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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Hard Particle Is Good To Find: The Diamond Vs. CBN Debate

It is a truism of marketing that when a market-space starts becoming crowded with product, someone is bound to come out with something they claim to be "New & Improved" to attempt to capture greater market share.  You are seeing this happen right now in the razor and knife honing market.  There are quite a few products on the market, including ours, which utilize diamonds as the primary abrasive to perfect your blades.  With the market becoming crowded with various brands of diamond sprays, each using different formulas and quantities of those magic microscopic gems, at least one clever vendor has come out with something new - CBN.

Actually CBN isn't exactly new.  In fact, it has been around since the 1970's.  But what you probably want to know is if it offers any real advantages over the tried and true diamond slurries.  That is the question that this short article will answer. 

It might be useful to start out with a basic knowledge of the stuff. CBN, or Cubic Boron Nitride is a laboratory manufactured material which has the same crystalline structure as diamond.  It is 2nd only to diamond in hardness, which makes it harder than all known metals.

But does it have an advantage over diamond slurries?  Surprisingly it has two, but there is a caveat to this statement, so please read to the end.

In situations with large amounts of friction, diamond, which is nearly 100% carbon, can form an affinity for the carbon in the steel.  This can cause the diamond particles to break down and lose their effectiveness.  This problem does not occur with CBN.  Secondly, diamond suffers from a massive loss in hardness when it gets hot, making it effectively softer than CBN under these conditions.

Sound like a problem, doesn't it?  So how hot does the material have to get to give CBN the advantage?  Pretty toasty, as it turns out.  The metal would have to achieve a temperature of 700 degrees Celsius (1,292 degrees Fahrenheit) for the performance of diamonds to degrade to an effectiveness below that of CBN.  I don't know how many "X" strokes I can do on a hone or strop in one minute, but I believe that I have a very long way to go before I am going fast enough to generate 1,292 degrees of heat.  Of course, by then my strop would have long since caught fire :-)

Yes, I have taken a moment to poke a bit of fun at the issue, but there is a serious point here.  You, the consumer, are being presented with an ever-increasing array of choices.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  You can get some excellent values and you can also get mislead.  There is no evidence to demonstrate that, all things being equal, CBN cuts faster or in any way performs better than diamond....unless you are working at those very high temperatures or very high levels of friction which create them. You needn't take my word for it; research it for yourself.  Any decent article on the advantages of CBN over diamond will mention heat/friction as the primary factor in its superiority.

That said, I would expect the performance of CBN slurry spray to be no worse than that of diamond sprays - although at $32.95* per 2 oz bottle of CBN vs. $14.95 for the most expensive of our Premium Diamond Slurry Sprays, the price may give you pause.

As I have said countless times - the only way to find what work for you is to try the product.  That is one of the reasons that we keep our prices affordable and you, our prospective customer, armed with the facts.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Good "Look" At Diamond Slurry Sprays - Avoiding The Deception of Appearances

Gaining an in-depth understanding of superabrasives, including natural and synthetic diamonds, involves years of experience and education well beyond that possessed by the average reader. And it can be somewhat overwhelming to the prospective buyer when they are peppered with Scanning Electron Microscope photos and the output of the myriad other equipment used in the SA chemist's lab - all as proof that a particular seller's product is the best. One could dive deeply into this rich pool of images and data and be lost for weeks.

In this article, however, I wanted to get away from these highly technical arguments for buying these products and discuss something that anyone looking at these products can see just by looking at the bottle. 

When I receive my slurries from the chemist, they are delivered in large clear glass bottles.  Long ago when I first started testing slurry formulas to find the ones that were most effective, I left several of these bottles on the shelf for a couple of weeks when I went away on vacation. When I return to the untouched bottles, I found, to my horror, (particularly in the cases of the 1 and 2 micron formulations) that the liquid in the bottles was crystal clear, with just the smallest amount of off-white powder glazing the bottom!  It looked to me as if there was almost no diamond at all in the formula.  After all, I could see hefty piles of white powder sitting at the bottom of the bottles of my future competitor's products, so I certainly expected to see a similar amount of this magic dust in mine. As I had paid dearly for these slurries, I immediately phoned the chemist who proceeded to further my "education" on superabrasives.

As I have written before, microns are extremely tiny things.  The period at the end of this sentence is 400 to 600 microns across.  This makes a particle the size of one or two microns not only invisible to the naked eye, but also invisible to a powerful light microscope.  In fact, an expensive Electron Microscope called an SEM is needed to see these very small abrasive particles. The chemist, who had over 20 years of experience working with superabrasives, reminded me that, given their size, these tiny particles cannot be seen by visually inspecting a bottle of them in solution.  "The white powder at the bottom of the bottles you saw," he told me, "was another substance or mixture of substances.  Without having a bottle of these products to inspect, I can't tell you what they are, but I CAN tell you what they aren't - diamonds."  He went on to say that there were undoubtedly some diamond particles mixed in with the white stuff, but not necessarily any more than were anywhere else in the bottle. 

This was an important part of my education in superabrasives and I thought I would pass it along to those of you who are thinking of buying these products. When you are considering diamond slurries, your eyes will tell you little to nothing about the contents of the bottle.  The information reminded me of something that Obi Wan Kenobi said to Luke Skywalker when teaching him the ways of the Force: "Your eyes can deceive you; don't trust them."  It is a good rule of thumb to follow when evaluating diamond slurries.

As I have said it many other pieces on this subject, there is one test and one test alone that counts - using the product.  So if you are interested in really keen blades, I'm afraid you are going to have to buy 'em and try 'em.  I recommend ours. They are up to 35% less expensive than competitive products and they work. Use the product for a full 7 days.  If you aren't satisfied, return the sealed bottle containing the unused portion of the slurry and receive a FULL refund*.  If you have any questions before buying, including which product(s) will work best for you, email us at

*Refunds made only for products returned with tamper-evident neck seal intact and no other signs of tampering. Refund offer is restricted to ONE bottle of any of our Premium Diamond Slurry Products, one time only. S&H charges cannot be refunded. Refunds will not be made to competitors buying our products for testing or to commercial buyers - in other words, you must be a legitimate consumer to qualify.

Monday, January 17, 2011

You Lucky Guys! Some Of The Best Razors We Have Ever Had.

I envy you guys sometimes.  You actually get to keep the really cool razors - I simply find them and get them to the right people.  If you are a serious collector, you have probably noticed that the more striking examples are getting harder to come by.  And since I am constantly looking, you would be correct.  That means that when I am lucky enough to find them, I have to pay more.  This means you have to pay more.  Tough break, but that's the way it is - supply and demand.

The good news is that for those of you who are buying for both love and investment purposes, your foresight is starting to pay dividends.  And there is still a long ways to go.  In my opinion, prices are still low - just not as low as they once were.  Now that much of the best stuff is in collections, you should be on the lookout for excellent examples of the art - even if you have to pay top dollar for them.  The ones that I project will increase the most in value are original early examples.  I happen to have picked up two of these just this past weekend.  What was particularly gratifying was that they were not just plain razors in horn scales - most common in that period.  Both of them are original tortoise shell, but very different.  The first of the two I would place at the end of the 18th century.  It is a Clark & Hall and it was designed as a showpiece.  What do I mean by that? Well it has several features that had nothing to do with the practical utility of the razor, including
  • Fancy washers on both pins
  • Polished tortoise shell scales
  • Mirror finished blade
  • 3 pewter shields 
 These are all features that were not necessary or commonplace and they cost the buyer a good deal more than an average razor would.  To my delight, the blade had retained its original shape and finish - it was not reground  or reshaped as so many of the period were.  It is solid enough to make shave ready and I will have it up for sale once I am done.  As is our tradition, nothing else will be done to this piece of history.  Private purchase inquiries are welcome.

The other razor is also of the fancier variety - having iron pins with fancy washers and also in tortoise shell. This one has no pewter shields and the blade is not mirrored.  It has no manufacturer and it marked "Cast Steel."  It is in excellent condition and I would put it VERY early 19th century - no later than 1815.  Honing this wedge to shave-readiness will likely take a couple of hours, but I look forward to it.

I should have pictures in a few days.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

JUST RELEASED: Our NEW line of Premium Diamond Slurry Products.

Anyone who uses straight razors knows the value of a truly polished edge, which is as free as possible from imperfections and those nasty serrations. As someone who sharpens razors professionally, I know it can take a lot of time and effort to get a razor in a condition where it is fit to shave with - old wedges can be particularly troublesome. But once I'm done and have sent the shave-ready razor to a customer. I want him to be able to use it for many months without having to send it back to me for rehoning. So I took the system that I created for my own razor finishing practice and made it accessible and easy to use for the average shaver. Best of all, this system doesn't require investing in expensive hones and it doesn't require a lot of room. It is easy to use and it doesn't make a mess. It is our patent pending blade finishing system - the Magnetic StropBox and our NEW Premium Diamond Slurry Sprays..

The Magnetic StropBox System pairs up a box with one magnetic side with a two types of tops (called StropTops) that adhere to it - top bovine leather and 100% hard wool felt. Of particular interest to the razor user is the hard wool felt StropTop. These soft but tough tops are the perfect surfaces on which to use our exclusive line of Premium Diamond Slurry Sprays, available in 2 Micron 1 Micron, .50 Micron and .25 Micron. Just spray the felt lightly and strop your edge to perfection. How far you want to go down in grit is up to you. 2 Microns in the equivalent of an 11,000 grit stone. Some folks will be fine with that. I like to go all the way down to 1/4 Micron for the smoothest possible shave. It's the finish that I use for my razor customers and the one I use for myself. Of course, I finish up with leather before shaving. With my handy StropBox and StropTops, I no longer have to stand in the bathroom to strop razors. And the tops are so cheap that I don't have to kick myself if I cut one.

The system also works for pocket knives, kitchen knives and tools.

If you want to keep your razors performing at their best and your knives and tools at their sharpest, you MUST check out our products TODAY!

You can buy any of our StropBox items or Slurry Sprays at