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Thread: Help me pick an Arkansas stone

  1. #1

    Help me pick an Arkansas stone

    Guys,

    I want an Arkansas stone to supplement my current sharpening.

    I settled on the Worksharp 3000 for grinding and working out dings. I typically go up to 800 or 1000 sandpaper.

    From there, I've been using psa film on a granite surface place to refine and remove the wire edge, and then buffing.

    I'm pretty tired of the PSA film for finishing. It works well, but leaves a massive load of sticky goo all over the place, And the really fine stuff clogs super fast.

    I want something fairly fine but with bite, but I don't want a stone that loads up or clogs in a hurry. I'm not razor finishing, so I don't need an ultra super fine, super slow stone.

    I would prefer something I can buy now over spending six months hunting antique unobtanium, if possible.

    What do I need? Who should I get it from?

    Thanks
    Last edited by John C Cox; 02-12-2024 at 12:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Weaver's video, something like "various types of oil stones" was what I was going to link, but it's gone.
    There was comparisons on the various types of Washita hones demonstrated, it was a good watch.
    Hope he will stick it up on his website some time, https://ofhandmaking.com/sharpening-stone-omnibus/

    I suggest you might indeed still be able to find it, by finding a hidden link on the ozzy hand tool forum.

    All the best
    Tom

  3. #3
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    Get a hard stone then finish with a strop with buffing compound.

  4. #4
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    I want something fairly fine but with bite, but I don't want a stone that loads up or clogs in a hurry. I'm not razor finishing, so I don't need an ultra super fine, super slow stone.
    John, it is difficult to make a suggestion without knowing what your plans might be.

    Do you want to sharpen a few chisels or do you need a stone to handle wider blades?

    What kind of work are you planning to do? Chopping a few mortises is quite different than fine paring work.

    I want something fairly fine but with bite, but I don't want a stone that loads up or clogs in a hurry.
    Keeping oil on the stone while in use helps to keep the stone from loading up or clogging.

    IMO, the oilstone with the best bite is hard to find, the Washita stones have good abrasive properties and good polishing ability. The mines for these have mostly been played out.

    For other grades of Arkansas stones, I have been happy with Dan's Whetstones > https://danswhetstone.com/product/bench-stones/

    A hard Arkansas may be the right stone for your needs.

    The banner across the upper part of the page has specials listed on the right. Those may be worth checking.

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

  5. #5
    Plans wise... I was looking at an 8x2 or 8x3 stone, as I would like the ability to go at plane irons, spoke shaves, and chisels. I haven't had as much trouble with edges on plane irons and spoke shaves as I have with chisels, probably due to my own use cycles. I still mostly jig sharpen those on either my surface plate or on diamond stones.

    I don't see as much need for this when setting up chisels for chopping, except maybe to wipe off the wire edges. I can come off the worksharp on P800 at 25 degrees and go straight to the buffer, buff fairly aggressively, and the edge holds up well to chopping. Paring, is a different animal. Do the same thing, and it will pare hard woods ok, but not soft woods. I need a finer bevel angle and to more carefully refine the bevel and remove wire edges so that the edge is ready with only light buffing to get a good, clean cut on soft wood end grain without chipping edges.

    Hard Arkansas?

  6. #6
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    If you want an Arkansas with a bite, you may want to try one of Dan's soft Arkansas. That's the closest to a Washita that you can purchase right now.

    I've one at home that I got to test, it works, but since I have a decent Washita, I usually just use that one. I don't have one of their hard stones, only their black Arkansas, and that's very very fine, not that useful for regular woodwork use.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by John C Cox View Post
    Plans wise... I was looking at an 8x2 or 8x3 stone,

    Hard Arkansas?
    I recommend an 8x2 stone.

    A hard Arkansas would be near useless for you, as it would merely polish the tops of the ridges left by your coarse sharpening.

    I would recommend a soft Arkansas. This will give sufficient polish, especially after it has worn some and lost its initial brashness. It would be helpful to have a medium silicon carbide, or a medium India, or a Washita stone. or a water stone in the 800-1200 range. as a preliminary stone before the Arkansas.

    I would avoid diamond stones, because the deep scratches take to long to polish out.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Warren Mickley View Post
    I would avoid diamond stones, because the deep scratches take to long to polish out.
    I have a full set of diamond stones, and yeah... That.

    I wish I could get ahold of a quality Washita, but the good ones seem few and far between on the used market, and bring quite a premium. There seem to be plenty of non-labeled stones being sold as Washita, but I don't have enough experience to know the difference.

    I decided to try a Soft and Hard from Natural Whetstones. They're kinda vague on whether they're legally "Arkansas Stones" based on crystal structure and density. They call them a hard and soft Novaculite whetstone from Arkansas, but those two in particular seem to receive good reviews from people who know such things, whereas Dans seems to be the go-to for Hard Black and Translucent "Arkansas stones."

    Thanks

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by John C Cox View Post

    I decided to try a Soft and Hard from Natural Whetstones. They're kinda vague on whether they're legally "Arkansas Stones" based on crystal structure and density. They call them a hard and soft Novaculite whetstone from Arkansas, but those two in particular seem to receive good reviews from people who know such things, whereas Dans seems to be the go-to for Hard Black and Translucent "Arkansas stones."

    Thanks
    Not having done research on the subject, the following is only speculation or opinion based on reading things on the internet.

    Like > https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/min...ica-stone.html

    There are different companies processing novaculite from various mines. There is a variance in density (or hardness) and quality.

    As John mentioned, Dans seems to be the guy when you want hard stones on the high end of density.

    Smith's has a nice softer stone > https://smithsproducts.com/6-medium-...s-bench-stone/ < The only problem is the biggest one they list is 6X1-5/8X3/8". I have one and they have carried them at Lowes.

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

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Koepke View Post
    Not having done research on the subject, the following is only speculation or opinion based on reading things on the internet.

    Like > https://www.geology.arkansas.gov/min...ica-stone.html
    I don't think the guy you reference has done much research either. Thomas Nuttall brought back samples of Arkansas stones to Philadelphia in 1819. They were already being used as hones at that time despite the fact that Arkansas was unsettled. Holtzapffel mentions Washita and Arkansas stones in his book in 1850, so they had already made it to England. And despite what the author of your article says, Arkansas stones were very popular in the first 75 years of the Twentieth century.

  11. #11
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    One of the references in the Arkansas web site page is a 1890 geological report on the abrasive business in Arkansas at that time. The report can be found online in this website:

    https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?...iew=1up&seq=11

    It's an interesting read. From the first mentions of the Arkansas oilstones to the state of the whetstone industry at the time.

    One of the key points I derived after reading this report is that not only the novaculite deposits are fairly large, but that only particular deposits yielded good oilstones. These quarries seem to have been identified over time and companies formed around them. The most lucrative stone was the Washita, as opposed to hard or soft Arkansas.

    The best Washita quarries are identified in the report, persumably all of them are now owned by Norton. That does not mean deposits with Washita grade stones can't be found somewhere else.

    One thing that is brought up often is what is the difference between Washita, soft, and hard Arkansas. These stones all come from the same rock deposits, they are composed of the same thing, very small silica crystals. The compaction of the crystals (density) increases from the Washita to the hard Arkansas. What makes the Washita a good stone is that it is more abrassive than the soft or hard Arkansas.

    When buying a stone from one of the current producers, one has to rely on their judgement in the selection of the stones that will make good sharpening stone. There is a perception today that the finer the stone one will get better results. From a practical stand point, when sharpening a chisel, plane iron or a knife, historically, the go to stone to use would have been a Washita or a soft Arkansas.

  12. #12
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    Here pictures of a Dan's Soft Arkansas and a labeled "Fine Lily White"* Washita from Pike.

    The first picture shows the unused, factory look of the soft Arkansas. The second picture shows the working side.

    20240213_090702.jpg 20240213_090714.jpg

    This is the working side of the Washita stone.

    20240213_090931.jpg

    I'm not going to make a give a review, only that both stones work. Neither one works amazingly better than the other, both have seen little use by me.

    They look similar, though. Time will tell how well they do the job.

    Rafael

    * Washitas came in two grades, when retailed by Pike , Fine/Hard and Coarse/Soft. Coarse was presumably the preferred choice. Also, "Lily White" was the brand used by Pike to indicate their best, guaranteed, stones.

  13. #13
    The two stones came in on the brown truck of joy. They weren't labeled, so without any better ideas, I checked the density. One stone was 2.16, the second 2.24. This puts the first in Washita land and Soft Arkansas to harder Washita on the other.

    I followed up with the vendor on which was which, and the more dense of the two is theoretically the "Soft" stone by color/appearance and the less dense one is the "Hard" stone based on color/appearance. Confused yet?

    I suppose that means I get to to test them out to see if I can tell a difference in real life.

  14. #14
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    When water stones were shipped to the US, I swore off all oil stones. That had to be 30-35 years ago, and I ain't going back.

  15. #15
    I can see the allure of synthetic stones.

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