Archive for September, 2011

DMT vs. Atoma Diamond Plates For the Edge Pro – A Microscopic Comparison

September 25, 2011

Since we added the Atoma diamond plates for the Edge Pro to our website, people have been asking what the differences are between them and the DMT diamond plates.  I thought that these microscope pictures of each series may help you choose which is best for your needs.

I will say that the only major difference is that the Atoma is available in a standard EP size –  1″x6″ while the DMT is only available in the 2″x6″ size.  The standard 1″x6″ obviously makes things more consistent, but there are advantages to the 2″x6″ as well, especially with longer knives.

It is also quite obvious that the DMT diamonds are “sprinkled” into the matrix while the Atoma diamonds are precisely placed “clusters”. As with everything sharpening, arguments can be made for and against the merits of each, depending on specific situations. I will make my personal comments at the end of this post.

So on to the pictures 🙂

All photographs were taken with a Veho 400 USB microscope at 20x for macro and 400x for micro, and are approximately 13mm wide x 10mm high and 1mm x 1mm, respectively. The pictures have been re sized to fit the format on this blog, but no other alterations were made. Here are the links to the original photos for the Atoma and the DMT plates. All of the plates pictured are already broken in. Atoma does not have any official micron ratings as of this post, so all sizes are loosely compared to the JIS (Japanese) standard.

First up are the Atoma #140 and DMT Extra Coarse. These are not equivalent comparisons, as the the Extra Coarse is 60 microns or #220 grit, and the #140 Atoma is more closely related to the Extra-Extra Coarse (XXC) DMT, which is rated at 120 microns.  You can easily see the major size difference. Nonetheless, these two are the coarsest of the bunch available for the Edge Pro.

#140 Atoma Diamond Plate

#140 Atoma Diamond Plate – Macro

DMT Extra Coarse - Macro

Extra Coarse DMT Diamond Plate – Macro

#140 Atoma Diamond Plate - Micro

#140 Atoma Diamond Plate – Micro

Extra Coarse DMT Diamond Plate - Micro

Extra Coarse DMT Diamond Plate – Micro

The Extra Coarse diamonds at the micro level almost look like pebbles on a beach in comparison to the giant, almost 1mm wide cluster of diamonds in the Atoma (don’t forget – the Atoma is rated much coarser than the Extra Coarse DMT).

Next are the Atoma 400 and the DMT Coarse. These two plates are more closely matched in terms of micron sizes with the DMT Coarse being 45 microns (#320 grit), and the #400 Atoma falling into the JIS 400 range, which is 40 microns.

#400 Atoma Diamond Plate - Macro

#400 Atoma Diamond Plate – Macro

Coarse DMT Diamond Plate - Macro

Coarse DMT Diamond Plate – Macro

#400 Atoma Diamond Plate - Micro

#400 Atoma Diamond Plate – Micro

Coarse DMT Diamond Plate - Micro

Coarse DMT Diamond Plate – Micro

The DMT coarse clearly has a more even coating than the Extra Coarse DMT, and the Atoma #400 cluster is roughly half the size and height of the #140.

Onto the Atoma #600 and DMT Fine. The DMT Fine is 25 microns while the JIS 600 puts the Atoma #600 at around 29 microns.

#600 Atoma Diamond Plate - Macro

#600 Atoma Diamond Plate – Macro

Fine DMT Diamond Plate - Macro

Fine DMT Diamond Plate – Macro

#600 Atoma Diamond Plate - Micro

#600 Atoma Diamond Plate – Micro

Fine DMT Diamond Plate - Micro

Fine DMT Diamond Plate – Micro

At this level, the Atoma #600 ‘s cluster seems to have reached it’s smallest width, and the DMT Fine has a dense, even coating of diamonds.

Lastly, is the Atoma #1200 and the DMT Extra Fine. The DMT is rated at 9 microns, while the JIS standard loosely puts the #1200 Atoma at 13 microns.

#1200 Atoma Diamond Plate - Macro

#1200 Atoma Diamond Plate – Macro

Extra Fine DMT Diamond Plate - Macro

Extra Fine DMT Diamond Plate – Macro

#1200 Atoma Diamond Plate - Micro

#1200 Atoma Diamond Plate – Micro

Extra Fine DMT Diamond Plate - Micro

Extra Fine DMT Diamond Plate – Micro

Personal Thoughts

As with all things sharpening, the answer to which is better is “it depends”. There is no doubt with my experiences that the DMT and Atoma diamond plates both deliver, they just do it differently.

The Atoma plates have a lot of positive things going for them: the #140 is certainly more aggressive than the Extra Coarse DMT, making it a better low end plate for profiling and chip removal. The systematic grid pattern of the Atoma plates make the diamonds less likely to “rip out” – for example, the knife may get between the spaces between diamonds on the DMT Extra Coarse. The Atoma plates also leave a very predictable scratch pattern at each level, which really appeals to my OCD and completely compliments the way my Shapton stones work. The clusters seem to ensure a longer lasting life of the plate, too.

But the Atoma plates come at a cost – literally. The labor in making the Atoma, while worth the cost IMO, may be a little over budget when compared to the price of the DMT plates.

Aside from the price factor, the DMT plates also have a larger surface area, which makes them better suited for working on longer knives, and even arguably faster since there are 2 inches worth of abrasives vs. 1 inch on the Atoma plates.  The sheer density of the diamond coating on the Fine and Extra Fine DMT plates leave a very even finish and “smooth” scratch pattern, as well, which makes progressing to the next stone level easy.

So once again, I recommend getting them all and trying them for yourself 🙂 One thing is for certain in all this – I don’t see either series getting much rest between performances 🙂


3 Shaving Videos with 3 Different Maestro Wu Cleavers – OMG!

September 17, 2011

Warning – In all seriousness, please do not attempt to do this without a mastery of the proper wet shaving techniques – it is extremely dangerous.

The people in the following videos are actually all experienced straight razor shavers and are skilled razor honers who have all been deemed legally insane, crazy, unhinged, and even nuts by the highest authorities across several shaving communities. For more information about Maestro Wu’s knives, please visit or

I’m not sure how these videos ended up coming to be, but I think someone one the knife forums posted a video of himself dry shaving his goatee off with a 240mm kitchen knife, and someone said they could do that with a cleaver, and well, here we are  🙂

The first video is of yours truly, Tom Blodgett, aka, jendeindustries. I’m using a Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver that was honed using he Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener (WEPS) with  Shapton Pro stones up to 30K, finishing with Ken Schwartz’s .125 micron CBN (see my microscope progression of the honing process here). I have been shaving with straight razors for over 9 years, but only 1-2 times per week.

Next up is my good friend Michiel Vanhoudt of Belgium with his Maestro Wu D-11 Cleaver. He’s pretty new to the straight razor scene, but he is an extremely talented and experienced sharpener and fast becoming a major force in the straight razor honing world. I was secretly hoping he’d slice his head clean off, but alas, the only head that got sliced was that of a pimple on his chin.  🙂  His progression used the Edge Pro with custom cut  Shapton Pro #320, 1k Chosera,  then 2K, 5k, 8k, 15k Shapton Pros for the Edge Pro followed by 0.5 CBN, 0.5 CrO, 0.125 CrO, 0.125 CBN horse (all on balsa), and finally stropped with Clean horse from Hand American.

Next is my good friend Jens Skandevall from Sweden, aka, Honed and Bengt-Hans with his custom Maestro Wu Damascus D-11 Cleaver.  Jens probably has the most straight razor shaving experience out of the 3 of us. He free-hand sharpened his cleaver using full sized Shapton Pros 1.5K, 5K & 8K, then the Naniwa Superstone 10K . He finished by stropping with HandAmerican 0.50µ and .25µ Mono Diamond on leather, back to Hand American 0.5µ Chromium Oxide on balsa, then on to Ken Schwartz 0.1µ CBN on balsa & finally with Ken’s 0.025µ poly diamond on kangaroo. – Say that 5 times fast! This shave includes 2 parts below. Part 1 is With the Grain (WTG), and part 2 is Against the Grain (ATG).

AND Since someone is going to get the bright idea to attempt a large knife shave after watching these videos, please watch  this tutorial video I made about shaving using a Maestro Wu A-5 Damascus 10″ Chef Knife. I know the knives will be sharp, but it will hopefully save some of you crazy yahoos from lopping your head off because of poor shaving technique.  (BTW, the technique in the 3 videos above is all acceptable, it some of the others out there I’m referring to below.)


Edit: Another video with a Maestro Wu D-11 has surfaced – this is the one and only Ken Schwartz of Precise Sharpening, and the granddaddy of the sub-micron CBN and poly diamond sprays out there on the market. This video is not for the faint of heart! (yes, he makes it out alive – but I don’t know how….)

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver Turned into a Straight Razor using the Wicked Edge (WEPS)

September 14, 2011

Warning – I have over 9 years of straight razor shaving experience, so please do not attempt to shave with the biggest, sharpest implement of destruction you own!

As with all challenges, someone posted a video on the Knife Forums dry shaving his goatee with some kind of 240mm knife. Naturally, it brought out the freaks who enjoy shaving as well as sharpening, and the gauntlet was thrown down by I forget who at this point, and we ended up having 3 guys commit to doing shaves with their Maestro Wu Cleavers…. 🙂

I decided I was going to hone my Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver on my Wicked Edge Precision Sharpener (WEPS), and use this opportunity to document my Shapton Pro Stones for the WEPS. The main reason I chose the WEPS over free hand and even the Edge Pro was because of the clamped knife system, which reduces the amount of accumulated error due to flipping the blade that would need to be done on the Edge Pro or freehand.

One of the difficulties I knew I was going to face with a blade this big was the amount flex in the blade itself, being a good 3 inches (7-8cm) high and 1.8mm thick. On top of that, straight razors require a super-light touch, and I knew there would be some issue with how the paddles of the WEPS would create flex at the edge of the edge, which would normally not even be thought about if I were sharpening the knife as a cleaver.

But hey, if it were easy, everyone would do it!

This particular cleaver was a beater that had been experimented on several times, so I reset things on my belt sander before heading to the WEPS. I did not get a “before” picture, but below is a picture of a stock Maestro Wu edge taken from a D-6 Chef knife for another competition.

Maestro Wu D-6 Stock Edge

Maestro Wu D-6 Stock Edge (2.5mm wide x 1mm high)

Since I had already gotten the edge on the belt sander, I decided to begin with the stock 600 WEPS diamond plate set at 15 degrees on both sides. (I checked all my angles along the way with my Angle Cube. It’s a must for precision!) All microscope pictures from this point are 1mmx1mm.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver with WEPS 600 stock Diamond

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver with WEPS 600 Stock Diamond

I decided to do my normal progression of Shapton stones that I would do on straight razors. Looking back, I should’ve gone to the #320 Shapton after the #600 WEPS to really clean things up since I normally go to #1200 on diamonds – I actually don’t have them for the WEPS, though  :/

But I do know what I’m doing, and I went to the 1K Shapton Pro from the WEPS 600, which as you can see, is perfectly fine.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 1K Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 1K Shapton Pro

Then onto the Shapton #1,500. I really like this stone because the 1K Shapton is on the coarser side of things, and the #1,500 really helps clean things even more before the critical leap to 5K, where all of the previous shortcomings are revealed.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS #1,500 Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS #1,500 Shapton Pro

You’ll notice there is the slightest wave at the edge of the edge  t is at this point where I was beginning the think that 15 degrees was going to be too shallow. Most straight razors are between about 18-21 degrees.

I moved on to the Shapton Pro 2K stone and saw that the edge was crumbling a little – mostly due to my lack of razor honing technique on the WEPS – so I upped the angle to 18 degrees. You can see the new angle in the first picture below, and then the finished 2K.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 2K Shapton Pro - transition to 18 degrees

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 2K Shapton Pro – transition to 18 degrees

Maestro WU D-4 Cleaver WEPS 2K Shapton Pro - Finshed 18 degrees

Maestro WU D-4 Cleaver WEPS 2K Shapton Pro – Finshed 18 degrees

The finished 2K shows evidence of a burr, but up until this point, that is acceptable in my mind, given the circumstances and dimensions of the knife!

On to the 5K – the 2K-5K is the critical leap, and I spent a good deal more time perfecting my 5K edge than any other. It is the key to success with the Shapton Pros.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 5K Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 5K Shapton Pro

At this point, picture taking becomes more difficult with the added frailty of the edge being likely to chip from hitting the scope!  If I were sharpening this cleaver as a regular cleaver, this is where I would normally stop on the Shapton Pros. However, for a straight razor shave, it is not good enough yet!

On to the 8K. Having done my preliminary polishing on the 5K, the rest of the stones move pretty quickly to further polish.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 8K Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 8K Shapton Pro

You can see how thin the edge of the edge is becoming – there is some evidence of rolling at the edge of the edge – again, from my technique and the way the stones do need to push against the steel. In fact, you can see from the slight angle change that I did put some pressure on the edge.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 15K Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 15K Shapton Pro

However, on the 15K I used as little pressure as possible, and the edge becomes very crisp and clean. The shine from the reflection of light was becoming a hassle for the pictures! This would be a comfortable shave by normal standards, but Shapton goes to 30K. 🙂

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 30K Shapton Pro

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS 30K Shapton Pro

I will admit I did something I shouldn’t have done, which is more strokes than normal at this stage. The clumping on the bevel is evidence of elements of the swarf. I normally only do 10-20 strokes, but It felt so good, that I did about 50, and the water on the stone dried out.

I wasn’t worried because I knew I was going to use Ken Schwartz’s .125 Micron CBN (available from Wicked Edge here), and that there was going to be some convexing of the edge of the edge due to the leather paddles.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS/Schwartz .125 micron CBN

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS/Schwartz .125 micron CBN

The CBN really cleaned things up for the plain leather WEPS strop.

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS Plain Leather

Maestro Wu D-4 Cleaver WEPS Plain Leather

As you can see from the plain leather paddle, there is some rounding of the edge of the edge. This is not always bad for shaving 🙂 The weakest, thinnest portion of the edge is gone, leaving a solid enough width at the edge for shaving. You can see a fresh score going in the opposite direction of the normal scratches – this is from contamination, most likely from me when wiping the blade down with a tissue with my dirty hands…

The overall shave was a success. There are 3 guys in on the “competition”, and I will post all 3 videos when they come out. In the mean time, here’s my picture of the Shave of the Day. Enjoy!

SOTD 9/12/2011

SOTD 9/12/2011

My Theory on Overhoning Straight Razors – Part 2

September 12, 2011

This is the second installment of My Theory on Overhoning Straight Razors. Part 1 Can be found here.

The next problem with the theory of overhoning is a little more complicated. That is the part that says that an edge is and/or can be  “too refined”.

The way I see it, any given stone will only “allow” an edge to be as thin or as thick as the height and depth that the abrasives can cut. For example, an 8K edge will only ever be as thin as the depth of the scratches made by the 8K abrasive. If it is too thin, then the 8K abrasive will cut through the steel. 16K should theoretically allow for the edge to be half as wide as the 8K, and so on. In this view, overhoning is technically  impossible because the edge is continually renewed at a constant thickness.

When honing razors, the overall agreed upon minimum refinement for a razor is 8K or abrasives as small as about 2 microns. It is 8K because this is the level at which the edge of the edge becomes thin enough to comfortably sever the hairs on your face 6-7 days a week, but thick enough to hold up to 5-6 shaves in between touch ups.

This has led to a rise in the belief that if the edge becomes too refined, it  will be too weak to hold up to a shave, or it’s lifespan will be greatly reduced. The more recent upper limit was .25 micron in refinement, or about 60K. This idea has been challenged since the first .125 Micron CBN (that’s 120K) edges started coming out. (Here’s a review of one of the first documented .125 micron CBN edges from 12/2010) We have since moved on to .1 micron (150K) and even into 50 and 25 nanometer edges (.050 and .025 microns or 300K and 600K, respectively!).

It is without a doubt that more refinement does yield a closer shave (whether or not it is smoother and/or sharper is another topic entirely 🙂 ).  But there is a tradeoff that must be acknowledged as refinement increases – the edge of the edge becomes thinner as it becomes more refined, thus inherently more fragile. (It certainly cuts through hair much better, though!) So can be seen as true that an edge with more refinement will not hold up as long as one with less refinement. However, it can also be said that a closer shave lasts longer than one that’s not as close. But in terms of overhoning, the abrasive’s characteristics determine the thickness of the edge. The rest is reliant upon the steel quality and geometry. Good technique doesn’t hurt, either!

Bart Torfs, who is probably the the world’s leading authority on Coticules, summed up on a B&B thread what I am thinking much better than I can:

This pretty much concurs with what I always assumed to be going on with small chips that can be seen under magnification immediately after honing. They are just the deepest remnants of a saw tooth pattern left by the coarser stages of bevel formation.
“Overhoning” by the definition of an edge disintegrating once it is supposedly taken beyond the keenness limit of a particular hone, is a hoax.
If the blade in the picture is honed further on the stone it was finished with, there will be no new chips to form. Quite the contrary: more metal will be removed and the boundry that forms the very edge will slowly shift towards the bottom of the chips. The finishing hone may be too slow to “hone the chips out” within a reasonable time frame, but that is what eventually would happen.
There is no single physical reason why a hone could abrade “through” the bevel. In fact, the hone only “abraded through” the steel at the very apex of the bevel. It leaves a particular type of edge jaggedness akin to that particular type of hone. The only reason why there could ever fall fragments out of the bevel, that are larger than a hone’s normal abrasion, is when there is structural damage in the steel, caused by corrosion or stresses induced by erroneous tempering.

So in the end, one must choose for themselves – just be sure not to overhone your edge! 😀