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Thread: Yard Sailing Whetstones

  1. #1

    Yard Sailing Whetstones

    It's getting near that time, and this year I want to be prepared. I have the Norton combo oilstone. Now I am interested in trying natural stones. I usually see an assortment over the season, most in grimy wooden unmarked boxes, with stones of various size and color. I just don't know what I'm looking at or what I really need. The sellers are just as clueless.

    So, how do I identify a soft vs hard vs translucent stone. Arkansas vs what else? And are there any fatal flaw to avoid? Is there a preferred size? Is the quality of the box indicative of the quality of the stone?

    I know that's a lot of questions. Is there a guide or useful website? Any advice would be most appreciated.

    Thanks,

    Dan

  2. #2
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    In the US, you're more likely to find an India, crystolon, a combo stone, a washita, a Queer Creek sandstone, a Hindostan, or a hard Arkansas.

    There are a lot more other types of stones, but those are what are more likely to be found at a yard sale.

    If they're dirty, it's hard to tell unless they are an India crystolon combo stone, where you can see the color differences, for example. A coarse crystolon is also easy to identify.

    Sizes different than 6x2x1in or 7x2x1in or 8x2x1in might indicate a hand cut natural stone, but it's not a firm rule.

    You can identify a hard Arkansas by its specific gravity. If it's around 2.6/2.7, it's a hard one. Washitas land in the region around 2.3. If you can measure the volume and weight of the stone, calculating the sg is easy.

  3. #3
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    Fingernail test, scrape to test how fine or coarse. My flea market secret is to search out stones that the owner has made a nice wooden case for storing.
    If the thunder don't get you, the lightning will.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Zaffuto View Post
    Fingernail test, scrape to test how fine or coarse. My flea market secret is to search out stones that the owner has made a nice wooden case for storing.
    +1 on the fingernail test to determine the coarseness or smoothness. You could also carry a piece of steel or a pocket knife to get a feel for the stone.

    Like the tool chests of an earlier age, the quality of the case made for the stone shows the ability of the maker and how much they cared for what it was holding.

    My last stone purchased at a Church sale was from a widowed woman whose husband repaired and sharpened scissors. There were a lot of worn crystolon stones and one lily white stone with a lot of dried swarf on it. For $1 the 6X1X1/2" lily white stone came home with me. It is a softer Arkansas, maybe a Washita.

    Get in early, because one thing rust hunters are always looking for is stuff to resale or use for themselves and flipping stones on ebay can make some money.

    As you purchase $1 or $2 stones you will become educated by good & bad buys. There are more than a dozen stones in my shop that all put together cost me less than $20. Some of them are small 3X1X1/4" but they do come in handy at times.

    Happy hunting,

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

  5. #5
    Arkansas stones almost always look very smooth. Carborundum and India stones look gritty.

    Things to avoid: Worn carborundum and india stones are an automatic no-go for me. In general, these stones, even in good shape, are a waste unless they're really cheap, because they're just so cheap and good new. Consider that you can get a no-name carborundum combination stone at your local China import store for $5.00, and a Norton for $30.

    I would probably pass on a broken stone unless you really want slips. Price accordingly.

    Unless you have a good way to flatten them, pass on heavily dished stones. Flattening Arkansas stones is an ordeal.

    I would pass on thin stones unless they're in really good shape.

    Retail Arkansas stone prices are not linear to their size or grade. A little pocket size soft arkansas is hardly worth $5.00 used when you can buy one new for close to that.

  6. #6
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    India crystolon stones come in fine, medium and coarse grades. The medium and coarse are kind of easy to spot when dirty because the pores are so big.

    These stones are a baked mixture of the abrasive and a binder. The quality of the manufacture of this combination is important. A cheap no name stone will probably wear quickly and not be very good. Vintage ones are good ones.

    Any oilstone can be lapped quickly and cheaply with coarse silicon carbide grit, a glass pane and water. We're talking 15min or less.

  7. #7
    What I thought of from thread title:

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  8. #8
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    Spend some time looking at labelled stones on Ebay.

    That'll give you some idea of what you're looking at, even if its dirty. Though, dirty stones all look a like, you can often tell by the weight, feel, and close examination. Way easier to do this in person that online.

  9. #9
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    I would pass on thin stones unless they're in really good shape.
    They can be handy for honing in tight areas, like on a forestner bit.

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

  10. #10
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    Yard sailing? How big is your boat?

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