Can you store a synthetic waterstone permanently in water? Will it degrade the stone?

When I was last doing woodwork classes the school had a water cooled rotary grind stone/wheel, and I remember that it was important to remove the water resevoir after use and let the stone drip dry for a few minutes while still turning. Some past student had left the water on, and the half of the stone in the water had swollen unevenly, making the whole grinding wheel asymmetric. Could something similar happen to a modern, flat waterstone?

Most waterstones need to be soaked in water for between 5 and 15 minutes before use. But I've seen a video where the demonstrator just seems to splash 2 or 3 handfuls of water over his stones (but I suspect because he sharpens many times a day they would get plenty of water).

For context (although I'm not sure it's important) My shed/workshop doesn't have running water. I can tote a big bottle of water down there, it would be easiest to simply store the stone in a clip-lock plastic box.

  • Paul Sellers doesn't use waterstones, so extrapolate nothing from what you've seen him doing. Anyway, the simple answer here is the ever-regrettable, it depends. Some stones degrade if kept permanently immersed, some don't.
    – Graphus
    Dec 29 '20 at 17:01
  • To further the "it depends" answer, some waterstones need to be soaked in advance of using them, but others do not. For synthetic waterstones you just need water on the surface for lubrication. Dec 29 '20 at 18:43
  • This seemed like a good question to me; what additional details are needed to make it acceptable?
    – Caleb
    Jan 26 '21 at 15:21
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    I could add the specific brand of waterstone I own - but then the answer would probably be "read the manual" so I don't think it makes the Q&A valuable for others. I think your point might make a good answer "some waterstones yes, some waterstones no - here's how to check and some examples". I think your other point "the definition of waterstones is not precise" would be off topic for this question.
    – Andrew M
    Jan 27 '21 at 14:50
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    @Graphus If the answer depends on the type of waterstone, that itself seems like the answer. If we're really going to close the question because it lacks that detail, then there should at least be a comment to the effect that the question is too broad or impossible to answer without knowing the type. But I think it'd be better to simply write an answer that says "it's OK with some types of waterstones but some types can be damaged" would be good, and if it's possible to give some guidance as to how to tell which types are OK for storage in water, that'd be an ideal answer.
    – Caleb
    Jan 27 '21 at 15:41

My personal experience leads me to say yes you can. I've been storing my waterstones in a plastic tote just as you mentioned for 10+ years now and there have been no issues of swelling or degradation. But that may not be the case for all waterstones as there are a variety of them available including different materials and, of course, grit. The main thing I've had to deal with is nasty smelling water. I've mitigated that by using distilled water and adding a tablespoon of bleach every now and then.

First recommendation is to check if the manufacturer of your stones provides storage recommendations. If they don't, see if a similar manufacturer does (compare similar grits and composition). If you're paying reasonable prices (subjective) then you're probably using synthetic stones. Most sources seem to make a distinction between coarse and medium grit being ok to store submerged while keeping the finer grits (often called finishing stones) stored dry and wetted somewhere between 10 and 20 mins before sharpening.

  • 1
    Are the OPs waterstones the same as yours?
    – Graphus
    Dec 30 '20 at 10:24
  • Fair point. I've edited my response to separate some of my personal experience from general guidance.
    – Jeff
    Jan 25 '21 at 22:04
  • @Graphus Is there reason to believe that any waterstones are adversely affected by water? I understand about not wanting them to freeze, certainly, but I've never seen instructions that say "be sure to carefully dry your waterstone after use in order to maximize it's useful lifetime" or anything similar. When people ask a question about wood movement or whatever, nobody says "Are the OP's boards the same as yours?"
    – Caleb
    Jan 26 '21 at 15:18
  • @Caleb, it's well known that some naturals degrade when stored permanently in water, same as sandstone grinding wheels did/do. I know that some of the synthetics do too but I can't recall the specifics (whether it's usually those at the coarse or fine end).
    – Graphus
    Jan 27 '21 at 7:53
  • @Graphus If you've got a source for any of that, it'd be a useful addition. It's not well known to me, and if it were well known in general the OP probably might not have needed to ask here. Some sources (e.g. Woodcraft) say it's fine to store stones in water, and I seem to remember a FWW article about a wooden box for storing stones in water — will keep looking for that. If there's potential for harm, an actual source would be helpful.
    – Caleb
    Jan 27 '21 at 16:08

My shed/workshop doesn't have running water.

If it's also unheated, then you definitely don't want to store your stones in water because as soon as that water freezes, your stones will be destroyed.

  • This doesn't really Answer the Question. Certainly this is a useful piece of additional info but responses need to directly Answer the query or queries in the original Question first, and then add supplementary information like this to flesh them out and make them even more useful.
    – Graphus
    Dec 30 '20 at 10:28

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