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  1. #1
    Senior Member coloshaver's Avatar
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    Default The magic is gone - need ideas

    First post here.

    I'm new to straight razor shaving. I started with a new (but bought 30 years ago) Solingen stainless and a vintage C-Mon strop from my father in law. I never could get it sharp enough to shave so it sat in a drawer since then until I asked my barber about how to sharpen it. With some pointers from him, I found a vintage "Crown" razor hone on ebay. That did the trick and I actually shaved with it about 6 weeks ago. I was hooked. I found a well worn Shefield razor on Ebay and a Shumate "Barber" at an antique store. I got both of them HHT sharp using the Crown stone and the strop and enjoyed shaving with them.

    With my newfound confidence I found a few more bargains on ebay. A pair of Allegheny Instrument Co razors - clean but worn and relegated to restoration practice pieces, a Wostenholm that needed the bevel set and another Shumate that came almost HHT sharp but very tarnished. Working on the Wostenholm I taped the spine (since is was worn and I wanted to preserve it), used a "Winner" vintage two sided razor hone and started grinding. The edge had become uneven so it took awhile to get the bevel uniform. I worken on it for a couple hours finishing up with the Crown hone. I failed the HHT miserably and wouldn't even shave my arm. Starting over, I took a Sharpie and marked gently from the apex of the bevel to the edge of the blade. Using a 10x magnifier I watched the mark as I honed. The mark disappeared from the apex of the bevel toward the edge. I tested the edge with the pad of my thumb as I went and felt it getting sharper, but as the last sliver of marker disappeared from the edge it felt noticeably duller. I've managed to repeat this sequence on the previously sharp Shumate and it has now become unusable.

    I have been reading constantly since I started all this in early March. The hones are nearly straight edge flat. I am using a very light touch and taking hours to get the bevel flat. I am really aware of keeping the razor flat on the hone. The bevel seems very even from heel to toe. The bevel seems very flat - it uniformly reflects light, but I am mystified about the behavior of the ink on the bevel. It is acting as if it is convex. It behaves identically when I start over which baffle me even more, since I would expect starting with a flat bevel, the ink should disappear evenly the entire width of the bevel. I always alternate sides using an X pattern and, again, am using a very light touch. When I strop I hold the leather very rigid and use a light touch on the razor. I have sharpened knives and know about wire edges. I have both felt for a wire edge and looked for one with the 10X lens and see no evidence of that defect so even though I am honing a lot, I don't think I am "over honing".

    Obviously, I am do some thing(s) wrong. Any guidance would be greatly appreciated. Sorry it is so long, but I wanted to give you gurus enough info to avoid rat holes.

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Comfortably Numb Del1r1um's Avatar
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    Default

    Are you only using that one hone, or did I miss something? If so, you may need to expand your arsenal a bit to really set and refine the edge.

  3. #3
    illegitimum non carborundum Utopian's Avatar
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    Both of your hones, the Crown and the Winner, are barber hones, which are more appropriate for maintaining, rather than sharpening, your razors. Even though one side of the Winner is a little more coarse, it's still not very coarse. I have set a bevel on a Swaty barber hone. It can be done but it is not easy and, as you now know, it can take hours.

    I suspect that your bevels are not yet properly set. Also, have you tried lapping your hones? Your honing will go easier if your hones are flat. The Winner is quite hard on both sides and is a bear to lap. If I recall correctly, the Crown is similar to Swatys, and will still take some effort to lap. If you want to hone your own razors, you might want to consider a hone more appropriate for sharpening razor. A commonly recommended hone for such purposes is the Norton 4k/8k combo. A 4k is still a little fine for bevel setting but it will work with patience. A 1k makes it go much faster.

    If you continue to have trouble, you can go this thread to get on a short waiting list for free honing.

  4. #4
    Senior Member blabbermouth
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  5. #5
    Senior Member coloshaver's Avatar
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    Default Questions, always more questions

    Utopian,

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, I have read about better setups for setting a bevel, but had such good luck early on that I thought I could muddle through.

    Not to argue, but to seek more understanding . . . I checked the flatness of my hones. With a precision square, it is not perfectly flat, bu I see only a couple thousandths gap in the middle of the hone. In thinking about the effect of a concave hone, I can understand how it might lead to a convex bevel, but it would seem to me that the ink on the edge of the blade would be honed away early in the process as the leading edge rides up out of the trough rather than last thing at the very end - no?

    Thanks for the offer of the free hone, but I am more interested in figuring out how to do it and what I am doing wrong.

  6. #6
    The original Skolor and Gentileman. gugi's Avatar
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    I don't know what you're doing wrong but as long as the razor is good enough honing can remove enough metal so that there is a proper edge.

    Your razor was worn, which means somebody used it successfully. Unless the steel was mistempered between then and now it should still be able to take a good edge.

    As far as how sharp it was there are some kinds of sharpness you don't want. If the edge was jagged it can feel sharp and cut hairs, but it's no good for shaving.

    Even if the razor was last left sharp the tarnish on it would suggest that there may have been oxidation on the edge and the steel could've been rotted.

    The only way to get a razor sharp is to get two sides of a bevel meet in a straight line with a thickness of few parts of a micron.

    If you have some sort of reasonably good magnification you may be able to asses the edge and the progress you are making a little better.

    If your hones are too slow and you don't want to buy anything better use a sandpaper to clean the edge to good steel and set most of the bevel.

  7. #7
    At this point in time... gssixgun's Avatar
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    The term "Lucky SOB" comes to mind on the first 3 razors....
    Well the first one very well might have been "Hair Tested" from the factory new razors used to come that way....
    The next two I honestly believe you got lucky on and they were recently shave ready razors or at least had the bevel set correctly on them...

    After that as the saying goes "Welcome to the big leagues" now you know why there is so much talk on here just about one thing, HONING.... You probaly thought to yourself hey this isn't so hard, what are those idiots talking about.. Life is easy if the bevel is set, sharp aint so hard at that point, but heck yeah, life changes when you need to get a bevel set, that is where the work begins...

    Welcome to SRP !!!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by gssixgun View Post
    The term "Lucky SOB" comes to mind on the first 3 razors....
    Well the first one very well might have been "Hair Tested" from the factory new razors used to come that way....
    The next two I honestly believe you got lucky on and they were recently shave ready razors or at least had the bevel set correctly on them...

    After that as the saying goes "Welcome to the big leagues" now you know why there is so much talk on here just about one thing, HONING.... You probaly thought to yourself hey this isn't so hard, what are those idiots talking about.. Life is easy if the bevel is set, sharp aint so hard at that point, but heck yeah, life changes when you need to get a bevel set, that is where the work begins...

    Welcome to SRP !!!
    Seconded. Bevel setting is the worst!

  9. #9
    Senior Member AlanII's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leighton View Post
    Seconded. Bevel setting is the worst!
    Absolutely, never really understood what people meant about keeping it sharp being much easier than getting it sharp until I tried it. About 3 months trial and error (+ frustration) later, I got there but still don't approach the task with anything like complete confidence.

  10. #10
    Senior Moderator JimmyHAD's Avatar
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    Having the right tools to do the job is the first thing and than having the knowledge and skill is the other. You can buy the first but not the second. You have to earn that with patient and persistent practice and study. From your knowing the terminology and the marker test it is obvious that you have done some homework.

    I started out as you have trying to do it myself with no real benchmark to compare my results. Then I got a honemiester to sharpen two razors for me and I had something to shave with and to compare my results with. Best of all it was a honemiester who lived near enough to me that I was able to watch him do it and get honing lessons from him. There may be a forum member in your neck of the woods who might help you out. One way or the other check out a Norton or Naniwa set of hones and you'll be clicking on eight sooner then later.
    Be careful how you treat people on your way up, you may meet them again on your way back down.

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