ‘em. I can’t remember where I bought ‘em. He!!, I can’t remember where I live most of the time. :)


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