Recent posts on various forums have always gone in the same direction. They always start with the question: “What do I need for honing razors?” Ninety percent of the replies will consist of “get a barbers hone” or “get a Coticule”. While both are a viable option for maintaining a razor, a thought popped in my head questioning this. Are these really the best options?
Being a Belgian I really should say the Coticule is the best option for maintaining razors… but I feel it is not. Sure it gives a smooth close shave that is preferred by many, but the learning curve is fairly steep and I can get better results with other stones too. So as a basic setup or for somebody who likes the “old school” feel of honing on a Coticule, this is great. But what about us guys who seek more in an edge and want it done fast and precise? Well there are a few synthetic options out there:
1. Naniwa Superstone:
A fairly popular hone due to its relative cheap price and smooth edges it delivers. While the 10k and 12k Superstones deliver a clean and smooth edge, the lower grits are slow and dish fairly fast. The 10 and 12k are by no means fast, but they get an edge smooth and shave ready.
2. Norton 4/8k
Perhaps the most used combination around. Nowadays there’s a tendency to get the Naniwa stones over the Nortons, but a few years ago these were the standard. I don’t like them for the same reasons as I don’t like the Naniwa’s, but these are even slower. The 8k is also too coarse for my liking and doesn’t deliver the same quality a different hone would.
3. Naniwa Chosera
I absolutely love these stones for knives, but for razors the fun ends at 3k in my opinion. The 5k does not deliver the shine it should and it just doesn’t polish. The 10k has the same problem and the jump between 5 and 10k is too big for me. A popular solution is adding an 8k stone. I would choose the 8k Naniwa Snow white for this task. Why this stone is not part of the Chosera lineup is beyond me, but that’s an entirely different matter. Still the 10k is too harsh and is lacking fine polish where the 10k Superstone delivers a smoother finish
So what does deliver performance at each and every level? Please welcome the Shapton Pro stones to the stand!
A full line of stones meant to perform
1. 320 Pro
When restoring blades, most people suggest a DMT diamond plate for getting the work done fast. I agree it sets a bevel very fast, I disagree with the fact it does a good job at it. The scratches are deep and just tears up the edge. Even a well worn plate will leave scratches so deep you won’t get them out fast.
A better option would be the 320 Shapton Pro stone. It’s works fast, doesn’t dish fast like most coarse stones and leaves a much better finish than the diamond plates and sets everything up for a 1k stone.
2. 1k Pro
The Shapton 1k is an odd stone. It’s coarser than its Chosera or Superstone siblings, but it doesn’t matter. I would rate the Shapton at 800 grit, but still leaves a nice finish and if you use a 2 or 3k stone afterwards everything will be fine.
Spending time at lower grits is essential. Often people rush into the 5-8k range without getting the bevel cleaned up. This will result in an edge that’s chipped and a lot of honers will call it “overhoning”. In fact you underhoned at the lover grit levels.
3. 2k Pro
Now things are getting exciting. It’s not super smooth after the 2k, but there is definitely a level of polish already. This stone is essential for your final edge. Any scratches you didn’t remove at this stage, will haunt you at 15k and higher. It’s an absolute nightmare when you realize you have to go back to 2k after 2 hours of honing. So do it right the first time and you won’t go nuts at 15k. I spend triple the time on the 2k than I do on the 8 or 15k stones just to be absolutely sure. Get a 100x scope and make sure everything is cleaned up and the edge is a nice straight line.
4. 5k Pro
Remember when I said the 5k Chosera doesn’t quite polish the way I want? Well this hone solves all your problems. Even though the Shaptons don’t really polish, but replace scratches by finer ones, the edge shines at 5k. This is also the reason you need to go higher than 8k with the Shaptons to get a nice shaving edge. A lot of abrasive material combined with a matrix that doesn’t break down at the sight of steel makes for a hard and precise hone that scratches instead of blending scratches together. Again, you need to spend some extra time to make sure you get everything right. After this stone, the rest of the honing process is a breeze
5. 8k Pro
Now things are really getting interesting. The 8k is often considered “shave ready”. However, when talking about Shaptons it’s not true. Yes you can shave with it if you use a paste or spray after it, but it’s OK at best.
You will notice that the polish is getting cleaner and better. But wait… there are scratches?! Yes there will be scratches. Get used to it. The Shaptons cut, even at the highest levels they cut. But if you look under 100x or 400x you will notice the edge suddenly looks so clean that it’s hard to believe it won’t shave very well. Hang in there, we’re close to the finish line now.
6. 15k Pro
Eureka! When you are done with this stone you will finally be able to shave… That is if you have Cromium Oxide (CrO) in your honing supplies. The 15k Is brilliant. It’s smooth, fast and cleans everything up. After this stone nothing except a quick strop on CrO is needed to get the edge perfect for shaving. After this you can add the 30k stone. I have one, but at $600 it’s hardly a bargain. 0.5µ CBN followed by 0.5µ CrO will get you close to the same result. Close, not the same.
Micro chipping… Overhoning?
Now this is where the most controversy arises. A lot of people say the 15k will leave a frayed edge that suffers from overhoning. As stated before this is in fact “underhoning”. Well the only way to proof it is with pictures, so I used the progression I explained and went insane on the 15k. All pictures were taken at 400x.
Here’s the 15k edge after 60 laps:
The same edge after 90 laps:
It was going slow so I decided to take the next picture at 150 laps:
Still nothing was chipping the edge. So I decided to do 400 laps in total. But if you need 400 laps on the 15k, you really did something wrong in the previous stages. This was for demonstration purposes only.
The Shapton system is the ONLY system that performs fantastic on each and every level. They are good at maintaining a razor and at restoring. They offer precise, reliable and consistent results that can be reproduced each and every time. So there is no guess work like you would have with naturals. They aren’t variable batch to batch and there are no fakes ones out there that I know of.
They don’t cause chipping or other mythical problems on razors either. They just do the job and do it perfectly each and every time.
You can get these stones from Jende Industries. Tom Blodgett is by far the most knowledgeable guy when it comes to Shaptons and he’s also a professional honer.