How to sharpen a straight razor: Part 4

by Tom Gaylord
Writing as B.B. Pelletier

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

A history of airguns

This report covers:

  • Who to believe?
  • Quart of blood!
  • How do you know what you don’t know?
  • Make haste slowly
  • There is more than one way…
  • Setting the bevel
  • Most important point
  • World-record sharpener
  • Bad advice that turned out well
  • Artillery hold?
  • Three ways to sharpen.
  • That’s all, folks!

I didn’t think I would be back to this subject so soon, but I’ve had some major breakthroughs recently that I wanted to report before I forget them. As you may recall, I am writing this report because I want to experience what it feels like to be a new guy in a subject that interests me, but one that I know very little about. That way maybe I can better understand what new guys want/need to know about airguns. I had no appreciation of how much of a new guy I was when it came to sharpening straight razors, or just how deep I would get into this new subject!

Who to believe?

Let’s begin with something that’s pretty important. When you don’t know what you don’t know about a subject — who do you believe? I thought I was a discerning guy, but I got off the track and deep into the swamp by listening to and then following the advice of a person whose identity we will never know. This anonymous person wrote a book titled, The Art of Shaving or Shaving Made Easy —What The Man Who Shaves Ought to Know. It was published in 1905, when straight razors were the most popular shaving instruments, and I thought that meant the advice would contain the wisdom of that day. Boy — was that wrong! Apparently I got the 1905 guy from the forums that didn’t exist yet with all his crackpot ideas that knowledgeable people ignore!

shaving book
This reprint of a century-old book contains some far-out information!

Quart of blood!

I’ll start with his “Quart of Blood” technique. That’s a line from the movie, Trading Places in which Eddie Murphy is trying to fast-talk his way out of a beating in a jail cell. This writer gave advice that went against everything I have read, and said not to use hot towels to prepare the face before shaving. Just lather up and begin! Well, I tried it and lost a lot of blood that day!

He also said to put shaving lather on the leather of a strop to refresh it. I tried that, too. Nope! Doesn’t work. Makes the leather even slicker. Don’t do it.

How do you know what you don’t know?

This happens in our world of airguns all the time. Some loudmouth on a forum says unless you cut 6 inches off your Weihrauch barrel and recrown it his special way you’ll never get all the accuracy the barrel can give. So, some poor newbie reads that and dutifully whacks off half a food of German steel, only to discover he has removed the choke, increased the cocking effort by 20 pounds and made his once-smooth air rifle shoot like a dog. If he is lucky, he can buy a replacement barrel, but an experience like that can put people off of the hobby altogether. So I will ask again — how do you know?

Make haste slowly

The answer to the question is you don’t know. So, go ahead and try out the things that have no lasting impact, like a new shooting position or a different trigger technique, but leave the heavy modifications until your feet are more firmly on the ground. I have heard of guys chopping off a length of barrel without shooting one pellet through the original one! As for me, if 27 sources say to prep my face with hot towels and one I never heard of says don’t, I now know who I’m going to listen to!

There is more than one way…

…to sharpen a straight razor. After doing loads more research I have now seen three different ways of sharpening a razor, and the first and second ways I told you about in Parts 2 and 3 are not among them. I was following and believing one person (again) from Shave Nation, and he teaches a very rudimentary method of sharpening that leaves out the most important stuff. His methods are included in the sharpening routines espoused by others, but they overlook the basics. It’s the same concept as if I told you to mount a scope on your rifle and take it squirrel hunting, but left out the part about sighting in the scope first.

Setting the bevel

After a lot more reading and watching You Tube videos on the subject of sharpening a straight razor, I learned that the single most important step to sharpening anything is to set the bevel. That means to establish an angle on both sides of the straight razor blade that comes together at a sharp point where the two bevels meet. Since the edge of the blade is so fine and nearly invisible, let me show you what I’m talking about with some illustrations.

set bevel
If the opposing edges don’t meet, you can refine them forever and never get the blade sharp. In the middle drawing, the right side has a new surface, but it doesn’t meet the left side, and the dull edge is still there.

In the top drawing, we see the razor’s edge magnified many times. It has grown dull with use. In the middle drawing we have attempted to sharpen the razor, but on one side of the blade we got the angle wrong. That angle (bevel) does not meet the new bevel from the other side of the blade, and no matter how we smooth both sides of these bevels with ever-finer stones, the blade will never be sharp.

When you set the bevel it is important that both sides of the blade meet at some point. Unless that happens, no amount of continual smoothing of the blade edges can sharpen the blade. As the sharpening stones get progressively finer, all they do is polish those wrong angles to a mirror finish. Setting the bevel correctly is fundamental to sharpening any blade — be it a straight razor, a knife or an axe!

Most important point

We talked about this earlier in this series, when I said that the angle that the blade is held to the sharpening stone is of utmost importance. What that exact angle is, in terms of degrees, is of far less importance than the fact that the angle is always the same.

The bevel is set with a coarse stone. The edge that is created is not useful for shaving because it is not sharp enough. If you look at it under a magnifying glass at 10-20 power you see a coarse edge with “fingers” of steel protruding and small cracks in the edge. You aren’t done with sharpening. Setting the bevel is just the beginning, but if you fail to do it you run the risk of creating a beautiful finish on a dull edge.

Here is where we will learn the most important point of sharpening anything! Allow me to illustrate with a short story.

World-record sharpener

The Guinness Book of World Records has named John Juranitch the fastest sharpener in the world. He took a double-bladed axe that had been intentionally dulled and sharpened both blades to shaving sharpness, then shaved off his beard with them — all in 15 minutes! I found this story in his book, The Razor Edge Book of Sharpening, a book that, ironically does not address sharpening straight razors! I almost didn’t read the book until I stumbled across this story that puts everything into perspective. Juanitch was an Army barber in his younger years and shaved men with straight razors all the time. According to him, the angle of the bevels on the blade makes very little difference — as long as they are within certain limits. But the fact that both angles meet at some point is critical!

sharpening book
I learned a lot from this book!

Bad advice that turned out well

Given this writer’s credentials, I think we can trust what he says about sharpening. And he said something that goes against everything I’ve ever heard about sharpening blades. REMEMBER THE QUART OF BLOOD? This guy said when he sharpens blades he never puts oil on his sharpening stones! That runs counter to everything I have ever read or heard! You always put oil or water on a stone to keep the metal particles that are removed from embedding in the stone and clogging it.

Nope. This guy says to not do it. He says to use dry stones to sharpen blades. So, I decided I would give his method a try. I had a vintage razor hone I bought on ebay that I never pul oil on, so I took my WW II Camillus camp knife (issued to servicemen during the war) that has a carbon steel blade and tried sharpening it that way. The blade on my knife has been sharpened so many times that a third of it is now gone. The angle of the blade to the hone was held as constant as possible.

I got the blade to near-razor sharpness (shaving hair off the arm — not shaving the face!) within a minute. Then I took a second Camillus knife that is identical to the first one in all ways except wear. This one has a blade that is unsharpened and is still full profile. Another minute and I had a second blade that was nearly razor-sharp. I have to conclude there is something to this dry honing.

I then searched some knife-sharpening forums (yes, they exist — just search on the name John Juranich and you’ll find them) and several people said they had tried the dry hone and found that it works very fast. As far out as it sounds, this idea seems to work!

Artillery hold?

It’s almost like an airgunner I know who once read a very authoritative catalog description of how to shoot accurately with a spring-piston airgun. The author said to grasp the rifle tightly and pull it back into the shoulder with some force. This airgunner was having no luck doing it that way, so he tried to see how bad it would get if he just let the air rifle do its own thing by recoiling as much as it wanted to. He shot his Beeman C1 carbine and held it ever-so-lightly. To his surprise the groups shrank very small! He remembered seeing field artillery pieces recoil several feet each time they fired, yet three miles away their shells were hitting close to each other. That seemed like the same thing he was doing, so he called this light hold the artillery hold.

Three ways to sharpen

Once I learned the importance of setting the bevel, all the sharpening methods came into clear focus. They all achieve the same thing by different methods. One way many people do it is by moving the razor across each stone in small circles. One fellow counts the number of circles. For setting the bevel he uses a coarse stone and does 60 circles on each side of the blade. With all the other stones he does 40 circles per side. To see if he is finished he tests the blade on the pad of his thumb — not moving the blade, just feeling it. He says he has developed a feel for when the bevels meet. He is a professional honing specialist who does thousands of blades each year.

Another fellow pushes the blade straight back and forth on the stone with his fingers resting on the opposite side, to bear down on the edge being sharpened. He sets the bevel with 40 back and forth strokes and then does 40 with every stone thereafter. This guy looks at his blades after each stoning session with a 60X microscope and looks for an even bevel across the blade. He is a professional honing specialist who does 8-10 blades a day. From watching both him and one other guy on You Tube examine their blades this way I invested $4 in a 100X lighted microscope. It’s coming from China, so I don’t have it yet.

Finally a hobbyist straight razor restorer sent me two short videos showing how he sets a bevel and sharpens a blade. I have bought two razors from him and they are the only two I have that can both shave me completely, start to finish, so I know he knows his stuff.

This guy does the circles and also places his fingers on the opposite side of the blade to press lightly down. Another trick of his is to put electrician’s tape on the spine. That both restores the original height of the spine (it gets flat as the razor is honed) and also protects it from further flattening. I see no reason you couldn’t put several layers of tape on the back of a knife blade to achieve the same thing on a hone.

There are three different ways of sharpening a straight razor. All of them concentrate on setting the bevel of the blade first. All of them are more comprehensive than the videos I watched on the Shave Nation website when I started this quest.The point you should take from that is don’t just rely on one source for your airgun knowledge. Spread out your research to cover a number of different sources. What one writer may forget will be the most important point for another.

That’s all, folks!

This report is getting too long. I wanted to share blade shapes with you today and also to talk about the different types of steel and how they sharpen. That will have to come in the next report.

95 thoughts on “How to sharpen a straight razor: Part 4

  1. B.B.

    Are you sure that The Art of Shaving or Shaving Made Easy —What The Man Who Shaves Ought to Know, wasn’t written by King Camp Gillette as a way to drum up business for his razors?
    Isn’t Capitalism great!

    -Y


  2. Hi BB……..I hope you have a ready supply of your type on reserve somewhere.One of the irritating things (pun intended) is that there are so many ways to do this stuff,and therefore an exponential number of potential wrong turns.
    The only definitive statement I can offer is this:…The reward of getting it all to work is most definitely worth the effort!
    A good wet shave will leave you feeling your face throughout the day and just grinning in satisfaction.
    Here is a tidbit of knowledge for you……NEVER strop a razor AFTER shaving with it.You need to rest a blade for 24 to 30 hours for the edge to normalize before hitting the strop.Your whiskers actually bend or deflect the blade and until memory corrects this stropping the edge forces it back straight and can cause micro-chips in the edge.This is why you alternate razors……or have a 7 day set if you are wealthy! LOL


    • Frank,

      Thank you! I never heard of resting the blade, but I have been stropping immediately after shaving. Because nobody told me not to. This also explains why people have sets. I( knew the beard bent the edge but didn’t know that it needed to be rested.

      I’m working on putting a set together. I have one razor that works and maybe I just found a second.

      I never intended to get sucked into a new hobby, but I have been feeling my face after each good shave and you are right — it’s hard not to be impressed.

      B.B.


  3. I just have to add one more thought in hopes that it will help someone along in their sharpening……especially razors.
    Consider for just a moment just how small and delicate a tool a razor’s edge really is.It is the single smallest tool most humans will ever use! I say this in emphasis of my advice.Finesse is absolutely critical! Whether you are stropping OR honing…….light touch is the real secret. .Even with shaving itself…..it is said that a good shave is just removing the lather.Don’t TRY to remove the whiskers!! If your skin is deflected,that is way too much pressure!
    In my research on proper stropping, I read good advise to take a binder clip and clip a strip of newspaper in it.Hang that at shoulder height and strop the razor on it.If it pulls out of the clip…..you have used too much pressure!
    This is also a good way to keep from cutting the strop as you learn.
    Whether shaving,honing or stropping…….more time spent with less pressure always gets you further.




      • One thing I know about you Matt is that you’re no quitter…….you will get there.Anyything I can do in support of that goal……well,you have my email.:)
        I just did a Geneva razor this afternoon.I “killed” the edge by light dragging across a 1k stone (called joining) and then brought it back with Arkansas soft,hard,then black stone.Followed up under running tap water with a 1×6 Belgian coticule.I stropped it on a mounted cotton web belt with the green rouge,then on a dockers leather belt treated w/ neatsfoot oil.
        From tip to toe a strand of hair set down on the upturned edge falls to the floor! You will get there.


        • Thanks FrankBpc. That edge you describe is the goal. You’re right about not quitting, but one can’t be stupid it either. I take care to learn from the best (which is one reason I’m here) and to make sure that I have the best equipment. As soon as I get my guns cleaned from my range outing yesterday, I’ll get to work with the dressing stone. Maybe I should send you one of my knives so that you can see how far I’ve fallen.

          Matt61


  4. BB,

    Interesting subject.

    I learned to sharpen tools and especially chisels from the carpenter who did it every evening as to have them sharp for the coming day. The process is almost the same. However, keeping a 1/8 inch chisel straight on a wetting stone as to have a straight blade took me quite a while. In the end I made a woodblock for that as I could not hope to get the same straight edges as my carpenter!

    In biology straight razors where used for cutting slices of an plant to examine under the microscope. From that a apparatus was designed (a microtome) to slice the coupes more uniform and the sharpening of microtome knifes became an art until disposable blades were made. Those microtome knifes were extremely dangerous as they were heavy (from 400 to 1500 gram) and sharper than a straight razor. Handling those knives could cut you a finger before you even felt it. It was quite a procedure when we had to replace those knifes. Even the dull ones were far to sharp to handle without the utmost caution.

    I looked up some articles on the art of sharpening the microtome knifes which may be interesting to you, especially the use of diamond paste and microscope in the newer article. The older article is just amusing, it shows that the technique has never changed much. It is in German, the leading language of science in the 19th century.

    http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artoct02/jmmicrot.html

    http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/104709#page/139/mode/1up

    I can use a straight razor quite well as we used that in biology class and I got interested in it for shavings sake. Today’s article revived quite a memories.

    Regards,

    August


    • August,

      Thanks for your comments. I have read about the microtome already. According to another of our readers the ultramicrotome glass blades are just one molecule wide — as sharp as you can get. I will aread those sources you linked to.

      The sharpening book I mentioned above addresses sharpening tools like chisels. These steps also work for doing that.

      B.B.


    • August,

      Wow! I just scanned the first article and see that the writer has discovered what I reported today! So this time I got it right.

      I have gone back to Parts 1 through 3 and put in warnings that the material isn’t refined and completely accurate until this part, which I linked to! Man! If I wrote airgun articles that required this much research I could only do one a week!

      B.B.


  5. BB,

    LOL! It just keeps on going, doesn’t it! Like airgunning, there is far more to it than one at first would think.

    Back when I was a real newbie and had just discovered the world of airguns, I went to the Roanoke show and sat down with Gary Barnes to have him build me my first air rifle. He asked me “What are you going to do with this air rifle?” I guess he did not think much of my answer because he did not take my money, but showed me to another dealer’s table. I did not buy an air rifle that year.

    So began my quest to answer that question. I researched the world of modern airgunning for five years before I bought my first air rifle. Along the way I discovered your blog. I also discovered other blogs and forums, some of which are filled with those who are “experts”.

    After “making haste slowly” I began to be able to determine who really knew what they were talking about and who had anointed themselves king. It was then that I bought my first air rifle, a Gamo CFX. I spent two years learning that air rifle inside and out before I bought another air rifle, although I did buy my Izzy 46M the next year.

    Now, every time I think of buying an air rifle or pistol or any other “toy” for that matter, I ask myself “What am I going to do with that…?” Thanks Gary.


    • RR,

      I guess your first statement sums up the entire endeavor — it keeps on going! I had no intention of getting into this subject this deep, and now I find myself totally captivated by wet shaving with a straight razor! I am not supposed to be drawn in this way!

      STOP! 😉

      B.B.


      • OK,BB….I just stumbled on a mathematical anology (in my own cluttered head) for just how big this thing is
        variable-wise…….if we compare the potential components to cards in a deck.There are potential shuffling outcomes from a deck in excess of an 8 with 67 zeros!
        So you have begun descending into “Challenger Deep”LOL.
        JUST the ways to use a single stone are endless.Ie:Dry,with water,with water and wetting agent like dish detergent (avoid this for soaking synthetics)Smiths solution,Lansky’s,Dans,Vegetable glycerine,water and glycerine, light oil,Ballistol………etc!
        Then there is the slurry made from any stone rubbed with diamond or another stone or abrasive…..combined with the above………etc,etc.etc!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        A good basic goal is to be able to turn up or down the cutting action and speed of any higher grit stone by whatever potion or spell you believe in!
        This is not even mentioning that the object is NOT how sharp but how smooth the edge is.Otherwise it would be microtomes for all…….I’m anxious for when you get your inspection device.


      • BB,

        Ah, but you can’t. This is obviously something you have been very curious about most of your life. I myself have thought of such throughout mine. As you progress you find there is a wealth of knowledge and experience to explore and the song of the sirens lures you onward.

        Also, you have found a hobby that brings you pleasure and sharing your experiences with such further enhances your enjoyment.

        Nay sir, do not stop.


  6. B.B.,

    This has been a very interesting experiment in being a “noob” (newbie) at something! My several observations from starting multiple new hobbies over th years:

    1. It always costs more than you expect. Once I learn a little more about a new sport or hobby, I usually buy equipment a notch or two up from entry level. And of course there are accessories you’ve never heard of before that you’ll need.

    2. Although I’ve started entire hobbies from a single well-written book I picked up (with better luck than you had in today’s blog), it really helps joining a group of others doing the same thing. Their first-hand, on the spot experience is invaluable. Even when they do something wrong, you learn something.

    3. I consider the internet to be the most significant invention of my generation, and it is a wonderful resource. No matter how obscure your hobby, there’s information online! And if you can’t join a local group to practice your new hobby, there are online forums where you can interact with those who more experienced. The Pyramyd Airgun Blog is a great example!


  7. Yep, I have an observation that my friends roll their eyes every time they hear it. That is, every new hobby will cost your a $1000.00 dollars, even if one is thrifty. That is a minimum. Reloading, shooting, photography, golf, hunting, you name it.
    I am glad you found the bible of sharpening. I use dry oilstones, and japanese waterstones that are hydrated and I can tell you sharpening goes way faster! I have discovered from an antique store of stones that have been boiled in petroleum jelly, they work beautifully.

    Sharpening is nearly a lost art, few have patience to master it. I was interested in Japanese woodworking tools and learned that an apprentice has to learn to sharpen tools for 7 years before they can be trusted to use them?! Anyway, each day begins with sharpening, so does a shaving routine. My belief is that its a good meditation to start the day. A cut is my reminder to have patience.


  8. B.B.,
    Great post; you are spot on; the bevels have to meet!
    At work, I am “the guy” that people come to with their dull knives; they leave them on my desk, and I sharpen them at lunchtime. But the first thing I do it to take a 12X magnifier and check the bevels on it. Like is there just one set that meets? Or are there two that don’t (maybe a 20 degree set in the center that meets but is dull, and a 15 degree set outside of that, just like in your diagram, that does not meet at all)? I have two sets of Spyderco ceramic stones that I bought over 25 years ago. The medium stone (gray) is 15 micron and the fine (white) is 6 micron (grit wise, that would be an Ansi rating of about 550 for the medium and 1200 for the fine). These stone have sharpened hundreds of knives over the years. I use them dry, using a circular motion on alternate sides, and I use my index finger to put light pressure downward on the spine of the blade as I work the edge. Ceramics are great! They will cut the hardest steel. When I flew up to visit my brother, his wife was complaining that all her kitchen knives were dull; I had no sharpening stones with me, but my brother had a bunch of tile he was about to lay down, so I used the back of one of the one-foot-square ceramic tiles to sharpen all of my sister-in-laws knives. It made her happy, which worked out well for my brother…happy wife, happy life! =D
    Anyway, this has been a really interesting series; keep up the great work, B.B.!
    take care & God bless,
    dave


  9. BB,

    I’ve really enjoyed this series so far. Having retired some 3 years ago (or having been retired by my last employer – one of American industries’ dirty little secrets), I now have the luxury of shaving once per week. Well, I never had a heavy beard and so am satisfied with the ole safety razor. But a sharp pocket knife, now that’s of critical importance in my life! What I may have missed in your series or hasn’t been mentioned, is other than the spine of the razor used as a guide, is there any trick for holding the knife or axe blade at a consistent angle for the thinning operation and then the honing operation?

    Fred formerly from the DPRoNJ


    • Fred,

      Yes, I did address that in Part 1. In fact, the drawing in that part addresses this very issue. Without the spine it would be very difficult to sharpen a razor well.

      Holding the knife is the trick. I suggested putting multiple layers of electrical tape on the back of the blade, but I have sharpened knives freehand and gotten them arm-hair shaving sharp.

      B.B.


  10. B.B.,

    It is humbling to be reminded how misinformed we can be about a subject because “we don’t know what we don’t know”. The gaps in our knowledge tend to be filled with stuff of our imaginings based on what we do think we know…and that can be really wrong. I’ve got that t-shirt.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful, useful, and entertaining exercise. No shortcuts to enlightenment!

    Walt


  11. I know it’s been said before, but it needs repeating…BEST DARN BLOG ON THE INTERNET!!
    Really B.B,..it is. One of the things I really appreciate is the civility shown here by everyone. This is one of the few blogs I let my boys read (now 14 and 16…god time flies) knowing nothing has to be censored, or bad manners put up with.
    Kudos!!



    • Cowboystar Dad,

      I must lead a very “sheltered” blog life. You mean to tell me that they are not all conducted in this manner? I would put up with nothing less,.. and I do not even have kid’s to worry about. I do suppose that the matter speaks directly to the blogs monitor(s) ethics and standards. High indeed.


      • Yeah, I’ve been on few forums and blogs that are downright unpleasant…and I’ve got a pretty thick skin.
        One ‘ourdoorsman’ blog in particular is so bad that I won’t let my sons go on it…the backstabbing and namecalling is atrocious.
        We are lucky to have this place to come to.


  12. BB,

    Have you managed to impart, as you flit among these new forums, any nuggets of air gunning wisdom to your new found and clean shaven buddies ? It’s only fair that you should be able to suck some of them into this hobby.


  13. B.B.,
    again, interesting stuff right there. As I said on Pt 1 or 2, I use the normal 4-5 blade disposable head razor on the weekends and a electric foil head razor through the week. The 4 blade gives me a very close smooth shave, but I can’t use it everyday due to shaving rash, ingrown whiskers and so on. I don’t plan on using a straight razor, but, after reading some forums, I did buy a metal old style safety razor and some blades made in Germany for it. Well it didn’t do well at all! Wasn’t smooth and did cut me in places. Even with those types, I guess there still is a certain way to shave.
    Doc.



      • BB

        Ever tried a Rolls Razor? I have one but the coarse stone is missing from the “sled” strop.They have a high quality appearance but are not expensive on second hand market. Don’t think they are made anymore but not sure. I have shaved with it and think it is better than most safety razor shaves. Shaving the chin is a challenge however.

        Decksniper


  14. I remember the Trading Places scene. “You do this technique and a quart of blood drops out of their body.” And then, the amazing Bruce Lee faces. That movie is a classic with so many memorable lines: “Hey, hey, hey, who is putting their coals out on my curtains.” I think the theory behind the 1905 book, because of the predominance of straight razors at the time, was basically sound, but you wanted a bit more verification. The importance of time-context is proven by Jack Dempsey’s boxing manual, published in 1950, in which he says that all the high-level boxing techniques had been completely forgotten. And that was still when boxing was a major sport. What can be said about today’s version which has declined so much? A read of Dempsey’s book and some observations will convince you that he was right. His techniques are on a level with any martial art style I have ever encountered, but even he had to discriminate. As he says of his learning phase that started in the mining camps of the West, “Like a human blotter on two legs, I soaked up all the information I could and discarded what seemed wrong.”

    I’ve read John Juranitch’s book and bought his kit. His theory of using stones dry is a little unusual, but I think it depends on the type of stone. You can probably make this work with most stones but not the Japanese water stones which are intended to be used wet and are supposed to be the best. On the subject of credentials, I’m siding with the method used to sharpen the famous samurai swords. I had some success with Jurnaitch’s kit, but I was ultimately disillusioned by his tool which he claimed would produce a guaranteed straight edge. It’s a device that clamps on the back of the knife and by adjusting screws can produce a desired angle between the edge and the surface as the knife rests on its side. The trouble is that this only works for an absolutely straight edge. It is useless and even counterproductive with a curved edge, such as the axes he shaves with, which need a more complicated sharpening motion.

    I understand the concept about the bevels, but my question was how to check that the bevels are meeting. And the answer is a microscope! I guess my 10X magnifying glass won’t do, but it’s nice to know that I can get a high power more cheaply. Between that and my dressing stone, I have high hopes for my sharpening. Thanks.

    Michael, thanks for your information about the the whine-wine merger. Now, I have found a name for my pain. Reflecting a bit more, I’m actually not against the correct and standard use of grammar as in most of your examples and B.B.’s. Something that is wrong like “your” instead of “you’re” is just wrong and there’s no other way to see it. I also particularly dislike the incorrect use of commas. I don’t necessarily believe in putting a comma wherever you possibly can, the so-called Oxford method, but I’m quite against using commas in the wrong place, just for effect. When I taught writing, I emphasized to the students that the use of commas is tied to sentence type–compound, complex, compound-complex–whose subordinate clauses map out the logic of the thought. Style is not just about sounding good but is anchored in thought. But I’m suggesting that grammar, especially some of the more esoteric rules, should be seen in the context of the history of the English language, especially the irony that English developed as a hybrid language whose strength has been its flexibility and directness.

    There apparently is a concept called linguistic determinism which speculates about how language from the level of words up to whole languages, determines thought. This is something of an irresolvable question about the distinction between the subject and the object, but it seems unlikely that there is no influence of language upon thought which in turn leads to large implications. Whose to say that the simple Roman alphabet, like the engineering achievements of that same culture, didn’t have to do with its great historical contributions? And whose to say that English, with its directness and flexibility, didn’t play a role in the influence of English culture, Protestant Bible reading, and ultimately democracy. This is plausible when compared with more complex systems like Chinese which require years of memorization and study or languages whose grammar is so complex that it doesn’t lead to innovation (although it does produce societies with a terrific ethic of education). Whatever the key ingredients of English, grammar is probably not one of them since there seems to be broad agreement that English grammar is something of a mess that is full of exceptions, probably traceable to its hybrid history.

    As for the American Dream, it makes sense to me that its roots must go back to the Revolution which was about as wild a dream at the time as you could think of and not something to bet on. After that, it took some turns that would seem strange today. I believe there was a plan to expand southward into South America to create a single cotton-growing empire that was pursued by “filibusters” with some persistence. That didn’t work out but the western expansion did under the label of Manifest Destiny. I don’t get the sense that the American Dream was so focused on the individual except for a frontier sense of “get of my land.” There was 40 acres and a mule in the post-Civil War era. I think it would be interesting to analyze when the phrase “American Dream” first appeared. 1931 sounds like about the right time when the country had assumed its modern outline and people had time to reflect.

    That’s good to have all of your historical resources available. My idea of history at the moment is trying out my hobnailed jackboots. Very interesting, and I believe I may even have figured out how to modify them for use on modern polished surfaces! You just attach a few o-rings to the sole. I first encountered o-rings in shooting, and they say that some of the most powerful inventions are a repurposing of things designed for another purpose rather than creating something original. The o-rings are attached with a product called Shoe Goo which is sort of an adhesive that is also a matrix for building up and replacing shoe soles. I’m still testing, but so far the system is working.

    Matt61


  15. My Air Arms rifle has started making a whistling sound when I try to fill it from my air tank.

    Is the fix just a matter of replacing the 2 visible O-rings on the fill port ?


  16. B.B.,

    Fine follow up on the series. To me, sharpening the every day carry knife is of most interest. You have put forth a variety of options and methods, all of which should apply to an every day carry. My quandary, or question, is how does one determine what angle is currently on the knife that they may carry?

    First, knowing that, would assist in optimal sharpening in the shortest amount of time. Second, being able to maintain that angle, during sharpening, would seem to be crucial. Now you did say that the exact angle is less crucial, rather that it is more important the 2 angles meet equally.

    An interesting tool, maybe very crude, is a fish hook sharpener, found in the fishing section. Diamond embedded, needle like in appearance, retracts into a handle, 8 1/2″ extended. I find it very easy to put a push stroke on a blade as well as a pull/strop stroke. Use it like you would a file. The “feel” is very nice. For a strop, for now, I just use the belt I wear, back side,.. no compound.

    The resting of the blade was mentioned in a past blog in the comment section. To me, it seems like that is splitting hairs on technique/theory and I would like to see that proven/shown.

    At any rate, this has been a very informative series. I will be pursuing other sharpening methods in the future, solely applied to carry knives though.

    Chris


    • If you would like to see some stuff “up close” regarding straight razor edges…..check out “Dr.Matt” on youtube
      as he shows great 900x magnification stills throughout his videos.
      As for resting blades……this came from the Dovo razor company……one of precious few still in the world.Cutting whiskers is equal to cutting copper wires of same diameter.
      As for “splitting hairs’,that is precisely the goal.My razors when hovered 1/2” above my arm cut every hair they touch.You might guess that an edge that thin and fine is also very hard and therefore brittle.
      Sure,you can strop whenever you want…..but the cumulative effect is an edge that would not need honing again for 6mos needs honed in 2 to remove these microchips that cause tugging.
      FWIW the edge in my picture post is magnified only 400x……I forgot to caption it.


    • Hi Chris…..here is an easy way to “read” the established angle of your EDC.Take a piece of paper and lay it on a plate,a glass table or similar.Lay your blade flat on it and lift the spine a tiny bit at a time.Each time you raise it come foreward an inch or so on the paper.You are looking for the point where the edge begins to grab on the paper.When you find it,take a good look at it in relation to the height of the spine.There is your grind angle.When you get on a hone or sharpening stone that is the maximum spine height where the blade’s cutting edge will make contact.(if you really pay attention the blade will totally feel different if you are too high)


  17. BB
    I know you have done bunches of blogs.

    But have you done a blog yet using one gun or maybe even two guns. One a springer and one a PCP. Both with a reputation of fairly good accuracy.

    Then test them both with the artillery hold and other types of holds. Have you done a blog like that? If not I would like to see you do a blog about that.



    • BB

      Me too, Gunfun1

      A comparison of a FWB 300 with a quality sport PCP at 25 yards comes to mind. You have already said, I think, that a springer can have equal accuracy potential to a PCP, except for the vibration issue. This test may help market both types.

      Decksniper


      • Decksniper
        Yep on almost every thing you said.

        But can’t be a FWB 300 or a Diana 54 Air King.

        Needs to be a Air Arms Tx Mrklll or something similar on the springer for the comparison.

        The recoil slide system on the 300 and 54 is a unfair advantage for them over other spring guns.

        Now maybe a 124 or a HW30s could be used as the springer in the test. But really something more like a HW50s or the Tx would be good.

        But it would be nice to see some 25 yard targets with different holds on various known good shooting guns.

        Then I would like to see another person that BB knows shoot those same guns with the artillery hold and maybe that person’s favorite hold.

        Maybe even try that other person’s known good shooting guns with different holds. Then see what BB gets with that person’s guns.

        I think that would be a very interesting report.

        Bet it will boil down to what is comfortable for the shooter. Maybe I’m jumping the gun so to speak on that part. But would definitely open some eye’s I bet.



          • Decksniper
            They have. That’s what that stop shock system is. BB did a test with a gun that had it. But I don’t think it did very well if I remember right.

            The 300 and 54 slide system are similar. There is dowel pins the action slides on. The 54 has rubber cushions. The 300 doesn’t. But I do have o-rings on the pins on my 300.

            So basically a built in artillery hold. That’s why I mentioned not to use the 300 or 54 in the comparison of holds with a spring gun and pcp.

            So going off the idea of the slide recoil system. BB’s artillery hold should win out on a springer or pcp. But a actual test will tell the tale.


            • Gunfun1

              I have several springers, some metal and some gas. Most of my medium power (over 700 fps with lead pellets) metal springers are more accurate with some type of artillery hold unless the trigger is awful. There are exceptions like my Diana 34 which does not care how I hold it so I put it on a sandbag and touch the gun only with my trigger finger and thumb. No heart beats wiggling the cross hairs on the target.

              The same can be said of my gas springers but the difference is less and may be harder to prove. My Hatsun 95 Vortex with the right pellet is as accurate as my Diana and I rest it directly on the bag. My Stoeger ATAC does well with a heavy recoiling firearm hold.

              Testing would be very interesting to me. Also would be exhausting to do unless the exceptions to norm can be managed

              Decksniper


  18. B.B.,

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this series on how to sharpen a straight razor.

    I was the first to comment in Part 1 in this series wherein I confessed my passion and path to sharpening and fully expected ridicule for the the obsessive lengths to which I’ve followed this interest. It was in that first comment in Part 1 of this series that I linked to the article by John A. Juranitch (you misspelled his name twice in the article above) on the basics of sharpening. Eliminating oil from my stones was a great leap in my learning curve as well.

    Rather than ridicule and mockery I’m stunned that so many bloggers have embraced and are expressing a genuine interest in How To Sharpen! You even got Frank B out of the shadows!

    For those bloggers, many of whom are perplexed on how to consistently control the angle on your implement during sharpening, I would suggest a sharpening system.

    The WARTHOG knife sharpener is adjustable for various angles and requires little time. If you can devote just a little more time to your sharpening needs get a LANSKY knife sharpening system. For a small fraction of the cost a LANSKY can rival the WICKED EDGE knife sharpening system. If you opt for the Lansky system get a basic kit, buy the mount that uses 4 screws, mount it on a board and don’t use the oil that comes with the kit. If you want to take sharpening to the next level buy (on ebay) the additional grit stones (including diamond stones) and strops that Lansky makes for their systems.

    Here’s a good overview of the basic Lansky system:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZlI5PaXsfOk



      • B.B.,

        You are absolutely correct. I should have been clearer but since you are now entering the P.H.D. level of sharpening I didn’t elaborate on water stones.

        I soak my Japanese water stones in water before each use and flatten them in running water after 2 or 3 uses.

        kevin


    • Kevin,

      Thank you for that link, and other recommendations. I have seen the Lansky system for sale, but had 0 clue as to how it worked,… no ones fault but my own. I like the control it gives and removing some of the guess work.

      I am into cooking and remember seeing a show where a fellow offered a sharpening service out his van. He had a couple of upright bench belt sanders and maybe some other stuff. Still, that is free hand, much like a stone. I do agree, for the average home Joe that appreciates a sharp edge, a “system” seems to be the answer. I will pursue further.


      • Chris,

        Glad the link helped. I like the Lansky system. Even for a moron like me it’s idiot proof. I like that you can add finer stones, even ceramic and you can buy strops that work in the Lansky system. The Lansky system makes it very easy to create a secondary edge then put on a primary edge. I’ve learned the enormous benefits of double edging a knife.

        I like to cook too. Can’t stand to use a dull knife. A dull knife is a dangerous thing.


      • Chris
        You just reminded me of how this straight razor series started that BB is doing.

        The technique of doing something by hand and not depending on a machine.

        Although I do sharpen at work by hand. And also use machines that I control by feel that sharpen cutting tools.

        We bought cnc sharpening machines at the other place I worked. We found out real quick that we could sharpen the cutting tools on manual machines to work better than the machine don’t ng all the work.

        But the big thing was the skill of the manual machines sharpener. Some people get it and do good. And we’ll others try and and definitely not so good.

        No matter even if your taught. You still have to comprehend and be able to apply. That’s it. Plain and simple.


  19. My sharpening two cents involves the symbiotic relationship that knives and pencils share. As the knife transforms the that simple stick of wood and graphite into a useful tool invariably some of the graphite finds its way into the pivot point providing the necessary lubrication all folding knives on occasion need. I read this in a book I think was titled tools and it has stuck with me ever since and I think about it every time I sharpen a pencil.


  20. B.B.,

    Off-topic, but every excellent teacher should hear how much good his or her work has done for the student. Educators need to know the difference they make.

    I spent much of the late morning and early afternoon today in the backyard shooting from 15 yards at paper rather than spinners from 20 yards, my usual, with a youth air rifle I bought on a lark, a Gamo Recon G2 Whisper. It cocks very lightly and shoots smoothly, but the trigger’s second stage is creepy and stiff. Still, it’s a decent spinner-hitter from the patio.

    Anyway, I was getting disappointing groups on the paper, so I experimented with my hold as you do with yours. I had been doing open palm right in front of the triggerguard as a default. So I closed my palm into a snug (but not super-tight) grip. The groups shrank about a quarter inch. Then, I went back to an open palm but right at the muzzle end of the cocking slot.

    Bingo! Ten-shot groups one could cover entirely by a dime. And that’s three groups in a row except for one bad shot when I got a little tired.

    Thank you, Godfather, for passing on your wisdom. :^)

    Michael



      • Gunfun1,

        Just in from the patio, and here’s what I have to report.

        I tried two 10 shot groups each with three different pellets. At just 15 yards, this air rifle doesn’t seem to favor one pellet over another, but the hold makes a measurable difference with each pellet. The pellets were 1. some kind of lightweight (between 7 and 8; I don’t have the tin near my computer) lead Gamos, Hobbys and Crosman Premier Lights from the box.

        Yesterday I got the best results by resting the stock on my open palm forehand out at the muzzle end of the cocking slot. It was significantly better than anything, snug or flat palm, closer to the trigger guard. Today I shot each pellet 10 shots that same way, and all were decently tight except for a couple sloppy shots (not genuine fliers, I just lost my concentration momentarily).

        Then I tried yet another hold. I held the forearm snugly (but not super tight) at the muzzle end of the cocking slot. It was difficult for me not to get excited because all the shots went into the same three holes. I do not shoot like that! Each group was between 1/3 and 1/2 of an inch. I did shoot five more shots of Hobbys the same way but with my off-hand cradling the end of the forearm, but they opened up a lot. I suppose my hand was impeding the forward recoil too much that way.

        Next weekend I would like to get back out there, mount a scope and see what happens at 25 yards, which is both the absolute limit of my backyard and probably of an air rifle this low-powered. To get that distance I’ll have to move not just my backstop and target all the way back to the berm, but I’ll also have to move my bench off of the patio to the corner of the house.

        Oh, and a postscript. Last night I put a few drops of light silicone oil in the slot around the trigger and let the air rifle sit upside down on its shot tube. Now it’s just one long but smooth, very light pull, which is better than it was before. I like two stages, but the second one was too heavy for me to control well/consistently. (Yep, I did smack the butt with a my rubber mallet twice to verify it’s safe.)

        Michael


        • Michael
          That is excellent news with the different hold today. But I think the best news of all is you did try several different holds and was able to see a distinct difference.

          And I did check out the gun on the Pyramyd Air page. Cool little gun. And I seen it says that it shoots at 750 fps which is a real good velocity for 25 yards or more even. But I wonder if Gamo is rating that with light weight pellets and not lead. From the cocking force of 19 pounds I think it said. It sounds like they did rate the velocity with light weight pellets. So maybe your at around 600 or so for with lead. Which is still good for 25 yards.

          And got to ask. It says it comes with a green dot sight. Did you use the green dot sight or the regular open sights the gun came with?

          And can’t wait to hear what happens but when you get it scoped. Heck the weight of the scope might change the guns shot cycle. You might need a different hold when you scope it. You know.


          • Gunfun1,

            I’ll let you know Saturday. I’d guess it probably shoots Crosman Premier Lights at about 600-625 fps. Good point about the weight of the scope. I have a 4X UTG/Leapers Bugbuster to put on it. I left the red dot in the box. Maybe I’ll put it on a CO2 pistol. It must have some droop because I have the sight really high.

            The shot cycle isn’t rough, but I now realize it isn’t smooth, either. It’s medium, but it is very quick because of the short piston stroke and low power, and the sight picture returns to the bull. When I pull the trigger, the Recon G2 makes a very short, brief “BING!” It is not ultra-quiet. I asked my wife to shoot it into the ground as I stood about 15 feet away, and while I heard no sound from the muzzle, I could clearly hear that “BING.”


            • Michael
              I usually have my daughter’s shoot the guns and listen like you said. Plus I watch what the gun does when they shoot. What surprised me was how well I can see how different guns recoil. You should have your wife shoot some of your guns and watch what the guns do.

              But yep let me know how it goes Saturday.


        • Michael

          Very interested in what happens next Saturday. Getting the same results on repeat performances can sometimes make my day. Also can be frustrating. POI changes so much on some springers with seemingly minor hold adjustments. Now Gunfun1 reminds that mounting a scope may change the harmonics. Another variable and I’m notorious for switching scopes.

          Decksniper


          • Decksniper,

            Given how expensive scopes are, I can see why folks get quick release/attach rings and move the same scope from air rifle to air rifle. That Bugbuster cost me considerably more than the air rifle!

            Michael



        • Decksniper
          Yep repeat performance is sometimes harder than you can imagine. Then turn around and shoot the same gun on a different day and groups will be totally amazing compared to the not so good group from the day before.

          When you find a gun that can shoot good and repeat that day after day is a gun you better hold onto. In my case my modified FWB 300.

          But yep will be interesting to see what Michael gets this weekend. I really am waiting for his results.


  21. You guys and your razors !!
    I had to shave every day for 20 years . When I retired, I let my hair and whiskers grow for a year .
    One morning, I looked in the mirror and saw Tommy Chong looking back . I shaved, but then saw one of my sisters looking back in the mirror . So I got a haircut too .

    Since then, I use a trimmer to clip my whiskers when they look too bad, and only get a haircut when I can’t stand it anymore .

    tt


    • TT, I started shaving at 10 or 11, and as an adult, if I have a dept. meeting in the late afternoon, I do a little touch up with a cordless Philips in my office first.

      Michael



        • TT, I’m right with you on this! Just one question: How did you manage to get to retirement age and only have to shave every day for 20 years? I figure I had to put in double that.
          Larry in Algona



            • Man oh man! If I only had it to do all over again – I would have gone into the AF instead of the Corp. The USMC was OK in a support function during Nam (if you weren’t a grunt) but it got all Mickey Mouse when things got peaceful. I could only take 10 years of that, so no retirement there. I did learn what gave me a career to retire from, tho (computers).
              LMo


              • Larry

                Not an easy life in any branch. You never know where you will go, or what will happen .
                You have to put up with plenty of crap .
                At least, we both made it out alive .
                We are brothers.

                tt


                • TT
                  True. I just recall the opportunities I had to eat in the mess hall at Kadena and seeing the enlisted barracks at the AF base in Thailand when I was living in a tent 50 miles away eating C-Rats – usually cold. I could have put in another 10 and gotten another retirement plus living close to McCord.
                  LMo


                  • Larry

                    Been to Kadena. Good food everywhere.
                    Good food and cold beer can get you through the hard times .

                    Been to Thailand too .

                    Ate C rats after Camille hit the gulf coast in 69 . Korean war vintage. Stationed at Keesler in Miss. Incredibly better than chow hall food.

                    tt


        • TT
          Not retired.

          And still don’t give a rats butt what someone thinks.

          The guys at the machine shop I work at now are a different breed. Most are young clean cut young’n. Good guys I will say though. Some are kind of nerdy. A few with tattoos.

          But I’m one of the only older guys that wears his hair long and don’t shave for two or three days at a time.

          But you ask any of them. They are sure to call me quick about helping them on their machines. And always ready to stand by my side about something.

          Some time us seemingly grumpy old men do know something a time or two.
          😉


    • TT,

      I am with you, though have not yet attained the “glorified” retirement status as of yet. I have a close shaved beard and a pony tail that can easily be caught in my belt, when putting my britches on. From the front, you could never tell it though. Chong huh? Any relation to a Cheech? Not that I would know anything about those references though mind you,.. just sayin’. 😉



        • TT,

          Only a guess, but I would assume that response is from one of their movies? At any rate, been there, done that, and as life has carried on, I can definitely see where the military has a lot to offer on getting out and retiring early. A (well) earned reward. No doubt though, like has been discussed, you never know what you will end up in or where you will be. Still, it would seem to me that if someone could get themselves positioned in a good position(s), it seems very well worth it. A (big) thanks to all that have served and currently doing so.


          • Chris

            Getting in a “good” position is not always very easy…or possible.
            I have the greatest respect for all my brothers and sisters in all branches . And in all the generations who have come and gone. We are family.

            tt



  22. Ok, thanks.

    I googled that and someone posted in a mechanics forum “It stayes everywhere you put it. If you put some on a work bench and hit it with a hammer it will stay beetween the hammer and the bench. Most other greases will fly out everywhere.”

    I’m thinking maybe that’s why it works well on air gun springs, it stays put.


  23. For anyone interested, my laptop stopped showing the regular icons besides the names and has now gone to generic “little peoples”, (along with all of the others that have had the same thing occur.) Everything else seems fine. Another computer side note, for those that have HP’s, the most recent update is having issues and will load, update 100% and then promptly unload. I have HP Smart friend, which is a paid service (for dummies like me) and the representative said that it is a Microsoft issue and they hope to have a fix in 2-3 weeks. In the meantime, he just turned off the update pop ups. The biggest hassle of that was the ability to shut down and start up. Just some FYI.



    • Chris
      If anything it’s got the looks going for it.

      Performance is another thing. Let’s see what happens if BB or someone gets their hands on one when they come out.

      Interesting for sure. But got to see how the lead hits the paper and if it’s reliable. That’s what will tell the story.


      • GF1,

        The got the looks and the added goodies right. If they can do anything more, it would be to invest in a premium barrel maker. That would be a home run. Of course, with the way they are going, they are already on top of that, (their own or other’s)… if it was my guess. Just my opinion.


        • Chris
          At least they are going beyond the ordinary and taking a chance.

          I love seeing new air guns come out.

          One of these days the manufacturers will surprise me and make something I didn’t know I wanted. 🙂


          • GF1,

            That is the Holy Grail of sales,…. invent something that people (think) that they can’t live without,.. and then promo and sell the crap out it. Like you said, they seem to be reaching out further than the majority. I am not sure, but they could be “the one” to watch out for, (for other air gun makers).

            In the end, and perhaps more importantly, (at the start),…. great 10 shots groups at a respectable yardage (with lead pellets) ought to be the out front promotion. Up to that point,.. it is just another new offering. I will never understand how a maker can promote and sell something and know that it is crap straight out of the box. Oh,.. wait,… Profit! 😉 But at what cost?


            • Chris
              I have had several different Hatsan guns.

              Pcp’s, springers and gas rams.

              To me they are on a mission. They are always trying to step up the game. Every gun I got was what could be expected of it.

              Right now the semi-auto pcp’s they are making is the guns to watch. From what I seen they are FX related it ain’t funny. If they do well they will for sure be a hit for their price that Hatsan is selling them for compared to the price of FX guns.

              The only thing I see is FX is making sales if Hatsan is truly using FX products. Which is very high end air guns.


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