Honing Stones Recommendation and Techniques

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by Willk, May 28, 2018.

  1. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    Hi All,

    What are your recommendations for honing stones for a beginner? I've heard some people use two honing stones - does that make a noticeable difference? What techniques do you use? What grits and how many strokes is "good enough"? Should I get one that is as wide as my blade? All comments and suggestions welcomed!

  2. PickledNorthern

    PickledNorthern Fabulous, the unicorn

    Hi Willk. I am a honer of pretty limited experience, but I can maybe offer some advice from a new guy (year and a half of this) perspective.

    -You need to start out with a razor that’s been honed by the real deal. You have to know what you’re looking for, or you have nothing to compare to, and a straight doesn’t feel like any other razor, shavettes included.

    -Lapping film is a very easy and inexpensive way to start out. There is a user who goes by Slash McCoy on another forum who has some videos on YouTube showing how to use it.

    -To begin with, I would just buy Naniwa stones. A 12K will serve as a good finisher and refresher, is wide, and also featured in some very helpful videos. It takes some of the “Am I doing this like I’m supposed to?” out of the process. They can be bought pretty inexpensively on EBay from some Japanese sellers.

    -I think the Naniwa, Shapton synthetics are easier to learn on than naturals. I started on some inexpensive naturals, and everything worked out okay, but when I bought my first Naniwa, it was like, “Oh. This is way easier. And consistent.”

    -There are some very good videos on YouTube. Look for vids by @gssixgun and Lynn Abrams. I learned from videos by both of these gentlemen, and they were extremely helpful.

    Again, take this for what it’s worth, cause I’m no expert by any means.
  3. RezDog

    RezDog Well-Known Member

    Well it seems that the most simple way to learn is to do touch ups, and honestly unless you are doing restorations, you should not need a full progression. What you need is a good barber hone, or a finish hone. The old method was a pasted strop, in part because before barber hones that was the inexpensive solution, or there were natural finishers. I have never used it but lapping film is available, inexpensive and effective. I think the most recommended finish hone these days is a Naniwa 12K.
    How to use it and how often has some serious variables in it. How often will vary with your shaving technique, your ability to strop and your blade quality. As you gain a little time doing touch ups you will find a routine. Many find it best to do a few strokes often and keep the edge going as opposed to waiting until the blade needs a lot of work. X strokes on a wet stone will be best. I particularly like the videos by Gssixgun, I think you should check his YouTube channel. Full progression honing is a cat of a different colour, and splits into restoration honing and repair and maintenance honing. Meets and mentors make the process easier.
  4. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    I thought 4k to 8k was more typical. Does 12k seem a little too fine of grain? For me, my SR is in great shape. I use it mainly on weekends. I know eventually I'll have to hone it, so I'm trying to prepare myself for that. ...I'll check out Gssixgun's videos on youtube.
  5. RezDog

    RezDog Well-Known Member

    One of the things you will find is that there are many paths to the perfect shave and most of them are correct. If you like an 8K edge it is certainly a capable shaving edge, but a little more tricky to squeeze the last little bit. Totally doable though!
    Billyfergie and Keithmax like this.
  6. PickledNorthern

    PickledNorthern Fabulous, the unicorn

    I don’t shave off an edge finished with anything less than 12k. On my own hones, I go from 12K to 1 micron film, then a few laps on .03. OR, I go from 12K to a Black Arkansas. I am still feeling my way around.

    I like a really “crisp” (thanks for the term, @Billyfergie) feel to my edges. Even professionally honed blades, finished on 12, I kind of like to crisp them up a little more. That is just preference.
  7. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    Interesting. It looks like people can start with a 4000/8000 grit stone and then finish with a 12000 grit stone. For shaving though, is it possible to make your razor too sharp? (ie: it cuts into your skin too easy, so you go too lightly around your chin and delicate areas, and you don't actually get a good shave?) Also, what grit is a Black Arkansas?
    Billyfergie and Keithmax like this.
  8. Keithmax

    Keithmax Breeds Pet Rocks

    One the best parts about straight razor shaving is the ability to adjust every part of the shave, one of the worst things about shaving with a straight is the ability to adjust every part of the shave. It is an individual preference for how sharp and crisp you like the blade. I have some tough stubble and I like a very sharp blade.

    For maintenance of the edge, I used pasted strops and then after a couple of touch-ups on the pasted strops I go back to my finishing stones. I do a few laps on a Shapton super stone 12k and then follow it with either a Shapton glass 16k or Goykumo 20k. I like the feel I get off these finishers. I am not a honing master so I prefer the synthetics plus I find the edges not only sharp but smooth for the 16 or 20k stones.

    There are a lot of ways to skin a cat.
    Jim99, Billyfergie, alpla444 and 2 others like this.
  9. RezDog

    RezDog Well-Known Member

    I feel as though is you do too much on the 12K you can easily get what I refer to as a prickly edge. I do not like the feel of that at all. You can also over develop the edge, and it breaks down rather quickly. There is so much of personal preference put into honing and shaving. Coticules have an almost cult following, with claim of the softest most buttery smooth edges, which to me reminds me a lot of an edge I have finished on the Norton 8K. As far as my preferences go, a very crisp edge needs more stropping. Stropping is the key to getting an edge smooth and lasting and lasting.
  10. SevenEighth

    SevenEighth Well-Known Member

    I am not sure I understand. Please would you clarify a little further. I think you are recommending limited use of the 12k + stropping, so that you don't over develop the edge. Did I understand you correctly?
    Billyfergie likes this.
  11. alpla444

    alpla444 That's sweet!

    It depends on What you want to do, ie... buy a beat up razor and make it shave ready (Not very easy for a beginner, and can be quite expensive to get a good set up)
    Or if you want to buy a razor from a reputable seller that has it genuinely shave ready, and then just maintain that edge as and when it needs it, (Which is possibly the cheapest way to get in to honing, )
    Maybe you live near a member that hones and you can maybe meet up, have a proper chat etc.... and maybe have ago
    gssixgun, Keithmax and Billyfergie like this.
  12. Billyfergie

    Billyfergie The Scottish Ninja

    If You have a Shave Ready Razor & Want to Maintain it a 12 K Super Stone is Hard to Beat..Top End Synthetics are Easy to Learn On & Very Consistent..Naturals Vary a Lot & Take a Moment to Get Used To..An Arkie is Far from Beginner Friendly..;)

    A 12 K Super Stone & Pastes will Maintain a Properly Honed Razor Almost Indefinitely..3 Micron Alloy/Ox Film = 12 K & 1 Micron = 16 is Also Easy to Use and a Cheaper Option for Refreshes..Its Up there with the Best of Modern Synthetics in My Books Unless One is Honing Hundreds of Razors..:)

  13. Jim99

    Jim99 Gold Water Shaver

    I bought some Naniwa hones a couple of years back and can do a progression of 1k, 3k, 8k and 12k.

    I only use the 1k and 3k when I need to set or reset a bevel. For touch ups, the 12k works just fine. If the 12k isn’t getting the blade where it needs to be, I’ll drop down to my 8k. However, I usually get by just fine with my 12k Naniwa.
  14. RezDog

    RezDog Well-Known Member

    Pretty much that is what I was saying. Too much makes for a less comfortable edge. Also is you have a fairly tight progression, like 8K, 10K, 12K, then it gets a little easier to over develop the edge to the point where it does not last a long time. It becomes even more fragile. Typically I use either a 10K and a natural finisher or the 12K and a natural. Typically on my very old Sheffield blades I stop at 8K or finish on a coticule. So my solution to that prickly shave is limit the number of strokes on the 12K and really give it a good stropping. The high stroke count after honing really started for me when I noticed that after about four shave on an edge it really started to smooth out. My theory was it was because of the stropping. I tried high count stropping directly after honing and really felt it did the edge a favour.
  15. Rugger007

    Rugger007 Active Member

    My recommendation for a beginner is this:

    Start with a truly shave ready blade

    Get a Shapton Kuromaku 12k ($100 cad) or a Naniwa 12k, shapton is my preference, for touching up a blade which is falling off a bit. Add the next lowest grit stone (8k) once the 12k is no longer getting the job done.

    Use the minimum amount of strokes necessary to refresh the edge.

    Lapped and pasted balsa with .5 or .1 diamond spray can keep your edge going for a very long time with minimal effort and give a very smooth edge.

    Strop on clean linen followed by leather. Focus on leading with the spine of the razor. If you allow the spine to lead and not focus on the edge, the edge will naturally lay where it should and will not roll. Also take your time stropping, it’s not a race and going too fast is a sure fire way to bugger up the edge or your strop in short order.

    If you have any questions feel free to pick my brain.
  16. lindyhopper66

    lindyhopper66 Well-Known Member

    And chromium oxide is an even finer grade to finish the finish.
    Keithmax, Billyfergie and SevenEighth like this.
  17. lindyhopper66

    lindyhopper66 Well-Known Member

    Yes, I use 100 or more stropping laps after honing and if that still leaves a too harsh edge, do more.
    SevenEighth, Keithmax, RezDog and 2 others like this.

Share This Page