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Thread: A few "easy" Arkansas Stones questions: Translucent vs Surgical Black

  1. #1
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    A few "easy" Arkansas Stones questions: Translucent vs Surgical Black

    I am hoping that these questions are easy and that it does not spark a huge debate. I am hesitant to do this, but, I just want to be sure that I understand things correctly.

    Let me start by saying that finding these things on eBay was an effort in frustration for me, so I simply purchased a few new stones. I purchased from here: https://www.bestsharpeningstones.com...category_id=59

    I had no trouble at all with these guys and I like my stones based on my limited exposure to them.

    So, question time.

    Please correct me where I am wrong:


    1. The stones "grit" or definition seems to be set based on the stone density. So, if I say "hard", I have some kind of range.
    2. Surgical Black and Translucent are mostly the same in that they have the same density range. Translucent is more expensive only because it is less common. I should see a similar edge produced from either of these stones.
    3. I keep reading things about how "surgeons" love the surgical black stones. Did I miss something here? I doubt that any surgeons resharpen their scalpel blades these days. You open a fresh blade from a sealed package, otherwise you would need to sterilize them (or similar). I assume that they mean that back in the "good old days" when a surgeon was judged on how quickly he could saw off a limb after giving you a dose of whiskey to kill the pain, surgeons liked surgical black stones to sharpen their blades.


    I have purposely not asked questions that are overly subjective. I have a few, but, I am afraid to ask them.

    I decided to dip my toe into the Arkansas Stones pool because I wanted to do some hand sharpening of pocket knives. I intend to teach a friend how to do it after I figure it out. I think that a hard Arkansas stone will be more difficult for a new person to mess up; more specifically, I am less likely to cut into an Arkansas stone while pushing a blade into the stone than I am with my water stones, so...... Arkansas Stones.

    I noticed that Woodcraft has a set of 3 stones that look suspiciously like stones available from Best stones where I got my other stones. It is the RH Preyda - 6Ēx2x1/2 Hard Blk/Hard/Soft 3 Stone Kit for about $40.

    https://www.woodcraft.com/products/6...702d61c10004f1

    The stones that I have for myself are larger, but, if the only intent is to sharpen pocket knives, this set should be great. I actually picked up one of these little kits with two stones, oil, and an angle guide for about $20

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0006705CU

    The stones all seems nice, but, the Hard Arkansas stone is really small. The soft stone is 4 x 2, which is fine, but, the 3x1 stone, although I could use it, I really did not care for it. Don't get me wrong, I was able to make it work, I just felt like I wanted something bigger for hard stone. Also, it comes with an interesting little angle guide, but, it is only for 23 degrees. I really like this set of angle guides that cover from 10 to 20 degrees.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07NF1RYXV

    Could I make them myself? Sure, I probably could, but, I was able to very quickly figure out what grind was used on a knife and then duplicate it. I still need to free hand it, but, having a decent starting point is great, especially when I need to figure out what angle was set to start. With an older knife, I am more likely to just regrind to the angle of my choice since it often changes along the blade in strange ways (like a used Buck I got for a great price on eBay recently). Some of my nicer knives, I just want to copy the factory edge, and it seems that some of these factory knives from Case have been done freehand and they differ by a as much as 8 degrees between two knives; but I am just guessing as to why. Case tells me this is normal..... and now I see that I am rambling!

  2. #2
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    They're natural stones, so will vary some. Sometime around 1973, I bought a set of stones that included a Black, from Smith's. They were thrown out of a shop of mine that was hit by a tornado in 1988. A couple of them were broken, but not the black. A few years later, I bought another, larger set that also included a Black. The two Black stones are different. The newer, larger one would never put the edge on that the first one did.

    It had been decades since I ever cleaned the old oil stones, and I don't even remember the reason why I did, but after cleaning the old Black stone, and holding it up to a light, I discovered, probably after 35 years, that it was actually a Translucent Black. I doubt I had ever heard the term Translucent back when I first bought them.
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    Last edited by Tom M King; 04-09-2019 at 6:44 PM.

  3. #3
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    The dental technicians at my dentist office sharpen their tools, sometimes during a cleaning session. They do sterilize their tools between patients.

    Are your stones 1/2" thick?

    Many years ago one of the Woodcraft sets was purchased. It never seemed that great a set to me. With a Dan's hard Arkansas, a dark translucent purchased at a gem and mineral show and a piece of jasper used as a polisher, my blades can get an edge pretty close to what my 8000 Norton water stone can achieve.

    My recent order from Dan's Whetstones should be hear later this week or next. Ordered a soft 8X3X1" a couple of slipstones and an 8X3X1/2" black Arkansas Ultra Fine.

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

  4. #4
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    Speaking of sharpening knives, and surgeons, I used to carry a little Solingen steel pocket knife that I sharpened with those Smith stones. I quit carrying it because I got tired of taking people to the emergency room who had asked to borrow it.

    The first person cut the palm of his hand. In the ER, the doctor looked at the cut, and asked what had made the incisison. He said he didn't have a scalpel that could make a cut any cleaner than that one.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    They're natural stones, so will vary some. Sometime around 1973, I bought a set of stones that included a Black, from Smith's. They were thrown out of a shop of mine that was hit by a tornado in 1988. A couple of them were broken, but not the black. A few years later, I bought another, larger set that also included a Black. The two Black stones are different. The newer, larger one would never put the edge on that the first one did.

    It had been decades since I ever cleaned the old oil stones, and I don't even remember the reason why I did, but after cleaning the old Black stone, and holding it up to a light, I discovered, probably after 35 years, that it was actually a Translucent Black. I doubt I had ever heard the term Translucent back when I first bought them.

    Tom,

    You made me curious. I had to go see which if any of my stones were translucent. Turns out there was only one surprise, My Norton Hard White is and the Translucent from Dan's is, the rest are opaque. I'm not sure translucent makes a difference, the hard black and the translucent are both from Dan's and I've had both for years. In use I can't tell any difference in the results, I think the translucent has a touch more "tooth" than the black but I expect if blindfolded I couldn't pick the translucent any more than random. The Norton hard white is a great set up stone for the two "finer" stones, a little quicker than either and with a strop can yield an edge almost as good as any.

    ken

  6. In use the translucent and black are very similar. They both are finishers. For most general purpose sharpening like pocket knives a medium or washita is very nice to work with and leaves a very useable edge.

  7. #7
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    I have a translucent Arkansas that has one good spot that still cuts. But the rest is pretty dead has anyone tried to roughen one back to life. Maybe I got dud I donít use it very often.
    Aj

  8. #8
    Arkansas stones are polishing stones. They are not good at removing material. In the 18th century natural water stones were used to remove material and oil stones were used to polish the edge.

  9. #9
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    Andrew: when you arrive over here...I'll hand you a brown plastic box...from Loray Sharpeners Co. to use on the knives...made over in Grafton, OH.44044.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    The dental technicians at my dentist office sharpen their tools, sometimes during a cleaning session. They do sterilize their tools between patients.

    Are your stones 1/2" thick?

    Many years ago one of the Woodcraft sets was purchased. It never seemed that great a set to me. With a Dan's hard Arkansas, a dark translucent purchased at a gem and mineral show and a piece of jasper used as a polisher, my blades can get an edge pretty close to what my 8000 Norton water stone can achieve.

    My recent order from Dan's Whetstones should be hear later this week or next. Ordered a soft 8X3X1" a couple of slipstones and an 8X3X1/2" black Arkansas Ultra Fine.

    jtk
    I have two primary sets that I will keep. I have a four stone set that is 8x2 at 1/2" thick (soft, hard, black, and translucent) and my three stone set is 10x3 at 1/2" thick (course, medium, and surgical black).

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bridger berdel View Post
    In use the translucent and black are very similar. They both are finishers. For most general purpose sharpening like pocket knives a medium or washita is very nice to work with and leaves a very useable edge.
    Although I had not specifically asked that, it was a question burning in my mind, especially since I am new enough with these to not have the practical experience.

    My expectation was that this was exactly correct, and some people made fun of me on a knife forum when I mentioned using some finer stones. I also noted that the stones that came with the Case specific sharpening set. I had intended to give the Case set to my friend, but decided to get him something nicer since I am pretty sure that what I get him will be the last sharpening set he ever gets and uses.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Hughes View Post
    I have a translucent Arkansas that has one good spot that still cuts. But the rest is pretty dead has anyone tried to roughen one back to life. Maybe I got dud I donít use it very often.
    I heard that yes you can. The context had to do with re-flattening a stone. Understand that I have no practical experience here, but....


    1. With use, the stones cut less and polish more.
    2. If you "flatten" the surface by the method of your choice (diamonds, sand paper, what ever), it will leave you with a rougher surface again.


    So, if this is correct, and if you want a rougher surface, then do something to that surface. I would take an opinion other than mine before you did it, especially while figuring out how you wanted to do it.

    Also note that Warren pointed out this is probably mostly a polishing stone anyway. I would wonder if maybe the stone was 'clogged", is that a thing with Arkansas stones? Again, I think that the answer is yes, but, my creating facts because they seem plausible in my mind does not make it so.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    Arkansas stones are polishing stones. They are not good at removing material. In the 18th century natural water stones were used to remove material and oil stones were used to polish the edge.
    I tried to sharpen a knife on a medium stone that was not awful, but not good either. I quickly decided that I would use that stone to keep the knife sharp, but not establish the edge. Thanks for the reminder.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by steven c newman View Post
    Andrew: when you arrive over here...I'll hand you a brown plastic box...from Loray Sharpeners Co. to use on the knives...made over in Grafton, OH.44044.
    Sweet! Even made in Ohio (where I live!).

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Hughes View Post
    I have a translucent Arkansas that has one good spot that still cuts. But the rest is pretty dead has anyone tried to roughen one back to life. Maybe I got dud I donít use it very often.
    If you use water stones, use the translucent as a nagura. It'll stay very fresh.

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