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Can any razor be buttery smooth?

If you buy a Coticule from Ardennes-Coticule (AC), tell Rob to please send you stone that will be a good choice for straight razors. Based on my experience, Rob will.
Rob has sent me some great coticules for my razors, he and Maurice pick out stones with the specifications that I am looking for (fast, fine, finisher, vein, etc). And it doesn't have to be a select coticule it can be a standard coticule which is cheaper and performs the same (the difference is only cosmetic).

I'll add that there is a certain charm and zen with using a coticule (at least for me) that makes honing on one, quite relaxing and pleasant.
 
(Some people, including myself, believe that the King 6K has a special knack for ruining good edges.)

The 6k is your mid grit stone that’s goal is to remove the deep 1k stria, as are all mid grit stones. Removing the deep stria will make the edge straighter, but refining the edge is not the main goal. The goal is just to get you to the next stone in the progression, that will straighten the edge. Most stones will not straighten an edge until 8K.

You can easily joint the edge straight and do 10-20 light X laps on a freshly lapped 6K to bring the bevels back to meeting. Make sure you bevel or round the edges. You can do a few trailing strokes, but you are just thinning the edge and that can cause issues on the finish stone, (edge crumbling).

If the edge does crumble, it too is not a big deal, just joint it and re set on the 10k.

Be careful finishing a razor on metal polish. The grit and grit rating of metal polish are proprietary and unknown. I do use Maas polish on a leather paddle for Knives and tool. Aggressive Metal polish leaves a micro chippy edge, great for tools not so good on your face.

Again, try it, worst case, you just joint off the chippy edge and re-set on the 10k in about 10 laps. Learn to get a smoking shaving edge on synthetics, then try Naturals.

All 1k’s do the same thing, no one is shaving off a 1k. So, that one stone feels smoother or is a few strokes faster or slower than another, really does not matter. I have all the big-name1k stones, my go to is a King 1K on a plastic base for razors.

And if you really want to be impressed with a King 6k, find a vintage King 6K, with a wooden base. The vintage wood dai 6k’s in the green box, (really old ones have an almost grey box) is an aggressive and super polisher, (the older the better). It can easily remove 1k stria and polish a bevel to a near mirror, close to 8K Naniwia Snow White level, with a super straight edge.

I have bought them for $2 at swap-meets or boxed, near NOS on eBay for $20, (Yes, I have several). That is a great stone, you can shave off that stone nicely.
 
I wouldn't wait to get a coticule, I learned how to hone (pretty quickly) my razors using a coticule. It was pretty intuitive actually and somewhat straight forward with a unicot, whereas I struggled at my attempts with honing on synthetics.

I'll also add that on a coticule, the feedback and following the edge give alot of hints to the progression of the edge, which is why I found it simpler and intuitive.
Due to the crystaline structure of the garets in Coticules, they produce a smooth edge, but not necessarily a sharp edge. Coticules do not produce an edge sharp enough for my coarse beard. If your beard is not coarse, they can be quite nice.
 
what are you using on your pasted strops?

I am using Cubic Boron Nitride abrasives with the sequence of 0.5, 0.25 and 0.1 micron grit sizes. However, finding CBN abrasives is difficult as Ukraine was the major producer. Ken Schwartz was the proponent of this method, but he died. Thus, obtaining CBN suitable for razor use is difficult. Most people use ultrafine polycrystaline diamond sprays on balsawood strops.
 
Going back to the original question, a vintage razor from a good maker in good condition should be capable of holding a smooth edge. There are a few caveats:
  • A razor that was put on a wheel by someone who did not know what they were doing can lose its temper if the blade becomes too hot.
  • Look out for rust and pitting on the edge and spine. Rust on the spine can result in "Swiss cheese".
A good way to learn about brands and condition is to watch these threads:
  1. What straight did you use today? Now with PICTURES - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/what-straight-did-you-use-today-now-with-pictures.248174/
  2. Straight Razor Acquisition Thread - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/straight-razor-acquisition-thread.418229/
Only buy restored razors from someone with a good reputation.
 
Due to the crystaline structure of the garets in Coticules, they produce a smooth edge, but not necessarily a sharp edge. Coticules do not produce an edge sharp enough for my coarse beard. If your beard is not coarse, they can be quite nice.
I have a fairly coarse beard and sensitive skin, I have no problem getting a very sharp edge on my coticules, that cuts my wiry whiskers and yet resists doesn't irritate my skin. My Les Latneuese hybrid produces an edge that is as sharp as an ark, yet skin friendly.
 
Plenty of smooth edges can be had on synthetics too. More often than not I just need to keep the stroke count down a little on something like the Shapton Kuromaku 12K and it’s remarkably comfortable.
 

Steve56

Ask me about shaving naked!
Be glad to look at your eBay razor(s) and hone them for return postage. I’d be interested in your opinion of the difference, if any. I agree that you should be able to duplicate that smoothness with what you have.

As has been mentioned, the most likely cause of lack of smoothness is that the edge isn’t sharp enough, and without a fully set bevel to begin with, it never will be really sharp. How are you testing for bevel set along the entire edge?

I usually determine bevel set by inspection with a loupe under a bright light up to midgrit level. My final bevel set test is hanging hair test at 4-6k after a few licks on a strop. If it cuts hair silently at 4-6k the bevel is set and you’re a few minutes away from a finished edge. The point is, you have to test for bevel set.

The next most likely problem, especially coming from knives as I did, is just too much pressure. Straight razors are not little knives and cannot be honed like a knife, everything about them is backwards from any other edged tool because the steel at the edge is so thin. If the edge isn’t developing properly, you can’t push harder on the stone, the bevel will flex and round and the the edge won’t form properly. You need about 1/50th the amount of pressure used on a knife, so an easy thing to try is reducing pressure significantly and re-honing your razor. And likewise, of your SR isn’t cutting hair well, you can’t push harder on your face. You can push harder with a knife - a pot roast never complains!

Sometimes eBay beaters can have rotten steel at the edge that’s not always easy to see even with a loupe, and that can be an issue though there are usually indicators like pitting or devil’s spit above the bevel. Also quite a few razors have bends or warps, or have been heavily worn over the years, and these problems are not easy to manage until you’ve figured a few of them out.

Good luck, and you can get there.
 
Post a photo of your razors, as said they “eBay beaters” usually do and cannot be flat honed, some gymnastics or repairs, may be involved. A photo will help, help you.

And take Steve up on his generous offer. Once properly honed it will be much easier to maintain them on the 10K.
 
(Some people, including myself, believe that the King 6K has a special knack for ruining good edges.)

The 6k is your mid grit stone that’s goal is to remove the deep 1k stria, as are all mid grit stones. Removing the deep stria will make the edge straighter, but refining the edge is not the main goal. The goal is just to get you to the next stone in the progression, that will straighten the edge. Most stones will not straighten an edge until 8K.

You can easily joint the edge straight and do 10-20 light X laps on a freshly lapped 6K to bring the bevels back to meeting. Make sure you bevel or round the edges. You can do a few trailing strokes, but you are just thinning the edge and that can cause issues on the finish stone, (edge crumbling).

If the edge does crumble, it too is not a big deal, just joint it and re set on the 10k.

Be careful finishing a razor on metal polish. The grit and grit rating of metal polish are proprietary and unknown. I do use Maas polish on a leather paddle for Knives and tool. Aggressive Metal polish leaves a micro chippy edge, great for tools not so good on your face.

Again, try it, worst case, you just joint off the chippy edge and re-set on the 10k in about 10 laps. Learn to get a smoking shaving edge on synthetics, then try Naturals.

All 1k’s do the same thing, no one is shaving off a 1k. So, that one stone feels smoother or is a few strokes faster or slower than another, really does not matter. I have all the big-name1k stones, my go to is a King 1K on a plastic base for razors.

And if you really want to be impressed with a King 6k, find a vintage King 6K, with a wooden base. The vintage wood dai 6k’s in the green box, (really old ones have an almost grey box) is an aggressive and super polisher, (the older the better). It can easily remove 1k stria and polish a bevel to a near mirror, close to 8K Naniwia Snow White level, with a super straight edge.

I have bought them for $2 at swap-meets or boxed, near NOS on eBay for $20, (Yes, I have several). That is a great stone, you can shave off that stone nicely.

While I am new to SR’s, I’m not new to knives. I am a fan of King and I believe they offer the best bang for the buck. I am just not a fan of their 6K. I as well as others have noticed the 6K ruining the edge coming off the King 800 or 1K. Very literally, the King 1K produces an edge of better shape and refinement than their 6K. ScienceOfSharp confirms the 6K being problematic with SR’s and recommends using it in edge trailing strokes only.
 
While I am new to SR’s, I’m not new to knives. I am a fan of King and I believe they offer the best bang for the buck. I am just not a fan of their 6K. I as well as others have noticed the 6K ruining the edge coming off the King 800 or 1K. Very literally, the King 1K produces an edge of better shape and refinement than their 6K. ScienceOfSharp confirms the 6K being problematic with SR’s and recommends using it in edge trailing strokes only.
I have had my wooden-base King 6K for 30 years, and I spent a lot of time on it before I gave up. I was trying to improve chisel and plane blade edges coming off of a King 1200. Not once in all that time could I get it to actually improve the King 1200 edge. It was either nothing, or making the edge worse. I admit that it did a great job of polishing the bevel to a mirror finish, but that was an answer to a question I was not asking.
 
Not saying that you did not have an issue with your stone, or that a couple people have not had chipping issues, but you cannot condemn a stone based on a few issues.

It is rare that a mass-produced stone by one of the oldest and largest stone manufacturers is “bad”. It is more likely that it is technique driven and learning the stones limits and strength, the razor or technique for that razor and stone is flawed, or too much is being asked of the stone. Few 6k can make a real straight edge, most 8k's can.

For example, look at the 16k Shapton, 12k Super Stones, Coticules and Arks and the frustration they cause, but hundreds of thousands of folks have sorted them out for years and love them.

For me the 16k is a stellar stone for woodworking tools, I rarely use it for razors as there are better options, Jnats and Arks for me.

As said, for razors, the mid grit stone’s goal is to remove the heavy 1k stria, once the stria is removed, move up, the edge will get straight at 8k or higher. Removing the deep 1k stria with a 6k will make 8k polishing much easier and perhaps a stronger edge.

I have used the modern King 6k without issue for years. I use it only to remove the deep stria in about 40-50 laps, then jump to a vintage King 6k that polished the bevel and straightened the edge easily. I do not shave off these edges but use the near pristine bevel and straighten edge to jump to a Jnat, where the edge is refined to a shaving edge. the 6k just get me to the 8k or near mirror finish that gets to the Jnat that makes a shaving edge.

I have bought many a natural that the owner could not get to work, but after trying different techniques was able to get the stone to perform. One of my favorite stones a Nakayama Kiita Iromono from a seller that did not like the finish off the stone. Changing up the nagura and pressure the stone is at go to, level finisher, for me. It took a bit to learn the stone and its limits.

How many times have we heard this story in the forums?
 

duke762

Rose to the occasion
I’m a knife guy and I’m using the stones that I already own with the recent addition of a black Arkansas.

That's how I got started also. I had to learn a whole new set of skills to learn razor sharpening. Knife skills may have held me back a bit due to ingrained techniques and bad habits. I struggled learning the different tactile skills and fought chipping due to pressure issues.

And hone till it hurts and then keep honing till you hate it and then just keep on honing until you like it again.
Hone hone hone, hone it good.

My favorite Gamma quote ever! And it works too!!
 

Slash McCoy

I freehand dog rockets
Nearly any razor made from a good alloy and properly heat treated can be made to shave comfortably and efficiently. It's only partly about the honing, though. Shave technique makes a difference and you can't shave with all razors in exactly the same manner. I favor "The Method" for honing and the resulting edge can shave with extreme comfort, when properly used. A too-high shave angle or too much pressure, or lather with no cushion or glide, or jerky go-and-stop shaving, and at best the razor will exfoliate excessively. Use good prep, stretch upstream, don't press, and lay the razor almost flat on the face, and it can be pretty nice.

Apart from a Method edge, the most comfortable shave I have had was probably a couple of different Jnat edges. A GOOD stone and nagura can put a very pleasing finish on a razor, in skilled hands, that is both smooth and fairly sharp. The thing is, you can go through a lot of expensive rocks looking for just the right one, and spend quite some time learning to use that particular stone to best advantage. You can follow someone's instructions and get a usable edge right out the gate with most Jnats sold for razor honing, but to get that superstar edge will take a lot of effort, patience, and trial and error. I have tried coti edges and I owned a coticule and used it quite a bit before I sold it, but no coticule edge really tickles my fancy in the sharpness dimension. I find myself compensating for what to me is dullness, with a higher shave angle, and more pressure. At some point comfort becomes compromised a bit, and comfort is the big selling point of coticules, apart from the "one stone solution" thing.

A GOOD true translucent or surgical black Arkie can give a pretty sharp edge, one that looks very good under magnification, too, but I don't find them particularly smooth shaving edges even when they look near flawless under the loupe. I haven't used the 10k grit in any brand but I have shaved hundreds of shaves off a 12k Naniwa and I used to regard that as a pretty good edge. Not any more. I also used to shave off lapping film and found that with a few final finish laps over picopaper, the edge was fairly comfortable, but it just doesn't compare to a properly done diamond/balsa finish.

And yeah, the Dovo Bismarck and other models made on the same blank are nice razors, and my favorite new made razors. My pre-Dovo Bismarcks of the same shape are also great. But there is nothing about the razor that makes it inherently a smoother or sharper shaver. It is the honing. You got one that was very well honed by the vendor. Now, it's your benchmark edge to aspire to match. Pick a method. Pick a teacher. Use the tools he uses and use them the exact way he uses them, and before long you will get the same results he gets. Then try to up your game with technique enhancements and max out your tool set. That can take some time. I have no doubt that you will eventually match the edge on your Bismarck. The magic is not in the razor. It is in your hands, eye, and brain.
 
Be glad to look at your eBay razor(s) and hone them for return postage. I’d be interested in your opinion of the difference, if any. I agree that you should be able to duplicate that smoothness with what you have.
This is unexpected and greatly appreciated. wow. I’m very tempted to take you up on that. How do we go about it?
 
Wow. All this information is really great. I’ve re-read these responses several times. Some have made me pay more attention to my process and some are future changes I’m going to make. But for now I’m going to learn as much as I can with what I’ve got before I change it up too much. Very interested to try some lapping film, pasted balsa, and diamond sprays. Some of these natural stones are making my mouth water. I’ll show some restraint for the moment!

In between having the inlaws over for a Christmas party, I managed to get 2 honing / shaving sessions in this weekend. Going forward I’m only going to use a Torrey that I paid $8 USD for on eBay. It was in surprisingly good shape after I cleaned it up with some light scrubbing with mothers metal polish and cotton makeup pads. It will be my tester and my Bismark is the high bar. I may need to cull one or 2 from the eBay herd since I got a couple offers for sharpening (wow, thanks!) and use that for my control group too.

For my first session I wanted to eliminate my Ark out of the process based on several comments / suggestions, and also use plain water on my 10k stone since I’ve been operating under the false assumption I was suppose to slurry it. Spent a good amount of time setting the bevel. My first step is to kill the edge and sharpie the existing bevel. I don’t use tape. Used to but I don’t like the stone feedback interference I get from it. I run about 10 laps, wipe it clean with a lint free cloth, and visually inspect it. I’m looking for changes in my sharpie marks and scratch patterns or shiny spots under my loupe. Repeat. I have a very bright led desk light I’m working under. Stayed on the king 1k until I can clearly see a good clean bevel and a uniform scratch pattern all along the edge. I test for sharpness with my thumb pad and sporadically see if I can shave some arm hair now when I think it’s getting pretty sharp or I see a spot that doesn’t look quite right. When it looks and feels good, move on the the king 6k. I haven’t noticed some of the issues some of you have talked about but then again I keep this sucker diligently lapped for that very reason. The time on this stone really does increase the polish on the edge. Really starts to get some shine by about 20-30 laps, I didn’t keep good count. Because of the number of laps and time on this stone I feel like this is a big gap in my progression I plan on fixing. Onward. Move on to the 10k Yoshihiro. This is where my problems begin. Someone said that some synthetics seem to grow stuff. I’ve noticed before that random larger pieces seem to show up while honing. I thought it may be swarf or lint from a rag but I’m now thinking its releasing some grit that’s not uniform in size. Starting to notice micro chips in a couple spots. You can see them in a couple of my pictures. Tried to keep the stone as clean as possible running it under water and cleaning the blade. I think this stone may be problematic. Theory for now. After I was done on this stone I felt like the bevel looked good minus those 2 tiny chip. It felt very sharp to the thumb and tree topped hair. To finish it, I used a double sided paddle strop that I have loaded with the red and black solingen paste. Did about 30 laps on the red, not sure how many on the black. I’m feeling for a difference in the draw and again, visually inspecting and testing for sharpness with my thumb. After that I did about 50 laps on my hanging stop which is a veg tan leather strop I made a year ago that has been my daily driver. Felt sharp to me and I was excited to give it a test. I was very disappointed in the shave. Didnt even make it through before I switched to a different razor to finish. It shaved but was pretty harsh.

My second session I decided to do a test of my black ark. I took the exact same finish from the day before, stropped it up to remove any contamination from my shave, then spent some quality focused time on my black ark. I’d say I did about 75-100 laps doing my same visual inspection under the belomo loupe and testing for changes sharpness with my thumb. This is the point I took pictures. Pre strop and pre shave. You can see from the pics tha
 
Accidentally hit the post button, continuing…

You can see from the pics that I didn’t quite make it all the way to the toe, but it’s a small area and I don’t tend to use the very tip of the toe so I’m trying not to get hyper focused on that. You can also see a very small chip in two pics. One is close to the toe and the other at the heel. Overall it felt sharp, so I decided to test shave. Stropped it up on the hanging strop. What a difference! Very good shave. Wouldnt say it’s my best edge yet but it was very good.

Really getting the feel down and identifying troublesome areas in my progression and my stones. Opinions on my weekend experience is welcomed. Thinking maybe my 10k stone is a problem since I’ve always felt it sets me back a step in my progression. Also feeling a lot more confident that my black ark is a good rock. Maybe not top tier quality but it’s giving me my best edges yet.
 

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Slash McCoy

I freehand dog rockets
Just a suggestion. Hone ONE razor only. Sure, send others out, but let ONE of your razors be your sacrificial goat to the honing gods, the one you learn on. Make your mistakes, and celebrate your successes, on that one, only, until you are happy with the edge. Your progress will be faster if you work with one razor and one tool set, until you either reach a happy conclusion, or grind it down to a toothpick, one or the other.

Most of us use paste, not spray. I tried diamond spray and slurries on balsa, and they just don't work nearly as good as paste. techdiamondtools is an ebay vendor that many of us use. Read the pasted balsa strop thread. It's all in there.

You seem to be making decent progress. Soon you will be ready for a finer stone or film, or for the balsa progression.

Another suggestion that you can take or leave, your razor, and many here will disagree with me and they are not entirely wrong. But here it is. With a strongly upswept toe, it is NOT necessary to have the very tippy tip be treetopping sharp. In fact, vigorous and dedicated effort to make every last sillymeter of blade to horror movie sharpness, is misplaced and often overdone, perpetuating the issue, or even making it worse, rather than simply allowing normal honing over the next 20 or 30 years to slowly correct it. A lot of horribly abused razors are direct result of attempting to get that last bit sharp, even going so far as to duplicate the old 1930's "pigtail" style honing. You end up with a tapered blade and a useless toe and a barely salvageable razor. My feelings won't be hurt if you prefer to get it sharp end to end, but do give it some thought and do everything you do for a reason, after THINKING, instead of just because it seems the thing to do.
 
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