Category:Honing/Progressive Honing Guide
Progressive Honing Guide (v2.2s)[edit | edit source]
//The Progressive Procedure 1.Set the edge on a flat hone. Establish the bevels using 1k to 4k grit, or use your grit of choice. Use the marker and TNT until the edge passes both. Do 3 or more additional very light laps to refine the primary edge bevels.
Now is also the time to check to make sure that all of your blade is reaching the hone. Use a permanent marker to paint the edge of the razor before honing. After 5-10 laps you will be able to see any warping or high spots, and adjust your technique acordingly. You can reapply the ink as often as needed throughout the honing process.
Except for testing; there is no point in polishing a razor's edge with finer hones until after the edge's bevels are set (i.e. you can pass the marker and TNT simultaneously).
Once you set the edge (primary bevels) it will never be necessary to do it again unless you damage the edge (chip it, roll it badly, etc...).
2.Polish on the next finer hone or paste of choice. Begin each finer honing step/grit by using the TPT and/or hair tests to establish your starting level of sharpness. Test using the TPT and/or hair tests every 3 to 20 laps, depending on the hone media used. Repeat the "laps and test" cycle until satisfied with the results (i.e. you notice a nice change).
If you try to get a "100% finish" from each hone, you will likely get "100% plus". A finish over 100% is also called a wire edge. Train yourself to settle for something under 100% and wire edges will be avoided. 3.Repeat step 2 or strop and shave. That's all there is to it. The following text elaborates on the above.
//Required 1.A knowledge of how to do the HHT(and "mow hair" variation), TNT, marker test, and TPT. TNT: Use a damp thumbnail. A dull edge will pull smoothly and freely over the nail. A sharp edge with well set bevels will dig in and/or drag across the nail with a smooth, even sensation. Practice with a DE blade (e.g. by using electrical tape to tape the DE to your razor's blade). This test is most useful while setting the primary edge/bevels. Try not to use the TNT on any edge over 4k. TPT: Use the slightly dampened ball of the thumb or finger. Move it lightly along the edge (not across). If sharp, the edge will have a "drawing" or "sticking" feeling. Practice with a DE blade. This test, with a little practice, can be useful at all stages of honing and stropping. HHT: Hold the razor still and bring a hair to the edge. The hair may fall or pop from the edge depending on sharpness and your hair's characteristics. The "mow hair" variation is done by moving the razor above your skin through some hair. Some razors will shave well even without passing the HHT tests. Especially so if the hair used is very fine/thin. You can also use a DE blade here to see/test how your own hair responds to a sharp edge. Marker test: Use a marker to color the edge on both sides. After 5 to 10 laps, examine the edge to see where the razor is contacting the hone. This test is useful to set bevels, identify warped razors, and while learning to hone smiling/frowning razors. Also use it when first learning to hone to help develop a nice, even sharpening stroke.
A better description of the edge tests can be found here:  2.A razor, hones and/or pastes, stropping material. 3.The tools to lap/flatten those hones that need it. 4.How to know when you have under-honed, honed enough, and over-honed. Under-honed is when you have not yet set the edge (bevels), or your next finer hone step has not made your razor sharper than it was on the previous hone/paste. Honed enough is when you have set good bevels, or your next finer hone step shows a noticeable improvement. Over-honed is when you have a wire edge, or have otherwise made the razor duller than it was on the previous hone/paste. It could also be an out-of-flat hone or bad operator technique.
//Honing Use a flat hone. A good tutorial on lapping can be found here: JoshEarl's lapping guide Hone lapping 101
Honing progression: An example of a grit progression range could be 325, 600, 1000, 4000, 8000, 12k to 16k, 32k, 0.5 micron(approx. 60k), 0.25 micron, and newspaper(approx. 0.1 micron). A typical grit progession is 4k, 8k, 12K, .5, for razors in decent shape. The objective is simply to set the bevel then remove the striations from one grit stone using the next higher grit. The lower grits are used to set a bevel faster. Beginners should probably not use a stone below 1k.
Some go directly from 8k to 0.5 micron green chrome oxide. It's a big jump, but it still works. It might just take a little longer. An 8k or rougher edge can be "shavable". Many like a bit finer edge. Swaty barber hones, for instance, run about 10k-12k. Many experienced honers like the coticule.
With a fresh from-the-factory edge, a 4k grit can be enough to set the edge. Many prefer to set duller or vintage edges/bevels on a 1000-1200 grit; it is faster.
Stropping: Keep the strop taut. Go slow, fluid. Roll the edge over the spine before you get to the end of the strop and start moving back before the edge touches down.
The razor needs to be kept flat against the strop. The pressure of the razor should be light, but heavy enough to feel a firm drag or "draw" (some strops don't draw). "Feather light" pressure is not required.
If you prefer/wish to add more "draw" to your leather, use a very light application of pure Neatsfoot oil (or similar). Apply and spread 2-3 drops on your hand first before applying it to the leather. If dripped directly onto the leather, it will soak in too quickly to spread evenly.
Don't assume that by stropping more or applying pressure that you'll suddenly learn how to shave and get a better shave. Its almost never the strop that is the problem.
It is, on the otherhand, often poor stropping that becomes the problem.
Use ˜ 60 laps on leather before shaving. If leather alone isn't reviving the edge, try ˜ 40 laps on linen/canvas first. After shaving, 2 to 10 laps on leather can help to dry the razor's edge.
During normal use the razor bevels near and at the edge will round, bend, chip, and become otherwise misshapen. This can be caused by stropping, shaving, paste, oxidizing (micro-rust), etc... When pastes and/or linen and/or the strop no longer brings the edge back to shaving sharpness, touch-up the edge on your finishing hone of choice. Often, only 5 to 10 laps are needed. Touch-up honing isn't normally needed very often, 30 to 90 shaves (and more) are not unheard of.
//Honing Examples, Factory versus Dull Vintage: Using a new razor a member could apply 3-5 passes with a 4K stone, check the bevel for consistency, conduct a TNT and/or black marker test, pass it sufficiently, apply 2 x 10 lap sets on 8k and test shave after each set.
Using a dull vintage blade a member might use 30-40 passes on 4k, followed by a TNT, follow up with another 10 passes, pass the TNT, try the black marker test, pass it sufficiently, and then complete 2 x 10 laps on 8k. Test shave and perhaps add one more 10 lap set.
//Hints and tips The pressure of the razor on the hone should be less than twice the weight of the razor when finishing up on each hone/paste. The lighter you can make the finishing strokes, the sharper your razor will be. No downward pressure would be ideal, but use the minimum needed to keep both spine and edge on the hone at all times. Flip the razor on it's spine to begin each stroke. Use two hands if necessary.
Practice the TPT with a fresh DE blade and a damp thumb. Better yet; if you practice with a slightly used one, you will learn to feel the different levels of sharpness along the edge. You could also slightly dull/nick/roll one side of the DE blade on purpose and compare it to the factory side. A DE blade will get you up to speed with the TPT very rapidly.
Protecting the spine: When setting your initial bevel apply a single thickness of electrical tape to protect the spine of your razor. Although this can add about 1/4 to 1/2 a degree to the bevel, the final result will be the same.
An alternative to TPT or TNT is a 30x or better magnifier. Once you have a basic bevel your goal is to remove most (80%) but not all of the scratches left by the previous hone before progressing to the next hone. This is an excellent tool to help you learn and diagnose problems. Works well with the permanent marker.
Wire edges: If you overhone and get one of these, wipe it off or backhone 2 to 4 strokes. Use the TNT to be certain your bevel is still complete and continuous. If it isn't, re-establish it. Another way would be to go back to a coarser hone (such as the 8000). 2 or 3 passes is often enough. If the razors edge feels gritty or painful when shaving you should suspect an overhoned edge.
Oiling the razor after shaving is recommended, even for stainless. Ballistol, Mineral, Camellia, and Olive oil are "user-friendly".
Lapping with a concrete block: Use the large side of the block. Use plenty of water. It's relatively fast, and it works on any natural and synthetic hone that is softer than the block is (many are softer). The surface is rougher than that left by a DMT D8C 325 mesh, but is still usable. You might want to smooth up on something around 325 to 1,000 mesh afterwards. (e.g. Double Duck barber hones are fairly soft and lap up well; with an Arkansas hone: lap it on a diamond plate...)
//Hone Specifics This section offers some guidelines on "lap counts" for specific hones. This information will quickly become less useful as soon as you have a small amount of experience. For the new user, this information can still be somewhat useful. Remember, these are guidelines only; change it to suit your own style/hones. Always rely on the edge tests far more than lap-counting. Test whenever you feel that you should. Test at a lap-count interval that you determine for yourself, based on the cutting speed of your hone/paste and your own experience.
0.5 micron Green Chrome Oxide on leather or balsa: strop for ˜ 10 very light laps. Test. Repeat if desired.
Barber Hones: Generally: they cut fine when dry, finer with water, and finest with lather. Grits vary widely. Test every 5 to 15 laps, until you discover your particular hone's cutting qualities.
Belgians: They cut faster with slurry, slower (and finer?) with water. Coticule (Yellow) 8k: The grit/finish can vary between hones. After the bevels are set, 50-100 laps usually work well. Test every 10 to 20 laps, until you discover your particular hone's cutting qualities. Blue (BBW) 4k: After the bevels are set, 50-100 laps usually work well.
Chinese 12k: 80-140 laps is typical for this slow cutter, some use 180 plus for finishing.
DMT E 1.2k: 5-20 laps, varies greatly depending on the razor. Check your edge frequently, and protect the spine with electrical tape (when desired). This stone will cause extensive wear in a very short time. A very fast cutter.
DMT D8EE 3 micron(8k): when setting a factory edge/bevels, use marker and TNT/check the edge every 5-10 laps. Once the bevels are complete and continuous, check every 5 laps. 5 to 15 very light laps (after the bevels meet) are often sufficient. It takes about 10 to 20 laps to polish up bevels set on a DMT E 1.2k mesh.
Kitayama 12K: 15-30 strokes with a very thin slurry, hone must be lapped clean and pressure must be as light as possible.
Newspaper: 1-3 layers on anything flat. The more heavily inked sections seem to work best. 60 laps. Test every 20 laps thereafter. Approximately 80 to 140 laps is "normal" for most razors.
Norton 1k: initial 10 laps, spin the stone 10 laps, checking TPT in between, after that 5 laps at a time, TPT after each 5 until TPT is sticky sharp.
Norton 4k/8k: 4k: when setting a factory edge/bevels, use marker and TNT/check the edge every 5 laps. If used to set an initial bevel (dull, vintage...) it can sometimes take many more... test often to avoid excessive wear. 8k: use sets of 10-15, depending on steel hardness 2-4 sets can be used. Applying little or no pressure. This is the point where pressure seems to make the most difference in the final result.
Spyderco M, F, UF(˜12k): Medium: when setting a factory edge/bevels, use marker and TNT, check the edge every 5 laps. Fine: 15 laps, every 5 laps thereafter. Ultra Fine: same as the fine. These hones are fairly fast cutters in their own grit range. The UF cuts faster than the Chinese 12k.
Hones/Pastes: 0.25 micron diamond paste - finisher, can make the edge too sharp, or prone to microchipping. Use sparingly.
0.5 micron Green Chrome Oxide - finisher, for a nice fine edge. (Some of the bar stuff (e.g. Formax) is as large as 6 microns. Hand American 0.5 CrO powder is of known quality.)
Barber Hone(s) - usually a finisher, will probably require lapping. Some combination types are found.
Belgians - Blue and Yellow available separately or as a combination hone. Belgian Blue - refining bevels, will require lapping. Belgian Yellow (Coticule) - 8k or more (depending on surface (dry, wet, or with slurry)). Will require lapping.
Chinese 12k - finisher, will require lapping.
DMT D8C - for lapping hones and general knife use. Major razor repairs. Will never require lapping.
DMT D8E or D6E - for setting edges/bevels faster, medium razor repairs, and knife use. Will never require lapping.
DMT D8EE - a basic tool for sharpening razors and minor repairs. Will never require lapping.
Kitayama 12K - finisher, will require lapping. very fast cutting, and can produce a very fine edge.
Newspaper - finisher, for a nice fine edge. Makes the edge a bit sharper, and (usually) much smoother.
Norton 4k/8k combination - a basic tool for sharpening razors and minor repairs. Will require lapping.
Spyderco M - setting bevels and some repairs. F - setting and refining bevels. UF(˜12k) - finisher, may or may not require lapping.
There are many other hone choices.
//Useful Items (this list will never be complete...) Electrical tape. Permanent marker. Magnifying tool 30x or better.
You don't need all of this stuff to get started with honing. A minimalist (lapping-free) kit could be a D8EE and 0.5 green chrome oxide on a 2-4 sided paddle or hanging strop with canvas/linen.
There are many ways to get to your goal. Use the methods and equipment that you enjoy using. Enjoy the ride.
- Credits/contributors: all the members of all the razor forums on the internet (whose ideas and practices have been freely "borrowed" and incorporated into this guide. You know who you are. And thanks). Honorable mention goes out to those who responded to questionnaires which gave the very first draft of this guide it's direction and much of it's content: AFDavis11, Bart, Heavydutysg135, JoshEarl, and Mike_ratliff.
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