Krodor's take on prepping my Surgical Black Arkansas

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by Krodor, May 25, 2012.

  1. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    Thought you might like some light reading. Couple days ago, a fellow B&B'er PM'ed me, asking about my experience with the surgical black Arkansas stone that a different not-to-be-named evil heathen sadistic B&B'er sold to me.:lol: Here are some thoughts that I PM'ed the requester back, tidied-up and updated. Note, I'm not shilling for or against the purchase of these from anyone in particular, nor for the honing solution mentioned below...its what they had at the hardware store.


    I opened the box and the thing is glossy, but looks like black water turned solid...really really solid...there was a slight waviness to the surface, so it was clear it wasn't out-of-the-box ready to use. That was fine, as I didn't expect it to be lapped, no biggee, but I'd never seen a surgical black with my eyes before.

    I picked it up, and was just amazed at just how hard it rings if you tap it on something. I looked it up, and the hardness is about the same as a solid chunk of garnet. So yes, it needs lapping. DONT use your DMT. You will not have the same DMT grit you started with. It laughs at DMT. I tried it on my 325, and now I have more like a 600. So I moved to 400 wet/dry using the DMT as a backing. For hours. Gave up on that, moved to 220 dry. Gave up on that, moved to 150. Gave up on that and just got out my hand-carry belt sander loaded with 80 grit and went after it. Got it flat enough that I was then hoping to just slap it on some 400 wet/dry and polish it up, working out the non-flatness that the sander left behind. Wrong. Went to 400, it thought it tickled a bit. Went to 220, then 180, then 100, all with the DMT as the backer. Stayed at 100 until it was scratching all the areas, then went to 220...foresaw another long night ahead. yuk.

    I looked around the shave den and found an ancient (my Mom's dad's) 2-sided barber hone that I'd lapped before. What the hey. I verified the flatness with a grid, then spent a minute or so grinding the rough-side of the barberhone on the Arkie. To my complete astonishment, upon checking the Arkie, the dang thing had gone from a scratched-up 100-grit mess to a hazy, no-scratches, nearly perfectly uniform (though not reflective) surface. The barber hone was like magic...the only thing I could think of is that it's slurry (and it made a lot) helped a ton. This is my best advice for the whole deal. If you have one, grab your 2-sider BH and use that once the Arkie is fairly flat. Here's a sideshot of mine:

    I then gridded the Arkie, spent 5-10 more minutes alternating between verifying the continuing flatness of the barber hone and ensuring the flatness of the Arkie, rubbing the two together. THEN, I slapped 400 grit wet-dry on the DMT, polished away for 5-10 minutes until the surface was not mirror, but decently reflective at a severe angle. I certainly could go more to get finer (its nowhere near as glossy as surface was when I opened the box), but I figure I'll leave it there for now and see how it works out on a few blades.

    Couple other pointers
    • Make darn sure you choose the flattest side to start with! :)
    • it gets hot on the beltsander.
    • don't say the words "slurry stone" nearby makes it mad after laughing at you. edit: though it likes eating other rocks for slurry

    I have some Smith's Honing Solution, so after rinsing off the Black, I slathered that stuff all over it, and ran an otherwise shave-ready blade over the hone for ~150 times. I looked through the 'scope at the bevel as a pre-view, then looked after as a post...the post-view showed that indeed the scratch pattern was markedly different and much finer. Stropped linen and leather (~50 each), and then looked at the bevel again. The fine scratches from the post-view were gone, leaving just a fine haze. Maybe the fine scratches were ridges in some honing solution still on the bevel? No idea. Edit: I looked again this morning and the lighter/finer scratches were still there. It was just that I had the microscope tilted in such a way that I couldn't see them before.

    Anyway, the blade now is popping a hair with some, but not much, regard to root-out vs. root-in, for what it is worth. I've gotten this before with some careful honing work + CrOx/FeOx and one time a couple weeks back with lapping films. Shave test soon and looking forward to it.

    So, lotsa work, but maybe this will be useful for others by having this in the archives.

    Hone pics:
    Image of the can see a ridge at the bottom where the DMT started in on it. I decided not to do this side.

    Image from's now glossier, flatter, and sanded with 400, working the 600 now. That little ridge of contrast there at the bottom left is (was) real...musta been a few atoms shallower than the main face of it. It's gone now I think.
    Last edited: May 27, 2012
  2. I lust for a black Arkansas. And a translucent. Actually, I lust for a full set of all the grades.
  3. Check the Hobbyist for sale forum...
  4. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    just got done reading this:

    kinda fun. Statements made by some folks I trust about grits, oil/water, not-good/super-awesome, etc. I'll just do things my own way.

    based on my shave results this morning (good, but not crazy-good), and the scratches I saw, I guess the net of it is that these bad-boys polish as well as you lap them...finer the grit you lap with, the finer and slower the hone behaves. That's fine. If I were in a hurry, I'd use something else, but there's something nice about back-and-forth x-strokes that I don't mind doing 150-200 of them sometimes. I will continue down the polish-till-it-shines path, currently at used-400 grit 3M wet-dry. I'll likely go to 600 then 800 and then stop over the next couple weeks, seeing how glossy I can get it, knowing that what I had worked, and it will only improve and take longer :)

    I also tried with plain water a little while ago instead of the purchased "honing solution". Seems to work just fine with water too.

    BTW, except for a future Coti, once I save up some more change, I think my AD's are now gone...happy with my 1 working strop, happy with my few soaps, happy with my razor stash, happy with my homemade razor storage solution, happy with my 3 brushes, and now happy with my suite of hones. Feels good!
    Last edited: May 25, 2012
  5. arkansas black surgical stone (twin brother to yours) is waiting for me at home and I will be taking a look at it tomorrow. From all the hassle you've been through, I'm pretty sure I'm just going to sell it for what I paid for it. I just don't have time to spend with it.
  6. i love my arki's!!
  7. All Arks, being natural stones, will vary in performance somewhat. A black Arkansas can be a 'surgical' black, or a 'hard' Ark.
    The difference between them, in a scientific sense, would be their respective Specific Gravity. Basically - one can consider all Arkansas stones to have the same average size abrasive (silica) particles. The greater the concentration of those particles, the 'harder'or 'finer' the stone. One issue is that not every stone is tested, another issue is that the mean average size of particles across two different stones of any one 'type" mined in two different places 10 or 20 years apart from each other isn't necessarily going to be constant. Plus, along with the average size particles, there's the rest of the particles ro consider, along with a host of other concerns. I forget the numbers, but I think the SG of pure quartz silica reads 2.5, and a Trans/Surg Black Ark would be nearly the same.
    The recorded average size of an Ark's silica particle is .01 mm, or 10 micron, which is about 1.2-1.4k on some charts, markedly lower on other charts, and a little higher on a few others.
    Grit - when discussing natural stones - can be a misleading point of consideration. Referencing an Ark - or whatever - as having a 'grit' that is equal to a synth or even another natural, is going to be subjective at best.
    I have finished many of my best edges on my Surgical Black Ark. It's slow, unforgiving, and it's not a good choice for every razor. The edge has to be fully maxed out at the previous stone before moving to the SBA. Jumping from an 8k JIS to the Ark will yield a plausible finish after a bizillion laps, but I found that progressing to the Ark after maxing out on a 10/12k JIS stone was the way to go. That edge is always sublime.
    I use water with a tinge of dish soap mixed in, I don't like using oil. And - I lapped the stone with w/d up to 2k.
    After finishing, the bevel is always hazy.
    Last edited: May 26, 2012
  8. Mental note-never buy an Ark stone without having it lapped
  9. No one laps them like we need them. You always have to lap them unless you buy from someone using it for a straight.
  10. True, I'm not getting one then :lol:
  11. Mike H

    Mike H Moderator Emeritus

    I've spent more on sandpaper than the hone itself!
  12. Looking at mine while I'm sitting's fairly straight - but still needs lapped. The good news? I found a guy who will lap it for $6.00 plus shipping. it goes. In the meantime, my Inigo Jones Dragon Tongue is lapped and ready as is my incoming Silkstone and Jnat. :) Nothing like playing with your rocks to pass the time. lol
  13. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    added hone pics to the OP.
  14. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    Dude, if that guy can lap it to a nice, polished, razor-quality flat finish for 6 bucks...golly...stunning. Please let us know how yours turns out, and I bet that guy will get some business....

    Did I *really* need to read that? :smile:
  15. It's a pretty stone - that's for sure.
    Guesstimating, it looks to be about 6" long.
    I would do about 150-200 laps on a 10" stone to finish, so I'd guess with a 6" surface one would need to double my efforts to get to the same place.
  16. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    more pics (doing this for posterity if folks do a search for it).

    So, I did the 400grit thing, then decided to go to 600. Did 600 for awhile and it got a little shinier, but it's hard to tell, since you can't see scratches. So I went to 1000, and at that point it started eating the sandpaper...grit was disappearing from the 3M wet/dry, exposing the sandpaper backing....I'd love to know how you can progress through 2000grit.

    Not to be outdone, I reviewed my progress to this point, and saw that the big jump occurred with using slurry from something else. So, I tried my coticule (hey, slurry, right?), tried a piece of CNAT with and without slurry (scratched the CNAT up...don't do this on a CNAT surface that you like), my Washita (no slurry, but worth a shot), and my little piece of 1880's slate chalkboard. What was that? there's some life there! Slate..slate..slate...Hey! what about my mega-piece of Lowe's slate tile (12" long, little over 3" wide) that I'd lapped flat previously and use for fun when setting bevels?

    Slurried that thing up with the DMT to ensure it was flat, and got it densely coated with slate-mud and went to town...progress! Rinsed off the slurry and just started going at it under running water...yeah baby! that's what I'm talking about. With all of these hone-based efforts, the Arkie and the other hone stick like white on rice when rubbing together, but here are the results so can see highly polished areas on the ends, and the areas are slowly growing larger with time on the running-watered slate. I'm worried that when complete that it will be *too* polished to do anything at all, but if so, adding back the slurry to roughen it up a smidge is easy enough and it will bring back a haze. Yeah, there are some stray digs in the polished area, but the overall haze is going away nicely.

    Last edited: May 27, 2012
  17. All under running water - I went up to 2k very slowly. No pressure on the stone and just going as lightly as possible. I think - after 600x - I used about 3-5 sheets each of 800x, 1k, then 2k.
    Then I polished with a BBW. Forgot to mention that before.

    At the risk of everyone thinking I'm nuts - or someone asking me to produce documents that support my emirical data;

    I use warm water to lap. Warm - not hot. Very warm is ok, but hot water can crack a stone.
    I can feel the difference when I toggle between cold/warm water during the lapping; there's more cut under warm water.

    When I hone - I warm the stone up in warm/hot water for a while, and I use warm water on the stone to hone with too. The warmth seems to make the stone more efficient.
  18. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    hey, I'm with you there. I still think I'm nuts, but when the beltsander warmed up the rock and the belt, I coulda sworn it was faster and the gouges from the belt were deeper than when the rock was cold. Surely the rock wasn't getting more pliable, but hey, that's the way it felt to me.

    As for the final polish, you mentioned a BBW. Funny, I just looked around some more and saw the BBW sitting there looking lonely, always being a slave to the hoidy-toidy noise-in-the-air coticule doing the Voldemort / Quirrell thing on its back. Knowing that it's got some garnet buried in there somewhere, I did the grid thing, ensured it was flat, and started going to town. It might be slower (nothing like a crazy-slow BBW up against the hyper-slow Arkie...turtle vs. slug here), but at least they don't stick to each other as if hitting lots of dry parts going down a slip-n-slide. The BBW bows before the might of the arkie and whithers into purple mud instead. Much easier, since they glide rather than play stick-n-jolt. I'll stick with this for awhile and see how it goes.
  19. If you get the Ark flat enough on 2k - it'll stick to the BBW shortly after you start to use it to dress the top surface of the Ark. Trust me on that. Getting an Ark that flat ain't easy though. Takes time and a lot of w/d. At one point - you may think it's flat, and it may just be flat enough for most people - but if you go a bit further it will get really freaking flat and then all sorts of good things happen. You can't afford even a teeny wave in the stone, it's too hard for that. We think in inches most of the time, and maybe millimeters... I'm talking about smaller units of measure here. Microns come to mind.
    The rule may lie flat on the stone but there still could be an uneven surface under the rule that can be dressed even further.
    When you get the BBW to stick - you're there. Until then - there is still work to do if you want to get the max out of the stone.
  20. Krodor

    Krodor Contributor

    (sick of me yet? think of it as a hone-prep journal ;) )

    I had some thoughts about those polished ends, and I think, Gamma, that your post confirms it. My slate was working along nicely, as I said, and then it kinda stopped. I think what was happening was that it was bending (yes, a rock). it was nice that it is 12" long, but it's also about 3/16" thick. I think what happened was that I'd put the end in the bottom of the sink, and hold the other end, and rub. in the act of pushing down, it must have bent only so far, thus only polishing the ends. Same things on the sides: if I held the arkie the "short" way, it only seemed to do the edges. It's not that the slate wasn't flat (I checked several times), so bending-slate is the only thing I can think of. Since the polished action had stopped working its way in, I backed off to 600, now back to 400 with the DMT as my flat reference (400's the roughest I've got that is wet/dry, and I don't trust dry), and there are some slight scratches in the polished part, but not much, thus the center is likely ever so slightly bellied-out now that the ends are polished juuuuuust a little thinner. Your mention of "really freaking flat" arkie fits this...that Black piece from Hades isn't going to bend. I suppose I could hold the slate in my hand in the center of it, but with all the stick-and-slip going on, it really was tough to get enough oomph behind it to move the arkie with respect to the slate without the end of the slate resting firmly in the sink.

    Also, I looked at that haze that is on there with my little radio shack isn't made of scratches, but instead they are little shallow dings/divots made by the slurry of that barber's hone. It was realllly good at flattening, but those dings are what are left. After trying some of this other stuff as I've stated, I now have a couple deeper (everything is relative) gouges that will never be taken out with 400 (the coti and the CNAT were the worst culprits), even with the haze gone. I think I might just go ahead and cut my losses, break out the BH again and get rid of the scratches again, kinda starting over. If I'm going to spend a long time getting this thing polished, I'd hate to end up with detrimental scratches in there glaring at me saying "ha ha, you missed me, and don't you wish you'd fixed me??"

    I think there should be some sort of "Brotherhood of Lappers ARKie Surgical" (BOLArkieS? :lol: ) that I can join when done with this. :) I need a goal at this point. Not frustrated yet, but really wondering if it's worth the trouble. It is an experience, to say the least, but hopefully folks can learn from this thread. I couldn't find a "how-to" when I started, it was mainly just "I lapped it and love it". Not many say how far they lapped it or how, or how long it took, or showed pics, so at least this can help.
    Last edited: May 27, 2012

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