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The production of whetstone (i.e. sharpening stone) in Eidsborg goes back a long way in time. As far back as the 8th century, whetstone has been quarried here. One can assume that ever since tools made of iron appeared in the Iron Age, people have had the need for a way to sharpen their tools. From the 8th century steel could be made, and a whetstone was absolutely necessary.
The Eidsborg whetstone is quartz-mica-schist. The fine quartz grains in the stone loosen during sharpening and form a fine sharpening powder. Stone from Eidsborg became known as an especially good quality stone, and archaeologists have found Viking age and middle age traces of it all over Europe. Two different qualities of stone were quarried at Eidsborg: hard stone and soft stone. The hard stone was exported, but locally the soft stone was preferred as it was better suited to the hard steel used here.
When Norrøna factories took over the production in the 1880’s and 90’s, production and trade were better organised, and the extent of production also increased greatly.
Industrialisation and the opening of the Telemark canal were important premises for this development. Production changed when one could begin using explosives and machines. Instead of exporting only the raw material for sharpening stones, they began finishing the stones for sale. Transportation was also facilitated when the stone could be loaded on boats at Lastein in Dalen and ship it directly to Skien without having to transfer it along the way. In time, motorised trucks replaced horse and wagon.
Norrøna factories’ production of whetstone at Eidsborg continued until 1950. At that time, competition from molded sharpening stone and lowered demand due to mechanisation of farming made further industrial production difficult to support. In spite of this, Eidsborg whetstone was still sought-after and production continued on a small scale until the 1970’s.
At Western Telemark Museum in Eidsborg you can see an exhibit about history and production of whetstone. Outside the museum there is a walking trail up to the old quarry (about 1 hour to walk one way). In the Canal Park you can transport small pieces of whet stone on model boats through 14 locks, in a 105 meter long model of the Telemark Canal.