Honing Oil - How to use, Where to buy, and alternatives

Honing Oil - How to use, Where to buy, and alternatives

What is Honing Oil?

Honing oil is a liquid most typically used in conjunction with a sharpening stone to sharpen blades of razors, knives, and other similar objects.  In machine shops it is used in much larger quantities for cylinders.

The honing oil is meant to lubricate the stones surface and carry away the small shavings and the dust that comes off of the stone while sharpening the blades.  These shavings are also known as swarf.

The term “honing oil” in many cases refers to a petroleum based oil, however it is also used as a generic term to describe the liquid used in the honing process.  

Some people use Windex, Simple Green, and even water to sharpen that are not oil based.

Premium honing oil is nothing more than a marketing term and doesn’t mean that it contains better ingredients than another not claiming the premium prefix.

How to use honing oil

  • Apply a thin layer of honing oil to the sharpening stone
  • Make sure entire surface is covered that will make contact with object to be sharpened
  • Add more drops if necessary during sharpening process
  • When done rinse stone to remove oil and dry it with a rag

Honing oil for sharpening stone

Diamond sharpening stones can be used wet or dry.  Using water or water based lubricants rather than petroleum based oils.

Natural sharpening stones can also be used wet or dry and with water or petroleum based oils.  Once oil is used on a stone it is not recommended to use water.  

Detailed document from Buck Knives about sharpening

DIY - How to make Honing Oil

There are plenty of DIY recipes of using a combination of products to create the best honing oil.  If you want to keep it simple then just use mineral oil.

Honing Oil Substitute

You’ll find every imaginable oil mentioned under the sun as a good substitute for honing oil.

 Here are the considerations when it comes to finding a substitute for products claiming to be specifically formulated for honing.
  • Viscosity - how thick is the oil
  • Rancidity - will the oil go bad and smell rancid?
  • Price - What are you willing to pay?
  • Availability - Can you buy it easily where you are located?
  • Clogging Stone pores - Will it clog the pores of your sharpening stone?
  • Smell - Any natural smell that is not desirable

Considering all of the above items the best honing oil is just plain old mineral oil.  If you don’t have access or don’t want to use it for whatever reason here are all of the alternatives people have used over the years.

I’m not going to break down all of the pros and cons, but keep all of the above considerations in mind when choosing.  Some swear by these alternatives and others avoid them like the plague.

Alternatives:  Mineral Oil, Johnsons Baby Oil, Kerosene, Saliva, ATF, Vegetable Oil, Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, WD-40


Can you use Wd40?

The viscosity (thickness of the oil) of Wd-40 is a bit thin, which doesn't make it a very good substitute for honing.  There is not enough thickness in the oil to do the job of removing the metal shavings and the swarf (particles of the stone).

Where to buy honing oil

Local stores such as Lowes, Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Rural King, or other hardware type stores

Online you’ll find it on Amazon and a few specialty retailers

The price for a commercial honing oil is anywhere from $1 per ounce up to $3 an ounce.


Cylinder honing oil

The most commonly used oil used in honing machines for cylinders is made by the sunnen company and the product is Man-845 or Man 845.  It runs about $160 for 5 gallons.  

An alternative is using tractor hydraulic oil.  This is a fraction of the cost at around $35 for 5 gallons.

Sharpening stone oil vs water

Straight razor honing

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