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The 5 hone set - notes from the journal

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2011 9:45 pm
by brothers
Notes: 4-9-2011

Without a set bevel and a brilliantly sharp cutting edge, there's going to be no cutting of whiskers. There are ups and downs, and difficult razors and good and bad days behind and ahead.

The important part is the study and the practice, and the learning from experience, and from reading about other guys' experience, and being able to understand and apply the information.

Also, the discipline to resist moving on to the next stone until the necessary result appears, and to understand what is being done, why, and how the edge should and does look and feel. That, combined with the willingness to decide what to do if the necessary result doesn't come.
  • 1. DMT D8E 1200: Careful use as needed based on the unique characteristics of any given blade, and not leaving this hone until an authentic arm hair popping edge are essential.

    2. Naniwa 2000 SS: Coarse enough to refine the edge, and smooth enough to start the polishing process before graduating to the 3rd stone.

    3. Norton 4k/8k: Calls for judicious application. TPT, TNT, and instant elimination of arm hair should result. There's no longer any need of a pyramid under these circumstances.

    4. Naniwa 12k SS: Polish and refine prior to the 5th and final stone.

    5. Escher: Lapped and used with water. Attention is given to maintaining full contact with the edge, all along the length of the blade, and using all but non-existent pressure while holding the blade steady with both hands.
The thrill of a great SR shave is worth the struggle. As with everything, a gift (an option driven by desire and ambition) has been given to us that enables us to realize we can adapt, make changes, and enjoy success.

Posted: Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:13 am
by drmoss_ca
The combinations of hones that could make an acceptable progression are too many to calculate. I don't have any impression that naturals are better or worse than manmade stones, and I don't mind mixing them. One thing that I notice consistently is that using a set of the same hones to refresh an edge by making a few passes on each is an easy way to get a superb edge. For example, I refreshed my Sunday razor (which is stainless) last night using Shapton Pro stones from the 2k upwards. The basic plan is to start with a hone one step coarser than you think you need, work up the range with a brief period at each step, spending the most time and care on the final hone. So I did ten strokes (five round trips) on the 2k, 5k 8k and 15k, then ten strokes straight on the 30k, followed by ten X-pattern, followed by ten straight and a 3-2-1 finish. Then a plain leather strop. From the feel of the edge and the effect it has on the hair on my left hand I don't think it will need pastes, but I'll find out in half an hour.
There have been many times when I have sweated to get an edge, using all sorts of hones. But I recall the ease of those occasions when I used one type of hone only and got a lovely edge. I've had the same experience with Naniwas, too. It might just be confirmation bias fooling me, or it might be that having all the stones the same size and shape with similar surfaces encourages consistent honing technique. Maybe it's complete juju.

I shall have to spend the day thinking about how to 'blind' the honer so we can conduct double-blind randomised controlled trials!


Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:50 am
by Zot!
My finest hone is the C12k. I am wondering what the Escher or Shapton Pro 30k adds. Would they make the difference in going ATG? I haven't tried the ATG with a straight although I have tried a few strokes. For some reason, either the hand positioning or the feel of the razor stroke, just hasn't felt right for the few times I've tried. I think I've read Dr. Moss mention that the razor needs a high degree of sharpness for ATG.

Posted: Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:00 am
by brothers
I have noticed that when a particular SR is not quite as sharp as it should be, I get an uncomfortable bit of tugging and a painful sensation (result of the pulling, I suppose), in going across or against the grain.

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:45 pm
by Gssixgun
One thing I have learned over and over and over again, so many times it has basically become my personal honing Mantra because if I follow it, the edge works 100% of the time...

Bevel, Bevel, Bevel, honing really is all about the bevel, once the bevel is set correctly, everything else is just icing on the cake...

Wanna prove to yourself just how important a solid bevel set really is????
Shave off your "1k" hone, no really try it, if you have a solid bevel set it will shave, maybe not as comfortable or as smooth but I bet it surprises you, with how good a shave you can pull off with just a proper bevel set...

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:08 pm
by drmoss_ca
No question about it, Glen. When I first got into straights it took me some time to figure that out as there was no one to tell me so! Quite a revelation the first time I took a supposedly 'stubborn' all the way back to the coarsest hone and worked up. Wow! Where did this heavenly shaver come from, all of a sudden?
And isn't it a cause for pausing for thought that once upon a time, when men were men and a shave meant once or twice a week with the grain, it was probably all done with a bevel-setting hone (or the nearest corner of a brick wall)?


Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:56 pm
by brothers
I fully agree. The last time I re-honed my razors over a span of two or three days, I was determined to stay with the original hone until there was no doubt the bevel was easily popping off the hair on my arm on each and every blade.

As a side issue, Martin at Rasurpur advocates never using tape due to the theory that it changes the blade geometry and results in a less than optimum bevel being produced. He says the only exception would be taping a razor with excessive hone wear on the spine. I've been using one layer of tape, only because I have a "feeling" that I'm damaging the spine without it. What are your opinions?

Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:24 pm
by drmoss_ca
I have no objection to one layer of tape. It makes for a quicker honing, at the price of a theoretically less perfect edge (a broader angle between the bevels must be the result). I can tell the difference by feel when I buy a certain brand of custom razor honed with three layers. Those edges are consistent and probably even quicker to set, which makes sense for a business. But I can usually improve them with re-honing with one layer. I have more time to spend on it than the manufacturer, and less risk of a repetitive strain injury than he has, so it makes sense.


Posted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 11:01 pm
by Gssixgun
:) the Tape/No Tape topic has been hashed and re-hashed so often it make my eyes hurt...

Here are some numbers we compiled, these are real bevel angles, not theory or "I thinks"

Real razors measure angles from 13 degrees to 24 degrees, and everyone of those razors was a shaver... The average angle was 16 degrees...

One layer of 3m #700 electrical tape changes the honing angle on a 6/8 razor about 3/4 of 1 degree not even a whole degree...

I have yet to ever see a razor that was harmed from using tape, or whatever they used in the old days, and yes some of those old near wedges have a very steep angle so they used something...Probably something like one of those knife honing clips... I am actually honing 3 oldies tonight that have a steeper original angle than 3 layers of tape can touch...

Myself I started using 1 layer of tape because I started restoring razors, there was no way I was going to spend hours sanding and polishing a razor then turn around and scratch up the spine again... When I began to hone and restore for others I just always used 1 layer of tape because they are not my razors, unless someone asks me not to...

It takes approximately 20 laps on a Norton 4k hone (for reference) to erase the effect of 1 layer of tape...

The more experienced you are at honing the more you torque the blade toward the edge when you hone, so an experienced honer will cause way less wear on the spine then a new guy, Yes you do torque the edge, now forget I said that, as it will mess you up for at least a week thinking about it :)

Believe it or not the spines on some razors are rather soft in comparison to the edge and blade steel and they can wear rather quickly...

Personally I don't think anyone could discern between 1 layer and no tape in a blind shave test on a given razor, and I will gladly call them super-face if they could :D

I think the argument that it changes the geometry is rather the same as excessive spine wear does too... I have always said the definition of "Bad" hone wear is any wear that is on the razor and not the hone :P

Those are just a few thoughts on the whole subject, so basically I believe it is your razor so do what ya want...

Edit: Also please don't take my word for any of this, I always say test it youself, that is the really fun part of this hobby.

Posted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:32 am
by du212
I tape the spine following your advice Glen, some people, in the french str8 forum (, have criticized me because I use tape, but I hone for the customers of a barbershop ( and I prefer to protect the spine of their razors, for aesthetical reasons...Once I start to use the tape for some razors it's easier to extend the system to all the razors I hone....and the people, including me, are satisfied with the edges.... :D

For me, no doubt, tape is no matter

Posted: Sat May 07, 2011 9:58 am
by brothers
It's been a bit more than a month since I honed all of my razors. I've had more than one or two excellent shaves with each of them.

I was able to find a vintage horsehide strop at a great price. It's very old, and the stitches holding the handles and the swivel rotted away, leaving just the two strops. It's stamped "genuine horsehide". It was manufactured by Martin J. Rubin, New York, U.S.A. "Makers".

The primary strop showed on the surface that it had been well-used, but amazingly, there is not a single nick, cut, or worn area on it. Whoever had it in it's prime was meticulous in using it. The edges are still crisp. I cleaned it thoroughly but carefully with a good qualilty saddle soap. It had a lot of grime on the surfaces, but after being cleaned, it performs great. The reverse side of the strop is in great shape also.

After I strop on canvas, I strop on the reverse (more textured) side of the horsehide, then finally I strop on the finished side. The second shaves on all of the razors were smoother than the first post-hone shave.

The second strop is something called "Multi-Dot Honing Side". It's dyed black, but it's leather. It appears to have been embossed on each side with patterns to give it a texture. Unfortunately, the black strop is all but unusable due to the fact that it's severely cupped all along its length. I'm sure the cupping is a result of the distortion that the embossing process caused.

Because the stitching that held the handles and the swivel had rotted, I just pulled them off. This suits my need perfectly. I lay the strop along the edge of the counter where I strop and it works great. I'm of the opinion that a strop works as well or better with a firm backing. YMMV!

Posted: Sun Jul 31, 2011 9:15 pm
by brothers
Following up after 4 months. I couldn't be more pleased with the shaves I've been receiving from these razors now. The final tweak was adding Glenn's 3-2-1 flourish on a Swaty barber hone at the very end.

Re: The 5 hone set - notes from the journal

Posted: Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:01 pm
by matt321
brothers wrote:Notes: 4-9-2011

5. Escher: Lapped and used with water. Attention is given to maintaining full contact with the edge, all along the length of the blade, and using all but non-existent pressure while holding the blade steady with both hands.[/list]The thrill of a great SR shave is worth the struggle. As with everything, a gift (an option driven by desire and ambition) has been given to us that enables us to realize we can adapt, make changes, and enjoy success.
Gary, I picked up an Escher a few weeks ago. Now I need to learn to use it. Same story as my coticule. Owning those two natural hones is like a membership to the "club", but using them successfully is more difficult than I imagined.

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:20 pm
by Hawkeye5
"the discipline to resist moving on to the next stone until the necessary result appears, and to understand what is being done, why, and how the edge should and does look and feel. That, combined with the willingness to decide what to do if the necessary result doesn't come."

For me, this is key. I tend to become impatient and want to move on, but hard experience has been my teacher, educated my thumb, and I know I must not move on to quickly.

Man made or natural, in the final analysis, will not make a difference (but I really prefer natural).

Posted: Thu Nov 24, 2011 7:56 am
by pinklather
The majority of what I *think* I know of honing was simply paying attention to Glen. Every time I thought I "got" it about bevel, bevel, bevel. I found I had more to learn.

The other place I'm finally starting to pay enough attention to is the edge at the 8k level. If its not a good shave there, its not ever gonna be a good shave.

Posted: Tue Jan 03, 2012 5:54 am
by brothers
When January 1st rolled back around, it was time to dust off the hones and get all of the straight razors sharpened again, as scheduled. I've found that with proper interim stropping, in rotation, I can get about 4 months worth of great SR shaves from each razor. It's a good feeling to be able to look forward to a buttery smooth shave from these razors.

interim stropping - especially if you don't hone

Posted: Sun Mar 11, 2012 3:52 pm
by pinklather
The source is controversial, but there's a pretty effective method for extending the times between trips to the stones.

Its the familiar - 'strop on newsprint/phonebook pages'. That's nothing new. What I tried that made a difference was using a hard, flat, smooth surface to back the newsprint. All stropping on linen, leather, pasted or not, imparts a convex surface to the bevel & edge. The hard flat backing does not. An ideal backer is a hone. I use a c12k, but any hone. A pc of plate glass, polished marble floor tile, etc. will work fine. One new user had none of these and used the edge of a door. He had the 'beard of steel' which devoured edges. He could either learn honing and hone every week, or use the stropping on paper to conserve the wear on the steel. He's learning w/ the Norton 4/8k now, and has little success on the c12k. For added keenness, its the newsprint stropping. I've tried it on 7 blades. If you're good enough on the stones, it won't buy you anything. Its when its not quite there that the method helps, or when your skills are still developing, as mine are.

'hope someone else finds this helpful.

Posted: Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:53 am
by adrian
I will try your method, as I'm a beginner in shaving, stropping, honing. To complicate the method further: as I am from a different country, our newspaper and ink are different from, for ex, the packaging newspaper I get from the US, so...another variable. :D

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 8:18 pm
by brothers
My 7 razors were last on the full set of hones on January 1st. They were freshened (drop back 3, per Chris Moss and Glen-gssixgun) around May 1. Now a few of the razors are telling me it's time for another freshening. If that works for me, then I'll be on track for an annual full trip over the hones again on January 1. Hopefully no one will think I'm wearing out my razors too fast. :lol:

Posted: Fri Sep 14, 2012 5:18 am
by brothers
Yesterday evening I was able to find the time to refresh the edges on all 7 SRs, and hopefully will cruise all the way to January 1 now without any maintenance other than pre shave stropping.