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A few newbie-hone-buying rules for myself

Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Buy a Damn Hone (hopefully).

OK, I won't lie...I'm confused as Hell about getting my first hones (beyond my barber hone). It seems like there isn't that much common wisdom about selecting that first hone...lots of recommendations of specific hones, but you then have to look at what year that post is from. (I.e., would this person have recommended the Norton set if the Naniwas were out yet?)

When I get this worried and uptight about picking something out, I tend to set some rules for myself. They're not always rational, but limiting my scope tends to make me stop comparison-shopping and actually buy something, finally. So, after a lot of reading & thought on the subject, I think I've come up with my ground-rules for myself in getting my first hone, based on some assumptions about myself. Experienced folks...is this a reasonable strategy?

  1. They're all hones.

    They'll all sharpen razors, given the skill. Right now, developing my honing technique is more important than getting the "best" hone.

  2. I want a hone.

    I know pastes will probably give me a keener edge for cheaper, in the long run. I don't care. I'm getting into straight shaving because I want to rely on a set of quality tools that'll last a lifetime...maybe I'll never make back the upfront costs, but I've got a feeling that always having my hones there will give me warm fuzzies.

  3. I don't know what I'm doing.

    I'm a noob. I don't yet know what I want out of a razor, out of a hone, or, really, out of honing in general. Maybe I think I want to restore eBay specials but I'll settle into just retouching my daily shavers. Or vice versa.
Rules for myself:
  1. Get hones that lots of people know and have used.

    I'll have a hard time getting help as a newbie if nobody knows what hone I'm talking about.

  2. A corollary to rule 1, stick to synthetics at first.

    Coticules are awful tempting, you hear so much about JNats, and the People's Hone sounds to be a good deal, but there's too much variation in natural hones. I'd really like a hone that's a special, unique snowflake, but a newbie like me has no experience or baseline to determine whether he's got a "special" snowflake. Plus, how would I get help when nobody knows whether the hone or my technique is causing the problem?

  3. Look for a series of synthetic stones from one manufacturer.

    Trying to correlate the grit systems across different manufacturers sounds hard enough for experienced guys, and it was almost enough to scare me away from honing. I figure mixing & matching is something best left to when I've got more experience under my belt and can make the call based on what feels right to me, not charts on the wiki.

  4. Pick out a series with a good bit of flexibility.

    Per assumption 3, I don't know what I want out of a hone...maybe I'll be able to shave off an 8k, maybe I won't be happy without a finishing stone. Maybe I'll want a low-grit quick-cutter to try working out chips in a damaged blade. A series with plenty of grits, covering as wide a range as possible, lets me build experience relative to my familiar baseline.

    Incidentally, this is where the venerable Norton 4k/8k leaves the running for me...even if I'm content shaving off the 8k, I'd like to try out a finishing hone to see if it's for me. And having that finisher in the same series as my lower-grit hones would really make everything so much easier.

  5. Get stones people like, for an exit strategy.

    Maybe I'll hate honing. Given how much stones can be, I'll want to be able to unload stones I don't like on the B/S/T...it'd me a little more confident in the investment.

So, basically, after all that reasoning, I think I've talked myself into a set of Naniwas or Shaptons. (Yeah, I bet you old-timers could've told me that from the start...as I say, I don't know what I'm doing yet. Cut me a little slack. :laugh:) The Shaptons are pretty tempting, since I've been drooling over that 30k ever since I learned it existed. Of course, the Naniwas are cheaper and seem to be pretty universally loved. But heck...at least I've narrowed it down.

(Oh, and, yes, I'm a math/CS sort of person. No, the post's vague resemblance to a proof with axioms isn't a coincidence. :lol:)
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This should be a sticky! :thumbup:

You've made the biggest step of them all - figuring out what you want (for the most part - at least you consciously disqualified several options).

The next questions, IMO, are (1) how much do you wan to spend, and (2) How high do you want to go?

You sound like you have a game plan for keeping your wallet under control (good luck with that :lol: ) with wanting flexibility, longevity, predictability and consistency. A good set of any of the brands is an investment, but a one time deal if you maintain them properly. You should consider your lapping medium as well.

That leaves question 2. It looks like you've got 4 obvious choices - Naniwa Super stones, Naniwa Choseras, Shapton Pro stones, and Shapton Glass stones. They all are entire series from coarse to refined enough for shaving.

Super stones are widely used, and go up to 12K, which is certainly a good shave. The supers are generally softer and slower cutting than their cousins, the Choseras. The Choseras are quite fast, but only go up to 10K. Supers are splash and go (once you get that freaking sticker off :mad3: ) but the Choseras need a good soaking.

Shapton Glass and Pro are both splash and go and both go to 30K. The pros have a different and harder matrix than the glass, but they both contain the same abrasives. Glass stones work faster than the Pros, but the pros keep their shape longer.

That should help narrow it down a bit :tongue_sm
A rule I often go by: Get something that speaks to you. It's intangible. If you find something like that, you'll probably spend more time honing, get better at it, and will likely enjoy it more. You make good points. I just tend to think a little more - well, actually, I think a little 'less' - in these kinds of matters myself. Good luck.
The shapton glasstones are great! I have 1,4,8,16K and honestly have no intention to get the 30K. You can easily overhone with the 16K (it only takes about 8-12 x's for a great finish) so I can only imagine what a 30K could do. Rule 5 is a smart one & with either the Nani's or Shaptons you could easily move them for much less a hit on the loss side of things.
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