How well do diamond sharpening stones hold up for sharpening, and do you really come out ahead?

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Forum topic by Rob posted 03-15-2014 01:07 PM 11795 views 6 times favorited 56 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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704 posts in 3190 days

03-15-2014 01:07 PM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening

I’ve been trying to learn what I can about sharpening and it seems most people on LumberJocks either use the Scary Sharp method with sandpaper, or water stones. The drawback to Scary Sharp is that it’s expensive over time, and the drawbacks to water stones is that they are messy and require constant flattening. It seems most people try to put off sharpening with their water stones as long as possible, opting instead for multiple chisels of the same size or multiple plane blades they can swap out.

A lot of people elsewhere report using diamond plates and claim that they’ll last forever, but it isn’t clear if those people are just buying into the hype or if they’ve actually used the diamond plates for years upon years already (in most cases, my guess is that they wrote the reviews shortly after buying the diamond plates).

I’ve seen some recommendations to buy diamond stones if you don’t already own water stones because the diamond sharpening plates will last forever. The impression I get is that they’re cheaper than sandpaper in the long run and aren’t much more expensive than water stones but with much less hassle. Any other opinions on this from someone who’s tried diamond plates in addition to one or both of the other methods?

An article by Chris Schwarz says that he keeps burning through diamond plates, and that only the DMT DiaFlat has held up over time.

Chris does say that he sharpens every day, and that hundreds of students also use his equipment, but how do diamond plates hold up over time for other woodworkers? If you were starting out fresh and didn’t have any sharpening equipment, what would you buy?

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

56 replies so far

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15519 posts in 2737 days

#1 posted 03-15-2014 01:12 PM

From a practical standpoint, I’ve had a pair of two-sided duo-sharp DMTs for a couple years and haven’t wanted for anything yet. I use them about every couple weeks on one kind of edge or another, along with a strop.

I tried sandpaper (scary sharp) for awhile and was confounded by the lack of retail store inventory of finer grits AND the way I burned through the paper. The spending was kinda stupid to my way of thinking when I diamond would last many years. They have lasted for me, and I don’t regret the change.

Recently picked up a couple oilstones for (literally) pennies at auction and have been toying with them for quick iron touchups, and like them too. Just grab and go. And it’s working on my freehand when I’m after a quick edge. But I’ll always return the iron to the DMTs to get the primary bevel razor sharp.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View BJODay's profile


526 posts in 2062 days

#2 posted 03-15-2014 01:13 PM

Good topic. I have a 2 sided water stone. It works well but I hate the mess. I’ve been debating buying a diamond plate. I will follow this thread.

What grits of diamond plate should a person use?

If I have a leather strop, what is the finest grit plate I would need?


View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15519 posts in 2737 days

#3 posted 03-15-2014 01:17 PM

This is the setup I have been using for a couple years, and finish with green compound on a strop. The result is a mirror finish on the backs of irons and terrific edge.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Lex Boegen's profile

Lex Boegen

4 posts in 1653 days

#4 posted 03-15-2014 01:24 PM

My experience with diamond stones is varied—the coarser they are, the more quickly they wear out. I think this is because the diamond grit is held to the stone with a layer of nickel plating, so the larger the grit, the less it is supported by the thin layer of nickel. With diamond stones it is important to not press down firmly when sharpening. Let the diamond do the work. I have a full range of DMT stones, from their extra-coarse up to their extra-fine. I’m only unhappy with the two extremes of the range. The extra-fine Dia Flat stone is so fine, I can’t tell which side of the stone has the diamonds embedded in it (and I’ve used a USB microscope to examine it!)

That said, I like diamond stones overall. If I have something that really needs heavy grinding to establish a new bevel angle or remove knicks and damage, I’ll use a grinding wheel or belt sander for that now. For the final polishing, I like to use 3M film (from Lee Valley) that has up to 0.5 micron particles, then finish with a green oxide compound on MDF or leather strop. My diamond stones are used for everything in between the rough grinding and final polishing.

View JohnChung's profile


415 posts in 2193 days

#5 posted 03-15-2014 01:29 PM

I own an Iwood diamond plate. It is definitely wearing down after I lap my waterstones. I do not use my diamond stones for sharpening just lapping.

If you can get a diamond stone that does not wear down then try it out. The problem is that you may not get enough grit choices. I own from 120 to 16000 grit for Shapton. Each grit is well worth it. If the diamond plate has that grit range you fix edge chips and polish the blade at the final stages.

Most of the time I just use 1000,2000,5000,8000 for sharpening. 120 is more for badly chipped edges.

View PaulJerome's profile


57 posts in 3152 days

#6 posted 03-15-2014 05:07 PM

I bought into the hype of water and diamond and i returned to sandpaper. The cost of paper is not what you would think once you have flat backs and the required bevel, sanding the microbevel is about a 10 second job. Don’t waste the money on the stones. Oil and wet dry sandpaper is the way to go. No mess and easy with razor sharp edges. If you’re at a home center look for the finer grits in the automotive section. I sand to 2000 grit and the polish is mirror-like with fantastic results.

-- Paul, Central Illinois

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3767 days

#7 posted 03-15-2014 05:43 PM

Water stones do not require constant flattening unless you insist
on using a sharpening method that dishes them out. All
sharpening jigs which ride on the stone surface will dish the

I use the Burns sharpening system. 2 EZE-Lap diamond plates
and a finishing water stone. It’s reasonably quick, does
not dish or gouge the water stone, and it can be used
for back-beveling plane irons.

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2080 days

#8 posted 03-15-2014 05:50 PM

Here’s the Paul Seller’s method.
He’s pretty old school but uses diamond stones. He says between him sharpening every day and using them at his schools the EZE lap stones last 5 years or something like that. He says that use by a regular woodworker they would last nearly forever. He doesn’t use the coarsest or the finest. Well it is the finest EZE lap has, but DMT sells a finer one.

View JohnChung's profile


415 posts in 2193 days

#9 posted 03-15-2014 06:06 PM

I flatten the waterstone just enough to remove the pencil mark. It also renews the surface of the stone which cuts metal like it’s brand new.

Here is a test. Don’t sharpen the coarse stone. Just use it consistently. It’s effectiveness reduces dramatically. The constant use practically glaze the waterstone. The Shapton 120. After the surface renewal it can cut metal very well again.

View Rob's profile


704 posts in 3190 days

#10 posted 03-17-2014 05:23 AM

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone. I’ll look into the EZE lap or DMT stones…maybe I’ll just get whatever’s cheaper, or one or two of each. One of Paul Sellers’ videos even suggested sharpening to just 250 grit to avoid having to rough the surface back up for finishing. I’m not sure I’ll go to quite that extreme, but maybe I’ll hold off on the 8000+ grit for now. I’ve only recently started to run across comments about Paul Sellers, but I ended up watching about an hour’s worth of his videos the first time I looked him up on YouTube. I’ll have to look up the Burns system too.

I’ll probably also try out sharpening with sandpaper since there isn’t much of an investment required and I should probably have a better inventory of sandpaper on hand anyway.

Loren and John, thanks for the clarification on flattening. Somewhere I read that you need to flatten the stones each time you use them, but I think they were using a jig that rides on the stone.

-- Ask an expert or be the expert -

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3767 days

#11 posted 03-17-2014 05:37 AM

I use a nagura stone to deglaze water stones. Glazing on finishing
stones is really a problem without it in my experience. I have a
Makita wet grinder with a 1000 grit wheel and I use a lot
of water and use the nagura often to manage the glazing.
Honing by hand glazing is not a problem on a 1000 grit stone
but it starts to be as you go up in grit from there.

View JohnChung's profile


415 posts in 2193 days

#12 posted 03-17-2014 09:04 AM

@Loren- Where did you get your Nagura stone? May want to try it on Shapton Pro.

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 3767 days

#13 posted 03-17-2014 09:09 AM

I’ve had it forever and don’t remember. It lasts a long time.
Japan Woodworker or Lee Valley would be a good source
if you can figure a reason to order other stuff and
combine shipping. Ebay maybe.

View Tony_S's profile


908 posts in 3202 days

#14 posted 03-17-2014 10:31 AM

I’ve got a combination of ez-lap’s and dmt’s. One of them(can’t remember which is which) is an easy 20 years old and has been used pretty hard.
It’s definitely worn, but still works great.

Truthfully, I actually prefer using them(diamond stones) once they’ve worn down a bit…call it “broken in”.

Keep in mind, sharpening is a strange topic. Some people are completely over the edge about it. There’s a lot of different ways to go about it that work just fine.
Pick a method and practice until your comfortable with it.
The guys that seem to get frustrated with sharpening are the ones who jump around from method to method without mastering any of them.

-- It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. Aristotle

View LoriF's profile


119 posts in 1996 days

#15 posted 03-17-2014 12:05 PM


Paul Sellers – How to sharpen a handplane.

“I have and do use EZE Lap diamond plates. The ones I use are coarse, fine and superfine. I use the 3” x 8” (75mm x 200mm). They last for a long time even at the school where people are constantly sharpening on them. These are the best of all sharpening plates and I thoroughly recommend them above all others”.

EZE Lap coarse is 250, fine 600 and superfine 1200. $120 Amazon, $180 Ebay, and $200

-- There's a crack in everything that’s how the light gets in - Leonard Cohen

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