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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 January 28, 2017 at 14:39

Well I have gone for the loom strop but have changed my mind about buying one by Mastro Livi .

It is hard to make up your mind when there is less money than products to spend it on !

A cheaper but hopefully a useful loom strop it is , I am helped in this decision by the fact that Malcolm has another three John and William Ragg razors . These razors should really belong to me !!

I guess this will not be the end of my sharpening gear as I hear diamond treated strops calling . Oh dear I never will have any money .
Comment by John Bamford on January 21, 2017 at 16:18

I will be interested in knowing how you get on with the jig Dale .

I felt that buying an Edge Pro gave me a real insight into sharpening and I still use it on my pocket knives .

I don't feel the need to use the jig with kitchen knives but for setting up a new pocket knife a good looking even bevel looks just the job . I found the 120 and 240 in the Edge Pro to be hard work as they need cleaning off all the time and for the more modern steel they do a couple of different diamond stones which do make life a lot easier .

Have you looked at chef knives to go they do a whole load of different stones and strops to fit the Edge Pro which look like they would fit your new jig if you want to try different types . An angle cube is also a good thing to have for those fixed angle jigs you can get them fairly cheap on Amazon .

I think I have a 120, 240, 400 ,600, 100 ,4000 and two diamond stones for my EP it works well but if I could have afforded it I would have liked the sharpener made by my friend Thomas in Sweden which is similar to the EP but better , at least in my opinion .

Anyway I am too preoccupied looking for the "perfect" razor edge at the moment and the EP isn't a lot of help with that .

I hope you get on with your new machine and I will hope to hear how it goes .

Comment by D ale on January 21, 2017 at 15:14

Ouch .. that is one gaudy looking razor ..&.. for 2 grand .. I think not.


Indeed, John .. your sharpening skills have increased from .. say .. a mere year ago.

I can understand any preoccupation you may have with the tools required to sharpen ..as.. I share it.

I have a box of old razor stones ..&.. a full drawer of diamond whetstones ..&.. a collection of other .. tools.

As if that wasn't enough .. I finally acquired a fixed angle jig for sharpening.

It removes much of the guesswork, i.e. it fixes & holds a given angle.

The sharpening jig / fixture came with 4 whetstones .. 120, 320, 600, & 1500 grit.

I've ordered 2 more stones .. a 2K & a 3K. I seriously doubt the 120 & 320 will see much use. Whereas .. the 1500 grit leaves a polished edge. It will be interesting to see what the 2K & 3K stones do :)



D ale

Comment by John Bamford on January 21, 2017 at 13:52

I am having a deal of fun with my "Coticule" and feel that I am making a little progress on getting to know it . Now I feel that I need to upgrade my strop , but which one ?   Well as I have had little disposable cash of late , with having bought three Sheffield razors just before Christmas and then a coticule to sharpen them with I have had time to research .

At the moment I have a homemade paddle strop and two belt type strops , cheap ones because they are easy to cut when you are a beginner !  However I have been watching some video's by Mastro Livi an Italian razor maker and he favours a loom strop , and yes he makes one , and yes again it is an expensive item !!

It is possible to buy a loom strop for around half the amount that I would have to pay for a Livi Strop , but then again they do get very good write up's , and it is only money so has to be spent on something I guess . Also it is a lot cheaper than one of his razors , this one may appeal to you folks in the States 

A mere $2000 ,  plus postage of course , a bit too rich for me !!!!

So I will try a loom strop for £100 bit more my style .

Comment by John Bamford on December 27, 2016 at 11:21

My razor sharpening is beginning to be pretty good , which you would hope to be the case considering the amount of time , effort and expense that has been involved . Now I don't say that it has improved merely to be boastful but as a way of saying that this razor sharpening isn't as tricky as some of the forums would have you believe . One or two of these forums are so full of dour earnest fellows of the most pretentious kind that I have with great joy decided to leave them to their own devices while I get on with doing what they seem to claim mere mortals are incapable of doing . 

So how do I know that my sharpening has improved a good deal , well it's just the end result that tells you how well you are doing . Confidence in using the razor counts for a deal and technique in removing the whiskers is important but there comes a time and for me it was a couple of weeks ago that the results tell you that things are going well . One way I check is using my DE razor after the first pass with the straight and if in moving the DE in the same direction it is not picking anything up , well there can't really be any whiskers left ! Also when you are getting the straight sharp and smooth enough that it is shaving as smooth or smoother than the DE then I think it can't be denied that you have a good edge on that razor .

Getting those 8000 and 12000 grit water stones has helped a good deal and it would be good enough to stop here . That isn't going to happen though as I seem to have a never ending fascination with sharp edges . Now with a razor sharp is good in fact sharp is essential , but Smooth is what I like . I really enjoy a not too hollow ground razor , half hollow or maybe a quarter and when sharpened there is a smoothness to the shave that modern multi bladed razors or even DE's just can't match .

So next up is a Coticule , that is big brother to the Belgian Blue that I am so fond of for knife sharpening. It isn't bigger in size , in fact this one is smaller at six inches by two . It feels very nice to sharpen on and indeed is "THE STONE " for razor sharpening for most people . Japanese Naturals are preferred by some but they are at present a little too complex for my weak old brain . Of course Coticules are a natural stone and have the inconsistencies common to their nature and they are normally used with a slurry which is gradually diluted as the edge is sharpened . These two things make them a little more tricky to use than a standard Japanese whetstone . When I have used it a little more I could maybe add some useful information but for the present I will content myself with a photo , along with the Belgian Blue .  Anyway here they are Coticule on the top and Belgian Blue on the bottom ,

Comment by John Bamford on December 3, 2016 at 14:51

As you say Dale a great variety of shapes and sizes of notch in those old blades . I would like to see you put that old Wade and Butcher back into harness there is some life left in that thing ! 

The first of our plastic notes have been issued , Winston I think is on these . Someone has dropped a clanger with them though as apparently they have all come into contact with beef fat somewhere in the production process . Seemingly Hindu's and suchlike are refusing to use them so the poor old fiver may have to be withdrawn until the process is altered .


Hopefully they will have the problem sorted before the introduction of the new £10 in the Summer .

Comment by D ale on December 3, 2016 at 14:12

That Barbers' Notch does come in a variety of sizes .. always wondered the purpose.

L ~ R

Joseph Rodgers & Sons, Cutlers To Their Majesties, No. 6 Norfolk Street, Sheffield, England

Waterville Cutlery Co., Waterville, Conn.

Montgomery Ward & Co., Chicago

Manufactured By Wade & Butcher, Sheffield

George Wostsnholm & Son's, Celebrated IXL Razor, Washington Works, Sheffield

Comment by John Bamford on December 3, 2016 at 11:45

Ah yes the notch on the razor Dale ,

It is usually called a Barbers Notch and was a common shape of blade made in Sheffield . I have heard of a couple of different explanations of it . Some people say barbers actually used the notch in shaving people , but most folk reckon it is just another point shape . For myself I don't know , and have only that razor with the notch . Don't think that the notch will be of any use to me though , that razor is a beaut however .

As for the curved nature of the blade it is not very common in modern razors apart from custom makers , who's products are out of reach alas . The best thing about these particular knives is that the are hand made as is any custom blade that you could buy today and are a fraction of the price . The razor with the curved blade I have only used once , but I can tell you it was a fantastic experience . It sharpened up easily and shaved with hardly any sensation at all , which is just the way I like it . I have only the one razor with a curved blade but would be more than happy to buy more if I could find any at this price .

Ivory is beautiful isn't it , these razors are the only examples I have , there is just something nice about it . My only worry with it is that it is very thin and if it broke then it wouldn't be easy to get those scales replaced . Any other razor I could replace the scales possibly with better ones , but these would be a real heart ache !  So I am going to use these but not for everyday perhaps !  

Comment by John Bamford on December 3, 2016 at 11:16

That is a great selection of diamond hones you have there Dale and I think they would do the job on just about any steel you would be likely to meet ! I was using diamond stones on my Edge Pro for anything hard and the D2 qualifies for that . It is as you say sharpening most knives is just a problem if you don't have the correct kit  , and it all costs $$$ . I am assembling a few stones now but not all of them would be suitable for the harder steels , some of my softer Japanese waterstones may well do the job eventually but could wear out the stone rather quicker than I would like . 

As I don't always have as much money as I would like I bought the Belgian Blue stone as it is cheaper than a coticule when I knew that I was going to try sharpening a razor . The Ardenne Coticule is one of the traditional razor stones , they have been in use  for knives as well , for generations and have some advantages over other techniques . As with natural Japanese waterstones they are used with a slurry , stop me if you know all this , made by using a slurry stone or indeed a variety of slurry stones ! The thickness of the slurry can change the way the stone cuts steel , the thicker the slurry and the stone acts like a coarser stone because it has more abrasive particles in . So as you can see one stone with thinner and thinner slurry can act like a whole array of different stones and the limiting factor is the size of the garnets in the case of Belgian stones , so they cannot get finer than the size of garnet . In the case of the Belgian Blue that would be around 7000 and for the Coticule maybe 10/12000 , I think . Generally this is thought to be good enough for razors though some of course have different ideas . I am going to buy a Coticule after Christmas to give it a try , I wanted to give the Blue a good go first . 

Since I took the Blue out of my razor sharpening herd i have been testing it on knives and have found that I am getting very good results on D2 , the D2 is because the knife I use most is an EnZo Birk in D2 . I don't have VG10 but will give CPM 154 and S30V a good trial soon . It would be pretty good if I could do most of the sharpening of my knives on just the one stone just by altering the slurry .


A US dealer in Ardenne Coticules 


I like the guy at Superior Shave he tells it like it is !!

Comment by D ale on December 3, 2016 at 8:26

Relative to sharpening D2.


I found diamond stones a necessity in gaining success sharpening D2.

I've currently a range of grits .. 400, 600, 1K, 2K, & 3K.

The 400 grit has seen very little use. Only for the crudest re-profiling. And then ... I've found a belt sander more effective.

The 600 grit is what  generally use for re profiling or taking out a knick.

The 1k I use for quick sharpening of a hard & often used EDC.

The 2k & 3k are the ones I use for my fondest EDC's.

Queen's #06L teardrop linerlock w/ PHD2.


The VG10 laminated between layers of 420 stainless.


NOTE: I've found the VG10 harder than Queen's PHD2 & just as difficult to sharpen.


Difficult is the wrong verbiage ..since.. the sharpening procedure is the same for all my knives. I've found it is the equipment required to achieve the "sharpness" that becomes more specialized & expensive.


The Belgium Blue stones sound interesting ..&.. sounds like you've done your homework, John.


"These garnets are what give the Coticule its exceptional sharpening characteristics. The geometrical shape of these garnets is a dodecahedron. There are twelve surfaces with obtuse angles. The garnets have a diameter of 5 to 15 microns and penetrate 1 to 3 microns into the metal to be sharpened. This ideal geometric shape (obtuse angles polish the metal) and the large numbers of these garnets ensure that the blade is sharpened both very quickly and extremely finely."
I'd say you've certainly achieved the ability to adequately sharpen .. anything that needs sharpened.

Congrat's, John.



D ale

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