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Thread: What is Better Hard Black or Hard Translucent Oilstones?

  1. #1
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    What is Better Hard Black or Hard Translucent Oilstones?

    I am looking at getting an oilstone and I am trying to choose between the Norton Black hard and the Hard Tanslucent Oilstone. The black stone costs a little more, but is it worth it?

    Mike

  2. #2
    I use a black because it was cheaper than the translucent (my stones are Hall's). They are really both about the same with regard to finish. Some people think translucent is a better finishing stone and some like black better. It's mostly just personal preference. With most suppliers, the translucent is more expensive. With Norton the black is more expensive. I think it just comes down to the availability of one or the other in the particular quarry(s) that a supplier works with. I'd say get whatever is cheaper. In either case, stropping will be required as a final step after the hard black/translucent stone so it doesn't really matter which one you get. You will also need a coarser stone first if you don't already have one. I use a fine India (manmade) oil stone but a Washita or soft Arkansas stone will work as well if you want a natural stone.
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  3. #3
    But... but... I thought all the cool kids were using waterstones now!
    “I don’t have a lot of tools because it doesn’t take many to make furniture.” - Rob Millard

  4. #4
    Some say Black cuts faster but Tras. has always been more expensive..

    Transparent is what I use but for Hard and Soft Arkansas stones I bought they from Dan's
    danswhetstone.com

    I also use Norton Medium and Fine India stones 11x2.5x 1/2

    When you get into the Crystolon stones though they break down too fast and might as well use a Waterstone
    aka rarebear - Hand Planes 101 - RexMill - The Resource

  5. #5
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    Man, I must be a huge loser...still using high carbon steel and oilstones...

  6. #6
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    Mike--

    I have the Norton translucent (2x8x.75") and also a Hall's black in 2x6 size. They are both very good stones and will do the job. I had asked Hall's what the difference was and he said he preferred the translucent, but that the black actually gave a better polish.

    BTW, my personal opinion, but I would recommend you get at least a .75" thick stone or even better 1" and not the .5" Norton stones. I just think that the extra thickness does provide more rigidity and make the stone easier to hold when you are flattening it.

    Out of curiosity, does anyone use a soft Arkansas or do you use an India of some sort for the initial work? I have the coarse/fine India (2x8x1"), but was wondering where the soft Arkansas would fall on the grit scale and if there's was any benefit after the India?

    Thanks.
    Kevin

  7. #7
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    Hey Kevin, here's a link you may find useful. http://users.ameritech.net/knives/grits.htm I use a soft arkansas when my blades are only a little dull and don't need to go all the way down to the india. I think it works well. I will have to disagree with you on the necessity of a thicker stone (they are a LOT more expensive), just put the thing on a rigid surface to begin with. As far as flattening goes, I check mine with a straight edge regularly and in seven years it has yet to dish out.

  8. #8
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    Thanks for the chart, Matt, it's very helpful. As for the thicker stones being a lot more expensive, an 3x8x1" Hall's Black is $88 and a 3x8x.5" Norton Black is around $90. Now you are correct that a similiar comparison in translucent (if you can even find a first quality stone in that size) would be almost double the cost of the Black. Even my 2x8x.75" translucent was over $100, but it'll last me a few lifetimes (as will the .5", too!).

    BTW, I flatten my oil stones regularly as they seem to cut better (this was following the advice of Larry Williams). Again, just my personal opinion.

    Kevin

  9. #9
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    I was referring only to the translucent, which is what I use. I should have been more clear. Thanks for keeping me on my toes.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the replys, I was looking at getting a medium india and either a hard black arkansas or hard translucent arkansas as the second stone. I have bought some strop leather and some green compound. I would get an intermediate soft arkansas stone if I find it to be necessary. I inherited some combination crystolon stones in bad shape. I bought a Tormek as the answer to all my sharpening issues, but I couldn't get chisels sharp off of it. I will keep it as a grinder to grind the bevels when necessary and for my turning tools. I haven't used stones before, so this will be a learning experience. I have a drawer full of planes and chisels I don't use because they are all dull. I figured a wider stone 3" would be nicer to use than 2". I have plane blades that are wider than 2".

    I have read a lot about sharpening with water stones, oilstones, and scary sharp. Oilstones seemed to require less maintenance to the actual sharpening surfaces. I will probably end up with the hard translucent arkansas stone, since it costs less.

    Kevin, thanks for pointing me in the direction of Hall's. Their website needs some work. After clicking around I found the 3" wide stones, the link is not very obvious. Their price is much better for the black than the Norton.

    Mike
    Last edited by Michael Lutz; 04-15-2008 at 11:14 PM. Reason: Added more info.

  11. #11


    Coarse and fine Carborundum
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    Coarse, Medium and Fine India rounds, knife edges and squares
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  12. #12
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    Mike--

    You can't go wrong with either the Norton or the Hall's. The 3" wide stones are handy if you like to go back and forth (especially if you want to use a guide), but I go side-to-side mostly and don't use a guide so it doesn't really matter. I still think the thicker stones are a better investment (like the Hall's), but again that is just personal opinion.

    If you want the combo of medium or fine India and either hard black or white translucent in the wide stones, then I think Joel's offering of the Nortons is a good choice. You can do just about everything with that combo, along with a strop. While you are on his site, please check out his tutorial on hand sharpening if you haven't seen it yet. It's a very easy method (especially if you hollow grind your irons on your Tormek). In fact, Joel sells a nice kit with the stones, oil, strop, and a very good DVD showing this sharpening method that I think would be great for someone just starting out.

    Good luck and have fun sharpening those tools!

    Kevin

  13. #13
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    Kevin,

    I think I am going to get the 8"x3"x1" black surgical arkansas stone from Hall's and get the medium india, strop, and the DVD from Joel's company. I like also like the idea of a thicker stone. I am going to try to sharpen freehand based on the method on Joel's website. I intend to hollow grind my irons with the Tormek.

    Mike

  14. #14
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    Mike--

    Sounds like a plan! I really encourage you to try freehanding as in my opinion, it will liberate you from relying on jigs and make the sharpening process more enjoyable. I think some people maybe put off sharpening until it becomes a big issue when using a jig whereas it would be no sweat to just take the tool to your stones to renew the edge...a few swipes on your strop and you're back to work. You will be amazed at how your body quickly learns the freehanding method.

    Keep us posted on your progress as there are lots of great resources here that would be happy to give you more encouragement.

    Kevin

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Adams View Post
    Mike--

    Sounds like a plan! I really encourage you to try freehanding as in my opinion, it will liberate you from relying on jigs and make the sharpening process more enjoyable. I think some people maybe put off sharpening until it becomes a big issue when using a jig whereas it would be no sweat to just take the tool to your stones to renew the edge...a few swipes on your strop and you're back to work. You will be amazed at how your body quickly learns the freehanding method.

    Keep us posted on your progress as there are lots of great resources here that would be happy to give you more encouragement.

    Kevin
    I agree, and jigs are useless for sharpening molding plane irons, gouges, marking knives, drawknives, router plane irons, wooden spokeshave irons, travisher irons.......you get the idea. So if you ever plan to sharpen anything but straight plane blades and chisels you'll need to learn to freehand hone anyway so you might as well get a head start.
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

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