Sharpening Epiphany

I’ve been lurking around the straight razor forum and getting acclimated. I consider myself to be a good sharpener, and I know I like to analyze what exactly is happening when I sharpen. But sharpening my straight razor has always been a challenge for me.

I watched the video of Lynn sharpening his razor, and just as I was wondering why he would switch back and forth between the 4000 and 8000, he explained why, and said the edge is very “delicate” on a straight razor. That word stuck with me, and I immediately went to get my razor.

The explanation still didn’t make sense to me, but as I was trying to visualize what was going on as I was sharpening, it hit me. The way stones work is by making scratches (especially Shaptons). Each successive grit level makes wider and more shallow grooves in the steel. So here’s my theory on how and perhaps even why the pyramid sharpening works:

The coarser stone (whatever brand or grit) will make groves in the steel. By using that stone first, you end up with an edge that resembles peaks and valleys. The valleys are the part of the blade that you want as a finished product, but not the peaks. By then going to the finer grit, it reduces the peaks until, theoretically, they are even with the valleys from the coarser stone.

OK – this much is probably a given. However, this is where the term “delicate” started to really make sense.

If I use a Shapton stone (which I do) or any other, of any grit constantly, I would get the same version of the peaks and valleys descibed earlier from using the coarse stone, just at a different ratio. However, by making the peaks and valleys on the coarser grit (in this case, the second to last stone), and then smoothing them over with just a few passes on the finer grit (in this case, the final stone) WITHOUT establishing a new set of peaks a valleys, well… you should then have a very nice shave .

This method also seems to promote the very gradual approach to the thinnest possible edge without “going over”, and removing unneccesary metal from the edge.

BTW, I used a Shapton Glass 16K and 30K. I didn’t follow the pryamid per se, but I tried going between the 2 stones and I did notice a better finish on the blade than just using the 30K over and over. I didn’t strop. I got a good shave, but it still wasn’t quite what I am looking for, but it is definitely a step in the direction I want it to go.

I am going to take my blade back down to #2000 and work it back up using the pyramid “scheme”. I think the overall edge has been rounded over too much from all the previous stroppings on the barber’s strop. Unfortunately, I only shave once a week, so I will have to wait until next week to personally see if my theory is correct.

If anone is able to follow my babble, I would love to hear theories – either way. Of course if everyone else has already had this epiphany, I’ve just had it for myself.

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2 Responses to “Sharpening Epiphany”

  1. Eumax Says:

    very interesting, I can visualize your idea, makes sense.

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