04-18-2012, 03:17 AM
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NOTE: This is a copy of a post I put up on ArtisanShaving.org. I have since used this technique with every kamisori I own, and I've had excellent results. Also, please note that I've been using kamisori for years, so I've honed many of them. Smile


There have been many threads started about honing these kamisori - the Japanese uneven-grind razors.

Recently, a few threads on another site made me rethink my honing procedure for these razors, which is the inspiration for this thread.


First some background on these razors, for those who are not familiar with them.

Japanese kamisori are uneven grind razors. Western-style razors have an even grind, like this one (of a Japanese-made western-style razor):

[Image: IMG_4112.jpg]

'Traditional' kamisori have an uneven grind, as shown here:

[Image: Kamisorigrind.jpg]
(The attribution for this pic is unclear. It seems that Takeshi at Aframestokyo showed this to someone, but I don't know who owns the pic. If someone knows who owns the rights to it, please let me know.)

Not only is the grind on these razors uneven, but the 'real good' steel is only a fine sliver, that can be seen as the darker sliver in the first part of that pic. The rest of the razor is made with lower-grade steel that's also pretty soft. Most importantly: that steel does not ever form a part of the shaving edge.

The uneven grind leads to all sorts of discussions and arguments when it comes to honing and shaving.

As you can see from that pic, one side is more hollow than the other. Traditionally, the hollow side is stamped with the makers mark and other information.

[Image: IMG_3231.jpg]

They have traditional Japanese names 'Ura' for the stamped side, and 'Omote' for the unstamped side. I just refer to them as the hollow side and wedge side. =)

One thing most people agree on is that you don't do an equal number of strokes on both sides of the razor. You're supposed to hone more on the wedge side, than on the hollow side.

It's the specifics that cause some disagreement. When you read about it online, you'll see people suggesting ratios of 10:1, 7:1, 5:1 and all other sorts of ratios. However, most people will settle for saying that you should spend more time honing on the wedge side than the hollow side.

Recently, I saw a thread that mentioned Jim Rion's post on his blog about a honing lesson that he got from Iwasaki-San and Mizuochi-San, where they essentially used a 2:1 ratio, and mentioned that doing otherwise causes really uneven wear on the razor. Read about it here: http://easternsmooth.com/blog/jim-rion/2...ned-part-1

Now, that tallied with what I was thinking - not just because of the hone wear issue, but also because doing very few strokes on the hollow side meant that the bevel on that side (small as it is) didn't get polished enough ------- it's something like shaving with a western razor with one side polished on your coticule, but the other side still sporting the scratches from your DMT 1500 Sad .

So, I thought I'd give their method a go on a razor that I've never got to shave properly.


The razor in question is a Tosuke......but an unusual one. Most of these kamisori are smallish and have edges that are about 1.5" long. This one is larger (about 7/8" wide, and the edge is over 2" long!!

[Image: IMG_4156.jpg]

[Image: IMG_4157.jpg]

However, it had a bit of a frown when I got it.

I usually assume these have the bevel set when I get them, and so I only polish the edge, but that didn't work on this razor. I've never got a decent shave from it (unsurprisingly!).

So, I decided to start from scratch.

Here are my tools:

[Image: IMG_4155.jpg]

From the left: a DMT 1200 for setting the bevel, and a 10x loupe below that (to keep track of the scratch profile). In the center is the main player - an Oozuku Namito Karasu - very hard, and very fine. At the right we have the slurry stones I used - a kiita slurry stone, and a mejiro nagura under that.

For resetting the bevel I taped the spine. The reason for this is that soft steel I mentioned above...doing chip honing or bevel setting using no tape causes a LOT of wear on the wedge side. That side is not a true wedge, but has a slight hollow. Doing a lot of work on coarse hones on that side causes the wedge side to wear like crazy - I speak from experience.

I did an approximately 2:1 ratio of strokes on the wedge:hollow side. I actually did back-and-forth strokes - 30 on the wedge side, followed by 15 on the hollow side. I kept this up until I was sure that the bevel was properly set.

Then I removed the tape.

[Image: IMG_4158.jpg]

Then I went to the Mejiro nagura.

NOTE: There are coarser nagura that can be used to bridge the gap between the 1500 and the Mejiro. I have Tenjou and Botan nagura, but I skipped them. The Mejiro slurry removes the 1500 scratches quickly enough.

I built a thick slurry with the Mejiro and then did oval strokes in the same 2:1 ratio (approximately). It takes very little time to wipe out the scratches from the 1500. I did some dilutions, but not very seriously. I used a bit of pressure at the edge - using a couple of fingers on the blade. You have to figure out how to best do this yourself ---- just experiment.

I then washed off the hone thoroughly, and wiped the razor clean.

This was followed by honing on a slurry built with the kiita slurry stone. I've used this stone before, and I think the slurry it produces is of a very high quality. I was watching for the break-down of this slurry (it gets positively muddy). This was a more deliberate step - but it was also pretty quick. The ratio used was the same.

After this step, the razor was already popping hairs and passed the HHT at a 3+. I usually stop here, but I decided to maximize the edge on this hone.

In the case of this oozuku, this means finishing on plain water. So, the hone was thoroughly rinsed and the razor was rinsed and dried.

I then proceeded to to the same 2:1 ratio on the hone - using oval strokes (as for every step prior to this). Finally, I did 'regular X strokes' - with a difference (as suggested by Jim Rion in that post).

What I did is depicted below:

[Image: honingsequence001.jpg]

A stroke on the wedge side was done down the whole length of the hone, followed by flipping the razor and doing a shorter stroke off to one side. This effectively retains the 2:1 ratio, because of the different lengths of the strokes (even though the number of strokes is the same).

This polished the edge to an excellent HHT score. I then palm-stropped (no stropping on leather). I am used to palm-stropping, so this was no problem for me.

NOTE: Even with this more-even ratio, you can see that the bevel size is not equal. The pics of the razor above are from after the honing session.


Today, I shaved with the razor.

Prep was my usual hot shower. I used a Vie-Long horsehair brush (review on that item coming up) to build a lather in an SRD scuttle using Alraz's Bodega cream.

I shaved much later than usual, so I had a pretty serious growth of hair - no cheating on that end.

The shave was probably the best shave I've received from a kamisori. It was smooth, and close, and extremely comfortable.

I use both sides of the razor while shaving. I adjust the angle of the blade when doing this, but it has always come naturally to me, so I don't even think about it.

One WTG pass later, and I was already presentable (except on my upper lip). However, I did my usual two-pass shave + touch-ups. It was pretty amazing.

The application of Stephan's Island Lime AS splash gave me a warm tingly feeling, but no real sting. As I write this, my face is still nice and smooth, even ATG.


The shave was good enough for me to decide to try this again. I will hone each of my other kamisori razors using this 2:1 ratio. They're all shave-ready, and shave smoothly, but I want to see what effect this protocol has on their edges. I'll do this one at a time, so I'll have a good idea of whether it's actually working. Smile


39 1,750
 04-18-2012, 06:25 AM
  • Johnny
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  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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This was a very interesting read and I learned about a razor that I've never heard of.


189 26,344
 04-18-2012, 09:50 PM
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Great to see the article, here, Yohann. Great job, sir!

93 21,373
 04-19-2012, 09:44 AM
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Johnny -

Sine you've given up shaving with straights, it's probably too late for you to try one, but I really like Kamisori. They're really different from traditional symmetric straights, and they really shave well.

(04-18-2012, 06:25 AM)Johnny Wrote: Yohann,

This was a very interesting read and I learned about a razor that I've never heard of.


(04-18-2012, 09:50 PM)celestino Wrote: Great to see the article, here, Yohann. Great job, sir!

Thanks, Celestino. I thought it would be nice to have it here, just in case anyone is interested. Smile

It's interesting that since I started using this new ratio (for me), the shaves with the kamisori have really been smoother than they used to.

People always stress how sharp and unforgiving a kamisori edge can be, and I think this is because of a lack of polishing of the bevel on the hollow side. Think of all those ridges there (left by the coarse hones). Sad

39 1,750
 04-19-2012, 12:25 PM
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That's an excellent article, i hone a fair few razors, but as of yet dont own or have never honed a Japanese Kamisori razor, but looking at it and reading what you are saying and being a Carpenter by trade and over the years i have forgotten how many chisels i've sharpened, and those Kamisori razors remind me very much of the way i would sharpen a chisel, but the obvious noticeable difference being the chisels had a very straight cutting edge, and the Kamisori a uneven bevel, got me thinking not to sure how i would approach this one?


17 2,183
 04-19-2012, 01:06 PM
  • GreekGuy
  • Not saving money yet....
  • La Jolla, CA
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Very interesting article Yohann. This is only further spiked my interest in these razors

9 541
 04-19-2012, 01:07 PM
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Jamie -

They're pretty much the same grind as chisels. In fact, most kamisori have pretty even bevels. There's always some waviness, given that they're hand-made, but they're usually pretty consistent.

The Tosuke shown in the OP is atypical, in that the bevel was really a problem. I got it to work, but not to look pretty. Smile


As I mention above, people are divided as to how much more the wedge side needs to be honed over the hollow side. Some people swear by a 7:1 ratio, others by 10:1, etc. That works fine, as long as the scratches on the hollow side are taken care of. I prefer this ~2:1 ratio.

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