How to Test Sharpness on your SR?

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by Willk, Sep 23, 2019.

  1. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    What is a generally good rule of thumb for testing if the SE blade is "sharp enough" for a descent shave? I've read somewhere that if you flick a hair on a SE, it should cut it. Well, despite how I've tried, I was unable to witness that for myself, even straight after honing.

    For me, on my first pass, there is a moderate amount of tugging that I've always thought was just part of the deal of using a SE. The 2nd pass, there is much less tugging. My beard is pretty strong in some areas, like my chin, but I can't help wondering if the tugging I'm feeling is normal, or is my blade not sharp enough, or something else. When I shave with my feather DE blades, it sooooo much smoother. I've been shaving for a year or two using a SE, every two weeks or so, so I don't have lots of experience, but I can get the job done.
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  2. Jamie Mahoney

    Jamie Mahoney Well-Known Member

    What does your honing progression look like?
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  3. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

    Two weeks is a lot of growth for any blade to handle. That said, if your blade is too steep an angle, you are scraping rather than cutting. Try keeping your blade angle near flat.
  4. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    My honing is with a 12000 Naniwa whetstone. I hone my blade about every 6 months as I don’t use it a lot.
    I gently “push” it on the whetstone about 6 times per side.

    I also should also clarify that I shave every day with my DE feather. Only every two weeks I’ll pull out my straight and I’ll do two passes with it and finish the third with my DE. (After two passes with my straight, there it still feels a little rough. If I do a third pass with my straight, it helps a bit, but my skin starts to sting a bit, so I use my DE which leaves it DFS.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  5. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Perhaps you need more than 6 laps, on the 12k. After the 12 k, take it to a Balsa strop, with some CroOx paste, on one side, and iron oxide paste on the other. I would then do at least 50 strokes on a linen strop, and 100-150 strokes on the leather. If that doesnt make it scary sharp, well, then it might need a proper honing, starting at a lower grit.
  6. Edison Carter

    Edison Carter Goo-bloomin' Stankster

    Hang Hair Tests (HHT), and tree topping arm hair weren't working for me. I couldn't even get Feather DE blade to pass. Using my wife's hair was better, still not reliable enough for me to use.

    I never thought I'd ever do a 'thumbpad' test. I've felt the edges on knives with fingertips for years and gave it a try. Recently I am found to like it.

    I describe what feel is 'edgey', 'grabby', and noise 'twangy' on thinner grinds. I look with a cheap 120x scope and think that I have worked up a foil edge at this point. It will shave rough without stropping. I like a pasted balsa strop progression. Using Herald green-red-black first, then 1 micron, .5, .25, .1 micron cBN is mine, and takes the whole bevel to a shiny polish.

    The thumbpad feel less 'edgey' and the shave is smooth.

    ALL my straights are a little tuggy on the first pass if I don't shave daily. I could only theorize as to why.
  7. Steveclarkus

    Steveclarkus Well-Known Member

    You really need to work on your honing. Six passes on a 12k isn’t going to do much especially if you haven’t maxed out prior grits. As far as HHT goes, be sure you have the hair with the root end pointed away from you. Hair has tiny scales on it and if the hair is pointed in the wrong direction, the blade will not grab it. The hair should also be wet (lick it). It is going to be difficult to learn SR Shave by shaving so infrequently. It takes commitment but once learned it is quite simple.
  8. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    A really sharp blade will cut very fine hairs, root in, or out, even dry, with ease.

  9. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

    A really sharp blade will provide a near shavette shave. There will be some resistance on the first pass just as there is with a Feather Shavette Pro Guard blade. Technique is an often overlooked factor.
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  10. Primotenore

    Primotenore missed opera tunity

    Article Team
    How many laps, Scott?
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  11. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Dont know. All honing and stropping is subjective. My thought would be, if more than 30 on CrOx, and 30 on FeOx, is needed, then perhaps, taking the blade down to a 6k stone might be needed. Just my way of thinking. But, like other things, there are many ways to get to where you want to go.
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  12. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    So, what I gather, is the hair test is a good way to test the sharpness of your straight? So if each one of you, right now, took a hair and flicked it on your straight, it would cut it??
    Also, I should mention before I use my straight, I do 26 strop on a leather strop. I first want to establish, is my straight "sharp enough"? Once I know that answer, I can take more specific action on what I should work on next.
  13. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor

    No you "Gather" incorrectly it is a terrible way to judge a SR edge, because

    All "Sharpness Tests" must be quantified with known edges before they really mean anything to the honer

    This is the only test that matters for you right now If you can't pass that you need the razor honed CORRECTLY,,, if you can pass that you need more practice shaving...

    (took a hair and flicked it on your straight, it would cut it)
    ps: It is actually called an HHT or Hanging Hair Test and it also is useless until quantified through trial and error
    A new DE blade is a good test platform for your sharpness tests, ie: Does your new DE blade pass the HHT with your hair, do you know how to hold the hair to test ???
    Get a positive HHT on your DE blade with practice then try it on your SR edge after stropping
    If you cannot get a Positive HHT on the DE then it is useless to try on the SR

    pps: The HHT only shows "Sharpness" at a certain point at the edge when done correctly it does NOT define the quality of the edge for shaving

    Are you confused totally now ???

    Go back to the Shave Test :)
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2019
  14. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    OK gssixgun, if I understand your test, it is basically to do a single (downward) pass on your cheek, and the result should be smooth? Hmmmm... I would fail that test because I require 2 passes (1 WTG, 1XTG) on my SR on my cheek to get something smooth-ish (with an additional 3rd pass (XTG the other direction) with my DE feather to get a DFS). How many passes do you do with your SR? How often do you hone your razor?
  15. Steveclarkus

    Steveclarkus Well-Known Member

    I was just stating accepted protocol for HHT.
  16. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Sharpness, and shave ready are two different things. Without sharpness, you cannot have shave ready. But, what we strive for is Sharpness, and Smoothness, which makes for a good shave ready razor.
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  17. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

    I hone my razors to 200k. I'm a whole face shaver. The coarsest hair on my face is the moustache and chin. I perform an initial WTG followed by another WTG on my face, but ATG on my neck. The last pass is ATG on my face and chin. I use two hands when shaving ATG below the bottom lip and rounding the chin. The last pass also includes and additional WTG on my neck. All this is followed by inspection and touch ups where needed. All this is near shavette or shavette quality.

    I should add that I perform the same progression with a Schick injector, Gillette DE, or GEM Micromatic razor where I want a close shave. If the shave is just to be presentable, less is required. One reason I want I good result is because my beard grows fast. I'd like to look shaved at the end of the day.

    I've never bothered with these nail or hair tests except arm hair occasionally after setting the bevel. I use a combination of 3m Films, stones, chromium and 200k diamond paste. I have a linen and horse hide strop. @Steveclarkus was and is my mentor and I learned to hone from him. I have used his edges and they are better than any professional honer I've bought from to date. None of this is complicated of difficult to learn or understand. Honing is simply have the skills and tools to prepare an edge that meets your individual beard requirements. Shaving is learning how an edge works at varying angles.

    Get a shavette. Some take a DE blade. You will learn more about using a SR using a shavette than trying to cut a hair or cutting your nails.
  18. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor


    You need to compare your shaving with a SR to shaving with your DE, do you get a Smooth face with one single WTG pass with your DE??? if you do then the SR should do the same and be more comfortable to the face .

    Doing the single stroke on the Sideburn to Jawline eliminates MOST of the user error, if you or the razor can't do that then shaving the rest of your face will go even worse.

    ie: There is no reason to go forward until that simple stroke is at least as good as doing the same with your DE that is the reason for the test

    That test only helps you determine whether your edge is lacking, or your skill set is

    I do one WTG pass to a DFS shave but then again I have been using a SR since 1981 :p I might know a trick or two

    ps: The Naniwa SS 12k is a VERY capable hone, you would be surprised with what it can really do, so you have the right tool in the toolbelt
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
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  19. MrEE

    MrEE Half Naked Shave Stalker

    I usually pass my razor over the hair on my arm or torso and see how many hairs it's clipping off. I hone on a 8K stone and use a jeweler's loop to see if the honing marks are even across the whole bevel. Then I move to a 12K stone and continue. I do inspect the edge with a jeweler's loop (20x) until the finer 12K honing marks are even across the length of the bevel. At this point the razor should clip a few hairs when passed over my arm hair, but not as many as I like. So, I move on to 10-20 strokes on chromium oxide or diamond spray followed by 25 strokes stropping on canvas and 50 strokes on leather.

    At that point the blade should clip more that 50% of the hairs off as I hover the blade over my arm. I've been using this method for the last few months and had great success. I even used this method to return a very dull razor to service which I had found at an antique store.
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  20. Willk

    Willk Active Member

    OK, I can say this: My SR does not shave nearly as smooth as my feather DE blades. (in fact, I'm going to try the hair test just with my feather blades just for curiosity). As well, when I use my feather 1/2 blade in my shavette, it is still a noticeably smoother experience than using my straight. This might be enough to say the first problem I have is my straight isn't sharp enough. Assuming there is no damage with my straight (big nicks in the blade edge), can I get reasonable honing by only using my 12k Naniwa and leather strop? (Maybe I need to do 10-15 passes on my 12k Naniwa rather than 6/side).
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