Straight Razor Honing

Honing is the process of sharpening a razor blade on a hone. The main object in honing is to obtain a perfect cutting edge on the razor. For the beginner a slow-cutting hone is preferable to a fast-cutting hone.

Honing results will be more satisfactory if the razor and hone are kept at room temperature. Depending on which hone is used, it may be moistened with water or lather, or kept dry. When in use, the hone should be kept perfectly flat. Sufficient space should be provided to permit free arm movements in honing.

The razor blade is sharpened by honing the razor with smooth, even strokes of equal number and pressure on both sides of the blade. The exact angle at which the blade is stroked is less important than that each stroke, for each side of the blade, be precisely the same. This is often accomplished by laying the blade flat on the hone while stroking, thereby maintaining a constant and matched angle.

How to hold the razor

Grasp the razor handle comfortably in the right hand as follows:

1. Rest index finger on top of the side part of the shank.
2. Rest ball of thumb at the joint.
3. Place second finger back of the razor near the edge of the shank.
4. Fold remaining fingers around the handle to permit easy turning of the razor.

Turning the razor

Place the razor on hone with razor edge facing left. Turn razor from one side to the other. The rolling movement across back of razor is produced with the fingers, rather than the wrist. Practice the turning action until it is mastered.

First stroke in honing:

The razor blade must be stroked diagonally across the hone, drawing the blade towards the cutting edge and heel of the razor.

Second stroke in honing:

After the completion of the first stroke, the razor is turned on its back with the fingers in the same manner you would roll a pencil, without turning the wrist. As the razor is rolled over on its back, slide it upwards from bottom left corner of the hone to the top left corner of hone.

Completing the second stroke:

Draw razor from left-top corner of hone to right-bottom corner of hone so that the edge faces to the right and the heel leads. Keep equal pressure on the razor at all times. As the razor is rolled over on its hack, slide it upwards from bottom right to top right.

Repeat strokes:

In going from one step to the other, try to maintain four different movements, rather than a sweeping movement. The number of strokes required in honing depends on the condition of the razor's edge. Test for sharpness frequently during process to avoid over-honing.

Testing razor on moistened thumbnail:

Depending on the hardness of the hone and the number of strokes taken, the razor edge may be blunt, keen, coarse or rough. Different sensations are felt when the razor is passed lightly across the thumbnail, moistened with water or lather.

To test the razor edge, place it on the nail of the thumb and slowly draw it from the heel to the point of the razor.

1. A perfect or keen edge has fine teeth and tends to dig into the nail with a smooth steady grip.
2. A blunt or dull razor edge passes over the nail smoothly, without any cutting power.
3. A coarse razor edge digs into the nail with a jerky feeling.
4. A rough or over-honed edge has large teeth that stick to the nail and produce a harsh, grating sound.
5. A nick in the razor will produce a feeling of a slight gap or unevenness in the draw.

Correcting an over-honed razor

To eliminate an over-honed edge, draw the razor backward in a diagonal line across the hone, using the same movement and pressure as in regular honing. One or two strokes each way will usually remove the rough edge and eliminating any progress made toward sharpening. This is called back honing. The razor is then honed again, starting from the beginning of the process, being careful to prevent over-honing a second time.

While honing, the abrasive material of the hone makes small cuts in the sides of the razor blade's edge. The small cuts resemble the teeth of a saw and point in the same direction as the stroke used for honing. A finer grit hone will produce finer teeth. The object is to leave the finest possible teeth behind after honing. To accomplish this it if sometimes advisable to use a series of increasingly finer grit hones. The final step in sharpening, stropping, will polish away these very fine teeth leaving behind a smooth edge.

Honing Stone Care

After using any kind of hone, always wipe the surface clean and cover it. Make sure that all adhering steel particles resulting from the honing are completely removed. Whenever a dry hone has been used, rub its surface with water and pumice stone, wipe clean and keep covered.

A new hone may require a preliminary treatment to put it into good working shape. If a new hone is very rough, rub its surface with water and pumice stone. No preliminary treatment is required for the water hone, as it is ready for immediate use.

Before using, make sure that the surface of the hone is smooth and clean, as this will greatly diminish normal time required to put an edge on the razor.

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