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Review Naniwa Economical Stones

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by Beansandcarrots, Jun 15, 2017.

  1. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 15, 2014
    Okay guys, I want to share my experience with the Naniwa Economical stones. I took pictures, but they provided nothing useful to the reader.

    Short answers:

    Are they good?

    - Yes, their quality is high.

    Would I recommend the set?

    - What I would recommend is a 6” DMT coarse and the 1K and 3K Economicals—this would be an incredible pocket/small knife sharpening set for any steel, PM’s included. However, I do not recommend the Economical 120.

    What is this set good at?

    - This set is for the person who wants to get into a real waterstone experience for as cheap as possible. This set will allow you to make your mind up about whether or not you like sharpening with waterstones better than the classic King 1K/6K combo stone; that being said, the learning curve is a little higher because the Naniwa Economical 120 requires the user to work with mud.

    What does this set offer the user?

    - This is meant to be the cheapest possible entry into a “complete” waterstone lineup, without being low quality. Coming from a large company like Naniwa, you will be able to experience actual quality for much cheaper, because the company can support it. This set is designed to suck new users down the rabbit hole of sharpening stones. All 3 stones and a universal stone holder can be had for as low as 50USD

    The 120 – This stone wears fast. You are able to build an awesome mud quickly, and it should definitely be utilized. This means you can use the stone effectively for single and wide bevel knives (largely relating to those who use Japanese chef knives, but then again, if you are using those types of knives, you probably have a larger budget than 50USD for stones). If you do not utilize the mud for standard narrow bevel knives like those on our beloved pocket knives, you will burn up the stone fast enough for me to not recommend the stone, especially if you hit it with a powdered steel. The mud will also scratch the shit out of your bevel, making it ugly. My Shun utility knife looks hideous. It’s sharp. But hideous. I will never use a muddy low grit stone again. Shapton Glass 220, or bust.

    Conclusion: This stone fills a perfectly wrong niche. Although the general quality of the stone is great, it is a small-sized stone that would be most effective on larger knives, i.e. cooking knives, which is an antithetical proposition. It handled my 6” Shun fine enough, but I’d consider that a maximum for comfortable sharpening. Ultimately, however, the stone is cheap and it will get the job done.

    On the whole, I do not recommend this stone, unless you just want to keep your one or two soft carbon steel knives sharp and do not care about the aesthetics of the blade. If it was just me and my ESEE 3, I this would be the only stone set I would buy.

    The 1K – This stone is pretty hard. It does build some mud, and does not load up. It is softer than a Shapton Glass stone, and the mud you build will help to polish your bevel. It is considerably harder than the King 1K. It cuts faster than the King, and has a visibly higher polish. I enjoy the Naniwa Economical 1000, and if you have used and like the King 1K, I think you will likely consider this stone simply a better version of it.

    The 3K – This is the first step, in my opinion, into what people consider “the polished edge.” I consider the 1K to 2K edge to be in a kind of transition realm—not that I think a 2K edge is incomplete, or anything. I regularly run a 2K edge on my EDC’s. But the 3000 is with out a doubt, a polished edge. The Naniwa Econ. 3K will produce a shiny, clean edge, though not a complete mirror. It will be a shiny haze, if you will. This stone is also hard, and does not build up a mud so much as just black swarf. There is minor minor surface loading, but it does not impinge cutting speed.

    The final result is an attractive edge that will easily shave hair, especially after a loaded strop. I use a simple strop (I am by no means a strop enthusiast) of leather loaded with some green CrOx. This edge should permit one fantastic cutting performance in everything but shaving their face.

    If you want to grant yourself a “true” waterstone experience for as little dollar risk as possible, this set can be had for 50USD including a universal stone holder. If you have a small collection of, say, one to three knives of softer steels, this set will provide you with a complete and satisfying sharpening solution, as opposed to the likely competition: the King 1K/6K combo, which offers higher finishing grit (though, I think the grain control is considerably higher in the Naniwa 3K as it provides a far more uniform scratch pattern), but offers no means for reprofiling. I consider that a yawning gap, as if one is new to sharpening, it is likely their edges are in the most dire need of some heavy coarse stone work.

    If you do not enjoy your experience with these stones, you can be certain you will not like sharpening on any better waterstones either and can feel assured that your sharpening solution is elsewhere, thus the set accomplishes exactly what it has set out to do.

    That being said, I think an amazing full-range sharpening solution would be a 6” DMT coarse, and the 1k/3k combo Economical stone—I believe this would provide an excellent pocket knife sharpening setup, and I would not be afraid to tackle powdered steels with it because the diamonds would handle the brutal work, and the combo stone would have little issue cleaning up the edge. This revised intro set would be a little more expensive at approximately 60USD, but I think the value earned by replacing the coarse stone is well worth the bump in cost--not only would it provide the user with a better low grit stone, it would also offer a means to flatten the other two stones.
    Mr.SATism likes this.
  2. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade Knives, Big Brown Bear

    Mar 22, 2014
    Thanks for sharing.

    Let's get some pictures
    Mr.SATism likes this.
  3. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 15, 2014
    Okay, I've decided to upload my photos, for what they are worth. Also, testing. I cannot seem to upload a pic, so I am going third party. This may fail.

    Again, these pictures are kind of garbage. Perhaps I will work through the stone on a knife with a fatter bevel just to give you guys a better look. That, I can do later today.

    This is the edge off the 120:

    This is the mud from the 1K:

    This is the edge from the 1K:

    This is the mud from the 3K. However, there is more swarf than this; I took this after only doing the one side.

    And finally the edge from the 3K, but again, the pictures are of low quality... I'll work on capturing better photographs for the future.
    In tandem, you can see that the 3K finishes to a shiny haze.
    Mr.SATism and DeadboxHero like this.
  4. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    Nice review!

    The 120 is not really designed as a stone to be used with most 50/50 beveled knives. They excel at traditional single bevels like the yanagi, usuba and deba where the heavy mud production actually aids in the removal of large amounts of steel. On other knives with typical grinds and bevels you will find as you have that lots of scratching occurs. I completely agree with the conclusion though, the hard Shapton stones do the best at setting clean crisp bevels. Second only to Diamond plates IMO.

    As for them working with PM steels, I think that's stretching it a bit. Sure the diamond plate handles the grunt work but with PM steels the real issue always comes up when using finer grits. Given that these stones are aluminum oxide that means steels with Vanadium will be too tough for them to sharpen.
    Mr.SATism and FortyTwoBlades like this.
  5. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 15, 2014
    Thanks man! Perhaps what I will do is sharpen one of my knives in a PM steel--likely Benchmade S30V, so not the toppest of the top of PM steels, but a stout bastard nonetheless--and see if I can take some better pictures of the results. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were. The reprofiling, however, will be handled with an Atoma 140, to be clear. Then we will see what, if anything, the 1K and 3K can do.
    Mr.SATism likes this.


    Feb 21, 2014
    What is PM steel?
  7. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    Particle metallurgy steel.
  8. Gradyw


    Jan 23, 2017
    Aka "super steel"
  9. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 15, 2014
    Revisiting the Naniwa Economical stones with a powdered steel.

    The test: after reprofiling a powdered steel blade with an Atoma 140 (brand new, no less—this was the first blade that the Atoma had ever seen) I would jump straight to the 1K Economical and see what happened. Why? Because I am the hero you deserve… or deeply entrenched self loathing? Let’s go with for the sake of our wallets and the joy of waterstones.

    For this test, I chose my Quartermaster Mr. Roper Eviction because it has a laughably massive edge bevel at 30 degrees inclusive, which provided me with much better photographs (still not great though). The steel it utilizes is S35VN at 59-60 HRC. This steel is representative of a typical powdered steel, and is not representative of the absolute top end of wear-resistant beast steels. However, my bevel was also about twice the size of most edge bevels, which should be factored in to sharpening duration and difficulty.

    Can the Economical stones handle powdered steels?

    - Yes, with patience. The HUGE caveat here is that the patience is only required for the 140 Atoma to 1K jump. That’s massive and you shouldn’t do that. I did it in order to give the Economical stones an extreme test—a worst case scenario. They performed admirably. Ideally, you would use the DMT Coarse at 320 mesh, or add another stone in between the 140 and the 1K, like the Beston 500.

    Did the stones see excessive wear during the process?

    - No, but I did lap the 1K afterwards as it was dished. Now, it was not visibly dished; I could not tell with my naked eyes. But drawing a cross hatch pattern and lapping the thing did show that dishing had occurred. For the amount of work I put the stone through, I was impressed with how little it dished, especially considering the price.

    Duration of the entire process?

    - The entire process from reprofiling to stropping took an hour and a half. Included in this timeframe are numerous reversions from the 3K back to the 1K in order to play with the scratch pattern through various strokes. I also took the coating off my secondary bevel (no one agrees on what the primary and secondary bevels are, so I simply use “edge bevel” and “secondary bevel”) which was an unnecessary addition to the time spent.

    - So, I’d probably say the true sharpening took an hour.

    Duration of sharpening the newly profiled edge?

    - Nothing out of the ordinary. If you don’t let your blade drop to a dullness below that which a 1K stone could handle quickly (which I don’t think you ever should), then a standard resharpening would take minutes.

    - This typical powdered steel at a typical hardness poses nothing too difficult for these stones. Bear in mind that there are harder steels out there. I can imagine jumping from the 140 to the 1K would be brutal on M4 at 64 HRC. On the whole, such a jump is horribly inefficient. I would never do that normally, not even for soft carbon steel. There would be a 320-500 grit stone in between there.

    My perspective:

    - I am a diehard waterstones guy. I really don’t like diamonds and avoid them—except coarse diamond stones for gross metal removal. I love diamonds for the initial reprofiling. I also don’t have anything harder than M390 at 62 HRC to sharpen. I greatly enjoy sharpening and am therefore not too obsessed with getting the most wear-resistant steel ever created. Given that hard steels (up to even 67 HRC) are used in Japanese cutlery, and the intended sharpening tools for those utensils are indeed Japanese waterstones, I have very little concern when sharpening harder steels with them. Granted, I would take on those hard steels with Naniwa Pro stones and not the Economical lineup.

    Let’s get to the photos!

    This is the edge after the fresh Atoma 140. Actually looks quite pleasing to me. I feel like I could saw down a tree with that edge.

    Here is the edge after the 1K. This took about 30 minutes to achieve.

    Here is the mud generated by the 1K. It is almost nothing but swarf. Pressing harder (not excessively hard though) would build a little mud, but I opted for less pressure and more patience. I also only soaked the stone for 5 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes for when I sharpened my Shun which seems to have influenced mud generation. The stone felt harder after a shorter soak.

    Here is the hazy mirror after the 3K. The stone performed the same as the 1K, building that same black swarf. The 3K doesn’t generate mud at all.

    And this is the edge after stropping on 1 micron CBN. The lighting implies a mirror finish which is not true. It looks like a way cleaner mirror in the photo than it truly is.

    So my conclusion remains the same. DMT Coarse with the 1K and the 3K Economical would tackle powdered steel just fine. I do think a slight caveat remains with extreme steels. I don’t have ZDP at 65 HRC or anything like that to test, so I could be wrong, but I still don’t buy the idea that waterstones don’t work on high end steels. The need for a tighter grit progression may imply a declining functional capacity on harder steels, but I think that is incorrect. A tighter progression merely reduces time spent per stone; and as we saw, a leap from a fresh Atoma 140 straight to a 1K is possible, and does remove all the scratches, I just had to spend 30 minutes on the stone. If I had a 500, the time required would be a fraction of that.

    That being said, I do concede that diamonds are the fastest possible stones. I don't think anyone can really deny that. There is also more stuff going on with waterstones, if you will (mud use, dishing, feedback, stone lapping, surface gouging, etc) which provides a far different sharpening experience. If you simply do not care for sharpening and want a new edge on your M4 blade as fast as possible, I think you’ll want to grab some DMT’s or Atoma’s and be done with it.

    So in the end, are these a solid budget purchase? I think the undeniable answer is yes. They punch way above their weight. Their limitations are size and grit range, and the 120 Economical doesn't really fit in with the other two stones. Otherwise, if one has means to set a bevel (like a 20$ Norton Crystolon, or a DMT6C) then the 1K and 3K Economical stones will serve their purpose with aplomb. Their strengths are price, quality-to-price ratio, and feedback or sharpening experience. These stones will be enjoyable to maintain your small to medium-sized knives on.
    Mr.SATism and willc like this.
  10. Jason B.

    Jason B. KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Jun 13, 2007
    Interesting, I will have to try this 3k... looks promising.

    FYI, the primary bevel is the bevel leading up to the edge (main blade grind) and the secondary bevel is the sharpened edge.
    Mr.SATism likes this.
  11. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Apr 15, 2014
    I mean, for 20 bucks for the non-combo version, I definitely think it's worth checking out. Let me know what your thoughts are, especially with your expansive experience with other stones, and sharpening experience; your opinion would be extremely useful, Jason. And thanks for clearing up the edge terminology. A google search gave me nothing but conflicting results. But yeah, I am enjoying the stones for sure. I'm a little upset I have the combo version as I really don't care for combination stones
    Mr.SATism likes this.
  12. willc

    willc Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 13, 2013
    Nice write up.
    These Naniwa Economy's look like a good deal.

    I have an assortment of Kings, Chosera, Super Stones, and Shapton Pro and can get nice edges on CPM steel.
    Now I prefer to just refine and follow the existing bevel on these type steels with water stones.

    Thinning or reprofiling I go with diamonds or belts.

    I may try out the 1 and 3k economy stones as I don't have any 3k stones and you can never have too many 1K stones.
  13. DaveDM


    Dec 21, 2017
    Interesting, Since Naniwa uses SiC for chosera/professional line (Not True, uses WA), I thought these may be SiC too. I guess traditional here means Aluminium oxide although SiC may also not be hard enough for Vanadium Carbide based on Knoop scale hardness.

    Thanks Jason for the info, I do have a combo 1k/3k of these but have done limited sharpening on these as I am just starting to learn free hand.
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2018
  14. wade7575


    Apr 3, 2013
    @DaveDM where did you read the chosera's are Sic.

  15. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade Knives, Big Brown Bear

    Mar 22, 2014
    Interesting, Is there a source for the information about the Naniwa professionals being SiC?
    They call them ceramic stones which usually means a higher purity alumina or fused alumina abrasive. the bond is magnesia so the ceramic doesn't apply to the bond.
    PeterS84 likes this.
  16. DaveDM


    Dec 21, 2017
    OK Guys, I seem to have remembered it incorrectly, I have therefore edited my post to reflect the same.

    (Actually I managed to remeber (incorrecly) the following during my reading/youtube videos when I was searching for sharpening stones last year (I am just a noob wrt sharpening stones.)
    • Naniwa Chosera, shapton pro and Sigma power select II uses SiC abrasives
    • Other naniwa stones including shapton glass, Suehiro Cerax/ Rika are using WA (white alundum))
    It seems my memory betrayed me. Only some of the Sigma Power Select II stones seems to be using SiC (link: https://goo.gl/aRoiWS from Stuart of TFJ)
    Naniwa professional/Chosera is definately WA as can be seen on pictures on CKTG and other websites. (Only the traditional 220 uses Green SiC).

    My apologies for all the confusion.

    Shawn, Of Course you must already know it but ceramic in the broad term does include SiC however it is mostly not used with waterstones I guess.
    DeadboxHero likes this.
  17. DeadboxHero

    DeadboxHero Triple B Handmade Knives, Big Brown Bear

    Mar 22, 2014
    Thanks Dave, Yea Ceramic is a broad term inorganic, non Metallic. They're all technically ceramics but if I go to buy belts for grinding blades it means something specific, a special type of alumina. Stones too it seems.

    Thanks again Dave for clearing up the confusion.

    Yeah there aren't alot of SiC stones with vitrified, magnesia, or resin bonds.
    That abrasives biggest strength is its biggest weakness it's so friable it wears away fast but cuts fast and cuts hard vanadium steel better them alumina. I just don't enjoy stones that use it though. They dish out fast and make alot of mud from the grains smashing to bits and they dont finish as nice as the alumina.

    I haven't tried the Power Select 2 but word is they wear fast, makes sense given how SiC abrasive works.

    I have some Naniwa traditional 220 stones with the green SiC. I use it for dressing hard resin bonded stones. I don't enjoy Sharpening with it. It breaks down fast and gets mushy mud that has to be wiped off. Reminds me of pumice.

    My friend has a cool stone, the King "NEO" for stainless steel it's only on the japanese market. It's uses a Higher grit green SiC to have better cutting power for chromium carbides. Kinda of a neat stone.
    Blues likes this.
  18. DaveDM


    Dec 21, 2017

    Thanks for info on traditional 220. King Neo 800 grit looks cool may be one day I would give it a spin.
    Interestingly, Suehiro actually makes a pair of 8k stones with two different abrasives. G8 with green SiC and W8 with white alundum that would be interesting comparison to make at 8k finish level. I believe wade has g8 but not w8.

    Anyway, Apologies to OP for derailing the thread.

    On Topic, from my limited experience the Naniwa Economical 1k is definitely harder than king 1k and less muddy. I prefer to use these as splash and go although these seem to need slightly more water than Naniwa professional (as seen in videos. Do not own them yet) and OP's experience is also similar i.e. less mud at lower soak times. I don't know why sharpening supply advises soaking these. I would also like to caution against soaking longer / premasoak as one guy on youtube had 1k side of 1k/3k combo crack due to storage in water.
    Mr.SATism likes this.

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