Page 1 of 3 123 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 41

Thread: Sharpening: Are water stones really better?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Posts
    9

    Sharpening: Are water stones really better?

    My father taught me to sharpen his kitchen knives on traditional Arkansas oil stones, and I've continued to sharpen my woodwoorking tools on the two (soft and hard black) I inherited from him. But, getting more seriously into woodworking, I've now spent some time on the internet and heard about the miracle of Japanese water stones. My question is: are they really significantly improved over my oil stones to justify the expense of my getting a set? I can get a pretty decent edge using my oil stones, but possibly not the "extra extra visible-only-under-an-electron-microscope one-molecule-thick sharp" edge I hear bandied about after sharpening using water stones. (Some exaggeration for dramatic effect.) I also have to resharpen more often than I care to, although that might be more due to the inferior quality of my chisels (blue-handled Irwins -- I'm saving up for Ashley Iles as we speak).

    If they are worth my switching over, what is considered the basic set I would need? What grits, flattening equipment, etc.? (I'm sharpening only chisels and plane blades, nothing fancy like carving tools.) And what are recommended types and brands? There are so many water stones out there that I'm tempted to paste all the advertisements to a wall and throw a dart at them to choose.

    Advice, lectures, rants, and bickering all appreciated.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Jacksonville, FL
    Posts
    733
    I actually went from using waterstones to using Arkansas stones. The waterstones cut faster, particularly when using some of the more "modern" alloy steels, but I use diamond plates for basic shaping and hard black Arkansas stone for honing and finish up with a strop and green paste.

    I got tired of having to flatten the waterstones all the time or worse yet, dealing with the poor results if I didn't...
    "History is strewn with the wrecks of nations which have gained a little progressiveness at the cost of a great deal of hard manliness, and have thus prepared themselves for destruction as soon as the movements of the world gave a chance for it." -Walter Bagehot

  3. Quote Originally Posted by Don C Peterson View Post
    I got tired of having to flatten the waterstones all the time or worse yet, dealing with the poor results if I didn't...
    Somehow, this is just part of a routine. I even don't think it is possible to sharpen something without first to flatten my stone. The major complaint is mess. I was not able to figure out how to deal with it so far or how to organize my workplace...

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Lexington, KY
    Posts
    712
    You can certainly get a keener edge on waterstones than oilstones. Although, technique is paramount for either method. To start out, get 800 or 1000 and an 8000 stone. They can take care of 90% of your needs. Use sandpaper for anything coarser and you'll be just fine.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Casey Gooding View Post
    You can certainly get a keener edge on waterstones than oilstones. Although, technique is paramount for either method. To start out, get 800 or 1000 and an 8000 stone. They can take care of 90% of your needs. Use sandpaper for anything coarser and you'll be just fine.
    My opinion is that the jump from 1000 to 8000 is too big a jump - you'll have to spend too much time on the 8000 taking out the scratches from the 1000. I would recommend a 1000 and a 5000.

    Mike
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    New Hampshire
    Posts
    164
    I use both oil and waterstones. Sort of went on a sharpening binge recently, and bought some of each. I think I like the waterstones better, but I couldn't really tell you why. To flatten them, I rub two of them together if I have a lot of reshaping to do. Otherwise, I just scrub them with Gojo pumice soap. Laugh all you want, it works great.

    I would agree that the waterstones seem to cut faster, as I bought a couple Henry Taylor fishtail gouges that came pretty sharp, but the edges were all wavy (as opposed to a straight edge). Tried to cut them down with Arkansas, and it was taking forever. Cleaned up my mess, switched to a 1000 grit waterstone. Got the edge I wanted in no time. Then used a 6000 grit to make it pretty, stropped with green compound after that, and got great results. On the other hand, my Arkansas stones (soft and black) are pretty short, only about five inches long. My waterstones are about twice that size, so I can take longer strokes. That might account for the perceived "faster cut," but I can't say for sure. I'm certainly no expert. I don't really think it matters which you use, but I know the waterstones seem to work good for a hack like me.

  7. #7
    Hi Bess,

    Quote Originally Posted by Bess Kilmaren View Post
    My father taught me to sharpen his kitchen knives on traditional Arkansas oil stones, and I've continued to sharpen my woodwoorking tools on the two (soft and hard black) I inherited from him. But, getting more seriously into woodworking, I've now spent some time on the internet and heard about the miracle of Japanese water stones. My question is: are they really significantly improved over my oil stones to justify the expense of my getting a set?
    If you are using high carbon steel blades, and since you are already used to using Arkansas stones, I think you should simply perfect what you are already doing. And not start a whole new system. It would help you to get some assistance from someone who is expert at using oil stones--and who does use them--I would suggest Joel Moskowitz at Tools for Working Wood (no affiliation, no financial interest, just a well-satisfied customer from time to time).

    Here is an excellent article on sharpening published on Joel's website:

    http://www.antiquetools.com/sharp/

    I would suggest you read the article, then either email or call Joel directly to discuss your own sharpening experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bess Kilmaren View Post
    I can get a pretty decent edge using my oil stones, but possibly not the "extra extra visible-only-under-an-electron-microscope one-molecule-thick sharp" edge I hear bandied about after sharpening using water stones. (Some exaggeration for dramatic effect.)
    Again, if you are using high-carbon steel, you can get an outstandingly sharp edge using oil stones. I have received many outstanding edges from Clark & Williams, who use oil stones, these edges slide right through the edge of a sheet of newsprint like my water stone edges. You might want to add a translucent stone for final hone. Bottom line: sharpening is all about technique, and there are no magic stones--get good with what you are using.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bess Kilmaren View Post
    I also have to resharpen more often than I care to, although that might be more due to the inferior quality of my chisels (blue-handled Irwins -- I'm saving up for Ashley Iles as we speak).
    It is either due to the Irwin chisels, or else they are not getting perfectly sharp to start with. The chisels themselves would account for it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bess Kilmaren View Post
    If they are worth my switching over, what is considered the basic set I would need? What grits, flattening equipment, etc.? (I'm sharpening only chisels and plane blades, nothing fancy like carving tools.) And what are recommended types and brands? There are so many water stones out there that I'm tempted to paste all the advertisements to a wall and throw a dart at them to choose.
    I would seriously urge you not to start down that route at this time, until you have perfected your oil stone methods. It will be quite expensive, and will introduce a whole nother set of issues (the mess, as has been mentioned already in this thread, plus flattening, plus finding a place to sharpen where you have running water).

    Advice, lectures, rants, and bickering all appreciated.[/QUOTE]

    If you do decide to go the waterstone route, I would suggest you look into the Lee Valley natural stones. Natural stones are superior to the manmade stones. The best natural stones are in the stratosphere for cost (I'm not exaggerating), but you can get eminently usable natural stones for reasonable bucks. The natural stones don't go out of flat as quickly as the manmade, and give a better edge IME. Also, you can learn to use the whole stone, and minimize the flattening misery, though oil stones will still be superior in this regard.

    Wiley
    Last edited by Wiley Horne; 05-31-2008 at 2:56 PM. Reason: Separate her quote from my interlining

  8. #8
    Bess,

    The main thing I would suggest you do--and this'll change your life!--is to learn to hollow grind. That is the key to fast and effective sharpening, cause you're only sharpening the tip of the blade. This is not a new practice--Jos. Moxon's 'Mechanick Exercises' from just before the year 1700, contains a detailed discussion of hollow grinding.

    I won't go into detail here, because you may or may not be interested, and it kinda depends on what equipment you already have. Use either a bench grinder, or else a belt sander.

    Wiley

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Posts
    9
    Certainly the flattening problem is one of the things making me hesitate before switching over; I sometimes sharpen two or three times during a work session if I'm doing something heavy-duty like chopping out mortises in dense wood (I'm also not really using the proper chisels for the job; but they're what I have right now), and adding that extra step is one more thing that takes me away from the wood. The mess is also a factor, as people below have mentioned -- I don't have a shop, living as I do in a one-bedroom apartment, and I do my woodworking on my dining room table and my sharpening on my coffee table. I honestly don't know where I would use a water stone. My kitchen sink?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Posts
    9
    Quote Originally Posted by Wiley Horne View Post
    I won't go into detail here, because you may or may not be interested, and it kinda depends on what equipment you already have. Use either a bench grinder, or else a belt sander.
    Alas, I have neither! As mentioned above, I do everything in my tiny apartment, and power tools beyond my cordless drill are beyond my capability, both in terms of space and noise (and dust production). And hand grinders are nearly impossible to find in working order; nor, again, would I have the space for one.

  11. #11
    I use both, I use oil stones them a 5,000 and 8,000 on my own blades..

    For planes I sell I use a Med. India, Fine India, Soft Ark, Trans. Ark and a Fine Ceramic


    The more stones you use the less likely to belly your fine expensive stones..
    aka rarebear - Hand Planes 101 - RexMill - The Resource

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Clinton Township, MI, United States
    Posts
    1,335
    Bess,
    Norton sells kits for sharpening, and they make them in both waterstone and oilstone.
    The kit comes in what looks like a plastic toolbox which forms the sharpening area for using the stones. So for a small area, likely next to the sink, you will have a ready to use, easy to pack sharpening station.
    This seems like the perfect thing for your situation. Google Norton and then follow the pages to the kits.
    Mike
    From the workshop under the staircase, Clinton Township, MI
    Semper Audere!

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Posts
    9
    Having read a bit more about oil stones, I'm also pretty sure mine are of inferior quality -- not likely to make a difference on kitchen knives, but probably a hindrance to getting that electron-microscope-worthy edge on woodworking tools. They definitely do not measure up to smoothness and denseness as reported for ideal.

    *sigh* Starting out is always such a hassle.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Ann Arbor, MI
    Posts
    9
    Oh, spectacular! I can't afford those kits right now, unfortunately, but they may well be the answer to my prayers (in the money-including future). Thank you!

    (That is one difficult to navigate website, however.)
    Last edited by Bess Kilmaren; 05-31-2008 at 5:15 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    Virginia
    Posts
    2,875
    Bess,

    I use my waterstones at the kitchen sink; I have one of those plastic cork surfaced cafeteria trays from I don't know where and it work perfectly to keep the stone in place, is impervious to water and rinses clean. The only other place water stones aren't messy is outside and there's nothing wrong with that. But I think oil stones are usually messier than water stones and residual oil is much more of a problem if you get it on the wood you're working.

    Like Mike, I use a 1000 and then a 5000. The Japanese carpenters I worked with used a cinder block and some sand to flatten the 1000, and the 1000 to flatten the finish stone. Worked for them so that's what I do.

Similar Threads

  1. Water Filter for DC?
    By Ken Harrod in forum General Woodworking and Power Tools
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 03-15-2008, 12:28 PM
  2. Question re water system for Chinese CO2 laser
    By Jacqui Marlin in forum Engravers Forum
    Replies: 11
    Last Post: 09-30-2007, 5:27 AM
  3. Sharpening - Are all the stones really required?
    By Sean Kinn in forum Neanderthal Haven
    Replies: 21
    Last Post: 09-15-2007, 5:06 AM
  4. Containing the mess? Water Stone Sharpening
    By Dominic Greco in forum Neanderthal Haven
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 01-28-2007, 11:07 PM
  5. Ooooohhhh The Wonder of Hot Water.!
    By Dennis Peacock in forum Off Topic Forum
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: 03-04-2006, 7:21 PM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •