Honing - Alternative approaches

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This article is a complement to Lynn Abrams' Pyramid honing guide, which describes the honing method endorsed by the majority of users at SRP.

An Alternative Pyramid Honing Method[edit | edit source]

Using the Norton 1k - getting rid of nicks and establishing the bevel[edit | edit source]

Main article: Bevel-setting in theory and practice.

The Norton 1000 is an aggressive cutter alternatively a DMT 8X3 1200 grit diamond hone is very effective. Another alternative is 1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper if that is all that you have. Care must be taken if sandpaper is to be your choice as it is even more aggressive and can damage the blade if you are not careful. Checking the edge with an eye loupe or a microscope will reveal any micro chips or other problems present that you may not be able to see with the naked eye. Applying a black magic marker to the edge and then doing a couple of strokes on either side will show you if the edge is making contact with the hone for the length of the blade and on both sides. This will let you know if you need to alter the stroke to make complete contact with the edge to the hone. (see; Strokes for honing a razor) Once you have seen which stroke it is necessary to use wipe the marker off with a solvent appropriate for the purpose. Use what ever number of strokes it requires to get rid of the nicks and establish a bevel. This is the most time consuming portion of honing a razor, be patient and persistent.

The purpose of the 1000 grit is to remove nicks and straighten/shape an edge. For that you use your eyes and the Thumb Nail Test (TNT), not the Thumb Pad Test (TPT). (see; Sharpness tests explained) The edge should be free of nicks and the bevel should go all the way to the edge. If you are using a hand held microscope then the bevel will appear as one color, if there are two bevels, old and new, then the light reflects off the bevel at different angles and appears as two colors. The scratch pattern should also be uniform for both the length and width of the bevel. When you have that then move on to the 4000, but not before.

Using the Norton 4k - using the Norton Pyramids to dial in an edge[edit | edit source]

Once you get to the 4000 grit then you stop using the Thumb Nail Test (TNT) and rely upon the Thumb Pad Test (TPT). You should be using both the Thumb Nail Test and the Thumb Pad Test while you are using the 1000 grit so that you develop a "feel" for what is happening to the edge. If you are not familiar with the feel of the TPT using a new DE or SE blade will familiarize you with what a sharp edge feels like against the thumb pad. Practice and compare that against the edge of your straight razor and it will soon become part of your honing arsenal.

When you start using the 4000 grit then use an aggressive pyramid first, testing with the TPT frequently, and when it seems that you are getting close based on the TPT, Sharpness_tests_explained and the arm hair test then drop down to a conservative pyramid, again, testing frequently. Then perform 50 roundtrip laps on a plain leather hanging strop and test shave. Do the best beard prep possible. Do not be surprised if the razor is not quite perfect. Just go back and perform a conservative pyramid then strop and test shave again. It is not unusual to take 2-3-4 honing sessions to dial in an edge.

Conservative Honing Ratio[edit | edit source]

This is a suggestion for a straight razor that is almost keen. It shaves but it pulls at the whiskers. Use the thumb test to see when the edge has attained a noticeable change in feel. Then strop for 35 laps on plain leather and test shave. Repeat as necessary. Use the thumb pad test at any point during this sequence and stop if you feel the edge is now keen. Please note that the pyramid method applies to the use of a Norton waterstones, Japanese waterstones such as the Naniwa Superstones or the Shapton GlassStones. It does not apply to a Belgian stone, Arkansas stones or classic barber hones, or sandpaper. Those hones have other methods that are dealt with elsewhere. pasted strops

Set # Norton 4000 Norton 8000
1 1 5
2 1 5
3 3 5
4 5 5
5 3 5
6 3 5
7 1 5
8 1 5
9 1 5

Aggressive Honing Ratio[edit | edit source]

Use this sequence when the razor is not shaving at all.

Set # Norton 4000 Norton 8000
1 15 5
2 10 5
3 5 5
4 3 5
5 1 5
6 1 5

Be sure and use some sort of test before starting so you can evaluate the rate of change that is occurring. Use the thumb pad test and hair popping on the forearm. In the latter stages of the pyramid another indicator of keenness is letting the edge glide over the hair without touching the skin and if it is sharp enough it will 'pop' the forearm hair. Repeat the honing sequence as necessary and move to the conservative sequence when you think you are getting close. The goal is to avoid over-honing which can make the edge act like a piece of aluminum foil because it is too thin and weak.

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 https://straightrazorpalace.com website. To Lynn and all the other razor gurus "THANK !"
  • The pyramid honing instructions were sent in a PM to JimmyHAD by randydance062449 who is always a great help to new members and veteran forum members alike.

References[edit | edit source]

Category: Straight Razor Maintenance - Honing & Stropping