A User’s Guide to Waterstones
There's no faster or more economical way to achieve razor-sharp tools
Synopsis: The more proficient you are at sharpening a blade, the more likely you are to keep your tools sharp. And sharp tools will help you raise the quality of your projects. In this article David Charlesworth shares his time-tested method for sharpening with waterstones.To get the most from waterstones, a disciplined approach to using, maintaining, and storing them is essential, and Charlesworth’s technique requires minimal effort.
From Fine Woodworking #169
Sharpness is a function of two polished surfaces meeting to form a cutting edge. The easier and quicker it is to polish these edges, the more likely you are to keep your tools sharp, and sharper tools will raise the quality of your woodworking projects.
My preferred method of sharpening is to use Japanese synthetic waterstones, and I recommend them to my students. They cut faster and give a better edge than most other sharpening systems. The grit size of an 8,000-grit stone is about 3 microns, meaning that scratches left by it may be no more than 1.5 microns deep. This is a much better polish than you get with alternatives such as translucent Arkansas, ceramic, or diamond stones.
The cost of a set of synthetic stones is less than that of most other sharpening systems. A basic set of stones—800 grit, 1,200 grit, and 6,000 grit with a Nagura honing stone—costs around $75. Substitute an 8,000-grit stone for a slightly finer polish, and the cost is still well under $100.
To get the best from these stones, a disciplined approach to both using and maintaining them is essential. I have developed a time-tested method for sharpening that requires minimal effort.
I store the coarser 800-grit and 1,200-grit stones on their sides in plastic trays of shallow water. A dash of household bleach can be added to the water to slow down…