How to Maintain a Whetstone for a Longer Working Life

Image Credit: DidRiks

Buying the correct grade whetstone and learning how to use it to sharpen your tools is only one part of the equation when you first begin.

An important area that can be overlooked is proper maintenance of the whetstone, as well as the correct techniques that should be employed in order to maintain the lifespan of your purchase.

The fact is, Whetstones vary greatly in price; if you have paid top dollar for an expensive one, you will want it to last for as long as possible.

With the following tips, we hope to help you in this regard.

5 easy to follow steps to increase the lifespan of your stones

 Sharpen at the correct angle

This is rookie mistake number one. If you sharpen your tools at too low of an angle, you will end up removing more metal just to get that edge back.

And of course, the more metal you are shaving away with your whetstone, the more wear and tear you are putting onto the surface of the stone and essentially, lowering its lifespan.

Trial, error and practice are necessary when you are first starting out, (as well as playing close attention to helpful guides such as the video embedded above).

However, if you find you have been sharpening for a long time without seeing results, it is highly likely you need to start working at a higher angle. For more on finding the correct angle when working with whetstones, head here.

Avoid sharpening bulky tools with thick edges

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While the correct grade whetstone can be used with axes, machetes and thick blades such as those found on a lawn mower, very often the best course of action with such tools is to work them on a belt grinder first.

By removing the course, damaged outer edge with a grinder you will put less wear on your whetstone when it comes time to do the finishing.

In short, if you need to sharpen something that requires a lot of metal removal, find an alternative way of doing so before you pull out your expensive whetstone. 

Level your stones before you sharpen

Another great tip that should not be overlooked is to simply ensure that the stone is leveled before use.

The easiest way to do this is to lay a straight edged ruler across the cutting surface of your stone and hold both up to the light.

If you see any space between the edge of the ruler and the edge of your stone, you know that the stone has to be leveled.

During normal use, whetstones will wear faster in the center than they will at the outer edges. If left untouched, that center area will begin to recede faster and faster after each sharpening until you are left with a stone that can no longer be used.

For tips on leveling your whetstones, head here.

Flip your stone end to end before use

Image Credit: DidRiks

Another good practice that will help prolong the life of your whetstone is to flip the stone end for end before use.

This should be done to help counter the fact it is likely you lean heavy on one side of the stone as you sharpen, (we all do this, it is not a sign of bad technique).

By ensuring that the stone takes wear evenly on all 3 dimensions will help keep it working better, for longer.

Keep it clean and use sufficient oil or water

Finally, it is important to apply the correct amounts of water or oil, (depending on the type of stone you are using), so that the whetstone is properly lubricated throughout the entire duration of use.

Just because you are getting close to the end of a sharpening session does not mean you should let the stone run completely dry.

Likewise, after use it is important to clear the stone of the lubricant as well as any metal shavings and other contaminants.

Not only will this make things easier next time you come to use it, it will also ensure an extended working life.

Image Credits: DidRiks,

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