Sharp enough

Discussion in 'General Straight Razor Talk' started by Roske, Jul 15, 2019.

    Hi I’ve been using a DE for years. Finally trying straight razor. Picked up a 1996 GD polished on 12k stropped and have been using for a month. Don’t get as good a shave as with the DE. Edge won’t take hair off halfway on arm, but will shave off at skin. Is razor just not sharp enough
  1. MO1


    Have you taken the gold dollar straight to the 12k? Or have you progressed to the 12k?
    If you have taken it straight to the 12k from factory edge, I dare say it won't make much difference.
    You need to set the bevel properly, otherwise it won't make much difference. Then and only then consider a progression to 12k.
  2. So then I should go say 4-8 then 12 ?
  3. MO1


    If you can set the bevel on a 4k, then yeah sure.
    Just hard to say how much work needs to be done.
  4. Thanks
  5. Everyone has a different view of "how sharp is sharp enough". However, many straight razor shavers would agree that a it is possible to produce an edge on a straight razor that is sharper than even the sharpest DE blades. I try to get my own edges sharp enough to pop arm hairs about 1/2" above skin level. However, just as facial hair varies in coarseness, so to does arm hair. Thus, you need to find out what level of sharpness gives you a great shave. If shaving hair at skin level does not give you a good shave then you need a sharper blade.

    Sharpness of a straight razor edge begins with setting the bevel. If the two bevels one the two sides of the blade to not meet at an apex along the entire length of the blade, you need more work at the bevel setting stage. Once you get the bevel set properly, then you use one or more other hones to refine and polish the bevel. For most people, taking the edge up to a "true" 12K level should be sufficient. The reason I put "true" in quotes is that there are many stones that are advertised as 12K stones that do not perform at that level.

    I have a coarse beard and sensitive skin. I like taking my edges well beyond the 12K level with either natural or synthetic hones. After I hone the edge, I further polish it on pasted strops with 0.5, 0.25, and 0.1 micron CBN. However, for many folks, that might not be necessary.
  6. If it can’t treetop it’s not sharp enough.
  7. I’ve owned a 1996 and it is really important to get the bevel set properly. Use a 1k stone or 30u film for the heavy lifting then progress from there. If the bevel isn’t set, all future honing will be for naught.
  8. I now define sharp as an edge that is efficient meaning that the hair is cut so that going over the same areas is reduced. What's efficient for me might not be efficient for you.

    Sometimes I sound like a broken record in suggesting a progression of non adhesive 3M lapping film readily available on Amazon or eBay for less than $30.

    I suggest 30mu films for bevel setting because of the comments made here of members doing 100 plus laps on a 1000 grit stone and still not getting the bevel set. The scaring of the metal is unfortunate. Perhaps this is due to too much finger pressure, not a level stone, or both.
  9. For a Gold Dollar, I would start with the 'burr method' for setting the bevel. Search in the Honing forum for info on it. GD razors have more than enough steel to not worry about losing a bit forming the burr along the entire edge. At least you will know you have a proper bevel to start with. Might take awhile with a 4k stone, or you could use 1k/1.5k wet dry sandpaper on a flat surface.

    Once you have done that, then progress 4k, 8k, 12k, strop and see what kind of edge you have.
  10. So is it really possible to make a straight razor sharper than a DE blade? How is that possible?
  11. Maybe not sharper but just as sharp if you have a bit of luck on your side along with skill and patience. I chase that kind of edge but rarely really hit it. Diamond pasted balsa per “The Method” is your best chance to achieve that type of edge.
  12. I agree with Steve. I believe you can get the SR so that it accomplishes the same as a DE blade. Thing is for me, if I want a good result I have to invest some time regardless of the tool. That said, its going to take me more time with a SR.
  13. To me sharp enough is two things. It should pass thru my whiskers with no resistance and feel smooth. I think a proper edge can be better than a DE blade. It just takes many years of honing to get to that stage. Not something your going to get with a GD and a 12k stone. Reset the bevel! Start from square one with a 1K and work your way up. If bevel is not 100% right your never going to get there.
  14. Remember that the bevel on a DE blade typically has an apex angle of around 22 degrees, at least that is what I have read. A well made straight razor has an angle that is more acute, normally around 16-18 degrees, although Gold Dollar razors are higher than that. The more acute angle of the straight allows a sharper edge if properly honed.

    The potential sharpness of an edge depends on the type of steel and the tempering. If the steel has very fine grain and very small carbides, the blade can be made exceedingly sharp.

    The sharpness of the blade has to do with the way it is finished. Although many people finish their blades at 12K or less, you can get even sharper. I have a Shapton Glass 16K hone. I also have a Suehiro G20K which is supposed to be 0.5 micron. Shapton has their 30K Glass that is slightly finer than the Suehiro. Then beyond the sub micron hone level, I further polish my blade with Cubic Boron Micron pasted strops to the 0.5, 0.25 and 0.1 micron level. The finest level is somewhere in the 160K grit range so it makes the edge super sharp and super polished. The Method uses diamond pasted balsa strops rather than CBN to produce a similar. However, unless you have a very tough beard and very sensitive skin, this level might not be necessary.

    There is an electronic sharpness tester that can be used to measure the force in grams needed to sever a test medium. DE razor blades test between 30 and 65 grams on the tester. I have seen reports of straight razors testing below 30. However, at that low level the accuracy and repeatability of the test is questionable.
  15. IMHO, it does not take “many years”. It simply takes using available wisdom/experience and throwing whatever it takes at the edge to produce a good shave.

    We have no way of knowing if after years a seasoned honer is achieving an edge that would suit something else’s beard reduction. We only have what works for them. This is why the thread of questioning everything is so profound as the vendor used whatever it took to most likely suit all of his/her customers.
  16. It is extremely difficult, but indeed possible. DE blades are not made as sharp as they can be made. If they were, they would cost several dollars each. They are made as sharp as they can be made and still sell at a given price point. They are honed by machine, and very consistent. Very sharp, yes. But given the same grade or finer of honing media, a finer bevel angle, better steel, and a skilled hand, it is possible to match and even exceed a DE blade sharpness. I have I believe gone sharper than a DE blade. I cannot do it consistently, though I have tried. Some times you nail it, sometimes not. A good Method edge, however, can be maintained AT a level that is competitive with the DE sharpness level. AT, not consistently ABOVE.

    Keep in mind that much of a DE blade's overall performance is a direct result of the coating. A straight razor is not coated.

    For absolute sharpness, given a very good steel with excellent hardening and temper, one could go deeply into the nano range of grits, on lapped balsa, in a clean room type setting, and most assuredly see a still further increase in sharpness. However, my findings with 25nm diamond, or 0.025u, are that a well executed edge at this stage is very sticky and draggy on the skin, and has a propensity for excessive exfoliation as well as causing weepers or even cuts. Perhaps if one were to set up a compound bevel at this level, (this would require IMHO laboratory quality pressure regulation) the suction would break more easily and the shave might be very very very very good. Worth the expense and effort? No. And maintenance would require the same level of care as the original finish to the edge.

    It should be remembered that there is a "sour spot" in the grit range of .5u to .25u, where the shave is widely found to be harsh, and the exact same method carried on to the .1u gives a very smooth shave. Perhaps the 25nm diamond is within another "sour spot" range, I don't know. Honestly, lap count and pressure regulation and all that are more obstacles than I care to face. A .1u Method edge is sharp enough for me, and as sharp as a DE blade, sharper than some, and sharper than the best on rare occasions I believe, from my own subjective testing and use. But as long as it does merely match a DE blade with consistency then it is good enough for me. I leave the science of extreme sharpening to others. I have done my bit.
  17. I have been using a shavette lately to establish a honing target in my brain. I tried to learn to shave with one in the beginning and it was a disaster - too sharp for untrained hands. Now that I have experience with a straight razor, I get excellent results - fast, close and smooooth pressure free shaving. I’ll return to traditional straights next week I expect and have something to focus my honing on but I’ll no longer disparage the lowly half blade shavette.
  18. Now that you mention it, after I figured out how to use the balsa progression properly, my shavette shaving got better, too, and now I am quite satisfied by a shavette with a Feather half DE blade if I am traveling and it is not convenient to carry a complete straight kit. I had to adapt to the sharper straight razor edge when my edges were getting into the silent treetopping range of sharpness. This adaption of technique carried over nicely to shavette shaving. Now, bad shavette shaves are barely a memory.
  19. Haven’t tried a Feather yet but will do at next blade change. I have a 9/16 EDACO, 5/8 Geneva and an original 5/8 Bismarck that have edges near a DE blade but find some razors really resist that edge - especially Eskiltuna steel but I remain determined.

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