How to Clean an Oil Sharpening Stone?

How to Clean an Oil Whetstone

Over time, your oil sharpening stone will tend to get clogged. The surface collects grime, filings and all manner of debris.

For obvious reasons, oil sharpening stones tend to get dirtier more easily and faster than water sharpening stones.

This can happen to the extent that the stone is no longer capable of performing its task: sharpening tools. You need to clean all the dirt and grime that has accumulated on the surface.

Oil Sharpening Stones: What they Are and How they Work

As the name implies, an oil sharpening stone is a whetstone used to sharpen tools after oil is applied on the surface to make the sharpening action smooth.

Indeed, an oil sharpening stone is not any different from an ordinary sharpening stone when new. The only difference is that once you start using oil instead of water to wet your stone, you cannot go back to using water.

The trade marked India Oil Sharpening Stone is however sold pre-soaked in oil and can therefore not work with water as a lubricant.

Cleaning Procedure Using an Oil Sharpening Stone

The exact procedure to use in cleaning your oil sharpening stone depends on the amount of grime on it. It also depends on how often the stone is used. 

1. Pour or squirt a generous amount of honing oil over the sharpening surface of the stone. Take special notice of any gray or glossy steaks to ensure they are covered by the oil.

Such areas are indicative of sections where debris has accumulated over the surface of the sharpening stone. It may be necessary to make a couple of passes or more to ensure the surface is covered sufficiently. 

2. Place the now well-oiled sharpening stone on an old towel or mat. This is to ensure all the dirt coming from the cleaning is caught. Otherwise, you could end up littering your workbench with unsightly grime and dirt. 

3. Using a cleaning brush with medium-stiff bristles, clean the surface to remove the dirt and grime. If the brush doesn't seem to deliver the expected result you may opt for steel wool as it has a more abrasive cleaning action.

Use a mixture of circular motions and horizontal strokes to perform the cleaning. As you clean the sharpening stone, you will be able to see the grit rising to the surface to the pores on the stone's ceramic structure. 

4. Wipe the stone using a towel or another absorbent textile material. This will clear off the scraped off dirt and grime

5. If you are using a water-based honing oil, you need to clean the surface of your oil sharpening stone using warm soapy water.

6. Once the surface of the oil sharpening stone is clearly free of dirty grime, rinse it off by holding it under a stream of cold running water

7. Using a clean towel or rag, pat or wipe the surface of the sharpening stone until it is sufficiently dry

What to Do if You Don't Have Honing Oil for Cleaning Oil Sharpening Stone?

If you do not have honing oil for cleaning your oil sharpening stone, you can still get it clean using a number of alternatives.

WD-40, a popular domestic lubricant which doubles up as a rust removal agent, is a very effective alternative to honing oil.

Indeed, its cleaning ability on some sharpening stone surfaces can exceed that of honing oil. The only downside of using WD-40 oil is that it can leave your sharpening stone bearing a distinctive stink that is not pleasant.

Another effective cleaning agent for oil sharpening stones is automatic transmission fluid. This fluid is more popularly used to clean the sharpening blades used to cut diamonds.

However, automatic transmission fluid has a couple of disadvantages. Like the WD-40 oil, it leaves the sharpening stone emitting a foul smell. Moreover, as it contains a dye in its formulation, it may end up discoloring your sharpening stone.

You could also clean your oil sharpening stone using automotive brake cleaner if you do not have honing oil. However, this should only be done as a measure of the last resort.

For starters, automotive brake cleaner possesses all the demerits peculiar to the alternatives spoken above (it smells and can damage the surface of your sharpening stone).

But even more significantly, automotive brake cleaner contains some toxic and corrosive ingredients which shouldn't be handled bare handed.

How to Clean an Old, Very Dirty Oil Sharpening Stone

If an oil sharpening stone has not been used in a very long while, the oil and grime will hold very fast on the surface.

The methods described above will not suffice to get such a sharpening stone clean. Indeed, for a very grimy oil sharpening stone, the only way to remove the encrusted layers of oily grime is to boil it in water.

This is the most effective way of getting rid of the accumulated layers of grime, oil, and filings. You should boil the stone for no more than 10 minutes. Five minutes or less is often sufficient.

This is because long exposure to extreme heat can be detrimental to the molecular structure of the ceramicware material.

After you have boiled the sharpening stone, pick it with a pair of tongs or pincers and place it n a bowl of lukewarm soapy water. This so as to ensure that the sharpening stone grows cold enough to handle by hand.

Do not use cold water as this will only cause the now loose layers of oily grime to hold back fast on the surface.

After 15 minutes in the soapy water, take it out and brush the surface thoroughly using a stiff brush and sink cleaner. If it doesn't get sufficiently clean, you can repeat the procedure (from boiling to cooling and scrubbing) once or twice.

Once done, hold the sharpening stone under a jet of cold running water to rinse off any material that is left on the surface.

Maintenance Tips to Keep your Oil Sharpening Stone Clean and Functional

It is said that prevention is always more preferable to cure. You should ensure your oil sharpening stone is always clean and functionally good.

Just follow these handy tips:

1. An oil sharpening stone is a precision sharpening instrument. While it is possible to use it for honing bulky cutting edges such as on axes, machetes, and lawn mower blades; always ensure the rougher edges are smoothed off using a belt sander or grinder before applying the sharpening stone to finish off the job.

2. Never sharpen your knives and edges at too low an angle. The lower the angle of the blade on the sharpening stone, the more the wear

3. Flip your sharpening stone end for and each time you load it on the stone arm. It has been shown that this often-overlooked strategy could add up to 50 more sharpening opportunities to the lifetime of the sharpening stone.

What's Next?

To get the most out of your oil sharpening stone, you need to keep it clean. On top of that, observing the best practices in the use and maintenance of your oil sharpening stone cannot be overemphasized.

This guide includes all the essential tips you need to ensure your oil sharpening stone is primed for good work over its intended lifetime of use.

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