Nubatama ume #320 vs Bester #500
I just got 4 Nubatama Ume stones #320, #1k, #4k and #6k, I was a little hesitant to buy them because the only reviews I could find was from the people selling them. Anyway here they are and I will start with the Nubatama Ume #320 and compare it to my favorite coarse stone Bester #500, and if it is up to the task it will replace the bester in my setup. I love the Bester, it cuts fast and give a decent feedback, the downside is that I use a lot of pressure with the coarse stones and it dish fast and it is tough to flatten. I use up 2-3 bester #500 a year, and it dries out way to quick, so for me it’s not problem free. I know I could use DMT’s but I hate the feedback and the scratches they create is hard to get ride of. The list of coarse stones I have tested in this grit range is extended, the one that got closest to Bester was Chosera #400 it did dish but not as much and left a nicer finish, but it doesn’t cut as fast and time is money.
As you all see the Bester is well used and in it’s prime, so it will be a tough one to beat. The things I will compare first are, cutting speed, dishing, general feel, and the finish they leave. The Nubatama came really flat, I still gave it a fast flattening to get ride of that new stone feel before I started the test.
One thing that bothers me with bester is how fast it dries out, so that was the first thing I tried. The Nubatama is a tiny bit better, 48sec for Nubatama and 34sec for bester, but its almost a 50% improvement that will actually make a little difference.
To make the cutting speed test fair, I have used 2 brand new cheapo Kiwi knives. I know it’s cheap somewhat soft stainless, but at least it will give me an idea of how fast they cut. I have sharpen Henckels twin cermax rc 66 on Bester, possible but it takes a lot of time, so I know Besters limit. With in time I will test the Nubatama on some really hard steel to, and will give a report how it went. Even if I expected Nubatama to be slower cutting than Bester after reading a few peoples impression of it, and feeling how smooth it was out of the box. Well it wasn’t, it just took 6 strokes to get a good burr with Nubatama and 10 strokes to get a burr on Bester. So Nubatama Ume #320 definitely cut faster and it behaves as expected for a #320 grit stone.
The Bester isn’t know to leave a nice finish, but Nubatamas finish at least on the burr is even rougher as it should be for a low grit stone. What I think is fascinating though, is that the surface is slightly greyer from the Nubatama that is usually a sign of a finer stone. Time will tell but I definitely think that Bester leaves a better finish.
Here comes the most positive surprise, Nubatama dishes less not by much, but still less. The picture is taken after 50 strokes on the corner on each stone, and as you see it obvious that Bester dishes a little bit more. So taking in effect that Nubatama is faster cutting and dishes slightly less, it should mean much less stone flattening. Yeah.
As you hear in the video the sound isn’t much different between them, and the feel is somewhat the same. The Nubatama doesn’t have the annoying sticky feel under pressure as the bester have, but definitely feels a little bit rougher. They both have similar amount of feedback feeling, but to be honest I actually think I prefer the feel of the Nubatama. (it might just be that the Nub is the newest one and that I just have an hour on it)
I did a fast test cleaning up the scratches on a higher grit stone, in this case I used a Bester #2000 grit. They both cleaned up equally fast, it makes me think that the finish from the Nubatama just looked rougher and in reality they were pretty much the same.
Flattening: They are both pretty hard stones to flatten, but I think it went slightly faster to flatten the Bester.
Nubatama pos: Twice the size, Cuts faster, dishes slightly less and doesn’t dry out as quickly as Bester.
Nubatama neg: Leave a slightly rougher finish and a bit harder to flatten.
Bester pos: Leave a slightly better finish, slightly easier to flatten
Bester neg: Cuts slower, dishes more, dries out faster
After using the Nubatama a little bit more, I definitely prefer the feel and performance of it over the Bester and it is the coarse stone I will be using from now on. I will keep the bester though, in case the Nub doesn’t perform well on really hard steel.
Update: After some heavy use the last week, I still love the stone. I have sharpened some hard steel +rc61 knives on it, and the nub dish as much as Bester if not a little more wish was a bit disappointing, but I have realized that it is much easier to flatten than my first impression so it evens out. One other thing it is a rather muddy stone, and it helps the cutting speed a lot, the mud is the grainy sandy kind so it is a bit messy and not the most pleasant one.
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