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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 ,


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 July 2, 2017 at 9:04

I started by buying one razor to learn the art of sharpening them .  Then I found that I needed to learn to shave with a straight to really tell if I had got the sharpening thing sorted . Now this is okay but it is not ideal as you can hardly tell if your shave is less than perfect due to a lack of skill in either , or both, the sharpening or the shave technique. Well I have spent a year trying to resolve this dilemma , sometimes I was getting a good shave from a certain razor and not another one  .Then things would swing around and the good razor would be performing less well etc ..etc !

I have thought , a lot , about getting some sort of microscope to help with diagnosis but have been unwilling so far due to a lack of funds plus the fact that I have little experience in buying and using these things . Then there is the distinct possibility that I would be able to see where the problem was but be unable to rectify the situation .

I feel that most if not all these things are solved by the website that I have already mentioned on here ...


I don't know the name of the gentleman who has done the work detailed on here but I am very happy to recommend it to anyone who wants to get a very sharp edge on a piece of steel . It has worked for me and after a degree of studying this site I feel very confident in my sharpening . I have just spent the past week going through my modest collection of razors and resharpening them according to the method detailed here ,


All my razors so far sharpened , there are three that are yet to be done, have been improved so much that I am now very confident that any defects in my shaving are purely down to lack of skill in the shaving process and not to the sharpening . 

Comment by D ale on June 10, 2017 at 23:07

Re: the Science of sharp site .. I found the coments section of great interest. Of course .. the 10,000 X magnification pics do quite blatently tell a story too. Quite a difference in the edge obtained from a 1K grit whetstone & the edge finished out on a 20K grit whetstone. Exactly what one would expect ..but.. quite differently seeing the actual result.
Nice link, John .. Thanks !!

Comment by Jan Carter on June 6, 2017 at 19:52

Let is know how the advise works out John

Comment by John Bamford on June 6, 2017 at 12:34

Very happy with my latest delivery from Aliexpress . Three 50 gram tubs of diamond paste in .5 , 1 and 1.5 micron diamond paste , they cost a fraction of the price over here . I have no way of knowing if the size on the tub is accurate , I guess that I will know eventually  . 

What pleased me more than anything was they put them down on the customs form as being "sewing samples"  with a value of $2 . Saved me a few quid in import charges , and I am sure it was a genuine mistake !!

I know what you mean Jan that is some very high power magnification . I got one tip from just a very superficial reading of the site which enabled a comfortable shave from the Dovo razor that I have never got along with, I was planning selling it but may give it another chance now .

Comment by Jan Carter on June 5, 2017 at 20:16

looks like an interesting article

Although I know many that use magnification when sharpening, I dont think I want to see my attempts that closely LOL

Comment by John Bamford on June 5, 2017 at 14:36

I have just ordered a set of diamond stones for the Edge Pro from Aliexpress . They are backed by a plastic plate rather than the aluminium that a genuine edge pro stone but at the price they are worth giving a try . The cost is £10 with shipping for the four plates , I mean this is crazy cheap and if they aren't up to the job then it's no great loss. I just want them for the initial sharpening on supersteels.

On a more technical note I have just come across a rather comprehensive sharpening site . This does deal with the whole sharpening process , can't say too much as I have only just started to read it but it looks interesting.


Comment by J.J. Smith III on May 18, 2017 at 17:57
Just had a non cutlery related order get in today. 13 days from order to my mail box. Some stores take longer, but​ this order came in fast.
I've had orders from the US that took longer.
Comment by John Bamford on May 18, 2017 at 10:49

It was Dale who put me onto Aliexpress Jan , I tried a small order earlier and that went okay so I thought I would try again .

Comment by Jan Carter on May 17, 2017 at 18:58


Dale and JJ have ordered several times I guess.  I just placed an order about 4 weeks ago for some drill bits they came today and they look nice but no chance to use them yet

Comment by John Bamford on May 17, 2017 at 12:10

Well this one will be a test for Aliexpress , I have ordered three small pots of diamond sharpening paste.  On the order form it says to state what grade you want , so I have ...(1x.5 micron, 1x1.0 micron and 1x1.5 micron) we will see in a couple of weeks if they get it right . $36 for the three  including shipping can't be bad though .

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