Failing Forward – Every failure is a success in waiting – even if it takes 7 years

I am about to embark on my first straight razor restore. I won a few old straight razors off of eBay, and I’ve been doing my homework on the SRP these past few days. The old razors will have surface rust, and possibly even some pitting.  It is my goal to get a really shiny finish on them, if possible. The problem is that some of the blades are very thin, so using a higher speed buffer or sandpaper flap wheel could easily overheat the blade, or damage it, and using wet/dry sandpaper will just plain take a long time.

So, I was driving to work, and it hit me – I had actually come full circle!

About 7 years ago I started getting into the reed knife business, I had absolutely no intentions of learning how to sharpen. I wanted to simply be a middleman. But when I got the knives from the maker, they had this nasty coat of polyurethane sprayed on the blades. The maker said that they would rust, otherwise.  I obviously couldn’t sell them that way, so I set out to find a way to polish the blades. I tried a lot of methods, but ultimately ended up getting these little slip stones and used them to polish the blades by hand. Each blade took about 3 hours to complete, but they were smooth, shiny, and they didn’t rust.

I realized after about 100 knives that it just wasn’t going to be economical, as much as it was pretty. A failure, if you will, because I wasted many, many hours trying  a solution that just wasn’t worth the effort. So I started looking into other polishing methods and materials. This lead to several things. First, I found that using a buffing wheel worked much, much faster in polishing up the blades. And even though the scratch marks on the blade from manufacturing were still quite visible, they were “polished”, and that stopped the rust from forming. This was a success, because my blade polishing time was reduced from hours to seconds – but it’s not why I am writing this post.

This is where failing forward comes into play. First, in my quest for knowledge on polishing blades, I ultimately got into sharpening because all of the information available was for polishing, as in sharpening. The failure of hand polishing the blades with slip stones lead me to make the market’s sharpest reed knives, to me becoming something of an authority on sharpening reed knives, and to me actually writing a reed knife sharpening book (with plans for a DVD in the works as well…).

But here’s the kicker. As I was thinking about how I would be polishing up the old straight razor blades, the idea of using the slip stones came into my mind. Here’s the full circle – 8 years ago, I spent a plethora of time trying to polish the reed knife blades using the slip stones – developing a technique that was uneconomical. It was abandoned for 7 years – until today.

So for my first razor restore job, I will already have the skills, and a considerable amount of experience to polish up a rusty blade.

So every failure is a success in waiting, even if it takes 7 years (or more) to reveal itself!


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