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Finishers that give the most comfortable edge (and are easy to use).

“Does the progression leading up to the final edge make a difference on the end result?
A full nagura progression feels a little different then if i use a tomo nagura after an 6-8k synthetic. You are in principle always replacing the scratches from the previous step.”


Yes and no.

If you remove all the previous stria with the last stone, then you are left with just the finish off the last stone. For example, if you remove 1k stria with a 4k and you have honed to the edge, then you have a 4k edge. But if all the 1k stria is not removed and you have 1 and 4k stria when you jump to the 8k, you may have an issue.

It is common for new honers to do just that and after 8k they see 1k stria when the 8k polishes out the 4k stria and blame the 8k for leaving scratches. It did not, they were never removed by the 4k. if you continued to a natural finisher and do not remove the 1k, then the edge will be affected by the previous stones.

The same thing can happen with a Jnat and nagura, especially because nagura are not grit rated and they are natural stones so a “strata” progression may not be a grit progression in terms of fineness, or technique is not allowing a progression to occur.

In your example, if you jump to a Jnat from a near mirror, 8k edge, (near mirror, you know all previous stria up to 8k has been removed) any Jnat finish you apply will be pure Jnat and the edge finish is from the last stone.

So, you must quantify “grit rate” your nagura and your base stone. Not necessarily number rate the grit, but rate it in relation with the base stone and the other nagura, so you know where each fits in a progression and if they are all needed.

Really, fewer nagura are needed and a simpler 1 or 2 nagura progression may be better. And more important is knowing the capabilities of your base stone, do a 1k to diamond slurry finish to see what the base stone is capable of and how it finishes by itself. Sometimes you do not need to add salt to the soup.

You will need to experiment.


And, a mirrored or kazumi bevel means nothing if you are not fully honing to the edge, (that never happens).
 
Very cool - please post what you think compared to the SG20. Can't wait to hear!
Dan's black ark arrived today. First, I lapped it a on my certified flat granite plate with 400 & 1000 grit WD Sandpaper. I also chamfered the edges with the sandpaper. Then I burnished the surface of the stone for a few minutes with a kitchen knive. The last step of the preparation was, to clean the stone from any abrasive particles that could have come off the sanding paper or the surface.

My 5/8 Böker hollow ground was already shave ready, before I started to touch it up on the ark. I gave it some 5-10 minute of X-strokes on the stone, using baby oil and finished with 50 laps on a plain hanging leather strop.

The resulting edge is in my opinion almost as sharp as a balsa edge, but a bit smoother. The edge from SG20k is in my opinion much smoother but not as sharp as the ark.

My 3 pass shave (WTG, XTG, ATG) with the ark edge today, was probably the closest and cleanest I have achieved with a straight razor until now. A few red dots, a little aftershave burn, no post shave irritation.

If you (like me) are only happy if you really get a very clean shave and you still like to feel the edge of the razor a bit while shaving, than the ark might be right for you. If you put smoothness over sharpness you should consider the SG20k instead.

Please take into consideration, that there are also other fine finishers (jnats, slates), that I can not compare, because I never tried one. This was only my first experiment with the ark and I must be considered a beginner in SR shaving and honing. My results and opinions are completely subjective and may change over time, as I am gathering more experience and improving my technique. YMMV.
 
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Dan's black ark arrived today. First, I lapped it a on my certified flat granite plate with 400 & 1000 grit WD Sandpaper. I also chamfered the edges with the sandpaper. Then I burnished the surface of the stone for a few minutes with a kitchen knive. The last step of the preparation was, to clean the stone from any abrasive particles that could have come off the sanding paper or the surface.

My 5/8 Böker hollow ground was already shave ready, before I started to touch it up on the ark. I gave it some 5-10 minute of X-strokes on the stone, using baby oil and finished with 50 laps on a plain hanging leather strop.

The resulting edge is in my opinion almost as sharp as a balsa edge, but a bit smoother. The edge from SG20k is in my opinion much smoother but not as sharp as the ark.

My 3 pass shave (WTG, XTG, ATG) with the ark edge today, was probably the closest and cleanest I have achieved with a straight razor until now. A few red dots, a little aftershave burn, no post shave irritation.

If you (like me) are only happy if you really get a very clean shave and you still like to feel the edge of the razor a bit while shaving, than the ark might be right for you. If you put smoothness over sharpness you should consider the SG20k instead.

Please take into consideration, that there are also other fine finishers (jnats, slates), that I can not compare, because I never tried one. This was only my first experiment with the ark and I must be considered a beginner in SR shaving and honing. My results and opinions are completely subjective and may change over time, as I am gathering more experience and improving my technique. YMMV.
A thing I do, and have learned from people off razor forums is that you can get an edge crazy sharp with an ark then smooth it out with a half dozen strokes on a coticule, thuri, la lune, welsh slate... also that you can find the true character of a stone and the edge it imparts to a shave if you BEGIN honing on these finishers off of a black ark, because as far as I know(at least with natural rocks, they're all I use really for razors) a FLAT, broken in, black ark improves(keenness/sharpness) on any edge on all natural hones and most synths. SO... if you use that as your blank *slate* you'll get to see an actual difference in each edge. By doing this, I've found that many stones I'd written of as junk, are indeed fantastic stones...my skill level for that mineral just hadn't matured yet. I learn fast so I can usually adjust technique pretty quickly for new stones but some take REAL PATIENCE and many different types of steel to figure out what that particular pet likes to eat. A side note on the black arks..I got mine from Dan and I use it straight out of the box, but I put it straight into work rotation so I sharpen lots of different stuff on it. I don't subscribe to the burnishing philosophy because mostly the only time I'm pissed off at stones is because they need to be refreshed. Sharpening a knife on the stone naturally is a good way to "break in" a stone and in my opinion that's all the really need or they could be "seconds" or a stone that is being used outside of its grit range(not talking about black arks).
 
“Does the progression leading up to the final edge make a difference on the end result?
A full nagura progression feels a little different then if i use a tomo nagura after an 6-8k synthetic. You are in principle always replacing the scratches from the previous step.”


Yes and no.

If you remove all the previous stria with the last stone, then you are left with just the finish off the last stone. For example, if you remove 1k stria with a 4k and you have honed to the edge, then you have a 4k edge. But if all the 1k stria is not removed and you have 1 and 4k stria when you jump to the 8k, you may have an issue.

It is common for new honers to do just that and after 8k they see 1k stria when the 8k polishes out the 4k stria and blame the 8k for leaving scratches. It did not, they were never removed by the 4k. if you continued to a natural finisher and do not remove the 1k, then the edge will be affected by the previous stones.

The same thing can happen with a Jnat and nagura, especially because nagura are not grit rated and they are natural stones so a “strata” progression may not be a grit progression in terms of fineness, or technique is not allowing a progression to occur.

In your example, if you jump to a Jnat from a near mirror, 8k edge, (near mirror, you know all previous stria up to 8k has been removed) any Jnat finish you apply will be pure Jnat and the edge finish is from the last stone.

So, you must quantify “grit rate” your nagura and your base stone. Not necessarily number rate the grit, but rate it in relation with the base stone and the other nagura, so you know where each fits in a progression and if they are all needed.

Really, fewer nagura are needed and a simpler 1 or 2 nagura progression may be better. And more important is knowing the capabilities of your base stone, do a 1k to diamond slurry finish to see what the base stone is capable of and how it finishes by itself. Sometimes you do not need to add salt to the soup.

You will need to experiment.


And, a mirrored or kazumi bevel means nothing if you are not fully honing to the edge, (that never happens).
I started my honing journey with an 1k, an worn dmt 600 and what turned out to be a really god jnat, with a matching tomo. Eventually i got really good edges. Since then i have tried allot of different progression. I have been getting better results, but it might also just be confirmation bias. For touchups a 4-6k might be used as a starting point now. Then i do one light dmt slurry and one final tomo slurry. My nagura stones are fun to use, but a am really not sure what they add to the edge.
I now have a pile of different types of rocks. If someone just wants a comfortable edge, a simple setup might be the way to go.
The ticket for me for a nice comfortable edge was to spend more time on the lower grit stones, using a diminishing amount of pressure and only doing a minimal amount of work on the finisher.
I have found my coticules to be a bigger gamble then jnats. Maybe i have been lucky, but i have not bought a bad one yet. I also find them quite easy to use compared to coticules. If i just don't go to heavy on the slurry they seem to get me more or less to the same place. I prefer to use two rounds of lighter slurry dilutions instead of one heavy.
So for me, nothing comes close to the type of edge a jnat provide. They can also be quite affordable if you can skip a few stones in your progression.
I am fooling around with a La lune and a Arkansas stone, but they really do not get me to the same place now. It seems like i need to do a full synthetic progression to get the best use out of these. They might be cheaper, but if you add in the extra steps to get them to work, i really do not think you are saving anything.
 
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So, lots of great advice in this thread, but the OP’s real issue is not the finisher but learning to strop. Stropping is way underrated and difficult to learn, for some. The only way to learn is to strop, yes, you probably will trash an edge or two.

There is no, best finisher. There is the best finisher for you, your face, beard and level of technique. Experiment.

It is amazing how much better stones get with age.
 
So, lots of great advice in this thread, but the OP’s real issue is not the finisher but learning to strop. Stropping is way underrated and difficult to learn, for some. The only way to learn is to strop, yes, you probably will trash an edge or two.

There is no, best finisher. There is the best finisher for you, your face, beard and level of technique. Experiment.

It is amazing how much better stones get with age.
I'm confused. What are the signs that you think I am having a problem stropping so I can detect this for the future.

I'm using a lot less pressure (if any) than this guy. 😎
 
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I'm confused. What are the signs that you think I am having a problem stropping so I can detect this for the future.

I don't think anyone can point out what you could be doing wrong. I't just a common thing that someone new to straight razors can and most likely will roll an edge or two due to bad technique . We've all been there, it's a part of the learning curve
 
Keith Johnson and Dr. Matt have many great vids on stones and strop techniques on YouTube. You can visually see what they're doing and apply your thoughts to what you're doing. I like both guys but both have slightly different approaches to honing.
 
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So, when you first get a Pro honed edge, did it shave well with no burning?

Rarely, very rarely, extremely rarely, is a razor so sharp it exfoliates the skin from a new straight razor shaver.

When I send a freshly honed razor, I send a note, and in capital letter tell the shaver, The razor is SHAVE READY, wipe off the protective shipping oil, and DO NOT STROP. After the first shave you will need to strop the razor prior to shaving.

This way they will at least get one good shave from the razor. If the razor is causing bleeding, it is because the edge has been rolled or damaged.

It could be your skin sensitivity or improper angle, but if you are double edge shaving, you should be good. It’s not too sharp, the edge is chipped.

Get some magnification at least 60x, a 60-100 Carson Micro Brite scope is $15 and will give you a good look at what is going on at the edge. A single micro chip will cut you, you may not bleed, but it will feel harsh, because it is.

As said, it is super common with new shavers and stroppers. A single missed lap can trash an edge.

Pressure is a relative term, how do you explain to some one what is too much? In that photo it could be he is holding the strop very lax. He has decades of experience and millions of laps stropping razors. It would be like me copying Tiger Woods swing from looking at YouTube videos.



Not a Knock on you, it is just normal.
 
The bulk of sharpness and, subsequently, edge comfort, is developed long before the finisher.
Certainly there are differences in edge-feel between, say - a 12k Naniwa SS and an Escher, for sure.
Also, a lot depends on one's ability to discern subtle nuances in apex condition. So whether or not actual/tangible/documentable differences will exist between one edge and another is also reliant on experience and a crap-ton of side by side experimentation combined with a strict adherence to prep, lather, whisker length/age/hydration/etc.
Not to mention the razor's geometry, steel alloy, etc.
Slight variations in the quality of the bevel set will make major differences in how that finished edge does its job.
One might argue that an Escher is easier to use than a 12k SS. Or vice versa. Are they easier to use than a Translucent Ark? Is the Ark harder to set up than the other two - what constitutes 'easier to use' exactly? It's rhetorical, everyone will have different criteria here.
In the scheme of things, I would have to say all 'finishers' are 'easy to use' and edge comfort variations between them can sorta like splitting hairs or miles apart but since there are some that swear by a 12k SS edge, or a Crox edge, or an Escher edge it's all sorta reliant on personal experience.

An edge is a sum of its parts. If I build an edge on Synths to, say, 10k and then finish on an Escher that edge is different than, say, going bevel-to-almost finish on a Coti and then jumping to that same Escher. At the very apex of every edge, there's a lot going on at a very microscopic level. While it's nice to imagine that every stone removes all of the effects of the stone before it, that really never happens in an absolute sense for the majority of people honing a razor. Plus, different abrasives act differently on carbides, pearlite bands, and so on, both on the surface and sub-surface.

The most comfortable edges I make here in my home come off Jnats, which are not 'finishers' in the purist sense of the term. Coticules are similar - neither are a one trick pony. I use those stones to finish but I consider a 'Finisher' to be a single stone with a single purpose. Define the term Finisher... again, a rhetorical question. I see Eschers as finishers, same for a Trans Ark or a 12k SS. Progression stones are another thing entirely to me.

I do have a point, and the point is this...focusing on the finisher has to take a back seat to focusing on edge refinement overall. There is a process here, honing an edge is not just a single event. It's not color by numbers. There are soooo many variables in the mix that it's really impossible to say this or that 'finisher' is best or easiest...or best...or most comfortable. Better to have a 'perfect' bevel finished on a lesser stone than an imperfect bevel finished on the 'best finisher in the world'.
And, never forget...skills matter.
 
I do have a point, and the point is this...focusing on the finisher has to take a back seat to focusing on edge refinement overall.

It took me a long, long time to drive this point home to myself. Thank you Gamma for mentioning it over and over until the light came on!
 
Dan's black ark arrived today. First, I lapped it a on my certified flat granite plate with 400 & 1000 grit WD Sandpaper. I also chamfered the edges with the sandpaper. Then I burnished the surface of the stone for a few minutes with a kitchen knive. The last step of the preparation was, to clean the stone from any abrasive particles that could have come off the sanding paper or the surface.

My 5/8 Böker hollow ground was already shave ready, before I started to touch it up on the ark. I gave it some 5-10 minute of X-strokes on the stone, using baby oil and finished with 50 laps on a plain hanging leather strop.

The resulting edge is in my opinion almost as sharp as a balsa edge, but a bit smoother. The edge from SG20k is in my opinion much smoother but not as sharp as the ark.

My 3 pass shave (WTG, XTG, ATG) with the ark edge today, was probably the closest and cleanest I have achieved with a straight razor until now. A few red dots, a little aftershave burn, no post shave irritation.

If you (like me) are only happy if you really get a very clean shave and you still like to feel the edge of the razor a bit while shaving, than the ark might be right for you. If you put smoothness over sharpness you should consider the SG20k instead.

Please take into consideration, that there are also other fine finishers (jnats, slates), that I can not compare, because I never tried one. This was only my first experiment with the ark and I must be considered a beginner in SR shaving and honing. My results and opinions are completely subjective and may change over time, as I am gathering more experience and improving my technique. YMMV.
Thank you for sharing your experience! That was a great read!
 
A thing I do, and have learned from people off razor forums is that you can get an edge crazy sharp with an ark then smooth it out with a half dozen strokes on a coticule, thuri, la lune, welsh slate... also that you can find the true character of a stone and the edge it imparts to a shave if you BEGIN honing on these finishers off of a black ark, because as far as I know(at least with natural rocks, they're all I use really for razors) a FLAT, broken in, black ark improves(keenness/sharpness) on any edge on all natural hones and most synths. SO... if you use that as your blank *slate* you'll get to see an actual difference in each edge. By doing this, I've found that many stones I'd written of as junk, are indeed fantastic stones...my skill level for that mineral just hadn't matured yet. I learn fast so I can usually adjust technique pretty quickly for new stones but some take REAL PATIENCE and many different types of steel to figure out what that particular pet likes to eat. A side note on the black arks..I got mine from Dan and I use it straight out of the box, but I put it straight into work rotation so I sharpen lots of different stuff on it. I don't subscribe to the burnishing philosophy because mostly the only time I'm pissed off at stones is because they need to be refreshed. Sharpening a knife on the stone naturally is a good way to "break in" a stone and in my opinion that's all the really need or they could be "seconds" or a stone that is being used outside of its grit range(not talking about black arks).
That's really interesting way of using your Ark as a type of "control" for other stones you used. I've heard of this being done by others using CBN or diamond paste.
 
I started my honing journey with an 1k, an worn dmt 600 and what turned out to be a really god jnat, with a matching tomo. Eventually i got really good edges. Since then i have tried allot of different progression. I have been getting better results, but it might also just be confirmation bias. For touchups a 4-6k might be used as a starting point now. Then i do one light dmt slurry and one final tomo slurry. My nagura stones are fun to use, but a am really not sure what they add to the edge.
I now have a pile of different types of rocks. If someone just wants a comfortable edge, a simple setup might be the way to go.
The ticket for me for a nice comfortable edge was to spend more time on the lower grit stones, using a diminishing amount of pressure and only doing a minimal amount of work on the finisher.
I have found my coticules to be a bigger gamble then jnats. Maybe i have been lucky, but i have not bought a bad one yet. I also find them quite easy to use compared to coticules. If i just don't go to heavy on the slurry they seem to get me more or less to the same place. I prefer to use two rounds of lighter slurry dilutions instead of one heavy.
So for me, nothing comes close to the type of edge a jnat provide. They can also be quite affordable if you can skip a few stones in your progression.
I am fooling around with a La lune and a Arkansas stone, but they really do not get me to the same place now. It seems like i need to do a full synthetic progression to get the best use out of these. They might be cheaper, but if you add in the extra steps to get them to work, i really do not think you are saving anything.
As I add the price of a full synthetic progression + finishing stone I can see your point. Are you using a super hard jnat during your slurry progression to get your desired results?
 
So, when you first get a Pro honed edge, did it shave well with no burning?

Rarely, very rarely, extremely rarely, is a razor so sharp it exfoliates the skin from a new straight razor shaver.

When I send a freshly honed razor, I send a note, and in capital letter tell the shaver, The razor is SHAVE READY, wipe off the protective shipping oil, and DO NOT STROP. After the first shave you will need to strop the razor prior to shaving.

This way they will at least get one good shave from the razor. If the razor is causing bleeding, it is because the edge has been rolled or damaged.

It could be your skin sensitivity or improper angle, but if you are double edge shaving, you should be good. It’s not too sharp, the edge is chipped.

Get some magnification at least 60x, a 60-100 Carson Micro Brite scope is $15 and will give you a good look at what is going on at the edge. A single micro chip will cut you, you may not bleed, but it will feel harsh, because it is.

As said, it is super common with new shavers and stroppers. A single missed lap can trash an edge.

Pressure is a relative term, how do you explain to some one what is too much? In that photo it could be he is holding the strop very lax. He has decades of experience and millions of laps stropping razors. It would be like me copying Tiger Woods swing from looking at YouTube videos.



Not a Knock on you, it is just normal.
I appreciate all of the scenerios you pointed out that could have caused the harshness. I think the usb microscope is a great idea to look into and will do so to at least try to isolate some of the issues. Thank you!
 
The bulk of sharpness and, subsequently, edge comfort, is developed long before the finisher.
Certainly there are differences in edge-feel between, say - a 12k Naniwa SS and an Escher, for sure.
Also, a lot depends on one's ability to discern subtle nuances in apex condition. So whether or not actual/tangible/documentable differences will exist between one edge and another is also reliant on experience and a crap-ton of side by side experimentation combined with a strict adherence to prep, lather, whisker length/age/hydration/etc.
Not to mention the razor's geometry, steel alloy, etc.
Slight variations in the quality of the bevel set will make major differences in how that finished edge does its job.
One might argue that an Escher is easier to use than a 12k SS. Or vice versa. Are they easier to use than a Translucent Ark? Is the Ark harder to set up than the other two - what constitutes 'easier to use' exactly? It's rhetorical, everyone will have different criteria here.
In the scheme of things, I would have to say all 'finishers' are 'easy to use' and edge comfort variations between them can sorta like splitting hairs or miles apart but since there are some that swear by a 12k SS edge, or a Crox edge, or an Escher edge it's all sorta reliant on personal experience.

An edge is a sum of its parts. If I build an edge on Synths to, say, 10k and then finish on an Escher that edge is different than, say, going bevel-to-almost finish on a Coti and then jumping to that same Escher. At the very apex of every edge, there's a lot going on at a very microscopic level. While it's nice to imagine that every stone removes all of the effects of the stone before it, that really never happens in an absolute sense for the majority of people honing a razor. Plus, different abrasives act differently on carbides, pearlite bands, and so on, both on the surface and sub-surface.

The most comfortable edges I make here in my home come off Jnats, which are not 'finishers' in the purist sense of the term. Coticules are similar - neither are a one trick pony. I use those stones to finish but I consider a 'Finisher' to be a single stone with a single purpose. Define the term Finisher... again, a rhetorical question. I see Eschers as finishers, same for a Trans Ark or a 12k SS. Progression stones are another thing entirely to me.

I do have a point, and the point is this...focusing on the finisher has to take a back seat to focusing on edge refinement overall. There is a process here, honing an edge is not just a single event. It's not color by numbers. There are soooo many variables in the mix that it's really impossible to say this or that 'finisher' is best or easiest...or best...or most comfortable. Better to have a 'perfect' bevel finished on a lesser stone than an imperfect bevel finished on the 'best finisher in the world'.
And, never forget...skills matter.
Thank you for your thorough response. I guess what I was trying to accomplish was to be able to touch up already bevel set edges by those that very experienced setting a bevel. In my mind, because these people already set the bevel, that issue was isolated from being the problem. My idea of finding a finisher was to try to keep me in the game and stay positive about this experience.

After your post (and the others before it), I may have to think more about the entire progression whether it be through several synthetics or a slurry progression.

As far as finishers, that is my fault for not realizing the lexical nuances of the term. What I was referring to was any stone a razor is regularly finished on. If the stone can do more via a slurry progression, I suppose that is a bonus in my book.

As far as easy to use – As with anything the requires some type of skill or experience, things that are easy to a pro may not be easy to an amateur. That being said, someone who has more experience should be able to have some broad sense of what is easy and hard given their experience. To keep with your golf analogy, as a golfer of 20+ years I am quite aware of what shots are easier to pull off for a newcomer to the game than someone who is a scratch golfer. If pulling off a flop shot is the best shot but the golfer has a <20% chance of pulling the shot off because he doesn’t know how, he should do a normal chip or even putt. So without splitting hairs a decent definition of “easy to use” (for me) may be an above average probability of success given the relative experience of the individual. Yes, it still subjective but so is a lot of this. After all, my facial neurons are different than everyone else’s let alone the other variables to factor in. I think the point of the forum is to hear other people’s experiences and have those be jumping off points for further research and an ultimate decision on how to proceed. Its not the end of the world if I don’t get it right the first time, I am just looking to make an educated decision and I appreciate yours (and everyone else’s) experience to help me get there. Unfortunately, I don’t have the equivalent of Butch Harmon next to me to help so this forum and youtube are the best I got. Thanks again.
 
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Would an Atoma 400 work for this?

My apologies, I did not see this before.
Yes an Atoma 400 would work. I believe that is what is recommended to use by the people that sell them.
I use a 1200 for a better finish on the stone (even though the 400 was preferred to the 1200 from the sellers), but like mentioned, you could smooth the stone a bit with another stone if you found it made the Gokumyo a little aggressive.
 
As I add the price of a full synthetic progression + finishing stone I can see your point. Are you using a super hard jnat during your slurry progression to get your desired results?
I have one super hard Shobudani and a much softer Nakayama i use. The hardest stone can give me a sharper edge, but the softer stone gives me a little smoother edge, which is what i am after on some blades. The softer stone is rated at lev 5+, so the hardness rating is just a guide. I would say hard enough, but that is not saying much.
With a softer stone you need to be more careful with your pressure.
Some of the harder stones, like mine, needs to be finished on with slurry, while the softer stone works fine with water only to as i finish. So the softer stone can probably get me quite close to the edge off an harder stone if i finished with water.
They do have a wide working range. The stones i have are easy to use compared to my coticules. If your bevel is set, you should only need one jnat and a lapping plate. I prefer the atoma 600. I have the 1200, but it gets sucked down to my stones when i use them.
 
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