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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 April 15, 2017 at 2:32

It's only a small piece of ear Jan .

Comment by Jan Carter on April 14, 2017 at 20:38

LOL Dale! I may have had the same comment in mind. John, is too sharp when you can start losing body parts while shaving?

Comment by D ale on April 14, 2017 at 6:00

I was ready with a smart comment .. had you not clarified .......
.

;)

John Bamford said, "... Not that I have three ears of course ..."

Comment by John Bamford on April 14, 2017 at 3:26

I think it is more likely that I have just gotten clumsy Dale !! I seem to have developed a facility for the cutting of ears this is the third one now . Not that I have three ears of course , maybe won't have even two if I go on like this . It didn't hurt exactly but I was aware that I had cut it , it just didn't seem as bad at the time as it appears now . Sue is mainly worried about me bleeding on the pillows at night so I have to put a plaster on when I go to bed .
I know how dangerous knives are in water I have cut myself once or twice washing up , you need to be so careful .

Comment by D ale on April 14, 2017 at 2:56

From the looks of that ear, you just may have attained the mode of

.

... "too sharp" ...

.

Quest is .. did you even feel it

..or..

was it only after you started bleeding that you realized you'd nicked yourself ?

.

.

My son moved back in w/ Ab & I for a bit after college.

..he'd been away from sharp knives for some time..

While doing the dishes, he cut himself cleaning one of the kitchen knives

...but...

didn't realize it till a few seconds later when he noticed he was bleeding.

I can still hear it ..

"Daaad .. why do you have to have your knives SO0o sharp ?"

Comment by John Bamford on April 7, 2017 at 15:15

Dale my friend I will tell you straight , I have yet to get a razor too sharp ! It is what some people say , but I have yet to experience such a phenomenon . The DE blades that some say are too sharp and give razor burn seem just fine to me . I have managed to get my straight razors sharp enough that I can cut myself without noticing but I don't figure they are too sharp .
The thing they, some guys on the forums , I don't go there much now , say that diamond pastes of .5 to .25 of a micron make the edges very harsh . I will let you know when I go down that route .
Whast I do know for sure is that some razors shave very comfortably and some aren't by nature so kindly , I have no idea why and it doesn't seem to be the degree of sharpness . My Kropp razor is a good shaver but I wouldn't trust it , some other razors are exactly the opposite . It's a mystery !!

Comment by D ale on April 6, 2017 at 15:37

Whoah, John .. you ever get a razor "too sharp" I wanna know how.

Further

 just how does one define "Too Sharp" when it comes to a razor ???

I'm confused.

Comment by John Bamford on April 5, 2017 at 13:12

Jan I know what you mean and was surprised when I began this razor business to find people who mentioned razors being overly sharp !! When I bought a DE razor it came with "Feather" blades,Japanese razor blades, that some said were too sharp for them . Consequently I was rather concerned when beginning to use that razor , no problems for me though and on the few occasions that I use the DE razor I have no trouble with Feather blades . Some have said that the really sharp blades give them irritation or "razor burn".
The main point here though is that some straight razors feel very comfortable and just flow smoothly across the face and with others there is a feeling that you need to be rather careful ! I don't have enough experience to know the full story on this but it is very apparent .
I will of course pursue the goal of the ultimate edge until I know for myself whether I can make my razors too sharp , I am not there yet .

Comment by Jan Carter on April 4, 2017 at 18:34

OH John, no creating an aggressive razor!  The strops and pastes make for a great finish edge on the knives but I dont know that I would use them on a regular basis.  Time consuming and not adding value to the edge, IMO

Comment by John Bamford on April 4, 2017 at 14:13

Just steadily striving to make progress on my razor sharpening .

The edge that seems fine one day is hopefully surpassed the next , and it does indeed seem to be the case .

The use of pasted strops aluminium oxide , ferric oxide etc, are giving me a great boost to the sharpness and smoothness experienced in shaving . As a bonus these strops also work rather well on my knives . You do have to spend a fair amount of time on the harder steels though and if I was keen on using this method on knives I would be tempted to use diamond pastes . In fact diamond pasted strops are the next thing to try over the Summer . I have been told that they do get a razor rather too sharp and aggressive and one of the more old fashioned types of pastes are useful to "mellow" the edge .

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