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Stunt Honing... Balsa and Diamond, from Bevel to Treetopping

Just thinking about it. Thinking maybe a progression with 2x jumps starting at 40u
so 40, 20, 10, 5, 2.5, 1, .5, .25, and .1, and the finer grits I already have. I have enough acrylic blocks, just need to get more balsa. I am curious about how long the balsa will stand up to the coarser grits, and how the resilience of the balsa will affect the bevel's flatness and whether that is a good thing, a meh thing, or a baaaaaaad thing.

Another option is this 13pc kit from Kent
So I could go the same progression, skipping the multiples of 7, or I could go 28, 14, 7, 3.5, 1.5, and then the fine stuff. Or farm out these grits or at least the ones down to 3.5u to an accomplished Method honer who is willing to buy the plates and balsa to try it independently of yours truly. I honestly don't think it will work all that well, but at least nobody will be left wondering if it would, and if not, why not. Someone willing to add four proper lapped and backed 12" balsa strops might try adding just the 14, 7, 3.5 and 1.5 to the regular three stage post finish progression. Meanwhile I should get similar results, whatever they may be, with the 10, 5, 2.5, and 1u grits followed by the three usual finish grits.

I am about to pull the trigger on something here. Any input before I do would be appreciated. Accomplished honers who are very well acquainted and experienced with the three stage balsa progression that want to participate in this experiment should contact me. Eager newbies, or wannabes to the Method, sorry I can only supply the diamond to one person and I have to make it count.I also have to be assured that the recipient would buy the materials to construct proper 3x12 balsa strops complete with backing, and lap them. Should I find that I have two willing lab rats, I will break it up and send a couple grams apiece. That should still be enough to make purchase of acrylic and balsa worthwhile, if this full range progression works. If it doesn't work, well, we are just screwed but at least we will have added to the collective's knowledge. We are Borg. Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. LOL I had to throw that in there.

I kinda miss @Seraphim 's revolutionary propoganda.

BTW, for the newbs, this kit
looks good for the usual three stage progression. I have used that brand and I think I actually am using that in one or another grit.
I hate to let a good find go to waste.
 
Good luck @Slash McCoy I’m sure you’ll get impressive results! Looking forward to hearing how it works.

Just remember there is that thing out there called the ‘Thrilla in Manila (envelope)’!
 
No bites? Okay. I am pulling the trigger. I found some 1u, 3.5u, and 10u in the shop. So I am going to order 20u from Kent, and 5u, and I think I would rather split the jump between 5u and 1u a little better so I will ignore the 3.5u and get some 2.5u, too. So, no parallel progression for some other badger to try. I will go it alone.

The more I think about it, the more doubtful I am about setting a bevel on the balsa. It is just too soft and resilient. Irregularities in the edge will persist and dig accomodating tracks in the balsa, I think. No, I will continue to do bevels on a hard surface. But this experiment will run from a set bevel, through the finish. I will let someone else fool around with setting a bevel on balsa. I just can't envision it working at all. The rest of the process, sure, maybe. MAYBE.
 
Done it on leather, balsa, basswood, hose, granite, glass, slate and some other substrates I can't remember right now.
I made a video video showing, I think, the leather experiment, but to be honest I forget and hose might have been in the mix too.
The basic concept comes from old sharpening instructions Dovo used to print.

Setting a bevel is do-able this way, but it's a different bevel than one made other ways and I prefer using the other ways. It's one of those things I can do because I can, not because I really want to. The experiments did help me to understand a good deal about the effects of different abrasive particles on steel's surface and sub-surface though.
 
Done it on leather, balsa, basswood, hose, granite, glass, slate and some other substrates I can't remember right now.
I made a video video showing, I think, the leather experiment, but to be honest I forget and hose might have been in the mix too.
The basic concept comes from old sharpening instructions Dovo used to print.

Setting a bevel is do-able this way, but it's a different bevel than one made other ways and I prefer using the other ways. It's one of those things I can do because I can, not because I really want to. The experiments did help me to understand a good deal about the effects of different abrasive particles on steel's surface and sub-surface though.
Right on. I am thinking the same thing about the bevel. I really think a geometrically precise and flat bevel is needed to build upon, for optimum results, and that requires a hard honing surface.

The one thing that I am most concerned with regarding a full diamond paste progression, not that it is really a big deal, is the very slight convexing of the bevel in the early stages of the progression. I am thinking that possibly a return to the hones might eventually be necessary, or that loss of contact might become an issue with daily maintenance on the balsa (or other substrate). Or maybe the fact that the balsa is lapped might prevent that, if pressure is uniformly light through the progression. With stones or film, of course, I use progressively lighter pressure, not dead light pressure from the start. Anyway, the complete results won't really be obvious until a year or two after honing.

I have plenty of firehose, both used and discarded, from ships I have been on, and also a new one that I ordered specifically for making firehose strops. Tried basswood, didn't really like it. Didn't hold product like balsa. I suspect that being slightly harder, it might leave a slightly flatter bevel. I have not used hard substrates but obviously they will "hold" practically zero abrasive and so increase scratch depth, but maintain a flatter bevel. I might do a firehose trial, I don't know. Right now I am just committed to the balsa experiment. Even if it is a resounding success, I don't know that I would want to routinely hone in that manner. Film or synthetic rocks to 12k and diamond on lapped balsa to .1u just works too well and gives an edge that pleases me very much.

Are you using Jnats?
 
I’ve a ton of loose-abrasive-on-substrate honing on curved wood carving tools that I try to keep hair tree topping sharp. It’s a different world for sure- more pressure used in honing, touching up every hour or less if you’re working hard, edge chips followed by bevel reset daily or more.

I was tearing through softer wood substrate for a while, and now I’ve migrated towards using hard fruit and nut woods for all my shaped and loaded strops. Quartersawn Mesquite is unobtanium in most places, but that’s my absolute favorite substrate currently, with quartersawn cherry probably the best commonly available. For abrasives I started with CrOx and FeOx like everyone does, and lately my favorite has been CBN. For my final finish stropping I do light pressure on the smooth side of leather loaded with JNAT slurry.

None of this honing is with pressures or methods that cross over to razor honing, but it’s a pretty consistent HHT2-4 off the JNAT strop. The only other honing method that comes close is hard Arkansas slip stones followed by clean leather stropping.

I’m definitely curious to see what you do and how it goes.
 
Slash, you can get abrasives to hold in harder materials fairly easily, just need to embed them. This is pretty readily accomplished by applying the abrasive to the surface then rolling it in for a few minutes with something very hard like the outer race of a ball bearing. Just another thing to try.
 
Slash, you can get abrasives to hold in harder materials fairly easily, just need to embed them. This is pretty readily accomplished by applying the abrasive to the surface then rolling it in for a few minutes with something very hard like the outer race of a ball bearing. Just another thing to try.
Actually yeah you are right but I suspect it is a matter of degree. And balsa is what I know. I do not want to fiddle with a bunch of different variables all at once so sticking with balsa for this experiment. Comparing balsa to lead or copper or brass or whatever is another experiment. Someone else can do that one.
 
Yeah there are absolutely a ridiculous amount of variables involved with pretty much any experimentation. Balsa may be good in that it has just the right amount of give to very lightly convex the edge, but not too much.
 
I just took a raw GD66 to the balsa, setting the bevel on 20u diamond. Then 10, 5, 2.5, 1, .5, .25, and finally .1 micron. Treetops as well as can be expected for a stock GD66, maybe only very slightly less capable than a proper Method edge. I am pretty much out of arm hair of over .25" long right now, but the razor will whack off a short section off the end of a few hairs per stroke, with an audible ping and moderate to strong disturbance to the hair shaft. By that reading it should shave well, moderately well compared to a Method edge on the same razor.

The balsa is infamous for its lack of feedback. I wanted to keep pressure low from the beginning, so as to not initially create a highly convexed edge that light pressure and fine grit could not touch at the finish. So the bevel was set using light pressure and several hundred strokes per side. A burr was achieved and removed. Actually probably 1000 strokes per side. I didn't really count totals, just went 100 on show side, 100 on back side, 100 on show side, etc until I had nearly full burr, then went with laps until burr was gone and the bevel looked good under magnification end to end. I also went with a high lap count on the 10u, I suppose about 3k grit except that being deeply embedded, maybe it acted as a finer hone. I did 600 laps there, again with light pressure, and after every 100 I did a half dozen pull strokes. At 5u I did 200 with pull strokes every 50. Then the rest of the progression was 100 per stage, pull strokes at the end. All in all this took about 2 hours. So it is obvious that this is a way to an edge when the honer does not want to buy stones or film. Money saved? Nope. That is 8 plates with 8 pieces of balsa affixed, lapped, and 8 grades of diamond paste bought. With film, only 4 plates would be needed, and 3 grades of diamond paste. The edge is definitely not superior to a strict Method edge, which calls for synthetic 12k finish stone or 1u lapping film as the gateway to the balsa. Nearly, very very nearly as good, I would say, from these initial results.

A lower lap count might have done the job. Probably would have done the job. How much lower? I avoided all controversy and false starts by deliberately going beyond what any reasonable person would say is probably enough. A lower lap count would not have made a better edge. The pull strokes would remove any artifacts that the ultra light pressure and diamond cutting power allowed to form. I would be surprised if reducing lap counts by half while keeping to the light pressure would work well, though. I visually inspected the edge multiple times at each stage, and did treetop trials once I was at 1u, so it was not just blind lap count honing.

By light pressure, I mean holding the balsa end-up, basically brushing the razor with less pressure than the weight of the blade.

Some time in the next few days I will shave with this razor, and then hone a vintage razor from bevel to finish in the same manner. I have zero doubt that a vintage blade of more acute bevel than the stodgy old 66, will take a better edge, with silent tree topping.

Before anybody asks "Would this work with pine, or basswood? Can I slip some CrOx in there? How about if I lay the balsa flat, or use oak for the backing, or tile, or steel?" I will say up front, this is as far as I am taking this. Someone else can experiment further, but they are unlikely to find substitutes that will work as good, with the notable exception of CBN, perhaps.
 

bromsvajer

Contributor
I think its great that you take the time to share. From what I have read you have helped a lot of people.

Back to subject. This is interesting. This would be all edge trailing (assuming edge leading on balsa = bad idea). So it is fundamentally different from the method, right?

I understand edge leading is often prefered to avoid building a wire edge.

I understand you remove the wire edge by dragging perpendicular to edge, right? That seems like a crucial step requiring a steady hand, no?

How can you test/verify wireedge is removed. I have read shaving with a wireedge is very harsh, so I guess thats one test to do.
 
A wire edge does not readily form on the balsa if it is prepared and used properly. If the balsa is held horizontally, it is difficult to use less pressure than the weight of the razor. If it is rested on a bench, even more pressure is used, to maintain control of the razor. But holding the balsa vertically allows the extremely light pressure that is needed to maximize sharpness while having very low tendency to fin or wire edge. For a wire edge to form, the edge must be flexed upward, off the honing media, so that the steel behind the edge can be honed thin. Unfortunately this is very easy to do, since a razor's edge is extremely thin at the apex as it approaches full development. There are many ways to ward off the formation of edge artifacts, and ultra light pressure over a lot of laps is the main way that The Method achieves this. Yes, the pull strokes help. They do strip wire, fin, etc edge formations from the true edge. But they are not the primary defense against this. It is the extremely light pressure and the aggressive cutting ability of diamond that does it.

The pull stroke is not particularly difficult. To do it with the best chance of success, the razor is only pulled about 3/4" or so. A half dozen or so per side, show side / back side / show side / back side, alternating. Then a half dozen to a dozen regular laps to peak the apex back up.

To verify that there are no artifacts hanging on the edge, view it through a 100x USB microscope. Or a regular laboratory microscope. Or just be happy that the razor is crazy sharp and shaves smoothly.

Yes, edge trailing. I have tried edge leading. It can be done with some balsa, if you are careful, but you gain nothing by it. Spine leading is the way to go. If you read the balsa strop thread all the way through, you should come away with a pretty good understanding of the system.
 
Light pressure flipping the blade each stroke helps a lot. I’m guessing based on synth stones, but maybe over-pasting the balsa might not help with that wire edge; aggressive synths are bad about that. Any wisdom Slash?

Of course slurry wears off any wire edge or unstable steel, so maybe you could slurry your pasted balsa hone with a pasted balsa nagura? :001_302:
 
Yeah the whole idea is to eliminate slurry effect, and in fact embed the abrasive deeply so it makes shallower scratches. Slurry does indeed combat wire edge. It also works against the apex. Is that a bad thing? Depends. And extremely fine or frangible slurry impacts the apex less, which is how slurried Jnats manage to produce fairly sharp edges.

When you begin to really understand the balsa, it becomes harder to draw parallels between a lapped and pasted balsa strop and a synthetic stone. They don't work the same way. Nor is there much of a valid comparison between the balsa and a natural, slurried or otherwise. So regretably there is no nagura option for the balsa. Or perhaps not so regretably.
 
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