Saturday, December 31, 2016

Another Damn Sharping Post...Just Walk On By

When between projects and with a little time to play in the shop but not enough time or energy to tackle one of the many builds in the queue I will usually spend it either cleaning the shop or tool maintenance. The worst is when most of the tools are sharp and the shop is in near working condition then I gravitate to the really boring "what if's" such as: "Are water stones really better than oil?". "What about diamonds?" Or even better, "Natural vs. man made?".

You know where this is going. Over the last few days I've had limited time in the shop but enough to get in trouble with the "what if's". I've used oil stones as my primary sharpening medium for most of my life. I've made runs at most of the other ways but without fail when adding up all the advantages and disadvantages vs. other ways Ark oil stones work better for me. Of course, as always, YMMV.

The last few days follow the script. It started when I wanted to take another look at sharpening Veritas PM on Ark oil stones vs. water stones as referenced yesterday. Today I decided to play with some O1 chisels on Shampton's vs. Ark stones.

The common thread is almost all water stones will give a very nice polish even at the courser grits, oil not so much not even on oil polishing stones. To get a polish if that is your objective, at least when I'm doing it, requires going to a strop charged with one of the compounds. While I like to see a well polished iron, that really is not the objective, what I want is a edge that is "sharp" (whatever sharp is) and will last pass the first touch of wood.

I've found the scratch pattern is more important than polish and I think that is where most man made stones lose. I've seen very polished irons, irons that will blind you they are so shinny but with deep scratches on the back and bevel. Most of the time natural stones will give a better scratch pattern.

The real test is not visual but how does the iron cut wood, that of course is subjective. I've yet to find any stone that gives a better working edge than oil stones. It could be because I know Ark oil stones better than water stones or I may be full of whatever and/or just do not know how to get the best out of water stones. Both are very likely.

Bottom line, Ark stones still rule my sharpening bench with Atoma diamond stones for grinding.


  1. This is an interesting post. I wish that I would sharpen my tools when I have free time and enjoy it like you seem to. For me, it's about finding a method that is very very quick and hopefully foolproof. Waterstones are just too fussy for me. If I could start fresh, I would have only O1 tools and use oilstones.

  2. Andy,

    I guess busted, sharpening is one of those things that is comforting like Mac and Cheese. For me the things that work are iron that is easy to work and a system that is also easy. Take either away and it becomes a chore.

    My shop is almost there, a couple of A2 irons that are little used and some PM irons also on the back rack, the daily users are all O1. Enough water stones to remind me why I use oil stones when the urge hits to try water stones once more, and some Atoma diamond stones for quick removal when needed.

    Like the Peggy Lee song "Is That All There Is" I keep thinking I'm missing something by not using water stones but the bottom line is the only advantage I've found to water stones is they will put a real pretty shine on your iron. Other than that it is all downhill or at best a wash. Of course needless to add but I will EMMV.