Sharpening Stones



Every parang user will need eventually a means to sharpen it. Here is a short write up on sharpening stones used to sharpen parangs .

Being a parang user for 20+ years, I have an array of sharpening stones. Some have been worn out and discarded, and some are still in use. Sharpening stones come in various shapes, sizes , material and grits. Most sharpening stones are square, but some come round or wedge- shaped. Some are made of natural material – especially the finer grit ones. The coarser stones are usually made with carborundum , diamond or similar types of abrasives held together with a binder. Grits range from 40 and all the way up to about 1200 grit. It is quite difficult to grade a natural sharpening stone as it is not made of a specific grit and you can only tell from using it. Some natural sharpening stones will be harder than some and some will not cut as well as some.

Sharpening is basically removing steel from the knife edge , and how you achieve this can be quite interesting. I have seen rocks , sand , files, carbide scraper, sand paper , porcelain , dremmel and grinders being used. They all try and achieve the same final outcome, which is a sharp edge.

A note on mechanical sharpening – ie sanding machines, dremmel and grinders – I’ll not touch on these as I believe if you are not familiar with power tools, you can actually ruin the edge by over grinding. You can also destroy the heat treatment by overheating the knife edge.

So lets go to the sharpening stones. First up is a natural sharpening stone I am very familiar with. It belongs to my late grandmother and was placed outside her house on the ground next to the garage. It was one of the first natural sharpening stones I have ever seen, and it was used very very well. As you can see from the pictures below, the surface has become like a saddle from all the years of sharpening kitchen knives, goloks, sabit and parangs. A few years back, I noticed the stone was not in its place and only recently my uncle told me that someone had moved it. I’m so glad that it is now in my possession , although someone had chopped the top surface . I’ll try and recondition the surface back to its original smoothness. It is believed that this stone is more than 50 years, as my uncles remember that is was already in use when he was a child.  In some  villages even today, it is quite common to see a similar stone by the riverbank which the whole village uses to sharpen their knives.

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The Natural sharpening stone from my late grandmother’s house
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Another angle
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The top of the stone has been damaged. Looks like someone chopped it
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The saddle and smooth surface of the stone

Below are some of the sharpening stones I have used in the past. Some are natural and some are man made. The rough “brick” is used to dress the other stones, ie I do not use it to sharpen knives, but I use it to flatten the surface of the other stones before I start sharpening. A concave stone does not produce a good edge. As you can see, they come is various different sizes, from 5 inches long to 8 inches long. Some of the sharpening stones have two grits, one rough grit on one side, and a finer one on the other side.

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Some of my sharpening stones I have used

Here are some of the man made ones , some are thinner and good for field use. The green sharpening stones are much harder and better for stainless steel knives as they don’t wear out as fast as the black ones.

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Man made sharpening stones

Here is a close up of the natural stones. These natural stones differ in hardness, and some produce a slurry / muddy paste when sharpening. The left most and right most stones are the hardest, they sharpen quite slowly and produce not much slurry. The second from the left is my favorite, it sharpens fast and produces a muddy slurry. The on to the right of it is not the best stone, too soft and the slurry is very gritty. Usually I use these stones at the final stage, to get a razor sharp edge. The edges usually come out slightly hazy or mirror polished, depending on which sharpening stone you use.

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Natural sharpening stones

Recently about a year back, I discovered or actually had the opportunity to try out a friends diamond stones. To keep things short, I’ve never looked back 🙂 . They cut much faster and you can use them dry. Best of all , they don’t need any dressing and stay flat forever. I’ve tried cheaper diamond stones and have been disappointing as the diamonds fall off after some time. But these DMT diamond stones are the best!

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DMT diamond stones

Sharpening stone holders also come in various shapes and sizes. The left one below is from my inlaws , and it is just a square block of heavy wood with a carved recess for the stone to sit in . The middle one is one I made a long time ago, and you can wedge it against the table edge. I used to use oil when sharpening , hence the mess , but now days I either use water or nothing ( on the diamond stones ) . The sharpening stone holder you see on the right is one which I made a few years ago. It’s a copy of the modern stone holders and it works very very well. The bottom picture shows the modern sharpening stone holder , it’s much slimmer and has a better grip. I now have a few of these at home and in the workshop. it’s the best addition to your sharpening stones, and everyone should have one.

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Various types of sharpening stone holders
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A modern sharpening stone holder

Besides these, I also have some Japanese sharpening stones, up to 6000 grit. I seldom use it as I don’t need such a sharp knife. For the parangs I have , 600 grit is more than enough, and if I want to show off to friends, i use the 1200 grit. Thats enough to shave hair off my arm.

I also have a Spyderco Sharpmaker, and I use it for sharpening my folding knives. it’s easy and fast!