SHARPENING WITH OIL STONES by Paul Rolfe

Oil Stones
Oils stones have been in use for a very long time. With good technique, you can be assured of getting excellent results. There are options available that will take you from rough metal removal to a polished, scalpel-sharp edge. However, if you like numbers, and like to progress through very specific grits, then oil stones may take some getting used to. You’ll have to get to know your stones and choose them based on the job they do and not the grit numbers that are stamped on them. Oil stones, particularly the Arkansas stones, are all very hard and will last you a very long time. In fact, they will probably never need flattening unless they are used in a school or commercial setting.

The natural versions (Novaculite or Arkansas stones) do not come in defined grits. They are graded on the basis of their density and color. Going from medium to fine to very fine, they are classified as soft, hard and black. The soft Arkansas stone, BRAC11, is a good starting point if the blade is in fair condition and does not need much reshaping. If there is a nick in the blade or if it needs a new bevel established, use one of the man-made oil stones first. After the soft Arkansas stone, move up to the hard Arkansas stone, TA00001. It will refine the edge and remove any burr that was created previously. While it is often possible to go from a hard Arkansas stone straight to a leather strop, you may wish to use a black Arkansas stone, TA00004. This stone will give you a mirror polish and scalpel-sharp edge.
A coarse man-made oil stone that is made from silicon carbide is the Crystolon stone, NR54459. It is the go-to stone for rapid material removal. A less aggressive starting point is the series of man-made aluminum oxide stones, India stones (NR54462, NR54461 & NR54460).

Honing/Sharpening Oils
Lightweight machine or forms of mineral oil, sold as honing oil (NR87760), must be used on the stones during use to keep the metal filings afloat. Do not use any heavy oils or vegetable oils. Some people think that using oil stones is messy. If you are carving, or otherwise handling your wooden project, it is a good idea to wash your hands after sharpening to prevent the dirty oil from getting on your work.
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