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How often..........


Well-Known Member
O.K so we talk about honing A LOT! of course we do this is a Coticule Forum.
But in real life, how often do you think a razor gets Honed?
Now I know there are soo many factors that determine this, and each Razor on each person is different, but honestly how often do you think a razor will need work on the Hone? I guess what I see is that we take a dull (not slightly off but DULL) blade and rework the bevel taking out any obvious signs of damage, then we refine the edge so its super sharp and super smooth, what we have created lasts, or should IMHO baring accidents, a long time, you know a pasted strop here, a quick touch up there, and surely mr average wont need a re-hone to the degree that we discuss here, for quite some time.
Thing is I dont know? since I started Straight shaving, I have been honing, my first stone was bought a week after my first new Straight arrived, and ever since I have been improving my skills and knowledge, now I am thinking the majority of owners dont own a hone, so they send them away to be honed, there are at least 2 Guys here that I know of that provide this as a service, so you got to have regular repeat customers? and the interval between honing there razors should give at least an indication yeah?

So what do you guys think? do our labours last a long time? or is that delicately refined edge so very fragile that after only a relative number of uses it needs our attention again?
A valid question, that has more then one answer.

In Belgium, I know a few straight razor users who've been shaving for nearly 20 years. They know nothing about the current revival and the Internet forums in support of that. For sharpening they follow a simple procedure that seems to date back to our father's grandfathers. It's also the system that Dovo supports with their green, red and black pastes and the well-known loom strop. Here's how it goes:

1. Establish good edge geometry on a Coticule with slurry. (or another hone, but Coticules is what they sell for that in all shaving gear stores in Belgium)

2. Refine the edge on a loom strop, loaded with red Dovo paste (2-4 micron).

3. (Optional - many skip this) refine further with Dovo black paste (1 micron).

4. Strop on linen (Dovo white paste?) and leather before each shave.

Such an edge shaves very well, but the few long-time shavers I have rehoned razors for were always surprised about the keenness of my honing, that - as you already know - does not follow this procedure.
The maintenance of such edge is done with the Dovo red paste, according to need, every 10 shaves or so. An experienced shaver can keep an edge going for about a year, this way. At that point, using the paste has introduced so much convexity into the bevel, that the edge no longer shaves well off the paste. At that point, a trip to the hone has become inevitable.

That's one possible answer: once or twice a year to the hones, and the rest is touching up on paste.

Forgive me for putting it blunt: I have followed this method when I was a beginning straight razor shaver, and I was often displeased with the edges, and I found myself going to the hone in an attempt to get a better edge very often. After 2 to 3 shaves, the keenness always dropped to a level, where the razor still provided a decent shave, but not a very comfortable one, and I was just not ready to settle for that.
With the methods found on this website, I touch up on a stone. I get about 10 to 20 shaves out of a razor before it requires a touch-up.
Dilucot: depending on your Coticule, start on very light slurry, or go straight to plain water. Lap count depending on hone, from 30 to 100 laps. Some people find that too many laps to speak off a "touch up", but I consider honing to resemble stropping in reverse, so it only takes me 2 minutes to do that.

Unicot: always touch up on water with the tape reapplied, 30-50 laps. After a fair number of touch-ups, when the secondary bevel has grown too wide, simply hone a bit on slurry, without the tape, till the secondary bevel has shrunk withing acceptable limits.

In theory, one never needs to completely rehone with these paradigms. But in practice, inspecting the edges under magnification, I see a very slow build-up of microchips that occasionally occur from the impact with a combative whisker. I don't notice them during the shave, bit when their presence really start to annoy me, I dull on glass and rehone the edge.

That's another answer: in essence I'm constantly honing the edges, but that does not mean I remove a lot of steel.

Best regards,
Thank you for that Sir Bart, so the work we do really does stay with the razor for a lot of shaves, well the foundation of the work anyway
this is what I thought, and boy the guys using just paste to keep the edge keen! man they must have had tough

Bart said:
Forgive me for putting it blunt:
:lol: see what you did there? :lol:
I find this an interesting question because I can't understand how anyone could learn to hone well without a lot of practice. A lot of practice requires either a lot of razors or honing a few razors over and over again. Aside from the muscle memory building and developing the tactile feel for the stroke there is the basic technique that needs to be developed and learned which only comes with repetition. Then there is the experimentation with different techniques that are presented on the forums or as in Bart's case developed from hands on experience. It takes many hours of honing IMO.

In my case having razor acquisition disorder and an obsession to learn to hone well has given me the opportunity to learn to hone. If,OTOH, I only had one, two or three razors that I might need to hone once in the proverbial blue moon I cannot see how I would develop the chops or remember them even if I did have the skill.
JimmyHAD said:
I find this an interesting question because I can't understand how anyone could learn to hone well without a lot of practice.
I have often asked myself the same question, Jimmy. I believe the answer is that many people couldn't hone razors well. That's why they tried keeping the razor going on a pasted paddle strop and took it to the barber when it needed proper honing. Even that barber, in many cases, relied on the services of a traveling sharpening "artisan" for a real honing job. Straight razors nearly disappeared of the market as tools for shaving, and I am convinced the big reason for that was because people struggled with getting them sharp enough for a comfortable shave.
Even today, I get visited by guys with decades more straight shaving experience than I, who are very surprised to find out how effortless a well-honed razor can shave. Isn't that very odd?
On top of that, I was told, by a retired barber, that in the 1930's the majority of man did not shave themselves. At the barbershop they had some kind of cabinet with 100's of drawers, he said. Each drawer contained the private straight razor of one of the customers, who would come in each weekend to get a shave. Shaves on Sunday morning, before mass, were more expensive than those at Saturday. This story illustrates that pogonotomy (=the art to shave one self) was not as commonly spread as we might think. Many people couldn't do it.
JimmyHAD said:
If,OTOH, I only had one, two or three razors that I might need to hone once in the proverbial blue moon I cannot see how I would develop the chops or remember them even if I did have the skill.
True. But one doesn't need to be well versed in a myriad of honing methods and honing tools, in order to get a decent edge on a razor. In our case it is a hobby, to try out different ways and tools and search for the ultimate edge on any given razor in a more than average collection. Sometimes even on razors that my experienced straight shaving contacts consider completely non-serviceable.
With the basic method I described in the other thread (using pastes) or doing what I call "Unicot", it is possible to get a decent (or even excellent) edge with minimal experience, certainly if one was taught eye to eye.

Another thing I have been wondering about, is the use of a barber hone. They say it takes only 4 laps for a touch up and that edges can be kept going forever. I have never used one, or shaved with an edge produced by one. I admit being a bit skeptical. Do they really work so well? Are the shaves completely smooth? Or just "acceptable"?
I was lucky enought to get hold of a brand new 3 line american barber hone it belonged to a barber and he passed away before he could use it. But i have never tryed it but i will in the future.
tat2Ralfy said:
Thank you for that Sir Bart, so the work we do really does stay with the razor for a lot of shaves, well the foundation of the work anyway
this is what I thought, and boy the guys using just paste to keep the edge keen! man they must have had tough

Bart said:
Forgive me for putting it blunt:
:lol: see what you did there? :lol:

ralfy i just posted your strop and cr ox i must of deleted your last email or i would of replied that way.
Bart said:
Another thing I have been wondering about, is the use of a barber hone. They say it takes only 4 laps for a touch up and that edges can be kept going forever. I have never used one, or shaved with an edge produced by one. I admit being a bit skeptical. Do they really work so well? Are the shaves completely smooth? Or just "acceptable"?

I'm quite skeptical as well. Especially since they run in the 8000 - 10000 grit range (compared to the Nortons), and only 3-5 laps? A lot of people at SRP support them, but I don't see why you wouldn't just touch up on whatever you finish your razors on, instead of a barbers hone. I tried picking one up on Ebay, but they were going for $100. I decide to get a Coticule instead. :)

With good stropping technique, a good strop, and a Coticule for touch ups, I don't see why someone couldn't go for a decade without needing to fully rehone.

Hmmm this is an interesting discussion, as someone who hones quite a few different razors it is often difficult to “catch” one getting dull.
Do folks wait till the edge starts to pull before touching-up? I would think that would be a bad idea because I believe an edge that pulls needs more than a simple touch-up.

When I shave, I hold the razor with a light grip and let the edge do most of the work (as it should be). After a few shaves I will need a little more “effort” to cut the whiskers. A few more shave and I will even more effort and sometimes increase the angle to get a clean cut, sometimes go over the same spot a few more times. Finally when the edge seems to “hop” over the whisker I decide it’s time for a touch up.
The trouble is, humans have relatively short memory but this makes us unconsciously adapt to changing circumstances, so the dull edge will “sneak” up, and one day you realize the edge is dull, unfortunately for some, at that point the shave is uncomfortable.

That brings me to another point… barber hones… they appear to have been very popular in the US in those old days.
But I cannot see how 5 strokes could sharpen a dull razor because they cut so slow, I believe folks in the old days would hone often, probably after every few shaves to keep the edge keen rather than wait until the edge is disagreeable… well, this is what I suspect barbers would do.
As evidence, I once read instructions from an old barber hone, that recommended a touch up every few shaves so the edge never gets dull…. But I’ve never seen such instructions on any other vintage barber hone.

But though some may balk at the suggestion and say the razor will be prematurely worn, or over honed, I see nothing wrong with a few laps ever so often to keep the edge keen… how much material does a stone remove after 10 laps?... one…, two…, five or ten microns? Bear in mind for example a 10 micron stone does not remove 10 microns of material per stroke during a touch-up… even with quite some pressure will only remove a fraction of that value.

But for the sake of discussion let us suppose:… after 5 shaves the edge is 5 microns duller, you would hone to remove a certain amount of material from the bevel to restore the edge to its previous sharpness.
But if you did not hone at 5 shaves, but instead wait until 10 shaves, and the edge is 10 microns duller, now you must hone to remove a certain amount more to get the edge to it’s previous sharpness.
It wouldn’t matter if you remove a lot of material once after 10 shaves or half that amount of material twice after 10 shaves, because at 10 shaves you will have removed the same amount of material to get the edge to its previous sharpness. So you may as well touch up often to keep the shave comfortable… after all, the comfort of the shave is what’s important… is it not?
I have always been a collector of things and when I got into the straight razor 'thing' razors and hones became my obsession. So knowing I would need many razors if I was to learn to hone well and 'keep' what I learned I accumulated many of them.

Because of the large rotation 100 + it is hard for me to say how long a razor might be shaved with before it needs a touch up. I like to shave with something different daily and many of them don't see any use for months at a time.

That said I also like to experiment. Regarding barber hones I have read the "only 3 or 4 strokes or you'll overhone" recommendation on various forums and actually had a 70 year old barber with 50 years experience tell me this. So, unfortunately, I believed him and in the mid 1980s gave up straight razor shaving because I listened to this and couldn't get my razors sharp.

Upon reading instructions that came with a new old stock Swaty barber hone I found that it said .... (Paraphrasing) ... "to do as few strokes as possible but as many as it took" until you've gotten the level of sharpness desired.

Once I reached a level of proficiency in honing I began to experiment with different hones. I don't do it on a regular basis but sometimes I will get a razor at the level of 8k Norton sharp and then shave with it.

The following day I will take it to a dry barber hone and test with the TPT and the HHT to see how many strokes it takes to perceptibly improve the edge..... or to make it worse. :) I have used a variety of barber hones to do this and it has worked both ways. Some became sharper and others were made worse than they were before I started. This seemed to depend on the hone but maybe it was a bad stroke day. :p

Anyhow,once a person has the technique learned it is fun to change the routine and try different things with hones and methods of honing. I have also begun to hone with the rock in my left hand and the razor in my dominant right hand.

Heretofore I had felt the hand held honing was too unstable to suit me. I preferred the stability of the counter top. Again, now that I know how to hone I feel more confident in changing my routine. I found that the feedback gained through the hone to the hand was very beneficial in knowing where the edge was in relation to the hone throughout the stroke.

Some of my hones are too large to comfortably hold while honing and I don't know that I will go with the hand held method on a regular basis but I found it to be a very interesting experience on the few razors I've recently tried it with.
Thanks Jimmy, That's another excellent post filled with so many interesting data points, I don't know what to address first.:)

Concerning barber hones, I have zero experience with them. I am certainly not going to dismiss them for not knowing how they work. I am a bit skeptic, because of the "4 strokes" dogma, but now I read in your post that needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In my reasoning (that easily could be wrong) a great finisher should be relatively slow. The less deep it eats in the steel, the smoother and finer it is capable of defining the edge. Hones with very aggressive particles, such as the Norton 8K (that I have tried a few time) and I believe also many barber hones, cut relatively deep grooves for the width of their scratch pattern. I believe that is were the dreaded overhoning comes from. It is the only reasonable explanation why this seems to be an issue with fast finishers, while slower finishers don't display that problem at all.
That is why I wonder about the smoothness of an edge after being touched up on a barber hone. I can see how it can easily reclaim lost keenness on a well-used edge, but I really fear that it might not do justice to the finish you get off a Coticule. A finish my face has become addicted to. Jimmy, have you tried to compare between the finish of a Coticule and a barberhone? I have once read a thread on SRP, where Dylandog was announcing an experiment in which he was going to "aim for sharpness" with a barberhone and finish that sharpness on a Coticule with water. Unfortunately, he never published about the outcome.

In any case, I, who am not a collector, can't afford to go barberhone hunting to find out how they compare with Coticules. Not while I have no problems keeping my edges sharp on the Coticules I already own. But it sure is an interesting topic, and little is written about it. I find that weird.

Concerning hand-held honing. With my current injury, I needed to stick with table-top honing for a while, and I can testify that it is much easier to get that last bit of keenness of a hone, if I'm allowed to hold it in my hand. There's only half the feedback with the razor resting on a towel.
For some methods it does not make much difference, but for the Dilucot procedure, is surely does. Today, I got a thinner bandage, and I couldn't wait to hone "properly" again.B)

Best regards,
You know Bart some of this is hard for me to quantify. Perhaps if I disciplined myself to continue with perhaps 2 razors and try them with various naturals, synthetics and barber hones I could draw a better conclusion. I vary the razors so much .... and the hones.. that it is something different every day.

Also on some days with some razors and with some hones I do better in terms of results than on other days. I am still looking for consistency in my honing. I have other interests that I pursue and I go on honing binges lately and then lay off for a day or two or three.

I will have to test the feel off of the barber hone. In the past I didn't focus on that aspect but offhand I would say that I won't get the smooth coticule feel from a barber hone. I think it is only meant to bring back a slightly degraded edge and not for anything beyond that. The barbers of old times shaving one customer after another needed a quick fix. With a razor that was already keen but perhaps pulled a bit during a shave.The barber would pick up his Swaty.. or whichever one... and do a few strokes, strop and begin to shave the customer again.

I agree with your point on fast versus slow finishers. That is the beauty of the natural stones. I don't know if I can get a razor sharper/keener on a synthetic, perhaps I could. If not me, perhaps someone with more expertise could but I don't think that a smoother feeling edge could be gotten from a synthetic as opposed to a natural no matter the level of expertise.Sorry to hear about your hand. I wish you a speedy recovery.