Wet shaving is something more that just shaving. It is not comparable to anything like daily cosmetic routine e.g. teeth brushing. Similarly, honing might be a bit more than just sharpening razors. It becomes more appealig when honing on natural wetstones. Again, that is not comparable to honing on synthetic stones, which are fully predictable. There is a slogan which to some extent is true – “each natural wetstone has its own personality”. Good example to learn how far natural wetstones may attract people’s attention, affects interests and fascinations, please open the following links from Henk and Janneke Bos. This Netherland’s couple, who got fascinated by the art-craft of wet-stones across Europe, collected annourmous amout of information on digging, cutting, lapping and selling natural stones for sharpening. For me, the most fascinating facts is that they visited all the places themselves, talked to people, tried to discover the local knowledge about the queries and live arount it. Material presented in their reports/books part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4 is amazing. In fact, this is the heritage of European craftship, which is largely forgotten. I use the reference to what they did, as a kind of excuse for my little fascination on wet-stones.
In this post I present some of my stones (not really all). These come from Japan. Somehow it happened that in this single country (or region), they have as many stone mines, as many types and kinds of stones, as many customers and as much knowledge and expertise as all over the Europe and much more. This is fascinating! The stones are so different. Some are good just for knives, some just for carpentry tools, some for razors. Some work nice with specific steel, are more or less aggressive. Some work as usual abrasive stones, some brake into flakes.
I do not start showing individual photos of each piece with a label of its name and origin. Putting all of them in a single photo works better for this post. What’s more, often the name, mine, layer or seller do not mean much. Stones vary within the same type and mine so much, that what matters is your own test and conclusions – your own way. This is what I do with each of them. Sometimes it’s even better to know less about origin of individual piece, test, and then qualify if it works good for me or not. Testing is not a single hone, it is better to use it for some period of time with different razors. I can provide videos and comment on my conclusions from test, details on origin, even my costs – on request.
Coming from top left corner by layers from left to right (except these small naguras):
- Umegahata Yamamoto Nakagachi. Hard stone. I use it as nagura for making the slurry. Originally it is foreseeen for knives and chisels. I’ve hot been brave enought to use it for razor honing.
- Aiwadani 相岩谷産 komo nagura. Excellent match with no 7 for one-stone-honing.
- Mizu Asagi 水浅黄 (probably Motoyama from Kyoto region), medium hard 中硬, nice finisher.
- (not yet tested porous stone for carpentery tools).
- Usu Karasu 薄カラス (probably Motoyama from Kyoto region), hard 硬い石, nice finisher. Probably can be used for single-stone-honing as well. Came to me together with no. 3 from someone who bough it from street seller (flea market?) in Kyoto.
- Nitta 新田, yellow plate Kitta, medium hard polishing stone. Generates very milky smooth slurry which is surprisingly aggressive. I think it works best for around 7-8K what we do with synthetic stones. So, it still requires final polisher afterwards.
- Motoyama/Honyama 本山 old barber’s honing stone. My favorite. Very good quality 極上 and 最高級. It works very nice as single honing stone. I use it with Aiwadani nagura (no. 2) and at the final stage, just with water (仕上砥). It gives nicest feedback.
- Tsushima Ocean Black Kuronagura 対馬黒名倉 – medium hone quite soft stone (brick size) with the same tsushima nagura. Produces slurry very quickly, gives nice feedback. People use after botan nagura. For me it works as equivalent of 5-7K. I can just add that the extra super hard and fine Tsushima Ocean Blue is on the way to me – it will be used as post-finisher.
Mikawa naguras offer completely different style of honing, comparing to what we’ve learned with synthetics and European stones. One hard bench-stone and these 5 naguras are sufficient to set the bevel, sharpen, hone and polish to perfection. Some people claim that 3 are sufficient. I have not tried it sufficiently yet to say anything. My order of progression is:
- botan ボタン名倉 (bottom left),
- tenjyou 天上 (on the right in the second row from bottom),
- mejiro 目白 (left in the second row from bottom),
- koma コマ (right in the first row),
- toma 共名倉 or ともなぐら nagura from Aiwadani (it is obviously not Mikawa).
The below picture nicely compares the participles of synthetic and jnat stone in general. Picture is linked to other site run by widelly appreciated seller of stones from Denmark JNS:
The three great sources for information on japanese stones are: