The Ax Method of honing razors

Discussion in 'Hones/Honing' started by alx gilmore, Oct 12, 2012.

    The Ax Method of honing razors is a study is simplicity, it is not the final say in the final edge, but it will create 99% of the final edge for most beards. There are more advanced honing techniques that can follow up the Ax, but I have shaved off this method over and over again with excellent results.

    The gist of my method is to create as near as you can the perfect geometry on the razors edge, and then to refine that edge while preserving the geometry. The perfect geometery for any edge is a V shape, not a U shape. The V shape is perfect because the two bevels meet at a prescribed angle to create a thin edge. For razors the angle seems to be around 18degrees, for knifes and tools the angle depends on the tool and the use.

    I have found that overhoning a V shaped profile bevel eventually ends up with a U shaped edge profile. This can be corrected or patched up by taping the spine to change the angle so that in this way the edge will once again touch the hones surface instead of rocking on the U shape profile in a haphazard way.

    With a slurry on the stones surface the abrasive action is supercharged, the down side is that this slurry will also speed up the deformation of the V shape to a U shape edge. My goal in the Ax Method is to, with as few strokes as possible replace the previous scratches from the last stone with fresh scratches from the final stone. The definition of sharpening is to replace the scratches with a desired and chosen finish in a skillful way, so therefore if you have the quality final stone that imparts the grit particle size necessary to create a shave ready edge that you are happy with and you have the skill and technique to use the stone, then you have a good chance to achieve the final product.

    Here is a short video that will in my fumbling way describe my method. Again I am using about 25 strokes (1 minute) on the finishing stone after coming off a 5k Suehiro. I have also done the same test with coming off a 1k King and using about 40 strokes. Any of these edges can be personalized with some favorite finishing technique. I would wish that a few of you would attempt to duplicate my method and to critique it so that I can improve it. best wishes, Alx

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2017
  1. Great post Alex. I always enjoy your honing videos.

  2. Great post. Can't argue with results.

    Not the first time I see but I'm amazed at your stroke.
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  3. thanks for sharing this Alex!!! simplicity, indeed! love it - and dig your off hand's movements on your strokes - so fluid. will be trying this over the weekend!

    and dig the Miles Davis in the background to boot! :001_cool:
  4. Thanks for the video. I like the idea of a 10-5-3-2-1 sequence and how you switch hands from side to side in doing this. If I hone with one hand, I am right-handed, but when using two hands, I am left-handed using the right hand to hold down the toe. Switching hands like you do might help me to arrive at a certain form of ambidexterity.
  5. I am continually amazed at how effective the grit particles from natural stones on ultra hard steel tool steel. With a good toishi the scratches from a 1or2k stone can be mostly replaced if using a slurry with between 15 to 20 strokes and totally replaced with about 30 total strokes. There is a caveat emptor however, I am guessing that, and I theorize that behind the edge where the steel gains thickness, going from a 1k stone to the finisher like a Jnat or Coticule or even a ultra fine synthetic with so few strokes will possibly leave some internal fissures that were created by the 1k grit harshness that lead from the edge into the body of the blade. I have said this before that I look at honing as a healing process of the blade, with each successive finer stone you are in an ever gentler way leading and progressing the edge deeper into more virgin steel. The blacksmith created a homongeneous slab of steel, the vulnerably point of that slab is where we begin to sharpen it. A raw break is the worst, a power grindstone is harmfull to boutique steel, the various diamond plates eat away grossly at the steel and the 1-5k stones abrade with with vigor.

    This is why a progression of stones or progression of nagura leave the edges so nice, they have healed the blades edge in little steps. With razors the damage is not maybe so great because we only go back a few steps to a 2,3, or 5k stone for bevel setting. At these levels the 1k's negative effect to the razor steel is less critical for instance than with a chisel but still is a slight issue because of the thinness of a razors edge. This is why I am suggesting a caveat to my Ax Method, it is not the final touchdown for an edge, but more like a prelude to maintaining the geometry so the final finish that each honer tailors and uses can lay on a square and flat foundation.

    Below is a follow up video to the previous Steve's Nakayama. Alx

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2017
  6. I look forward to viewing these videos. I've been looking to replace my outdated ax honing method:
  7. This approach jives with my preference to set bevels on Botan slurry, rather than a 1k anything - provided I've already set the bevel's geometry once on a lower grit option.
    Many razors have really wonky bevels and fixing that on a 3k (or higher) isn't my idea of a good time so I opt for an 800x or 1k often.
    But - when the razor hasn't been trashed or poorly honed - I get good results starting on Botan. Some say most Botan is in the same range as a 5k - I'm not saying I disagree or I do agree but I do start there often and I do get good results that way.
    The part of the edge rounding in slurry - I had to re-read the post again - and the missing (my fault) clue was where you say 'overhoned' (I know, that's a dirty word according to some self-inflated egos) and I suppose what you're saying makes sense or it's at least plausible. The thing is - right now I'm testing with extending the time spent on Tomo slurry and so far it's proving to enhance the edge, not degrade it. Still - the point is; when do you call an edge 'overhoned'? I suppose you mean when the edge has rounded, but I've never actually had that happen. At least not to my knowledge - my testing is limited to the few stones and razors I have here so it'll take me longer to formulate my own theory there.
    At any rate - I enjoyed reading your POV Alex - it was enlightening and motivating.
  8. Gamma
    Of all the words used on these razor/honing forums "Overhoning" is the dirty little word that is the hardest to pin down with any consensus. So much so that some of us here even deny that the term describes an actual occurance.

    Now this is partly theory, but to me overhoning is when you have passed the optimum point of sharpness during a sharpening session. I equate this as that during the session I have passed the point to where my desired V shaped model bevel shape has become more U shaped. In tool sharpening this is not such an issure because you can rock the tool up to create a secondary bevel and change a degraded U shape into a desired V shape, but with razors the spine dictates the bevel angle and unless you raise the spine the edge in a U shaped bevel is up above the stones surface. In this U shape model a slurry could affect a U shape edge because of the wave effect of the slurry in front of the edge and there is no reason why a "sharp enough" edge could not be established in the U form.

    Maybe what my Ax Method is creating is a flat plane model in the bevel setting stage so that when I go to the slurried finish stone the contact point of the edge is so accessible that the edge comes up to the "sharp enough" stage easily with just 10-20 strokes. I have found that with 40 or more strokes the HHT results are more varied where as in the 10-20 stroke range the HHT results are usually spot on or very nearly spot on.

    To tell you the truth, the shaving edges I am getting off these Ax Method razors is not as comfortable as those I have coaxed from my edges created with a 40-20-10-6-3-2-1 slurry sequence using 82 one directional strokes, a most likely U shape profile. The Ax 20-21 strokes per side edge gets to the HHT in 1/3 the number of strokes but is sacraficing the comfort by retaining the V shape maybe in the same way that some Jnat users are finding that films give the ultimate V shape edge that can be sharp but not as comfortable.

    This is why I have prefaced my approach to suggest that the Ax Method is a platform and not "the final say in the final edge, but it will create 99% of the final edge for most beards". There are some creative and talented minds here that are able to coax an edge out of some very unfavorable razor configurations. My post here is only to express the fact that I have noted an early stage sharpness in the common place edge development scenario that I had not acknowledged before as a potential pivot point in a honing regime. Alx
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2012
  9. Gamma, sorry for any confussion, I did not mean to directly challange anyones results or quality of their edges. When I used the term degrade I meant to describe that the V profile shape changed to a U shape, not in a deragatory way just as in a spatial or sharp morphing way. with warm regards, Alx
  10. No worries - no offense taken, I never felt you implied anything of the sort. I was just typing what I was thinking.
    What you wrote was actually quite inspiring.. I don't know where any/all/some/most of your thoughts fit into my own game-plans and thoughts - but it made me think and that's what matters.

    I can say that I do believe there is an optimum 'moment' where the edge is 'done' for that 'stage, and passing that point without changing anything (stroke/pressure/slurry density/etc) would bring the edge down. Whether or not there is an 'absolute' done, or if that level of 'done' can be felt or distinguished from an earlier point of being 'done' is a mystery to me.

    The pivot point you refer to is an interesting concept. Edge refinement to me seems to be some sort of modulation process, like a sine-wave of sorts.. not exactly though.
    Your spin has me thinking - which is a good thing.
  11. My take on the overhoning issue:
    For me overhoning is going beyond certain point where the edge does not last the full shave, the U shape due to too much honing is for me going even further beyond the overhoning point. Those problems are nonesistant when one gets used to their stone set up and learns the correct use, and knows when to move on to the next level or when to stop honing.
    I am not sure one can overhone of coticule or other naturals that are not Jnats, on Jnats it is definitely possible.
  12. I would fear forming a wire edge with repeated single direction laps..
  13. If it's alright, could I ask a favor?? I use dial up and at 56Kps transfer speed I don't think I'm going to be able to view the video! IF you could put the method into a few well writen words I would be able to grasp the "AXE" method better then trying to wait 4 hours for the download, which really P*&Sis off all the other people waiting to use this computer.

    Have a Great weekend, tinkersd!!
  14. Tinkersd
    Thanks for the interest. The Ax Method probably does not even deserve a formal title because everyone who sharpens any tool or razor actually uses the Ax. In my method I ask myself, the sharpener, to stop honing within just a few strokes on the finishing stone, to take a chance and see where the edge is at after just 1 minute or about 20 strokes on the finishing stone. I asigned it a name to illustrate and to draw attention to the fact that many blades are at the sharp stage sooner then the sharping person might recognize and in doing so I am trying to cut or chop to the heart of the matter of sharpening: bevel formation and scratch replacement.

    The oft quoted phrase "90 percent of honing a razor is in the bevel setting" is true I am sure most will agree, the Ax Method is the other 10 percent. A lot of razor users who are just beginning to shave could save a lot of time and frustration if they can prove to themsleves early that their bevel is actually perfectly set, my method cuts to the chase like an ax into wood in that within 1 minute you can prove to yourself that you have the the necessary bevel to act as a foundation on which to build or tailor your personal razors edge on top of. Some fellows will spend between 15 minutes to 3 or 4 hours struggling with a razor honing session trying to overcome an improperly set bevel, my method will allow them to prove to thenselves that they are there with the bevel, or are not there within a very short time.

    Some fellows can shave off a 1k stone if the bevel is set correctly, many off a 4k, almost anyone off an 8k stone. If you have a correctly set bevel established, I have found that with as few as 20 strokes on a quality finishing stone you can then take a perfectly close and comfortable shave off the edge. If my last name was Carter, and I made a video that showed that a person while sitting on a park bench could be honed in less then 2 minutes, well some people would think it was a trick. This is a repeatable method.

    Set your perfect bevel with a good fast cutting very flat quality synthetic stone, build medium to moderate slurry on a quality very flat Japanese stone, match evenly about 20 one direction strokes (I do a 10-5-3-2-1 alternate side sequence) on each side of the bevel, and strop lightly about 20 times on clean leather, and do a HHT test. If it fails it could be the bevel, or your stone lacks cutting power/speed. Next reset the bevel using much fewer strokes, then go through the slurry on the finishing stone stage. There are only a few possibilites or failure but in a minute or two it can be a quick learn.

    I discovered this method by reduction and by reason. I figured that 200 years ago in Japan a barber most likely did not have 3 Aichi nagura that he just got in the mail, but he probably did have two honyama stones, one for slurry a tomonagura, the other his ultra quality base stone. He would I figure after 20 or more years of shaving beards and heads hopefully with few complaints, reduced his honing time down to the minimum. This is my attempt at the minimum. hope this helps, Alx
  15. Thank you for posting about your method here. There have been times where I've been in the earlier stages of honing, just after bevel setting or prepolishing, where I have an edge that is able to easily cut arm hair all of a sudden turn dull. At the back of my mind I've always figured that overhoning could be a culprit, that I've used too thick a slurry, my pressure wasn't consistent, or whatever else-- but on the whole the fact is that all I really did was increase the variables that can contribute to edge deterioration in one way or another.

    Watching you set the bevel so quickly was a bit of a revelation as well. I'm now thinking there have been times where I had a perfectly fine V edge but decided to give it a "few more strokes" that may have resulted in contributing to a slight U in the bevel. Do you think, for instance, if I had an edge that could shave arm hair, rinsed the swarf from the stone, used more water and light pressure, the spine was slightly raised from the addition of water and the cutting power increased from the removal of swarf that the edge could deteriorate?
  16. Hello Dude
    It is hard to tell long distance what was happening when the edge just went south, but you did mention inconsistanies. Personally I am always trying to treat each side of the blade equally, and it can help at first if you do not stray too far away from your proven successful system. There are hundreds of systems out there and all of them work to some degree, the most popular is a nagura progression and this is what the honemeister tend to use with excellent and proven success. Being consistant and making small changes is the safest route.

    With that said, why not give my method a try, it dosn't cost anything. Keep you stroke count below 30 and see what happens. If you can get a razor to shave from this then you can build upon it and make your own system. I suggest that you do not your Aichi nagura for my method to begin with, I use a tomonagura or a diamond plate to make a slurry because of the superior grit quality from honyama stones, but with my method you might find a way later to incorporate the Aichi in some way to fill out the bevel to make the shaver more comfortable. hope this help, Alx

    P.S. I was not honing up a damage edge, or setting a bevel on a rough razor. My bevel setting was mainly to create a flat bevel and to charge the razor with lower grit scratches so that I could use and test my better stones ability to remove the previous scratches. a
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  17. I tried this system this morning hoping to get any HHT number but it worked out really well finishing on my Ozuku Asagi and Tomo. Before stropping I was at HHT 3, after a solid HHT 4. The bevel setting portion of the exercise was surprisely easy. As a circle dude I think I've found an alternative way of doing things. Thank you for sharing,
  18. Thanks for the feedback. I'm excited to try this method, unfortunately my hones and razors are sitting in a box unused until I am finished moving next week, this is the first thing I'm doing though.

    Every time I look at the hair on my arms without a shaved patch I realize how much I miss honing :(
  19. Thank you very very much for clearing up that for me, somtimes I try to set a bevel and don't have one bit of trouble with the proccess, I did post on this site at japanese square blade str8 razor that I could NOT get a bevel on no matter what trick I used, ie: circles, side honing, with and without slurry, just would NOT pass the TPT or the TNT OR any arm hair cutting, I don't have very expensive razors, on my monthy check that would be impossible. But some of my cheapies do suprise me at times, YES even my 3 Gold Dollar Str8's!
    But it's hard to give up on a razor with the thought in the back of my mind that some one with any amount of real talent would be able to 'Git'Er'Done.
    It takes up a lot of valuable time and makes one feel very Bl*()dy defeated.
    I've since put that one on the shelf and will stay with what works. I will use your AX method on my next re-set honing project and let you know how it works out on a better shaver than the one above.

    Thank you for listneing to my rant, have a great week!!


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