TC Blades Natural Stones
First off, I must apologize to TC Blades. I had promised to do this review quite a while ago but life has gotten in the way. In a way, it is better that I havenít been able to write this review until now since my sharpening skills have increased since I got them and my understanding of sharpening has gotten better as well. My opinion has changed on these stones as I have gotten better at sharpening in general.
I received these stones about 18 months ago from TC after a discussion I had with him about sharpening one of his knives. At the time, I only had minimal sharpening experience and a King 1k/6k combo stone. These three stones were chosen to fit before, in between, and after the King stone. These naturals are all mined in Israel by TC himself. From what I understand, he harvests the stones, cuts and laps them, then grades them by feel and finish.
Each of the stones came to me lapped and with the edges rounded off. All of them also came with a nagura/slurry stone of the same material.
I had intended to do a sharpening progression with these to show the finish, but I can't take good pictures to save my life. I tried three different cameras with different light sources and backgrounds, both indoors and outdoors but everything turned out pretty bad with very little detail. I will work on this and see what I can come up with in the next few days.
The first of the three stones is a coarse stone, it feels and leaves a scratch pattern around 800-1000 grit. I would consider it a medium stone as far as softness is concerned, it releases some mud while cutting but I wouldnít consider it to be a huge amount. I do soak it for 15 or 20 minutes and add water as it needs it. On many of my wide bevel knives, this is my starting point when it comes time to thin a little bit. The stone stays flat, it cuts well on almost all of them, and the scratches clean up very easily. The finish is clear, but with scratches. There are coarser stones out there but I havenít used one that I like more than this. I do not use the slurry stone with this one since it is soft enough to make its own mud as I sharpen, if I ever have to flatten it I would use it to smooth out the surface.
The second stone is a medium stone which feels and leaves a scratch pattern in the range of 4000-5000 grit. This one is a fairly hard stone but it has a great feel to it. I am not really a fan of hard stones but I do like this one quite a bit. It has a smooth, almost buttery feeling to it. I use this one as a splash and go since soaking does nothing for it. When using this as my finishing stone, I use the nagura to make a bit of mud to leave a nicer finish. It cuts softer steels very well and does a pretty good job with harder steels too, just takes a little longer. For the scratch pattern this stone leaves, it is actually a very smooth edge. I do use it with many of my knives as my finishing stone, a good amount of polish and some bite. I am actually not a fan of these super fine 1,000,000,000 grit edges that can slide through anything, just not my cup of tea. This one leaves a hazy finish. Overall, this stone does not really get muddy but does a good job.
The last stone is pretty fine, I would guess it is in the neighborhood of 8k-10k depending on how long you work the mud. I have tried soaking this stone for different amounts of time, but it works best for me as a splash and go. I have a love/hate relationship with this stone, it does its job well but it has a fairly odd feel to it. In terms of feel, I would compare it to the 8k Shapton Pro. It is almost like sharpening on glass. This may be a characteristic of fine stones, but I donít have much experience with anything above 5k. This one gives off mud easily and polishes quite nicely. It leaves a hazy/cloudy finish and it does help develop that contrast that many people like, though the contrast is not very drastic. This is probably the fault of the sharpener though, not the stone. It is not a cutting stone by any means, it leaves a very nice and smooth edge. Fresh off this stone, the edge will cut through most anything very easily except tomato; there is no toothy bite. For the straight razor people, this is a really nice stone. I would still strop, but you could have a very nice shave without it. For kitchen knives, it is not what I am looking for but that's just my opinion.
All said and done, I couldnít imagine my sharpening setup without these stones. I have tried multiple other stones and I always come back to the naturals and my King combo. They are not the fastest cutting stones around, but they do a very good job and work perfectly for my needs. If anyone is wondering about these stones, I would say talk to TC and see what he has in stock at the moment and what would work in your setup. Also I believe Salty has experience with stones from TC and has an opinion on them, so maybe he will be able to chime in and give his opinion. If you happen to be in deep south Texas and want to take these for a spin, let me know.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not related to and do not work for TC Blades. These opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else. I am not a professional sharpener, and my results are my own. Others may have different findings than I have. YMMV.
thanks for posting this review. I have often wondered what his stones are like.
Nice review: Well written, thoughtful and informative. I have also spent some time looking at the TC site and videos and was curious about the stones.
To avoid the issue of getting an edge that is too smooth for your preferences, have you tried taking a bigger jump in grits? Like going from you first 1k stone right to the finisher? I have found that this works better with some steel and stone combos than others, but the idea is to polish without removing all of the coarser scratches so you end up with refined teeth that will push-cut like a polished edge and bite/slice like a rougher one. I also find that they last a bit longer than the regular medium grit edges.
It works the same way with a smaller progression. Just don't work the crap out of each stone.