India vs. water vs. diamond sharpening stones

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Forum topic by Chill_Wills posted 01-12-2009 04:46 AM 13122 views 9 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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9 posts in 3451 days

01-12-2009 04:46 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sharpening stones hone

Im looking to purchase my first sharpening stones and have only limited experience with an oil stone. I am tring to figure out which type of stone is best for sharpeng woodworking tools and is easy to use for someone with little sharpening experience. Price is also a consideration. Any advise would be appreciated.

-- "Experience is often what you get when you were expecting something else"

12 replies so far

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#1 posted 01-12-2009 07:17 AM

I use water. I have some diamond stones too.

Oilstones are messy but kind of nice to use. Waterstones
gouge-up easily so you need good technique to keep
‘em nice. They can be resurfaced easily too so it’s no
big deal really.

I guess some guys figure the water makes the irons rust
but honestly I haven’t had that problem. Just dry the
metal off and coat it with a little oil if you must.

View dsb1829's profile


367 posts in 3650 days

#2 posted 01-12-2009 06:15 PM

I think scary sharp sand paper method is the best method for beginners. It is cheap, so you can get set up with a full range quick.

After that waterstones are probably the best bet for good results. I have tried King and Norton brands. I prefer the Norton. You will need a good flattening surface as waterstones dish very fast. I use 220g sand paper on a granite surface plate. Water and tool steel don’t mix, so keep some oil around and coat the blades once done sharpening.

I have moved onto oil stones. They don’t cut as fast, but they also dish very slow. I found that when prepping a new iron I had to flatten my waterstones several times during the process. No such issue with oilstones. I also don’t worry too much about sharpening my carving tools and chisels since the stones are hard enough not to groove. For a beginning sharpener the oilstones may not have fast enough results, but for me the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Last and most importantly, get a leather strop. I put this off for months. I can say that had I gotten one earlier I would have spent much less time worrying over sharpening. With the strop you can go from a 4-6000g waterstone and have a beautiful mirror polished hone. The strop is also good for a few touch up honings between trips back to the stones. Basically a strop makes it easier to keep your blades razor sharp.

-- Doug, woodworking in Alabama

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3810 days

#3 posted 01-13-2009 03:21 AM

If using the wet/dry paper method, or diamond, and are getting some flash rust, add a couple drops of dishwashing detergent to the water. It also works well on arkansas stones as it keeps the iron filings in solution so they do not load up the stone as fast. I do not have water stones, so do not know if this would be advisable on them.


-- Go

View Chill_Wills's profile


9 posts in 3451 days

#4 posted 01-13-2009 05:45 AM

What grit of stones or paper should I start with and finish with?

-- "Experience is often what you get when you were expecting something else"

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3810 days

#5 posted 01-14-2009 03:28 AM

For the sandpaper method, I use:

1. A flat surface. A piece pf plate glass like a shelf from a medicine cabinet, will work, or you can use a cast iron table saw top, in which case you will want to use oil as a lubricant. If you can find a piece of flat polished granite, that is superb.

2. A honing guide. This will make life much easier starting out, as you can repeat the angle every time. This can be hand made from a block of wood, or commercially bought. The “Empire” style, which clamps the sides of the blade, can be had for about $15. It does poorly for chisels with beveled sides. The Veritas (Lee Valley) 05M02.01 ( about $36) has a clamp screw that sandwiches the blade, and just wide enough for the #5 or #7 Stanley irons (2 3/8”) but is also very good for chisels, especially those with beveled sides. The Veritas Mark II 05M09.01 (about $55) has a wider roller and will take a wider blade, but has a setting guide that makes it very easy to set the angles. The roller position is also adjustable, to allow very long angles such as a skew chisel or a low angle block plane iron. As the guides can be used with oil stones, water stones, or paper, it will be usable for about any hand sharpening technique.

3: Wet-dry sandpaper (available at most automotive repair shops, but especially those that cater to car painters like Carquest, etc).

220 grit – to set a new primary bevel angle, take out large chips in the edge, and flattening the back of a cheap iron or chisel that has deep machining marks.

320 grit – removing moderate chips, removing 220 grit scratches

P400 grit – removing small nicks, starting point for a very dull blade, removing 320 grit scratches

P600 grit – starting to get a serious edge. Starting point when touching up the edge on mine if they are moderately dull, removing 400 grit scratches. Also used to remove the wire edge on the flat back after using the above grits

P1000 gr – Honing to sharp enough to shave with, removing 600 grit scratches, quick touch up as it dulls

P2000 gr – final polish and light touch-up for squirrely grain

Green rouge polishing compound – apply to leather strop, leather glued to flat board, or directly on unfinished flat piece of soft maple, etc. For use, blade is drug across from the back (not pushed edge first) to remove any 2000 gr scatches.

(Wet Dry above 2000 grit is made but hard to find and expensive)


Spritz water from an old spray bottle onto the glass and back of the paper. Lay paper on glass and go to work. (Some glue the paper with spray adhesive, but I find this collects grit and causes uneveen spots in teh paper, so I don’t do this)

Start by flattening back of iron or chisel absolutely flat through the 2000 gr.

Insert blade into honing guide and establish primary angle (for most Stanley blades 25 degrees is a place to start; bench chisels is about 35 degrees) and starting with 220, establish bevel all the way to the edge and through at least 2/3rds the blade thickness (all the way is better). Work through the grits to 600, and then flip blade over and remove wire edge with a couple side-to-side swipes.

Establish the secondary bevel: Slightly increase the angle by a couple degrees (with the Veritas guides, you can just turn the knob on the roller to increase the angle 2 degrees, and with a home-made wood guide, slide a piece of cardboard under the back edge of the blade) and work thorugh the 1000 and 2000 grits. finish with a side-to side back swipe on the 2000.

Rinse paper under a faucet to remove any iron and loose grit and store flat to dry

Drag the blade backwards across the honing strop for the final polish.

For touch-up, strop it. When that fails, go straight to secondary bevel and start at 1000 grit. It will only take a few swipes at each grit to get the edge back.

When secondary bevel is more than 1/2 the blade thickness, start over with a new primary bevel.

That’s how I do it. Hope this helps


Ran out of time, so hope I didn’t forget anything. If I did, I’m sure others will fill in with their method.

-- Go

View Gofor's profile


470 posts in 3810 days

#6 posted 01-14-2009 03:48 AM

I did forget one thing: Your best initial investment would be about $25 for Leonard Lee’s book “The Complete Guide to Sharpening”. It will give you all the info you need about the different ways to get to the same end – tools sharpened properly to do the job you want to do.


-- Go

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3696 days

#7 posted 01-14-2009 07:05 AM

I was recently in a pretty deep conversation about oil stones and the consensus was that the coarse stones need a really thin oil to operate well. The oil that I had bought was too thick. WD40 or “lamp oil” work great to keep the stone cutting quickly.

The fine stones, like a black, work well with the thicker oil.

View LesB's profile


1748 posts in 3466 days

#8 posted 01-14-2009 07:38 AM

I would say it depends on what you are sharpening and what condition they are in. For pocket and kitchen knives I prefer the diamond stones because they work fast and don’t require messy water or oil. I start with 400 or 600 grit and finish with 1200. I finish them off with a “crock” stick honing and if needed stropping on a green compound impregnated leather strip. Eze-lap makes a great product. Their diamond is on solid steel without the holed and plastic base some others use.
They now make a diamond coated sharpening “steel” that does a great job of touching them up between full sharpenng.

If you are working on chisels and planer blades I like the Work Sharp power sharpener which has disks from very coarse to the 2000 grit. It is essentially a revolving “sandpaper” method of sharpening.

I have never really used water stones but I used oil stones for years and they do a great job. However, rather than using “oil” on them I used automatic transmission fluid because it is designed to suspend particles for the filter to catch, so guess what it does on the sharpening stone? Beats any oil i tried and a quart lasts for ever.
A lot of getting a good edge is technique and that takes practice.
Gogor gave some good directions, whether using stones or sandpaper.

Good luck with your new shop.

-- Les B, Oregon

View dan_fash's profile


62 posts in 3449 days

#9 posted 01-14-2009 10:35 AM

I started a few years ago with the sandpaper method method almost exactly as described by Gofor above. This was the easiest on my wallet, and I get such scary sharp blades, I never transitioned to stones as I had initially planned. I’d highly recommend it. Ive used the same method for truing plane soles. a bit more work, but great results.

Ive also read articles on using dowels and various shaped pieces of MDF with this same sandpaper attached for custom curved sharpening “stones”, though I have not attempted this.

One thing I’d add:

I keep all of the silica (do-not-eat) packets from drug bottles, new purchases etc, and I just throw them into my tool box, tool bag, chisel case.
If your not familiar, silica sucks up moisture from the environment arround it. so instead of moisture sitting in your tool box, and on your tools (ie: rust) the silica packets suck it all up. About every 6 months I put them on a cookie sheet, and bake them at 200 for about an hour. This dries out all the silica, and re-charges them.

Hope all this helps

-- "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most logical explantion is that I was made for another world." -C.S. Lewis

View EKG's profile


11 posts in 1577 days

#10 posted 02-22-2014 06:53 PM

Before you make a decision, read the reference below carefully. It is a bit technical and unorthodox, but well worth reading. Think hard about the diagrams. Claims are backed with (indisputable evidence?). The same advise goes for all who read this.

If you wish to dispute this claim, contact the author at said sight referenced below.

I’m still reading the article and learning as I re-read.


~~ When I was born, I was young, and then, when I grew older, I aged. Time forgives no man – accordingly, act in the present for no second chance is given. ~~

-- Eric G.

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2097 days

#11 posted 02-23-2014 01:12 AM

Wow…old thread here but informative :o)

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View EKG's profile


11 posts in 1577 days

#12 posted 03-25-2014 01:14 AM

Hello: Sorry to disagree, but motor oil or any thick oil or fluid is a very poor sharpening agent. Oil creates a protective barrier between the stone and metal that you are trying to sharpen, causing you to hone/sharpen using great effort – that’s why it’s used in engines. Thick oil causes a barrier between the piston and cylinder wall minimizing contact between the two, and hence preserving both the piston and cylinder. Use a light lubricant like kerosene, mineral oil, or baby oil (which is mineral oil based – you can buy baby oil unscented if you don’t like the scented).

P.S. Gofor has a wonderful set of techniques which should be written down for reference – I know I did. Thanks Gofor

-- Eric G.

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