I thought this topic deserved its own thread.
I got a little ahead of myself and bought a natural whetstone. In retrospect, it probably would have been better for me to work with synthetics and improve my technique before moving into the less predictable naturals. But well, here it is in my house, and I paid a pretty penny for it, so I thought I'd find out from people who have been using them for a while about how to get as much as I can out of it.
The paper that came in the box with the stone says I should lacquer the sides and the back. I had a summer job finishing furniture in school so this wouldn't be difficult for me, but I would like to find out why this is necessary at all? Wouldn't not sealing the stone actually speed up the soaking and drying of the stone? And would this affect the sharpening in any way later on?
If I do lacquer it, I know that the lacquer you can buy in the US is a different material than the stuff that they use in Asia (if memory serves me right, the stuff in Asia is made from trees and bugs while all the stuff that is made here is synthetic). Would paint-on lacquer that you can buy here (which is actually made from cotton fiber I think) or even polyurethane (if water-sealing is the goal) work?
The paper also says to keep it out of the sun. This sounds bizarre to me since, even if sunlight can do anything to a rock, it shouldn't do anything to the rock beyond the very surface where the sunlight actually shines on, right?
Finally, some people say you should dry them thoroughly each time, others keep them in water permanently. Both seem like a pain in the butt. Would it harm the stone to just soak and use, then allow to sit around like what I do with my synthetics?
Finally, about the nagura stones -- why are these necessary, since the naturals are supposed to raise their own mud as you use them? And at what grit do you start using them? Some websites say that nagura stones should be used with polishing stones i.e. 6000 and up, but others recommend them for naturals starting with the Aotos which are only 2000+. Ultimately the question is what do they really do?