Well, I finally had a chance to try out the long awaited and storied Beston 500 stone, cut for the EP! As many of you probably know this stone has quite a following and is one of the more popular Aratos among the forum crowd. After several discussions Ken agreed to cut one up and make it available to the EP circle. About a week ago I got mine and finally got a chance to see what all the fuss is about.
First off, everything I've read indicates this stone requires a rather long soak. Just to be sure I ran a nice bath for it about an hour before I had to go to work so that it would be ready to go when I got home. This turned out to be about six hours as I was just working a "volume" shift that night. Some people like to leave the stone in water all the time, but I didn't know if that might affect the 3M adhesive Ken uses to affix the stones to the blanks. For safety sake I've been soaking it but letting it dry prior to storage. If anyone can give me definitive information about the waterproofness of the 3M adhesive maybe I'll modify this practice. Also, since this stone was cut I figured if it had a "crust" it probably didn't by the time I got it. The stone was well cut and pretty square and true but I did lap it til it was completely trued up, just to be sure.
To try it out I had four knives; three Shun Classics and a Wusthof paring knife. Two 8" Chef's knives belonged to coworkers while the other two were blades I agreed to sharpen for a fellow I met at a cooking forum. The first chef's knife belongs to a guy that must use the Shun as an ice scraper or garden tool- needless to say it needed some work. It seemed like a good test for the Beston.
First off, the Beston 500 has a pretty good feel for an Arato. Some of you will recall that I really don't like coarse stones, considering them a necessary evil at best. 500 grit isn't really super coarse which probably explains the relatively good feel of the stone. That also explains why it finishes relatively well, too. One unusual effect I noticed was that the stone is fairly noisy- it's just louder when it rubs the steel than any other Arato I've used. Apropos of nothing I suppose, just interesting.
I was a bit disappointed, though, with the speed- compared to the Chocera 400, Shapton Pro 320 and Ohmura 150 it's a pretty slow cutting stone. It worked okay on the three knives that were in decent shape. But after a long spell of gringing on the other one I eventually gave up on the Beston and switched to my DMT XC. No comparison, there- the DMT blows it out of the water. On the plus side the Beston 500 didn't dish enough to detect thru three and a half knives, but that probably shouldn't have surprised me since it cuts pretty slowly. I will say, though, that it was plenty fast on the Wustie. VG-10 is a sterner test, and I'll report back once I've done some carbon knives and some blades made of softer steels.
Overall I think I'll keep the Beston in the rotation. It's not fast but it finished well enough that I could jump straight from it to the 2k Aotoshi with good results. I'm not sure what pricing will be if Ken offers it as a standard product but it's considerably cheaper than the Naniwa & Shapton stones. Given the low cost and acceptable results I plan to use it for doing Germans and my coworkers Shuns. I'd absolutely consider it a step up from the OEM 120/220 stones from EP. It didn't turn out to be a game changer for me but for a cheapo stone it's pretty good. The main virtue, aside form the price, is that it seems to hold up better than most other coarse stone, so it won't need a lot of flattening. Thanks, Ken! It was fun to finally get to put the vaunted 500 Beston to the test!