What Do You Use to Sharpen With

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Blog entry by velo_tom posted 06-29-2010 07:37 PM 1678 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Using Oil Stones Again, Water Stones Now Stowed Away

Ollie gave an excellent review of Norton Water Stones and I posted most of the comments below at that review. I think perhaps it was a bit out of place there and offer my apologies to Ollie.

I just wanted to present some of my experiences with water stones out in public in case there are others out there that are getting a bit disillusioned with using them. I’ll preface this with, “the vast majority of woodworkers will disagree with me and I certainly buck the current thought trend on sharpening”. Anyway, I thought I’d comment on why I’ve quit using mine and gone back to oil stones.

Water stones may sharpen a blade quicker than oil stones but I’ve found that amount of time to be almost imperceptible, good oil stones also sharpen rather quickly. I found that I spent almost as much time flattening the water stones as I did sharpening blades, I more than lost my time savings there. I bought a water stone flattening stone for the water stones but it also started to go out of flat after a few months of use. I just finished checking the flatness of my oil stones and after months of use, usually several times a week, they are still flat.

With water stones I also had to clean up the water mess, wipe down the sharpened blades, and oil them to prevent rust. I only wipe the excess oil off the blade with the oil stones. Water stones I had to soak to prepare for use and all I have to do with the oil stone is put on a bit of oil and it’s ready to go. I also sharpen freehand and found that once in a while I’d dig out a chunk of the water stone, this never happens with an oil stone. With oil stones while sharpening freehand I can tell I’m making desired even blade contact by the way the oil forms a bulge in front of the blade, water is not viscous enough to provide such a clear visual queue.

As I said, the majority of woodworkers, most of them more experienced than me, will disagree. But I wanted to throw a few thoughts out there for people to consider. I sincerely hope that whatever anyone uses to sharpen with that they are well served by it and satisfied. There are a number of good options out there and it’s just a matter of finding out what works well for you.

I’m curious if I’m correct in my belief that the vast majority out there are using water stones to sharpen with. What are the various members using to sharpen with.

What sharpening system are you using and what is your level of satisfaction with it?

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

15 comments so far

View spaids's profile


699 posts in 4905 days

#1 posted 06-29-2010 07:58 PM

I have water stones but only because of their current popularity. I’m a new woodworker so what I have seen demonstrated at wood shows and used most frequently are water stones. So thats what I bought. They work. That being said I have experienced all of the negatives that you mentioned. I do not like the stone mud that builds up quick in my tray as I sharpen and I have gouged a stone and I have had to flatten them frequently. But they work and I picked up a full array of grits for about $100.

-- Wipe the blood stains from your blade before coming in.--

View vicrider's profile


183 posts in 4110 days

#2 posted 06-29-2010 08:02 PM

Well said, Tom,

I have had the same experience with water stones. Lots of headache (not to mention $) to save a little time. I get great results starting with an even slow speed grind, then hand tuning on wet/dry on plate glass, and final polish on a fine Arkansas stone.

-- vicrider

View Kerry Drake's profile

Kerry Drake

169 posts in 4232 days

#3 posted 06-29-2010 08:58 PM

I’m actually using a Worksharp 3000. I’ve discovered (on an old block plane blade) that if you are trying to establish a NEW primary bevel angle, it takes a fairly long time. However if you are just resharpening at the existing angle you can take an old dull chisel and get it razor sharp in under 5 minutes.

-- Kerry Drake, Loudon NH,

View Div's profile


1653 posts in 4152 days

#4 posted 06-29-2010 10:35 PM

Oil stones for the past 20 years…both natural and manmade…different sizes and grits. Work them freehand and finish off on a leather strop. Tried a waterstone once but didn’t like it for all the reasons you mention.
Water + my chisels and blades = NO

-- Div @ the bottom end of Africa. "A woodworker's sharpest tool should be his mind."

View pommy's profile


1697 posts in 4903 days

#5 posted 06-29-2010 10:39 PM

i have a work shape and they are good if you only want to resharpen but i also see that alot of woodworker are just going back to grit papper and working the edge that way so i do tend to use grit paper more often than not i seem to have more control over what im doing

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View lanwater's profile


3113 posts in 4146 days

#6 posted 06-29-2010 11:16 PM

I used water stone without much success (my technic is bad). I used the scary sharp way (sand paper on glass).
I ended out buying worksharp 3000. Now I sharpen my tools.

-- Abbas, Castro Valley, CA

View DrewM's profile


176 posts in 4211 days

#7 posted 06-29-2010 11:29 PM

I use the scary sharp method of sand paper on glass up to a grit of 2000 and it makes my tools sharp enough for me. End grain on hard maple with ease and no tear out of pine end grain.

-- Drew, Delaware

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 4554 days

#8 posted 06-30-2010 02:55 AM

I am currently using Norton Water Stones and have for the past 5 years or so. I use my grinder to reestablish the primary bevel and use the 4000 and 8000 stones to hone; sometimes hitting it with a little leather if I really want it super sharp. Honestly I’m very satisfied with the results but I could do without the mess which seems to be the consensus out there.

I would like to upgrade someday to Shapton Glass stones so I can forego soaking and the associated mess but it would be a $500 upgrade and that buys wiping up.

-- Marc

View a1Jim's profile


118201 posts in 4789 days

#9 posted 06-30-2010 02:58 AM

First the scary sharp system and now the work sharp 3000.


View Todd A. Clippinger's profile

Todd A. Clippinger

8901 posts in 5311 days

#10 posted 06-30-2010 03:22 AM

I use a belt sander with a worn out 180 grit belt and I follow that with a leather strop. The hair flies of my arm after that treatment.

I call it the “freaking sharp” method.

-- Todd A. Clippinger, Montana,

View hokieman's profile


202 posts in 4966 days

#11 posted 06-30-2010 04:07 AM

I think water stones are grossly over-rated. I spend as much time flattening the stones as I do sharpening on them. Then if you gouge them (and it is easy to do since they are soft) then you are spending a LOT of time flattening and getting rid of the gouge. I, too, had one of those flattening stones that Norton sells and like velo_tom saw that get out of flat. So if I flatten them I do it with 400 grit wet ‘n dry sand paper on granite. You can always get a rough diamond stone to flatten like Lie Nielsen demonstrates but those cost about $200 (or at least that is the price I have found). To be honest, I have found the scary sharp method the easiest and fastet and most reliable. You can get some of those super fine papers and get a super sharp edge. I agree with many of the posts here on water stones and I predict they will be out of vouge in a few years.

View velo_tom's profile


123 posts in 4228 days

#12 posted 06-30-2010 12:14 PM

I hope responses keep coming in but wanted to thank everyone for responding. I’m surprised because I expected the vast majority would be using water stones and quite happy with them. Some of you are using sharpening methods that I’ve heard of but am not familiar with so I’m at least going to look into them to learn a bit more. Seems some come up with methods that work quite well that I’ve never heard of and would never have thought of. All of these responses may turn into quite an education, especially for us less experienced woodworkers.

hokieman: I got my 4” X 10” diamond stones for a little over $100 at They have smaller diamond stones at lower prices too. I only bought a Course/X-Course for fixing damaged blades and it has come in pretty handy for badly out of flat hand forged blades too. They sell oil and water stones too plus other sharpening supplies. I’ve bought most sharpening supplies there and have been quite happy with the service.

-- There's no such thing as mistakes, just design changes.

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4444 days

#13 posted 06-30-2010 09:21 PM

Sharpen what?

The answer for what do I sharpen with depends on what I am sharpening,

HOWEVER, for pretty much everything, the starting point is my Ryobi BGH-827 8” bench grinder outfitted with Norton white oxide wheels, 60 grit on the left, 100 grit on the right. Helping to hold things straight is a OneWay Wolverine system.

For flat work I use the large platform, Once it comes off of there, I have a piece of recycled granite counter top that is nice and flat that I use spray adhesive to hold down various grits of sandpaper, working my way up to 600 grit. I could go finer with waterstones, but after having used waterstones, well I can’t tell the difference between a chisel that has been sharpened to 600 grit, and one that was taken to 2000 grit… So why bother?

For my turning tools I use the vee arm, with the skew platform, or VariGrind.

A word of warning on the Norton wheels. The OEM stackable plastic bushings have a TON of slop in them, and WILL make your grinder shake violently. I STRONGLY advise getting proper sized single piece steel bushings from McMaster Carr or any other reputable supplier…

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View MrDan's profile


209 posts in 4500 days

#14 posted 07-01-2010 07:01 AM

I use the scary sharp method on granite tile from Menards. ($3 each) It was the least expensive option when I was researching a good system to use, and I’m quite happy with the results. I use 3 tiles, each with a full sheet of wet/dry sandpaper adhered with spray adhesive. I use a full sheet so I don’t have to change the paper so often. I originally only had one tile with 3 strips of different grit sandpaper on it, but I got tired of cutting the paper and changing it all the time.
Having 3 heavy tiles of granite makes this a less portable option, but I don’t work anywhere other than my shop so it works for me.

For removing a lot of metal like a nick in an edge, I’ll use some 80 grit Alumina Zirconia belt sander strips glued to a long narrow piece on tempered glass.

I have been tempted by those Norton stones for a while, thinking they might be better, but after reading all these posts from everyone I think the grass might not be greener…

View Jimi_C's profile


507 posts in 4447 days

#15 posted 07-01-2010 07:13 AM

I use the Grizzly wet grinder (Tormek knock off), followed by a few swipes on each side of cheapo 1000/6000 combination water stone. I free hand it for both chisels and plane blades, it’s just easier than having to fuss with a holder. It doesn’t take much time at all, and the mess really isn’t that bad. I keep the waterstone stored in a tupperware container, so it’s ready to go whenever I need it.

All in all, it takes me almost as much time to get things out and setup as it does to sharpen my 4 chisels and a couple of plane blades. I don’t worry about flattening the waterstone religiously, yeah it dishes a little but I just change the direction I’m swiping the blade – I never have trouble taking hair off my arm when I’m done with the 6000 grit stone.

-- The difference between being defeated and admitting defeat is what makes all the difference in the world - Upton Sinclair, "The Jungle"

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