Archive for July, 2011

My Theory on Overhoning Straight Razors – Part 1

July 31, 2011

We had knife sharpening competition with some heavy hitters in the Keeping Sharp sub-forum of the Knife Forums. The idea behind this one started out for guided devices such as the Wicked Edge (WEPS) and the Edge Pro, but quickly turned into a friendly “Clash of the Titans” with several methods of sharpening represented –  from freehand to Edge Pro to  WEPS to belt sanders. The thread can be found here.

As the host and honorary judge of this competition, I supplied 7″ Maestro Wu Bombshell Steel Chef Knives to the participants, without knowing who got which knife. I knew there would be no clear winner, and my main goal was to make this a learning project. And learn I did. The knives were all amazingly sharp and well done.

I took microscope pictures of before and after the cutting tests – and it is from these pictures that this blog post is based to support my theories on Overhoning straight razors. I know these aren’t straight razors, but the similarities to what I saw on straights when I honed and on what I saw on these knives sharpened by others gave some quantitative support to my long lingering theories. Besides, the guys sharpening were no hacks, and approached their sharpening in a similar fashion to straight razor honers.

All pictures here were taken with a Veho 200x USB microscope. Original resolution size is 1mm high x 2.5mm wide.


Overhoning is a controversial topic amongst straight razor honers. Most people who know me know that I respectfully do not subscribe to the theory, which basically states that too many strokes on a hone will cause the edge to become a “foil edge”, which is too thin to support itself and folds over during the shave; and/or cause microchipping in the final, and most delicate stages of razor honing.

As far as foil edges on straight razors caused by overhoning, the thickness of the spine of the razor combined with the width of the blade determines the edge angle. Since we hone razors with the spine flat on the stones or strops, the geometry is predetermined. If the edge angle should be too low and the steel quality isn’t able to support such an angle, it will fold or break. This isn’t  a direct consequence of overhoning, as in too many strokes. It’s clearly one of geometry. Increasing the angle by adding a layer of tape will reinforce the geometry, thus stopping the breakdown or foiling when honing.

Once geometry is accounted for, one can arguably hone past the point of ideal or what is considered “enough” – in other words, “overhone” in the sense that you took more passes on the hone than was necessary. However, this shouldn’t raise a burr (with single side passes as in straight razor honing) but will continue to reinforce the geometry that is there. In an example taken from knife sharpening, where a burr is often formed and is the indicator for “sharp” on one side, it clearly is honed passed the point of “ideal”, but there is no foiling of the edge once the burr has been removed (unless the angle is too acute). The same applies to razors. Once you get “there” you will only continue to reinforce that angle. Of course, the idea is to know when to stop, but that is another issue (I’m not addressing the spine wear issue here)  🙂

That brings us to the argument of  microchipping as a result of overhoning. It has long been my belief that what really happens is that each successive level of refinement ultimately exposes ever deeper scratches left behind from earlier stages as it establishes it’s own scratches. In fact, it’s not that the edge actually chips, it’s that the edge is refined enough with smaller scratches around it to reveal the gap left by the deeper scratch!

Below is a perfect example – the vertical deeper scratches lead directly to a microchip in the polished edge.

Microchip 1

Microchip 1 (200x)

However, microchipping at the finishing stages is a real phenominon, as anyone who has honed a razor has probably seen the semi-circular chip-out just left of center, below:

Common Straight Razor Microchip (200x)

This micro chip, and the triangular one to the right are often attributed to overhoning because these chips only appear at the final stages of honing. While I said before that the microchipping were preexisting gaps that become exposed, it could also be that because the scratches are so relatively deep, by the time  the razor is honed to such a thin and even plane at the edge, a preexisting deeper scratch causes the chipout due to lack of support from the steel around it – a weak link, if you will.

Let’s take a closer look at that microchip and how it most likely formed:

Microchipping closeup (200x enlarged and cropped)

If you follow the chip upwards from the edge, a deeper scratch is revealed in the bevel, as marked by the arrows. In other words, the deepest scratches from a coarser stone/belt/diamond plate had not yet been completely removed and only when the edge becomes thin enough so one can shave with it does the earlier damage become apparent.

At this point, an argument for the theory of underhoning  – not overhoning – can be made.

Something to think about 🙂

In Part 2 I will discuss my theories on overhoning in regards to edges that are deemed “too refined”.


Wicked Edge (WEPS) Shapton Video with Clay Alison

July 28, 2011

This video was published by Clay Alison of Wicked Edge, makers of the Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener (WEPS) . He used the prototype Shapton Pro WEPS stones on the Richmond Addict. I got an email from him telling me that “I finally get it!”  😀

He gives me a nice plug, too – not to mention a jaw dropping knife demo… (and I’m no easy pushover when it comes to knife demos)

Thanks for a great video, Clay!




2011 BLADE Show in Atlanta, Part 2 – What Happens in Atlanta…..

July 19, 2011

This is a continuation of the adventures leading up to the BLADE show in Atlanta in June 2011. Part 1, The Sharpening Party, can be found here.


This being our first BLADE show, Ken of Precise Sharpening and I decided to show up the evening before the setup day to see if we could make a few friends. The approach into Atlanta was awesome!

Approach into Atlanta

We arrived at the hotel hungry. Once checked in, we hit the hotel bar for some dinner. It was obvious there were already some people there for the BLADE show. Ken and I sat down at the bar and we noticed a push dagger sitting on the bar where a person had left it while hitting the bathroom. The owner returned, and Ken immediately struck up a conversation that started with “That’s a real nice push dagger you’ve got there on the bar...” It turned out to be none other than Jim “Treeman” Behring and his son, James, of Treeman knives.

After a little discussion and some admiring, I asked Jim if I could try out the steel on some of my Shaptons. 😀 I ran up to the room and hit it on the 1K, 2K and 4K Shapton Glass stones. I must say, this dagger was already plenty sharp off the belt grinder – I was really impressed. So for this blade,  I was in it more for the aesthetic contrast the shine off the Glass stones would produce against the dull matte finish of the steel. I made it back down before the next round of drinks, and Ken asked how come I finished so quickly, and I simply stated “I wanted to get some work done, so I used my Shaptons”. 😀

We ended the night feeling super pumped for the next day, which was a setup day.


This being our first BLADE show, and my first show together with Ken, we had no idea what to expect, and actually spent the entire day trying to figure out the lay of the table. We had all kinds of stones – Japanese Naturals, Shapton, Chosera, full sized, Edge Pro size, Wicked Edge size, and an assortment of Ken’s CBN and Diamond compounds. We had 3 sharpening stations as well – A Shapton pond setup, a WEPS station and an Edge Pro station. I even brought some Maestro Wu knives!

Jende Industries Blade Show Table

WEPS Station w/ custom Marble Basin


This was the big day! We had a breakfast meeting set up with Clay Alison and Bob Nash from Wicked Edge, and our good friend Mark R., aka: Ytriech, from the Knife Forums. Although I had countless hours of conversations with Clay and Mark, we  had never met face -to-face, and it is always so nice to put a real face to the names. We were quickly all like old friends.

Bob (L) and Clay (R) of Wicked Edge

At the opening of the BLADE show, things got moving pretty quickly. I had planned NOT to sharpen, but that didn’t work for more than about 5 minutes into the show 😀 I started off with a Spyderco knife (sorry, the model escapes me) working it up to 30K on the Shapton Glass stones. Ken was swamped with immediate interest in the high end CBN and Diamond compounds with his balsa wood strops, and people salivating over the beautiful Japanese Natural stones.

Ken Schwartz in action!

Then a Tanto knife that someone had used their Edge Pro on was presented. So I sat down at the Edge Pro station and gave it my best. I was doing OK, but then Mark showed up. Mark is a big-time Edge Pro user, and I’ve seen his work before (which is MUCH better than mine on the EP), so I quickly got him to sit down and give the knife a go. He had that knife sharpened to a 2K Shapton edge before I could finish my next sentence! I had done most of the work already… 😀 Next thing I know, he’s doing some recurved blade! Watching Mark made me realize very quickly that there is room for  a lot of improvement in my EP skills. I’m really glad I got to see him in action – it was truly inspirational!

Go Mark!

It was at that moment I had such an amazing feeling – Ken, Mark and I had never worked together in person before, but the table was running like clockwork, as if we’d been doing this for years.

Then I got the first knife for the WEPS. It was an S30V blade. I must admit that I don’t get exposed to many pocket knives, and I don’t know my steels as much as I know my stones. I must also thank (blame) Locutus from the Knife Forums for making me want to put a 16 degree edge on this thing! That was a chore! That steel is tough! And I know it’s not the toughest out there. I ended up using the 16 degrees as a relief angle and opted for a healthier 18 degree  bevel. That was much easier 🙂 I stared with the WEPS stock diamonds, and continued with a nice 800/2K Chosera combo, and the knife was kicking sharp!

The rest of the day went quickly, and before we knew it, they were closing the doors for the evening. Mark, Ken and I went to dinner and began what is possibly the worlds most geekiest sharpening conversations in the history of mankind. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! 😀

For those of you who don’t know, Mark is Murray Carter’s first apprentice, and so we had an extensive discussion about almost every aspect of Murray Carter’s approach and philosophy to knife making and sharpening. Knives were coming out of nowhere from Mark – from his neck, his back pocket, his leg. People at other tables were actually starting to look at us. 🙂

What a perfect end to the day!


Saturday was busy. I don’t know how many people passed through or how many knives got sharpened. One thing in particular stood out, though. and that was Larry Beverly’s “letter opener” with a 50 Caliber rifle round. Ironically, I had shot a Smith and Wesson 500 just a few days earlier, and had kept the casing as a souvenir.

50 Caliber letter opener

Larry Beverly

Naturally, I had asked Larry if I could touch it to the Shaptons….

Just like the push dagger from Wednesday evening, I was more concerned with bringing out the contrasts of the matte finish of the metal and the high mirror shine of the blades. Of course, it was probably the world’s most lethal letter opener, since I had taken it up to 6K. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was able to capture the shine with my camera at the show. Here is a picture below, but click here to see the full size version.

Letter Sharp!

That evening, Mark, Ken and I headed out to the Buckhead Pizza Co. in the Galleria Mall connected to the Cobb Centre, and had great pizza (and I’m from New Jersey, so I’m very picky) and even more knife talk! We met up with the Executive Chef, and told him to stop by for some free sharpening of his knives.


The final day came all too quickly. John from the Buckhead Pizza Co. stopped by with his knife roll, and we spent a few minutes sharpening his knives up. After 2 wonderful meals there, it was the least we could do!

Buckhead Pizza Co.

Before we knew it, it was time to start breaking down and cleaning up. I’ll spare you the rundown 🙂

Afterwards, the adrenaline began to wear off, and we were able to calm down for a quiet, sober discussion about what had just happened over the past few days.

Relaxed and hungry, we hit the hotel bar for a burger, and, YUP – you guessed it – we had another intense knife conversation, complete with diagrams on napkins and scientific calculators (I’m not kidding! ) Mark is quite the closet propeller head!  In fact I commented on how Mark was the cool jock at the lunch table who was also really smart and popular. (He actually let out a genuine, ALLLLLLRRRIGHT! when Ken gave him a loud orange “May the Schwartz Be With You” T-shirt).

As the pumpkin hour approached, and the inevitable return from our weekend at the ball was closing in, we took a group picture.

3 Sharpen-a-teers

We had a totally awesome time, and we met so many more wonderful people who I didn’t get to mention, but who are not forgotten.

This was one BLADE show I won’t soon forget!