Store Japanese Water Stones in Water?
I've been using Japanese water stones for a long time on knives and wood-plane blades and always let them air dry between uses. Recently, after using splash-and-play Naniwa stones for a while, I went back to some older stones (King brand) and wondered if I could store them in a container of water so they're always ready to use. Does anyone do that? Do you have to use a weak chlorine solution to keep it from being smelly after a while? Does it hurt the stones?
<wondered if I could store them in a container of water>
Some stones you can, some stones you cannot because they will actually turn mushy. My understanding is that this is not a problem for most of the King stones. In other words, you should able to store them in water for a long peroid of time.
I will double check just to be sure. Store them in water for 12 hours and check on them. If it feels solid, then you are good. If the surface starts to feel mushy or loose, then stop it.
I have never tried to do this, but you are correct that you will need something to inhibit bacteria or insect growth. You can try chlorine, rubbing alcohol, acidic (like white vinegar).... All of these will inhibit growth. As to which options is most comparable to waterstones.... that I don't know. :) Alternatively, just change the water every 2-3 days will do.
I don't think it's an issue of "boring" so much as "untried" here on CH. I remember the question being discussed over on Knife Forums a while back & the answers were pretty much the same as Chem's response: each brand (& maybe models within brands?) responds differently to prolonged soaking. Some tolerate it fairly well, but others don't hold up. You might have luck searching for King soak results over there. Or maybe emailing King?
Otherwise, I think the general recommendation on KF was also "try it & see."
I have 1 Ohishi & 2 Suehiro stones, but my knives need sharpening so infrequently that I have no need to continually soak them. I drop them in water first, & then set up my other stuff, & if they need more time I can make an espresso. :-)
I don't own kings but I'd never do this with my stones unless I was using them every day and even then I'd think twice because as others mentioned every stone is going to be different.
Yesterday I emailed my question to Chef Knives To Go and got this response:
As a general rule I discourage perma soaking stones. No stones improve by soaking them all the time and the amount of soaking you need to do on most stones is only 5-10 minutes so it's not a big deal.
That said, I seem to remember reading about some of my customers soaking the kings for long periods without any trouble.
Thanks for the information, bkling.
Like he said, as a general rule, it is not encouraged. He is correct that there is absolutely no improvement for storing in water. It is always about convenience, not performance. Mark, being a seller, has no reason to tell you to do something which can potentially hurt the stones -- no matter how small the chances may be. He will be reliable if he did.
For example, I as an individual may tell you that it is perfectly to sharpen a Henckels Zwilling knife down to 15 degree each side or lower, but a Henckels customer representative probably will not.
Basically, I agree with Chem. A lot of sellers and manufacturers will caution you not to soak stones just so they don't have to deal with returns - they err on the side of caution. I'd also take JBroida's word on how specific stones deal with longer term soaking. I've heard before that low and medium grit king stones can live underwater. As a general guideline, higher grit stones are more problematic. But it always depends on the stone in question. The only stone I've ever left in water for a few days was a cheap 240/1000 combo stone I got on amazon, and that was fine.
If you do decide you want to leave a stone in water, you can try this: soak it for an hour. If it's fine, soak it next time for a few hours. Still fine - soak it for a day. Still fine - soak for a few days. Still fine - you're probably good to go. One last consideration - I've heard there is some potential for mold or fungus when storing underwater. I've also heard stories of people adding just a few drops of bleach to their water to prevent this. But it's not something I've tried.
I've left a King 6000 for days and while it didn't hurt it, it didn't seem to work as well.
I have some Gesshin stones from Jon and follow his instructions. He tells you which can and cannot be kept in water.
If you have been to Jon's shop or look close in his videos you will see stones in the Cambro container he uses as a stone pond.
Gentlemen, and Ladies:
I have left all my King stones constantly soaking for the last 25 years.
The thicker stones (8000, 1200, 800) have survived quite well.
They sit in a water sealed, partitioned box, baltic birch ply (waterproofed with epoxy resin).
The stones are kept there: ---separated---soaked---ready---.
if a lid is used, no need to chlorinate the water. The lid keeps out light, and reduces evaporation.
Long term water immersion is incompatible with the magnesium bond found in some high-end stones. Other stones with a resin bond (like my Kings) are OK.
I also do this with Bester ceramics.
I made a post on a different forum on this a while back... here's a quote...
Resinoid based stones respond to soaking and drying differently from ceramic, clay based, and magnesia based stones. Magnesia based stones, like the chocera, will crack when over-soaked due to magnesia (the binding agent) leaching out in the water. After a while, the stone looses structural stability. Clay based and ceramic stones do not have any cracking problems unless dropped (or sometimes when they are worn thin and you exert too much pressure in an unsupported section). Vitrified stones work in a similar way to the ceramic and clay based stones, but are often less firm and can break more easily when dropped and/or worn too thin. Resinoid based stones respond to soaking differently. The soaking is actually not the issue at all. Soaking helps soften the stone, causing it to release more abrasive more quickly, improving tactile feedback, and helping create more mud. However, repeated soaking and drying, drying too quickly, or changes in humidity based on environment cause the stone to dry out unevenly. Because resinoid based stones are not as porous, air can not penetrate as quickly, nor can water escape in the same way. As water leaves the outer portion of the stone, the loss of mass causes the outside of the stone to shrink faster than the inside of the stone, which is the main cause of cracking with stones like this. Therefore, when it comes to resinoid based stones, you need to pick one of the following ways of dealing with them:
-use as a splash and go stone
-soak and dry, but dry very carefully and slowly, while paying attention to general humidity