Sharpening Stones

image11The Japanese water stone is a man-made and prone to bellying out in the center. Unlike most of my sharpening stones water stones are made of a very soft material and easily damaged. They are worked only when they have been thoroughly saturated with water. In fact carvers that use water stones regularly store the stones submerged in a water bucket to keep them constantly wet.

The black that you see on both stones is the residue left from previous sharpening sessions. That is a fine layer of metal particles from the carving tools. Since I want to sharpen on the stone not on metal particles I need to clean the stones first. While I am cleaning I will do a quick flattening as well.

Both water stones have two different grits per stone. The front stone is a 800/4000 grit and the back stone is 1000/6000 grit.

image12Before I begin working on these stones I need to soak them thoroughly in water. I have submerged them in a water-filled pan for at least ten minutes.






image13I moved one of the water stones onto a new sheet of 320 grit cloth backed sandpaper. My stone is sitting in a nice deep puddle of water. As I rub the stone across the sandpaper the stone will begin to create a slurry or muddy mix of water and loosened stone grit. Just as with my coarse stone I will work this one against the sandpaper until it is both cleaned of the old sharpening metal particles and has regained it’s flat profile.



image14I have a beautiful muddy slurry going on with the sandpaper and a pristine clean flat surface to my water stone. I am going to work through both stones and all sides of each stone until the set in back to a clean condition. But before I move from one side of the stone to the next I want to clean the sandpaper by pouring a little water onto it. I don’t want to transfer one grit to another.


I have this wonderful sloppy, muddy slurry mix all over my nice flat piece marble at this point in the morning. Being one that does not like missing a fine opportunity I have grabbed my large flat chisel for a quick cleaning. That slurry is perfect for cleaning the non-cutting surface of my chisel. I have laid my chisel flat against the marble and rub it into the slurry. I then use my fingertips to work the slurry into the curves near the handle. This is just a simple cleaning step but does help to keep your tools in excellent condition beyond the cutting edge.

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