In the theoretical analysis of porous bearings the journal has so far been assumed to be ideal, that is perfectly cylindrical. In the present analysis the geometric irregularities of the journal, such as circumferential undulations and barrel/bellmouth shapes, are taken into account. The permeability variation along the length of the bearing as found in commercial bearings has also been taken into account. The present analysis reveals that, at the critical Sommerfeld number, the friction is very low compared to the very high value for an ideal journal. The present analysis also reveals that the friction and the attitude angle are lower for any Sommerfeld number and that the load-carrying capacity is lower for any eccentricity ratio than that for an ideal journal. © 1994, Institution of Mechanical Engineers. All rights reserved.