Hand Tools

Re: Query regarding historical use of waterstones.

david weaver
Most of the stones that I've gotten that look used but not disused are reasonably close to flat, but not perfectly flat. I have flattened most of them, but only once, and the single stone that I use most of the time hasn't been flattened in four years or so and is still flat.

Couple of things - random thoughts:
* you can keep any stone flat in use with technique, obviously ditching the guide helps
* if an end or edge starts to get a little bit high, then sharpening overlapping the edge will bring it back. that's good technique, anyway - at least for keeping stones flat
* if a stone is swayed in its length but not much in its width, it's not that hard to use. You work the bevel on the stone length-wise, and you work the back on the ends. it would be harder to flatten an iron on a stone like that, but flattening work is better done on coarse material and not on stones
* softer stones like kings are pretty easy to keep flat without ever lapping, but some of the modern stones don't do that well if they are not lapped from time to time
* the oilstones that have a lot of sway are probably stones that were used heavily with laminated steel. hardened steel does little to pull particles loose from most oilstones (except turkish stones), but wrought iron will pull particles off of a washita and keep the stone semi fresh.
* we have some idea that modern stones should be good at tool prep and maintenance sharpening. The two should be separate. Preparing a new tool is the only area where even with good technique, an out of flat stone is a pain to use. The best stones - especially on the coarser side, pale in comparison to a fresh run of 80 grit PSA roll on a lap. Economically, they are behind, too. Tool prep and poor sharpening and tool use technique has led to the notion that stones should cut "fast", or as fast as possible, but that probably breeds more poor tool sharpening. Point being, we don't really need the flat stones for anything but tool prep, and we should be doing the tool prep on something else, anyway. Prep on stones leads people like Chris Schwartz to write errant blog posts asserting that it's less expensive to buy lie nielsen tools than it is prepare vintage tools.

For at time comparison note, I get cheap beat up japanese chisels from the proxy auctions sometimes. They're usually in fairly tough shape, including the backs. I don't do any ura work on them, I just flatten them brute force, go over the whole chisel with a deburring wheel, hone them and oil the handles. The last set of 11 chisels that I got took 45 minutes to have flat, and half of them honed - I set the others aside until I have a reason to finish honing them behind setting up the primary bevel on a coarse stone. 95% of that work is on materials that I'd never use for maintenance sharpening (a crystolon stone and a run of PSA paper).

As far as flattening them goes, loose sand, or George mentioned that at wmsbg, he found that arkansas stones flattened easily on a sandstone grinding wheel. Holtzappfel mentions workmen often truing turkish stones, which I can see, especially if laminated steel is used - but I don't remember if the text mentioned how the stones were trued. Probably loose sand, corundum or rubbing on a coarse stone.

I've maybe bought 200 stones now. I'm sure some of them were last used by skilled users, and none of them were flat by modern woodworking standards, but I'm sure at least some of them were used to do fine work.

When I use the better of those stones for a while before flattening them, I don't notice much difference in the sharpness of the tools that are honed on them.

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