The use of tape in straight razors

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:

  1. Save the spine some hone wear when you have to work out a chip or have to fix a frown.
  2. 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.

Traditional?

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:

Conclusion

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.

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3 thoughts on “The use of tape in straight razors

  1. You are leaving out a few very simple reasons.

    Spines and edges dot not always wear the same, look at any older heavier Sheffield razor, the spine is much softer than the blade and will wearprematurelyy, or people honed like crap in the past. Your choice of answers, but the HRC tests done in the past show that the spine is softer stuff.

    Which leads to reason number two, many used razors are spine worn yet not edge worn.

    Which leads to reason number three, since most used razors are out of sync because of excessive spine wear and still have plenty of blade left for us to use, doesn’t it make sense that many problems we see in used razors can be solved greatly by a few pennies worth of tape.

    Number four, new honers do not understand the difference of rubbing a razor on a stone and actually honing a razor with the pressure being torqued toward the edge, a few pennies worth of tape solves that easily and save their new spine until they learn.

    Other than those reasons it is the owners choice

    g

    1. Glen,

      You are right about these things. My post was mainly directed to Murray Carter’s method and why he doesn’t need tape. His stones are dished as he never flattens them. He does abrade the high spots more so it’s more or less even, but they will always be dished more.

      I do know framebacks need tape because the frameback is softer, but I haven’t done any HRC testing on my own razors, so I can’t comment on that. Do you have a link about this? I would love to read up on it.

      This was not an article to defend tape. As a matter of fact, most of my razors are honed without, but some are because they are too precious to me and some just have to have tape to make the edge last.

      Regards,
      Michiel

  2. The HRC tests were done back in either late 2007 or early 2008 they are in the SRP archives section…
    There has also been a bit of searching going on for what causes the very steep honing angles on many of the Heavy English blades, there are a ton of ideas but no proof as of yet…
    Anyone that hones the older used Sheffields quickly finds the honing, even with one layer of tape produces a bevel that is at least twice as large as the old one that was in use when the razor was laid to rest way back when. Why? The spines are worn so they wern’t protecting them, but the bevel doesn’t match the spine. Why?
    My thought, was a pasted (yes they knew about pastes back then) loosened loom strop, or a dished stone, don’t know for sure. I think a dished stone would produce a slightly different result. Perhaps we are not looking at wheel style grinders here either, and we should be.
    I also know that if you find an NOS Wedge Style blade that they are very easy to hone, because they are not spine worn.
    I do know that after all the restores I have done over the years, that the most prevalent problem that needs to be solved when it comes to razor geometry, is a worn spine, if a few pennies worth of tape helps to solve that, I am all in.
    The same old tired argument aginst taping has been used for all the years I have been on SRP, it comes down to the bevel angle, it will take decades for that to even come into play, the blade will be almost gone by then.. BUT We never hear about the worn out spine bevel angle problem.
    And on that note
    Have you ever noticed that if a blade has a 1/8 inch chip not one “bevel angle” guy says “Make sure you grind down the spine so it matches” LOL

    Shave On Michiel
    g

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