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Understanding Sharpening Stones

Understanding Sharpening Stones

Sharpening stones are made of abrasives intended to abrade or cut the metal you're sharpening. Sharpening stones can be made from a variety of materials such as diamond, silicon carbide, aluminum oxide, and ceramic. Depending upon the type of stone you choose, you can get very different results. The coarser the stone, the faster it cuts. However, coarse stones leave a very dull edge. Finer stones are used to produce sharper edges. Finer stones sharpen more slowly than coarser stones.

Popular Sharpening Stones

The most common sharpening stones are diamond stones, water stones, oil stones, Arkansas stones, and ceramic stones.

Diamond Stones

Diamond stones are made with diamonds bonded to a metal surface. These stones are the fastest cutting sharpening stones. Diamond stones are very easy to maintain as they never require flattening or other maintenance.

Water Stones

Water stones are usually man-made stones made with a soft binder. These stones are meant to be soaked and sprayed with water before use. The softer binder holding the abrasives together promotes faster cutting. These stones are available in the widest variety of grits.

Oil Stones

Oil stones are man-mande stones that use aluminum oxide or silicon carbide as an abrsive. These stones are held together with a very hard binder and as a result wear more slowly than water stones.

Arkansas stones

Arkansas stones are a natural oil stone. These stones are graded by hardness. The harder the stone, the finer the grit.

Ceramic Stones

True Ceramic stones are made entirely of ceramic material. These stones are extremely hard and are not meant to wear like a water or oil stones.

How are the different grits used?

A coarse stone is used first. It is used to create the shape of the edge. These coarse stones cut much faster than finer stones and are very important for that reason. It is common to see beginners try to skip the coarse stone, thinking that they can just work on the finer stone longer to save time. Unfortunately, this mistake can be frustrating as fine stones can easily take 10 times longer to accomplish the same amount of sharpening as a coarse stone.

The fine stones are used last to produce the final edge. Fine stones are used after coarse stones to refine the edge created by the coarse stone.

Learn how the different sharpening stone materials compare. Or view all our sharpening stones.