Apr 26, 2011

Iwasaki and Jnats (part one)

From left:Mizuochi san, Iwasaki san  and me

After visiting Shigefusa I drove to Iwasaki's Workshop in the afternoon. The official name of this workshop is "Sanjyo Seisakujo". In this workshop blacksmith Mizuochi is making the Iwaski brand Kamisori now. Mizuochi san worked here when he was young but he had to succeed his fathers shop and stopped making razors. When he got 60 years old he came back because Iwasaki san got ill and could not fulfill orders. Mizouchi san is working here only at afternoon because he has other things to do before noon.

Here I want to report what Iwasaki san and Mizouchi san told me about honing razor with natural stones.

My first question was about difference between synthetic and natural stones. Why natural stones makes hazy finish to jigane and why the mirror finish to the hagane is not so bright compared to synthetic stones.

Iwasaki san answered it is the difference of the abrasives and the binders. The synthetic stone have uniform size abrasives and these abrasives do not change size during honing. The abrasives do not move so often from the matrix too. Then he draw lines with his finger in the air and said that the resulting scratches on the blade are uniform, deep and long.

The natural stone abrasives are softer and break during honing. Also the clay which is the binder for naturals will scratch jigane. The scratches to the hagane are interrupted and short because part of the abrasives move from the matrix more easily. The scratches are also more shallow. Iwasaki san said you can see the difference at the blade surface when you magnify it with microscope. Magnification of 400x or 500x would be enough.
The short scratches reflect light different (it will scatter more  than just straight long lines) so the steel look better and more hazy at the same grit.
I made a drawing what Iwasaki san told me and draw with his finger in air:
Iwasaki san continued that if the scratches comes to the edge the synthetic stone will make more serrated edge than the natural stone edge at same grit.

I thanked Iwasaki san about the precisely explanation and asked if I can make pictures of the naturals he has.
The answer was we do not have finishing stones in this workshop. There is too much dust here.
Iwasaki workshop picture
Yes there was dust there. Mizuochi san said he has the finishing stone at home where he make the final finish to the Iwasaki razors. He assured me that I can make pictures next time at his home.
He added how he makes final finish to the razors and what is important.
You must have clean air without dust. Some years ago a new home was build at his neighborhood. It was a sunny day in March and he had his windows open. The carpenters who build the new house where cutting hard boards outside. On that day he could no make the finish on the razors. The dust contamination from the new house made it impossible.
He also said it is not only for finish the razor.
If he comes home after work in the workshop (especially when he has done the coarse sharpening with coarse stones) his face is contaminated with hard and coarse particles. He must wash his face very carefully with soap if he want to shave. Otherwise he does get very small chips at the razor edge and cannot get a clean shave.

I asked Iwasaki san and Mizuochi san about how to prepare the finishing stones and what is most important. I asked if they flatten it with Atoma because I read it on the internet in English but never read about it in Japanese language (that Iwasaki uses Atoma).
The answer was they do not use any diamond stones. They said they use the 3 stone method to flatten and smooth the stone surface. They have more than 3 similar finishing stones so that is their method.
(3 stone method is to flatten with 3 stones like at the picture below. If you use only 2 stones you may have 1 stone convex and 1 stone concave but with 3 stones you get 3 flat or 3 slightly convex stones) 
3 Stone Method

I said thank you very much but not everybody has 3 similar finishing stones.
Is there any suggestion how customers of razor can do with minimal equipment?

to be continued....


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Good Morning Masaru-san.

    Thank you for this wonderful post! It is a real pleasure to see Iwasaki-san healthy and happy. I really look forward to meeting him soon.

  3. Thanks Jim for comment. I was very lucky that Iwasaki-san was so healthy.
    I hope you too have a nice meeting with him and MIzuochi san.

  4. I came to this website thru a link on SRP. Found your blog very informative thank you =]