A particularly odd use for the whetstone was as a tool for punishment. There are accounts of people who were found guilty of lying and were sentenced to have their head and hands stuck in a pillory with a whetstone around their neck. The origin of this practice is unknown. Such was the case for William Blackeney, who was discovered to be lying about being a pilgrim, a crime because he was coercing people into giving him gifts and other benefits. After being presented to the city officials, he was sentenced to be publicly shamed via the pillory and was forced to wear a whetstone around his neck for having deceived people for several years. Another case of this type was seen in William Hughlot’s punishment for assaulting several people, one of whom was an alderman. Upon his arrest, he proclaimed that the blame should be on the mayor and he proceeded to insult the court. Instead of the traditional punishment of cutting off the hand of a man who assaulted an alderman, he was pardoned and was given the lesser punishment of imprisonment along with being locked in the pillory with a whetstone around his neck. This use of the whetstone is curious, but when considering the duration of an individual’s punishment via the pillory, probably about an hour or more a day, it would seem that this could be an irritating and shameful punishment.
Four hundred million years ago in a small geographical region of Central Arkansas, now part of the Ouachita Mountains, nature began the creation of a sedimentary rock formation composed of microcrystalline quartz called Novaculite. The word Novaculite comes from the Latin word novacula, meaning razor stone. Novaculite is a recrystallized variety of chert. It is the stone material from which whetstone and oilstone sharpeners are made.
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