Water or honing oil on a whetstone

Sep 6, 2010
My apologies if this has been asked before. I did a quick search and didn't find anything. If it has been asked, if you could point me in the direction of a thread, I'd appreciate it.

Just picked up a Dan's Whetstone Company Translucent Arkansas stone. In the small booklet included, it says to never use without honing oil. Can I use water instead?
I use water+dish soap, on my arkansas stones as they're much easier to clean, and the sharpie markings stay on the blade for better "feedback"
Go for it :thumbup:

Just make to keep adding water as it soaks it in quicker, and to oil your blade after drying to prevent rust
The answer you will receive depends on who you ask. Some use oil, some use water, some use them dry. You may want to take into account that Dan's, Norton, Halls, etc. that sells oilstones or arkansas stones advises you to use oil...and I don't think it's because they want to sell oil. I use mineral oil and my stones don't clog. Enjoy your stones!

So it doesn't have anything to do with friction, it's just to keep/make the stone easier to clean?
First of all, congratulations on your Translucent Arkansas stone from Dans.
It is my absolute favorite finishing stone and I have several from Dans ranging in size from 3" up to a 3X12X2", a beast of a stone.

I find they work best with oil or soap water. For years I only ever used oil and then some time in the past few years I tried a dab of dish soap and a few drops of water. Similar to oil, but to a greater degree, the bevel of the blade actually 'suctions' to the stone in this solution.
This is something to behold. Once you get the 'feel' of this connection of blade to stone you get a satisfaction in knowing you are on the bevel exactly and precisely. To me, this is where the Arkansas Translucent shows its magic.

So, in my mind, it has quite a lot to do with friction.
I dont think it has to do with friction, (oil) makes it harder for your blade to rust during and after sharpening, but oil makes it harder to hold the knife
while sharpening and potentially slip and cut yourself, like it did once. + it costs money

Soapy water lubricates the stone, cleans your stone & knife at the same time, and you get a better grip, but you need to wipe it dry and apply
oil after sharpening to prevent rust + water and soap is cheaper than oil

People might say friction is involved, but, I do not. :thumbup:
Uh oh, looks like I started one of the great debates in knife sharpening ;)

I'll try the soapy water, this "suction" you speak of is interesting and anything that makes something easier to clean is good in my book.
Ha, great debates are what make this forum worth looking at. 😄

Play with the water/soap viscosity, a little thicker, think oil, tends to bring out the 'suction' effect more so, in my experience.
I have always used oil. I'm not saying water/soap won't work but I know oil leaves a great finish on my knife and keeps the stone clean. I have a few old dish towels that I use to wipe off my stones so clean up is never an issue. Plus I like the idea of oil on my knives instead of soapy water especially when I am sharpening a carbon steel folder. Am I worrying about it too much? Probably but it is what works for me.
I think using oil with it's higher viscosity leaves the better finish. Yes, mineral costs something but it's very economical. I don't know a card carrying meat cutter that doesn't use it. DM
From what I understand, if you want to use oil on a new stone, then use oil but stick with it. Don't try to use water on it later.

Same thing the other way around. If you choose water, then stick with it.
I think you are really trying to reduce the friction and find a point where the stone cuts without catching while figuring out a way to carry off the cuttings and leftovers. Oil works, soaps and water work, and I suppose water also works. I personally use the soap and water because it's so much easier for most of my sharpening that I do to my kitchen knives. However, out in the garage it's oil as I don't have a sink.
Unless its made for water, I use mineral oil almost exclusively. If I have no oil I will occasionally use a silicon carbide stone with water or dry if necessary. On diamond plates I will generally use water, but sometimes a very small amount of mineral oil. Only on SiC wet/dry do I actually prefer to go dry.

Water can help prevent the stone from loading, but IMHO oil does a much better job of floating swarf and abrasive debris, and also does a noticeably better job of preventing glazing. You can see the debris suspend in oil, it does not respond the same with water.

Oil also seems to promote more rapid release of abrasive grains from vitreous silicon carbide and cheaper AlumOx stones, making them work more like a waterstone.

Either can work, try both. If the stone comes pre-loaded with oil based lube, do not boil it dry until you've given it a solid try with oil.
I've been using glycerin on carborundum and Arkansas stones . Thinned out with water or Smith's honing solution, which is basically soap, I think. It feels more like oil, but cleans up like soap. Has anyone else tried this?
I use what is recommended...
I only have oil stones and use Lansky honing oil...for no good reason other than I have a bottle of the stuff...I'd use motor oil if it was all I had.
I've found with water, that if there is any clogging, the normal lapping of the stone removes any debris. I'm personally not a fan of oil on stones, but it does make stone maintenance easier because less rust will form. I say try everything you can and go with what feels better. Cost of oil really is minimal.
Skimo has a valid point.
If you are going to be working on non-stainless metal then there is the concern of rust with all the small particles left on the stone. In this case I would think Oil a good choice (I use oil on the stones I have for axes and other such tools).

Rust aside: oil vs soapy water your call. I would not recomend plain water as it does not offer the lubricity of soap or oil, and as a result your stone will likely wear faster.

The flip side to this whole discussion is water stones.
They must be saturated and with water only.
However, the mechanics of sharpening involved with them are different from other stones. The slurry which forms on top of water stones is what is doing the work. Don't wipe or rinse that off, it is needed.... But again that is only for water stones.