Grits, Particles & Honing


Grits, Particle Sizes and Honing.


First – a little primer. 

JIS refers to the Japanese Industrial Standards for grading or rating water stones. Whetstone makers in other countries can, and do, use other systems. So – an 8k stone made in Mexico and graded with a different system may not deliver the same performance as an 8k stone made in Japan. An 8k JIS stone is going to be ‘finer’ than an 8k stone rated by the CAMI or FEPA system.  

To confuse us even more – every grading system allows any stone of any given ‘grit’ to contain a certain number of abrasive particles that are larger/smaller than the ‘given’ or ‘assigned’ grit.  So – basically - an 8k stone is not comprised entirely of only abrasive particles that are 8k. That stone will also contain larger/coarser particles in the mix, along with smaller/finer particles. These ‘tolerances’ muddy the waters a bit. Without trying a stone and comparing it to another one – it’s hard, if not difficult or impossible, to say which one is ‘finer’ with certainty.


Which system to follow? What does all of that mean? 

Well – for starters, every system is flawed. Secondly - it means that sitting around and hypothesizing about matching and comparing grits and converting grits from one system to another usually winds up being less informative than one might assume it to be. Some people love doing that stuff though.


Isn’t a 10k stone finer than an 8k stone? 

Factually – the particle size of the abrasive in any stone is only part of the story. The type, shape, density and friability also factor in. The stone’s hardness and binder composition are also players in the game; so it’s not always easy to figure it all out.

Lets say we’re looking at an 8k stone from manufacturer A’s X-series of hones – we can usually assume that the 12k stone in the X -series from manufacturer A will be finer than the 8k in that same series. What we don’t know is whether or not that 8k stone will be equally, more, or less fine than an 8k stone from manufacturer B.  


This is confusing. 

 I only want to buy one set of stones one time. 

I want them to be the very best so I won’t have to upgrade.

What do I do & how do I choose? 

The only way to know or find out what set of hones is going to be ‘better’ is by trying them. Sorry – there’s no other way. Some people swear by brand-X, others rely only on brand-Y. Some use both interchangeably – it all comes down to knowing how to hone and developing preferences through experience. Sometimes I use two different 4k stones in succession, they’re both rated 4k but neither are really 4k. I stopped worrying about what the box says a long time ago. I judge edge refinement as I go and numbers on boxes mean nothing to me anymore.    

When starting out, buying and using hones that other people have tried/used successfully is a good idea. That way – any questions that arise will probably have been asked already and a simple Google search will bring up the answers. 

Worrying about needing to ‘upgrade’ your hones later on is a waste of time. Lots of people spend oodles of time ‘researching’ things when they could be learning to hone instead.  By all means, learn a bunch before jumping in – just don’t get paralyzed by it all. In the beginning, stay out of the rabbit hole; it’s pretty deep. 

Learning to hone razors is like learning to do anything else in this world; it takes effort and practice. Once the decision to learn is made, the next thing to do is to figure out a budget, and find hones that will work that fit that budget.

Yes – it’s as simple as that. 


Will spending more on hones mean I will get better edges? 

Well – maybe yes and maybe no. It’s my opinion that better edges are the result of knowing how to hone better. Yes – a super fine finisher will add a certain pizzaz to the finished result. Is a $300 USD finisher going to deliver an edge that is 10x better than a $100 USD stone? Probably not, however – and again, this is my opinion - I believe that some people hone better with one type of system or stone than they do with another. Let’s forget for a moment that it might be possible for that person to learn how to hone equally well on all systems. If one stone/system suits someone better, and it costs more – then investing in those stones might be the best answer. 

In my opinion, it’s better to learn how to hone before trying to learn everything possible about every hone available. After learning how to hone successfully on a consistent basis, and then developing likes/dislikes/wants/needs – other honing options can be sought in an intelligent fashion.

© Keith V Johnson 2014 - 2022