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Thread: Lee Valley waterstones?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Spring Hill FL.
    Blog Entries

    Lee Valley waterstones?

    I know, just what everyone wants to see is another thread about sharpening.

    I have been looking around for different options and the best price for some waterstones and I came across the Lee Valley stones.

    I am wondering if anyone has any experience with them. If so how did they compare to other brands... King, Norton, Shapton...

    I was thinking of simply getting one of those Norton starter kits, but it would seem that I can get at least a 1000, 4000, and 8000 individual stones from Lee valley for a few bucks less. then use my Granite tile and 220 paper for flattening stones and initial flattening of chisels and Irons.

    My main concern is for the overall quality of the stones, but I have not seen to many bad products from LV.

    My secondary question is one that has been asked many times before and revolves around personal preference... Wound a 1200-8000 jump be to extreme? would I see any benefit to a 800 stone that 220 paper wont suffice? is a Nagura stone worth $9.
    lets see 800, 1000, 1200, 4000, 8000, 1000/4000, ... pic 2 or 3.

    Or tell me I'm crazy because I think I might be.
    Andrew Gibson
    Infinity Cutting Tools

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Victoria, BC
    I have an 800, a 4000, and an 8000 from LV. They work great. You don't need the 8000, but I like it for a final polish. Make sure you buy a good holder, like the MK II.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Longview WA
    Just my opinion, so take it for the 2 that it's worth.

    I have quite a few stones. A lot were bought second hand. Most of my maintenance sharpening is done with the 4000 and 8000 stones. Occasionally the 1000 stone is used if too much late night sharpening has rounded the bevel or if the blade has a nick. Usually when it gets down to the 1000 stone the blade is put in a holder through the grits.

    When an older blade comes into the shop that needs a lot of work, my experience has shown me for heavy rust/pit/metal removal, abrasive papers perform the work quite satisfactorily at less cost, labor and mess than the coarser stones.

    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Ventura, CA
    I have an LV waterstone; 1000/4000 combo I believe.

    It is a lot softer than the norton stones; so to my mind the LV is more like the King products. So you need to flatten more often. But the end result is fine.

    My only complaint is that the stone is too narrow; I bought it for chisels when I was just starting out with hand planes.

    I found that the sandpaper-on-granite flattening to be a PITA and very messy. So I'd advise biting the bullet and buying a DMT duosharp Xtra-course diamond stone for flattening. $100 is hard to come by, but it was well worth it. Now I just dunk the DMT in a bucket of water and wash off the goop. Then dump the bucket and no more mess.

    Easy for me to spend your money. But 220-grit wet/dry paper isn't cheap, either, over the long haul.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Vancouver Island BC-eh!
    Like Tom, I have one of the 1000/4000 LV combo stones from when I first started sharpening. Then I got a set (1000, 4000/8000) of the Nortons) The size of the Nortons makes them much nicer to use on wider blades. I still use the combo for chisels, scrapers etc where I'm likely to gouge them up a bit, keeping the Nortons for plane blades.

    Nagura makes a nice slurry on the fine stone (8000) and helps clean it and 4000.

    Jim B

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Tokyo, Japan
    I have a ton of waterstones, Washita, oilstones, etc I have collected over the years and used a lot. I have also learned a lot from craftsmen on my jobsites here in Japan about what they use, and learned from their example over the years (called "stealing skills"). I have tested the things I learned in the field over the last 25 years, and been payed well for the results. Most of those old boys that taught me are now dead, sadly. I hope some of their knowledge continues.

    Minimum starter set, IMO, begins with a green carborundum stone. You must learn how to use this stone properly, or it can get you into trouble, but it is very useful.

    Next, and most importantly is a 1000 grit waterstone. This is the one used most often. It can remove a lot of steel and reshape an edge, but it is not so rough it takes excessive effort to polish out the scratches. You need at least two of these for reasons I will mention later.

    The third stone is a 6000 grit waterstone or ceramic stone. It can polish out 1000 grit scratches efficiently, and creates a fine enough edge for general woodworking. You need at least two of these, also.

    With this kit of three stones, you can handle anything.

    For smoothing planes, or for any blade you want to stay sharp a bit longer, or cut a better better, or look a bit more impressive, use a 10000 grit waterstone or finer. Manmade stones work perfectly fine, but it is hard to beat a natural stone for the beauty it imparts to the blade. Natural stones are pricey. I wore out my first one, after 26 years, and purchased a new one last month. It costs about $480. Is it that much better than a manmade stone? No. One of these is adequate.

    A nagura is nice to have, but not essential.

    Keeping waterstones flat is important. There are ways of sharpening that minimize the frequency of flattening. To flatten the carborundum stone, find a flat (not necessarily level) piece of concrete slab (patio or driveway for instance, but someplace that people don't step on frequently when it rains because this process makes the concrete slick). Wet it with a trickling garden hose or bucket, and rub the stone on the concrete. Check it with a square for flatness and winding.

    The other stones can be flattened by rubbing the faces of two stones together, for instance, a 1000 to a 1000. Mark the face up with pencil stripes beforehand so you can see when all areas have been touched.

    For final flattening, get a piece of 5/16" or thicker float glass, score the hell out of the face with the carborundum stone, and after removing all the carborundum power, rub the finer stone on the wet surface (garden hose or other running water source works well again) until flat. This works with all grits. Support the glass on a solid flat surface. A sheet of wet newspaper underneath, or better yet, a sheet of thin rubber (I like rubber roofing membrane) helps it stay put and keeps things dry underneath. If you want to burn money, wet or dry sandpaper can be used on the glass. A bit faster, but a lot more pricey.

    The test of a true craftsman is speed and precision in all things. It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to get a dead dull 2-1/2" plane blade shaving-sharp. Remember, your clients are paying you (or you are paying yourself if it is a hobby) to make things, not to play with your tools. So you must sharpen quickly and without waste. And with two stones of each grit ready to go in a waterbucket, you have four faces ready to use at the beginning of the workday before you must spend time flattening. And when it comes time to flatten them, you can rub them together in the field, saving time.

    Arkansas stones have their place for smoothing/polishing metal parts, and sharpening narrow chisels and carving tools.

    Hard earned knowledge for those who have ears and eyes.


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