Cats, and the Killing Thereof

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drmoss_ca
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Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:17 am

Don't worry, no cats were harmed in the production of this post.

I'm referencing the old saying that 'There's more than one way to kill a cat' (I have seen a variant that talks of skinning the cat) that simply reminds the listener there are many ways to do some jobs. Many roads to Rome and all that. When it comes to honing razors, I've been guilty of another old saying: 'More money than sense'. I have thrown a great deal of money at hones and stones, always looking for the quick fix, the magic method, the panacea. My enforced early retirement and the reason for it have given me a different mindset towards this and a few other things - I no longer have spare cash to use to try to take a shortcut to nirvana, and I'm a bit more interested in extracting the maximum satisfaction out of what I have. Having time helps, and there isn't honestly any way I could have done some of these things when I was working the lunatic hours that used to be required (~114hrs/week).
Perhaps it's just practice, the 10,000 hour concept, but I now approach every film development (B&W, C-41 negative or E6 reversal) with the expectation that it will work fine, and it does. The same has suddenly begun to apply to recipes - I see one, maybe I adapt it in a way I think I will like, and I make it and all is well. Practice makes perfect, to introduce a third proverb. Let's hope we don't need the one about pride and falls.

So, back to honing, which is, ostensibly, my subject. There's a bookcase in the basement (sounds like a 60's folk lyric coming on there) stacked with hones. Over the years I have learned to use some of them to good advantage, and others have been discarded along the way when they didn't give quick satisfaction. Sets of Shaptons, Nortons, Spydercos and Naniwas. All sorts of naturals, barber hones and oddities. I won't go into the paddles, strops and pastes since they live elsewhere in a suitcase that a set of speaker cables came in (one can exhibit more than one kind of madness!) One day I ought to go through the barber hones to give some nostalgic pleasure to those who knew the Yahoo SRP in the early days: Swaty - 2 line, 3 line and the Pike copy, Skute (Skute = It's cute, geddit? A tiny piece of hard vulcanised rubber with an embedded abrasive!), Exide, and those curiously named by an eBay seller, Tilly, who had acquired a hoard of them - ItsaPeach and the combination Peach'n'Cream. Some of them very good, and it was a shame she fell afoul of Lynn, as all must at some point. There's mystery in barber hones; glassy smooth Swatys that cut fast - how can that work? Scratch patterns? Maybe, as I do know from my experience of Spyderco hones and Arkansas stones that the internal grit size of the material itself is almost irrelevant if the matrix material of the hone/stone is hard enough such that one can establish a scratch pattern on the surface that reveals just enough of the grit inside it to effectively perform as a much finer hone. Again, that might be for another time.

A couple of days ago I visited one of the banker's boxes in the basement. It's full of razors, like the others, and I fished in it until I drew up two razors. One was the Pierre Thiers Historical Limited Edition, and the other was a TI nameless 5/8 with blonde horn scales and horn bolsters on the tang. I don't remember buying it and I don't recall what name it was sold under. The blade simply has the usual gold TI gold etch with an eagle, but no indication of any of their marketing lines. I see the same razor has been sold under the 'Spartacus' line with black horn, but, thankfully, this ain't one of those (too many of them around: I'm Spartacus. I'm Spartacus. And so on. Oh, never mind.) It looked pretty, so I brought it upstairs and honed it. My usual honing these days for previously honed razors is to use the 2k lapped Norton Arkansas (effective grit ~8k? Something like that). This is followed by the Suehiro Gokumyo 30k, then traditional red, green and black pastes. The Pierre Thiers hand-hammered razor responded immediately with an edge that shaves hair off the back of my hand with no discernible sensation. The pretty nameless razor with bolsters didn't: it shaved but I could feel each hair. Well, that won't do; we have standards here. After an evening of YT videos about forging and sharpening katanas, I was in the mood to try some natural stones, and today I revisited my basement and came back with a blue Belgian stone, a coticule, and an Escher. I've read about the use of coticules with slurry, and the technique of diluting the slurry to change the effective grit, but not really got into it. This time, I had no particular need to succeed with this razor, and all day to experiment. Why not try something else? (I don't know how many people have had the quotation about repeating the same process and expecting a different outcome as definition of madness attributed to them, but obviously too many (and it's a piss-poor definition of madness anyway)). So I wetted the Begian blue (2" wide, blade travelling at a slant to cover all of the edge) and did ten back and forths on one side of the blade followed by ten back and forths on the other. Hmm, feels sharp but rough, just like a blade with a new bevel. Repeat the process to make sure. Oh dear, feels less catchy to the thumb. Have I spoiled it or just refined the catchy teeth? Move on to the coticule to find out. I have two coticules, both slate-backed. One has a perfect surface but is 2" wide, and the other has fissures and is 3" wide. I used the 3" version, and wetted it and made some slurry with the little coticule nagura, then did ten back and forths on one side of the blade followed by ten more on the other side. I diluted the slurry with a few drops of water and repeated, then some more dilution and back and forths for a third round. The edge is feeling quite fine at this point, so I switched to the Escher and once more raised some slurry with its nagura stone. Same process again of ten back and forths on each side of the blade, followed by dilution and repeat for a total of three cycles. I used my left index finger to pin down the spine near the point on the stone, and my right forefinger and thumb just pushed against the top and bottom of the tang - no downward pressure at all from the right hand. I angled the scales so their weight alone would provide some downthrust on the edge, maybe a 15 0r 20º angle between scales and blade. Anyone who has ever got a honing just right knows the feeling of the blade suctioning against the hone as an indication that the bevel is sealing perfectly, and thus is about done. The Escher gave me this straight away, but being greedy, I went on for three cycles as above trying to be as gentle as possible.

Image

End result after plain stropping? Much better than before, and I'm looking forward to trying it out. But, on a back of the hand hair-shaving test, the Thiers historical still removes hair without me feeling it do so, while the bolstered modern TI removes hair with some slight sensation of it at work. Perhaps some razors are just better than others - duh! Obvious! Though it might be the fact that the hand-hammered razor is much less hollowed than the modern, and full-hollowing allows for blade deformation when the edge meets a hair, requiring an input of energy from me to deform the blade, and then a wastage of some of that energy when the resulting 'twang' occurs. They call this extra energy and it's subsequent waste a 'singing blade'. Bloody marketing department. Just learn to hone a nice thick and stiff razor in the first place and you won't need that nonsense.

Would there be any point in taking the Thiers Historical to the natural stones? Probably not at present as it is good as a razor can get, but when it needs a touch up, I think I will try it. What about my usual Livis and Zowadas? Perhaps another option opens up. There are only so many shaves in a lifetime, sadly...
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by EL Alamein » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:18 pm

Excellent post! And very nostalgic.

When I read the headline I about gulped a mouthful of my cigar smoke but reading on slightly I knew what I was in for and it was excellent. I also was able to exhale by that point. :)

That no name TI was pushed by he who shall not be named. I had one and they were sold by that place in Maryland that is run by a guy whose name I know but won't mention (underhanded guy, IMHO). It's where I bought all my TI's in those days. I bought it on the advice of he who shall not be named in a PM from him that claimed it was like "an extension of your hand" and shaved as smooth as silk. Balderdash. It was no different from any other modern razor of it's size. I sold it off because I don't prefer smaller blades. Good for what it was intended for though - neck hair.

I also had a Pierre Thiers Historic blade like you have. It is/was a wonderful blade but I sold it off as well because I thought it more of a museum piece. Hopefully it's bringing the other guy pleasurable shaves.

I thoroughly enjoy your honing trips down memory lane as they bring back a lot of good memories. I have come to many of the same conclusions as you.

There are indeed many roads to Rome and all we can do is illuminate them for the next generation.

Chris

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Tue Dec 04, 2018 5:08 am

For nostalgia, and a good test of your Belgian French (you can watch it perfectly well without understanding a word; it's mostly Dvorak No.9 for the soundtrack):



Last night, and just for fun, I took my 9/16 Wacker damascus, which has been a horrorshow to hone, and did it with slurry progressively diluted on the coticule and the Escher. It's such a wretchedly hard steel, but if I ever get it sharp it will last forever. I'm hopeful this time, but the shave will tell. I may get to try it later today if there's time before I have to leave for the city (wisdom tooth coming out early tomorrow!)

C.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by brothers » Tue Dec 04, 2018 12:04 pm

Even though I seldom use a straight razor nowadays, I heartily agree that a well-soaked beard and a thick dry lather are quite conducive to the best straight razor shaves. Making that lather and applying it are part of the overall straight razor universe. Just as is the perpetual blade maintenance and hardware that is required.
Gary

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Tue Dec 04, 2018 1:37 pm

The Wacker shaved OK, and pretty close, but not pleasurably. I’ll have to paste it. Now in Halifax with a pair of Super Gnomes that I know will do the job in the morning.

C.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Thu Dec 06, 2018 8:38 am

Taking my mind off the throbbing of the now gone wisdom tooth, I decided to see what would happen with O1 tool steel on the coticule and Escher. Using my two Hart 7/8 razors, I did pretty much the same as above, but both being already sharp, I omitted the Belgian Blue at the start as unnecessary. One I did with the 3" coticule that has veins on it's surface, and the other went on the 2" with a perfectly even surface. I did this because I had noticed I was getting immediate suction on the Escher, and thought that perhaps the veined surface of the 3" stone was preventing that kind of feedback. Results: yes, gradually increasing suction on the 2" coticule, and very strong moving on to the Escher. Both razors ended up sharp, and I shaved with one of them this morning, firstly straight from the stones with just a leather stropping. Pretty good as it was, but I have felt the razor sharper than that so before the second pass I used a little green chrome and then some black paste, back to the leather and shave - excellent! I'll do the same with the second razor, trying it with no pastes to finish first and then judging if I can make it better with paste.

I'm pleased with this as tool steel is harder than old Sheffield steel, and while I don't know what regime Tim used when developing the Hart razors, O1 can be made in the range of ~60-65 Rockwell. I'm sure these are at the lower end of that range or maybe just below it. Harts are not as hard as the 'silver' Sheffield steel used in TI razors, nor as hard as Zowada damascus, never mind my Wacker from hell, and I now have several regimes that work well on them. They probably are easier to hone than many razors, given the lack of excessive hardness and the thick grind which means that while you try to hone, as always, with very little downforce, there is less chance of deforming the blade on the hone and thus grinding away the near edge of the bevel rather than the further one.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Fri Dec 07, 2018 1:06 pm

The second Hart 7/8 was actually pretty good straight off the stones and didn't need any pastes. But being such a slut when it comes to razors and hones, I've done three more since then. A stainless damascus Livi, a high carbon damascus Zowada, and a stainless Friodur. These are all hard steels, and generally take some effort to get sharp (and once sharp, you can shave for many months). The Livi and the Zowada have been through the Belgian blue/coticule/Escher progression, and just for fun the Friodur has done the same but then followed by the Suehiro Gokumyo 20k and the Shapton Pro 30k. I'm going to have some fun shaves the next few days!
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by yohannrjm » Fri Dec 07, 2018 5:02 pm

This is a really enjoyable thread. I've had some of these razors in the past, and I feel a bit of nostalgia for them when reading this thread.

The one I never had, but wanted, was the TIPTLE. I attempted to buy one when they were made available years ago, but missed out. Still wish I had one, even though I don't exclusively use straights anymore.
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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Sat Dec 08, 2018 4:26 pm

Thank you for reading it!

Today, I took the softest steel razor I like to use, made of O1 tool steel, through the whole progression of slurry dilution on the Belgian Blue, Coticule and Escher, followed by Suehiro Gokumyo 20k and Shapton Pro 30k. The first pass of the shave (downwards) was very nice, but the razor seemed a bit 'catchy' - the feeling of being overhoned or too sharp. My first strokes upwards under my chin on the second pass told me that this was not right; it felt smooth enough, but there was still a very little stubble left when there ought to be none. Off to the pasted strops and all was well. I suspect the upshot of all this is that for the kind of shave I like, and have come to expect, stones and hones alone don't quite get there. Pastes might be a necessary component of the kind of straight shave that I require. Undoubtedly, if I were to stop being a perfectionist, I would be content with a single downward pass off an 8k hone and that would be the end of the story. but since edges and satisfaction only approach their maximums on an asymptotic curve, I'm doomed to hone on forever, like some kind of Flying Dutchman. Well, screw it, I'm willing.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by yohannrjm » Sun Dec 09, 2018 2:10 pm

I love the shaves off my coticules, Thuringians and JNats, but I've never learned to like the edges after stropping (on CrOx or diamond pastes). I try it every now and then, but never stick with it. It's not the abrasives themselves, as I like the edges that I get when I hone on lapping film. It must be something to do with how I strop on the pasted strops.
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Re: Cats, and the Killing Thereof

Post by drmoss_ca » Mon Dec 10, 2018 4:35 am

You have to use the linen pretty liberally after a paste that gets things very sharp, otherwise the edge is too aggressive.

The old Zowada turned out magnificently. It's a pretty razor, but doesn't look like his more recent ones, More heavily etched and with a different pattern in the steel. Unfortunately, it is a bit crumbly, with a few tiny voids visible under the microscope withing the bevel and even a couple involving the edge. Looking for solid steel further back with a bevel-setting hone just reveals more trouble, but it does shave well and the edge defects aren't affecting that. Tim did offer to replace the blade, admitting his first few razors came from an era when he hadn't got his damascus as finely tuned as it is now, but I have seven modern Zowadas, and I like the character of this one as a contrast to them. Anyway, I had a completely irreproachable shave with it. The old Livi I honed at the same time did as well as Livis do, given they are made of rather rubbery stainless steel. I'd say it got to 90% of the keenness of the Zowada, which is as good as they get. I shall probably enjoy the Zowada for a few days before I try something new, but you know me...there's a custom carbon damascus from Germany by Buddel that has always been hard to hone, but is visually gorgeous. Maybe it be like the Wacker, or maybe not. That's probably my next target.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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