Flattening Your Oilstone Is Really Easy

While sharpening some blades this afternoon, I finally got sick enough of my dished oilstone to actually do something about it.  I’ve had this double-sided (soft/hard) Arkansas stone for probably 5-10 years and have never flattened it.  The soft side especially just kept getting more and more dished every year.  But I kept putting off flattening it because I’ve got an old belt sander in pieces stored away, and I always figured I’d eventually put the sander back into working order, and then the first thing I’d do would be to flatten my oilstones.  Today I realized that wasn’t going to happen.

I decided to dress this stone the old-fashioned way: by hand.  Buts it turned out, flattening this stone was really easy and really fast.  (It took me longer to write this blog post than to actually flatten the stone.)  Here’s how I did it:

Step #1: Find a flat-ish surface and attach a long roll of coarse sandpaper. 

I’m a big fan of the Klingspor bargain boxes of sandpaper rolls, and I happened to have a roll of coarse sandpaper sitting right there on my workbench.  I located a relatively flat stretch of real estate on my workbench and affixed one end of the sandpaper roll with a holdfast.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

This length of sandpaper was over 3′ long, and I used the whole length.  (If you don’t have a holdfast, consider using a staple gun.)

Step #2: Push in one direction, turn, and repeat. 

You will be tempted to just rub the stone back and forth on the sandpaper.  Don’t.  That will create a convex surface, not a flat one.  Instead, just push the stone down the length of the sandpaper, lift it up at the end of the stroke, turn it around, and repeat.  Turning the stone every stroke or two helps you keep everything nice and flat.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

When the sandpaper loads up with dust, you can replace the sandpaper.  Or, if you’re a cheapskate like me, just vacuum or brush the dust off and keep going.  I probably cleaned the dust out of the sandpaper four or five times during this process.

Step #3: When it’s flat, stop.

Once the old surface has been completely removed, you can stop.  The stone is as flat as it’s going to get.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

Depending on how dished the stone is (and on how hard the stone is), it may take you 10-15 minutes of work to completely flatten the stone.  But in the grand scheme of things, that’s pretty fast.

Oil Stone Flattening 2019

A little bit of oil brings out the color variations in the natural stone.  It’s ready to use again! (I did also flatten the other side of this stone, which is hard Arkansas stone, and that took a little bit longer.)

Is the stone now absolutely-professional-level-within-a-millionth-of-an-inch-over-the-entire-surface flat?  Nah, probably not.  But it’s MUCH flatter than it was before, and that’s what matters to me.   And it took me only about ten minutes from start to finish.

If I had known how quick and easy this job was going to be, I wouldn’t have put it off so long!  I might just make this an annual routine maintenance job.

This entry was posted in sharpening, Tutorials, Wood and Woodwork and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Flattening Your Oilstone Is Really Easy

  1. I flatten my water stones much the same way except I use drywall sandpaper on an old marble window sill. Super quick.

  2. Gerry Pare says:

    Frank, an employee at Lee Valley in Kingston ON, showed me a method using a piece of glass and drywall sanding screen.

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