What are they? Coticule bouts are simply off-cuts from the manufacturing process, which are of irregular size and shape. Like all coticules, bouts will come glued to a piece of slate (although literally a rock, coticules can be fragile and can break, crack or shatter if dropped/handled too roughly, so the slate becomes a good stabilizer).
Like all coticule stones available there are two options regarding quality control: standard or select grade.
What is the different between select and standard grade? The only difference between the two is that standard grade can have visible marks, small cracks or inclusions on the surface or sides, or possibly be very thin (i.e. all in all just cosmetic faults, not issues that can alter its performance). Otherwise the stone ‘in itself’ is the same quality and can provide the same sharpening results.
Due to the cost of coticules and to make my job easier, I never-the-less choose to only offer the more ‘perfect looking’ select grade stones where imperfections are at a minimum. This way customers can be confident upfront they are purchasing and will receive the best graded stones possible for their money, graded by the experts in Ardennes Belgium (please note: slurry stones can be select or standard grade – however this does not affect their job as slurry makers).
In the below photos you will see two bouts that recently landed on the site (both select grade).
One is a bout no. 10 (84-102 cm2) which equates to a longest length of 15cm and a widest length of 7cm.
The second stone is a bout no. 9 (70-84cm2), which equates to 15.5cm at the longest point to 7.5cm at the widest point.
Although slightly wider and longer than the bout no. 10, the bout no.9 is a more irregular (odd) shaped stone and also weight’s less because of this.
The bout no.9 would make a very nice small kitchen / fixed hunting knife or pocket knife sharpening stone.
The bout no. 10 with its more regular shape will also be a good knife sharpening stone but will make a very good straight razor stone also.
The shape of the whetstone itself plays no part in its performance or the result it can achieve (this is up to your technique). The deciding factor here as to which stone may suit, is quite simply based on whether you prefer to work with a rectangle or odd shaped stone (for the sake of splitting hairs on this point, those just beginning/learning to sharpen their straight razors on a coticule, ‘may’ find the rectangle coticule slightly easier to use).
So if you’re considering a whetstone and like the look of these odd-shaped bout whetstones, don’t let the concern of their performance be the stumbling block. Allowances for all individual natural stones of any kind aside, stone for stone they are just as good as the rectangles and should not be overlooked as a possible solution for your sharpening needs.
As mentioned in this post, the only real issue here is if you like working with their shape. Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a stone by its shape!
Good luck with your sharpening…