NEW! Faster Search Option



sk2tobin's picture

Waterstones....  (post #104806)

Okay... So I watched the video on sharpening and I have to admit it is something that I have put off for a while (buying the right stuff that is).  I am convinced that waterstones are the way to go but the problem is which ones do I buy?  Right now I have a set of cheap diamond stones that seem to work pretty good (however they are pretty small).  I have a coarse, fine and extra fine stone.  When I go all the way to the extra fine stone I can just start to make out my reflection in the back of a large plane iron (almost like a mirror that is dirty and needs to be cleaned).  So which grits do I need? Do I need a whole set or can I use the diamond stones for the lower grits and use the waterstones for the higher grits?  Also when I was looking at waterstones online there was a very large price difference between stones of the same grit (about double or triple for the most expensive ones).  What's the difference and are the more expensive ones worth the money?  As for dressing stones do I need to get something to flatten these things with (nagura stone for the really fine stones and a flattening stone for the coarser grits?)  And one last question (I know I have a lot of questions...)  I am also looking at using a strop to do the final polishing but which stropping paste should I use?

Sorry for all of the questions but I would like to get this right the first time since it looks like this is going to cost me somewhere in the range of $150 or $200 to get all of this stuff.  Thank you very much for your input.  I really appreciate all of you guys for helping me out when I have questions, and I do ask quite a bit so.... Thank you.


saschafer's picture

(post #104806, reply #1 of 21)

The more expensive stones are better, but it's a question of diminishing returns: a stone that costs twice as much is nowhere near twice as good. One real advantage of the relatively expensive ceramic stones (Shapton, Spyderco) is that they don't need to be soaked in water; you just have to sprinkle a little water on top.

As a starter set, I would recommend:

  • DMT Duo-Sharp combo diamond plate, coarse/extra-coarse
  • Norton waterstone, 1000x
  • Norton combo waterstone, 4000x/8000x

Use the extra-coarse and coarse diamonds for getting edges into shape and flattening plane and chisel backs, then follow up with the three waterstones in sequence. You can also use the diamond plate for flattening the waterstones; however, I think you get a slightly better surface by flattening on a glass plate and some wet-or-dry paper.

You don't need a nagura with the Norton waterstones.

Don't be stingy with your flattening; a waterstone that's even just a little bit out of flat will drive you crazy.



nazard's picture

(post #104806, reply #2 of 21)


You might check out the sharpening stuff at Tools for Working Wood.  Good prices and customer service.


roc's picture

(post #104806, reply #3 of 21)

>$150 to $250


I would say $500 or more. I am going to catch hail for that . . .

Depends on the results you want. As Thomas Crown said in the movie "The Thomas Crown Affair " Do you want to dance ? Or do you want to DANCE ? "

Here is a thread that hashes it all. I started with my entry/suggestion but if you go back and read the whole thread there is even the " use a sway back brick and some marvel oil " entry of you know who. Well maybe you don't.

I will be back with another thread . . .


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

Edited 6/17/2009 12:44 am by roc

Edited 6/17/2009 12:44 am by roc

Edited 6/17/2009 1:00 am by roc


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

roc's picture

(post #104806, reply #4 of 21)

And another thread.

I leave this at my entry for the pictures for your consideration ( just click on the yellow file icon then go back for the next one ) but lots of other views there for you to consider.

PS: I been rereading that last thread and looks like we solved world hunger and uncovered who is REALLY running the country among other topics of high import.


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

Edited 6/17/2009 1:25 am by roc


Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. Abraham Lincoln ( 54° shaves )

derekcohen's picture

(post #104806, reply #5 of 21)

I am convinced that waterstones are the way to go but the problem is which ones do I buy? ..which grits do I need?

Hi Nick

Before you launch into buying a bunch of waterstones, you need to review how you see yourself preparing chisel and plane blades in the future. It will also help to know what type of steel goes into these blades - High Carbon Steel (HCS) can be a doddle compared to A2 or HSS.

Further, it is quite likely that your methods and needs may change over time.

Do you plan to hollow grind the primary bevel, use a secondary bevel (at a different angle to the primary bevel), or hone on full faces (as is more likely if you use Japanese blades)?

If you hollow grind or use a (micro-) secondary bevel, then you can get away with fewer waterstones (e.g. 1000 and 8000) than if you are going to hone a full face where the larger surface area will require a middle waterstone to bridge the gap (e.g. add a 4000 to the pot).

Here the 1000 waterstone is used to straighten a hollow grind off a grinder, or create a micro- secondary bevel. The 8000 is your polishing stone.

 I am also looking at using a strop to do the final polishing but which stropping paste should I use?

You should not need a strop to improve this edge (a strop is used to maintain the edge between honings). Glue a length of hard leather to MDF/hardwood and use a mix of green rouge/baby oil. Or just smear it on a piece of MDF.

So far: 1000 and 8000 (with possibly the 4000) Norton. Kings are a little cheaper and do not come in nice carry cases as the Nortons. I would personally not buy a combination  stone (e.g. 4000/8000) because they need to be submerged in water together and I'd be concerned about contamination.

Grinding with a waterstone is a mugs game. The watersones - typically 220 grit - are too soft to remain flat for long. My recommendation is that you invest in a grinder - a cheap 6" high speed grinder will run at the same speed as an expensive half speed 8" grinder. Add to this a coarse wheel (46 grit), preferably a blue Norton 3X or otherwise a white Norton, and you are set to go with hollow grinding.

I hear variable reports on extra/coarse diamond plates for grinding. Not because they may or may not be flat -  but because some reports indicate that they wear out quicker than one realizes when grinding steel. Personally I have not experienced this. I have the 10" DMT duo, but I carefully use the coarse side for selected blades (usually narrow ones that would burn on the grinder), and the extra coarse is used to flatten waterstones.

Dressing is either done with a diamond stone or sandpaper, not a nagura. The nagura's principal job is to raise a slurry on the polishing stone. They can cause contamination on the higher grit stones. Use one of your small diamond stones instead!

Regards from Perth


Edited 6/17/2009 5:51 am ET by derekcohen

sk2tobin's picture

(post #104806, reply #7 of 21)


Thanks to you and everyone else for answering my questions.  I plan on sharpening plane blades and bench chisels.  Right now I do not have a grinder so I will be sharpening the full face on all of them with a secondary bevel on the chisels.  The plane blades are the Hock A2 Cryo's.  I guess my main question was whether or not it was okay to mix sharpening methods (diamond stones first and then waterstones).  If it is okay to mix the two which grit should I start with on the waterstones.  Right now the finest diamond stone I have says extra fine and after I hone a blade on it I can just start to make out my reflection in it.  So would it be okay to use a 4000 waterstone after that followed by an 8000 or do I need to use a 1000 stone in between the extra fine diamond and the 4000 stone?  Also you mentioned not using the combination stones because of contamination, is there any way around this (I ask because the combination is quite a bit cheaper than buying the two separately).

I know that using the diamond stones to "Grind" bevels is not as efficient as a bench grinder but I am okay with that because I do not have a lot of money to spend so I will just take the extra time to grind it on the diamond stone.  Thanks again for the help.

dkellernc's picture

(post #104806, reply #8 of 21)

One comment here that's worthy of note is that it makes absolutely no difference how you get to a particular surface on a piece of steel.  A surface that's flat and has a mirror sheen is just that - regardless of whether you got there with oilstones, sandpaper, diamondstones, waterstones, or even the proverbial brick and WD-40.

The arguments for/against particular sharpening stones or methods has a lot more to do with how quickly one can get the job done, or how messy it is/isn't rather than the ultimate result.

So if you prefer diamond stones as the beginning grits and want to finish up with waterstones, have at it - there's no (legitimate) reason not to.

One other comment, though - because the ultimate surface on a piece of steel is path-independent, it isn't necessary to progress through a bunch of grits.  One does this for the expediency of speed, not ultimate finish.  In my case, I go directly from a wet grinder to an 8000 grit stone when grinding/sharpening a bevel - and the result is absolutely identical to that I would've obtained if I'd gone from the wet gridner to a 1000 grit stone, to a 4000 grit stone, to an 8000 grit stone.

Where this becomes tiresome is when flattening the back of a chisel or a plane blade.  It would take you a very long time to get a mirror polish from a factory grind if all you had was an 8000 grit stone.

derekcohen's picture

(post #104806, reply #9 of 21)

I agree with dk that you do not need to be afraid of mixing mediums - just as long as you do not mix water- and oil-based systems.

If you do not use a grinder to create a hollow, the most economical method is a micro secondary bevel on a flat grind.

What you will do is "grind" a primary bevel, stopping only when you  feel a wire edge. I would do this with a honing guide on 240 grit Norton 3X sandpaper (and even lower - 80/120 grit - if you need to remove much steel). The honing guide will make it easier to keep the primary bevel flat. The Chinese copies of the Eclipse guide is the cheapest decent guide around.

I would then hone a micro (that means teensy-weensy!) secondary bevel at the desired angle with a 1000 grit (your extra fine diamond plate - which is 1200 grit - may do the trick), and then just polish on green rouge (on MDF or similar). That's it!

The cost here is negligible - 3X sandpaper and green rouge... and a honing guide if you don't have one already. Or make a honing guide! See here.

Regards from Perth


nboucher's picture

(post #104806, reply #6 of 21)

My budget was also limited, so for what it's worth, here's what I started with.

I use the little boxed diamond stone on the left of the first picture below, a 6-inch, 220-grit stone, for grinding bevels and sharpening backs. A bigger stone is better, especially for larger plane blades, but the price jumps steeply with size, and this is adequate to start with.

I started with E, the 1,000/8,0000 combo stone in the other photo below, until I wore out the 1,000-grit side of it. This and the diamond stone should cost you about $100.

A 4,000 grit stone is nice, especially for chisels, by it's not essential, especially if you're sharpening often and looking to get started as inexpensively as possible.

I also use a nagura stone to build up a quick slurry on the 8,000-grit stone, but I have no idea whether it really makes a difference or not.

I flatten the stones with 220-grit wet/dry sandpaper mounted on a granite offfcut I fished out of a dumpster at a granite-countertop place. When I was having a counter cut for a bathroom vanity, I asked if could go dumpster-diving out back, and they said go wild. In I went. Nabbed a couple of dead-flat pieces big enough to mount half sheets of sandpaper.

Once you're comfortable with water stones, invest in at least 3: 1,000, 4,000 & 8,000 grits.

To me, stropping is overkill, especially for someone new to sharpening, unless you're working really difficult wood and need the extra keenness. I think it's more important to learn to get the best edge possible on the stones first. Besides, with limited time for building furniture, I like to spend as little of it sharpening as possible.


08m1501s1.jpg32.65 KB
70m0601s1.jpg34.56 KB
jer's picture

(post #104806, reply #10 of 21)

Just curious, do you know if diamond stones can wear out? I know that after a while they don't bite as much, but I wonder if they ever become useless.

9619's picture

(post #104806, reply #11 of 21)

Yes, diamond stones wear out. I know from personal experience.

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

jer's picture

(post #104806, reply #17 of 21)

Ok, thanks. I thought so. I have a DMT diamond blue coarse that still works after 12 years or so, but it's not what it used to be by a long shot.
I like the diamond stones because they're always flat and easy to use. They don't cut as fast as water stones however. Water stones wear, but if you stay on top of keeping them flat, you have a fresh cutting face and it's not so tedious.
Lately I have tried the sandpaper & granite, and it's ok. It's good flattening.

Speaking of...I was thinking that if one has a large amount of flattening to do of plane soles & chisel backs, why not take them to a good tool & die maker to do the initial cut? Can't be that much, besides maybe I can barter with them. I have the full line of Stanley bench planes, pre-war, several dupes, 4 of them Bedrocks plus a couple dozen socket chisels (Witherbys, Douglass etc). I have restored & tuned maybe four of the the planes and I love the the idea but it's sooooo tedious to get that sole flat, especially if there's any pitting to get rid of.
I may just give it a try with one.

philip's picture

(post #104806, reply #20 of 21)

"diamond stones wear out. I know from personal experience".
Who was the manufacturer of the plate(s) you are referring to and what were you using them for ?

Philip Marcou

Philip Marcou
9619's picture

(post #104806, reply #21 of 21)

You asked what I was using the diamondstone for, and who made it.

It was a DMT with the coarsest grit on one side and the second coarsest grit on the other. I used it a lot, and I used it for everything. I used it for demonstrating. I believe the thing that did it in was that I used it for flattening the backs of chisels and plane blades. Now, if the back is way off, I start with sandpaper on glass. That gets the big part. Then I go to the diamondstones which really do a nice job job in the "middle grits". I finish off on waterstones.

I used the "worn out" diamondstone before I got my grinder. I had used it for making some flat bevels, and for changing the bevel angle, and flr back flattening.

I had talked a technical guru at DMT and he had told me that these things do wear in time. The stone is not completely worn out, but it isn't what it used to be (Neither am I. :-) I still use it for flattening waterstones.

I am a real fan of DMT diamond stones. I am not being negative toward them when I say I wore one of them out. I would not be without my diamondstones, and DMT's are, by far, the best that I have used.

Based on my change to the initial use of sandpaper on glass for initial flattening of backs, I don't expect to wear out many more diamondstones. I know of a few other diamondstones which have worn out. We have three in at the Woodcraft store, which have been there, in the shop, for a long time. These got an immense amount of use, and are now pretty smooth.

So what is your take on ceramic stones? I got a small pair of low and high grit when I got my chip carving knives about three or four years ago. That is all I used them for, for a while. They are small and not suitable for larger blades. I only used the low grit stone, a black one, to initially shape the knife blades. Since then, I only use the super fine grit, white stone for keeping the blades hones. WONDERFUL. So I decided to get a large, super-fine ceramic stone and try it out.

I have gotten different estimates on the grit rating of the stone. IT is a Spyderco. I have seen it rated at 2000, 12000 and 20000. I have compared it with 2000 wet and dry sandpaper and with green honing rouge. It is MUCH finer than either of those. It leaves a mirror finish. It is used without water or oil.

When carving, it is the only stone I keep on the bench, and I often go to it to hone the gouges. I have ceramic slips of the same grit to do the inside of the gouges.

I love the things. I am wondering what your take is on them. It is always good to learn from a Master.

Hope things are well Down Under.
PS there is a downside to a ceramic stone. If you drop it on concrete, you end up with a few million tiny sharpening stones. Luckily I don't speak from experience on this.

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

Measure your output in smiles per board foot. 

nboucher's picture

(post #104806, reply #12 of 21)

I haven't used a single one enough to wear it out, but as Mel says, even diamond stones can wear down with heavy use over time; I know from personal experience that woodworkers can.

Mel, how long did it take to wear a stone down, and what grit was it?


Lataxe's picture

(post #104806, reply #13 of 21)


If Nick is a hobbyist he is unlkely to wear out good quality diamond "stones" such as those from DMT.  I believe that such items suffer significant wear only in professional shops or when used as demonstrators in stores, where they get heavy use by many, many people; and sometimes abuse.  I have a couple of these stones that are near 10years old and showing no sign of wear or reduced cutting action at all.

Personally I've moved to sharpening with all diamond stones, including DMT's recently available 8000 grit.  This means a high initial cost (although not much more than top-end waterstones or ceramics) but very little time needed to maintain the "stones".  I also expect them to last my lifetime, as a hobbyist; and maybe the lifetime of another hobbyist who will eventually get them.

Any edge-grinding needed gets done on a Tormek, which I have for dealing with awkward edges on turning and carving chisels.  But I suspect a much cheaper dry grinder with a white wheel and a low speed would work just as well for straight edges; and probably faster, although there is always the danger of overheating the steel.

Many modern tool blades, these days, come with a decent bevel and an all-but-flat back.  I suspect that blades from Lie Nielsen, Veritas, Hock et al need far less grinding (if any) than old style blades to make right.  Given that coarse diamond removes even A2 steel quite rapidly, I think a hobbyist using good modern tools could get away with having no grinder at all, as Nick seems inclined to do. 

Having no round-wheeled grinder takes away the opportunity to use a hollow grind as a basis for easy hand-held sharpening.  But use of microbevels at one or two degrees steeper than a flat main bevel keeps the sharpening time right down and is easy to strop back to sharp.



nboucher's picture

(post #104806, reply #14 of 21)

Lataxe, as a hobbyist, I have considered getting a six- or eight-inch bench grinder over the relatively few years I've been doing this, but as my small shop has zero room to spare, I've opted for grinding on the 220-grit DMT diamond stone. This can take time with new or rehabbed tools, but has served me well overall. Having done the grind this way, I then quickly create a steeper secondary bevel on a 1,000-grit waterstone and a microbevel on the 8,000-grit stone. After several honings, creating the 1,000-grit secondary bevel takes longer, and that's my signal to regrind. Does this seem sensible?

My question is: aside from speed, I'm unclear about the advantage you hint at of a hollow grind over a flat grind, or a bench grinder over a very coarse diamond stone.

Apologies to the OP, if this a bit off the focus of his intial question.


Lataxe's picture

(post #104806, reply #15 of 21)


Funnily enough, the current FWW dropped through my letterbox today, in which there is an article on...sharpening.  It's one of those articles where an expert (Gary Rogowski in this case) looks at a novice (two in this article) doing a thing (sharpening, in this issue) and then offers constructive criticism, inclusive of some correction.

Here is a short excerpt (hope FWW don't mind):

"But Rogowski also urged Petersen to try honing freehand. He demonstrated how a hollow grind makes it possible to maintain a consistent angle when honing because it affords two distinct contact points at the edge and the heel of the bevel".

If you hone the whole of a flat bevel freehand, there's a lot more metal to take off as it must be removed everywhere on the bevel rather than just from two small areas either side of the hollow (the blade edge and the line where bevel meets blade-top).  A flat bevel may also be more easily rocked (unintentionally) whilst freehanding , so metal isn't properly removed from the edge.


derekcohen's picture

(post #104806, reply #16 of 21)

If you hone the whole of a flat bevel freehand, there's a lot more metal to take off as it must be removed everywhere on the bevel rather than just from two small areas either side of the hollow (the blade edge and the line where bevel meets blade-top). 

Hi Norman

Lataxe summarizes this well.

In addition....

1. a hollow grind that is taken to the very edge of the intersection of the back of the blade provides a minimum of steel to remove to obtain the cutting edge - so honing may only require a few strokes on the medium of choice.

A wet grinder (e.g. Tormek) makes this type of grinding safer, a dry grinder with a low grit wheel (e.g. 46 grit) is better than a higher grit wheel (e.g. 80 grit) and a large, therefore fast, dry grinder is the least safe of all (e.g. 3500 rpm 8" grinder).

2. using the hollow sidewalls is like using a honing guide - it helps one maintain the angle, and reproducable angle requires less steel to be removed (and less time to do so).

While one can hone a micro secondary bevel on a flat bevel face, the angle of this is altered when honing freehand... more work eventually as the bevel angle is gradually lost.

3. since there is less steel to remove, fewer honing mediums are necessary. One can forgo a "middle" stone.

Hollowgrindblade1.jpg picture by Derek50

Regards from Perth


nboucher's picture

(post #104806, reply #18 of 21)

Thanks, Derek, and Lataxe, too, for clearing this up. I should try to get my hands on a hollow-grind blade or chisel to get a feel for the difference.

Derek, am I to assume you recommend a 6-inch grinder with a low-grit wheel then?


Edited 6/18/2009 11:03 pm ET by nboucher

derekcohen's picture

(post #104806, reply #19 of 21)

Hi Norman

Regarding dry grinders, I use a half-speed 8" machine (our speeds in Oz are a little slower than the US, so this one runs at 1400 rpm verses the 1750 in the US). I prefer it for the shallower hollow. Nevertheless, with cost a factor, a 6" machine will do just fine. It actually has the same speed at the circumference (for us that would be 2800 rpm, and in the US you would get 3500 rpm).

Low grit wheels run cooler. I use a 46 blue Norton 3X and a white Norton 46 grit.

Practice on an old chisel, not the good stuff. Once you get it down, you will be hooked on this method.

Regards from Perth