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Do Different Razors Really "Like" Different Hones?


Well-Known Member
I was indulging my deplorable habit of lurking the honing forums, and seem to keep noticing references to different razors preferring (performing better, if you will,) on different stones.
Most of us here own and are more or less familiar with different stones, but has any one ever had a razor that just wouldn't perform for them on a given stone?

My own musing lead me to believe it's more related to individual honing style/skill than steel or stone, but I'm curious to hear from guys with more experience with both razors and hones, have found.

About 12 or 13 years ago, in my days as a pub owner, there was this ongoing discussion among the regulars about Pilsner beers. Which one was "best", but also, can anyone taste the difference?

Now, the pub I had was specialized in beers. We served over 70 different beers, among them 4 pilsners: Jupiler on tap, Bock Pils (Palm breweries), Sparta Pils (unpasteurized, Br. Van Steenberge) and Pilsner Urquell (of the same Tsjech Brewery). Those last three poured from bottles.

Among the people involved in the discussion, there were guys that never, ever, drank anything else than Jupiler, but there were also a few seasoned beer aficionados. We decided to run an experiment. I poured each of the guys these 4 Pilners, in identical glasses. It turned out, that none of them could identify all 4 beers correctly. They were not even able to recognize their favorite one. The only one, that I, someone with a trained palate, could identify without any doubt was the Urquell.
A few days later, there was a lot of talk about our little experiment, and upon request, we repeated it. Some participants were the same. Most of them identified a different Pilsner as their favorite, than the one they favored a few days earlier. Of course, they knew they were wrong then, but what they didn't know, was that I poured 3 beers the same and only 1 different this time. No one caught it. They eventually even refused to believe it when I revealed my little deceit. Several guys had been extensively commenting about the differences they tasted within (unknowingly) exactly the same beers. Not everyone of them was equally amused. :D

Somehow, you'll have to find my answer to your question in that small story.

Kind regards,
Yep. 'Bout what i figured...
It all seems to come back to preconceived notions and our inclination to hold on to them.

I recently switched our household ketchup, to cheap store-brand ketchup, by pouring it into an empty well known national brand bottle. My kids had no clue! The continued to pour that darn ketchup in copius amounts onto the strangest things, without a word of complaint. However, when the replacement bottle came out, conspicoulsy lacking that well known branding, they were mortified to think I would force them to consume such horrid stuff as "cheap" ketchup.....

I'd much rather do an experiment with beer than ketchup though.B)

I believe Sir Bart got it pretty much in the bag in another thread here, he said something like "its the indian not the arrows" :thumbup:

Pip Pip Old Beans
Ralfson (Dr)
The supposed necessity for different finishers on different razors is also a very convincing way to justify a hoarding addiction...

I find it remarkable how people can reconcile "straight razor shaving is not rocket science", and "look, Ma, another high grit synthetic hone for $$$". Equally, "I love the simplicity of it", and "eh, I just added a fifth and six hone to my honing progression" do not make any sense to me if taken together.

Having had the same three razors honed on a Coticule, and two synthetic hones, and having run them across CrO and two high grit diamond spray strops, I must say that I got the best shaves off the Coticule/CrO combination.

Therefore, to me, "straight razor shaving is not rocket science if you stick to simple tools and methods" makes more sense than "I spent a humongous amount of money for a barrage of synthetic hones, diamond spray and strops to achieve an inferior result". Then again, I do not hone commercially, nor do I have to advertise my honing services in a competitive environment, where the latest and greatest in alleged honing science is a unique selling proposition. I am just a lowly consumer looking for a traditional setup that delivers good results.

Let me start by saying that I have been sharpening knives and razors for a VERY long time. Seriously, the steel-to-stone millage I have accumulated over the years is mind boggling. I have found that different steels, as well as various kinds of heat treatments do in fact react differently to different stones and hones. However, I hold the following to be true: Nothing, I will say it again: NOTHING can replace experience and the ongoing perfection of one's technique. The rest i.e. the number of hones in a particular progression, the type of hones/stones you use in another, how you store them, what kind of nagura stones you use, the "hardness or softness" of the water in your corner of the world, etc. - these are all just foot notes of the main thing, nothing more. The deeper one delves into the "next big thing" a.k.a. HAD a.k.a SAD - the further one strays away from technique. This is not to say that certain stones and certain steels are not superior to others - but this superiority (or inferiority as it where) is not something that is usually evident to the novice, nor is it cardinal to the initiated. It's just "one of those things" no more, no less.
While I'm very active on SRP this is my first post here although I've been lurking for some time:thumbup: I certainly agree with TCensor that every razor has a personality of it's own. In some forms that means a razor keeps a better edge when honed on a Coti and stropped on a shell cordovan while another razor may be better off using a JNat and regular CrOx and leather strop. Experience and time helps cut down on the time it takes to figure out a particular razor and what it takes to get that one sharp and smooth.
This is one reason I love the Coticule so much I've never found any razor that a particular Coti won't handle at least for me others may have different opinions and that's fine. Heck if we all agreed there would be nothing to talk about--LOL!
Let me be the first to welcome you here, Gunner, and thank you for your thoughtful reply. And "thank you" to everyone else as well.
My question was really only prompted out of curiousity.
Being firmly in the "novice" category myself, I find I'm still at the point where if things don't turn out, my first inclination is to wonder what the hell I did wrong.... browsing the forums often doesn't help; signal to noise ratio and all that. And the obvious agendas of some cause me to question their objectivity. But one never knows when they might be onto something....
Of course, there is also the adage: soft razors need a hard stone and hard razors need a soft stone. I believe this idea, and reference I've read to the 'marriage' of stone and steel, is often attributed to So, the gent at Japan Tools, reportedly a man of great knowledge and highly respected in some circles. And an old text I read once that suggested that razors become 'tired' after time on one hone, so another, different type, should be used periodicaly, make me think there might be something to it.
Of my modest collection of razors I've found some require more work to get to the ideal stage, but sometimes I even wonder if it's just my imagination. And I have no idea how temper and alloy and stone factors interplay, nevermind stropping. Heck, until a few short months ago, steel was just steel to me. I had no inkling of the complexity of metallurgy as a science. And to be honest, I'm nowhere near the point of exploring edge longevity just yet. :)
I can see where one stone may perform differently, and possibly achieve an edge of differing qualities on stones with different cutting qualities, but skill and practice should be a very highly mitigating factor. If you're good, you should be able to adjust your technique to accomodate the needs of a particular razor.

As far as HAD goes, I could definatly be accused of that. (coti #3 is on it's way, but under the gun of the new price increases) (And RAD, but only inso far as I need fodder for my stones:) ).
I rationalise that by a need to create a framework in which to operate and make sense of what I read. How else can I know how a stone performs, not for someone else but for me, without buying the damn thing? For me, the comparative differences are incrediby valuable as a means of learning. I could read until I got cross-eyed and not be much further ahead; as Bart told me before: "Just hone".:)

This has turned out to be a good thread, some good points, and some responses that really got me to thinking...

My kindest regards,
I am not convinced that you need more finishers.
Technically the edge serrations after honing will be with the size of the carbides in the steel, not finer no matter what stone you use to polish the edge.
The majority of razors are made from basic carbon steel and those that are made from more refined steels are very unlikely to not "marry" with the popular finishers such as Escher /Coticule.

Jnats are very diverse but you can find two stones(a hard and a soft one) that complement each other and will work for any razor.
I am sure there are Jnats that can put super edge to anything, but those are extremely expensive.

The need for more stones comes when we are talking about tools, and knives.
Then the reason for more finishers lies in the diversity of steels and the need of speed when polishing. Some steels just do not work well with some stones but work great with others.
I personally believe that different blades do respond differently to different hones. The reason for this belief are the centuries of experience of Japanese Master Swordpolishers.

So what does this mean for us as the razor sharpening community? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!
These Masters learn their craft over a very long time period. The apprenticeship only will take anwhere from 7,8 years upwards before they are even close to claim themselves swordpolisher. That means day after day, year after year nothing but rubbing steel against hones. And only the very best and persistent will become a Master one day. These guys will tell you that you have to find the right hones for evey blade - like groom and bride. And I believe they know what they are talking about.

And now here we are, hobby honers and self acclaimed honemeisters alike talking about how hones react to steel... :|
Just don't get me wrong. I also believe that different hones do make a differences for us razor honers. But not because of the inherent pairing of steel and stone. Much more because of personal competences (or shall we say incompetences ..) that make one user get better results with this hone and the next user with another hone.

In a nutshell: If someone has been honing razors litteraly day after day over decades, then the factor of hone-razor pairing will become of importance. For anybody else: PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE !!

Whether or not razors react differently to different stones isn't nearly as important a question as is the difference REALLY worth whatever it costs to find that "perfect combination"? I know that every razor I've ever honed worked well on every finisher that I've tried. I'll say that some seemed better than others, but that very well could have been the effort I put into that particular finishing effort (or had a better understanding of technique), but I can't say that after spending the ridiculous amount of money I have on finishers that any of them made a big enough difference to worry about.

I found that I prefer the coticule process, and the resulting edge, so much that I never use anything else... It doesn't matter what razor I hone, that's my chosen method, and it's because I enjoy both the process and the finish.

Furthermore, I find it absurd that some people propagate the ridiculous notion that you have to have honed every type of razor on every type of medium in every condition before you can have an opinion on these issues. It is one of the reasons that I spent more than was advisable (for the experience) on several items, and it's why now I have no interest in checking out the next big thing. Being able to read and reason affords us the ability to form opinions without having to experience some things ourselves... I can think of a few examples of things that I don't have to experience to know it's bad :rolleyes:
As a general practice I use a Coti that cuts fairly fast then one that is more of a finisher. After that I use an Escher for that final edge. After that I'll spend a short time on some CrOx on a Miller four sided strop with one side having CrOx. Finally I use a vintage dubl duck shell cordovan strop. Sometimes on larger razors that are wedges or near wedges I'll use an Old Dog horsehide strop that has a reverse side with the diamond pattern. That's kinda my standard anyway:)
@Gunner, did you ever try finishing on the Coticule then simply stropping 60 on clean canvas, and 60 on clean leather?
Just a thought Sir?

My best regards
Ralfson (Dr)
Yes I have as well as putting a run on the CrOx as well. Both do well on most razors but I just found that the method I described works the best for me for the vast majority of razors.
I do use other methods from time to time on an aggravating razor that doesn't want to take a good edge no matter what you seem to try. I've actually had pretty good luck with a JNat or two on some of these difficult razors.
Practice practice practice :thumbup:
Upon rereading, I noticed this became a bold reply. I would like to emphasize that I merely used Chris' quotes as a vehicle for my message. It is not directed to him personally, nor to any one else who posted in this thread. If you feel addressed, well, I hope you give it some thought. tries to be different than most large forums. This means that we'll probably chase off a certain audience with our crap-cutting attitude. So be it. It's the only way to keep the shared information evidence based- even if it's totally weird ;) -.

Here we go:
Chris said:
Being firmly in the “novice” category myself, I find I’m still at the point where if things don’t turn out, my first inclination is to wonder what the hell I did wrong....
That is a very good inclination. Blaming a tool is very human and I'm sure no one who ever learned a crafty thing or two, has never found himself in a position where he cursed a tool that he later found out to be just perfect. In the case of razor sharpening, allow me to reassure you and every future reader of this thread, that if you have been able to get one razor shaving well off a particular hone, you can get them all shaving well. I'm not sure how I have to interpret some posts in this thread, but anyone stating otherwise, is - in my experienced opinion- spreading nonsense.
Everyone has a prerogative to lie to himself, in order to justify the purchase of unneeded stuff. There is no shortage of online communities that serve to extend such fantasies. The field of straight razors is no exception. But, alas, this particular website was founded to offer a bit of a safe haven of that, or at least to make an honest attempt to be that.

I hone on Coticules, and for sure, nor I or these stones posses any magical abilities. Still, I have yet to come across the first razor that demanded me to lay the hone I was using aside for another one, in order to bring the edge to a level where it will shave very well. Whatever left as a margin for "improving" these edges resides in a very small reality, so small that it is clearly less significant than the differences between good beard prep and superior beard prep, or even between a good shaving day and a stellar one, for a multitude of petty little reasons. We all know what I'm talking about.

In that respect, it seems fair to say that any steel/stone mating, would not lead to differences of a magnitude that could be objectively isolated from other minute factors within the comfort zone of a good shave. In other words: if a razor refuses to shave well after sharpening, don't expect the purchase of another finisher to offer any solace.

I have more whetstones than I need. In fact, I have more whetstones than I use. It could be tempting to claim that they all posses unique and specific qualities required for getting each and every razor I own honed "up to my high standards". However, that claim would not be backed by much repeatable experience...

Chris said:
Browsing the forums often doesn’t help; signal to noise ratio and all that. And the obvious agendas of some cause me to question their objectivity. But one never knows when they might be onto something....
I beg to differ with that conclusion. On any Internet forum about any topic, it's fairly easy to spot when a post has "gear fetishism" written all over it. Usually there's a striking lack of empirical data to sustain the claims being made. Imagine someone would claim that a stainless Dovo always shaves better off a Naniwa 12K than off a Shapton 16K, and this is exactly the opposite for a carbon steel Dovo. Imagine other people testifying that they've done the test and reached the same conclusion. Now. they might be onto something...

Chris said:
Of course, there is also the adage: soft razors need a hard stone and hard razors need a soft stone. (...) And an old text I read once that suggested that razors become ‘tired’ after time on one hone, so another, different type, should be used periodically, make me think there might be something to it.
Hard steel can be faster abraded on a soft stone, because a soft stone renews its surface at a quicker pace, hence exposing more fresh, ardent particles. That's a well-established fact, connected to the use of synthetic waterstones, and carborundum oilstones. It is typical that such a simple observation starts taking myth-like proportions.

About razors becoming tired of a hone: I beg you all. Let's stay real. With all believing that, I'll share a small secret: Grow a 6 day beard, and on the 6th of June (only on that date), at midnight, grab a dull razor and go to a crossroads. When you arrive there, immediately start shaving with the razor. A man in a black cloak will approach form the darkness, he will take your razor and he'll hone it on a familiar looking cream colored stone. Then he'll hand it back to you. If you accept this razor and finish the shave, you will from then on be able to put an amazing edge on any razor, even when honing with a chunk of asphalt. It works! Don't ask me how I know..:sleep:

Chris said:
I rationalize that by a need to create a framework in which to operate and make sense of what I read. How else can I know how a stone performs, not for someone else but for me, without buying the damn thing?
Well, I have here a Nakayama, a Chosera 10K and 2 vintage barber hones. I believe I can get the Chosera's keenest edge, but is that also its best edge? Maybe a tad of slurry yields friendlier edges of that stone? I don't know, because I never took the time to investigate it.
The Nakayama, I can get a great edge from that stone as well. Probably my most investigated hone, after Coticules that is. But I'm nowhere near the end of my Japanese friend. Again, honing plenty of razors on it, comparing them methodically, keeping notes, setting up little experiments, thinking a bit outside the box: these things take a lot of time and test shaves. Time I don't have.
The barber hones are both practically untouched. How could I ever say something meaningful about how steel X respond to hone Y, without first making sure that I am operating within the respective hones' limits, instead of within my own shortcomings?

Or is the general idea to figure out which hones operate best within our personal lack of skill and knowledge to use them? If I had to apply that adage to shaving, straight razors would suck big time...

Kind regards,
Wonderful Post Sir Bart :thumbup:

P.S. did you have to tell them all about the crossroads at midnight gig? Jees now they will all be as good as we...err I mean You

Best regards
Ralfson (Dr)