Hand Tools

Re: Query regarding historical use of waterstones. *LINK*

Warren in Lancaster, PA
In 1967 I was taught to rub two stones together to help with flatness. I have also used grit on glass and cement block. I doubt glass is a historic method; most glass was far from flat and even wavy glass was quite expensive. As David mentioned, however, the most important thing is using the stone so as to avoid gouging the stone in the first place. Running the tool down the center, avoiding the edges of the stone is a sure way to create a hollow.

For a plane iron on a water stone, I typically use maybe 100 back and forth strokes per sharpening and I flatten the stone only after thousands of sharpenings. The idea is to manage the stone, not abuse it. Overhang the edge and use as much of the length as you possibly can. For sharpening gouges and small chisels, which are naturally hard on a stone, use separate stones or the underside of the stone.

Historically, I think both water stones and oil stones predate the iron age. Both are discussed in the first century, the 10th century, etc. In the 18th century there were rub stones (usually flat pieces of sandstone) rag stones (finer water stones), and oil stones. Fine water stones were used for razors, not as much for woodworking tools.

Stephen Sheppard presented excerpts from an early 19th century paper on sharpening stones on this forum:

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