Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones, slipstones, slip strops, honng boards, and leather strops wear with use over time.  This article will teach you how to care for these sharpening tools and how to re-flatten your sharpening stones.

image1Supplies used in this tutorial:

Japanese coarse man-made stone, very coarse/medium coarse, unknown grit
Japanese water stone 1000/6000 grit
Japanese water stone 800/4000 grit
Brown ceramic stone, 800 grit
White ceramic stone, 8000 grit
Red Oxide rouge
Yellow oxide rouge
Aluminum oxide
Fine grit padded fingernail file
Two leather strops
Very fine grade lubricating oil
Pan of warm water

These are all sitting on top of a 1/2″ thick marble tile that has had 1/8″ cork board sheeting glued to the back to prevent the tile from sliding during use. Not shown in this photo are two pieces of cloth backed 320 grit sandpaper, one piece of 220 grit sandpaper and the Sunday advertisement section of our newspaper.

image2I was headed to do a little carving this morning on an oak branch wood spirit. I don’t usually carve large so I don’t have a large selection of mallet tools. Most of my finer quality tools are for hand carving smaller relief projects. So I grabbed my box of mallet tools to discover …. Gasps, horrors, unspeakable dire events … RUST!!!!

So it’s time to change directions and get out my sharpening tools.


image3The first thing I want to do is work off the rust so that I am back to clean steel. I grabbed my coarse stone as it is the coarsest stone in my kit. This is a made-man ceramic style stone that can be used dry or with a few drops of fine quality oil when I do need to use it. It’s a very inexpensive stone that you can commonly find at any hardware store.

This type of situation is the only time I would use my coarse stone with my good carving tools. It is far too coarse to create the type of edge that we use in cutting wood but it will eat the rust quite quickly. It is perfect for my tree pruner and other garden tools. Did you know that you need to occasionally sharpen your shovel and garden spade?

image5When I stopped and really looked at this old stone I realized that it was as sway backed as an old mule. The strop is against the medium grit side of the stone.

My coarse stone is so soft that it quickly bellies out from use. As you sharpen a tool you tend to stay towards the center of the stone. This wears the center or belly more than the outer edges. That sway or belly will be transferred directly to your cutting edge of your tool. If I use this stone as it is the tools edge will become curved to match the curve in the stones belly.

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