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Bart Torfs (Bart)
Associate
From: Belgium
Posts: 4854

Cretan (oil)stone


Many moons ago, my Greek pal Emmanuel sent me an e-mail. If I was prepared to accept a hone he would like me to try?
Upon arrival, the package contained a thick squared chunk of rock, of neutral gray color, about 40mm squared and 120mm long. Two of the sides appear uniform, the other two carry strains of inclusion of some sorts. Quartzite by my benighted estimation.

History?


The title carries a question mark, for little information I have about this Cretan rock. The small history is that Emmanuel's father used his with oil and got it out when in need of rapid steel removal, finishing the job with his Coticule afterwards.
But there is a greater history as well. According to Emmanuel, this rock is the most likely candidate for being the fabled yet obscure Turkish Oilstone. Crete was part of the Ottoman Empire, before the victors of WW1 redrew the map of Europe with the Treaty of Versailles. That knowledge indeed qualifies a Cretan whetstone as "Turkish". My friend also claims that no other whetstones were delved in the entire Ottoman Empire. Which, by elimination, only leaves the Cretan as a viable candidate. Sounds appealing, but I have to admit not being fully convinced. The Ottoman Empire was vast territory; it would be surprising if there was only one finding spot of whetstone-worthy rock.
But there is more to the mystery of "Turkish Oilstone". Obviously, it is an English term. It may come as a surprise to some, but countries exist where English is not spoken. It is very unlikely that the Ottomans (or is that Ottomen?) called their whetstone "Turkish Oilstone", nor a direct Turkish translation of those words. In Belgium, obviously, no one orders "Belgian Waffles". We just call them "Waffles". Neither do we eat "Brussels Sprouts", we call it "spruitjes" ("sprouties") in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. What I hope to illustrate here, is that if you search for Turkish Oilstone in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece or Turkey, you are unlikely to find what you're looking for. And literal translation into the native languages of those countries is not going to be of much help.

If we must travel back in time to look for Turkish Oilstone on French speaking markets, our most plausible search term would be "Pierre de (du) Levant" ("stone of the Levant = East"). And it's here that our story takes an interesting, albeit confusing, twist. We know for fact that these hones of the Levant were not all imported from the East. At least 2 sources are known, one in Belgium and one in France, where locally extracted rock was commercialized as "Pierre (du) Levant". Probably their abrasive properties resembled those of an original whetstone that really came from the East, and because said stone must have held reputation for quality. One is not going to bake "Belgian Waffles" in New York, had the original been so repugnant that even a dog on a diet would refuse to eat it.

What we don't know however, is if how the French and Belgian "Turkish Oilstones" compare to the original. Nor do we know if the original survived the competition. Cordoba is a city in Spain. Cordovan leather originates from Cordoba. Horween is a company in the United States. They are said to produce the finest Cordovan leather in the world. Spain is not a part of the United States.
Does the above answer the question whether we're dealing here with the original Turkish Oilstone? No, it doesn't, but it sure puts the question in an interesting perspective.
Last time I was at Ardennes Coticule, my eye fell on 2 odd specimens lying on a shelve. They looked and felt a lot like Emmanuel's Cretan rock. Maurice, the owner of Ardennes, told me that this type of whetstones, albeit clearly not Coticules, once were part of the company catalog. Charles Gaspard, author of "L'Industrie de la pierre à rasoir dans la région de Sart-Lierneux", lists three products: Coticules, "Pierres Lorêne" (now known as Belgian Blue Whetstone) and Pierres Levant (freely translated: "a gray stone sold in all the standard sizes (...) and in customized shapes for (the sharpening of) pruning knifes"). Turkish Oilstone? Who knows? It only illustrates that Turkish Oilstones might have started originating at some point in history from geographical sources that were not located on Turkish territory at all. But even so, there must have been an Eastern original of high enough reputation to explain the veneering of Belgian and French whetstones with the term "Levant". That Eastern original was without little doubt the venerable Turkish oilstone.

A bit of Online information digging yields the following: "Turkey Oil stone: This stone which comes from Iconium in Asia Minor and is used as a whetstone was lately analyzed by Mr Holme from a given to Dr Clarke by Mr Knight of Foster lane Its were as follows: Silica in very fine powder:72 %, Lime: 13%, (etc..)"
Iconium is an ancient city located in Asia Minor. nowadays known as Konya, Turkey. In ancient days it found itself at various times in Phrygia, Lycaonia, Cappadocia, and the Roman province of Galatia. On today's map it's located more or less in the middle of Turkey, far away from Crete.
Still other sources refer to even more Turkish finding spots. There is an old thread of some interest on our very own Coticule.be: http://www.coticule.be/the-cafeteria/message/13028.html
In conclusion, and considering all the above, the possible identification of the Cretan hone as the canonical source of "Turkish Oilstones" must be treated as "not entirely impossible, yet unlikely".

Mineralogy.


The Cretan rock appears to be some kind of Novaculite. Novaculite is a sedimentary rock, formed during the Devonian era, composed mostly of microcrystalline quartz and is basically a recrystallized variety of chert. The various incarnations of Quartz is a complex matter. In a simplified nutshell, we can say that quartz occurs in macrocrystaline, microcrystaline and cryptocrystaline forms. Macrocrystaline grains are too coarse for sharpening purposes and therefore detrimental to the edge. Quartz inclusions of this kind are to be avoided.
Cryptocrystaline quartz forms a fibrous structure without any significant grains. The finest translucent Arkansas Novaculites are a well known example. They are as extremely fine-cutting as they are slow.
Microcrystaline quartz forms a fine granular structure. Fast-cutting oilstones generally are a mixture of microcrystaline and cryptocrystaline quarts. The former accounts for grains and the latter for randomly oriented fibers. Both add to the abrasive properties, though in distinct ways. Hardness approximates 7 Mohs, which is sufficient for sharpening hardened steel. The size of the grains and fibers defines he coarseness/fineness of an oilstone, and plays a key role in the abrasive potential (read: speed).

Abrasive Assessment of the Cretan hone.


A disclaimer is in order. My assessment of this rock is highly influenced by two peculiar facts: I used the stone solely to sharpen razors. And: I rely almost exclusively on a Coticule for that task. Both have huge repercussions on my expectations and aspirations for a hone as the Cretan whetstone. It restricts me to certain habits that have grown over the years. I've experimented with the Cretan whetstone and found ways to incorporate it in my routines. I do not claim that I have explored all possibilities, nor that I am using the stone to its full potential.
Still, the Cretan hone has managed to revert my DMT-600 to a sorry unused state. The DMT-600 is a manmade diamond hone I employed to hone out edge defects or when heavy bevel work would take too long on the Coticule. I now use the Cretan hone for those tasks, much to my liking.

Oil.
I only tried oil briefly, with the main goal to determine if it offered any advantages over the use of water. I use oil for sharpening woodworking tools. In an environment where I wear clothes that are already covered with glue and oil stains, I like to avoid the presence of water in a room that's filled with cast iron machine tables and other precious tools that eagerly attract rust. Oil is my friend in the woodshop.
But seated at my kitchen table, usually wearing "office" clothes, is how I do all my razor sharpening. The only rust-prone artifact is the razor, which is going to be meticulously dried anyway. I definitely prefer water-based slurry for this purpose. It allows for easy dilution and rinsing under a running tap, which is as insignificant for tool sharpening as it is key to my razor sharpening ways.
I found no advantage in the use of oil on top of the Cretan stone. I tried oil-based slurry and I tried oil-based finishing on an otherwise clean stone. The former was not faster and the latter was not sharper. That was all I needed to know. Immediately after the oil experiments, I wiped the stone with a paper towel, applied a few drops of industrial detergent and gave it a good rubbing with a BBW slurry stone. That treatment successfully removed whatever oil had started to penetrate into the stone. It is a porous stone, but only very slightly.

Water.
Porous enough to experience a bit of increased slurry dehydration in comparison with Coticules, that don't seem to suck up any water at all. That makes dealing with water-based slurry on the Cretan hone a tad more tricky. One can always soak the stone a couple of minutes prior to use, but I never bothered with it and just added a drop of water whenever I felt the urge to do so.

Slurry.
The hone came without a dedicated slurry stone. Which led to a small discovery. Unlike a Coticule, that doesn't care whether you create the slurry with a coarse or fine diamond hone (or sand paper), or with a slurry stone, the Cretan hone makes a big deal out of this. Create the slurry with a coarse rubber and the Cretan hone will respond with a coarser and considerably faster action than when rubbed with a fine textured medium.

The explanation is twofold:
1. the overall hardness of the Cretan hone, very much unlike a Coticule, is sufficient to allow for the embossing of an abrasive surface pattern. When treated with a coarse grade sandpaper, the surface acts coarse. When treated with a fine grade sandpaper, the surface acts finer as well. Evidently, there are limits to this behavior: below 150 grit sandpaper, it didn't seem to offer any additional speed gain. In the upper range, I don't know the limit. Polishing with a Coticule or BBW slurry stone does not turn the Cretan hone into a Coticule or BBW. Perhaps polishing it on a buffing wheel could turn it into a finer finisher, but I didn't get around trying that in practice. All testing for this kind of surface performance was done with only water on top.

2. the size of the released grains. Again, unlike a Coticule which is confined to the size of the garnets it contains, it appears possible to create slurries with varying granulometry on the Cretan hone. One of its most charming attributes is that you can start with a coarse slurry and allow that slurry to further fall apart and polish the surface, as you go along. At the end, it delivers a razor edge that can be used as is or readily finished on whatever hone or paste you'd prefer.
This break-down procedure is more akin to the use of Japanese Natural stones than to the dilution based strategy for Coticules. Too much dilution too early in the process deters the grains from reducing each other. One has too keep a certain friction going, in order to promote the gradual disintegration of grains. At the same time, the dreaded slurry dulling needs to be temporarily taken for granted. The edge initially won't gain much keenness, but the slurry will refine itself. At a given point, the keenness will start to pick up, which is the signal to dilute the slurry with a good splash of water and take the edge to the limits of the hone.

Pressure and burr formation.
The Cretan hone allows the same pressure as almost all natural hones, from "erasing pencil" levels to "lighter than the weight of the razor" pressure.
Its tendency to create burrs is low, albeit higher than a Coticule. I would not extend the stroke-count-before-flipping higher than 25 strokes, if you want to avoid any significant burr-formation. If you allow a burr to form first - as often done in knife sharpening practice - and then flip the blade to remove the burr form the other side, once the burr folds underneath the edge and tears off, the keenness will drop to a level acceptable for a knife, but not for a razor.

Use in conjunction with a Coticule.
There is serious overlap between both hones. My specimen of the Cretan hone will outperform the fastest Coticules speed-wise, but not by far. However, compared to the average Coticule, the difference is definitely enough to recommend the Cretan hone as a very nice companion of a Coticule, or ad extentio, of any natural finishing hone. It is certainly a worthy and more appealing alternative (if you like stuff provided by nature) than a synthetic hone in the 1K region.
Mine gets used mostly in its coarse mode: rapid steel removal working with halfstrokes on a "crude" slurry, that I refresh with a few sandpaper swipes whenever the slurry starts breaking down before I want it. And onto the Coticule as soon as the bulk of the steel is gone. It poses little trouble for the Cretan rock, nor to the Coticule who needs to take over.
However, one can also opt to take the Cretan hone to its limits and shave right off it (so I did), or suffice with a brief finishing on water with a Coticule. Of course this kind of use puts more demand upon the Cretan hone, and indubitably also upon the skill of the user to reach this hone's peak.

Picture


I am borrowing the picture Laurent' posted in another thread, of the 2 specimens he owns. Mine looks the identical. I believe the number on the side is the weight of the stone. If memory serves, Emmanuel said they are sold by weight.


Kind regards,
Bart.
Then the light shone, trumpets sounded and I got to the other side, where men shave with smiles on their faces, razors pop hairs, and a continuous choir singing «~~Keen and Smooth~~» is heard everywhere. (Matt)
2011-06-22 21:33
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clovis
Posts: 50
Wow! I'm impressed, inspired and humbled by the depth of knowledge and research displayed in this contribution. Evidently you are a gentleman and a scholar!
2011-06-22 22:01
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chti_lolo
Posts: 375
Bart

I have to disagree:P brussel sprouts is that http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Choux_de_Bruxelles.jpg
and whitle leaves that http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endive. White leaves are called Endives in France and chicons in the North of France where they were first produced (in France).

I have made the same observation but it was just a feeling to me. With 240 grits sand paper the slurry seems coarser than by rubbing a cretan hone on the other but I couldn't say if it was caused by slurry density or by the size of the particles.
The cretan stone is harder than my coticules but it is also brittle and crushing a small piece of stone provide a lot of slurry (I found that while rubbing one cretan on the other and a small pieces separated from an edge).


Best Regards

Laurent



BTW the stones are mine but the pictures is from Emmanuel
2011-06-22 23:41
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Bart Torfs (Bart)
Associate
From: Belgium
Posts: 4854
iconchti_lolo:
Bart

I have to disagree:P brussel sprouts is that http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Choux_de_Bruxelles.jpg


You are correct of course. My French is not what it used to be. :rolleyes: But regardless my mistake, the point remains the same. What the English speaking call "Brussel's Sprouts" call just plain "sprouts" in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium. As it remains likely that the Ottomans called their whetstone just plain "whetstone", without a country designation.

I will correct my error in the original post.

Thank you for noticing,
Bart.
Then the light shone, trumpets sounded and I got to the other side, where men shave with smiles on their faces, razors pop hairs, and a continuous choir singing «~~Keen and Smooth~~» is heard everywhere. (Matt)
2011-06-22 23:51
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Dr Ralfson Bwhahaha (tat2Ralfy)
Associate
Posts: 3606
Incredible stuff and stellar research my friend :thumbup:

Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
We Are All Pioneers In Our Own Right.
The Infamous Coticule Crew
Pip Pip Old Bean
2011-06-23 15:40
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geruchtemoaker
Associate
From: Belgium
Posts: 692
icontat2Ralfy:
Incredible stuff and stellar research my friend :thumbup:

Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
I was asking myself the same question
The Bible and several other self help or enlightenment books cite the Seven Deadly Sins. They are: pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that we do, that is sinful... or fun for that matter. - Dave Mustaine
http://www.artisanshaving.org
2011-06-23 15:48
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BlueDun
Insider
From: Switzerland
Posts: 333
Great post Bart. Incredible density of information - and well presented too, I might add :thumbup: If there was scientific journal on honing I would vote for paper of the year.


iconBart:
Spain is not a part of the United States

One of the most valuable bits of information ... I once met a lady who asked me if we had TV in Switzerland ... RONFL
2011-06-23 17:42
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vgeorge
+1
Posts: 273
Thank you, Bart, for a wonderful, highly readable, informative, interesting, and useful description of the Cretan Hone.

icongeruchtemoaker:
icontat2Ralfy:
Incredible stuff and stellar research my friend :thumbup:

Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
I was asking myself the same question


Yes, same question from me too - especially, if there are any US outlets? Group buy, Emmanuel?
George
------
Proud owner of Franz Kline Coticule from Ardennes via Bart
Hoping for Edge, Working on Bevel. © 2010
2011-06-23 17:47
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chti_lolo
Posts: 375
A pic of the back-side

The density of the stone is about 2.75


I have done some more french google search and found some documents. In the beginning of the 19th century there seem to be a distinction between pierre du Levant, pierre de Lorraine and pierre d'Amérique (Arkansas stone?). The later arrived in France in the first part of the 19th. La pierre du Levant was carried to Marseilles from the east. According to a source, this stone came from Candie (Heraklion) and was put in olive oil for 4 or 5 monthes to harden it.

icontat2Ralfy:
Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?
for sure in Greece and maybe also in Turkey.

Best Regards

Laurent
2011-06-23 18:57
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Bart Torfs (Bart)
Associate
From: Belgium
Posts: 4854
icongeruchtemoaker:
icontat2Ralfy:
Incredible stuff and stellar research my friend :thumbup:

Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
I was asking myself the same question


Now, where is that Emmanuel when we need him???!!? :D :D

iconchti_lolo:
A pic of the back-side
La pierre du Levant was carried to Marseilles from the east. According to a source, this stone came from Candie (Heraklion) and was put in olive oil for 4 or 5 monthes to harden it.


Thank you for the picture of the backside, Laurent. Mine was lapped on all sides, I had not yet seen one in all its nakedness.;)

I think it's fair to say that at a certain point in history Pierre du Levant and "Turkish" stone probably have started referring more to a type of stone than to the geographic location it originally came from.

I believe Ardennes would be far better off for their "cotcarb" line of products if they started production of BBW/Cretan combos and sold that for the same purpose (and loose the name: there already was not "cot" present, and with the "carb" gone, a new name would be in order). But that is off course just my personal opinion.

Kind regards,
Bart.
Then the light shone, trumpets sounded and I got to the other side, where men shave with smiles on their faces, razors pop hairs, and a continuous choir singing «~~Keen and Smooth~~» is heard everywhere. (Matt)
2011-06-23 19:40
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Emmanuel Giannoulakis (Emmanuel)
Advisor
From: Greece
Posts: 940
iconchti_lolo:
A pic of the back-side

The density of the stone is about 2.75


I have done some more french google search and found some documents. In the beginning of the 19th century there seem to be a distinction between pierre du Levant, pierre de Lorraine and pierre d'Amérique (Arkansas stone?). The later arrived in France in the first part of the 19th. La pierre du Levant was carried to Marseilles from the east. According to a source, this stone came from Candie (Heraklion) and was put in olive oil for 4 or 5 monthes to harden it.

icontat2Ralfy:
Now where might one find himself a Cretan Hone?
for sure in Greece and maybe also in Turkey.

Best Regards

Laurent


Laurent if you find a fresh mined Cretan hone in Turkey i will pay for you thousand time the price.
Best regards
Emmanuel
Emmanuel Giannoulakis
from Athens Greece
2011-06-23 23:59
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Emmanuel Giannoulakis (Emmanuel)
Advisor
From: Greece
Posts: 940
Candia ,Heraklion is same.Heraklion is the curent name of the Crete capital. Candia is an ancient Venetian name.Elounda where is the mine located in the larger area of Heraklion like Ol Preu for coticule.
Best regards.
Emmanuel
Emmanuel Giannoulakis
from Athens Greece
2011-06-24 00:32
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Emmanuel Giannoulakis (Emmanuel)
Advisor
From: Greece
Posts: 940
Bart your Post is Stellar. I' ll reply you on your findings sharing my experience on the hone too.
Best regards
Emmanuel
Emmanuel Giannoulakis
from Athens Greece
2011-06-24 00:35
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Paul
Advisor
From: United States
Posts: 1388
Bart,

Thanks for that post. I think I now may have the information I need to sell off my synthetics and go totally natural :)

Cheers, my friend,

Paul
Paul
"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it" - Greg Anderson
my blog- and it works again :p
2011-06-24 01:14
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Bart Torfs (Bart)
Associate
From: Belgium
Posts: 4854
My main reason for accepting Emmanuel's offer to evaluate the Cretan hone, is that I was, like many of our members, interested in an all natural sharpening setup. I am romantic enough to find that thought appealing. Secondly, I find that any person who is today trying to survive with a mining business in whetstone, deserves our support.

That said, we must observe our own forum rules, and my review was in no way intended as a commercial for these hones. I suggest that any talk about sales of these hones, is held in the Marketplace. I will split off Emmanuel's post with pricing information to a new thread, for that purpose.

The rest of the discussion, performance reports, etc, are welcome in this thread.

best regards,
Bart.
Then the light shone, trumpets sounded and I got to the other side, where men shave with smiles on their faces, razors pop hairs, and a continuous choir singing «~~Keen and Smooth~~» is heard everywhere. (Matt)
2011-06-24 02:44