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Honing My First SR

Last week I received my first SR. This RSO came from China for USD 6 together with a China cow leather strop for USD 5. Over the next few days I worked on my stropping technique and now have it pretty well worked out.

Today my 3k/10k honing stone arrived from China for USD 5. With this I intend to work on my razor honing technique.

First thing I did was lap the new whetstone using 320 wet&dry on a glass slab. It definitely needed it.

I am experienced in honing but never to the level required for a SR. I have read many of the articles on SR honing so I understand the basic requirements.

Being a RSO, I first need to set the bevel properly. The blade is hollow ground with a bevel on one side of about 0.5mm and 0.75mm on the other side. I assure that this is not right. I also did a little honing on the 3k stone and found that steel was only being taken off the ridge of the bevel.

My understanding is that both bevels should be about the same and they should align with the outer edge of the blade's spine. Is that correct?
 
I realise that it will take "forever" to set a good bevel using a 3k stone. Fortunately I have a reasonable 1k stone that I have used for final honing of my hand plainer blades. After I lap that flat, I will give it a try on setting the bevel on my RSO.

Hopefully before I leave for overseas again, I will receive my Titan SR (also from China). When I return home in early January I might order some lapping film that I have sourced in Japan to use on the Titan if necessary.
 
I understand what you are saying and trying to do, but honing and learning to hone is about the edge more than just physical movements. You try things honing and test the results by checking your edge, so with your RSO fake Chinese stones and a not-real-strop I’m not sure you are doing yourself any favor. You have no way of knowing if your technique is any good or even right without a real razor strop and hone. Hope that makes sense and isn’t discouraging, but for technique and honing you at minimum need something that can be honed. Vintage straights are a good option followed by newer Chinese stuff like gold dollars. With a real razor you might be able to use your Chinese hones to grind a bevel but don’t get too upset if they are not fine enough to produce a smooth edge you can shave with. Get a real razor, even a cheap one, and then maybe your practice will be more useful to you.
 
LJS, I understand what your are saying. My problem is that there is almost nothing available relating to straight razors in the Philippines (where I am). My only ready access is through Lazada that lists maily items of Chinese origin. An individual trying to import something into the Philippines has to deal with the Philippines Bureau of Customs, one of the most corrupt in SE Asia.

For now I will continue along the path that I am going. It is within my budget and available resources.

If I can get some sort of a decent edge on my RSO then I will be happy(er). Early next year I will start again with a Titan or GD, both from China. The Titan gets better reviews than the GD but at about USD 30 is about twice the price of a GD.

I will not be starting proper shaving with a SR until I can get one to at least pass a HHT3.

Now back to the original post and question:

My understanding is that both bevels should be about the same and they should align with the outer edge of the blade's spine. Is that correct?
 
My understanding is that by definition, an RSO (razor shaped object) will simply not take and egde that you can shave with. I've messed with a couple of those where the metal was simply too soft to take a decent edge. Complete waste of time. Hopefully you can get your hands on a decent enough razor and equipment that has potential.
 
It was member Slash McCoy who taught me the term RSO claiming my Chinese USD 5 SR was probably a RSO. It actually has a measured hardness of 58 HRC which is not overly hard for a stainless steel SR but it is also not considered soft.

Whether my first SR really is a RSO will be determined during my learning experience. After a lot of stropping my $5 special can actually just shave, but not comfortably.
 
Last week I received my first SR. This RSO came from China for USD 6 together with a China cow leather strop for USD 5. Over the next few days I worked on my stropping technique and now have it pretty well worked out.

Today my 3k/10k honing stone arrived from China for USD 5. With this I intend to work on my razor honing technique.

First thing I did was lap the new whetstone using 320 wet&dry on a glass slab. It definitely needed it.

I am experienced in honing but never to the level required for a SR. I have read many of the articles on SR honing so I understand the basic requirements.

Being a RSO, I first need to set the bevel properly. The blade is hollow ground with a bevel on one side of about 0.5mm and 0.75mm on the other side. I assure that this is not right. I also did a little honing on the 3k stone and found that steel was only being taken off the ridge of the bevel.

My understanding is that both bevels should be about the same and they should align with the outer edge of the blade's spine. Is that correct?
Don't worry much about the width of the bevel being the same on both sides. It is enough that after setting your bevel, both sides end up with a true bevel and they meet in a good tight apex. You can correct this later, AFTER you have established a preliminary bevel, by honing just the side with the narrower bevel and torquing the edge downward slightly to remove metal primarily from the narrow bevel. You may find that after setting the bevel, both sides are nearly equal, anyway. And remember, there is no scientific reason why both sides must have exactly the same bevel width. It is purely aesthetics.

When you say the ridge of the bevel, do you mean the upper border of the bevel? (Usually we think of the razor as being edge-down, spine up.) What has happened is the razor was "sharpened" but an unknowing person totally ignorant of the design characteristics of the straight razor. To be expected, considering the source and the skill level of the factory slugs grinding them out at a couple hundred per day. A good bit of steel will have to be removed to have a proper bevel. Your 320 grit sandpaper on glass or acrylic will be a fine edge repair tool and you can use that to get you nearly to a full length bevel, then bring it home with your 3k. I am assuming that you will use the burr method. You will want a sharpie marker and a loupe or at least a very strong magnifying glass, so you can paint the bevel and see where you are making contact, and where not, as you hone. Anyway, I would say let the 320 grit do the heavy lifting for you even if you had a 1k bevel setter. Having only a 3k for that purpose makes this even more a good idea because you will be forever trying to set a bevel on 3k, with a knife edge on the razor. A knife edge is what you have when a razor is "sharpened" with the spine elevated. This is usually done in China and Pakistan on a grinding wheel, I think, though classier operations might use a belt grinder. Being an engineer I am sure you can conceptualize this and see what is going on there.

If you have a dial caliper or some other reasonably precise measuring instrument, after finally getting a good bevel you might want to measure and calculate your bevel angle for future reference. The common method is to think of the blade's geometry in terms of an isoceles triangle. The apex is the edge of the razor. The two base corners are the top edge of the bevel on the spine. The edge of the bevel furthest from the razor's edge. This will also be the widest point on the razor's cross section. If you divide this triangle into two right triangles, calculation is very simple. Measuring from the razor's edge to the top edge of the spine bevel gives you the Hypotenuse of the right triangle. Measuring the thickness of the spine gives you twice the Opposite side of the right triangle, so divide thickness in half to get Opposite. S=O/H. Opposite divided by Hypotenuse = the Sine of the acute angle of the right triangle. Finding the angle of that Sine and then doubling it gives you the included bevel angle. The sweet spot is usually around 16.5 degrees, and a degree +/-. With RSO's it can be anything between 12 degrees and 21 degrees. Too obtuse and the edge will not have enough cutting power for shaving efficiently. Too acute and the edge will lack support and crumble on the hone or in use, or be too flexible and prone to wire edging. Different steels and hardnesses will behave differently, but no steel is going to shave very well at those extremes. Don't let that discourage you from trying, for the practice. And don't expect a poor steel with poor heat treating and tempering to be a great shaver even if the bevel angle is spot on. But you will at least come away from this with a good understanding of how a razor works, razor geometry, how the edge is formed, and how edge flex and honing pressure can be your bitter enemies. Also how fundamentally important the bevel is, and how the progression works its magic.

So let's say, after honing, your razor shaves like a rusty saw blade. Your bevel angle is way out there, giving you an edge that can't possibly ever be a good shaver. From an academic viewpoint at least, it is possible to give the razor a more suitable bevel angle by either removing steel from the edge to make the razor narrower and so the Hypotenuse of the right triangle smaller, or to remove steel from the spine to reduce the Opposite side of the right triangle. I used to modify a lot of Gold Dollars in this manner. The stock bevel angle is near 19 degrees but I would correct this by thinning the spine on a belt sander until it was down to the 16 to 17 degree range. The difference in the shave is significant. Remember though that the Gold Dollar razors have much better steel and much better heat treating than the typical RSO. And so it is possible that your best efforts at modifying your bevel angle will not make the razor shave well. Then again... who knows? And your depth of understanding of the straight razor will be greatly expanded. In practice, hardly anyone routinely measures bevel angle at all. After a while you can eyeball the razor and have a good idea of whether it is too acute, too obtuse, or in the ballpark. If the razor shaves well, then there is no need to even consider bevel angle. If it shaves poorly, then measuring the bevel angle is sometimes a powerful diagnostic tool.

To sum up, I recommend setting the bevel using the burr method, getting it nearly there on the sandpaper and then continuing on the 3k until you have a properly set bevel. Then figure out where to go from there. The bevel IS the edge. There is no reason to continue honing on finer media if the bevel is not set. It will do no good. In the words of someone here, I don't remember who exactly, to waste time on finer hones when the bevel is not set is similar to polishing a turd. And polishing and polishing. It will get shiny but remain fundamentally unchanged and useless.

For more info on the burr method, see this thread:
Setting the Bevel with the Burr Method | Badger & Blade
 
Thank you Slash for your technical comments. I concur with you regarding the bevel symmetry about the blade's vertical longitudinal centreline. I am also well versed in using the burr method to set the bevel.

Here is a photo of my "RSO". The tail to shoulder length is rather short. Probably designed for smaller Chinese hands.
DSO Profile.jpg
I also took some detailed measurements of the blade and produced a dimensioned drawing.
RSO Blade.jpg
As can be seen, the spine shoulder width is rather thin for a 5/8 blade. Honing from shoulder to edge would produce an included bevel angle of average 9.4deg (9.1deg to 9.7deg). This is probably why my initial honing was taking material only from the shoulder of the bevel. The angle of 9.4deg is smaller than would be desirable on a blade with relatively modest hardness.

I do not want to reduce the blade's depth too much - currently a 5/8 (about 15mm). My thoughts are that I could tape the spine for honing to about 4.5mm thickness. This would give me an included bevel angle of about 17deg. I know some here are against taping the spine when honing, however I think that I have no other choice.

What are your thought on this approach.
 
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Another thing I noticed was that the blade thickness from shoulder to heel is constant at about 2.8mm. This makes it difficult to hone all the way to the heel, however the tang length is rather short so when holding the blade it is next to impossible to to use the edge rear heel for shaving due to finger position.

My thoughts here are to leave the blade as is between shoulder and heel to help stiffen the blade overall.
 
In the case of a too acute bevel angle it is quite proper to tape the spine if major steel removal is an uncomfortable option. Here is the problem with that. If the spine is covered by something yielding and resilient, tiny changes in pressure can compress or decompress the spine covering, and allow the honing angle to change. One layer is no big deal. Two layers? They do it all the time. Three layers starts to get into too much pushy squeezy wishy washy stuff. Four layers you are definitely getting into bad idea territory. If you look up the thickness of different brands of electrical tape you will see that one layer doesn't give you much additional temporary spine thickness. Basically if you can't get that bevel angle up over at least 12 degrees, even if the steel is great, you probably won't get it to shave nicely even with the best steel. TBH you would actually be better off with a stock Gold Dollar if a good honer honed it for you the first time.

For the sake of curiousity, find the thickness of two layers of tape. Add it to spine thickness and recalculate. Then see how much width you would actually have to lose to get up to say 15 degrees on the bevel. Just off the top of my head I would say it is not practical, and that you would be reducing blade width to under 4/8 even with tape, to get even a temporarily satisfactory bevel angle. Maybe if you took some stainless steel tubing such as what is used in small pneumatic or hydraulic systems and split it down one side, widened it a bit and forced it down onto the spine from the toe end, you might be able to built it up into a sort of frameback, then hone the tubing down so that the new spine thickness is appropriate. Worthwhile hack? No. But that sort of thinking will help you to understand the razor. A good honer must understand the razor. Working this out and similar problems will add to your understanding.

Here is a guy I have bought from on fleabay a few times and he has never let me down.
or just remember april7th1989 which is his seller name, but he sells a lot of stuff other than razors too, so the above link will save you some time. If he says a razor is shave ready, it is shave ready. If he doesn't say, then ask. Maybe he would hone it for you. It is good to get shave ready razors initially, so all you have to do is maintain an already sharp edge. His razors are mostly at the high end of the vintage spectrum but he has some low budget offerings here and there. Especially his Tosuke and Henkotsu brand kamisoris, if you think you might get into that. You might want to pull the trigger on something and have it sent ahead of you somewhere. There are a few other ebay sellers who aren't bad. Look for first of all extremely high ratings, and also a store with a lot of razors. Those are good signs. If you sell a lot of so called shave ready razors that are not shave ready, SOMEBODY sooner or later will leave bad feedback. You might get away with it a few times but not after a hundred or two hundred razors, no.
 
Hmmm. I was thinking along the same lines about tape being squishy. I already worked out that I would need 5 layers to get near a 4.5mm spine.

I think I will still go with the 5 layers of tape. The purpose of using this "RSO" is not do much to produce a shave ready edge but rather to learn honing/stopping skills.

My Chinese Titan SR should arrive by the end of this week. I chatted with a Chinese friend of mine in Shanghai. He spoke with a few of his friends who use straights. Both Titan and GD are popular in China and most regard the Titan as much better quality and value (even at twice the price of the GD) over the GD.

In the mean time, I will continue playing with my "RSO". Nothing is really lost if I ruin the "RSO".
 
I have a few more questions.

1. My 3k/10k honing stone is double sided, one of sintered synthetic Ruby and the other or natural Agate. Which side is the 3k? From the use of it, I think is is the Ruby. The seller has no idea.

2. I have read that when honing a SR, the stone should be held, not used on a bench. Why?

3. The seller of my stone (who hasn't a clue about what he sells) says that the stone should be used with oil. I have always preferred to use water. What are the pros and cons of each?
 
If you are using that much tape make sure you are applying rotational torque towards the edge, so that you are using the tape as a guide but not pressing down into it. Still keep contact between tape and hone of course.

Do you have access to Ali Baba where you are? You can find King Stone's there and a couple of gold dollars (more chance of getting a half good one) they should be readily available as Chinese made.

Make yourself a newspaper strop:

Or lay the newspaper flat on a counter. I used to do this all the time as a student they are better than a poor leather one in my experience.
 
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Best Gold Dollar 66 price I have found:

I have bought from this guy several times, anywhere from 10 to 100 at a time. Over 5 gits you a 10% discount and he might even shave off another couple of points for you if you tell him you are on B&B. But even one at a time is pretty cheap. The problem is it can take a lot of work on a very coarse hone to beat it into shape. The other bad news is the spine is a bit too thick so it will shave more like a dump truck than a sports car. The good news is that can be fixed, and the steel is pretty good. You chances of success with this razor are not great, but there is a chance, unlike with your RSO. And the price is right. Free shipping.
 
I have a few more questions.

1. My 3k/10k honing stone is double sided, one of sintered synthetic Ruby and the other or natural Agate. Which side is the 3k? From the use of it, I think is is the Ruby. The seller has no idea.

2. I have read that when honing a SR, the stone should be held, not used on a bench. Why?

3. The seller of my stone (who hasn't a clue about what he sells) says that the stone should be used with oil. I have always preferred to use water. What are the pros and cons of each?
Never used ruby but have used agate as a refresh. I used it with water.

I have a set of stones that I use with oil but nothing like yours. I use gun oil for lower grits and clock oil for very very fine finishing. It is really dependent on the stone. Some stones (particular stones not stone types) just seem to respond better with oil, I think it reflects the variability of natural stones. The oil does allow you to push some natural stones to a finer degree. It is also convenient when refreshing a razor because it automatically oils it!

I like to hold the stone in my hand because it gives me more control. Particularly with a natural stone you can feel the feedback with both hands. It gives you a greater degree of pressure control because you can adjust overall pressure with the stone holding hand and rotational and stroke with the hand holding the razor. But there are very fine honers who prefer to rest the stone on the bench.
 
In hand honing works better, particularly for a newbie, because you can more easily regulate pressure, and the razor and hone are much better at aligning themselves than you are. Just let the stone sort of float loosely out in the space in front of you. Let the razor find the stone. The more you try to control it, the more you will likely screw it up. When the stone is on a bench, it can't "get away" from the razor. Honing in hand will get you off to a much better start. You can always switch to bench honing later, if you can think of a reason to do so.
 
If you are using that much tape make sure you are applying rotational torque towards the edge, so that you are using the tape as a guide but not pressing down into it. Still keep contact between tape and hone of course.

Do you have access to Ali Baba where you are? You can find King Stone's there and a couple of gold dollars (more chance of getting a half good one) they should be readily available as Chinese made.

Make yourself a newspaper strop:

Or lay the newspaper flat on a counter. I used to do this all the time as a student they are better than a poor leather one in my experience.
That is one way to make a newspaper strop. Perhaps, (YMMV} a better way is to fold a sheet of newspaper longways into a long strip about 2-1/2" wide, and pass one end over a towel bar. Pinch both ends together and pull tight. I have done this and it does work, though not as good as a nice leather strop. But if you slice it to bits while learning, the good news is it is disposable and you can make another in less than a minute. Try it both ways.

If the seller doesn't even know which side is 3k and which side is 10k, he is probably just pulling those numbers out of his rear end. So in that case a King or even a Bear Moo might be more dependable for about the same price. Hard to say. The bottom line is buying the cheapest stuff that comes out of China shouldn't surprise you with what you get. GD66 razors the one sort of exception.

You might try to find a loupe or a USB microscope or a clamp-on microscope for your phone camera. Look at the scratch patterns from honing on the two sides. That will tell you which is finer. Having some serious magnification is very useful when honing.

When you are back in civilization you could get a few sheets of lapping film and an acrylic block, and have a very dependable and consistent honing setup for cheap.
 
I can buy a GD66 through Lazada (owned by Alibaba) for about USD 6 including delivery to my door in the Philippines. I considered that but decided to order a Titan for about USD 30 (also through Lazada) on the recommendation of my Chinese friends. That should hopefully be delivered by the end of this week.
 
Tomorrow I will try honing my "RSO" with 5 pieces of tape. Before I do, I will try and measure how much the sqishiness of the tape affects the bevel angle. Should be interesting.

What I love is that life is always about learning.
 
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I will be ordering some lapping film from Japan early next year. That will be used on my Titan - if needed. I will be away overseas during Christmas/New Year.
 
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