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I had wanted a pair of sharpening stones for a while, so was enthused to get this last week. I watched a bunch of YouTube videos on how to use them and a deburring strop I also bought and wow, my kitchen and pocket knives are now wicked sharp. Pro tip: if you post anything about it on social media, family and friends will almost surely volunteer their knives for more practice...
Lubricant. Most knife sharpening experts recommend you use some sort of lubricant when sharpening your knife. The lubricant can come in a variety of forms, from water to oil. Most of the literature out there recommends mineral oil to be used for knife sharpening. The lubricant reduces heat from the friction that is created from sharpening your knife. Too much heat can actually warp your blade. Lubrication also helps clear out the debris, or swarf, that is created as you grind your knife blade on the stone. You can pick this up at most hardware stores for about $5. I used Norton Sharpening Stone Oil in the video.
A particularly odd use for the whetstone was as a tool for punishment. There are accounts of people who were found guilty of lying and were sentenced to have their head and hands stuck in a pillory with a whetstone around their neck. The origin of this practice is unknown. Such was the case for William Blackeney, who was discovered to be lying about being a pilgrim, a crime because he was coercing people into giving him gifts and other benefits. After being presented to the city officials, he was sentenced to be publicly shamed via the pillory and was forced to wear a whetstone around his neck for having deceived people for several years. Another case of this type was seen in William Hughlot’s punishment for assaulting several people, one of whom was an alderman. Upon his arrest, he proclaimed that the blame should be on the mayor and he proceeded to insult the court. Instead of the traditional punishment of cutting off the hand of a man who assaulted an alderman, he was pardoned and was given the lesser punishment of imprisonment along with being locked in the pillory with a whetstone around his neck. This use of the whetstone is curious, but when considering the duration of an individual’s punishment via the pillory, probably about an hour or more a day, it would seem that this could be an irritating and shameful punishment.