Sharpening stones play a vital role in everyday life. Whether you are a chef, a housewife or a great lover of camping you will need a sharpening stone to make life easier and more enjoyable. But all the sharpening stones may not equally beneficial for your knife, scissors, razor or whatever blade you are using. Because there are various types of sharpening stones out there, like water stones, oil stones, ceramic stones, etc. That means, some elementary knowledge about the types and differences among sharpening stone will help you to choose a suitable one and therefore, will save your money and energy.
Types of Sharpening Stones
Sharpening stones come in a different size, shape, and material elements. They can be flat or even have a complex edge depending on the blade that will be sharpened. And, sharpening stones come in various grades refer to grit size. In the following sections, we will walk you through the most common types of sharpening stones and their grit sizes.
They are named like this because they need to splash oil on the surface before using them. It is necessary to oil them to minimize the friction and therefore increase the life span of the blade that is to be sharpened. Oil stones are one of the most traditional western stones and most of the people have grown up using them. Oil stones are made from Novaculite, Aluminum Oxide, and Silicon Carbide.
The natural oil stones made from Novaculite are called the Arkansas stones. They are available in different grit levels. The finer grades are referred to as Soft Arkansas, Hard Arkansas, Hard Black Arkansas, and Hard Translucent Arkansas. They will give your blade a polished edge but they cut slower than artificial stones.
Among man-made oil stones, Aluminum Oxide oil stones are quite popular. Norton made India stones are probably the most popular. They are labeled as fine, medium and coarse. Together with Arkansas stones, you can cover all levels of coarseness.
Oil stones made of Silicon Carbide are the fastest cutting ones. Norton makes these stones and they are named Crystolon stones. They are also labeled as fine, medium and coarse. These stones sharpen quickly. That’s why you should start with a Crystolon and then advance to India Stone. Eventually, you can finish with an Arkansas stone.
Before getting used to oil stones, keep in mind that, they cut the slowest among all sharpening stones and after use, it is really painful to clean the swarf because of oil.
Water stones are available both in natural and synthetic form, but the synthetic ones are more available. Though they are comparatively newer to the world they have become very popular nowadays. Besides, experts refer to them as one of the top sharpening stones. They are available in different grit levels and their use is very easy. You just have to soak them in water for about five to fifteen minutes before using.
Synthetic water stones are made of Aluminum Oxide similar to India stones. But there lies some difference. Water stones are softer and therefore provide faster cutting, which is a great advantage of using water stones. Additionally, you can find and use water to soak the stone wherever you go. But the water-soaked stone becomes brittle and these stones need maintenance.
Among water stones, Japanese water stones are very popular. Blade lovers who care their blade to a great level always value natural Japanese stones. Because these stones have a great combination of abrasive properties and smoothness to give the blade a perfect edge. Due to unavailability and regulation of extraction, natural stones are costing more and more day by day.
Ceramic stones are of different quality since they are man-made. They are made from really very hard materials and therefore, long-lasting. You can use them without any oil or water. In the case of ceramic stones, using oil or water is optional actually. The stones will give your blade a sharp edge.
Ceramic stones need a higher level of maintenance otherwise they can break very easily. You have to clean the stone after every use as the other stones. Most of the people are not so familiar with ceramic stones. Since they are very hard, they are generally used in the honing or refining stages of sharpening.
From the name, it is evident that these stones are precious. In fact, they have the highest quality. They cut the fastest and last for longer life. Diamond stones contain small diamonds attached to a metal plate. These industry quality diamonds are very much hard.
There are two types of diamond stones available. The common ones contain a hole in the diamond surface to have the swarf. They are simple to use and cut very fast. The other type has a continuous diamond surface. You should choose the type depending on the nature of your blade. If your blade has points then you should choose the continuous surface.
While using diamond stones, you should not put much pressure on the blade, otherwise, the blade can be badly damaged. And, they are not best for honing.
Oil stones vs Water stones: Things you need to consider
While buying or using sharpening stones, you may fall in a dilemma whether you should use oil or water before using sharpening stones. From the above discussion, you should already know that some stones are made to be used with water and some with oil. Yet one most important thing you should keep in mind that, once you apply oil on a sharpening stone, water will never work with that stone. That means, before applying oil decide wisely.
Though stones with oil hold flatness better and load up faster, they are hard to clean. On the other hand, water takes some time to soak the stone, but they are easy to clean. Besides, you have to carry oil with you while outing with an oil stone and you may not find oil everywhere. Using water will relieve you from all that pain. Except, Arkansas and India stones, you can use water for most of the sharpening stones.
Types of Grit
No discussion of sharpening stones can be complete without some basic knowledge of grit types. Grit levels are given as a number referring to the spatial density of the particles. A higher number indicates the higher density and smaller particles; therefore, they are used for a fine finish. There are three types of grit depending on how to find the edge is to be given the blade.
They are basic level stone and are used to remove the loose and hard particles from the blade. They are perfect for dull blades and the blades that need a new edge.
Once coarse grit is used you can apply medium grit to give your blade a nice polish. No sharpening process can be complete, without this level grit.
This grit level stones are used in the final stage of the sharpening process to give the blade best finishing possible. For some blades, like kitchen knives, this fine grit is a must.
Grit numbers denote the abrasiveness. For grinding 120-400 grit is used, 500-1200 grit is perfect for sharpening, for honing 2000-6000 grit is used and finally 8000-10000+ grit is there for finest finishing. Actually, grinding, sharpening, honing and finishing are the different levels of a sharpening process that requires different grit.
Different blades need different sharpening stones. And there are various sharpening stones available with a wide range to grit levels. So, you need to choose wisely, otherwise inappropriate stone will affect your blade. If you are a beginner, you can start with synthetic water stones or you can choose your own. But try to find the appropriate one for your blade. Good luck with your sharpening process!