Hand Tools Archive

Re: Early note on Atoma 400

Hank Knight
Hi, Wiley,

Like everybody else, I've tried a half dozen sharpening regimens, beginning with cheap Arkansas stones in plastic boxes. i graduated to more expensive ones in wooden boxes, then to scary sharp, Norton water stones and a nice natural honyama for my Japanese blades. Somewhere in there I bought a Tormek, but it fell into disuse and has been stored for a long time. I didn't like all the maintenance and mess that went with water stones, so I decided to go back to oil stones. They don't shed goop and don't require regular flattening. I had a nice Norton coarse crystalon and medium India combo stone. I ordered a surgical black Arkansas for my finish stone. It was OK, but it didn't give me a polished finish like my 8,000 Norton water stone. I added a horse butt strop charged with green crayon and that took me to the 8,000+ level and I was happy. But I managed to drop my black Arkansas and break it in half. I got in touch with Hall's to order another one and they had an odd sized, but large, translucent Arkansas; so I bought it in lieu of the black. I've already discussed my flattening trials, so I won't go into them here. Suffice it to say that I found the translucent very user friendly. It cuts relatively fast for an oil stone and leaves a very even, fine finish - better then the surgical black stone I had. That's why I've been patient with flattening it; I like the stone a lot. From the translucent to a horse butt strop charged with green crayon gives me a very nice edge, one that is perfectly satisfactory for my work. And it's a lot less messy and maintenance intensive than my water stones.

I must say however, that I still use my water stones for my Japanese chisels. I've tried my oil stones on my Japanese blades and they work OK, but they didn't seem to cut the hard steel very fast. It may be purely a subjective matter, but I like the water stone process with my Japanese chisels, including the final polish with my natural honyama stone. I freehand sharpen and it's a tactile thing. The feel is different and I prefer it to oil stones with my Japanese blades. I'm willing to put up with the fuss and the mess of water stones for my favorite chisels.


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