Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 5, Issue 4
   March 2011
   Testing Sharpening Stones

The increasing use of tough, modern steel alloys in edge-tool manufacture has, not surprisingly, resulted in recent developments in the manufacture of water stones used to sharpen them. We tested some of these newer stones, specifically the Bester/Imanishi and the Sigma Power Select II, comparing them with each other and with widely used King and Norton stones.

  Honing guide
  Honing guide retrofitted with a 4 lb weight for consistent pressure
For an even comparison, different users performed two rounds of testing on 1000x stones. We selected 1000x for two reasons – it's common to virtually every line of stones and it's a medium grade used to grind back to a primary bevel before honing with a finishing stone.

We performed additional testing at other grits. To reduce subjectivity, we outfitted honing guides with a 4 lb weight to provide consistent pressure; lapped all stones on a 120 micron diamond plate prior to each test; and used only blades from the same manufacturing batch.

Immersion Time: The total elapsed time from immersion of the completely dry stone in water until the submerged stone stopped producing air bubbles.

  Blade showing diagonal scratch pattern
  Initial preparation of an A2 blade on a 220x Norton stone
Cutting Speed: The number of back-and-forth strokes required to remove the scratch pattern produced by 30 strokes with a Norton 220x stone on 2-1/4" wide blades at a 35° bevel angle. The final 10 strokes on the Norton stone were done obliquely to better contrast with the scratch pattern from the 1000x.
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