Razor Honing

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Razor honing is a sharpening process in which a razor's bevel (insert reference to bevel definition here) is skilfully cut and polished to form a fine, shaving edge. An adequately honed razor should be able to provide a comfortable shave. Once a razor has been honed, it is often stropped (see stropping) before each shave.

Depending on the condition of the razor's edge, there may be damage such as chips or pitting that needs to be addressed before honing can take place. For example, if the existing bevel is unusable then it will need to be completely reset. A razor in such condition will need to be subjected to one or more of a variety of edge repair techniques before the actual honing can take place.

This article is intended to present introductory and basic information about equipment and skills that are used when honing a straight razor. More detailed articles on specific hones and applications

Razor hones[edit | edit source]

Hones are a subcategory of whetstones and are suitable for sharpening straight razors. However, not every hone will necessarily perform the same function nor fill the same role in the honing process as other hones. Hones can be generally divided into two groups: natural hones (often referred to simply as stones) and synthetic hones. A natural hone is used in the same form in which it is mined, while a synthetic hone is manmade from natural or synthesized abrasives and binders.

The word "hone" is also used to describe the action of honing, eg. "JimmyHAD prefers to hone full hollow ground razors, while gssixgun enjoys honing razors with more beefy grinds."

Hones by Grit Range[edit | edit source]

(insert acknowledgment of grit ratings and relevant article or information)

Very Coarse - Under 1k[edit | edit source]

Hones which are grit-rated under 1000 (or 1k) are typically used only for restoration honing - the correction of chips, frowns, or other problems with the razor. Synthetic hones are much more popular than natural hones for doing this kind of work. Some examples are the Norton 220 (which can be found as a single grit hone or one side of the Norton 220/1k hone), the DMT 325 (which can serve double duty to lap other hones) or DMT 600, the Shapton 500, the Naniwa Superstone 400, and the Naniwa Chosera 400, 600, or 800. Many of these very coarse hones are soft and will dish over the course of working with even a single razor. As a result, these soft hones will require more frequent lapping (see lapping) than most other hones will.

Coarse - The 1k Range[edit | edit source]

Hones rated around 1k are used to set the bevel on the razor. The process of setting the bevel establishes the sharpness of the edge, which will then be refined on the finer, higher grit rated hones. At this level, most honers decide whether they want to use tape.

The most commonly used coarse hones are synthetic, though the hunt for a natural bevel setter is ongoing for many who are afflicted by HAD. Some examples of synthetic hones commonly used for setting bevels are the Norton 1k, Shapton 1k, Naniwa Superstone 1k, Naniwa Chosera 1k, King 1k, and DMT 1200. Two examples of coarse natural hones that have been used for setting bevels are the Amakusa Red and the Amakusa White. Both are Japanese stones. In many tests, Amakusa Red hones have too many hard inclusions to be used to hone razors, but some people have been able to lap their hones past the inclusions to reveal a workable surface for razors.

Finer natural hones can also be used with heavy slurry to set a bevel, although this is expected to be a very time-consuming process. The most popular choices among finer hones for bevel-setting are fast-cutting coticules or Japanese natural hones with a variety of different nagura. These may be used in a One Hone Progression or integrated into a multi-hone progression.

Medium - The 3k to 5k Range[edit | edit source]

Synthetic hones rated in the 3k to 5k grit range and similarly performing natural hones are used to begin to polish off scratches left by the bevel setting hone and to refine the razor's edge. This begins the process of making the sharp edge into a smooth one that will provide a comfortable shave.

At this level of fineness, there are more natural stones which have been found to be effective for this task than there are for coarser work. Some examples of synthetic hones in this range include the Norton 4k, Shapton 4k (High Carbon or Ceramic on Glass) and Naniwa Superstone 3k and/or 5k. The Naniwa Chosera 3k and 5k are also becoming more common, but have not been extensively documented at this time. Some examples of natural hones commonly used in this fineness range include the Aoto (Japan) and Dalmore Blue (Scotland). There are also a number of other Japanese natural hones that are suitable in this grit range. An Arkansas hone (USA) can also be used, but these seem much less common due to how slowly they cut. These will typically be used starting with a milky slurry, which is diluted during the honing process until just water remains on the surface of the hone.

For honers who branch off into a One Hone Progression at this stage, the most common choices are the coticule or various Japanese natural hones, but nearly any finishing hone (natural or synthetic) can be used.

Fine - The 8k Range[edit | edit source]

Hones rated in the 6k to 8k grit range and similarly performing natural hones are used to further polish and refine a razor's edge. A razor that has been properly honed on a fine hone should provide a close and comfortable shave with no pulling or tugging.

There are many synthetic and natural hones which perform well as fine hones. Some examples of synthetic hones in this range include the Norton 8k, Naniwa Superstone 8k, Shapton 8k (High Carbon or Ceramic on Glass) and DMT 8k. Some examples of natural hones used in this fineness range include the BBW (Belgium), Tam O'Shanter (Scotland), Dragon's Tongue (Wales), and a slew of Japanese natural stones. Some of the finer Arkansas hones (USA) may also be used, though they are less commonly used as fine hones because of their slower cutting speed. Fine, natural hones are often used by starting with a milky to light slurry, which is diluted during the honing process until just water remains on the surface of the hone.

Very Fine - 10k and Beyond[edit | edit source]

The hones in this range are the finishing hones; this is where the final polishing and refining of the razor's edge takes place. A razor that has been properly finished on such a hone will provide a close, comfortable, and smooth shave.

There is a wide variety of both synthetic and natural hones which perform well as finishers as many synthetic barber hones and exotic natural stones perform well as finishers. Some examples of commonly used synthetic hones in this grit range include the Shapton 16k and 30k, Naniwa Superstone 10k and 12k, Naniwa Chosera 10k, and a very great selection of barber hones. Some examples of commonly used natural hones used for finishing include the coticule (Belgium), Thuringian (Germany - note that Escher is a brand of Thuringian), Guangxi / C12k / PHIG (China), various Japanese natural hones, and a whole slew of exotic hones.

The quest to find the best hone for the ultimate edge fuels the fires of HAD and spans across the honing world. Ultimately, it is a matter of personal preference, though that won't end the debates over which finisher stands above the rest.

Hone history[edit | edit source]

barbers used coticules and eschers until synthetic barber hones came along.  etc

Hone manufacturers and miners[edit | edit source]

The major hone makers today are blah, blah, and blah.  There are still some mines in operation, blah and blah.  Vendors can be found here (main article vendors, or possibly vendor links)

Using razor hones[edit | edit source]

Prepping a hone for use[edit | edit source]

Lapping and Chamfering[edit | edit source]

All hones should be lapped before the first time you use them, and many hones require periodic lapping thereafter. The purpose of this initial lapping is to reveal a clean, flat honing surface. Some honers lap before or before and after each honing session, while others lap only when they feel their hones require it. Harder hones, especially finishers, may never require lapping after their initial lapping.

(Hone Lapping 101)

A light lapping can be used to clean the surface of the hone of any embedded metal and/or swarf, or to raise a slurry on the stone. Examples of lapping tools are a lapping plate (such as a DMT or other diamond plate), a lapping stone (such as a Naniwa or Norton lapping stone - note these also require initial and periodic lapping), or a smaller stone designed for this use (such as a Norton prep stone or slurry stone).

Hones should be chamfered after their initial lappings and also after one or more periodic lappings. Chamfering is the creation of a bevel along the each edge of the surface of a hone. Chamfering a hone smooths its harsh edges thereby greatly reducing risk of damage to the edge of the razor. Chamfering is not necessary, but is highly recommended.

Water and Oil[edit | edit source]

Most hones are not used dry; typically water is used as a surface lubricant, though other hones require the use of oil. A hone that requires water is a waterstone; a hone that requires oil is an oilstone.

The more porous waterstones (such as the lower grit Norton hones) often require soaking. This helps to saturate the hone so that, during honing, the hone will not absorb all the water added to the surface. If these hones are not soaked, more water will have to be added at a rapid rate in order to keep water on the surface during honing. Other waterstones, especially those with resin binders (such as the Naniwa Superstones) cannot be soaked. Soaking them can interfere with the binding agent and have detrimental effects. For hones that do not require soaking, periodically adding water to the surface of the hone during use is all that is necessary.

Oil stones may be porous, but they are not typically soaked. Instead, oil is added as needed before and during honing in order to maintain a coating of oil on the surface.

Honing[edit | edit source]

Honing information[edit | edit source]

Beginner's guide[edit | edit source]

This article will provide a basic overview of honing and everything it entails. It will discuss the objectives of honing, required and recommended equipment and basic honing technique. It will also provide some helpful tips to ease the learning curve, and describe some potential pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Honing strokes[edit | edit source]

This article focuses on the various honing strokes, or techniques, we use to hone straight razors. While the precise movements may vary from person to person, there are some general patterns that are common to most honers. It will discuss these common strokes, how to properly perform them, and the strengths of each stroke.

Bevels and bevel setting[edit | edit source]

This article addresses the most fundamental step of the honing process - setting the bevel. It will begin by describing what a proper bevel is, and it will also explore some of the more common problems with bevels and how to correct them.

Over-honed/wire edge[edit | edit source]

This article discusses what a wire edge, or over-honed edge is. It centers around how a wire edge is created, how it can be removed and corrected, and how to avoid creating one in the first place.

Sharpness Tests[edit | edit source]

This article describes various tests that can be used at the various stages of honing to ensure that you are getting the optimal results from each hone and to track the progress you are making throughout the entire honing process.

Honing methods[edit | edit source]

Restoration honing[edit | edit source]

This article will discuss the restoration aspect of honing; problems such as chips, cracks, and frowns. The correction of these issues really falls outside of normal honing, so this area contains more advanced techniques. Some areas of discussion include how taping can be used during edge restoration, the proper techniques for honing a razor with the spine off the hone, and how to transition from restoration honing back to normal honing.

Progressive honing[edit | edit source]
Circles and X's[edit | edit source]

This article will discuss the application of circles and X strokes, and how they can be used together on a progression of synthetic hones to consistently deliver sharp and smooth edges on any razor.

Pyramid honing[edit | edit source]

This article will discuss pyramid honing, a honing method which focuses on alternating between two hones of different grit (such as a 4k and 8k) in order to yield a consistent level of sharpness and smoothness from the higher grit hone.

One stone honing[edit | edit source]

This article will discuss the one stone honing method. It centers around the idea that, if you start with a razor with a properly set bevel, you can achieve shave readiness using only a single, fine or finishing stone. It discusses the use of slurry, which honing strokes and what pressure to use, and when to use them.

Japanese Naturals and Nagura[edit | edit source]

This article will discuss Japanese natural stones and nagura stones, how they are named, how they perform, and how to use the various stones and slurries they create to hone your razor to shave readiness.

Storing hones (possibly separate article?)[edit | edit source]

don't let your norton get moldy

Links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]