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JimR--Eastern Smooth and Kanayama Strops

So You Want To Buy A natural Japanese Stone...

Rating: 3 votes, 3.67 average.
by , 07-14-2011 at 04:19 AM (6397 Views)
You've been reading posts about the latest greatest hone, the Shobudani or the Oozuku, the Maruka or the Maruichi, and all those people talking about velvet squeegees and crazy great shaves, and you think "Man, I sure want me one of them there rocks!"

But you don't know where to start, right? The names are foreign and scary sounding, and they're so expensive, you don't want to get the wrong stone. Indeed, you really really want to get the RIGHT stone, RIGHT NOW.

Well, stop for a second. Take a deep breath, and think.

What, exactly do you want? And why do you want it?

Are you looking for a way to make your razors shave well, with relatively little effort? Then you should buy some artificial hones. Norton, Naniwa, Shapton, they're all fine. King is ok, too. So are a lot of other stones that are cheaper, and easier to get, and much more predictable, than any Japanese stone you will find.

If you are looking for a magical rock that will put The REAL ULTIMATE NINJA POWER EDGE on your razors, then you need to put down the mouse and the credit card and back away. Nothing will do that except skill, no amount of money or number of expensive rocks will make your razors shave better than practice and patience will.

Japanese hones are not magical. They aren't 50,000 grit super stones. They aren't mysterious artifacts of the . They are rocks. Really. That's it. There are rocks all over the world, and a very large percentage of them will be abrasive. I have no doubts that there are stones all over--In Europe, Africa, the Americas--that will hone a blade as well as any Japanese stone. The only difference is the historical framework that surrounds these particular stones: people have been mining, using, examining and testing these rocks for a very very long time (the Kyoto stones have 800 years of recorded historical use) so there is a lot of tradition and research behind them.

So if you're just looking for a good razor hone, there's no defensible reason to go to the trouble and expense of getting a good Japanese hone, because make no mistake: The edge a skillful honer can get off a Japanese hone will, in almost all cases, be indistinguishable from the edge that same honer will get off a good German stone, or artificial hone, or pastes etc. Sure, a microscope will show some minor differences, but the human face (sensitive as it is) isn't going to know what country, or what hand, made the abrasives used to sharpen the razor.

However, if you enjoy history and tradition, if you have an affinity towards craftsmen and people who take real pride in their work, then Japanese hones do have something to offer. The Nakayama mine and the Maruka name go back for generations, and the current possessor of those names take that history very seriously. He does his absolute best to protect his legacy from "bad stones"...and that is worth something to some people, myself included.

There is a reason that a good Japanese hone is an expensive Japanese hone. The time and effort it takes to ensure quality in natural products is considerable. Any fool can go outside and pick up some rocks, flatten one side and sell them on ebay--and indeed, some fools do. Bigger fools pay them to do it. If the reason to buy Japanese hones is to engage in the history and tradition of craftsmanship behind them, then this path leads only to a shallow imitation, and might not even get you the simple honing tool you want.

So yeah, there are reasons to buy Japanese hones, but a simple, good shave isn't really the best one. Think before you let the need for the latest toy pick you up and carry you, and your money, away.
gugi, JimmyHAD, AlanII and 20 others like this.
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