Joel Stackman from America Stone was kind enough to send me one of his sharpening stones to test and generally subject it to the kind of misuse and abuse that happens in the real world. The last month I used it as my primary sharpener for my EDC knife, and tested it on several others knives. As a caveat, I am anal retentive about sharp knives, and a hopeless brand queen as well. Ergo, if it’s in my pocket I can shave with it and I don’t use Chinese steel.
Before testing the stone, I generally like to apply a little bit of caveat emptor and find out about the man behind the brand. Joel was kind enough to oblige and smart enough to avoid incriminating himself in print, two excellent traits for modern businessmen.
The actual stone is roughly 4″ wide, a 1/2″ thick and perhaps 1″ of flat surface and 3/8″ on the angled surface. It came in a black nylon pouch with a loop on the back that held the stone snugly and seemed to be manufactured well enough, and a small instruction card. I kept it in my general purpose backpack with other assorted stuff that gets thrown in and out of the truck daily and didn’t have any problem with the stone falling out or the velcro going bad on me despite being subject to dirt and moisture at times.
The stone itself was consistent in grit and didn’t suffer any pits or noticeable variances. Joel did not recommend oil, so none was used. The stone is approximately 850 grit, so I would recommend you stay on top of the blade if you don’t want to spend some time sharpening it. The instructions indicate you are to move the stone along the blade, rather vice versa like larger multi-stone systems. It takes a bit getting used to unless you have used similar sized stones. Some care is required not to cut your fingers when the knife gets sharp, but I suspect the knife will provide a gentle reminder to your hands if you aren’t. Also one must pay attention to the angle of the stone. This is an old-school technique and care must be taken not change the bevel of the knife. All of my knives are 20º bevels except the fixed blade, so the angle of contact should be kept fairly consistent to whatever the factory or bevel you have ground the knife to. Those who have used Japanese water stones will find the technique easy to pick up. The instructions stated to use the pointed side of the stone, then the flat side of the stone, and finally the curved spine of the stone. The knives used were all well maintained so the second and third steps were primarily used. The stone turned black as metal collects on it, but the scratchy side of a sponge and some Ajax did a good job of getting about 90% of the material off the stone. I attempted four different knives, but wound up giving up on one, simply because it was a Walmart kitchen knife, poorly made and more than dull, and I had no desire to spend several hours to get it sharp.
Benchmade 3550 Pardue Auto:
My EDC for years, it’s a thin spearpoint made out of 154CM. The steel is a medium hardness stainless (HRC 58-61) that is a pretty good blend of edge retention and ease of sharpening. I found the stone to be easy to move along the blade, and an appropriate amount of material being removed. The blade was in relatively good shape, and it took about twenty strokes on either side and ten on the rounded end of the stone to get it to shaving sharp again. It was easy enough to use the stone as a single stroke down the blade. While not as convenient as a Lansky or comparable system, it did an excellent job at sharpening the blade.
A little gem that was my EDC for several years, and now I carry if I’m wearing a suit or something that I need to go more low profile than a clipped knife. A flat ground drop point, it’s roughly 2 1/2″ of somewhat soft-ish (HRC 56-59) AUS-8. Having a much smaller handle, it was exceedingly difficult for me to get used to moving the stone rather than the knife. The stone worked, but between the shallow grind and the size it was not something I would repeat unless I had no other options.
Thistle Down Forge Custom:
A fixed blade carbon steel knife clocking it at 6″ it was the hardest knife I sharpened. With a HRC of 62, it was roughly comparable to D2 tool steel and certainly was a bear to sharpen. This is where I felt the design of the stone was ideally suited. The knife was easy to hold and the stone easy to manipulate along the edge, though it took more than one stroke to make one pass down the blade. I thought the design superior to the Arkansas stone of similar size and grit I formerly kept as a field expedient sharpener for combat and hunting knives.
I found the point of the stone to be unneeded in the knives I used, though I suspect for dull or serrated blades it would come in exceedingly handy. The rounded end of the stone is a great design and is a definite upgrade to flat stones, such as your typical square Arkansas stones. AmericaStone fills this niche nicely, and I believe it’s superior in that aspect to many, if not most offerings in that market. I would not suggest this as your only sharpening stone. However, I would not hesitate to recommend this as a stone for your BOB, truck or hunting/camping kit. It does a workmanlike job of sharpening a variety of blades, including serrated ones and in a small, affordable package. As an added benefit to getting a quality product, you will be supporting a small business and a fellow patriot.