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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 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

Comment by D ale on December 2, 2016 at 17:01


The one on the far right .. any clue what the purpose of the small semi-circle @ the end of the blade is ???


It appears to me that would be the most comfortable one to hold or grasp while shaving


the curve n the "shank" of the blade.

I believe that's where your thumb would rest during the process of shaving.


That same razor has more of a curved cutting / shaving edge.

Does that offer an advantage during the shaving process ??



I have some old knives & some other old sharp items with real ivory.

There is something special about that material.

It's pretty amazing schtuff.

And in today's world .. quite unique !!!



D ale

Comment by John Bamford on December 2, 2016 at 11:31

These three razors are now my definite favourites and the two on the outside of this picture sharpened up easily and shave very very well . The centre one however was a little more difficult it seemed sharp but didn't shave as well as the rest so I had a more leisurely sharpening session today and all is well ! The sharpness is proven by a couple of small nicks . The one on my left ear ,of all things ,I never felt until Sue asked me what on earth I had been doing . The other nick was just clumsy ,  it is a very heavy old razor and feels really large even though it doesn't look bigger than the others . Well it's either that or I just had a bad day , loved that cut on the ear though as I really never felt it at all .

Comment by Jan Carter on November 27, 2016 at 18:42

Those are still amazing to me.  First that Malcolm found them and then that they have proven to blow the whiskers off the rest you have purchased

Comment by John Bamford on November 27, 2016 at 12:11

Well I bought these three old Sheffield razors recently and they have sharpened up really well . That is an understatement they are sensational razors to use , so smooth it makes you wonder if they are taking any whiskers off . I really bought them for the fact that they are very old and still in as new condition . The fact is that whether they are old or whether they are new is not relevant these things give the best shave it is possible to imagine . All three are just the same they glide over the skin in a way that is hard to describe to people who haven't tried one . These old guys certainly knew what they were doing . 

When I bought them Mr Carpenter said they just needed stropping to make them shave , well you have to be joking I thought they were made in the mid 1800's and anyway I have spent a lot of money on stones so i am sure going to use them !!

They were sharp out of the box , the sort of sharp you would hope for in a production knife.... but would be unlikely to find . Well the famous razor guys on the forums and Youtube say you should go to a 1000 grit stone and work the progression from there . I guess I have to be awkward but these things were pretty sharp so I thought I would have a try with just the higher grits first , if that didn't do the job then I could go coarser and start again . 

So the progression was 20 strokes on an 8000 , 30 reps on a strop , 15 strokes on a 12000 stone , 30 reps on the strop , 20 very very light strokes on the ILR stone , 30 reps on the strop , 30 very very light strokes on the ILR under running water , then strop again .  

That has done the trick for these razors and these days I have around 20 other ones but I am having a hard time picking one up I just want to use these old Sheffield fellows .

Comment by Jan Carter on October 24, 2016 at 19:04

wow, John, I am glad the new one is working better for you and I am surprised that D2 is working well with the BB.  I read this to Donnie and now he is thinking about a BB.  D2 is something I have never been able to get an edge on, Donnie can but as you know it is a fair amount of work.  Thanks for the info!

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