Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Hand Honing and Arkansas Stones

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2015
    Location
    East San Francisco Bay CA.
    Posts
    185

    Hand Honing and Arkansas Stones

    Hey All

    I have been sharpening my WW tools with a variety oif methods over the years. Slow speed grinder plus water stones, Tormek, Work Sharp, Lap Sharp, etc. - tried em all. I am using a set of diamond plates right now from Trend Micro - works as well as the water stones for the most part.

    I have never used Arkansas stones. I know nothing about them. I was always of the opinion that Arkansas stones were basically the precursor to water stones, and while they had a historical place, they were pretty much old tech and not really worth the trouble.

    Well, as I myself get older and am becoming "old tech" myself, I wanted to at least raise the question. I don't want my technology bias to limit me - is there a current use for Arkansas stones? Am I classifying this group of stones correctly - under one umbrella of "Arkansas Stones"? I am talking about the stones that you see at swap meets in their wooden holder and have oil stains all over.

    Just wanted the 411 on these stones, and if there is a scenario where they are the most effective tool to sharpen plane blades and chisels. Also some carving tools...

    Just asking - responses are very appreciated.

    Joe

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2014
    Location
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Posts
    467
    You know those sharpening threads that go on forever and never reach a conclusion? I'm afraid this is a variation of those.

    But... let me try for a neutral overview. There are two broad categories of stones: Natural and man-made. The natural stones are quarried and, I'd assume, initially were used locally. At trade routes increased the better stones were traded and found over wider areas. (I remember hearing a story about Turkish stones being found in Western Europe by the 14/15th(?) century. But some plane technology available in Philadelphia didn't make it to Williamsburg, VA in the mid-1700's, at least according to the Williamsburg historians. Mysteries of trade routes & traders.) Later, technology for man-made, or synthetic, stones became possible. (Or probably there was finally economic incentive to use existing technology for sharpening stones.)

    The advantage of the synthetic stones is they are (or can be) more uniform. Of course one of the disadvantages of synthetic stones is they are more uniform and, in some applications at least, the right mix of grit sizes can give better results.

    One other potential advantage of synthetic stones is you can tweak the binder to make them more or less friable, how quickly they release particles exposing new sharp grit. This and selecting the abrasive type allows you to tune stones for use on specific steels.

    The oil stones you are seeing may be man-made, e.g. Norton India & Crystolon stones (Aluminum-oxide & Silicon-carbide respectively, IIRC), or they may be actual mined stones, typically mined in and called Arkansas stones. The mined stones are graded from soft to hard, with translucent a variation of hard. The Washita seems to be especially prized as it isn't mined any more and, for many fans at least, offers a great balance between slow high-grit polishing stones and faster coarser stones.

    Generally these days it seems most users use India stones for their coarse stone and one, or more, Arkansas natural stones for their finer honing and polishing stones. They are usually using more traditional HCS (O1 being one example) tools, because some of the carbides in the higher tech steels (e.g. A2, M2, D2, M4, etc.) are both large and aren't cut well by the abrasives in Arkansas stones.

    Hope this overview answers your curiosity or at least gives you enough buzz words to continue your search.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    19,787
    Blog Entries
    1
    I was always of the opinion that Arkansas stones were basically the precursor to water stones, and while they had a historical place, they were pretty much old tech and not really worth the trouble.
    To add a bit to what David posted, water stones were likely in use before oilstones. Natural stones from Japan were used with water before Europeans set foot in Arkansas.

    There are many kinds of stones used all over the world for abrading the many metals that have found their way into tool making.

    For me, oilstones are handy in the winter since the water in my shop freezes during the cold weather. As long as it is in the 30 or warmer range in the shop it is fine for working.

    Water stones tend to cut faster than oilstones. Oilstones tend to stay flat and do not release fresh grit like a water stone.

    My finest water stone is a Norton 8000 with ~3 size abrasive. My Black Arkansas can get an edge close enough to the same sharpness to fit my needs. Especially with a little stropping afterwards.

    jtk
    "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
    Apr 2013
    Location
    Stone Mountain, GA
    Posts
    431
    I really like Arkansas stones for plain carbon steel. I started out with synthetic waterstones, but then moved to a place where the shop has no sink so I thought I would try some oil stones. Now I think even if I had a sink I would stick with the arks for most things. In my hands, I think I get sharper edges with them, even if the edges aren't as brightly polished as a high grit synthetic waterstones. Probably I've just come to prefer a harder stone.

    They do not remove material quickly, so you don't want to use them for re-profiling an edge or removing a knick. For that I use a power grinder and combinations of psa sandpaper and an India stone. Sometimes I will bring the waterstones out for big jobs like flattening the backs of a new set of chisels, since they do excel at cutting fast on large surfaces. But once the correct geometry has been established, the Arkansas stones seem to do a very good job of polishing out the scratch pattern. For day to day sharpening the Arkansas stones are functionally as fast as anything. They are best used with a freehand technique instead of a honing guide, imo.

  5. #5
    I would add that it is important to keep the honing bevel small. Grind often. If you allow the honing bevel to become wide, the progress with oil stones will become very slow.

    And stropping after the honing is done is critical to getting the best edge.

    I use oil stones on A2 with no problem.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    2,497
    With the Water Stones or Diamond Stones, you can choose a stone that will cut your blade. So, for harder steel, might be easier to get something that will cut the steel.

    You can get some super fine water stones, I have one that is 16,000. But I am told that a very fine Arkansas stone will polish very well.

    My interest in Arkansas stones is that they should be less upkeep in terms of flattening, not that I have found flattening to be a problem with my water stones (or similar).

    Also, Spyderco has ceramic stones that I am told stay very flat, but there has been some talk that you may need to flatten it when you get it. I bought a stone to try (cough, at least two years ago) but I have not yet tried it.

    I am told, and I believe, that every stone has its idiosyncrasies that you need to learn. For example, it was suggested to me that I needed to treat the Arkansas stone differently than my Shapton stones. More specifically, alternating between front and back as I went, something I never did with the water stone, but I found it made a difference with the Arkansas stone.

    Which will be easier to carry to another location and use? Does it matter in terms of what access do you have to a water supply? With the Arkansas stone, I put on a little oil, and I can always just wipe it up with a paper towel (or something). Not sure how much of a difference that is to my water stones, but, for sure a water bath is more of a problem.

    If possible, find someone local who has a few different things that you can try if you are thinking about change. You live a couple of thousand miles away from me, so you cannot just swing by here in Columbus Ohio! You also could just dip your toe in the water with a less complete set; for example, Woodcraft sells a set of three stones for like $40, but, they do not include the finest stone. You can also start with a single stone of a specific type (soft, medium, hard, whatever). Each vendor seems to have a different name with no clear way of associating to "girt" like I am used to anyway.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    19,787
    Blog Entries
    1
    Woodcraft sells a set of three stones for like $40
    My set of these sits in a drawer. Maybe they should be dug out again for a reevaluation. They were what led me to trying water stones.

    One of the problems with water stones is how easy it is to scar the surface if one gets too enthusiastic while sharpening. An Arkansas stone will take a lot more 'enthusiasm' in stride.

    Depending on where you are in the East Bay, there may be a Lowes near enough to you to take a chance with this stone:

    https://www.lowes.com/pd/Smith-s-6-i...-Stone/3063983

    For $20 it is a useable quicker cutting stone than any of my Dan's Whetstone Arkansas stones (soft, hard & black). This stone, a decent translucent Arkansas and a strop would be a good toe in the water approach.

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

  8. #8
    I've only used Arkansas stones but I never use oil on them. I was taught by a German woodcarver to keep them in water 24/7 and even though they are 40 years old work like new. The water rusts away any steel that gets into the pores of the stone.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Longview WA
    Posts
    19,787
    Blog Entries
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Dyas View Post
    I've only used Arkansas stones but I never use oil on them. I was taught by a German woodcarver to keep them in water 24/7 and even though they are 40 years old work like new. The water rusts away any steel that gets into the pores of the stone.
    Yes, many people use water on their Arkansas stones. The purpose of the liquid is to float the swarf to help keep it out of the stone's pores.

    Though don't try using oil on a water stone.

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

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Perth, Australia
    Posts
    6,553
    Joe, what will ultimately decide you on the best stones is the steel type you are using, and the method you choose to sharpen.

    Sharpening full faces involves working more steel than a secondary micro bevel or a hollow grind. The more steel, and the more abrasion-resistant steels, benefit from reducing the sharpening surface, for example by hollow grinding.

    Then we come to the media. If you are working with plain O1-type steel, the world is your oyster. On the other hand, with A2 you are better off with a modern waterstone and using a hollow grind.

    I use a fair amount of PM-V11, and hone these after a hollow grind using either Spyderco or Sigma. I think that you would like the Spydervo. They are an alternative to oilstones. Mine needed a little flattening (I used diamond), but have remained flat for some years since. My Spyderco system comprises a Shapton Pro1000 or Eze-Lap Fine diamond stone (since the Spyderco begin around 2000 grit - the Medium), then Medium and Ultra Fine (around 8000 grit) Spyderco, and I always finish with green compound scribbled on hardwood.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    South Coastal Massachusetts
    Posts
    5,359
    To echo the sentiment above: I utilize Arkansas stones on mid-20th Century "Western" oil quenched steel to good effect.

    I have one pocket knife made of sintered steel (Fallkniven) and it just skates across my stones without effect.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •