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Are Shapton Glass stones the best low-mid grit razor hones?

I think so. But I'd like other people's opinions.

I got into straight razor shaving by way of sharpening. I wanted to tackle the challenge of razor honing, and of course I'd need to start shaving with straight razors. I didn't expect the shaving part to be so much fun that it spawned its own obsession.

I have two nontypical habits that will be important later on: I have a (for-real) microscope that I use to look at my edges, and I test edges on my thumb, or on other digits if I've been too hard on my thumbs lately. Also I have a large collection of sharpening stones, synthetic, diamond, and JNat.

Fairly early on, I formed an opinion: hard-bond stones are better for razors. Shapton Glass stones and vitrified diamond stones and fine JNats are the hardest bonds I know, and, what do you know, when you hone on them, and look at the edge under the microscope, it is much less ragged than an edge honed on a scratchier, looser bonded stone. Feels less scratchy to my thumb, as well.

I expected that this was some sort of newbie opinion, but it has persisted, even over plenty of razors, even when I learned to use much much less pressure than I was using. I can't get rid of this opinion. Should I? Or could it be actually correct?

What occasioned this post was my first acquisition of a Shapton Pro stone, the 1500. I've had Shapton Glass stones for decades. I just love 'em. They have that quality of the best JNats where they are actually hard, but feel soft to sharpen on. They are so long wearing that I am still on my original stone set, though I've added some grits to it.

I had high hopes for the Pro 1500. Flattened and conditioned it well with a diamond stone, then put a razor on it that I'd normally have put on the SG 1000 at that point. It felt really good to sharpen on it. It's a thirsty stone, at least compared to the "wet it and forget it" SG stones, but nothing outside of the norm. The SP1500 had the kind of feedback I like, the kind that JNats and SG stones have, where you know you've reached a good point because everything gets really smooth. After a few hundred gentle strokes, the razor seemed ready to go.

But, what is this? The edge felt raspy. And the microscope showed that it was more torn up than the same razor was after it spent time on the SG500!

I've had similar experiences on Naniwa (not the wonderful Hibiki stones, though) and Nanohone. The Pro 1500 now goes into a knives-only category with those.

Not a problem, I like knives, but it makes me wonder. Either I'm missing something, or the Shapton Glass stones are seriously superior synthetic razor hones in the 500-6000 grit range. But no one ever says anything like that, that I've seen.

So what gives? Am I using the other stones wrong somehow, or am I somehow in possession of a truth that has gone unexpressed before? The latter is so unlikely that it has driven me to make this post.
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I have tried most of the popular brands and pound for pound or better yet gram for gram. They are! Especially if you like hard stones which I do. Except the 16K and 30k, as to me the 20k gok was way better. Just my opinion I am sure you will get other opinios as well.

Only problem for me was how thin they are, just made me feel like I was getting ripped off but no denying how good they are.
I havent used the glass stones, just look too thin to me to purchase, but I have shapton kuromaku 1k 2k 5k 12k. I absolutely love the 2k and 5k for my straight razors and I do most of my work on them. The 1k is aggressive and I rarely use it on razors unless damaged. The kuro12k I liked more than the Naniwa superstone 12k primarily becuase it probably will last forever and i got it for 2/3rds the price. The SS was finer but fragile and I didnt like the plasticy feeling at all. Since I always go to a natural finisher or diamond pastes after 12k Im happy with it. I have heard the shapton glass are a bit better quality than the kuromaku which I can hardly imagine being possible.
Regardless of manufacturer, I seem to benefit from additional steps in between vs stretching between as few stones as possible. Perhaps if you are a minimalist it wouldn’t make sense, but for me the extra stones and steps yield good results. I can do it with fewer yes, but like the results of more.


Ask me about shaving naked!

Shapton Glass Stones are the best fit if:

1. You have some experience honing
2. You hone a lot (they save time)
3. You hone hard or wear-resistant steels in tools, knives, or razors
4. You are willing to pay for them

Shapton Glass Stones are not the best fit if:

1. You are still using too much honing pressure on razors
2. You are just maintaining an edge or only have a few razors
3. You don’t have many things to hone made of hard, wear-resistant steel or have a lot of time
4. You are not willing to pay for them


My experience is similar to @Herrenberg but my experience with them stops at the 8k HC except for the G7 series. I do disagree that no one ever says anything about their quality, I certainly do. I think that the microscope difference is due to an apparent narrower grit distrubution in the Glass Stones, also visible under a loupe. The Glass Stones make fewer coarse scratches than the Pros, though I’ve never been able to detect a difference in the actual shaving edge because of those scratches. The thinness can be a problem for some, but they don’t warp either. The G7 series is 7mm thick if you don’t mind the smaller size.

I use the HR or G7 series on knives occasionally, some of the modern steels like SLD just burnish on a Naniwa or Pro, but the HR Glass will cut it easily. No surprise, cutting hard, wear-resistant steel is what they were designed to do. They’re also a pleasure when you encounter some of the stupidly hard (but stupidly good) Swedish razors like some E. A. Berg and Tornblöms. Surprisingly, some JNats will cut these hard steels, others won’t.

They were also designed to go in 3x grit increments - this is normal and they work very well. A 4x step is not much of a stretch, I’ve gone from a 500 grit correcting ‘stuff’ to a 2k with no problems at all. This large of a step between grits can be done with slower stones but takes more time to remove the last stone’s scratches, especially if the grit is not as well graded as the Glass Stones.

The HR series do have some drawbacks with razors - they’re really fast. If you’ve figured out honing and do a lot of it they save a lot of time. If you have 6 razors on the bench and a 3-stone HR progression saves you 10 minutes per razor, that’s an hour. If you’re in your first year of razor honing, you’re likely still using more pressure than needed and the cutting speed can put a lot of wear on your razors fast.

They’re also expensive being top of the line stones. Stones, brushes, razors, soaps, some people will not buy top of the range things as a matter of principle and there’s not much to be said about that.

And if you’re just maintaining an existing edge, a Naniwa 10 or 12k is hard to argue with.
If I had to go all synth I would probably go all shapton glass until I got to the finishing grits. I like the speed, size of the honing surface, hardness/wear resistance, the consistency of scratches, and the true splash and go nature. I also think it is quite slick how many grits can store so compactly.
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