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What's the likely element I need to fix re: sharpening?

Can't seem to get it to tree-topping sharp. I tape the spine and use a 4k, 8k, 12k and strop and doing what I see people doing on YouTube videos. Shaving my neck goes okay but around my chin and upper lip are more problematic. Yeah, I can make it work eventually but I feel like I'm experiencing too much irritation and having to go over the same area too many times.

I think I'm just not getting the razor sharp enough - I haven't yet gotten to where it will tree-top arm hairs. After my sharpening efforts I'd say it works marginally better than it did straight out of the box but it's not there yet.

I got the razor new and the spine shows to be straight using a granite lapping plate and it seems to be pushing water evenly when running it over the stones so I don't think it's a razor defect, I think there's some subtle element of the process I don't have nailed down. I've flattened the stones with the lapping plate - I draw on the surface of the stones with cross-hatched pencil lines and the lines disappear and putting the stones against each other there's no light visible - so I think they're flat.

Was there something you did that made the difference between *almost* sharp enough and definitely sharp enough?
 

rbscebu

Girls call me Makaluod
If it's not tree-topping off 12k at even close to the skin, the bevel probably isn't set properly.

Is this your first SR and/or honing job?

Some pics of the blade and sharpie pen test results would help a great help.
 
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You tape the spine, then start at 4K?

1) why are you taping the spine.

2) 4K isn’t going to be much chop setting a bevel.

It sounds like the bevels foundations are not built before you try to make the barn.

I know I am going to get flamed for saying this, but I am past caring.

Tape is for dudes who own 50+ razors, and want them to look new when they resell them. It is actually detrimental to the way a razor shaves.

Unless you have a problematic wedge, tape just protects the aesthetic of the spine, to the detriment of the geometry

Take the tape off and use ~1k, then use the usual tests to make sure the bevel is set. Don’t use finer stones until then or you are wasting time.
 
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Unless you have a problematic wedge, tape just protects the aesthetic of the spine, to the detriment of the geometry

^ This is what I always wondered about taping the spine. It seems to actively impede the quite specific, and rather clever, design of a SR. (I thought I must have been missing something, but clearly not).

---

Also - every single time I hone a razor from scratch bevel set takes me longer than I think it will. It's never set properly when I first test it because I think it's done. As D said - a lower grit stone than 4k will help. I imagine you could use 1k sandpaper too if you don't want to buy another stone.
 
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Tape vs no tape always a hot topic but it is not a bad or good thing. Just depends on the razor and situation. Starting at a 4k is not bad compared to 1k as long as bevel is set before moving up (will just take longer).

Main things I have to note are
-Bevel needs to be set, which can be done on a 4k
-stropping needs to be good and is usually overlooked
-razor needs to have good steel

What razor do you have if you don't mind sharing, and having someone else hone it to give you a benchmark is always a good idea ((if it is a really nice razor using tape to keep it looking nice is not a crazy idea))
 
First as said post some clear pics of the razor.

Second get some good lighted magnification. A Carson $10-15 Micro Brite 60/100x is a good inexpensive choice.

At 60X look at the bevel from the side for chips and the stria pattern to see if you are honing to the edge, (even scratch pattern all the way to the edge).

If you are honing to the edge, look straight down on the edge with magnification, if you see any shiny reflections, that is where the bevels are not meeting or microchips. Unless you have some major problems, you should be able to fully set the bevels with the 4k.

Do tape the spine and set the bevels fully, until you do not see any reflections when looking straight down on the spine.

Then you can move up in grits removing the previous grits stria with each stone in the progression.

Tape the spine, no harm will come to your razor by using tape. Many a new razor has been trashed by new honers who did not use tape, using too much pressure and doing way too many laps. Once you have mastered honing, then decide if you want to use tape or not.

The myth that razors were designed to wear from the spine and edge equally has long ago been debunked. No razor has ever stopped shaving because it was honed with tape. Many vintage razors will not hold an edge because the spine was needlessly ground down. The “fix” is to hone that razor with tape.

Guys that hone without tape know how to hone and do not excessively grind the spine.

Post photos, get some magnification and understand what you are seeing through the scope.
 
Forget what you think you see people do.
Forget 'tree topping' and the rest of the parlor tricks.

Learn to set the bevel.
Learn to set it so well that you can manage a shave off your bevel setter.
When you can do that - your edge is ready to progress to the next stone.
Get a practice razor with decent geometry and quality steel - a vintage Sheffield or Solingen can serve well here.
Work that one blade until your bevel-set passes muster.
Most sharpness is developed early on in the progression. People chase finishers when they should be chasing bevel setters.
The bevel is the edge. No bevel = no edge. Marginal bevel = no edge.
A partially acceptable edge is not 'shave ready'.
Once you nail the bevel, the rest is icing on the cupcake.
 
The problem is, how do you know when the bevel is fully set?

The goal of a “fully” set bevel is, 1. Grind the bevels flat. 2. Grind them to the correct angle. 3. Get the bevels to meet at an even edge, no chips.

There are a number of test one can do to see if the bevels are meeting, but most test or testers do not test the whole edge.

The other test issue is, you must calibrate your test. Hair test work but, if the razor does not cut a single hair the first time the edge touches it, but does cut at a second attempt, is the bevel fully set? Probably not.

If you cut a tomato and will not push cut but will pull cut, is it set? Probably not.

Finger test, how sensitive are your fingers, how many sharp edges have you touched?

I use all the test, just calibrate the test so YOU know what they mean and what is a pass or fail. You will not fool yourself, you will go back to the stone if you try.

The simplest and most conclusive is a visual test. You can look at the whole edge, look straight down on the edge. If you see ANY shiny reflection, that is where the bevels are NOT meeting. Find out why and go back to the hone.

Once the bevels are meeting fully it is just a matter of polishing out all the previous stria with each stone in the progression without messing up the edge. The finer the polish, the straighter the edge, the straighter the edge the smoother the shave.

After that there is the extra 2%.



The first photo is an edge that is almost fully set, see the shiny spots.

The second photo is a fully set bevel, no shiny spots.

Almost set2.jpg
Fully set.jpg
 

Slash McCoy

I freehand dog rockets
Don't tape unless you have a reason to tape. Electrical tape wasn't even invented until 1946. What did honers do before then? Think about it.

However, your use of tape is probably not what is holding you up, with the possible exception of honing a razor that already has a bevel angle that is too obtuse. There are other gremlins to be found out and vanquished. Tucking your roll of tape away in a drawer will probably not have a noticeable effect at this point, so if you start honing without tape, don't be surprised if you still have an underwhelming edge.

A good bevel is, as other posters have stated, the most powerful factor in a razor having a great edge. It does no good to polish a poor bevel. Knowing how to identify a good bevel by examining it under a bright work light with a suitable level of magnification is a valuable skill that I strongly encourage you to develop. My usual optic of choice, is the Belomo 10X Triplet loupe. The 10X has a very useful focal length (not touching or in danger of touching the bevel you are examining!) and a good field of view. They make a 20X and it is probably great for grading diamonds but sucks for honing razors. The various ebay microscopes are mostly usable, and being plastic, they don't ding up your edge so badly if you make contact. USB microscopes can be handy for sharing edge pics. But for just honing, I like the Belomo 10x and nothing I have used is better, and the price is right.

But if you just can't get a handle on studying reflections, you can always use the burr method. The thing is, you still need to engage the gray mushy stuff inside your skull at least a little bit, to make it work for you. It is just a little less subjective and maybe easier to understand perfectly. You can still foul up a bevel, even using the burr method. Being able to troubleshoot your bevel with a loupe or a scope and a bright light will help you out of a lot of confusing situations.

Many beginner mistakes are amplified by bench honing. The more you desperately try to control a razor with both hands, the more mistakes are made. If you hold the hone, whether it is synthetic stone, natural, or lapping film, in your unsupported hand, sort of floating out in space in front of you, then you can easily regulate and balance your pressure as the hone and the razor find their own perfect alignment. Try it and you will see.

And now, the obligatory plug for The Method.
Newbie Honing Compendium | Badger & Blade

Just remember, the edge depends on the bevel.
 
The problem is, how do you know when the bevel is fully set?

The goal of a “fully” set bevel is, 1. Grind the bevels flat. 2. Grind them to the correct angle. 3. Get the bevels to meet at an even edge, no chips.

There are a number of test one can do to see if the bevels are meeting, but most test or testers do not test the whole edge.

The other test issue is, you must calibrate your test. Hair test work but, if the razor does not cut a single hair the first time the edge touches it, but does cut at a second attempt, is the bevel fully set? Probably not.

If you cut a tomato and will not push cut but will pull cut, is it set? Probably not.

Finger test, how sensitive are your fingers, how many sharp edges have you touched?

I use all the test, just calibrate the test so YOU know what they mean and what is a pass or fail. You will not fool yourself, you will go back to the stone if you try.

The simplest and most conclusive is a visual test. You can look at the whole edge, look straight down on the edge. If you see ANY shiny reflection, that is where the bevels are NOT meeting. Find out why and go back to the hone.

Once the bevels are meeting fully it is just a matter of polishing out all the previous stria with each stone in the progression without messing up the edge. The finer the polish, the straighter the edge, the straighter the edge the smoother the shave.

After that there is the extra 2%.



The first photo is an edge that is almost fully set, see the shiny spots.

The second photo is a fully set bevel, no shiny spots.

Those photos are brilliant! Thanks for including those!
 
... "My usual optic of choice, is the Belomo 10X Triplet loupe. "

I've always been nearsighted and normally wear contacts AND I need reading glasses for close work. Does anyone have a magnification solution that works for eyes like mine? I'm following this thread, but have not yet located a solution that I really like. I had purchased a CMOS camera from a big river vendor only to find it was defective. I had high hopes for that thing...

@H Brad Boonshaft - it would be great if you would share how you were able to capture such fine images of the razor's edge.
 
I've always been nearsighted and normally wear contacts AND I need reading glasses for close work.

I know what you mean. Do contacts interfere with using microscope lens's? I was using the 10$ Amazon hand held, which worked fine, but hated taking my glasses off and on to look in it. I bought a no name USB, Chinese model weeks and weeks ago and haven't had the time to set it up.
 
I know what you mean. Do contacts interfere with using microscope lens's? I was using the 10$ Amazon hand held, which worked fine, but hated taking my glasses off and on to look in it. I bought a no name USB, Chinese model weeks and weeks ago and haven't had the time to set it up.

No, I think microscopes and contacts go together pretty well. You'll be good if your microscope is of decent quality.
 
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Everything you need to know has been covered here. Without a good bevel, there's really no point in going forward.

Regarding the use of tape, I started as a purist, not using it, then I began using it and now I have settled for the use of 1 layer of kapton tape. Much thinner than electrical tape.

I cannot advocate against the use of electrical tape per se, we must consider that there is no fixed bevel angle, under or over which the razor will not cut. It is widely accepted, as far as I know, that pretty much any angle between 16 and 19 degrees will do, and one layer of tape will not take a razor outside that range, unless it is already borderline.

Why do I use it nowadays? Because it is easier to keep the stones cleaner for longer. Without tape, the stone will get dirty with steel particles both from the spine and the edge. That is my main reason for using kapton tape. However, as with everything, your mileage may vary.
 
You tape the spine, then start at 4K?

1) why are you taping the spine.

2) 4K isn’t going to be much chop setting a bevel.

It sounds like the bevels foundations are not built before you try to make the barn.

I know I am going to get flamed for saying this, but I am past caring.

Tape is for dudes who own 50+ razors, and want them to look new when they resell them. It is actually detrimental to the way a razor shaves.

Unless you have a problematic wedge, tape just protects the aesthetic of the spine, to the detriment of the geometry

Take the tape off and use ~1k, then use the usual tests to make sure the bevel is set. Don’t use finer stones until then or you are wasting time.
I agree, tape is a waste of time. Those stones were designed to be worn. If only tape one of I was going to sell it and if that was the case I'd hone it once to make sure it's shave ready then sell it. Most of the really nice, heirloom quality, really old razors/ stones I have I got no intention of selling so there that too.
 
^ This is what I always wondered about taping the spine. It seems to actively impede the quite specific, and rather clever, design of a SR. (I thought I must have been missing something, but clearly not).

---

Also - every single time I hone a razor from scratch bevel set takes me longer than I think it will. It's never set properly when I first test it because I think it's done. As D said - a lower grit stone than 4k will help. I imagine you could use 1k sandpaper too if you don't want to buy another stone.
Could use one of the other stones to slurry on the 4k of they're both flat. That should speed things up a lot. I've used waterstones slurry before with great success.
 
If it's not tree-topping off 12k at even close to the skin, the bevel probably isn't set properly.

Is this your first SR and/or honing job?

Some pics of the blade and sharpie pen test results would help a great help.
Yes first SR and first effort at honing.

Interesting to see the varying input - "tape is fine", "tape is stupid!", etc. - lol. I understand everyone is giving what they believe to be valid advice to be helpful - it's just interesting how certain dynamics seem to manifest in virtually every pursuit whether it's audio recording, auto mechanics, etc.

Why do I use tape? Because I've seen others use it and get perfectly good results and the notion of grinding away part of a razor that I'm not shaving with (unless necessary to fix a flatness problem as I've seen in videos) bothers me.

By a sharpie test I assume you mean going over the bevel with a Sharpie and seeing where it gets worn away and where it gets left when applied to a stone. It won't happen today but I'll give it a go and post pics. I'm sure I can find videos on YouTube of the procedure.

Thanks and happy new year to all!
 

rbscebu

Girls call me Makaluod
@Brassplyer as you are using tape while setting the blade's bevel, I am unable to offer you any further guidance. I have no experience with setting a blade's bevel with the blade's spine taped. I tried once but tape introduced more variables into the mix and just made it harder for me to learn to properly hone.

Best of luck.
 
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