I seem to keep working my way through the sharpening stones, and it was time to order up so new ones. I had heard some good things about Sigma Select II stones, and tend to like ceramic stones a fair bit, so I ventured a contact to Stuart Tierney at Tools from Japan. Stu is one of those fellows who who will really take the time to answer your questions and writes quite detailed emails. i like that. I told Stu that I would wrote about these new whetstones, and he gave me the stones at a very reasonable price in some exchange for a plug here on Carpentry Way.
My recent stones were a mix of brands. A New Kent 1000, a KitaYama 2000, a Shapton Pro 5000, and a Naniwa (Ebi) 10,000 stone. The Naniwa has a bit of talc or something like that in it which gives it a feel I like fairly well, but the stone wears down fairly fast. I’m on my third one and was looking for an alternative.
I ended up getting three Sigma Stones, from left to right, a 1200 grit, a 6000 grit, and a 13,000 grit:
The 1200 is described on the box as a ‘middle stone’ (中砥) however I tend to think of stones under 2000 as more or less coarse. The 1200 is a decent size (210x75mm) and nice and thick at 25mm:
The 1200 is a ceramic designed for high speed steel and powdered metals, which other brands of ceramic stones can struggle with I have found.
The 6000 comes in a different box for some reason and is also a ceramic. The stone has fine pink dots on it and has some writing on one side:
Whatzit say? Well, “人造蓮華巣板仕上砥”, or jinzō-renge-suita-shiage-to“, which is man-made (人造) lotus flower (蓮華) ‘nest-plate’ (巣板) finishing (仕上) stone (砥). Lotus flower presumably refers to the colored pattern on the stone. ‘Nest plate’ or suita is a word normally applied to natural stones and refers to stones which have streaks or dots of color in them, that is, incursions of other material, which might mean a soft stone substrate with little hard bits in it or other configurations. In this case, the term renge-suita (蓮華巣板)refers to the pattern of incursions looking like a lotus flower.
Here’s a picture of a natural stone of the renge-suita type:
Next, the 13,000 Sigma Select II:
I have been running a variety of blades over these stones for the past few weeks, including white steel blades, blue steel blades, super blue steel, and western A2 steel as well. The results have been uniformly impressive, These stones are all fast cutting, do not dish quickly, and do not clog. A perfect world of artificial stones if there ever was one. These three are my new favorites and I have put my other stones away for the time being.
Just to give an idea, here are some pictures of a Funahiro paring chisel through the three grits.
First, after the 1200:
Then the 6000:
And the 13,000:
A little blurry that one as it was tricky getting the camera to focus on the mirror.
A few different chisels, of differing steels and makers, taken through the rounds with these three stones:
Another addition to the sharpening set in recent weeks has been a DMT DiaFlat sharpening plate:
This plate comes with a certificate guaranteeing flatness to within 0.0005″, and the diamonds come mounted on a good size chunk of steel plate:
It’s a hefty piece of metal, and needs no additional hand pressure to flatten stones:
This plate seems a tad coarse to begin with and leaves scratches on the stones, but like many diamond plates it settles down after awhile and isn’t quite so aggressive. This plate replaces my sandpaper on granite plate method I’ve been using for the past year (after the failure of my Shapton Glassstone diamond plate). The sandpaper gets messy quickly, and the wet/dry sheets don’t last all that long so eventually it isn’t all that cheap a way to go. With a flat support plate for the paper, it can be very accurate however. I’ll go with this diamond plate for a while. An advantage to the plate of course is its portability (in comparison to a 3″ thick granite 12″x18″ surface plate at least!).
Sharpening is one of those unglamorous but vital aspects of woodworking with hand tools and a rewarding activity in its own right. It’s a bit sad that almost all of the western magazine articles one comes across about sharpening involve how to make it quick and easy, a chore to be overcome as quickly as possible. I would suggest that to truly progress in sharpening – or any skill-based activity – one must abandon the idea that is is some sort of burdensome task to be grudgingly got through, or gotten through with the aid of gadgets and little thought, and move to a place of being present and engaged with the activity. Sharpen, use the tool, observe, adapt, Repeat. In time you figure a few things out, and discover more things you didn’t know. That’s how it goes.
Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way. I’ll say in closing that if you are looking for some new sharpening stones, Stu at Tools from Japan is a great guy to deal with and will give you patient help and great advice. Highly recommended. On to part II of this rock talk.