Waterless or less water sharpening options
I’m looking for feedback as I explore an alternative sharpening method to my waterstones that I have relied upon for 30 years. The reason being is my current shop has no running water and I find waterstones to be a royal PIA without it, subsequently I find myself not sharpening as frequently as I should since its such a big production. As chance would have it a forum comment from a now forgotten member mentioned he used diamond stones because his shop was also water deprived and that got me thinking. What are the waterless or at least minimal water sharpening options out there?
Arkansas Stones but I always found the oils too messy and the stones too inconsistent.
Obviously diamond stones, but my experiences in the past were less than satisfactory although maybe the products are higher quality now than 25-30 years ago.
Shapton glass/ceramic stones which I’ve explored in the past but never took the plunge. They seem to have different lines and seem to be controversial.
The newest contender I stumbled upon yesterday a brand called Nano Hone which seem to be along the lines of the Shaptons. Has anyone used these? They look intriguing. They aren’t cheap so I don’t want to make a $1,000 mistake.
Anything I’m not thinking of?
I typically will hone my chisels and plane blades to an 8-10,000 grit final hone and don’t strop.
All feedback and comments are appreciated.
None of my shops have had water. I started with diamond stones and automotive glass cleaner as a lubricant. Like you I was dissatisfied with them and moved to water stones. With those I made it a habit of bringing a gallon of water with me, but found cleaning them to be an annoyance. I seemed to get water everywhere. I have now moved on to a Tormek. I keep a jug of water on hand and refill the reservoir when it is needed. I have found that I am not hesitant to sharpen. The strop has been very useful. I use it a lot to keep the edge honed while using chisels.
I know the Tormek has many devoted followers but I've always been reluctant to go that route, preferring a flat grind versus hollow, no good reason just a quirk of mine, and always fearful of removing too much metal. I do have a Veritas Mk.II power sharpener I use for heavy work, but prefer stones for my regular sharpening, but I'm looking at all my options so I will keep that in mind. Thanks for the reply.
Diamond stones were my first sharpening medium. I still have them and they still work - from 140 grit to do hand grinding through 600, 1200 to 10,000. Those are DMT and seem to have lasted well (13 years in an amateur's shed) although I suspect the grits are effectively rather finer now than their nominal values.
Recently I've begun to use 3M microgrit papers on float glass to make the final edges (micro-bevels). 9, 3 and 1 micron papers take very few rubbings to make a very sharp micro-bevel indeed. A final strop on leather or MDF charged with a very fine honing compound seems to work to ensure the sharpness; but, more to the point, to remake it a time or three between re-honings.
The only liquid I use is a can of WD40 or a Camellia oil spray. These make no significant mess when used sparingly; and can be wiped off the sharpening papers (or diamond stones) along with the grey metal residues with wood shavings and a last squirt of the WD or Camellia to thin any grey sludge.
The 3M papers do seem to provide a higher polish and scary sharp edge than even the well broken-in 10,000 DMT diamond stone. I don't know why.
The whole lot (diamond stones, float glass with 3M papers stuck on and various Veritas sharpening jigs) live on one small shelf in the tool cupboard. No bother to get out or put away. No mess. And frankly, I could do without the diamond stones now - even the 140 grinding item, as I bought a Sorby Proedge belt sharpener with various grades & types of belts, that can remake any bevel or edge in a couple of minutes, down to 5 microns. Final micro bevels with the 3M papers on glass take no time at all on to a main bevel polished on the machine to 5 microns.
Today I reground a rock 'ard 2 inch wide Mujingfang HSS plane blade from 25 degree bevel to 20 degree, with 3 micro-bevels of 25, 26 and 27 degrees, along with a teeny 5 degree back bevel finally honed on with the 3M on glass. (It was a Brent Beach experiment). The whole process took about 15 minutes, including a very slight camber. The only clean-up was with the hoover to collect the Sorby Proedge metal dust made when regrinding the main bevel from 25 to 20 degrees.
Sharpton glass stones are really just thin waterstones laminated to glass. You'll still need water.
I use DMT diamond stones, the 8×3 Dia-Sharp. I use a coarse if i want to regrind the primary bevel -- never the edge. Usually if I'm rehoning I use a fine, extra extra fine, and an ultrafine ceramic stone. Depending on what tool it is, sometimes I strip.
I don't use any water or other lubricant. The diamond stones just get brushed off. Every few months I bring the ceramic stone to the sink and give it a scrubbing.
This works great for me, and I can't contemplate changing ever again.
I'm aware the Shaptons take a small amount of water, but a simple spritz not a 15 minute soaking and the mess involved. I'm not sure I would agree they are the same make up as most waterstones though, being ceramic not natural sedimentary rocks, aluminum oxides or some other man-made abrasives in some binder. I've never used them, but some seem to love them others diss them.
Diamond stones just left a bad taste in my mouth long ago and I hesitate to invest in them again, but I may be persuaded.
Lat_axe, as usual your insight is always appreciated. A few years ago I did try the scary sharp method with the 3M films, with water as a lubricant, and struggled mightily. I think I was using the wrong spray adhesive which built up and was awful to remove from my granite slab, but my biggest problem was I seemed to be constantly cutting the 3M films and they are not cheap. Most of my sharpening is done using a Veritas Mk.II honing guide but it just wouldn't work for me despite the raves I kept reading on line. Maybe a different adhesive would help but I'm open to suggestions.
I have DMT stones, some of which I’ve had for 18 years, that are still in use. I have tried EZ-lap, Trend, and others. These all died a rapid natural death but my DMT is just keep on trucking. I use a spray bottle with mildly soapy water as a lube. Are use a shop sink to wash them off when I’m done. I suppose you could use a spray bottle of water for this purpose. Anything you use that’s going to remove metal is going to need some liquid to carry away the debris and something to allow them to be cleaned in someway.
I have gone back and forth for that reason too, no running water. After moving back to waterstone I bought the norton tackle box thing and it's made it all much better. I still finish on a shapton, but I just set it on top of the highest norton after working through the grits.
3M aluminium oxide abrasive sheets are made for lapping and for polishing. Both can be used for sharpening tool steels. As the steels get very hard, the AlO struggles a bit and silicon carbide becomes a better abrasive.
As far as I can see silicon carbide (wet & dry) sheets are always paper backed and without any included glue on their backs. You stick them on to glass or another flat surface by wetting them rather than gluing them. The water acts as a weak glue as well as a lubricant to the abrading process.
The paper is in some way waterproof but does have the reputation of being fragile if rubbed on too vigorous-like with a metal edge. Perhaps its this sort of paper you fell foul off when you tried the 3M methods? The general advice is to use only pull strokes, as it's the push with downward pressure that can bite into and tear the wet paper.
But personally I don't use any wet & dry sheets as the aluminium oxide sheets will cut even High Speed Steel eventually. It just takes twice as many rubs of the steel edge on the sheet. But still not many for a micro bevel. I don't know about rock 'ard Japanese steels in laminated blades though.....
So, I will recommend only 3M AlO-based lapping and microfinishing sheet abrasives, from my own experience. I would suggest avoiding wet & dry because of the ease with which it rips. (I briefly was-there, ripped that). Although if you're careful and use only the pullstrokes ........
3M AlO lapping film is backed with PSA (a thin plastic sheet) rather than with paper. It's very tough because of that. In addition, it comes with its own glue film, protected by a thin peel-off layer to protect the glue until you want to stick the sheet on some glass or granite. If you keep the glass/granite clean and free of bits, the 3M PSA-backed sheets will stick well with just a bit of careful placement. They also seem to pull off without too much bother if you want to replace or move them.
The microfinishing films are heavy-duty PSA backed and they too come with their own glue on the back, covered by a peel-off film.
The difference between lapping and microfinishing sheets (apart from the thickness of the PSA backing) is that the lapping papers come in finer grits. There is overlap between the two, though.
Lapping sheets go: 40, 30, 12, 5, 3, 1 microns. Microfinishing sheets go: 100, 50, 40, 30, 15 and 9 microns.
The sheets are 8.5" X 11". Each one can be cut into three long strips of a width good enough for the great majority of chisel and plane blade widths. The stuff seems to last a long time - at least for hobby use. I've been using the same 1/3rd strips on a float glass sheet now for some months and they still sharpen well, although the 1 micron strip has a few bald patches in it now. WD40 and Camellia oil don't seem to affect the glue backing through the AlO layer on top, so can be used as the lubricant and cleaner.
In Blighty, one sheet costs just under £4 (about $5). The unit cost is a bit less if you buy a mixed pack of, say, 10 grits. For professionals, that would probably be more than the equivalent on waterstones or diamonds over time, as they wore out the 3M sheets with lots of rubbing. But for hobbyists, a waterstone or diamond would last them a 100 years unless they were sharpening mad. :-) So 3M sheets would be a better bet. The initial outlay is certainly far, far less than with diamonds or waterstones.
You can buy float glass or granite sheets. But there's a lot of free glass and granite that's flat enough, in dumpsters or other waste heaps here and there.
PS Here's a sample of a pack sold in Blighty, with probably more grits than you'd ever need.
I have the Shapton Glass stones. I bought 320, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000, 6000, 8000 , 16000 and lapping stone. I sharpen pretty often and find that a 12 ounce spray bottle filled with water lasts about 2 weeks at my rate if usage. I really like them. You could definitely get by with a 1000, 4000, 8000 set up. Depending on how often you sharpen you may even be able to substitute the 1000 for a 2000. I rarely start below 2000.
I don’t think you want to go with the tormek. I have something similar I use to get my primary bevel but it is far from a well tuned edge.
The DMT diamond plates I purchased left far to rough of an edge. As far as I know I have the finest grit available.
You could use the DMT plates with diamond paste on a flat piece of maple, but you will be buying paste once a month.
I would suspect that using sheet abrasives would eventually cost you way more than a good set of Shaptons.
There are a ton of ways to get there! I prefer my Shaptons.
You feel: "I would suspect that using sheet abrasives would eventually cost you way more than a good set of Shaptons".
It would be an interesting exercise to compare the costs of the wear-parts of a sharpening system. Benchmarks would be needed, such as the amount of sharpening done per month and the associated rates of wear. Not easy benchmarks to establish, though, those......
There are procedures to minimise time and effort spent with sharpening. One easy method is not to sharpen so much - edge tools work a surprisingly long time in going from sharp to too-blunt with most furniture timbers. Of course, there are some timbers that are very wearing, notably those containing silicas.
Another is to use microbevels rather than re-doing the whole bevel every sharpening session. (Even today, there are woodworkers admitting to still doing this transformation of their blades to metal dust for no apparent reason other than some old bloke showed them how to do so in 1947).
The steel used also makes some significant difference. Some of the Far East high speed steels are remarkable in their edge-retaining abilities, for example - although not as quick and easy to sharpen as, say, O1, which is easy to sharpen albeit you need to do it more frequently. Some modern steels, as well as those that are tempered with esoteric processes, also last a long time - at the price of more sharpening effort when they need it.
Lately, we also have sharpening methods which seem to improve edge longevity - the unicorn being the current example.
All those factors must make a difference to the time and money spent on sharpening and its consumables.
But the biggest factor must be the rate of use of one's edge tools. Most hobbyists don't put even tens of hours sharpening per year into most of their edge tools, whereas a busy hand tooling professional will put in lots.
Finally, there's the issue of capital outlay. All those Shaptons you bought must have cost a pretty penny.
The papers will wear out ... eventually (but last far longer than you might assume). The Shaptons will last longer. When would the capital outlays of the two system be equal? I suspect in 100 years or more, for most hobbyists, rather than in a year or ten.
I've used the wet/dry sandpaper method for years and used everything from light oil to water as the lubricant....
I've tried other methods over the years, but always seemed to come back to this method. But, I've never made the commitment to full on water stones (natural or ceramic).
But, when I bought a Trend 300/1000 stone and a Shapton glass tone my world really changed. That 16k Shapton is wonderful! I use window cleaner as my lubricant as well. Cheap blue stuff works great.
There is a very good reason why sharpening media are not used dry. Something is needed to carry away the swarf, otherwise the stones gum up, or the swarf ends up impairing the honing process. I do not use even diamond stones dry.
If you want the oil stone equivalent of a waterstone, get Spyderco. These are ceramic stones which, even though Spyderco will state that they can be used dry, I spritz with a little soapy water. You only need two stones, the Medium and the Ultra Fine. They are very hard stones and will not wear much, if at all. The only downside is they only come in 2" x 8" plates. I have not needed to flatten mine in some years. Pair these with a 600 grit diamond stone for the primary bevel, and you are good to go.
Regards from Perth
Fill up a couple or three gallon water jugs and keep them in your shop. That should last a long time. Simple, works fine for me. I love water stones.
Derek, the Spyderco Ultrafine is available as a 3x8. It's the one I use. I'm not sure about the larger size on other grits.
I agree with you what there are many variables that need to be taken into consideration when comparing the cost of each system. As I said you definitely don’t need all of the stones I purchased.
I only do this as a hobby but I still sharpen pretty dang often as I work a lot with quarter sawn white oak. I have only tried a few systems that utilized consumable materials and they weren’t for me. It’s pretty frustrating to be in the middle of a project and realize you don’t have the materials needed to provide a quality edge. Shipping time and stock availability is a pain but I admit it can be managed by proper planning. As a weekend warrior I have to take advantage of every opportunity I get to be in the shop.
Your recommendation could be the best option out there. I honestly haven’t tried those particular sheet abrasives. As of right now the Shaptons are my preferred method. I am happy with my choice and until I have a reason to change things up I will stick with them.
Were some of those Shaptons to magically appear in my shed, I would be rubbing the blades on them within minutes! And I confess to having spent a significant amount on diamond stones and all sorts of other sharpening gubbins over the years. It's easy to take up sharpening as a hobby along with the woodwork. :-)
Just now I yam looking darkly at Derek Cohen and John_C2 for mentioning them Spydercos, as I've never tried them and they can't be on my list of banned sharpening gubbins, which ban-list is determined by either how much wet water is involved or by how much time is wasted holding a blade to a slowly turning wet wheel as it decides if it's going to sharpen your edge or just go mis-shapen ... again ... and so need even more time wasted with the truing thingy. Perhaps a Spyderco is what I've always "needed"?
But I digress.
I like the 3M papers because they're so quick - and able to produce a wonderful edge. I have a a single float glass sheet with 9, 5 and 1 micron on one side with 3 more coarse grits on t'other side. Between them they can rapidly bring an edge from not just gone-dull but also back from has-minor-damage. A squirt of Camellia oil or WD40 (whichever is nearest) to lubricate the sharpening and then to wipe off the grey metal grindings with some wood shavings.
No water is good, good, good.
A Sorby Proedge does any serious grinding, such as to make a new or differently-angled main bevel. It'll take 3M trizact belts of very fine grit that produce a workably sharp edge without any honing. A quick hone on the finer grits does improve such edges though. No lubrication needed for the Sorby belts, which can be cleaned with a rubber sanding belt de-dusting stick in 2 seconds.
Of course, that Sorby cost as much as a set of Shaptons - although the sharpening belts for it are just £3-5 each and last for ages.
One knows when the sharpening obsession has gone too far as when you add up the value of your WW tools the total is less than the value of your sharpening stuff! Also, you spent far too much time typing blather into a WW forum about sharpening and not nearly enough about making a wooden thing. :-)
I'm not that bad (oh no I'm not!) but I will confess to spending far too much time playing at sharpening this and that just for fun, not because they've gone blunt. How scary can you get a scary sharp edge? In truth, it's the wrong objective as what we really need to do is get the tool sharp enough to cut the joint or flatten the panel. Sharp will do, without the scary bit, in truth.
But who can resist that effortless production of curling ribbons of wafer-thin wood, eh? :-)
Lataxe, rambling-on before bed whilst supping the Horlicks.
Well said brother. The pursuit is as subjective as it is objective. There are innumerable ways to get there. Stick to one system until you get your desired results and then try another. You have me wanting to do a deep dive on the unicorn system. I have few cheap chisels that would provide a safe place fore me to experiment. Cheers!
To answer one of your questions: I have the Nano Hone stones. I love them. They are "splash and go," you spray a little water on top to carry away the swarf. That's it. The stones don't absorb the water like true water stones. I also have the Nano Hone lapping plate. These stones are similar in softness to water stones - you can scratch them.
The Nano Hone are similar to the Shapton, but they have a reusable aluminum baseplate instead of glass. The baseplates mount into a heavy and slip resistant base called the stone stage. I have really enjoyed this system. The stones go nowhere as I use them for either sharpening or lapping. The stone stage raises the stones a bit, a height that I have found very comfortable.
I purchased the 3 Stone Set with Holder bundle. This has the stone stage, the 35, 15, and 2 micron stones - roughtly equivalent to 400, 1000 and 6000 grit. I get a mirror polish off of the 2 micron stone. This has been all I have needed to get very sharp, but I am going to get the 1 micron stone soon. I had already purchased the larger brother of the NL-5 lapping plate (the NL-6, which isn't currently available).
If you are looking at the woodworkers complete set, but you already have a sharpening jig (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas, etc.) go for the set that I got. The sharpening pond is really nice, but these stones don't use the volume of water that true water stones use. I have not missed the pond, but it may be a later purchase. It is a nice thing to have and works as part of the system if you really want to control movement of the base and the water runoff from your stones. I have an old HDPE cutting board that I sharpen on, and I have never had a water flow problem using the Nano Hone stones.
Nano Hone's product quality and service are top notch. I have never regretted the appx $600+ US I have spent with them.
I can’t even imagine a shop with no water. Is it too hard to run a water line from the home?
How does that work?
Has anyone tried Arkansas stones with small drops of water? I started using them that way because at the time I didn't know you were supposed to use oil. I do that and use a Naguro stone to clean out the metal residue. It doesn't take long. Ok, I live in Arkansas and picked up the stones by a river rock bar. I sliced them with a tile cutting saw. I've used them for years and they are hardly worn at all.
I use 3M PSA Abrasive film on glass plates that have been laminated to MDF blocks. They're sized about 2 3/4" x 11". A couple drops of water from a squirt bottle is all that's required. Wipe them off with a cloth afterwards.
Yes it's a very big deal to add water to a shop building that doesn't have it. To do it you need a water supply line, and a drain line, which at the minimum must be below the frost line in my area that is 30" then you have to factor in slope since drain lines must run downhill and where you can tie into the houses drain system, if the shop is much below
where you can tie in you need to add a pump into the system, all of which can make it cost prohibitive and we haven't even talked about a hot water heater.
I use Arkansas stones since 1980 and have a pile of waterstones that collect dust under the workbench, a small can of honing oil per year cannot be called a mess, and the stones are true and predictable. I even have recently aquired a black Arkansas, its so scary sharp.
Gulfstar my comment regarding oilstones being messy wasn't so much regarding the stones themselves, but more the oily residue I feel on my hands afterwards which I worry about transferring to my projects and other things in the shop. I hate feeling oil and grease on my hands with no easy way to wash up when I'm working with wood.
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