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Hair-whittling sharp . . . how?

Discussion in 'Maintenance, Tinkering & Embellishment' started by shinbone, May 17, 2018 at 9:43 AM.

  1. shinbone

    shinbone

    33
    Dec 13, 2005
    I have tried multiple times to get my edges hair-whittling sharp, with no luck. I am hoping someone can offer me some guidance.

    I want to get a hair-whittling edge just for fun. I have no practical need for such an edge beyond personal satisfaction.

    I have worked with a few different types of steels, the latest three were S35V, Elmax, and M390. I can get each edge super sharp, but can't whittle hair.

    I use a Buck Honemaster sharpening guide. I know it is old school and there are much fancier sharpening guides available, but the Honemaster works perfectly well for the one angle it is set to.

    I check the bevel with a 20x loupe as I progress. With the loupe, I can see the scratch pattern being successfully refined at each step.

    I start with a progression of DMT diamond hones. I use the hones dry. If I am setting a new bevel, I use the XX Coarse hone, which DMT lists as 120 mesh equivalent. I then progress through all the DMT diamond hones, raising a burr on each side of the blade before moving to the next stone. I end the DMT progression at Extra Extra Fine, which DMT lists as 8000 mesh, or 3 micron, equivalent. I should note that once the edge bevel is set on the XX Coarse diamond hone, I can raise a burr on the subsequent hones pretty quickly, say 10 - 20 strokes per side. This is true even for M4 and CPM 10V steels. I interpret this to mean the hones are cutting quickly and the Honemaster is accurately holding a constant angle.

    Next, I hone the edge with a Spyderco Ultra Fine ceramic stone, which is generally accepted to be about 3 micron equivalent, but it does refine the edge beyond the DMT EEF hone. On the ceramic stone, I use a mixture of water and liquid dish soap to minimize clogging the stone. Again, I raise a burr on both sides with this ceramic stone. Being ceramic instead of diamond, it takes a little longer to raise a burr.

    After the ceramic stone, I strop the blade on flattened basswood strops using DMT diamond paste. I use a trailing-edge motion and go slow with light pressure. Grit progression is 6 micron, then 3 micron, then 1 micron. Again, I check the progression with a 20x loupe, and can see the scratch pattern continually being refined at each step. I have 0.5 micron DMT diamond spray, but I haven't used it, yet. Seems to me I should be able to whittle hair with an edge stropped on 1 micron diamond grit, if I am doing things correctly.

    So, after all this sharpening, I borrow a hair from my girlfriend (cue the eye-rolls), and damn I can't whittle it. I've tried moving the blade in both directions along the hair, and at different angles, but no luck. The blade is so sharp it practically reaches out and grabs the skin on my thumb, but it won't whittle hair. Again, I am doing this just for fun, but, still, I would like to be able to achieve hair-whittling sharpness.

    Anyone got any suggestions on what I may be doing wrong?

    TIA!
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 10:17 AM
    bucketstove likes this.
  2. scottc3

    scottc3 Basic Member Basic Member

    188
    Oct 11, 2014
    shinbone, your process and materials seem excellent as reported, maybe it is geometry?
     
  3. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots Gold Member Gold Member

    327
    Apr 15, 2014
    The Spyderco UF is high enough to whittle hairs, especially after some effective stropping.

    So, low pressure, lots of effective burr reduction on the UF. I would just go straight to the 1 micron paste after the UF, the 3 and the 6 are just undoing work.

    You have to cut towards the root of the hair. The scales that catch the apex are cupped upward toward the end of the hair, so if you try to whittle by cutting root-to-tip, even a hair whittling edge won't catch.

    Essentially, gentle pressure, extensive burr minimization on the UF, effective stropping (being sure not to round the apex over even the slightest bit which pretty easy to do). You can actually just use bare leather to clean up your apex off the UF. The edge off that stone is fine enough to whittle hairs without further refinement.

    Finally, you have to sharpen at low angles. It gets exponentially more difficult to whittle hairs as your apex angle fattens. Try to keep the angles at 30 inclusive or less. Even 8Cr13 can support 30 degrees under some pretty brutal use, so there's no real reason to go more obtuse except for, like, choppers or something
     
    willc likes this.
  4. shinbone

    shinbone

    33
    Dec 13, 2005
    Thanks for the input. I have tried cutting towards the hair's root. It is good to know that that is indeed the proper direction based on the fine structure of the hair.

    I will measure the bevel angle the Honemaster sets-up to make sure I am not working at a bad angle.

    I do have a clean leather strop to try, as well.

    Thanks for the suggestions!
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 10:52 AM
  5. kwackster

    kwackster

    Dec 23, 2005
    Sure it will, but for an edge to whittle hair from root-to-tip it needs to be even keener than one that can only whittle hair from tip-to-root.
    Another step is to find out how far from the point of holding the edge will still whittle the hair.
     
  6. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots Gold Member Gold Member

    327
    Apr 15, 2014
    Have you succeeded in this, personally, or is this just a theoretical proposition?

    I only ask because I have yet to see anyone whittle from root-to-tip, as you can tell by the way the hair splits which way the person is holding the hair. For instance, Michael Christy regularly takes his edges up to 3.2 million grit, a degree of refinement difficult, if not impossible to surpass, and you can see that he also always whittles tip-to-root
     
  7. kwackster

    kwackster

    Dec 23, 2005
  8. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots Gold Member Gold Member

    327
    Apr 15, 2014
    Excellent results! Nice bevel on there, too.

    Are you able to do that with head hair though? Typically it is considerably thinner, and we don't know which is more difficult: whittling root-to-tip on thicker chest hair, or whittling tip-to-root on head hair. But I think we'd both be in agreement that whittling root-to-tip on head hair would certainly be the most difficult of the three
     
  9. kwackster

    kwackster

    Dec 23, 2005
    So far i've never tried head hair (as my own is too short or not existant), so i would have to steal some from my wife next time.
     
  10. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    No fancy tools needed. Here is one I did with a few sheets of sandpaper, then a home made strop using green buffing compound from the hardware store. The strop is made with an old belt I broke the buckle on.

    No guides, no stones.

    A strand of my wife's hair.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    If you look closely, the hair is there in the second picture too. Between the two knives.
     
  11. Beansandcarrots

    Beansandcarrots Gold Member Gold Member

    327
    Apr 15, 2014
    Well, this is a stimulating proposition. I will be back in the sharpening station tomorrow morning. Gonna spend some time and see if I can cut some hairs root-to-tip. I don't know if my hands will be gentle enough for this, but Kwackster, you've placed the proof in the pudding! It is technically possible. Unfortunately my Guardian 3 is no longer hair whittling, so I'm feeling somewhat inadequate in this thread now lol
     
  12. kreisler

    kreisler

    76
    May 11, 2012
    Whittling hair is also a matter of hair quality.

    Thin blonde female caucasian hair is easy to whittle.

    Thick black male noncaucasian hair is very hard to whittle. Try to whittle his pubic hair, for example.

    Try to whittle a thin titanium alloy wire, e.g. a burr from an unclean cut screw threading, and see if your edge "catches" the metal wire. Well, it won't.

    Same with hair. If the hair is dry, hard, etc, your edge won't catch it. If the hair is soft, etc, it will.

    Maybe we should find a standard 'hairy medium' which everyone can easily find and buy in a potent supermarket or drugstore, an international commonplace product, e.g. an original Q-tip or sumting.

    I have a brandnew pm2, supersharp s30v otb, and am still looking for hair samples for whittling tests lol
     
    Honed_Edge likes this.
  13. shinbone

    shinbone

    33
    Dec 13, 2005
    This discussion is super helpful!

    Cutting direction, type of hair, dry/wet hair, where you hold it, that someone could whittle hair after a few sheets of sandpaper and one loaded strop, all help put things in perspective.

    The photo of the single strand with multiple shavings by Bigfattyt is impressive. Am I correct that the bevel in the photos is well-polished and substantially convex?

    FWIW, the hair I am trying to whittle is caucasion thick dark head strands. Maybe I should start dating a blonde?
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2018 at 10:13 AM
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  14. kreisler

    kreisler

    76
    May 11, 2012
    BTW it is very instructive to try whittling hair with Stanley cutter blades or with a plastic-disposable disassembled Wilkinson\Gilette\etc shaver (20pcs pack for 2.59USD at Walmart).

    With most hair types (noncaucasian head, beard, pubic) you'll just fail. If your disposable shaver can do it, then your knife blade could do it too
     
  15. Rhodies

    Rhodies

    255
    Jul 27, 2017
    And I am a subject of your claim. I have dry course hair, a long with dry skin (thanks Mom) and when I attempt to shave leg or arm hair, my knife will shave, but not cleanly. I wet the hair patch and walla, the knife blade shaves the patch right off leaving no stubble behind!
     
    kreisler likes this.
  16. l1ranger

    l1ranger

    165
    Jan 27, 2017
    i recommend redheads.

    hairs are a funny test medium b/c they differ so much from person to person, location of hair, etc.
     
    kreisler likes this.
  17. shinbone

    shinbone

    33
    Dec 13, 2005
    I measured the included angle of the bevel created by the Honemaster clamped on the knife I was working on last night, a Real Steel Megalodon in M390, and I get 34.5 degrees. I guess the high bevel angle is my problem.

    I've been using a Honemaster for close to 4 decades to sharpen knives, and have always been happy with the way my knives cut, from field dressing big and small game like elk, deer, pheasant and quail, to the mundane every day stuff like opening boxes and bags of dog food.

    The practical side of me says I won't be buying an expensive sharpening guide just for the fun of achieving a hair-whittling edge. Damn! Once again I am not one of the cool kids. :-(
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2018 at 4:31 PM
  18. bgentry

    bgentry

    Aug 3, 2009
    I've sharpened a lot of blades. I've gotten a good number of them impressively sharp. I've never whittled a hair, ever. I've tried a handful of times, but couldn't ever get it and decided I didn't care after a while. So that being said...

    Can your "very sharp" edges do the following?

    1. Push cut phone book paper at 90 degrees (both 90s, vertical and horizontal). ...and do this with both directions of grain in the paper.
    2. "Shave" paper. Cut out letters or words on the page with it flat on a table, and leave behind paper underneath the word or letter you shaved off.
    3. Pop hair off of your arm or leg with essentially no drag.

    I think these are a bit below the standard of hair whittling. So you should be able to do these things pretty reliably before a hair whittling edge.

    All of that said, I'm told that hair whittling requires a good bit of technique also. A super sharp blade, plus enough practice to do the whittle.

    Good luck in your quest.

    Brian.
     
  19. Bigfattyt

    Bigfattyt Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 23, 2007
    I get hair whittling edges with as little equipment as a sheet of 600 grit sandpaper, then a $3 tube of buffing compound from harbor freight, on a home made strop...

    These days, I go from a medium Smith diamond stone (hand held) then a Smith kit ceramic rod (again just held in my hand), and get easy dry shaving edges. Hair whittling. Too.

    This is a small hair off the back of my hand...

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  20. shinbone

    shinbone

    33
    Dec 13, 2005
    Bigfattyt - what is your bevel angle?
     

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