The Naniwa Specialty Stones are manufactured by the Naniwa Abrasive Manufacturing Company of Osaka and are an upgraded and reformulated replacement for the Naniwa Super Stones that are now being discontinued outside of Japan. Affording the same degree of polishing ability as the Super Stones, these revised and improved stones are equally capable of producing a great edge on your razor. Please note however that although the stone is of the same dimensions as its predecessor, it now is no longer supplied with bonded-on stand. In some grits we still have a few of the Super Stones but once sold these will be replaced by the Specialty Stone.
I have used the new Specialty Stones and the old Super Stones working under pro conditions for some time now and can say without any doubt that they are first-class razor hones. The Grit range is 1k, 3k, 5k, 8k, 10k and 12k and, especially when used in progression, these stones give a truly impressive mirror-like finish to the cutting edge.
Also take a look at our particle size chart to see clearly the effect using a progression of grits can give!
And there are several more plus-points too:
All the stones are full size bench stones measuring 210 x 70 x 10 mm (approx. 8.25” x 2.75” x 0.4”). This size makes honing that bit easier as the full length of the blade can be set on the stone, doing away with the need to ‘x-pattern’ the honing action. The Super Stones are bonded to a plastic base fitted with anti-slip ‘button’ feet while the new Specialty Stones are not.
There’s no need to soak before use as with many other waterstones (though they are better if you do for a few minutes) nor do the stones need to be stored in water. Just wet them down with fresh water and you’re ready to go. Then just add water as needed - they are porous but use little water when compared to other types of ‘waterstone’.
They’re easily kept clean. Anyone with experience of honing knows that a lot of waterstones tend to ‘load up’, leading to black markings that are in fact the steel residue left behind by the honing action. This clogs the stone surface, requiring the use of a ‘Nagura’ or rubbing stone to clean them up and return them to optimum performance. The Specialty Stones and the Super Stones can be cleaned using just a common nylon pan scourer - the green’n’yellow type that can be purchased almost anywhere seem to work best. Of course if you like using a Nagura stone that’s fine - we have them here. Don’t forget though that the stone will also benefit from being lapped from time to time using either ‘wet’n’dry’ paper on a glass sheet or a proprietary lapping stone.
So how do they compare to the other stones we sell - the Belgian Blue and the Belgian Yellow Coticule?
It’s true to say that you will find it hard to beat a BBW or coticule for versatility - the response to pressure that can be achieved means that very fine edges can be had. However, A ‘BBW’ or a ‘Coti’ won’t handle a really dull blade too well - they simply aren’t made for the job. Also, in my opinion the Naniwas score heavily in two areas: ease of use and care and - perhaps inevitably - cost. Full-size BBW’s and especially coticules are expensive and - if you only hone your own razor periodically - can be a bit more costly than you would like. Naniwa stones are not cheap but in comparison are far more affordable and, especially for beginners, easier to use.
Obviously these stones can be used to hone almost any edged tool - chisels, plane irons and the like - and this does increase their versatility but it is for razors that I think these hones are absolutely ideal - and I’m pleased to be able to offer them to my customers.
There are many other hones out in the marketplace with higher grit ratings than the ‘top of the tree’ 12k Specialty Stone - some with truly stratospheric grit figures - and no doubt these give a superlative edge. Yet, to someone who wants a hone or hone set that is forgiving, easy to maintain and - importantly! - produces first-class results, I think the Naniwas stones are hard to beat.
So what are they made of - and how? Naniwa manufactures at its plant in Osaka from white fused aluminium powder, formed by chemical reaction bonding. What reaction? Well, sorry - that’s a trade secret! According to Naniwa Technical, the real trick is to produce a stone that isn’t too hard - as some of the so-called ‘ceramics’ (a term not used in Japan for these specific products) that can cause slippage of the blade edge, yet not so soft as to wear prematurely - despite giving a very ‘fast’ cutting medium. Incidentally, the word ‘waterstone’ isn’t used there either, just ‘whetstone’! So the Naniwa stones are made to a balance of hardness versus cutting power that works extremely well, as has been proved to me under workshop conditions.