Last updated
The Knife-grinder by Goya shows a man using a portable grindstone. Francisco de Goya y Lucientes - Knife Grinder - WGA10060.jpg
The Knife-grinder by Goya shows a man using a portable grindstone.

A grindstone, also known as grinding stone, is a sharpening stone used for grinding or sharpening ferrous tools, used since ancient times. Tools are sharpened by the stone's abrasive qualities that remove material from the tool through friction in order to create a fine edge. Similar to sandpaper, each stone has a different grit that will result in sharper or duller tools. In Australia, Aboriginal peoples created grinding grooves by repeated shaping of stone axes against outcrops of sandstone.


History and description

Grindstones have been used since ancient times, to sharpen tools made of metal. They are usually made from sandstone. [1] [2]

Grinding grooves

Aboriginal grinding grooves in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia KingsTableland1.JPG
Aboriginal grinding grooves in the Blue Mountains, New South Wales, Australia

Aboriginal grinding grooves, or axe-grinding grooves, have been found across the Australian continent. [3] The working edge of the hatchet or axe was sharpened by rubbing it against an abrasive stone, eventually leading to the creation of a shallow oval-shaped groove over time, [4] The grooves vary in length from 80 mm (3.1 in) up to 500 mm (20 in), and can be up to 200 mm (7.9 in) wide and 100 mm (3.9 in) deep. They are often found near water, which was sprinkled on the stone during grinding to reduce dust. [3]


Large waterwheel powered grindstone. The user would lie on the plank above the grindstone while grinding metal items, giving rise to the phrase nose to the grindstone. Finch Foundry, grindstone.jpg
Large waterwheel powered grindstone. The user would lie on the plank above the grindstone while grinding metal items, giving rise to the phrase nose to the grindstone.

Grindstone machines work by spinning a circular piece of stone around its center point. These machines usually have pedals for speeding up and slowing down the stone to control the sharpening process. The earliest known representation of a rotary grindstone, [6] operated by a crank handle, is found in the Carolingian manuscript known as the Utrecht Psalter. This pen drawing from about 830 goes back to a late antique original. [7] The Luttrell Psalter, dating to around 1340, describes a grindstone rotated by two cranks, one at each end of its axle. [8] Around 1480, the early medieval rotary grindstone was improved with a treadle and crank mechanism. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crankshaft</span> Mechanism for converting reciprocating motion to rotation

A crankshaft is a mechanical component used by in a piston engine to convert the reciprocating motion into rotational motion. The crankshaft is a rotating shaft containing one or more crankpins, that are driven by the pistons via the connecting rods.

A stone tool is, in the most general sense, any tool made either partially or entirely out of stone. Although stone tool-dependent societies and cultures still exist today, most stone tools are associated with prehistoric cultures that have become extinct. Archaeologists often study such prehistoric societies, and refer to the study of stone tools as lithic analysis. Ethnoarchaeology has been a valuable research field in order to further the understanding and cultural implications of stone tool use and manufacture.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ground stone</span> Prehistoric stone tool

In archaeology, ground stone is a category of stone tool formed by the grinding of a coarse-grained tool stone, either purposely or incidentally. Ground stone tools are usually made of basalt, rhyolite, granite, or other cryptocrystalline and igneous stones whose coarse structure makes them ideal for grinding other materials, including plants and other stones.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Millstone</span> Stones used in gristmills, for grinding wheat or other grains

Millstones or mill stones are stones used in gristmills, for grinding wheat or other grains. They are sometimes referred to as grindstones or grinding stones.

A saw is a tool consisting of a tough blade, wire, or chain with a hard toothed edge. It is used to cut through material, very often wood, though sometimes metal or stone. The cut is made by placing the toothed edge against the material and moving it forcefully forth and less vigorously back or continuously forward. This force may be applied by hand, or powered by steam, water, electricity or other power source. An abrasive saw has a powered circular blade designed to cut through metal or ceramic.

An abrasive is a material, often a mineral, that is used to shape or finish a workpiece through rubbing which leads to part of the workpiece being worn away by friction. While finishing a material often means polishing it to gain a smooth, reflective surface, the process can also involve roughening as in satin, matte or beaded finishes. In short, the ceramics which are used to cut, grind and polish other softer materials are known as abrasives.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Crank (mechanism)</span> Simple machine transferring motion to or from a rotaing shaft at a distance from the centreline

A crank is an arm attached at a right angle to a rotating shaft by which circular motion is imparted to or received from the shaft. When combined with a connecting rod, it can be used to convert circular motion into reciprocating motion, or vice versa. The arm may be a bent portion of the shaft, or a separate arm or disk attached to it. Attached to the end of the crank by a pivot is a rod, usually called a connecting rod (conrod).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">File (tool)</span> Tool used to remove fine amounts of material

A file is a tool used to remove fine amounts of material from a workpiece. It is common in woodworking, metalworking, and other similar trade and hobby tasks. Most are hand tools, made of a case hardened steel bar of rectangular, square, triangular, or round cross-section, with one or more surfaces cut with sharp, generally parallel teeth. A narrow, pointed tang is common at one end, to which a handle may be fitted.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Quern-stone</span> Stone tools for hand–grinding

Quern-stones are stone tools for hand-grinding a wide variety of materials. They are used in pairs. The lower stationary stone of early examples is called a saddle quern, while the upper mobile stone is called a muller, rubber or handstone. The upper stone was moved in a back-and-forth motion across the saddle quern. Later querns are known as rotary querns. The central hole of a rotary quern is called the eye, and a dish in the upper surface is known as the hopper. A handle slot contained a handle which enabled the rotary quern to be rotated. They were first used in the Neolithic era to grind cereals into flour.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grinding machine</span>

A grinding machine, often shortened to grinder, is a power tool used for grinding. It is a type of machining using an abrasive wheel as the cutting tool. Each grain of abrasive on the wheel's surface cuts a small chip from the workpiece via shear deformation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Medieval technology</span> Technology used in medieval Europe

Medieval technology is the technology used in medieval Europe under Christian rule. After the Renaissance of the 12th century, medieval Europe saw a radical change in the rate of new inventions, innovations in the ways of managing traditional means of production, and economic growth. The period saw major technological advances, including the adoption of gunpowder, the invention of vertical windmills, spectacles, mechanical clocks, and greatly improved water mills, building techniques, and agriculture in general.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grinding wheel</span> Abrasive cutting tool for grinders

Grinding wheels contains abrasive compounds for grinding and abrasive machining operations. Such wheels are also used in grinding machines.

A grinding dresser or wheel dresser is a tool to dress the surface of a grinding wheel. Grinding dressers are used to return a wheel to its original round shape, to expose fresh grains for renewed cutting action, or to make a different profile on the wheel's edge. Utilizing pre-determined dressing parameters will allow the wheel to be conditioned for optimum grinding performance while truing and restoring the form simultaneously.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sharpening jig</span>

A sharpening jig is often used when sharpening woodworking tools. Many of the tools used in woodworking have steel blades which are sharpened to a fine edge. A cutting edge is created on the blade at the point at which two surfaces of the blade meet. To create this cutting edge a bevel is formed on the blade, usually by grinding. This bevel is subsequently refined by honing until a satisfactorily sharp edge is created.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sharpening stone</span> Abrasive slab used to sharpen tools

Sharpening stones, or whetstones, are used to sharpen the edges of steel tools such as knives through grinding and honing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sharpening</span>

Sharpening is the process of creating or refining 2 perpendicular axis into a converging "Apex" creating an edge of appropriate shape on a tool or implement designed for cutting. Sharpening is done by removing material on an implement with an abrasive substance harder than the material of the implement, followed sometimes by processes to polish/hone the sharp surface to increase smoothness.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Knife sharpening</span>

Knife sharpening is the process of making a knife or similar tool sharp by grinding against a hard, rough surface, typically a stone, or a flexible surface with hard particles, such as sandpaper. Additionally, a leather razor strop, or strop, is often used to straighten and polish an edge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Diamond tool</span>

A diamond tool is a cutting tool with diamond grains fixed on the functional parts of the tool via a bonding material or another method. As diamond is a superhard material, diamond tools have many advantages as compared with tools made with common abrasives such as corundum and silicon carbide.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sydney rock engravings</span>

Sydney rock engravings, or Sydney rock art, are a form of Australian Aboriginal rock art in the sandstone around Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, that consist of carefully drawn images of people, animals, or symbols. Many thousands of such engravings are known to exist in the Sydney region, although the locations of most are not publicised to prevent damage by vandalism, and to retain their sanctity, as they are still regarded as sacred sites by Indigenous Australians. There are two art environments in Sydney Basin, rock shelters and engraving sites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grooves (archaeology)</span> Grooves carved into rock

There are grooves carved into rock in many places in Europe, and some of them appear on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland. They are common in France, where they were used to polish stone axes.


  1. Grindstones, archived from the original on 2006-01-17, retrieved 2010-02-10.
  2. Knight, Edward Henry (1876), Knight's American mechanical dictionary, Houghton, Mifflin, pp. 1022–1023.
  3. 1 2 "Fact sheet: Aboriginal axe-grinding grooves". First Peoples – State Relations. Victorian Government . Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  4. ACT Heritage Council (June 2015). "Background information: Molonglo Valley Grinding Grooves" (PDF). Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  5. The meaning and origin of the expression: Keep your nose to the grindstone at The Phase Finder.
  6. White 1962 , p. 110
  7. Hägermann & Schneider 1997 , pp. 425f.
  8. White 1962 , p. 111
  9. White 1962 , p. 167