Oil Stones

A brief overview of some of the more common oil stones being used today... as a preface to the sharpening gouges article.

Some additional references:  The Museum of Woodworking Tools has an excellent Guide to Honing and Sharpening available on their web site.  Much of the information below is similar to what you will find there, with the only real difference being that I am sharpening a gouge, rather than a chisel.  Also, the Norton Abrasives company has a consumer web site available that addresses many questions.


Tools Needed

Of course, and as always, there's a lengthy stretch of reading before you get to the good stuff - but it's important!  If you want to skip this part and go directly to the sharpening the gouge section, click HERE.

The sharpening tools I will be using include (starting from just left of the chisels and going clockwise) a hard arkansas oil stone (ultra fine), a medium India stone, a Tormek, a soft arkansas set of slip stones, a hard arkansas set of slip stones, and a medium India slip stone.  

This is exciting for me - these are new, high quality stones recently purchased after having saved my money for a good long while.  I used to have a similar setup, but those stones were destroyed beyond recognition during a move about 10 years ago, and since then I've been using sandpaper and inexpensive water stones, all the time saving up for a new set of oil stones.  A couple nights of using these reminded me why I was so fond of my old setup.   All of the oil stones pictured were purchased and are available from Tools for Working Wood, for whom I have nothing but high praise.


Rough Grinding - Grinders and Sanders

Depending on what shape the gouge is in, it might be easiest (though certainly not necessary) to use a powered grinder of some sort to re-establish the bevel on the gouge.  Higher end versions of these tools include the Mark II sharpening system available through Lee Valley, or the Tormek sharpening system.  Mid priced versions include the 2 wet grinders used by Delta, model numbers 23-710 and 23-700.   Lower end versions can be anything from a 1" belt sander to a cheap grinder - It's not too important what type of grinder;  it can be a belt sander, a regular 6" grinder, a $40 cheapie - really, all it has to do is move something abrasive that you can grind or sand metal with.

I use a Tormek wet grinder in this example; before I bought that, my favorite method was using a 3"x24" Craftsman belt sander I happen to own.  I made a jig out of some scrap pine to hold it in place upside down on my bench, which also allowed me to run a bar over the sanding belt that I could register the tools I was sharpening against.  To tell the truth, it was just about as effective, though the wet stone the Tormek has helps to keep the tool cool while grinding.

That's important to know when grinding the edge of a tool - don't let the steel overheat as you grind it, which could result in it losing its temper.  Temper refers the hardness of the steel in the tool - this hardness is achieved through a sequence of heating and cooling metal in a specific way, and mucking about and overheating the steel using a grinder and the steel can lose it's ability to hold an edge.  It becomes either brittle or soft, and will no longer function adequately for your needs.  If you aren't using a water cooled grinder, have a container of water near your grinder that you can dunk the tool in frequently to keep it cool.  


Why Oil Stones?

I should mention that while I am using oil stones, there are other methods that can be just as effective.  Sandpaper on glass (aka Scary Sharp) or water stones can also be used to achieve the same goals - my preference, especially for gouges and curved edges, is to use oil stones. Why?

  • I tired of the expense of sandpaper.  Not that it was a great deal, mind you - but the bi-monthly $5 or $10 trip to the hardware store adds up in both dollars and inconvenience.
  • I always seem to rip sandpaper when sharpening a gouge on it.
  • The water stones I've had experience with need flattening too often when sharpening curved tools.  It's not a big issue with flat chisels and plane blades, but with gouges I always either hollowed them out too quickly or accidentally scratched the surface with the gouge.  Good oil stones aren't as susceptible to this kind of damage, and good ones can stay dead flat for years...

I could go into diamond, water, or ceramic stones - there are fine examples of each.  But I was trained using oil stones, and I find I am most comfortable with them - and I think that is what could be the most important issue for the sharpener - confidence in the method chosen.

The big trick is to figure out which method works best for you, and stick with it.  Remember that in the end it comes down to personal preference, and your experience may differ from mine.  Also remember that you don't need to spend a great deal of money to have sharp tools - but you can't skimp, either.  You need to have a way to re-grind a bevel, and you need to have a good method of refining and polishing it as well.


Types of Oil Stones

 There are 4 types of stones a woodworker should be aware of.  Crystolon (aka Carborundum), India, Soft Arkansas, and Hard Arkansas.  I will try and go through each of these types below, and hit the high points of each.  I will use Norton trade names, as they are the ones I am most familiar with - there may be others out there, but Norton has garnered a great deal of confidence in me, has been in the business for a very long time, and is as close to setting the "standard" in these matters as anyone.


A Note on Arkansas and Natural Stones.  Because they are a natural product, the quality of arkansas stones (hard or soft) can vary greatly, even within a single stone.  For example, one of my old stones had a real soft spot in one corner that wore down faster than the rest of the stone, but also cut faster... It is a case where it can honestly be said that when buying new, you get what you pay for.  I have noticed a great deal of difference between the different grades of stones, with some that simply wouldn't cut worth squat.  It should also be noted that the quantity of remaining high quality arkansas stone is finite, and dwindling - which also serves to drive the price on some of the more premium stones.


Coarse Stones

Crystolon/Carborundum Stones.  If you don't have a powered grinder, not to worry - a coarse Crystolon stone removes metal quickly - more quickly than you might realize, using proper techniques.  Crystolon stones are the dark gray colored manmade stones you see so often at the hardware store.  They do wear over time, but are excellent stones for coarse work.  I'm not as sold on the finer versions of this particular type of stone, and if you have a grinder, you might find having a coarse stone unnecessary.  I have an old Crystolon combination stone that was broken in half that I use now for stoning saws, and for mundane tasks such as lawn mower blades and axes - but I prefer to use a grinder or belt sander for the coarse work on most of my hand tools, its much quicker.

I can think of one very special use for a Crystolon stone:  I have a couple incannel (bevel on the inside curve) patternmakers gouges that are almost sharp enough to cut butter, and a Crystolon slip stone would make reshaping the bevel much easier.  Of course, I might also use some sandpaper on a dowel, as re-shaping incannel gouges isn't going to be an every day occurrence for me.

However - if you are going for a completely electron free method of sharpening, a coarse Crystolon stone is a great addition to your arsenal.  They are economical, easy to find, and handy to have around.  Crystolon stones are a good option if you need a fast cutting stone.

India Stones are also available in a coarse grit, but I don't seem to see them as often - it may be just my experience, or maybe they just aren't big sellers.  If I was to choose between an India stone and a Crystolon stone, I would choose the India personally - unless the only requirement was they be fast cutting.  They leave a finer edge, stay flatter longer...  all in all, a good, all purpose stone.

There is some confusion about the differences between Carborundum, Crystolon, and India stones...  They are all manmade stones - Crystolon is a brand name  Norton uses for their Carborundum stones, so those two are the same - a silicon carbide.  The red India stones are aluminum oxide, so are different - and the term  "India" stone is a trademark of Norton's as well.  I have read that some of the earlier version of Carborundum were, or were considered to be, India stones.  That is not the case now and may be a source of some of the confusion between them.

Medium Grit Stones

India Stones.  Today's India stones are great general purpose stones, period.  They are made much better today than the ones my dad had when I was growing up.  Properly cared for, they also have the added benefit of being long lasting as well as being economical.  India stones come in three easy to remember grits - coarse, medium, and fine, though most of what you will find will be of the medium or fine varieties.  India stones come presoaked with oil from the factory, so soaking them is not necessary - a few drops of honing oil will suffice.  A medium India stone will do minor re-shaping of the bevel, as when it's angle has blunted itself over time as a result of many repeated honings using a finer stone.  They also stay flat longer than most other stones.

"Lily White" Washita Stones.  A Washita stone is just variety of a soft arkansas stone, but I want to make a separate case for this particular variety here.  I used to have a Lily White Washita soft arkansas stone, and it worked well - that is to say it cut fast and left a fine edge - but did dish a bit over time.  I find India stones cut very close to as fast as the old Washita, and are cheaper.  However, there are some that prefer the old Washita stones, and with good reason - they are very fast cutting and leave a fine edge - I remember using only the Washita stone, even for a final finish just short of stropping - and being very satisfied with the results.  Sharpening past this stage is often only necessary for the finest chisel work, and let's admit it - not all of the work we are all doing is all that.  If I could have only one bench stone - it would be a Lily White Washita.

Joel from Tools for Working Wood has informed me that the original old style Norton Lily White Washita stones are available again ...  That's good to know.  I absolutely loved my old one...  Now to save up for one!
  UPDATE:  The Lily Whites are no longer available.  I was able to snag one, thankfully!

No. 1 Washita Stones.  The #1 Washita is a less expensive Washita stone that was a popular stone for carpenters because of it's relatively low cost.  While it cuts more slowly than a Lily White, it is a better quality stone than many other soft arkansas stones.  In grit, it's somewhere between a medium India and a translucent arkansas - somewhere in the 600-800 grit range would be my best guess.  Some use it as a step between the two stones...

Soft Arkansas Stones.  Other soft arkansas stones are generally a little finer cutting than a Lily White, will probably wear faster, and cut a bit slower.  These are by far the most common arkansas stones on the market, and is sold at prices and qualities that range a great deal.  Most modern soft arkansas stones are of fair quality, and as long as they are kept reasonably clean will perform well - if you get a good one.  There are some lemons out there - so the buyer must beware and buy only from a reputable source.  The low quality soft arkansas stones are probably many people's first experience with oil stones, and a big reason why they are turned off by them afterwards.  There's little more frustrating than using a poor stone.

It's recommended by manufacturers that new soft arkansas stones be soaked in oil for a couple days when you first get them, to let the oil soak into the stone without bringing metal with it to clog the pores.  Then you can use them as you would normally.  If you don't pre-oil the stones, the oil you use to sharpen with will soak into the stone bringing those metal filings with it, clogging the stone - reducing it's effectiveness.


Fine Grit Stones

There are different varieties of Hard Arkansas Stones, including  White, Black, and Translucent White.  Color is not always a constant, either, so the term "White" or "Black" might be a bit of a misnomer, though the black arkansas stone is generally darker.   Colors can range from white, to gray, to black - even pink.

Hard arkansas stone do not require pre-oiling like soft arkansas stones - they are too fine for oil to soak into - so you can start using them right out of the box.

White Arkansas Stones.  These are the Fine or Extra  fine grade stones, and are the most common of the hard variety and are used for polishing.  These are the most economical of the hard stones, and do wear more than the harder varieties below.  They make for a good economical stone when used in unison with an India or Soft Arkansas stone and a strop...  or for use as a lower cost stone as a step between an India or Washita stone and a translucent or black stone.

Black and Translucent White Arkansas Stones.  Ultra-fine stones - used expressly for polishing the edges of cutting tools.  I don't know if there is any real noticeable difference between the Black and Translucent White stones - it may be mostly marketing, or it may be there is a noticeable difference.  I've not tried the Black enough to know if there is one, but Norton themselves equate the relevant grits as approximately equal, as attested to in the table below, which was gleaned mostly from their information.  The black is usually more expensive, and considered rarer, if that means anything.  In any case, I don't think you can go wrong by getting either variety.  


Going Beyond the Arkansas'

I personally chose the translucent white, ultra-fine stone (HB-8) as the polishing stone of choice for myself, and can honestly say it is the single best sharpening stone that I have ever used, though my experience is somewhat more limited than many others.   I decided to follow the advice given by the Museum of Woodworking Tools' Guide to Honing and Sharpening I mentioned above because it basically reflects my own experiences - that you only really need 2 oil bench stones, a medium India and a hard white arkansas stone, followed by a leather strop.  There are those who believe you should take it further, using an intermediate grit between the two and then use an 8,000 or higher stone after the arkansas, but I've always thought of that as following the law of diminishing returns.  That's your call, though...



Stropping is a very important part of sharpening and in maintaining the edge of your cutting tools.  I believe my definition of sharp was upgraded the most when I discovered using a powered strop - I found I could more evenly apply pressure across the cutting edge.  More control meant a sharper edge, and also makes maintaining the edge much easier in my opinion.  I currently use leather wheels on the Tormek, but previously I've used cardboard and MDF wheels attached to a drill, as well as leather from an old jacket both attached to a small board and folded to get into the concave surface of a gouge.

I've use a stropping compound  on my Tormek's wheel... others recommend stropping on clean, undressed leather, and while I've found I prefer using a compound, I am slowly converting to going without.  Lately I've been keeping a cut-off from a belt handy and polishing edge up on it  I would suggest you experiment to see what you prefer.  I know I will be giving it some more thought and experimenting a bit more, myself.

You don't need to spend a great deal of time stropping.  In fact, over-doing can actually begin to blunt the cutting edge.   Just a few seconds on the wheel, or a few strokes by hand will do.


Care and Maintenance

One of the great things about oil stones is the ease of maintaining them.  Keep them dust free, and oil them before each use.  Keep a good skim of oil on the stone while using, then wipe as much of the oil and swarf off when your finished sharpening.  When you are switching between different grit stones, make sure you wipe off the tool so you don't cross-contaminate the stone with the swarf.  I keep a rag handy for each stone I'm using, and use only that rag for cleaning that stone.  Do it religiously!  Do not allow the oil and swarf to dry on the stone, as it will clog the stone and reduce its cutting ability.

Proper care should keep the stone cutting well for many years...  I found that laying the stones in the window sill on a warm summer day can sometimes "float" some of the stuck particle out of the stone...  If you do have a stone that gets glazed over or otherwise contaminated past what a simple rag will wipe away, try cleaning it using a stiff bristle brush and some kerosene or mineral spirits, then re-oil the stone in order to "charge" it back up again.

If it becomes hopelessly clogged, you can use sandpaper on a piece of glass or some other flat surface - the same procedures you would used to flatten the stone.  Flattening can be done with a concrete block, sandpaper on glass, or using another similar oil stone and rubbing the two together. Softer stones obviously require flattening more often than harder ones... I've read you can go a lifetime and not have to flatten the hardest arkansas stones, and the same is supposed to be true with India stones, too.  I did have to flatten the soft arkansas stones I owned previously - once when I first got them, and again about 5 years later.  Crystolon/Carborundum stones require flattening more regularly - I used to flatten the one I had once a year or so.


Honing Oil.  

An important part of oil stones is obvious in the name - oil.  A few drops to cover the surface of the stone as you're sharpening should be enough.  Wipe the excess swarf away occasionally when it gets too thick with metal shavings with a clean rag, and apply a few more drops.  It doesn't have to be messy, though you should separate your sharpening area from your woodworking area.  Always wipe down the tool and wash your hands before returning to woodworking.

Days past saw names such as neatsfoot, sperm oil - I can't say that I've ever used those older varieties of oil.  I always just used a lightweight oil - mineral oil mixed 50/50 with kerosene or mineral spirits, or something similar - usually just the honing oil sold at the local hardware store..  Don't use motor or other heavyweight oils as it's too thick  to carry the swarf away properly, and will clog the stone.  The opposite is true for WD-40 or other aerosol born lubricants - they are too lightweight to carry away the swarf effectively and the stone will wear prematurely.  That in the end is all the oil is for - if you don't use oil, or use the wrong type, the stone can either wear too quickly and require flattening, or plug up and require cleaning too frequently, or both.  If you're in doubt, just get Norton's honing oil - I'm sure it's quality is top notch.  Another recommended brand is "Smith Advanced Formula Honing Oil" which could also be available in your local hardware store.

If you are going to be using an oil stone for sharpening your knives in the kitchen, make sure it's a food safe oil.  Norton's honing oil is food safe - I don't know about the others.

Note - one thing I've noticed is colder weather thickens the oil - so if you are working in a colder shop, you may need to cut the oil with some turpentine or mineral spirits so it isn't too thick.  You will be able to tell by the feel and sound of the stone as you work the edge whether or not it is cutting or the edge is simply riding on a film of oil.
Comparison Table - Grits

Please note this is just a guide - the grit size does not necessarily equate to the sharpness of the edge you will get using the type of stone indicated.  A good example of this would be my old Lily White stone - which gave a much finer edge than the 340 grit indicated on this scale:


Type of Stone Sandpaper (US) Water Stone Microns (Diamond)
Coarse Crystolon 120 N/A 127
Coarse India 135 N/A 97
Medium Crystolon 180 N/A 78
Medium India 240 N/A 53.5
Fine Crystolon 280 N/A 45
Fine India 340 400 35
Washita 340 400 35
Extra Fine India 450 600 22
Soft Arkansas 450 600 22
Hard White Arkansas 1200 1200 11
Hard Black Arkansas 2000 4000 6
Hard Translucent Arkansas 2000 4000 6
Honing compound N/A 15000 0.5

While most of this table is from the Norton company, the most trustworthy source I can think of, I found variations of this table all over the place, with wildly varying numbers.  I think you can only truly tell the differences when actually using the stones.  The document mentioned above is available on the Norton companies' web site.

Available on Amazon.com: 

Cleaning an Old Oil Stone

A fellow woodworker (Jeff Ranck) reported the following experiences to me that might be helpful on cleaning some very badly clogged oil stones:

"I tried the cleaning process you recommended, no go. I just couldn't seem to get anything very clean. I also noticed that the stone was not flat. I lapped the stone against some sandpaper on a flat granite tile. That cleaned the faces up well. 

"In an old book, they talked about cleaning oil stones (after they had gotten really really bad) by putting a rag into a pot, adding some soap and boiling the stone. The rag keeps the stone off of the hot spot of the stove so it heats uniformly by the water (no cracking). The oil floats off as the heat opens the pores and the soap acts on the old oil. Sounded like something to try. However, my wife was less than enthusiastic about me boiling a greasy rock in her pans. 

"Meanwhile, I read somewhere to try the dishwasher. Light-bulb flashed on. Put the stone in the dishwasher with a load of dishes (when my sweet wife was not home ) and wow! The stone looks brand new. No residue as far as I can tell (we don't use any type of rinse agent or anything)." 

" A through C show the stone before I started to clean it. You can really tell the side my great grandfather used, it is almost black.

"D shows the best I could clean it using the methods you talked about and pretty much everything that was on my shelf that I thought might help clean the oil. Pretty good, but still a lot of stuff on the stone.

"E shows the true color of the stone after I started to lap it. Note how dished it is.  This is why I think it is a softer stone like a soft arkansas or washita.

"F shows the stone after running through the dishwasher. Standard dishwasher soap no rinse agent. Let it cool before you put it on anything cold. When I thought about it, it makes sense. Dishwasher soap is designed to dissolve grease and oils. The hot temperatures of the dishwasher should help open the pores of the stone and the water
flushes the stone really well."

Thanks goes to Jeff for sharing his experiences!

I was encouraged by his results, so decided to give it a run myself.  However, since LOML wasn't about to let me try the dishwasher method,  I decided to give the boiling method mentioned a shot. I had an old oilstone of unknown type I had purchased for a few bucks (the box it was in looked well made, so I figured somebody thought it was worth something once upon a time), and threw it in an old pan on top of some rags and and boiled it  in water and both some dish soap and some dishwasher soap (some of which contain phosphates, which aid in breaking up the oil) for about 15 min. or so:

You can see the oil coming out and darkening the water around the stone. The rags are to keep the stone off of the hot bottom of the pan, and keep the resulting temperature differences from cracking the stone. If you're wondering about smell - the whole time I was boiling it I was reminded of being in my grandmothers' kitchen - the smell was the same, and pleasant - at least to my mind. She used an oil stone in the kitchen... LOML didn't complain either, so it didn't bother her, either.

I then let the thing cool on the stove before I removed it so it wouldn't crack then, either. The results were quite good! After boiling the oil out, I put some 60 (then 100) grit sandpaper on the jointer bed and sanded the stone flat. Here's the progress shots:

You can see the marked improvement. Prior to cleaning, this stone was clogged about to the point of uselessness. Now - I needed to test it out. I found an old throwaway chisel:

Nothing spectacular about this old thing. Next was to sharpen it. First - the stone seemed pretty fine, so I ground a new bevel on it, then tried it out on my new 'old' stone, then stropped it on leather charged with honing compound - here's the progress shots for each of those steps:

The edge in the center is straight off of the stone (hollow ground, so not in the center, just the ends of the bevel!). There's a satin sheen to it, not too much more coarse than my translucent arkansas stone gives, so I'm pretty confident this is an arkansas stone - it's grit says to me soft, but there was very little dishing of the stone, which I would think odd for a stone of this age. 

To try it out after stropping it, I took an old piece of ash and gave the end grain a go (and try as I might, I couldn't get a good shot of it - sorry!):

Cuts through the end grain cleanly and easily. So - for about $10, I now have a great stone!

I think it's easy to see here that many old oil stones can be recovered.  Before cleaning, this stone really was pretty useless - it took forever to grind an edge with it, and I was unsatisfied completely with the results.  After cleaning, the edge above took me about 30 seconds on the stone - before I cleaned it, it would easily have taken four or five times that amount of time.


Additional Commentary

This came from a fellow woodworker:
I've done a few of these myself and am always happy to bring a stone or slip back from the tar pits. The difference is that I add about a teaspoon of TSP (trisodium phosphate) to the water in a stainless steel or enameled pan and use pebbles instead of rags. Instead of cooling in the water I immediately remove the stone and plop it into a big deep tray of very warm sawdust (which I use to dry metals fresh out of hot pickle). The TSP (you could use di and mono as well, but TSP is easier to find*) really holds onto the oils and the hot sawdust sucks up both oil and water, leaving (to my eye) a cleaner surface free from residual emulsified oil. A final scrubbing with harsh detergent (more TSP - wear gloves), and the stone's ready for flattening on a diamond lap (or whatever).
Note:  TSP is not always TSP, anymore. Hardware stores often carry boxes of what's called in big letters "TSP", but then it says "Phosphate Free", which is fairly misleading, so read the label. If it's phosphate free, forget it and find another detergent or hold out for the real thing. Come to think of it, real TSP used to be a component of dishwasher detergent, which is why that may work well for people where TSP isn't banned yet (not particularly good for the environment).
When asked "I can see where the hot sawdust is also a good idea to wick out water, but wonder how you heat the sawdust. In the oven? what temp? how long?" he continues:
I'm eclectic. I've used a metal box wrapped in strip heaters at a silversmith's workshop. I'd say it stayed around 170F but couldn't be sure. You want it warm enough to drive off the moisture in the sawdust and so as to wick up pickle, etc., from the silver, copper, whatever, but not so hot as to brown the wood. Certainly nowhere near the flashpoint. I've used a turkey pan on top of the woodstove (in Massachusetts), and I've also used an iron skillet on a regulated hotplate and a large crockpot (on low). This stays around 150-160F, which is all right as long as you're not dipping a lot of metal (or stone) at one go. BTW, the sawdust of choice was always boxwood, and not ground like flour, but coarser, more like cornmeal or grits, or coarser still. Maple works, too. And kitty litter (bentonite), but be sure it's 'fresh' before you warm that, heh.


Also - this from another woodworker:
I faced a similar issue with a stone I bought (maybe $8.00 at most). Anyhow it was a light tan color with several darker streaks and very clogged.
I tried various methods, including sanding and using loose SC particles, but to no avail. This past weekend, figuring that I wouldn't be out much if it wouldn't work, I tried some oven cleaner on one side of the stone and it worked wonders! Lifted decades of oil out, and leaving a very smooth and hard slightly off-white colored stone.

Thanks again!

You can see from the findings of no less than 4 different people there's more than one way to skin this cat, and do it successfully. 



Lily Whites are Long Gone

Any reader of this site knows I am a fan of oil stones... One of the finest quality oil stones out there are by the Norton company are known as "Lily White Washita" stones.  These are the type of stones I learned how to sharpen on - I had one of these stones for many years, and lost it through a mishap 10 or 12 years ago now - and I have missed it. They had gone out of production many years ago and were no longer available, but still command a hefty price for a vintage one on ebay and the like when you found a used one. 

Then, a couple years ago, Joel Moskowitz at Tools for Working Wood worked his magic with the Norton company (the manufacturer and owner of the quarry where they are mined) and got them to resurrect their Lily White Washita line of oil stones. 

When I heard they were available again I was ecstatic.  But of course I didn't buy any right away - I always had something else that was more important to get first, as I now have a hard translucent arkansas that's been serving me quite well.  However - I nearly waited too long...

Well - it was too good to last.  Recently Joel received a call from Norton saying that "Lily White Washita would be discontinued because there was too little demand for it, and it took too much time to quarry for the effort" and as a result Tools for Working Wood inventory was it - and "when we run out of what we have that's it".

Unfortunately, these are not inexpensive stones (good quality natural sharpening stones rarely are) and though I wasn't planning on it, I managed to save enough money to buy two stones (a 6" x 2" x 1" and an 8" x 3" x 1") before they ran out.  As of this writing, they were out of all but the multistone size (11 1/2" x 2 1/2" x 1/2"), but I don't imagine those lasting much longer.  I think the two I ordered were among the last of those sizes to be sold...  [P.S. 8/21/08 - all sizes now appear to be sold out]  As I've said before - if I could have only one bench stone, it would be a Lily White Washita.  They are a truly fine sharpening stone. 

Thanks to Joel and to toolsforworkingwood.com for getting Norton to resurrect them - if only for a short while - and offering them to the masses.  I sincerely hope they become available again someday.

Lily White Washitas

Photo courtesy of Tools for Working Wood - whom I seem to be mentioning a lot lately... but it's purely by coincidence, I assure you!  I have no connection to them other than recognizing they are a fine company.