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Make your own ‘whetstone’

I’ve put up a few posts in the past about DIY whetstones, but I finally got around to something a little bit different. Mr Henk Bos, a gent in the Netherlands, did the world a great service by publishing his “labour-of-love” work on whetstones. I had contacted him to thank him for making his work available and to let him know he’d inspired me to start experimenting with different stones (and indeed it was a story he related that first gave me the idea of prototyping ceramic scythe whetstones). Sending him one of our whetstones was one of many things I had on my mental “to do” list, which I was saddened to learn I was never going to get to do, since he passed away late last year. In his emailed reply he suggested that I should also try making another form of “whetstone” out of some very basic raw materials: a bit of wood, some linseed oil, and sand.

I finally started soaking a thin strip of pine in linseed oil last week, with the intention that I’d pull it out and finish the job whenever I had a moment. In the meantime – somewhat coincidentally – a friend of the family (also Dutch) passed on two ‘sharpening paddles’. While he was a keen scythe mower, he’s not mowing anymore and passed them on to me. They look to have been made using a very similar principle: there’s an abrasive bound to a piece of timber using some kind of adhesive. It looks almost like cement. I’ll chase up some more information on them.

ingredientsSo back to my project I went. I had to dry some sand out on the wood stove, having had several inches of rain recently. Once it was dry, I simply sprinkled the sand onto the paddle while I rolled it around, until it would take no more, then let it sit for a minute, then sprinkled more on, and so on.

doneThen I put it on the mantlepiece over the fireplace to dry out.

I grabbed it today and gave it a go. I was quite doubtful that it would work – thinking that the sand would just fall off in chunks – but it actually does a surprisingly good job. The oil and sand has congealed and set into quite a solid mixture. It wouldn’t last a lifetime by any means, and I won’t be throwing away my whetstones, but it’s a very handy piece of knowledge to have in the arsenal for when everything goes pear shaped and we just have to make do with what we have. Check out the quick video here: