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Arkie Collection: Lot's of pics so take a look

I've been meaning to post this for a while, and finally got around to pulling out all my arkies and taking a few pics. I don't use mine as much as Papa Fish or Alum of Potash, but I think I have almost as much love for them as they do. There's really something magical about a translucent arkie. I've always been fascinated by rocks and just used to collect the interesting looking ones as a kid and keep them in a drawer. Lots of those were, as I learned later in a "rocks for jocks" class in college (fyi, I was no jock...it was an editorial on the stringency of the intellectual demands made on us to pass the course) quartz and mica. When I discovered arkies and learned I had a stone both beautiful AND functional, the excuse to collect them carried much more weight.


Below is a pic of all of my arkies. Modest compared to many of you guys which I count as something of an accomplishment. It's hard to resist buying them so every time I pass one up I pat myself on the back. I have three current favorites (more on that below), one of which is on loan to another member. It's a smallish surgical black that is absolutely glass smooth and was the first arkie I owned. My only complaint is its thinness which makes it tricky to hold. I've also sold a couple, but only to friends and only for what I paid for them. This truly is an AD as I don't like to part with even the ones that haven't been used...yet.

Here's the family:

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The big stone in the upper left is a Washita. A lily white, I think. It had lots of oil in it and took me weeks to get that out. The smell still permeates the wood. Ashamed to admit that while I've cleaned and lapped it, I've not used it yet. It requires starting at the beginning of the learning curve and just at the point where I'm beginning to get some real special edges with the Jnats and Nagura I've got, that would have been too demoralizing. My learning style is to make every possible mistake first and then do it right. (A heritable trait, it seems, as I watch my teenage son's development), so I've not had the psychic wherewithal to give it a go. I feel the itch to try, but no scratching as yet.

Here's a closer pic:

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I've posted pics before of the bench size translucent below the Washita. Spent several hours lapping and smoothing that one, but it's riddled through with fissures and there's one fissure on the side you see there that's still catching the edge. Not sure if it can be saved or not. Might have to be cut in half which is something I've never done or I might just keep it as is because it's such a beautiful and unique stone.

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With this pic, things get a little embarrassing. Except for the very small Norton in the lower right, I've not used any of these arkies. The little one I used when it first came on my son's pocket knife. I actually got it to cut arm hair. The top left surgical black from Woodcraft is NOS and I've not touched it. I've got this weird thing about NOS iitems that prevents me from using them. In this case, I had a stone from AG Russell that came within a few days of this one and while nearly unused, was not completely unused (The one you see here still has an instruction pamphlet). They looked nearly identical and so I used and prepped the AG Russell which turned out to be a fantastic stone. That's one of the few I've sold and were it not for the fact that the new owner loves it as much as I did, would be experiencing regret over the sale.

So why wouldn't I have tested these stones yet? It's beyond my modest descriptive powers to explain the degree of prep and difficulty getting a hard arkie into razor honing shape. First of all, may the gods help you if it ain't flat. Getting one flat and chamfered on the edges, for the upper body, is better than any gym routine. They eat the very best W/D sandpaper like chiclets and even the slightest bit out of true and you're talking hours of work. For those of you interested in trying anyway, I have two suggestions: SiC powder is quick and effective for flattening. Only way to go. It's less effective, however for smoothing. More on that later. The other tip is that I've found w/d grrits at 1k and up seem to work faster than the lower grits. It might be because there's more total abrasive in contact with the stone or because I was having fatigue hallucinations, but check it out for yourself.

All of this is by way of excusing myself for not having tested these stones yet. The challenge with arkies, as a final finisher, is that flatness is not enough; they need to be smooth as well. The smoother they are, it seems, the finer the result is for your edge. The only way to get the smoothness is with use. I've got an old chef's knife that's our main kitchen knife. It dates back to marriage number 1 over 25 years ago. It's had literally thousands of laps on the arkies in our house and never been sharper and while it gets sharp, the arkies get smooth. Nonetheless, it's a process which takes thousands and thousands of laps.

I suppose since the arkie waited millions of years for us to get it out of the mountains, it's fair that it should make us wait a few years before really giving up the goods. Thus is balance restored.

The favorites:

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Like most of my gear, these two are vintage stones mined, almost certainly, before I was born. The one on the left is permanently mounted in the box which is a neat little handmade holder that someone obviously took great care and skill to build. This one gets the bulk of my honing which is unfair to the others, but it's such a joy to work with.. Any of you who have had one of my razors got an edge which was almost certainly finished on this one. The other arkie, also a translucent, is a supremely cool stone. If it were a jazz musician, it would be Miles Davis. Hiistorically, most arkies sold were finished on all sides. Somehow this one went out with an unfinished backside.


$image.jpg


You can almost see the geology being formed millions of years ago in the impressions on the back of this stone. Besides being lovely to look at and unique, it gives an edge just as fine a finish as the other arkie. I really cannot tell the difference. The color difference between this stone and the other ones is an object of much discussion. Some people believe that arkies yellow over time (as a result of exposure) which would indicate that this is the older stone. I don't think that's the case. At least, not the case with exposure to air. You'll see some rocks change color with exposure, but they typically have iron in them which oxidizes. Arkies have very little in the way of other trace elements and not enough iron, I believe, to change the color of the stone. Sun irradiation is a possibility, but that requires years of outdoor exposure which suggests that the rock was mined off an exposed ledge and was the color it is now at the moment of it's quarrying. If anyone has any actual data on this, I'd love to read it.


While this was an expensive stone, it was still much cheaper than any Jnat I've bought and every bit as beautiful. Unfortunately, posts like this one are destroying the price points for vintage arkies and I've seen some lately go for Jnat prices. This is crazy considering that quality translucent arkansas stones are still being mined and so supply/demand ratio should be dampening prices. Guys like Alum of Potash are the Heroes in this case because they are using new stones while evildoers like myself insist on vintage ones and continue to drive pricing up.

That leads me to the last two stones in the next post.

(cont)
 
I try to read all the arkie posts on the board and noticed that some of our other members use new arkies and get great results from them. I probably would never have done anything about this except that another member posted, some months ago, a picture of an arkie they used that was in form, like an irregular Jnat. It was a stone, not a rectangular block. It was gorgeous. That picture haunted me until one day I decided to see what I could do about it.

I sent a note to Dan's Whetstones describing what I wanted. This required a bit of back and forthing as my terms were not the same as their terms. For instance, my correspondent from Dan's was unfamiliar with the term SB/Surgical Black. They simply refer to it as a hard black stone and consider it their finest finisher over a translucent. (Btw, I've not found a similar difference. So far I'm unconvinced that the yellow or cream translucent is less of a finisher than the surgical black, but of course reserve the right to be wrong on this as in many other things.) Turns out that Dan's offers a "primitive stone" option which I still cannot find on their website and they offer it in various sizes. I opted for the 4 to 6 inch size. In retrospect, I should have gone smaller and may yet do so. I ordered one in each flavor, translucent and black, and waited.

And waited.
And waited.

Now, to be fair to Dan's, the stones had to be found, cut to the right size and then lapped. From first inquiry to arrival was somewhere around 4-6 weeks and in retrospect it was probably a bespoke cutting of the stone. The folks there were very kind and patient with me for what must have seemed a stupid request and the pricing for the rocks was excellent. I had no idea what they would charge, but it was more than fair.

Here are the stones:

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The stones turned out larger than I would have thought. They are of a generous size. Right at the edge of too large for hand honing which is my preferred style and which, given the uneven bottom of the black one, is the only option. They were also lapped perfectly flat though the edges were not chamfered. I didn't ask them to do it and given the nature of the stone, it would have been a silly request. I was curious about what an edge would feel likewithout any additional smoothing of the stone and polished a couple of shave ready razors on them to test.

another pic:

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It did not go well. It was clear that in their current state, they took an edge backwards. So, I took the translucent one and spent some time smoothing it with the chef's knife. Eventually, it seemed to "soften" and I tried again with some razors and the results were much better. Still a long ways to go, but it shows great promise and is not too heavy or awkward for hand honing. The back seems to be "dirty" and so I've not coated it yet with nail polish. Going to try and scrub the dirtiness off first. It looks like a thin film of iron oxide.

The black one is spectacularly beautiful. Just a big hunk of jet black loveliness. The backside has been covered with nail polish and one day I spent a good bit of time running various bits of steel over it with water. It's ready to be tested now, but it's a long way from being done. It's awkward to hold so it's a stone I'd consider mounting though i've got zero talent in that direction.

What makes arkies so different is that they're more like people than like stones. My jnats, by and large, are static creatures whose natures and talents I'm getting to know over time and with usage. The arkie, on the other hand, is a changeable creature. It arrives on your door with one set of talents and traits, but these change over time with use. Unlike people, time and use seems to reliably improve the stone; this is not always the case with us though it would be nice if it were so. Another thing about the arkie that reminds me of people is that you cannot possibly make good use of the stone without a tremendous amount of work. Really, an intimidating amount of work. If you're unwilling to put in the effort, then it's best just to not try as you'll be disappointed in the results.
 
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David

The Fur Burglar!
Moderator Emeritus
Nice read and pictures. Thanks for posting this. You've inspired me to start looking for my first Ark. Doesn't make sense to have stones from all over the world but not own one from one state over.
 
Nice read and pictures. Thanks for posting this. You've inspired me to start looking for my first Ark. Doesn't make sense to have stones from all over the world but not own one from one state over.
David,
I couldn't agree more and I'm more prone than others to be seduced by the exotic and foreign. You may want to start with a smallish one from Dan's, but take a look at what Papa Fish and Alum have to say on these matters. They're very knowledgeable and dedicated to using Arkies more extensively than I am.
 
Niiiice.
Arks are great stones, and they are yet another viable option that the honing gods have deemed to be inappropriate for honing razors.
So - for me - they're not only a really nice 'local' choice, they're also a finger flip to the self-proclaimed poobah naysayers.

I'm not keen (pun) on using oil so the softer Arks are not on my radar but the super hard ones are lovely. I only have a few and I haven't used mine in ages. I've been considering my SB a lot lately though. It is a really fine stone.

Anyway - nice collection of Arkies... congrats!
 
Nice collection of stones, and thanks for the appreciation. What can I say, I like Arkansas stones best, out of naivety or a lack of funds otherwise, and have used Dan's stones almost exclusively. Once I started with them, I never really looked back. Didn't know about Dan's primitive option, and I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one calling them up with silly requests. They've always been great in responding to my concerns though. Out of the box, the stones do take some smoothing, although they're reasonably flat. In the past, I just used knives and beater razors, but now I've found a quicker method of lapping them that works pretty well. Silicon carbide powder from 120x up to 320x on a granite slab does it, the rest being very easy on the subsequent w/d sandpaper consumption. I've been curious about the "black surgical" stone from Woodcraft. Do you have any idea from where they are sourcing it? I'm thinking maybe Natural Whetstones...

I don't have a true collection of anything per se, and some of my Arkansas stones are in France, but FWIW, here are two shots of my honing station with what I'm using as a progression at present:

$Ark-set-up-(soft)-web.jpg $Ark-set-up-(true-hard)-web.jpg .

The difference in the two shots is that the middle stone, a combo, is flipped, this being a soft/medium Ark backed with a "true hard" (poor man's streaked translucent) Ark, again following Dan's nomenclature, not my own. All of the stones are 6" x 2" used hand-held. 3-4 drops of oil to clean and refresh the surface, 1-2 drops when honing, a little bit more for the medium India on the left.

So the normal running sequence here is soft/medium Ark to set the bevel, "true hard" Ark to refine/polish it, and black hard Ark to finish it. 60 laps linen/60 laps horsehide and a nice shave for me. Medium India for cutting a new bevel as needed.

From Dan's, I have found some latitude in their soft/medium and hard stones. Both of these are softer than the "true hard"/translucent hard/black hard varieties, with the soft/medium and hard sometimes coming too close, if not overlapping, in range IMO. Were I to change the current progression, I would probably go fine India > hard Arkansas > black hard Arkansas for starters. The "true hard" Ark and translucent Ark have always felt characteristically waxen or molten in sensation to me, with the subsequent black hard Ark being crisper or more angular in comparison.
 
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Beautiful arkies, Mark. You've got your hands full!
I have so far resisted the urge of diving into both jnats and arkies. There's a certain mystique to both that's a bit of a barrier to entry but mostly from a lack of time. I have figured out my coticules so I'm happy for now. But posts like these always pique my interest. Thanks for sharing.
 

David

The Fur Burglar!
Moderator Emeritus
So if you guys were going to purchase a new Arkie solely for a finishing stone (after a coti in my case) would you go with a black from Dans?
 
Mark if you get a small bag and fill it with shot or similar like a bean bag it should make a suitable pedestal for those primitive stones to bench hone with them. Great thread and thank you for sharing.
 
So if you guys were going to purchase a new Arkie solely for a finishing stone (after a coti in my case) would you go with a black from Dans?
A while back, in 2009, someone posted a citation from an old book which referred to a progression from a "yellow coticule" used with a "thick soap solution" to a "very hard" Arkansas used with a blend of kerosene and olive oil. In thinking to follow this, I've been wondering what "very hard" meant here in contemporary terms. But, yeah, I've been thinking coticule to black hard would do the trick, provided that the black hard has been smoothed. If you're looking to save a few bucks, Sharpening Supplies has the black hard, which I believe is sourced from Dan's and re-branded.
 

SliceOfLife

Contributor
A while back, in 2009, someone posted a citation from an old book which referred to a progression from a "yellow coticule" used with a "thick soap solution" to a "very hard" Arkansas used with a blend of kerosene and olive oil. In thinking to follow this, I've been wondering what "very hard" meant here in contemporary terms. But, yeah, I've been thinking coticule to black hard would do the trick, provided that the black hard has been smoothed. If you're looking to save a few bucks, Sharpening Supplies has the black hard, which I believe is sourced from Dan's and re-branded.
Kerosene and mineral oil would accomplish the same and not go rancid on your stone. It's the typical blend oilstone honers have been using for generations (adjust ratio's to the consistency you want).


Mark: Beautiful stones. I may have to pick up one of the "primitives". Thanks for noting how you got them.

I can tell you the reason the back of your antique trans is unfinished is that it was glued in a box. I've had a number of boxed Nortons and similar arks, and when the glue is broken, they all look exactly like that on the back. They actually were finished, but the glue penetrates the stone, and when it's broken everywhere it penetrates on the stone stays in the box. It was some insanely strong glue. I've got a box or two around here with the missing bits of their matching arks still glued in the bottom of them. It's possible they break along some kind of geological faults we can't see and that's why they get an appearance that seems to be naturally occuring, but check the sweep around it and how it's finished at the corners. That's an oblong blob of glue shape, within which it broke to "unfinished".

I've had a few of the yellowed trans, always too small to bother keeping. They were uniformly old, and uniformly superior to white/clear stones. I don't believe it's just buildup. If someone wants to prove that, they're welcome to buy one and saw it in half. I'm not about to. As far as I'm concerned they're a variation from your typical trans as much as a trans black stone (also rare, also superior in my experience) is.
 

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In the past, I just used knives and beater razors, but now I've found a quicker method of lapping them that works pretty well. Silicon carbide powder from 120x up to 320x on a granite slab does it, the rest being very easy on the subsequent w/d sandpaper consumption. I've been curious about the "black surgical" stone from Woodcraft. Do you have any idea from where they are sourcing it? I'm thinking maybe Natural Whetstones...
I have no idea. It's an old box and stone. Judging from the box and paper inside, I'm guessing 70s or 80s. I don't know the quarrying business, but I know business and over time, companies that rebrand product they don't make will often change suppliers or even use two suppliers at the same time. It looks similar in color to the Dan's I have, but what I think isn't terribly meaningful.

Have you you experienced a difference between the two suppliers in the quality of the stone?

So if you guys were going to purchase a new Arkie solely for a finishing stone (after a coti in my case) would you go with a black from Dans?
I would go with whatever was their suggestion for the finest stone they had, but if you could source one from someone who had already broken it in, then it would save you a lot of trouble.

Mark if you get a small bag and fill it with shot or similar like a bean bag it should make a suitable pedestal for those primitive stones to bench hone with them. Great thread and thank you for sharing.
great idea Scott. Thanks.

Mark: Beautiful stones. I may have to pick up one of the "primitives". Thanks for noting how you got them.

I can tell you the reason the back of your antique trans is unfinished is that it was glued in a box. I've had a number of boxed Nortons and similar arks, and when the glue is broken, they all look exactly like that on the back. They actually were finished, but the glue penetrates the stone, and when it's broken everywhere it penetrates on the stone stays in the box. It was some insanely strong glue. I've got a box or two around here with the missing bits of their matching arks still glued in the bottom of them. It's possible they break along some kind of geological faults we can't see and that's why they get an appearance that seems to be naturally occuring, but check the sweep around it and how it's finished at the corners. That's an oblong blob of glue shape, within which it broke to "unfinished".

I've had a few of the yellowed trans, always too small to bother keeping. They were uniformly old, and uniformly superior to white/clear stones. I don't believe it's just buildup. If someone wants to prove that, they're welcome to buy one and saw it in half. I'm not about to. As far as I'm concerned they're a variation from your typical trans as much as a trans black stone (also rare, also superior in my experience) is.
Your theory on the bottom makes sense and explains why the edges are flat and the unfinished part is in the middle. That's astonishing they had glue that strong.

I'm not sure I can agree yet on the general fineness of one color arkie over the other. I can't tell the difference in output between my three best ones and they cover the rainbow. Curiously, I've not been able to find a suitable explanation online that accounts for the different colors. These stones are over 99% novaculite and yet something is causing a color range from almost white to jet black. I've read that there are veins that are pink as well and would very much like a chance to use one like that.
 

SliceOfLife

Contributor
I added pics of the Trans I've got in box to the post above if ya wanna see what it looks like. And yeah, I was shocked when I pulled the stone out and there was still stone glued down in there. I'd ASSUME the glue makes the stone it penetrates quite a bit more brittle, as evidenced by the condition of the stone left in the box.
 
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I added pics of the Trans I've got in box to the post above if ya wanna see what it looks like. And yeah, I was shocked when I pulled the stone out and there was still stone glued down in there. I'd ASSUME the glue makes the stone it penetrates quite a bit more brittle, as evidenced by the condition of the stone left in the box.
Wow. Great pic and case closed as far as I'm concerned. It looks just like the bottom of mine.
 

David

The Fur Burglar!
Moderator Emeritus
Just curious...so once you get a hard Ark flat and smooth and broken in like it should be for razors, is there any maintenance required? Obviously you wouldn't need to lap it, but do they load up or haze over time?
 

SliceOfLife

Contributor
I use mine with oil. I just wipe it off now and then. Using them with water, I'd imagine there's a bit of scrubbing necessary.
 
Kerosene and mineral oil would accomplish the same and not go rancid on your stone. It's the typical blend oilstone honers have been using for generations (adjust ratio's to the consistency you want).
The old citation mentioned a dominating proportion of kerosene followed by a lesser amount of either olive oil or "machine oil," which I found interesting as olive oil was given before machine oil. Don't know if it's really going to go rancid mixed with kerosene, and don't think it will make that much of a difference anyway. I suppose sperm oil or animal fat as advocated back in the day would have turned rancid as well. From time to time, I wipe my stones down with kerosene, so olive oil going rancid is not really an issue there.

I use olive oil on pasted strops to refresh them, this having been and still being used in the trade. Maybe it smells kind of funny after a while, but I don't think it is detrimental to the process in itself.



I have no idea. It's an old box and stone. Judging from the box and paper inside, I'm guessing 70s or 80s. I don't know the quarrying business, but I know business and over time, companies that rebrand product they don't make will often change suppliers or even use two suppliers at the same time. It looks similar in color to the Dan's I have, but what I think isn't terribly meaningful.

Have you you experienced a difference between the two suppliers in the quality of the stone?
My mistake. As the lettering of your box from Woodcraft was shown upside-down, I thought it was a recently-produced item, since they are presently selling "surgical blacks" for a pretty fair price, and I've been wondering who might be sourcing them behind the scenes.
 
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SliceOfLife

Contributor
I use olive oil on pasted strops to refresh them, this having been and still being used in the trade. Maybe it smells kind of funny after a while, but I don't think it is detrimental to the process in itself.

It certainly won't hurt your blades. I'd worry about it possibly allowing bacterial growth, but I could be wrong there. I just assume rancid fats have that risk. Anyway on the stones, yeah it doesn't matter as long as you clean it off. Olive oil does go rancid far, far, far, far, faster than sperm oil. In fact I think sperm oils stability after boiling was one reason why it was so popular. It's not that olive oil is so bad you can't use it. Just that mineral oil seems better and isn't any more expensive, so I'd go with it.

I have a vintage woodcraft (before the Pinnacle branding, they wont tell me which mine it's from) SB and a Halls SB, the Woodcraft is a bit denser, but it's also 8" vs 12" and vintage vs recent so that probably has more to do with it. Most reviews I've ready say that Halls has the best Blacks and Halls and Norton have the best trans (past 10 years or so for the reviews).
 
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