Pyramid honing guide

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What is the pyramid method of honing? The theory behind the pyramid system is simple: You alternate between hones of two different grits, using a lot of strokes on the coarser side to start out, then using fewer and fewer as you continue.

 Note: The term "stroke" in this article implies 2 movements: one up the hone and one down, so that the blade returns to its starting point.

Usually, the pyramid is done on a Norton 4000/8000 grit combination stone, which was popularized by Lynn Abrams, SRP's founder. It is called a "pyramid" because the strokes on the coarse side of the stone taper off as you go: You might start with 10, for example, then 5, then 3, then 1.[1]

The pyramid is a popular approach because it is simple and it works. As you progress in your honing abilities, you will develop theories as to why it works, but even some of the more advanced honers seem to disagree on the theory behind it. For right now, let is just say that it helps you avoid some of the vexing problems of honing and creates a clear path for you to follow. It helps you avoid the dreaded "overhoned edge," and it partially answers the question "how many strokes do I do?"[2]

Pyramid Honing: a howto guide[edit | edit source]

The following guide was written by Lynn Abrams[3]

The main thing to remember is that it really helps to make sure you have a proper bevel on your razor before going to the pyramids. Do you have to? Not every time depending on the razor, but generally, it's really the best thing to do to help you get to that edge that will shave nicely.

Another thing about the pyramids is that they are basically guidelines and people have used them as they are with success as well as experimented and used similar methods with varying stroke counts that have worked for them.

Are pyramids a scientifically sound process based on laboratory testing along with basic honing, granular structure and metallurgy principles? Absolutely! I have conducted extreme analysis on pyramids and written at least 5 journals and 3 thesis papers on the subject. Pyramids are beyond any question an incremental process of improving a razors edge to shavability. Unfortunately, there was this fire and all my data was destroyed or I would be attaching it here for your scrutiny. Dang, I hate when that happens!

So, when I think pyramids and by the way, I didn't invent this process; it was taught to me by the first honemeister Don Walters. Oh yeah, pyramids. Here are the pyramids that I use for carbon razors:

Strokes on Norton 4k Strokes on Norton 8k
25 25
20 20
15 15
10 10
5 5
3 3
1 3
1 5

That is pretty much it. It is important to use basically just the pressure of the blade on the stone. I use an X stroke and try to make sure that I keep the blade very flat through out the stroke and make sure I keep the pressure even though out the stroke. Spine and edge of the razor on the stone with even pressure at all times. This does take a little practice, but usually can be picked up pretty easily.

I can use a 45 degree angle X stroke for blades with badly flattened or uneven spines, wedges and smiley or frowning blades and it seems to work very well as it helps keep the edge on the stone throughout the stroke.

No I don't start every razor at the top with 25 strokes. Normally I will work from 15 strokes down and sometimes try working from 10 strokes down on new razors. If you have a razor that seems like the bevel is OK, you can start at the 25 strokes, but usually if you think you need more, you should go ahead and go down to a 1K and set a new bevel.

Less strokes are better!

I have really enjoyed working with the Naniwa Super Stones lately and they offer some fun when using the pyramids. You can use either the 3K or the 5K in rotation with the 8K and they work very well with consistent and good results. I have been using the 3K for more the eBay type razors or those in a little rougher shape and using the 5K with nicer razors and full or extra hollow grinds..

This process also works very well with the Shapton Glass 4K and 8K stones.

When I first learned this process, I learned it on a Norton Combo 4K/8K stone and have worn out the 4K side on 8 stones since that time. When I first started, I was shaving right off the 8K side and had fantastic results. This was before I discovered the natural finishing stones and then the pasting or spray media. On the new Nortons, I recommend lapping off about 1/8 of an inch of the 4K side to get past the grainy feeling the newer stones have. Once the 4K side starts to feel smooth to the touch, you are there.

When we talk about lapping the stones, I really lap more to make sure I get the swarf off the stones and clean them up for the next use more than I am concerned with a millionth degree of flatness. Mostly flat is usually all you need to hone your razor so long as the edge and spine remain on the stone throughout your stroke. OK purists, don't get upset, as flat as you can get the stone is not a bad thing either. I have seen many a dished out or bowed hone from the old days and people were using them and shaving. I was using a pumice stone before Norton came out with the flattening stone and needles to say my stones were not perfectly flat, but I honed thousands of razor that were great shavers without difficulty.

The only real variation to the pyramid that I do is toward the end of the process on stainless razors or the newer harder feeling type steel razors. The variation starts at the 3 stroke level.

Strokes on Norton 4k Strokes on Norton 8k
3 5
1 7
1 7

I find that these razors do better with more polishing strokes.

The pretty much sums up the pyramid method that I use. With a little practice, this is a very consistent and repeatable process and once learned can really lay the foundation for experimenting with various other honing techniques.

Pyramid Honing: a photo tutorial using Norton hones[edit | edit source]

The following guide was written by JoshEarl[4]

See also[edit | edit source]

Acknowledgements[edit | edit source]

  • Credit for making known the honing pyramid technique goes to Lynn Abrams, the founder of the Yahoo Straightrazorplace forum and the website. To Lynn and all the other razor gurus "THANKS !"
  • The photo tutorial was originally written by JoshEarl[5]

References[edit | edit source]