One question I get a lot is “What oil should I use for my sharpening stone?” We all know oil is essential for a good sharpening, but can you just use any oil?
The answer is yes, all types of oil will work for sharpening. However, not all of them will do a very good job, and some types of oil will damage your stone. The best oil for sharpening is honing oil.
But what makes honing oil better than the rest? If you can’t get honing oil, what are the second-best options? What should you look for in oil that makes it good for sharpening? Let’s have a look at the answers to all of these questions and more today.
What Makes a Good Sharpening Oil?
If you love knives, having a good sharpening stone around is absolutely necessary. You can’t live with dull knives, and sending your knives off to be sharpened is just too hassle and expensive. So learning the art of sharpening and having a good stone around are musts.
But it’s not enough to have a good sharpening stone. You also have to know how to use it properly. You need to know exactly what type of stone you have, and what the proper techniques of using it are. And, of course, you need to know which oil to use.
As I’ve said before, any oil will work. The purpose of oil is to lubricate the stone and remove any debris as you sharpen. Almost all oils are capable of doing this.
So why are some oils better than others? It’s because of their other qualities. For example: cooking oil. This oil will help in the sharpening of your knife, but once you’re finished, it will solidify and clog your stone. That’s why you want to avoid using cooking oil.
What are the qualities that make a good sharpening oil you may ask? There are three things you should look for.
Of the three qualities, this is the one that can actually affect your sharpening. You want to avoid heavy, high-viscosity, oils and use light oils instead. This way, you’ll get a much better sharpening experience.
The reason why heavy oils aren’t very effective is that they can interfere with the sharpening. You douse your stone with oil to lubricate it, but if you use heavy oils, it will do more than this.
Instead of allowing you to stroke your knife smoothly, high-viscosity oils will get in the way. This will take away the effectiveness of your stone. And you may end up with an improperly sharpened knife.
Another reason you want to avoid high-viscosity oils is due to their stains. A lot of heavy oils will leave these when you remove them. The worst thing about these stains is that they are very difficult to get rid of.
So use a light oil. It will make your sharpening effective and efficient. And you won’t have to worry about any stains on your stone.
The last thing you want is for your sharpening stone to get clogged. This is why we clean our stones after sharpening; so that the steel particles won’t get into the pores. But did you know that it isn’t only the debris that can clog your stone?
There are some types of oil that harden at room temperature. If you’ve tried cooking beef before, you know that if you let the oil sit for a few minutes, it will solidify. If you use these types of oil on your stone, it will solidify once you are done using it. This, in turn, will clog your stone.
If you use a hardening oil, you won’t encounter any problems while working. Since it is oil, it will give you a smooth sharpening experience. But once you are done, you can no longer use your stone.
Once the oil hardens, there is no going back. Getting rid of steel debris is one thing, getting rid of solid oil is another. The oil will seep into the deepest pores of your stone and harden there. That’s why you’re going to have a very difficult time removing it from there.
So when choosing an oil, get one that doesn’t harden at room temperature. If you don’t, you may end up damaging your stone.
Last but not least, you want an odorless oil. Getting an odorful oil will not affect the sharpening, nor will it damage your stone. What it will do though, is make sharpening your knives unbearable.
Have you ever smelled stale oil? It is rancid! It can make you go nuts. The only thing you’ll want when there’s stale oil in the room is to get rid of it.
So what if there is stale oil inside your sharpening stone? You won’t be able to go near your sharpening stone, let alone use it. No, it’s probably best to throw the whole thing away. What a waste!
That’s why don’t use oil with odors. The worst type of oil for odors are actually food oils. They may not have any strong odors are first, but wait until they go stale, then you’ll regret using them.
What Oil Should I Use for Sharpening?
Now that you know what to look for in a sharpening oil, you should be able to choose a good one. But now, let’s take a look at some common oils and see if they’re a good choice or not.
As I always say, the best oil for sharpening is honing oil. Why? Because it was made for this very task. So buy some honing oil if you want the best oil stone experience.
When you think about everything that makes a good sharpening oil, you’ll find that honing oil fits all of them. It is light, non-hardening, and odorless.
The next best thing to honing oil is mineral oil. Honing oil is actually refined mineral oil, so there is little difference between the two. Mineral oil is also light, non-hardening, and odorless.
If you’re out of honing oil or mineral oil, you might start searching around your home for alternatives. One very good alternative you can go for is baby oil.
Baby oil is mineral oil with some fragrance. Yes, it has a smell, but it isn’t a bad one. So you don’t have to worry about this. You’ll have one good smelling sharpening stone if you use baby oil.
This is also a very cheap and common type of oil. You’ll have no problem at all getting your hands on this.
To be safe, do not use vegetable oil for your sharpening stones. Vegetable oil is a food oil, so it will go rancid. Not only that, but plenty of vegetable oils will also clog your stone up. You’ll end up with a clogged up and terrible smelling stone.
Several cooks use olive oil on their sharpening stones. Olive oil doesn’t harden, so there’s no worry of clogging up. That said, olive oil is still a food oil. So if left on the stone, it will start to stink. This is why people who use olive oil for sharpening make sure to clean their stone very well afterward. I wouldn’t use olive oil myself, but you can give it a go if it is all you have around.
Motor oil isn’t the best option for sharpening stone. The consistency of this oil is too thick to be good. Remember, you want a low-viscosity oil. Motor oils tend to have a very high one.
Penetrating oil is an interesting one. It’s light, doesn’t harden, and doesn’t get spoiled. Yet I wouldn’t recommend using it. This is because it is way too light.
I know I’ve said that light oils are good. Generally, that is true, but penetrating oil is on another level. It is too light, it won’t stay on the surface of your sharpening stone. It will penetrate right through, and you’ll be left with dry stone.
How Much Oil Should I Use for Sharpening?
Another question I get a lot is how much oil one should use for sharpening. To answer this, it’s important to look against at the purpose of using oil.
The purpose of using oil is to help remove the debris and protect the stone. As long as the oil you add does this, you’re good to go. You don’t have to flood your stone with oil, but you also need to be careful that it doesn’t dry out either.
What I like to do is pour some oil on my stone and then rub it in. After rubbing, I feel the surface. If the stone hasn’t drank up all the oil, then it’s good to go. Otherwise, I add more until I can feel the oil on the surface.
Oil vs Water for Sharpening Stones
What is the difference between oil stones and water stones? Is there a difference at all? Which is better to use?
Those are some of the questions that filled my mind when I first got into sharpening. At first, I used oil for my stones. I only did this because it was all I knew. Then I saw other people using water, and that’s when my curiosity started.
It turns out, none of the two is better than the other. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. It all comes down to preference since they both do a very good job.
Before we get into these though, it’s important to know that you can’t use water on an oil stone. This is because oil and water don’t mix. Once you add oil to a stone, water is no longer going to be effective on it.
On the flip side though, you can use oil on a water stone. Unlike oil, water evaporates quickly. If your stone is dried up, using oil will work fine. However, keep in mind that the moment you use oil on a stone, you can’t use water anymore. It just won’t work.
Advantages of Using Oil Stones
Now to the advantages. If you’re thinking about preserving the life of your stone, oil is better at this. If you use your sharpener a lot, you’ll come to a point where your stone will lose its flatness. You have to flatten this again in order to regain its effectiveness. The good news is that when you use oil, it will take a long time before you have to do this.
Another advantage of oil stones is that they are easier to clean. After every sharpening session, you should clean your stone. Using oil makes this task very easy. Sometimes, all you have to do is wipe it clean. This will remove all the debris that’s on your stone.
It’s true that oil stones are slower to sharpen. This is the cost of using having a long-lasting stone. There is less friction when oil is used, so the blade will take more strokes to get its razor edge.
So if you don’t want to worry about maintenance or buying new stones, use oil for your stones.
Advantages of Using Water Stones
Water stones also come with their own set of advantages. Yes, they don’t last as long as oil stones, and they need more maintenance, but their advantages make up for this.
For one, water is everywhere. We shouldn’t take things for granted, but for most of us, water is readily available. This makes it a lot less expensive than oil. You don’t need to go and buy honing oil, or mineral oil anymore, all you have to do is turn on the faucet.
Water stones are also the better option if you’re in the wild. There’s water everywhere in nature, but oil is quite hard to process. That’s why water stones are the preferred choice for hunters and campers.
Another great thing about water stones is how fast they are to sharpen. You can get a knife from dull to sharp in a few strokes with one of these. The obvious disadvantage of this is that it wears down quicker. You’ll have to choose if you want a stone that lasts long or a stone that sharpens fast.
Should I Use My Stone Wet or Dry?
Now that we’ve seen the difference between oil and water, you might be wondering, “Do I really need fluid at all?”
There are some people today who don’t put any fluid on their stones. Instead, they use the stone dry.
They say that doing this gives them a razor-sharp blade very, very fast. That makes a lot of sense since, without fluid, there’s going to be a lot of friction between knife and stone. If you’re looking to get a dull knife to razor-sharp as fast as possible, this is probably the fastest way to do it.
Does this make sharpening dry the better option? It depends on what you want. For me, I will never sharpen without any fluid. There are several reasons why faster sharpening is not worth it.
As you probably guessed, this method is not good for the stone. The high friction is going to eat at the stone very fast. Before you know it, your stone will lose its flatness. And before long, you’re going to have to buy a new stone altogether.
It’s more than that though. This might surprise you, but sharpening dry isn’t as effective as using a wet stone. The problem with dry stones is that all the debris is going to rest right on the stone. At the start, this isn’t a problem. But after several strokes, your sharpener won’t work properly anymore. The speed at which it can cut will be gone, rendering the dry method quite useless.
To make matters even worse, sharpening dry makes it difficult to clean. The debris will be all over the place, and it’ll get deep into the pores of the stone as well. This makes clogging common. So be prepared to restore your stone a lot if you use it dry.
That’s why I never sharpen dry. This extra speed is not worth all the problems that come along with it. To avoid this, make sure you add some oil or water to your stone before you begin sharpening.
There are certainly a lot of questions that come up when it comes to oil stones. I trust that this article has answered everything you had in your mind. You now know:
How to choose a good sharpening oil
Which common oils are good for sharpening and which ones aren’t
How much oil to use for sharpening
The difference between oil and water for sharpening
The difference between sharpening wet and dry.
With this knowledge, you can make much better decisions when it comes to sharpening. Maybe you decide that you prefer oil over water. Maybe you use this knowledge to find a good alternative oil. Maybe with this knowledge, you stop flooding your sharpening stone with too much oil.
Whatever the case, you now have all you need to know about using oil for sharpening.