Archive for July, 2009

Straight Razor Exchange

July 27, 2009

After two shaves with my exchange partner’s Boker that was finished on a Japanese Nakayama stone, I am happy to report that it was very fun and interesting. I recommend it to everyone!

My first shave was smooooth! The blade was a lot lighter than my TI or Bismark, and the thin hollow grind made the blade sound “weird”, but these had no effect on the performance. I was a little tentative on my first shave, as I didn’t want to break anything as I was finding out what the blade could handle. I was able to get my usual WTG and ATG shaves, along with some resulting BBS. Overall, the result of a very nice sharpening job, IMO.

The second shave required a little stropping. I decided not to use the stones because I figured that if I brought out one stone, I would bring them all out and want to resharpen the entire razor – and that wasn’t part of the deal. The strop kept the blade alive in order for me to finish the shave. This time around, the blade found its way around my face much easier, as I was more comfortable with the weight and balance of the razor. There was a slight difference in the overall edge of the second shave, but nothing that was the fault of the sharpener. – Which leads me to my conclusion:

I would say that the bottom line is that the owner of the Boker did a very good job at honing his razor.

Just in thinking about it, I realize that it is difficult to pinpoint anything accurately – is anything I notice the sharpening job, the razor characteristics, my expectations, or a combination of any of them? The only answer I could come up with, based only on my culminated thoughts, was “Corporate Shave”.

The razor was sharpened well, no doubt there. What I imagined was that I know my razor has more of a “sharp” feeling on the face, and it will keep on scraping the skin on subsequent passes, no matter if there is hair to cut or not. The Boker seemed to know “when to stop”, even if I could feel the hair on my face with my fingers. While this is not a bad trait, per se, it lead me to believe that the edge could benefit from some more refinement – not necessarily from higher grits, but just from more passes.

The “Corporate Shave” entered my mind because I could very well see this blade being used every day or every other day, leaving a “smooth enough” shave for work. It is quite light, and it found its way around my face very quickly. The characteristics of the blade – relatively thin hollow grind- lent itself to this.

As all of this is subjective I think everyone should try other people’s razors (with permission, of course)

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Is Stropping Still Necessary in a 30K (or .5 Micron) World?

July 4, 2009

It’s kind of funny that I always seem to be thinking about straight razors.

I am eagerly awaiting a razor exchange with a member of the SRP. I sent him my Thiers-Issard sharpened to 30K on the Shapton Glass Stones. We discussed the terms for evaluating each others blades, and we agreed that we were to send the razors shave ready in order to “keep it real”.

For me, this simply meant touching up my razor with a couple of strokes on the 30K glass. As for my exchange partner, he uses natural stones, and finishes with stropping. I am very excited to use a razor that has been finished on natural stones.

With the advance of synthetic sharpening stones, sharpening anything to 8K and finer is as easy as doing a Google search and using a credit card. To me, if you can sharpen up to 30K, or .5 microns, stropping is a little redundant (and maybe even counterproductive??) With the internet, you can now secure natural Nakayama stones that, as my exchange partner said, rival the 30K. In fact, it is this very statement that made me wonder about why he is going to strop his razor after using this stone.

This got me thinking – with the commercial availability of stones that go to 30k, or .5 microns, is stropping really necessary anymore? Back in the day, when sharpening stone  and barber hone technology weren’t nearly as technologically advanced as they are today (I’m not saying  that they were bad, though), I can see using stropping to clean up an edge, and to even  mask some imperfections, as stropping rounds over (or convexes) an edge over time (actually improving it before it becomes too convex).  But gone are the days of only having Arkansas or India stones, which at best their best, are not good enough on their own.

Of course one can strop as a form of sharpening on several different strops loaded with CrO2 or diamond pastes that go as high as .25 microns, or 60K. If this were the only method a person used, I can see that being effective. The argument that the edge will eventually need to be reset on a flat stone comes into play, though.

I guess the  tradition of using strops is so well ingrained in our straight razor history that it will never go away. Besides, this technology has only been available in the last few decades. Just a thought…….