Hand Tools Archive

Kamisori Stori *PIC*

David Weaver
I hate it when people misspell words to be cute ("kountry kitchen"), etc. so it made me barf a little bit to make the title like that.

Where all of this sharpening stuff really becomes rubber to road is on kamisori.

First, these are the weird little japanese razors that are maintained like a chisel. The have a back hollow, but the back is conceptually considered flat, and the front side has a big hollow on it so that you hone right on the hollow like a hollow grind.

They are superb shavers, but not as practical as a western razor, and there is a lot of hocum surrounding "iwasaki" this or that versions of them. Any made of good steel are about the same if they are the same hardness, and they need the same edge accommodation as anything else.

There was a fellow on the shaving forum who lived in tokyo and when someone asked him "I'm coming to japan and I can't wait to go look at stones and kamisori, where can I find them", and he basically said "well, those are mainly sold as an export good, so you'll find them thin on the ground". As in, they are sold to westerners who get sucked into the japanophile thing as the reality of these things on the ground is they can be bought more cheaply than western used straight razors. I have bought them in groups of 10 or so on buyee for $100. They just need to have the hollow refreshed with a grinder (thank heaven for CBN or I'd have had to come up with some fine abrasive paper wheel on MDF or something at slow speed).

They spark well, so the steel doesn't hold much heat from the grind and even the tiniest of edges maintains supreme hardness on the grinder.

honing them is like anything else thin - get the work done first, worry about the fineness of the edge at the end. Many dawdle in the early steps coddling them and they don't really need it - it's important not to overdo the work at the earlier steps as the faster the hollow is worked into, the harder they get to hone, so I make small bevels as a courtesy.

The purists won't like some parts of this, but I suspect there are few purists except for people who are below my low level and who parrot what they read or hear, and there is a LOT of bad information about sharpening and spookery around japanese tools, badmouthing good tools in some cases, and acceptable practice, and overselling no difference for something favored.

This one had a big nick, though, so it literally went to the IM 313, and then had the hollow refreshed two subsequent times until the nick was gone. medium crystolon - fine india - washita - coticule (lateral move from the washita) - expensive ohira suita and since I learned a trick with the scope yesterday honing hardened steel dry after finishing with a stone the first edge looks like this:

What would normally look rowed with abrasive grooves is now like this, all the way to the end - but the end is acute and this is extremely fragile. Again, I've never heard of using a japanese stone dry, and I think that if I walked this over to the razor forum, it would be much like the unicorn has become in sharpening chisels). the fineness at the edge is approaching an oxide edge.

I have iron oxide on a hard balsa lap, but I need to find another place for it. Based on the effect that David Barnett talked about, it will apparently hone harder steel than its hardness (it will). But the hard balsa lap that's perhaps got some embedded dust and no real improvement. Hardness of the lap leaves a continuing problem - the initial edge is set to get dinged up. I'd like to avoid that.

My trusty go-to to finish these and give them an edge that a novice shaver won't break off on a low quality strop is chrome ox 0.5 micron oxide on a softer balsa lap.

That leaves this (most of the visible lines are oil - it's so hard to get all visible oil off at this magnification). When you look at this picture, you should see "unicorn edge" now.

Set up like this, the razor is super hard steel, but with sharpness near the coated feather blades, except it will hold the sharpness for a while.

I will sell the razor for about a tenth of what one of these costs new and someone will probably still need to buy a more expensive one to find out what I already know - the basic ones are already excellent and there's really no room for improvement.

Additional sharpness will leave a transient edge, and more bluntness may not do the squee-gee-ish type of shave that people are looking for.

These guys have sharp little tips like chisels, and there was a thread on the shaving forum years ago where people passed one around without muted tips. Everyone ended up with cat scratched faces but nobody thought to mute the very end of the tips. I had never sharpened one at the time. One sweep with one and the tips will go right under skin. With the last millimeter or so muted on each end, they'll do no such thing.

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