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A Razor Restoration Project (with a slight twist)

The slight twist being; I've never done this before, have intentionally read nothing about it, never honed a razor from scratch, don't know much about them generally, and am going to alter the design. "Whatever could go wrong?" I hear you cry!

This restoration project was a gift from another member, and when I asked him what he would recommend doing with the scales/handle, he said I should just knock up another set and peen them in. Unfortunately this betrayed a wildly misplaced confidence in my woodworking abilities on, and indeed my range of available tools. Which got me to thinking... The scaled, hinged, handle design of a straight razor is absolutely terrible. It's also perfect, and I suspect unimprovable. But let's see eh!

A SR has an awful handle for honing and stropping; it's too long, it's too bent, it's too flat. It needs *a lot* more axial symmetry.

A SR has a brilliant handle for shaving; it's ergonomic, highly adaptable, and it fits the blade well when folded.

And seeing as I don't have the tools, ability, or inclination to make a hinged handle, I'm going to make a fixed one. It works on Kamisori, right...?

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I popped the handle off and sawed a nice bit of Olive wood:


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Then gave the blade a bit of a vinegar bath and some sanding. I only went from 600 - 2k, so there's still some rust pitting/marks. On a knife this would be fine, in fact aesthetically I rather like it. On a razor I'm less confident, is this going to be a problem later...?

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The blade was a little bent at the end, but it's so thin that I kinda just bent it back a bit in my hands. This may also come back to haunt me, but it looks alright now.

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TBC...
 
Handles, unlike razors, I do know a bit about. And even though I haven't made it yet I can say with almost complete certainty that the best handle design for honing a razor will be; fixed, oval, and with a very small amount of (but not too much) taper. I'd also like the tang to be this shape, but I'm not going to f about with it here, because I'll probably balls this up anyway and have to make a proper handle in the future.

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So let's go... I get the olive wood roughly to shape on a belt sander

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The 'tang' on this is going to be quite wide in relation to the overall handle, which makes drilling difficult. I do it like this; starting with three very small holes, and using progressively wider bits until they all come together.

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I also want to incorporate some of the previous horn scales into the new handle.

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So here is a handle blank that's been drilled already for the main wood part, and then had a thin piece of Red Mallee burl and a piece of the horn scale epoxy-ed onto it.

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That then goes back onto the belt sander, and then the two top layers drilled and we get to this:

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I also gave the blade a bit more sanding, starting to look better I think...

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Before starting hand sanding the handle I oil it. I find this deepens colour, and also improves the feel and kinda 'lustre' at the end. It's come off belts at 80 grit, and normally I'd take a handle to 600, or if it's got a horn ferrule - a lot higher. But here I stopped early; I rather liked the way it felt at 240, and I figured you probably didn't want a particularly shiny-smooth handle on a razor.

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The tang slot gets filed to size:

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More by luck than by design I have a balance point here:

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And install. I quite like it tbh, I may thin the handle down a bit from here, but I'll see how it feels in use first.

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This is how I’m going to hold it. I actually modified the handle design as I was going this evening to make it slightly flatter, less of a curved oval than I initially intended, so I could do this:

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Next up tomorrow... blade work!
 
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I like your approach. Don't worry about the rust staining on the blade. As long as it does not extend to the bevel, it is only aesthetics and does not affect the shavability of the SR.
 
I like your approach. Don't worry about the rust staining on the blade. As long as it does not extend to the bevel, it is only aesthetics and does not affect the shavability of the SR.

Cheers! I was going to ask about that actually, I thought it would be alright, but I didn't want to start honing if it was going to be completely pointless, and I'd need to go back and do a full deep sanding progression. I'll double check the edge before I start, but it looks to be absolutely fine.
 
Subscribed.

Hopefully I haven't ballsed it up too much! Though can always just remove the handle and do some scales instead, if I find it doesn't work like I'm imagining.

It seemed in quite good nick to begin with tbh. Had you put it on a stone a bit beforehand...?
 
Hopefully I haven't ballsed it up too much! Though can always just remove the handle and do some scales instead, if I find it doesn't work like I'm imagining.

It seemed in quite good nick to begin with tbh. Had you put it on a stone a bit beforehand...?
Not that I recall. I don't even remember where I got it, to be honest. Probably came in a group lot.

Usually with razors like that I will just give them a buff with Autosol to take off any active rust and stabilise them, then throw them in the "to do" box until I get time to do a restore on them.
 
Before I move onto honing, first a little disclaimer... when I said I'd never done this before and knew nothing about it, that was perhaps a little coy. I've done this kind of thing a lot on knives, here's a recent yanagi that went rather well, and was in far worse condition than this razor. I also, as you can possibly tell, know how to make a knife handle, and spend far too much time thinking about how they work!

I'm also not, to be clear, claiming that this is an improvement on the normal style. The hinged style has two significant, and obvious advantages over this: You can fold it away, to protect the edge between use, or take the razor on your travels. That the razor is hinged allows variability in someone's grip preference, it is more adaptable than something like this, which I've made to (hopefully) suit me.

Though the second point is less important than the first... the adaptability of a hinged SR pales to almost nothing in comparison to the adaptability of your fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. You have an awful lot more hinges than a razor, and I suspect would be able to shave equally well with almost any handle design, once you'd built some muscle memory. I don't often say this but - if you hold a knife with a pinch grip, then the handle shape is basically irrelevant, within reason. It's mostly there to provide correct balance, and look nice. What I'm hoping to do here is have a handle that is better for honing, while still being perfectly good for the way I hold a razor when shaving.

Anyhow, here's my honing setup. This I've never done before, so I rather doubt it's going to work out, but vamos a ver! As you can see I'm going Japanese heavy, as I suspect they're going to be more forgiving that some of my other stones. And I also like the razor edges I've got from jnats

From L to R: King 800, Naniwa Gouken Kagayaki 3k, Old Iyo stone (I may not use this one), Pike Lily White, Maruoyama Shiro Suita, Shobudani Tomae, Mizu/Shiro Asagi.

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I feel like we have, at least in part, our friend Daniel Andrew’s to thank for this project. It’s nice to see something useful coming out of the lockdown.

I think the design with work well. It’s quite similar to a Japanese Kamasori handle which goes with your honing theme.

One improvement on the traditional folding handle design would be a blade that locks closed. This is quite common in pocket knives and I’m a little surprised that no one has done this yet.
 
And so into the unknown...

The King 800 seemed to set the bevel quite quickly. At least I assume this is what a set razor bevel is going to look like. By the look of the stone afterwards - I'd raised and removed a burr, or bit of metal a couple of times anyway.

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Onto the Kagayaki 3k (a thinner version of the Naniwa Superstone). This is a particularly stupid and useless stone for knife sharpening, as it clogs instantly, and can't polish for toffee. But I'd read a few people say they rather liked it for razors, so thought I'd give it a whirl... and oh my... what a gorgeous feeling stone! I could hone on this for ever.

The handle btw is a marked improvement on the hinged handle for honing (for me anyway), as it's not long and bendy, so doesn't get in the way. Also, because it's not hinged, you can hold the handle rather than the neck of the razor, and if you can do that you can make more delicate adjustments to pressure and motion because your hand is further away. That will be particularly useful for more curved or 'smiley' razors, I imagine. This aspect could actually be overcome to some degree if you took Tomo's point above, but had a razor that locked closed and open, like an Opinel.

Here's a little video, a bit wobbly as I had to hold the stone lower than normal, but you get the gist:

 
I have yet to hear of a knife sharpener (person) who can get a SR to shave ready first go. You may be the exception (I hope so).

First, forget everything you know about knife sharpening. SR's are a totally different animal. You must hone with the spine always on the whetstone.

The bevel is set only when it tree-tops hair at about 5mm or more from the hair's support. 800 grit is rather course to set a bevel with. I would use that just for rough metal removal and finish the bevel setting on about 3k grit.

Once the bevel is properly set, you then progress through finer grits to just polish the bevel, not to raise a burr or anything like that. NO PRESSURE, just the weight of the blade. Stay on one stone until you have removed all traces of the previous stone. A loupé with a good light comes in handy here. Grit steps of 2x to 3x work well for many.

I take my edges up to 200k grit (0.1μm diamond pasted balsa strop). Others stop at grits down to around 12k or more.

If you can get your blade to shave comfortably off stones and want to take it further, give serious consideration to diamond pasted balsa strops. That will take you through the equivalent of about 50k, 100k and to 200k grits.

Good luck.
 
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Kentos

Wiped out at 25
And so into the unknown...

The King 800 seemed to set the bevel quite quickly. At least I assume this is what a set razor bevel is going to look like. By the look of the stone afterwards - I'd raised and removed a burr, or bit of metal a couple of times anyway.

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Onto the Kagayaki 3k (a thinner version of the Naniwa Superstone). This is a particularly stupid and useless stone for knife sharpening, as it clogs instantly, and can't polish for toffee. But I'd read a few people say they rather liked it for razors, so thought I'd give it a whirl... and oh my... what a gorgeous feeling stone! I could hone on this for ever.

The handle btw is a marked improvement on the hinged handle for honing (for me anyway), as it's not long and bendy, so doesn't get in the way. Also, because it's not hinged, you can hold the handle rather than the neck of the razor, and if you can do that you can make more delicate adjustments to pressure and motion because your hand is further away. That will be particularly useful for more curved or 'smiley' razors, I imagine. This aspect could actually be overcome to some degree if you took Tomo's point above, but had a razor that locked closed and open, like an Opinel.

Here's a little video, a bit wobbly as I had to hold the stone lower than normal, but you get the gist:


Great start! For some reason, probably due to the thin hollowground razors, razor sharpening doesn’t rely as much on raising a burr. Although TBO it might save new guys a lot of time as raising a burr is proof the bevel was established on that side. I know a couple long time members do raise burrs on new to them razors tho.

Jnats give me really smooth edges, but I could never get a laser sharp edge that I like, so I resorted to CBN on hanging leather to finish them off. IME I can get an edge pretty close to commercial DE blade sharpness, especially on Kamisori profiles.
 
Yes, generally I think the burr comes from more of an edge trailing motion, which is not commonly done with a razor. Usually we tend to use edge leading, or at least half strokes, which kind of removes the burr as it forms. But whatever works works. The most important thing is you get the edge to form that perfect apex across its entire length before you start to refine and polish out the scratches.

A sharpie and a strong loupe will be your best friend, especially with old blades like that one.
 
I have yet to hear of a knife sharpener (person) who can get a SR to shave ready first go. You may be the exception (I hope so).

First, forget everything you know about knife sharpening. SR's are a totally different animal. You must hone with the spine always on the whetstone.

The bevel is set only when it tree-tops hair at about 5mm or more from the hair's support. 800 grit is rather course to set a bevel with. I would use that just for rough metal removal and finish the bevel setting on about 3k grit.

Once the bevel is properly set, you then progress through finer grits to just polish the bevel, not to raise a burr or anything like that. NO PRESSURE, just the weight of the blade. Stay on one stone until you have removed all traces of the previous stone. A loupé with a good light comes in handy here. Grit steps of 2x to 3x work well for many.

I take my edges up to 200k grit (0.1μm diamond pasted balsa strop). Others stop at grits down to around 12k or more.

If you can get your blade to shave comfortably off stones and want to take it further, give serious consideration to diamond pasted balsa strops. That will take you through the equivalent of about 50k, 100k and to 200k grits.

Good luck.

Ah I have honed a razor a bit before tbh, so I know the basics. It's just that one had been honed for me before by @Legion , so I've only touched up on finishing stones, not taken it all the way through. Whereas this one he hadn't, so will be all on me when I fail miserably!

I've heard a few people say stuff about how different razor honing is from knife sharpening, and in a way that's true, but in some ways it's very comparable. Honing a hollow-ground razor for instance is almost exactly the same as sharpening the ura of a single bevel knife, especially toward the end of the process. Though it is certainly quite different in other aspects; the most noticeable one for me I think is what you say about not trying to raise a burr on most of the progression - simply polishing the edge. (Which was another thing I was wondering about before starting this actually, so thank you for confirming).
 
Ah I have honed a razor a bit before tbh, so I know the basics. It's just that one had been honed for me before by @Legion , so I've only touched up on finishing stones, not taken it all the way through. Whereas this one he hadn't, so will be all on me when I fail miserably!

I've heard a few people say stuff about how different razor honing is from knife sharpening, and in a way that's true, but in some ways it's very comparable. Honing a hollow-ground razor for instance is almost exactly the same as sharpening the ura of a single bevel knife, especially toward the end of the process. Though it is certainly quite different in other aspects; the most noticeable one for me I think is what you say about not trying to raise a burr on most of the progression - simply polishing the edge. (Which was another thing I was wondering about before starting this actually, so thank you for confirming).
Yeah. The bevel is the most important part, and in most cases when people have trouble honing a razor, the problem lies there. That is the foundation, and all the steps after are just tiding up. Same with a knife, I guess, just the techniques differ a bit.
 
Great start! For some reason, probably due to the thin hollowground razors, razor sharpening doesn’t rely as much on raising a burr. Although TBO it might save new guys a lot of time as raising a burr is proof the bevel was established on that side. I know a couple long time members do raise burrs on new to them razors tho.

Jnats give me really smooth edges, but I could never get a laser sharp edge that I like, so I resorted to CBN on hanging leather to finish them off. IME I can get an edge pretty close to commercial DE blade sharpness, especially on Kamisori profiles.

Ah cheers! I certainly found it reassuring to see that I had raised and removed a burr on that first stone, so I was hopefully in a good place to move on in the progression. I didn't have any noticeable burr formation/removal on subsequent stones, but seeing it on the first let me know I was on the right track in terms of what I was doing :)
 
Here's a better (daytime) picture of the razor before I started honing. I gave it a little last sanding at 2k, and the handle is finished with 'hardwax oil' which sets with quite a tactile, matte, finish on top of 240 grit wood. It's also waterproof, which is probably important!

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After the Kagayaki I actually decided to skip a couple of stones. I'd spent a bit of time on the Kagayaki, because it felt so glorious, and in comparison to other 3k stones the Superstone runs quite fine - I've used 4k stones that are coarser than this. And I felt like the Washita, even with light pressure, might be too aggressive, and cut too much. So I jumped onto the Shoubudani Tomae, and finished with the Asagi.

Here's what the edge looked like:

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Rather remarkably, after some stropping we're at HHT 4 for almost all of the edge. The end/tip is a little less sharp though. This isn't quite as fine as I can get my other SR, but it's very close.

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So does it actually work...?

I'm going to chalk this up as a resounding (and slightly surprising) success! I really like the fixed handle in use - it works perfectly for how I hold a razor, and I rather like the way it can't move around. I did have a little bit of confidence I'd be able to hone it reasonably well; it wasn't in bad condition, and I understand how this kind of thing works, even if I'd never done exactly this before. Still I was surprised by just how good and smooth this shave was, it's certainly around the level of my other SR, and just rather a pleasure to use!

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A huge amount of both thanks, and credit, should go to @Legion here. He gave me this razor, and also provided my first SR, properly honed, so I had a benchmark for what I should be aiming for. As well as answering all sorts of random questions over the last few months I’ve had about honing and using one more generally.

All of which resulted in me actually coming away with something not just acceptable, but actually rather nice I think :).
 
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