In the last week I’ve been thinking about tape on the spine of a razor. The general conclusion is that you can use it for a couple of thing:
- Save the spine some hone wear when you have to work out a chip or have to fix a frown.
- Prevent scratches on the spine of the razor.
However, nobody seems to talk about another use for tape, and that’s strengthening the edge. For some razors this is the only way to prevent them from collapsing after 1 pass.
There are some honers that say tape is not traditional and they are right. In the “old days” they didn’t use and tape to strengthen the edge. They all held up fine when in use and they were honed often on the same hones we still use today. So why are we using it now then?
Let’s take a look at older hones. When you find an old Coticule for example, more often than not it will be dished. This will result in a convex edge of some sort that will be a lot stronger than the pure and crisp V-bevels we use now.
Now I won’t purposefully dish my stones because it’s helpful on some razors. I keep my stones flat because I also use them for knives and I like the crisper edge more myself.
When to use tape
In a lot of razors, tape won’t be necessary, but some really do need it in my opinion. Sure you can get by without, but micro chipping will appear and your edge will collapse during the shave.
Some stones (like the 16k Glass stone) also may need taped razors because they are so fast and aggressive that they might cut through the bevel. For this I’m borrowing Tom Blodgett’s pictures of a Klas Tornblom razor. You can see his article on these stones HERE
This is the razor honed on Glass stones with 1 layer of tape. I’m sure most of you will see that the edge is pretty clean, yet it didn’t hold up at all because the edge was too thin.
Tom added a second layer of tape, still to find out the edge wasn’t stable and would collapse at the end of the shave. So it did improve, but still it wasn’t good enough. So after he added 3 layers and this is the resulting edge:
Now that ting just looks odd right? Well yes and no. I’ll agree that 3 layers of tape just makes it look odd. If you look at the 3 bevels, you’ll notice why more tape was necessary:
The circled areas are the places where there would be chipping. You can see the deeper scratches and that’s where it would collapse.
After 3 layers, the edge of the edge doesn’t look that much cleaner, but it’s holding up this time resulting in a great shave. Here’s the edge after stropping:
In this case the micro chipping was because of the edge was too thin. Not because there were residual scratches.
I think it’s safe to assume, that with modern hones and modern honing techniques, sometimes tape is a necessity and not only there because of cosmetic reasons.