Simple Straight Razor Honing

When I first became seriously interested in this topic about four years ago, consistently honing a straight razor to the level of keenness required for a close, comfortable shave challenged me. Having earned my living for the past 25 years solving problems like these, I began by searching for relevant scientific literature as well as reading the opinion-based resources of internet forums. I was surprised to find almost no published scientific work, although likely there is a wealth of information in unpublished reports in the research libraries at the Gillette and Schick corporations. The internet forums proved to be a dead-end, although for different reasons. Over the past 4 years, I have learned a great deal about sharpening, honing and stropping and have shared some of that knowledge here.

When I started this blog, just over two years ago, I chose to concentrate on demonstrating what happens at the apex of a blade, particularly since the relevant length scales are much smaller most people can comprehend (or see with even the best optical microscope). When writing these articles, I have made a concerted effort to avoid drawing conclusions, instead just showing what actually happens at the sub-micron scale during the various sharpening processes.  I have chosen not to use this a forum to explain how to sharpen, but rather to provide a resource for people with sufficient interest and comprehension to improve their own understanding.  In this article, I will break with the trend and share a simple and reliable technique for honing a straight razor.

It is usually claimed that honing a straight razor is more difficult than sharpening a knife or other bladed tool. While it is certainly true that some people make it more complicated, it is not necessary to do so. It is also commonly asserted that honing a straight razor requires a set of fine and expensive hones – this is also not true. I demonstrate here that only two hones are required, one coarse hone for expeditiously setting the bevel and one fine hone for polishing away the apex damage created by the coarse hone. The second hone does not need to be any finer than 4k grit. It is also important to understand that scratches in the bevel are of no consequence when the bevel is micro-convex as the scratches do not reach the apex.

I have personally used the approach described below for approximately two years, and have shave-tested well over 100 razors prepared by this approach. I have recommended this technique to people having difficulty honing their own straight razor and have not yet had anyone tell me they were unsuccessful.  To be clear, there are many other ways to accomplish this result; however, this is the simplest and most consistent approach that I have found.

This approach is quick and easy if you are honing a straight razor that has been shave-ready (not a restoration or a factory edge, for example) and not been damaged (no chips that you can feel with your thumbnail) and is not warped. A smiling blade is not a problem, provided you use a rolling stroke to shift pressure along the length of the blade.

If you are unsure of the condition of the blade, raising a burr that you can feel using a 1k stone, as you would when sharpening a knife, is a helpful diagnostic. However, I would only do this once, as it is a waste of steel.  It is important to remove this large burr with edge-leading strokes as the steel near the base off the burr will be damaged from the burr flipping side to side.

The goal of the first step is to remove enough steel from the bevel faces to ensure that they meet and form an apex (usually called “setting the bevel”). Up to this point, the approach for sharpening a knife and a straight razor is essentially the same. Although with a straight razor we want to avoid introducing chips in the edge, something we are less concerned about when sharpening a knife. A straight razor has a narrow bevel angle (commonly 16-17 degrees, inclusive) and is more susceptible to micro-chipping than blades with included angles of 25 degrees or more.

My preference is to set the bevel with high quality 1k stone such as a Naniwa or Shapton to achieve a good trade-off between abrasion rate and the size of the micro-chips in the apex.  Lower quality stones will also work if edge-leading strokes are avoided. As a rule of thumb, using the 1k stone long enough to make black swarf, then ending with about 20 edge trailing strokes is sufficient. The reason for the edge trailing strokes is explained in the series of images that follow.

To show how robust this technique is, for this demonstration I use two of the worst choices for hones that I own, the DMT extra fine (1200) and the 6k side of a King 1k/6k combination stone. The DMT is problematic because it produces micro-convexity and substantial damage and distortion to the apex. The King 6k, although a good polisher, causes significant micro-chipping to the apex when used edge leading.

The first step, here shown with the DMT extra fine (1200) diamond plate, produces a near-triangular bevel but with damaged and distorted steel at the apex. This is all that is required at this step – it is of no consequence whether the blade can “shave” at this point.

GEN_DMTF_20ET_01

Edge-on view of a straight razor honed on a DMT EF (1200) ending with 20 edge-trailing laps.

 

GEN_DMTF_20ET_03

Cross-section view of a straight razor honed on a DMT EF (1200) ending with 20 edge-trailing laps.

 

The second step is to polish the bevel and remove the damaged steel near the apex with a 4k to 8k level hone with about 20 edge-trailing strokes. There is no need for a feather light touch, but the edge trailing strokes should not flex the blade either. The goal is to produce a foil edge – more steel than we want at the apex.  After this step, the blade is in similar condition as it would be when using the Murray Carter 1k/6k method prior to folding the burr by cutting into a piece of wood. In the example here, the blade received 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k to produce a micron-sized foil burr.

 

GEN_DMTEF_6k20ET_05

Edge-view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The small foil-burr is clearly visible

 

GEN_DMTEF_6k20ET_01

Cross-section view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The bevel angle near the apex is less than the innate bevel angle, typical of a foil-burr.

In the low magnification cross-section view (below) a micron-sized foil-burr is observed at the apex beyond an otherwise triangular bevel. The goal of this step is to have the apex “longer” than we require so that there will be no damaged or chipped regions remaining after the strop-based burr-removal step. Again, it is of no consequence whether the blade can “shave” at this point.

GEN_DMTEF_6k20ET_03

Cross-section view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The white triangle shows the innate geometry of the blade, and small (1 micron) foil burr is visible beyond that triangle.

 

The third step is to remove the burr using the hanging denim strop with metal polish. This burr-removal technique was detailed in Burr Removal – part 1. I normally use a strip about 4cm wide and 25cm long, but you can make it larger if you prefer. As a rule, I do 30 laps. Again, there is no need for feather light strokes – on a weigh scale I would expect to see between 100g and 150g. I tape the denim strip to the edge of the bench with duct tape, and do not pull nearly hard enough to pull it loose. This will micro-convex the blade, removing all traces of the foil-burr. I replace the denim strop when it becomes dark and glazed, after ten to twenty uses.  I have analyzed and tested a variety of metal polishes and all performed similarly.

The purpose of this third step is to micro-convex the apex and remove the foil-burr in preparation for the diamond on leather strop which will then shape the apex for shaving level keenness. As I have shown previously, diamond on leather will convex the apex but not remove the burr which forms as a consequence. A typical example of a foil burr that results when transitioning directly from a hone to a diamond on leather strop is shown in the two images below.

 

GEN16k_p25PD_roo_01

Edge view of a straight razor honed with a Shapton 16k to produce a triangular bevel and then stropped on a 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded hanging kangaroo leather strop. The approximately 3 micron long foil-burr is clearly visible.

 

GEN16k_p25PD_roo_04

Cross-section view of a straight razor honed with a Shapton 16k to produce a triangular bevel and then stropped on a 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded hanging kangaroo leather strop. The approximately 3 micron long foil-burr is clearly visible.

 

The denim stropping step not only removes the burr formed by edge-trailing strokes on the hones, but the “pre-existing” micro-convexity that it imparts will prevent the formation of the foil-burr that typically forms when stropping on diamond-loaded leather (shown above). The foil-burr (above) results from incomplete (micro) convexing of the apex.  The result of the loaded denim stropping step is shown below.

 

GEN_6kET_FlitzDen_01

Edge-view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the (Flitz) metal polish loaded denim strop.

 

GEN_6kET_FlitzDen_03

Cross-section view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the metal polish loaded denim strop. The apex is keen and well formed.

 

GEN_6kET_FlitzDen_05

Cross-section view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the metal polish loaded denim strop.

With the denim strop, there is some care required to ensure that suitable downward pressure is used. With too little force, the apex will not be sufficiently convex to avoid the formation of a foil-burr with the diamond on leather strop. I typically use the same force on all strops, both loaded and clean.

GEN_16k_Flitz_light_03

Cross-section view of the straight razor stropped on the Flitz polish loaded denim strop with relatively light force (less than 50 grams equivalent). The near apex bevel angle has only increased by 3 or 4 degrees and the apex is not sufficiently keen for shaving.

With too much force, the apex will convex too much and not contact the surface of the diamond on leather strop.  Too much pressure will also turn the strop black more quickly as the entire bevel is convexed (and more metal is removed).

GEN_flitz_heavy_03

Cross-section view of the straight razor stropped on the Flitz polish loaded denim strop with relatively heavy force (estimated to be 300-400 grams equivalent). The near apex bevel angle has increased by 10 degrees. The apex is relatively keen and well formed, although not quite sufficient for shaving.

 

Typically, the blade will shave reasonably at this point in the procedure, although it is not likely to tree-top fine arm hair or pass the hanging hair test with any great success without additional stropping on clean or loaded leather.

The fourth step is to clean up the apex and maximize keenness after the denim. This is easily accomplished by stropping on smooth leather loaded with diamond spray . Again, as a rule, I do 30 laps. In this example, a hanging kangaroo leather strop loaded with 0.25 micron poly-diamond spray was used. I typically use a latigo leather strop for this step – there is no need for exotic leathers.

GEN_EF_6k_p25roo_03

Cross-section view following 30 laps on the 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded kangaroo leather strop.

 

GEN_EF_6k_p25roo_07

Cross-section view of the blade after the diamond sprayed kangaroo leather strop.  The white triangle shows the innate bevel angle and amount of steel removed by micro-convexing the blade.

 

Depending on the pressure applied during the stropping steps, a very small (but inconsequential) burr may remain on some parts of the blade.  The foil-burr shown below is not typical, but even in the event one of this magnitude is formed it is not a problem.

GEN_EF_6k_p25roo_02

Edge view of the blade after the diamond sprayed kangaroo leather strop.

This inconsequential burr can easily be removed by stropping on clean denim. Any clean linen strop component will suffice.

GEN_clean_den_01

Edge view of the blade after the clean denim strop.

 

Finally, prior to shaving, I strop on clean leather, 30-50 laps. This will deposit a thin layer of organic “lubricant” on the surface of the blade, as well as ensure that the apex is aligned.  At this point, the blade should easily “tree-top” the finest arm hair and score HHT-5 on the hanging hair test.

 

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42 responses to “Simple Straight Razor Honing

  1. Wow Todd, very very nice write up! I am amazed to see it so simplified, and it’s not just someone’s opinions it’s documented by both experience and the SEM photos.

    I have a question if I may…

    1. You noted ” It is important to remove this large burr with edge-leading strokes as the steel near the base off the burr will be damaged from the burr flipping side to side.” Has this ever been documented? I have heard others say that “stropping for maintenance” will result in less edge retention because of this, or like you said, burrs – will cause damage beyond the actual apex from the stress.

    Clay Allison demonstrated this with actual edge damage (see http://knife.wickededgeusa.com/forums/topic/steel-fractures-on-utility-blade-toughness-vs-hardness/) but I was wondering if it has been photographed from burrs or stropping?

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    • In this case I’m specifically referring to the type of burr that I show at the beginning of “what is a burr? part 1” https://scienceofsharp.wordpress.com/2015/01/11/what-is-a-burr/ These can be several microns thick and can torque the apex when if they flip. The foil-burrs that I show in this article are usually 1 tenth of a micron thick. By micro-convexing the apex, we remove that (potentially) damaged steel anyway.

      I would speculate that flipping a burr will cause more damage in a large-carbide-containing knife steel than it would in simple carbon steel.

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  2. Thank you so much for all this work and effort. I have been trying for over a year to get a great finish on my straight razors and have finally done so with the help of your data and explanations!
    I would like to know what you do to maintain your razors between honing/touch-up sessions. Do you use your diamond pasted strop and clean leather between shaves? What procedures have you found effective to maintain the edge?
    Thank you again so much. This blog is a breath of fresh air.

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    • To refresh the blade just follow the same procedure, but skip the 1k (unless you have a chip or other damage). I normally use a Shapton 4k or 8k glass stone. You can use a coarser stone if you use only edge trailing strokes.

      Typically I do 20 half-strokes on each side, rolling pressure from heal to toe. Then about 10 edge-leading strokes to put the apex in a “known” geometry. From there, the usual 20 or so edge trailing strokes, then to the loaded denim.

      For daily stropping on the clean linen/leather, I use the linen just for cleaning off the bevel – a handful of light laps. 20-30 laps on the clean leather strop will re-apply the lubricating layer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good article. I really like the microscopic images. I do have one question though. If a razor is sharpened this way, can a paddle strop be used to maintain the edge between honings by using it before each shave, or does the micro-convexing mean that a hanging strop must be used?

    Thanks

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    • It is not the curvature of the hanging strop that is important, but the fact that the strop is compressible. We can see from the 3kX image that the amount of micro-convexity this technique produces will only “lift” the apex about one micron above the surface (the distance to the white line of the triangle). Since leather is typically not smooth or flat at that scale and is compressible, the apex will still make contact. The primary purpose of daily leather stropping is to apply a layer of lubricant to the bevel and this is certainly accomplished with a paddle strop.

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  4. I would like to change the way I sharpen straight razors based on your article. I have premium leather paddle strops. Could I use one for the 0.25 micron diamond stage and another as the finish strop? Or would I get better results sharpening if I invested in hanging strops for those two stages? I see you answered Matt’s question about using paddle strops for maintenance, I just didn’t know if the same would apply to the 0.25 micron diamond stage and finishing stages.
    Thanks.

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    • The thickness and resiliency of the leather is probably more important than the difference between hanging and fixed. It is difficult for me to predict what results you would get from your paddle strop, but you can easily test the effectiveness by “tree-topping” arm hair before and after stropping. If the diamond strop is doing what it should, there will be a marked improvement in the ability to “tree-top.”

      There is no need for a high quality strop for the diamond spray – I normally sand them flat (vacuum and compressed air to remove any sandpaper abrasive) and wipe with alcohol to remove oil from surface that prevents the diamond spray from wetting the surface. Even an old leather belt should be fine.

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  5. This is huge, so I did try it today.
    And I got the best comfort shave with straight razor ever, probably the result to.
    May thanks for this finding and sharing.
    And this was on my very first try with your described method.
    I am totally amazed.
    Does it not work at all to maintain the edge with strops and paste before going back to the stone again? But it is really fast with the stone anyway.

    Again, thanks!

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    • Stefan, I’m glad that this also worked for you.

      As you use a blade, micro-chips will occur in the edge. Stropping alone cannot remove these, you need to go the the fine stone and make the apex triangular again.

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  6. I tried to apply this all to knife sharpening. Used a stainless steel large chef’s knife. I used a 1000 grit JWS (I think a Chosera), a 3000 grit hard chosera, a paddle denim strop (homemade) and a thin kangaroo strop on glass. I could not quite reproduce your results Todd. I wonder if I was not able to produce enough of a microconvex on the denim? Or maybe my edge was not quite as it should be after the 2 stones give the freehand approach. Will have to experiment more. Thanks for sharing this all.

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    • Assuming you hit the apex with the 3k stone while edge trailing, the problem is most likely with the denim strop. I would suggest you replace the denim paddle with a hanging strip of denim and make contact with the apex with downward pressure and strop flex rather than by increasing the angle. It should be possible to make contact with the apex while the knife is flat to the strop.

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  7. Didn’t I read in this or was it another topic of yours and you even showed a pic of stropping on just linen and/or leather creates a micro-bevel?

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    • I prefer to characterize this as micro-convexity rather than a micro-bevel; yes clean linen and leather does produce micro-convexity, albeit more slowly than when loaded with abrasive.

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  8. I want to thank you for this most interesting work you have done with fantastic pictures to raise questions and illustrate your points. Your scientific approach to razor sharpening is very admirable , and I am excited to try your method.

    Can you please provide some details on how much metal polish to apply to the denim strop? Should the polish saturate the denim, or just a very thin layer, or does it even matter? Any particular method you use to apply it?

    Also, can I use any particular type of water based 0.25 micron diamond spray on the leather strop? Or do you recommend a particular type diamond spray? Should I apply 2 coats of spray to the leather separated by 24 hours?

    Any further details you can provide about preparing the denim and leather strops will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for sharing all of your fabulous work!

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    • I apply the same amount of metal polish as would be used for polishing silverware with a cloth. I normally load the strop with enough to thinly cover all of it. Wearing a glove, I smear it with my finger, then rub it in. Allow it to dry and then work it with the spine of a razor or a screwdriver shank.

      I have used several types of diamond and cubic boron nitride sprays and they behave similarly. It can be a challenge to apply to leather if the leather is oily, since it will bead up and not wet. I would suggest cleaning the leather with an alcohol soaked paper towel to remove the surface oil. You will also want to apply the spray with the strop flat so that it doesn’t run off. I would do one spray and let it dry and then a second spray.

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      • Cool. I’ve been drawing a 1 cm x 1 cm grid diagonally on the small strip of old jeans with Thiers Issard. When I use Mothers, same kind of thing except I smear the blobs in the same sort of pattern. I’m going to try a solid coat of Mothers next time like you said and see how it goes. It’s definitely easier to squish into the weave.

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  9. Many, many, thanks!!!

    This is a follow up post to my previous inquiry on May 31, 2016.

    I followed your directions using my 5/8 Ralf Aust as a test razor for your honing method. I must say that after using your method today, I experienced the best shave I have ever experienced with any straight razor!

    Keep in mind that I am still new to straight razor honing. The Ralf Aust razor I am referring to is the same razor I had been struggling with over the past couple of months, because I was never able to obtain a satisfactory edge on it in spite of viewing numerous honing videos on Youtube and posing numerous questions on various razor forums. I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with he razor. I never imagined the sharpening process could be so simple as the method you have outlined in this blog.

    Since the bevel was already properly set, I simply started with my Naniwa 5K stone and performed 30 backstrokes with the spine leading, and then followed up with the denim/polish strop and .25 diamond spray/leather strop as you have outlined.

    My question now is whether or not I will have any use for my Naniwa 8K, 12K, or Suehiro 20K in the future? I can’t imagine the razor can do any better than it did today using your method. You previously mentioned something about going from edge leading strokes on the Suehiro 20 K to the denim strop. Can you expound on that comment? I was under the impression there is no benefit in going beyond a 4-6K stone prior to the denim strop.

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    • You are correct, the high grit hones are of no use with this method.

      My earlier comment about the 20k is simply referring to the fact that it is such a fine hone that there is no need for edge trailing strokes to make a foil-burr edge. However, it doesn’t do anything that isn’t achieved by a few edge trailing strokes on the 5k Naniwa.

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  10. I’ve recently discovered your blog and I’ve spent days studying all of the content and comments. I’ve been totally absorbed learning all I can about your sharpening results and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m going to replicate this technique for both straight razor and knife sharpening, but I have a couple questions:

    – Knife sharpening: for the final .25 micron stropping step, why do you use kangaroo paddle strop for knives vs a hanging strop for razors? Is it to allow for more pressure when stropping knives? (How much force for knives if razors need ~150g?) Or is it that knives need a harder, flatter surface. (And why?) Also, in general, I’d be interested to hear how much more force you apply during each knife sharpening step vs straight razors: I’ve seen some sources state to target about 4-6 lbs for the stone steps on kitchen knives—quite a bit. I suppose observing a slurry and a burr is can be to test if the pressure is “enough.” I’m not sure how to tell how much pressure is enough when stropping knives loaded w/ compound.

    – Poly diamond compound source: can you recommend a source for this spray compound that I can use the replicate the results? The brands I have seen knife shops sell don’t inspire confidence. I have also found some options sold to microscopy labs, which seem more promising because their customers can actually see the stuff. But in all cases I can’t really compare concentration of the product and therefore price. (This reminds me a bit of high end audio, which has 2 markets: the home hifi enthusiast who might buy all manner of mystical gadgets, and the pro user, who is presented a list of parts and really needs to know how to specify exactly what they’re buying.)

    Thanks so much for your articles!

    Armando

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    • For knives, I have no preference for the paddle strop vs the hanging strop. For straight razors, paddles strops are quite ineffective – my kangaroo paddle has no effect on a straight razor because it is too smooth and hard the apex never makes contact. For chisels and plane blades, I much prefer a hard flat strop – but only because it’s awkward to strop these on a hanging strop.

      Pressure determines the rate of abrasion. The pressure you achieve is the downward force you apply DIVIDED by the contact area. So if you are sharpening a wide-beveled knife you need much more FORCE than you would need when micro-bevelling to achieve the same PRESSURE. Razors have another consideration and that is that they flex if we apply sufficient force.

      For diamond compounds, I have tried a wide variety and found no correlation between price and quality. The one-dollar syringes work just fine, although I don’t care for the oily carrier. I prefer the poly-diamond from Ted Pella -it’s inexpensive and good quality.

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  11. Todd, wanted to know if you have any problem with me using some of your pics in a future video? Of course it will be in a good way.

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  12. You are my new hero Todd!
    Over the last 2 days I tuned up my old heavy single bevel japanese kitchen knife (I think t’s called a Deba knife) which was chipped and dull. It took me a few hours on my coarse SPSII waterstone to get those chips out. Then further polishing on 1000 Naniwa waterstone, then 3000 Chosera. The last few strokes were edge trailing at a slightly higher angle. Then Mother’s Mag hanging denim strop, then a strip of leather with 0.5 diamond. I did about 20 strokes each side on both strops. I can treetop a few hairs on my wrist now which is fantastic for my skills. Conclusion – yes, this is all usable for knife sharpening as well.

    Thanks for sharing this all Todd – it sure has changed my world of sharpening and its understanding.

    Like

  13. I sharpen my own skates, not just because I get exactly what I want, and it is fun to do, but because it saves me time (drive time, waiting in line, skate tech interaction time) and money (direct cost, cost of driving, less metal wasted, fewer blades destroyed by bad skate techs).

    I’m sure that part of the purpose of sharpening your own razors is the journey itself. E.g., challenging yourself to do better than commercially available products. But, as a practical matter:

    On average, how many minutes / shave do you take preparing the blade?

    On average, about what does it cost / shave? (Include everything: blades, wear and replacement cost of hones and strops, diamond spray, etc.)

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    • I strop my razor for about 60 seconds prior to shaving each day. These blades require a 5-minute touch-up honing about every
      7-10 days. A new or damaged razor might require significantly longer to get in shape.

      The initial cost would be a few hundred dollars, but the ongoing cost would only be for shaving soap/cream and aftershave.

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  14. I tried this technique and I am impressed how well it works. Most impressive part is the fact that is very logical unlike the voodoo techniques that flood the internet. I have this Thiers-Issard that I could not sharpen at all. The edge leading always resulted in a very toothy jagged edge as seen on my SuperEyes USB microscope. Probably my choice of Shapton M5 12000 had something to do too, but other razors seem to get better results with this stone. Anyways, I tried the technique using lapping film progression from 5 to 0.3 microns, then Mothers polish and CBN .125 microns. By mistake I ordered the .125 instead of .25. I did 60 laps on CBN instead of 30. The resulting edge was perfectly straight, nu chipping, mirror polished and the shave was the best ever. Thank you Todd for sharing the results of your hard work with us!

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  15. Your recommendation to hone a straight razor blade with trailing edge, even on stones with fine grit, and then remove the resulting bur with a linen strop with metal polish is quite astonishing to me because on every video I found on the net straight razors are sharpened with leading edge. But I’ll try this method. Do you know what incredients are in Mothers metal polishing paste? Assumably some kind of very fine Aluminium oxide particles?
    Btw. I personally obtain the best results when using 3M Lapping film with a 1mm rubber mat as intermediate layer. This provides exactly the right amount of cushion to provide a sufficient contact of the blade edge with sufficient stiffness that it will not produce a convex bevel.

    PS: please excuse my bad English.

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    • I have experimented with all the “recommended” approaches to honing a straight razor…. and as a result, I developed this approach.

      The metal polishes I have tested are all aluminum oxide. There is nothing special about using metal polish, I only recommend it because it is inexpensive and readily available. This approach works equally well using .25 micron diamond spray on the hanging denim. The key is the hanging denim, not the type of abrasive.

      Lapping film can produce a foil edge even with edge leading strokes, particularly with the diamond film. Using a rubber mat, or wet paper under the film produces micro-convexity and generally avoids burr formation.

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  16. Hello,

    first of all, I’d like to say that your blog is absolutely fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing your results with us in a clear and substantiated way!

    I am a total newbie at this whole game and trying to learn how to shave with a straight razor and maintain the razor myself. I’ve read your entire blog and am convinced my best bet is to emulate your methods as best as I can. However, I have some questions.

    1. The Razor:
    How much does the type of razor matter? I have a Dovo Classic 5/8″ Stainless Steel razor straight from the factory. It doesn’t feel very sharp and doesn’t pass the HHT at all. Should I get it professionally honed (and bevel set) for 20 € before I mess with it myself? should I get a cheap practice razor (such as a Gold Dollar) for honing before I mess with the Dovo?

    2. The Stones:
    The king 1k/6k combination stone is a LOT cheaper than buying two separate higher quality stones. Would I be fine buying that?

    3. The abrasives:
    Is polydiamond paste better than monodiamond paste? If so, how much so? Could I just go with monodiamond for the leather? I can find diamond paste for 6 euros (doesn’t say anywhere but I suppose it’s monodiamond) but Ted Pella polydiamond paste costs 36 euros plus shipping. Does it matter for the leather if the diamond abrasive is water or oil based?

    If the 6 euro diamond paste is fine, could I go with that for the denim strop as well? In pasted strop part 4 you say metal polishes give better near-apex angles than diamond paste but in a comment somewhere you said one could just as well use diamond paste, that it’s the denim that matters and not the type of abrasive. This seems contradictory. Or is the key here oil/water based?

    4. The strops:
    You advise using denim with abrasive, leather with abrasive and clean leather. (All in all, 1 denim, 2 leather)

    The denim strop – to my understanding – I am expected to make myself and discard and make a new one when the glazing problem (introduced in the pasted strop part 4) occurs. If water-based diamonds are fine for the denim (Question 3), I suppose the glazing problem wouldn’t occur and therefore the same denim strop could be used indefinitely?

    I already have a leather strop and a linen strop. Which means I have a leather strop for the diamond abrasive but am missing a clean leather strop for the daily stropping. Does a linen strop work just as well for that purpose or do I need another leather strop for that?

    Thank you in advance and sorry for the wall of text!

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    • 1. The type of razor really doesn’t matter. As long as the blade isn’t warped, you should be able to hone it. It is a good idea to start with an inexpensive razor, but understand that the first honing may require a lot of steel to be removed. Ink on the bevel is a tremendous help on this first honing. I’ve found the ZY razors (aliexpress) to be better than the Gold Dollars. It’s definitely a good idea to have somebody experienced hone your Dovo the first time so that you have a reference.

      The King 1k/6k works just fine if you follow my suggested approach ending with edge training strokes. These hones are problematic for the techniques you will read about on honing forums because they don’t produce keen edges in the edge leading direction. If you don’t have a coarse diamond plate to lap it, you can use wet/dry on a flat surface.

      Don’t worry about the diamond spray immediately. You can get an excellent edge with just the metal polish on a scrap of hanging denim. I like the additional keeness from the diamond spray, but I have an exceptionally tough beard. There is no difference between monodiamond, polydiamond and cubic boron nitride in this application. I have used the 0.5 micron diamond paste from China and it works just fine.

      You should keep your proper strop clean. To start, you just need a strip of denim cut form an old pair of jeans. I just tape it to my bench. If you want to try diamond on leather in addition to the denim strop, try to find an inexpensive 2 inch leather strop (or make one).

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  17. Just wanted to add to all the people saying thank you.

    Screwed up my first straight razor yesterday by rolling a burr on my first attempt at honing. Then I found your guide. Existing cheap 6k stone, a $7 tube of metal polish and one old pair of jeans later and I’m back in business!

    Please keep all the images coming to. It’s really hard to find non-anecdotal evidence on sharpening and being able to have some real understanding of what’s going on is awesome.

    Thanks again!

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    • As a follow up question: Do you think this progression will work with a kamisori or will the difference in blade geometry make it a problem?

      Assuming that I adjust the stone steps to account for the uneven bevel I would think that at the scale the strops are doing anything it shouldn’t be any different?

      But maybe there is some subtlety of how the edge contacts the strop I’m not thinking about.
      (of course if you want to do some images of kamisori edges I wouldn’t object :P)

      Cheers.

      Like

  18. Considering your comments about the DMT 325 leaving your razors shave-ready, I wonder why this procedure? What is the qualitative difference?

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    • There are many ways to get to a “shave-ready’ razor. I’ve honed a handful of razors with the DMT 325 and they all shaved extremely well. But, like most approaches, there is a certain amount of “skill” involved that is beyond most people who have only honed a few dozen razors. In the case of the DMT325, we are using pressure below the threshold where the diamonds can cut, so we are essentially using the surface texture of the diamonds rather than the whole diamonds. This approach will only work if the plate is “conditioned correctly” (much like an Arkansas stone) and is at risk to a single diamond coming lose and re-embedding proud of the surface of the other diamonds.

      The “simple” approach avoids most of the common pitfalls of the common approaches. It produces and excellent shaving blade and is extremely repeatable. Some people erroneously refer to it as the “metal polish” technique, but that is in fact only one part of the procedure.

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  19. Hello,
    I’m under the impression, whether I’m right or wrong is another matter, that sometimes a particular blade will chip more than another blade at say the 1k or 4k stage when honing with edge leading strokes.

    Would it make sense then to follow your technique of setting bevel using edge leading strokes on 1k, then using edge trailing strokes on 1k and on 5k
    BUT
    then instead of moving to denim move to a 12k with edge leading strokes?

    My thinking is that you could then remove the foil edge relatively neatly on the 12k?
    This process would then produce a triangular edge relatively simply and reliably and would cut down on stroke count and also cut out the need for an 8k stone.

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    • In general, you are correct; however, it depends on the “condition” of the particular hone. Most (if not all) hones will be more aggressive immediately after lapping – they will remove metal faster and cause more chipping in the edge leading direction. This is one of the problems with describing a blade as having “a 12k edge”

      In “the honing progression” the hones were always lapped and then used sufficiently (100 strokes or more) to get them to their equilibrium behavior.

      So if your goal is a triangular bevel, then your approach should work well, provided the 12k is not freshly lapped. (The advantage of your approach is to ensure that the blade is “ready” for the 12k). I would recommend lapping the 12k stone, then breaking it in with another blade first.

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