Fair Woodworking

January 5, 2012

How do you flatten your stones?

Who hasn’t either seen this question or posted this question on a woodworking forum?

Most answers involve 1 of 3 methods.
1. Sandpaper or silica on a flat surface
2. Norton Truing stone
3. Some kind of diamond stone

If you have seen any other answer, there is a good chance it was me who replied. The method that I use is not unknown in sharpening circles, although for some reason it is not taken seriously.

I have a very special rule when getting tips from others. If they say that their way is the “best” or “only acceptable” way to do something, I shouldn’t take their tip too seriously. So I’m not going to say that my way is the best (although I am thinking it) because with all the complaints and questions about the topic I think a lot of people could benefit from this very simple system.

Every system has its pro’s and con’s, so let’s have a look at them.

1. Sand paper or silica on a flat surface.
This was my first system. It seemed like a no brainer for a beginner with its low start up costs, and sandpaper is easy to find at any store. BUT, sandpaper is an ongoing cost that even with the cheap stuff (that is almost useless), will quickly add up.

Sand paper also tends to lift (like it’s doing the wave) as you move the stone causing the edges of the stone to round. Years later some of my stones are still rounded some on the edges.

But the biggest issue I found was in trying to hunt down an acceptably flat surface to place your sandpaper on. You can try your luck on your kitchen counter top, but trust me, it’s not flat. The top of my table saw looked promising, but it’s got a small hump in the middle. Bought a glass lapping plate from a well known tool store, but found that it was both bowed, and rather flexible (2 very bad qualities). You could buy a granite reference plate, at least it’s going to be pretty darned flat, but not perfect (whatever that means). The thing is that you are still shelling out more coin over and above the sand paper. That = good money after bad.

2. Norton Truing stone. Warning! Warning! – Uncontrolled Rant to begin in 3. 2. 1. 0!!!
I have to be honest here… The first time I saw this product I thought it was one of Lee Valley’s April Fools jokes.
Talk about your oxymoron! Right up there with Crash Landing, and Intelligence Agency. So I just have to ask, “Assuming this hunk of silicon carbide in a durable hard resin is actually flat. After using it to flatten your stones, it’s not going to be flat anymore… How do you flatten your truing stone?”

OK, rant over. Forgive me if you are a believer?

3. Some kind of Diamond stone.
I’ve never used a Diamond stone to flatten my stones. The main reason is that they are CRAZY EXPENSIVE!!!

I came very close to buying one once, but in a fit of thriftiness, I chose my current system.

Soooooooo, what is this system?

I’d tell you now, but I’m getting Typer’s Cramp.

And we still need to find a way to confirm that said stones are flat when we are done “flattening” them.

…and that’s got Monday written all over it.

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