A Guide to Benchstones: Sharpening Stone FAQs


Benchstones, also known as oilstones or whetstones, are available in a number of formulations and grit sizes, making them the most commonly used sharpening stones. To learn how to get the most out of your sharpening stones, see our answers to the most frequently asked questions about benchstones.


Can I use water on a benchstone?


To keep your stone from clogging up with small metal fragments, which makes the sharpening properties of the abrasive grains much less effective, you can use either oil or water on a benchstone prior to sharpening. Water is less messy, but we recommend using oil as it is more effective than water at keeping the stones from loading.


Most Norton benchstones are impregnated with oil as part of our manufacturing process. Oil impregnated stones will soak up less oil (or water) as you use them, reducing the amount of oil you need to apply in order to maintain a coating of oil on the stone’s surface for sharpening.

Applying oil to a benchstone


Depending on the material properties of the liquid, your knife edge will feel more or less slippery along the surface of the stone as you sharpen. Mineral oil is a little more viscus (or thicker) than water, so it has a slightly different feel while sharpening and, typically, it is preferred by most serious sharpeners. Norton sharpening oil meets pharmacopeia standards for purity and is safe for use on kitchen knives. We do not recommend using cooking oil or motor oil as a lubricant.


How do you flatten a benchstone?


Benchstones typically do not require flattening with normal use, as they rarely wear unevenly due to their hardness. But after years of constant use, they may start to dish in areas where maximum pressure has been repeatedly exerted.


Flattening benchstones is difficult because these stones tend to be fairly hard. It will take some work, but an option is to mount 100 grit waterproof sandpaper on a piece of flat glass and aggressively rub the benchstone across the surface of the wet sandpaper. For optimal sharpening performance, the benchstone should be flat enough so that even pressure can be maintained along the entire knife blade during each sharpening sweep.


Sharpening with a benchstone

The benchstone should be flat enough so that even pressure can be maintained along the entire blade during each sharpening sweep.


How do I clean a benchstone?


We recommend using a degreaser like kerosene or paint thinner in combination with a small brush to clean a sharpening stone that is loaded with oil and metal pieces. Soak the stone with the liquid to loosen the oil and then use the brush to work loose the metal filings.


Norton sharpening stones should not be put in the dishwasher.


What are the corresponding grit sizes of your coarse and fine benchstones?


Our coarse benchstones are 100-120 grit, and our fine grit benchstones are 280-320 grit, depending on the specific product.


To learn more about our benchstone offering, browse our products.


For more answers to your sharpening stone questions, check out our waterstone FAQs.

Norton Benchstones


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