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Thread: Sharpening Stones

  1. #1

    Sharpening Stones

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    Well I'm looking for a good sharpening stone set and there are several types of stones. The ones i've seen most commonly are Arkansas stones, Japanese stones, Belgian Stones, and diamond sharpeners. From what I've gathered Arkansas stones can be used with water or oil and Belgian stones are water only. That's pretty much all I know about them besides price. Can someone shed some light on the differences in the stones?

    Edit: Also I understand the function of different grits in the sharpening process. I'm really only looking for differences in the actual stone.

  2. #2
    Someone with far more knowledge than me can explain the finer points of the differences, but it won't really mean anything if you're not sharpening a lot. To really understand the difference, you have to use them all and get a sense of how they "feel" different when sharpening, affect the bevel and edge refinement differently, work at different speeds, etc. It's like wine. Someone can explain the finer points to you, but it won't mean anything unless you start drinking and getting a sense of them yourself. If someone tells you a wine is "oakier" or "brighter" than another wine, that won't mean anything until you've tasted a lot of wines and gotten a sense of it. Generally, the main difference that will be useful to know is that they have different abrasive materials that cut differently. Diamonds are obviously the hardest and cut very aggressively. Aluminum Oxide (India stones, for example) isn't as aggressive. Ceramic is in the middle and is fairly hard and aggressive. The harder and more wear-resistant the steel, the more you'll benefit by using a harder, more aggressive medium like diamonds. But keep in mind that all of these different materials are harder than steel and will sharpen a knife.

    However, that won't really mean anything to you unless you sharpen a lot of knives with a lot of different stones and "feel" the difference yourself. Different stones work differently, too, because of their design. Even two water stones from two different companies rated at the same approximate grit will "feel" different and affect the bevel differently because they are manufactured differently, using different bonding materials/techniques, a different source of abrasives, etc.

    But to address your issue directly, "I'm really only looking for differences in the actual stone," in a nutshell, they are made of different stuff that cuts the steel differently. They are also used differently. Diamonds can be used dry or with water. India and Arkansas stones are usually used with honing oil or cleaning solution (Windex, Simple Green, etc.). Ceramic can be used dry or with water. Water stones are used with water. The price points of different types of stones vary considerably, too. DMT bench stones are expensive by most peoples' standards. Natural Japanese and Belgian stones can be astronomically expensive and are usually only purchased by razor honers (or serious hobbyists). India stones can be incredibly cheap. You can pay anything you want for water stones.

    EDIT: One important point to keep in mind: all sharpening stones will sharpen. In fact, you can use a cinder block and a red masonry brick from your garden to sharpen a knife. The difference is mainly in aggressiveness, refinement, and "feel." Some prefer one kind, some prefer others.
    Last edited by Magnaminous_G; 12-15-2012 at 07:49 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    New Mexico, USA
    The very first thing you need to ask yourself is, what steels are you planning to sharpen? Depending on how that question is answered, you might go in completely different directions.

    Arkansas (natural) stones will be extremely slow on very wear-resistant steels like S30V, and even on many other mid/high-end stainless. The carbides in all these steels will often be harder than the stones themselves, so the stones won't abrade them effectively. This is more glaring, when attempting to re-bevel or do other heavy grinding on them. Sometimes the finer Arkansas stones (black hard and translucent) can work well enough in finishing/polishing tasks, when the edge is already very refined, but they'll still be much slower.

    At the other extreme, something like diamond will often be too aggressive on simpler steels, like basic 'carbon' steel (1095, Case CV, etc.) and low/mid-range stainless (420/440A series and similar steels). But, diamond is at it's best on the very high-wear steels like S30V and others with abundant vanadium carbides in them.

    The 'middle ground' can be bridged with something like silicon carbide (such as Norton 'Crystolon') or aluminum oxide stones (Norton 'India', and many waterstones are AlOx). These will often work well enough on both high-wear steels and on the simpler stuff too. Many here have relied on the Norton stones as all-around 'workhorse' sharpeners, and have needed little else.

    Last edited by Obsessed with Edges; 12-15-2012 at 04:38 PM.

  4. #4
    Just a bit of clarification on some confusing things about "oil" stones. India oil stones are made of aluminum oxide which is also called corundum. Crystolon stones are made of Silicon Carbide also called carborundum. Silicon Carbide (Crystolon) is faster than Aluminum Oxide (India) and will work on high wear super steels but leaves more of a rougher edge than the india. Also, despite them being oil stones, they can be used with with a lot of things Water (with a drop of dish soap), oil, windex, simple green or dry. Japanese Waterstones and Belgian blue/yellow/coticules are the only stones I know of that must be used with water. All the other stones are pretty flexible when it comes to lube.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Obsessed with Edges View Post
    Arkansas (natural) stones will be extremely slow on very wear-resistant steels like S30V, and even on many other mid/high-end stainless. The carbides in all these steels will often be harder than the stones themselves, so the stones won't abrade them effectively. This is more glaring, when attempting to re-bevel or do other heavy grinding on them.
    Well that explains why I'm having so much trouble. I'm trying to remove the factory bevel on a Crondiur 30 blade with Arkansas stones, and for the life of me I can't get an edge I'm happy with. At first I thought it was a technique issue, but I sharpened some kitchen knives made of softer steel and had no problems setting the bevel I want. Guess this is just going to take a while.

  6. #6
    What grade is your Arkansas stone? Looking at the elements in crondiur 30 there is nothing in it thats not in many other knife steels. The chromium content will cause the cutting to go slow on an Arkansas stone.
    You'd save time by getting a Norton SiC or India stone to sharpen on then finish on your Arkansas. DM

  7. #7
    Oh I know it doesn't contain anything not commonly in other steels. I was just noting that being on the harder spectrum of steels explains why my arkansas stones were slow going. I'm not sure the grit count on my stones but I ended up just spending the time with the Arkansas stones instead of spending more money.

  8. #8
    Ok, good. Arkansas stones are sold by grade. A grit range follows as they are a natural. Hence, their grain structure is different. What color? Most any Arkansas is slow to remove steel because of this. DM

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