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Natural Finish -v- Diamond Pasted Balsa

With 280 SR shaves behind me I am thinking of trying a natural stone edge finish. So far all of my edges have been finished on diamond pasted balsa strops and maintained with 50 laps on 0.1um hanging balsa strop after each use. I have been very happy with my results so far.

Before I decide to go down this whetstone rabbit hole, I have a question for those who have extensive experience with both natural and diamond pasted finishes. Do you feel that a natural finished edge gives you a better (more comfortable and smoother) shave than an edge finished on diamond pasted balsa strops?
 
Smoother with the right stone and technique yes. Sharper probably no. Getting laser sharp and butter smooth is the goal. Biggest issue with natural stones is they are natural and not always by the numbers. Every one is a little different and not all of them great. Diamond is sharp but a little toothy and maybe not harsh but not as smooth as most natural finishes. My opinion, crispest natural finishing stone if you like diamond would be a good trans/Black Arkansas stone. Others might feel a little short if you really like diamond. That said, the butter smooth is with natural finishes.
 
In a blind test I doubt I would know the difference. I use japanese natural stones to hone razors because I enjoy the process. For me it's NOT a means to an end, which is a shave ready edge. I enjoy the honing process more than the shave. Well they are close. There is no formula or sure things with my JNATs, and this seems to be the case from what I read from others. I am not an expert by any means with Japanese whetstones, but I enjoy them immensely. Coticules are great too. If you want a formula use synths and I do that too sometimes. It's all good to me.
 
I’m watching this one with interest. Would love a good excuse to get some Jnats. These rocks are very expensive though and I’m already getting great results with the diamond paste. I have zero complaints with the diamond edges but natural stones have an undisputable charm that is hard to resist.
 
Do you use a leather strop as well?
Yes, I give each blade about 50 to 80 laps on a clean leather strop before each shave and about 4 or 5 very light laps on clean linen after each shave to clean and dry the edge before the 0.1um hanging balsa. After the balsa, the blade is oiled and put away.
 
I have tried diamond and CBN but naturals is the way to go. I liked CBN better than diamond but just slightly. In natural stones I like jnats first then Thuris, followed by Arks. I actually can get keener edges from Arks than a Thuri but a Thuri is very easy to hone on and easy to achieve buttery smooth edges. Arks take a little more time to learn muscle memory but when you get there you will be pleasantly rewarded.
That being said Jnats are the best of both worlds as far as keen, comfortable, and faster than the two others. Not all jnats are alike and finding one can be pricey.

If I were you I would ask for a very fine one not worry about the speed. Speed is King in Jnats, fine is Queen. Meaning a fast, fine stone is very much more expensive than a fine slow one. You dont need to worry about speed when you have diamond. Next I would look for a barbers size stone and not a full bench stone. Again it is much cheaper. So a barbers size very fine slower jnat can be yor ticket to great shaves for a reasonable amount of money. You can save a little more by asking for a green or grey stone as they tend to be cheaper too. Just make sure you ask for a very fine one.
 
I have gotten very smooth and sharp edges going from jnat finish to 0.25 then 0.1. But this is also dependent on what kind of razor. I tend not to like a overly refined edge on hard tempered steel, on softer steel it's easier to get a more forgiving edge with high refinement.(for me with the experience I have atleast)
With harder steels it is easier to tune in that edge on a jnat with slurry.
By lower refinement I don't mean coarser scratches, just more slurry on the jnat to tune it in.
Arkansas though, provides buttery smooth edges as long as the work before that is done well. (I would go as far as saying the Arkansas can outperform most synthetic finishers) but it can be slow or aggressive depending on how you prepare the surface.
Arkansas edges and jnat edges can feel and look alike depending on how you work with the finisher, but the flexibility goes to the jnat imo.
This is a deep rabbit hole, so I would say start with a Arkansas, consistency and best bang for the buck.
 
Thanks @MO1. I have some rather hard (70 RHC) steel SR's, some medium (64 RHC) and some normal (59 RHC). I will take your advice into consideration.
 
I have less experience than you but will provide what I have found with one type of stone. Arkies.

my answer is Yes in some respects......have been using a blk ultra fine.
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I also follow a weird procedure. bring up to .1u then what would be considered as backtracking to an Ark finish.

in my newbie opinion it is a different kind of sharp. when implementing TPT. it feels ungodly sharp to me. the reason for liking the Ark finish is that for me........it feels really comfortable.

it takes concentration to use the stone. i use around 250 what i call zero pressure "weight of blade" laps to achieve this. I have experimented with adding additional 25 or 50 touch up laps
night before shaving.

my thoughts are by this technique.......not much metal would be removed (unmeasurable or miniscule) amount due to no pressure and the fact that Arks are slow cutting.

I've read that you cant raise a slurry with an Ark. with the specific stone i have i call BS. I can raise a grayish slurry with WD on granite marble. with this said, I think doing this immediately changes it to no longer a fine stone while slurry is present. I don't use this for any purpose right now.

flattening. I went through untold packs of WD paper. I should be awarded honorary stocks from Menards (local home improvement store). since April I have slowly worked the stone over feeling what I think are improvements.

I like them enough that decided to order what was called a surgical black yesterday. cheap stone but i like the sellers work. this will be inbound.

20200918_081905.jpg

20200918_081925.jpg

is it a surgical??? dunno. will see what kind of stone it is when in hand. I will judge for myself if it feels finer than the stone I currently have. I don't have equipment to measure specific gravity so ill go by feel.

all I know for sure is that although grit ratings are ambiguous at best for Arkies.......it feels finer than my 12k Kuromaku synth I use for the last part of my Synth progression.

this is a long winded post.......and I'm sure there a lot that will disagree with my statements. I'm just providing thoughts on the specific stones that i have and am working with achieving results that i like.

camo
 
Yes, natural finishes can be better, but many are not.

The most reliable and repeatable naturals are Arkansas of the right (high) density, and Thuringians. Arks are slow and difficult to flatten and surface, good Thuringians like Eschers are very expensive.

I am a jnat collector and user, but generally I don’t advise people to go down the jnat (or coticule) rabbit hole unless that’s going to be part of the hobby for you. Not many jnats or coticules will best a fine pasted finish, and I have one pasted edge by @Slash McCoy that’s good. I can do better (no offense Slash), but you will probably have to try a number of jnats or coticules to find one that will. That’s not for the faint of wallet.

But it is a lot of fun, natural hones are, or can be, beautiful, and some of them can beat the pastes and synths. Two of my favorite synthetic finishers are the Naniwa 10k and the Suehiro 20k. I could shave with those edges every day forever. But a really good jnat edge is like shaving with your index finger and the stubble doesn’t come back for 10 hours or so.

Here’s a link to an article about film vs jnat that’s rather tedious if you read the whole thing, but maybe gives you an idea of how most people perceive the difference between jnat and film.


TL;DR, the jnat won but not by a lot.
 
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I went right through the Thriller in Manilla thread. Very entertaining and I informative. It was a pity that the film SR's were only taken up to 1.0um film.

I have shaved many times off 1.0um film, as well as 0.5um, 0.25um and 0.1um diamond pastes all with identical SR's. For the best shaves it went:

1.0um 2nd
0.5um 3rd
0.25um 4th
0.1um 1st
 
to answer up your question directly YES !!! natural edges do provide a more comfortable And smoother shave than synthetics.

natural stones is all about mythical level shave where the razor silently glides through hair and refuses to damage, cut or irritate skin.

i have and use film, diamond pasted balsa, JNATS; ozuku, kitta, aiwatani COE arks; gray polisher, dota creek. Novaculite arks: white trans, black trans, blue/black, vintage washita, soft, hard. Coticules; unknown mine yellows, les lats.

synthetic edges are consistently Repeatable, uber sharp. I find these edges laser like, inorganic and harsh.
Natural edges feel More organic, minimal irritation, and very comfortable
the uber sharp HHT 5 is the exception to the rule with natural stones. only a few of the natural stones I own are capable of that level of uber sharpness. Also just because you buy a fancy stone from a fancy named mine doesn’t mean it will be a performer, you have to judge Each stone on its own merits. my arks needed some experimentation/ tuning, to find the proper finish for My honing style and razors. If you do buy jnat buy from A trusted seller, for me it is Alex @ japanstones.com. Dan’s for arks. Or stone pre tested by known/ trusted honer.

enjoy the ride down the rabbit hole!
 
Thank you @Biglo13. Have you honed and shaved with many SR's that you have taken through 0.5um, 0.25um to 0.1um diamond pasted balsa strops?
 
Thank you @Biglo13. Have you honed and shaved with many SR's that you have taken through 0.5um, 0.25um to 0.1um diamond pasted balsa strops?
yes. it was my primary finishing system for many months.
but not a hanging balsa strop like you mentioned in OP.
i use balsa mounted on tile or acrylic paddle.
i still have one razor in rotaton that has not seen a stone years using diamond pasted balsa.

recently i have not been using them in order to max out my stone and naked leather technique. and to get a better idea on the personalities of different natural stones.
 
Is there something about your current process that doesn’t feel right during the shave or is your interest in natural stones just idle curiosity?
 
I am very happy with my current process. I am also curious about possibly of using natural stone to finish the bevel/edge.
 
I am very happy with my current process. I am also curious about possibly of using natural stone to finish the bevel/edge.
Nothing wrong with that. But most of us have found out that the transition from synthetic finishing vs natural stones comes with a learning curve more often than not. I would find a trusted seller & let them know that you’re trying to find a good natural that’s a good transition from your synthetics/ diamond progression.
 
yes. it was my primary finishing system for many months.
but not a hanging balsa strop like you mentioned in OP.
i use balsa mounted on tile or acrylic paddle.
i still have one razor in rotaton that has not seen a stone years using diamond pasted balsa.

recently i have not been using them in order to max out my stone and naked leather technique. and to get a better idea on the personalities of different natural stones.
Since you have experience with both naturals and pasted balsa, have you tried natural hones (exp JNat) at the end of a diamond paste progression?
 
Since you have experience with both naturals and pasted balsa, have you tried natural hones (exp JNat) at the end of a diamond paste progression?
sometimes i will get maximum edge sharpness from synth progression followed by diamond pasted balsa, then go to jnat. to bring back that “ comfort“ level.

depending on jnat you could do all work (after bevel set) on jnat. Usually requires nagura slurry, and/or diamond plate slurry. it takes some time to learn jnat, technique, razor. then more time to get consistent results.... time well spent and worth the results
 
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