Honing Question - Newbie

Discussion in 'Straight Razor Shave Clinic' started by rokerdepipe, Jan 23, 2007.

    My first post here and my first foray into the forum! Great site Gentlemen.

    I have a straight razor coming in the mail from ClassicShaving.com. It's a DOVO Genuine Ebony SS 5/8 along with some Taylor of Bond Street Shaving Soap in a bowl (Lavender scent).

    I've learned from some postings here that my razor will need to be honed prior to use? Is that right? I found a site that described honing, and I have a honing stone paddle I bought in Vancouver for straight razors. I also have the hanging strop with leather on one side and linen on the other from Germany. I also have the little tube of paste for applying into the leather (and NOT the linen) side.

    So, I think I'm all set. (Yes, I have a pure badger brush as well!).

    My question is this....when honing, one puts the spine of the blade onto the stone that has had a bit of water applied to it. Then the blade is brought down to meet the stone so that the blade and spine both have equal contact with the stone, and that the blade will move in the direction of the blade. My honing stone is not as wide as the blade (the blade edges stick out on either side of the stone). So, do I move the blade from left to right as I move down the stone or do I keep it absolutely straight, and then on my next pass move the blade to one of the other ends and repeat, thus doing this three times to get the length of the blade honed? Does this make sense?

    Thanks for your replies!
  1. ouch

    ouch Moderator Emeritus

    Unless your stone is wider than your blade is long, you'll have to use an "X" pattern.

    Keep this in mind- you're not sharpening a knife here. Try to use as little pressure as possible- aim for zero pressure.

    It would be a very good idea to let someone who knows what he's doing have the first crack at it. Classic farms their sharpening out to Lynn Abrams of straightrazorplace.com, and there are several experienced honemeisters there (and here) who can help you out. Before you put your new pride and joy to the stone, I would suggest picking up a decent used razor to practice on. In theory, it should be much easier to sharpen a razor than a knife, as you don't have to find the exact angle of the bevel (you just lay the blade flat). In reality, it is much harder than sharpening a knife.

    Stropping is a more important skill to learn. How long you can go between honings (and how good your shaves will be) is more a function of stropping than anything else. You won't need any sharpening paste on your strop (nor should you use it at all on a hanging strop) for quite a while once the initial edge is established.

    The learning curve for a straight razor is much steeper than for any other type of shaving, and at times it may seem to be an impossibility. Stick with it, and you'll soon get good results.
  2. Try to find Ilija if you are in Canada (Firestart) - he'll probably help you out.

    In addition to what Ouch said: the stone paddle you have is a very fine polishing / finishing hone. Usually you need something else on new razors (e.g. Norton 4k / 8k). If you plan to use it I predict hours and hours of work, depending on what the condition of the brand new Dovo is (generally - they are close to shave-ready but not quite there)

    The fact that it is a stainless steel blade means it is harder than carbon steel blades and it will take even more to hone.

    If it's already in transit to you - nothing wrong with trying to shave with it, but be prepared to be unable to actually use it for shaving as is.

    Good luck and yes - stick with it but try to start right

  3. Looks like you have the right idea about honing already. Just remember to apply a lot of pressure at first and decrease pressure over time. And Ilja is in Toronto I think...but I might be misstaken so he's probably not too close.
  4. that is a VERY questionable approach to honing and one that could likely ruin a razor. Most would agree that using a light touch is the more effective way to hone a razor. If ANY pressure were to be used, it would be very light pressure, not "a lot" of pressure.

  5. I too would keep the pressure very light. Concentrate on keeping the blade perfectly flat on the hone or strop.
  6. To some it might be. But it's what I've been doing since the beginning. Although a lot of pressure is probably an exagerration (spelling?). It also all depends on what state the razor is in. Does a bevel need to be created? Is it extremely dull? Is it just a freshen up honing session? All these things decided on how to hone.
  7. ouch

    ouch Moderator Emeritus

    Since the original post is about honing a new razor, I don't think establishing an initial bevel should be an issue.
    True, you may have to grind away at an old dog quite a bit to get it in working order, but that new Dovo shouldn't require more than a delicate touch.
  8. Agreed. Let the stone do the work
  9. Get your hands on a copy of Lynn Abrams' DVD (avail from classicshaving.com) - its well worth the $20 and will cover honing, stropping, collecting, restoring, shaving, products and more.
  10. Thanks for all of the advice fellas. I think that with this one being new there won't be such a need for a lot of pressure so I'll just take her smooth and slow letting the stone do the work.

    How many times should I run the blade over the stone? I heard somewhere about fifteen times (each way counting once) and then to strop the blade about 50 times on the linen and about 12-20 on the leather side?

    What say ye?
  11. Which stone are you talking about? Different stones cut at different rates for a new blade I would think it would only need polishing on a higher grit stone and then stropping on leather. Then again without knowing the state of the edge it is difficult to say.

  12. Suzuki

    Suzuki Moderator Emeritus

    I agree with Ouch - do yourself a HUGE favour and have a pro put the edge on your new razor.

    Unless you are very patient, have experience honing knives or other tools and get lucky, you will likely have a hard time getting a shaving sharp edge on a SS razor. Yes, it can be done, but why risk a very good razor (and the 5/8 Dovo SS blades are great).

    I'm not sure if Joel is still offering to hone razors for newbies, but if he is, I would take him up on the offer. In addition to having spent a lot of time honing various razors, Joel has a huge arsenal of stones, hones and pasted paddles with which to bring a blade up to snuff.

    Also, if this is your first straight, you won't even know what shaving sharp is.

    Just as important, you're going to need a strop (both for daily stropping and something with an abrasive paste for routine touch-ups)>
  13. Hi, and Welcome to the world of straight razors! I'm also pretty new but I think I can help you a little bit. I have a few answers to your questions, a few recommendations on some great resources, and a few warnings against mistakes it seems you are making.

    First, the potential mistake. If you have one strop and it is a hanging strop, then don't put ANY abrasive paste on the leather side. There are acceptable treatments to put on but they are leather conditioners. Any red, green, or diamond paste is an abrasive and should only be put on a strop which is dedicated to that kind of paste. Your final stropping should be done daily on a leather strop with NO paste.

    Now to answer your questions. The blade is laid flat on the hone with both spine and edge touching the hone, and is moved in the direction of the edge to hone it. When your hone is not as wide as the blade you must use what is called the x-pattern of honing. The toe (tip) of the blade starts out off the hone, as you move the blade accross the hone, you also bring it down so that the toe of the blade ends up on the hone and the heel (other end) of the blade end up off the hone. Special care must be used the whole time to keep the blade very flat on the hone and not to roll or tilt it.

    As for the pressure on the blade. You always need to apply some pressure to keep the blade on the hone. As you gain experience you can lessen the pressure until it is only about the weight of the blade on which is keeping the blade on the hone, and this is what some people refer to as "zero" pressure. Sometimes, as Lx-emergency mentioned, more pressure needs to be used. All things are relative though and "heavy" pressure seems two mean 1-2 pounds of pressure. My experience is that varying pressure is needed depending on the state of the razor, and what you are trying to achieve. More pressure seems to take off metal more quickly. Less pressure is better at the end of honing when you are almost there and need to produce a fine edge. I am still experimenting with this and am definately no expert.

    How many strokes on the hone is another story. This depends on many factors, and only you will be able to tell when the razor is sharp. What is most important is that you have a method of checking your progress as you hone the razor. Nothing will help you more with honing than being able to know the effect you are having on the edge as you hone. Popular methods are the Hanging Hair test, The thumbnail test, the thumb test, and using a microscope. I won't explain all the methods here but you can easily read about them from others on various forums. The best test you can use to judge your honing is to shave with the razor, which is something I recomend that you do as much as possible.

    Keep in mind as you hone your razor that as a newbie, you will likely not be succesfull at it the first few times no matter how many strokes or what technique you use. This is because honing razors is a skill which requires PRACTICE. You won't get it the first time, and if you do then you may not know it because you will be shaving wrong and still be uncomfortable. The reward comes later when you finally do succeed at honing and shaving and you feel like you have really accomplished something.

    I definately second Ouch's recommendation to get a practice razor to practice honing on. A practice razor helps you learn the motions of honing and allows you to try different techniques without damaging your better razors. Owning practice razors has helped me the MOST as I am learning to hone. You may find, as I have for now, that you enjoy shaving with your practice razor too. I also second whoever recommended Purchasing Lynn's "World of Straight Razor Shaving". After you watch Lynn's DVD your skills will improve, of that I'm certain.

    Finally I've got a few resources to throw your way. The first is a forum called straightrazorplace.com That forum is admistered by Lynn Abrahms, who has a vast knowlege of straight razors and is a professional honer. He also seems like a nice guy, and is attentive to the needs of new members. There are many very knowlegeable people over there and many of them also post right here on B&B (like me). The second resource is Lynn's DVD which someone mentioned before. Over here on B&B a user named Joel is one of the most vocal about straight razors. He posts nice reviews of razors, and posts regularly in this forum with help for the new members.

    I hope that helps. Please let us all know how it turns out for you.

  14. There is absolutely no situation in honing when more than two pound of pressure is needed. Even when removing and old rusted edge 1 pound of pressure is more than adequate.
    Excessive force will cause a rounding of the very thin edge and make the development of a correct, flat bevel much more difficult.

    Patience and finesse,
  15. Hey, I didn't say LEAN ON IT! :D two pounds can be quite a lot when you're talking about a razor.

Share This Page