Apache Strata Hone

Apache 1

Apache Strata Hone Test

Early Impressions, October 2014 

The Apache Strata Hone is a finishing stone only; it is for final finish polishing.  

This is a small sample, measuring approximately 5.0 x 2.25 x 0.25”, and weighing 180 g.

This stone arrived fairly well finished, the surface had been lapped clear of any coarse scratches and the edges were nicely beveled. However, the honing surface, as nice as it was, had a significant hump in it; the stone needed to be lapped flat before testing.

After some time on 220x SIC powder, and then more time on 600x SIC – I had a surface that was about as polished as it was originally, perhaps a bit more matte, but one that was very flat.

The stone ‘feels’ cold and brittle in my hands – as though it would shatter if I dropped it. When tapped, it has a sort of hollow high-pitched ring to it. The honing surface feels very smooth, almost glassy in a way. 

I’m not sure what the exact type of stone this is, but the Apache reminds me of a form of chert, like a type of Jasper. It’s totally opaque, shows some brown and grey ‘picture’ type banding, and the main color has an earthy/sandy hue. That backside is unfinished, and shows the Apache Strata name in large ink-stamped block letters.    

Thus far, I’ve only done some preliminary honing on this stone. What can tell so far is that it’s fairly consistent, and very touch sensitive. Extremely light ‘barber hone’ pressure brings up a nice polish. More pressure shows a deeper scratch pattern and heavier pressure brings on deeper scratches. Even so – the stone polishes when cutting – not unlike an Arkansas stone. The amounts of pressure and their differences are not all that noticeable. I think that it would be easy for someone to use ‘too much’ pressure fairly easily. 

Honing on this stone dry reminds of working with a barber hone. Adding a honing medium adds lubricity, which lessens the severity of the scratches and probably a finer edge. I experimented with water, water/soap, water/glycerin – all worked well but the honing sensation on the glycerin/water mix was more to my liking. I had no loading issues when honing on any of those fluids or with the stone dry. 

I’ve honed on a few similar types of stone before, jasper, agate, petrified wood, etc. The Apache stone is very similar to all of those stones but it was not exactly the same experience. 

For starters, the Apache is a very consistent stone, where, for example, the jasper I experimented with was wildly different; it left a very diverse scratch pattern with large rogue gouges. Plus, that jasper split in two twice, leaving me with nothing to work with. I think it was very flawed internally. This Apache stone seems solid, it doesn't give me the ‘I’m going to split on you’ feeling. 

The main difference between the Apache and the others though, is the feedback. It has feedback, where the others were somewhat dead under the blade. I can sense the refinement fairly easily. However – as I noted above, I find this to be a very pressure sensitive stone and while I can feel the feedback I’m not used to it yet. There is a difference in the feedback with increased pressure but it’s subtle, and that, in my opinion, is this stones greatest challenge. This makes it a bit more difficult to use than, say – an Escher, but I’m not saying this is a difficult stone to use, not at all.   

My first impressions when honing translate to something other than what I remember from the fibrous microcrystalline types of stone; it feels more grainy to me and in a way it had sort of an Arkansas stone feel. This means nothing at all, I’m just relating the sensations I picked up on when honing on the Apache briefly. Jaspers, agates, and all the rest are a mixed lot. Any one sample might prove to be an excellent hone while one that came out of the ground right next to it might turn out to be way less effective. 

Gauging by looks, the edge marks and the polish combined, and my own ability to estimate an edge – I’d say this stone will outperform most garden variety finishers easily. It would mop the floor with 90% of the barber hones anyone has ever seen, and it will rival and best most edges done on 12k synthetic stones also.

That’s just a sharpness thing – not an overall performance rating. 

Please don’t ask me what grit I think this Apache is; I don’t believe in 15k Coticules, 30k Eschers, or 60k Jnats; I think all of that type of nonsense is complete bullshit. All I’ll say that a 12k stone will get me an ‘X edge’ and the Apache will get me an ‘X+ edge’.  

Comparing the Apache to other natural hones I’ve tried would is, IMO, a poobah’s game, so I won’t say that it’s better or worse than anything else out there. Nor will I reflect on prices and value. 

As it is with all natural hones, some people will get along with some of them and others will not. Some will think the price of these stones is fair/high/low/etc. Yet others will take microscope pictures of their edges, some of which will look great and others will not; which is pretty typical for all stones. 

What I will say is this; I like the Apache, it works very well as a finishing stone. Anyone buying one like the one I have here will probably get great edges from it if they hone in a fashion similar to the way I hone.

People often say – your mileage may vary (YMMV).

I believe that mileage has more to do with how the car is driven than people think.


The 1st shave test. 

An existing known-to-be-great edge that I honed and shaved with was tuned-up on the Apache. I didn’t count strokes, but I did pay close attention to the pressure, which I kept at ‘very light’ for the entire process. I honed until I the feedback said ‘done’.

The shave was exceedingly good; comfortable and close. No burn, no irritation. No sensation of the edge being tedious, but I felt I was close to that type of sharpness. The sharpness of the Apache-edge was keener, with better cutting. Areas of my face where the existing edge had allowed ‘felt-resistance’ but smooth cutting shaved with less resistance, this, to me, says the edge was a bit sharper. The smoothness was not enhanced or reduced; it seemed to be the same. 


My shave confirmed what I had surmised early on; the Apache is a contender. Whether or not it’ll stay a part of my line-up or see only limited use – I can’t say. I have Eschers that I’ve only used once, and other hones I use almost daily. I change honing directions at the drop of a hat and sometimes in the middle of honing an edge.

When I select a hone, that decision is based on mood more than anything else. I like to have choices and I enjoy different results in both the edges and the processes when using different stones. This is where the Apache really stands out; 1.) the Apache is an over achiever, 2.) it’s completely different than anything else I own or use.

For me –  scoring high on those two points is worth the price of admission.

© Keith V Johnson 2014 - 2015