How to Use a Sharpening Stone

Learning how to use a sharpening stone is an inexpensive way to keep your bladed tools working like new. Sharpening stones can be used to return a sharp edge to knives, chisels and the blades of wood planes.

There are many types of sharpening blades available, including oilstone, water stone, diamond and ceramic. Oil and water stones are made from natural or man-made materials and are lubricated by the liquid that matches their name. Diamond sharpening stones use industrial or synthetic diamond particles bound to a metal backing. Ceramic sharpeners are made from a hard synthetic material and are perfect for sharpening steel blades. Diamond and ceramic sharpening stones are lubricated with water.

The coarseness of a sharpening stone is defined by its grit rating-lower rated stones are coarse and higher rated stones are smooth. Properly sharpening a blade involves three steps: grinding, sharpening and finishing. Grinding works out large imperfections and nicks using a coarse stone. Sharpening gives a blade a sharp new edge using a medium grit stone. Finishing, polishes the blade and removes any small-scale surface imperfections using a high grit sharpening stone.

How To Use a Sharpening Stone

  • It's all in the angle. All blades have a distinct bevel angle. The bevel angle is the surface angle of the sharp part of the blade as it bends toward a point. In order to get the sharpest edge on your blade, you'll need to hold it at a consistent angle. This will take some practice and if you can't get the hang of it, there are angle guides that you can buy to hold the blade at an easily adjusted angle.
  • Stay lubed. Lubrication is important to make the blade glide smoothly across the sharpening stone. Lubrication also helps keep the stone from becoming clogged with stone grit and metal filings called swarf. Most sharpening stones can be lubricated with water, but oilstones need to be lubricated with a light machine oil or sharpening oil.
  • Get ready to sharpen. With the stone secured on a firm work surface, grasp the handle or shaft of the blade in your dominant hand with the sharp edge facing away from you. Next, place the fingers of your other hand along the back of the blade. Set the angle of the blade against the face of the sharpening stone.
  • Sharpening. Once you have the blade at the proper angle, lock your wrists and begin by drawing the blade toward you while maintaining a firm downward pressure. Try to move the blade in a downward arc starting with the base of the cutting edge and ending at the tip. After a dozen or so times, flip the blade and repeat the procedure on the other side.
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