Simple Straight Razor Honing

When I first became seriously interested in this topic about four years ago, consistently honing a straight razor to the level of keenness required for a close, comfortable shave challenged me. Having earned my living for the past 25 years solving problems like these, I began by searching for relevant scientific literature as well as reading the opinion-based resources of internet forums. I was surprised to find almost no published scientific work, although likely there is a wealth of information in unpublished reports in the research libraries at the Gillette and Schick corporations. The internet forums proved to be a dead-end, although for different reasons. Over the past 4 years, I have learned a great deal about sharpening, honing and stropping and have shared some of that knowledge here.

When I started this blog, just over two years ago, I chose to concentrate on demonstrating what happens at the apex of a blade, particularly since the relevant length scales are much smaller most people can comprehend (or see with even the best optical microscope). When writing these articles, I have made a concerted effort to avoid drawing conclusions, instead just showing what actually happens at the sub-micron scale during the various sharpening processes.  I have chosen not to use this a forum to explain how to sharpen, but rather to provide a resource for people with sufficient interest and comprehension to improve their own understanding.  In this article, I will break with the trend and share a simple and reliable technique for honing a straight razor.

It is usually claimed that honing a straight razor is more difficult than sharpening a knife or other bladed tool. While it is certainly true that some people make it more complicated, it is not necessary to do so. It is also commonly asserted that honing a straight razor requires a set of fine and expensive hones – this is also not true. I demonstrate here that only two hones are required, one coarse hone for expeditiously setting the bevel and one fine hone for polishing away the apex damage created by the coarse hone. The second hone does not need to be any finer than 4k grit. It is also important to understand that scratches in the bevel are of no consequence when the bevel is micro-convex as the scratches do not reach the apex.

I have personally used the approach described below for approximately two years, and have shave-tested well over 100 razors prepared by this approach. I have recommended this technique to people having difficulty honing their own straight razor and have not yet had anyone tell me they were unsuccessful.  To be clear, there are many other ways to accomplish this result; however, this is the simplest and most consistent approach that I have found.

This approach is quick and easy if you are honing a straight razor that has been shave-ready (not a restoration or a factory edge, for example) and not been damaged (no chips that you can feel with your thumbnail) and is not warped. A smiling blade is not a problem, provided you use a rolling stroke to shift pressure along the length of the blade.

If you are unsure of the condition of the blade, raising a burr that you can feel using a 1k stone, as you would when sharpening a knife, is a helpful diagnostic. However, I would only do this once, as it is a waste of steel.  It is important to remove this large burr with edge-leading strokes as the steel near the base off the burr will be damaged from the burr flipping side to side.

The goal of the first step is to remove enough steel from the bevel faces to ensure that they meet and form an apex (usually called “setting the bevel”). Up to this point, the approach for sharpening a knife and a straight razor is essentially the same. Although with a straight razor we want to avoid introducing chips in the edge, something we are less concerned about when sharpening a knife. A straight razor has a narrow bevel angle (commonly 16-17 degrees, inclusive) and is more susceptible to micro-chipping than blades with included angles of 25 degrees or more.

My preference is to set the bevel with high quality 1k stone such as a Naniwa or Shapton to achieve a good trade-off between abrasion rate and the size of the micro-chips in the apex.  Lower quality stones will also work if edge-leading strokes are avoided. As a rule of thumb, using the 1k stone long enough to make black swarf, then ending with about 20 edge trailing strokes is sufficient. The reason for the edge trailing strokes is explained in the series of images that follow.

To show how robust this technique is, for this demonstration I use two of the worst choices for hones that I own, the DMT extra fine (1200) and the 6k side of a King 1k/6k combination stone. The DMT is problematic because it produces micro-convexity and substantial damage and distortion to the apex. The King 6k, although a good polisher, causes significant micro-chipping to the apex when used edge leading.

The first step, here shown with the DMT extra fine (1200) diamond plate, produces a near-triangular bevel but with damaged and distorted steel at the apex. This is all that is required at this step – it is of no consequence whether the blade can “shave” at this point.

Edge-on view of a straight razor honed on a DMT EF (1200) ending with 20 edge-trailing laps.


Cross-section view of a straight razor honed on a DMT EF (1200) ending with 20 edge-trailing laps.


The second step is to polish the bevel and remove the damaged steel near the apex with a 4k to 8k level hone with about 20 edge-trailing strokes. There is no need for a feather light touch, but the edge trailing strokes should not flex the blade either. The goal is to produce a foil edge – more steel than we want at the apex.  After this step, the blade is in similar condition as it would be when using the Murray Carter 1k/6k method prior to folding the burr by cutting into a piece of wood. In the example here, the blade received 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k to produce a micron-sized foil burr.


Edge-view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The small foil-burr is clearly visible


Cross-section view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The bevel angle near the apex is less than the innate bevel angle, typical of a foil-burr.

In the low magnification cross-section view (below) a micron-sized foil-burr is observed at the apex beyond an otherwise triangular bevel. The goal of this step is to have the apex “longer” than we require so that there will be no damaged or chipped regions remaining after the strop-based burr-removal step. Again, it is of no consequence whether the blade can “shave” at this point.

Cross-section view of a straight razor after 20 edge-trailing laps on the King 6k stone. The white triangle shows the innate geometry of the blade, and small (1 micron) foil burr is visible beyond that triangle.


The third step is to remove the burr using the hanging denim strop with metal polish. This burr-removal technique was detailed in Burr Removal – part 1. I normally use a strip about 4cm wide and 25cm long, but you can make it larger if you prefer. As a rule, I do 30 laps. Again, there is no need for feather light strokes – on a weigh scale I would expect to see between 100g and 150g. I tape the denim strip to the edge of the bench with duct tape, and do not pull nearly hard enough to pull it loose. This will micro-convex the blade, removing all traces of the foil-burr. I replace the denim strop when it becomes dark and glazed, after ten to twenty uses.  I have analyzed and tested a variety of metal polishes and all performed similarly.

The purpose of this third step is to micro-convex the apex and remove the foil-burr in preparation for the diamond on leather strop which will then shape the apex for shaving level keenness. As I have shown previously, diamond on leather will convex the apex but not remove the burr which forms as a consequence. A typical example of a foil burr that results when transitioning directly from a hone to a diamond on leather strop is shown in the two images below.


Edge view of a straight razor honed with a Shapton 16k to produce a triangular bevel and then stropped on a 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded hanging kangaroo leather strop. The approximately 3 micron long foil-burr is clearly visible.


Cross-section view of a straight razor honed with a Shapton 16k to produce a triangular bevel and then stropped on a 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded hanging kangaroo leather strop. The approximately 3 micron long foil-burr is clearly visible.


The denim stropping step not only removes the burr formed by edge-trailing strokes on the hones, but the “pre-existing” micro-convexity that it imparts will prevent the formation of the foil-burr that typically forms when stropping on diamond-loaded leather (shown above). The foil-burr (above) results from incomplete (micro) convexing of the apex.  The result of the loaded denim stropping step is shown below.


Edge-view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the (Flitz) metal polish loaded denim strop.


Cross-section view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the metal polish loaded denim strop. The apex is keen and well formed.


Cross-section view of straight razor honed with the DMT EF and King 6k following 30 laps on the metal polish loaded denim strop.

With the denim strop, there is some care required to ensure that suitable downward pressure is used. With too little force, the apex will not be sufficiently convex to avoid the formation of a foil-burr with the diamond on leather strop. I typically use the same force on all strops, both loaded and clean.

Cross-section view of the straight razor stropped on the Flitz polish loaded denim strop with relatively light force (less than 50 grams equivalent). The near apex bevel angle has only increased by 3 or 4 degrees and the apex is not sufficiently keen for shaving.

With too much force, the apex will convex too much and not contact the surface of the diamond on leather strop.  Too much pressure will also turn the strop black more quickly as the entire bevel is convexed (and more metal is removed).

Cross-section view of the straight razor stropped on the Flitz polish loaded denim strop with relatively heavy force (estimated to be 300-400 grams equivalent). The near apex bevel angle has increased by 10 degrees. The apex is relatively keen and well formed, although not quite sufficient for shaving.


Typically, the blade will shave reasonably at this point in the procedure, although it is not likely to tree-top fine arm hair or pass the hanging hair test with any great success without additional stropping on clean or loaded leather.

The fourth step is to clean up the apex and maximize keenness after the denim. This is easily accomplished by stropping on smooth leather loaded with diamond spray . Again, as a rule, I do 30 laps. In this example, a hanging kangaroo leather strop loaded with 0.25 micron poly-diamond spray was used. I typically use a latigo leather strop for this step – there is no need for exotic leathers.

Cross-section view following 30 laps on the 0.25 micron poly-diamond loaded kangaroo leather strop.


Cross-section view of the blade after the diamond sprayed kangaroo leather strop.  The white triangle shows the innate bevel angle and amount of steel removed by micro-convexing the blade.


Depending on the pressure applied during the stropping steps, a very small (but inconsequential) burr may remain on some parts of the blade.  The foil-burr shown below is not typical, but even in the event one of this magnitude is formed it is not a problem.

Edge view of the blade after the diamond sprayed kangaroo leather strop.

This inconsequential burr can easily be removed by stropping on clean denim. Any clean linen strop component will suffice.

Edge view of the blade after the clean denim strop.


Finally, prior to shaving, I strop on clean leather, 30-50 laps. This will deposit a thin layer of organic “lubricant” on the surface of the blade, as well as ensure that the apex is aligned.  At this point, the blade should easily “tree-top” the finest arm hair and score HHT-5 on the hanging hair test.


148 responses to “Simple Straight Razor Honing”

  1. Wow Todd, very very nice write up! I am amazed to see it so simplified, and it’s not just someone’s opinions it’s documented by both experience and the SEM photos.

    I have a question if I may…

    1. You noted ” It is important to remove this large burr with edge-leading strokes as the steel near the base off the burr will be damaged from the burr flipping side to side.” Has this ever been documented? I have heard others say that “stropping for maintenance” will result in less edge retention because of this, or like you said, burrs – will cause damage beyond the actual apex from the stress.

    Clay Allison demonstrated this with actual edge damage (see but I was wondering if it has been photographed from burrs or stropping?


    • In this case I’m specifically referring to the type of burr that I show at the beginning of “what is a burr? part 1” These can be several microns thick and can torque the apex when if they flip. The foil-burrs that I show in this article are usually 1 tenth of a micron thick. By micro-convexing the apex, we remove that (potentially) damaged steel anyway.

      I would speculate that flipping a burr will cause more damage in a large-carbide-containing knife steel than it would in simple carbon steel.


  2. Thank you so much for all this work and effort. I have been trying for over a year to get a great finish on my straight razors and have finally done so with the help of your data and explanations!
    I would like to know what you do to maintain your razors between honing/touch-up sessions. Do you use your diamond pasted strop and clean leather between shaves? What procedures have you found effective to maintain the edge?
    Thank you again so much. This blog is a breath of fresh air.


    • To refresh the blade just follow the same procedure, but skip the 1k (unless you have a chip or other damage). I normally use a Shapton 4k or 8k glass stone. You can use a coarser stone if you use only edge trailing strokes.

      Typically I do 20 half-strokes on each side, rolling pressure from heal to toe. Then about 10 edge-leading strokes to put the apex in a “known” geometry. From there, the usual 20 or so edge trailing strokes, then to the loaded denim.

      For daily stropping on the clean linen/leather, I use the linen just for cleaning off the bevel – a handful of light laps. 20-30 laps on the clean leather strop will re-apply the lubricating layer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Good article. I really like the microscopic images. I do have one question though. If a razor is sharpened this way, can a paddle strop be used to maintain the edge between honings by using it before each shave, or does the micro-convexing mean that a hanging strop must be used?



    • It is not the curvature of the hanging strop that is important, but the fact that the strop is compressible. We can see from the 3kX image that the amount of micro-convexity this technique produces will only “lift” the apex about one micron above the surface (the distance to the white line of the triangle). Since leather is typically not smooth or flat at that scale and is compressible, the apex will still make contact. The primary purpose of daily leather stropping is to apply a layer of lubricant to the bevel and this is certainly accomplished with a paddle strop.


    • I can’t hone my new Dovo. I used making 200 passes for side of blade on Naniwa 1000 grit professional but didn’t cut the beard of my arm! Putting on te skin Neither cut the beard touching only the beard on the arm! Can you put a procedure for honing? I made strokes straight and also strokes in small or big circle but nothing works! I think I must use a’ 320 grit stone for create the teeth on the bevel! What do you think? can you hel me ? Thanks Best Regards


      • A new razor can take quite a while to get the bevel set. It could take thousands of strokes on a 1k hone. At this step, you should be doing rapid back and forth “scrubbing” strokes with pressure. Use a marker on the bevel to see if there are areas you are missing, and learn to feel the edge with your finger. It is very difficult to apply enough pressure to make a 320 grit stone faster than a 1k – I don’t recommend it. Also, if the razor is bent or warped, it can be very frustrating.


  4. I would like to change the way I sharpen straight razors based on your article. I have premium leather paddle strops. Could I use one for the 0.25 micron diamond stage and another as the finish strop? Or would I get better results sharpening if I invested in hanging strops for those two stages? I see you answered Matt’s question about using paddle strops for maintenance, I just didn’t know if the same would apply to the 0.25 micron diamond stage and finishing stages.


    • The thickness and resiliency of the leather is probably more important than the difference between hanging and fixed. It is difficult for me to predict what results you would get from your paddle strop, but you can easily test the effectiveness by “tree-topping” arm hair before and after stropping. If the diamond strop is doing what it should, there will be a marked improvement in the ability to “tree-top.”

      There is no need for a high quality strop for the diamond spray – I normally sand them flat (vacuum and compressed air to remove any sandpaper abrasive) and wipe with alcohol to remove oil from surface that prevents the diamond spray from wetting the surface. Even an old leather belt should be fine.


  5. This is huge, so I did try it today.
    And I got the best comfort shave with straight razor ever, probably the result to.
    May thanks for this finding and sharing.
    And this was on my very first try with your described method.
    I am totally amazed.
    Does it not work at all to maintain the edge with strops and paste before going back to the stone again? But it is really fast with the stone anyway.

    Again, thanks!


    • Stefan, I’m glad that this also worked for you.

      As you use a blade, micro-chips will occur in the edge. Stropping alone cannot remove these, you need to go the the fine stone and make the apex triangular again.


  6. I tried to apply this all to knife sharpening. Used a stainless steel large chef’s knife. I used a 1000 grit JWS (I think a Chosera), a 3000 grit hard chosera, a paddle denim strop (homemade) and a thin kangaroo strop on glass. I could not quite reproduce your results Todd. I wonder if I was not able to produce enough of a microconvex on the denim? Or maybe my edge was not quite as it should be after the 2 stones give the freehand approach. Will have to experiment more. Thanks for sharing this all.


    • Assuming you hit the apex with the 3k stone while edge trailing, the problem is most likely with the denim strop. I would suggest you replace the denim paddle with a hanging strip of denim and make contact with the apex with downward pressure and strop flex rather than by increasing the angle. It should be possible to make contact with the apex while the knife is flat to the strop.


  7. Didn’t I read in this or was it another topic of yours and you even showed a pic of stropping on just linen and/or leather creates a micro-bevel?


    • I prefer to characterize this as micro-convexity rather than a micro-bevel; yes clean linen and leather does produce micro-convexity, albeit more slowly than when loaded with abrasive.


  8. I want to thank you for this most interesting work you have done with fantastic pictures to raise questions and illustrate your points. Your scientific approach to razor sharpening is very admirable , and I am excited to try your method.

    Can you please provide some details on how much metal polish to apply to the denim strop? Should the polish saturate the denim, or just a very thin layer, or does it even matter? Any particular method you use to apply it?

    Also, can I use any particular type of water based 0.25 micron diamond spray on the leather strop? Or do you recommend a particular type diamond spray? Should I apply 2 coats of spray to the leather separated by 24 hours?

    Any further details you can provide about preparing the denim and leather strops will be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for sharing all of your fabulous work!


    • I apply the same amount of metal polish as would be used for polishing silverware with a cloth. I normally load the strop with enough to thinly cover all of it. Wearing a glove, I smear it with my finger, then rub it in. Allow it to dry and then work it with the spine of a razor or a screwdriver shank.

      I have used several types of diamond and cubic boron nitride sprays and they behave similarly. It can be a challenge to apply to leather if the leather is oily, since it will bead up and not wet. I would suggest cleaning the leather with an alcohol soaked paper towel to remove the surface oil. You will also want to apply the spray with the strop flat so that it doesn’t run off. I would do one spray and let it dry and then a second spray.


      • Cool. I’ve been drawing a 1 cm x 1 cm grid diagonally on the small strip of old jeans with Thiers Issard. When I use Mothers, same kind of thing except I smear the blobs in the same sort of pattern. I’m going to try a solid coat of Mothers next time like you said and see how it goes. It’s definitely easier to squish into the weave.


  9. Many, many, thanks!!!

    This is a follow up post to my previous inquiry on May 31, 2016.

    I followed your directions using my 5/8 Ralf Aust as a test razor for your honing method. I must say that after using your method today, I experienced the best shave I have ever experienced with any straight razor!

    Keep in mind that I am still new to straight razor honing. The Ralf Aust razor I am referring to is the same razor I had been struggling with over the past couple of months, because I was never able to obtain a satisfactory edge on it in spite of viewing numerous honing videos on Youtube and posing numerous questions on various razor forums. I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with he razor. I never imagined the sharpening process could be so simple as the method you have outlined in this blog.

    Since the bevel was already properly set, I simply started with my Naniwa 5K stone and performed 30 backstrokes with the spine leading, and then followed up with the denim/polish strop and .25 diamond spray/leather strop as you have outlined.

    My question now is whether or not I will have any use for my Naniwa 8K, 12K, or Suehiro 20K in the future? I can’t imagine the razor can do any better than it did today using your method. You previously mentioned something about going from edge leading strokes on the Suehiro 20 K to the denim strop. Can you expound on that comment? I was under the impression there is no benefit in going beyond a 4-6K stone prior to the denim strop.


    • You are correct, the high grit hones are of no use with this method.

      My earlier comment about the 20k is simply referring to the fact that it is such a fine hone that there is no need for edge trailing strokes to make a foil-burr edge. However, it doesn’t do anything that isn’t achieved by a few edge trailing strokes on the 5k Naniwa.


      • Sorry I can’t understand the logic of your response! You have said that the 5 k Naniwa can do the same work of the 2k Gokumyo !
        Can explain the reason of this adfirmation?
        If is true we should all stop the honing to the 5 k! and use the other stones not for honing razors!
        So please let me understand what you mean with this statment!


        • 4k… 5k… it does not matter. Follow the instructions on this page and you will find that you have a sharp razor capable of the perfect shave at the end.


  10. I’ve recently discovered your blog and I’ve spent days studying all of the content and comments. I’ve been totally absorbed learning all I can about your sharpening results and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m going to replicate this technique for both straight razor and knife sharpening, but I have a couple questions:

    – Knife sharpening: for the final .25 micron stropping step, why do you use kangaroo paddle strop for knives vs a hanging strop for razors? Is it to allow for more pressure when stropping knives? (How much force for knives if razors need ~150g?) Or is it that knives need a harder, flatter surface. (And why?) Also, in general, I’d be interested to hear how much more force you apply during each knife sharpening step vs straight razors: I’ve seen some sources state to target about 4-6 lbs for the stone steps on kitchen knives—quite a bit. I suppose observing a slurry and a burr is can be to test if the pressure is “enough.” I’m not sure how to tell how much pressure is enough when stropping knives loaded w/ compound.

    – Poly diamond compound source: can you recommend a source for this spray compound that I can use the replicate the results? The brands I have seen knife shops sell don’t inspire confidence. I have also found some options sold to microscopy labs, which seem more promising because their customers can actually see the stuff. But in all cases I can’t really compare concentration of the product and therefore price. (This reminds me a bit of high end audio, which has 2 markets: the home hifi enthusiast who might buy all manner of mystical gadgets, and the pro user, who is presented a list of parts and really needs to know how to specify exactly what they’re buying.)

    Thanks so much for your articles!



    • For knives, I have no preference for the paddle strop vs the hanging strop. For straight razors, paddles strops are quite ineffective – my kangaroo paddle has no effect on a straight razor because it is too smooth and hard the apex never makes contact. For chisels and plane blades, I much prefer a hard flat strop – but only because it’s awkward to strop these on a hanging strop.

      Pressure determines the rate of abrasion. The pressure you achieve is the downward force you apply DIVIDED by the contact area. So if you are sharpening a wide-beveled knife you need much more FORCE than you would need when micro-bevelling to achieve the same PRESSURE. Razors have another consideration and that is that they flex if we apply sufficient force.

      For diamond compounds, I have tried a wide variety and found no correlation between price and quality. The one-dollar syringes work just fine, although I don’t care for the oily carrier. I prefer the poly-diamond from Ted Pella -it’s inexpensive and good quality.


  11. Todd, wanted to know if you have any problem with me using some of your pics in a future video? Of course it will be in a good way.


  12. You are my new hero Todd!
    Over the last 2 days I tuned up my old heavy single bevel japanese kitchen knife (I think t’s called a Deba knife) which was chipped and dull. It took me a few hours on my coarse SPSII waterstone to get those chips out. Then further polishing on 1000 Naniwa waterstone, then 3000 Chosera. The last few strokes were edge trailing at a slightly higher angle. Then Mother’s Mag hanging denim strop, then a strip of leather with 0.5 diamond. I did about 20 strokes each side on both strops. I can treetop a few hairs on my wrist now which is fantastic for my skills. Conclusion – yes, this is all usable for knife sharpening as well.

    Thanks for sharing this all Todd – it sure has changed my world of sharpening and its understanding.


  13. I sharpen my own skates, not just because I get exactly what I want, and it is fun to do, but because it saves me time (drive time, waiting in line, skate tech interaction time) and money (direct cost, cost of driving, less metal wasted, fewer blades destroyed by bad skate techs).

    I’m sure that part of the purpose of sharpening your own razors is the journey itself. E.g., challenging yourself to do better than commercially available products. But, as a practical matter:

    On average, how many minutes / shave do you take preparing the blade?

    On average, about what does it cost / shave? (Include everything: blades, wear and replacement cost of hones and strops, diamond spray, etc.)


    • I strop my razor for about 60 seconds prior to shaving each day. These blades require a 5-minute touch-up honing about every
      7-10 days. A new or damaged razor might require significantly longer to get in shape.

      The initial cost would be a few hundred dollars, but the ongoing cost would only be for shaving soap/cream and aftershave.


  14. I tried this technique and I am impressed how well it works. Most impressive part is the fact that is very logical unlike the voodoo techniques that flood the internet. I have this Thiers-Issard that I could not sharpen at all. The edge leading always resulted in a very toothy jagged edge as seen on my SuperEyes USB microscope. Probably my choice of Shapton M5 12000 had something to do too, but other razors seem to get better results with this stone. Anyways, I tried the technique using lapping film progression from 5 to 0.3 microns, then Mothers polish and CBN .125 microns. By mistake I ordered the .125 instead of .25. I did 60 laps on CBN instead of 30. The resulting edge was perfectly straight, nu chipping, mirror polished and the shave was the best ever. Thank you Todd for sharing the results of your hard work with us!


  15. Your recommendation to hone a straight razor blade with trailing edge, even on stones with fine grit, and then remove the resulting bur with a linen strop with metal polish is quite astonishing to me because on every video I found on the net straight razors are sharpened with leading edge. But I’ll try this method. Do you know what incredients are in Mothers metal polishing paste? Assumably some kind of very fine Aluminium oxide particles?
    Btw. I personally obtain the best results when using 3M Lapping film with a 1mm rubber mat as intermediate layer. This provides exactly the right amount of cushion to provide a sufficient contact of the blade edge with sufficient stiffness that it will not produce a convex bevel.

    PS: please excuse my bad English.


    • I have experimented with all the “recommended” approaches to honing a straight razor…. and as a result, I developed this approach.

      The metal polishes I have tested are all aluminum oxide. There is nothing special about using metal polish, I only recommend it because it is inexpensive and readily available. This approach works equally well using .25 micron diamond spray on the hanging denim. The key is the hanging denim, not the type of abrasive.

      Lapping film can produce a foil edge even with edge leading strokes, particularly with the diamond film. Using a rubber mat, or wet paper under the film produces micro-convexity and generally avoids burr formation.


        • Lapping film can work, but there are several things that can go wrong. It almost always leaves a foil edge, so you must use some sort of burr removal step like the metal polish on denim to remove it. Also it’s too slow to use as the single-stone in this procedure.

          To answer your question; stones are far superior to lapping film.


  16. Hello,

    first of all, I’d like to say that your blog is absolutely fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing your results with us in a clear and substantiated way!

    I am a total newbie at this whole game and trying to learn how to shave with a straight razor and maintain the razor myself. I’ve read your entire blog and am convinced my best bet is to emulate your methods as best as I can. However, I have some questions.

    1. The Razor:
    How much does the type of razor matter? I have a Dovo Classic 5/8″ Stainless Steel razor straight from the factory. It doesn’t feel very sharp and doesn’t pass the HHT at all. Should I get it professionally honed (and bevel set) for 20 € before I mess with it myself? should I get a cheap practice razor (such as a Gold Dollar) for honing before I mess with the Dovo?

    2. The Stones:
    The king 1k/6k combination stone is a LOT cheaper than buying two separate higher quality stones. Would I be fine buying that?

    3. The abrasives:
    Is polydiamond paste better than monodiamond paste? If so, how much so? Could I just go with monodiamond for the leather? I can find diamond paste for 6 euros (doesn’t say anywhere but I suppose it’s monodiamond) but Ted Pella polydiamond paste costs 36 euros plus shipping. Does it matter for the leather if the diamond abrasive is water or oil based?

    If the 6 euro diamond paste is fine, could I go with that for the denim strop as well? In pasted strop part 4 you say metal polishes give better near-apex angles than diamond paste but in a comment somewhere you said one could just as well use diamond paste, that it’s the denim that matters and not the type of abrasive. This seems contradictory. Or is the key here oil/water based?

    4. The strops:
    You advise using denim with abrasive, leather with abrasive and clean leather. (All in all, 1 denim, 2 leather)

    The denim strop – to my understanding – I am expected to make myself and discard and make a new one when the glazing problem (introduced in the pasted strop part 4) occurs. If water-based diamonds are fine for the denim (Question 3), I suppose the glazing problem wouldn’t occur and therefore the same denim strop could be used indefinitely?

    I already have a leather strop and a linen strop. Which means I have a leather strop for the diamond abrasive but am missing a clean leather strop for the daily stropping. Does a linen strop work just as well for that purpose or do I need another leather strop for that?

    Thank you in advance and sorry for the wall of text!


    • 1. The type of razor really doesn’t matter. As long as the blade isn’t warped, you should be able to hone it. It is a good idea to start with an inexpensive razor, but understand that the first honing may require a lot of steel to be removed. Ink on the bevel is a tremendous help on this first honing. I’ve found the ZY razors (aliexpress) to be better than the Gold Dollars. It’s definitely a good idea to have somebody experienced hone your Dovo the first time so that you have a reference.

      The King 1k/6k works just fine if you follow my suggested approach ending with edge training strokes. These hones are problematic for the techniques you will read about on honing forums because they don’t produce keen edges in the edge leading direction. If you don’t have a coarse diamond plate to lap it, you can use wet/dry on a flat surface.

      Don’t worry about the diamond spray immediately. You can get an excellent edge with just the metal polish on a scrap of hanging denim. I like the additional keeness from the diamond spray, but I have an exceptionally tough beard. There is no difference between monodiamond, polydiamond and cubic boron nitride in this application. I have used the 0.5 micron diamond paste from China and it works just fine.

      You should keep your proper strop clean. To start, you just need a strip of denim cut form an old pair of jeans. I just tape it to my bench. If you want to try diamond on leather in addition to the denim strop, try to find an inexpensive 2 inch leather strop (or make one).


  17. Just wanted to add to all the people saying thank you.

    Screwed up my first straight razor yesterday by rolling a burr on my first attempt at honing. Then I found your guide. Existing cheap 6k stone, a $7 tube of metal polish and one old pair of jeans later and I’m back in business!

    Please keep all the images coming to. It’s really hard to find non-anecdotal evidence on sharpening and being able to have some real understanding of what’s going on is awesome.

    Thanks again!


    • As a follow up question: Do you think this progression will work with a kamisori or will the difference in blade geometry make it a problem?

      Assuming that I adjust the stone steps to account for the uneven bevel I would think that at the scale the strops are doing anything it shouldn’t be any different?

      But maybe there is some subtlety of how the edge contacts the strop I’m not thinking about.
      (of course if you want to do some images of kamisori edges I wouldn’t object :P)



  18. Considering your comments about the DMT 325 leaving your razors shave-ready, I wonder why this procedure? What is the qualitative difference?


    • There are many ways to get to a “shave-ready’ razor. I’ve honed a handful of razors with the DMT 325 and they all shaved extremely well. But, like most approaches, there is a certain amount of “skill” involved that is beyond most people who have only honed a few dozen razors. In the case of the DMT325, we are using pressure below the threshold where the diamonds can cut, so we are essentially using the surface texture of the diamonds rather than the whole diamonds. This approach will only work if the plate is “conditioned correctly” (much like an Arkansas stone) and is at risk to a single diamond coming lose and re-embedding proud of the surface of the other diamonds.

      The “simple” approach avoids most of the common pitfalls of the common approaches. It produces and excellent shaving blade and is extremely repeatable. Some people erroneously refer to it as the “metal polish” technique, but that is in fact only one part of the procedure.


  19. Hello,
    I’m under the impression, whether I’m right or wrong is another matter, that sometimes a particular blade will chip more than another blade at say the 1k or 4k stage when honing with edge leading strokes.

    Would it make sense then to follow your technique of setting bevel using edge leading strokes on 1k, then using edge trailing strokes on 1k and on 5k
    then instead of moving to denim move to a 12k with edge leading strokes?

    My thinking is that you could then remove the foil edge relatively neatly on the 12k?
    This process would then produce a triangular edge relatively simply and reliably and would cut down on stroke count and also cut out the need for an 8k stone.


    • In general, you are correct; however, it depends on the “condition” of the particular hone. Most (if not all) hones will be more aggressive immediately after lapping – they will remove metal faster and cause more chipping in the edge leading direction. This is one of the problems with describing a blade as having “a 12k edge”

      In “the honing progression” the hones were always lapped and then used sufficiently (100 strokes or more) to get them to their equilibrium behavior.

      So if your goal is a triangular bevel, then your approach should work well, provided the 12k is not freshly lapped. (The advantage of your approach is to ensure that the blade is “ready” for the 12k). I would recommend lapping the 12k stone, then breaking it in with another blade first.


  20. Two quick questions:

    1. I have a nice cotton strop which I think would work perfectly as the denim component of this method, but since it is well made and expensive to replace I would rather not use it if I am only going to get 10-20 uses out of it before it becomes loaded and glazed. The question is: would it be possible to wash out the metal particles/polish in order to continue using the same piece of cotton in the denim/metal polish step?

    2. Relatedly; you can buy aluminium oxide powder by itself (for example here: which I presume would be easier to wash out of a strop (and has the advantage of avoiding volatile solvents while travelling). Would this work just as well as metal polish since the primary abrasive in most metal polishes is aluminium oxide? Or is there something special about those polishes that this powder won’t replicate?



    • I would not recommend applying metal polish to quality strop. I don’t think you could successfully clean the strop without damaging it.

      The carrier (wax) does play a very important role in polishing soft metals, but for stropping blades I haven’t observed any obvious effect.

      I have successfully used fine diamond spray on the denim, and I wouldn’t expect this to become glazed or need cleaning with extended use, just recharging once in a long while. So I would also expect loose alumina powder to work as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • A question/reply to an older post: If you used diamond spray on the denim instead of metal polish, what micron size would you recommend? Also if used 2 sheets of paper instead of the loaded denim, would you apply white crayon style compound for instance?


        • For the denim, I found 0.25 was fast enough. I wouldn’t go above 1 micron though.

          For paper, I really only tested diamond spray, but paper behaves almost identically to fabric, so any type of metal polish should work.


        • I recall testing diamond spray on denim and it behaved the same as metal polish – in other words the result is determined by the substrate more than the abrasive.

          I don’t think paper is generally porous enough to absorb the rogue 100 micron particles in most metal polish, but diamond spray works very well on paper.


  21. Todd, Thank you for all of the very interesting and informative posts. This is very helpful for those of us that find ourselves always asking “why?”.

    I am attempting to reproduce these results and am not confident in one particular aspect of what you’ve described. Would you please try to quantify how hard (force / tension) you pull on the denim and leather strops? Your estimate of 100-150 g of downward force on the blade was very helpful because I could practice that on a kitchen scale and have a decent idea of what it should feel like. I get a significant range of curvatures (which seem like they could produce very different amounts of micro convexity) around the blade edge depending on how hard I pull on the strops even when trying to maintain the same downward force.


    • First, it is a myth that the curvature of the strop causes convexity. The radius of curvature of the strop is many orders or magnitude larger than the radius of curvature of the bevel convexity. In practical terms, you can achieve the same result (micro-convexity) with the strop flat on a table or glued to a board as you can with it hanging and flexing.

      Micro-convexity results from the fact that when the side of the blade compresses the strop, the edge (very near the apex) experiences a greater force than the rest of the contacting surface. The abrasion rate increases with pressure, and therefore the near-apex will abrade faster. The equilibrium shape (micro-convexity) results in the same pressure near the apex as away from the apex, and so this shape does not change with additional stropping.

      I will argue that a hanging strop (with it’s flex) is easier to moderate the pressure, for the same reason a hammock is more comfortable than laying on floor. Similarly, it doesn’t matter how hard you pull on the strop. I would suggest pulling with one or two pounds of force. My denim strops are taped to the edge of the bench with duct tape and I have never come close to pulling one off.


    • This is a pure push-cutting edge with no draw-cutting aggression. I like this type of edge on a small folder that I would use for cutting open the tape on boxes or plastic wrap. It’s certainly not suitable for cutting up reams of cardboard.


      • Just to clarify, how would you go about (delicately) breaking off the burr? Drawing lightly though soft wood (though if I recall correctly from some other posts, drawing through wood only bends the burr over)? Or some other method?


        • A straight razor edge is too delicate to remove a burr by drawing through wood. In fact, simply cutting paper causes severe damage.

          For a knife, you can produce a nice working edge by folding a burr and breaking it off, but this is not appropriate for a straight razor.

          The typical foil-type burr that is formed with diamond on leather will eventually break off with use (shaving) but that is an extremely unpleasant procedure.

          The best option is to gently abrade the burr by micro-convexing the edge with abrasive-loaded linen/denim.


      • Oh yes, a straight razor is certainly too delicate. I was actually referring to ‘regular’ knife sharpening: if you wanted a knife with some draw-cutting aggression (for plastic, cardboard, and the like), you suggested braking off the burr instead of removing it with a pasted strop. How would you go about breaking off the burr such a case? My first thought, after reading the article on the 1k/6k King sharpening would be to basically follow the Murray Carter method, but immediately after folding the burr on soft wood, strop on newspaper. Can you think of a better way?


        • It’s not something I have had time to look at in detail, but as far as I can see, this is what the Murray Carter approach achieves. If you fold a burr 180 degrees and then try to stand it up again it will break off. Newspaper behaves exactly like linen. I’m not sure if this would work for (included) angles over 30 degrees though.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Todd,
          I have a quick question. So when I hone I don’t aim for a burr with straight razors, but no matter what whether we like it or not at a micro-level there always very small burrs, that usually don’t want to flip when alternating sides, but it tends to stay on one side, and this burrs are only in sections and not the full length of the blade. Under a really good directional light source (a crystal clear incandescent 150 watt bulb) these micro burrs can be seen with a 10x loupe.

          So can a few laps with a 1 micron diamond pasted balsa strop remove the micro burr produced by the naniwa 12k?


          • You seem to be lost in the internet-forum-nonsense idea of what a burr is. A burr MUST flip when you alternate sides, unless you haven’t formed an apex yet. What you are describing is very common with warped razors, where the concave side isn’t making contact with the stone. Life is too short to waste time with warped razors.

            Balsa can remove a burr, provided it isn’t too smooth, or too loaded with compound. It’s one of the many things that may or may not work, that I have strategically avoided with my recommended approach.

            Also, you can feel burr with your finger tips long before it is large enough to see with a 10x loupe.


  22. So grateful to have stumbled on to this blog!

    I have been trying to fathom the mystery religion called “Straight Razor Sharpening” for the past twelve months, without success. Turns out there are many gurus, even denominations called “Synth”, “Jnat” and “Coti”. No doubt all of these practitioners can sharpen well, but they could not explain the “why” behind what they were doing, and I could never replicate their results.

    Thank you for taking the mystery out of this process and giving us the tools to understand what we’re trying to accomplish and sufficient education to allow each individual to tinker intelligently (diagnose?) issues with their results. Spectacular photos and explanation. Just having a few solid definitions makes a huge difference. I finally understand the difference between sharpness and keenness. I can describe the edge as linear, uniform, etc. and I understand how the straight razor can be super sharp in the push cut, but non-aggressive in draw cut. Brilliant!

    I am still meeting with mixed results with your sharpening process, but I can’t tell why. Under a simple 60X LED microscope, the apex on edges this method has produced are the most uniform, linear, chip free edges I have ever managed. I can see the micro-convexity at the edge reflecting light differently that rest of bevel. However, the finished product will only occasionally “treetop” arm hair (sometimes lots of snagging sounds, but only an occasional “pop”). When I try the HHT, it’s 1-3 at best.

    I’m confident the bevel is set, and I’m ending with the edge-trailing strokes. Am I not stropping heavily enough on polish-loaded denim to finish removing the foil edge? Stropping too heavily? I’m using a 0.25 micron poly-diamond leather strop to finish. Can you suggest a way to diagnose my problem without putting it under the SEM? Where might I need some extra attention to detail?

    I’m getting tantalizingly close to the best shave of my life. Now I want to take it the rest of the way and make sure I can reproduce the experience reliably.



    • It sounds like you are 95% of the way there. You can absolutely assess your progress from this point forward by observing the tree-topping behavior. Typically, I can’t tree-top my arm hair after the pasted denim strop – that level of keenness comes from stropping on leather. Ideally, fine hairs should fall on the blade silently and you should barely feel the hairs being pulled before they sever.

      To be clear, when you say “the finished product” do you mean after stropping on clean leather? For a blade honed this way, the clean leather plays an important role by applying a thin layer of “lubricant’ to the apex and this usually provides an observable improvement in “tree-topping.” Also, I strongly recommend avoiding the linen component of your regular strop – I typically only use mine for 3 light laps after shaving to clean the edge.

      You can absolutely increase the force you apply on the strops – even one or two pounds is fine unless you have a very hollow ground blade (that would flex under this level of force). If you don’t use enough force on the denim strop you may not micro-convex the bevel enough to avoid a foil being created by the diamond sprayed leather strop. I’d be surprised if you could fail to remove the burr with too little force though. I wonder if you can see the foil-burr from the edge trailing strokes with your USB microscope.

      I would suggest you compare the tree-topping you have now to what you get after 30 laps on the diamond sprayed layer with twice the downward force you used before. Then strop on your clean leather (50 or so laps) and test it again. If that doesn’t work, I would go back to your finest stone and follow the refresh procedure.

      This is a simple procedure that I believe will avoid most of the common pitfalls, but it is not foolproof – it will take some practice to find the appropriate downward force to apply when stropping.


      • “I wonder if you can see the foil-burr from the edge trailing strokes with your USB microscope.”

        What should I be looking for? Would the edge trailing foil-burr look like a bright edge running along length of apex?

        Thanks, still trying to improve my results.


  23. Update.

    First, your question. Yes, by “finished product” I was referring to testing after I had stropped on clean leather; 30 or so passes. I had been using the prep strop, in this case poly webbing, for a dozen passes. I thought this was required to remove any foil edge left by the diamond pasted leather. I’ll back-off on that. I had also not comprehended the benefit of the lubricant imparted by the clean leather strop to edge performance.

    The microscope I’m using is an inexpensive, hand-held 60-120X Carson. It allows me to see irregularities, microchips, and even some bright beads (bright white reflections) along the length of the apex that I always assumed were a burr. The micro-convexity is clearly visible because it reflects the light differently than the rest of the bevel. When I did the edge-trailing passes, the bevel appeared uniformly flat out to the apex; no visible burr or foil. However, I could see a difference in color of reflections on flanks of bevel. The majority of the bevel nearest the spine was a uniform dark charcoal, while the last little bit near the apex was bordered by a uniform width of lighter grey material. Apex itself looked linear and uniform; no bright spots. Does this lighter grey area represent formation of a higher-angle foil edge?

    Tried the additional laps on diamond pasted strop with double the pressure; followed with 50 laps on clean leather. There was some improvement; edge snagged arm hair more often, popped a few more, but nothing too dramatic. I refreshed the razor on an 8K Naniwa Traditional (T-380) with edge-trailing strokes, followed by a dozen edge-leading strokes, followed by 20 edge-trailing strokes again. This is when I could see the band of light grey material at edge of bevel. Stropped with increased pressure on polish-loaded denim, then used extra force on the diamond-loaded strop; finished with 3 light passes on poly strop and 50 passes on clean leather.

    This produced my best edge yet! It still does not silently mow down arm hair, but let’s make sure I’m doing that test correctly. Is the razor maintained parallel to the arm, or inclined 30-45 degrees? How close to the skin should I float the edge? Should razor pop any free-standing hair it encounters regardless of “altitude” above skin, or is it legit to hover closer to skin where resistance to displacement is higher and hair is more prone to being severed?

    If I should be getting effortless tree-topping, I may have to try forming the foil edge again to make sure I’m really getting enough foil to micro-convex. I could use edge-trailing only strokes on a Shapton Glass 2K; that’s the next coarsest stone I own. Any recommendation?

    Sorry for long post. Wanted to provide as much info for diagnosis as possible.



  24. Update #2.

    Re-read Parts 1 thru 4 of “The Pasted Strop”, including all the comments. Inspired by these and Clive Russ’ success story, I decided to go all the way back to a triangular apex and start the process over. Was surprised to discover I had to go back to a 500 grit Shapton glass stone to reset the bevel in anything like a timely manner. Does this mean I may be introducing too much microconvexity; leaning on my strops too hard?

    Finished with edge-trailing laps on the 8K Naniwa and then went through the progression of polish loaded strop and diamond loaded leather strop.

    Closest, most-comfortable shave yet. I may have to content myself with this.

    Edge still does not silently tree-top arm hair, or pass anything above HHT 2-3. But it feels better than anything I’ve ever been able to produce in the past. (BTW, I can’t get a fresh Gillette Astra blade to tree-top my arm hair either. Pilot error?)

    Can’t help but feel there’s still room for greater comfort.

    Assuming I’ve formed an adequate microconvexity on the bevel, will continuing to perform laps on the .25 micron diamond loaded strop help narrow the width of the edge? Is there any way other than using an SEM to determine when I’ve reached that 50nm sweet spot?

    Hope to hear more about coticules on your blog one day. Keep up the spectacular work!


    • Do you lap your stones before each use? I use an Atoma 400 to lap my Shapton 4k, and with this refresh it is more than fast enough to reset a bevel. A few tens of back-and-forth strokes on the freshly lapped Shapton 4k will easily grind enough steel to remove any micro-convexity. In my experience, there is absolutely never any reason to go below 1k with a straight razor. As I’ve shown, you can’t apply enough pressure to a straight razor to produce faster cutting on a 1k or below.

      The best reference blade is a Feather Artist Club blade, or if you can disassemble the cartridge without damaging it, a Gillette Fusion is probably the keenest blade you will find. A Gillette Astra DE is borderline for tree-topping my arm-hair. You can also measure the cutting force of taught thread with a kitchen scale, if you are interested in quantification.

      Ultimately, the tree-topping test, (or equivalent HHT test) is just a way to check your progress. Personally, I know that a blade that won’t effortlessly tree-top my arm hair will not shave well. My acid test is always shaving my upper lip against the grain.

      Also, its worthwhile to test the blade with multiple shaves. You may find that the 2nd or 3rd shave is more comfortable. I argue that the addition of abrasive to a strop only increases the rate, not the result – so you will eventually achieve the same result by stropping on clean linen and leather every day.


      • “You have arrived at your destination.”

        I think I’m there Todd. Guess I’m just an overachiever. Ordered some Feather Artist Pro blades for comparison in tree-topping arm hair tests. My edge performs better!

        I am getting the most comfortable shaves ever using this method, and it’s with an edge that I can reliably reproduce myself. Bravo!

        Thanks so much for all your work and for your willingness to share the knowledge gained on this groundbreaking blog. An SEM picture IS worth a thousand words!


  25. I just wanted to say that I followed this technique and it produced a very nice edge on my razor that is very comfortable to shave with. I purchased a couple of straight razors (one Dovo, one Theirs-Issard – both came professionally honed & shave ready) and started shaving with a straight razor a while back. In an effort to get used to how sharp they should be, I used one for several weeks while the other sat, then had the dull one honed by another well-known hone-meister. In the mean time, I prepared to do things myself by purchasing the appropriate pastes, strops, and material. This week marks the first time I attempted to re-sharpen on my own. After much research, these are the only instructions I ever considered following, and they produced an edge every bit equal to the edges provided by the various hone-meisters that I have experienced before. I suspect that as I repeat the procedure my techniques will improve and the edge will too. My stones are 1000 grit Sigma Power ceramic, 6000 Sigma Power ceramic, and an Atoma #400 for flattening the stones (I also have a 13000 Sigma Power ceramic, but did not use it following these instructions).


    • As a follow-up to Steve’s comment, I would be interested in images of the edge before and after enough shaves for the edge “to be at the point of discomfort”. I’m interested in what types of deformation are occurring during multiple shave/strop cycles, and I don’t know that a single shave will provide sufficient evidence to fully understand what is happening.


      • The challenge with this line of experimentation is in trying to generalize the results. In general, the edge degrades due to micro-chipping and stropping smooths out the square edges of the chip. A razor that I find needs re-touching is probably still more than adequate for most other people.


  26. I had to come in under another URL,(sys prob). I asked about strops denim an diamond on leather(Rob Herbold). Thank You for your timely response, I did not have Mothers so I used Flitz. I like your idea of how to hang the denim strop. I removed hardware on my strop, hung 2 denim strops, and reasembeled the strop. Have you done any work on Coticules or Escher’s? I am using your honing system in the AM, I will report back on my results. With great appreciation, RDH


  27. Usually once or twice a year a straight razor should be honed, and most send the razor to a professional honemeister. A straight razor should be stropped before every use.


  28. Thanks for sharing!

    I have managed to achieve an edge even to Derby Extra using your method. I used a 3k stone, jeanstrip with a small amount of metallpolish and a clean leather piece.
    In my case very light pressure worked best. Few strokes needed, like 10 laps on jeans and 20 on clean leather.

    Derby is a ”mild” blade but still very sharp compared to most things and much sharper than the shaveready factoryedges I have come across.

    Its quite amasing cheap polish on jeans can bring such a good result.

    I did try using .25 diamonds on various material, but felt it always degraded the edge (more work needed).

    I have one question you may know the answer to.

    If too much pressure is applied and edge gets too convex, can this be remedid stropping with lighter pressure or is back to stone the only fix?



  29. Update: I have finally achieved a truely sharp result. Clearly sharper than derby baldes. I feel I can die happy now.

    What did it for me was.
    Updgrading to a 6K shapton
    Use cotton cloth instead of streatch denim.
    Use harder laather (like powerlifing belt, rather than skinjacket)
    Replace the diamondpaste to another brand, The botlle labled THJK was clearly way courser than advertised.


    • The first two grinding steps are quite coarse, while the final step appears to be done with a buffer, rather than a hard abrasive. The final bevel is about 20 microns wide, and that is all that you will see at the magnifications I normally use.


  30. Fantastic series of articles, with this one being the crowning synthesis so far.
    I have a question on what sort of strop to use for the 0.25 micron diamond step. I have two; one is a plain Shave Nation látigo hanging strop and the second one is a German hanging strop marked “Prima Rindleder Germany”. The Shave Nation one has a plain black smooth leather surface much like the outer surface on a pair of black leather shoes, and the German one has a different, softer, more velvety texture but stil smooth without being suede. I suspect it was obtained by sanding the surface of leather that was originally like the first strop giving the softer slightly velvety texture.

    My question is which one would be more suitable for taking the diamond spray and which for the subsequent plain leather stropping? It seems to me that the slightly velvety one will probably absorb it and hold on to the particles better than the smooth plain leather, but I would like to know what you think.

    You mentioned sanding the plan shiny leather on a plain leather strop to make it easier for it to take the diamond spray (which makes sense to me), but is sanded leather also better for ordinary “unpasted” stropping? If so, it might make sense to sand the shiny strop too and have two “velvety” strops for the process.

    I would be very keen to hear your opinion. Many thanks in advance!



  31. And one more question. Thiers Issard razors are supposed to be made from a slightly harder steel than, say, Boko. Does that necessitate any change in the technique above/does it affect the tendency for the edge to break versus form an edge burr?. Many thanks again!


  32. Trying to apply the theory of this method to kitchen knife sharpening, would this be in line with your findings on the straight razor?

    1. Set burr on the 1k, scrubbing motion used
    2. Remove burr with edge leading strokes (10 laps)
    3. Remove scratch patterns on the 4k, scrubbing motion used with less pressure and reducing pressure for every lap (3 laps)
    4. Edge trailing strokes to push any excess metal to the edge and form a foil bur, and also to align the edge (20 laps), very light pressure.
    5. Remove burr with a draw stroke on the 4k, very light pressure

    Angles held consistent on any knife with an HRC rating of 58 and above. For knives with a rating of below 58, draw stroke angle is raised slightly about 2 degrees.

    Edge trailing and draw stroke as shown here by Jon Broida :

    I realize that a lot of benefit from the leather strops and compounds is missing since I don’t use them. Trying get the keenest, yet at the same time durable, edge just with the stones. The SEM images and the posts have been extremely helpful in understanding exactly what is going on, now I’m trying to put it all together and come up with a knife sharpening method that utilizes all the information.


    • I use the instructions here to sharpen my straight razors, but I use Murray Carter’s knife sharpening technique to deal with my kitchen knives ( Murray is sharpening a straight razor here and this video has been discussed here on another post about why the technique isn’t quite good enough for a perfect straight razor edge, but IMHO it does a superb job on a chef’s knife.


      • Hi Michael

        So if I’m understanding this correctly, after forming the burr on both sides it’s purely edge trailing strokes, with the burr removal at the end? No edge leading strokes on either stone and no scrubbing on the higher grit stone? Are you also doing the newspaper stropping?


        • This is correct. I might ‘scrub’ on the 1000 grit stone if I’m working on a knife that needs a totally new edge and it’s the first time I’ve sharpened it, but beyond that I usually avoid it (and with my own knives that I’ve sharpened previously, I usually only need to start with a handful of edge trailing strokes on a 6000 to touch up an edge). The key takeaway is that you need to form the burr on the 1000, refine the burr on the 4000-6000, knock the burr over via some means (in Murray’s case, dragging it across the grain of wood), then knocking the burr off by stropping on newspaper before polishing/refining by stropping on leather. I do use the newspaper, just like Murray for kitchen knives (I have a 14000 grit stone, but I have found that newspaper does a more than adequate job for the burr removal and edge refinement, so I have adopted it as part of my routine. Science of sharp looked into Murray’s method here:


          • Ok so I’ve replicated Murray’s method but adding a second pass of the 6k, as Todd did, to reduce the broken off burr after folding it. I’ve had some results that I can’t really explain, and I don’t have a microscope so I can’t really observe the state of the edge at the different stages. This is what I did:

            1k stone: classic scrubbing until the burr forms and flipped onto the other side
            6k stone: 20 laps edge trailing
            Fold burr over
            6k stone: 15 laps edge trailing
            Fold burr over
            6k stone: 5 laps

            Result: sharpest edge I’ve ever obtained from a Global knife. On par with my carbon knives. Easily shaves.

            After this, I repeated the exact same sequence on the same knife but added the newspaper stropping after the last 5 laps on the 6k.

            Newspaper on stone stropping 30 laps

            Result: the knife edge now will sometimes tug on hairs on my arms, though not tree top them. Significantly sharper than the previous edge. Edge retention much better as well.

            So this is leaving me stumped. My understanding is that the newspaper theoretically could have imparted microconvexity, this would explain the edge retention gain.

            However, I can’t explain the increase in apparent keeness, (and perhaps sharpness?), since microconvexity by definition increases the overall edge angle at the apex. Is it possible that the microconvexity led to a thinner edge width than the one achieved through honing with the stone? No stropping on leather was performed, therefore no “thinning” of the area immediately behind the edge could have happened as well, unless this is also a property of stropping on newspaper?

            My other question is: can the 6k stone also impart some microconvexity? Since Todd shows that microconvexity is a property of abrasion near the edge through increased pressure on that particular area, why is this a feature present only in stropping and not achieved through the waterstones?


          • Well, I’m just a guy on the internet who likes to keep $hit sharp, but in my experience the knife feels sharper after every stage of the process. You want that edge to be magically sharp? Do that final step of stropping on leather. It’ll be so sharp it’ll cut you for looking at it funny. As for the rest, I really don’t know.


  33. I am wondering about how one might simplify the method a little by using lapping film as a hanging strop. Would it be possible to use, say, 3 or 5 micron lapping film as a hanging strop to remove the burr raised earlier (in place of the metal polish on denim hanging strop), followed by, say 0.3 or 0.1 micron lapping film also used as a hanging strop used as the second polishing strop to keen the edge? I have a feeling it might work given how thin (and therefore flexible) the lapping film is, and I was wondering what you think


  34. You mention two hones that are “two of the worst choises for hones”; when you hone a blade, do you have any personal preferences of hones?


  35. Hi Todd.

    I know this might be hard to quantify but how big a difference in keenness is there between 0,25 and 0,1 micron as the final step on leather?
    The edges are very keen on 0,25 but a bit rough sometimes.


  36. Thank you very much indeed for sharing your insights.

    I was wondering if you could test Iwasaki’s honing method depicted in his booklet. I think your method is quite similar to his, while both use different means to achieve the same goal.

    Click to access Honing_Razors_and_Nihonkamisori.pdf

    Also, I was wondering how your “simple straight razor honing”-guide applies to asymetrical grinds/kamisoris?


  37. > When writing these articles, I have made a concerted effort to avoid drawing conclusions, instead just showing what actually happens at the sub-micron scale during the various sharpening processes.

    That’s both great, and diminishes the value of the blog.

    For me, I’m learning to sharpen planes and chisels for woodworking. I’ll also apply this to drill bits, knives, and after reading this blog, want to try a straight razor.

    Currently, I’m sharpening a card scraper – that’s something I’d love a better explanation about. Files, burnishers, and stones. Tons of methods. All to scrape a thin layer of wood that’s more efficient than sanding.

    The debates in the woodworking world are similar to the ones I assume come out of the razor world.

    What’s missing in this blog are links to the relevant debates that the information might solve. Let’s say that I’ve read 15 opinions and forums about the best way to sharpen a razor. Some tell me to always go to 12k stones. Others are fine leaving off on a strop.

    There are two ways to go in this case. A link to each “method” would be hugely beneficial to understanding the results of the experiments.

    Furthermore, the experiments could use more of the “this is what I expected to happen” and “this is what actually happened.”

    I think, without the context of the raging debates on the internets, I have a hard time figuring out if you answered a question or not.

    Maybe the intent is not to answer a question, but to provide results of experiments. In that case, expectation and result would help a lot.

    All in all, this is fascinating and I’ve spent hours reading this blog.


    • My goal in creating this blog has always been to provoke discussion, rather than to teach people how to sharpen.

      My experience with internet discussion forums (which goes back to long before September 1993) is that they are a very inefficient place to learn anything. The signal to noise in something like a straight razor honing forum is profoundly weak. I simply have no time, interest, or patience to settle arguments on internet forums. In my experience “internet experts” are rarely capable of changing their minds. Instead, I hope that that by injecting some facts “into the ether” that group-think will slowly come around to abandoning false beliefs.

      One thing that separates (successful) Scientists from non-Scientists is the ability to accept new results that counter their existing understanding. In fact, the best thing that can happen in an experiment is an unexpected result. To be an effective Scientist requires skepticism of both new results and to the “current understanding.” Non-Scientists usually accept the first answer they learn and are are unwilling to consider new facts or admit they are wrong. You will see that same dynamic in the behaviour of internet blowhards, they repeat the same nonsense over and over until it becomes a fact in their mind and they are incapable changing their mind, even in the face of undeniable facts. And that is why I don’t waste time with internet discussion forums. I do get pingbacks when my articles are linked in a discussion, and I usually browse the comments for feedback, but I see no value in participating.

      I’ve a had a number of people criticize the writing style of my articles, in that they don’t conform to the format of a high-school science report. My goal is to present the results in a readable and comprehensible format, something which Scientific Reports, by design, are not.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Disregarding forums and the online community in general, is a life improving exercise, most should consider doing. I think you should hold on to that concept (not diving into online-discussions), which likely, have served you well in many many years.

        I just want to reach out and say thank you for very in-depth analysis on edges, which really cannot be found anywhere else. Some might copy you, they likely do or have already done so (I started reading your site almost from when you began). Their copies will be just that, copies, and probably done by people who does not quit grasp the concept anyway.

        Again thank you for your work, I hope sites like these never go offline.

        Kind regards


  38. Although it’s designed for straight razors, this technique is the first to give me consistently sharp (and keen) results on my kitchen knives.

    That said, Todd, in your older posts you describe toothy edges as good choices for slicing tasks like those in the kitchen. This seems to be the consensus on forums as well. In contrast, Vadim calls this in a myth in his book, arguing that toothy edges bite initially before quickly dulling and developing chips. And it seems like you like to sharpen your knives to a polished/keen edge with a similar technique to the one in this post.

    Do you think the keen edge produced by your technique is a potential drawback when using it on knives, which are often used for slicing? Or do you think the benefits of a toothy edge are overstated on the forums?


    • I don’t like the term “toothy.” It suggests (and people imagine) a 3D geometry that almost never occurs. When you separate materials, there are really two issues; how easily it is achieved and how cleanly the parts are separated. The most familiar example is probably a skin cut from a razor vs one from one of those horrific micro-serrated knives; the first you can barely feel and it heals easily, the second is painful and doesn’t heal well at all.

      A coarse edge is usually a combination of chips and burrs, and for many cutting tasks this is probably more appropriate than a razor-keen edge. I don’t think I could generalize as to which is better or lasts longer, as it would depend on what the cutting task is. I do find that a true razor-sharp knife is a novelty that won’t last more than a few cuts.

      Generally, I sharpen my kitchen knives to a razor edge when I take them to my workshop, but I’ll maintain them in the kitchen with a steel (I have a half-dozen in the drawer that I am experimenting with) and that obviously produces a somewhat keen edge. I do have several ceramic knives in the drawer and although they are quite blunt, they do still draw cut well – are these “toothy”?


  39. Todd,

    Bravo! Brilliant execution and presentation of your work. I can’t say enough good things about this content. I’ve been looking for an unbiased and scientific approach to this subject for a long time and your blog has exceeded all expectations that I could possibly have. I’ve already spent multiple hours going through your posts and the content quality doesn’t cease to amaze me.

    If I may, I have two simple questions regarding your preferred motion during one specific step:

    “As a rule of thumb, using the 1k stone long enough to make black swarf, then ending with about 20 edge trailing strokes”

    Regarding the formation of black swarf, my understanding is that edge leading strokes would be utilized to create such swarf, then the 20 edge trailing strokes would follow. Is this correct? While creating the swarf would you alternate the blade sides during each lap, or would you hone each side at a time, as if you were trying to raise a large burr?

    Thank you for all your time and effort.


    • I start with a back-and-forth or “scrubbing” motion to thin out the bevel, mostly because I am naturally impatient. We don’t care about the apex with this step, we just want to grind out the micro-chips. Understanding that working one side of the blade can make a sizeable burr, we want to minimize/remove that burr by alternating sides more frequently as we progress. As an example, I might do 50-100 back and forth strokes on each side, until I’m satisfied the bevel is “set” then 20, then 10, then 5, ending with some (10 or 20) alternating edge-leading strokes to repeatedly and consistently get to the state where 20 edge trailing strokes will prepare the apex for the stropping steps.


  40. Dr. Todd, I just wanted to type you have done Exceptional work here with your blog. I provide professional knife sharpening services to include Japanese beauty shears, razors, traditional folding knives, and kitchen knives In the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas. I stumbled on your work many years ago and still refer to it regularly when clients ask about the “Science of Sharp.” It was your work that helped provide me the confidence I needed to bring my sharpening to the next level.

    A picture is truly worth 1000 words, but a picture with context is even more valuable. In short, I just wanted to say thank you; not only have you brought ”light” to what seemed like an ”esoteric issue” for me at first, you’ve have also helped me earn a living, I am proud of. Knowing what I’m achieving at the very edge brings tremendous confidence and credibility to my sharpening. Thank You!


  41. Would you recommend this technique for high carbon steel carving gouges with long bevels – like 1/2″, intended for limewood? What about harder species, eg oak, and a little shorter bevel?


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