Can a false or feather edge serve a purpose.
Can a false or feather edge serve a purpose.
If you are going to work on razors and knives you will want a broader selection of stones, mainly because of the size of the knives and because of the necessity of an ultimately keen razor.
Razor stones are special because they are not only fine but they cut very fast, this is necessary because if they are not fine enough they will not shave well, and if not fast enough (highly gritted) with the light pressure we use when honing razors it would take too long for each razor.
Knife stones are usually larger all around and will withstand a heavy handed routine necessary for knives, and knife stones are not normally as fine as razor stones because they first, do not need to be, and secondly the pounding and scraping that a knife edge goes through in normal use, a razor sharp edge will begin to breakdown within minutes.
You were asking about a suita for razors, maybe a pre-finish stone. Honing a progression of stones for razors is necessary for restoration from bevel setting stages on up. Some of us have a two stone progression and go from 1k directly to a finishing stone, but many fellows use a nagua progression, a pre-finishing stone progression or even several stones lined up as a progression. I would suggest that a nagura progression that can include both Shiro Mikawa Nagura and or tomonagura slurry or elements of other stones would be considered to be the most professional standard. A progression establishes and maintains throughout the honing session an edge that is built on solid steel. The 1k to finisher does give a shave ready edge but it is so closely based on the 1k stones scratch pattern than there could be, in theory, structural factors that underlay that super keen edge that might create some jeopardy regarding the tenacity of the edge.
A single stone that covers all of the tasks of: bevel setting razors, pre-finishing razors, finishing knive edges should be based on a knife stone model if you take into account the factors from above. This stone would be a medium hard stone that in the 5 or 5- range, very fine in the 5 range, sized to fit the type of knife, and easily maintained so it can be lapped for razors when necessary. The grit richness that determines speed could be in the 5 to 5+ range. Sharpening knives is a heavy process that with the right stone can go quickly especially if the stone, like one in a hardness range of the lower 5’s is used because the stone is sheds dull used grit particles while revealing newer sharp particles.
This single stone could be a first step in building a flexible progressive stable of stones, one you could build around but it is unlikely that it will be your one and only middle range stone. I suggest that a tomae stone instead of a suita stone will feel the most comfortable under your razors and knives as “that single stone”. There is a page to my website that I have been developing but it is not yet linked to my website, it is devoted to knive stones and there is one stone there that you might want to try, #1103. This tomae is very smooth but cuts fast because it is grit rich but also medium hard. If you wanted to test it, with a deposit plus postage I could send both the #1103 and the suita #1108.
Testing two stones side by side is very revealing, plus you have your Ozaki there already to test against these two others. I think it would be worth both of ours efforts to do this if you have the shop time to manage it in a week or 10 days. Each of the stones are priced and perform similar, and after testing you can send back one or both if you choose and all it will cost you is the round trip shipping in a Medium Priority box. I will always pay shipping for an outright purchase, but for testing the cost is on you. I have this same arrangement with a few other customers for different reason, but my main idea is to copy in my own way the way that these unique stones were retailed in Japan where the buyer/end user had a chance to bring his own tools or test his own razors on a group of stones to look for compatible combinations between his steel and their stone. The more you get into this the more you realize that with both natural and synthetic stone, there are symbiotic relationships between stone and steel. Almost any combination will almost always work, but combinations that really, really work well are special. The burden is on the stone to perform but the user is in the drivers seat, and when things click it takes a lot of stress out of the process and this allows the driver/user to not only get the same job done quicker but also allows him more flexibility to express technique and professional judgement calls.
Busy shops who specialize in particular steels or techniques find it efficient to match up larger stones that have a longer shop life with the normal tasks that are specific to their work. Blacksmiths choose the steel they forge, but they also choose the stones in their shop tailored to their favorite steels, and stones that are thick will have a longer shop life thus minimizing the burden of shopping for and testing replacement stones when their old ones get thin. Natural or synthetic is not the point, it is efficiency and quality that is primary. Not every stone works for every steel but for a smith or sharpening shop, they narrow down the possibility of failure or loss of production time by repeating past good experiences with certain combinations and repeat those over and over again. Like with antique Sheffield steel softer stones tend to work better and 20th C. German steel benefits by using harder stones. It can even fine tuned down to certain blade makers all though not usually necessary unless you are working with that bladesmith directly.
I do hope that you get the Okudo soon and that you like the tomonagura that I included. Without handling the tomo that you got from someone else, I wonder how mine would match up against the others. Mine might be just as soft so keep me posted.
Matching tomo requires having enough tomo samples to test with, and it is a little confusing too. In my own shop I relay a lot on a well worn Atoma #600 to perform the same work that some fellows use Botan and Mejiro for, refining the bevel after my 1k or 2k bevel setting stone. The diamond generated slurry is really fast cutting and I find it leaves the bevels in a very good state as the DN (diamond nagura) slurry crumbles from the bundled grit particles made from the DN down to smaller and finer individual grit particles. Using the DN slurry sets the stage for the tomo, and a tomo following the DN slurry has a much easier job.
The trick in matching a tomo falls into that narrow realm, picking out a tomonagura that does not deeply scratch the base stone, but is hard enough to abrade it slightly. Some of the burden on the user is to adjust his/her hand pressure, water content and stroke speed to prevent scratching. With really hard stones this all becomes more critical, and as a matter of fact the same holds true with honing really hard steels on really hard stones. As a purveyor of stones I often have to err on the side of a slightly softer tomo that demands less of the base stone as a slurry source, and this can seem like a miss-match, and I would have to agree if you had to go with your blade directly from the 1k bevel setter to the tomo and the base stone with no intermediate grit source. Going back to my shop, this is where the DN comes into play.
A DN slurry covers a lot of difficult ground when working with very hard stones, it is like a Botan-Tenjyou-Mejiro progression all in one slurry. I find that most users of Asano stamped Shiro Mikawa Nagura do not finish their razors with those 3 or 4 softer stones, they almost always finish with a tomonagura, and then often followed by a clear water polish. If accepting the proposition where the DN slurry can replace the Mikawa progression, then there is at alternate method leading to the tomonagura, and if the tomo has a ultra fine grit particle matrix that at least equals that of the base stone in fineness, then in practice a slightly softer tomo can bridge that gap between the DN slurry and the clear water stage because the DN slurry has already relieved so much burden after the bevel set. This of course is all predicated that you have a super fine grit particle tomo.
I think that you will find the two tomo I enclosed in the package to be super fine, but as I began with they might be too soft to bridge the gap between 1k and clear water finish alone, if not try adding a DN element in there and see how that works out. The diamond plate will have to have meet the same criteria as the tomo, one that does not leave deep scratches, so a worn out plate works best. If your plate does leave scratches I think that you might be surprised in the long run how little the negative effects actually are and that those same scratches might be worn down by the end of your honing session.
One more thing. It is cited that a diamond plate prematurely wears out a valuable on of a kind awasedo stone if you use it to raise a slurry. I would be a fool to suggest otherwise. But my choice to use a DN is based on balancing that tiny 50 microns thin skin of that surface sacrificed versus ignoring the superior cutting power of an otherwise very slow cutting hard stone that neither I or my son will ever wear out no matter if a diamond plate slurry is used of not. Almost everyone now used a diamond plate to flatten their stones, and then they just wash away that slurry down the drain. Many fellows flatten their stones before each use and wash away that slurry. If you do this, next time don’t rinse it away, try using it.
Honing razors is really just a craft, and you can use the word compromise, or adjustments as an integral necessity of the craft. TheAxMethod pares down the stroke count, and treats both sides of the razor equally as a way of minimizing errors that are difficult to track down later. If you edges are sharp enough to shave with, than the ultimately sharp edge is just whispers away, maybe as few as 5 strokes more or less, pressure (more or less), or in the stropping. Focus on those instead of adding groups of 40 or 75 or a 1000 more strokes. The more strokes the better is not a true statement, if it was than 20,000 more strokes would still not be the ultimate. The truth is that these is a plateau in the number of strokes where the greatest and finest finish that any given stone will max out. The secret is to learn how to recognize this state of development, and to stop there and move on to another abrasive or another method.
In Japan they often use Paulownia wood because it does not have strong growth rings with encourages movement with a change in humidity. This is a pithy type of wood and a similar one here in the west would be Magnolia. Balsa would be the extreme type of pithy wood but the strength levels are low. You need a wood that just strong enough so that it can be shaped but one that will not dramatically shrink or contract too much over the seasons. To adhere the stone to the dai I would just use some type of Latex caulking which bonds well enough while not being so permanent in case you decide to release the base and the stone.
The Odori mine was near the town of Takayama which located in the mountains between Nagoya and Toyama. The name of the mine owner is Yamamoto-san, he is 87 years old now and is retired and he closed his mine a few years ago although he had not dug for the last 20. As a young man he worked in other mines before he dug his own, and Yamamoto-san also worked as a wholesale stone dealer who delivered and sold stones on a monthly route that included some travel on a motorcycle to barbers and carpentry shops. He has been my mentor for about 8 years and he and his wife live in a small town near Nagoya.
Here is a video I made of a finishing technique for finishing with water only.
About the pressure when honing. This is going to be the one thing that is individual to you alone, we can all use similar stones but the hand pressue will always vary from person to person. All I can suggest is that to develop a steady pressure that comes natural to you, that you can repeat without even thinking about it. I would think that most everyone uses a lighter pressure at the end of a honing session on a particular blade, the weight of the razor is a term used but this is up for individual interpretation as it would be hard to actually measure as the blade has to be controlled to some degree. I do lighten the pressure at the later stage but maybe not as much as others. Most of my videos are about stone speed and performance. I am not a real honemeister as I mentioned before. The razor I honed for you was just a foundation edge that was done quickly, I shave off all of these edges but they only tell me how the stone performed from stone to stone. I am only testing in a controlled sequence how one stone compares to another and not how I can fiddle with or add on to that sequence to make the blade the sharpest. I have to reject some stones because they do not cut fine enough or fast enough and TheAxMethod is my way of weeding through my inventory.
The video I sent you of honing in a pond is a variation of honing under running water at a sink, the idea is to minimize the effect of slurry, ie. loose particles. With a good stone this should create a keener edge because only the imbeded particle’s exposed portion with their lessor abrasive actions are affecting the blade, and these promote shallower scratches. The weight of the razor finishing stroke does this same thing, that of minimizing the cutting power or action. This is all based upon the a edge that is already 98% developed and can already shave. Our skin is so sensitive that we can feel the difference between a highly refined edge and a slightly less so edge. You can read of fellows who spend up to an hour honing with very light pressure in an attempt to polish the bevel, the whole bevel, thinking that it will be sharper. It might be but it is really only the edge that shaves, not the flat of the bevel.
Did you get a 1k stone for Xmas? The diamond plates tear up these hard thin steel edges quite a bit, and the agressive nature of coarse abrasives in general leave fractures into the deeper body of the razors bevel that create weak steel. A 1,000 stone leaves the edge weak also so for long lasting tenacious shaving edges it is best to have a progression of stones or a progression of nagura stones that lead into you final stone, healing the edge by gently removing material so the edge is based on solid virgin steel. You can achieve an excellent shaving edge with just one stone skillfully used, but a progression of abrasives will lead to a stronger edge that will withstand the pressures of continious stropping and shaving.
The honyama type stones found near Kyoto are known to be made of an abrasive of decomposed radiolarian chert. Chert as a mineral has a nature of cleaving and at these microscopic sizes the weight of a razor and or the tumbling of the chert in a slurry seem sufficent to pressures that encourage cleaving. The garnets in the Coticules will crush but I believe that the pressures necessary to crush or fracture them are greater than those exerted by a razor under what we would consider normal honing conditions. There are advantages to either of these abrasive compounds of course, and both will work in developing an edge sharp enough to shave with if the skill of the user is able to coax them to. Almost anyone with some history in useing these stones will claim that one stone in his collection works better with this or that steel over the others. Fineness, abrasive content, binder materials all factor into the equation. This is our quest, to match up with our own developed skills those stone and steel combinations. Buying more and varied stones can make some difference, but the real jumps in performance in regards to the abrasives will come from your technique in using them.
Good luck, Alex
Good to hear from you, I am convinced that things are going well with you, and suspect that you have created a lifestyle that is a blend of the homey backwoods and a cool little business community.
The little blacksmiths mark usually found at the top right of a kanna blade ura side is called a Bonji, a small personal mark that can be stamp or hand engraved into the metal which some blacksmiths use year after year or may even be passed on through multiple generations.
A lot of people do not know this but bonji is one of the Sanskrit alphabets called Siddham that was transmitted to Japan through China in the early Buddhist eras of around the year 800.
I became more aware of this when I brought one of my samuri swords for examination to a traditionally trained sword polisher by the name of Hayashi Shigekazu-san who before he unsheathed the katana took a long moment to pray to it. A non-Buddist would not necessarily do this but as you know Buddism and Shintoism suggest that spirts can reside in or as objects. So you will find in the sword world a certain reverence, and the bonji is an acknowledgment of that culture which also spills over into the tool world where many of the older blacksmithing families like Ishido-san were sword makers who continue to attatch to their bonji as a tie-in with their past ancestors and as a show for the reverence of their craft that directly ties them to their ancestors.
I see the bonji as used by a craftsperson as an acknowledgement of an influential force beyond his/her own powers to craft an object.
I hope this helps somehow, Warmly yours, Alex