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Lapping film, try it.

I cannot find for the life of me the thread tools menu or any way to search a thread specifically (to the exclusion of everything else), so I will apologize in advance in case this question has already been asked or the matter discussed.

Without further ado: I've seen some lapping film sets on AliExpress which appear to be of a fitting size (22x28 cm) and include the appropriate grits for Method honing (12, 9, 3, 1 microns, and a few more that are probably useless). They're quite affordable and won't go through customs (for the time being at least).

Are these of sufficient quality?

If wondering why I'm asking, click on the Spoiler button.
  • I'm EU, so US-based retailers tend to be expensive/not practical
  • UK's mostly verboten because of Brexit fall-out
  • Digikey turns out to be expensive.
  • The selection on Amazon is dire, offline is worse.
  • The thread has almost 150 pages (whoa)
 
I would think you could find some in most countries in Europe. The film is used for more purposes than sharpening razors. I got some in the USA from a California plant that made stuff for polishing electronics.
 
Thorlabs has a European storefront on a German domain, however it does not seem to a viable option.

With Amazon out of the race, I'm not expecting any European shop to be competitive, they're probably going to ask for shipping what AliExpress would charge me for the whole set.

If the AliExpress sets are okay, I can buy two or three without spending a fortune, and won't have to worry about honing supplies for quite a while, which is A Good Thing, because in July the EU will be changing import rules from China, so better be stocked up.
 
I would NOT buy film from on aliexpress unless it is genuine 3M 261X type film and NO OTHER, and it is definitely listed as "Lapping Film", "Plain Back", "Aluminum Oxide", and not lapping paper, polishing paper, finishing paper, finishing film, polishing film, or any other close but not quite the same name. This is a common scam on Aliexpress, and on fleabay and even on Amazon. Other brands can be sort of okay and one no-name provider is excellent, namely NanoLapTech, currently my supplier. And also ThorLabs. I don't know sillymeters but in inches, you want 8-1/2" x 11" sheets. You will cut them in thirds lengthwise and have 11" long pieces that are just slightly under 2-7/8" wide. This is the right stuff. When you start accepting substitutes and compromises, eventually your entire method and your entire toolkit is severely compromised. Guys always ask "is THIS good enough?" or "will THAT work?", and my answer is always the same... it might, but if you accept things like "might" and "probably" and "almost as good", when there are so many details, dozens and dozens of details that you can compromise on, you are sliding into honing anarchy when you let the first one slip by, and you are simply using random tools and random technique, and your results are incredibly unlikely to be optimum. They will maybe be "good enough" but that isn't good enough for me. If it is good enough for you, then you can only hope that it doesn't turn out to be NOT good enough.

Keep in mind that if it is cheap and it is on Aliexpress, it is probably made in China or Pakistan. But if it says 3M 261X, then somehow they have found a way to ship it from Canada or the US all the way to China and then ship it to you and still make a profit. If it is too good to be true, maybe it isn't true. Or maybe it is, I don't know. But if it doesn't say 3M 261X Aluminum Oxide Lapping Film, then they are even TELLING you it is not the right stuff, so please don't wishful think that it is the right stuff.

As for the thread length, I am sorry to have to tell you this, but you will have to read the entire thread, anyway. The Method evolved over the years and is still slowly evolving. Skip a page and you may skip an important detail. One reason that The Method works is because there is no trial and effort process. You simply have to do everything exactly right in even the smallest detail, and then you can be sure that you will get great results. Leave things to random or to your own guessing or incomplete knowledge, and you will get random results.

Just imagine that you have a huge room full of a million monkeys, all with typewriters and case after case of paper, and every time they type a page they get a peanut. Eventually, completely at random, sooner or later they will collectively type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Eventually. Probably after a billion generations of monkeys have been born and died. There will also be hundreds of tons of completely useless pages covered with random typed characters that are of no value whatsoever. That's random. Twice a week I buy a Powerball and a Mega MIllions ticket. The jackpot prizes in both lottery draws is cumulative, starting at around $20M and occasionally going over a half billion dollars. All I have to do to win is to pick 6 numbers between 1 and 60. Easy, right? The drawing is random. If I keep buying my tickets every week for a billion years, I will probably win at least once. More likely since I am already 62 years old, I will continue to buy my tickets every week for another 30 years, and then stop because I will be dead. And I will not have won that jackpot. Random sucks. The Method avoids randomness. It works because it is spelled out in detail and is designed to corral the practitioner into a known chain of steps that have a proven track record.

What you buy off AliExpress might "work". Or it might not. If it does "work", will it work like the genuine article? And will your quasi-success in substitution embolden you to make other compromises? How many of these compromises does it take to reduce the effectiveness to uselessness, or to reduced but possibly acceptable usefulness?

Know your tools. Know your method. Don't compromise or guess or assume. That's my advice. Someone else may have advice that you like better. I will not argue, as I have no dog in that fight. Your razors. I am just answering your question as truthfully and honestly and completely as I can.

<EDIT> 1u grit is not available in 261X. The 1u you want is 262X type.
 
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I cannot find for the life of me the thread tools menu or any way to search a thread specifically (to the exclusion of everything else), so I will apologize in advance in case this question has already been asked or the matter discussed.

Without further ado: I've seen some lapping film sets on AliExpress which appear to be of a fitting size (22x28 cm) and include the appropriate grits for Method honing (12, 9, 3, 1 microns, and a few more that are probably useless). They're quite affordable and won't go through customs (for the time being at least).

Are these of sufficient quality?
I have been buying and using the seven-sheet sets of lapping film from AliExpress ever since I started my SR adventure. They (5 sets so far and another set now or order) have served me well for the more than 40 different straight razors that I have honed. Each set lasts for about ten SR honing sessions.

Barring physical damage, my SR's only get honed once. After that they are maintained only on diamond pasted balsa.
 
Just imagine that you have a huge room full of a million monkeys, all with typewriters and case after case of paper, and every time they type a page they get a peanut. Eventually, completely at random, sooner or later they will collectively type out the complete works of Shakespeare. Eventually. Probably after a billion generations of monkeys have been born and died. There will also be hundreds of tons of completely useless pages covered with random typed characters that are of no value whatsoever. That's random. Twice a week I buy a Powerball and a Mega MIllions ticket. The jackpot prizes in both lottery draws is cumulative, starting at around $20M and occasionally going over a half billion dollars. All I have to do to win is to pick 6 numbers between 1 and 60. Easy, right? The drawing is random. If I keep buying my tickets every week for a billion years, I will probably win at least once. More likely since I am already 62 years old, I will continue to buy my tickets every week for another 30 years, and then stop because I will be dead. And I will not have won that jackpot. Random sucks. The Method avoids randomness. It works because it is spelled out in detail and is designed to corral the practitioner into a known chain of steps that have a proven track record.
🧐
 
I have been buying and using the seven-sheet sets of lapping film from AliExpress ever since I started my SR adventure. They (5 sets so far and another set now or order) have served me well for the more than 40 different straight razors that I have honed. Each set lasts for about ten SR honing sessions.

Barring physical damage, my SR's only get honed once. After that they are maintained only on diamond pasted balsa.
Here are two AliExpress suppliers (not necessarily the best or cheapest). If you need fast(er) delivery you pay for it.


I am not sure how much 3M lapping film cost as it is not readily available to me unless I ship it from the US (at great expense). 3M film may last longer than the AliExpress film but if you are only honing a few SR's, the AliExpress film should be sufficient for your needs.

@Slash McCoy can be rather dogmatic at times (and often quite rightly so) however not all of us have access to the materials that he espouses to. We then have to just get as close as we can with what materials are available. I have been fortunate in that my "compromises" have produced near Feather-like edges - when I include diamond pasted balsa stropping in my routine.
 
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I have some of the aliexpress lapping film and it works fine. The set I have is one of those posted by rbscebu above. If I were to be honing more than I do now, the 3m film would probably be worthwhile. Just make sure it is the film and not paper and is not adhesive backed.
 
I bought 3M lapping film from a German E-bayer.
It was expensive at €25.99 + €4 P&P. I got non-PSA backed 9, 5, 3, 1, 0.3 and 0.05.
Can't remember if I can post the details here but if you want them pm me and I'll have a look for who I got it from.

Here it is cut into 3 inch strips.
IMG_20200905_155006.jpg
 
Here are two AliExpress suppliers (not necessarily the best or cheapest). If you need fast(er) delivery you pay for it.


I am not sure how much 3M lapping film cost as it is not readily available to me unless I ship it from the US (at great expense). 3M film may last longer than the AliExpress film but if you are only honing a few SR's, the AliExpress film should be sufficient for your needs.

@Slash McCoy can be rather dogmatic at times (and often quite rightly so) however not all of us have access to the materials that he espouses to. We then have to just get as close as we can with what materials are available. I have been fortunate in that my "compromises" have produced near Feather-like edges - when I include diamond pasted balsa stropping in my routine.
i used the same lapping film, even though I eventually went for natural stones. I think you can use this without being afraid that it won't get the results you are supposed to get.
 
These guys will sell you the real deal in Australia. They will ship it to wherever you are in the world if you have a postal address. Free if the order is big enough. Probably even the Philipines. They have a huge selection of every shape, size, grit, material and backing. Make sure to get the product codes that @Slash McCoy recommends i.e. the plain backed aluminum oxide “261X. The 1u you want is 262X type.“ I’ve thought of trying the diamond sheets but honestly the AO cuts steel very easily so there’s no need to get fancy.

 
I have never used diamond, because it is hard to find in full size sheets and is expensive. JUst going by what other film users have said, it works great and lasts longer, but not enough longer to make it particularly cost effective. However, if you are stuck with paying extremely high shipping so that the actual item price is no longer significant, diamond might be more economically feasible. And definitely consider placing a larger order than you need. You may be able to resell a sheet or two in your country and recoup some of the shipping cost. It could be that for instance an order of 30 sheets costs the same to ship as an order of 5 sheets.

DIgiKey is a good supplier but they aren't cheap.
 
I have never used diamond, because it is hard to find in full size sheets and is expensive. JUst going by what other film users have said, it works great and lasts longer, but not enough longer to make it particularly cost effective. However, if you are stuck with paying extremely high shipping so that the actual item price is no longer significant, diamond might be more economically feasible. And definitely consider placing a larger order than you need. You may be able to resell a sheet or two in your country and recoup some of the shipping cost. It could be that for instance an order of 30 sheets costs the same to ship as an order of 5 sheets.

DIgiKey is a good supplier but they aren't cheap.
What are your thoughts on lapping film for lapping stones? Plastic backed abrasives seem to have an advantage in that the backing is impermeable. They stick nicely to flat surfaces with a light misting of water. Silica carbide paper works ok initially but soon becomes too wet and curls up on the edges. Do you think that Aluminium Oxide cuts steel very effectively but is it hard enough to cut hard stones like a Black Ark?

Diamond sheets would certainly do the trick but they are eye wateringly expensive in the full size sheets. Digikey sells them in minimum of 10 sheet packs. For that price you could get a couple of Atoma plates. I’m pretty sure that my granite surface plate is flatter than my Atoma though.
 
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A hard Ark will eat AlOx film for a snack, I am thinking. But I don't know for sure. If you give it a try, let us know. Diamond film would probably work, I don't know, but finding a piece big enough to lap a stone on will be tough. You can get AlOx film from ThorLabs that is 9" x 13". That would be a nice size for lapping stones, because you could get your end overrun down to zero pretty easy. You don't want to run off the ends if you can help it.

Sandpaper works okay but better to stick it to your plate with some spray adhesive. That will stop the curling.
 
So recently I upgraded my plates from 3/4" thick to 1-1/2" thick. These are way easier to hold, and the acrylic isn't heavy enough to be a bother. I have had good luck with acrylic from TAP Plastics until now. I just spent the best part of a day trying to figure out why I couldn't hone one razor. ONE. A P81, nothing strange or odd about it, nice symmetrical blade, very slight smile, and of course no stabilizer. Piece of cake, right? So how come I couldn't get a nice bevel? I would set the bevel and all good, right? Then the next grit in my progression I look at the bevel and it isn't making good contact along the entire edge. And my razor is chewing up the film at the edge of the plate. Tried everything. Even bench honing. More pressure. Less pressure. Half laps. Ziggy zaggy. Trashing the film. Trashing the razor. Finally I gave up and tried another. Same model. Went after it. Every trick in the book. Is my acrylic flat? Of course it is. Never had a problem before. Went back to one of my 3/4" plates, and no problem. I don't have a precision straightedge, at least not a true precision reference straightedge, so couldn't do the feeler gauge test, Tried to rig sort of a Redneck collimator and well, that didn't work, but undeniably this piece is way out of flat, by several thousandths, apparently. I had better results from marble floor tile!

So I just pulled the trigger on a 0.0001" granite surface plate. Only problem with that is it probably weighs 40 lbs so I can't hone in hand. Maybe I can use the granite plate and some film to flatten my acrylic, I don't know. But just a heads up to all you film honers. TAP Plastics doesn't guarantee their cast acrylic to be particularly flat, but in the small pieces that we use for honing, usually 12" x 3", it has always been flat enough to gitter done, for me. Anyway, if you are having problems with film honing, check your plate. Don't assume it is flat if something is wrong and you can't figure out what it is. There are only just so many ways a razor can resist your efforts to hone it. Non-PSA lapping film is very consistent and assuming you are using good product, it shouldn't give you any trouble. Check your plate! Verify!
 
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I am a bit confused about the 3M 261x. 3u should be 8000, 1u is 12000, but it is different on 261x.
Should I get 0.3u? To achieve the effect of 12000(normal 1u).
Thank you
 
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