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Getting from "popping" to "slicing"

I’m learning how to hone, and I’ve been getting good results fairly quickly. I’m able to get all my razors, even the fussy older stainless one, to treetop my fairly fine arm hair. I’m getting pretty comfortable shaves, no real tugging. However the tree topping definitely still comes with some popping sound, sometimes mixed with real slicing when I do a good job. There is audible noise when shaving.

I have heard and read so that you can get a razor to shave like a “velvet squeegee“. Did anybody have any epiphanies when they were getting over this hump from “pretty dang sharp“ to “proper shaving“. Maybe it’s just, “keep practicing kid”, and that's OK too!

I am deliberately leaving off details about what stones and strops I use, because it’s easy to pick apart small technical things all day long. I’m asking more about the methods and the mindset that help you do your best job. I definitely have all the tools necessary.

Obligatory hone porn - soft, mystery, and Washita. So many flavors over the years to received those names....
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Learn on synthetics. Synthetics are known grit stones. Your Norton, Shapton, Naniwia (fill in the blank) 1k is exactly like mine. You can expect the same results. If you do not get the same results, it’s not the stone.

Forget about natural stones, until you have mastered honing, or you will be chasing your tail. I can guarantee you, my surgical black ark will not finish like yours…

Get good high-power magnification, 60X at least. You have to be able to see a problem, to fix a problem. 60x magnification is cheap $2-15. Guys that use 10 & 20 X loupes, already know how to hone.

Set the bevel fully, from heel to toe. Look straight down on the bevel with magnification, any shiny reflections are where the bevels are not meeting, and the bevel is not fully set. Forget about any hair test. Hair test must be calibrated and are not reliable. A bevel that is not fully set can cut and shave hair.

After the bevel is set, Joint the edge. Lightly run the edge from heel to toe on the upper corner of the stone not more than an inch from the end with just the weight of the blade.

This will cut off any flashing, (micro burr) cleanly and straighten the edge. If the bevels have been set, they are flat, in the correct bevel angle and meeting, it will only take 10-20 laps to bring them back to meeting, (remove microns of steel) at a now straight edge.

Once you have magnification, look at good micrographs of bevels at the various stages in the honing progression, then make your edges look like those. Google (Second Try at Honing for great micrographs of bevels).

This was the second razor this guy had ever honed.

If you do nothing else, learn to look straight down on the bevel and recognize a fully set bevel, joint and reset a new bevel you will eliminate 90% on edge issues.

It’s all about the foundation.

Learn on Synthetics, Magnification, Fully set a bevel, Learn to read an edge, looks straight down on the edge. Joint the edge clean and reset, compare your bevels to known good bevels and edges.

Nice set of Arks, forget everything above, except learn to look at the edge and tell when the bevel is fully set.

You have chosen the Scenic Route. Enjoy the journey.
 
So, seriously it is all about setting the bevel, absolutely fool proof test for a fully set bevel. Looking straight down on the edge is a fool proof method.

Then a stone progression to get you to a finish Ark.

I use Arks as finishers only, from a near mirror 8k bevel. But the Ark stone face must be finished to a high level. I lap and finish one side to 600 grit and burnish the other side smooth, so you have a bit of finished Ark progression.

Arks finished to that level cut/polish slowly, so the bevel needs to be pristine and already polished to a high level, from heel to toe or you will be spending a lot of time looking for an Ark progression to get you there. Lots of trial and error and laps.

One thing that really bumped my edges, synthetic, Jnat and Ark, was Jointing. I joint at each stone in the progression, and at the final laps. When the edge is done, I joint it to remove the flashing and edge and reset the edge with just a few laps to reset a new straight edge.

Stropping between stones after jointing on Firehose or vintage flax linen to ensure a clean edge for honing the next stone. Jointing cuts the edge straight, but does not always remove the micro burrs.

I learned to hone on Arks years ago and maintained a single razor for 10 years with just a 6-inch translucent, never needed to reset the bevel.
 
Yep, I get those frequently with my Arks and it's truly been an eye opening experience.

How about I just list my top mistakes....it's pretty long grim list..

Trying to learn to hone and shave at the same time..
Trying to learn on a natural progression, oil lube of course...
Having a water phobia...
Burnishing Arks .....
Not having proper magnification....
Rushing my messed up natural progression....
Worshiping my finishers, not my bevel setter....
Not learning to strop properly early enough.....
Never used a professionally sharpened razor.....

After about 3 years or so I worked out a progression that ended with a slate ( after looking around on the here and the web it may be a silkstone ). It got me close enough to go to my Arks for finishing. One day I nailed one, thought I most likely broke something, it wasn't doing darn thing....until I touched my face. No way I did this! No way! No evidence I've even had any beard growth ever and no blood, no burn. It also shaved my problem areas. A rare treat and one measure I now use for my edges. Had trouble reproducing it but it is the edge I strive for every time.

With the constantly changing surface condition of the natural hones, and time consumed, thinking I've set a good bevel and refined it was just not working out to be any kind of efficient, consistent, reliable thing so I bought a Shapton Pro 1.5k bevel setter to see what all the fuss was about. I was so skeptical of water as a stone lube and couldn't quite get it. I'm a little slow on the up take I guess, but the first Shapton finally demonstrated to me exactly why, I had been staggering along for 3+ years with no repeatable results. I also bought the 5k, 8k, 12, in short order after that. Absolutely the best, and smartest thing I done since I started this journey. Well ...that and getting a nice usable, used Shell strop off the Bay. HAD, SAD, RAD

Okay, I suffered a learning curve failure with the water stones. I treated them as water lubed Ark's, as far as lap count. Took a bit to get squared away on usage. New techniques, new lube, and wonderful consistent results...Finally!!! The synthetic progression took my progress over the top. If you've mastered the 12k, landing on a nicely prepared Trans or Black is where you show up with very best edge. Very best....

That Black one is breath taking.......
 
Popping vs slizing. I am not sure what you mean by this. If I feel anything when I test the edge by treetopping arm hair I know the edge is not clean enough. Most of the time linen and leather cleans the edge up quite good. For me the difference is usually caused by a small fals edge.

When you work with fast synthetic stones edge jointing can really be an effective way of ensuring that you end up with a clean edge. Slurry on some natural stone also limits a fals edge from developing to some extent.
I have not had much luck with jointing when I use natural stones. Most of them are too slow, and do not have the same tendency to create these issues as synthetics do.
The edge develops at slightly different rates along the blade. You might be starting to develop a false edge in the middle of the blade before the heel is ready. By constantly flipping a false edge it will eventually brake off, but this might leave you with weaker steel then if you cut it off by a more controlled method.
I was quite surprised when I did this using my high grit shapton gs. The difference between my shapton edges and my JNAT edges diminished by a good margin.

With the right magnification this can also be shown quite clearly.
 
I'm just going to say one thing: Work with mud/slurry whenever you can, apart from the very end.*

The reason people use the natural stones they do for razors, and the biggest reason that a natural stone might give a finish comparable to a synth with a far finer equivalent 'grit' level or particle size, is because they're slow. And combining that with the fact you can't use much pressure means you can get nowhere for a very long time, and constantly risk going backwards.

Slurrying natural stones dramatically increases their speed and efficacy when razor honing, and I pretty much guarantee will improve the results. If used until the end, with dilutions, and then finishing clean on the final stone.




* That's assuming you're gonna stick to naturals, it probably doesn't apply to synths. You've got the rocks for it already, no point spaffing a load of money on a bunch of high grit synths that you're only going to use a coupla times a year.
 
The best way to improve your edges is go hone them to a fine edge and then use pasted strops to further polish the edge making it even sharper and smoother.

For this technique to work, I find that I need to hone the edge to at least the 10K level, but even higher is better. my best natural hones are a Greek Vermio, a South African Zulu Gray, an Imperia La Roccia, and Welch LLyn Melyndllyn (Yellow Lake) slate. My best synthetic hone is a Suehiro Gokumyo 20K (0.5 micron) hone. I follow these with 0.5, 0.25, and 0.1 micron pasted strops. This combination produces superb edges.

Some people use microfine diamond abrasives on balsa strops. I use cubic boron nitride abrasives on glass plates covered by nanocloth. Either will get the job done.

I have tried Arkansas stones, including a hard black stone from Dan's. It can produce a very fine edge, but it takes proper technique with a burnished stone and a lot of patience to work the edge. In find using other stones to be a lot easier; I do not have the patience to use Arks.
 
So, the difference between a good edge and a great edge is finishing each step in the progression to its highest level. The goal is a straight edge, everything we do refines the edge and make it straighter by using finer grits to make smaller scratches and a less serrated edge.

All honing creates a burr. With knife honing you create a burr intentionally, but with razors we try not to make a burr, but one is always made. That is why if you do a hair test, one side may cut and the other will not. The last side to be on the stone curved the micro burr up.

If you strop that same edge, chances are it will cut hair, the strop straightens the burr.

As the edge becomes more refined in the “progression” there is a micro burr, at time you are cutting/wearing it off, at times breaking it with fatigue flipping from one side to the other. At times you are honing on that burr, so the bevel is not flat on the stone.

If you remove the burr, by lightly dragging the edge on a corner of the stone you cut off the micro burr and create a straight micro dull edge.

If your bevels are already flat and at the correct bevel angle, (90% of bevel setting) it does not take many laps to remove microns of steel to get the bevels to meet again at an edge that is already straight.

Folks say the difference between a good edge and a great edge is a 2% increase. Many of us chase the 2% searching for perfection. The 2% is not in a “Special” finish stone or strop, it is made in tiny increments at each stage of the honing progression. If you are not looking for it, you will never find it, or think you need it. Many folks are happy getting a bloodless shave. But there is more out there.

Sharp is easy.
 
In my opinion, edge jointing can also be performed on balsa or some sort of soft substrate with compound.
Iwasaki also describes this. He recommends doing this as one of the final finishing steps. This creates a clean edge, but also some micro convexity. As I read it, he recommends going back to the stone to remove some of the rounding effect from this step.
Aframes also have a video where he uses a fine lapping film in his palm to remove any false edge.
This also works fine, but a few strokes on the finisher afterwards is probably good.
I tried it using a 0.01 m lapping film wet.
 
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Been doing this for almost two years now. The epiphanies/light-bulb moments/things that stand out for me are:
  1. You're just rubbing steel on stone. Don't overthink this whole thing.
  2. Find the existing edge and work with it. Like the Karate Kid.
  3. Use enough pressure and torque for the entire edge to make contact, and no more.
  4. Same thing for rolling pressure and/or raising and lowering the toe and heel. Try not to remove more metal than necessary.
  5. Use your bevel setter to form/shape the bevel/edge, and your remaining stones to remove the scratch patterns from the previous stones.
  6. Finish each step in your progression with shorter strokes using little to no pressure. The money strokes.
  7. Constantly monitor your work. I use a Belomo 10x Triplet loupe with no light source.
 
So, the elephant in the room, you have all these stones for a reason.

Knife and tool guys, come to razors for a variety of reasons, most of us, me included, chasing sharp, 40 some years ago.

A knife guy comes to razor fora thinking, I know how to sharpen, how tough can this be? Much leave frustrated, and some are truly expert in tool and knife sharpening.

You must let go of some of that and empty you glass a little so that it can be filled with some new information.

Honing a knife and a razor are not the same thing, at the very base the goals are very different. Honing a razor, to do hanging hair test is a parlor trick. Hair test must be calibrated, (understanding that, how the hair is cut will mean to the shave). That it cuts the hair means nothing to the shave without a lot of experience honing, shaving and doing hair test.

And then there is stropping…

Sharp is easy, sharp and bloodlessly comfortable is a whole other thing.
 
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Jointing the edge is to remove any false edge/burr from the edge. Even stropping with light pressure on a linen strop with some play in counts as jointing in my opinion.
This is often enough.
Killing the edge on the side of a stone is just that, killing the edge. You need a really light thouch.
There is also a big difference if you do this on a hard coarse stone, or if you use a softer polishing stone.
In the old videos from Solingen they use a piece of wet horn.
 
To address thread title question.


Hht is variable depending on hair and how you do it. Holding the tip end, anything that's bevelled should pop. Just means it's got tooth. I find tip held hht only useful as a bevel check if you can't test it any other way.

Hht held at the root with 10mm+ or so (varies based on your hair) popping is usually a shaving edge that may be a little toothy, maybe the razor steel is a bit overhard and doesn't polish out nicely. Dead silent falls generally mean a really nice edge where everything came together. Good razor, good finisher, and stropped properly.


As for the shaving hump? It's about two techniques both getting there... Honing(and stropping) and shaving. A fantastic edge if you can't properly approach or stretch skin won't be a great shave. Now if you assume everything but honing is already there... The magic bullet? Hmm. When learning, I would say best way to hit that was getting a good 8k finish, then hitting a 10/12/13k jsynth until I had literally polished the scratches out of the bevel at 400x optical... No joke, mirror finish at 400x magnification. Basically polished past the point where light can scatter enough that even a (non sem) microscope can distinguish the scratch pattern.

Then... Hit up your favorite natural finisher for 15-30 light passes to take off the very apex of the edge to tone it down a touch.


This took 5-10x (work and time) what it takes me these days to get the same performance out of my finishers just via improving my technique, but it GOT ME THERE when technique was still a work in progress.
 
Holy cow I came back to this and it’s just been an outpouring, thank you!
I’m used to another forum where you get notified when someone replies to a thread you create - apparently not the case here. Anyway, I’m playing catch up!
 
So, the elephant in the room, you have all these stones for a reason.

Knife and tool guys, come to razors for a variety of reasons, most of us, me included, chasing sharp, 40 some years ago.

A knife guy comes to razor fora thinking, I know how to sharpen, how tough can this be? Much leave frustrated, and some are truly expert in tool and knife sharpening.

You must let go of some of that and empty you glass a little so that it can be filled with some new information.
Thank you for saying this - I absolutely came into razors with this background in wood planes and knives for ~15 years. I had a little swagger coming in, got pretty good results after 3-5 razors, then realized I was still on the other side of a window, just looking in after about 20-25 more with little improvement.

I’m definitely going to go through the technical steps others have described (especially bevel-setting on a nice, hard, dead-nutz flat 1-2k stone and jointing). Both make complete sense now that y’all kindly said “hey, look at this”. Also, I may need a slightly better loupe. I inherited one from my grandfather, but it’s quite small, no idea of the magnification. Open to suggestions. No room for a free-standing unit, unfortunately, but a USB mag might be nice.

But really this mindset will help with the mental game, moments of frustration, and trying to parse out what my actual goal is. The motions you watch other people make are just identical to watch on video, until you know the why of it all. Cheers.
 
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I normally receive notifications for threads I start and threads I reply to. Check the Watch/Unwatch button at the top.

Piggybacking on what @SliceOfLife said, skin stretching is a must. I will add:
  1. Map your beard so you can control when you shave with, across and against the grain.
  2. Play with the angle of the blade against your skin to understand when what works best.
  3. Use a light touch, in general. Try to just remove the lather. You will be surprised at how close the shave is.
The shaving part is just rubbing steel on skin :).
 
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