Help with picking sharpening stones

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Forum topic by Kjones posted 08-10-2020 10:01 PM 455 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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2 posts in 41 days

08-10-2020 10:01 PM

Hi all,

I’m wondering if I can get some advice on sharpening stones?

Tl;Dr I bought these oil stones on facebook marketplace. Good enough to get my stuff sharp? Should I get anything else? I’ve got a Norton branded “Fine India Bench Stone” marked with FB 7, a Bear Creek brand “Combination Tool Stone” and two Norton branded No 1 Washita oil stones. Pictures forthcoming.

I’m pretty new to woodwork and been slowly accumulating tools over the last couple years. Lately I scooped up some old hand planes on marketplace/ebay that were pretty rusty and dull. I’ve got the rust off them and they’re looking ok… but they’re still dull. Similar story with some old chisels I bought and various other odds and ends. It’s been fun cleaning up some of these old tools but I’d like to actually use them at some point too.

I’ve got some nice Japanese waterstones I bought last year but if I’m honest, they’re a pain in the butt to bring out to the shop and get them soaking without splashing water over everything. I scooped up some oilstones on Marketplace last week and now the plan is to keep the waterstones indoors for the kitchen knives and use the oilstones in the shop. I got a Norton branded “Fine India Bench Stone” marked with FB 7, a Bear Creek brand “Combination Tool Stone” and two Norton branded No 1 Washita oil stones. The coarse side of the combination stone feels really coarse and I’m assuming that’s the roughest of the set. For the rest I’m having trouble judging by feel.

So I guess a couple questions here: With what I’ve got currently, should this get the job done in combination with a bench grinder? Any diamonds in the rough or junk I’d be better off tossing out? Or should I mosey down to Lee Valley and see if they’ve got an arkansas stone in stock? Any advice on which order to use these in?


13 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


118134 posts in 4425 days

#1 posted 08-10-2020 10:44 PM

View tywalt's profile


107 posts in 1012 days

#2 posted 08-10-2020 11:06 PM

Oh man, this is a can of worms and sharpening threads can devolve pretty quick. Lots of opinions on what is the best way to skin this cat!

Big questions are power vs stone, diamond vs water (or less commonly oil), and freehand vs jig. People will tell you all kinds of things about how their system is the best system.

Here is a quick primer before the hoards come:

  • Power systems like Tormek or Worksharp are quick but can be expensive up front.
  • Water stones – as you’ve already found – can be messy and a pain to keep flat… but put a fantastic edge on very fast.
  • Diamond stones stay flat on their own and you can generally just keep a bottle of windex next to the bench to keep them cutting and swarf from collecting in the grit.
  • Oil stones are considered old school and generally not as widely accepted.
  • If you’re going with stones, starting with a jig (like veritas or LN) will get you to a consistent sharp edge faster, but have a prohibitive up front cost for some. Learning to free hand can be frustrating up front but save money at the start and time in the long run.
  • Stropping is another contentious point. Some do it religiously, some say a 16k water stone is better.

At the end of the day, most of us have come to our own system of sharpening after years of trial and error for what works for us and our tools. Starting with one coarse and one fine stone (or a combo stone) will get you to back work though. Just know that there is a learning curve to getting a tool sharp… and you’ll probably end up with a collection of sharping gear in a few years!

-- Tyler - Central TX

View metolius's profile


210 posts in 1578 days

#3 posted 08-10-2020 11:17 PM

There are so many preferences; If you ask enough, *maybe you will get the same answer twice.
I grew up with oil stones. They work.

Rob Cosman and Paul Sellers have very good discussions of sharpening on youtube. They promote freehand, which I do believe encourages more frequent sharpening by making it less of a tedium.

Currently I use Trend Diamond 1k → ceramic Shapton Kuromaku 8k → leather strop.
I use a spray bottle of glass cleaner for both the diamond and ceramic.
The 300 grit side of theTrend keeps the Kuromaku flat.

Its simple and quick enough that I don’t mind sharpening often. Working with a razor edge is awesome.
splash and go !

-- derek / oregon

View Kjones's profile


2 posts in 41 days

#4 posted 08-11-2020 12:04 AM

Oh man, this is a can of worms and sharpening threads can devolve pretty quick. Lots of opinions on what is the best way to skin this cat!

There are so many preferences; If you ask enough, *maybe you will get the same answer twice.
I grew up with oil stones. They work.

Haha, yeah I know I’m poking the bear a bit here. Fingers crossed everything stays civil. Thankfully I think my skill level is low enough such that I wouldn’t recognize the “best” method even if I was doing it. Sometimes good enough is good enough ;)

If it helps to focus things a bit, I think for better or worse I’m fairly settled this current setup for now. Diamond plates or a powered system would be great but I’ve spent about as much money as I can justify this month and don’t want to provoke any awkward conversations with the missus. And as I’ve discovered about myself, if water stones are a little inconvenient then I’m just not going to sharpen anything ever. Slow is ok, if I spend a few afternoons of my life and ruin the irons on a couple $10 planes in the process of figuring this out then that’s a fair trade imo.

Here’s what I had so far, but Lee valley is just across town if the consensus is that I’d need a harder stone to round things out.

View pontic's profile


801 posts in 1456 days

#5 posted 08-11-2020 12:28 AM

Diamond sharpening plates and spray with distilled water as per company rep.
Stropp with old weight lifters belt.

-- Illigitimii non carburundum sum

View metolius's profile


210 posts in 1578 days

#6 posted 08-11-2020 02:01 AM

I think those stones may be equivalent to ~600grit.
Minimally, you’d improve results with a strop addition.

Then you may want to get a diamond plate to keep those stones flat. .... then you’ll find that the diamond plate does ok on its own, but you still can not shave your beard ... and away the collection grows !

-- derek / oregon

View SMP's profile


2447 posts in 753 days

#7 posted 08-11-2020 02:22 AM

I bought some stones before i knew better, ended up with a King 1000/8000, and a Norton 400/1000 water stone. Then I realized that the 400 and 1000 water stones dish out if you look at them wrong, making a honing guide worthless. So under Paul Sellers advice bought a DMT Coarse and Fine when I got a $100 amazon gift card, but couldn’t afford the super fine at them time. I also bought a $10 strop on Amazon and green compound from Harbor Freight for $6. So my current routine is WD40 the coarse and fine diamond plates, using the $12 honing guide, then the 8000 King stone( until i buy the DMt superfine), then strop. I get easily repeatable sharp in a couple minutes.

However, later I watched Richard Maguire sharpen stuff with a $30 double sided norton oil stone in a minute, and sharper than i can get. I guess I could have saved money if I built the skill. But…oh well…

BtW, in a more recent Paul Sellers blog he praises the $3 diamond plates, but cant say how long they will last. But for less than $10 its a good way to see what you like.

View therealSteveN's profile


6241 posts in 1422 days

#8 posted 08-11-2020 02:59 AM

You currently have stones you are using. Are you happy with what you can do with your chisels/planes? If you are what you have is good enough.

If you aren’t happy, and are starting out, use scary sharp. You can use MDF for plates, and rolls of old belt sander belts to contact glue down. Cut the MDF at least 8” longer than your longest plane sole, to use for flattening if you need to do that.

If not and just want to do the blades you can cut it down much shorter, but always leave room to move around a bit. Same exact mechanics, just a LOT less $$$$$$$$. Scary sharp can give dangerously sharp blades. That is what you are looking for. Just like the most expensive stones, you want to graduate through. With Scary Sharp you can have at your disposal really high grits, to get that Scary Sharp edge. Buying stones you need to make a lot of choices as to what grit now, I can only afford one stone…... Stuff like that.

It really can be difficult sometimes, but don’t make stress, or expenditures if you don’t need to, buy wood instead.


-- Think safe, be safe

View AMZ's profile


179 posts in 237 days

#9 posted 08-11-2020 09:22 AM

I’m not one to ask for advice on what to use (I’ve tried many, still have most and alternate through ‘em!). But I will say that I would suggest picking up a book on sharpening – either the one written by Ron Hock, or the one by Leonard Lee.

I will suggest you consider selling the two Washita stones you have! There is collector interest in them (though not as much as the “lily whites”. But, you might get enough to get a Worksharp or some diamond stones!

View ChefHDAN's profile


1730 posts in 3697 days

#10 posted 08-11-2020 10:25 AM

As a chef, I have used almost every system out there for knives, got so pissed off rehabbing planes & chisels I took the advice of the LJ bretheren and went to diamond stones… night & day difference for speed and quality. I went with the DMT Duo sharp plates 1 coarse/medium and 1 fine/extra fine, which were the best for the cost for me as I’m not a frequent sharpener of the planes & chisels. Definitely use a strop I use it frequently when using the edges. I’m primarily using power tools but when I need a plane or chisel they’re wicked sharp. FWIW, best I’ve found in the kitchen is a medium ceramic stone, 1 stone and 1 step, no others needed.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View controlfreak's profile


1217 posts in 449 days

#11 posted 08-11-2020 10:28 AM

When I saw the thread title my first thought was “touching the third rail”

Bought some cheap diamond plates at HF and didn’t like them. Got some nice wet stones along with a flattening plate. They are messy but let me put a nice edge on tools.

View jonah's profile


2124 posts in 4146 days

#12 posted 08-11-2020 12:40 PM

I used water stones for several years, but ultimately the hassle of getting them out, soaking them, using them, then putting them away discourages frequent sharpening.

I swapped to DMT diamond stones (one coarse and one extra fine IIRC) and haven’t looked back.

Higher upfront cost, sure, but the stones are in my workbench drawer and I can sharpen basically instantly.

Water (or oil) stones work fine, but they’re just more hassle to use.

View Robert's profile


3932 posts in 2328 days

#13 posted 08-11-2020 03:47 PM

If you want sharp tools, you need 1) good technique and 2) good stones.

I use diamond (Duo Sharps) up to 1200 and water stones 8000 (Norton) up to 16,000 (Shapton)

Water stones sharpen quicker than diamond and I believe put the best edge on a tool. The higher grits do not leave in water just wet the surface. A Nagura stone is a good idea.

Don’t let your tools get too dull, hollow grind your bevels, don’t progress until you feel a burr, learn to sharpen free hand. Put the oil stones aside for carving gouges.

This is all you need to know.

[/thread closed]

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

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