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Thread: washita confusion

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    Senior Member Brontosaurus's Avatar
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    My understanding is that the hard and "true hard" Arkansas classifications have changed over time and that this change originates at the Federal government level. Thus, an old Behr-Manning/Norton "hard Arkansas" would now be called a "translucent" and a current-production "hard Arkansas" is actually a "soft Arkansas" on the old scale. "True hard" in current production is to distinguish it from the current "hard" appellation.

    Dan's website has a good chart explaining this: https://www.danswhetstone.com/inform...ne-grades-101/. On the "Past U.S. Federal Government" heading, it shows "hard Arkansas" beginning at the current "true hard" grade, whereas on the "Current U.S. Federal Government" heading, it shows "hard Arkansas" extending down into what would have been considered "soft" in the past.

    As for Washitas, this is bit different. Dan's chart rates them as quite coarse, but I think that this only relates to what they may have as a supply. I have a Washita stone from Dan's, and it is very different from the "No. 1" or "Lily White" of old sold by Pike/Behr-Manning/Norton. Dan's Washita is more like pumice in that oil passes through it like a sponge. The "No. 1" and "Lily White" of old never do this. And they are not coarser. The No. 1 is a very nice bevel-setter and acts sort of like a current-production soft or hard Arkansas. The Lily white will also set a bevel, but it's action is more like a current-production translucent; one can carry out the honing with it quite far, almost to the shaving level. So from this I sort of consider Washitas as running on a scale parallel to the Arkansas line, to which they are related, rather than necessarily being a grade coarser.
    Last edited by Brontosaurus; 11-06-2017 at 11:22 AM.
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    I would agree with that for the most part, but in my experience the Washitas definitely cut faster than even soft Arks. It's not that they necessarily produce a coarser finish though. Since the Lily Whites are actually quite fine (but still fast cutting) they are often a favorite. #1s are not far behind at all though, and as we are dealing with natural stones, some #1s may be better than some Lily Whites. Many get around the fineness that occurs once the stones settle in by keeping one side somewhat freshly lapped and the other left alone to settle in, myself included.

    I have shaved from a Washita with no issues but for me at least special techniques are necessary for a comfortable shave i.e. spine leading, (or backward to convention) honing strokes and a heavy linen stropping - and sometimes a few trips back and forth.
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    Interesting thread you started. I've become interested in novaculite stones since they since they are local, less expensive, and seem to be capable of everything from bevel setting to finishing.


    Steel sent me a PM that helped me understand them a bit better. Maybe he will chime in with some more info. It looks like there has already been a lot of info provided.


    I purchased a white/grey transluscent stone from Dan's booth at the Blade Show (they said it would cut faster than the black) and now wish I tried to find a dark transluscent as well. I have an old Norton transluscent ark, but it is a short barber hone and a I want something with a lot more surface area to work with.

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    Senior Member kelbro's Avatar
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    Sorry for the delay. I can't add any more than what ekretz and Bronto compiled and my results mirror theirs exactly. Some of the later stones labeled Washita or Oachita seem to be more porous and coarser and not in the finisher class. I don't see a lot of difference between them and many 'soft arks' that I've purchased.

    The older stones are fantastic cutters and leave a nice finish. Not like a SB or translucent but still very nice.

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    i thank you guys very much. made several things much clearer.

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    Senior Member Steel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eKretz View Post
    I would agree with that for the most part, but in my experience the Washitas definitely cut faster than even soft Arks. It's not that they necessarily produce a coarser finish though. Since the Lily Whites are actually quite fine (but still fast cutting) they are often a favorite. #1s are not far behind at all though, and as we are dealing with natural stones, some #1s may be better than some Lily Whites. Many get around the fineness that occurs once the stones settle in by keeping one side somewhat freshly lapped and the other left alone to settle in, myself included.

    I have shaved from a Washita with no issues but for me at least special techniques are necessary for a comfortable shave i.e. spine leading, (or backward to convention) honing strokes and a heavy linen stropping - and sometimes a few trips back and forth.
    I am a bit late and all has been said I think. Just my 2 cents. Without a doubt my favorites are my Lily White stones. In my experience they have all been extremely consistent in their particle placement. They also have the widest range. Fast cutting and a fine edge. Faster than my soft Arkansas and leave a much much finer edge. Rosy Red's (haven't seen a Ruby Red yet) are also very nice. A bit faster but they do not leave the edge quite at the level a Lily White does. The No. 1 is a work horse, even though the range isn't as large, since it is more economic I tend to abuse and experiment with my No. 1's a bit more. My seconds have been an inexpensive gamble that has resulted in some REALLY good stones for a nice price but they are a gamble as not all are great.
    All that said, my "worst" pike/norton washita stone is absolutely amazing! I don't think you can go wrong. As said above, the smiths, Dans, Case, etc. washita's were more like a coarse or soft Arkansas which are really good stones too but they are noticeably different then the Pike/Norton Washitas.
    Last edited by Steel; 11-07-2017 at 02:31 AM.
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    I'd just like to share an experience I recently had while working on a chip carving knife. I was working on a drastic blade thickness reduction. Carbo stones to medium india and then I reached for one of my Washitas. I tried 2 vintage pikes and one no name but nothing felt right. Blade seemed to be skating and not singing like it should. The last stone I tried was just what I was looking for. An ancient, no name Washita with a blue streak. All stones were lapped identically. Different steel, different stone, different results. The other stones would have worked but I would have worked harder to get where I wanted. My 2 cents......Love me some Arkies....

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    I have had that experience also. Especially with some of the very hard or carbide containing steels that the Silica in these stones isn't much of a match for.

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    thanks again. thats exactly the info i was looking for.
    concerning the difference between nowadays washitas like danīs aso and the older ones: afaik the washitas are not quarried anymore since....? (long ago) because the mine where they came from belongs to norton and they decided it s not worth it.
    so from what i know and i might be wrong but my research lead me to this: all newer "washitas" are arks, soft i assume.
    thats one reason why i started this thread.
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    Senior Member Steel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eKretz View Post
    I have had that experience also. Especially with some of the very hard or carbide containing steels that the Silica in these stones isn't much of a match for.
    I haven’t experienced this or at least haven’t noticed. I have honed many different alloys in both straight razors and knives. Vintage and new and, at least for me, I haven’t noticed a difference. I recently honed a Vanadium steel kitchen knife without issue. Maybe that’s not what you are talking about? Not sure.
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