Different Types of Sharpening Stones
As you may know already – sharpening stones are the perfect tool to get some edge to your knives. Without one of these, you may never be able to re-sharpen your kitchen blades and cutting will not be the most pleasant experience. So you may end up replacing the knives.
But you won’t have to do that. Instead, you can learn about the different types of sharpening stones and find the ideal one for your needs. Then, you can start sharpening your knives at home with little to no effort.
We’re going to explain all the different types available out there, classified by usage, by source, and by the material. If you want to know which one is better for you – then head-first and learn!
Types of Sharpening Stones by Usage
When we say sharpening stones by usage, we refer to how they’re used. And here you will find oil stones because you need to oil them up before using, water stones because you need to soak them in water beforehand, and diamond stones, which you can use dry or wet as required.
1) Oil Stones
The first type would be the oil stone. You can find them made with different materials, going from Aluminum Oxide to Silicone Carbide and the most popular one Novaculite or Arkansas Stones.
Oil stones are called this way because you need to lubricate them before using them with mineral oil. You can use standard mineral oil on them. Or instead, use sharpening stone oil – which is perfect for the job.
This happens because oil stones have coarse surfaces, so oil prevents the dust from getting stuck too much when you’re sharpening. And sure enough, it also reduces overall friction, so they last a long time.
But oil stones have a disadvantage: they’re super slow. When compared to other types, they stay behind in speed – mainly because you need to oil them up before and after usage.
Apart from that, the oil tends to be annoying to clean. So if you hate having to clean up a mess, then you will probably don’t like oil stones in the first place.
Luckily, oil stones are usually affordable. Even the most expensive oil stone is totally within most people’s wallet purchasing power.
2) Water Stones
Then you will find water stones. These stones usually come from Japan and refer to a type of stone that needs to get wet before it can be used for sharpening.
To use one of these the right way, it is necessary to soak them up about 40 minutes in water. This will get rid of air and any dust and/or debris. Then, they need some cleaning with water after being used.
Most water stones, however, are made of aluminum oxide. But this oxide is way softer than the standard, so the stones are usually easy to use and provide fast sharpening. And because they use water for the cleaning and preparation, they’re typically convenient
The drawback is that being so soft makes them more fragile. So they wear off faster than other types of stones. If you’re expecting a long-lasting sharpening stone – then this may not be your best choice.
You will find water stones to be decently priced. They are not the most affordable, but they aren’t too expensive, either. Some high-end versions can be costly, though. So, not all water stones are easy on the pocket.
3) Diamond Stones
The last type by use comes with encrusted diamonds. Yes, you read it correctly – these stones come with diamonds within the surface that help sharpen the knife fast and effectively.
Diamond stones are used either dry or wet. The dry method is perfect for fast sharpening when it is not necessary to get much from the knife. But when you want to get the best edge out of the blade, then wet is the ideal choice. The dry process gets dirty faster, so it’s better for quick jobs. Wet is a cleaner method.
You can find diamond stones with monocrystalline and polycrystalline diamonds. Yet, these diamonds are almost always from natural sources.
The advantage of using a diamond stone is the speed. It is not necessary to make too much effort when placing the blade over the stone to sharpen it up. And only a few sweeps over the stone are required to get enough sharpening.
Apart from that, diamond stones are long-lasting. Even the cheapest diamond stone can last twice as much as a high-end water stone. And that’s totally worth the initial price – as long as you can afford it.
Types of Sharpening Stones by Source
As you may know already, there are various types of stones available. But they come from different sources. Here, we explain these sources and how they differ in durability, speed, and effectiveness.
1) Natural Stones
Natural stones are all those that come from natural sources, of course. That means they haven’t been processed by humans apart from the cutting and polishing of the material.
There are various natural stones worth considering. The first one would be the Belgian Coticule. It is one of the most popular for its effectiveness and coarseness. There’s also the English Hardstone, a type of water stone as well.
Arkansas Stones are also water stones, usually made of Novaculite. These are mined in the mountains of Arkansas and are pretty popular.
The standard natural sharpening stone would be the Japanese Novaculite. However, these stones are not widely available like they once were because the Japanese mines where they were taken from, are closed. Yet, they’re also super practical.
What makes natural stones so enjoyable to use for sharpening is that they don’t have regular grit sizes. The surface is usually random, which means you won’t find fine or coarse stones from natural sources. This makes the whole sharpening process a lot easier and makes it last longer on the blade.
And what’s even better, these stones are natural stones that you use with water. So they’re also a piece of cake to get working.
2) Synthetic Stones
If the stone was produced or modified by humans, then it is a synthetic stone. These are the most common nowadays, and they’re usually cheaper than most natural stones (unless it is a diamond stone).
What makes these stones capable of sharpening blades is that they offer synthetic grits. These grits are specifically designed to fit different levels depending on the desired results. Some grits are coarse, others are fine. The coarse ones are perfect for getting rid of dullness, and the fine grits provide the edge.
Synthetic may vary on the type of use, in contrast with natural stones. They may require soaking before using, but they may also need some oil coat. It all depends on whether you want a synthetic water stone or an oil stone.
Then, you find diamond stones as the most expensive type of synthetics. These usually have an aluminum oxide body and several encrusted diamonds on the surface. This increases the overall effectiveness of the sharpening and delivers extra results.
Most synthetic stones are long-lasting, yet they may be slightly less effective than natural ones at sharpening.
Types of Sharpening Stones by Material
Now that you have a better idea of the kinds of stones available by usage and source, it is time to explain the different materials available. This will give you a better idea of what to go for eventually:
1) Aluminum Oxide
Aluminum oxide stones come from various sources and have different names. And you will also find them with a wide variety of grit levels – going from coarse to medium and the expensive fine ones.
The exciting part about aluminum oxide is that most stones are actually coarse. So, even the finest stones have a rougher surface than most.
You will find them as India Stones most of the time. They are the perfect option for coarse-sharpening, getting rid of the initial dullness on blades. Then, you can use something finer like a water stone.
Most aluminum oxide models are brown or orange. Some are gray. The main characteristic, however, is the need to pour oil before using it. That’s the only way to get them working correctly.
Overall, these stones are pretty useful and can handle coarse or fine grit depending on your needs. Yet, they’re somewhat tricky to use – but decently affordable.
2) Silicon Carbide
Another type of oil stone is Silicon Carbide. These are also called Crystolon stones. Years ago, they were usually called carborundum stones. Yet, the name changed when the major manufacturer started selling them as Crystolon or Silicone Carbide.
Today, you can find these stones with several grit levels. But they’re super coarse when compared to others, so they’re mostly useful for repairing and getting rid of initial dullness.
The coarseness happens because it uses a SiC compound that combines carbon and silicon. That makes it possible to achieve a maximum of 1000 grit size per stone. So they’re often coarse to medium level in grit – not ideal for providing super-sharp results.
As for color, you may find them in gray. Some models are green, and a few others black. Again, the central aspect that differentiates silicon carbide from other materials is the need of oil before using.
But Silicon Carbide stones are excellent for sharpening. They perform fast and deliver outstanding results. Because they don’t offer the highest grit level, you can also find them pretty cheap.
3) Novaculite Stones
The most popular natural stone nowadays is probably the Novaculite. They are also known as the Arkansas Stones because they come directly from mines in the Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas. And they’re still one of the best out there.
One of the main advantages of Arkansas Stones in contrast with others is that they provide exceptional results going from their coarsest to their finest versions. You can find grit sizes of all levels, depending on what you’re looking for.
Soft Arkansas, for example, provides between 400 to 600 grit levels. This is enough to get rid of the dull edges in knives, and still deliver decent sharpness. You may find it in a wide array of colors, going from white to gray, black, and even orange.
Hard Arkansas is slightly better, offering about 1000 of total grit size. This one is perfect for most knives, and it is usually decently cheap. A Hard Arkansas can be light orange, reddish, or with several mixed colors.
Then you can find the sharpest of the original versions, Black Arkansas. This is an extra-fine grit that provides 2000 in grit size. That’s enough to deliver super-sharp results with no issues. You may find it in either white, black, or blue and black.
Lastly, you have Translucent Arkansas and Hard Black Arkansas. Both are similar in grit sizes, offering between 3000 to 5000 grits. The difference is that the translucent type comes in white color with slight shades of pink. A Hard Black is typically light gray only. These fine grits are super expensive.
Coticule is yet another material used in sharpening stones. It is totally natural and comes from Belgium, specifical mines from the city of Vielsalm. These are water stones instead of oil stones.
You may find Coticule similar to silicon carbide. However, the primary material is silicon dioxide, which is usually called silica. This silica is typically called quartz, and it often contains about 40% of spessartine, a type of garnet. Garnet is one of the hardest minerals, which makes it ideal for sharpening knives.
Furthermore, you may find Coticule stones as Ardennes Coticule. This version is gray and sometimes white. The grit level can go anywhere from 1000 to 8000 in grit size. It is one of the most popular among knife-sharpening enthusiasts despite being one of the most expensive.
Then there are the Belgian Bluestones. These usually stay between 1000 and 4000 in grit size, so they’re not as fine as their Ardennes cousins. Yet, they’re amazingly affordable in comparison and still deliver top-notch results. You may find these in dark gray colors.
5) Ceramic Stones
The first replacement for natural stones ever created was ceramic stones. They are not the most popular nowadays, yet they work well enough despite wearing out super-fast.
These stones come with an extra-soft surface that doesn’t withstand sharpening much. But they still handle jobs well enough and provide excellent results over time.
You may find ceramic stones at different grit levels as well. Some are coarse, and others are fine. Commonly, though, they are fine. So you may find them offering 1000 grit size or more.
One of the unique features of ceramic stones is that they don’t work for all knives. Some knives will sharpen well, and others will not. This happens because ceramic stone surfaces are more porous than usual, so some types of steel may not sharpen too well with them.
Ceramic stones are still affordable and widely available. You need to soak them up in water several minutes before sharpening, so they’re somewhat inconvenient. But overall, they perform well – even when dry.
6) Diamond Stones
For those who want maximum sharpening results, then diamond stones will come as the best options. They provide the best sharpening capacity at a fast rate and with the highest durability.
These diamonds are created using a process called CVD or Chemical Vapor Deposition. This process involves hydrocarbon gas. The synthetic diamonds are created from the atoms in the gas, recreating the natural process that produces diamonds.
With the CVD process, you will find two types of diamonds: the Mono-Crystalline and the Poly-Crystalline.
As you may guess, the monocrystalline type uses one crystallite, so it uses only one crystal, which provides high durability and consistency.
A polycrystalline diamond uses several crystals instead, making it coarser. Yet, these diamonds help to provide excellent results and offer decent longevity to the stone.
These lab diamonds are the most durable in the market when compared to other materials. However, they also wear out over time and are extremely expensive in comparison. Sure enough, they offer different grit sizes, going from 300 up to 20,000 in some cases.
To use diamond stones, you need to apply water or lubricants. This way, the metal dust coming from the steel doesn’t stick to the surface and permits fast and effective sharpening.
7) Cubic Boron Nitride (CBN)
A cubic boron nitride stone is not as common as the diamond stones, yet they’re the same in terms of results – sometimes better.
BCN stone also uses artificially-grown crystals. These crystals use the same CVD process, but under higher pressure and higher temperatures than diamonds, so they end up being stronger. Yet, this process is usually way slower.
The hardness of a BCN-infused stone is the same as a diamond stone. And the results they offer are also pretty much the same. You may not tell the difference between a CBN-coated stone and a diamond stone after using it. Even their cost is similar.
Still, you may find BCN stones with different kinds of grits. That ensures proper usage no matter what you’re looking for.
And as the last feature to consider, BCN-infused stones are decently durable. Considering their hardness, they are usually slightly more long-lasting than standard diamond stones.
Pick the Ideal Type of Sharpening Stone Now
You don’t have an excuse not to pick a sharpening stone anymore.
If you’re looking to give some sharpness to your knives at home – then you’ll probably find the ideal choice in this article.
Make sure to follow the different types by usage, source, and material. Then you’ll have the perfect chance to get your knives sharpened at home. Don’t waste this chance!