Lynn Abrams On Honing
All tips below were collected from various posts by Lynn Abrams on SRP.
- 1 Bevel Refreshing
- 2 Pyramid Honing
- 3 Honing and What I think
- 4 Honing tips # 1
- 5 Honing Tips # 2
- 6 More honing tips
- 6.1 Bevels
- 6.2 Tests
- 6.3 4K & wedge honing
- 6.4 To tape or not to tape
- 6.5 Stainless blades
- 6.6 Learning to hone
- 6.7 Honing & polishing
- 6.8 The shave & blade angle
- 6.9 Removing nicks & chips
- 6.10 The Pyramid method
- 6.11 Thoughts on blade steel then and now
- 6.12 Strop care
- 6.13 Honing a wedge
- 6.14 A good hone for learning
- 6.15 Microscopes
- 7 Why use a Pyramid in the first place?
- 8 Problem Setting Bevel
- 9 More On Bevel Setting And Honing A Wedge
- 10 Some Thoughts On Various Hones
- 11 References
Bevel Refreshing[edit | edit source]
As I read through the forums, I get the feeling that bevel setting is associated with for the most part a 1K stone and if you need to do some serious repairing of an edge a 220 stone.
I wanted to let you know that a ton of razors actually do very well with re-establishing an existing bevel on either a 3K, 4K or 5K stone vs. going to the 1K every time. Please remember that I always try to go for less whether it be strokes on a hone or razor wear as a result of honing. Lately I have been using my Naniwa Super Stone 5K probably more than any stone out there and have been using it for re-establishing bevels too. That being said, the Naniwa Super 3K, Shapton 4K and Norton 4K will all work. Personal preference and confidence level go a long way here. This method will also work with a Coticule with heavy slurry.
If you saw the video from the NC gathering here  , you will see exactly the method that I use for this. Basically, I will do circles in sets of twenty on both sides of the razor to start. Circles with the edge away from you are clockwise strokes and circles with the edge facing you are counter-clockwise strokes. Typically I will do 40 circles in each direction with medium pressure on the razor followed by 40 circles with light to no pressure on the 5K. Be careful on the medium pressure as it is not heavy pressure and it is very important that your strokes remain very fluid with the razor flat on the stone. Following this, I will normally do 10 X strokes with no pressure than see if the razor will shave forearm hair. If I don't get a clean cut of hair on the forearm, I usually try another set of 10 X strokes and a re-test.
The nice thing about this is that you really are actually into the honing process and once successful here, you should be set to go on to the polishing stages which for me include 8K and 12K followed by .5 diamond spray on felt.
Other points are that you certainly can use electrical tape on the spine during this process and also using a 45 degree angle on circles as well as X strokes works on smiley or wedge type blades as well as razors with a lot of previous wear.
One overlooked discussion that we rarely see is assessing a blade when preparing to hone a razor. Am I looking at an eBay special with uneven bevels, chipping, rust into the edge of the blade? What is the grind of the blade? Wedge? 1/4 hollow? Full Hollow? Extra Hollow? How much wear is there on the spine or how much previous honing has already been done to this razor. How sharp is the razor to start with?? As a side line, I really am not a fan of dulling a razor to sharpen a razor. I would much prefer to take the razor as is and put it through whatever paces I think it needs based on my assessment. Speaking of assessment, you really get much better at this as you hone more razors. Go figure right.......
Please also keep in mind that these techniques and the numbers of strokes involved are basically guidelines for me. As stated above, I will always try less strokes first and even do repeat sets of lesser strokes to dial in the edges. So, give this a try and don't be afraid to experiment on your own.
Pyramid Honing[edit | edit source]
It's been a while since I covered this, so I thought it would be good go go over how I use the pyramids when honing.
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:
25 Strokes on 4K 25 Strokes on 8K 20 Strokes on 4K 20 Strokes on 8K 15 Strokes on 4K 15 Strokes on 8K 10 Strokes on 4K 10 strokes on 8K 5 Strokes on 4K 5 Strokes on 8K 3 Strokes on 4K 3 Strokes on 8K 1 Stroke on 4K 3 Strokes on 8K 1 Stroke on 4K 5 Strokes on 8K
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 needless 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.
3 Strokes on 4K 5 Strokes on 8K 1 Stroke on 4K 5 Strokes on 8K 1 Stroke on 4K 7 Strokes on 8K
I find that these razors do better with more polishing strokes.
That 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.
I hope you guys have fun with this.
I'll write something up soon on the strokes I use with the various polishing or finishing stones and media I have used.
Honing and What I think[edit | edit source]
I have been thinking the last few days about the whole honing a straight razor scenario and it has led to some great memories and insight for me.
It was just over 10 years ago that after shaving with a straight razor on and off for 25 years, that I really decided I wanted to learn how to hone my own razors. As a result of there being literally no information on the internet, I started my journey and the very first straight razor forum on the web. The purpose of that forum was to preserve the art of straight razor shaving so people like me would never be lost like I was at the time. This journey has led to a magnificent blending of what was old and what is new and what is yet to come.
After a few months of searching, I was lucky enough to find a gentleman who had the kindness and patience to spend a significant amount of time with me so that I could learn how to hone a razor. I sent a razor off to him for honing so that I too would have a bench mark. At that time, I know of no one else honing razors other than those the knife stores who you would send them off to for grinding (Sometimes they came back shavable too). The cost back then was $35 to have my razor honed and it was not an ebay special. It was a German Best Class probably made by Dovo.
The 1st hone that I learned to successfully hone a razor off of was the Norton 4K/8K combo using the Pyramid Method (No, I did not invent it) and I practiced with it on over 500 razors, did free honings for group members and thought I was getting pretty good by the time I had reached 1,000 razors. That's right I was shave testing right off the 8K for most of this time. During this time, I also picked up a bunch of Barber Hones and was playing with them on regular honing even though the instructions said 4-6 strokes was all that was needed. At this time I was doing full edge restoration and wedges all off the Norton stone, before I discovered how useful the Norton 220 and 1K were. The real quest for me was trying to discover a repeatable method of honing that a new guy coming into the forums could learn and not be too frustrated with along the way without spending a fortune. That quest has not left me, even to the present moment.
The next thing I learned was that if you use a Coticule stone after the 8K, you could get a better polish on the blade and a smoother shave. I used this stone for over a year both with slurry and then with just water. During this time I also bought a Blue Coticule and played with it in lieu of the Norton 4K, but for me, it was a slow cutter and not near as consistent as the Norton 4K. We also had a member in the group at this time who honed with Belgium stones using them dry. Again, this would work, but did not have the consistency or speed that I was looking for. I also discovered green pastes and diamond pastes during this period and the flat bed hone and began playing with them all. I ended up liking the .5 diamond paste the best and the chromium oxide was pretty close. The red and the white were no where near as consistent. I pasted hanging strops, paddle strops and the flatbeds experimenting.
Then, I bought an Escher Stone as I kept hearing that there was nothing better in the world for finishing a razor and the rabbi's if they could get one, would buy these over the Kosher Coticule for butchering. This stone turned out to be wonderful and I was able to get more razors shaving off it alone without pastes than I could using the Coticule. I ended up buying a Nakayama from David Poulan and have to tell you that the Japanese natural stones rock. I would never have believed I would like a polishing stone as well as the Escher, but I do love this stone.
Over the next couple years, I tried Kityama Stones, Spyderco, DMT's, slate, Shapton, King, TAM's and a bunch of other stones putting all of them through the same paces to see if one was better than what I was using and how they compared to each other.
Because of the visibility of the forums and the huge growth in both information and participating members there have been tons of new methods brough out and still new stones. I have found that Glen's method on staying on the 4K until it shaves arm hair is really an alternative to the Pyramid once a bevel is set. We have seen an entire new world develop in edge restoration, bevel setting, double bevel setting and spine taping over the last couple years.
A couple years ago, the Shapton on Glass was introduced and I was really impressed with these stones. They were the most consistent stone I had ever used and once a bevel was set, you could virtually guarantee the razor would shave going through my usual routine. I thought it was awesome. The only stone that was not as consistent for me was the 30K even when I dropped down to only using 5 strokes with it in lieu of pastes. Another interesting thing was that when I was in need of a complete restoration of an edge or repair, I found it easier sticking with Nortons the whole way.
Recently I discovered the Naniwa Superstones and have really enjoyed these hones. They are as consistent a hone as I have ever found although I do need to go to the Norton 220 for that extra cutting ability. The things I find interesting still is that I can still shave with an edge off a Norton 8K, a Coticule, Escher, Nakayama, Naniwa Chosera 10K, Naniwa SuperStone 12K or Shapton 16K with out pastes or sprays, but I still prefer the edge and the shave with the diamond and chromium oxide.
I hope the world of honing will continue to change and new methods will continue to come up. David (heavydutysgt) developed a rolling X pattern for smiling blades and uneven spines and wedges that works and he has great information available. Bart has come up with a method of honing a razor after the bevel is set using Coticule stones and varying the slurry.. This too works and you know it works on other natural stones as well. I have also found that using circles combined with the X strokes puts an entirely new twist on this method and it works pretty well too.
So here we are 10 years later and I have honed way more than 15,000 razors and am still learning from the people that come into this place. I usually try every hone that someone recommends and every method put on the table. My goal has not changed however. I am still looking for the stones and methods that will allow me to teach new people how to hone the quickest and easist and with the most consistency. There are many hones out there and many personal preferences. What you can do with a hone is a lot different than how I tend to look at honing. I tend to experiment with hundreds of razors every time there is a new stone or method before ever saying anything. If I can get the same result every time with 9 out of 10 razors or 10 out of 10, I will tell you it's more consistent than being able to get that result 5 or 6 or 7 times. For some this doesn't matter. A lot of times as was said recently, It may be the honer vs the equipment, but in any case it's worth a mention.
This is the world of the internet and as so, new people don't know if the guy with 500 or 1000 posts telling them what to do and selling honing services has honed 10 or 20 or 50 razors or 1000 razors. I know there are people out there who can put killer edges on razors and have a lot of experience. I have had the pleasure of getting to personally meet some of them as well. I hope that some day there are 10 times the number of people providing these services and restorations and making razors for people. To me, that is the dogma or quest.
I am not a scientific person and cannot express with diagrams and great pictures what honing all these razors has taught me, but I know it's still fun, I am still learning and waiting to see the next great stone and new method out there. I also grateful and appreciate the work of people with the talents I lack have brought to us.
I would love for you guys to share your experiences as well and continue to enjoy the family that this place has become on every straight razor front.
I aplogize to all the hones sitting in my drawers and cabinets that I have not mentioned here.
Thanks for putting up with this post.
Honing tips # 1[edit | edit source]
I thought I would start a series of tips as things come up.
For those of us using the Norton 4K8K and getting a razor to the point of nice shaving, but want just a little better shave, you can use either an Escher or Coticule and obtain a really super finished edge. In these situations I will do 3-5 strokes on the Norton 8K follwed by 10-15 strokes on either the Escher or Coticule. May take a couple of times, but the results are usually worth it. I do strop and test shave with each rotation to see where I'm at. Remember, this rotation is after the normal 4K/8K Pyramid.
Honing Tips # 2[edit | edit source]
If you guys ever receive a razor that has been poorly ground or has a lot of flattening of the spine and want to see how much honing you will have to do or decide whether to have it reground, here is a neat tip. Take either your Norton 8K stone or Coticule or whatever polishing stone you use and give the razor 5-10 X pattern strokes. Then, look at the edge and see if it is shiny all the way to the cutting surface. Depending on how far up the edge the shiny part is will be an indication of how much work you will have to do. If shiny all the way to the cutting part of the edge, you can start with a regular honing pyramid.
More honing tips[edit | edit source]
Bevels[edit | edit source]
I like a bevel so small that you can't see it. As a razor is honed more and more, it will develop a naturally larger bevel size. Sometimes you may as noted have to even out a bevel if the previous honing is uneven, but there really is no specific measurement that a bevel should be. Also as noted the bevel is definitely a product of the geometry of the blade.
Tests[edit | edit source]
The only test I rely on to determine whether a razor is shave ready is to shave with the razor. It generally will let you know if not honed enough or honed to much and alot of times to what degree on each. If the razor tugs a little or a lot, take it back to the hone and DO NOT continue to shave with it. If it glides over the beard with no hair removal, it needs a trip back to the hone. After a while you will really develop a feel for this.
4K & wedge honing[edit | edit source]
The 4K Norton is plenty abrasive. I use it to remove small nicks rather than going to a lower grit. The real key on the wedge honing is using the 45 degree angle. The pyramid will help from a consistency standpoint. The real problem with wedges is that once the shoulders are honed down and the edge expands, it gets tricky on the number of strokes and to make sure you get or keep the edge even.
Honing Help[edit | edit source]
Lately I have been seeing a ton of new or newer razors come in for honing that really have excessive wear on the spines and very widened areas along the bevels. In addition, the wear areas on the bevels are not matching the wear areas along the spines. These types of wear patterns are definite indicators of not only uneven pressure on the honing stroke, but too much pressure being applied. It is also an indicator that some folks are using way too many strokes or spending way to much time on the hone than needed for a new razor.
Remember that when you are honing non eBay specials, you are really looking for a nice even fluid stroke with minimal pressure and to keep the blade flat on the stone through out the stroke. I know this will require some practice, but it is practice that will eventually pay off for you. Even with eBay specials where you may use some pressure, you still want that nice even fluid stroke with the razor flat on the stone.
So, if you are like me and hone sitting at a table, I would recommend that you maintain really good posture and keep your arms out in front of you all the time. When you are doing your honing stroke, try to keep your elbow up from the table as this will help to keep the razor flat on the stone. If you feel your shoulder getting into the action at all, STOP..... and go back to the good posture with the arms out front. What happens is that when you lean forward and use the shoulder, you are putting more pressure on the razor and if your stroke is not good, the results will be poor. It is easy to get carried away and forget this, but if you remember to watch out for the feeling of leaning in with the shoulder on top of the arm, it will really help you to use less pressure and even out your stroke. Even if you are setting the bevel on a new razor by doing circles or X pattern on a 4K stone, there should be virtually no pressure as the stone will do the cutting. You should not be doing hundreds of strokes here.
On a new or newer razor, a pyramid starting at 5 strokes usually works for me, although sometimes it may take a couple trips to the hone. If just doing the X pattern I would not recommend more than 5-10 strokes starting on a 4K and working your way to whatever you use to polish.
You can always use a little more pressure down the road as you become proficient and want to take on ebay specials. The key is to establish good basics to help you get used to the razor staying flat on the stone throughout your stroke. Once you have this down, it will not matter if you are using a 1 inch wide stone or a 4 inch wide stone.
4/8 Norton & the X Pattern
I have been using the Norton 4K/8K Combo for over 8 years and find that the X pattern has always cut very consistently for me. Unless I am working on an old dog of a razor, I usually do not do more than 10 or 15 strokes at one time on either the 4K or 8K side working in pyramids and down in strokes from there ie, 5-5-1 as the heavy work and bevel setting is done with the 220K and 1K. I really tend to look for repeatable results and the X pattern has always produced that for me with any stone I have used. Nothing scientific, just a lot of razors.
To tape or not to tape[edit | edit source]
I totally agree that so long as the bevel is created with the tape on and the tape is used every time the razor is honed, that there should only be one bevel. If you change the amount of layers of tape, they will have the effect of changing the bevel based on how much or little you use. The concern I would have is only that Tim does use the tape to create his bevels on HIS razors. When you explore the technique on razors with established bevels, you'll have all sorts of fun. This technique is great for specific purposes like Tim's or when you really need to remove alot of metal and protect the shoulder or something similar. Considering the different grinds, thickness of metal and material out there in addition to as Bill points out, different pressure, taping is just not something I would recommend across the board.
Stainless blades[edit | edit source]
Stainless razors are really not much harder to hone. Usually a couple more polishing strokes is all that is needed. They also usually take well to .5 diamond paste too. The Dovo stainless shave is really comparable to the Dovo carbon shave. I have really not noticed any difference over the years.
Learning to hone[edit | edit source]
If you only want to hone a few razors that you own, learning to hone should be fairly easy. Sometimes harder for some than others. If you really want to learn honing and understand the many varieties of razors that are out there including the variety of honing media, it will take you as much time as it takes to try all the different razors ever made and all the media available and still there will be some razors that will be pesky. My recommendation would be to hone as many razors as you can as your skill does increase with every one. It may not be rocket science, but every art form is made better from practice and practice does make you better. Try slurry producing stones. Use stones without slurry. Use different stones and pastes and just have a good time. There will always be a stubborn razor, and some people never learn to hone Damascus (including some prominent so called honemeisters), but you normally end up after a little trial and error with a razor that shaves great and makes you want to try more. I won't cover what I showed in the DVD which did not cover this stone, but I did comment on numerous others. Most people eventually everyone develop their own favorites based on what works best for them.
Honing & polishing[edit | edit source]
I look at it more from a consistency standpoint. When I am honing, which to me is cutting, I want the edge forward and it produces pretty repeatable results. When I move to polishing, I tend to have the edge trailing more. That said, some of this depends on the media. With the Escher, and I consider this a polish stone, I lead the edge. I also lead the edge on Chromium Oxide paper over a piece of glass. For my leather bench hone media, If I lead the edge, I cut the leather. Edge trailing does a nice job on the polishing. I find that if I do overhone, I prefer to use a cutting stroke vs. a trailing stroke as it seems to maintain the work I have already done better. One thing I always try to do is have the razor sharp from honing first (Talking closeness here) and then try to make the smoooooth better.
The shave & blade angle[edit | edit source]
These things are just what works for me. None of it is scientific. Just experience from honing thousands of razors. There is no right answer for everyone as some people love backhoning and swear by it. What ever works for you works........... An interesting thing to think about with larger blades is the angle of the blade when you are shaving. Many people don't watch this and as long as the razor cuts hairs, that's fine. Most people who use larger blades tend to flattened out the angle especially around the chin or under the nose. This is obviously less a problem with smaller blades. I find that the angles tend to change in any case with different parts of the shave, ie, down or cross grain. It's also fun to play around with the different sizes and grinds on different days growth. Two days for me is pretty stiff, but not quite as stiff as one full day. At 4-5 days the beard softens up. Still personal preference, but fun to play around with.
Removing nicks & chips[edit | edit source]
Most small nicks can be removed with the Norton 4K stone and some circular strokes. The 1K is pretty aggressive and really should only be used for more severe type jobs.
The Pyramid method[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Setting The Bevel And Honing With The Norton 4/8 Pyramid
I must bow to all the experience from the previous posters. The pyramid as said is the most consistent method available for honing. It is an incremental method open to very much experimentation and variety. That said, it does provide a foundation upon which most razors can be honed and can be learned pretty easily. Some people vary pressures, strokes.....etc. It is interesting that this so called feel can be developed. No two razors, even the same brand from the same manufacturer always hone up the same. It seems every razor out there has it's own personality for some reason and some can be quite stubborn as well. I have honed going on 8,000 razors and have yet to develop the magic mentioned here. I hope to find it some day though.
The reference 1/5 is one stroke on the 4K side of your Norton and 5 strokes on the 8K side. When you get close and are looking for less pulling or more smooooth, you go to a pyramid that is smaller, ie, instead of 10/10, 5/5, 3/3, 1/3, 1/5, you would start at either the 3 or l level. You might even just do a few strokes on the 8K side.
Thoughts on blade steel then and now[edit | edit source]
Someone earlier said that Sheffield was the place where stainless was invented. It is also the home of some of the best carbon steel ever made. The shaves from a Wade & Butcher and several other Sheffield brands is awesome. Now that doesn't take anything away from the Solingen blades or the US blades. Interesting is the TI blade which is a Sheffield silver steel and lead hardened. That is what most of the TI higher end blades are made of. Tis a nice alloy and is a superior or top end shaver. So what's being made today. Mostly TI and Dovo. All the yesteryear blades are around because we were lucky that they were stored somewhere where they would not rust vs. any preference any where as they were virtually unused except by a few for well over 50 years. The most widely discussed opinions on what are good shavers have been forthcoming over the past 6-7 years and growing. There are some barbers around still who used straights during the 50's and 60's and surprisingly, they preferred C'mon's and Dubl Ducks from what I have been told, yet many barber collections had a little of everything.
Strop care[edit | edit source]
When I need to clean a strop, I use saddle soap and a brush. Once dry, I re-condition it with neats foot or baseball glove oil making sure I do a lot of rubbing to ensure penetration. Palm of the hand daily after conditioned is great. Every so often if the strop is stiffening, mink oil rubbed in well will limber it back up. If the strop is pretty limber already, it really shouldn't need anything. When they get stiff, get to them before they get dry and start cracking. Depending on the climate you live in, this could happen fairly quick or almost never.
Honing a wedge[edit | edit source]
You are correct Randy. X stroke at 45 degrees. The other thing with a razor like this is to see how much honing you will need on the 1K stone. Notice the flattening of the shoulder and where the shoulder is more flat as mentioned near the tip. To do that, you might run 5-10 strokes on the 8K and then look at the edge to see where the shiny is. If the edge is shiny all the way across and extends to the cutting portion, you are ready to go with the 4K-8K. If not then you will want to do some strokes on the 1K and check after every 10-20 or so and see where you're at.
A good hone for learning[edit | edit source]
The Norton 4K-8K is the most consistent stone around for new guys to learn how to hone. I recommend the 8x3 inch. Many razors will actually shave coming off the 8K side following a pyramid method. Bill's suggestion regarding green pastes and Keith's systems are very good as is using a .5 micron diamond paste on a flat bed leather hone coming off the 8K side.
Microscopes[edit | edit source]
What I always try to look for through the microscope is to see if the edge is even in distribution across the razor. Next I want to make sure that the striations are tight and in most cases they do look darker through the microscope. I also try to make sure no shading up toward the edge and no micro chips near the edge. These usually indicate overhoning and the chips indicate that even if the razor is shaving sharp, it usually won't be as comfy as it should be. I don't try to compare my feather because even though the feather is a super shaver, I find it less for giving and a totally different experience than my regular straight razors. Keep us posted on your progress.
Blade Angle On The Hone
I typically use a 45 degree angle when honing wedges, smiling blades or older razors that have really uneven spine wear. Other than that I find that the 90 degree angle X pattern has produced the most consistent results for me.
Why use a Pyramid in the first place?[edit | edit source]
Why a pyramid? I use the pyramid because I have found that due to the delicate nature of the straight razor blade, it is more consistent to work at the edge on the incremental basis utilized in the pyramid method. No science. Just a simple comparison of honing all at once, testing, honing all at once again and testing v. honing with the pyramid and then testing. The pyramid continues to be the winner for me. Much the same as using the X stroke vs. the paint brush method of honing. The interesting thing is how much the pyramid can vary. Because each razor has a different personality and steels can be anywhere in between hard and soft, there are many variations that work. Nothing I have tried works the same every time on every razor.
For years, I just used the Norton 4K/8K with great results. Then I found out about the red and green pastes and had even better luck with them. Then the diamond pastes. Then the Coticule. Again nothing ever works every time on every razor. I lately have gotten away from the pastes as I have found them to be dulling after using the Coticule. 20 strokes, 30, 40, 60, who knows, but great discussion here. The main thing I have found is that you need to have your razor shaving sharp from the hone before pasting. The pastes add that little extra smoooooth that we all seek. Yeah, I think barber hones still suck. They are small, flat, unpredictable, and harder to use for me. There are those of you who love them. Oh well...
I also have a microscope. I don't use it all the time as I have not found the perfect method of prediction of the perfect shave or hone job yet. I do judge the sharpness of a razor by the shave. That will always be my ultimate test. I do like to look at the edge under a microscope now and then, particularly on a tough razor to see if I can tell why it's so tough.
The best part of all this is that just a few years ago, there wasn't all this. It is very cool that we are developing a million ways to get at the prize and I hope it keeps up forever. I remember what it felt like to shave with the first razor I honed, the 50th, the first hundred, the first thousand and so on. It is still a turn on to find out which razors hone and shave consistently better than others. It's even more fun with all the input of our members who are at various stages of wisdom. It's even more fun to watch every new guy come in, ask the same questions and then after a while start imparting what they have learned to others.
'The Search For That Perfect Edge'
I think for someone who wants to learn how to hone, the Norton 4K/8K or similar grit stones are essential. So is learning to set a bevel on a 1K or repair chips with a 220K. Above 8K, we have several good polishing stones and some great paste or spray media out there. The Norton, over time utilizing the pyramid method or Glen's get it where you can shave your arm on the 4K and then go to the 8K for 10 strokes are very consistent and repeatable methods of learning to hone. There is a ton of great information on the site, but the main thing to learn is still how to keep a blade flat on a stone, develop a nice steady stroke and not to use too much pressure. Learning and good practice are key!
If you look at the instructions when you can find them for Barber Hones, you will see that they were meant to refresh a razor and that they normally say 4-5 strokes to do that. Honing is much more than this considering the different types, styles and shapes of razor and all the varieties of steels. The more razors you hone, the more you learn to hone. The more honing media you experiment with the more you learn to hone.
I have seen people, still, who do not own anything but a Norton 4K/8K for honing their razors and they feel that there is no need for anything else as they get good shaves and this works for their razors.
Where I see the problems daily when honing or fixing people's razors is that they use hundreds of strokes and uneven pressure and end up with bevels on top of bevels and uneven spines and all kinds of interesting stuff. Every time I see sandpaper scratches on an edge or blade, I know I need to go from scratch on that razor to repair the deep scratch marks, set a new bevel and re-hone the razor.
I think the biggest problem out there not unlike shaving is that people think because they have honed knives or tools forever and shaved since they were 12 that it's gonna be very easy and expect it to be. "The problem *CAN'T* be me". But a razors edge is a very delicate instrument and with a little patience and experimentation, you *CAN* learn to hone with the best of them, even if you are just honing for your own satisfaction. The search for that absolute perfect or just a little better shave resulting from that just a little better edge is never ending.
A sit down session with an experienced honer is always highly recommended and can shorten the learning curve a ton.
Problem Setting Bevel[edit | edit source]
What you are describing is something I have seen a lot more of over the years than I would have liked to. More times than not a razor is not warped, but really thrown off by the previous poor honing or grinding. I have seen as many as 6 or 7 bevels on razors and spine wear as uneven as a crooked stick and to beat the band, not the same on both sides.
Circles-You can do a ton of circles on both sides of the razor starting at a 220 grit and remove enough steel from both the spine and edge so that the razor actually lays flat on the stone and then you can set a bevel. If the razor still doesn't lay flat, then it may have some warp in it. A lot of times a 45 degree angle with the circles can be very helpful. The 45 degree angle works very well if there is a small amount of warp in the blade or with wedges and smileys too. I also find that firm pressure helps with the metal removal here. (An example of the circles is on the home page from the NC Gathering)
Tape the spine-Depending on the amount of time you want to spend evening out your bevel, you can choose between one or two layers of tape. I really don't recommend any more than two. You can then do your circles until your edge is flat all the way across. You can use the 45 degree angle here successfully too.
A million X strokes firm either with or with out the tape until you reach the results described above.
Once you get the edge and spine cleaned up, then you can go to a 1K stone and actually set your bevel and move up the rest of your honing progression using your favorite method.
Be patient as these kinds of razors take a ton of time and fiddling around with to get to shavable.
There are probably a couple other alternatives, but the ones above work the best and the quickest for me.
More On Bevel Setting And Honing A Wedge[edit | edit source]
The biggest problem with wedges is that most have been unevenly honed and you have different or heavy wear on the spine which in turn can be in different places along the spine on both sides of the razor. This wear is generally reflected in the bevels of the razors as well. The absolute key is to remove the necessary amount of metal with either a 220K or a 1K to get the razor sitting as flat as it can on the hone barring any warping of the blade. This is generally a TON of work. Once you get there and set a good bevel at the 1K level, the pyramid will work for the 4K/8K or the circle method on the 4K/8K will work followed by whatever amount of strokes your finishing stone requires.
When I first started with just the Norton 4K/8K, you could accomplish bevel setting with the pyramid method, but you were starting with at least 25 to 50 strokes and many times had to repeat the pyramid. It was most time consuming and laborious. The current methodologies work much better in my opinion and are much more consistent once the bevel is set.
If you have to remove a lot of steel, you can consider more abrasive stones like the DMT's here. Once thing to remember here is that if you use tape on these razors and especially if they have really unevenly honed spines, you will continue to end up with really uneven bevels. I do tape spines when I need to remove a lot of steel from an edge for chip and ding repair, but this is not what we are talking about here.
This is also something you should consider when purchasing a restored wedge razor. If it has not been re-ground, the previous improper honing, will come out with the first few strokes on the hone and although the razor looks great to start with, before it will be shave ready in most cases, you will end up seeing a lot of shiny hone wear.
Some Thoughts On Various Hones[edit | edit source]
The more I read threads like this the more I am convinced that personal preference and time are the keys to enjoying your hones of preferences. It is obvious that their are camps in favor of certain stones that have worked for people although I am not sure that some of the folks that post about a particular stone have had the opportunity to try a lot of other stones and when someone is only dealing with a few razors and they are happy with the results they are getting from the only stone they have, I also am not sure that there is the need to experiment further.
Given enough time, I can get excellent shaves off a Norton 8K, Naniwa 10 or 12K, Shapton 16k, Coticule, Escher, Chinese 12K, Asagi, Ohzuku, Kiita, Charnley and on and on........ The interesting thing for me is that these results can almost always be made just a little better with some CrOx or .5 diamond or even Cerium.
I think it's fun to experiment with going from any of the finishing stones to another and see what happens. When we were in NC a couple years ago, we just kept doing some circles and 10X strokes from finisher to finisher and TPT testing the difference in feeling following each stone and they all had their own characteristics and surprisingly we didn't over hone a one of them.
As far as the one hone method is concerned, and again, given enough time, you can use any of the natural hones with varying thickness of slurry to obtain decent results from start to finish with a razor in reasonably good condition.
For me personally, I like the finish from the Escher better than the Coticule, but you can still get an excellent shave from either. I also like the Escher for finishing when I am doing multiple razors because for me, I get 9-10 out of 10 to hit with just water on the stone and 10X strokes. With the Coticule and just water, I get in the 6-7 range. With my Japanese naturals, I get in the 8-9 range. This consistency is important to me because of my need to hone many razors. I don't think it is as important for an individual just maintaining a couple razors. People can accomplish so many things using different processes and techniques and given the number of people in the sport, we should see new techniques for some time to come. I do still think of which stones are the easiest to teach someone on so that they can become successful quickly and then go from there on their individual journeys. No right answer here either, just my personal preferences.
The differences for those of us seeking the holy grail of edges is always subtle, but distinct. Many times the razor itself either in grind or make can alter these differences. At this point and no matter what camp you are in, I don't think there is a honemeister that is the holy grail of anything. We are all just experimenting and trying to produce great edges and none of us is perfect, yet.
I am convinced that there is no best hone other than the one that works best for you.