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Show us your hones (others than Coticule)


You should always talk to the seller before buying a Japanese stone if you can. I was once really, really, wanting a Hatanaka Co stamped Nakayama kiita that Takeshi at AFramesTokyo had. I emailed him and asked if it was a good razor hone. He replied very simply, ‘It’s nothing special’.


Here’s a short (and not that complete) ‘Post-It Note’ for Japanese stone terms:


Kiita - ‘yellow board’, yellow color
Asagi - blue/blue green, also egg color like a birds egg. Can also rarely refer to a tan color with no yellow in it.
Iromono - multicolored
Murasaki - strawberry color
Yake - sunset.sunrise, the orange iron colored areas in a stone
Tomago - a dark egg yolk color
Kan - tree rings, a ring pattern
Renge - a lotus pattern, usually pink or red, but can be blue or black. In suita layers only
Karasu - crow, black spots on a usually grey background.

Layers (complete, in order for the formation of finishing stones). The stones get harder as you go down the list.
Tenjou Suita (4 layers)
Hachmai (8 layers)
Senmai (2 layers)
Tomae (48 layers)
Aisa (4 layers)
Hon Suita (Su means bee’s nest, the stones frequently have voids like a honeycomb, usually occurring in layers)
Shiro (white) Suita
Shiki Suita

Additionally, there is also Sunashi Suita, ( a lower suita without su or holes, but the layer is not always present)

Hope this can help people when they are looking at stones!


Yes, it is a Nakayama as told by the sparkling black skin areas, the only definitive ‘tell’ of Nakayama. It’s not that great of a razor finisher, but it sure is pretty!. There’s no real goma in it, maybe a speck or three, and I’d call it multicolored (iro) versus strawberry (murasaki). If it were a top class razor stone, it would be worth a small fortune even though it is a koppa (literally ‘bits and pieces’, same meaning as ‘bout’ in the coti language) and isn’t that big.


Invaluable information Steve! I have always struggled to grasp the differences between the mines, colors and strata.
Do the various mines of the same strata correspond in their hardness or is there an element of variation?
Is there a strata point that is too hard to be useful as a razor hone resulting in not cutting the edge?
Hungry minds are thirsty for useful knowledge.
Again thanks Steve for sharing your collection and experience.


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Glad to help sir!

There are variations between the mines and even within the same mine mine for any given layer, IOW, you can’t count on different namito all being the same hardness even from the same mine - these are natural stones, and they vary, just like all Dressante are not the same hardness. This is especially true of tomae because there are 48 layers! But in general, lower layers are harder than upper layers.

Stones don’t really get too hard for razor use though they may get too hard for you to enjoy them depending on your preferences. Overly hard stones/nagura will glaze or polish with use, and become very difficult to slurry and the speed will drop off. So with these, you need to use a mellow diamond plate or a piece of King 1k or the King 8k. cleaning stone to remove the mirror polish from hard stones. And of course one can always use a mellow diamond plate to generate slurry on very hard stones. Knife people do not usually like hard Japanese stones, especially for use on laminated blades because a hard stone polishes the cladding steel too much and the ‘ji/ha’, or jigane (soft steel) and hagane (hard steel) junction is not as well defined as it is when using softer stones.

The amount of grit varies from stone to stone just like with cotis, and it is certainly possible to have a Japanese stone with very little grit in it, soft or hard. A lot of times these stones are cut into nagura and sold, and they are just not very good. Finding a good razor nagura is often harder than finding a good razor finisher!

Hope this helps!


Here’s how I test jnats. If you’re just testing one, it’s easy, you can just hone up a razor with mellow diamond plate slurry and shave with it. If you have two identical razors - I use Gold Dollars or Gold Monkeys as test razors - you can hone one on a known good hone/tomo and another on the stone to be tested and compare the shaves.

If you’re comparing two or more stones, as in grading a set of Mikawa nagura (many used ones are not stamped at all), then having a piece of polished steel is helpful. You can use a knife or cleaver provided the steel has been polished to a high finish with all of the factory finish removed and no scratches are remaining - that last part about scratches is important. The Masahiro gyuto in the image was a project knife for thinning and polishing, but it provides a large area of polished steel. You will need a loupe of your choosing. I like the B&L 7x Hastings Triplet, but if you want a cheaper one the illuminated Chinese 20-30x (they’re all about 10-12x, lol) work fine except near the edges of the field of view.

The razor is a badly worn near wedge Japanese that was sent to me as a gift when I bought another razor from a friend. I thought, ‘What am I going to do with this thing?’. As it turns out, I use it more than the razor that I bought, but for testing! The bevels are about 1/8” or 3mm wide, and the spine wear is almost 3/16” or 5mm wide, plenty of space to look at with a loupe.

In grading the Mikawas, which are very good BTW, I did one side of the razor with the softest one and the other side of the razor with the next hardest one and observed the scratch pattern, also looking for any rogue scratches. I labeled them with removable labels. Next I tried the hardest one on the side opposite the next to hardest and compared scratch patterns and labeled it. Next up, to confirm the grading, I honed up three razors on a very hard stone using the slurry from each and then shaved with them. It doesn’t take a lot of this to determine the sequence of coarsest to finest.

Matching razor finishing tomo naguras to a razor finishing hone has to be done by shaving really, the scratches are so fine a loupe is not that helpful. A microscope is quite helpful here, but I don’t have one, and for the final edge, shaving is always the definitive test regardless of what you see under a microscope.

Lot’s of fun if you’re a honing nerd!