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It Keeps On Getting Better

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It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Sat Jul 16, 2016 5:14 pm

I feel a bit like Al Pacino in Godfather III - I keep being pulled back in! Just when I think I have finally honed the best way I can, I find some little trick that takes it a bit further. Lately I have spent more time on cooking than honing (never mind the vastly greater amount of time spent on developing slide film!) and I have looked at several videos on knife honing. I know, we've seen them all before, but most of the knife honing videos are by people who don't depend on their knives for their livelihood. What about butchers? They need good edges, and I long ago learned that a steel is my friend in the kitchen. I have been watching Scott Rea's channel and in one of his videos he shows the way he uses an oilstone before using a steel on his knives. Being a curious/stupid kind of chap, I tried his technique on my two favourite stones with razors that are already sharp, but which would benefit from being sharper. Essentially, it involves going back and forth on the same side of the blade, using some pressure when the edge is advancing, and less or none as it is withdrawn. After a sufficient number of passes on one side, the blade is flipped over and the process repeated on the other side.
OK, it sounds simple. But the radical thing is that received wisdom says that if you draw a blade along a hone backwards, ie with the edge trailing, you will create a wire edge. In recent years I have seen that leading lights in the straight razor community have transgressed this rule, and even Lynn Abrams has begun to recommend some circular strokes on a hone before the traditional no pressure edge-leading strokes. Well, says I to meself, no harm in trying it out.
I have now taken six razors through this method, and all give single pass (with the grain) shaves to an acceptable degree. A couple are already doing better than acceptable, and this last week I have been walking around quite happily with no complaints from the lady in my life after single pass shaves. I would say these single pass WTG shaves are equivalent to using a Feather blade in a slant bar DE for a WTG pass. All I have done is to do twenty back and forth strokes with slight pressure on the blade as the edge advances, and little or none as it withdraws but keeping it on the hone for this backstroke, first on the Norton Arkansas which has been lapped with a 2k stone, and then on the Suehiro Gokumyo 20k. I used, as usual, one layer of electrician's tape on the spine, especially as two of the razors involved had a gold wash on the spine (Dovo Bergischer Lowe with blond and black horn scales). This was followed with ten back and forth strokes on a chrome strop, then the canvas and leather sides of a Dovo Red Russian strop. I have done this with the two Bergischer Lowe razors (hard carbon steel), two Hart 7/8 razors (softer carbon steel), and two 7/8 Henckels Friodur razors (stainless steel). All are as sharp or better than I have made them any other way. I think I should try out some very hard carbon steel razors too, and will try to remember to take a couple of TI Eagles off the wall of shame next time I visit my defunct office. I think I have a 7/8 Eagle there, and the blade of another in the basement whose scales are currently on Big Daddy. If I can find a couple of rivets I can switch them back and have a pair of 7/8 Eagles to hone the same way. It would be interesting to do these two with no tape as their bevels ought to be more acute and see if I can discern the difference in the subsequent shaves.
Life continues to be interesting as these tiny wrinkles become apparent and are experienced!

Chris
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby EL Alamein » Mon Jul 25, 2016 5:50 pm

Excellent post, Dr. Moss! Indeed I experience things like this myself. It's a never-ending journey and always exciting.

Chris
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Tue Aug 16, 2016 5:03 pm

Downright lovely shaves with the two Harts honed as above. I have also honed the two Bergischer Lowe razors and two Friodurs but they don't quite match the Harts. I did swap the scales from Big Daddy onto the TI Eagle 7/8, and it, along with its partner TI Eagle 7/8 are quite respectable, but not as close as the other razors. I'd be happy to have the two Hart 7/8 razors forever as my only shavers if it came to it. Naturally, a pair of quarter hollow razors with round points made from the despised 01 steel (which is soft but very easily honed) in 8/8 size could turn my head....

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby EL Alamein » Wed Aug 24, 2016 5:08 pm

Dr. Moss, resist the temptation . . . must resist . . . .
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby trapperjohnme » Sat Sep 24, 2016 7:34 pm

you piqued my curiosity with referring to the Hart razors as being soft. They are supposedly 63 Rockwell C scale. In my mind that is pretty hard. What would be the hardness of the other razors that you consider hard?
I'm curious because right now my go to razors are 2 Harts and 1 Friodur. I am getting the itch to add another razor or 2.
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Sun Sep 25, 2016 4:12 am

My understanding is that O1 tool steel can vary from 55 to 64 based on the tempering temperature. I don't know what hardness is claimed for Harts, but mine (I have nine) are very easy to hone. Your Friodur should be harder, and there are much harder razors to hone, where the same amount of work makes just a little difference under the microscope. The old Thiers Issard razors, Bergischer Lowes and Tim Zowadas customs come to mind.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Wed Dec 21, 2016 2:55 pm

I've had the Suehiro Gokumyo 20k for two or three years now, and while I have refreshed the surface with the Shapton diamond lapping plate, or with the unlapped, rougher side of the Norton Arkansas, I have never used the nagura/slurry stone that comes with it, partly as all labelling is in Japanese and I wasn't sure what I was doing with it. I decided yesterday to be brave and give it a whirl. The slurry stone is light and has a blue side bonded to a cream side. I looked it up today on the toolsfromjapan site and they are 1k and 3k respectively. The slurry stone is very light and both side emit lots of bubbles on immersion. I tried them both out, more with the intention of cleaning up the surface of the 20k hone, which had a few black marks on it from the electrician's tape I habitually use on razor spines. I wasn't interested in honing with coarse slurries - 1k and 3k particles would be too coarse for the edges I was intending to touch up. I used the blue side, then the cream, rinsing well between and afterwards. It certainly cleaned off the white 20k surface very effectively, but given the small size of the slurry stone, I would still use the lapping plate now and then to obviate the tendency to make the 20k surface uneven.
Having done that, I touched up two razors - my best 8/8 Friodur and my favourite old Livi that dates from the era before he was well-known and is a better razor than any other Livi I have bought (about ten of them). 30 passes (15 roundtrips) on the lapped Arkansas, then the same on the Suehiro 20k. Not back and forth honing, just light passes with the hone held in my left hand and the razor in my right. Both did very well, with the Friodur feeling to my thumb exceptionally fine. Drawing the pulp of the thumb across the edge very lightly, there is a very, very fine vibration indicating a superior edge. The Livi, which has a Swedish stainless damascus blade (Damasteel Bluetongue), was nearly as good. I'll admit that this razor can be a bitch to hone, and I have often found myself using strops with Flexcut Gold and green chrome to finish the job, but once it's sharp, it will allow daily use for many months with little deterioration. Given that it didn't feel quite as good as the Friodur, I chose to give it 20 strokes (ie 10 back and forth roundtrips) on a chromed strop, then Dovo canvas and Dovo Red Russian. It still felt a bit coarser to my thumb than the Friodur, but about as good as it has ever got.
So today I used the Livi for a two pass shave. No difficulty even under my chin, where I am actually going up against the grain. Nice result, but given that the Livi did that well, I expect the Friodur to be able to do better tomorrow.
Both of these razors are very light, and it's nice to find I can still use them. I managed to embolise my right arm a couple of months ago and still have no palpable pulses in it. Holding it up long enough to shave has been awkward, but I seem to be growing some collateral vessels and it isn't as cold, numb and painful as it was. I'll report on the Friodur after I use it.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Thu Dec 22, 2016 12:28 pm

I was so pleased about the shave from the Livi last night, I decided to up the ante and rehone the Friodur and my best Hart 7/8 with no tape on the spine. I knew it would take a bit longer as I would be honing the junction of the bevel and the blade at first, until a new bevel of finer angle was made. I decided to use the unlapped straight-from-the-factory side of the Norton Arkansas and after thirty passes the microscope showed me the new bevel had extended all the way to the edge. Then the lapped-with-a-2k-plate side of the Arkansas and then the Suehiro Gokumyo 20k just as described before. Stropped with leather alone for the first shave.
So now I have just used the Friodur and I must say it is very nice. Definitely smoother and sharper than the Livi (and the Livi had the benefit of some green paste which the Friodur has not). The combination of the newly honed razor, homemade soap, a Somerset Tulip T4 Super was spectacular, and I followed up with some well shaken original Eucris hairdressing as a moisturiser, and some Taylor's No.74 Original (creating my favourite old man scent).
Tomorrow I'll use the Hart. Based on past experience it will beat the Friodur. That 01 tool steel is easy to hone, and I like the thick heavy blade with its silent shave. But I see that in the last few months when my right arm was out of commission it has gained a couple of rust spots (not on the edge, thank goodness) in the humidity of late summer and early fall. I did save up a lot of packets of silica gel, and I guess I ought to warm them in the oven and then make a drybox with them to keep my carbon steel razors. The stainless razors have no such worries, and keep their edges longer, even if they never start out quite as sharp as the carbon steel razors. I'd surely like the 8/8 quarter hollow 01 steel razor I postulated above.
The other thing I think about is that the other Suehiro ceramic stones are an unknown quantity, at least, to me. I see that toolsfromjapan.com has a 6k, 10k and a 15k in the same series as the 20k. I probably ought to resist that thought, given that I have a completely unlikely wonderstone in the lapped Norton Arkansas that Tim Zowada gave me. No doubt I ought to hone only the fabled Chronik razors with it. Right.

Chris
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby EL Alamein » Thu Dec 22, 2016 7:29 pm

Dr. Moss, wonderful report.

You inspire me to lap my own Suehiro stone. I've got the rubbing stone around here somewhere.

If you like I can send you those Chronik blades. Even second hand steel needs love too.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Fri Dec 23, 2016 12:49 pm

Thanks, Chris - I did hone them in the past and remember the crumbly edges that I photographed.

The Hart 7/8 did outperform the Friodur as expected. You know the way you are impressed when you replace the windshield wipers on your car and all of a sudden they clean off every last raindrop and don't even squeak? It's like that. I am plotting a custom Hart-style 8/8 quarter hollow from 01 steel from the man himself (if he agrees, that is!)

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Thu Dec 29, 2016 2:57 pm

Did you ever try the Suehiro 20k dry, Bill? It's a ceramic stone and not a waterstone, but all the same I have wetted the surface thinking a little lubrication might reduce the cutting action and allow for an even finer edge. Well, perhaps that's true, but I took a different path today. Of the three best shavers that I recently touched up, the least sharp of them was the ancient Livi, even after chrome paste. So today I decided to see just what could be done with the same two hones used dry. No tape, no water, thirty roundtrips on the lapped (with 2k) Norton Hard Translucent Arkansas, then thirty on the Suehiro Gokumyo 20k. Thirty roundtrips on Dovo canvas, and thirty on Red Russian. Result: this razor is in the lead again. Whether it was the dry honing or whether it was simply more honing I can't say, but I like it.
It might be interesting to try the same with the Friodur and the Hart now, but I don't feel very strongly about it. I know this Livi keeps a shaveable edge for months once it is right, has no worries about rust, and weighs about the same as a balsawood razor (and I'm still finding my gravity-fed right arm can't be held up for too long and definitely prefers the lighter razor). Maybe one day, but I think I'll see how I get along with the Livi for a while.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Sun Jan 01, 2017 12:12 pm

My son came home unexpectedly for the holidays (he and his mother had been conspiring behind my back) and I showed him the video on the Livi home page about the manufacture of the razors. He watched it all and marvelled at the fact it took 19 hours of continuous physical labour to hammer out and grind a razor. As you may recall, he has a huge beard, presumably as a kind of reaction formation. "I have ten of those, and gave one of them to your uncle" I remarked. He wanted to see them, so I went to the now cobwebbed Wall of Shame and unscrewed the glass case with the Livis and three other damascus razors in it and brought it home. He was mostly interested in the scales, but appreciated the patterns in the Damasteel, of which I much prefer the Bluetongue. For the three spare places I put in a Zowada custom 7/8 damascus with mammoth ivory scales, a Herbert Wacker 8/8 damascus with blond buffalo horn scales, and my Buddel custom damascus with ebony scales.

Image

Of course, at that point, the fun began. Since they were here, why not do some honing? I had also brought home my original two TI Super Gnome half hollow 5/8 razors with the custom olivewood scales, so they went first. Easy. In the Dovo flat two razor travel case for the next opera trip at the end of February.
Then the Livis, and I was surprised that all honed up very easily, except for one. I was rather expecting this, as when I bought my last Livi (with mammoth ivory scales) it came with a damaged edge. Knowing that Revenue Canada never refunds duty paid, I chose to keep it and work on it. I spent a little time on it then, but set it aside for later. Later has now arrived, and I spent more time on that one razor than the others combined. All I can say is that it is getting there, but hasn't arrived. I have ground it down on coarse hones to the point where the edge no longer has a divot in it, but that edge still has a warp in it where it was bent by the blade striking against something hard. I'm going to have to grind it down until I get past that warp, at which point it will probably be a 6/8 instead of a 7/8. Or I may just offer it for sale at half the going price with full disclosure of the issue. Surprisingly, the snake razor (also with mammoth ivory scales) honed up as easily as the others, though it is awkward to strop. Here they are, starting with the old one mentioned in previous posts:

Image
(Livi briar scales,notice it has rivets rather than torx screws)

Image
(Livi briar scales)

Image
(Livi briar scales)

Image
(Livi ebony scales)

Image
(Livi staghorn scales)

Image
(Livi abalone scales)

Image
(Livi mother of pearl scales)

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(Livi mammoth ivory scales, divot in edge visible under magnification)

Image
(mammoth ivory scales)

The Zowada started out from the Wall of Shame much sharper than the other razors, and has only improved with a touch up on the lapped side of the Arkansas and then the 20k. Tim's razors are capable of extreme sharpness, but they are very prone to corrosion, and older examples often have some tiny voids in the metal. He once offered to replace such a blade for me, but I preferred to keep it for sentimental value. This particular razor that I brought home yesterday was picked out of my eight Zowada customs simply because it had the most valuable scales: mammoth ivory again.

Image
(Zowada mammoth ivory scales)

The Wacker, and 8/8 damascus razor with horn scales. Really beautiful, and the damascus blade seems to have two steels that are similar in appearance, giving a blade that has all sorts of wandering wavy ridges, but not that different in colour or reflectivity. It has always been a bastard to hone, and even after the new routine I had to use pasted strops to make it comfortable. It will certainly be sold to someone who has a higher opinion of their honing skills than I have of mine. It did give me an acceptable shave today, but no wow! factor about the ease of cutting. It deserves a better honer.

Image
(Wacker buffalo horn scales)

Lastly, the Buddel razor. I believe Gabor was being taught how to make damascus steel when he made this for me, and it probably has the prettiest blade of all the razors I own.

Image
(Buddel ebony scales)

I shall shave with all of the others and I expect I shall replace the Wacker with another Zowada, and if my pretty Buddel can't keep up when I try her out she will also be exchanged (yes, likely another Zowada, or perhaps my best Friodur or Hart). I shall mount the display case on a wall outside my bathroom to preserve the carbon steel razors from moisture. I also brought back the two of the three SMF brushes, thinking I might as well use them, but when I used the beautiful SMF 1 brush today, I found it to be a typical modern super badger brush: soft and floppy and nothing at all like the stiff and scrubby super badgers that Shavemac used to offer long ago. Very nice cocobolo handle though, even if we did steal the design(!) The SMF 2 with its olivewood handle does as much for me now as it did then. I bought it out of a sense of obligation.

Image

There's going to be a great deal of stuff to sell. I think I probably ought to put it up here before it goes to eBay, to give SMF regulars a chance at it first, but I'd hate to be looking like I was abusing the place. In the meantime, PM me if you are looking for something I might have.
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Mon Jan 02, 2017 10:36 am

Two more hours on the funky Livi and I think I'll be shaving with it tomorrow. Yesterday's efforts with the coarse end of the Naniwa series and even a DMT ultrafine had made little difference. So today I dismounted the blade from the scales, put some tape on the spine as there was going to be a lot of grinding, and started out with my coarsest Shapton Pro - the un-razorly 220 grit. Even with that, I had to raise a slurry with the DGLP to cut the new bevel. Lots of circular and back and forth motions, checked with a microscope every minute or two. I had to keep drawing the edge over some wood to remove the very impressive wire edge that kept forming, and eventually used a glass bottle to flatten the edge once the little crescent shape divot was very shallow (it's still there, but as small as the kind of thing you see on any razor that has been used for a few weeks since last honed), so I could start to sharpen it. But first I took off the tape and did some more strokes until the bevel was right up to the edge without tape. Then I laboriously worked up through all the Shaptons - 320, 1k, 1.5k, 2k, 5k, 8k, 15k, 30k. The edge felt nice, but the microscope said there was still some tiny irregularities at the heel. So another cut made in the edge of a wooden drawer, then, assuming it would respond to the same regime as all the other Livi razors, I finished it on the lapped hard translucent arkansas from Norton, and then the Suehiro 20k. A thorough canvas then leather stropping, and I think I may have salvaged it. When I get back from an airport run tomorrow I shall find out.

Oh, I investigated the divot and discovered a tiny cut on the inside of one of the scales. I think it was damaged when the scales were fitted, and then they were probably bent to allow closure without the edge striking again. All the same, it shouldn't have left the workshop, or the retail shop without someone noticing that. Today's shave was from the topmost briar scaled Livi in the display case, which was the second one down in the individual photos. Very nice, and so light. Feels like the weight of a pencil in your fingers.

Chris
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Fri Jan 06, 2017 9:25 am

I'm still not happy with that mammoth-ivory scaled Livi. I had to use pasted strops on it, twice, before it actually shaved, and even then it wasn't sharp and left me feeling sore. I think I'll have to go all the way back to the coarse hones and progress it again right through them. But there is good news, both briar scaled razors are as sharp as my original briar Livi, and the ebony-scaled and the stag horn-scaled razors are clearly even better. The stag horn scales are heavier than wood scales, but the razor is still easily used. The abalone for tomorrow and the mother of pearl for the next day are heavier still, and may prove to be clumsy. No matter, it's the blades that count and scales can be swapped around. I still have to find the best of the Zowadas and test out the Buddel.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:20 am

No worries with the abalone scales - the razor still balanced OK and the blade is excellent! I tried it out with some new soap that I was sent, and I'll ask if I can post up a review of that. MOP Livi tomorrow, unless I find the energy to attack the mammoth ivory one again with all my hones and try to get it into shape. If that doesn't do it, I'll have to send it off for the edge to be re-ground. I think Gary (gssixgun) does that kind of thing.

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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby Brutus » Sat Jan 07, 2017 9:42 pm

drmoss_ca wrote:I'm still not happy with that mammoth-ivory scaled Livi. I had to use pasted strops on it, twice, before it actually shaved, and even then it wasn't sharp and left me feeling sore. I think I'll have to go all the way back to the coarse hones and progress it again right through them.


I enjoy my Livis; when they're good, they're very good, but I have one CarboInox Livi that just kept scoffing at my hones.
Right out of the box it did not give me a good shave. Similarly to your's, it was neither smooth nor sharp, and left my face feeling sore - not my usual Livi experience.

More than once I went all the way down to my 1000 grit Naniwa and worked my way up to the 20,000 grit Gokumyo, plus CrOx strop, but thy results were still disappointing.

I do believe that if you try too hard and still keep failing, you can sometimes benefit from a break.
I put the razor away for a few weeks before I tried again and eventually got a passable shave out of it.
Clearly not my best, but acceptable.

In all fairness, Mastro Livi has offered to examine the razor and hone it for me, but because of time and (Customs) paperwork involved, I have not taken him up on his offer and try to solve it myself.
I am sure that once I have the razor where I want it, it will keep the edge for a long time.

In all, I have three of Livi's Damascus steel razors. While two hone easily enough, the third needs a bit more effort.
Generally, I find Livi's regular carbon and stainless steel razors not difficult to hone, but it seems that CarboInox and some of the Damascus steels can be more challenging.


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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby brothers » Sun Jan 08, 2017 8:07 am

I have only one custom razor, by a maker who shall remain nameless. It simply won't hold an edge for one day. I wasted what felt like hundreds of hours foolishly honing away. Then I had a conversation with a different and well known razor maker who helped me understand why this happens. It has to do more with geometry and less with metallurgy or honing. This flawed razor keeps me humble.
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Re: It Keeps On Getting Better

Postby drmoss_ca » Mon Jan 09, 2017 4:51 am

After two more sessions with the hones this razor has admitted defeat and has an edge that will save it from being sent down from the Wall. What a struggle that was!
You're right Gary, that the most persistently stubborn razors often have a warp in them. I have two very pretty Friodurs like that, completely unhoneable but elegant as hangar queens. A high proportion of the NOS Friodurs from John Crowley seemed to have problems (though he was scrupulously fair in offering replacements or refunds) and I suspect they weren't so much a lost batch, but seconds that hadn't been finally ground after initial examination at the factory. Complete speculation on my part, but it fits my experience with them.
Brutus: the last battles with this razor involved another full progression through the Shapton Pros, starting with an extended attempt to grind down the edge to minimise the divot in it, using a 220 hone. A ragged thin edge resulted which took several runs across some softwood, and eventually a glass bottle before I could then go onto the finer hones. It wouldn't cut the hair on the back of my hand at the end of this process, but did shave sorta OK after some green paste. So back to the standard retouch hones that have made the other Livis shine - the Norton Arkansas lapped with 2k, and the 20k. I had done this several times before without success so I decided to go all out and gave it 100 passes on the Arkansas and the same on the 20k. A wire edge resulted, but this was progress, after all, that meant I had passed through sharp! So a couple of strokes on the softwood and then 10 on the 20k and I'm there. A handheld microscope is a must for this.

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