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Thread: Fire Ash II

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    Member AFDavis11's Avatar
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    Default Fire Ash II

    I have recently recreated my fire ash experiments. This time, strangely, they seem to be working well. Really, really, well. The traditional practice of applying this powdery substance to the linen of a strop is rarely documented but I gave it another try.

    It seemed, on the first razor I tried, to sharpen the razor. After five shaving attempts it suddenly felt sharper. That was 20 passes per shave, or 100 passes total. I tried the process on the second, third, fourth, and even fifth razors in my collection. They began shaving better almost immediately.

    At this point the first razor started feeling a little overhoned, so I slowed down on that one. I'm at the point where I only refresh them about once a week, on linen only, but am unclear on a schedule.

    I concluded two things immediately. If the fire ash is a grit of some sort, its very, very, very high, like maybe .01???. And two, the last failure was due to my honing inabilities. Some two years ago when I started the last experiment my honing ability was far less then it is today. The "grit" was only able to work on a very, very sharp razor already.

    Now, in order to determine if it was a grit at all I used two indicators. The first was whether the linen started getting dark, or blacker. It did seem to get blacker after a 100 or so passes, more so after 200. After the last reapplication I havent' seen evidence of blackening yet, but I've slowed down because I found that about 60-100 passes smoothed out the other razors and this smoothing was good enough for me. I already honed the things up shaving sharp. You know what I mean? The second was direct observation under a microscope. There is absolutely no indication of any grit action at all. This is up to 80x. I can't see anything to indicate the edge is getting any action at all.

    A little baffled at this point but I can say that my razors are feeling "smoother" and perhaps, just perhaps I'm sensing they are a little sharper. But not much. But the smoother feeling is kinda nice. I'm actually shaving more against the grain then I've ever wanted to because it glides rather effortlessly against the grain. I've never honed quite that well before.

    So at this point I'm wondering if the ash is helping to warm the blade better while stropping on linen, or whether its just all in my imagination. But anyway I like the way they feel. So I thought I'd share . . . oh and feel free to just call me a quack, it won't hurt my feelings.
    Last edited by AFDavis11; 01-21-2007 at 12:25 PM.

  2. #2
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    I've got a complementary experiment that may shed some light.

    Back just before christmas, I did a stropping experiment where I took one razor (a 5/8 Clauss Barber's Special) and my handamerican strop and used them continuously. One side of my handamerican strop was conditioned with Williams Mug Soap at the start and every few days thereafter, the other had been recently conditioned with Fromm strop conditioner. The razor was stropped 20 laps on each side before each shave, and 10 laps on each side before shaving my chin and mouth, and 10 laps on each side after each shave.

    After a few days I started getting the urge to refresh it on the chrome oxide but resisted because it was shaving better than ever - I really am a chrome oxide junky, I love the feel of a chrome oxided blade. Anyway, after about 5 days I was beginning to think that the razor wasn't just shaving smoother but it was actually sharper. I checked under the scope at 100x and the bevel was smooth and the edge was extremely clean. By about day 9 I was beginning to get concerned that the edge was acting like it was overhoned, and by day 12 the razor was beginning to act like a feather, wierd unexplained nicks and such, so I called the experiment off, and gave the razor 20 licks on the boron carbide and another 20 on the chrome oxide and it was back to normal.

    My theory is that a lot of the dulling we see really is from corrosion, and the soap in the strop was protecting the edge from this corrosion because of its alkalinity - steel won't rust in a sufficiently alkaline environment. Absent this corrosion, even the slight abrasiveness in the strop was sufficient to gradually increase the sharpness of the razor over a couple of weeks.

    The tie-in to your ash experiment is that like soap, ashes are alkaline - lye used to be made by dripping water through hardwood ashes.

    Anyway, it's a theory.

    Edit: One example of this "steel won't rust in an alkaline environment" thing is automobile antifreeze, the alkalinity prevents the iron engine block from rusting. Oils tend to be alkaline as well.
    Last edited by mparker762; 01-19-2007 at 10:52 PM.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth Kees's Avatar
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    Interesting experiment.

    How do you apply ash to a linen strop? Do you dust it over or mix it with some sort of dressing or lather before applying?

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    Member AFDavis11's Avatar
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    That is fascinating, MParker! I'm having the same difficulty. Besides the razor lasting forever without honing it keeps getting a little too sharp if I'm not careful with it. Luckily I've been catching them before they get to that constant nick BS. But slowing the process down has helped a lot. This could lead to a big breakthrough.

    Kees,

    I tactically dip my hand into the wood stove while no one is looking (I'm living with my rustic Dad at the moment) and apply dry fire ash to the linen. I use about a Tablespoon and then push the dust over the remaining linen. Towards the end I rub it in all over. I try and remove any hard pieces of remaining wood chip and such. When the linen is dry, smooth, and fully impregnated I begin using it. I strop the razor on my hand between the linen and leather to prevent cross contamination onto the daily leather.

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    Cheapskate Honer Wildtim's Avatar
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    Keep up the testing!!

    I'm a little leary of smearing ash all over my good hanger but its starting to sound like a good idea!!

    Maybe ash is better than cro2?

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    Senior Member superfly's Avatar
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    Ash has definitely abrasive properties... Per advice of our regular honemaster Randy (Tuttle), that the ash was used in the past as a polishing substance, I decided to try it out when I was walking by some fire remainings in front of my building, from making "ajvar" our traditional pepper made snack...

    So, I took one piece of black burned wood home, rubbed it on some cotton cloth, and took out my new find, 4/8 Eskiltuna blade. I worked on the blade for maybe 20-30 minutes (hand rub) and it definitely took even finer polish than before, after short session with some metal polish...

    So, besides it's honing properties, ash might get some use mixed with some metal polish, or on it's own, weather in it's dry powdery form, or maybe mixed with some mineral oil, or whatever substance as a carrier...

    Nenad

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    The triple smoker
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    If it weren't snowing like heck, I'd go out to the big pit and grab some ash. Has anyone tried this on leather? I think this could be a winning combination, what with the mild abrasive qualities and low pH of ash.




    Wayne

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    Senior Member Tony Miller's Avatar
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    Great!! Black fireplace soot......now I can use something even messier than the chromium oxide pastes! I don't know what it is about that stuff but I get green on everything when I use it. Not so much in it's application but a few days later when packing or handling one.

    C Utz sent me a vintage Puma strop with chromium on it and I had green powder everyplace by the time I un-packed it.

    Tony

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    Are you using the CO powder or the waxy chapstick tube? I'm using the tube and don't find it messy at all.

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    Hones & Honing randydance062449's Avatar
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    Very good thread guys! The alkaline idea is sure appealing but would not the ash be removed by shaving and rinsing?

    The ash is an abrasive and has been used for that purpose in the past and does seem to be very fine. One local man and his father had a grinding service for many years and used wood ash as a polishing agent. It seems that I have read in the past of ash being used on linen and possibly leather. If it works on linen then it should also work on leather... right?

    The alkaline argument makes more sense for the soap especially since the final stropping is after the shave. It has been recommended in the past that razors be strooped after shaving to remove the water and thus reduce rust. It has also been recommended that a razor be rested for a week or two and then stropped because the rust will then fall off and the edge will be sharp again. In addition it has been stated that rust start forming immediately after the steel is exposed to moisture. Thus rust will degrade the edge.

    It does make sense to strop after shaving on a strop that has been treated with soap or an alkaline substance that will retard rust formation. Thats a really perceptive insight!

    The question I have is would it be a good idea to strop on an ash treated linen after shaving and rinsing the blade? Would the ash act as both a moisture absorbent and rust inhibitor? Then follow that with a few strokes on a soap treated plain leather strop to further protect the edge with an alkaline substance?
    Randolph Tuttle, a SRP Mentor for residents of Minnesota & western Wisconsin

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