Look at that shiny shiny shine

Some people love sharpening. Some people hate it. I like it, but there’s no reason to spend more time doing it than necessary.

If you use water stones then there is a way to reduce time spent on each stone and improve the feeling of moving the steel across the stone.

Click through for how, and some testing!



Simple Green
Simple Green Concentrate

This is how you do it.. Simple green concentrate.

It’s a surfactant and emulsifier. The mechanism of action that I propose helps with the process is that it first better suspends the swarf in the liquid lubricant (water) then helps carry this emultation away. This seems to allow you to spend more time contacting the steel with the abrasive, than steel to the swarf.

I’ve used Simple Green previously on/off in a spray bottle. It was totally an accident since I had 2 identical bottles in my shop: one water, one simple green. I noticed a few times that sharpening was much faster sometimes, and it took me a few months to realize I’d been accidentally grabbing the Simple Green bottle. The difference in speed and feel was rather obvious, so I did some light testing. I’ve been using Simple Green ever since.

Now I’m doing some not-so-light testing.

The Stage

The station
The station

So this is my sharpening station. I covered it before. It’s a cabinet with a place for stones, then a water pump underneath.

The Bucket
The Bucket'o'stuff

This is the liquid supply. I change it after every cycle. The water is recycled through a filter as it drains back in.

The Test

The test is simple. I am using a Veritas Honing Guide with a Neiko Chisel. (See more about those chisels here).

I will do multiple cycles where I start sharpening on a Shapton Traditional #220 up to a Shapton Traditional #12,000. (#1000, #5000, #8000, #12,000) I will flatten each stone for each cycle with a DMT Diasharp Coarse.

I will change the lubricant from Water to 1:100 Simple Green:Water on each total cycle. The number of strokes required to remove the scratches of the previous grit will be recorded.

I will wipe and check the chisel every 5 strokes and assess if the previous grit’s scratch marks have been removed.

The bevel angle is 25°. The width is 1/2” (12.7mm). The steel is Chrome Vanadium.

Where we begin each cycle

This is what the #220 scratch pattern looks like.

Where we end each cycle

This is what the #12,000 scratch pattern looks like. A mirror finish. Sharp as you could ever want.

The Results

This took me nearly 5 hours to do. It’s a lot of work!


The conclusion is pretty easy at this point. Adding Simple Green to your water when using water stones is %169 faster or better!

Ideally I should do more tests, and double blind, but the difference is massive. There’s also no way to do a legitimate blind test since the feel of the steel on the stone is so different. When using Simple Green, the feel starts out rough and slowly changes to a smooth feeling with the occasional scratchy feeling. When using water, it’s mostly a scratchy feeling with the occasional sensation of the steel hydroplaning on the stone.

I did not record the #220 stage, but it was by far the most noticeable. There’s something about that stone that is rather different from the others. The Simple Green makes a HUGE difference. Sometimes with just water the #220 will glaze over and start polishing instead of grinding. That never happened with the Simple Green in the water.

Add Simple Green to your water stone water. It really helps!

But wait! There’s more!

I use HoneRite in a spray bottle on my #12,000 stone usually. HoneRite causes the whetting process to act similarly to the Simple Green, but with the added benefit of making the water not cause rust on the tool (as quickly).

HoneRite is too expensive to use in my bucket, since I change that water frequently.

I did try some Simple Green with HoneRite and the result was a very slick/smooth feeling when moving the steel across the stone. Is it better? I don’t know. I see no reason to test it at this point.

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