2. Oil Sharpening Stones for Sharpening Woodworking Hand Tools:
Oil sharpening stones are natural stones that are quarried and cut to size. Oil stones are convenient because they can be used right on your workbench without water. They also don’t need to be flattened very often, as they are a harder media than waterstones. However, this hardness means that the media doesn’t break down as easily, and doesn’t cut the metal as quickly as waterstones. I also find that waterstones get a sharper edge than oil stones. There are tradeoffs with every type of honing stone. That’s why I own both waterstones and oil stones.
The most common types of oil stones are India Oil Stones and Arkansas Oil Stones. After talking extensively with oil stone experts, I can recommend Arkansas stones as the most durable oil sharpening stones, which will give you the best, and sharpest results among oil stones. Arkansas stones usually progress like this in grit: Soft Arkansas stone > Hard Arkansas Stone > Black Surgical Arkansas Stone > Translucent Arkansas Stone.
But contrary to what some people may say, you don’t need the very expensive “translucent” stone. This will save you some good money right here. The grit difference between the black surgical stone and translucent stone isn’t really noticeable. I spoke with an Arkansas stone manufacture, and asked him about translucent Arkansas honing stones. He said that translucent stones won’t give a noticeably sharper edge than the black Arkansas stones. The fragile translucent stones are so expensive because they are difficult to find in large pieces in the quarries, not because they are so much more useful. So I recommend a three oil stone kit in the 8-inch x 3-inch size: (a) Soft Arkansas (courser grit), (b) Hard Arkansas (medium grit), and (c) Black Arkansas (fine grit). Here are the oil stones that I own, from the Best Sharpening Stones company. Moving through these three grits will give you a nice edge for your chisels and handplanes.
I chose this particular set because the stones are wide enough (3-inches) to accommodate handplane irons and long enough (8-inches) to give a decent stroke. Natural oil sharpening stones wear down much slower than the synthetic waterstones, so a thinner stone like these (1/2-inch thick) will still last you for many years. And you also won’t have to flatten these stones after each use, like you should with waterstones. Regarding Arkansas stones, the manufacture told me: “You can do about 20 times more sharpening before flattening compared to Norton water stones, about 15 times more compared to Shapton and 30 times more than water stones from China.” And he also sells Norton water stones. You can compare oil sharpening stones at these stores:
And this is what I consider to be the best honing oil to be used on oil sharpening stones.