Arkansas whetstones can be used with honing oil or Just water during the sharpening process
Arkansas stones are also called oil stones. This simply means they can be used with oil as the lubricating ‘liquid’ (but not any oil will do).
You can use whetstone honing oil, or if no honing is available a high grade (food grade) refined mineral oil can be used for lubrication (do not use heavy oils, motor oils or vegetable oils on these stones as they can cause clogging or go rancid overtime).
The oil will not only provide lubrication, but will also help to suspend the metal particles removed during the sharpening process, reducing clogging (swarf build-up) on the Arkansas whetstone surface.
When the sharpening process is done, add a few more drops of oil over the stones surface and wipe with a clean cloth. This will help to remove most of those metal particles and remove any excess oil.
Overtime – if overtime you wish to clean the oil stone surface further, you can use soapy water/detergent and a brush to clean, rinse with water when done, dry.
Please Note: If you do use oil as the lubricating liquid, you will have turned that Arkansas stone into an oil stone (not water stone). It will be an oil-stone from that point on (oil can be the messier way), so choose carefully.
Water or Oil? Any Benefits?
There is no real benefit to using oil over water in my opinion (or vice versa) on Arkansas stones.
Traditionally the Arkansas stones were called ‘oil stones’ but they do not have to be used this way (it is more a case of they can be used with oil – but they don’t have to be. Most whetstones cannot, so it just makes them a more versatile stone for those who may want the option).
I personally prefer using water during the process (water also helps to wash away the swarf while sharpening) simply because it is a less messy solution and when the sharpening is done the stones can be dried without the worry of oiliness. The fact is, the end result depends on the technique – very little is based on the lubrication method. So the option is yours. If you decide water is not for you, you can then go to oil (you cannot go back however).
If you do choose to use water for lubrication, like any whetstone used with water, swarf (metal particles) can begin to build up on the Arkansas stone surface. This is a normal and expected result, not a fault of the stone. This does not happen as quickly when using oil, which gives oil that benefit (but all stones regardless of lubrication method will eventually show this buildup to some degree depending on your routine).
If you find your Arkansas whetstone surface getting this swarf build-up overtime it is possible to remove some of the swarf with soapy water/detergent and a brush alone (as described above for the oil stones), but you may find the surface needs the following process for the better result if the brush and soapy water aren’t giving you the desired result:
- Lots of water and approximate 220 grit wet/dry sandpaper (you may need to experiment higher or lower to which is best for your specific stone), which has been placed on a flat/level surface. Placing the sandpaper on a level/ flat surface will ensure the whetstone also remains level during this process and will help to stop any unevenness forming.
Rub the Arkansas stone surface over the wet sandpaper (alternate between up and down, diagonal and side to side) until the swarf is removed. You continue to add water throughout this procedure to keep the stone and sandpaper clear.
When this process is complete, you can use water (or soapy water) to wash the stone clean one last time.
Using this method should give you a swarf free surface now ready to use for sharpening again.
Remember to always ensure the whetstone is completely dry before storing in the custom wooden box. The wooden box itself is not waterproof.
This same process can be used for lapping/flattening the Arkansas stone if/when it begins to dish/wear (gets uneven) to bring it back to level (removes the concave areas); or to simply re-freshen the surface if it begins to polish/glass over from normal use (the surface can begin to loose its grit like any stone can).
Arkansas stones are very dense (especially the surgical black and translucent) so this process may take a little time so be patient and use plenty of water throughout. Luckily they dish very slowly and this process will be few and far between for general average use of the stones.
Disclaimer: This guide is based on my experience and use of Arkansas stones only, it does not guarantee or imply perfect results. There is more than one way to maintain and clean these stones, these are just the ways I use and find effective, and have listed for Customers as a basic guide. If you have purchased Arkansas stones from this store and have any questions or concerns on the use or care of these stones please email me.