Canadian Novaculite I

Wold Rose Nagura 1

Superior Fine Grade Wild Rose hone.   Canadian Novaculite. 

I decided to ‘try’ one of the Canadian Novaculite stones I’ve been seeing and reading about for years. In the past, I always felt that having a full array of Arkansas stones precluded me from ‘needing’ a Canadian variant of the ‘same material’. 

So I messaged the vendor, and requested a smaller 5/5 point stone; the point system was this company’s method of explaining quality levels and 5/5 points was their top dog at that time. 

Mark, the company representative I was messaging, sent me a photo of a stone he could offer. I asked if it was Premium Fine - aka 5/5 – and he said yes, it was. However, upon arrival, the stamp on the back of this example calls out the Superior Fine Grade quality level, which is 1 step ‘lower’ than ‘Premium Fine”. 

In the past, I have seen discrepancies between what the listings said, and how the stone was stamped, so this minor contradiction did not surprise or alarm me. The seller, Mark, seems to know his product well and I can understand how these things can happen. It is the same with Jnats – some seller says a stone is LV 4.5, another might say it is LV 5.0 or harder – what matters is the stone, not the stamp.

At the same time, while perusing though the seller's other offerings – I came across a stone listed as both 2/5 point and Superior Fine Grade. And another listing with two stones where both are Superior Fine Grade but one is 2/5 points and the other is 4/5 points.  

Shown in the photo above is the main attraction, the Wild Rose stone along with, in the foreground, 3 small slurry stones. Left to right there is a piece of Nakado, a cube of Lochinvar, and a slice of regular fine grade Wild Rose. 'Nakoda' is novaculite, and less hard than 'Wild Rose'. 'Lochinvar’, is a clay matrix type of stone. The 'Regular-Fine' stone is also Wild Rose novaculite. 

Some back story and Initial Impressions. 

When these stones appeared for sale/auction online, I was intrigued. The stones had a somewhat unique look and luster to them. Because they were offered as ‘novaculite’, I was interested. 

Many of the stones showed surface flaws and what appeared to be inclusions; all of which made me wary. The prices were affordable enough, but not less than what a typical known-branded Arkansas stone would cost. 

I read some reports online, most seemed to be flavor-of-the-day fan-boy hype or poor reviews from people that don’t really understand natural hones all that well. I decided that I would, eventually, pick up one of their hardest/finest 5/5-point stones. However, those offerings were always larger and priced higher. Eventually, I asked if there was a possibility of getting a smaller 5/5 point stone. It was, I bought it, and here we are. 

Visual inspection upon arrival showed that the stone was lapped, but there was also an abundance of narrow fissures in the working surface. I also noted that the edges were smoothed but there were some chips. Chips can be lapped out but the uneven lines/fissures/gaps in the stone’s surface seemed to be an insurmountable deal-breaker.    

I lapped it with a very aggressive brand new 400x Atoma; I leveled it as best possible and re-edged it too. I finish lapped it on a very worn 400x Atoma. This stone is easier to lap than any Arkansas stone I’ve owned, so the work was fast and easy. I did not feel a need to use SIC powder. 

The gaps/fissures are still visible and dragging a needle across some of them is ‘felt’. I would hesitate to recommend this exact stone to a new user because there may possibly be a possibility of catching the blade on an edge caused by a fissure/gap.  

NOTE- those fissures did not seem to cause problems when honing. 

Physical Testing and Observations

Each sample was tested with 10% HCL at 70˚. The hone itself did not react at all. The regular fine Wild Rose nagura reacted a lot. The Lochinvar cube reacted but less so than the fine Wild Rose. The Nakodo reacted a bit less than the Locinvar. Generally speaking, an Arkansas stone that we know to be novaculite will not react with acid. 

Typically, Novaculite fractures are conchoidal. I did not notice any conchoidal fractures on the edges of the hone or the rubbing stones either. So, I am questioning the classification of this stone. I do believe that these stones are comprised of silica, but I am not certain of the crystalline structure. One corner of this stone shows layering, which would not be present in a Novaculite Arkansas stone.  

For example, the main differences between novaculite and, say, chert are as follows; novaculite is composed mainly of microcrystalline quartz grains with a trigonal structure and chert is mostly quartz and moganite where the latter has a monoclinic structure. Chert is predominantly sedimentary where Novaculite has passed through a more advanced stage of diagenesis via low-grade metamorphism. 

My testing then shifted to doing some honing and sharpening. Honing mediums included water-based slurry from the 3 nagura. I also experimented with honing on it dry and with water, soap/water, glycerin/water, and different oils without slurry. Test subjects included a few knives with good quality SS blades, a few junkier/softer knife blades, and several carbon steel straight razors. 

Honing Tests

Honing mediums included water-based slurry from the 3 rubbing stones. I also experimented with honing on it dry and with water, soap/water, glycerin/water, and different oils without slurry. Test subjects included a few knives with good quality SS blades, a few junkier/softer knife blades, and several carbon steel straight razors. 

1st off – I am not a fan of using novaculite slurry on a novaculite stone. My experiments here supported my thoughts on that matter and the testing here did not achieve good results. The regular fine wild rose nagura spit hard grains all over the stone, which was unusable. Slurry from the piece of Nakoda did cut, but it left a less than desirable edge. 

The Lochinvar produced slurry that was better to work with, but the end results did not prove or show enhanced sharpness. I might consider this slurry to be better suited for a softer coarser stone.  

Slurry from the Lochinvar and Nakoda nubbins did not impart a fingerprint on striations from lower grit abrasives, I started to see some effects of the slurry when the initial refinement was north of 3k. 

Dry honing did not prove to be beneficial, the stone loaded, and the edges did not look or shave well at all.    

During the testing, I set up edges many ways, on many stones with many honing methods. This gave me a broad cross-section on edge types to attempt finishing on. 

After all was said and done – I say that this particular Superior Fine Grade Wild Rose stone is best when used stand-alone, without slurry. Tests with water, water mixed with glycerin, and water mixed with soap all failed my visual inspection. It was not until I produced an edge off of very light oil, specifically my own oil mixed with some water, that I had a bevel and edge that I wanted to shave-test. 

Shave report. 

The water/Tomoglide mix edges shaved best. My last shave off of one of those edges is fresh in my mind because, as I am typing this, it happened 30 minutes ago. My AS was Aqua Velva Sport and there was some but not much burn. The face feel is tolerable. The shave went smoothly for the most part with hesitation during the ATG pass. The ‘feel’ was ‘safe’ and notl tedious. The shave was not very close, but I might say almost ‘close enough’. 

Edge comparisons. 

A lot depends on how the edge was set up, of course. Ground work is everything. 

The Wild Rose finish on top of a synthetic edge (1.5k – 12k Shapton Pro Stones) was similar to edges made with the same razor finished on a softer types of hard Arkansas stones. I was able to improve the Wild Rose edges with a harder type of hard Ark, and of course the hardest Arks took that improvement further. 

Stone Overview.

Natural stones vary from example to example and I am basing my comparison on the stones I am personally familiar with.

My assessment of the edges is that this stone performs similarly to softer types of hard Arkansas stones. The ‘feel’ is slightly different under the blade, and in that regard, the sensations reminded me of the Black Gila stone I used to own.  However, the Gila was harder and finer and delivered a much keener edge.  

The surface condition is something to consider, maybe not so much when sharpening knives but definitely when honing razors. I did not try to avoid the fissures and they presented no problems during honing. The potential for those fissures to catch the blade is there though.   

Takeaway - TL:DR

It is an Interesting hone, but the lack of a continuous working surface is a major distraction. The seller is helpful, and he seems to have a good number of offerings to choose from. I am not convinced that the hone stone itself is actually, technically, novaculite.

Wild Rose Regular Fine Tomo 1.jpg

Above – Regular Fine Grade Novaculite slurry stone closeup .  

Below – Same stone, after the fracture test. 

Visually, this stone resembles specimens of Paskapoo sandstone. 

Above – Lochinvar specimen, a clay matrix type of stone.  I believe it might be a Bentonitic clay stone. 

 Above – Nakoda specimen intact.

Below – Same stone after fracture test. 

NAKODA FRACTURE 1.jpg

 Above – Superior Fine Grade Novaculite stone, bottom side with stamps. 

Below –Top of sSame stone after fracture test. 


© Keith V Johnson 2014 - 2018