Jump to content
I Forge Iron

My first razor

Chad J.

Recommended Posts

Doesn't look like much but it's my first straight razor and I did it in only a couple hours from start while I worked on other projects.  Sure there's a little more cleanup to do but I started with a small rectangle of leaf spring I didn't even think I could make something from.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

As somewhat of an enthusiast and having attempted straight razors in the past, I just want to stress a few important parts of what makes a straight razor shave. First off, the geometry is paramount. When you lay the blade on a flat stone, it should lay flat. There are essentially 2 points (or perhaps more appropriately, lines) of contact: the spine and the edge. Those 2 points of contact make up your bevel and are a function of the thickness of your spine and the height of your razor. Assuming you are going for a straight edge and not a curved one (smile), if you are able to rock/wobble the blade from heel to toe, then you don't have a flat bevel and that will have to be corrected. 

The general rule is that the height of the blade (usually given in 8ths) should be 4x the thickness of the spine at the point where the spine contacts the stone. ie. An 8/8 razor should have approximately a 1/4″ width spine. Slightly more or less is probably ok, but keeping it as close to 4:1 is critical if you want the razor to perform well.

That brings you to the grind, which is the part that always gets me. You have to think of how you're going to finish your grinding without losing your temper (perhaps in more ways than one). My razor is hollow ground so thin that I don't even want to try to measure it for fear of damaging it. I'm not saying you have to do a hollow grind, or get it that thin (the makers of these razors have large grinding wheels that carry water around on them to cool the steel while grinding), but you do have to think of how you're going to keep your grind cool enough not to heat up the edge past the point of no return. 

Clean up those hammer marks and give yourself two flat, parallel surfaces at the grinder and use some layout fluid (dykem is great, sharpie or something like that will work too) and layout where the centerline is, how high you want your grind to be and where you plan to put your pivot. This will help you keep everything symmetrical.

I don't think you're going for perfect, but the difference between a razor and a thin knife is all in the geometry, which comes from a well planned and executed grind. Certainly not a beginner project. And one that takes tools, patience and most importantly, skills, I simply do not possess myself. Someday I would like to make one that works... 

Spring steel is probably fine for practice, but in the long run I don't think you'll reach the hardness you'll need for a razor.

I'm not trying to criticize or anything, I say go for it! I'm just sharing my experience with them in hopes that maybe you can save a few attempts in the process.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the tips!  I was working from an old straight razor I had laying around and didn't know about the measurements!  Do you know what Rockwell they usually are?  I guess I'm going to have to run up to my woodshop, I have an old wet grinding wheel there.  It's slow and I need to dress it but it could help.  I generally go with 2 one hour tempers at 400 degrees,  should I adjust that as well?  IIRC the angle on the bevel should be 17 degrees?  Thanks Frazer and please feel free send additional notes my way if you think of something!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As far as as the hardness goes, I think it's safe to say it varies by the maker. If I had to guess (and this really is just a guess) I would say ~60 Rc. The edge of a straight razor is inherently delicate, so you don't need to temper it back as much as a knife. According to the tempering chart for 5160 that I'm looking at, 60Rc would be 350 degrees. I'm making a big assumption in saying your spring is 5160. It could be any number of different alloys all with different heat treatment protocols.

Have you used this piece of spring before so you know you can harden and temper it well and achieve a good, tight grain structure? In my experience, every spring is a little different. I have found springs that air harden in thin cross sections and others I could barely get to harden using my admittedly low-tech methods. 

It's cool that you have access to that grinding wheel. It may indeed come in handy. In some cases slow is better than fast.

Yep, the bevel of a straight razor is usually somewhere around 14 degrees and can be up to 18. Keep in mind that's total angle (both sides of the edge). That's where you get that 1:4 ratio.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Check behind your left ear,,, you never know,,,. ;)

On 3/25/2021 at 9:10 AM, ThomasPowers said:

Did you try the trick

Lol, I actually did this when I was 12 or 13. I was at the beach(madison Wi.) and dropped a contact. So I figured if I dropped the other, a d watched where it went, I'd find them both. Yup, you guessed it,,, lost em both!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 3/25/2021 at 7:10 AM, ThomasPowers said:

getting your mind in the same place and walking in and setting it down?

Yes as a matter of fact and I found my multi meter! It was such a logical spot I set the second multi meter I'd purchased next to it with a pack of smokes and a REALLY nice brass Zippo lighter on it. My third multi meter is in a tool box with electrical tools and stuff. I stopped smoking a long time ago but I sure loved that lighter. Not buying another Zippo though. I'm thinking I built them into one of the house walls.

Frosty The Lucky.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...