Nakayama Coticule finished edges comparison

Bart

Well-Known Member
JimR recently started a thread about a more traditional use for sharpening razors on Japanese natural hones. For me personally, this was a much welcomed initiative. Early 2008, I was not entirely pleased with my honing. People were talking about "wiping whiskers of their face", shaving with a "velvet squeegee", and other superlatives. At that time, I got irritation-free, close shaves off my Coticule. But I wasn't wiping whiskers of my face with a velvet squeegee. And I had these spots on the hollow parts of my neck that refused to become as utterly smooth as the rest of my freshly shaved face. I attributed that to razor sharpness. I convinced myself that I needed a "keener" hone for that. I doubted between a Shapton 16K, a Chosera 10K or a Nakayama. After some counseling with guys that had been longer around that I, I decided to opt for the Nakayama. It became an expensive disappointment. No matter what I tried, the edges were of about the same keenness than what I already managed to get off a Coticule, and they were definitely a tad less smooth and no so skin-friendly. The patches on my neck remained. Three months later I swallowed my pride and bought a Chosera 10K. Finally I managed to get keener edges, something I later learned to get from a Coticule without including the Chosera. Somewhere along the lines, I also learned that shaving those stubborn spots on the neck had nothing to do with blade keenness, but everything with shaving technique.
The Chosera still sees good use, because it offers an excellent and known platform as a starting point for sharpening experiments and hone tests. And it's an ace for handplane blades.
But the Nakayama was quietly gathering dust in the drawer of my desk. A sad fate.

Till Jim arrived at the scene with a number of suggestions that made sense to me. I've been fumbling with these methods on and off for a few weeks now, and I can testify that the edges I now get off the Nakayama are definitely on a better level. One where they don't bleach when compared to a good Coticule edge.
After about a dozen test shaves with 8 different edges honed according to the principles presented in Jim's thread, I felt like sharing some impressions. I mostly shaved one facial half with a Coticule edge and the other with a Nakayama edge.
A first notion is, that on Double Arrows it makes not a shed of difference. I think I can hone these to the limits of what their steel will take, for the type of completely serration-less edges left by both Coticules and Nakayamas.
A second notion - I find it very weird but have experienced this in most cases - is that I can discern differences between both edges almost exclusively during the WTG pass. This is completely new for me, as I've always found that edges really reveal themselves ATG. Yet I can't blindly separate a Coticule edge from a Nakayama edge by judging how they feel when shaving ATG. WTG, however, some of the Nakayama edges appeared to cut with slightly less effort. It's not so much an observation than it is an impression, but one I've had on 5 or 6 of the 8 razors I honed with the Nakayama. I tried to use matched razors as much as possible.
The Nakayama is also a bit less weeper-proof than the Coticule, but with some adjustments in the shaving technique that can be mostly avoided. The feel on the skin is otherwise smooth and resembles the crispier Coticule edge, that leave a pleasant post-shave skin rejuvenation.

Best regards,
Bart.
 

Paul

Well-Known Member
This is a very interesting thread. Thanks Bart.

I am far from an expert on either type of natural whetstone. However, based on my little bit of experience on them, I've found that both give very nice results, and any differences are on such a level as to render them almost imperceptible by the novice IMHO. Having said that, the thing that astounds me about my Coticule edges is the fact that while being sharp, they do appear to be almost weeper/nick proof (which obviously, they are not). My experience/skill pales in comparison to you and others, but I have noticed a similar phenomenon. My Japanese Natural (I'll not refer to it as a Nakayama as it came from 330mate I guess -not where I bought it, but that's another story) provides an extremely keen edge, but it is somewhere between my Shapton 30K and my Coticule edge in terms of smoothness. I was actually lucky in that my stone works very well for razors. It "feels" sharper than my Coticule on my face, but both provide an incredible shave. And having said that, there may be techniques that I may learn later that could change that. I learned from experience the need for slurry on my stone, but Jim's thread has really enhanced my understanding.
 

PA23-250

Well-Known Member
Bart, what you say about "needing a keener edge" only to have it still miss the tricky bits is pretty much my experience!:)
I found that out when I tried diamond lapping film up to 0.5 um. Didn't get the rough spots much closer (this was before I learned how to really use a coticule) & was very harsh on my face. My Nakayama edges are not there yet, so I can't really compare, but I think it shouldn't be long now...;)

Technique is a big one, but equally important, I think is prep. We could have a whole separate thread about prep...;)
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
richmondesi said:
I've found that both give very nice results, and any differences are on such a level as to render them almost imperceptible by the novice IMHO.
Full agreement, Paul.
richmondesi said:
Having said that, the thing that astounds me about my Coticule edges is the fact that while being sharp, they do appear to be almost weeper/nick proof (which obviously, they are not).
Well, it's difficult not to get lyrical about a Coticule edge. I don't think one can put an edge on a razor that discerns better between skin and whiskers. I'll tell you an unbelievable, yet true story. I 've hit a razor edge with my thumb once. I hit it hard, right on top of the edge, while the razor halfway slipped out my hand at the moment I was closing a razor singlehandedly. I just finished honing it, passing a final HHT. I immediately looked at my thumb, expecting a nasty slice. But there was nothing. Next, I inspected the edge under the scope...

I don't know if I could do the same with any other edge. I'm not about to try.:O But I tell myself that a "catchy" edge would have delivered a very nice slice indeed.

richmondesi said:
My Japanese Natural (I'll not refer to it as a Nakayama as it came from 330mate I guess -not where I bought it, but that's another story)
In comparison with Coticules, Japanese hones seem to offer a much wider variability, coming from different mines, parts of the country, several strata. I think it's very important to buy from a source that really tests the honzan for the particular task the buyer has in mind. Because the way they are often hyped and the wide variety of available stones, there's a great likelihood for Lumpsucker eggs being sold as Caviar, by people who love an easy buck. I'm not making any innuendo on the seller mentioned. I have no idea who's reputable and who's not.

Bart.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
I think this brings us to the old trick of holding a de blade by the sharp bit thumb on the bottom and finger on top, like a pinch, then squeezing the blade so it bends, people who dont know about blades freak! the old and frail have been known to swoon! haha and theres no cut! you can flex a de razor blade by the cutting edge and it will not cut you no way!

Providing of course you stick to the one very very important rule: the edge must never ever move sideways ever! if it does your gonna be in stitches for sure.

point I am making a pigs ear of explaining is this: even a razor sharp edge will almost never cut skin under pressure alone, well not the kind of pressure we are talking about here, a guillotine even had an angled blade so it sliced more efficiently (well sometimes) to cut skin the blade needs lateral movement, and the smoother the edge the more it needs.

Saw blade, very toothed move it a bit and its bleed city
Coticule edge, very smooth move it a bit and its "I cant believe I got away with that" we have even refined this into physical practice "ala the thumb pad test"

Thats my theory, thats why coti edges are soo sharp yet soo forgiving weeper friendly shavers
 

torbenbp

Well-Known Member
hmmm..that seems very likely Ralfy...Yesterday I gave a razor a quick touch up on a very very petite coti and : Sharpness was _not_ great but it left no scratches. Unlike sharper razors honed on artificial stones.
 

urmas

Well-Known Member
Bart said:
Finally I managed to get keener edges, something I later learned to get from a Coticule without including the Chosera.
Thanks Bart. This is intresting.
What exactly you learned?

*******
urmas
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
urmas said:
Bart said:
Finally I managed to get keener edges, something I later learned to get from a Coticule without including the Chosera.
Thanks Bart. This is intresting.
What exactly you learned?

*******
urmas
I learned how to make a very even and light strokes. And I learned how to make them fast, so I wouldn't be bothered by doing an 100 laps extra if that's what it takes. I learned to keep an eye on the slurry and to recognize when to add how much water. I learned when to use slight pressure during a honing procedure and when to use less than the weight of the blade. I learned how to shift the balance in my honing stroke to accomodate warped and/or curved blades. I learned to have confidence in my Coticule and how to use several finishing strategies for when lightest laps on water don't deliver what I know can be reached. I learned how to strop on linen and leather with more efficiency. I learned how I could rely on the HHT to monitor the keenness during the final honing stages. I learned (the hard way) that whishful thinking doesn't make an edge keener. When I finally managed to make all those skills work together, I was able at last, to put a good "Dilucot" edge on any razor.

Somewhere during that journey, I decided to seek a method that would depend less on feel and experience than the procedure with gradual slurry dilution. After several months of experiments I finally had a procedure that only demands two skills: a stable honing stroke (a strict condition razor sharpening in general) and the disposition to work with a methodological paradigm. I baptised it "Unicot", and named the other way "Dilucot". They both deliver highly comparable results.

What few guys truly realize when they sharpen their first razor (myself included) is that sharpening razors is not just a case of knowing what to do. It is very much an acquired skill. If you explain someone, who doens't know how to swim, in great detail the various motions of the breast stroke, and next he's thrown into a deep pool, there the signficant possibility he will drown. This compares well to sharpening razors. One can memorize every last letter on this website and still not be able to successfully sharpen a razor.

With Unicot, success will come quickly. With Dilucot, honing needs to become second nature. Sometimes my wife and I are having a conversation while watching the news. She's knitting a pullover and I'm honing a razor. My wife hardly ever looks directly to her knitting pens, and I only occasionally glance at the razor. She wonders how I can manage to guide the razor blindly, and I wonder how the hell she can knit that pullover without watching it... One can not learn either those things, by mere reading of information.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
Wonderful Sir Bart Wonderful
You remain the Master of course
Your Humble Servant and understudy
Ralfson (Dr)
 

Paul

Well-Known Member
what an excellent writeup :thumbup:

We're not worthy... We're not worthy :w00t:
 

urmas

Well-Known Member
Thank you for answer, Bart. Your experiences are very usefull.

I'm intrested about that hard lesson you learned. "Whishful thinking doesn't make an edge keener", you said. I feel that this might be very important thing to avoid myself too.

Regards,
Urmas

Edit: Bart, I'm sorry for asking with such a rude manner. That occured accidentaly, because my English is not good enough.
 

Disburden

Well-Known Member
This thread was very enlightening, thank you , Bart! All the issues you had in the past sound EXACTLY like all the issues I am having now: looking for that magicall velvet squeegy everyone talks about, hollow neck spots, etc.
 

TstebinsB

Member
When I last had a Coticule, I could get BBS off of it but my hair grew back earlier in the day than when I was BBS of of a Nakayama. That extra keenness made a difference. I have a Coticule coming in the mail tomorrow. Perhaps more experience will bridge the gap.
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
TstebinsB said:
When I last had a Coticule, I could get BBS off of it but my hair grew back earlier in the day than when I was BBS of of a Nakayama. That extra keenness made a difference. I have a Coticule coming in the mail tomorrow. Perhaps more experience will bridge the gap.
An interesting notion.
I never really monitored the reappearance rate of stubble, but it's quite possible that there is a difference. Maybe your Nakayama shave a tad closer, even though they both feel completely smooth to the touch. That's the only plausible explanation, if you ask me.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

BlueDun

Well-Known Member
Yesterday, there was a very interesting one-hour report on n-tv about the history and the development of razors. The Gilette company opened the doors of their R&D department and it was unbelievable to see what they invest and what tools and technologies they use. It gave some insights on how the hair and the edge interact and how this influences the shaving result.

In one experiment they put a micro-camera inside a system razor. On could actually see the skin from behind the blade and observe exactly how individual hairs are cut. It was clearly observeable that every hair first bends when it is touched by the edege - no matter how sharp the edge is. Only in a second sequence the edge will catch the hair and cut it. Because the differences are small a shave may feel clean right after shaving. But because the hairs were bent over a little more and hence are slightly longer the skin will sooner feel rough. This gives a first explanation on the perceived regrowth speed of the beard.
They also found out that the angle of the edge against the hair has a great influence on how much a hair is bent befor it is cut. Results showed that a variation of as low as one degree makes a significant difference.
Nothing was said however about "catchiness" of the edge. But I think everbody dealing with knives and/or razors would agree that there is such a property of an edge.

There's also second reason why beard seems to regrow faster with different edges. As the hair is bent before it is cut it will never be cut at a 90 degree angle. The hair will be cut at a flatter angle and will therefore look actualy like a spike. The flatter the angle is the sharper this spike will be and the rougher it will feel to the touch. So it may be that one shave seems less clean or less close than another although the actual length of the remaing stubbles are the same.

What I learn from these results is that I have to learn to guide my razor to an accuracy of within one degree over my skin ;) . Or to put it in Bart's words:
Bart said:
Somewhere along the lines, I also learned that shaving those stubborn spots on the neck had nothing to do with blade keenness, but everything with shaving technique.
Cheers
BlueDun
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
How I wish I could have watched that documentary. :O

Thanks for posting about it.

Off topic: I always sort of wondered how objective people are when they state a straight razor gives the best possible shave. Of course Gillette and Wilkinson are masters in Marketing, but I never doubted for one second, what you saw on television; namely, that they spend huge amounts om money into research.
I personally never shaved with a cartridge razors, but I did use a DE for many years and always got the worst possible results: blood all over, skin redness, and a 5'O clock shadow right from the start. I'll spare you guys most of the details, but I was so ignorant that I smeared Gillette shaving cream, out of the tube straight on my dry face. I didn't add water and I didn't lather at all. Then I scraped away... I've done this for over 15 years, once a month or so. For the rest, I used a beard trimmer on the lowest setting.

One day, after I used my last DE-blade, I decided it had been enough. I was going to learn how to shave. So I did some online research and ended up buying gear: a Dovo straight razor, boar brush, strop, soap and a book (written in Dutch) about learning how to shave with a straight razor. The styptic pencil came for free.:rolleyes: I read the book twice and on a Wednesday morning, I went in.
I immediately got very decent results. WTG went that well, that I couldn't resist making an ATG pass as well. I ended up with 2 or 3 superficial nicks and a mostly smooth face. No irritation. At all. I never used a DE ever again.

It would be so easy for me to conclude that a straight razor outperforms all other options. But I don't believe that. I think if I were to apply all I learned about shaving ever since, I would probably get stellar results with a DE, a MachIII or any other wet shaving device for that matter. At least that's what I think. I'll never know for sure, because I like shaving the artisan way too much, to be bothered with trying anything else than a straight razor.

Now, I can almost hear you think, "what on Earth has all this to do with edge comparison between different finishing hones?". The answer is, that I'm not really interested in getting the longest lasting shave time. If I were, I had to try the Gilette Fusion for sure. Or at least the Feather Artist Club straight razor with disposable Teflon coated blades. Imagine someone would come up with a way to Teflon coat straight razor edges after honing. I probably wouldn't be all that interested.
That is of course a strictly personal restriction of the same nature as my refusal to try modern cartridge razors.

Kind regards,
Bart.
 

danjared

Well-Known Member
Bart said:
I personally never shaved with a cartridge razors, but I did use a DE for many years and always got the worst possible results: blood all over, skin redness, and a 5'O clock shadow right from the start. I'll spare you guys most of the details, but I was so ignorant that I smeared Gillette shaving cream, out of the tube straight on my dry face. I didn't add water and I didn't lather at all. Then I scraped away... I've done this for over 15 years, once a month or so. For the rest, I used a beard trimmer on the lowest setting.
I find that amazing. In America, I doubt more than a handful of young people have foregone using cartridge razors. It's just unthinkable here. I mean, here luxury is getting a fancy handle for your Mach3 or Fusion or getting an expensive (and worthless in my opinion) electric shaver.

I live in a college co-op with some fairly progressive-minded people in a very progressive (by American standards) city (Cambridge, MA!), and almost everyone thinks I'm really weird for using a straight or that I'm just doing it to be macho (which couldn't be further from the truth).
 

Rosco

Well-Known Member
Bart said:
I think if I were to apply all I learned about shaving ever since, I would probably get stellar results with a DE, a MachIII or any other wet shaving device for that matter.
I always got a pretty close shave from a Mach III. I don't think I get a better shave with a straight. The difference is that now I don't have a constant red patch under my jaw from all the ingrown hairs and whatnot.
However, the more I shave with a straight, the more I think that it is not the tool but the technique which makes the difference.
I used to foam up and scrape off in whatever direction was quickest/easiest. Now I lather with a brush. I shave with the pattern of my beard growth in mind. I know that shaving WTG only, causes much less irritation. And while I now love shaving with a straight, and wouldn't use anything else, I think I could now be very happy with a Mach III or similar.
 

maro

Well-Known Member
Bart said:
I'll spare you guys most of the details, but I was so ignorant that I smeared Gillette shaving cream, out of the tube straight on my dry face. I didn't add water and I didn't lather at all. Then I scraped away... I've done this for over 15 years, once a month or so. For the rest, I used a beard trimmer on the lowest setting.
Not that I was born with DE shaving skills but... haven't you ever seen your grandpa, daddy, uncle or whoever shaving over those 15 years? :blink: As far as I remember, I was spying on my "forefathers" to learn the shaving technique.
 
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