I bought these stones and bowls from Yellow Mountain Imports last week, and they arrived by UPS today.
They’re pretty much what I expected, and that’s both a good and bad thing.
Melamine resin is a fairly dense plastic, which gives these stones a solid feel despite how thin they are. They’re not particularly shiny, however; both white and black stones are somewhat dull. They also lack the translucence of Yunzi stones. I haven’t had a chance to try oiling the stones yet, but I doubt they’ll be much helped.
Whether it’s the plastic or the single-convex shape, these stones sound good. They have a satisfying snap when you play them. Single convex stones seem to have a polarizing effect on the community: either you love them or you hate them. I fall on the side of liking them, though I do admit their major drawback: they’re difficult to remove from the board, and these stones are no exception.
The stones were packed in plastic bags inside their bowls, presumably to keep any stones from falling out. I haven’t seen any broken or chipped stones yet; I can’t guarantee that none were broken, but it certainly looks like they made the trip intact, even without any additional padding.
The bowls themselves are lightweight but solid, in a Go Seigen style. They’re an appropriate size for the stones included; there isn’t a large amount of empty space.
Carved from wild jujube, the bowls have a slightly green tint, which might go away as the wood continues to age. They’re also relatively dull, but that’s likely to be solved with a coat of mineral oil. The grain is noticeable but not as prominent as in the promotional photo.
I paid about $35 for this set, with shipping. In all, I’d say it was a justifiable purchase, and I’ve been relatively happy with them. If you want stones and bowls that have a reasonably traditional look and feel, but can’t drop $200 or more for a set of slate and shell stones, or even $70 for Yunzi stones, then you should strongly consider these.
After giving the bowls a light coat of oil, they’re a lot glossier than they were, but maybe not quite as much as I expected; I’d probably need polyurethane or the like. The oil did bring out the grain a bit more, though.
Oiling a few stones of each color did help their shininess. I may wash and oil the black stones, though the effect is probably not worth the effort. (Should I use a lighter oil for the stones than for the bowls? I used mineral oil for the bowls; maybe 3-in-1 oil would be better for the stones, and easier to clean.)
Exactly 181 black and 180 white stones were included; every stone arrived intact.