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Hones - comparison table

The table below offers a quick overview of different hones, their specific features, typical uses, and comparable hones.

It should be noted that since natural rocks of the same kind can vary widely between one another (unlike synthetic hones), it is difficult to assign grit ratings to them in whole groups. Also, different synthetics (brands, makes) of a given grit rating should not be expected to have precisely the same distribution/range of particle sizes, as they may be made or graded to differing standards. In addition to differences in size, abrasive particles will cut differently depending on their material and shape and the matrix in which they are embedded, or surface to which they are applied.

For an extreme example with stropping rather than honing, it has been said that stropping with 50 micron Chromium Oxide, which is more coarse than 500 grit, can still produce an acceptable edge, although not necessarily desirable. Diamond is commonly one micron or less micron for maintenance stropping. Diamond pastes of 6 and 3 micron are available but would rarely be used to finish an edge. For comparison 50 micron diamond would not be suitable to finish a razors edge. [reference needed]

Grit rating is often considered a ballpark for how a synthetic hone may perform or a ballpark for how a natural stone may perform in comparison to other synthetics. Each stone (or brand and make) must be compared to another to determine its differences or similarities.

In comparing hones, some characteristics are more subjective (such as how smooth is the edge it leaves), more difficult to measure (such as how quickly it cuts), or may differ when using different steel. There are numerous tests that can be used to test keeness/sharpness. The Hanging hair test, the thumbpad test, the arm-hair test and so on and so forth. As to any and all tests but the one that really matters (the shave test), they will all be pretty mich worthless without calibration to each honer. How quickly a hone cuts through razor steel and how keen and how smooth an edge a hone can leave on a razor are characteristics that can be compared between hones. Comparing natural hones in this way can be on a stone to stone basis, but generalities can also be made. Through these comparisons people have arrived at commonly accepted progressions. Although the table is only a guide, it can provide a good starting point.

Remember:

Your Mileage May Vary. Your materials may vary. Your technique may vary. Your preference may vary

Hones - a comparison table

Name Grit (approx.) Typical use Comments Similar hone
Norton up to 8k repair / bevel setting/polishing/finishing The Norton waterstones are made in either a single grit or a combination stone. The grits are 220, 1000, 4000 and 8000. For many years these were the hones most used by members of the old SRP yahoo group and beyond. They are made in an 8x3x1" in single grit stones and in the same dimensions as a 220/1000 and 4000/8000.

While the combo stones are cheaper the single grits give you a lot more stone and the 8000 does not need to be soaked before use. The 220, 1000 and 4000 do need to be soaked for at least 15 minutes before use. The 1k is a relatively fast cutter and is an efficient bevel setter. The 4k and 8k used in a pyramid or progressively have proved to be very effective in the hands of a expert honer while being user friendly to the careful beginner.

The edge off of an 8k is adequate for a close and smooth shave. A finer stone can be used to further refine the edge for a smoother shave but it is not necessary. Most shavers that hone their own razors or hone for others do take advantage of the many excellent high grit stones available and do go up in grit to finish.


Belgian yellow (Coticule) (no or very thin slurry) 10k

Finishing/Polishing/

Sharpening

The Belgian coticule is found and mined mainly in the Ardennes region of Belgium. From the beginning of men using straight razors in the eighteenth century the coticule has been one of the most popular hones for sharpening straight razors. The coticule's cutting medium is garnet suspended in a mud binder hardened over millions of years by heat in pressure it is in the class known as metamorphic rock. The garnet suspended throughout the relatively soft binder of the coticule is the third hardest natural mineral and the rhomboid shape of these garnets cuts the steel of the razors edge in an efficient but shallow manner.

This characteristic of the garnet combined with the soft binder releasing some and revealing new garnets may be why the coticule has proven ideal of honing razors leaving a sharp but gentle feeling edge. The coticule may be used with water only as a finisher or if more aggressive cutting power is desired with a slurry formed by rubbing the surface of the coticule with a stone, usually but not necessarily, of the same material. In the recent past many barbers would use lather on the stone as a honing vehicle and referred to their cotcules as soap stones.

As with any natural stone it is difficult to place an exact grit rating on them. In general many experienced honers rate them in the 8k to 10k range. Ordinarily because by itself the coticule is relatively fragile to impact it is bonded to a piece of slate for reinforcement. Many years ago the yellow coticule was reinforced with it's blue cousin and glued to a piece of BBW.

The coticule is mined along with BBW or Belgian Blue Whetstone. Occasionally the two are harvested in a proximity to each other that enables the quarry to cut the resulting stone combining the two with yellow on one side and the blue on the other. These natural, as opposed to glued, combination stones are more costly due to their rarity and are prized by collectors and honers alike.

Belgian blue (with slurry) 4k Sharpening The BBW, also known as the Belgian Blue Whetstone, is mined/quarried in close proximity to the yellow cotcule. In past years the bbw was mainly used for cobblestones, building blocks and such utilitarian purposes. At one time the reinforced backing glued to yellow coticules was the bbw. Later slate became the reinforcement for the yellow coticule when the bbw became a more valuable commodity due to the relatively recent recognition of it's honing properties.

Coticule expert and SRP member Bart Torfs of Belgium says that while the yellow is composed of 45% garnet content by volume the BBW has approximately half at 25% garnet content by volume of the rock. This explains the yellows superior performance in sharpening with and without slurry.

According to Bart, of http://www.coticule.be/ , using a slurry is the most effective way of sharpening with the blue. This releases the garnets more freely for more aggressive cutting. While the use of slurry with the yellow is much more aggressive due to the higher garnet content, slurry with the lesser garnet content of the blue seems to yield a sharp edge more easily than a slurry with the yellow. The yellow's slurry being so much more highly concentrated with garnet that it can have a dulling effect on the thin edge of the razor.

Using the blue in conjunction with the yellow whether in a natural combo, glued or as two independent stones, many honers find using the blue with a thick slurry to sharpen and the yellow with water only to finish to be an effective way to hone their razors. A thick slurry on the yellow is more effective at bevel correction while in the hands of an expert diluting the yellow's slurry can bring the edge to the same level of sharpness as the blue and then go on to water only for the same finish.

Still the blue has it's place and is an effective stone when used with slurry. Again it is difficult to give a grit rating to a natural stone but it seems that the general consensus of those who insist on doing so rates the BBW in the neighborhood of 4k. It is commonly believed that due to the relatively sparse distribution of garnet the blue is less effective without utilizing the slurry.

Escher 12k Finishing The stones made by the Escher & Sohn company in Germany have gained an almost legendary status among razor honers. So much so that they, like Kleenex or Coca Cola, have become the name applied to a whole genre of their type. Mined in the Thuringia area of central Germany, these metamorphic stones are composed of an abrasive quartz embedded in chalk. The famed Escher stones came in different colors with yellow green, blue green, light green and dark blue being the colors denoted in labels by the Escher company.

Other hones made by Escher with different labels were, The Celebrated German Water Razor Hone,Barber's Delight,and Barber's Choice. There may have been others that are not known by this writer. Another well known Thuringan hone was the Hohenzollern. These were also found in yellow/green, blue/green and dark blue and are considered on a par with the Escher by the few honers lucky enough to have one of these vintage hones. In more recent years the Muller company continues to harvest hones from the same area. There have been varying reports on the quality of these with some users having very good performance while at leat one vendor, finding occlusions within a large percentage making them unsuitable for honing razors, discontinued his sales of them.

These hones are fine finishing stones. The labeled Eschers suggest using them with a slurry and they were supplied with slurry stones of the same material. Some honers find it effective to begin with a slurry and dilute as they go down to clear water to finish while others use the hone with water only. One way or the other these are wonderful finishing stones for honing razors to a sharp and smooth edge. If there is a consensus on the equivalent grit to a synthetic stone it seems to be in the area of 12 to 15k.

Charnley Forest north of 12k Finishing

A very hard natural stone solely used for finishing edges. It can safely be used with both water or oil. Once you use oil, it is basically an oil-only stone. Cleaning it is possible though, but it is a rather cumbersome process.

The edges of these stones are often considered to be on the harsher side of the spectrum, compared to Coticules and Escher/Thuringians.

Escher, Japanese polishers
Spyderco
DMT/Atoma/Diamond plates Man made Whetstone, diamonds bonded in a metal plate. very slow wearing no lapping needed no clocking only little water. All DMT and Atoma "stones" are very fast cutters. On the DMT maker's web page they suggest that 5-10min on a whetstone take only 20sec on a Diamond plate. Can be coarse and cause microchips until bedded in using light strokes on a metal object. Only coarser grit Diamond plates should be used for lapping other hones. Finer grit Diamond plates can have their cutting surface stripped off by wetstones, especially if a slurry is allowed to build up.
Barber Hones ~6-12k Finishing Good for touching up shave ready razors that are just starting to dull. Usually very fast and agressive compared to regular man-made or natural hones. There are tons of vintage Barber hones out there, so naturally their performance vary
Chinese 12k ~12k Finishing

Also referred to as a PHIG(People's Hone of Indeterminable Grit) or a Guangxi hone.

It is a rather inexpensive natural water stone. Hard, slow cutter. From the feedback of our users, they seem to vary a bit in fineness and speed.

Sun Tiger up to 8k repairing/bevel setting/finishing cheap man made stone of decent quality. soft, fast cutter needs regular flattening.
King (Ice Bear) up to 8k repairing/bevel setting/finishing man made stoe. soft, needs regular flattening.The Japanese sharpening stone manufacturer Matsunaga, in Osaka, makes the brands King und Sun Tiger is the oldest- and best-known maker of Japanese waterstones in the West. Naniwa
Global up to 8k repair/bevel setting/finishing good stones but overpriced, often used by knife-sharpeners
Shapton M5 general sharpening The M5 series is Shaptons cheap household series for occasional home use. Global M5
Shapton M24 up to 5k repair/bevel setting/finishing The M24 series is for chefs and carpenter(not for the ones with fine tools as for cabinet making for example)
Shapton M15 up to 12k repair/bevel setting/finishing For finer tools. hard stones, short soaking, fast cutting and hard wearing.
Shapton Lr250 up to 5k repair/bevel setting/finishing huge ceramic fired stones 10-7/8" x 4" x 1". for anyone who need general sharpening power
Shapton Hippo up to 12k repair/bevel setting/finishing huge ceramic fired stones 10-7/8" x 4" x 1". on a interchangeable plastic base which makes the system look like the animal Lr250
Shapton Pro up to 30k repair/bevel setting/finishing/polishing ceramic abrasives in a resin binder.quite hard need less flattening. cuts fast. no soak needed just a bit water on the surface.work without slurry.known for their finer edge. however the pro series has a reputation for too fast wearing for their stones 1k and under. also the 15k pro (rated 12K on their domestic Japanese version) compared to the 16k glass is more expensive and gives less feedback. also the finish achieved is somewhat matte compared to the more traditional waterstones
Shapton Glass up to 30k repair/bevel setting/finishing/polishing cheaper then the pro series but very similar performance.ceramic bond on a tempered glass plate. abrasive layer is slimmer but harder wearing. it needs to be established how the price difference is justified
Naniwa Super Stone 400 thru 12k all phases of razor honing The Naniwa super stones have gained quite a following in the razor honing world and deservedly so. These 8x3 stones come in grits of 220, 400, 1k, 2k, 3k, 5k, 8k, 10k and 12k. The length and width lend themselves to easily doing circles if that is a technique that you use in honing razors.

According to Naniwa Technical their super stones are made from white fused aluminum powder, formed by chemical reaction bonding. I've read that the binder is resin based. I suspect it is a polymer resin but I'm not sure. For best results the stones should be lapped to flat with a pencil grid before use.

These stones provide a very nice tactile feel when honing. They do 'load up' a bit and keeping a Scotch Brite pad handy is a good idea to rinse and clean them intermittently. These can be used for coarse work in the lower grits such as chip removal and on to bevel setting at the 1k level.

Whether honing with the pyramid method with the 3k/5k, with Lynn's preferred 5k/8k or the progressive method, working up through the grits, the Naniwa super stones have proven to be very effective from sharpening to finishing a straight razor. It has been said that Naniwa brought these out to compete with the Shapton glass stone line and that they are softer than the Shapton glass. Considering that these companies are manufacturing these stones for tool sharpening perhaps this softer mixture accounts of the excellent results gotten from super stones with straight razors.

Naniwa Chosera 400 to 10000 Grit Bevel setting to high grade sharpening Synthetic Hones of high quality and price. Fast stones thru all levels. Considered a bit harder than the Naniwa SuperStones. Magnesia binder, as opposed to the resin of the SuperStones. Needs lapping when new. They can be soaked for a few minutes before honing, but really don't need it. They are prone to cracking when soaked for any prolonged time. Splash and go would be the safesst way to handle them. Naniwa SS, Shapton Pro/Glassstones, Sigma, Suehiro Gokumyo
Sigma Select II 240-13K Bevel setting to high grade Sharpening/Polishing The sharpening stone manufacturer SIGMA Power Corporation in Tokyo has designed these premium stones especially for tough-to-sharpen high alloy steels, like High Speed Steel, for instance. When using these stones, one can easily see it working, and they have a feel while sharpening remarkably like a natural water stone. In contrast with resin-magnesium or cement bound stones, these SIGMA Select-II stones have no binding material. The method used to bind the grit is much more like the process of making glass. As the stone is cooled, the viscosity is increased, hindering crystallization and the material emerges in an amorphous state. This process is expensive, but results in a stone that really eats its way through even the toughest steels. Naniwa SS, Shapton Pro/Glassstones, Suehiro Gokumyo, Chosera
Naniwa Diamond



Suehiro Gokumyo and Gokumyo Debado 400-2000-6000 in Gokumyo Debado, 10-15- 20K Grit in Gokumyo   Sharpening, Polishing and Finishing Hard stones with little to no slurry release during honing. Will not require frequent flattening, an initial flattening will keep them usable for dozens and dozens of razors before it needs re-done. They are all at the faster end of the spectrum, but still leaves a relatively smooth scratch pattern. In the higher grits, the 15 and 20K are considered some of the finest finishers out there today. Naniwa SS, Shapton Pro/Glassstones, Naniwa Chosera, Sigma
Arkansas
Th├╝ringer 10K finishing/polishing natural waterstone from the same region as the escher comes from. hard stone of excellent quality perfect for fine edges and quite cheap. escher, coticule
Jinzo
Akatzuki
Miyakoshi Toishi Shobu(1K), Sakura(2k), Syoki(3K), Yamaichi(6K), Kitayama(8K) bevel setting/finishing Miyakoshi is the manufacturer and has a good reputation for sharpening kitchen knifes. Toishi means waterstone. These stones are ceramic bound (except the Kitayama) and therefore are hard wearing and need to be soaked. Kitayama Toishi is a resin bound stone. It is therefore very soft and has a more homogeneous structure for a very fine finish and sharpness. The Kitayama requires no soaking; a splash of water is enough as is with all resin bound stones.
Honyama Stones(Mt Shoubudani) Amakusa(800), Binsu(1K), Aoto(2K), Awaseto(8K), Awaseto Oishi(12K) finishing/polishing Most famous natural waterstones in japan, both Nakayama quarry and Shoubu quarry are Honyama. These are of excellent quality, but are very expensive. Only Amakusa(800) and Binsu(1K) are fairly cheap. It yet needs to be established if it can give a finer edge then the coticule or esher to certain steels (e.g very hard steels) to justify its price. This type of stone has a long tradition for sharpening Katanas and Sushi knives.
Nakayama finishing/polishing Nakayama is the name of the quarry the razor finishing hones come from. The quarry has been closed since 1967, so the stones are very expensive not only because of their fine quality. These are very hard and mostly slow cutting stones but some examples do have fast cutting power; watch the description.



progressively increasing keenness (left to right)
Norton 4k Shapton 4k Norton 8k
Norton 8k Franz Swaty
Norton 4k Tam O' Shanter w/ slurry Norton 8k
Dalmore Yellow Dalmore Blue Tam O' Shanter Water of Ayr
Chinese 12k Escher Charnley Forest
Coticule w/ slurry BBW w/ slurry Chinese 12k


progressively increasing smoothness (left to right)
Chinese 12k Escher
Chinese 12k Coticule


progressively increasing speed (left to right)
BBW w/ slurry Coticule w/ slurry
Chinese 12k Escher

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