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Picking a modern SR or two

From Bulgaria.
One of the problems I had when starting out was that I never had a razor that was truly shave-ready to use as a reference of what a good edge feels like. The ones I bough as shave-ready tugged and were not comfortable, and if I was not as stubborn of nature as I am, I would have given up and continued to use shavettes.

I have a few days off, and if I find time, I will hone up a Gold Dollar 66 and send it to you, no charge. You can then decide if it's worth the investment to make your own balsa strops.

PM me your address if you are interested.
 
One of the problems I had when starting out was that I never had a razor that was truly shave-ready to use as a reference of what a good edge feels like. The ones I bough as shave-ready tugged and were not comfortable, and if I was not as stubborn of nature as I am, I would have given up and continued to use shavettes.

I have a few days off, and if I find time, I will hone up a Gold Dollar 66 and send it to you, no charge. You can then decide if it's worth the investment to make your own balsa strops.

PM me your address if you are interested.

Thank you, I appreciate the offer. I'm still trying to get the hang of the lapping films first and then I will try the balsa strops. Are you also using lapping films before the balsa or synthetic/natural stones?
 
Thank you, I appreciate the offer. I'm still trying to get the hang of the lapping films first and then I will try the balsa strops. Are you also using lapping films before the balsa or synthetic/natural stones?
No, I tried films, but I prefer using stones.

I have three Naniwa Superstones 3k, 8k and 12k. That's all I use before the three diamond pasted balsa strops.

These days I only hone a razor once, and after that maintain it on the .1 micron balsa strop.

Never have to go back to the stones which is a pity, I like honing! :c9:
 
No, I tried films, but I prefer using stones.

I have three Naniwa Superstones 3k, 8k and 12k. That's all I use before the three diamond pasted balsa strops.

These days I only hone a razor once, and after that maintain it on the .1 micron balsa strop.

Never have to go back to the stones which is a pity, I like honing! :c9:

I have one jnat finish stone and from what i've understand, if my razors are properly sharpened that stone might be enough to maintain them sharp without the need to use anything else which is fine by me, but it wouldn't hurt if I can learn how to sharpen a razor from bevel to finish. I think I should first focus on learning how to shave myself first.
 
A very kind and generous offer from @Biltong & Boerewors. A wise man would jump at that.

For a modern razor or three I like Ralph Aust, Thiers Issard and Koraat Knives. These manufacturers make razors that are both beautiful and effective. Some of your money will go on nice fit, finish and premium scales with these brands. I appreciate these nicities even if they don’t directly impact the quality of the shave. They are also pretty easy to get shaving. A GD will work but it may take more skill and work to put the initial edge on.

I don’t use films or balsa anymore I did start with them and I’m glad that I did. They are by far the easiest way to get a shave ready edge in your razor. Many of the typical newbie pitfalls are removed from the equation and there are clear instructions to follow.

There is no denying that the edges produced by this method are the sharpest edges currently possible. I’ve never heard anyone debate that. It’s pretty much an accepted fact. If that level of sharpness is required or even desired is up for debate. For me it’s not but I have enough experience now to have developed my own personal preferences. When you’re starting out the most pressing concern you have is if your tools are up to the job. Is my razor sharp enough? With films and diamond pasted balsa you can confidently remove that variable from the learning process. When you nail it there is no doubt that your razor is shave ready. When you see your razor tree topping hairs like a laser beam you know it’s ready. You don’t need to second guess it.

It’s easy, it’s cheap, it works, there are clear instructions and many dedicated disciples happy to coach you through it. If you’re new to straight razors, a Method Edge is a no brainer. Once you learn to do it the easy way you can play around with other methods and finishers. The films make a great platform to build on if you choose to go that way. When you stuff up your first edges with other methods you will always have something to fall back on.
 
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I have one jnat finish stone and from what i've understand, if my razors are properly sharpened that stone might be enough to maintain them sharp without the need to use anything else which is fine by me, but it wouldn't hurt if I can learn how to sharpen a razor from bevel to finish. I think I should first focus on learning how to shave myself first.
Your above statement is spot on “that stone might be enough”. Provided that you also have a lapping plate to keep it flat and raise a slurry.

Jnats are can be incredible finishers. I’m fairly certain that the very best shaving edges in the world come from a Jnat. But there are Jnats and there are Jnats… There is almost infinite variety and variability in this type of stone. More than any other types of stone. Not all are finishers. Many have toxic inclusions. Most are irregularly shaped and don’t sit flat. All the stones have different abrasive qualities. Not all will work on all razors. And each one requires a slightly different technique. As a newbie you won’t know how to assess the quality of the stone. Even if you do get a good finisher there is a delicate slurry dance to master on top of the usual standard honing strokes. In short Jnats are masterclass stones and not ideal for beginners. Unless of course you got it from an actual honing master that checked it out and thought you exactly how to use it. Different story.

Even so, you would still have another issue. If you make one bad move on the Jnat you may degrade the edge to an extent that the Jnat is too fine to bring it back. It happens even to the best of us. It’s always useful to have a progression on hand even if you rarely use it.

If you rarely use the progression, why splash out on an expensive one when the cheap one works just as well, gives you more grit progressions, takes up less room and never needs lapping?

I use Shapton glass now. It’s great, it’s fast and it’s less fiddly. But it costs big bucks, you get less grit stages, it takes more skill to know when to move up the progression, and you need a diamond lapping plate (or two) to use it. For someone that knows that they like straight razors it’s great. For a beginner not so much.
 
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Straight razor shaving is awesome but there is a learning curve. Starting out with the easiest, most proven methods will give you the best possible chance of success. Of course it will still take practice but the odds will be strongly stacked in your favour.

Everyone here wants you to succeed. Once you get over that initial hurdle it’s great. We all struggled a bit in the beginning. It’s just part of the process that separates the men from the boys.
 
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Your above statement is spot on “that stone might be enough”. Provided that you also have a lapping plate to keep it flat and raise a slurry.

Jnats are can be incredible finishers. I’m fairly certain that the very best shaving edges in the world come from a Jnat. But there are Jnats and there are Jnats… There is almost infinite variety and variability in this type of stone. More than any other types of stone. Not all are finishers. Many have toxic inclusions. Most are irregularly shaped and don’t sit flat. Each stone has different abrasive qualities. Not all will work on all razors. Each requires a different technique. As a newbie you won’t really know how to assess the quality of the stone. Even if you do get a good finisher there is a delicate slurry dance to master on top of the usual standard honing strokes. In short Jnats are masterclass stones not ideal for beginners. Unless of course you got it from an actual honing master that checked it out and thought you exactly how to use it.

Even so you still have another issue. If you make one bad move on the Jnat (it happens) you may degrade the edge to an extent that the Jnat is too fine to bring it back. It’s always useful to have a progression on hand even if you rarely use it.

If you rarely use the progression, why splash out on an expensive one when the cheap one works just as well, gives you more grit progressions, takes up less room and never needs lapping?

I use Shapton glass now. It’s great, it’s fast and it’s less fiddly. But it costs big bucks, you get less grit stages, it takes more skill to know when to move up the progression, you need a diamond lapping plate (or two) to use it. For someone that knows that they like straight razors it’s great for a beginner it’s overkill and harder to use.

You have a point about everything, which is why i'm starting small to test the waters with lapping films first then perhaps with pasted balsa and after that wherever the story takes me. Lots of people have told me that honing a razor isn't all that difficult or impossible to learn, but from what I see so far, I wouldn't call it super easy either and it has a learning curve which takes time and patience to master.
 
Lots of people have told me that honing a razor isn't all that difficult or impossible to learn, but from what I see so far, I wouldn't call it super easy either and it has a learning curve which takes time and patience to master.
You are absolutely correct. It takes a long time to get it right IMO. FWIW, the hard part for me was realizing how much I needed to expect from the bevel-setter, before moving on. If the bevel-setter edge isn't a little scary, all the way along its length, then I have no business moving on to something finer.
 
One of the problems I had when starting out was that I never had a razor that was truly shave-ready to use as a reference of what a good edge feels like. The ones I bough as shave-ready tugged and were not comfortable, and if I was not as stubborn of nature as I am, I would have given up and continued to use shavettes.

I have a few days off, and if I find time, I will hone up a Gold Dollar 66 and send it to you, no charge. You can then decide if it's worth the investment to make your own balsa strops.

PM me your address if you are interested.
I would definitely go for it. That is the missing part of the equation for you, a known shave ready edge. You will have something that you can definitely learn to shave with, and something to compare your own edges with. You are correct in thinking you need to learn to shave, and to know that your shaving skills are fully developed, before you will progress very far in honing. That razor is the tool, is the key, to it all. And free? OKay yeah, a GD66 is a pretty cheap razor and you can get one for a few bucks, but that one will be nice and sharp. That's the missing element, the sharpness.
 
I was lucky to start with a razor that had perfect geometry and was very close to shave ready (RA). I was also lucky to start with the film and balsa method.

I had to pay very close attention to always lifting the edge before the spine. Once I got that, the edges were great. I still stop at the end of each honing stroke, rotate the edge off the stone slightly with the spine on the stone, and only then lift the razor off. It’s even more critical with arks.
 
^ +1

I started by using film to set bevels. That was eating up a lot of my courser films so I soon switched over to synthetic whetstones (400, 1k & 3k) for bevel setting. I then move on to film before finishing on diamond pasted balsa.

I tried natural stone finishing but my heart and wallet were not into it. I went back to my films and balsa.

What I did find was that incorporating short X strokes into my 0.1μm balsa stropping very noticeably improved the comfort of my SR shaves without detracting the edge's keenness. I may have found what is perfect for me, diamond pasted balsa keenness with natural whetstone-like finish comfort.
 
I am done with the preparation and honing of the razor.

I spent about 5 minutes on a belt sander rounding the heel and grinding away a bit of the stabilizers. That’s all that is necessary for it to sit flat on the hones. Once you have addressed the small issues, it's easy to hone a GD.

Oh and I wiped off the paint with nail varnish remover, doesn't improve the edge, but I don't wait for it to flake off.

After that it honed without any issues and about 20 minutes later it is already sharp enough to shave, with a nicely polished edge. At this stage it probably compares favourably with most "shave-ready" edges, but that is not enough.

I will now put it through the diamond pasted balsa progression. That will turbo-charge the edge to a whole new level.

Test shave tonight. If I am happy with it, it will be posted tomorrow.


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Well... I shaved with it, and what can I say? I am very happy with the result.

It's sharp enough to comfortably go ATG from the first stroke up from my neck to my jaw.

It's sharp enough to easily shave with the spine barely off your face.

It's sharp enough to not feel harsh, but smooth.

When you treat them right, Gold Dollars often reward you with results not expected from a $3 razor. The shaving performance can match any razor many times more expensive.

Some of the reason would be because you don't hold back when setting the bevel. This is not precious metal, and if you ruin it, it's no great loss. When I hone an expensive razor, I try to remove as little metal as possible, which sometimes is not enough.

I will leave it open to dry tonight, touch it up in the morning, strop it on clean leather, sanitise it, and post it.

When you get it, don't do anything to it, just shave and see if you like it. If it can't shave your beard, I am afraid straight razors may not be the thing for you. Unless your beard is made from tungsten, it will cut it easily and comfortably.

Two ways of ruining the edge without trying too hard:
1) Using too steep an angle when shaving - this one needs the spine barely of your face, no more.
2) Incorrect stropping on hanging leather - keep a fair amount of tension, and use light pressure, don't let it sag.

I include a piece of balsa, lapped flat and pasted with .1 micron paste. It's not ideal, it's should be twice the length, it's not a method strop. It's something that will see you through until you can make real strops, if you choose to do so.
Just strop 50 times each way after every shave, with VERY light pressure, less than the weight of the blade, strop on normal clean leather, and the edge will last a long time, maybe indefinitely.

Watch the video by @Slash McCoy

Oh, and it will not work for your other razors, this one went through the whole process, the others didn't.

Hope it's the missing piece for you.

I enjoyed honing and shaving with it!
 
I'm sure it would do just fine and after I shave a few times with it I will get a better understanding of the sharpness of the razor. The razors I have are also sharp, but in my case I just need something scary sharp, since my whiskers are not average. I really wish I had soft whiskers like lots of other people so I can use all kinds of razor blades and straight razors with ease, instead of looking for very sharp blades to do the job.
 
I'm sure it would do just fine and after I shave a few times with it I will get a better understanding of the sharpness of the razor. The razors I have are also sharp, but in my case I just need something scary sharp, since my whiskers are not average. I really wish I had soft whiskers like lots of other people so I can use all kinds of razor blades and straight razors with ease, instead of looking for very sharp blades to do the job.
Don't worry. There are things you can do to up your shave game. Have a shave or two the way you always shave, first, and then I will give you a killer tip that will allow even a mediocre edge to give you a satisfactory shave. For now, keep the angle low. Stretch your skin TIGHT. Try to stretch it "upstream", toward the root of the hair. This exposes a little more of the whisker but more importantly it makes it stand up better. It can help to take a hot shower right before shaving but don't dry your face. Lather up immediately, and shave. The shower will soften your whiskers a little bit. Another thing that will soften your whiskers somewhat is lathering with a soap or cream that contains a little sodium hydroxide (lye) in it. Not enough to eat up your skin LOL! Just enough to strip the protective oils from the hair, and soften the hair. Godrej Rich Lather, in the red tube, is a good one. Any Indian shop should have it cheaper than online prices because it is a very popular cream.

Like @Biltong & Boerewors said, don't do anything to the razor. This will keep your stropping out of the equation. Strop before every other shave after the first one, though.

The .1u diamond balsa will be a real game changer. Don't be afraid to go more laps on it. 50 is kind of standard but some guys use twice as many. This is one of the few times when counting laps is a good thing to do, because there is practically no feedback from the balsa. The important thing is super light pressure, and make double certain that you never lift the spine off the balsa while the edge is on it. Very very very important. One stroke with the spine elevated will cause a huge setback.

One thing I urge you to do before you shave. Sweep the razor through the air, about 1/4" (that's around 6mm) above the skin of your forearm. The idea is to see if the razor will easily cut an unsupported hair. A solid but unspectacular shave ready edge should get one or two hairs each pass when you do that. But it might get several hairs each pass. That is an exceptional edge, a true Method edge. Or, maybe it treetops practically every hair it encounters and does so silently, without disturbing the base of the hair at all. This is the insane sharp edge, the crazy, uncommon edge, as good as human hands can make a razor, and even with much practice, following The Method exactly, it is rare to get that level of edge.

Going the other way, maybe it doesn't treetop at all for you at 1/4" but it does, at 1/8". That is shave ready, about as sharp as most professional honemeisters will get your razor, and you can shave with it. It just isn't an edge to remember. But if it won't treetop at all, even down at 1/8", which is almost touching the skin, then I would not consider it shave ready. Results may vary slightly, depending on your razor handling technique and your hair texture but this is a good general guide. So test the razor before you shave, and test every razor before and after you shave or hone so you can compare edges more objectively.

Good Luck, and Happy Shaves!
 
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