Should I Shave Or Should I Go Now?
Last weekend, I went to one of the local tool auctions (the only tool auction?) in my area that takes place like three times a year. I was in the market for a cast iron file handle and didn’t feel like paying the $29 or $39 eBay price. I knew they had one listed for this auction and figured I’d be able to get it for less.
When my item finally came up, I was dismayed to see the previous item received no bids, so it got tossed into the lot I was bidding on. Blergh. I hate buying junk I don’t want. But what can you do? So when I picked up my cast iron file handle (for $7.50 – suck it, eBay!), it came with a beat up sharpening stone.
Those old stones at auctions are usually oil stones so old and dished they hold water. Not that you’d want to even pick them up, they’re so grimy and disgusting, much less drink from them. Hence, I received my flat of items (there was also an old Millers Falls marking gauge/depth gauge and a tiny little Millers Falls ratcheting flat screw driver in the group) with some disdain.
After the auctioneer got to a point where I wasn’t watching for any of the next hundred or so items, I glanced down at the grungy stone and raised an eye brow. Oh! It was a water stone. And it had a label on it!
Later that evening, I cleaned up the water stone with my 220 DMT. It made some nice slurry and I had to pry the flattening stone off of it more than once. It made me think it was a higher grit finishing stone. So I got on-line and started researching the label, which simply read “Light Green”.
After about 15 minutes of research (which included some time on a forum for people who shave with straight razors, called straightrazorblade.com), I was pretty sure of what I had. Turns out that grungy water stone I’d never given a second look was a Light Green Escher hone, estimated at about 12,000 grit, and used as a finishing hone primarily by barbers and men who shave with straight razors. Oh, that’s cool.
Apparently, this wonderful stone is the crème-de-la-crème of straight razor hones. Not only that, but they are highly sought after because the quarry they came out of in Germany can no longer mine them due to nature preservation laws. And a nice-sized stone, in good condition and with labels, can go for more than $300.
Wait, what? That piece of junk stone I paid $1.875 (when you divide $7.50 by the four items in the box) for is worth over $300?!?!
Too nice, apparently, for use in woodworking. An inquiry on the straightrazorblade.com forum was responded to by several guys who said it would be a crime to use the stone for anything but straight razor honing. They suggested I sell it (I’m sure to one of them… at a discounted price because I got it for such a good buy) and use the money to buy some nice woodworking tools.
A part of me says, “Screw them, I’ve got myself a new finishing stone for my smoothing planes.”
Another part of me says, “Screw THAT, I’ve got myself a tidy little profit of $300 or more if I sell it!” (Oh, Wayne Anderson, your plane just got a little closer to reality!)
And, then, a very little part of me says, “I wonder how hard it is to learn how to shave with a straight razor…”