Types of sharpening stones

There is a multitude of different sharpening devices and handheld sharpeners. The subject of sharpeners can be a quite daunting one as there are so many to choose from. It is not only the form factor that they take but also the material that they are made from.

The most traditional oil stones are natural stones made from Novaculite. These natural stones are quarried in Arkansas and processed to make what we call Arkansas Stones.


  1. Novaculite is a traditional oil stone. Quarried in Arkansas these stones have been a staplemate for generations.
  2. Aluminum Oxide is the most popular commercially available oil stone. If you are after a fast cutting oilstone then the popular Norton India Stone has to be your first choice. Available in fine medium and course and reversible. 
  3. Silicon Carbide is the fastest of all oil stones and made by Norton Crystolon stones. The silicon Carbide oil stone is ideal for use on site due to it’s speed and durability.

Water Stone

  1. Aluminum Oxide is athe most poopular choice for the contruction of water stones.
  2. Natural stone is the traditionalists choice. The problem with natural stone is the fact that the stone tends to be soft so durability is an issue. Natural waterstones is the purists choice.

Diamond Sharpeners

  1. DMT os the most popular manufacturer of industrial diamond sharpeners.
  2. Budget Diamond Sharpeners are becoming very common and available on Amazon or can be found within the Ebay bids or buy it now. These cheap diamond impregnated steel sharpeners may be cheap but frankly with modern chinese manufacturing are quite surprising.

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What are sharpeners made from?dollar store diamond sharpener compared to DMT diamond sharpener

there are so many materials which are used to create a sharpener some are better than others. Whether you’ve got a traditional carborundum stone or a silicon carbide or a natural water stone or even these New diamond sharpeners. They all have a specific task they have to perform. the mentioned are all hard surfaces for the purpose of sharpening. 

Are sandpaper sharpening systems any good?

There are other solutions such as sandpaper sharpening systems whether in the form of a machine or a jig. These sandpaper sharpeners are great for sharpening flat blades such as a plane iron all the knives in an electric planer.

Is there one universal sharpening tool?

In my opinion, there is not. I personally prefer to have a different sharpening device for each stage of the sharpening process. This can be in the simple form of having identical sharpening stones or a reversible sharpening stone such as the Norton India double-sided oil stone.

Sharpener Lubricants

When two hard materials rub against each other they cause friction and heat. When sharpening hand planes or chisels the same two can happen. To prevent this we use a lubricant. Lubricant serves two main purposes what is to lubricate the blade against the sharpener and keep the sharpener clean. 

You could say the lubricant will help cool the edge of the blade but this is only necessary when machine sharpening. If your hand sharpener it is unlikely you will overheat the Sharp edge of your tool.

Oilstone lubricant

0il stone requires a lubricant. This lubricant will help keep the oil stone free from the metal grinding during the sharpening process. It will also aid in the movement of the blade across the oil stone. There are many options for a lubricant for use with an oil stone. The oil stone that I refer to would be a Norton India oil stone. you could just use a simple thin oil such as 3 and 1 or a sharpening purpose designed oil.

I make my own oil stone lubricant

I often mix my own sharpening oil. To do this I just use any clean engine oil and dilute it with a white spirit or turpentine. The purpose of the spirit is to make the oil thinner so it can facilitate the blade to move over the stone freely. The lubrication of the oil stone also carries the fine metal fragments from the oil stone surface. The lubricant also slows the wear of the oil stone. If you did not use I sharpening lubricant they all stone would become clogged and less abrasive. 

Does the oil matter on an oilstone?

The grade or the viscosity of the oil is important. I have used a variety of different oils including cooking oil when desperate. In my opinion of thin oil similar to a machine, oil works best. Engine oil tends to be too thick. Thick oil causes too much resistance when sharpening by hand or with a jig. I often mix my own sharpening oil using engine oil with a little bit of white spirit. Remember the oil quality will not cause any issues during the sharpening process. 

Can I use old oil for sharpening?

Dirty engine oil mixed with a bit of white spirit is a bad idea. Because the metal fragments or carbon from the engine that is left in the oil will make a hell of a mess. this will stain you and your wooden handles on your tools. 

The dirt in the oil will also clog a traditional oil stone making it less effective.

Diamond sharpeners also require a lubricant

Diamond sharpeners just like all stones require some form of lubricant. This lubricant also carries the final metal sharpening grindings away from the diamond sharpener.

Which lubricant should I use for a diamond sharpener?

lubricant for sharpening

Water is often the first port of call but there are other options. Windex which is a window cleaning solution or Windolene if in the UK is a good lubricant. The benefit of Windex is that the viscosity is better and the surface tension is reduced. When you use Windex or Windolene the globules of liquid are more even efficiently covering the diamond sharpener. The lubricant is more slippy too.

There is a proprietary lubricant for diamond sharpeners such as Krud Kutter. It is a good product and probably the best lubricant you could use but personally I prefer to use what I have available. Windex is available in any store and you can clean your Windows afterwards!

Which lubricant should I use with sandpaper?

when using wet and dry sandpaper for sharpening you will still need a lubricant. you made this I just use water just a small amount during the process of sharpening. Personally, I prefer to use the same lubricant that I use for my diamond sharpeners. 

Can I just use water for sharpening?

yes, you can use water on its own for sharpening on a diamond or wet and dry sandpaper. The only problem that I have encountered is that the surface tension of water. This prevents the metal grindings from being clean the way as effectively as Windex or water with a drop of washing up liquid. 

When using water for sharpening will my tools rust?

The short answer to this is yes because water will corrode Steel. The trick is to make sure that you dry your tools once you are finished sharpening.

Can I use any sharpener with any tool?

The quick answer to this is no. You cannot use any sharpener with any tool. Is true that some sharpeners will sharpen most tools but not all. For instance tools with high tungsten contents such as tungsten carbide is way too hard for traditional oil stones. 

What sharpener do I need for tungsten carbide?

Tungsten carbide can be sharpened with a specific sharpener designed for the sharpening of tungsten carbide. 

How do I sharpen masonry drill bits?

A bench grinder with a green wheel is designed for sharpening or grinding of tungsten carbide. This grinding wheel is ideal for sharpening masonry drill bits or other tools made of tungsten carbide. Another good sharpener for tungsten carbide is a good quality diamond sharpener.

What is the most universal sharpening tool?

For me, the clear winner has to be a diamond sharpener. Which one will depend on what you wish to sharpen with it? If you want to sharpen a plane blade then a simple block diamond sharpener will suffice. but for instance, if you want to sharpen a router bit a credit card diamond sharpener is also very useful. If sharpening a gauge chisel then the clear winner there would have to be around diamond sharpener such a pocket sharpener. So the answer to that question would be yes the diamond sharpener is the most versatile but you may need different shaped sharpeners for different tools. 

If I could only buy one sharpener which one would it be?

This is a difficult question for me because I have a personal preference using India oil stones. But frankly 

By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989 

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Malcolm the Boat ‘RIP’

 Woodworking for me is in my blood as a son of a traditional boatbuilder. My Father Malcolm Kett was highly skilled and inventive individual often referred to as ‘Malcolm The Boat’. 

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Marcus Kett and my Mortar!

Although I have spent a considerable portion of my life seeking further education and gaining qualifications in woodworking, electrical installations, bricklaying and to top it a degree in photography.

Yes, it is a medley of possible career choices but the one that I felt truly at home with was Woodworking. Woodworking has been my staple career choice that has given my family stability.

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Well that’s Me

We started to write these guides to help our customers. The idea was to provide the information needed to install our made to measure wooden products that we sell on this website and directly to our local customers.

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About Wallybois

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We have lived and worked here in the Limousin Nouvelle Aquitaine since 2010, building window shutters and external doors. Our Volet manufacturing business is based at our home property as a ‘Cottage Industry’. We are a small business operating partly (60%) off the grid and try our best to practice our woodworking ethically.

How did we come up with the trading name ‘Wallybois’ ? Well it is simple really, my best buddy ‘Wally’ and the fact that ‘Bois’ is French for wood and we live in France.

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By Marcus Kett, Woodworking since 1989

Based in the Nouvelle Aquitaine of France

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