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What to look for in magnification

Well, I tried this on another forum a long time ago and nobody that uses microscopes regularly (and made posts about using them) was willing to put into words what they are looking at and or looking for.

Recent posts on "USB microscope is a game changer" Where SliceOfLife offers that scratch patterns mean nothing.
He is completely correct IMO.
The edge and only the edge is what matters.
I see that Alex has added more pictures in that thread and this helps but putting into words what you are looking at will help for those that don't see what you see. I know it may be hard to describe but please try in the effort to help anyone who would like to learn.

For myself I normally use a good quality microscope at 100x for normal viewing.
At this level, which I believe is enough, will show you what's going on at all stages.
It is the refinement of the very edge, not just the straightness of the edge or alignment of striation.
For me, the very edge becomes so thin and refined that it almost becomes transparent. Even though this is viewed two dimensionally it is evident with confirmation of what you see by a test shave.

Lighting and background pay huge dividends for the quality of image attainable so playing around to get the best is time well spent.


For others, please add your thoughts and comments for what you see and what you want to see.
 
I used to have a 400x scope but I gave it away and haven't used one in years. Imo it's useless. But that's me. Some people find it useful. I guess it's one tool of many. I think visual is important. But I get all I need at 10x.
 

duke762

Contributor
I've been using a cheap 120x Amazon thing that I saw recommended here. Fantastic difference it's made for me. I only use it at 60x, heel to toe. I also usually use it only on one side of the blade. That's enough to tell me everything I need to know. At higher magnification, I tend to chase things that don't real matter.

I follow my progress through the progression. On lower grit stones I'm watching for all edge damage or micro chips to be removed. I use a Coticule for mid range and prefinish, and Arks to finish. Coticules leave a distinctive finish on the bevels and a fairly crummy looking edge. At this point I'm watching the apex to get it as clean as possible. The roughness on the apex shows up as a sparkly appearance to me. The bevels and the line of the apex, appear much darker than the features on the apex. If there's anything I can see there that's shiny and sparkly, I know it needs more work.

Well, that's the way I see it when I look and about the only way I can think to describe it.

I'd like to be able to get to the point that I could do this by feel or instinct. I can get close, but not 100% of the time. Using natural stones throws in variables that trip me up every now and then.
 
I used to have a 400x scope but I gave it away and haven't used one in years. Imo it's useless. But that's me. Some people find it useful. I guess it's one tool of many. I think visual is important. But I get all I need at 10x.

Yes a good loupe will let you see all you really need to and its all I used for many years.
A microscope is more of an in depth look into the different stages.
Seeing what is going on clearly will help you learn and entertain you.


I've been using a cheap 120x Amazon thing that I saw recommended here. Fantastic difference it's made for me. I only use it at 60x, heel to toe. I also usually use it only on one side of the blade. That's enough to tell me everything I need to know. At higher magnification, I tend to chase things that don't real matter.

I follow my progress through the progression. On lower grit stones I'm watching for all edge damage or micro chips to be removed. I use a Coticule for mid range and prefinish, and Arks to finish. Coticules leave a distinctive finish on the bevels and a fairly crummy looking edge. At this point I'm watching the apex to get it as clean as possible. The roughness on the apex shows up as a sparkly appearance to me. The bevels and the line of the apex, appear much darker than the features on the apex. If there's anything I can see there that's shiny and sparkly, I know it needs more work.

Well, that's the way I see it when I look and about the only way I can think to describe it.

I'd like to be able to get to the point that I could do this by feel or instinct. I can get close, but not 100% of the time. Using natural stones throws in variables that trip me up every now and then.

Depending on your set up you will have light reflection from irregularities. Try to get your set up so it is not creating a sparkle rather creating the image of where the irregularity is. See what it is, the shape/characteristics of it. What caused it?

Its hard to put into words the image of a refined edge.
Striations will only tell you about the consistency of grit within a stone. The tighter and shallower the rows the more consistent and smaller the abrasive.

The smoothness of the absolute edge and the thinness at the very apex is the goal. On my set up the background is black for a very good contrast with a bright light above. As said above the edge becomes almost transparent at the final stages.

I am NOT an expert and don't claim to be.
What prompted the thread is to get those who use them and have a lot of experience share what they see and look for.
We see lots of photos - some very good, but some words to go with it would help those that are experimenting as well but it never seem to happen.
It would be nice to have a comment like see where the …. is and the scratch beneath that probably led to that would be of benefit.
 
I wanted to add that you can regulate the light and angle to show a more.flattering image. On another forum I posted an image. Feedback I got from members that the edge wasn't refined enough. So I changed the angle and light brightness on the exact same edge. "Much better" they said. So in this case it was truly useless. Lol.
 
I wanted to add that you can regulate the light and angle to show a more.flattering image. On another forum I posted an image. Feedback I got from members that the edge wasn't refined enough. So I changed the angle and light brightness on the exact same edge. "Much better" they said. So in this case it was truly useless. Lol.

This is true.
When light is reflecting off the edge just a little it doesn't look nearly as refined.
Key is the best image visibility or clarity. It does take time to find the best and confirm the best image through shaving.
When the test confirms the image you have to work with that consistently to improve and understand.
 
When I was using a scope I was using synthetics and film. My best looking edges gave me the most weepers. So that's when I put it away. It's also when I started using jnats.
 
Absolutely. It is crucial to both the quality of the images and the amount of useful info you will get from them to change the angle of both the subject as it is presented to the lens and also the lighting - both intensity and angle. Poor adjustment of those variables will get you a useless image. Expert adjustment on the other hand can get you some excellent images and information.

These variables can change depending on what you're trying to view also. I use different lighting for viewing scratch pattern than what I use for viewing the edge/apex. The razor is positioned differently also. This is something you'll have to derive from your own setup.
 
When I was using a scope I was using synthetics and film. My best looking edges gave me the most weepers. So that's when I put it away. It's also when I started using jnats.

This is precisely the need for information on the subject.

Your "best looking edges". What made them the best? Clearly they didn't shave the best so what you were seeing was in fact not what you WANT to see.
Your egdes now shave better I assume - Why? What do they look like in comparison to your old ones?

SiceOfLife has said in other threads the dmt's will give the most consistent scratch patters you have ever seen but you certainly would not want to shave with it. They mean very little.

Its all about the edge.
 
The best way imo to learn is to hone and shave a fresh edge as often as possible until you achieve the desired result. Everything else is academic imo.
 
The only real value that I've seen for magnification is micro-chip detection. A true 10X loupe shows me everything that I need to get one pass BBS shaves.
 
The best way imo to learn is to hone and shave a fresh edge as often as possible until you achieve the desired result. Everything else is academic imo.

Yes, given 1 razor and one medium for honing.
The next razor may not come to the same conclusion given the same process though.
It is indeed academic and learning is a good thing:)

The only real value that I've seen for magnification is micro-chip detection. A true 10X loupe shows me everything that I need to get one pass BBS shaves.
This is true, I have said many times - all you really need is a decent loupe.
There is certainly value in learning how to use a microscope to its fullest with regards to examining razor edges.
It WILL improve you honing IMO. How could it not? If a loupe is helpful......
 
Don’t often post my opinions about magnification because I just recently got in the microscope game.
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7CE84073-B6A6-4CCB-B068-2F61D5B76DF6.jpeg

The green field and harsh LEDs can cause vertigo, but 3xAAs last forever and the ability to scan the entire edge in the wide field saves time. I find it tells me everything I need to know these days.

For real though everyone with decent baseline vision should have a BelOMO or equivalent jeweler grade loupe.
 
Great thread but for myself when I use a scope I'm only checking if there are any divots in the blade. I've gotten it down so good I haven't checked in many years.

Other than that I don't think a scope can tell us much.

SEM scopes on the other hand are purported to be much more telling. I have to rely on the learned hands to accept this.

Supposedly straights, when honed correctly, are much sharper than even feather blades yet not as keen.

In the end anyone using a straight has got to get their technique down to make a keen yet comfortable edge no matter what a scope may show. If you've got that down then to h3ll with the rest.

Chris
 
I have used 60x-120x magnification, it is alright I guess but takes alot of time to inspect the whole edge because of its magnification.
I used to use it when I feel something wrong with an edge which are usually microchips, these chips that I can see clearly under 120x I can also see as small reflections under certain angles under light with my naked eye.
Now I only use the scope on one spot to get a general idea of an edge I like. A straight refined edge, with more emphasis on straight, is what I look for.
May invest in a quality 10x loupe, as I don't get much use of my 120x scope.
Do you have a link for these?
 

SliceOfLife

Contributor
The microchips that cause weepers in my experience aren't visible until you're in the triple digits magnification. They're almost entirely caused by pitting that is too fine to be visible through the polish, even at magnification. I find ~200x to be a reasonable minimum for seeing it all, but perhaps with good enough lighting and vision 100x would be good enough. 10x? Your razor better not have any secrets underneath the polish.

Where "scratch pattern" can be informative is looking for anomalies. That can tell you if you have something large and abrasive in the mix, or (if you have your lighting angled right and a high enough mag) if you haven't thinned the edge (and are just polishing the peaks of the previous hone's work). These are both things that an experienced honer will usually be able to recognize or avoid without needing the scope, but it definitely can help people with less experience. What I meant to say was that using a scratch pattern to compare refinement levels is useless after relatively low grits (with respect to razor honing). The scratch pattern simply should not be consistent enough to be readable. If you're looking at a nice, bullet straight scratch pattern under a scope in the low hundreds mag... it's 3 micron particles, tops. <100x? We're talking double-digit micron particles. In other words, not finishers. I demonstrated this a few years back in my first Barbers synth thread; where I showed both sides of a 2-sided at 400x mag. They were basically identical if you focused on the scratch pattern... and those were maybe ~2k and 5k grits. Now imagine you're trying to compare a 10k vs a 12k Naniwa at that same mag... it's pointless.
The scratch pattern of a EF DMT is pretty legible @400x, but just barely. (That's 9 micron). An EE bevel (3 micron) looks like a mirror.
 
The microchips that cause weepers in my experience aren't visible until you're in the triple digits magnification. They're almost entirely caused by pitting that is too fine to be visible through the polish, even at magnification. I find ~200x to be a reasonable minimum for seeing it all, but perhaps with good enough lighting and vision 100x would be good enough. 10x? Your razor better not have any secrets underneath the polish.

Where "scratch pattern" can be informative is looking for anomalies. That can tell you if you have something large and abrasive in the mix, or (if you have your lighting angled right and a high enough mag) if you haven't thinned the edge (and are just polishing the peaks of the previous hone's work). These are both things that an experienced honer will usually be able to recognize or avoid without needing the scope, but it definitely can help people with less experience. What I meant to say was that using a scratch pattern to compare refinement levels is useless after relatively low grits (with respect to razor honing). The scratch pattern simply should not be consistent enough to be readable. If you're looking at a nice, bullet straight scratch pattern under a scope in the low hundreds mag... it's 3 micron particles, tops. <100x? We're talking double-digit micron particles. In other words, not finishers. I demonstrated this a few years back in my first Barbers synth thread; where I showed both sides of a 2-sided at 400x mag. They were basically identical if you focused on the scratch pattern... and those were maybe ~2k and 5k grits. Now imagine you're trying to compare a 10k vs a 12k Naniwa at that same mag... it's pointless.
The scratch pattern of a EF DMT is pretty legible @400x, but just barely. (That's 9 micron). An EE bevel (3 micron) looks like a mirror.
What a post. You’ve got a 900x optical scope now right?
 
The microchips that cause weepers in my experience aren't visible until you're in the triple digits magnification. They're almost entirely caused by pitting that is too fine to be visible through the polish, even at magnification. I find ~200x to be a reasonable minimum for seeing it all, but perhaps with good enough lighting and vision 100x would be good enough. 10x? Your razor better not have any secrets underneath the polish.

Where "scratch pattern" can be informative is looking for anomalies. That can tell you if you have something large and abrasive in the mix, or (if you have your lighting angled right and a high enough mag) if you haven't thinned the edge (and are just polishing the peaks of the previous hone's work). These are both things that an experienced honer will usually be able to recognize or avoid without needing the scope, but it definitely can help people with less experience. What I meant to say was that using a scratch pattern to compare refinement levels is useless after relatively low grits (with respect to razor honing). The scratch pattern simply should not be consistent enough to be readable. If you're looking at a nice, bullet straight scratch pattern under a scope in the low hundreds mag... it's 3 micron particles, tops. <100x? We're talking double-digit micron particles. In other words, not finishers. I demonstrated this a few years back in my first Barbers synth thread; where I showed both sides of a 2-sided at 400x mag. They were basically identical if you focused on the scratch pattern... and those were maybe ~2k and 5k grits. Now imagine you're trying to compare a 10k vs a 12k Naniwa at that same mag... it's pointless.
The scratch pattern of a EF DMT is pretty legible @400x, but just barely. (That's 9 micron). An EE bevel (3 micron) looks like a mirror.

Any chance you would like to describe your ideal looking edge?
What exactly do you want to see?
 

SliceOfLife

Contributor
It’s very hard to look at an edge from a single angle and say “that’ll be good”. Easy to look at an edge and say “that’ll be bad”. I can give an example or two of what I like to see at particular stages, but there are always optical illusions to make a bad edge look great from just the right angle.
 
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