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I'm Clueless on Half Strokes and Circles

I can do circles, they are kind of self explanatory but my question is what is their purpose? Are they used on some types of stones and not others?

I'm really baffled by half strokes. Half the length of the stone or half the length of the blade or both. Clueless on their purpose also.

Both of these may be good skills to add to my honing arsenal but I don't understand the execution or when they should be employed. Thanks!
 
IME circles are useful for faster material removal because you are continuously changing the direction of the abraded stria. Personally I typically only use circles in the early stages of bevel setting.

'Half strokes' are back and forth strokes using the whole stone but only on one side of the knife or razor. I think of it in relation to a normal 'full stroke' where you are alternating sides of the knife or razor. Again I personally only use these in early stages of bevel setting. 'Half strokes' are used if you are trying to raise a burr.
 
Half strokes can be used in any stage. Most of the strokes that are done are in honing are polishing strokes. I do half strokes throughout the entire progression. As long as you end doing some edge leading strokes your fine. The bottom line is it whatever stroke your most comfortable with is fine. Circles, half strokes, x strokes etc.
 
I can do circles, they are kind of self explanatory but my question is what is their purpose? Are they used on some types of stones and not others?

I'm really baffled by half strokes. Half the length of the stone or half the length of the blade or both. Clueless on their purpose also.

Both of these may be good skills to add to my honing arsenal but I don't understand the execution or when they should be employed. Thanks!

I never use circles - don't see the point in creating random direction striations but that's just me.
Half strokes, as bluesman says, is using the full stone but not turning the razor over at the end but rather reverse the direction of travel with the edge facing the same way but lighten up on the return.
The purpose is the stroke is faster than singles so it speeds things up. You can do many strokes quickly.
So long as you do the same amount on the other side. This is normally done (if at all) at the early stages only.
ALWAYS finish with single strokes.
 
As spine-leading passes are sometimes used to eliminate burrs, I've been of the impression that half-laps are not really conducive to creating a burr as almost half of the gesture is a spine-leading pass and by flipping the blade from side to side, no burr is formed. But I guess I'm wrong on an extended series of half-laps. In using half-laps, I agree that this is mostly used with the coarser stones or at least at the start of a honing cycle with a stone rather than at the end. To do these, I normally do a descending progression: 10 half laps on each side of the blade > then 5 > 3 > 2 > 1, or some variant like that.
 
As spine-leading passes are sometimes used to eliminate burrs, I've been of the impression that half-laps are not really conducive to creating a burr as almost half of the gesture is a spine-leading pass and by flipping the blade from side to side, no burr is formed. But I guess I'm wrong on an extended series of half-laps. In using half-laps, I agree that this is mostly used with the coarser stones or at least at the start of a honing cycle with a stone rather than at the end. To do these, I normally do a descending progression: 10 half laps on each side of the blade > then 5 > 3 > 2 > 1, or some variant like that.
Half strokes are extremely efficient strokes whether you are trying to set a bevel or polish a blade. I do descending strokes alternating as you said. And then finish with edge leading strokes.
 
I'm not really a fan of circles as it creates a pretty chaotic scratch pattern and you are also relinquishing some degree of fine control. Not too crazy about half strokes on really hollow ground razors for that same control reason.
 
I read that circles allow slurry to reach the bevel from multiple angles, to allow a better polish or work quicker. If your slurry is wrong though can build up and scratch the face of the razor. The good “it can work some of the larger scratches further into the bevel”. The bad, “if you don’t know what you’re doing you can get too much slurry (too thick?) and cause unsightly scratches on the face of the razor”.
 
Circles are great strokes. But for a new guy they may be difficult to do. There is a tendency to hit the edge unevenly. I don't think the stroke method makes a difference. It's more about accuracy and consistency. And whatever stroke gets you there.
 
Head-on half strokes - blade on stone perpendicular to long edges, stroke is edge-leading forward and spine leading on the return, on one side, with no angles, or x-ing. Normally, I will do sets of 30/40 and then flip the blade to repeat the process.
I only use these on coarse stones for heavy stock removal on difficult blades. They most definitely do encourage burr creation but subsequent work removes the artifacts.

Heel forward or 'X' type half stroke Still only for removing steel fast on coarse stones, possibly also a 1k though. These are less prone to burr development. Same process as above with the blade either angled so the heel is leading or an 'X' stroke component is incorporated. For fun, heel leading x-type half-strokes keep things interesting. I use this stroke a lot for sharpening knives.

Circles - Theoretcially, the blade is on the stone longer so you remove more steel in the same amount of time. I half-heartedly tested/timed/mapped this out and found that both styles were covering roughly the same distance on the stone in the same amount of time. If you have a small stone, using circles can be easier if x-strokes are taking you off the stone erratically. I use them occasionally, rarely actually, and only for early work. The un-aligned scratch pattern annoys me to no end.
 
I have found better my edges are usually better off not using circles. Yes, its a good way to cut steel fast, but I have found if there are deep horizontal striations near the apex, later on they will sometimes break or form a small wire segment.
 
For fun, heel leading x-type half-strokes keep things interesting. I use this stroke a lot for sharpening knives.

When I stop to think about it, that's the same stroke I've used on knives for years. Didn't know it had a name.

Great explanation Gamma. Half strokes sound like an interesting way to get things started during a bevel set. I'll be practicing them soon.
 

Slash McCoy

I freehand dog rockets
I don't use actual circle strokes very much. Mostly when the bevel is not even close to meeting. I did try light circle strokes (sets of 5) on the Jnat with a very faint slurry and got a particularly gentle edge, though nowhere near as sharp as I prefer. Half strokes probably isn't a very good name for half strokes, since you actually go back AND forth, but just on one side of the blade at a time, without flipping. Like everyone else said, it raises a burr when the bevel sides meet, whether you want it to, or not. Very useful for setting the bevel, because if the burr was raised on each side in turn, and then carefully honed off with light pressure alternating laps, there can be no doubt that the bevel is set. Alternating laps is when you travel edge first along the hone, flip the blade, and travel edge forward on the new side, back to the end. For most of us, this is about 90% of the honing. Some guys ONLY use alternating laps, start to finish, and that's fine, too. Circle strokes are commonly used for bulk steel removal, sets of 10 or more, per side.
 
With my hands, early on, circles lead to uneven to toe wear. I took the suggestion of Lynn Abrams' vidyas and now keep my elbow above my wrist at all times when doing circle (when I remember, it feels awkward a bit), this really helps me even the pressure/torque. But I only use them in early midrange work. Never finish work, never on any sort of smiling blade. I really prefer x strokes. If I really want to grind, half x are fun too.
 
When I stop to think about it, that's the same stroke I've used on knives for years. Didn't know it had a name.

Great explanation Gamma. Half strokes sound like an interesting way to get things started during a bevel set. I'll be practicing them soon.

If you have a heavy rusted pitted and jacked up wedge, they're a life saver.
 
In following video from DrMatt he recommends to not do any circles on Coticule:

I do circles from time to time on stones with slurry which can brake down: jnat tomo, mikawa naguras, thuringian, cretan hone and surely some other which I am not aware of.

Working on plain water or with non-breakable :) slurry I do avoid usind circles

Cheers
 
There are many many guys who hone on a coticule using circles. Very experienced to boot. I find that there are few rules. If you have issues with circles on a coticule then you alter your stroke.
 
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