Slate and Clamshell stones are the heart of a traditional set. These materials have a unique, soft feel in the hands. There are 180 bi-convex pieces of each color.
Mexican clamshell stones vary by 'grade.' The traditional grades in Japan are Yuki (snow), Tsuki (Moon), and Jitsuyo (Standard / Utility / Practical).
Snow-gradeis considered the highest quality. The lines of the clamshell are thin and tightly-packed together, covering most of each stone.
Moon-gradestones are the middle quality. The lines are further apart but still cover a majority of each stone.
Utility-gradestones are the lowest. They may have some lines or no lines at all. Some players prefer these because they have greater visual variety.
Japanese clamshells stones (from Hyuga they are called Suwabute / Legendary / Phantom) were harvested in Miyazaki until about 20 years ago, when the supply was depleted. Valued for their milky-white color, those slow-growing clams had lines so tightly packed that they were graded on their color instead of their lines. When shining a light through them they will be more orange than Mexican clams, which are more yellow (kind of like the difference between the color of organic eggs and factory-farmed eggs).
The thickness of the stones will affect the price nearly as much as the quality. The most common are size 30 (8.0mm), which is a very comfortable thickness. As you can see, the difference in size is very subtle - again it is a matter of personal preference. Here is a rough overview:
Size 20 stones are 5mm discs, like nickels. Some prefer this so they lay flat.
Size 36 stones are 10mm thick, and are what most professionals use.
Size 50 stones are over 14mm thick, and are nearly round like marbles.
It is common for black stones to be slightly larger than the white ones. This counteracts the optical effect of the shiny white stones appearing larger than the matte black when they are actually the same size.
Our stones are purchased second-hand (mostly in Japan) and that is why they are listed here in our Vintage section at prices far below retail. The white stones are cleaned with soap and water, dried, soaked in a 3% h2o2 solution for a week, rinsed with distilled water, then dried again. They have not been polished with wax, but our Care Instructions will walk you through how to do that if you prefer that they have a glossy sheen. The black stones were cleaned with soap and water, dried, polished with mineral oil, then individually buffed by hand to remove the excess oil. You may prefer to put a cloth liner at the bottom of each bowl, both to protect the stones from chipping and to protect the wood from the wax or oil.
Please note that these stones are not new - they have been used. Very minor nicks may have been overlooked in our refurbishing process when they do not significantly affect the look and feel of the set. However, seriously chipped stones will be removed and replaced with stones of the equivalent size - if possible we will also match the grade and the patina.
Thank you for helping bring life back to these stones - we are doing our part to re-use a limited resource, with the positive side effect of helping to minimize the global demand for giant clams.
Go bowls come in a variety of materials. They store the stones during and after the game and provide a unique visual element. Players often keep their captures in an overturned lid.
We recommend choosing a type of wood that appeals to you visually. Also, make sure it is large enough to fit thesizeof the stones you will use. Bowl sizing is by no means standardized, but for our purposes we use these definitions:
Small- These bowls will not hold a full set of regulation stones, but may hold enough for a 9x9 board. They are most likely toys from a miniature set.
Medium- These bowls will hold stones up to Size 25
Large- These bowls will hold stones up to Size 30
XL- These bowls will hold stones up to Size 36
XXL- These bowls will hold oversized stones (above Size 36)
The price of the bowls will depend much more on itsmaterialthan its size. Certain woods are more rare or coveted than others. But don't worry too much about rarity - choose what looks good to you!
Our bowls are not new. They are purchased second-hand (mostly in Japan) and that is why they are listed here in our Vintage sectionat prices far below retail. They are visually checked. Those that need refurbishing are cleaned with turpentine before being buffed with our Monkey Wax. If small cracks have started we will address them with glue and include that in the description. Bowls and lids with large cracks are normally discarded (which also means that we end up with some inexpensive mismatched sets if you want to inquire).
A Paulownia storage box is a beautiful solution for protecting your bowls from the elements. In addition to dust and debris, a good box will keep away humidity and mold.
Vintage boxesare simple - just a basic 4-sided box and a flat lid.
Modern boxesare more robust, with a shallow base. The base has short walls that rise to overlap a large cover. The cover comes down over the top with tall sides. A ribbon often secures the two pieces.
Our boxes are not new. They are purhcased second-hand (mostly in Japan) and that is why they are listed here in our Vintage section at prices far below retail. Both types of boxes are normally built with wooden nails, so repairs involve carpentry skills or wood glue or both. Because the wood is so light, it is very easily damaged. Most commonly, the central board that divides the two bowls can become loose and will need to be reset. For this reason it is not recommended as a transportation case.
A floor board or Goban is a formidable item. They can weigh up to 60 pounds. Each one has its own personality based on its material, color, grain patterns, and thickness. Choosing a board is a matter of preference. For example, some players prefer Pine since it has a very light tone and creates a stark contrast with the stones, while other players think that a bright wood is harsh on the eyes. Some prefer a thick board while others prefer a thin one that can double as a table board with the legs removed.
One of the primary differences between boards is the portion of the tree from which they are cut.
Center Cut: Taken from the center of a tree trunk, this cut will give the ends of the board semi-circular lines and feature the heartwood of the tree. Depending on the tree, the heartwood color may change between the center and the lower corners. The sides of the board wil have straight lines that run the length of the board. The top and bottom will have flame-like characteristics. This is common for smaller trees like Pine, Beech, Birch, Katsura, Cedar, etc.
Cross Cut: Taken from the edge of a tree, the board is more likely to be the same color throughout. This cut will present vertical lines on the ends, and they will continue across playing surface, parallel to the grid lines. The sides of the board will have the flame-like characteristics in this case. This is more common with larger trees like Kaya, Shin-kaya, Motoyuki, etc.
Here is Mr. Kuroki's analysis of various cuts:
The high weight means that a substantial amount of the price of a board is simply the cost to ship it from Japan. Seamail shipping of a Goban to the US or Europe from Japan will cost up to $120, or up to $350 for an Airmail service like FedEx or DHL. Boards above 15cm thick actually exceed Seamail dimensions, and must be shipped Airmail. Once the Covid-19 Pandemic is under control, more economical Airmail options may become available once again.
For boards under 15cm, upgrading to Airmail shipping can be worth the expense, since it minimizes the amount of time a board spends in transit. This means that there are fewer opportunities for it to become damaged.
Both to minimize the shipping costs and the opportunities for damage, we store our boards in Japan until they are purchased. We will tell you where a board was sourced so that you can compare your climate - dramatic shifts may be dangerous for the wood so you may want to review our Care Instructions.
Floor Board Sets
The cheapest option (by far) is to purchase these items bundled from our warehouse in Japan, since it saves us the time and cost of shipping the set to Colorado for refurbishing. Instead we will ship the item to you directly at a discounted price. Since the set has not been refurbished, there may exist chipped stones, but replacements are usually included in the purchase price.
Plenty of other accessories exist for Go. Please let us know if you have any interest in other items and we can try to source them for you. Here are some common ones:
Wax for treating Boards and Bowls
Cloth Bags for storing Bowls
Straps for securing Bowls
Cloth Covers for Floor Boards
Legs for Floor Boards
Stands for holding lids with captures (Komadai)
Go-themed Art or Antiques
Arm Rests for playing Go for extended periods
Anything else you can think of?
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