A FEW THOUGHTS ON WHAT NOT TO DO TO YOUR TOISHI.
A few thoughts on what not to do to your toishi has to begin with the admittance that anything and everything that we do to or with our natural Japanese sharpening stones is affecting them in some way that is totally new and unique to the stone. I mean just think of it, for untold millions of years, these poor slabs of stone were just sleeping deep within the earth, protected and nourished by an environment of slow change, constant but even pressure and temperature, and familiar surroundings. Then one day they are cut out of the womb, hauled up into the bright light and handled by men and machinery and bound up for foreign lands.
The stones have had a hard life and we owe them and opportunity to live and work in a friendly and safe atmosphere. Here is a list of things that we don't want to do to our stones, followed by some explanations.
1. Don't leave your toishi outside alone in the day or night.
2. Don't let your toishi soak in water, ever.
3. Don't contaminate your toishi.
4. Don't stress your toishi.
5. Don't miss-use your toishi.
One very sad way to lose your toishi is to leave it out where someone else can walk away with it when you are not looking. By leaving it alone outdoors, you are not only exposing it to a missing in action notice, but you are also taking a chance that it could dry out and crack by overheating in the sun, or freeze at night or accidentally get knocked over and stepped on, or heaven forsake get caught in a rainstorm. Any dramatic swings in temperature or moisture or a combination of the two can have everlasting effects on a stone.
Two be in a rainstorm or flood would be a tragic accident, but to intentionally soak your prized toishi in a bucket of water would be a crime.
These stones were mined as dry hard rocks, if you leave them unattended in water you may end up having to fish them out in pieces as slimly soft ineffective rocks to be relegated to the garden as expensive curiosities. Remember, man made stones know how to swim because men taught them how to swim, natural stones just sink to the bottom and die.
Three ingredients create a useful sharpening stone; a stone that will cut steel, a person who can manage the stone and steel, and water.
Nothing more and nothing less. Keeping it that way will insure your successful relationship with your toishi. Sharpening stones are tools, use them as tools and don't play with them excessively with bare hands, try to limit exposure that might transfer natural oils or contaminates from your hands to the stone. Keep your hands clean, do not use hand lotions or hand cleaners before you use your toishi.
Do not use chlorinated or tap water on your toishi. Keep all chemicals away because, over the many years of use, they will accumulate to ever and ever higher toxic levels as those chemicals which will be sucked deeper into your stone through osmosis. A friend Steve Hamley suggested to me to use filtered spring water on your natural stones in splashing them or rinsing them, and it might be a good idea to rinse your hands in clear clean water before sharpening. Keep your blades free from chemicals & oils that could be transferred to your toishi during the sharpening process. These stones are unique because of the properties in which they come to us in their natural form. Any additional minerals or solvents or airborne dust and dirt or even ozone will affect the toishi's abilities to cut steel to a greater or lesserdegree. Take pains to minimize any alteration in their natural composition.
Four the love to continue, don't stress your toishi. Give them a solid, firm but comforting bed when they are asleep in their drawer and a solid base when you are using them that does not force or distort their geometric symmetry. A sharp bump or a squeeze in a stone holder may lead to the development of a crack where yesterday there was just an inclusion, and a crack may develop into a break resulting in missing corners and diminished surface area. Keep in mind that a thick stone will absorb more shock than a thin stone. As stones get thinner they need more care.
Five in the afternoon comes, take a break. Don't take out a long hot, hard day out on your toishi. If you abuse yourself or your other tools, you might feel inclined to abuse or miss-use your toishi. These little guys are sensitive and they get hurt too. Toishi are great for one thing, but not so great for anything else. So if your have an idea of some new and thrilling way to use your toishi other than for sharpening, don't do it.
Remember, they cannot talk or tell you "please do not to use me as a nut cracker". Give tem a break or the night off.
Sixth sense; anticipation, perception, enlightenment? Don't miss out of any opportunity to sharpen, it only gets better.