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What are Slipstones?

Slipstones. Interesting word. A little abrasive stone that slips into the inside curve (the 'cannel') of a gouge either to create a bevel or just to remove a burr. 

When you are sharpening your gouge you work the outside bevel on a benchstone and the inside bevel with a slipstone. Do look at No Fear Sharpening as a simple introduction to the whole process.

Slipstones that you can buy have a typical 'teardrop' shape and were originally designed for gunsmiths and similar metal workers, not woodcarvers. I designed some slipstones specially for carvers a while ago but sadly they have gone out of production: woodcarving is such a niche market for the firms who might make them. Now we are back to the situation we were in before: finding and using what slipstones we can get hold of. Search online.

Related Video:

Some sources:

Let me know if you find more and we'll add to the list!



| 13 February 2024 09:27

Bill - Sounds a worthwhile trip! I'd definitely get an assortment of larger slipstones.

| 12 February 2024 17:37

Hi Chris, I made it through most of the beginning course and started to investigate the world of sharpening. Believe it or not, I am driving from Minnesota to New Orleans in a week and am passing through Hot Springs, Arkansas! So I made contact with a company that quarries and produces Arkansas stones for sharpening, Dan’s Whetstones. They have some items for sale and are willing to give me a tour.
After watching a few of your videos, I was planning to get the following:
Translucent Arkansas 8” x 2” x 0.5” benchstone.
Translucent Arkansas slipstone of medium size.
I have a set of four tiny Pfeil slipstones but thought it best to get a larger one.

Does this sound about right, or would you recommend anything else?

| 09 September 2021 16:42

Michael - Yes, slipstones are not easy to find, which is more-or-less the position as when I started carving all too long ago. It's a matter of trawling the web and collecting what you can. Remember too that you can reshape slipstones (see directory on left for a workshop on this) - even old broken benchstones.
As for using sandpaper, certainly; anything that's harder than the metal we want to remove. I'd suggest, though, that you use abrasive paper design specifically for metal. You can get it adhesive backed so you can stick it directly onto say, glass, or shaped pieces of wood.
The only downside to paper is that it wears quickly, especially when used as a slipstone. It's best to grind both the outside and inside bevels of your bigger tools as close as you can and than see the paper abrasives as last stages finishing off.

| 02 June 2021 22:48

Thanks for another great video Chris! I’ll be ordering some more slipstones soon.

Translucent arkansas is a wonder, such a sweet feel, hard to put into words but such a pleasure compared to diamonds or carborundum.

For beginners like myself who have a bench plane (Stanley #4 or similar), it seems workable to put a bullnose on a piece of pine and use 400 grit wet n dry sandpaper for initial shaping of the inner bevel. As in other comments, the coarser slipstones are not easy to source. One advantage of the “planed timber” approach is it takes seconds to adjust the curvature to just a whisker quicker than the gouge in question. I still use the arkansas slip and then leather strop of course. (Please delete this comment if you think it’s a bad idea!).

| 12 May 2020 14:09

thank u Chris! yes now i know which one to choose :-)

| 08 May 2020 11:12

Andrew - Ciao e Benvenuto! There is a spectrum in these stones with 'coarse' an one end: stones which remove metal from you blade more aggressively (quicker); and 'fine' at the other: stones that remove less metal, more delicately really. You use coarse stones to do most of the work, shaping the bevel, and fine stones to finish off to your sharp edge.

The ability of a stone to abrade metal depends on its crystal structure: how rough, how dense etc. I'm not sure of your word 'grain' here, but 'grit' is a rough measurement of how coarse or fine these stones are; an assessment of their crystals. There's an article here that will explain more:

Unfortunately, 'grit' not very accurate as different types of stone have different shapes of crystals, work differently on the metal and thus comparisons are difficult. For example I have always found 'Black' Arkansas much finer the 'Translucent', which is not what I read on the links you gave.
Anyway, enough of all that. Let's cut to the chase!

I would always recommend the Translucent Arkansas as your finishing stone. For shaping, the early stage of sharpening, you can use the Soft Arkansas or, cheaper, coarse Carborundum slipstones.
Hope this helps!

| 08 May 2020 09:29

Good morning Chris, im andrew from italy, thanks for your videos, they are very helpful :-)
im having problem about to understand grain of slipstones, what do u mean when u say corse and fine?can u give a range of grit?
For example in classic hand tools link i found this set with soft arkansas grit 400-600. Is it course enough ? Or arkansas grit 4000-6000 is it fine enough?

thanks for attention and sorry for my english :-)

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