Hand Tools Archive

A testament to the quality of atoma stones

david weaver

I have been flipping stuff on etsy, japanese stuff. Just something to do, not that I expect to make much money, but it's a way for me to order stuff from japan that goes for a little more here and get a look at things and see what I might want to keep.

I like watches. Not as much as someone who is absolutely nutty about them, but as a matter of them being something made that is still very human and mechanical at the same time. I also want watches that are made entirely in the western or eastern first world, and that's not that easy to find. There are brands that have stepped up in quality since the early days and their older watches have gotten expensive because of it, and there are brands that were super quality to start but due to age, don't cost that much relative to new watches.

King Seiko is one of those. Seiko set up two competing factories in japan, King Seiko and Grand Seiko, I guess in the 1960s. Right around the same time that Seiko invented the quartz watch. Seiko's objective was to run the two factories parallel without using outside parts, and the better of the two factories would survive - the other would be shut down. Grand seiko survived, and still makes quartz, automatic and spring drive watches (the last being something nobody else makes). They are expensive, because they're made entirely in house in japan, as opposed to just being assembled from global parts. When you see terms such as "swiss made" or "made in japan", those don't really mean much.


Back to the king seiko. King seiko didn't survive, and though seiko invented quartz at the time, they also developed what they called the hi-beat automatic watches. These can be had in japan for about $300, but they are smaller than current popular watches in the face size. They also often need a bit of a polish, and the original bracelets usually long gone. Once in a while, you'll find one that has a lot of scratches on the sapphire (which is as hard as alumina). How that happens, I don't know.

I bid on the watch in the picture a couple of months ago because it was chronograph rated, and it has a standard bracelet size (so the strange thing in the picture can be replaced inexpensively). However, the crystal was very scratched, and deeply. Bizarrely so. A new crystal is about $100 or a little more, even if you install it yourself. No thanks. I thought I cancelled my bid, but I must've forgotten and I got an email at the end of the auction saying I'd won the watch for $298. Oops. Now I've got to figure out how to get the scratches out of the sapphire and since it's a lens, it needs to be clear and uniform.

Years ago, I got into a craze of trying various types of diamonds, and I have gobs of powders around, and probably (I should be ashamed) a dozen diamond plates. Most of them cheap, but two are eze lap, two dmt and two atoma. There's one practical way to grind off sapphire from a lens.....diamonds.

So I put some diamond powder on an oilstone (an old green english novaculite stone that's only ho hum), and I put some on a stick of walnut and proceeded to rub away. Slow progress would be an understatement. I had the ezelap handy, and I was surprised to find that it completely ruined the lens with random deep scratches. I really don't want to sell the watch as salvage for half of what i paid, so I was going to put it aside and think about it later. My atoma is a 400, which is not particularly fine. I decided to try it just to see if I could get uniform scratches, and then I could go back from there. To my surprise, it almost put a polish on the lens, it is absolutely perfectly uniform and there are no random scratches at all.

It literally can be followed with one grade of diamond powder on a stick (half micron is fine) for about 10 minutes and all is done. Knowing what I know now, flat sapphire lenses are a project of about 10 minutes time.

I really like the ezelap a lot, and not every single japanese product is superior, but I have to admit that the unexpected extreme difference in quality control and manufacturing and grading precision between these two brands of plates is surprising. DMT is out of the question, I already know their grading is very loose and there are random big diamonds on the plates.

I have been using this atoma on natural stones - I didn't bother to clean it, the natural stone powder wouldn't touch the sapphire and if there is a bit of aluminum oxide - natural aluminum oxide - in one of the japanese stones, it would only polish the sapphire. The dust is literally sapphire. It would be interesting, since it's alumina, to take that dust and try it on a jasper, but I think I've already brushed it off. The dust I collect from japanese razor hone flattening is actually very useful on a jasper.

IF you ever have a flat lens sapphire watch and develop a scratch and you have an atoma, too. You are 5 dollars away (in a graded paste or powder of about 1/2-1 micron) from removing the scratches and making the lens new. Having kept all of the strange sharpening mediums that I have (but don't use) has saved me a lot in this case.

(but don't ever put a watch on a DMT or eze lap).

Over the last ten years, I've used more stuff from the woodworking shop to fix things completely unrelated than I ever would've expected to. Yesterday, I used a bessey clamp to depress brake calipers on the car when the brake tool I have wouldn't do the job (two calipers, and the tool I have only does one. I never should've bought the tool in the first place - a bessey clamp does the job very easily on the cars that I have).

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