[Tool Review] Woodcraft 8″ x 3″ x 1/2″ Soft Arkansas Stone

IMG_20130831_152101_526So I bought this (my first oilstone) earlier this week and used it for the first time yesterday. This is the first oilstone I’ve ever used (so temper this review with that knowledge, you guys out there who have years of experience and use the premium stones on the market).   In fact, I’m just happy I didn’t screw up my plane iron!

The front of the stone darkened after the first use with mineral oil.

The front of the stone darkened after the first use with mineral oil.

But I shouldn’t have worried. I put some mineral oil on this stone, put the iron on it and watched the oil “pop” out when the bevel touched down and then went to town.

The back of the stone, with a bit of "spilled" mineral oil.

The back of the stone, with a bit of “spilled” mineral oil.

The size of this stone was comfortable—-I could easily make a “W” pattern with my WoodRiver jack iron and had plenty of room on the generous 3” wide face. The 8” length was nice—-I’m glad I opted for that over the 6” model. The price difference was only $5 and I like the extra space it got me. I was kind of worried at 1/2” thick the stone wouldn’t be “high enough” off the bench for me to get the job done, but it was plenty thick. Very nice.

I found this stone to cut pretty darn fast (compared to the scary sharp method) and removed the nicks I embarrassingly encountered on my iron within 5 minutes or so of slooooow pulling the iron. If I knew what I was doing (at all) I am sure I could have achieved the same results in much less time.

From the first pass to the last, the stone sang, giving me instant feedback that what I was doing was actually working. There was no sandpaper to clog, tear, or rip, no glues to mess around with to stuck sandpaper to granite or glass. Just a little oil, me, the stone and the iron. I am going all oilstone as soon as possible and not looking back!

It was sharpening nirvana for this woodworker.

I have never had this kind of grin on my face using scary sharp. That’s all I’ll say about that.

I paid 20% less than the sticker price for this (reg $25.99) stone with a coupon at my local Woodcraft. It was shrink wrapped in a nice little poplar (I think) box. The box was the only disappointment to the entire package and the reason I gave it 4 instead of 5 stars. It simply does not fit the stone as snugly as I expected. There’s atleast an 1/8” gap on three sides of the stone. I understand that the stone is a natural product and you’re not going to get 1/32” tolerances, but to me, to get a 5 star rating, everything has to be perfect. However, I would not hesitate to buy this stone again in a heartbeat, mis-fitting box notwithstanding. In the picture below you can see the gaps around the edges of the stone. The box just didn’t fit, which allowed the stone to slide around when you handed the box. Not wanting to take chances that I might chip or damage my new stone, I tried to fix it before I used it.

In fact, there was a simple fix—-I had a sliver of pine that seemed to fit nicely into the crack on one side and when wedged in, the stone went no where. Perfect.

Once this minor (and I do mean minor) defect was corrected, I got to work. The stone was very flat and needed no dressing that I could tell with my square. The mineral oil collected a nice dark swarf that was evident from the first pull. I never got that kind of result using sandpaper!

After I was satisfied the iron was nick-free, I simply wiped off the stone with a paper tower and replaced the lid. Done. Way faster and better than scary sharp. Even in the 100* garage, I didn’t work up a sweat.

Oh, one other thing—-the bottom of the box is lined with 1/8” hardboard:

This makes for a surface that is just barely enough to keep the stone from moving around on the bench. I tried at first to prop the box up on a piece of drawer liner grippy plastic stuff. It worked just fine. Then I removed the liner material and just left the box on my pine workbench top. Again, it worked just fine, but if I put just a little too much pressure on the pull of the iron, it tried to slip. No big deal and in fact, it helped me to realize when I was putting too much pressure on the pull. I may end up roughing up the back with a little 80 grit sandpaper.

To sum up, I have no experience with the other stones in the Pinnacle line (hard and black Arkansas) from Woodcraft, but I can tell you they are next on my shopping list!!

If you don’t have any bench stones yet and you’re looking to take the first step into the wider world/hobby of sharpening, I can wholeheartedly recommend this little stone as your first. You won’t regret it!



About Steven M. Vaught

A native son of Delaware, now living in Illinois, Steven is a writer, family historian, amateur astronomer, sometimes-gardener, woodworker, father to three wonderful children, husband to a wonderful wife, and caretaker of one cheeky vizsla.
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