JNat Beginners Guide to Buying: Stories of Success, Pitfalls, and Fails

Discussion in 'Sharpening Station' started by Xenif, Oct 16, 2018.

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  1. Oct 16, 2018 #1

    Xenif

    Xenif

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    This is the thread we have all been looking for!!
    A recent thread had us all talking about who and who not to get stones from, fake stamps, dubious stone sellers, and other pitfalls of the JNat world.
    I want to carry over the conversation here so we can openly talk about all our collective experiences, the good, the bad, the ugly.
    I only started 6 months ago down the Jnat rabbit hole (and I love it), so the problem some of us newbs are having, is telling what is a good and what is a bad stone.
    I hope this thread can bring out the senior stoners to help the junior stoners.
     
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  2. Oct 16, 2018 #2

    PalmRoyale

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    First of all, I want to say I'm sorry for recommending ymmtnofm. I had no idea he's the same guy as Fujibato.

    Now that that's out of the way, I was bidding on an Okudo suita this guy listed a few days ago. Unbeknownst to me a shipwright I know was also bidding on it and he won the auction. Talk about coincidence. He told me to test the stone when he has it and that's what I'll do. I hope for him it's a good one.
     
  3. Oct 16, 2018 #3

    Spipet

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    This is a really useful story! Now I definitely know where and what to buy!
     
  4. Oct 16, 2018 #4

    erezj

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    Xenif, thank you so much for this thread, I really hope the senior stoners come out.

    I've been down the rabbit hole now for four lovely years, and I can say that still I understand nothing.

    The little contributions I can share is buying from MetalMaster a $50 Aoto, saw at the time so many great feedbacks on Aoto stones.

    MM was OK to deal with, eventually my first Jnat, the Aoto arrived, I immediately disliked it, it felt like polishing on sand.

    Eventually, a year latter, and a few little koppa's I bough on the way, I went 'wiled' and bought a $250 Aoto from JNS.

    First of all JNS is a pleasure to deal with and supper fast delivery, and then there is the stone.

    I have no real way to know if its a 'good' stone, I can only compare it to the one I got from MM for $50, and yes, it was worth at least 5 times the stone from MM.

    The obvious conclusion is to buy from a reputable source, JNS, JKI among the best, and of coarse from this forum,but I just cant afford the $900 for a Ohira Renge Suita from JNS, so I spend time searching Buyee and got about three stones from there, are they good? I dont really know, but I regularly use one of them with much joy, and use the another , an Uchi, if wand a pretty finish.

    hope this helped a bit

    ahh, by the way, the stone I least use, and which was relatively expensive was purchased from 330mate.
     
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  5. Oct 16, 2018 #5

    tgfencer

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    While there are many sources of natural stones, these are the easiest to access for Western markets and the ones you're most likely to hear mentioned on forums or by other jnat users.

    The purpose of this list is to provide information on credible and dependable vendors of jnats, as well as warnings as about vendors who have, through the experiences of our members, come to be seen as questionable. What people then do with this information is up to them, folks are of course free to spend their money where they wish.


    I will keep this list as up to date as possible as new information becomes available and validated.

    Last Update: Oct 29, 2018

    Trustworthy Stone Sellers:
    (Vendors who provide good information, high quality pictures, and can be corresponded with in a timely and transparent manner.)


    JNS
    JKI
    Alex Gilmore/JapanStone
    Aframes
    Japan Tool-Iida
    Carbon Knife Co.
    Bernal Cutlery
    Tosho Knife Arts
    Japan-Tool
    Hitohiro
    Watanabe


    Questionable Stone Sellers:
    (Vendors who provide questionable or misleading information, pictures that may not be detailed or useful in determining characteristics of the stone for sale, and cannot be corresponded with in a timely and/or trustworthy manner, if at all.)


    330mate (Aka. 130mate, Fujibato, umegahatatoishi_nakakatsu, Ymmtnofm, Mifuqwai, Dr_naka)- Low quality stones overall, though some have reported receiving good quality stones. Many stories of his being an unreliable vendor. There seems to be considerable risk involved with purchasing from this supplier, for every 'good' stone of his reported, there are dozens that are bad. You may get what you expect, you may not. Buy at your own risk.

    YourTogiya (Aka. Togiya 180, Current ebay accounts: japanese_natural_whetstone and kossy_1123)- Blatant re-stamping of stones from other sellers and an unwillingness to explain/apologize when confronted with proof. Some debate as to the quality of his stock, with reports of both good and bad stones, but definitely no question as to his underhanded business practices.

    (Please Note: So far as I can determine, the kossy1123 account on Yahoo Auctions has no affiliation with YourTogiya's ebay account kossy_123. Kossy1123 existed long before YourTogiya's ebay account and the name was likely stolen as a ploy. )


    Somewhere in Between/Hit and Miss:

    Metalmaster- Out of date website, ebay, etc. Hard to communicate with, late or very delayed shipping on occasion, some customers have been forced to request refund due to goods failing to ship. However, good quality stock overall.

    Japanese Auction Sites- As you would expect from an auction site (i.e. the ebay model) quality, honesty, and prices vary. Not recommended for beginners, those who want a sure thing, or those who just want to buy a good stone and be done with it. That said, steals can be found.





    As a side note on Metalmasters: Personally, I've never had a problem with not receiving items and on the occasions they're late, its usually because MM is not very good about checking his sites when people buy stuff. That said, a grain of salt may be important here. He updates his website rarely (once or twice a year) and seems to be more and more inactive. Anecdotally, I once waited for some stones he told me he was going to restock soon, only to not hear from him until almost 2 years later.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  6. Oct 16, 2018 #6

    refcast

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    I agree with the above.

    If I were starting over, buying Jnats again, I would probably start with a medium fine finisher that is a little muddy. I would buy from either Japanese Knife Imports, Japanese Natural Stones, Watanabe, Aframestokyo, Iida Tool, Japan-Tool, or TheJapanStone. Each have their own preferences, expertise, extent and selection of inventory, and purpose for their stones. I feel all are reputable as long as you can navigate how they set up their process. I've personally used and like stones from TheJapanStone, Japanese Knife Imports, and Iida Tool.

    Of course, there are other pathways, but it's best to start somewhere with a reputable seller who has a perspective and depth of experience that you agree with.

    What we are avoiding are bad stones that scratch badly or cracked; all stones will leave a scratch pattern. Some stones cut slow but polish really well. Those polished edge may or may not be to your liking, as they will feel more refined without as much pointy 3D teeth and more of an convexed edge I guess.

    For a beginner, mines and stone type names don't matter too much. Just pick one that matches your preferences below.

    The criteria you consider are if it

    1) is medium stone or a finishing stone (affects general range of speed and refinement)
    2) is harder or softer (affects speed, longevity of the stone, cushion. Harder stones can chip or create little eraser-like folds of stone grit)
    a) leaves inky black swarf, dark mud, or mostly mud (is a function whether the grit releases easily or cuts before losing the majority of its primary cutting ability)
    3) cuts fast or slow (fast for convinience, slow for polishing or final edge for razors)
    4) tends to leave scratches or polishes (faster usually has more visible scratches)
    5) polishes to kasumi or to a mirror (the polish indicates some edge character)
    6) leaves strong or weak contrast on the core and clad steel (purely aesthetic. If you don't like polish on the jigane too dark I guess you take it off with Barkeepers Friends. . . )

    Each of these has a function for aesthetic or use.

    I guess we could come up with a good price range for an intro stone. I guess we could have newcomers start on well-shaped and large-enough koppa stones, skinny stones, or those with cut corners as they are all cheaper due to aesthetics. Also, generic honyama are usually cheaper, because we cannot ascribe a prestigious name to boost the price. And we can avoid giant collector size stones, too, those with prestigious stamps, and those with fancy patterns. Finally, we can avoid harder razor or woodworking tool stones for the first stone someone is getting, because they might be too slow for most people, though I do like them. I guess $100-$300 could be a good starting point.

    TheJapanTool has a lot of extensive writings about this. (*TheJapanStone, I meant. But Japan Tool has good stuff too).

    Edit: I also forgot that the stone scratches on steel will appear smaller over a day of rest. I don't know why this happens. And kasumi is best viewed at an angle, and of course lighting changes a lot of stuff.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  7. Oct 17, 2018 #7

    Marcelo Amaral

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    I agree with Todd, just would like to add Yamashita-san at Japan Tool.
    Great person, speaks english very well and awesome knowledge about Jnats and more.
     
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  8. Oct 17, 2018 #8

    jacko9

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    I just started buying Japanese Natural Stones and I'm still lost about what is available. This posting I found on here helps a lot but, there is still a lot of information lacking for a beginner like me;

    https://historyrazors.wordpress.com/2017/03/31/kanji-japanese-natural-stones/

    I have two Jnats right now a rather large Aono Aoto and a Meara. I found out where the Aono Aoto was mined from according to the article above but, I have no information on the Meara other then its a polishing stone, rather hard and slightly muddy when using.

    I'm hoping this thread will continue proving information to new users like me. Thanks
     
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  9. Oct 17, 2018 #9

    dwalker

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    One can do very well speculating on stones from Japanese auctions. They are not all winners but true ringers can be found there. My favorite gyuto finisher was $40 plus shipping. I wouldn't sell it for 10x that much. The downside is I've purchased stones two times that much that I have literally thrown in the trash. In all, it has worked out for me. YMMV.
     
  10. Oct 17, 2018 #10

    XooMG

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    There's a dude on Instagram who takes junk Chinese stones and lacquers and stamps them so they look a little like Jnats. Don't think he sells often but best to be cautious around him. o_O
     
  11. Oct 17, 2018 #11

    Xenif

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    They are absolutely it says so right on the stone!
     
  12. Oct 17, 2018 #12

    Gjackson98

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    Photo please!
     
  13. Oct 17, 2018 #13

    XooMG

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    [​IMG]I asked an old Japanese dude and he said it might be an excellent paperweight.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
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  14. Oct 17, 2018 #14

    PalmRoyale

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    So far I've never bought a bad stone on Yahoo Auctions but I had some help from someone on another forum to get me started. He told me what to look for and who to buy from. One of my best buys ever is this Ohira suita, paid just €98 for it and it's an amazing, very fast stone.
    ohira2.jpg
     
  15. Oct 17, 2018 #15

    Gjackson98

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    Lol this is probably going to be my laugh of the day.
     
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  16. Oct 17, 2018 #16

    Krakorak

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    For some reason, nobody mentioned Shinichi Watanabe so far, although for instance some of his koppas might be a reasonable introduction into the JNAT world without spending too much...I personally have tried three of them and own two and all of them were really good quality stones...
     
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  17. Oct 17, 2018 #17
    I've got a couple stones second hand that originally came from Watanabe. I've not bought any directly from him but everything I've read is quite positive.
     
  18. Oct 17, 2018 #18

    tgfencer

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    Updated the list. Thanks guys.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2018
  19. Oct 18, 2018 #19

    vinster

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    One of my first jnats was a "Meara" I got years ago from Ken Schwartz. I suspect that is a marketing name made up by Ken or his supplier, but I'm not 100% sure. The dimensions of these stones are somewhat unique, and similar to a run of "Kouzaki" stones sold on JNS a couple years back. Similar to the JNS description, mine is a hard and dense stone. It becomes aggressive cutting with the help of an atoma, otherwise it doesn't give much of itself. Mine isn't particularly fine, leaving a still visible fine scratch pattern.
     
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  20. Oct 18, 2018 #20

    toddnmd

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    I seem to recall seeing good things about Morihei in Tokyo, although they don't ship internationally.
     
  21. Oct 18, 2018 #21

    Xenif

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    Some of their products are available through Hitohira and associated stores.
     
  22. Oct 18, 2018 #22

    vinster

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    Takeda used to supply good stones to various outlets as well as direct. Not sure if he still does.
     
  23. Oct 18, 2018 #23

    erezj

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    PalmRoyale - Love that Ohira, You mentioned in your post that you got some good advice as for 'who to buy from', since this is THE Question, I was hoping you might share.

    One more question, I've seen so much 'Motoyama' on the various sites, actually have one on the way...what is it? a mine? strata? generic word for polishing stone? bad translation by Google? Help here would be most appreciated.
     
  24. Oct 18, 2018 #24

    Krakorak

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    To my knowledge it has definitely nothing to do with a particular mine or strata, but is a rather general term like for instance "Honyama" - which has in the past been used "sensu stricto" for some stones from the Nakayama mine, but today its mostly used as a general term for any natural; so - to name an example - if a particular seller doesn't know the mine exactly, he calls the stone a "honyama"...But many unexperienced people tend to think its some particular mine, which is nonsense...
     
  25. Oct 18, 2018 #25

    Krakorak

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    And if I should add some comments to the general topic - the best way when starting with naturals would be to borrow a few good quality stones from a friend and spend some time using them to understand the differences between naturals and synthetics well, try the feedback on different steels, try the edges and their retention you will get using various combinations...Its a big mistake to think you will understand naturals after spending 30 minutes with one or two pieces on one knife...its really a bit different world in many aspects! It would need to be really an exceptional stone with a phantastic feedback if that should be reality (haha, I had such a luck with my Ohira suita from JNS, which wasn't the first, but if I remember correctly my third natural I have ever tried and I immediately feeled that its something special...and it was THE stone which brought several friends of mine to naturals - in this respect its also good to mention that it, in my opinion, doesn't make much sense to go for naturals without having enough experience with reasonable synthetics)...

    And if you don't have such a luck and chance to borrow anything, then its definitely better to start with something which is verified - i.e. with something from a reputable seller, those Watanabe koppas might be a good example for this, they don't make you a huge hole into your wallet like Maksim's stones (which are in my opinion overprized in most cases, although having very good quality) and then you can go for something bigger after already having some experience what you want...And its generally also better to start with softer stones than get something super, super hard...I know several examples of people which didn't do that and were completely disgusted!

    And I should also mention that a great option is buying from some people here - if you will buy from let's say Otto aka Badgertooth or Todd aka tgfencer or some other people, you will ever get that what was promised and a great stone; they have no problem to spend enough time to explain you the details of a particular stone...and if it shouldn't be that what you are looking for (or they would recognize you are a beginner with zero experience who absolutely doesn't know what he wants, except of "he urgently needs a JNAT":)), they would rather discourage you from it and recommend you something else...Simply they are people which don't want to earn money at any costs and prefer to be 100% objective:)...which is super important in this business...

    And as regards my experience with Watanabe stones - I have tried about 15 pieces from him and except of one which has some slight issues all of them were good or very good quality and I can't complain...But his prices are definitely not the lowest ones, all the more that he currently doesn't want to put discounts which he put about 2 years ago when I bought most of my stones from him...
     
  26. Oct 18, 2018 #26

    tgfencer

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    As always, I feel like its worth reiterating the common disclaimer with Japanese natural stones. They will not make you a better sharpener or a more skillful polisher. Natural stones are often talked about with an air of mysticism or veneration by those who use them, but ultimately they are simply a set of tools that provide a different set of attributes to synthetic stones, some of which won't be fully utilized or understood until the user has developed the necessary skill levels. Don't be discouraged if they don't magically transform you into a sharpening/polishing master, but equally, realize that jnats will certainly provide you a unique platform to grow and the rewards as you develop to new levels will be well worth the time, expense, and frustration.
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2018
  27. Oct 18, 2018 #27

    PalmRoyale

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    kossy1123, earth0walk, yuuyab18c, nekochandaimaoo and sharl237jinsuke are the main ones. My Ohira came from sharl but he hasn't been active for quite some time. The are some other good sellers who don't list their stones in the whetstone category. I'll leave it up to you to find out where they list them.

    One more piece of advice for the newbs. If you want a coticule I'd avoid Ardennes Coticule. I bought a coti from Watanabe but it was too hard for my taste. The guys at Ardennes Coticule told me to send them the stone and that I could trade it in for something suited to my taste. They received my coti 4 weeks ago and communication has been truly miserable. There's hasn't been a single decent response to my e-mails. I finally contacted them through facebook messenger because I'm done with it. I told them I want my stone back and that I'll sell it on a Dutch auction site. No response. It hasn't always been like this. I've bought many stones from them in the past and it went perfectly every time. I don't know what happened to them.
     
  28. Oct 18, 2018 #28

    Krakorak

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    Completely agree...Its a bit similar to honyaki knives - there are many people who believe a honyaki must be something completely mystic what will cut 100% effortlessly by itself and stay sharp forever...just because its honyaki:)...Which, of course, is nonsense as well...And it should be also mentioned that most of the stone nuts use naturals from 90% for polishing "games" and that they provide a good edge as well is rather a by-product...what is something what is also quite often hard to understand for many people, for instance in the Czech community where good J-knives which would be worth polishing on a good JNAT are a very rare phenomenon, those people wouldn't understand at all why to pay several hundreds USD for a natural...and if, they would expect it must provide a completely phenomenal edge which will stay forever:)...
     
  29. Oct 19, 2018 #29

    PalmRoyale

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    Ardennes Coticule now says they can't find the stone I sent them. Well, that's not my freaking problem. They better do everything they can to get it back to me or I'm taking legal action. They went from a company I enjoyed doing business with to a bunch of frauds. How low they have sunk.
     
  30. Oct 19, 2018 #30

    Seqmt

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    That's very unfortunate. I hope you get a satisfactory resolution. Keep us all updated!
     

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