A shortish blog on sharpening straight razors. It will be short because I know little enough , though I have learned enough to be able to get the job done . Maybe I can return to this in future when I have more information but for the present it will be brief .

1 . If you want to learn to shave using a straight razor the most effective way is to buy a new razor from a dealer who is known for sharpening their razors before sending them out . Buy a strop at the same time , not a terribly expensive one , you can pay an awful lot of money for strops . Don't pay too much because you will likely cut it , if it's not too badly cut sanding it down will make it serviceable again.

Whilst learning to shave save up for two stones one about 7000 grit and one finishing stone 12/15000 grit .  these stones will bring your razor back to shave ready when stropping no longer does the job .

A video on how to do this ,

https://youtu.be/cXVW_S6VaBw

2.      If you really have no idea about sharpening at all then when your razor needs honing send it off to one of the guy's that will do it for a few bucks . Course you won't have a razor whilst it is gone , you could buy two of course use one and send the other .

3 If you can't sharpen a knife to a reasonable level then perhaps that is the place to start because a razor does need to be sharp a half sharp razor is dangerous .

4   Okay now we have got that out of the way I guess most of us can sharpen and already have some equipment .  For a razor you need stones , the various fixed angle sort of things like the Edge Pro etc aren't a great help here . The reason for that is that a razor comes with the angles sorted for you , assuming that we have a good or new razor and not one that has been mangled or botched in some way . So stones needed 1000; 4000, 8000, and a finishing stone 12/15000 .This is a list that could and has been argued about on various forums for ever . If however you have something like this you are good to go. To use these the 1000 only needs to be used once normally when setting the bevel , basically establish a sharp edge with this stone then refine that edge with the other ones .  So far so good then simply take your razor and lightly stroke the thing edge leading on the first stone then through the progression strop it for a while and prepare for a marvellous shave .

Well that is it in the proverbial nutshell, but and there are a lot of buts! .It is best to have a jewelers loupe because it is hard to see what you are doing on the edge without . 

You need to develop a method of keeping the heel and the point in contact with the stone evenly so as to even out the wear on the razor. This comes down to feel and observation , the loupe again . Course you could buy a USB microscope they are fairly cheap and I have been meaning to buy one for a while . The fear of more information than I have the skill to deal with has so far put me off .

If you have the stones and the loupe or microscope all you really need is to haunt youtube for a while as there are enough video's on there . From my experience try to stick to one or two people as too much information coming from different angles can cause brain ache .Then like any other thing it is a matter of practice and observation .

I did not have all these different stones to start with . What I did have was three Japanese waterstones and a reasonably comprehensive selection of stones to go on the Edge Pro . I hoped to use the Edge Pro and was dismayed to find that it was not going to be a big help . So the stones I had were , well I am not certain there is a course medium and fine , I knew what they were when I bought them but had forgotten and the only writing on them was in Japanese . They were bought a long time ago and had not been used a lot due to not having a PC to learn from youtube ! After spending what for me was a lot on the Edge Pro I was reluctant to buy a whole bunch of stones at $100 each so had to look around for alternatives . I bought a Belgian Bllue stone for say $50 and a Finnish waterstone for a similar amount and to finish of an ILR at $30 . These together with my three japanese stones allow me to sharpen to a degree that at present I am satisfied with , though heaven knows they are a strange collection .

So I have as far as I can tell,

Japanese 600 grit

Japanese 1000 grit 

Finnish   3000 grit  *

Japanese 5000 grit 

Belgian Blue 7000 grit  *

Imperia la Rocca 12/15000 grit  *

The ones with stars after are natural stones so the grit rating is arbitrary .

    If you go online and look at youtube you will very quickly find that there are so many variations some people manage with one Belgian Coticule and vary the slurry to make the stone work as if different grit sizes .  Some have a staggering array of stones which must be used in an approved manner ending with a 20000 stone that costs $500 . Then there are others who use a 4000/8000 double sided stone and maybe even one from China . After a while i decided it was best to try to get by on what I had .

I haven't mentioned J'nats yet and have no intention of doing so cos it makes my brain ache to even read about such things .

It all get's to sounding complicated at times but if you remember that you are just putting an edge on a piece of steel it brings you back to earth . 

One last point when you have ground your razor against the stones you have the big question comes up "how do I know if it is sharp enough". You can see a bunch of different tests on video's but the one I like , bearing in mind that shaving is the only real test , is run the razor along a hairy part of you with the edge a 1/16 or so away from the skin . See how the hair reacts if it seems to almost leap off and sticks to the razor , my razors are all carbon steel so always have a degree of oil on , If that occurs you have reached the promised land and can lather up . Anything else and it is back to plan two .

I have read this back and can only apologise for making it sound complicated I have loved learning to sharpen my own razors. I am sure there is still a lot to learn and that is okay by me cos I am enjoying the learning . It really is satisfying to buy a razor cheaply from the Bay and sharpen it up for what is likely the first time in 50 , 60 years or more .

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Comment by John Bamford on October 14, 2017 at 11:02

You are right Dale practice is needed and I don't mind doing that practice as I have a guaranteed method of getting a good edge from the "Science of sharp" blog. That gives me the ability to play around with other stones and methods knowing that I have a fallback method that can fix things for me.

If I can ever get close to the skill level you have then I will be doing okay!

Comment by D ale on October 13, 2017 at 14:14

I just checked their pricing on-line  ..indeed.. they can be a bit on the pricey side.

..but..

mind the old adage "practice makes perfect"

.

.

John .. I've taken apart more knives than I've ever assembled .. to obtain the skill level I'm @ today.

Not economically viable.

It's just part of that practice thingie.

Comment by John Bamford on October 13, 2017 at 12:44

The new sharpening stone I bought as a birthday gift for myself has been given a good testing today.

I would like to say it is just the best thing that I have ever used, however, I feel that a little more practice is required to get the best out of it. 

As with all these natural stones, there is a degree of variation in the way that they function. This one feels much smoother than the other coticule that I own. I am getting a good edge from this stone but for the cost, I would hope for better. Ah well a little more practice will sort the problem, I hope !!

Comment by John Bamford on September 25, 2017 at 13:01

Some great looking knives there Dale !!

Comment by D ale on September 25, 2017 at 11:25

I can quite seriously relate, John.

..as..

I've quite a fondness for autos.

NOTE: I didn't break the George Schrade's out of the safe ..as.. this makes the point.

..but..

I've 2 other in kit form ..&.. 6 more that require spring replacement.

..and..

(: I'm still looking for more :)

.

I think .. perhaps .. we've turned into "collectors".

Comment by John Bamford on September 18, 2017 at 13:56

I have over time acquired a box full of sharpening stones, not to mention an Edge Pro and numerous strops with 7/8 different abrasive pastes.

However, I have now ordered another stone, in fact, another Belgian Coticule. Because, well ...although I bought one a while ago you just never know, and this one is ordered from the quarry so may well be THE ONE.

Amazing how easy it is to convince yourself !!!!

Comment by Jan Carter on August 24, 2017 at 18:27

John,

I think D ale is spot on in all his assessments. 

1  This is quick, shouldn't I be using this all the time before work !! I can get as good a shave at around half the time, and then have another cup of tea. Tea is very important to the English.

2   This is rather harsher than using one of my usual razors. The only reason that it gives a better shave is the handle makes it easier to get into awkward areas, a straight razor is sort of longer.

This just proves quicker is not always better and maybe that extra cup of tea could just be on Monday before work?

Comment by D ale on August 22, 2017 at 14:32

This comes from one who's sported a full beard for 40 years ..because.. shaving is such a chore.

.

If it turns a chore into something enjoyable .. that alone makes it worth it. Further .. during that additional time while you're missing that extra cup of tea .. I'm certain a portion of your mind is quite relaxing ..while.. another portion of your mind is contemplating .. life. Be it the daily tasks you've ahead of you ..or.. upcoming plans ..or.. .............. I would also view that in a positive light.

.

Personally .. I can sit here and fondle a knife while quite effectively relaxing & simultaneously solving some personal conundrum. All good positive schtuff .. for me anyway.

.

You know, John .. I doubt there'd be any advantage to your sending a razor off for "professional" sharpening at this point. And in reference to how your interest in shaving with a straight razor led to a collection of them & then branched off into other areas .. soaps and such ...   ...   ... my interest in basic cutting instruments is what eventually led me to the building of them. While I'll never make a living at it .. I find it quite rewarding on a personal level. As you stated .. it isn't sensible but is a fascinating and delightful way of turning my innate interest in knives into an even more joyful experience.

Comment by John Bamford on August 20, 2017 at 10:56

Since finding the Scienceofsharp site my razor sharpening has sort of reached a plateau and I am quite comfortable with that. Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder how the razors compare to other peoples efforts. Well, I could send one of my razors to someone who does professional sharpening but then I am too mean to pay for that. So I have tried using my Edwin Jagger DE razor for a week to see how that compares with its Feather blades. Picture below for anyone unfamiliar with DE razors, double edge cos that's what they have.

The feather blades are from Japan and although lots of other makes are avilable online this make is generally considered to be the sharpest. 

I haven't used the DE for a while, in fact, I have hardly used it at all as I was more interested in getting to grips with using a straight. Well I thought give it a week and see how the results compare to my now more confident straight shaving.

The week has come and gone and so I have been using a straight razor again for the past week. First impressions from the DE week were 

1  This is quick, shouldn't I be using this all the time before work !! I can get as good a shave at around half the time, and then have another cup of tea. Tea is very important to the English.

2   This is rather harsher than using one of my usual razors. The only reason that it gives a better shave is the handle makes it easier to get into awkward areas, a straight razor is sort of longer.

The conclusion that I have come to is that I am getting an edge that compares favourably with a Feather blade but is smoother in use. This, however, is not the important lesson that I take from this trial, the important bit touches on a question Dale asked me a while ago.

We were discussing my new and growing collection of shaving soaps, and yes I have bought another one. Dale quite reasonably asked if the more expensive soaps were better in practice than more modestly priced ones. I couldn't answer at the time and in a strictly practical manner, I am not sure that I can now. I have given this some thought since then and decided that the question whilst valid misses the point somewhat.

I guess that there must be a way to try to test slipperiness of soaps or any other quality that may be useful for shaving. However, practicality isn't really part of the wet shaving hobby . All the money spent on the various razors soaps sharpening equipment etc could have paid for an awful lot of supermarket throw away razors.

What I really love about this shaving business is opening a beautiful Italian shaving soap such as a Saponificio Verasino, oh the scent it is glorious and reminds me of things that are vaguely remembered so you want to go on enjoying the perfume in the hope that the memory will fill out in time. The packaging is so well done that it only adds to the overall experience , then add a lovely old Sheffield ivory handled razor such as the Joseph Rodgers which I honed on an English bridle strop and used this morning

This is why I enjoy using a straight razor it isn't sensible but is a fascinating and delightful way of making a chore into a joyful experience

Comment by D ale on July 3, 2017 at 1:43

The second link was quite informing. I like the way he is straight forward & not only points out that "exotic & expensive" sharpening equipment is NOT necessary .. he proves it !!!

.

Nice article .. Thanks, John.

White River Knives

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