Identifying Old Smith’s Sharpening Stones

2012 January 12

Earlier this week, I received the following inquiry from one of our readers needing some help with identifying some old Smith’s sharpening stones and some information about their abrasive qualities.  I was intrigued by the question and started wondering how many more knife owners out there might have this same predicament.  Thinking this might be useful information and urged to make this subject a blog post by our follower, I’ve decided to use his inquiry and my response for this week’s blog post.

I have three 8″ Smith bench stones in cedar boxes.  They must have been acquired 20+ years ago.  I don’t know how abrasive the stones are and I wonder if someone with Smith’s can tell me.

One stone is black, one is which with grey markings in it and one is white.

Thanks for any help you can give.

Here is my response.

Thank you for visiting our blog and for sending an inquiry.  You are correct.  The sharpening stones you have are at least 20 years old because we haven’t put stones in cedar boxes since the late eighties.  As for your particular stones, here is a brief description of each and what it is used for.

Black Hard Arkansas – extra-fine surgical grade.  Used on blades that are already very sharp to polish it to the most perfect edge possible.  Used mostly for sharpening razor blades.  Very popular with jewelers and in medical    profession for sharpening scalpels and other razor sharp instruments.

Soft Arkansas – a gray, medium grade stone.  A good, all-purpose sharpening stone.  Used mostly for sharpening dull blades on hunting/fishing and kitchen knives that have a consistent cutting edge but the edge is not very sharp.  Is a good stone to start the sharpening process with and take a dull blade to sharp.

White Hard Arkansas – the best stone for really polishing the blade.  A good stone to use after sharpening a dull blade with a diamond bench stone or a Soft Arkansas stone.  Most commonly used by dentist, doctors, gunsmiths, and edge enthusiasts.

Natural Arkansas Stones

Please note, always use a sharpening lubricant (i.e. Honing oil or water) when sharpening a knife with Natural Arkansas stones.  Using a Natural Arkansas stone to sharpen a knife blade without some type of lubricant will damage your stone and cause it to lose its sharpening capabilities.  A lubricant keeps the pores of the stone clean, dissipates frictional heat, and ensures a smooth sharpening action.  You can’t use too much fluid.  Use enough to keep a pool visible on the stone while you are sharpening. When the pool gets murky, pat or lightly wipe up with a rag and re-apply more fluid.  Keep fresh lubricant on the stone until sharpening is complete.

I hope this helps you identify and know how to use each of the three stones.  If you have other questions or need additional information, please let me know.

Good luck and keep it sharp!

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