Basic Overview of the Sharpening Stone
A sharpening stone is the most basic type of knife sharpener, this is not to say that they do not offer great benefits, but only that they do not have a lot of features. The traditional knife sharpener was constructed out of novaculite or aluminum oxide, but with technology the sharpening stone has come a long way. These stones are now constructed out of several different types of material including diamond, oil, water, and ceramic.
The diamond material is very durable and equipped with a metal plate that has tiny diamonds engraved in it, which may or may not contain surface holes. The diamonds with holes are more common and capable of sharpening the knife while the holes capture the swarf. This design is preferable because the swarf can decrease the effectiveness of the stone and prevent the blade from getting a precise sharpness. This feature will also offer the user a much quicker and more effective cut.
The continuous diamond stone surface will work effectively when sharpening tools such as the scissors. You will have two types of diamond stones to choose from including the mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline. The diamond sharpening stone is preferable over other brands because they have a very flat surface, which will offer a perfect cut every time.
The oil stone or Arkansas stone is very popular and available in different grades including the Washita, which is the coarsest grade, hard Arkansas, hard translucent Arkansas, and soft Arkansas, which is the finer grades, will produce a very fine edge. The grades are based on how dense the stone is and the end finish that it produces on the blade.
While the Washita blade is the coarsest grade, it is also very soft, which is why most individuals avoid using it to sharpen their blades. All of the finer grades are highly preferred because they will yield a very smooth polished edge. The downside to using these natural stones is they seem to take forever to complete a full sharpening task, unlike the man-made stone.
If you are searching for a hard black Arkansas or hard translucent stone, you will surely have difficulty finding them because they are extremely rare and very expensive. Most individuals choose the India stone, which is a manmade stone that is constructed out of aluminum oxide, over the other options because it produces the finest edge and offers a very quick cut.
The man made stone is graded in fine, medium, and coarse. The Arkansas aluminum oxide, manmade stones can instantly be picked out because they are normally orange or brown. They are very often used in association with the India stone, so all coarseness levels can be covered completely.
The oil stone is probably the most affordable sharpening stone on today’s market, but you must expect to receive a much slower cutting rate than with other brands. The oil is also very messy and can be very difficult to remove from clothing, but if you are looking for an extremely fine finish, you will find nothing better than the India stone.
The water stone has gained popularity in America over the past few years but have been used for centuries in other countries. They are available in synthetic and natural materials, but the natural water stone is very rare and expensive.
The synthetic stone is constructed out of aluminum oxide, which is a very abrasive material, but very soft. The main difference between the India and synthetic water stone is the binder that securely holds the abrasive material together. This stone will definitely offer an extremely quick cut. The way this works is the old abrasive material will break away and then will be replaced by a fresh sharp material.
The biggest advantage to utilizing the water stone is the quick cut, plus the water is very easy to clean up. The soft material will wear away much quicker, so the stone will need to be flattened very often.
The ceramic stone is very durable and capable of lasting a lifetime, if you take care of it properly. You will not need to oil or wet the ceramic stone, when you are using it to sharpen your knife blades. This will definitely offer a much cleaner work space. You just simply need to wash the stone with soap and a traditional pot scrubber to remove the swarf, so it does not interfere with the cut.
You will never have to worry about a flat stone, if you use the ceramic sharpener, since the material is very durable and ultra-hard. There is one downside to using this type of sharpening stone and that is, it is most often not available in a coarse grade. If you are lucky enough to find a coarse grade ceramic stone, you will be disappointed, by the “glaze” build up, which will cause the stone to lose its effectiveness. Of course, it will take a while, before the “glaze” begins to build up, but it is inevitable.
How to Use a Sharpening Stone Properly
- The first step of using the sharpening stone is to select the appropriate coarseness, which will basically depend on the knife that needs sharpening. Most individuals will use a series of grades, so all coarseness levels are covered.
- The second step is to select the appropriate bevel angle, but most are around 20 degrees.
- The third step is to apply the water or oil, if required. The ceramic or diamond sharpening stones do not require either of these products to work properly, so you will have a much cleaner work space, if you choose them over the oil or water stone.
- The fourth step is to sharpen the knife, but always start with the coarsest stone first and work your way down to the finest. Use a 45 degree and make a slicing action, while holding the heel of the knife firmly.
Flattening a Water Stone
The water stone will flatten very quickly and require periodic flattening. The main reason for this is because the stone is very soft and the binder will break down at a much quicker manner than a hard stone. Of course, you will reap the benefits of the water stone, which is quick cut, but again it will require a lot of maintenance.
Although the stone needs to be flattened often, the process will not take very long, since the material is so soft. Below you will discover exactly how to flatten the water stone.
- Step 1 is to select an appropriate lapping plate or flattening stone, which is extremely coarse. Take a straight edge tool and lay it across your water stone to see if it truly needs flattening. Get down on eye level with the stone to see if a gap is visible, if so, then you will need to do a little bit of flattening. Sometimes the gap may be so slight that you will need to slip a piece of paper underneath the straight edge, which means if it can pass through, the stone needs flattened. This test will prove whether or not the stone genuinely needs to be flattened, so you do not waste your time.
- Step 2 is to take the time to mark your stone. These marks will show whether or not the lapping plate has flattened a specific area on the stone. Make sure that you make a complete mark from one side of the stone to the other horizontally. The marks will wear away, when the plate has completely flattened each area appropriately. This is the only way to determine if the lapping plate is effectively doing its job.
- Step 3 is to use lots of water, while rubbing the water stone over top of the lapping plate. Running tap water will be your best option, but if this option is not available you will need to keep the stone plentifully saturated with water. Make sure that you use random circular motions, while covering the stone’s surface completely. Randomly wash away the abrasive material, if you are not using running tap water, because you do not want it to interfere with the flattening process. You can pick up the water stone to see if the lines are wearing away, which they should, if you are doing the process correctly. Of course, the lines on the outside edges will wear away first, because they are higher than the center portion of the water stone.
- Step 4 is to check your progress. It is wise to periodically check your progress, so you will have an idea of how much breakthrough you are making. Once all of the lines have disappeared, your lapping process is complete. You can always recheck the stone to see if it was completely flattened, by following the same process, as in step 1.
Over time you will become so accustomed to flattening the water stone, so the process will smoothly flow by, without an issue.