Before you think to hone, ensure your razor has been stropped. In simple terms – honing entails reworking the metal of your blade to create a new edge. Just like your knife, your razor gets blunt over time and may need a new edge.
Before we discuss honing your razor, try out a shave test to figure if your razor is due for honing – perhaps it only needs stropping.
Run a Shave Test
Now, let’s discuss the details – perhaps you’ve established your razor needs honing.
Honing simply means grinding your blade against a surface with hard particles or a tough, rough surface. For this, you need an abrasive. You can do your experiments to find an abrasive that best suits your preference. So far, there is no universal standard or expert consensus on best abrasive for honing. So feel free to check out different materials – when you find what’s best for you, click.
Recommended: How To Sharpen A Straight Razor With A Strop
That said, here are some common abrasives you could try out:
Wet-sand paper is easy to use and relatively affordable. It merely requires you to place the sandpaper on a smooth surface and hone.
While it is easy and affordable – initially – to use this method to hone your straight razor blade, it is a more expensive option in the long run. The sandpaper wears out in no time – this translates to a lot of sandpaper for your regular honing.
This technique once came as the most preferred technique to the conventional honing method. Similar to the sandpaper, place your lapping film on a flat surface – and start honing.
Here’s the most popular method to hone your straight razor. To learn expertly, get stones. Besides that they are cheap – not as costly as lapping films – they are best-fits for the job.
Also, the lapping film may wear out in no time offering you an uneven honing – stones will outlive its user.
Up Your Honing Game
Having selected a preferred abrasive, you’ll map out an effective honing strategy – to get your coarse razor finer.
With stones, you may begin with a 100 grit stone, then increase to 4000 and then 8000 – and so on.
While honing, pause at bits to check the results of your efforts. How do you check? Here are a couple of ways
Arm Hair Test
It’s simple – just shave the hairs on your arm. You’d confirm the bevel is set when you can cut hairs on your arm without direct blade-skin contact. This is pretty quick and easy – particular those who got loads of arm hair, and some extra to spare.
Pick a single hair strand and try the blade on it. If it cuts, your efforts have paid off – else, it needs some more effort.
Thumb Pad Test
Wet your thumb and test the blade on it. If the blade gives your skin some light tickles, that spells progress. Don’t exert too much pressure with testing out on your skin – you don’t want your thumb off.
Glide the blade’s edge over your nail. If you feel slightly rough mark, then you’re on track.
Fingernail and thumb pad test may not be recommended for starters – due to the risk of a cut. However, you’re a sucker for adventure; why not?
Perhaps it’s beginning to sounds too technical and tedious. Not entirely so –be patient and dedicate some extra time at it. In the end, there’s a rewarding feeling that trails knowing that could hone your blade to be as sharp as a new one.
How to Hone A Straight Razor
The Full Honing Setup
Here’s a start-to-finish honing setup.
First, run the edge of the razor on glass – this gives the blade an even surface. Select your preferred abrasive for the process and being the bevel settings.
If stones, it is advised to begin with 800 to 1000 grit stone – you may move high as you continue the honing.
This phase takes the bulk – up to 75% of your honing process lies here. So, this state determines your honing result.
But what is a bevel?
Bevel describes the metal on both edges of the blade – they increasingly concave as you hone. Your goal is an even bevel. You need to apply careful and even strokes to achieve evenness.
Important: ensure your abrasive remains always lubricated – possibly with water. This promotes smooth gliding. You may have to run any of the bevel tests – as discussed previously – after about 50 laps.
Here, you need 4000 to 8000 grit stones. As with bevel settings, you need to apply the strokes lightly and slowly.
Here, you may have to check your progress after about 25 to 30 laps.
Polishing and Finishing
Here, you need the most excellent abrasive. If you prefer stones, opt for 8000-10000 grits. Similarly, apply slight strokes slowly and check edges in 25 to 30 laps intervals.
Summarily – Why Honing?
Primarily, the goal of honing is to keep the blade thin and flat – maintaining its structural integrity.
You want to get rid of nicks from your razor and refine –or create – a bevel for the sharpest possible result.
How to Sharpen (Hone) a Straight Razor (Video)