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Some thoughts about the HHT and competition ...


Well-Known Member
Hi all,

during the coticule weekend I learned an important lesson I would like to share with you. It is about the relative (un)importance of HHT but much more it is about my insight that razor honing and competition should not be mixed.

It was on Saturday evening when Bart had finished his honing lessons and someone else was going to give it a try. So Gary picked that little La Dressante and one of my razors and off he went. With this unfamiliar hone, a taped razor (which he usually does not care for himself), and quite some beers down he obviously needed a bit more concentration than usual. When he was done we were looking for Barts hair inventory to try the HHT (seriously folks, don't you think that if you tell anybody that you secretly pick hair from your daughter's brush and stock it to test razors, you'd be locked away immediately ... but that's another story). Anyway, we were looking for that hair box but it was nowhere. Luckily, I did bring some from my Lady. I did bring this hair along because that is MY standard that I am familiar with and therefore it would enable me to compare and classify keenness for myself. Alas, the HHT was nothing really to write home about. I even barely heard the violin play but Bart suggested to give it a try. I admit that I was skeptical because my personal standards would not allow me to strop a razor that does not at least pass a HHT2 off the stone. I know this is possible because I have done it before and even more off the Naniwa 10'000 I will not continue before I'm at HHT4. So Bart gave the razor a good strop on linen and leather and then he lathered up and went to work. After he was done he handed me the razor and said: "This blade is as good as it gets. Try it, and if you don't like it may well be possible that you just do not like coticule edges." The Monday after I got up, eagerly awaiting the shave with that very razor. And to make it brief, it was an absolutely flawless shave. What I've learned so far is that every shave is a little different. There are many more factors involved than just the keenness of the edge and the differences in the shave can be so subtle. So, for me there are good shaves and not so good shaves. This shave definitely was a good shave. End of part one of my lesson.

The same day I was scheduled to go on business trip for a week. I had some time left before my plane would leave so I decided to hone up a razor on my new La Dressante I brought back from the Weekend. I took an old Dovo I never came around to hone and went through dilucot. I really loved the way the hone was performing. It gave a nice feedback in every way and I just enjoyed the work. "Boy" it thought, "this is gonna be one hell of an edge". Then came the acid test - the HHT. But what shall I say … just a HHT0, and even that only with some goodwill. I was not happy with myself! Since time was running out on me I had get going. I put the razor in my bag and took it with me on the trip. You may guess what happened the next morning. I gave the razor a good strop on linen and leather. I did this very carefully and I took some more time than I usually do. And that morning too I ended up with a shave I really could not complain about ….

So what is the point now? Well, so far I considered the HHT a very important hurdle I had to pass with at least A- or the gods of lather and steel would accuse me of blasphemy. Granted, the edge needs to have a certain keenness after the hone in order to be suitable for a shave. Granted, there is certainly nothing wrong if you do aim for a HHT3 or 4. And it is nice too if you do achieve it. But another lesson I have learned myself (albeit I've heard it often before) is that you must not underestimate the importance of stropping the razor after the hones. Because it's that step that will make your razor actually shave ready!

But the most important lesson I learned is that I really should stay away from any competition when I am enjoying my passion. Why competition? Because that is the core driving force for so many people and in our case what so many members of the razor community are propagating. You hear in each and every corner of the web that you absolutely MUST put an edge on a razor that is so sharp that hairs will pop by just putting the razor next to them. You MUST hunt, buy and use the right stones and follow the exact and precise procedure. If you fail to do so you will end up with nothing more than a miserable shave that will make your life worthless. You must do so because others have done it and you don't want to stay behind, don't you? Ok, now I am really exaggerating but I think you'll get the point … Don't misunderstand me, I think there is nothing wrong if you want to improve your skills as you go and use some reproducible test methods such as the HHT in order to qualify your progress. And you really should strive to make progress. But please do compete against yourself and not against anybody else! There's no magic in razor honing and if you stick to the methods described here you will be able to come up with razors that will give you a shave that is all you really ever need. Or use some other methods and hones and you will get there too. I will do so and I will continue to practice and do the HHT and I even will continue to buy hones. But just take out that determination and grimness to strive for that uber-stellar edge you heard rumors about.

If there's one thing this place and Bart should be credited for it it's the complete absence of that competitive attitude. People are determined here too, but they are not stubborn and they stay away from omphaloskepsis (Bart, I love that term!). Son don't forget: Keep honing, keep getting better, but HAVE FUN while doing it!!

Happy honing
Thanks Rico,

This is a very interesting writing ... it makes me seriously think about the importance of an open mind in quite unexpected context.

Great post! There so little I can add to it.
You are right of course. The HHT is just a way of probing the edge, and hopefully can provide someone with the answer to the question: "Am I done or not?". There are differences between various hair samples, in how easily they will pop right of the hone. Even within hair that comes from the same scalp, there can be significant differences. As with any test (TNT, TPT) the hard part is how to interpret results. I have often advised people to start looking for an easier source of hairs, when they struggle with the HHT. It is indeed hard to interpret readings when there's nothing to read.:rolleyes:
Personally, I know that I have to pick the thicker hairs out of my little box with HHT-hairs, when I 'm probing immediately ofter finishing on a Coticule. Even then I have to bring the stone itself into account: the brisk finishers seem to pop hairs easier than the mellow ones. It's not a big difference, but combined with a razor know to no pass the test that easily (another factor), is can really change my assessment of a particular HHT-result. But that can only be learned with doing the HHT, stropping the razor well, HHT-ing again, and eventually test shaving the razor. All these results need to be correlated to each other. It is my experience that a well honed Coticule edge will always step up dramatically in the way it passes the HHT, after being stropped. While a poorly honed Coticule edge, will show only a marginal difference pre- and post-stropping the razor.

By the way: the razor I honed during the sharpening class on the Coticule weekend, that had such a hard time passing the HHT with the hairs you provided, turned out just perfect. I believe Gary already stated so, after he used it to shave Marek. And now that I've used the razor twice already on my own face, I can fully confirm that.

What you say about avoiding competition, I wholeheartedly agree. But you knew that already.:)

Thanks for posting. A most helpful contribution.

Kind regards,
Ive been learning to really read how the hairs are popping after honing. The HHT 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 is obvious, but I am paying more attention as to how the hair is popping at each level. sort of like a HHT 3.1, 3.2, 3.3... etc.