An oilstone and a waterstone are two of the most popular sharpening tools used by people who work with knives, swords, scissors and other sharp-edged objects. There are pros and cons to each option, so which one should you choose? Here is a quick overview of oilstone vs. waterstone comparison to help you decide.

Oilstones: An oilstone typically consists of a block or slab made from dense aluminum oxide abrasive suspended in a binder such as oil or sometimes wax. The stone surface is fairly hard and designed to cut quickly while remaining resistant to wear. The binder lubricates the stone surface, making it easier to remove metal filings generated during sharpening. Oilstones usually come in two grits – coarse for rough grinding/shaping and fine for honing (final sharpening).

Waterstones: Also known as Japanese waterstones or whetstones, these stones are softer than oilstones but still contain some abrasiveness. They often use high-grade silicon carbide or corundum that is completely saturated with water from within their core when used for sharpening. As the stone wears down during use, the particles become finer and finer until it eventually turns into mud that can wash away with water when finished. Waterstones come in many different grades of coarseness that can range from almost black (very coarse) to colorless (extremely fine).

Conclusion: In conclusion, it ultimately comes down to personal preference as both options have their merits when it comes to sharpening tools. If you need something that will quickly shape a blade but still remain durable over time then an oilstone might be the better choice for you. On the other hand, if your focus is on achieving ultra-sharp edges then you might want to consider treating yourself to a set of waterstones instead!


Oilstones have been used for centuries to sharpen and hone tools like knives, chisels, axes, etc. They were most likely first developed in Europe between the 13th and 14th centuries, but their exact origin remains a mystery. An oilstone is made of hard material with particles embedded into it that holds a slurry of oil or honing compound, and was traditionally used with a lubricating oil.

Waterstones on the other hand were developed more recently in Japan between the 16th and 17th centuries. Waterstones are softer than oil stones and need to be soaked in water before use in order to properly lubricate them. The water acts as a suspension medium for removing metal from the surface being sharpened similar to an abrasive paste or slurry used with an oilstone.


Oilstones are generally composed of Novaculite, a dense, hard variety of quartz. This material holds up to sharpening and honing very well and may last longer than other stone types. Waterstones, on the other hand, are usually made from aluminum oxide or silicon carbide abrasive grits which are fragile in comparison to oilstones and need to be soaked in water before use. Both stones should be regularly lubricated with either mineral or vegetable oil during grinding for optimal results.

Usability: Examples of what each is most suitable for

Oilstone are ideal for sharpening chisels and plane blades due to the high amount of friction generated from the quartz surface. They can also be used for sharpening knives but take significantly longer than waterstones because of their slower cutting speeds. Waterstones produce a much finer edge with fewer scratches due to the finer grain size, making them better suited for sharpening knives and gouges as well as other tools such as scissors, shears and draw-knives.

Sharpening Capabilities

Oilstone: An oilstone is a type of whetstone designed to cut through metals such as steel. These stones use lubricants, usually in the form of oil, to help facilitate a smooth sharpening process. Rubbing the oilstone against the metal causes microscopic abrasions that sharpen and polish its surface. The advantage of an oilstone is that it creates a durable edge that holds up well with regular use.

Waterstone: A waterstone is a type of whetstone composed of very fine particles suspended in water. Unlike an oilstone, waterstones require little maintenance and can be used immediately after being soaked in water for a few minutes before sharpening. They are more effective at creating a polished finish than oilstones, due to their finer grains which provide smoother and more even cutting surfaces. However, the downside is that edges made from waterstones are not as durable as those crafted from an oilstone.


Oilstones typically require less maintenance than waterstones, but some are still recommended. For oilstones, it is important to always use a light oil to keep the stone well lubricated. Additionally, any debris or buildup should be scraped off or even scrubbed with some mineral spirits if needed. To make sure the stone remains flat and sharp throughout its life, it should also be occasionally flattening using either sandpaper or arkansas stones.

When it comes to waterstones, they need to be periodically soaked in water before use. It is also important to rinse away any excess material that builds up on the surface of the stone from metal shavings during sharpening. A mild detergent can be used occasionally for deep cleaning as well. To flatten out a waterstone use either diamond stones or wet/dry sandpaper with specific grading systems depending on how coarse the stone is. Furthermore for optimal results some prefer to add a “slurry” mixture with additional abrasive particles and honing liquid to reduce clogging and improve cutting ability.

Final Verdict

Oilstones are great for sharpening tools with a single bevel, such as wood chisels, plane blades, and knives. They cut quickly and help prevent the tools from getting too hot during the process. Oil also has lubricating properties that help reduce friction as you sharpen the tool. However, oilstones are not ideal for polished edges on a double-beveled edged tool (like a kitchen knife). This is because their grit is coarser than that of waterstones which can cause slight gouging along the outside edge of your knife blade.

Waterstones are known for producing fine polished edges well suited for double beveled edged tools like kitchen knives and razors. The finer grit allows you to sharpen your tool without leaving any obvious marks on it. Waterstones remove steel more slowly than oilstones so they’re better suited to tasks where precise edges are critical such as sharpening high-end Japanese knives. However, waterstones require frequent soaking with water which can be inconvenient.

Overall, each type of stone is best suited to different sharpening jobs. For general purposes when precision is not essential oil stones offer quick results which don’t require substantial preparation or maintenance. On the other hand, when precision is key then water stones should be used due to their ability to produce smooth polished edges tailored to double beveled edged tools like kitchen knives and razors.


Oilstone and waterstone are both sharpening tools used to hone the edge of a blade. Oilstones tend to be more coarse in texture, while waterstones are finer. Oilstones can sharpen well but require an oil lubricant, which also helps to keep them from clogging up with metal particles after heavy use. Waterstones require water as a lubricant, keeping them from clogging and preventing them from rusting over time. While generally more expensive than oilstones, waterstones have the advantage of being easier to clean and maintain.

If you’re looking for a quick sharpening job, an oilstone might be the better option for you: faster, less mess and cheaper. For those needing a finer edge or working on professional-grade knives, however, using a quality waterstone will yield the best results. When it comes down to choosing between an oilstone vs waterstone, consider what type of knife sharpening job you anticipate doing and make your decision accordingly.