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A Tale of Two Washitas

[Let's preface this by saying I have nothing like the level of experience using Washitas that some people here do, but I have a bit; I use them as part of my work pretty much every day. Nevertheless some of the things below surprised me.]

The last two Washitas I got were chalk and cheese, if you put the two in my hand I would tell you categorically they were not the same stone. But of course they are, just very different ends of the spectrum. Which I was quite pleased about - I didn't have stones at these extremes before. So I thought I'd try removing as many variables as possible and having a go at them. They've been cleaned, surface lapped on an atoma 400, and I've got two identical, brand-new, 150mm Tosa blades in for the ride.

The stone on the top is a Pike Lily White, SG 2.45. On the bottom an old unlabelled Washita, SG 2.08.

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The LW is highly translucent - far more so than other Washitas I've seen. The smaller stone is fairly similar to my others (pic is actually of a different stone, but you get the gist).

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The LW also, as you can see, is not all that lily white; it's a kinda greenish toffee colour, and it stays like that whatever I do to it. That's just how it is apparently. The smaller stone however is white, with some of those pinky / orange bits on it.

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They also, as you'd expect, feel quite different. The LW is smooth and hard, the other is coarser, lighter and more 'abrasive-feeling'. As well as being different colours; the smaller one is notably more porous and cleaned to pretty much white in no time, the LW had several much longer soaks, and just stays that kind of caramel/butterscotch. To be honest; even though I know these are both old Washitas, I'm not expecting them to look very similar under a scope either, or to act particularly similarly. They're clearly very different.

So this I must say, surprised me...

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Because they're also very clearly the same. Under a microscope Washitas look quite distinct from any other novaculite (or any other stone) I've looked at - you're not mistaking one of these for something else, it's unequivocally Washita. The LW on the top is a bit finer, more homogenous, and more compact, but they're incredibly similar really. Much more so than they are to the touch and naked eye.

[Trying them out to follow in Part 2]
 
So are they also going to act more similarly than we might expect...? As I said above these stones were both cleaned, lapped lightly at 400, and used with oil. The blades are soft steel clad (I believe), Aogami 2.

Well they both both feel like Washitas, albeit quite disparate examples. The LW is harder and finer, but not as glassy as I might have thought. The smaller stone is coarser, almost a bit gritty, it feels like it's a bit more friable than other Washitas I've tried.

Ten medium-pressure bevel strokes on our knives and you can see the smaller stone is faster, but that the LW is still doing what Washitas do and having a fair crack. You can also see the porosity of the smaller stone, with the oil sinking into it immediately.

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That was kind of what I expected of them there, but how about setting an edge, raising and removing burrs? This stage throws a small variable in, as I'm freehanding. Though I'm not too shabby at this, it's part of what I do for a living, particularly on these blades, so I know them well.

Here, at lighter pressure, the speed difference is less apparent. Both stones get the job done quite quickly, because Washitas are quick, and they take about the same amount of time tbh. The LW is actually a little easier to use for this; burr formation and de-burring are both more consistent, though they're still not as different as I might have thought.

Though the edges they leave are. The smaller stone is clearly finishing at the lower end of what Washitas can do; the edge is very toothy and aggressive, which I quite like on a knife, though I'd still probably want to refine this a little more afterwards. And the LW is obviously at the finer end of how they can be, but still with some bite, this is a very good, very sharp edge. (I can get HHT 4 on a kitchen knife with this stone no problem at all).

The rocks themselves look pretty different though. After wiping clean the smaller, more porous, stone has discoloured quite a lot. Oil and grey swarf have worked their way into the surface, it's gone from looking fairly new to looking like a used Washita after just this quick run-out. Whereas the LW remains resolutely the same.

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I'm not sure if all that tells us anything that I mightn't have been able to guess in the first place. The smaller stone acts quite like I was expecting it to from the SG reading and the feel of it. It has quite a large range, and is particularly effective at the lower end of that. Used coarsely this is happily Turkish levels of fast. The LW also has quite a large range, but nothing like the low end of the small stone, and tops out quite a lot higher. It speed perhaps surprises me, it's still not a slow stone by any means, and feels nicer and more forgiving in use than it does in the hand.

I'll finish with a couple of better, daytime pictures. You can see that even after scrubbing clean the small stone remains discoloured, though the orange/pink areas that perhaps mark this as a stone that might have been sold as RR back in the say are still visible. You can see on the surface, but it's particularly evident on one of the sides. The LW hasn't taken a different colour, though some of the area in the middle of the stone that has been used is now more burnished than the atoma finish from the start.

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Awesome thread! I'm doing essentially this same thing right now. My new one is showing some translucency now though not penitrating really deep. I ordered 2 or 3 more stones labeled washitas from various producers yesterday. Thanks for the microscope pictures and for confirming a sneaking suspicion of mine!
 

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Are we looking at an unlabeled Rosy Red with that second stone? Looks about right for me, but I've never owned a labeled RR but it does seem to me that the Washita's with the rust red blush to them seem to be on the faster, coarser side of things. Perhaps that is a blanket statement that isn't true?

I reserve the right to be wrong in all things....
 
Are we looking at an unlabeled Rosy Red with that second stone? Looks about right for me, but I've never owned a labeled RR but it does seem to me that the Washita's with the rust red blush to them seem to be on the faster, coarser side of things. Perhaps that is a blanket statement that isn't true?

I reserve the right to be wrong in all things....

It certainly ticks the boxes of how they're described, though obviously I haven't used a labelled one either. The Pink/Orange blush is certainly noticeable on parts of the surface, and on one side (but not the other). Though I don't think RR existed as a category post 1935, so presumably the same stones were just sold as LW/No.1 (?)

It's an interesting size too - 5.5 x 2. Which doesn't appear to have been a standard Norton size, at least going by this 1948 ad. So perhaps it is an old Pike one.

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(Something else I've just noticed in that ad which I didn't know - 'mounted' stones were cut slightly narrower than 'bench stones').
 
Are we looking at an unlabeled Rosy Red with that second stone? Looks about right for me, but I've never owned a labeled RR but it does seem to me that the Washita's with the rust red blush to them seem to be on the faster, coarser side of things. Perhaps that is a blanket statement that isn't true?

I reserve the right to be wrong in all things....
I have a small stone from buck knives with that blush and it's by far the most porous novaculite I've ever seen but it's not friable at all and really fine. Really weird rock.
 
So your thread and our conversation had me thinking about arkansas stones in general and how someone people make it seem like an impossible task to hone razors on arks.... or that anything softer than a translucent will wreck your razors. So to be blatant about my defiance to this type of thinking I decided to file your lead and start a washita progression again since oi got more of them now. I left my white stone out of it completely this time because that is almost a 1 stone hone, so cheating for these proses. I started with "arkansas oilstone's washita" the lightest and softest one but it extremely fine. It's very obvious on this stone when your scratches are even, it begins to skate. I have the other side polished some at 1k and between these 2 sides I can almost get the whole thing done. This stone doesn't kick up any grit at all, it would be closer to coticule slurry. Second stone smith's labeled washita. This one can get a fine as a smith's vintage semi translucent hard ark can. It does kick stone grit and must be cleared immediately. The grit is bigger but pores are smaller and stone is harder so it can make a finer edge. Last one looks like it'll be a white one but much finer than my other white. It's got some translucency but it is HARD AND FINE, finer than the other one I have which I think may be a "coarse/ hard" now that I got a bigger sample size. Quick, smooth progression I haven't shaved off of yet but I have shaved off the finishing stone in the walnut base/ box and it was superb. I love these stones and arks in general because they are all exactly the same stuff +/- a few % of impurities but they are still SO different. I've got to have a dozen hard Arks around here and they are all very different. All almost the same density and as different a night and day. These washita are nowhere close to the same density, though I haven't actually checked. I think the last one is as dense as a translucent it has a spot that was part of a vein running through, that is pretty hi translucency quartz. The other ones feels like a ceramic pot without any glaze, but after it's fired.

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Awesome thread! I'm doing essentially this same thing right now. My new one is showing some translucency now though not penitrating really deep. I ordered 2 or 3 more stones labeled washitas from various producers yesterday. Thanks for the microscope pictures and for confirming a sneaking suspicion of mine!

Curious to find out what you think of the stones you ordered. Are they new? I just used a vintage Smith’s Washita for the first time last week. I had used it pretty much as-is. Today I tried to flatten a bit, I put it on my granite tile with some Silicon Carbide material - 200 grit for one side 500 for the other. Not sure that I accomplished much in terms of flattening it, but at least it looks cleaner! :)
 
I got a smith's pocket washita that is awesome, then a 2.5x 4 smith's, it's much harder but I don't think finer the small one is really fine. I got a 5 x 2 "arkansas oilstone's- washita" which is exactly like the pocket stone as fine far as density/ feel. The bigger smith's is like my big unlabeled white one, they both feel more like a hard ark than the small soft washitas. The black one is a leather strop that's inside the 2 piece lid for the large stone.

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The white/tan one I got yesterday as a mystery stone, it was broken from a bigger stone. It's much softer than the other 2 hard/ fine ones I got but it still feels really fine. My hard ones are a little coarser than the soft ones but it's beneficial because it speeds up the cutting to equal out the speed of the soft ones though they finish the blade really fine. I worked razors on them and got them from completely dull to ready for a finishing stone in about 3 minutes on the softer ones. Except this one because I've been soaking it but I began to lap it. Though I can't say any of them are labeled Pike/ norton Washita (which is a huge point of contention for stone around here), I can say every one I've used so far its an excellent stone that i got at a great price and in sure the fact that they aren't Nortons is why. I think the vintage buck knives, smith's, and arkansas oilstone brand(the non norton ones I've tried so far) are great stones/tools that surely serve their purpose and regardless what anyone says they aren't soft arks. I got tons of soft arks and "other brand" washitas and they aren't anything alike. The only ones that are similar to traditional arks are the hard and finer ones but they are more like hard Arks than soft ones. Either way, love them and my tools like em too. You can see the "pepper" in the broken side and because of the break the larger particles are visible.

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I got a smith's pocket washita that is awesome, then a 2.5x 4 smith's, it's much harder but I don't think finer the small one is really fine. I got a 5 x 2 "arkansas oilstone's- washita" which is exactly like the pocket stone as fine far as density/ feel. The bigger smith's is like my big unlabeled white one, they both feel more like a hard ark than the small soft washitas. The black one is a leather strop that's inside the 2 piece lid for the large stone.

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The white/tan one I got yesterday as a mystery stone, it was broken from a bigger stone. It's much softer than the other 2 hard/ fine ones I got but it still feels really fine. My hard ones are a little coarser than the soft ones but it's beneficial because it speeds up the cutting to equal out the speed of the soft ones though they finish the blade really fine. I worked razors on them and got them from completely dull to ready for a finishing stone in about 3 minutes on the softer ones. Except this one because I've been soaking it but I began to lap it. Though I can't say any of them are labeled Pike/ norton Washita (which is a huge point of contention for stone around here), I can say every one I've used so far its an excellent stone that i got at a great price and in sure the fact that they aren't Nortons is why. I think the vintage buck knives, smith's, and arkansas oilstone brand(the non norton ones I've tried so far) are great stones/tools that surely serve their purpose and regardless what anyone says they aren't soft arks. I got tons of soft arks and "other brand" washitas and they aren't anything alike. The only ones that are similar to traditional arks are the hard and finer ones but they are more like hard Arks than soft ones. Either way, love them and my tools like em too. You can see the "pepper" in the broken side and because of the break the larger particles are visible.

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So I’m a relative newbie for Arks. I have a pair of Dan’s 8x2x1/2, a hard black that is my go to finisher (pretty much every razor visits it) and a hard Ark that gets used occasionally (usually I am using synthetic stones at this point in the progression). Also have a small vintage Smith Washita (3.5x2.5X1/4). My question: What would I expect the difference in performance to be between an actual Washita (whether Norton/Pike or Smith/Buck Knife) and what Dan’s would label a “Soft Ark”? I understand that they are both types of Novaculite, they look different, but really more interested in how they perform differently, in terms of cutting speed and fineness.
 
So I’m a relative newbie for Arks. I have a pair of Dan’s 8x2x1/2, a hard black that is my go to finisher (pretty much every razor visits it) and a hard Ark that gets used occasionally (usually I am using synthetic stones at this point in the progression). Also have a small vintage Smith Washita (3.5x2.5X1/4). My question: What would I expect the difference in performance to be between an actual Washita (whether Norton/Pike or Smith/Buck Knife) and what Dan’s would label a “Soft Ark”? I understand that they are both types of Novaculite, they look different, but really more interested in how they perform differently, in terms of cutting speed and fineness.
I've never used a labeled norton/pike washita(though in pretty sure I have a couple unlabeled ones) but I've got a couple different smith's washita and my 3x1 I is soft and light and fine(and fast) and the 2.5x4 smith's washita is harder and much denser and slower but it still finishes fine it just takes longer. I've never used a soft from dans.
 
So I’m a relative newbie for Arks. I have a pair of Dan’s 8x2x1/2, a hard black that is my go to finisher (pretty much every razor visits it) and a hard Ark that gets used occasionally (usually I am using synthetic stones at this point in the progression). Also have a small vintage Smith Washita (3.5x2.5X1/4). My question: What would I expect the difference in performance to be between an actual Washita (whether Norton/Pike or Smith/Buck Knife) and what Dan’s would label a “Soft Ark”? I understand that they are both types of Novaculite, they look different, but really more interested in how they perform differently, in terms of cutting speed and fineness.
In my experience stones labeled washita are all pretty fast and fine but im not an expert by any means.
 
So are they also going to act more similarly than we might expect...? As I said above these stones were both cleaned, lapped lightly at 400, and used with oil. The blades are soft steel clad (I believe), Aogami 2.

Well they both both feel like Washitas, albeit quite disparate examples. The LW is harder and finer, but not as glassy as I might have thought. The smaller stone is coarser, almost a bit gritty, it feels like it's a bit more friable than other Washitas I've tried.

Ten medium-pressure bevel strokes on our knives and you can see the smaller stone is faster, but that the LW is still doing what Washitas do and having a fair crack. You can also see the porosity of the smaller stone, with the oil sinking into it immediately.

View attachment 1325113

That was kind of what I expected of them there, but how about setting an edge, raising and removing burrs? This stage throws a small variable in, as I'm freehanding. Though I'm not too shabby at this, it's part of what I do for a living, particularly on these blades, so I know them well.

Here, at lighter pressure, the speed difference is less apparent. Both stones get the job done quite quickly, because Washitas are quick, and they take about the same amount of time tbh. The LW is actually a little easier to use for this; burr formation and de-burring are both more consistent, though they're still not as different as I might have thought.

Though the edges they leave are. The smaller stone is clearly finishing at the lower end of what Washitas can do; the edge is very toothy and aggressive, which I quite like on a knife, though I'd still probably want to refine this a little more afterwards. And the LW is obviously at the finer end of how they can be, but still with some bite, this is a very good, very sharp edge. (I can get HHT 4 on a kitchen knife with this stone no problem at all).

The rocks themselves look pretty different though. After wiping clean the smaller, more porous, stone has discoloured quite a lot. Oil and grey swarf have worked their way into the surface, it's gone from looking fairly new to looking like a used Washita after just this quick run-out. Whereas the LW remains resolutely the same.

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I'm not sure if all that tells us anything that I mightn't have been able to guess in the first place. The smaller stone acts quite like I was expecting it to from the SG reading and the feel of it. It has quite a large range, and is particularly effective at the lower end of that. Used coarsely this is happily Turkish levels of fast. The LW also has quite a large range, but nothing like the low end of the small stone, and tops out quite a lot higher. It speed perhaps surprises me, it's still not a slow stone by any means, and feels nicer and more forgiving in use than it does in the hand.

I'll finish with a couple of better, daytime pictures. You can see that even after scrubbing clean the small stone remains discoloured, though the orange/pink areas that perhaps mark this as a stone that might have been sold as RR back in the say are still visible. You can see on the surface, but it's particularly evident on one of the sides. The LW hasn't taken a different colour, though some of the area in the middle of the stone that has been used is now more burnished than the atoma finish from the start.

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Most of mine discolor like that after a single use(but I don't have any translucent ones, not yet) I keep my big ones in simple green during the day because they get so dirty when I use them each night to refresh my carpentry tools and work knives.
 
My Washitas have made me hate disposable utility blade(which is go through several a day) because I can refresh my work knife on a washita faster (MUCH sharper than a new utility blade too) than I can pull out the utility blades and change one, so I barely even use my, once, most used tool now.
 
[Let's preface this by saying I have nothing like the level of experience using Washitas that some people here do, but I have a bit; I use them as part of my work pretty much every day. Nevertheless some of the things below surprised me.]

The last two Washitas I got were chalk and cheese, if you put the two in my hand I would tell you categorically they were not the same stone. But of course they are, just very different ends of the spectrum. Which I was quite pleased about - I didn't have stones at these extremes before. So I thought I'd try removing as many variables as possible and having a go at them. They've been cleaned, surface lapped on an atoma 400, and I've got two identical, brand-new, 150mm Tosa blades in for the ride.

The stone on the top is a Pike Lily White, SG 2.45. On the bottom an old unlabelled Washita, SG 2.08.

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The LW is highly translucent - far more so than other Washitas I've seen. The smaller stone is fairly similar to my others (pic is actually of a different stone, but you get the gist).

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The LW also, as you can see, is not all that lily white; it's a kinda greenish toffee colour, and it stays like that whatever I do to it. That's just how it is apparently. The smaller stone however is white, with some of those pinky / orange bits on it.

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They also, as you'd expect, feel quite different. The LW is smooth and hard, the other is coarser, lighter and more 'abrasive-feeling'. As well as being different colours; the smaller one is notably more porous and cleaned to pretty much white in no time, the LW had several much longer soaks, and just stays that kind of caramel/butterscotch. To be honest; even though I know these are both old Washitas, I'm not expecting them to look very similar under a scope either, or to act particularly similarly. They're clearly very different.

So this I must say, surprised me...

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Because they're also very clearly the same. Under a microscope Washitas look quite distinct from any other novaculite (or any other stone) I've looked at - you're not mistaking one of these for something else, it's unequivocally Washita. The LW on the top is a bit finer, more homogenous, and more compact, but they're incredibly similar really. Much more so than they are to the touch and naked eye.

[Trying them out to follow in Part 2]
The stone I got in the strop top box has been soaking and it's taking on translucency. It got one spot that is clearly translucent. I polished a knife on it and this little piece of a soft/fine white washita that broke and they behave exactly the same, polish the same, same speed everything. i was amazed. These are both vintage Washitas, not new ones. They are chipmunk different yet exactly the same. Crazy rocks brother. I love them. I think I can get pretty much anything sharpened to what I want it like with just a washita and a trans/black. It's really about the only combination I use anymore, definitely for pocket knives, unless I'm trying to throw something exotic in between to mix it up. I've been going down the "buy lots of different Washitas and see what they all do" and I'm sure I'll go through the same with the hard ones at some point, wife is giving me an 8x2x1 from dans on 6 days for my birthday so maybe that plus the one that's got the hard ark glued to the lid will slow me down for a little while. Doubtful, but maybe.


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This white one was lighter but I swarfed it up again.

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So I just realized my big unlabeled one(pretty sure its a hard/ fine lww), and the little 4x2 smith's washita are both translucent and in sunlight the matrix looks the same but only when it's showing translucency otherwise the smith's kinda looks like a soft ark but it doesn't feel like one it all it feels identical to the white one for feedback and action. What throws me off it have a pocket smith's one of the extremely porus "washitas" that are like Nortons last run of them, they're super light and friable but really fine too. This stone doesn't feel anything like the others but their action is just about the same just various densities. I don't have an answer to the conundrum but I was really excited to find out both of those hard ones had translucency. I've had the white one a long time and the smith's for a while and I had no idea those 2 were translucent, neither of them look like they would be like the reddish one does.

Mind boggling, but in finding similar results as you. Though sermingly completely different stones, aggressiveness, action and fineness of the edge are all almost exactly the same really all that changes is speed. I have a soft ark(looks kinda like a "new washita" as far as coloring. Purple, yellow, orange, grey) and it's very light and fast but it will hone EXTREMELY fine for a soft ark. It's soft but particle size is WAY smaller than the ones in the "new" soft ark I bought about 8 years ago. The newer smiths soft I have that's mounded to a plastic base(have it to my boy) feels almost like a coarse SiC stone its got chunks of gems sitting on the top and almost to rough for knives. So apparently even old soft arks were very different from what's on the shelves today. The soft ark I was talking about can almost get a blade face shaving sharp.


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