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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ANNOUNCEMENT: NEw Line of Diamond Slurry Sprays & Lubricant Released Ahread Of Schedule

Our line of Premium Diamond Slurry Sprays & Our Exclusive SlurryLube Lubricanf & Extender will be available ahead of schedule.  These products make it fast and easy to maintain perfect edges on straight razors, knives and tools! Bottles of 1 Micron and .50 Micron SMD Formulas are shipping IMMEDIATELY.  All other products will ship by January 7th.  But supplies are fairly short, so get YOURS now!  Don't risk being on backorder!

Questions?  eMail us at info@littlestropper.com

Friday, December 24, 2010

Diamond Slurry Sprays, Lubricity & Particle Characteristics: How To Put The Ultimate Edge On Razors, Knives & Tools

Diamond Slurry Sprays, Lubricity & Particle Characteristics:
How To Put The Ultimate Edge On Razors, Knives & Tools

By John H. Tischler
Friday, December 24, 2010

Introduction
While I’m sure that you all understand the concept of friction, many of you probably are unfamiliar with the term “lubricity.”  Lubricity is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: the capacity for reducing friction. You can also think of it as the ability of a lubricant (i.e. oil, water, Teflon, etc.) to reduce friction between two objects.  Just for your information, the study of lubricity is part of the larger science of Tribology – the study of interacting surfaces in relative motion.  While this information may be very interesting to some and boring to others, it’s critical for anyone who wishes to truly understand blade sharpening and polishing.  So if you belong to this determined group, or wish to, read on.

Lubricity & The Pursuit Of The Perfect Edge

Since the pursuit of the perfectly keen blade is our agenda here, let’s apply the principles of lubricity to the honing and stropping of fine blades.  Assume we have a flat surface covered with a liquid containing particles that are harder than steel.  Let us further assume that we are moving a steel blade over that surface, using just the weight of the blade itself for downward pressure.  As the lubricity of the liquid increases, the friction between the abrasive surface, and the steel contacting that surface, decreases.  This decrease in friction reduces the ability of the abrasive to remove metal.  The degree to which an abrasive removes material is often referred to as the “cutting power” of the abrasive.  

Since cutting power is what we all want from our abrasive surfaces, we should always want to keep lubricity to a minimum, right?  Well, that depends.  Have you ever tried honing a blade on a dry waterstone?  How about on a dry DMT diamond plate?  If you have, you have already experienced the effects of very low lubricity – quite a bit of metal is removed (not always where you want it to be) and the stone or plate is soon clogged with worn metal fragments.  This makes the abrasive surface an inconsistent cutter – leaving some spots that will cut harshly and others where cutting power is virtually non-existent.  Further, this lack of lubricity also makes for a very rough edge – something you can see under a microscope and, certainly, feel against your skin.  

The Role Of Lubricants In Creating Better Edges

It is for these reasons that we generally use a lubricant (something which increases lubricity) when we are honing.  Lubricants reduce the friction between the abrasive and the blade – reducing cutting power, but producing a more consistent “cut” and a smoother edge.  The lubricant also helps to carry away the metal (and “spent” abrasive particles) removed by the abrasive in action, helping to prevent the “clogging” of the honing or stropping surface which occurs when the surface is too dry.  Lastly, using a lubricant extends the service life of an abrasive’s surface.

Proper lubrication is most important when you are using an abrasive that is considerably harder than the piece you are attempting to sharpen or polish – and they don’t come any harder than diamond.  Diamonds, natural or synthetic, are the hardest substance on earth.  Hardness isn’t the same thing as toughness – you could take a hammer and easily smash an engagement ring (PLEASE don’t try this at home); it just means that, when moved against a softer material (which is everything else on earth other than another diamond) with sufficient pressure, the diamond will cut into that material and remove some of it.  The depth and shape of this cut, and the amount of material removed, are all impacted by the shape of the diamond, the pressure applied to the workpiece against the diamond and, last but not least, the lubricity of the solution standing between it and the softer material.

Water is the most common and least expensive lubricant.  It also has extremely low lubricity and viscosity (a measure of the resistance of a fluid under stress, often known as “thickness”) – which is one of the reasons why it’s not used to lubricate the moving parts in car and truck engines.  It does, however, have qualities that are very desirable when honing a razor, fine knife or tool.  It is plentiful and inexpensive, is easily cleaned up and does a fair job of carrying away worn metal and spent abrasive, ensuring a more consistent “cut” and extending the life of abrasive materials.  It also aids in producing a less jagged edge than you would otherwise produce using a dry surface, although not nearly as smooth as one would get with a superior lubricant.

The Princess And The Pea – How Something Very Small Can Be Very Irritating

Even though it is the main topic of this paper, I am going to leave the subject of lubricity for a little while to talk about abrasive particles on the micron and particularly the sub-micron levels.  You will have to trust me that this short diversion is important and that I will return to the topic in a few paragraphs.  Firstly let us quickly try to wrap our brains around the concept of the micron-sized particle.  To put microns in perspective, you may wish to consider that the period at the end of this sentence is approximately 400 microns across; and that one micron is equal to about 1/300th the diameter of a human hair strand.  Sub-micron level particles are obviously even smaller – so small, in fact that Electron Microscopes are required to see them.

Despite this miniscule size, there is a common complaint about slurries which utilize diamonds smaller than one micron in size – that they leave an edge that is too harsh or “toothy.”  This seems somewhat counter-intuitive when dealing with particles so tiny, but it’s true.  This effect leads many honemeisters (persons skilled in the art of creating perfect edges) to use chromium oxide (a substance which is softer than diamond) pasted strops after using diamond slurry sprays to “soften” the edge.  The reasoning often runs something like this: “Diamonds are a harder substance and thus will cut deeper and rougher scratches than will chromium oxide, therefore honing on chromium oxide is necessary to ‘smooth’ the edge.”   This is only partially correct and is typically a result of using the wrong type of diamond in the wrong way.  

Synthetic Monocrystalline Diamonds (SMD)

Most diamond slurry formulations sold for sharpening fine blades rely on synthetic monocrystalline diamonds (SMD) as the abrasive.  

Popular for their extremely low cost and high durability, SMD diamond slurries are an excellent choice for earlier stage material removal, but have some inherent problems that make them a poor choice for final finishing work.  These problems include, first and foremost, the shape of the particle itself.  It is “blocky” with very sharp, but very few cutting edges.  SMD slurries also suffer from problems with particle shape, such as the existence of needle-like “slivers” and long and flat “plate structures.”  These “strays,“ which often get past even the highest quality Particle Size Distribution (PSD) testing equipment and procedures, lead to SMD’s relatively high “scratch rate” – tiny bits of damage to the blade’s sub-surface.  These scratches are not visible through magnification under a normal microscope (you would need an Electron Microscope to see them), but they can be perceived on an edge that is used for shaving as “harshness.”  

For these reasons, SMD diamond slurries are not the first choice of manufacturers needing to produce the finest finishes.  They are also why I do not recommend the use of SMD diamonds in sub-micron level slurries used for final finishing/polishing.  While it is beyond the scope of this paper to delve deeply into the subject of diamond morphology, I felt that I have to mention it I have read claims by leading competitors that monocrystalline diamonds are more appropriate for finishing because they will leave a less “toothy edge” than polycrystalline diamonds.  It is well known that, in fact, the opposite is true.

Synthetic Polycrystalline Diamonds (SPD)

Synthetic polycrystalline diamonds (SPD) share many attributes of their monocrystalline cousins (particularly hardness), but their structure – formed by a controlled detonation of high explosives, is very different.  Each tiny SPD particle contains even smaller “microcrystallites” whose numerous planes are pointed in different crystallographic directions every 10 to 50 nanometers (a measure significantly smaller than microns) – regardless of the particle size distribution of the parent particle. The hardness of each individual microcrystallite can be compared with that of synthetic monocrystalline diamond. Due to the greater number of cutting edges and greater surface area simultaneously contacting the workpiece, SPD-based slurries remove more metal than SMD slurries and are much less likely to cause subsurface damage to the metal ±. But all of these good qualities come at a price – with polycrystalline diamonds costing much more than monocrystalline preparations. 

Lubricity Revisited

Earlier in this paper, I described the characteristic problems of using abrasives with little or no lubricant – inconsistent cutting, harsh cutting and clogging of the abrasive surface.  Considering what we have learned about the “stray” particles in SMD slurries, is it any wonder that these problems would be compounded by using a solution with very low lubricity – particularly when you are using particles with an inherent tendency to “gouge?”  Does scratching not worsen in an absence of lubrication?

Most diamond slurry sprays, such as the ones produced by current market leaders, use carriers (the solution in which the abrasive particles are suspended) with very low lubricity – depending primarily on de-ionized water to reduce friction.  You can see this in the way these product atomize (disperse in a spray) – producing an extremely fine mist, much like tap water (A bit too fine, in my opinion.  At a distance from the strop of 5”, one of these products produced a rough circle 8” in diameter – leaving more slurry on the table than on the strop.  Sprayed closer, the slurry is too “concentrated” in one spot.).  They also tend to dry quite quickly on a 100% hard wool felt strop – also an indication of a primary dependence on water as a lubricant.  You can also feel the almost complete absence of viscosity in the “draw” or friction perceived when stropping a blade against a hard wool felt strop treated with these products.  And since it they are often used dry, that friction is enhanced – at least until the abraded metal starts clogging the surface.  

So after I strop a razor on hard wool felt sprayed with products of this type, used wet or dry, I do find that stropping on chromium oxide is necessary before use – as the blade coming off a strop sprayed with it does tend to leave a harsh edge.  If you are working with knives, you probably want a harsher edge – especially at sub-micron levels, as the microscopic scratches may produce better cutting action – you just might want to pay less for it.  

How To Get The Ultimate Edge For Less Money

We have customers all over the world looking to put the best possible edges on razors, knives and fine tools.  In response to these needs, Little StropperTM has formulated products that use the less expensive synthetic monocrystalline diamonds in our 1 and 2 micron slurries (where a higher scratch rate matters less and may even be desirable), and the more costly synthetic polycrystalline diamonds (SPD) in our .50 micron and .25 micron slurries.   Since the sub-micron level slurries tend to be used for finishing and polishing, we felt that using synthetic polycrystalline diamonds, with their much lower scratch rates, was worth the extra expense.  Additionally In all of our formulations, we use significantly higher levels of water-soluble lubricants than you will find in the leading brands. So you will feel less friction when using our products, but you will get a better and smoother edge.  You will also use less of the product, as we add special ingredients designed to keep the stropping surface moist for long periods of time.

Another thing you will appreciate is our prices. Even our SPD formulations, which utilize a much more expensive diamond than do our SMD products, are priced lower than the leading brand.  Depending on the formulation used, our products ounce-for-ounce cost up to 35% less than the current market leaders.  We are announcing the following products, which will be available for sale in January of 2011:
  • 2.0 Micron Premium Synthetic Monocrystalline Diamond Slurry Spray (2 oz size)
  • 1.0 Micron Premium Synthetic Monocrystalline Diamond Slurry Spray (2 oz size)
  • .50 Micron Premium Synthetic Monocrystalline Diamond Slurry Spray (2 oz size)
  • .50 Micron Premium Synthetic Polycrystalline Diamond Slurry Spray (2 oz size)
  • .25 Micron Premium Synthetic Polycrystalline Diamond Slurry Spray (2 oz size)
  • SlurryLubeTM – an economically priced diamond slurry extender and lubricant (2 oz size)

Beware Competitors Bearing Carats

A word to the wise – be wary of diamond slurry manufacturers that attempt to distract you from the price of their product by focusing on the number of carats of diamonds in the bottle.  “Stuffing” more and more diamond powder into a bottle of slurry, while certainly providing a rationale for charging a high price, is unlikely to improve the product’s performance.  The additional diamond particles just end up being wasted.  Our products are formulated with a focus on performance and results – not on carat weight.  So you end up paying for effectiveness, not powdered diamond.

Conclusion

I have used quite a bit of science and jargon in this paper – I do apologize for this and have tried to keep it to a minimum.  But most of you reading this (and thank you for coming this far with me) are not Tribologists.  You are folks who, like me, want a smooth close shave every day.  You want knives that will cut cleanly without slipping.  You want chisels and other bladed tools that will remove material reliably without “skipping” off surfaces or damaging your creations.  You also want to spend less time and money getting there.  

If any of the foregoing describes you, please try our Little StropperTM line of Premium Diamond Slurries and blade finishing products.  You will find them at www.littlestropper.com/store in January 2011.  If you have questions, please contact us at info@littlestropper.com.








John H. Tischler is President of Vintage Shaving Shoppe, LLC. and Little StropperTM brands.  He can be contacted at jtischler@littlestropper.com .

References:
± Tumavitch, Nicholas J., The Evolution of Diamond for Optical Component Finishing, Recent developments in the production of synthetic diamond abrasives have resulted in an array of varieties suitable for optical finishing applications., 2005.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

To all of my customers of the great variety of Christian faiths, I wish a peaceful and merry Christmas.

To ALL of you, everywhere, I wish a new year that is happy - filled with love and health and good fortune.  I know that many of you have had a rough 2010...and that just because we will be writing "11" rather than "10" at the end of the dates on our checks, that this is no reason for things to improve.  But perhaps if ALL of us...you, me, everyone; takes the time and effort to treat each other just a little bit better in the coming year, if we treat OURSELVES better - then perhaps we CAN make 2011 a better year.

That is my most heartfelt wish for all of you.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How Do You Know When Your Razor Needs A Re-hone?

After a few opinion pieces, it's time now to get back to shaving. 

This is a question I get from time-to-time.  It usually happens when someone who had a properly honed razor and is an experienced wet-shaver, begins to experience more nicks than usual and just finds shaving more difficult.  The first sign of this tends to be the razor beginning to "catch" on hairs that it used to slice through and shaving will become a bit frustrating.  You can first try stropping the razor and, if that fails, a few passes on each side of a well-lubricated barber's hone (PLEASE rest the hone on a flat palm while using) will, for a time, return the razor to service.  If you have our Magnetic StropBox and our soon-to-be-released Little Stropper Premium Diamond Slurries, you can put off the inevitable even longer.  But eventually the razor will be too dull to use safely, and will require a trip to a competent honemeister for re-honing.  This is why most experienced shavers like to have at least a few straights on hand. Not only will rotating your razors extend their useful life, but should one become damaged, you will not have to return to the now dusty Mach III in your medicine cabinet to get a great shave.

If you suspect that your razor is too dull to use, feel free to send us an email.  We will help you determine if it needs to be sent out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Opinion: What do you think of the following name for a website: areyouwastingyourlifeplayingfarmville.com?

The first time I heard about Farmville was when I received a strange request on facebook from a friend.  She wanted me to help her "buy a cow."  I ignored it.  I was next asked to help plant a field.  Then another acquaintance became rather insistent that I help him build a barn..  But what I thought, naively, might have been a creative computer virus out of the Ukraine, was actually a real business.  Apparently million of folks spend HOURS of their day on it.  Not only were they taking this silly thing seriously, but, to my utter astonishment, I learned that people were spending money - I mean REAL cash, buying virtual cows and virtual barns!  We are in a recession and people are spending money, buying things that don't exist except on a hard drive somewhere.  When I began telling some of my collector friends, it took me, in some cases, actually taking them online to convince them that I wasn't just yanking their chain.  They just couldn't wrap their brains around the idea of people collecting things that don't actually exist..

That's where the idea for areyouwastingyourlifeplayingfarmville.com was born.   I probably will never spend time putting up such a site, because why waste energy making fun of something that is itself a waste of energy? For those who are actually spending money on this madness, I really don't mean to be insulting, but WAKE UP!  You are putting millions of dollars into the pockets of people who are selling you digital livestock!  What happens if, God forbid, someone writes a "Mad Virtual Cow Disease" virus.  You will watch your "valuable" virtual longhorns get wobbly-kneed and die!  What if your barn gets ravaged by a virtual wildfire?

We need REAL innovation in America.  Real hands building real things that create real opportunities.  We won WWII largely because we were an industrial powerhouse that outproduced the Axis and, as a result, the Nazi Party is now a remnant of history.  We are rapidly becoming a nation which produces nothing.  Ours is a "service economy" which, if you have ever called for technical support on just about any product, is even outsourcing services.  What have we become really good at - generating debt.  Even though we produce little, we manage to consume a LOT.  Is this the kind of country we want to pass along to our children or do we want to get back to innovating the next generation of products and actually be the ones to make them.

It's something that is up to all of us.

Note: As an interesting side note to any "techies" who happen to read this blog...each roaming virtual animal is actually a small computer program that eats up your RAM and makes your computer slower.  So if you are still set on playing this silly game, keep your animals in the barn!  Better yet, slaughter them and turn them into virtual leather jackets - I think that could be a BIG seller on eBay.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

And The Winner is...

We hit 25 blog Followers (27 actually, but my wife and I don't count)!  And all of you who have been following the blog know that it is time to announce the winner of the random drawing for that fine vintage German shave-ready straight razor!

But before I do so, my greatest thanks to everyone who took the time to support and follow this blog!  I know you have many other places you can spend your time and I appreciate your spending some of it here.  I hope that you will continue to be a reader and to contribute your comments.  As a consolation prize to everyone who Follows our blog, I will give a $10 cash rebate to anyone who orders a Deluxe StropBox System.  This comes with BOTH the leather and hard wool felt StropTops and I will apply abrasive paste to your StropTops for FREE if you would like that.  To take advantage of this offer, just type "10DBF" in Order Details when you view your shopping cart.  The $10 will be returned via PayPal.  To visit our store, go to Little Stropper Store.

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for!  Congratulations to Ian Sammons!  Ian has been contacted and I hope to hear from him soon.  If I do not hear from him within 72 hours, another winning will be chosen at random.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Nothing About Razors. This One's About The Little Shaver Himself!

I do not talk about personal things very much in this blog.  But as a proud father of a committed 12 year old professional ballet dancer, I hope you will excuse the diversion from razors and strops.

Lucas started ballet classes about 4 years ago.  He kept at it like a dog with a bone, practicing multiple times each week.  Sometimes it was under protest (as kids will do from time to time), but always he got it done.  Three years ago he was selected by the Pennsylvania Ballet in Philadelphia, to play the key youth role of "Fritz" - the ill-tempered, toy-throwing, nutcracker-cracking brother in George Balanchine's "The Nutcracker," a role he repeated the following year in Philadelphia and at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and again, this year.  Every year, this petulant, pint-sized powerhouse brings humor and style to this role.  This year's review in the Philadelphia Enquirer raves: "Lucas Tischler, as (Marie's) suitably bratty younger brother, was hilarious, if less precocious than last year."  Despite the fact that he is playing the same role for three years running, he always manages to change it up and make it special. And folks, I've read a lot of ballet reviews - you just don't see the word "hilarious" and "ballet" related too often.  I am very proud of my "little shaver."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting Closer To The Great Razor Giveaway!

At 21 blog followers, we are only 4 Followers away from the razor giveaway!  I sincerely hope that we get there before the holidays arrive, so that someone who may want to give it as a gift, will be able to do so.  And that someone for whom it would be a special personal treat, will be able to get it as soon as possible.

With most of my attention focused on the Little Stropper product line launch, I'm afraid I haven't given as much attention to my razors as usual.  I am working now to rectify that oversight and to get more shave-ready straights out for sale ASAP.  I have hundreds of them that are shave-ready, but I do need to take pictures.  If you have any special requests - a particular brand, style or type of razor that you would love to own, please send us an email at assistance@vintageshavingshoppe.com and we will be sure to find what you need.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Welcome Blog Followers!

I just wanted to take a moment, in this season where we are all rushing around, stretching both our legs and our budgets, to thank everyone who has taken the time to follow our blog.

Blogs are, by nature, somewhat narcissistic and self-serving..  They are usually written by a single individual with a particular point of view.  I try to fight this urge with every keystroke and just keep writing good content that will inform, amuse or otherwise aid you in your journey into the world of wet-shaving.

I would be remiss if I made no pitch at all for our new Magnetic StropBox System.  This is a device that I'm very proud of.  I put each one together with my own two hands for each of you.  This device is how I finish each and every shave-ready razor we sell.  So if you are a fan of our razors, then you are already a fan of our system.  By using it, you will keep your razor shave-ready for longer than you ever thought possible.  While I was stropping the old fashioned way, I never realized just how much time I spent standing in my washroom, staring at the tiles stropping razors.  In retrospect, it was a somewhat odd thing to do.  Now I can sit on my back porch, look at the trees and all those leaves I have yet to rake and strop razor after razor.  At under fifty bucks for the entire system, it's a damn good deal.  If you would like it for the holidays, send me the email address of your "gifter" and I will drop a subtle hint in their In Box ;-)

Not wanting to let this posting end on a self-serving note, I found a FREE book that you might find amusing. It is around 150 years old and is entitled: The Life & Adventures of Henry Smith The Celebrated Razor Strop Man.  Yes, there IS a book about someone who strops razors for a living.  It is, as the cover of the book says, "A complete collection of his original songs, queer speeches, humorous letters, and odd, droll, strange and whimsical sayings."

Enjoy it and welcome to the blog!