Sharpness tests failed -- why??

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by pcb01, Mar 16, 2009.

  1. I'm new to honing. I have never been able to do the HHT and have to this point not bothered with the TNT or TPT. Didn't really need to, since Lynn Abrams did my honing and my blades shaved well.

    Now, however, I'm becoming frustrated because I cannot do even one of these tests to confirm when to begin the polishing portion of the honing routine.

    A friend brought over an old Bengall for me to practice with. Had a smiley face, so I figured it would be a good one to practice on. Completely blunt when received. Did about 5 passes with a Norton 1000, then an aggressive pyramid with 4000/8000. Nothing. Ended up doing three aggressive pyramids, checking for sharpness each time (no double bevel present). Would not cut a held hair. Ran my thumb down the full length -- still felt blunt. After a couple of 4000 passes, tried TNT -- nothing.

    Visually, the blade "looked sharp." So, figuring I had to practice these anyway, I stropped on Crox and Latigo. Once again, tried HHT and TPT. Once again negative results.

    I figured what the hay, and shaved with it. Smooth, comfortable, close.

    Totally, if pleasantly, confused. Then I remembered I had a couple of razors I could test as "standards" -- one a Bismarck that Lynn did about a month ago and I know shaves beautifully, and another I just got from him and have not touched, even with a strop. Guess what -- neither will cut a hanging hair. I can run my thumbpad along the entire length of either one without it getting "sticky" or biting in.

    I question my own honing ability, but not Lynn's. And I now have two straights that I don't think I could improve on, and neither will pass the standard sharpness tests.

    Frankly, I wouldn't care at this point except that now I am honing my own I would like some way of telling I'm "almost there" and it's time to proceed to 12K, Crox, and/or strop.

    I have at this point really given up on these three tests, based on my own experience and some of what I've read in this forum. I've simply come to believe they are unreliable and worthless. Is there any other way to figure out when you are ready to finish up an almost done blade, short of actually finishing up and shaving with it? Of course, I can do this, but it will in some cases be a wasted effort, and I would like some kind of standard to know I have the best possible edge on my razors.

    Many thanks for any help offered.
  2. Strop these razors, then try them on your armhair, at different places on your arm, by touching the blade to the hairs at different levels off your skin. Don't just look for a simple cut/no cut result, look for whether the blade snags on the hair, how high up the hair did it do this, etc. Eventually you'll be able to judge pretty sensitively just how sharp a razor really is.

    You need to do this with a stropped razor, since it's in that state that you'll be shaving with it.

    The simple binary cut/no cut test is mostly useful as a parlor trick, and it's easy for newbies to understand so it's one of the test they really latch on to. What I'm doing when I hone is more subtle and useful, but also takes more experience.
  3. At first to be successful on honing you will need to have patience.
    there is rules
    1 set bevel is the first do you know have you done this?
    if you haven't set bevel your next steps are useless.
    what you have done with pyramid honing is right but after bevel set.
    Now To see what are you doing You will need to get at least 30x loop microscope to check the edge after every hone use.
    it will help you very much.good luck
  4. The TNT & TPT will also take time to acquire what exactly to feel for, and for the subtle differences that occur during a honing session.
  5. I think you just need a bit more experience. Razors don't pass or fail sharpness tests. Razors react to sharpness tests. Its a big difference you'll pick up on with experience.

    Shaving is good. Start testing a razor you think shaves well and you'll find a good test for yourself. Somewhere, somehow.

    I think my dog could get a razor to pass the TNT. I don't think you have a solid understanding of what your actually trying to measure.

    Sounds like your honing is doing great though. I concur with the arm hair "test". I'll second the fact, again, that razors don't pass or fail. Its not the SATs.
  6. There is only ONE test. The shave test. Period.

    The TPT requires a lot of experience to do properly. The HHT is a parlor trick.

    One other test, the bevel test, but thats for another thread.
  7. heavyduty did a few vids on a honing demonstration that he did at a meet and greet. i found these to be extrememly informative when i was learning. my mistake, as well as most that i talk to, was that i was not properly setting the initial bevel. that is your foundation and will get you set in the right direction.

    the 2 things i use to check for edge and sharpness is the TPT and the shave. leighton is right. with the TPT, you just have to figure that one out. when you get it, yo get it. some use a wet thumb, some dry. i use dry. just keep working at it. i shaved with 2-3 razors that i would now consider quite dull, but they 'shaved'. my the things we learn.

    good luck.

  8. I've had at least three razors pass the HHT and they were not at all shave ready for whatever that is worth.
  9. Practice the TPT with a fresh DE blade. A shave-ready straight will feel very similar. To feel the nuances; practice with a DE edge that has seen one use.
  10. I am having the exact same experience. This is my first attempt at honing, and I'm trying to get a new Le Grelot shave ready. I used it out of the box (after stropping), and it was definitely not shaving sharp. I've spent two days doing aggressive pyramids with a Norton 4K/8K. While it's relatively comfortable (certainly an improvement over how it felt out of the box), and I've used it to shave for the past two days, it's not quite there. Like you, my razor failed the HHT. I don't yet have a feel for the TPT.

    I'm wondering if I should forget the pyramids and focus on the 4K until it does pass the HHT. Or would it be better just to stick with pyramids?


  11. ... and I'm not sure I have the right answers yet, but here is where I am.

    1. There are too many good honers out there who believe in the HHT, TPT, etc., to ignore them. "Blindly" going at it with all the variables involved (grit size, # of laps, circles v. honing strokes, etc.) without some way of gauging the progress you are (hopefully) making will result in much wasted time and effort. I'm still trying to get a feel for the TPT by practicing on my DE blades when new and then as they go through their life cycle. I still don't have a feel for it, though -- but I know it will just take practice. Today my barber is gathering a variety of clippings for me to practice HHT with (everyone in my family has very fine hair).

    2. $12 for a Radios Shack 60-100X microscope is a good investment. Use it to establish the very first step (getting straight edge) below, and don't obsess about the little imperfections you will invariably see.

    3. Honing has three steps. The first is establishing that (a) the cutting edge of the blade is indeed straight. Best way to do this is with the microscope. If the edge does not appear uniform (except for minor microchips) then anything you do thereafter will apply only to those parts of the blade that are in front; the receded areas will not get sharper. Depending on how uneven the edge of the blade is, 1K up to 4K should be used. Once you confirm a straight cutting edge, the next step, and the one I think most of us newbies do not appreciate enough is (b) establishing the bevel. This involves more than just checking for a double bevel. For instance, if you do not complete step (a), then the magic marker test may appear OK, but the bevel will get established on only part of the blade. This is where the TPT or HHT become crucial. As I understand it, the blade should pass the HHT along it's entire length, or should cut arm hair above the skin line at least to prove a good bevel. Establishing the bevel is done with the 4K, doing circles or maybe 10 strokes at a time between "testing" the blade. Once you are here, then (c) blade polishing can done using the standard pyramids. At this point, your blade should be at least serviceable, and cut hair without excessive pulling or discomfort after a stropping. Test shave at this point. Assuming good results, then finish off as you are inclined and equipped to do (e.g., 12K, pasted strops, etc.) The results should be excellent. If not, identify the issue (overhoning, poor honing technique, etc.)

    Now, this is how I see it at this time, some based on experience and some based on the invaluable information here and at SRP. I still have much to learn, and I will take absolutely no offense at anyone who sees things differently, or is critical of what I've said -- in fact, I will welcome it because I will probably learn something valuable from it. But this is the strategy I've adopted that guides my current honing efforts. I do not always succeed. No one does. I recently received a custom blade that was honed by a well-respected (rightfully so), expert honemeister (NB: not just someone who identified himself as such on this site), and when I tried it for the first time, it would not cut hair at all. I've put it aside for now because I want to do it myself, but I also want to have a few more successes under my belt before I start working with a $500 razor. My point is simply that anyone can have a poor result or as Socrates said referring to a factual error in The Iliad, "Even Homer slept."

    I hope this is helpful and ,again, any different thoughts or advice will be gratefully received.
  12. I find the hht has a lot to do with the h your h-ing. I have a hard time getting a blade to 'pass' that test. I wouldn't fret too much about it (or pull out your hair).

    Armhair is my own best quick test--other than the actual shave.
  13. professorchaos

    professorchaos Moderator Emeritus

    The only test I rely on, other than the shave test, it the TNT. If an edge doesn't pass it, off of a 3K grit hone (or lower) then it will not shave well. Once the blade passes it, move on and polish out 90% the scratches from the prior hone. Repeat through your 10-12K hone of choice. Finish on pastes, if that is your preference and give it a shave.

    Oh, and don't test the blade on your thumbnail after 3K or 4K. It will ruin the edge.

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