Straight Razor sharpening w/out pressure

With my new-found knowledge that I was using too much pressure on my straight razor when sharpening, I set out to sharpen my Bismark Solingen from the beginning using the Shapton Glass Series Sharpening Stones.

I actually sharpened twice. The first time, I used the 2K, 4K, 6K, 8K, 16K, and finished with the 30K Glass. By 6K, I was getting some catching action from the blade as I passed it over the hairs hanging off my arm. By 8K, I was able to shave some hairs without much effort. I was satisfied with the results so far. When I finished using the 16K, I noticed I had missed a spot on the blade, that is, the surface of the edge wasn’t as shiny near the tip as it was along the rest of the blade. I took a closer look at the spine of the blade, and it was slightly curved, not enough to cause trouble, but it would easily explain the lack of shine.

I originally started sharpening by following Lynn’s method, where he puts the knife straight across so that the entire blade is contacts the stone. A slight bend in the spine would reveal a high spot. So started at 2K, and switched to pulling the blade straight off the stone, like this:

Straight Razor 1

At the lower grits, it was clear that this method was working favorably. But when I got to 16K again, the same fogging occurred. So I went out and bought a microscope – a Lumagny, which is a plastic jobber that has a removable base, a light source, and 60x, 80x and 100x magnifications. It only cost about $15.00. I put the blade under at 60x, and was surprised to see that that particular area of shading showed a considerable amount of pitting from rust – mind you, at room temperature, you can’t see the rust spots but once you know they are there, you know what you are seeing. This was no doubt a result of not using the razor for a couple of years, and living in a humid environment.

Anyway, I started over, using the same method of pulling the blade straight off the stone, but this time I checked my progress at 100x on the microscope. (BTW, those guys at the Straight Razor Forums are sick, sick, sick! And I am now infected. J) I could clearly see the uniform scratch marks  of the 2K, and quickly went to the 4K, where I started off with a little pressure, and gradually lightened it up so that the scratches would be completely even, and the traces of scratches from previous stones would be gone. I then went to the 8K and checked at 100x. Everything was looking good, and I went to the 16K. At this point, I saw the clouding of the blade again, but when I looked under the microscope, I could clearly see the rust spots, and the grain of the steel, but the scratches were actually gone. I realized that I was looking at the actual grain of the steel. When I finished on the 30K, it was clear when looking at the blade in the light without magnification that I had polished so well, that what I thought was imperfection, was actually the true face of the steel. This was confirmed by looking at the edge under 100x magnification.

I also started thinking about the different kind of shave that pulling the blade straight off the stone (giving a horizontal scratch pattern) would produce versus one where scratches are vertical. I did notice that the blade “caught” the hairs hanging off my arm better when the scratches were horizontal.

I’ll have to wait until this weekend to try the blade, but I am excited to see if it makes any difference now! I will also be looking for a new razor soon…


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