Honing oil is a very important tool to keep on hand if you use any type of knife regularly. However, if you have already been using honing oil, or are going to be using honing oil to sharpen your knives, do not switch over to water unless you change stones, or thoroughly clean your old one. This is because once you use oil on a sharpening stone, you cannot use water. Once you use oil, water will not have the same effect anymore when sharpening, remember, water floats on oil.
What is the best honing oil? Choosing the right honing oil primarily depends on what kind of knife you’ll be sharpening. If you’re sharpening one of your kitchen knives, you’ll want to go with a cleaner oil, such as the Thirteen Chefs oil. If you’re sharpening a pocket knife or outdoor knife, use the honing oil by Lansky.
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The Benefit of Using Honing Oil
Honing oil is a popular substance to use when sharpening any type of knife. You usually use the honing oil on a whetstone, or sharpening stone, when sharpening your knife.
Honing oils are used for sharpening knives because they help protect the stone and carry away the debris that is produced when sharpening. Honing oil also assists in making a much more keen edge on a metal blade.
And while you can use water on a sharpening stone to sharpen your knife, just be warned that once you use oil, you cannot use water on your sharpening stone. I cover this more in-depth at the bottom of this post.
Do you need honing oil to sharpen a knife?
If you’re not quite sure whether or not you want to use oil when sharpening your knives, it’s totally fine to just use water. Honing oil is not necessary to use when sharpening your knives, in fact, it’s completely optional unless your sharpening stone requires it.
When choosing between water or oil to use when sharpening your knives, it finally just comes down to personal preference. People who spend a lot of time in the wilderness, either hiking, backpacking, or camping, like to use water. This is because they don’t want to bring oil with them on their trips.
What can be used in place of honing oil?
You can use many different oils for sharpening your knives, however, there are a few things you should look out for.
Despite what you read online, you should try to steer clear from using ATF when sharpening your knives. ATF, also known as automatic transmission fluid, contains ingredients that you don’t necessarily want to get into your skin. And since there are so many great alternative oils, there’s really no reason to use it.
Many vegetable oils are great alternatives to using branded honing oil. Most of the time, vegetable oil doesn’t pose any problem. However, you will have to be careful to not choose a drying or semi-drying oil. Examples of some drying or semi-drying oils are:
- Tung Oil
- Flaxseed Oil
- Walnut Oil
- Poppy Oil
- Safflower Oil
- And some forms of Sunflower Oil.
The reason you want to shy away from the above oils is that they begin to dry and gel. This will start to clog your sharpening stone, making it completely useless.
A great many vegetable oils can be used successfully as honing oil. Most pose no problem at all (see note below on rancidity) but you do have to be careful not to accidentally choose a drying or semi-drying oil — which includes tung oil, flaxseed oil, walnut oil, poppy oil, safflower and some forms of sunflower oil. These can start to ‘dry’ and begin to gel, clogging the stone and making it nearly useless.
Older books often warn of the danger of using linseed oil (a drying oil) on your honing stones for this very reason. Note that flaxseed oil is linseed oil by another name.
Safe oils to use: corn oil, soya oil, most forms of rapeseed oil (canola) and peanut oil. You can also use almond oil, macadamia nut oil and olive oil, but given their higher price, they’re hardly a practical consideration.
Note: there’s no need to worry about vegetable oil going rancid unless you’re in the habit of completely flooding the stone and not wiping it down afterward. Even at that, the only real issue is a slightly stale or “off” smell, there’s no other negative effect.
What oil is best for a sharpening stone?
While there is arguably not just one best oil out there, here is something to keep in mind when purchasing oil for your sharpening stone.
Make sure that you go with mineral oil. Mineral oil won’t harden on your sharpening stone and it’s also light. Heavy oil will get in the way of your sharpening process.
However, I just want to add a quick note before we get into the 5 best honing oils you can choose to go with. And that is when you use oil on your sharpening stone, you can not use water after that. Since oil repels water, the water will not have the same effect when sharpening your knife. So make sure you keep that in mind before using oil on your stone.