Warning – I have over 9 years of straight razor shaving experience, so please do not attempt to shave with the biggest, sharpest implement of destruction you own!
As with all challenges, someone posted a video on the Knife Forums dry shaving his goatee with some kind of 240mm knife. Naturally, it brought out the freaks who enjoy shaving as well as sharpening, and the gauntlet was thrown down by I forget who at this point, and we ended up having 3 guys commit to doing shaves with their Maestro Wu Cleavers…. :)
I decided I was going to hone my Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver on my Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener (WEPS), and use this opportunity to document my Shapton Pro Stones for the WEPS. The main reason I chose the WEPS over free hand and even the Edge Pro was because of the clamped knife system, which reduces the amount of accumulated error due to flipping the blade that would need to be done on the Edge Pro or freehand.
One of the difficulties I knew I was going to face with a blade this big was the amount flex in the blade itself, being a good 3 inches (7-8cm) high and 1.8mm thick. On top of that, straight razors require a super-light touch, and I knew there would be some issue with how the paddles of the WEPS would create flex at the edge of the edge, which would normally not even be thought about if I were sharpening the knife as a cleaver.
But hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it!
This particular cleaver was a beater that had been experimented on several times, so I reset things on my belt sander before heading to the WEPS. I did not get a “before” picture, but below is a picture of a stock Maestro Wu edge taken from a D-6 Chef knife for another competition.
Since I had already gotten the edge on the belt sander, I decided to begin with the stock 600 WEPS diamond plate set at 15 degrees on both sides. (I checked all my angles along the way with my Angle Cube. It’s a must for precision!) All microscope pictures from this point are 1mmx1mm.
I decided to do my normal progression of Shapton stones that I would do on straight razors. Looking back, I should’ve gone to the #320 Shapton after the #600 WEPS to really clean things up since I normally go to #1200 on diamonds – I actually don’t have them for the WEPS, though :/
But I do know what I’m doing, and I went to the 1K Shapton Pro from the WEPS 600, which as you can see, is perfectly fine.
Then onto the Shapton #1,500. I really like this stone because the 1K Shapton is on the coarser side of things, and the #1,500 really helps clean things even more before the critical leap to 5K, where all of the previous shortcomings are revealed.
You’ll notice there is the slightest wave at the edge of the edge t is at this point where I was beginning the think that 15 degrees was going to be too shallow. Most straight razors are between about 18-21 degrees.
I moved on to the Shapton Pro 2K stone and saw that the edge was crumbling a little – mostly due to my lack of razor honing technique on the WEPS – so I upped the angle to 18 degrees. You can see the new angle in the first picture below, and then the finished 2K.
The finished 2K shows evidence of a burr, but up until this point, that is acceptable in my mind, given the circumstances and dimensions of the knife!
On to the 5K – the 2K-5K is the critical leap, and I spent a good deal more time perfecting my 5K edge than any other. It is the key to success with the Shapton Pros.
At this point, picture taking becomes more difficult with the added frailty of the edge being likely to chip from hitting the scope! If I were sharpening this cleaver as a regular cleaver, this is where I would normally stop on the Shapton Pros. However, for a straight razor shave, it is not good enough yet!
On to the 8K. Having done my preliminary polishing on the 5K, the rest of the stones move pretty quickly to further polish.
You can see how thin the edge of the edge is becoming – there is some evidence of rolling at the edge of the edge – again, from my technique and the way the stones do need to push against the steel. In fact, you can see from the slight angle change that I did put some pressure on the edge.
However, on the 15K I used as little pressure as possible, and the edge becomes very crisp and clean. The shine from the reflection of light was becoming a hassle for the pictures! This would be a comfortable shave by normal standards, but Shapton goes to 30K. :)
I will admit I did something I shouldn’t have done, which is more strokes than normal at this stage. The clumping on the bevel is evidence of elements of the swarf. I normally only do 10-20 strokes, but It felt so good, that I did about 50, and the water on the stone dried out.
I wasn’t worried because I knew I was going to use Ken Schwartz’s .125 Micron CBN (available from Wicked Edge here), and that there was going to be some convexing of the edge of the edge due to the leather paddles.
The CBN really cleaned things up for the plain leather WEPS strop.
As you can see from the plain leather paddle, there is some rounding of the edge of the edge. This is not always bad for shaving :) The weakest, thinnest portion of the edge is gone, leaving a solid enough width at the edge for shaving. You can see a fresh score going in the opposite direction of the normal scratches – this is from contamination, most likely from me when wiping the blade down with a tissue with my dirty hands…
The overall shave was a success. There are 3 guys in on the “competition”, and I will post all 3 videos when they come out. In the mean time, here’s my picture of the Shave of the Day. Enjoy!