Vintage

About our Vintage Gear
Slate & Shell

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.

Clamshell stones vary by 'grade.' Their traditional grades in Japan are Yuki (snow), Tsuki (Moon), and Jitsuyo (Standard / Utility / Practical).

  • Snow-grade is considered the highest quality. The lines of the clamshell are thin and tightly-packed together, covering most of each stone. 
    Snow
  • Moon-grade stones are the middle quality. The lines are further apart but still cover a majority of each stone.
    Moon
  • Utility-grade stones are the lowest. They may have some lines or no lines at all. Some players prefer these because they have greater visual variety.
    Utility

Suwabute stones (called Legendary grade by Mr. Kuroki) 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. 

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.

Stone Sizes

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

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 the size of 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 - Probably also toys, they may 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 its material than 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 purhcased second-hand (mostly in Japan) and that is why they are listed here in our Vintage section at prices far below retail. They are visually checked for quality before being buffed with a wood-restoring beeswax mix. If small cracks have started we will address them with glue. Bowls and lids with large cracks are normally discarded, which also means that we end up with some inexpensive Mismatched bowls, which will make for quirky sets

Paulownia Boxes 

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 boxes are simple - just a basic 4-sided box and a flat lid. 

Modern boxes are 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.

 Paulownia Box

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. 

Floor Boards

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:
Floor Board 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 spares us the time and effort 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.

Accessories

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
  • Go-themed Art or Antiques
  • Fans
  • Copper Braziers for hand-warming
  • Arm Rests for playing Go for extended periods
  • Anything else you can think of?