Guide to Honing and Sharpening
the United States, three sharpening technologies seem to be the
most popular with two other technologies waiting in the wings.
The Scary Sharp System
the past decade abrasive companies have been introducing abrasive
paper in fine and finer grits. Originally intended for the jewelry
industry, grits up to 8000, allow a jeweler to sand progressively
finer until polished. Woodworkers have adapted these abrasive sheets
to substitue as single-use stones. One glues a sheet of paper onto
a flat surface and then sharpens until the paper wears out. This is
an excellent way for a beginner to sharpen without the initial expense
of a quality superfine water or Arkansas stone. It gives tremendous
flexibility in grit and allows for very wide abrasive surfaces. The
downside is of course the time and expense of replacing the paper.
most important introduction has been stones made from industrial diamonds.
Diamond powder is bonded to either a steel or plastic substrate. In
use the stones are lubricated with water. In their coarser grits diamond
stones are great for flattening the backs of edge tools and or helping
maintain the flatness of water stones. Stones in finer grits are becoming
available and some people like how fast they cut. Super-fine diamond
stones for finish honing are not available but some people are using
diamond paste for this purpose.
Hard ceramic stones
manufacturers have begun to introduce hard ceramic stones into the
market. The stones are made of the same aluminum oxide used to make
Japanese waterstones but the material is bonded together into a hard
mass. The stones use water not oil. Initial reports are very good
and this is an area to watch.
Note on Modern Steels
the past two centuries the best steels for woodworking in the West
were made from what was called "Cast Steel". This process became
extinct around the Second World War and various alloy steels came
in vogue. Recently toolmakers have been experimenting with fairly
complex alloys, the most popular called "A2" steel. These steels
have a common trait of being able to hold a very fine edge but also
retain toughness against wear - so the blade lasts longer between
sharpenings. Some experts believe that A2 steel, due to its crystaline
structure is incapable of being sharpened as finely as older steels
but the new alloys have become very popular. Sharpening them takes
slightly longer and the harder abrasives of waterstones are an advantage.
However, Arkansas stones still work well, but a bit more slowly
and of course have the feature of remaining flat.