Tools I make (sharpening stones, planes and irons) #1: Making a honing stone

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Daren Nelson posted 12-20-2007 06:25 PM 25406 reads 4 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Tools I make (sharpening stones, planes and irons) series Part 2: Just a little wood, I have 2 loves wood and steel (wood most). »

I mentioned in one of my project post where I pictured a small hand plane that I made in my shop that I also make the irons and sharpening stones. I of course make the wood too, since I have a sawmill. Others showed interest in more details, so here they are. I did not know where to start. I am starting with a honing stone I “made”.

It did not work out exactly as planned. It is a very good stone and I will use it for honing razors personally and in my business (I run a small sharpening shop too). I underestimated the hardness of the raw material and the smooth finish it would take. It is extremely fine grit, not my plan exactly, but it still will find plenty of use.

Ok, here is the raw material. I literally found this stone. It was a big chunk that interested me. I could tell it would cleave well and make a flat (ish) surface to start with. I did not think to take a picture of the whole thing, just the sliver I chose for this project.

hone raw

I inspected the piece well and looked for any flaws that may cause a problem in the future. Rocks are kinda like wood, they have “knots” and separated grain issues that make for poor work surfaces. This piece looked “tight & straight grained”

hone stone edge

This rock I found is not native to central Illinois I do not believe. But The last ice age brought some glaciers down and I find odd things near the river that erosion has exposed. It is a form of slate. From my study of sharpening stones I saw a resemblance to novaclite . The very sought after material they make “Arkansas” and “Washita” stones from. It is a sedimentary rock with high amounts of tiny quartz crystals . There is a little more info on natural sharpening stones here And Japanese water stones here. . Not to get off subject here but I have studied Japanese sword polishing some, amazing.

Back to this particular piece of stone. I used cheap eBay silicon carbide (trade name carborundum) to hone the raw material. I think I paid $7 for a pair of 2 sided silicon bench stones, a total of 4 grits. Pretty basic, I just had some water and elbow grease. I started with the coarsest grit and worked the stone down.

wet honing

After I flattened/honed the stone I inspected it closer for flaws, didn’t see any, cool. I was aiming for a large square or rectangle stone for final polishing of plane irons and chisels. I freehand sharpen and like to go in a tight circular motion, moving around the stone. The narrow “store bought” stones did not give me the work surface I liked.

honed slab

I laid out and cut the stone with my crude technique, a diamond wheel on a grinder. If I were making more of these (which I have thought about, sell them ?) I would spring for a proper stone/tile cutter. Anyway, it worked.

rough cut

I wish I could post a bigger picture…this is very pretty. In the sunlight you can see all the millions of little crystals twinkling. I used the “sacrificial” carbide stones again to round the edges/corners a little to avoid accidental damage in the future.

finished hone

I then just hot glued the stone to a small piece of cedar to make it a bench hone. I did hone some chisels with it. I found the stone was too hard and smooth for doing it with any speed. Virtually no slurry is worked up from the stone. I was able to put a mirror polish on the one in the picture. But I decided this particular stone was better suited for honing razors, exacto-knives, pocket and carving knives. I have an almost worthless stainless steel straight razor I have always had problems getting a perfect edge on (SS is not good sharpening, high carbon steel is good steel) I was able to make a “shaver” out of it.

hone finished

This blog is sort of about making planes, but really there are plans out there everywhere for that. Some also showed interest in tempering steel, a simple Google search will teach you all you need to know. I thought I would share some of my knowledge of sharpening stones, I think they are an important tool.

I will blog more about making planes and irons from scratch. If anyone has any interest in more detail about sharpening stones, feel free to ask, I may just know the answer ;)

I am calling this stone in the “Surgical black” class. It is hard, fine and blueish black.

20 comments so far

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5375 days

#1 posted 12-20-2007 06:38 PM


-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Topapilot's profile


172 posts in 5054 days

#2 posted 12-20-2007 06:42 PM

This is the most unique information I’ve seen on a woodworking site, meaning I’ve never seen anyone explain where sharpening stones come from, or how they are made.

Please continue!


View Karson's profile


35278 posts in 5614 days

#3 posted 12-20-2007 07:39 PM

Great job. I Delaware the entire state is a sandbar and flat to boot. I don’t know how deep you have to go to get out of sand. But nothing I’ve seen.

If you want a sand pit, just dig in your back yard.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View gbvinc's profile


629 posts in 5161 days

#4 posted 12-20-2007 07:47 PM

Cool! Keep the info coming!

View rpmurphy509's profile


288 posts in 5068 days

#5 posted 12-20-2007 08:31 PM

Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing with us. I will more than likely look
at stones etc laying about in a different light now.

-- Still learning everything

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5280 days

#6 posted 12-20-2007 10:25 PM

Good info Daren. Thanks for the explanation, and I look forward to reading more in the future.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Dorje's profile


1763 posts in 5211 days

#7 posted 12-21-2007 03:16 AM

Daren -

Thanks for the write up and photos on this…that’s a cool process.

You said: ”This blog is sort of about making planes, but really there are plans out there everywhere for that.” That may be true, but I think there is real value in seeing how individuals do it…cause it always varies and we can definitley learn from the different approaches people take…

”Some also showed interest in tempering steel, a simple Google search will teach you all you need to know.” Again – I’d love to see and read about the way that you do it, and I’m pretty certain others would benefit too!

I’m really not trying to pressure you into blogging topics you don’t want to, and can relate with the idea that if it’s been done elsewhere, why repeat…but there really is something to hearing how and individual woodworker, toolmaker, sharpener, sawyer, does it, cause it ain’t gonna be the same as the rest!

You’re blogs are great and your ability to share you expertise is really wonderful…

-- Dorje (pronounced "door-jay"), Seattle, WA

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5119 days

#8 posted 12-21-2007 03:57 AM

Yea Dorje, you’re right about dismissing some of the other parts in the first blog as common knowledge. I will blog them, really, I was just trying to prioritize. There is much to know, if one is interested. Google search was a lazy thing to say. I have learned so much from so many, good and bad then mixed the two (and still learn by trail and error). Maybe my experience will be part of someone else’s mix? Thanks for reminding me.

View John Gray's profile

John Gray

2370 posts in 5099 days

#9 posted 12-21-2007 05:04 PM

COOL THANKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-- Only the Shadow knows....................

View RobG's profile


71 posts in 5036 days

#10 posted 12-22-2007 03:03 AM

Very cool! This is almost a forgotten art and you make it look easy. Thanks for all the great info.

-- Woodworking is Life. Anything before or after is just waiting.--S. McQueen sort of

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 5541 days

#11 posted 12-23-2007 05:51 AM

Wow. that looks a lot like the slates I’ve gotten my hands on. Old roofing slates, from a barn near my grandparents. (about a milk crate full) and some largish chunks of chalkboard. The latter is soft enough to cut with a handsaw – but it’s not easy work. It might be a grade or two softer and create more of a slurry, so I’d suspect it may work in much the same way… but if it doesn’t, the price was right.
I’ll be watching future posts in this series with interest.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5119 days

#12 posted 12-23-2007 04:03 PM

scottb, you never know. Depending on where the material came from, you may well have something good on your hands. If it is just chalky/powder slurry it is not really doing anything. But if there is some fine grit to it, that is good. Those would be the little crystals embedded in the sedimentary matrix. Just like a man made stone, they are abrasive materials (carbide silicon or aluminum oxide most often) bound together mechanically.

View BlueStingrayBoots's profile


866 posts in 5216 days

#13 posted 01-01-2008 02:58 PM

Thats called bluestone. My dad and I would make bluestone patios in the Lakebluff area with that. Blanchards, the materials store sold it by that name in various size dimensions. I miss that material. Its also great for breeding discus and angelfish but thats another website.

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 5088 days

#14 posted 01-01-2008 03:30 PM

This post is a keeper. If you do begin to make these for sale let us know.

View Daren Nelson's profile

Daren Nelson

767 posts in 5119 days

#15 posted 01-01-2008 04:32 PM

rikkor, I will let you guys know. I am working on a natural 2 sided stone right now. I have been getting raw stone from different places trying to find a material that is a fast cutter. The stone like is in this post will be laminated to the back of it for a finish/honing stone. I have just not found the perfect combo yet.

I did buy a small wholesale lot of mined natural stones I will be selling soon. They are already cut to size, they just needed flattened and smoothed. They were sold as “sharpening stones”, but lacked alot of work to make them anything I would use. The material is very good, it just still has the saw marks in it and generally just in rough shape. I bought one and was surprised just how good it was for the price, so I bought several more at a discount. I hope to sell them to get my money back (I know I will not get my labor for dressing them, but that is fine) and get some decent stones in some peoples hands that would not otherwise know what to look for.

I thought I would just post some pictures, since this is my blog. Here is a picture of the stones I was talking about. The one on the right is how I bought them, the left one is after I flattened it.

natural stones

I want to throw these pictures in just because the stone is so pretty. This is my honing block. It is harder than most of my natural stones so it makes a good tool for flattening. I make a slurry of aluminum oxide and water, then work the stones with the block. I always lap my stones together to keep them flat during/after use. This is just as a sacrificial stone for something new and in real bad shape. I made this one too, I have several of them, this is just one of the prettiest ones.

hone block


I actually have power tools to do this. I have electric diamond flat plate hones. They are not much faster (just easier on the arms). I enjoy doing it by hand too, I’m weird.

To kinda tie 2 subjects together, (personally I have trouble following threads here, I am not used to this format) there is more about the honing stone I made for this blog here. It’s the subject of “straight razor shaving”. This is the results the hone gave me. If you have already seen it, sorry, it is the “hair drop test”. Swing a hair at a blade, if it cuts…it’s sharp.

showing 1 through 15 of 20 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics