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  • Sharpening thoughts for new honers.

    The following is the result of an idea that Sham had to teach new honers.
    It was co-written by Geezer and mrsell63. (Richard and Jerry)


    Here are some of the most recommended hones for someone who wants to maintain their own razor edges. All honing should be done with a mildly soapy water solution to lubricate the stone.

    Norton 1000, 4000, 8000 grit
    Naniwa 1000, 3000, 5000, 8000 grit
    Shapton 1000, 4000, 8000 grit
    Also recommended are the Norton Flattening stone and/or the DMT 325 grit Diamond plate to keep your stones FLAT. Very important.

    The following is meant to be a basic guide for the new razor honer in order to give them a general understanding of some of the fundamentals involved in sharpening a straight razor. Everyone has their own honing method and preferred hone progression. With persistence, you will find a successful method that works for you.
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    The idea is to make the blades sharp. "Sharp is..... the coming together of the two sides of the blade to a perfect line of only a few molecules in thickness." The fewer molecules in thickness at that edge, the "sharper the blade." A fair edge thickness might be as low as .0001 or less inch in thickness or .00025mm.
    There are many methods used. We normally use a stone or relatively flat surface with an abrasive grit as a portion of its make up to hone / sharpen.

    The most important part of honing is to cause the stone to smooth a continuous surface along the entire blade cutting edge and on both sides of it, from the thickness of the blade and tapering to the extreme edge of the cutting edge.
    That surface is called the bevel.
    Achieving that bevel requires time and effort expended.
    What most of us have found is that a lubricated honing surface of between 600 and 1500 abrasive grit size is a good start.
    For a razor, most often a lubricant is selected: Water, oil, lather or wet slurry.
    Water is most often used in honing razor edges because most of the common hones available as "Razor Hones" are of the "waterstone" variety.
    Wet slurry is a muddy liquid made up by rubbing a stone upon another along with a lubricant, and often is used upon any hone while honing.
    Oil is used on some stones, mainly American Natural hones such as Washita, Kansas, Arkansas, and Turkey, for a few names.

    Soap lather is commonly used with a hone at the sink and mostly with very fine grit hones such as man made "barber hones", which are not all created equal.

    The blade is laid flat upon the stone and is stroked/slid along the stone with the edge leading and always remaining flat on the stone with an even very light pressure along the entire blade to keep it flat upon that stone. The blade should be approximately directly across the width of the surface. The spine ( wide part of the cross section or back of the razor) and edge must remain upon the stone for the entire stroke. At the end of the stroke, the blade is turned over upon its spine to rotate the cutting edge up off the stone and downward onto the stone to place it in the position to make a reverse stroke to the other end of the hone. For every stroke on one side, there must be an equivalent stroke upon the other side. (The types of strokes are described elsewhere but you should concern yourself with the X STROKE until you become proficient)

    This is a good time to remind you of the absolute importance of keeping the entire length of the blade totally FLAT on the stone. The entire length of the edge and the entire length of the spine must touch the hone with equal pressure at all times in order to achieve a uniform shave ready edge. A consistent edge depends upon the consistency of your stroke. This takes much practice and self criticism. Be patient.

    To determine if the bevel is set or not, blacken the very edge of the blade with a Sharpie Marker, let the ink dry a moment and then make 3 perfectly flat honing strokes on a dry lapped stone [3k - 4k ]. Check the edge under lighted magnification to see if there are any signs of ink on the edge. There should be NONE. If there is any ink remaining on the razor's edge, the bevel is not yet set and you are not ready to proceed to the next stone in the progression. Continue honing on the 1000 grit stone until all of the ink is gone from the razorís beveled edge. You can re-black the edge at this point and repeat this step just to make sure the bevel is set properly. Very important step.

    Before we move on to the higher grit stones, it should be mentioned that there is another way to determine if the bevel is properly set and that is the TNT [thumb nail test]. While holding the open razor by the handle, place the heel of the razor edge vertically on the front edge of your thumb nail and pull [with no downward pressure] the razor edge away until the point of the razor edge arrives at the front of your thumb nail. As you pull the blade along the edge of your thumb nail, you should feel no skipping sensation. The blade edge should feel as if it is cutting into the thumb nail along the entire length of the blade. Any skipping sensation will indicate that the bevel is not completely set. You can use the TNT or the ink marker test. Whichever works best for you.

    This can prove to be frustrating for the new honer but you must be patient. It's only a matter of time until you will be jumping up to the 3k/4k stone and begin the edge polishing process.

    Setting the Bevel on your razor's edge is the most important part of the honing process. Only after the bevel is properly set can you continue polishing the edge of your blade to shave-ready condition. From the start to the finish, your blade must be absolutely flat on the stone. Here is a link provided by member Randy Tuttle to give you a better perspective to understand the honing stroke.

    You should now have enough of an understanding to be able to bring the bevel set to completion. If you are still having difficulty completing the bevel set, just start a new thread asking for help and we will help you fine tune the bevel so that you can proceed with the next finer stone.
    The following sequence of strokes is offered only as a starting point for new honers. Other members will offer different viewpoints and that's fine. Read them all and try them one at a time.

    Let us move up to the 3k, 4k, 5k stone. (Equal number of strokes on both sides of the blade, equal pressure on both sides of the blade. BE CONSISTENT.) Pick either the 3k, 4k, or 5k stone and let us begin polishing the freshly set bevel. Wet the stone (all honing will be done wet with mildly soapy water ) and do diagonal X strokes with edge leading across the stone. Do the X stroke just as you see it done in the animation above. One stroke on one side of the blade and then one stroke on the other side of the blade flipping the blade with the spine in contact with the stone and the blade edge pointing up and away from the stone as you flip the blade from one side to the other.

    Approximately every ten x strokes you will rinse and carefully wipe the blade clean without disturbing the very edge of the blade. Then check if the blade will shave arm hair at skin level along the ENTIRE length of the blade.. If not, you will repeat more X strokes until it will shave arm hair at skin level.

    Once your blade can shave arm/leg hair at skin level along the entire length of the blade, do 10 individual x-strokes on the 4k stone. Grab a hair from your head or hairbrush and try the HHT [hanging hair test]. Pull the hair along the razorís edge to see if it severs the hair. Continue to do groups of 10 x-strokes until the edge can pass the HHT. Then test shave.

    The result of your test shave will basically tell you how to proceed from there. You may have to go back to the 4k or if it shaved nicely off the 8k, then you could move up to the 12k for 10 X strokes, strop and test shave again. You will find that the number of strokes on each stone will change as your experience and level of expertise increases.

    As you play with your hones, you will learn how to proceed at any point in the honing process based on how the blade cuts arm hair, leg hair and whiskers. Other members will each have their own opinion of the proper honing sequence plus the number of strokes and you should try as many different methods as you can. You will find a method that works for you. Realistically speaking, you should get to the point where you can get a nice, comfortable shave from your 8k stone. When you can comfortably shave off the 8k stone, you have arrived. From that point on, it is nothing but fun.

    Meanwhile, if you need help with your honing, please contact one of the members. Honing is much easier if you have the proper guidance. Donít be shy. Please ask for help. Good luck from the guys at www.razorandstone.com

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    This article was originally published in blog: Sharpening thoughts for new honers. started by mrsell63