Tutorial Razor Stones Part 2

Discussion in 'Tutorials' started by Steve56, Jul 19, 2018.

  1. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    IMG_3252.JPG Flattening and Maintaining Hones

    Reasons for flattening

    Razor hones should be flat or very nearly flat unless otherwise intended. A concave hone will increase the effective bevel angle - it amounts to raising the spine with respect to the bevel. Convex hones will decrease the effective bevel angle and basically function as a narrow hone, useful for honing frowns and overground areas of the blade common in newer straight razors.

    A Few Flattening Methods

    Soaking a synthetic stone can change the shape, so synthetics should always be lapped in the condition that you use them, so regardless of the recommendation, I usually soak a synthetic for a 5 minutes or so before lapping them and before using them. The idea is to use the stone in the same condition as it was lapped.

    The most common tools for flattening a stone are diamond plates, flattening stones, and sandpaper on a flat substrate like plate glass or lapped marble/granite. A good quality diamond plate will be very flat, does not need to be (and cannot be) flattened itself, unlike abrasive flattening tools sold by whetstone makers. They cut reasonably quickly, but almost none of them are actually intended to lap whetstones, and they can
    be ruined if not kept free of stone slurry. Therefore it’s best to use these under running water, or to rinse the slurry off them anytime it appears to be thickening or the plate is sticking to the stone.

    Flattening stones sold by the stone manufacturers usually leave a coarser finish than one would want on a razor hone and have to be maintained flat themselves. So if I have to have a diamond plate or sandpaper to flatten the flattening stone, why bother, just flatten the hone.

    Sandpaper on plate glass/flat substrate is what I usually use, from 60 grit (for dished or damaged hones) through 2000 grit, approximately halving the grits in surfacing the stone, just like a synthetic honing progression. I usually start at 320 for my regular flattening maintenance.

    Loose silicon carbide grit on plate glass or lapped granite is also useful if large amounts of material need to be removed or the stone is very hard, like an Arkansas. I use 300 SiC grit on plate glass for jnats and synths (when needed). You may want to go coarser for flattening Arkansas stones because they’re very hard.

    Regardless of the lapping method, the stone should be rinsed thoroughly and free of all grit and slurry when finished.

    Surface finish

    The surface finish of a hone affects how it cuts. For example, people who use a soft Arkansas may keep one face of the hone slightly rough to cut quickly and the other burnished smoothly to produce a finer finish. I call this the ‘Arkansas effect’ after the folks who talk the most about surface finish, but the effect exists with all hones to some degree. I like a smooth surface on my stones mostly because it never made sense to me to have a 140 grit scratch pattern on a 12k stone.

    Some Considerations in Selecting Hones

    Now is probably a good time to mention the differences between people who hone commercially and those who are hobbyists and beginners. I count myself as a hobbyist.

    A commercial honer wants fast stones. Time is money, and an extra 10 minutes per razor is significant when you have a dozen on the bench. That’s two extra hours at work to use something like a slower Naniwa Superstone vs a Shapton Glass HR. I may want to use a little slurry on the synthetics to speed things up even more. But the commercial honer gets enough practice to know what works and doesn’t, and most importantly, how to manage pressure to not put excessive wear on razors using the fastest stones available.

    A hobbyist is not as concerned about time, and so has a larger range of options than most pros. As a hobbyist, I may like the results from a slower stone/system that a pro would not use because those stones would take more time.

    A beginner needs a dependable (good quality) system the he/she knows will not be a limiting factor in learning to hone. Slower stones are recommended because almost everyone who is/was not mentored - including me - wrecks a razor and puts too much wear on several others before they understand what ‘razor pressure’ is.

    Beginners - A Naniwa Superstone or Shapton Pro series.

    Hobbyist - Shapton Glass HR for the coarser work and whatever you like for the finer grits. The purpose of using the Glass HR series at lower grits is that you can substitute a finer Glass HR for a coarser stone because of the speed. For example a Shapton Glass HR 2k can replace every other 1k stone that I’ve tried. Even the 4k can do minor bevel work.

    Pros - Time is money, get the fastest stones of good quality that work for you.

    Edge chamfers/smoothing

    Edges and corners should be chamfered or rounded. This is not needed from a honing standpoint, but most hones of any kind are a bit brittle and life is not always kind. Muting the edges and corners keeps the hone from chipping if bumped on the edge. You could drop the hone even if only a few inches, drop a slurry stone, hit it on a faucet etc. Shapton recommends it as did Iwasaki in his chapter on barbering in his book.


    Some stones can be left in water (King) and others cannot. You should know what’s desirable for the particular stones that you have.

    Stone Holders

    There are a million of them! Including the stone holders everyone has two of, your hands.

    A piece of soft plastic shelf or drawer liner or a silicone drying mat work wonderfully if you don’t need to elevate the stone. The drying mat also catches dribbles and slurryand makes cleanup easy. I use a drying mat beneath everything else.

    The Marie stone holder sold by Takeshi and Max is a spring loaded stainless steel holder with advantages and disadvantages. It doesn’t rust and is easy to clean and stays looking good. It’s spring loaded, so by grabbing the center bars from beneath you can get a stone in and out in a second, no screw threads. Because it’s spring loaded, if you’re using a natural stone with uneven bottom ends, the holder may not grab the stone, but no problems, just flip the holder upside down and put the stone on the ‘bottom’ which is now the top. This also works when the stone is very thin like a Shapton Glass stone.

    Another useful thing is a 4x6x1” (100x150x25mm) thick hard rubber jeweler’s block. It’s perfect for koppas, bouts, and the Japanese barbers size (136x80).

    A bar towel folded in 1/3 can help level uneven work surfaces. Place the stone holder on the seam.

    Plastic self-adhesive cabinet bumpers can make good non-slip ‘feet’ for things that need them. I have a number of Japanese stones on wooden bases that can get slidey and the bumper feet will fix that.

    Hand holding a stone helps beginners manage pressure. It’s difficult to really overdo things if you hand hold a stone. Place the stone on your flat off hand. Don’t try to grab the sides and make sure that no part of your hand or fingers are above the stone’s surface. The stone will also be free to shift a little, and if your stroke is off or uneven, you can many times see or feel the stone shift and adjust your stroke accordingly. Most synthetic bench stones can be used hand held, just don’t try to use the full length of the stone. Also, if you place the stone properly on the folded bar towel mentioned above, it can also move on the fold and do the same thing.

    Cheers, Steve
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2018
    RyX, Edison Carter, Keithmax and 2 others like this.
  2. Heljestrand23

    Heljestrand23 Well-Known Member

    Excellent posts Steve! Great job!

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Edison Carter, mrchick and Steve56 like this.
  3. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Paperboy

    Article Team
    This should be moved to the Tutorials section. :happy088:
    Edison Carter likes this.

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