Mine came plain white then started to darken after a few weeks. About 4 weeks in it settled to a more natural stone/slate grey. The leather has darkened a bit too and remains soft and comfortable. The leather remains easy to adjust and my selected sizings stays in place firmly. Overall It feels, looks and works great. The knot and darker stone/leather compliment each other well.
In addition, there are three broad grades of Japanese Water Stones consisting of the Ara-to (rough stone), the Naka-to (middle/medium stone) and, the Shiage-to (finishing stone). However, it should be noted that the various grades of natural Japanese Water Stones vary widely in both density and grit size from stone to stone and thus, they do not translate well to American or European abrasive standards. Furthermore, because they are significantly softer than Novaculite, Japanese Water Stones must be flattened more often and do not last as long as a either Novaculite or Coticule stones. But, because they form a slurry of fine particles when used, they also do a superior job of both cutting and polishing.
Made in the USA means a lot! It sharpens quickly, whether you need to remove a lot or just a "tune up" on the blade edges. Because it's manufactured flat, it is excellent for planer blades and chisels. The ability to sharpen dry or with only water creates less of a mess than other types of sharpening stones. The no-hassle guarantee is a definite plus, though I would be surprised if you ever needed it.
Last, it should be noted that dual-sided Coticule/Belgian Blue whetstones are also sometimes available which have a layer of Belgian Blue stone on one side and a layer of Coticule on the other. Thus, these whetstones provide a softer, more coarse, grit on one side and a harder, finer, grit on the other. Plus, due to the inherent toughness of the Belgian Blue stone, these dual-sided stones do not require a substrate layer.
Clamp-style sharpening tools use a clamp with several holes with predefined angles. The stone is mounted on a rod and is pulled through these holes, so that the angle remains consistent. Another system is the crock stick setup, where two sticks are put into a plastic or wooden base to form a V shape. When the knife is pulled up the V, the angle is held so long as the blade is held perpendicular to the base. Several cutlery manufacturers now offer electric knife sharpeners with multiple stages with at least one grinding stage. These electric sharpeners are typically used in the kitchen but have the ability to sharpen blades such as pocket or tactical knives. The main benefit of using an electric sharpener is speed with many models that can complete the sharpening process in one to two minutes. The disadvantage is that the sharpening angle is fixed so some specialized knives, like a Japanese style Santoku, may need additional attention to sharpen to the ideal angle.
Also natural stones have a random grit size that gives a long lasting edge. Basically the random grits create varying sizes of micro-serration in the blade that wear down at a different rate, therefore longer edge retention. Whether this is true or not we really like natural stone, especially for sharpening tradition single bevel Japanese knives. Use natural stones with water – it’s far cheaper than sake.
Practice holding the knife at a 20 degree angle. Most straight blades need to be sharpened at a 20 degree angle. To find the angle, hold the directly in front of you so it's straight up and down. This is 90 degrees. Tilt the knife halfway towards the table so it's at a 45 degree angle. Tilt the knife halfway again so it's about an inch (2.5 cm) above the table. This should be a 20 degree angle.
1. Diamond Stones. I’ve used two, many years ago, to sharpen steel knives & found that the diamond coating wore away. They did work well at first, but then I was sharpening on the backing material. This puzzled me, because diamond is harder than steel, but have only recently read that the diamond particles are torn off the backing material because they stick to the softer steel. Diamond stones are recommended for sharpening ceramic knives only. This info about diamond stones & steel knives I got from an Edge-Pro article.
I recommend it as a lightweight alternative to larger stone for smaller knives. Leather necklace is comfortable and seems strong. I conditioned it for suppleness and swim with it on tightened as a choker. Stone is small, dog-tag size. I use it with water. Functional for small folder knives and multi-tools. Not useful for large fixed blades, since you can't make a long stroke. Small to grip. I use double-sided tape on one side to keep it in place on a flat rock. Not sure of grit, seems like around 1000. It took a while, but i got my old boy scout knife sharp.