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The natural pre-finishers

For me it is Coticules. I can jump to something like an Arkansas, or even just a few strokes on a high grit synthetic stone work good after a Coticule. The midrange capabilities of these stones is really good. There is nothing wrong with a good Coticule finish, but sometimes you just want a little sharper edge.
I also like to use a Suita or a Tsushima Nagura JNAT for the midrange work if i am going for JNAT progression, and move to a hard and fine finisher. I am not sure if it adds anything compared to going right to a JNAT finisher after a synthetic, but it changes things up a little.
A Coticule, Iyn Idwal, Dragons Tongue or the Coe Dota Creek. A lot of times I stop at the Coticule but it does make for a good pre for the Jnat. The Coe I use when going to an Arkansas stone. I have an Idwal that's not quite a finisher, close though, and it can be used to go to a finer Idwal or to a Charnley. The Dragons tongue is rarely used but can also be used before any finisher.
For me, anything below 12K is a prefinisher. That includes Coticules, Chinese Guangxi naturals, Tsushima Ocean Blue, modern Thuringens, Vermont green slate, and others that fall into the 8-12K category. Although I have a Naniwa 12K Superstone, I do not like using it as my final prefinisher before I move to even finer hones. The Naniwa 12K makes a fairly sharp edge, but to my skin, that edge is harsh. The natural stones seem to develop an edge that is less harsh.

For finishing, I like to go to an Greek Vermio stone, South African Zulu Gray, or Imperia La Roccia. I have recently seen some reviews of the Black Shadow stone and might add that to my arsenal. Perhaps my favorite finisher is a Suehiro Gokumyo 20K (0.5 micron) synthetic. However, even after using those hones, I like to polish my edges with microfine abrasives as fine as 0.1 micron using pasted strops. That gives a mirror finish on the bevel and very sharp and smooth edge. That is the only way I can get a close, comfortable shave. The pasted strops can also be used to maintain the edge.
I will use a coti as a pre finisher as well as using one for the full honing system. I have a dragons tongue and mine is not a finisher, so also use that plus I have two cheap synthetic stones that I also use.
Coticule for me lately. I can get a great edge on mine, plenty good for a lot of razors, but if I want to go to my trans ark, the coti is a great jumping off point. Also it's got enough range that I can clean up minor problems that might not be so easily or quickly corrected on my Fuji 8k.
Thanks for all the answers!

Strange but I had in my head, not clear but something like "coti can be nice finishers but not all of them". Didn't think of them as possible excellent pre-finishers. Have one man made that are a finisher. And one old very tiny, probably finisher.

Nagura and JNAT are of course an alternative. I will explore if any of my JNAT do the work with either tenjo or mejiro slurry fast enough for me.

What about schwedenstein?
I have a German slate( at least think so) that works very well before thuri after 5000# Naniwa.

Sold hone as knife sharpening stone before that was probably schwedenstein. Then I was not interested in natural hone for pre-finishing straights so never tested them for that.
Have a new one that was not finisher so will test at least that one( probably a schwedenstein, but who knows for sure).
After picking up a Shapton Glass 10k HR, I have little use for natural pre-finishers. I can jump straight to a hard ark or diamond pasted balsa progression from the 10k HR. It’s faster and more consistent than the naturals with a shallow and uniform stretch pattern.

For me, the natural pre-finishers are the stones that I can comfortably shave from but can easily improve with an Ark, Jnat or diamond pasted balsa progression. These would be the Coticules, Charnley Forests and Thüringians. Of the three the Coticules have the greatest range. The Thüringians take the edge a little further, seem to be more consistent, and are the easiest to use.
I would probably say that most natural whetstones will work well as prefinishers for razors. Natural sharpening stones that are too coarse (bevel setting types), or too fine (finishing types) are less common.

One of the reasons for this is that natural stones tend to have larger ranges than synths depending on how you use them. And in some special cases - Cotis, Washitas, Turkish for example - they can do the work of three or four synths. And also because a very great number of historic natural stones are either slates or sandstones, both of which are quite slow and that makes them very good for straights.

As well as everything mentioned above, I’ll throw another into the mix... Tam O’Shanters have pretty much every attribute you’d want if designing a perfect prefinisher I think.
What about schwedenstein?

I’ve only had one, but from that and what other people say - it’s likely to be quite fine as a prefinisher, verging into finishing territory. Though if you started with slurry and diluted it would have a greater range (this is true for pretty much all natural stones).
Coticules are the easiest for me used as a pre-finisher. I haven't found a stone that matches their speed in such a fine hone.

I do like to switch things up and do different progressions with natural stones so most of the time I'm using something else, various arks and slates.
For a long time after I started down this road, I learned to hone on natural stones. After I wised up and got proper magnification I noticed my apexes were a mess (the shaves were too but I didn't know it yet) showing many sparkles and distractions. I wanted to finish on an Ark but the edges I was taking there were way sub par.

One night after much frustration with my 2 Coticules, I grabbed an Ebay disappointment that I had been shunning and put a little Coticule slurry on it with WD 40. It was a disappointment because I was positive I was bidding on a Black Ark. Actually I'm now pretty sure it is a Silkstone and not just a random slate.

Within no time the apex was all cleaned up leading to proper performance on the Arks and a big jump in edge quality. Later on I started slurrying the stone itself with even better results.

Now that I have a set of water stones I have known grit, scratch patterns to compare what I was getting off the naturals. I've found that 5k edges are improved by the Silkstone but it's sure not 8k level. YMMV

As a prefinisher, it has been replaced by a 12k Shapton Pro with even better results.
Zulu Grey Silkvein…I have used this as a finisher, but it’s really more of a pre-finisher…really really neat stone!
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