How to Tell if Sharpening Stone Is Oil or Water

Sharpening stones come in two main types water and oil. Oil is more porous than water, which means it will soak up the blade’s metal particles more efficiently. Waterstones are typically recommended for kitchen knives because they are less likely to break or chip when used on softer metals like stainless steel, making them unsuitable for serrated blades that require a higher level of precision. 

How to Tell if Sharpening Stone Is Oil or Water

Water stones can be used with any knife, while oil stones are best suited to straight blades. You can tell if your stone is an oilstone by rubbing it with a cloth; if the fabric becomes stained with black residue, then you know it’s an oilstone! Even though there are other ways to use an oilstone without ruining its properties, this article focuses mainly on how to tell if sharpening stone is oil or water. Read on to know more!

10 Ways on How to Tell if Sharpening Stone Is Oil or Water

1. Feel the Surface

Run your fingers along the sharpening stone. It is most likely oiled if it does not feel like a solid surface but instead feels porous or course. Many people prefer to use water stones because they do not require conditioning and will never go rancid. They are porous but smooth, while oiled surfaces have a rough texture.

2. Smell the Stone

If you smell the sharpening stone and it has a chemical smell, chances are it is either water or oil. Conversely, a sharpening stone with no smell indicates that it most likely has dried completely and the oils have dissipated.

3. Test the Stone’s Hardness

If you know your sharpening stone is oiled, test its hardness using a Mohs scale of mineral hardness. If the sharpening stone is a whetstone, it will be lower on the scale because they are not intended for grinding more complex materials such as steel.

4. Look at the Stone’s Color

Most oil stones have a darker color, ranging from white to brownish grey. Water stones, on the other hand, tend to be grey to black or brown in color. The difference in color is due to the different materials used to make each type of stone.

5. Observe Surface Texture

Observe Surface Texture of Sharpenning Stone

Oil stones have a rough texture compared with water and diamond stones, which feel smoother and do not require conditioning. If you drop a stone in water and bubbles for several minutes, it is probably oiled. The mud created from water stones contains aluminum oxide particles, which is why they do not need to be conditioned.

6. Use a Magnet

If you want to know if an unknown sharpening stone is oiled or water, take a magnet with you when you go shopping. Place the magnet on top of the stone and see if it sticks. If it does, the stone is most likely oiled.

7. Drip Water on the Stone

A single drop of water falls onto the sharpening stone. If the stone is oiled, there is no reaction because oils are not water-soluble. However, a water stone will react with water because it is made for wet use. The tiny droplets will bead on the slippery surface and be absorbed into the water stone.

8. Feel the Slurry

After sharpening for a while, a thin film of slurry will form on the surface of the sharpening stone. An oil stone will not absorb this slurry, but a water stone will make the slurry disappear.

9. Look at the Abrasives

If you can see the abrasives on a water stone, it is time to re-hone the blade. An oil stone will have small black particles resulting from grinding metal against the stone. Diamond stones will have tiny particles and no color.

10. Listen to the Sound

Listen to the Sound of Sharpening Stone

The sound that a sharpening stone makes can tell you a lot about it. For example, if a water stone is used dry, it will make a high-pitched sound. On the other hand, if an oil stone is used, it will have a low-pitched grinding sound. When the slurry forms, the sound will change. A water stone will make a dull sound, while an oil stone will still have the same tone.

Some Tips and Suggestions

1. The first thing to do is identify the sharpening stone you are using.

2. If it is a water-based stone, it will need to be wet before use. Soak the stone in water for about 10 minutes before use.

3. If it is an oil-based stone, no soaking is necessary; apply a light coat of oil to the surface before use.

4. Once you have identified the sharpening stone you are using, it is time to test it to see if it is oil or water-based.

5. To do this, take a few drops of water and drop them onto the surface of the stone. If it beaks apart and produces a lot of small bubbles, then it is an oil-based stone.

6. If the water droplets sit on top of the stone and do not create bubbles, it is a water-based stone.

7. It is important to note that some sharpening stones can be oil and water-based, so it is essential to test them before use.

Test Sharpening Stone Before Use

Steps to Follow: How to Tell if Sharpening Stone Is Oil or Water

Step 1: Look at the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

If the surface is oily, it is likely an oil-sharpening stone. If the surface is wet, it is likely a water-sharpening stone. However, there are exceptions to this rule, so it is important to proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Touch the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

If the surface feels oily, it is likely an oil-sharpening stone. If the surface feels wet, it is likely a water-sharpening stone. But, again, there are exceptions, so it is essential to proceed to the next step.

Step 3: Smell the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

If the surface smells oily, it is likely an oil-sharpening stone. If the surface smells like water, it is likely a water-sharpening stone. However, there are exceptions, so it is important to proceed to the next step.

Step 4: Drip Some Water on the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

If the water beads and rolls off the surface, it is likely a water-sharpening stone. If the water is absorbed into the surface, an oil-sharpening stone is expected. This is because the oil stones absorb the water and thus require you to use oil as a lubricant. The water-based water stones will not take up the oil-based lubricant during sharpening, but both types can be used with either sharpening fluid or even clean water if preferred.

Step 5: Feel the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

Feel the Surface of the Sharpening Stone

If the surface is slick and wet, it is likely a water-sharpening stone. If the surface is dry and powdery, it is likely an oil-sharpening stone. Oil stones and water stones are the two main types of sharpening stones. Knowing how to tell if a sharpening stone is oil or water-based can help you choose the right type of sharpener for your needs.

Step 6: Determine which sharpening stone you have by its grit grade

Sharpening stones can be made from various materials, but most commonly, they are made from aluminum oxide or silicon carbide (carborundum) and range in coarseness from 220 to 12,000 grit. The higher the number (grit), the denser the material and the finer the scratch pattern it leaves on the surface. A coarser grit will cut away more metal in fewer strokes, allowing faster sharpening.

Step 7: Determine whether the sharpening stone is meant to be used with oil or water

Oil stones are manufactured with a coating that prevents them from absorbing water, so they can only be used with oil. Water stones do not need to be lubricated with oil before use because they don’t absorb moisture during sharpening. However, some people prefer using an old-fashioned sharpening stone made of oil-based lubricant because it leaves a finer finish on the blade than a water stone.

Step 8: Decide which sharpening fluid you would like to use

There are two types of sharpening fluids: oil and water. Some people prefer honing oil because it helps keep the blade lubricated, prevents corrosion, and cleans the blade while you sharpen. Others prefer to just use clean water. It is important to note that you can use either sharpening fluid with or sharpening stone.

You Can Check It Out to Sharpen a Machete With a Sharpening Stone

Conclusion

Oil sharpening stones work by oiling the blade before use. Waterstones are water-based and need to be soaked in water for 10 minutes before using them. Oil is more affordable than water. Waterstones last longer but require regular maintenance; Oil requires less upkeep, making it cheaper over time. A sharpening stone is used to sharpen knives and other cutting tools. The type of sharpening surface on the stone (e.g., oil, water) will determine how quickly it dulls and needs to be replaced.

If you want your knife or blade edge to the last longer, use an oil-based stone that requires less maintenance than a Waterstone that needs frequent flattening with abrasives like diamond plates and polishing cloths. We hope this blog post was helpful enough to give you some insights on how to tell if sharpening stone is oil or water based. If you have any questions or want to know more, then feel free to comment below!

Jennifer Branett
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