Some thoughts on honing razors..

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by gssixgun, Oct 1, 2009.

  1. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

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    Aspiring honers are often not clear about what they are trying to accomplish when it comes to honing razors. In particular, they are often unsure of what they are doing and how often they should be doing it. Some questions you might want to answer for yourself before you start buying hones:

    ■ Are you an "end-user"; someone who only hones a previously shave-ready blade back to shave-ready?
    ■ Are you a hobbyist who is chasing the absolute finest edge that may be obtained where money is no object?
    ■ Are you a frugal shaver who is after the cheapest way to complete your morning shave?
    ■ Are you a collector who needs to take E-bay specials from butt-ugly to shave-ready?
    ■ Are you a Honemiester; someone who gets paid to do all of these things for others?
    ■ Are you a razor restorer who needs to take damaged blades and bring them back to life and shave-readiness?

    Each of these types of honer profiles have different requirements for the stones they will own. Theoretically, you can survive using the "one stone" approach, but each razor does have an optimum stone set - and more importantly, a technique for using the required hones. So generally, when somebody asks what stone or how to use what stone, the question to ask them is: "What are you trying to accomplish with the stone(S)?"

    Refreshing vs. Starting from Scratch:

    The types of hones required depends first and foremost on the type of honing you want to do.

    Hones needed for refreshing a dull blade:

    If the only task you want to perform is refreshing edges that have previously been established by a Honemiester (the process is often referred to as "touching up"), you need only get a fine grit finishing stone or a barber's hone for this. Either of these hones can be used to keep your razor(s) shave-ready for years.

    Hones needed for restoring razors:

    If you want to set a bevel, or have many different types of razors, you will need a full set of hones.

    A bevel setting stone approximately 1k

    DMT's 325 600 1200, Shapton 500, 1K and 2K, Coticules with slurry, Norton 1k, Naniwa 1k

    A sharpening stone approximately 4k

    Norton 4K, Shapton 4K Naniwa 3k or 5k, Belgian Blue with slurry

    A polishing stone approximately 8k

    Norton 8k, Shapton 8k, Naniwa 8k, Yellow Coticule

    A finishing stone 10k and above (this is often subject to debate, however)

    Shapton GS 16k-30k Shapton 15k Naniwa SS 10k-12k or Chosera 12k, Thuringens, Escher's, Many different natural Japanese finishers, Charlney Forest, Extra Fine Coticule, even some of the Arkansas stones...

    You have several choices of how to accomplish this setup whether you use natural, man-made stone, or a Diamond-style stone, but you are going to have to be able to cover those 4 grit ranges. There really is no true shortcut here if you expect to take razors acquired in need of restoration from butter knife dull (or damaged) to shaving sharp: You are going to end up needing these types of stones.

    Pastes can be used after the hones and before the final stropping also these can be used for re-freshing the edge before going back to the hones for a touch-up...

    A few different types

    Dovo Pastes:

    Green 5-8 micron
    Red 3-5 micron
    Black 1-3 micron
    Dovo pastes are a much more mild cutter then say a diamond paste of the same micron size...

    Diamond Paste:

    From 3 micron down to actually .10 micron if you really wanted to...
    These pastes are fast and many people use them incorrectly and manage too get a harsh edge, when used correctly and on the right razor steel these will most likely be the sharpest edge you will ever feel...

    Diamond sprays:

    Mostly found in 1.0 .50 and .25 micron watch the Carat content here, the higher the better (SRD has the best I have found and yes Lynn and Don are friends of mine, but heck it is still the best spray I have found)

    Chromium Oxide Paste/Powder .50 micron (CrOx)
    Probably the most universal of the pastes, get the most pure you can find, and no the bars at Woodcrafters are not pure...

    Cerium Oxide Paste/Powder (approx).25 micron (CeOx)

    Super fine, super soft, and super smooth, polishing media...The bar at Woodcrafter's is of unknown quality at this time

    Other Pastes and Powders:

    Iron Oxide
    Aluminum Oxide

    Both of these can also be used again be very careful when buying this stuff as the purity and the micron sizes are very important...

    Carbon blacking/lamp black:

    This might be the oldest of all the sharpening "pastes" when used on a leather strop it increases draw

    Wood Ash:

    Another old fashioned one very slightly abrasive when used on Linen strops and Leather strops..

    White chalk:

    Can be rubbed on a linen strop to increase the abrasive qualities


    The ink itself is a very fine abrasive and so is the paper..

    Keep in mind that different razor steels like/dislike different pastes, and the different media that is used to apply it including Balsa, Linen, Leather (paddle) Leather (hanger) and Felt paddle and hanger all give different results on different razor steels....

    The above are only my personal opinions and observations... There are no set rules in Razordom...
  2. MsBlackwolf

    MsBlackwolf Queen of Critters

    Thank You, Glen. Very helpful info there. I have a couple of stainless Inox blades. What is the usual hone progression and paste recommendation on these?
  3. D Pflaumer

    D Pflaumer New Member

    Holy crap I wish we had a "Thanks" button here like we do at SRP. You just answered all of my questions about possible future hone acquisition in one fell swoop. You truly know your razors Glen.

    That being said, you could add Iron Oxide to the powder list :D
  4. hoglahoo

    hoglahoo Yesterday's News

    Thanks Glen. This is just what I have been looking for :D
  5. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor
    Each razor has what I call a honing combination... Some for instance take 100 laps at the 1k level and then even out up through the 30k level..

    Some like the Inox, SS, the stuff that is hard to get smooth, like a Friodur, Wacker, etc usually like to get into the higher grits(8k-16k) faster and more of them.. The Felt strops with Diamond do a nice number on these... My last thing on these types of razor is 10 laps on a very lightly pasted leather with CeOx..

    Updated for ya Drew...
    Billyfergie likes this.
  6. MsBlackwolf

    MsBlackwolf Queen of Critters

    Thanks Glen! I am mostly doing touch ups on honed blades. The Inox I'd like to be using is very rough and I was wondering what to do to smooth her out. Very sharp, and sharp enough to shave with, but rough on the skin. I'll do the diamond sprayed strop and go to the leather to get this razor going. The SS blades are a little different creature to deal with.
  7. Hyperborean

    Hyperborean New Member

    suppose I fall into hobbyist category regarding sharpening/honing except the last part of the sentence...I see I have more or less right set of stones for various sharpening and honing purposes :)...King 250/1000 combination waterstone, Cerax 1000/3000 combination waterstone, Shapton 500 and 2000 glass stones, Naniwa 8000 SS some old diamond polishing paste of unknown grit size and recently aquired Chromium oxide paste

    usually, japanese waterstone above 2000 grit are regarded as honing stones not really sharpening... Norton 4000 grit waterstone is (regarding actual grit size) equivalent to japanese 2000 grit waterstone

    ps.: I have DMT Diasharp Coarse (325 grit) plate for purpose of trueing waterstones from 1000 grit and above...personally I would never take a razor to Coarse DMT ...way too coarse for such fine bevel...and would drastically remove steel plus combination of diamond sharpening plates and steel hardened above 60 HRC doesn't go well together
  8. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor
    As to the DMT's I tend to agree with you on their use on razors but once broken in correctly them can be of use in the Restoration side of things...

    Keep in mind Honing and Restoration are two different categories when it comes to razors...
  9. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor
    One other "trick" with SS blades is to change up your style of honing...

    Such as:
    Take the stroke pattern for instance, Heel forward 30 degrees and straight down a 3" hone, 4 laps... 5th lap do a standard X stroke repeat this 5 lap system for a 10 lap set
    Spin the stone 180 degrees so you are now honing on the other side of the stone...
    4 laps standard X strokes 1 lap heel forward, repeat... for a 10 lap set

    Go in sets of ten until it gets close then cut it back to sets of 5 changing the stoke style back and forth...

    SS is actually softer than carbon but more abrasion resistant this changing of the direction I think helps keep it smooth.. (this can be used on carbon steel also)

    See if that doesn't help...
    Billyfergie likes this.
  10. JimR

    JimR Active Member

    Glen, I feel like I should be paying you!

    Keep this up, and I just might! ;) Thanks Bro.
  11. PalmettoB

    PalmettoB The Old Guard

    Added to the new "Master" list of Stickies in the Straight Razor Forum. Thanks so much Glen, this is great stuff!
  12. MsBlackwolf

    MsBlackwolf Queen of Critters

    Exactly where it should be! Thanks Blair!
  13. moviemaniac

    moviemaniac Tool Time

    A very informative summary, well done!
  14. Crankymoose

    Crankymoose Member

    Excellent info.

    What's your opinion on using the DMT EE extra fine for touch ups? I have one and haven't had great success with it versus any other method just wondering if it is me or perhaps I just haven't broken it in enough?

    Also have you used the Chromium Oxide paste from Handamerican? he guarantees it to be .5 micron or 60,000, I have used it and find it great for using after diamond paste to smooth out the edge but it doesn't seem to make the edge sharper just smoother if that makes sense
  15. The DMT EE is 8000 grit. While you can shave off that, it isn't really fine enough for touch-ups.

    If you're on a budget you might want to consider getting a Chinese 12K for touch-ups. They run around $30. The cotis or Eschers are much more expensive, and don't necessarily give you a better edge (though they cut much faster).

    Another option would be lapping film. They give the best edges I've seen, and they cut really fast. They are a little more involved to get up and running with, though.
    BeShaved likes this.
  16. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor

    1. Personally I am just not a huge fan of the DMT's many people suggest lapping a hard stone on one to break them in... The other trick that does work is one drop of dish-washing soap on the stone while working it I would guess a swipe of lather would work too...

    2. That is exactly what pastes should do, is smooth the edge, there are many people who truly believe that these pastes "Sharpen" the razor I suppose a diamond in a +1 micron grit size on something like balsa could actually sharpen but that is not the design that you want.. Pastes should only refine an edge...
    We also keep telling people to use pastes to re-fresh an edge, and yes it even works... I am in the middle of an experiment myself using Diamond pastes...(so far so good)
    But personally I never use them that way, I use them very sparingly and very selectively off the hones to refine my edges...
    BeShaved likes this.
  17. Wildtim

    Wildtim New Member

    Glen you completly forgot about my favorite sharpener. Microfilm. Cheap and easy and able to give you a full set of hones even for a dabbler or the ultimate in a frugal shaver.
  18. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor
    I didn't forget Tim I just don't know them as well as you and Craig could you add some about the grits and how they are used please.....
    Billyfergie likes this.
  19. PalmettoB

    PalmettoB The Old Guard

    I myself have been curious about the microfilms. I almost invested in some and a block/mount at Woodcraft, but wasn't sure the outlay would be worth it.
  20. JimR

    JimR Active Member

    All you really need is a flat smooth surface, like a sheet of tempered glass, and some water...I've tried them a couple of times, just playing around.

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