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Honing the 70HRC Titan Razor

My forum friend @rbscebu tantalized me without knowing it. First he mentioned that he had razors going all the way up to 70 HRC, and I wondered how that could be. I refrained from asking him, because I do not need more razor temptation. Finally he described what he was talking about, a Chinese Titan razor with obscure code markings, selected for this hardness. I was unable to resist.

Obtaining the razor was not without peril -- I had to venture onto Ali Express. My only experience with Ali Express was ordering some jewelry for my wife at Christmas. It never arrived. So I was not too pumped, but I tried anyway. I ordered the razor. Then realized, to my chagrin, that adding it to my cart, changing my shipping address to my new home, and pressing Buy before I checked every little detail, meant that I had ordered the razor to my old home address. Yikes.

I sent messages to the platform, and to the vendor, giving my new address. Things did not seem good. The vendor said they were shipping to my old address, and the platform gave me an update two days later, saying they had informed the vendor. Ugh. I hoped that the people at my old address would be charitable.

Finally I got a notice: the razor had arrived at the post office at my old address! I could go pick it up there! Imagine my excitement.

But when I checked my mail box, there it was. The 70HRC razor, in the flesh. They even included a strop.

So, OK, what have I got here? Putting it under the microscope was a shock, because I saw the dark surface that I like to see after I've been through all of the Method balsa strops. That should mean that the edge was seriously shave-ready. But I ran my finger across it, and it was not. Not even close.

So I put it on a 2K Shapton Glass stone, to see what was happening. What was happening was that whatever it had been through, it did not mean that this razor was honed. It meant that it was polished on the bevel, but did not have a proper apex, and the polish was in no way aligned with the razor's built-in sharpening guide.
The dark part is the very fine polish, not aligned with the built-in sharpening guide. The scratches below are from the SG2000.

This is not good. I'm going back to my coarsest razor honing stone, the SG500, and will post updates to this thread. I am excited about this razor; I did not expect it to not need work. Now comes the work. I will update this thread as I go.
Congratulations on receiving your Titan ACRO T.H.70. Like most here, I have never received a "factory-edged" SR that was truly shave ready.

You will find that the T.H.70 will probably require more work (i.e., more laps) than normal to get to shave ready. This is due to the harder steel. The ACRO steel is a stainless steel with a finer grain size than most other SR steels, yet still has strong inter-granular bonding.

Unfortunately the cost for this SR has increased about 38% since I bought mine about a year ago. Now about USD 108 (including worldwide shipping). At this higher price, I am not sure whether I would now consider it good value.

I am interested in how you find this SR once you have it shave ready to your standard.
I ended up selling the ones I tried except for the ACRM-2 one, actually. It honed up the best, took the best edge, and shaves the best. As I recall it actually had the most appropriate bevel angle, too, and the shave is not bad. Handles decently without all the excess weight of all the metal they put on their other razors' scales. The VG10 razor I absolutely loathed. It is extremely chippy and the bevel angle is huge, like a ZY. The ACRO wasn't bad but I didn't like it as much as the ACRM-2. I got the one with no metal liners in the fairly nice scales and no metal bolsters. There is a trademark pressed or CAM carved or lasered into the show side scale. One of their cheapest models and it is actually the one I think is the best design of their lineup. I didn't try their top of the line razor because I wasn't going to pay that kind of money for a razor not even made with a proper wedge between the scales. But don't be afraid of the hard steel. Diamond and AlOx are harder than any steel made. Just don't try to set the bevel on a mud brick King or Bear Moo or Sharp Pebble. More important than the hardness is whether or not you can put a nice smooth edge on it. Some steel just isn't made to take a fine edge like on a razor. Some ultra hard steel works just fine.

Their cheapie? I will probably shave with that one tomorrow. I am quite satisfied with it, though It is not exactly a favorite. A good basic razor with a few design no-nos that nevertheless still allow it to shave.
It's good to know that this is a stainless steel. I can generally tell on knives without further guidance, but not so much on razors.

It's certainly true that it is taking a lot of laps on the SG500 to get an even bevel all the way to the corners. But it seems no harder than for Iwasaki Swedish Steel. That is certainly not 70 HRC, so there must be some other dimension that drives resistance to the stone, possibly the one that people call "toughness."

This is new to me. I've dealt with a number of old razors, and there, what one needs to correct is the bad, lopsided honing habits of prior owners. The new razors I've had have all needed some work, but not much, and the real difference is: their bevels lined up with the sharpening guide. I didn't need to reshape that relationship. Here, I definitely do. Maybe that's life, in Chinese-made razor world.
Well. This is a good challenge. About 1800 strokes on the Shapton Glass 500, and I finally have nice lines along the whole bevel. I don't quite have an apex at the heel and toe yet, but I think I'm close. If I had to list the most common mistake I make when honing, it would be coming of the coarsest stone too soon. Trying not to do that here.
Another day, another 700 strokes. Not ready to move on yet, but closer. I think it's fair to say this razor had a twist, or at least that's what I call it when the toe on one side does not contact the stone, and the heel on the other side does the same.

I will keep working it before I move on from the SG500. I am all too aware of the price of moving on prematurely. Very few issues are fixed by the finer stones, if you have not gotten it right on the coarse ones.

I'm working up a list of things that are reliable indicators that you need to keep going. The idea is that if you don't have a microscope, you can pay attention to these things, and not others, and have a reliable gauge. I once imagined that the microscope would have a very short-term usefulness, I would just use it to develop these indicators, and then I would not need it any more. Ha! Not even close to true. But it still gave me some excellent hints. Here is my list of useful indicators, in descending order of usefulness.

1. The finger/thumb test. Once your digits know what a shave-ready edge feels like, you can judge whether you have one. It's also really useful for discovering that parts of the blade are ready, and parts are not. The good parts will feel super-smooth and keen; the not so good parts will feel rough and coarse by comparison.
2. The light test. If you move the razor edge around under a bright light, looking from various angles to spot anomalies, you can find many things that are otherwise hidden without serious magnification. Any different reflective pattern is suspect.
3. The suction test. When a razor blade is perfectly flat all along the bevel, and you run it over a stone that has water/slurry on it, and you flip it, and it resists, because the blade is producing a suction seal against the water, that is a very good sign. Watch out for chattering in this situation, it can damage your edge.
4. The glide test. If the razor glides along the stone like it's teflon, that is a very good indication that you have gone as far as you need to with that stone. You could still have hollows, though.
5. The slurry wave test. Here we have dropped down a couple of notches in usefulness. But if running your razor along the stone does not produce a perfectly even wave of slurry and swarf, you have an issue with bevel flatness. However, if it does produce one, that doesn't mean everything's perfect. You need the better tests.
After so many laps, you might want to lap your stone again. But yeah, don't move up a grit until you are truly done with this one. It is tempting, I know, with harder razors. Fairly early in my journey I picked up a Heljestrand that was like a friggin diamond, in hardness. But it was like a spatula in edge quality. I honed and honed and honed, and thought I had it, moved up in grit, ran the progression, and it wouldn't shave. Went back up a grit. Bevel HAD to be set, right? Now, I call that FBH, or Faith-Based Honing. I BELIEVE! LOL! It took me several days to just get back on the coarse stones and really gitter done. But once more, I didn't let the bevel setter finish its job. Third time was a charm, but it should never take a week to hone ONE STEENKING RAZOR.
I have only honed 9 of these Titan ACRO T.H.70 straight razors from factory edge to shave-ready. My first step is to check the bevel with a marker (Sharpie) pen. This tells me a lot about what will be required in the honing process.

I then set the bevel on 1k synthetic and finish off on 4k synthetic before progressing to lapping film (to 1um) and diamond pasted balsa strops (0.5um, 0.25um & 0.1um). Compared to normal high cardon steel SR's, I have found that the T.H.70 requires about 50% to 100% more laps on each grit.

It generally takes me an hour or two to take a T.H.70 from factory edge to fully shave ready. I have never had a problem with the with the honing of the T.H.70's toe or heel. Maybe I have just been lucky (9 times).

Once shave ready my T.H.70's are maintained with 50 laps on a clean leather strop before each shave and, after each shave, with 50 laps on a 0.1um diamond pasted hanging balsa strop. They never need rehoning again.
You've honed 9 of these?!? My hat is off to you.

I will not give up on the 500 grit stone until I am happy. Getting close, but not quite there. I know it does not pay off to do faith-based bailing on the coarse stone, and I've gotten wise to all the excuses I've used with myself to call it good enough and move on. Not this time. No way.

I lap my stone every 300-500 strokes or so, with a wonderful thing called a Nanohone NL-10, a brutal hunk of heavy metal with diamond-impregnated buttons on it. It came with a serious flatness guarantee. I thought it might be a frivolous purchase, but I use it all the time. I love guaranteed flatness in a honing stone; it's one less thing to worry about.
Today's post is all about discoveries.

It is not always 100% completely true that you should never plan on having the finer stones rescue you from what happened on the coarser stones. After maybe 4,000 strokes on the SG500, I moved on to the SG1000, with a nagging concern about the bevel on the toe on the side that says Titan. 500 strokes on the SG1000, and on to the SG2000, where there were still hints, but 700 strokes there seem to have produced a sort of acceptable situation on that toe. I admit that 4,000 strokes is about my limit for a stone, the point at which I say "hey, leave it for next time." But maybe I'm getting better about identifying those subtle things that really can be corrected on later stones.


That toe picture is not my perfect world, but the right scratches seem to be right at the edge, so I'm just going to ignore the part in the middle of the bevel, where there is chaos going on.

Having a microscope is not an unmixed blessing. Not only did I spend a lot of effort on a problem I probably would not have detected, and probably not have noticed during the shave, but I've spent much of the rest of my day dealing with glitches on other razors that I cannot feel on the edge, but can see clearly under the lens.

I have been forced to discard my claim that Iwasakis, and especially tamahagane Iwasakis, are the most resistant razors when you put them on the stones. This razor is more resistant, let's say 40% more resistant.

I discovered that my worst expectations about 70hrc steel in a razor were not justified: that it would be brittle. That leading edge strokes would make chips. Look at that edge. It is no less smooth after the ministrations of the 2000 grit stone than a high-quality carbon steel razor of more reasonable hardness would have been. I am impressed.

I am not impressed, though, with the pivot on these scales. It is super-loose, almost entirely free. I could probably pick this razor up the wrong way and have it swing around and cut three fingers at once. So I won't do that.

Honing this razor has not been entirely fun, but I think that's the stainless steel. Fun is usually a carbon steel thing. But I do feel a wonderful sense of achievement, in getting to this point.

Onward to the JNats!
Thanks for sharing. When I was active honing I used to use a 6 micron (4k equivalent) dmt for stupid hard blades like your describing. The 4k cuts much faster than a 600 or 1k. Once the bevel was established I ran the line up the stones starting from 1k. I have more than a few hard steel pocket knives that I only use diamonds for.
It's a good point.

I too have pocket knives that I only use diamonds for. What else would one do with Maxamet or S110v? The main reason I have not been eager to use diamonds here is that I don't think my precision stone flattener would work on them, and I've become really fond of honing on a super-flat stone.

The other reason is that it's a hobby, so I don't get too het up about making 4,000 strokes on a stone. I figure I'm learning something.
I forgot to mention the most important thing: those pocketknives I use diamonds on have hard carbides. Diamonds are absolutely necessary. I am assuming this razor does not. If it does, well, I'll learn something, hopefully before it touches my face.

I might be persuaded that this super-hard razor is my hardest honing challenge yet. It might not be so, if I did not have a microscope. Without that, things might seem to be going just great; with it, I see flaws and need more strokes.

The rescue stone in my sharpening sequence has always been my renge suita. Suita just means it has holes in it, though I've never spotted the holes, and renge is red spotted areas, like measles or, if you read Harry Potter books, spattergroit. Mr Watanabe says that renge imparts softness, and I have no reason to doubt it. My Ohira Renge Suita is definitely soft.

Years ago, when I was doing crappy wood working with chisels and planes that I was sharpening really well, I picked up a Garrett Wade catalog, and saw that they had grudgingly admitted that there might be some merit to natural stones. Even the expression was grudging, conceding that it was possible that a hard-steel edge might benefit from a soft stone, because it would be more "forgiving." You could tell they were not invested in the idea, but wanted to offer the option because they had just had too much pressure about it.

I still have that stone in a cabinet. I should pull it out and see what it is good for. It is yellow, which is a thing they pay the big bucks for these days (it shows slurry).

Anyway, this old Garrett Wade idea proved itself tonight. The soft renge suita did indeed perform well with the super-hard steel. Did I mention that suitas are prized for their fast-cutting? Fast cutting is something I really want, with this razor, because slow cutting is almost imperceptible.

After 500 strokes, the problematic toe looks like this:
That does not look perfectly even, but the fuzzy quality that this stone imparts at this magnification is evident even at the edge; more important, the edge now passes the thumb test all the way from front to back.

I am content, provisionally, but I plan to not skip any steps in my sequence for this hard hunk of steel. Next up is another suita, harder and finer.
@Herrenberg you seem to be putting in a lot of work on this SR, much more than I have found needed. Mind you, I don't look at my edges with a microscope. I just base my honing on TTT and shave results.
@Herrenberg you seem to be putting in a lot of work on this SR, much more than I have found needed. Mind you, I don't look at my edges with a microscope. I just base my honing on TTT and shave results.

Yeah, I know I don't need to do all this to get a good shave. But that's not all I'm after.

I want to fully experience the honing process on this extra-hard razor, to learn about all the effects of the extra hard steel on honing.

I like using my stones, and learning more about what they are capable of. Especially the JNats, which are often full of personality.

I really dislike un-flat bevels; that is, bevels where, if you put the razor on the stone and move it back and forth, the resulting scratches do not reach the edge all the way along. Work that I put in up front to fix that pays off in making things easier the next time I need to go to the stones, and also means that stropping will be free of razor-specific contortions to reach the whole edge.


Ask me about shaving naked!
A comment and a suggestion:

All Jnats do not cut hard, wear resistant steel equally, some do and some don’t. Don’t ask me why, IDK. But I can put two almost identical looking kiita side by side, one will cut SLD like carbon, the other just burnishes and the steel skates over it.

Try the Shapton Glass HR stones on hard/wear resistant steel. They were designed to cut the Lie-Nielsen A2 semi-stainless wear-resistant plane steel and they do that very well.

The right tool for the job. Diamonds of course will cut any steel.
Imo I would have stopped the bevel set work when the heel and toe had a tiny bevel. Or i would have rolled it on the stone/plate or whatever I was using. Diamond lapping film would clean that up rather quickly. Jmo. Some japanese western razors I have worked on were extremely hard. No swarf on a 600 chosera. But I don't know what their hrc was so I'm not trying to say that the two can be honed exactly the same.
I may finish off here with the Shaptons. Not because my JNats haven't been cutting the steel, but because once I moved to a harder suita, I started seeing a bit of tearing up on the edge. Not sure I'll go with the Shaptons, but I'll stick to something on the creamy side. My kiita is definitely too hard.
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