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GENUINE OLD ROCK ITILIAN RAZOR HONE AND COUSHIONED STROP – J. R. Torrey Razor Co

Smythe

Well-Known Member
In my search on on-line auctions for strange and unusual tonsorial related items, I accidentally clicked on the BID NOW button and won an interesting item… It’s a Combination Hone and Cushion Belt Strop, manufactured by the Torrey Razor Co
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What I found interesting (and puzzling) was… the bold caption above the directions…
“GENUINE OLD ROCK ITILIAN RAZOR HONE AND COUSHIONED STROP COMBINED Patented April 18 1881 and July 12 1882”
DirectionsAtReaOfCaser.jpg
But upon delivery and inspection, I determined the “hone” was Coticule. But. “Italian Razor Hone”? I asked, did they mine Coticule in Italy… and named it Old Rock?... or was it just marketing?... Maybe the style of the product “Italian” (you know… like Italian shoes or handbags).

It’s a natural razor hone stone (believed to be Coticule) cemented to one side of a block of wood, with leather on the other 3 sides, 2 of witch are cushioned and impregnated with fine abrasive “pastes” and one of plain leather.
I believe the hone is glued to the block however if you look at the ends of the hone you will see they are beveled, and those wooden “dovetail” (if that what it is called) and small nails wedging the stone in place at both ends. No doubt these ends were originally finished with rubber or leather caps to give a neat appearance.
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The stone is 165mm x 27mm (about 6 ¾ x 1 inch)… and only 3mm thick. I haven’t tested the sharpening qualities just yet, as there are a few nicks on the surface probably placed there by a previous owner (wring his neck), but I am at loathe to lap them out, instead I think I will fill the nicks for a smooth surface. However I wetted and swiped a razor over the undamaged surface for a few laps… and I must say it has a agreeable “sandy” feel (typical sound of sharpening steel), I only tested with water but so far I can say it cuts pretty fast… even its (cough… cough) Corburundun cousin was jealous.


Incidentally when I first got it there was a slight “dish” in the middle so at the time I reluctantly lapped it flat but left the deep nicks near the end as mentioned previously.
Also I suspect it may have been about 4 – 5 mm thick originally (though I cannot be absolutely sure… but cannot be much more than that because it would not fit in the paper case),

BTW I did search the patent library but never found this model… still searching.

It must have been a very short run product line; think about it… if indeed a Coticule (or any natural sharpening stone) it must have been wasteful (and expensive) cutting the blocks into thin strips… the saw blade would clain a good portion of the material… For example… Assuming each is a prefect cut (and we know how delicate those Coticules are), and assuming the saw blade 2mm wide (could be wider but we may never know) would result in four strips about 5mm each from a 30mm block (2mm left over… but the saw would claim 8mm).

If you are interested in acquiring one of these you may have a hard time. I do not believe they made many of these sharpeners with natural hones attached, but you will find many artificial types embedded on the “hone” side of the block, and sometimes bad photography will make the cushioned leather side appear yellow… I bought another 4 sided Hone-Strop combo only to discover the illusion.

Some 4 sided Hone-Strop (the ones with the mechanically stretched leather) has the hone side in a red color. I at one time thought the red was a Swaty type hone-material but now I doubt they exist. The red color hone-side it is in fact a “hone”, but it’s simply bare wood tapered at the edges (like a real hone), and the working surface coated with a red abrasive, not sure exactly, but probably an oxide of iron (rogue?).

You will want to closely examine the suspected stone for clues:
The familiar random dots with yellow “wood grain” texture (most will be a “dirty yellow” color) - The short ends are tapered but the long edges are square (based on the example I have) - It appears to be attached to the wooden base (and not part of the wood itself), then chances are it’s the genuine article… anything else is a gamble.

Here is a typical example of the type you do not want (unless for the purpose of antiquity or for the use of the strop)


Notice my finger is stained by that red powder coating the “hone” side
RedPowder.jpg

Notice the cushioned side looks “Cushioned” with the end flap wrapped over the side… and the tanned color that can appear Coticule-Yellow in photos. Notice also, the facing leather is coated with the same red stuff as the hone.


Hope you found this long winded article interesting... just one of few tonsorial antiquities I find interesting and thought I would share.
Have a good one folks.
CS
 

geruchtemoaker

Well-Known Member
that's an interesting find
and for as far as I know coticule is only found at the ardennes

but you have to explain me something
how do you click by accident on the bid button?

regards
Stijn
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Old Rock is a Belgian Coticule brand. It's a registered trademark, owned by the Offergeld family. They stopped mining Coticules in the 1980's, but they have renewed the trademark worldwide, hence even today, no one can sell Old Rock hones.
"Italian" is a mistake. Americans have a very bad reputation in Europe when it comes to geographical knowledge. (please don't shoot the pianist;) )
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Kind regards,
Bart.
 

schatz

Active Member
Greetings from that other country here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Been just lurking for the last day or so but this thread is getting interesting.
 

matt321

Member
I was given this 4-sided Keen Kutter. It must have had some type of hone attached at one time. It's just bare wood on that side now. Two sides are cushioned leather with compounds. The thin side is plain leather.

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Smythe

Well-Known Member
Hmmm. It may have had a stone on one side; however it could also be bare wood with a coating of abrasive…
But just an observation… My second hone… the stretched leather hone with the abrasive coat, has the exact same directions as yours… Notice also “(TRADE MARK) 113”
DirectionsStretchedLeather.jpg
This would lead me to suspect yours may also have an abrasive coat… however in those vintage times, many different manufacturers use the exact same labels on there products (same wording too…), such as, the labels inside some razor boxes... as if they were all done by the same printing press.

Look at the hone side, if it is smooth, then it may have an abrasive coat on bare wood… however, if the side is rough like dried glue, then it’s possible it once had a stone glued to it.
 

matt321

Member
Cool, the same label! B)

I think you are right about the bare wood side. It looks too smooth to be random exposed glue from a stone and there are no dovetails or tacks. Also, it fits snug in the box, so if there was a stone it would be a very tight fit.
 

Smythe

Well-Known Member
danjared said:
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I would love to restore that strop; Unfortunately I do not have the resources to do so, additionally the leather is dried out, brittle and crumbling, but even if I replace the leather, I have no use for a “Cushioned” strop (I just don’t like the idea of a “cushioned “anything to sharpen a blade). But I will not destroy it because it an interesting piece of history and
I may one day restore it for that reason.

I decided to carefully remove the stone and mount it on another base so I could test it properly. It had a sheet of cardboard between the stone and the wooden base (Cushion for the hone?). In any case, the stone came off easily as the cardboard was naturally disintegrating form age.

I mount it on an acrylic block with a drop or two of silicone glue (should be easy to remove if necessary). So now the whole setup has the dimensions of a regular vintage stone (thickness) for comfortable holding in the hand.
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And I can tell you this; the hone is extremely pleasant to use.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
Wonderful Mr Smythe :thumbup:
Another part of the beautiful past bought back to life, if I was a little more artisan I might question the Acrylic base, but a more practical solution would be very very hard to find
Great thread, BTW have you shaved off that coticule yet?

My best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
 

Smythe

Well-Known Member
tat2Ralfy said:
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Thanks Ralfy, Well… unfortunately I am one of the few who only work with plastic, and plastic is the only material I have at my disposal. But in any case, plastic is “naturally” waterproof (even though I could easily make wood waterproof).

Well I tell you, the stone is a charm, great feedback. This stone is a no-nonsense cutter. With water only, will polish steel and within a few strokes the pool of water soon turns grey-black. With slurry it has a sandy feel and you can see and hear the steel cutting even faster than water only. Also, it doesn’t seen to “auto slurry” all that much.

I am still in the testing stage, but from what i see so far the shaving edge is excellent… on my worst shaving razor (very hard and brittle steel) it’s as good as the edge from any of my other hones… but gets the edge shaving sharp a little faster.
 

Smythe

Well-Known Member
Bart said:
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Indeed, I have long ago gotten over the fear of narrow hones, and now conceder wide hones a waste for sharpening razors. As a matter of fact, I may include this hone in the upcoming “Hone Exchange” so others may have an idea what it feels like.

Incidentally... this hone got me thinking, does Ardennes have Coticules as thin as this one (4-5mm)?, do they exist naturally or otherwise?... I would be very interested.

Maybe I am looking at these stones differently, because I am beginning to believe even these thin hones will last a lifetime (or more).
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Yes, they have thin stones occasionally. Coticule layers can vary from 1 to 100 mm. I believe The La Veinette layer is often barely thick enough to deliver one stone of a few mm. That's why you will almost never see a glued La Veinette. The La Veinette doing service in the OTB experiment is a such a thin piece.

[img=800]http://www.coticule.be/tl_files/barts_pics/OTB-La_Veinette.jpg[/img]

Kind regards,
Bart.
 
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