oil vs water sharpening stones

Oil vs Water Sharpening Stones – Which One To Use?

Oil vs Water Sharpening Stones for Woodcarvers: Which is Best?

Understanding Sharpening Stones for Woodcarvers

As a woodcarver, it is crucial to have sharp tools to work with. One of the essential tools in your sharpening kit is the sharpening stone. Sharpening stones come in different types, and it can be challenging to choose the right one for your needs.

I will provide you with a basic understanding of sharpening stones for woodcarvers, from oil vs water sharpening stones, to what type of stone material you should look for.

Main Types of Sharpening Stones

There are two main types of sharpening stones: natural and synthetic. Natural stones are obtained from quarries, and they are available in different grades based on their hardness. Synthetic stones, on the other hand, are man-made and are available in different grits.

There are also two different lubricants for using with sharpening stones, you’ll often see either water used as a lubricant or oil. Each lubricant has a particular stone type that they should be used with. More on this below.

Natural vs Synthetic Stones for Sharpening

Natural stones are typically more expensive than synthetic stones, but they are known for their durability and natural uniqueness. They are available in different grades ranging from soft to hard, with soft stones being suitable for sharpening tools that require a finer edge, while hard stones are suitable for tools that require a coarser edge.

Synthetic stones, on the other hand, are more affordable and are available in different grits. They are also more consistent than natural stones, and they do not require flattening as often as natural stones.

Oil vs Water Stones for Sharpening

Sharpening stones can be categorized based on the lubricating liquid used. Oil stones require oil as a lubricant, while water stones require water. Oil stones are typically made of aluminum oxide stones or silicon carbide, while water stones are available in different types, such as natural water stones, synthetic water stones, and ceramic stones.

Oil stones are more suitable for sharpening tools that require a coarser edge, while water stones are more suitable for tools that require a finer edge.

Key Factors in Choosing Sharpening Stones

When it comes to sharpening stones, there are several factors to consider. As a woodcarver, choosing the right sharpening stone is crucial to achieving the desired results. In this section, I will discuss the key factors to consider when choosing sharpening stones for woodcarving.

Stone Material

The type of material used to make the sharpening stone is an important factor to consider. There are different materials available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most common materials used for sharpening stones include:

  • Oil Stones: These are made from harder stones and are designed to be used with oil. They are ideal for sharpening tools that require a fine edge.
  • Water Stones: These are made from a softer binder and are designed to be used with water. They are ideal for sharpening tools that require a sharper edge.
  • Translucent Stones: These are made from a variety of materials and are known for their ability to produce a very fine edge.

Stone Size

The size of the sharpening stone is another important factor to consider. Sharpening stones come in a variety of sizes, and the size you choose will depend on the type of tools you are sharpening. Larger stones are ideal for sharpening long blade tools, while smaller stones are better suited for smaller, more delicate bladed, tools.

Stone Grit

The grit of the sharpening stone is also an important factor to consider. Grit refers to the coarseness or fineness of the stone’s surface. Sharpening stones come in a range of grits, from coarse to fine. Coarse stones are ideal for removing nicks and chips from tools, while finer stones are better suited for honing and polishing.

It is important to note that different materials and grades of stones will have different grit levels. For example, a 1000-grit water stone may not be the same as a 1000-grit oil stone. It is important to choose the appropriate grit for the tool being sharpened.

It is also a great idea to have several stone grits available so you are able to step down your blade sharpening. That is, starting with a courser grit and working your way down to a fine grit. This process will develop a consistent and very sharp blade.

Sharpening Process with Oil and Water Stones

I have found that using the right sharpening stone is crucial to maintaining a sharp cutting edge on my tools. Oil and water stones each have with their own advantages and disadvantages. In this section, I will describe the sharpening process using both types of stones.

Preparation

Before beginning the sharpening process, it is important to prepare the blade and the stone. For oil stones, I first apply a few drops of honing oil to the stone and spread it around just a bit. For water stones, I soak the stone in water for 10-15 minutes before use.

Next, I prepare the blade by cleaning it thoroughly with a soft cloth. I then inspect the cutting edge to determine the condition of the blade and identify any nicks or chips that need to be addressed. If the blade is in good condition, I move on to sharpening.

Sharpening

When sharpening with oil stones, I hold the blade at a 20-degree angle and move it back and forth across the stone, starting at the heel and working towards the tip. I repeat this process on the other side of the blade, making sure to maintain a consistent angle and applying even pressure.

With water stones, I use a similar technique, but I first use a lapping plate to flatten the surface of the stone. I then hold the blade at the same 20-degree angle and move it back and forth across the stone, again starting at the heel and working towards the tip. I repeat this process on the other side of the blade, making sure to maintain a consistent angle and applying even pressure.

Once I have sharpened the blade on both sides, I move on to honing. With oil stones, I use a honing stone to refine the edge and straighten any burrs. With water stones, I use a finer-grit stone to achieve the same result.

Maintenance

To maintain the sharpness of the blade, it is important to regularly hone it with a honing stone or strop. For oil stones, I clean the stone with a cloth and store it in a dry place. For water stones, I rinse the stone with water and allow it to air dry before storing it.

The sharpening process with oil and water stones requires some preparation and technique, but with practice, it becomes easier and more efficient. By maintaining a sharp cutting edge, I am able to achieve better results in my woodcarving projects and utilize all of the basic whittling cuts.

Oil vs Water Sharpening Stones: Pros and Cons

Oil Stones

Oil stones are sharpening stones that use oil as a lubricant during the sharpening process. They are made of natural or synthetic abrasive particles, bound together with a hard binder that promotes slow, even wear on the abrasive particles. Oil stones are typically smooth to the touch, and they come in a variety of grits.

Pros of Oil Stones

  • Oil stones are durable and long-lasting.
  • Oil stones are versatile and can be used on a variety of tools and blades.

Cons of Oil Stones

  • The use of oil as a lubricant can be messy and require more cleanup.
  • Oil stones can take longer to sharpen a blade compared to water stones.
  • The oil used on oil stones can go rancid over time and require replacement.

Water Stones

Water stones are sharpening stones that use water as a lubricant during the sharpening process. They are made of natural or synthetic abrasive particles, bound together with a softer binder that promotes fast cutting. Water stones are more porous than oil stones and may feel slightly rough to the touch. They also come in a variety of grits.

Pros of Water Stones

  • Water stones are faster at sharpening a blade compared to oil stones.
  • Water stones can be used dry or with water, making them versatile.

Cons of Water Stones

  • The softer binder used on water stones can wear down faster, requiring more frequent replacement.
  • Water stones can be more delicate and prone to cracking if not stored properly.
  • The use of water as a lubricant can cause rust on the blade if not dried properly after use.

Overall, the choice between oil stones and water stones depends on personal preference and the type of blade being sharpened. Both types of stones have their pros and cons, and it is important to choose the right lubricant and grit for the job. 

Mineral oil, vegetable oil, light oil, and olive oil are all good options for oil-based lubricants. Drops of water, soapy water, and plain water can be used on water stones. It is recommended to use the best honing oil or lubricant for the specific stone being used.

Special Considerations for Sharpening Different Tools

Kitchen Knives

When it comes to sharpening kitchen knives, it’s important to consider the type of steel used in the blade. Some steels are harder than others and require a finer grit stone to achieve a sharp edge. A fast cutting oil stone with finer grits can help achieve a sharper edge on harder steel. However, if the blade is made of a softer steel, a water stone may be a better option as it will produce a finer edge with a mirror finish.

Carving Tools

Carving tools require a different approach when it comes to sharpening. The shape of the tool and the angle of the bevel must be taken into consideration. A fast cutting oil stone may be suitable for initial sharpening, but a finer grit water stone should be used for honing and polishing. It’s important to maintain a consistent angle when sharpening carving tools to ensure a sharp and consistent edge.

In summary, when sharpening woodcarving tools, it’s important to consider the type of steel, the shape of the tool, and the desired edge. A fast cutting oil stone with finer grits can help achieve a sharper edge on harder steel, while a water stone may be a better option for softer steel.

Maintaining a consistent angle when sharpening is important for achieving a sharp and consistent edge. And always remember to adjust the sharpening technique based on the specific carving technique being used.

Advanced Sharpening Techniques

Using Diamond Plates

When it comes to sharpening, diamond plates are a popular choice among woodcarvers due to their durability and effectiveness. They are made of a steel plate coated with very small diamond particles, which are incredibly hard and can sharpen even the toughest of edges.

To use diamond stones, I typically start with a coarser grit and work my way up to a finer grit. The coarser grit removes more material and is ideal for repairing damaged edges, while the finer grit is used for honing and polishing the edge.

One thing to keep in mind when using diamond plates is to avoid applying too much pressure. The abrasive particles can break off if too much pressure is applied, resulting in a less effective sharpening surface.

Achieving a Finer Edge

If you’re looking to achieve an even finer edge on your carving tools, using abrasive stones such as crystolon stones or finer stones is a great option. These stones are available in a variety of grits and can help you achieve a razor-sharp edge.

When using abrasive stones, it’s important to make sure that the abrasive particles are evenly distributed and not broken. Broken grains can result in an uneven sharpening surface and can damage your tools.

Maintenance and Care for Sharpening Stones

As a woodcarver, I know the importance of keeping my tools sharp. That’s why I always make sure to take good care of my sharpening stones. Proper maintenance and care are essential to ensure that the stones last a long time and provide optimal performance.

Cleaning

Cleaning your sharpening stones is an essential part of their maintenance. Over time, metal shavings and filings can accumulate on the surface of the stone, reducing its effectiveness. Here are some tips on how to clean your sharpening stones:

  • Use a soft brush or cloth to remove any debris from the surface of the stone.
  • If there are any stubborn stains, use a mild detergent and warm water to clean the stone.
  • Rinse the stone thoroughly with clean water and dry it with a soft cloth.
  • Do not use any abrasive cleaners or scrubbers as they can damage the surface of the stone.

Storage

Proper storage is also important to keep your sharpening stones in good condition. Here are some tips on how to store your sharpening stones:

  • Store your stones in a dry and cool place to prevent them from getting damaged by moisture or heat.
  • Do not stack your sharpening stones on top of each other as this can cause them to chip or crack.
  • If you have oil stones, make sure to keep them oiled to prevent them from drying out and cracking.
  • If you have water stones, make sure to store them in a container of water to prevent them from drying out and becoming unusable.

Taking care of your sharpening stones is essential to ensure that they last a long time and provide optimal performance. By following these simple tips, you can keep your stones in good condition with little maintenance and a lot of ease of use. Sharpening stones are a good choice for woodcarvers who want a long-lasting and effective tool for sharpening their tools.

What’s Next?

Now that you know the difference between oil vs water sharpening stones, it’s time to figure out what types of wood work best for your project. We have detailed guides on many different types of carving woods, this includes soft woods, hardwoods and exotic woods – Browse our Wood Carving Species category to learn a ton more!

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