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Why do I love vintage barber's awasedo (finishing hones)?
How do you assess a swordsman's ability with a sword without battling them and without ever seeing them wield their sword? Wait for them to take off their shoes. In sword, and martial arts it is the foot that connects us most with the mass of the earth, to move ..newtons second law- we must move against. The feet can not only broadcast the direction and type of attack, but their confidence and placement tells of their skill. A well evenly worn sole is someone who moves a lot and does so deliberately and centered. Uneven wear is correlated to poor balance, lacking center or shitty dancing. No wear means they just bought new shoes, so back to the drawing board. (or maybe they slayed an army and took the emperors shoes.) It's a correlation not causation.
Much the same- When it comes to awasedo it is hard to beat vintage barber's hone. I've said this before, I really love vintage barbers toishi, and the thinner the better usually. (of course I'd prefer my favorite stones be thicker than my house is tall.. but-)
They had a business to run, and that business wasn't to stand around sharpening, but to cut hair, not skin, and do it comfortably and cleanly (close). If they were standing around sharpening, they weren't getting paid to cut hair, the razor pulled, or the edge wasn't smooth or the hair not cut close and face left smooth and if they weren't giving outstanding shaves,or that wasn't part of their business- it would largely not be used, and the two have a strong correlation with someone who understands razors and honing and someone who does it on the side.
Your favorite jeans might have a hole in them, (or they did for years before they disintegrated) you don't throw away your favorite, or the best. Clothes you don't wear, sit largely unused on closet shelves, boxes until you give them away mostly unused. It isn't worth while to cut 10mm thick slices off a pure hone and sell them individually. If that awasedo is worn, it's likely because there wasn't a replacement available better suited to what they needed, and they did it well and often, with steady business that wore it down as time wore on their bones and these toshi's custodian retired. Living in japan they had endless opportunity to go out and try their razors with toishi from street vendors and toishi distributors that would stop by their business to sell awasedo. They wanted what worked great, fast and consistently. Anything less and they were loosing money. The fact that they had the business and loyalty to that one hone to wear it slowly and get it that thin without changing them out tells me they found a winner and stuck with it. Now that's a correlation not a rule and I've come across many duds, but I am always eager to try them and find a lot of great hones by buying what was curated by a toishi connoisseur before me. It's access to a time machine to were living in japan, with greater supply of mining stock from still open or recently closed mines allowed a greater supply to cover demand and better toishi were the first to be picked on. Therefore a thin evenly worn stone, like a well, evenly worn sole is not something you should overlook.
It's a great starting point to fine awasedo, and it's more indelible, counterfeit protected and affirming to quality than any stamp I've seen. As always though, the steel and the togidoro you get when you lay steel to a honzan is the final authority and tells more than mines, stamps, color, strata, wear patterns, saw marks, dealers or kawa ever could.