Of all modern appliances, I regard the modern oilstones as the most
beneficial to woodworkers of the present time. In my youth we did not, of
course, realise it, but now I see how very much we were handicapped by the
poor class of stones then available. A few men were the possessors of a
"Turkey"; the only other variety known to us was the "Charnley Forest".
Both were natural products, for a manufactured stone at that time had not
been heard of. The Turkey, a cream and brown mottled stone of beautiful
smooth texture, can still hold its own, and it may safely be predicted
that, in the rare instances where pieces still remain, they will, by
virtue of their merit, be handed down for use by succeeding generations. I
never saw a full-sized Turkey stone without minute cracks and fissures.
Apparently it was obtained from the natural rock with difficulty; the
sides were uneven, and we assumed that the producers were content with
attaining one flat side. Turkey stones absolutely needed the protection
of a wooden case, imbedded in which they were good for lifelong use. But
the owners were careful of them, lest they should fall and be shattered.
All my father's men used the "Charnley Forest", a natural British stone
resembling slate, and I have vivid memories of the incessant rubbing that
was necessary before a keen edge on the tool could be obtained on them.
They varied slightly in quality, but even the very best were dreadfully
slow; and all demanded an abnormal amount of labour, to lighten which we
sometimes applied fine emery powder to the surface. This quickened the
process, but left a raw and unsatisfactory edge to the tool. Recourse to
the grindstone was had immediately the sharpening bevel became wide.
In the year 1889 the "Washita". An imported stone, appeared on the English
market, and was hailed with delight by all woodworkers , who straightway
discarded their "Charnley Forests" for ever. One old stone, that had till
then been considered of supreme merit and priceless value, was then hawked
round the workshop where I was serving a term of apprenticeship, and
failed to find a purchaser at the proffered price of sixpence. On my
weekend visits home, I carried a new stone to show my brother, who
insisted on keeping it. It created a minor sensation in my father's
workshop, where its undreamed of quality of sharpening captivated all my
father's men, each of whom speedily obtained one. Being a natural stone,
it varies in quality. If quick cutting is required to ordinary
carpenters' tools a coarse grained one should be selected, but for carving
tools a fine texture is preferable.
Since that time, two manufactured stones have appeared. The "Indiana" and
the "Carborundum". Each is made in three grades, fine, medium, and
coarse, and each has recognised valuable qualities. Experience of work at
the bench. Inclines me to favour the fine "Indiana" as a stone of a
texture on which a smooth keen edge can be obtained. But for ordinary
outdoor carpentry I would prefer the medium.
"The Village Carpenter" 1937
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