By Larry Williams & Don McConnell
As planemakers at Old Street Tool, we do a lot of sharpening and have developed a sharpening process that is easy to maintain, efficient and effective (see “Traditional Honing Technique,” page 50). And, because we occasionally teach and do trade shows, we are often asked about our sharpening process, especially regarding the use of Arkansas oilstones.
Through these discussions, as well as comments on online woodworking forums, we’ve come to suspect there are some significant misconceptions about Arkansas stones and their usage.
There appears, for example, to be widespread perception that the best-quality Arkansas stone supplies are quarried out and there is a rapidly declining supply of the remainder.
We’ve also come to realize there may be some suspicion that we use and recommend Arkansas stones because we live and work in the state. We know this not to be the case because we both used Arkansas stones before moving here – but did recently decide to take advantage of our relative proximity to the source and explore the quarrying and production of Arkansas stones as it is carried out today.
Our 4-1/2 hour drive south from the Ozark plateau in Northwest Arkansas takes us through the Boston Mountains as well as miles and miles of the Ouachita National Forest. As we approach the Hot Springs/Ouachita Mountains area, we realize that we are entering a geologically interesting region. We are, for example, greeted by many yard-sale-type offerings of various crystals. And we notice signs for the Crater of Diamonds State Park (where visitors are encouraged to hunt for diamonds in freshly prepared soil), which is some distance beyond our destination of Pearcy, Ark. Pearcy, in turn, is a few miles west of Hot Springs, both of which are in Garland County.
We don’t realize, however, that we are about to meet a remarkable man and be entranced by him and the small company he’s developed, Dan’s Whetstones, which produces of a variety of top-quality Arkansas stone products. Clearly, the supply is not played out.
A Hobby Becomes a Business
Dan Kirschman, a graduate of the Colorado School of Mines with an engineer of mines degree, worked for a number of years as a mining representative – work which eventually brought him to Hot Springs. During his tenure there, he began cutting and finishing Arkansas stones as something of a hobby. Then, in 1976, when he was asked to move pursuant to his mine engineering work, he decided to remain in the Hot Springs area and turn his hobby into a business.
Web Site: Visit Dan’s Whetstone’s site.
In Our Store: “Making Traditional Side Escapement Planes,” a DVD by Larry Williams.
To Buy: “Traditional Molding Techniques: The Basics,” a DVD by Don McConnell.
From the February 2013 issue #202
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