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Thread: Anybody Use Arkansas Stones for Sharpening Planes/Chisels

  1. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Laurent Marshall View Post
    Hi John, as a another relative newbie using Arkansas stones I'll chime in, although I think what I have to say won't be as useful as all the previous replies!

    I started out using a double-sided synthetic waterstone because I didn't know what else to get, and most of the knife sharpeners I was trying to learn from on youtube used waterstones. While it was great for kitchen knives, I quickly found it it was way too soft and hard to keep flat for woodworking tools. Having seen a lot of Paul Sellers stuff, I decided to try a diamond plate (DMT), but as noted here in other posts, after some use I realized it was losing its grit. I got by with the a the synthetic waterstone and the diamond stone for awhile, did a lot of research on other sharpening stones, and settled on oil stones because:

    - They're (mostly) inexpensive, cost was a factor for me
    - They stay flat longer
    - They work well for vintage steels

    Right now I use the following:

    - 8"x3" Norton Medium India stone (when necessary, which these days is rare, I used it a lot at first)
    - 8"x3" Norton Fine India stone (a good starting stone when an edge is very dull or has light damage)
    - 8"x3" Dan's Soft Arkansas (my go-to first stone these days, as long as the edge isn't too dull)
    - 8"x2" Dan's Soft Arksansas (I got this one specifically for touching up chisels before going to the hard Arkansas)
    - 8"x2" Dan's Hard Arkansas (finishing the edge)
    - Leather strop

    I find that the Hard Arkansas stone makes for a good edge, but may be eventually acquire a translucent Arkansas, or maybe just a larger Hard Arkansas. I've heard that the difference between the hard stones and the translucents is not that significant after some use, but don't know on first hand experience!

    The India stones cut really fast with O1 steels or vintage plane irons, so no gripes there as rough stones. I prefer the wider stones for plane irons, but the 2" wide stones do work just fine. Eventually I'd like to have a set of 2" stones dedicated for chisels. I find that with the work I do, I end up sharpening my chisels much more often than plane irons, so having a set of smaller, cheaper stones might be nice to save wear on the wider stones.

    Edit: I've yet to lap any of my oil stones (either the synthetic India stones or the natural Arkansas stones), and have not noticed them getting out of flat over ~2yrs of use. I have noticed my Norton stones soaking up more honing oil over time though, and treated them with petroleum jelly in the oven, which helped but did not solve the problem entirely.

    Thanks for the input. Your lineup sounds pretty similar to what I have - only difference I see is in the Hard stone... where I'm using a Black - which is probably isn't that big of a difference. Random question for you - do you happen to notice a difference in the sound of a plane iron finished on arkansas stones vs one finished on diamond or water stones? The first time I used an iron honed on the arkansas stones, I immediately noticed a difference in the sound the iron makes in the cut. It seems much quieter to me. Obviously, the way it sounds is not really important but I just find it fascinating.

  2. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Tom M King View Post
    I used only Arkansas stones for 25 years, or so, before I bought my first water stone.

    In the pictures, the set of four came from Smith's in 1973, or 4. The set of three larger ones were purchased in the mid '90's. There is some variation, being natural stones, from one set to the other of stones with the same name. The Black from Smith's is finer than the larger black in the set of three, and puts on a finer edge.

    The set of four was thrown out of a shop I had that was hit by a tornado, so that's the reason there is one missing piece, and another is broken.

    The first stone in the set of four was called a Washita, and cuts really fast, but I have never seen another one with the variegated purple coloring. I wish I could find another.

    They do a fine job on simple steels like 01, and W1, but are significantly slower on harder steels. I primarily use 01, but they are still significantly slower than fast (lot of variation in water stones too) water stones.

    I only use them if we are somewhere without running water, since I only use water stones under running water.

    I never strop. It's not needed with a black stone, and I don't do it for other reasons anyway.

    Thanks, Tim, for the input; those are some good looking stones. Sorry to hear about the tornado... I hate those things, and living in Oklahoma, I'm all to familiar with what they can do. I notice the guide in your picture, do you always use a guide or have you used the stones at all freehand?

  3. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnM Martin View Post
    Thanks, Steve, for the input. Is your coarse Washita one of the "true" Washitas or would it be similar to one I could buy from Dans today? I'm still confused about the seemingly magical qualities of the old washitas that cut coarsly and finish at the same time. In my limited experience with these stones, if I sharpen freehand, both the Soft Ark and Black (both new from Dans) will cut A2 but when using a guide, it seems really slow. Unfortunately, I have a few A2 plane irons because I have grown to like the LN planes and that is the only choice (that I'm aware of). Where is a good place to get chromium oxide powder? I have a stick of the green honing compound, but I'm not really sure what is in it.
    John,

    I'm not a fan of A2 cutters for several reasons that have been beat to death on this and other forums. I was very disappointed when LN stopped production of O1 iron and I have a couple of post O1 LN planes that have been converted to O1. LV and Hock make replacement iron that will work in LN planes with a slight mod to the cap iron. Another option could be Clifton. Clifton planes are as well made as LN and have HC cutters, the cutters are as thick as LN's so I expect they would be drop ins. If interested, I have a couple of Clifton Planes I could A&B with the LN to check it out.

    Because of the thickness of the LN irons and being A2 they almost demand using a rotary grinder for a hollow bevel. Along with a dislike working with A2, I also much prefer a flat bevel.

    There is nothing magical about a Washita stone other than it hits a sweet spot where it can do light grinding but at the same time hone/polish, if you don't buy into polishing your iron to some insane grit. Dave Weaver who Steve mentioned in a earlier reply will often use a single Washita and a oiled strop to get very good working cutters. Going back to KISS. Any set of stones will work, there is no magic. Just find stones that work with your cutters and work flow and go make stuff.

    Right on Bubba, follow your own advice. I have an endless fascination with sharpening and love to try new stones and even jigs. For the most part it is a harmless obsession and even not too expensive until you get into collector grade JNats. Bottom line every system, set of stones, what have you, all will do the job. All have pluses and minuses. Pick one that best fits your irons, your personalty, and your shop.

    ken

    P.S. I just want to add one thought: Shiny isn't sharp. The Japanese highly value stones that leave a "cloudy" finish.
    Last edited by ken hatch; 01-19-2020 at 11:30 AM. Reason: add a thought

  4. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnM Martin View Post
    Thanks, Tim, for the input; those are some good looking stones. Sorry to hear about the tornado... I hate those things, and living in Oklahoma, I'm all to familiar with what they can do. I notice the guide in your picture, do you always use a guide or have you used the stones at all freehand?
    I really just laid that original Eclipse guide there for scale.

    I started freehand, then used a guide for a decade most of the time, and went back to freehand for a couple of more decades. When I started wanting my helpers to sharpen, I went back to guides, and came up with a foolproof system to repeat the same bevel angle every time, with any guide. My helpers are hopeless at freehand. I hire people that no one else will, but I won't go into those details. I have to produce work for a living.

    Everyone needs to come up with what system they like best, that works for them. There is as wide a variation on techniques as there are individuals doing it. No one is the single right, or even best way.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Tom M King; 01-19-2020 at 1:09 PM.

  5. Quote Originally Posted by JohnM Martin View Post
    Thanks for the input. Your lineup sounds pretty similar to what I have - only difference I see is in the Hard stone... where I'm using a Black - which is probably isn't that big of a difference. Random question for you - do you happen to notice a difference in the sound of a plane iron finished on arkansas stones vs one finished on diamond or water stones? The first time I used an iron honed on the arkansas stones, I immediately noticed a difference in the sound the iron makes in the cut. It seems much quieter to me. Obviously, the way it sounds is not really important but I just find it fascinating.
    My feeling on hard vs. translucent vs. black is they all end up with a polished surface with use, so comparing them gets a bit challenging. A brand new translucent might be about as aggressive as a well used hard Arkansas. However, I haven't tested that assumption yet! One thing I would like to try but haven't felt the need to yet, is re-conditioning the surface of my hard Arkansas by lapping on the fine or medium India stone, not to lap it flat, but to get it back to being a bit more aggressive.

    I never noticed the sound of the cut being different, but I would believe it. I certainly noticed my blades were sharper off the hard Arkansas than my inexpensive 3000 grit waterstone!

    Sharpening on oil stones feels a lot more consistent and precise. I know there are more expensive waterstones that perform a lot better than cheap ones, and have a harder surface, but I'm happy enough with oil stones that I don't feel any need to make the investment in switching to a high-end waterstone set-up.

  6. #21
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    My feeling on hard vs. translucent vs. black is they all end up with a polished surface with use, so comparing them gets a bit challenging. A brand new translucent might be about as aggressive as a well used hard Arkansas.
    +1 on this. Just as two stones with different designations can work on metal almost identically, stones bearing the same designation can be quite different.

    My grayish translucent Arkansas used to have a bit more tooth. Now it is like glass and produces a nice polish on an edge. It is top right in this image:

    Arkansas Stones.jpg

    This is one of two stone purchased at a gem & mineral show for $1 each. The vendor was not knowledgable about blade sharpening, he was more into the mineralogy and gem value of rocks. The other Arkansas stone from this transaction went home with one of my grandsons.

    The three large stones are soft, hard & black Arkansas stones from Dan's Whetstones. The translucent slip stone is also from Dan's. There are other stones on the bench and in a drawer but these are the most commonly used.

    The black and the gray translucent are about the same. The translucent slip stone is a bit more aggressive.

    If there is a lapidary shop in your area, you might be able to purchase a piece of jasper. Some find jasper useful as a polishing stone.

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

  7. #22
    Changing topics slightly... for those of you that do use Arkansas stones, what lubrication are you using? I've been using Dan's honing oil. It says on the website that it is a light mineral oil, but it smells like it has some sort of solvent in it as well. Maybe kerosene mixed in? I'm starting to wonder if it is good to be handling this stuff all the time. I've read quite a bit online and it seems people use everything from honing oil to wd40 to baby oil to dish soap/water. Any suggestions here? I've been getting fine results with the honing oil, but if there is something that works just as well and is better for handling, I'm all for trying it.

    Another question... it seems to me after honing a few blades that PMV-11 is more work to sharpen than A2. I thought it was the other way around?

  8. #23
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    Good day John,

    I grew up using oil stones- both India stones and Arkansas. I got tired of the mess and went to waterstones. The finish I got was FAR superior than with oil stones, so I assumed waterstones were better. I sunk a lot of money into waterstones. I sharpen as a hobby and professionally. I buy stones sometimes just to play with out of curiosity- always looking for that “holy grail” stone.

    I saw a video on Arkansas stones where the guy used dish soap instead of oil. Well, this changes everything! No oily mess? I got to thinking that maybe I had just never used a really good oil stone, and I spent tons experimenting with waterstones, so why not try oil stones again. I decided to invest in a Dan’s Whetstones black Arkansas stone- one of the finest oil stones you can get. Wow, this thing rivals my Naniwa Chosera 10k in fineness of edge, and with dish soap instead of oil, it is not a smelly mess. In fact, the soap keeps my hands from turning black from metal slurry.

    The drawback, however, is that oil stones take a lot longer, as they just don’t cut as fast. I still prefer waterstones for speed of sharpening and only finish on oil stones (using soap) for my own knives and tools and for some of the high end chefs that I sharpen for who are doing a lot of intricate work like fancy decorative cuts in garnishes. The harder and finer surface of the Arkansas black gets a really nice edge for detail work. That said, a 16k waterstone will get a fine edge as well. The difference would be hard to tell, but I like the hardness of a natural oil stone. It takes a very good steel to appreciate the difference. When sharpening at sub-micron levels, the steel matters a lot.

    So, you need a really good oil stone to see the benefit, and it takes longer to sharpen on oil stones versus waterstones. I now have a number of softer Arkansas stones, and I like them, but prefer waterstones to them due to the faster cut. With the finishing stones, it is a different story, because I am not looking for speed as much as I am finish quality.

    Hope this helps.

  9. #24
    Like many others I use W-D 40 on Washitas. It's thin enough to not impede the cutting,and my wife will tolerate the smell
    of it.

  10. #25
    John,

    I use one part of Neatsfoot oil to 3 parts Kerosene. I have for years but I expect it doesn't make no never mind almost any light oil will work. Someone once told me "Hatch, you don't like your money very much" and for the most part he was correct but Dan's or Norton's honing oil cost too damn much for what you get.

    ken

  11. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnM Martin View Post
    Changing topics slightly... for those of you that do use Arkansas stones, what lubrication are you using? I've been using Dan's honing oil. It says on the website that it is a light mineral oil, but it smells like it has some sort of solvent in it as well. Maybe kerosene mixed in? I'm starting to wonder if it is good to be handling this stuff all the time. I've read quite a bit online and it seems people use everything from honing oil to wd40 to baby oil to dish soap/water. Any suggestions here? I've been getting fine results with the honing oil, but if there is something that works just as well and is better for handling, I'm all for trying it.

    Another question... it seems to me after honing a few blades that PMV-11 is more work to sharpen than A2. I thought it was the other way around?
    My oil of choice is mineral oil that can be purchased in the home medicine aisles of most larger grocery stores. It is often labeled as a Lubricant/Laxative in a pint size container. There are other bulk sources that may not qualify as safe for use on food handling items. Many feed stores carry it in gallons for large animal hooves. My mineral oil also gets used for cutting boards. The pint size is at the local super market is actually less expensive than buying it in gallons at the feed store. Though this was only one of the local feed stores. My guess is the super market sells a lot more than the feed store. If it was cheaper by the gallon my first request would be for a copy of the MSDS (Manufacturers Safety Data Sheet) to see if it was food safe.

    Some people like to make their own mixtures. Some will add mineral spirits, turpentine, kerosene or other things to thin the oil. It may help to cut a little faster or 'improve the feel' while honing a blade.

    #65 On End Grain.jpg

    This #65, low angle block plane is shaving end grain alder. The blade was sharpened on Arkansas stones with mineral oil.

    I grew up using oil stones- both India stones and Arkansas. I got tired of the mess and went to waterstones.
    That is funny, some folks say they got tired of the mess from water stones and went to oilstones.

    jtk
    Last edited by Jim Koepke; 01-22-2020 at 3:39 AM. Reason: picture and wording
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  12. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post

    That is funny, some folks say they got tired of the mess from water stones and went to oilstones.
    It's just a different type of mess When I use oil stones, I just use sewing machine oil, which is really just highly refined mineral oil. For the same reason, I suspect as Jim uses food-grade mineral oil, I have it around.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike stenson View Post
    It's just a different type of mess When I use oil stones, I just use sewing machine oil, which is really just highly refined mineral oil. For the same reason, I suspect as Jim uses food-grade mineral oil, I have it around.
    And mineral oil is relatively inexpensive.

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

  14. #29
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    John,

    Take a look at this short pamphlet by Pike/Norton from 1905 (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175035165789). They sold hard and soft Arkansas, and Washita stones. Lily Whites were their best stones in the Washita category, since they guaranteed them. Lower grade Washitas were No. 1 and No. 2, not guaranteed. There was also the Rosy Reds which they say in the pamphlet were similar to Lily Whites in performance. I have a few Washita stones and from the information in the pamphlet I think they're Rosy Reds. On Ebay you can find some unlabeled Washitas (for example, https://ebay.us/zMuepK, looks like a Rosy Red) that can be bought for less than $100. The Washita stone seems to have been marketed to woodworkers for their utility to them, it can sharpen O1 steel very quickly, I can attest to that.

    Harder Arkansas stones are in my wish list. I'm just taking my time waiting for the right size to be available. Some of the ones produced nowadays are 1/2" thick and don't like them. I would prefer 1" thick stones so I can mount them in wooden boxes. I have a suspicion that the current labeling/branding of stones as "translucent", "black", "surgical black" is just a marketing trick to attract customers so I'm being skeptical about what information I will use to decide what to buy. Someone mentioned David Weaver above, he has a really useful video on oilstones he posted a while ago, https://youtu.be/TgQ1xhMtoBQ.

    I'm also curious about Charnley Forest stones, quarried in England, apparently they were replaced by Washitas when they arrived in England back in the day.

    Raf

  15. #30
    Rafael , thanks for posting the pamphlet, knew they had one but had not seen it. And I like that old style grandiose
    writing style, back then every product had one !

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