Thursday, February 9, 2012

Why Soak J-nats

Soaking J-nats
This subject has been mentioned by many internet vendors recently! So I want to clarify what I think about it :)

Some think J-nats can’t be soaked, others think they can.

I only speak from my own experience and discussions with my stone suppliers. I do believe you can soak your J-nats to no ill effect. Remember, I never say you have to! It’s your stone and your decision. :)

If you want to use distilled water, please use it; I don’t, but I will not tell you its correct or incorrect use.
I hate to listen to stone wholesalers and vendors who think, and say, they know how I should use my own J-nats. No, I like to experiment and try to get the best out of my stones! But of coarse it has to be for the right task, and is not for every stone!

For knife sharpening, soaking stones can be a good idea because it helps the scratchiness of some very hard finishing stones. For razor or tool honing I don’t see any advantage to soaking stones. Razors are usually made from only hard steel. The exception is on Kamisori razors, and even on them, the soft steel part is so small that you don’t need to worry about it too much! Tools are usually scratched up anyway, and sometimes even hammered on the softer steel. But still, some carpenters in Japan soak their J-nats too, so they don’t scratch their tools.

Soaking stones is actually not normal at all in Kyoto, they just don’t do it! Only some blacksmiths, sword-polishers, and razor makers in other parts of Japan soak their stones.

Actually, I got this idea from my vendor, who got it from Iwasaki san. He told him super hard stones work better when soaked. This way they don’t scratch softer parts of his Razors. But, this is only for use on stones without to many lines or on suitas.

Some of my stones are always soaking; one big Aoto, Ohira Asagi, and some other Asagi stones.

Why, because Aoto is quite porous and always needing extra water. I also use it everyday, so it’s easier to be in water all the time.

Although I like to use softer stones for my knives, they do not give that mirror finish like harder stones do. And hard stones often scratch soft cladding on my knives. Although I like the mirror finish of hard stones, I like to use them without scratching the surface of the softer steel.

So my Ohira Asagi, a very hard stone, is soaked a couple of days and the scratchiness disappears from it!!!

It is very disappointing when you do a great polishing job on a sword or very expensive knife, then at the last step to mirror polish Hagane, you cause a couple of big scratches from very hard stones. The only thing to do is start all over again!

That’s why some good knife polishers, sword polishers, and even Iwasaki soaks stones.

In this video you see all Natural stones seems to be soaked !

And how about this picture of some Uchigomori stones:

They will not dissolve, or be weaker, like some people say. I had good quality Asagi in water for 3 years now, and nothing has happened to it. It still works great, maybe even better than before. But, it has to be sealed on the bottom and sides with shellac, to be totally sure it will not crack. I recommend sealing the sides and bottoms of all stones no matter soaking preference. This provides better support for any lines/faults that may be in the stone and cause weak points. This is especially important for soft stones like Aotos and Hakkas.

I have handled over 1,000 J-nats now, and I have never seen one get cracks or lines because of water, only on some really soft stones like Aotos or Hakkas.

So there you have it, why I sometimes soak my stones. Some are not soaked, like my stones for razors or tools.

If you think it’s too risky don’t do it, because only you can make that decision for your stones! But, remember, crossing the street is risky, you may be hit by a car, but we do it anyway so we can see what it is on the other side. :D

To say that there is no evidence of benefit at all to soaking Japanese Natural Stones, is just a wrong statement

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