Monday, April 01, 2013


So Saturday was, shock horror, not a bad day. That flaming ball of gas in the sky, that I was starting to think was just a legend, actually put in an appearance.

Spring? Sun? A not-so-young galoot's mind turns naturally to The Hunt. Yep, I went to the car boot sale.

What with one thing and another, we were a bit on the latish side, but as there was little to no sign of any tool vending apart from the box o' rusty spanners and screwdrivers variety, I suspect I didn't miss much. Was I downhearted? Nah. Not really. Shouldn't be buying anyway - should be selling.

Anyway, went into the market to see what our long-established tool pusher had amongst his wares. Answer: lots. The place has suddenly blossomed into planes, and had the pleasure of seeing a Sargent VBM (Very Best Made, I believe) Jointer, which is not a make I ever expected to lay eyes on in the wild. Very nice it was too, and if I hadn't had a will of iron that I would not buy another jointer plane, I might well have succumbed.

Instead I just get to sit here kicking myself that I didn't succumb. Heigh ho.

Also a couple of small swing braces (resisted), coupla T-handled augers (resisted), a WS jack plane, that whispered that I ought to be ashamed that I didn't own a single WS Manufacturing tool (resisted) and many other delights. Also a router slash quirk beader slash not entirely certain yet woodie, which I didn't resist. I suspect it might be a regular coachbuilder's router that's been given a new beading blade, but have yet to clean it up to see. Or take a picture. I'll rectify that some other time; don't grumble at me.

Also, amongst the sharpening stones, was a larger pine box that caught my eye.

Filthy, battered and unlovely. I opened it expecting the classic sway-backed artificial stone with a lot of space around it.
No space. Big stone. And it's yellow. The size would have got me asking the inevitable "How much?" But yellow got a little bell going off in my head, because I suspected I knew what it was. Oily, greasy, and revolting as it was, I took a punt and bought it at the asked for Five Earth Pounds. Zoicks. I could end up feeling very foolish if I'm wrong.

After a little elbow grease - okay, a lot of elbow grease - you can handle the box without going "Ewwwww". I had to lightly plane the base to get it to sit on a level surface again, but otherwise I tried not to remove anything but the crud.

A previous owner took the trouble to nail a nice decorative bead round the lid. It's not the most attractive stone box you'll ever see, but I like it. You can see where it's been used as a handy backing for one or two boring operations, and a ring where I'm betting a glue pot was rested on it.

Anyway, after a good deal of scrubbing, and a bit of lapping, my hunch appears to be confirmed. It's a Belgian Yellow Coticule; a fine water stone from The Ardennes. They're still quarrying them now, but they're spendy.

Close-up of the surface. The straight razor enthusiasts appear to love them. I was a bit concerned the years of use with oil might have knackered it, but it made a slurry okay and seems to be fine. It's not the first water stone I've acquired that spent years as an oil stone and showed no ill-effects, so I begin to suspect that the variety of stone - and whether it's artificial or not - could be rather important.

And to give you an idea of the size. Trying to avoid casting a shadow and such I ended up with the rule at entirely the wrong angle. The stone is actually a whopping 12 3/4in long and a tad over 3in wide. Perspective, eh? Can be a deceiving blighter. As you can see, I haven't lapped the entire surface. I figure there's plenty of room to use at either end to bring the ends down level naturally over time.

Only reference to such a large stone I can find is from Jim Kingshott in Sharpening, The Complete Guide where he says:

"Belgium stones are available and are used in the musical instrument-making trade for sharpening knives and other small tools. This does not mean that the stone is only obtainable in small sizes. I have a piece that is 12in long, 2 3/4in wide and 1in thick (305mm x70mm x 25mm). The Belgium is a fine stone that cuts at a reasonable speed. It makes a good finishing tool; I use it for wide plane irons."

So I reckon I did okay, no? Not such a foolish purchase.


  1. Rather than retell a lengthy tale, can I toss in a little hyperlink to a stone I picked up back in September 2012?

    If you want to feel shameful jealousy, tell me and I'll let you know the sale price when I listed it on the 'bay in January.

    I will no longer poo-poo sharpening stones at tool auctions without giving them a proper look-over first.

  2. That is an awesome stone - and you are right they are the business for sharpening straight razors (another one of my "hobbies") since by using a slurry you can vary the effective "grit" similar to how japanese natural stones are used.

    If you wanted to learn more about using them have a look at - but be warned that sharpening methods are as much a religious war in shaving as they are in woodworking.

    And to see the variety currently available have a look at



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