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D_W

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combined with a grinder, absolutely the best way for someone to learn to hone freehand. One angle after the grind, no complication, light back and forth and strop and most people will probably get a better edge than they do with multiple stones.

I read through it (took a while!). The only thing I'd clarify at the end is that the dan's washita stones are similar in density, but they are a fragile stone that doesn't have the same cutting properties (of course, I bought one to try). That's your discretion, though - I don't believe it's really your responsibility to tell people that - just my experience with the stone (and to be fair, I called dan's and asked about it and they said it's not the same stone).

A fantastic effort to provide some background and history of the stone, though. And well written and pleasant to read.

Far more than I know about the history even if I'm the most vocal user of them and kind of thorny when someone says they're out dated for regular work. They are good for beginners, and better than anything synthetic of the type - and can have huge range with some experience.

The accounting of how they made CFs immediately undesirable in a workshop setting is interesting (implied in holtzapffel, too).
 

D_W

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Just this morning, I saw a post on another forum that Norton is labeling thin slices as washita now (temporarily, it's not a permanent run) and marketing them - 8x2x1/2, but the stock pictures make me a little suspicious. Not suspicious enough to buy one at this point to see if the pattern is just funny but the stone is the same.


They are plentiful in the UK from what I can see (the originals) and not at a reasonable price here. If shipping wasn't 25-30 pounds for most, I'd probably keep buying more stones from the UK from time to time.
 

johnnyb

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Walter roses distaste for charnleys is funny. they are very fine and slow cutting. my turkey is just as fast as arkanasa and lo has a few cracks! the cracks seem solid and don't affect the stone though. I used to have an amazing arkansas slip but now I have 3 rather small slips after a dropping incident! I'm also in total agreement about arkansas being best for carving tools. I also have a lilywhite that used to have the same label. I found several at car boots. just take them out of the wooden box and the labels on the bottom.
 

raffo

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Great write up Nick. One thing I would find interesting is the geology of the Novaculite formations. How and when they formed is a fascinating topic for me.

Also, I just found this report and I'm looking forward to reading it:

Griswold, L. S., 1892, Whetstones and the Novaculites of Arkansas, in Annual Report of the Geological Survey of Arkansas for 1890, Volume III.
 

dannyr

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Brilliant, nabs.

I do admire the way you go into the history of a tool on your website.

I couldn't find the link just now, but there is a guy from the Netherlands (?) who seems to organise his holidays around researching old whetstone quarries, and then making and testing his new stone made from a sample of the rock.

I think we can thank the wet shave revivalists for some of the old quarries such as Dan's and Coticle having a new lease of life.

Which route to a fine edge is best, I don't know, but it's all interesting stuff.
 

D_W

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The shavers have definitely revived the coticule. Not sure if any cabinetmakers in continental europe are purchasers of stuff from Ardennes (I've had a few of their stones, and compared to a good vintage stone, I'd call them marginal at best - especially for the razor stones).

I'm not sure who is really putting the wood to buying dan's stones. I joined a shaver's forum about 10 years ago and had to lobby pretty hard to get anyone to even try an arkansas stone (and I did so by...

...wait for it..

..microscope pictures).

The sentiment at the time was japanese naturals were good, eschers were wonderful (they are consistent, but there's nothing particularly special about them vs. anything else other than consistency), and synthetics were most practical. These were weird thoughts to me. Synthetics are OK, but a cycle of natural stones is faster to set up an out of shape razor and oilstones are wonderful (probably the fastest and offer the most touch).

AT the time, the mods on the forum said that arkansas stones were for tools and knives and not suitable for razors, but they couldn't manage to explain why. Microscope pictures changed that. Part of the problem was that a couple of moderators wanted to dictate "how to hone" with paint by number routines that they came up with on synthetic stones, or dictates about how much pressure one should use (usually giving suggestions that would result in people not actually honing anything). That's sort of like telling people to sharpen dental tools on synthetics with methods used for centuries on arkansas stones.

The shavers have probably helped dans a little more now, but I think it's the knife and woodworking folks footing most of the bill (in the US), combined with the fact that some of the other retailers (halls and norton) have sort of fallen off.

Still, the price that a mediocre 8x3 coticule stone brings is pretty astounding ($435 at fendrihan and they're out of stock at that (!), and most will be mediocre for either tools or razors in my experience). Every branded dans black or trans stone that I've used has been good.
 

dannyr

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And when you find out, please feel free not to tell us. :LOL:
I promise not to.

But I also thank DW for his contributions - don't agree with every word, of course, but cogently explained.

Back to nabs - your smallworkshop website is becoming a very good resource -- if you ever need to give it up, make sure you pass the history bits to someone like Hawley or TATHS for safekeeping. - as they say -- Respect.

and Q -- some of the black Arkansas were labelled 'surgical' -- any different, or just marketing?

I have a couple that I believe are black Ark (v dense, hard, fine) but have a slight v dark brown swirl to the just visible grain - is this usual? I also have a giant (10x3x1, not squared) Coti with its natural blue/grey back backing -- don't use it, but it is a thing of beauty. I'm not collecting stones, but you know how it is if you're at a fleamarket and it sits there beckoning - for a couple of quid I'm yours.
 
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D_W

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"surgical" is a marketing term. Black stones are either porous or not. If they have any visible porousness (which you won't find on dan's first or second stones or the older black arkansas that norton sold - those were often gray translucent stones and not black stones), they will be strong cutting and not desirable.

Agree on the coticules - the prices make no sense to me, but I've had 10 or a dozen (I'd have to write their characteristics out to remember how many), and what's probably drawn me the most is what they look like. Some of them are otherworldly pretty - especially the natural combos (the glued stones are kind of tacky looking, and the combos that ardennes has are from a vein that they call "lagrise". They're not very good compared to a vintage combo, and the line is indistinct (some of the vintage combinations have a distinct line with some color variation right in the line - they're knockouts), and sometimes combined with a tiger stripe glittery pattern in the yellow side of the coticule with peacock feather like stuff in the blue. Sometimes the blue side is black and deep (the best razor coticule that I had was a big natural combination that was visually stunning and very dark on the back, with almost like a dotted pattern on the yellow. I paid a mint for it and then sold it for a mint - I won't say how much).

If I found any coticule bigger than 2x6 at a flea market for a reasonable price, I'd buy it for no other reason than just to sell it. (I still have two coticules, too - maybe three).

(there's a guy who sells japanese stones in the US - he sells low value stones for high prices, and he's got a video where he claims "surgical" stones are more special than typical black stones. that kind of stuff is idiocy unless someone is intentionally selling second rate stones as hard black stones. An example why is dan's - dan's labeled black stones are all given one name. They're all similar in fineness. I believe halls used the term "surgical black" on their boxes, and now those are being marketed as preyda. They are OK stones, but the dan's stones are much better. Halls stones go to slick and slow cutting quickly, but for some reason, their stock will release stray particles from time to time that scratch up tools and nick edges.

If that term originated because someone wanted to imply that their stones were good enough for dental or medical tools, I don't know. I just checked a huge dan's black stone that I have and it just plainly says "black arkansas" on the box. I've had half a dozen dan's black first or second stones (they do sell some at secondary retailers for a song without a dan's label and sometime those are turds, but that's why they're not packed in one of their dan's boxes), and all have been identical and superbly good. Better than any vintage black stone that I've ever gotten (I believe dan's is going deeper to get the stones as dan's comment when asked about the scarcity of trans and black stone was more or less, as long as the price supports going down far enough to get them, he sees no end to it).
 

Awac

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"I couldn't find the link just now, but there is a guy from the Netherlands (?) who seems to organise his holidays around researching old whetstone quarries, and then making and testing his new stone made from a sample of the rock".

The web site is:

Henk and Janneke bos

Amazing details and photographs, download grinding & Honing parts 1-4
 

D_W

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I figured that would be who you referenced - he has or had a fantastic page talking about stones (I haven't read it in years, but recall reading it when I first started getting a whiff of natural stones and realized that in skilled hands, they're generally better for semi-finish and finish honing than synthetic stones (faster, less screwing around, etc).

I recall from another forum that Henk passed away about 5 or 6 years ago.

I could be remembering him incorrectly, but he or someone else had a line on stones pulled from ardennes and sold them (the finest stones they had, and while I never had any luck getting anything other than an "ok" stone from ardennes, the stones that I'm talking about being pulled and sold separately were much prettier and supposedly finer).

Ardennes is the only company mining blue stone and coticule along with it now (there may be companies mining the blue stone as architectural stone) that I'm aware of, but historically, there were several multiple mines and picky companies like pike buying and retailing stone from them, and the older stones that are labeled as "extra", etc, are generally better than the new ones.

Unfortunately, the older labeled stones can also be nosebleed high, and due to thrift (and probably need financially) in the old days, a lot of the stones that were sold labeled can be a bit on the small side. Like 7x1 1/2 or something like that for pike's belgian hones, etc.
 

D_W

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I was wrong about the comment above - I think the person selling higher grade stones pulled aside is named Bart. I had enough of getting one coticule finisher after another that was much less fine than a $50 japanese hone pulled from a barber shop over in japan by an antique puller that I wasn't willing to try any of the pretty special grade hones.
 

nabs

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thanks for info on Henk Bos's website. I had used his picture of a Rub Wheel in my article and have now updated the citation to show he was the author of the original pamphlet the picture was taken from.
 

Sean Hellman

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Hi Nick, is your website down, the links here will not load and when searching in my browser for small workshop.co.uk nothing loads. Eager to read your article.
 

nabs

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Hi Nick, is your website down, the links here will not load and when searching in my browser for small workshop.co.uk nothing loads. Eager to read your article.
apologies Sean, the website was down - it is back up now
 

memzey

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I have an old Pike lily white Washita and think it's just about the perfect mix of fast and fine for the vintage steel in my edge tools. I'm not sure how well it would work on some of the modern alloys though, so ymmv.
 

D_W

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I have an old Pike lily white Washita and think it's just about the perfect mix of fast and fine for the vintage steel in my edge tools. I'm not sure how well it would work on some of the modern alloys though, so ymmv.
Add anything other than iron carbides and hardness above 60 and it gets graded.

Iron carbides and hardness above 63 and it gets graded.

(meaning the steel burnishes the stone and they gradually get into a situation of not very fast cutting).

softer high carbide steel (like you can sometimes find in high vanadium knives) and the stone will happily hone the item you're honing, but it's not honing the carbides - just pushing the metal around them around and cutting them out. I don't think we use too much of that in woodworking (a really heavy carbide steel that's 57 or 58 hardness so that it can be used to cut through staples, etc, without chipping).
 

memzey

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Speed and ease of honing is a significant reason why I tend not to stray from traditional tool steels for my edge tools. There is a balance to be observed between ultimate edge, time between honing, sharpness drop off and time spent honing (and therefore not working wood). There is clearly more to consider than "how long does my tool keep a workable edge". Traditional steels honed in the manner described above have a lot going for them in my experience, although I will often finish with a few swipes over a Black Ark from Dan's to give the edge that little bit more refinement and longevity. Those two are a great combo with traditional tool steel.
 
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