I'm having a consistency issue with my razor

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by Reformation Student, Mar 16, 2008.

  1. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    I've been having really good success keeping my razor shaving great. Every couple of weeks I give it several passes on the 1 micron diamond pasted paddle. I've recently had a week where no matter how many passes on the diamond paste I did, the razor just wasn't sharp enough. So, I thought it time to go back to the Norton. I started with a 1/5 pyramid on the 4k/8k norton (after lapping the stone). It didn't seem sharp enough so I did several more passes on the 8k with maybe 15 strokes on the 1 micron diamond paste.

    I still can't cut the hairs on my arm easily. I'm not sure how it will shave but prior experience tells me this won't shave well or hold an edge very long.

    I don't understand why I am successful sometimes and then other times, it seems like I'm causing more trouble for myself.

    Whether diamond paste or Norton hone, I use an X-pattern with very, very light pressure and I keep the blade and spine flat on the hone.

    When stropping, I go straight up and down about 30 times. I've had good success both using and not using the linen first, making the first 10 strokes on the strop a little firmer in pressure to establish a draw, then using no pressure on the remaining 20.

    Now, though, nothing is working and I don't understand what I've done to cause a change.

    I go through this about every few months. Good results, bad results, repeat.

    I'd like suggestions on both stropping and honing technique that I might try in order to obtain consistently good results.
  2. IsaacRN

    IsaacRN Active Member

    I would start over....Just rehone it.

    I dont know that you necessarily need a weekly paste sharpening. From what ive learned the paste is more of a touchup that can prolong your honing needs. I know I personally use the paste maybe once a month.

    It might be that the razor is overhoned at this point.

    Ill let some of our other shavers chime in....and as always YMMV
  3. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    I've only been using the paste about every other week as a touch up. Of course, thinking a little more about it, I'm almost convinced that my stropping is going to end up being the culprit. I think I need to greatly improve this area of my routine.

    Could be wrong but I lean towards this at the moment. Of course, after honing it today, it could very well be overhoned. I'm just not sure how to tell.
  4. Padron

    Padron Active Member

    I usually don't go to the paste that often, probably more like Isaac and maybe once a month....lately I have been skipping the pastes though and just shaving off the finishing hone after stropping..

    I am no expert so it's hard to say what is causing your results to vary if you have re-honed on a lapped stone...perhaps it does have to do with your stropping..I tend to use natural stones more than the Norton's....

    Could try more tension on the strop, perhaps you had more slack and rolled the edge a bit...

    I would probably go back to the stones though,...hopefully more experienced honemeisters will chime in
  5. Scorpio

    Scorpio Big Hitter

    If the edge is not cutting arm hairs easily it is not sharp enough. Using the paste every week is probably too much. I tried pastes with ok results. I just go from the hones to the strop to my face. Like Neale stated keep the strop taut. Also at some point you may want to invest in a finishing stone to put a smoother edge on the blade, something in the 12k range. Another stone that is part of the arsenal is a 1k. A small loupe or mini microscope from radio shack is also something to have that will assist you in getting better edges on your blades.

    Of course it is difficult to diagnose the problem without having the blade. I would stay away from pyramids. I would put 40 laps on the 4k and about 80 on the 8k. Then strop a good 60 laps. See where the blade is at this point. If you want to use the x pattern is up to you. I go straight back and forth for a few laps then switch to X. Mainly just to see something different not because if has a different result. Again this is how I do it. If you want to try something else by all means do so. I tried different techniques and settle for a combination of several that gave me the best results.

  6. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    Wow! 40 laps on the 4k?? I'd hate to see what that's going to do to the spine. If I did this, would you recommend taping the spine?

    I do keep the strop very taut and I do have a jeweler's loupe that Bill recommended. Nothing on the edge looks untoward.

    Interestingly, I didn't use pastes up until a few weeks ago. I tried them again and found that touching the razor up on the pastes seemed to give me some of the best shaves I've had. Now, I'm back to inconsistent results.

    As for the 12k stone, do you have an affordable one in mind? The Belgian coticules are way out of my price range.
  7. PalmettoB

    PalmettoB The Old Guard

    I'm with Raf and Neale on this one, too. Work on the stropping technique, and yeah, it's okay to tape the spine on that many passes.

    As for a cheaper finishing stone, there were some ideas here.

    Also check out the Woodcraft stones like this.
  8. Bill

    Bill Man of Steel

    Understand that my opinion isn't any better than anyone else's. Because I say something different doesn't mean other opinions are wrong... just different.

    First and foremost. Don't make it more difficult than it needs to be. The Norton 4/8K is all the stone you need unless you have a very dull razor. In those cases, use a piece of 400 grit sandpaper on a piece of glass. Then 600, then 1,000 or 1,200. After that, go to the Norton 4K side.

    I used a typical set of pyramid passes a couple times to try it out. I'll never do it again. Only because it wastes my time. If you have the correct bevel before you leave the 4K side and the scratch marks of the 4K are taken out by the 8K side, there is no need to go back to the 4K side. Redundant... to me.

    I use both hands for stability to keep from tipping the razor as it crosses the stone. I start heel first at about a 5/10 degree angle from perpendicular on the stone. Pretend you are slicing off the thinnest piece of stone in the world off the stone.

    I use about 2.5 to 3 pounds of pressure to start out. I measured that on a digital mailing scale. 15 passes max should do it. Go to the 8K side for 10 passes... maybe 12 using the same pressure. Lighten up on the pressure to 4/5 ounces for another 10 passes. You should be sharp enough to go to the paste now.

    I don't use the linen side of a strop because I don't like it. I think the intent of the linen is to heat the edge, anyway. That comes from what I have read in the old books over the years. The cutting edge is more responsive to a keen edge if it is really warm. Put it under the hot water instead. Get it hot. Wipe dry and strop on green paste with no more than 1/2 inch sag in the strop using the same 4/5 ounces pressure. 20 passes and then hit the plain leather for 30 trips. The last 15 should be with 1 ounce or less pressure.

    If you aren't sharp enough with that, keep on the plain leather until you get there. No need to go back to the hone. Maybe 5 light passes on the paste can help, but try to get the final touches on the plain leather.

    Start shaving...
  9. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member


    Thanks for the common sense. I have a pasted paddle with green paste on it but it always seems to dull my razor (perhaps I have too much paste on it?)

    I take it that on the stone you are using an X pattern. Is this right or do you just go straight down the Norton at the 5 or 10 degree angle you suggested?

    I will follow these instructions tonight and report back.
  10. Bill

    Bill Man of Steel

    Correct. If you were to go straight down the stone you would be "pushing" the razor. Remember, I said to "slice" a piece of the stone off and that means the blade is drawn from heel to tip as you traverse across the stone. If you have a 3 inch wide stone, I guess you could get away with just "pushing" it. One small tip: Put a slight amount of forward torque into the cutting edge as well. The blade needs to be resting on the spine and cutting edge at the same time, but remember that you are trying to get the edge sharp and not wear down the spine.

    More than counting passes, you should be monitoring the edge's progress with that 30x loupe and testing the edge with your thumb. Some steel is different. Your razor may take less than what I said and others may take more.
  11. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    This is the first time anyone has ever suggested the idea of forward torque. That makes a lot of sense to me. And I hear the keyword being "slight".

    How frequently would you suggest testing the edge when on the 4k and/or 8k sides (5 passes, 10 passes, something else)?
  12. netsurfr

    netsurfr New Member

    1 micron diamond paste after the 8K Norton sounds a bit coarse. You may want to try a double sided paddle with 0.5 micron and 0.25 micron paste.
  13. IsaacRN

    IsaacRN Active Member

    i go 1.0 and 0.5 pastes after a 8k
  14. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    From everything I've read 3micron = 8k, 1micron =25k and .5micron = 40k (of course, this is all approximate equivalents)
  15. Bill

    Bill Man of Steel

    After the 8K, I stick with .5 micron as well.
  16. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    Bill, are you talking diamond paste or chromium oxide?
  17. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member


    I just finished the process outlined above by Bill. I worked the 4k until the bevel looked uniformly established (about 15 passes) then went to the 8k side. As suggested, I did about 10 passes with some pressure and about another 15-20 with very, very light pressure. I don't have an exact count because I would stop and test with my thumb every few passes and lost an exact counting.

    It felt sharp to my thumb so I thought it time to move on to the green chromium oxide. I heated the blade under hot water and dried it off. Using the same light pressure as I used for the last passes on the 8k, I proceeded with 20 passes. Thumb test again and all seemed well so I cleaned the blade and proceeded to strop on my paddle strop. After 30 passes a thumb test produced a very sharp, biting edge. Figuring I couldn't overstrop, I did another 15 passes. :eek: I think I begin to understand a little what is meant by scary sharp. I am looking forward to the morning shave.

    Assuming the shave confirms what the thumb indicates, my next question is how do I maintain this? I shave every other day because if I get a good shave, it's at least 36 hours before anything is shaveable again. Even with this, I start to get little nicks and irritation after about 1 and 1/2 to 2 weeks and this is why I've taken to touching up the razor on the paste every couple of weeks.
  18. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    Results from shave

    Not quite there yet. It needs to be a little sharper and a little smoother. It wasn't a bad shave but after 3 passes, I still had some stubble and the blade passing over the skin was a bit rough.

    All in all, I'd say based on previous shaves that were fantastic, this is about 95% there.
  19. IsaacRN

    IsaacRN Active Member

    THis has turned out to be a great thread...keep us posted
  20. Reformation Student

    Reformation Student New Member

    2 shaves now and it just isn't quite right. So I remembered what Bill said in an earlier post:

    "If you aren't sharp enough with that, keep on the plain leather until you get there. No need to go back to the hone. Maybe 5 light passes on the paste can help, but try to get the final touches on the plain leather"

    Well, I've been doing that. Basically, I just been stropping away, maybe 60x. A thumb test did indeed indicate an increase in sharpness and I have been able to mow down hair on my arm (sometimes with an audible "ping") which I couldn't do even after using the Norton. I'm not sure how that will translate into a shave but I'm going to try it in the morning and see.

    One thing seems clear, stropping can improve the edge.

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