Saturday, November 2, 2013

The best waterstone to buy (hahahahaha)!

I know that this stuff has almost no appeal for most, but this is what goes through my mind as I work. I have a huge backlog of stuff that I want to get down, but the polish (huhh?)....let's set a low bar. I have been working a TON on kanna tuning and sooo much of that stuff comes down to sharpening skills. AND I am looking for domestic sharpening stones comparable to the Japanese naturals....VERY interesting stuff, lots of comparison, benchmarking, trying to document in the offhand chance that someone else will find this helpful. There is a lot of prep writing to put this stuff into context....this stuff. AND I am using a tablet for typing/camera combined and it is....difficult.

Which stone to use? Ahhh, more fun here. I grew up thinking that the epitome of building something well was that it be indistinguishable from a factory produced item. Everything perfectly even, consistent, straight, flat......mechanical, homogeneous, monotonous and sterile. Japan is a very industrialized, modern society, yet many of their tools are still hand made in small batches by blacksmiths working in ways indistinguishable from their 18th century ancestors. Only the VERY cheapest chisels and wood planes are factory manufactured. Those are often the ones that get exported, too, because that is what we, over here, like and buy. Different strokes....

These tools are made for professionals and the assumption is that a pro knows how to get his tools to work, wants things a certain way, and is going to do a bit of customizing. Pretty much the exact opposite of how things are here. We want "work out of then
 box", "needs no adjustment", "no tools required", "no sharpening, batteries, skills....etc". So.....when you buy a Japanese tool, even the really expensive ones, they need work to even get them to be usable, much less work well. And they are all different. Each one will probably be a bit different in steel hardness, edge holding ability, balance and ease of sharpening (harder doesn't necessarily mean sharper or longer edge life, BTW). So if you find this sort of thing interesting, welcome! If, not..........well, you wouldn't still be reading, then, would you?

So....each tool is different and reacts in a different way to the sharpening stone. I am a hack. Want to learn from someone who REALLY knows his rocks?

This is where I am on most days. Tanaka Kiyoto is a Japanese luthier who uses only hand tools in his craft. I figure that he knows more than most when it comes to getting tools sharp. He has TONS of Utube videos, too.

Sometimes I just turn on autoplay and have his stuff on in the background. Only in Japanese, though. And almost all of his stones are naturals. I am finally getting to the point where I can get something out of watching someone else work. First, we need to put in some time on the rocks.

Natural or man-made? I have both, but use the naturals more often. I use the artificials for sharpening old tools for the first time, because they usually need a lot of work to set the bevels or work out nicks and I save the naturals for the good stuff. Final honing and touch ups, stuff like that. I also find them more interesting and fun  to look at.

You quickly find that each one of these stones has an individual character, even the artificial ones. Hard, soft, muddy, glassy, sticky, many descriptors. Even different stones of the same grit, series and manufacturer will be different, depending on where they sit in the kiln during firing. Man-made stones get sorted and graded, just like the naturals. Different guys sorting on different days can come to very different conclusions.

One thing that I have come across on a couple of occasions is the general rule "Hard blade, soft stone. Soft blade, hard stone." In my search for information regarding kanna tuning and blade sharpening, I went back and read through all of the old archived HMS Japanese tool forum postings.

The forum died off about 2006, but the older stuff from 2002-3 has some very valuble information from some of the Japanese tool using holdouts from the first time Japanese tools were cool, back in the 80's-90's. Look for postings by daiku05353 and Jim_Blauvelt. These guys have been using Japanese tools professionally for like 20 years and have lots of insight. Not so much info for the first time user, though. The student must be ready for the teacher. I can't find as active AND knowledgeable user group today. Too often you will find People, me! And I am no pro! Exact opposite, rather. I like to think of myself as an enthusiastic learner.

Interestingly, the "Hard blade" mantra was mentioned by Tanaka Kiyoto in a writing that he was studying that was written back in the....I don't remember, but OLD, like 1700's. Perhaps the origin of the saying?

Batteries are dying on the computer. Maybe I'll sharpen something.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason