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Arkansas stones: Anyone here use them extensively? For what type of knife steels?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by MTHall720, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. MTHall720

    MTHall720 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    I know the least about Arkansas stones of any kind currently. Do any of you like them the best of all? If so, what type knife blades/steel do you use them on? Are they slower than most?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. MTHall720

    MTHall720 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    I tried Arkansas back in the 70's so it has been a while. My only objection at that time was I thought they took a very long time to get results. Of course, at that time, I hadn't done much sharpening yet so it could have been just me.
  3. It wasn't just you. ;)

    I also tried them a long time ago, and arrived at the same conclusion. My view of them hasn't really changed since then. I think the finer stones, like the hard black stones and the translucent stones have at least a decent reputation for putting the finishing touches (polishing) on carbon and simpler stainless steels. In fact, on carbon steel, many here seem to love the black & translucent ones. I've never heard or seen of the coarser ones working well at re-bevelling or doing other heavy grinding on more modern, high-alloy steels, though. In many or most cases, the natural abrasives found in Arkansas stones won't be as hard or abrasion-resistant as some of the super steels, because of the extremely hard carbides in those alloys.

    Generally, all Arkansas stones will be slower cutting than more modern stones of AlOx, SiC and diamond. With the polishing stones, that won't necessarily be a big deal; sometimes a slower-cutting stone works to better advantage for polishing an already-fine edge. But I'd hate to have to rely on one to do some heavy grinding or re-bevelling/repair on a more modern high-alloy steel like S30V or D2. And I've still not had much luck in making them do that task well on some simpler stainless steels, like 420/440-series steels. I have a specific memory of trying to sharpen an old Buck 112 in 440C on a cheap Arkansas stone I bought way back when. That stone would barely touch that blade. Many years later, I used SiC wet/dry sandpaper to convex that blade, and the difference in aggressiveness was night & day. That was an eye-opener, and it confirmed what I'd always suspected about the Arkansas stone (too slow).
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2012
  4. Robs92XJ


    Apr 3, 2012
    I've got an old Smiths Arky stone buried somewhere in the bottom of a tool box. It was the stone I first tried to sharpen knives with. Like the others say, it was slow. It could be that I used too much oil on it, but it got clogged very quickly to the point it wouldn't do anything, and developed a nasty glaze. I didn't use it for long before I switched to sandpaper and then waterstones.

    Generally, I didn't know what the hell I was doing back when I was using that stone. So my impression are colored by that, I'm sure. I ought to find it and clean it up and see what it will do now. I'm sure it's a lot more capable than I remember.
  5. My impression came about under similar circumstances. In spite of my 'poor' technique in properly shaping a bevel though, I noticed right off that the stone just didn't remove metal very quickly at all, which was impossible to ignore when trying to put a decent bevel on the very thick factory edge of my Buck 112. In retrospect, I currently see that as a good thing, else I would've really messed up the edge on that knife. That slow-cutting stone was protecting me from my own inept self, and I didn't even realize it then. :)

    I still have that stone, and a couple others. I do pick them up occasionally, and have at least managed to do some decent touch-ups on some cheap and very thin-edged kitchen knives (paring knives), with their very simple & soft stainless steel. But those knives will sharpen up on almost anything, though still to a relatively coarse edge. I think that steel is pretty coarse-grained, as there seems to be a finite limit to how fine the edge on them will get.
  6. mtangent


    Dec 6, 2011
    Arkansas stones are slow. I think this is due to particle shape. People who like them talk about the polishing action rather than speed of use. When I have used them, they do seem to leave a good polish on the bevel. I look at them as a touch up stone that sharpen slowly, but polishes at the same time.
    They became famous in the days of carbon steal & skinny knife blades. If your into S30V, I think they are inappropriate.
    Obviously, I don't use them much.
  7. Curtis_Lowe


    Jan 8, 2012
    Glacier slow. I only use them on simple steels and not that often. I like to use a fine arkansas stone to help remove the burr before I strop. Sometimes, I'll give my already sharp pocket knife a few licks on one instead of a strop. They're good stones and you can get a nice polished edge even on a soft arkansas. I just don't have the patience to sharpen with them.
  8. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    When 440C met Arkansas stones in the 60's-70's, principally in the form of Buck 110's, a lot of frustration resulted.

    Coarse Chinese cardboard polishes as well and is free. When it gets too black (with removed steel), get a new piece. It's everywhere.
  9. Alberta Ed

    Alberta Ed

    Jun 29, 1999
    I have an ancient Black Arkansas stone from a great-uncle that produces a magnificent finishing edge on carbon steels. For any stainless/high alloy steels though I rely on DMT diamond hones. The very hard carbides in today's super steels make them difficult to sharpen on 'natural' stones.
  10. Halberdier


    Apr 3, 2010
    I mostly use a large ceramic rod to sharpen my blades. When I need to remove a little more metal or even out an edge, I use a 10" white Arkansas stone with a fine grain. And I use it dry, never with oil.
  11. MTHall720

    MTHall720 Gold Member Gold Member

    Sep 21, 2010
    I can't tell you how much better I feel knowing I am not the only one. I will stick to DMT and maybe the Spyderco rods

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