Using a Barber Hone
By Lisa LoParo
, last updated July 26, 2011
A barber hone is a rectangular block of abrasive materials used by barbers to sharpen a straight razor. There are several types of barber hones, each made of a different material; the water hone is made of rock formations imported from Germany, while the Belgian hone cut from rocks in Belgium. Synthetic hones include the Swaty hone and the carborundum hone, both of which are manufactured and can be used either wet or dry.
For beginners, the slow-cutting natural hones are better, so opt for the water hone or the Belgian hone. Keep the razor and hone at room temperature at all times to ensure the best shaving results. Since the water hone and Belgian hone are slow-cutters, they must be used with water or lather, while the synthetic ones may be kept dry.
When using the hone, the tool should be kept flat, and adequate space provided for the safe and proper use of the tool. The hone is used in the sharpening of a straight razor with smooth, even strokes on each side, equal in number and pressure. While there is no exact angle at which the hone is held that must be maintained, it is important that the same angle is kept throughout the process, whatever it may be. It is best to lay the hone flat to achieve this constant angle. This means that the back of the blade may experience some wear, so as a beginner, avoid using decorative razors, or protect the back of the blade with PVC electrical tape from the tip of the blade to the shank. Once you think you’re finished, test the sharpness of the blade by gently placing the edge on the nail of your thumb, moistened with water, and draw it from the heel to the point of the razor. This should give you a feel of where the razor is in terms of sharpness.