Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My review of the Apache Strata

First Impressions

I knew that this stone was solid as soon as I picked it up. The stone had arrived pre-lapped which was very convenient and the finish was smooth to the touch, I lapped it again anyway just be sure.

This stone does not require soaking, just spray some water on the surface and away you go. When you draw the razor on the stone it felt like glass, almost felt like it wasn’t doing anything, but be careful this is very deceiving at first! The urge that you get from this stone to use pressure will almost dull your razor and will force you to take a step back, it only requires a gentle touch and very few strokes.

I used my Sheffield near wedge as an example to test the waters and gave it about 30-40 laps with just the weight of the razor as it was due for a touch up. I was surprised to see it snapping hairs whilst tree topping. HHT isn’t something I rely on as a solid reference. I then decided that I will place it under a microscope for a quick peek and to my surprise it was a very good looking edge so I took a few snap shots. Here is what I got at 400x magnification, the photos were taken from toe to heel on both sides.


 I understand that some of us don’t use microscopes and prefer not to. Is it a requirement to have one? No, but I'll use it just about every time I test a new stone it’s a good perk and gives you a good guide line of your work as a rough idea such as the scratch pattern or to check for microchips on the edge before the shave, if the edge has visible flaws, then going for a shave is a waste of time unless they're fixed.

Initially I wasn't happy with how the bevel looked aesthetically, I even considered using diamond spray or CBN to clean it up but I didn't find that necessary as the edge looked pretty good and I wanted to see how the razor would shave off the stone with no further refinement. 

The one mistake that I have made was using Chromium Oxide after finishing with the stone, after reinspecting the edge, that was a mistake, there was no improvement and again, the edge didn't need further refinement. 

All in all, this is a stone that you will need to figure out for yourself. It shouldn't take you long if you love your naturals, it has great cutting power for a finisher without slurry. Use it with water, you may experiment and add lather or glycerine but I found water was good enough. The trick is to be a minimalist when playing around with it as you can over do it.

I don’t believe in grit levels when it comes to naturals but my Strata is more than fine enough as a razor finisher. If I could change anything on the strata it would be consistency, the finishes and shaves differ a lot from one razors to the other. 

I recommend using the Apache Strata after a synthetic progression. I personally have achieved great results by honing that way but you will need to experiment yourself to see which method is more consistent for you but this will give you a head start. 

The Shave

I know this sounds cliche but this was a very smooth shave, the edge was keen enough. I was able to improve a Chosera 10k edge. Trouble spots were no obstacle, the shave was very close and comfortable with no irritation. 

Update (18/04/15): After finishing a handful of razors on the Apache Strata, I found that I was getting better results using a drop of glycerine on the honing surface with water, the stone is exceptionally hard and light to no pressure is a must. I recommend that you don't use slurry on this specific stone as edge dulling will take place followed by possible micro chipping due to the hardness of the stone. This stone needs constant resurfacing due to the surface glazing from metal particles being left behind in the pores, this is where glycerine comes into play by keeping the swarf off the stone which reduces clogging. Overall, there's no doubt that this stone works as a great finisher when handled with care and a bit of thought. 

Personal rating:

Cutting Power:        9/10
Feedback:                7/10
Ease of use:              9/10
Price:                        8/10
Finishing Results:   8/10

Overall Rating:       8/10

Estimated Hardness 5++
Grit Fitness 4+ to 5-

Disclaimer: This review that I've volunteered to do for which is based on my own personal experience only i.e my razors and my stone(s). I have no affiliation with  nor do I get paid or receive discounts to review stones. My review is there for some guidance to provide as much info as possible prior to shopping for a stone. Note that all natural stones of the same sort and the same mine or quarry can and will vary from one to the other, providing a different experience with each individual piece, results will also reflect the experience and technique of the end user.

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