The Confusing Belgian Coticule Market

The Belgian coticules have been used by barbers for several hundred years. They’re great stones, especially for straight razors, but developments over the past five years have led to a lot of confusion in the marketplace. When I first introduced these stones into the US market some 15 years ago, there were Select grade and Euro grade stones. The “kosher” stones were so rare that I’ll talk about them later on. Today, there are a number of choices each with their own French name such as La Veinette, La Latteneuse, etc. and they each have their own price point. They’re not all equal as far as honing is concerned.

The stones we sell are all Select grade stones. These are the best of the best and I pay more for them. Why? It’s because discerning customers prefer them. The last thing I want is for someone to buy something from me that they are not happy with and either want to return or sell on eBay.

So, what’s the difference? The Belgians will tell you there’s little to no difference but that hasn’t been my experience. I’ve seen and handled a LOT of coticules over the years. The Select grade is more what I’d call Specimen Grade – thicker coticule, more even end to end, no hairline cracks or veins, etc. The result is a better stone to hone your tools with and you’ll be happier with it. As a coticule will last two or three generations, the small additional cost is really . . . small.

The Constroption

Strops and stropping are very controversial topics. After a day of honing razors and using various strops and then checking the edges under a metallurgical microscope at 10,000x, we no longer use hanging strops. The leather folds around the edge and fatigues the metal until it breaks off. It’s not an edge that will last very long.

To fix this problem we created the Constroption. It’s a fixed, 4 plate lapping system that is very flat and doesn’t fold around the edge. The first plate is .5 micron DMT diamond, the second plate is .25 micron CrOx, the third is Purple Phase, and the fourth is Zulu Phase. These last two are garnet based abrasives I make myself as there is nothing like them on the market. At 40,000 and 50,000 grit respectively, they finish off a bevel and an edge even finer than the 30,000 grit Shapton stone we conclude honing with at the end of our progression. The Constroption is $189, shipping in the US included.

Belgian Stones

We reintroduced the amazing natural stones from the southeast of Belgium back into the US about 16 years ago through several serendipitous occurrences. The Belgian Blue and the Coticule are rooted in history and were recorded by Pliny the Younger when the Roman army stopped there for stones on the way to taking London for the tin mines in the Bronze Age. The coticule has been the choice of barbers for hundreds of years for honing straight razors. We use them ourselves every day while honing razors for customers. I keep a natural double Belgian stone in my medicine cabinet to maintain my own straight razors.