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Natural Finish -v- Diamond Pasted Balsa

Send out some razors and try out these different natural edges
Arkansas, coticule, jnat, and thuringians (escher a popular but expensive brand). See which edge you like most. Just know finding a natural stones vary so you will still have to hunt for that nice stone
I’ve been working my way through these famous natural finishers. I’ve spent the last two weeks with this beautiful Thüringian. Another exceptional stone. Sharp and smooth. The face feel has a lot in common with the JNat. Always a very comfortable shave and post shave with this one. The edge is quite forgiving and the sharpest edges are coming off plain water. Honing on it is an absolute joy. The stone feels like silk under the blade. It’s mesmerising. You don’t want to stop. I’m finding the results much more consistent and repeatable than the Jnat which is capable of giving a wide variety of edges depending on how it’s used. Always good but always a little different.

I started out looking for my favourite natural but so far I’ve liked every one I’ve tried. In my book each one has been a keeper. I don’t think I will ever go back to a synthetic finisher. I feel like I’ve found enlightenment and have finally reached shaving Nirvana. The perfect shave and a special connection with the equipment.

The Coti is waiting in the wings. It may have to wait a while as I’m having so much fun with the Thuri.

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I also think the "smoothness" of natural stones is because they are less sharp and it feels better to shave with something a little less sharp than what pastes are capable of.
I initially suspected the same about the source of the smoothness. I thought there was probably a sweet spot for sharpness where hair is cut effortlessly and skin is allowed to move out of the way undamaged. I thought maybe the diamond edge had exceeded this ideal sharpness.

Now I’m not so sure. By that logic you should be able to dial back a diamond edge to get closer to the sweet spot by using a lower grit. That does not seem to work. At the same time the natural edges are very very sharp. Particularly the black ark. If they are less sharp, it’s not by much.

I believe there are actually a lot of variables at play here. Grit size, grit shape and distribution likely play an important role. The edge geometry, texture and degree of toothiness will come into play.

One BIG difference between the stones and balsa is the compressibility of the surface. My balsa had no issue accommodating a very slight smile in my MK31. I didn’t even notice the razor had a smile. The stones on the other hand struggled to reach the toe and heel of the edge and the issue became very obvious. In the end I had to straighten the edge. This compressibility is major difference between stones and balsa. Compressibility must play a role in the edge geometry and how the edges perform.

Of course I wouldn’t rule out a placebo effect. “I want to like it so I do.” I honestly think it’s more than that though. There are plenty of blind tests to back that up. An interesting topic for sure.
 
I initially suspected the same about the source of the smoothness. I thought there was probably a sweet spot for sharpness where hair is cut effortlessly and skin is allowed to move out of the way undamaged. I thought maybe the diamond edge had exceeded this ideal sharpness.

Now I’m not so sure. By that logic you should be able to dial back a diamond edge to get closer to the sweet spot by using a lower grit. That does not seem to work. At the same time the natural edges are very very sharp. Particularly the black ark. If they are less sharp, it’s not by much.

I believe there are actually a lot of variables at play here. Grit size, grit shape and distribution likely play an important role. The edge geometry, texture and degree of toothiness will come into play.

One BIG difference between the stones and balsa is the compressibility of the surface. My balsa had no issue accommodating a very slight smile in my MK31. I didn’t even notice the razor had a smile. The stones on the other hand struggled to reach the toe and heel of the edge and the issue became very obvious. In the end I had to straighten the edge. This compressibility is major difference between stones and balsa. Compressibility must play a role in the edge geometry and how the edges perform.

Of course I wouldn’t rule out a placebo effect. “I want to like it so I do.” I honestly think it’s more than that though. There are plenty of blind tests to back that up. An interesting topic for sure.
I don't use balsa or diamond paste so I can't say. I do know that this subject reminds me of the "tone wood" debate in the electric guitar world. That is a debate about people who feel that certain woods impart different tones even though in an electric guitar sound is picked up by the ...pickup. It's an electric devise that detects varying frequencies as the metal strings pass by the pickup (it's induction). Whether the wood is vibrating or not makes no difference to the pickups.

With honing I'm sure there are differing size grit, shape, density. For that matter no two wooden pencils are probably the same but I don't think many people can tell the difference in the outcome.

All stones aren't the same so how can all Jnats feel so smooth and all pastes so rough? Again, in my description of a blind test in my post back a bit I feel pretty certain that statistically speaking few would be able to tell which blade was honed on what hone.
 
I don't use balsa or diamond paste so I can't say. I do know that this subject reminds me of the "tone wood" debate in the electric guitar world. That is a debate about people who feel that certain woods impart different tones even though in an electric guitar sound is picked up by the ...pickup. It's an electric devise that detects varying frequencies as the metal strings pass by the pickup (it's induction). Whether the wood is vibrating or not makes no difference to the pickups.

With honing I'm sure there are differing size grit, shape, density. For that matter no two wooden pencils are probably the same but I don't think many people can tell the difference in the outcome.

All stones aren't the same so how can all Jnats feel so smooth and all pastes so rough? Again, in my description of a blind test in my post back a bit I feel pretty certain that statistically speaking few would be able to tell which blade was honed on what hone.
Not all pastes are rough. Once you run it out to .1u, diamond on balsa is very smooth and comfortable, if properly set up and properly used. As comfortable as any Jnat edge I have ever shaved with, but sharper. The grit sizes that make up the progression between stone or film and the .1u can indeed give a less pleasant shave. I am told that CBN can give a pretty smooth edge too, though I have not tried it.
 

IMightBeWrong

Loves a smelly brush
Contributor
Not all pastes are rough. Once you run it out to .1u, diamond on balsa is very smooth and comfortable, if properly set up and properly used. As comfortable as any Jnat edge I have ever shaved with, but sharper. The grit sizes that make up the progression between stone or film and the .1u can indeed give a less pleasant shave. I am told that CBN can give a pretty smooth edge too, though I have not tried it.
Just a bit of YMMV as my skin is quite sensitive, but I find .1 Diamond from Ted Pella on balsa to be too keen for comfort on my skin. Not a forgiving edge like a JNAT edge. That said, I haven't tried CBN and have been curious.
 
I like to finish with a mayonnaise (Helllman's) edge. This is the smoothest edge. I put mayonnaise on a glass plate and do about 100 laps, dilute with olive oil for about 50 laps and then pure oil for another 20, finishing on pure spring water.

That is an edge my friend that Jnats can't touch.
 
I’ve become a CrOx fan over the years. A quick swipe over the crox and I’m in smooth heaven. But I have to swipe it every shave.

I have a few stones that’ll give me lovely shaves like that, but only on the second and third shaves. The first one off the rock is always just a little keen.
 
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