So how slow is a black ark?

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by Dzaw, May 16, 2019.

  1. SliceOfLife

    SliceOfLife Contributor

    Ironically, I think Norton sells their Hard Arkansas as 2k or 4k... They make it seem like their 8k whetstone is finer... which is pretty hilarious.
  2. I won’t upload a pic because I don’t want anyone else making a fraudulent warranty claim, but yeah one big enough patch to really feel and a dozen small dots spread out around it.

    Never used it to lap a stone or anything either. The only logical explanation is I honed a chisel SO INCREDIBLY SHARP that it shaved the diamonds and industrial polymer right off!:001_tt2:
  3. I used the charts to know when you jump off the films onto the stones.

    So, 30 micron being 8000, I knew the jump wouldn’t be to far for the Coticule based on what I’ve read. I understand these are approximations.
  4. So I spent some good quality time with my Wade and Butcher razor and abrasives last night.

    I went for the throat, and started off at 40 micron. That's way rough for a razor, but I figured, since I am re-grinding the bevel from tape to no tape, I should start with a fast cutting grit to re shape the bevel. 100 back and forth laps to get the grind angle primed for burr raising. Raised a burr in 20 half laps, but it wasn't along the entire edge. 10 more and it was close, but it still needed another 10 to be a proper burr along the whole edge. 40 strokes on the other side did, however, nicely move the burr over to the other side of the edge.

    I skipped up to 30 micron to hone the burr off, though. Even though this is supposedly equivalent to 600 grit according to the chart that cape with my pack of films, the razor sure did feel sharp after this stage. I probably could have shaved with it, but I would have ended up looking like raw hamburger after doing so...

    Then on up the progression on the films. 12 micron then 9, 5, and finally 3. I spent some extra time at 3 preparing for the black Ark. A small dab of Dan's honing oil on the black Ark, and off to the finish we go!

    I finished on the Black rock for quite a while. This honing oil from Dan's must be some mix of mineral oil and kerosene from the smell of it, but I may need to cut it with a little more kerosene, it seems a little thick for this purpose. About perfect for knives on a hard Ark. The razor seems to glide along over the very slick stone surface, barely making a sound at all. Even being a heavy near wedge grind, this razor sings much more while shaving than it does on this stone. Nonetheless, I kept my pressure under control and did a lot of laps, telling myself to trust the stone.

    About to go try this shave out again. Wish me luck!
  5. MO1


    Sounds very promising!
    Good luck and share the results!
  6. Wow.

    Just wow.

    Best shave of my life this morning.

    I am sure some of this is placebo effect and confirmation bias. I know that it had to be more than the magic of one rock. I was quite careful through the entire honing process, and my shaving technique was really on point today too.

    Nonetheless, I am SO glad I bought this stone! What an edge! I can't gush enough about it! Shaves both keenly and easily, but also really hesitates to bite the skin. Super smooth and forgiving. I mean, the fact that is doesn't cut my skin nearly as easily must mean it is somehow less sharp than the lazer sharp edges I've been shaving with, doesn't it? Even still, it sure is the right[/] level of sharp for me to shave with, because boy does it really SHAVE!

    OK - cool aide chugging aside, I am very likely going to convert all of my razors over to this black Ark finish in the coming two weeks. The only remaining questions are this:

    1: Is this stone sufficient for re-perfecting an edge that starts to cut less well when it needs more than stropping, or is something that cuts more rapidly recommended for re-honing an already shaving edge?

    2: What is the best / most efficient lead up to this stone for honing a new to me razor from say, ebay or an antique shop? I could look into a hard/soft ark and try all Novaculite, or maybe diamond plates? Films work, and aren't super expensive, but they do wear out, wheras I don't really see me wearing out either of the other options within my lifetime.

    Thank you all so much for the advice and encouragement. This finish really impresses, and I am off to the races!
  7. It's cool when you find the right edge. Congratulations. Coming off the 3Mu is perfect for stone finishers apparently. I've had the same with the MMT Thuringian and Coticule.
  8. I almost bought a black ark today because I was curious. But then shipping cost more than the stone and I say nope, no way lol.
  9. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    Very nice. I love hearing super excited reports reflective of great honing success. Don't get too excited and cut yourself. Worse, realize it may be this easy every time with every razor or it may not.


    1: Is this stone sufficient for re-perfecting an edge that starts to cut less well when it needs more than stropping, or is something that cuts more rapidly recommended for re-honing an already shaving edge?

    I would try both ways and see what you get. It's going to depend on what the edge needs and also on how much time you want to spend honing.

    If I recall correctly yours is a Hard Black Ark finishing stone. It's not a bevel setter. It is a slow stone.

    2: What is the best / most efficient lead up to this stone for honing a new to me razor from say, ebay or an antique shop? I could look into a hard/soft ark and try all Novaculite, or maybe diamond plates? Films work, and aren't super expensive, but they do wear out, whereas I don't really see me wearing out either of the other options within my lifetime.

    Best? No idea.

    I've used a synthetic progression - Chosera 1K and various synthetics up to 12K before going to the flat Ark finishing stones (I have two flat Ark finishing stones, the Norton Translucent and a Hard Black).

    I've also used a coticule to do everything from bevel setting up to and including finishing and then concluded that a little Ark finishing might be nice on the edge.

    I know this is kinda switching gears but I have the Double Convex Ark from Superior Shave which is a two sided convexed stone. One side is for bevel setting. The other side is for finishing. Instead of starting with the bevel setting side of this DCA stone I've sometimes set the bevel first on the Chosera 1K and then gone to the bevel setting side of the double Ark. Why? No rational reason except it seems easier to me (in theory) but maybe it isn't. Maybe the bevel on any old eBay razor can be set easily enough on the DCA. I'm still learning the stone.

    The problem you've not mentioned is this. Different razors seem to like different stones.

    There are gentlemen who use a natural stone as a bevel setter and then use a so called soft Ark as a mid range stone before finishing on a Hard Black Ark.

    Many ways to skin this fish, right, but is one the best? Maybe. Maybe not.

    You could more or less duplicate with stones the progression you did with the films today if you wanted to, right?


    A lot of what I just talked about is highly variable in that what works for you might be different from what I like and find useful, but one thing is certain. You got a great edge off that Ark! Congratulations.

    Happy shaves,


  10. Well clearly CLEARY films work fine. You’ll eventually hit the point where everyone moves away from films- you just get sick of re-ordering them.

    What you want to replace films with and how depends for me on if you want to hone more than just razors, but either way if I were in your shoes I’d go one of two directions that are probably about the same total cost assuming you’re shopping new.

    1- Buy a Coticule, continue using films for heavy chip removal/initial bevel set/occasional stone surfacing. Some Coticules have ludicrous speed going through the full midrange, they are one of my top 2 preferred midrange options out of a full stable of options, and you basically get a bonus finisher or even travel hone depending what size and blah blah blah. A Coticule can absolutely refresh a razor as fast as any other option out there, if you go this way reach out to the Coticule fan club and you’ll get loads of help.

    2- DMT1200 and a large dirt cheap soft Ark. DMT basically means never buy low grit films again, and once they’re burnished/broken in a 1200 can cover a pretty good range of speed and edge finish just varying pressure. The Soft Arks are slower than most synths, but could be dressed aggressively with your remaining films and that will definitely cover the gap from DMT1200 light pressure-up to -surgical black heavy pressure. You could even try the new cool kid thing and dress one side for speed and one for smooth upper midrange finish.

    I could go either way on that choice. They both get you there just with different techniques and tricks, similar to how you went longer than you probably thought necessary on the midrange films and ended up with a great edge- you have to find the process that works for whatever setup you buy. You Just have to look at the edge each stage and be able to think confidently “I could definitely shave with this if didn’t care about comfort, and the finish on the bevel is DEFINITELY all from this most recent stage.”

    DMT and soft ark would be more intuitively obvious and you’d probably get great results first attempt, but personally here’s what I run to bring an edge back really quickly:
    Don’t be fooled by the size, the Coti is a heavy hitter. I never even run it on slurry, just half strokes then x strokes and different pressure and water handling. Make no mistake too, Cotis can finish. They just have this sort of weird effect where while you shave you FEEL like it’s not as keen in a way that’s hard to describe. Then after pass 2 you run your hands over your face to see how bad it actually is and you think “OH... oh my that’s smooth... how did that happen?” Somehow online they get a rep for not being super keen, and they don’t have the same keen feel of Arks or JNATs but they can shave great. There’s a reason they were the gold standard for barbers who have no clue what your face is feeling during a shave.
    Last edited: May 19, 2019
  11. I’ve considered a Belgian Blue after bevel set and the Coticule to finish.
  12. I have a natural coti combo. I always did heavy slurry on the coti side to set a bevel. Then I did heavy slurry on the blue and diluted to water, flipped it over and did a slurry to water again on the coti side.
  13. That’s too cool!!:a14:A two stone progression would appeal to me.
  14. Mines a vintage that’s almost gone and I’ve never honed on the back side but someone else has enough times to hollow out the center a bit. Even with the coti being almost gone, the coti side seems so fast I’ve never really thought about trying to lap down and hone on the back side.

    I do have a chunk of Les Lat hybrid layer in the mail that should be interesting. If I ever see one of those with the hybrid and coti in a combo for less than the price of a kidney, I’ll be buying it now and apologizing to the wife about it later.
  15. So last night I touched up another razor on the new Ark. This one was already quite sharp and shaving well, so I only ran it on the new stone for some twenty to thirty ish minutes. I lost count, but I am wagering somewhere in the 200 ish lap range. I move pretty slow and deliberately to make sure I don't screw up the strokes, so the time to lap seems about right for me.

    The shave was every bit as good as I was hoping, until I dropped the razor!!! Yikes!

    Visual inspection did not turn up any damage, but there's an area that I couldn't get it to cut after the drop, just swipe after swipe after swipe and the whiskers just kind of ignored it, so I am thinking I definitely need to re-hone after the drop.

    Well, at least I was able to not have the reflex to catch what I dropped. I've had similar incidents with hot things that without thought, I just reacted to snatch what I drop, and that can end badly. I'd rather have to re-hone the razor than get my hand sewn up.

    On the up side, it really does look like this wasn't a fluke! I do love the edge this Arkansas hone makes on my razors so far!
  16. MO1


    Ah that sucks, if you see no visual damage just go down a few grits.

    I have that bad? habit of catching everything i drop. I have even caught my straight once or twice, cut myself once but wasnt too bad, slight gash in my thumb. nothing that tape doesnt fix, could have ended up slicing half my thumb off though lol.:001_302:
  17. Glad you are okay.
  18. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    Glad it wasn't worse.


    Really bad idea.

    I've caught way too many sharp things. You'd think we'd learn, right.

    The stone really is great in your hands.


    By today's shave test the "350" razor honed yesterday on the DCA is not there yet. The black Devo is, but one great razor doesn't mean a wonky "350" is anything but wonky. Still, by the shave test the "350" was enough improved that I've not given up on it. I'll take it to the DCA again, probably on Wednesday. If it's not greatly improved I'm going to conclude one of two things.
    • It can't be honed to my satisfaction.
    • The DCA is not the stone for it.
    I hope I don't have to conclude either of these. I want the razor to be truly shave ready. Again, today's shave wasn't lousy, so there was definitely significant improvement. Besides, I know from the black Devo's edge that the DCA can really perform.

    Happy shaves,

    Last edited: May 20, 2019
  19. Have you tried yours with thicker oil or under light running water?
  20. Chan Eil Whiskers

    Chan Eil Whiskers Contributor Ambassador

    I've tried Arks with all sorts of oils, various mineral oils, synthetic oil, etc. Also with water but not running water. Currently I'm using Ballistol, sometimes straight (sprayed from the aerosol container onto the stone), sometimes mixed with water (usually 1:4), but also with drops of water added to the straight stuff.

    Happy shaves,


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