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To all aspiring razor sharpeners

Bart

Well-Known Member
So you're all set for your first razor sharpening job. You have this decent razor that's not too precious to you.
You have a Coticule with a shape that allows a decent honing stroke. You have a slurry stone and a roll of electrical insulation tape. You're sitting comfortably on a table. Your wife is informed that things could get messy, but not to worry: slurry doesn't leave permanent stains. You're relaxed. You have time, the kids locked in the basement, the wife in front of the TV in the adjacent room. You have some smooth music in the background. And most importantly: a little bowl with water stands in front of you, next a beer bottle. Empty or full, I don't care.

Here are some tips for you:

#1: Learning a honing stroke is like riding a bike. You didn't ride to the next town, on your first attempt, did you?
I really recommend that you practice a few things, before you even start thinking about making a first attempt to really sharpen the razor. I am fully aware that almost no one will take that advice, without some exercise that might actually make the razor sharper. So here goes:
EXERCISE: dull the razor with one stroke on the beer bottle, as if you were trying to cut into the bottle. Don't apply any pressure. Just let the razor rest on the bottle and drag it towards you, from heel to toe. Check on arm hair. On some people's arms the razor won't shave a thing. On others is will require a second downstroke. That's okay.
Rub slurry. Take your time. Make it the density of coffee cream. Examine it carefully. Now repeat after me: «This is too thick». Dip your pinkie and ring finger in the bowl with water. (Let's keep the other fingers dry, because they will be holding the razor). Sprinkle a few drops of water on the hone. Put the razor on top of it and make 1 or 2 X-strokes to mix the water with the slurry. Repeat: water, mix. Now your slurry should look like milk. This is about right. Now repeat after me again: «I'm not afraid of the water. I won't allow my slurry to become denser than this».
Take the hone in one hand, the razor in your other (dominant) hand. Hold the tang between thumb and index finger. Put it on the razor. Make sure it's lying flat. Take it back off, but hold the razor while you wet your pinkie and ring finger and sprinkle some more water on. Start doing X-strokes. Watch the bead of slurry in front of the edge. Let it guide you to make perfect strokes. When you arrive at the end of the hone, turn the razor between thumb and index finger, much like you would adjust a small volume knob on a radio. (It's the same motion as turning the razor on a strop, but only in reverse). There should be no wrist movement at all. An imaginary coin must lay on the back of your hand and it shouldn't fall off during the entire X-stroke. Big chance that you'll find this awkward and slow in the beginning. Remember the first time you were on that bike. It will become second nature. Yet not before before you've been crying at the bosom of your wife that you're going to be the only kid in school that couldn't learn it.
Have confidence.
Stay at this for a while. Remember to add water. Remember to watch the wave of slurry. Finish the beer and tell yourself you did well. Call it a day.
Next day, repeat this exercise. As you gain confidence try to speed up the stroke as it sets in muscle memory, but slow down often to check the wave of fluid. Stay at it for 15 minutes or so. By the end of your exercise, check the razor for shaving arm hair. Probably not, but you never know.
Third day. repeat yesterday's exercise.
Fourth day. repeat your exercise. After that, refresh the slurry and start practicing half strokes, with a finger applying some pressure on top of the razor (place it nearer to the spine than to the edge). No wrist pressure, only finger pressure. It doesn't take much. Notice how this makes an incredible difference in speed of abrasion. The slurry will start to turn gray or even black within only very few strokes.
If the razor starts shaving arm hair, dull it again and start all over.
Fifth day. Repeat yesterday. Watch the slurry density. Watch the wave in front of the edge. When you hit "shaving arm hair" level, start doing full X-strokes. Per 10 strokes, add more water. Slowly dilute it till most of the slurry is gone. Dry the razor and store it. Finish the beer. Tomorrow we will put an amazing Unicot edge on it.

Sixth day. Tape yesterday's razor. Wet the hone and rub it a couple of times with the slurry stone till you see traces of slurry. Add a few drops of water. Make the 20 light laps out of the Unicot recipe. Rinse everything. Finalize with 30 of your lightest laps. Dry the razor. If you want, you can try a
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now. Strop the razor well and enjoy the shave.

More tips to follow later.

Bart.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
Thats gotta help Sir Bart,
I understand that some members are finding the first or even second hone very hard going, if you do this the little door that leads to honing expertise will start to open, maybe just enough for the fainest crack of light to appear, or maybe enough for you to see and hear the delight that awaits on the other side, everyone is different, everyone has their own way of learning which is one reason why large classrooms can be counter productive, but I promise you, everyone can sharpen a razor to an acceptable level using the methods found above, do it, enjoy it, be proud of it :thumbup:
 

pedalpowersailing

Well-Known Member
Bart

a superb article. I concur it is all about practise
I can honestly say that I had no idea when I started, but following a few simple steps
hoing becomes a challenge and a pleasure, I have even resisted adding to my single coticxule as
you keep stating they all end up with a good edge when you have learnt to use them
 

Paul

Well-Known Member
Excellent write up. I'm so glad I got a Coticule... It has dramatically improved my honing stroke:thumbup:
 

Smythe

Well-Known Member
Excellent... much better than the watered down instructions you find on the internet.
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Tip #2.

When following the Unicot procedure, make the slurry as thin as possible for producing the secondary bevel, right after you've attached the layer of tape. (Step 5 of the process) It really should only be a cloud of milk in a puddle of water. On the same note: use light laps, and don't be tempted to do more. Rather do less, than more. If you make the secondary bevel too large, the next step on water will not yield maximum keenness.
If you make the secondary bevel too dull, by using too dense a slurry, again the next step on water will not yield maximum sharpness.

Bart.
 

mitchshrader

Well-Known Member
I am just overwhelmed with confidence. Not.

I intend to do this struggling in ignorance and you can't stop me!

But I really appreciate you trying to make it easier, it's just that it's before coffee and my snivel factor is somewhat excessive.. ;)

Seriously, I'm not yet to the place where I'm so discouraged that I read the instructions. I'll probably have to waste hours of time first. It goes with being stubborn and opinionated, but it's curable. Eventually.

I did get the parts about 'wash everything' and 'start over'. :)
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
mitchshrader said:
I intend to do this struggling in ignorance and you can't stop me!

:)

Oh, but I'm not here to stop you. To some people honing razors comes naturally. To some it doesn't.
I belong to the latter group myself. I couldn't get it, before I was ready to swallow all my pride and started copying exactly what David Polan wrote. He's the guy who eventually got me on the right track. By that time, I was so mentally messed up with trying everything for nearly 60 days in a row, that I would have painted my hair pink if the man had said that was necessary to get my razor sharp again. I had started honing on my new Dovo when it just started to pull a little. It became duller with each new attempt. I thought that 15 years of sharpening woodworking tools would owe me some sharp razors. It didn't. It granted me a lesson in humbleness instead. It thaught me there was a lot to learn about the concept sharpness.

This forum exists to catch whomever seeks more information for whatever reason. :)

Bart.
 

BabyDom

Member
Well, I just finished day six on the Bart's newbie honing lesson. I started the lesson with a coticule natural combo that was given to me by a local SRP member, which actually sparked my interest in coticules. But my Adrennes coticule arrived yesterday, so I finished the last two days of the lesson with the new coticule. The result...drum roll...a spectular shave which my hairs drop off before the blade hit them...O.K...that's a bunch of bullshit(Sorry ralfy same SOTD schtick)and the result was mediocre at best.

My honing technique needs to be improved, but this lesson had me looking at a lot of my faults. I did enjoy working on my strokes, and focusing on the acostic/visual side of my honing strokes. I have 3-4 razors that are deemed "practice razors" so I will continue a modified version of Bart's newbie sharpeners lesson for a month or longer. Dedicating at least 15 mins per night on improving my honing skills until I can say "¡Símon Vatos locos!"
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
Go Dom Go Yeah Baby (in a Austin Powers Voice)
what have you tried? did you unicot that bad boy? I would, I must have done unicot for months before switching to Dilocut, and then its a gradual shift, when the dilocut left the edge lacking I switched to unicot, 1 layer of tape and 30 light laps on a light slurry then 50 on water only.
I still have to do that from time to time, but more often I stick at Dilocut, and do maybe up to 200 more laps trying to pull the edge just right.
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
Good work.:thumbup: :thumbup: You'll get there soon enough.

If you care for it, here's your next exercise.

Take the same razor without tape. Raise milk-like slurry on the Coticule and take it through the same dilution phase as day #5. No pre-dulling this time, just add a few drops of water per 10 strokes, till the slurry is almost completely washed down. After that, apply two layers of tape to the spine. 20 laps on what was left of the slurry. Clean the hone and the razor. 50 laps on clear water. Try if you can sever a thick clean hair at about 15mm of the holding point. If you can (you should!), only then strop the razor 50 on linen and 50 on leather. If you can't sever the hair coming right off the hone, do 50 more laps on water, before trying again.

Let's see where that brings the edge.

Best regards,
Bart.
 

BabyDom

Member
@Ralfy, I’m using the unicot method. Once I get the unicot method down, I will try the dilucot method; so expect alot of pms. You’re a fine English gentleman…ok …maybe not fine or gentle…but definitely a man.:)

@Bart, I completed your exercise using to two layers of tape last night, but wanted to wait until I shaved with the razor before commenting on the effectiveness of the second exercise. I really doubted that I could get a good HHT out of my honing, so when I “popped” the hair with the razor I was pretty shocked to say the least. I would say that the result was a HHT 3. The shave off the razor was without razor burn and I was pleasantly impressed with the results.

Bart when you had me place the second layer of tape of the spine. Was it to increase the angle at the edge? Also, if I might ask: Do you watch how the slurry “groups/builds” itself around the midsection of the blade. I only ask this because as I have been focusing on what’s going on during the honing process, and I notice that a lot of time my slurry builds in the middle of my razor. Could this led to frowning on a edge?

Kind regards,
Dom
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
BabyDom said:
@Bart, I completed your exercise using to two layers of tape last night, but wanted to wait until I shaved with the razor before commenting on the effectiveness of the second exercise. I really doubted that I could get a good HHT out of my honing, so when I “popped” the hair with the razor I was pretty shocked to say the least. I would say that the result was a HHT 3. The shave off the razor was without razor burn and I was pleasantly impressed with the results.
:thumbup: Sounds very good.

BabyDom said:
Bart when you had me place the second layer of tape of the spine. Was it to increase the angle at the edge?
Yes. How bigger the difference between the original "honed-on-slurry-bevel" and the secondary (taped) bevel, the better your chances at reaching the desired edge refinement.
This drawing from the Unicot article, makes it easy to grasp:

It shows how the secondary bevel "folds" to a sharper bevel tip. If you make the same effort with a bigger angle difference, the effect will be more pronounced, and the limit can be reached sooner.

Normally, one layer of tape (I use Nitto 201X with a thickness of 0.15mm) is enough to reach the keenness limit possible on a Coticule. That's the limit that concurs with a HHT-3 coming straight off the hone with water.
But new honers often don't manage to have a prefect bevel when they make the call to put on the tape. 2 layers offer a bit more lenience in that respect. With a bit of extra practice, you'll manage to get the same results with just one layer. (It doesn't harm to check the thickness of your tape, though;) )

BabyDom said:
Also, if I might ask: Do you watch how the slurry “groups/builds” itself around the midsection of the blade. I only ask this because as I have been focusing on what’s going on doing the honing process, and I notice that a lot of time my slurry builds in the middle of my razor. Could this led to frowning on a edge?
It sure can. Not from one honing session, but in the long run, that might happen. (Please note that you can keep this razor going for a long time by reapplying the tape and touch it up with 30-60 laps on just water)
I always have some rocking motion in my stroke, not so much that anyone would notice by mere watching, but enough to make the wave of slurry move from heel, over the middle, to the toe of the blade. It's the same
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as what should be done with a smiling edge, albeit to a lesser degree.

Best regards,
Bart.
 

tat2Ralfy

Well-Known Member
What He Said ^^^ :w00t:
Also I am very very pleased you had success with this Dom, see how nice the shave off a coti can be, and just imagine how delightful it will be as your experience and skill level grows.
Honestly when I first started I got Sherlock Torfs to Hone my Dovo, Man I cannot describe how the shave was! I have said this before and will continue long after anyone is listening: I WAS SHOCKED AT HOW LIGHT AND SMOOTH THE SHAVE WAS, Before then I DID NOT KNOW A STRAIGHT RAZOR COULD BE THAT SHARP AND SMOOTH!! Period.
 

excel_1111

Member
Well I am encouraged now as I realized what I was doing wrong. All I needed was to get the X stroke down packed dahhhhh. I will start the exercise tomorrow and I will keep you posted by the end of the week.

I am anxious to shave off the Coti without any synthetic finishing.
 

excel_1111

Member
I completed my first exercise and to my surprise :scared: it shaved the hair off my arm so easily.

I will continue with the practice.
 

slartibartfast

Active Member
Excellent article Bart.

The only thing I would add, If a blade is giving you problems and you are getting frustrated. Set it aside and come back to it another day.

Honing angry does not yield good results :)
 

Matt

Well-Known Member
It is great indeed. I put my name under all previous thanks.

It's so good I made myself a pdf out of it for reference. :) :thumbup:

kind regards,
Matt
 

Bart

Well-Known Member
slartibartfast said:
Excellent article Bart.

The only thing I would add, If a blade is giving you problems and you are getting frustrated. Set it aside and come back to it another day.

Honing angry does not yield good results :)
Indeed. And that's why I offer my next tip...
 
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