Honing Straight Razors with Japanese natural Stones.
To effectively discuss proper Straight Razor honing, we must first discuss the general properties of good razor hones!
Many good quality natural razor hones exist, from Belgian Coticules and German Eschers to American Arkansas stones, J-nats and etc. All of these razor hones work well to create a fine shaving-sharp edge on a straight razor. Keep in mind, each stone will produce an edge that creates a noticeably different feel to the face. Individual skin type, hair type and blemish occurrence will dictate the fineness your straight edge requires. I personally have very coarse hair, abrasion sensitive skin and eczema. Consequently, I prefer a highly polished edge that is easily attainable through fine J-nats (a very hard Ozuku, Nakayama or Shoubudani) but can only be coaxed from coarser stones with more difficulty (Arkansas, Coticule or Thuringen).
Remember, a person with different skin and hair type may prefer a completely different edge, but I will always recommend the finest J-nat available based on my dermatological demands ;). If your skin type is different than mine and prefers something closer to a Coticule/Thuringen edge (less coarse hair), there are many J-nat types that will also work for you. Some of these stones are softer, easier to use and will produce edges similar to fine Eschers or Coticules.
The many factors that go into choosing the correct razor hone can be daunting for even a seasoned honer, so it is important to speak with me before your first razor stone purchase. By answering a few simple questions about your current stone inventory and facial/skin/hair characteristics, I can better guide you to the razor hone most appropriate for your needs.
In general, I will always recommend an Lv 3,5 on the lowest end and an Lv 5+ as a final polisher (**link article discussing hardness vs. fineness**). To ensure the synthetic scratches are removed, it is necessary to go up to an 8000K synthetic stone. This is true even if you are using Asano Nagura (**link Asano Nagura article**).
Never...under any circumstances...use a diamond plate as a Nagura to build slurry.
Diamonds are incredibly hard and a single loose diamond on the top of your stone can easily ruin your razor’s fragile edge! (**Diamonds VS Nagura article**)
Here are some basic steps to hone a dull blade from start to finish:
1) Use a 1000 grit stone to set the bevel. If done correctly, this will create an edge that easily cuts hair at skin level. Be sure to examine the scratch pattern through a loupe or scope or microscope to ensure you have a uniform pattern.
2) Use a series of increasingly finer grit synthetic stones from 1k to at least 8k making sure to remove most scratches from the previous stones. Again, make sure the scratch patterns are completely uniform.
3) Following the synthetic progression, use your Jnat with or without Asano Naguras (eg. Botan, Tenjyou, Mejiro, Koma)
Regardless of nagura use, use your Jnat with various slurries starting with a thick cream like/highly abrasive slurry. As you progress add small amounts of water with your fingertips periodically and continue until all the slurry is broken down and you are left with more water than slurry.
4) Finish with Water only using as little water as possible on a clean stone, and very light pressure. Only perform 10 X strokes or so and no more
5) Strop on Plain Leather, no canvas or any compounds. :)
You can touch up your razor with water only on your J-nat finisher or by using a dilute Honzan Nagura slurry then with water only as a finisher. If your razor is moderately dull, just follow the steps from your final synthetic stone up through the stropping finish.
Honing kamisori is a bit different than honing western style razors.
Ksamisori are trditionaly made by a populat Japanese construction- hard steel (white#2, blue#2, Tamahagane) is forge welded to soft iron , and both sides of the razor are ground with different wheel to achieve asymmetrical double concave grind that provides extremely keen edge. the kamisori is double sided razor, the front side (no kanji) is called “omote”, the back side (with kanji) is called “ura” . The front side has smaller radius hollow grind, than the back side.
All kamisori when new need a bevel set. Even if the razor looks perfect out of the box, it will need to be put to lower grit stone to set a good bevel before the razor is honed.
Depending on how much work is needed the bevel can be set on medium grit stone (5-6k), of the natural variety coticules work really well for the purpose for example. Setting the bevel is done the same way as any other razor both sides of the razor are honed equally. Once the bevel is set the honing procedure changes. The front side (no kanji) takes the majority of thepasses on the stone, while the back (kanji) side takes less passes. There is a variety of ratios of honing the front and back of a kamisori that are being mentioned on the internet. We use ~1:1 ratio of passes between the front and the back of the razor. At the final stages of the honing when doing the last few finishing passes one can use even number of strokes with no adverse effect to the edge. The honing procedure as far as hones are concerned is like any other razor as described above.
At one time, in Japan, barbers used very hard Asagi stones for finishing as they were cheaper and more readily available than the popular Nakayama Stones.Usually, Very Hard Asagis are a light Gray color, very hard, and very fine...which makes them perfect for Straight Razors!