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Please visit:   MY GALLERY  to see hundreds of possibilities

 

Welcome to Robert Williams Custom straight razors.  I have been making Custom Straight Razors since 2006 and have been making knives for many years.   All my razors are handmade and I do each step from forging, heat treating, art, engraving, scrimshaw, etc., right here in my shop.  These are my own original designs, often in collaboration with customers and, though often copied, are not truly duplicated.   The result of my experience and craftsmanship is a razor that is surpassed by no other in shaving quality.

Whether you want a superior daily shaver or an heirloom set fit for a royal gift or anything in between, contact me and we’ll make it happen.

 

 

 

 

Cowcatcher with ruby setting in tang and jeweled spine

 

I would be very happy to discuss making a custom razor for you and to help you with the design elements and ideas to make a razor that will be a cherished heirloom for your family and a wonderful shaver for you for the rest of your life.

Please be sure to visit my Photo Gallery.  There are a lot of razors to look over and you may find something that inspires you.

 

English Barber with rainbow giraffe

 

If you would like to purchase one of my handmade razors immediately rather than wait on a custom order, there are usually one or more available at Shavingshop.com –  Robert Williams Premium Handmade Razors.  

See many more razors: MY GALLERY

 

Welcome to Robert Williams Custom straight razors. I have been making Custom Straight Razors since 2006 and have been making knives for many years. All my razors are handmade and I do each step from forging, heat treating, art, engraving, scrimshaw, etc., right here in my shop. These are my own original designs, often in collaboration with customers and, though often copied, are not truly duplicated. The result of my experience and craftsmanship is a razor that is surpassed by no other in shaving quality.

Whether you want a superior daily shaver or an heirloom set fit for a royal gift or anything in between, contact me and we’ll make it happen.

Cowcatcher with ruby setting in tang and jeweled spine

I would be very happy to discuss making a custom razor for you and to help you with the design elements and ideas to make a razor that will be a cherished heirloom for your family and a wonderful shaver for you for the rest of your life.

How to Order a Custom Razor

English Barber with rainbow giraffe

 

If you would like to purchase one of my handmade razors immediately rather than wait on a custom order, there are usually one or more available from vendors that stock my razors:   Available from Vendors

Production going well

I’m still running around 14 months right now. But lots of overhead work has been done and taxes now finished so those things aren’t hanging over my head any more draining time I’d rather be spending in the shop. I’m still requiring no deposit for orders for those that want to secure a place in the work queue. I’m not planning on requiring deposits again until the work queue goes under 6 months average.

I’m back to full production time starting December

It’s been really tough this summer with a major project at my day job giving me limited production time. Razors have gone out regularly but I’m still running behind with about a 12 month lead time. This will be getting reduced after the Thanksgiving holidays, though. Thanksgiving, the upgrade is finally wrapping up. I also went through a divorce that will be final by Thanksgiving. The shop will stay at it’s present location, phone numbers, contact information; nothing will change – and life will return to normal for me. Thanks to all of you for your patience. This year has been a really, really tough one with a job change, Carpal release surgery, a major technical upgrade on a computer system that handles a billion dollars worth of business each year and, of course, a divorce that is now about to be finalized. So, if it has seemed as though I’ve been pre-occupied… well, it’s because I’ve really had my hands full and I’m extremely pleased and anxious to be returning to a less hectic life with more shop time for you all.

Purist 19 through 25 should be done by the end of next week. I’m working on them all right now. Back to the shop and thanks again!

One other thing. I am accepting orders, but there will be no security deposit/down payment for orders being taken. I don’t feel I need to accept deposits until my lead time drops under 90 days again. Cheers!

Robert

August 23, 2010

It’s been awhile since the last update and I have a bit of a breather so I’m posting one. Production is running 10 months right now and is very slow right now because of the temporary demands of my day job. I’m the lead technical guy in a major SAP upgrade from 4.6c to Ecc6.0 and all the issues fall on my plate so I’ve been working late and weekends for awhile. I expect this to simmer down in about three weeks and then I’ll have a chance to get more shop time in, which I do miss dearly.

I’m also considering the possibility of going full time next year with the blade business, which would boost my production enormously, of course. I’ve still got a lot of things to think about before doing that, though, of course.

Meanwhile, I appreciate everyone’s patience. I’ve been slow on e-mails and phone calls lately due to just having no time at all and being worn out from the pressure and stress of the constant coding analysis and debugging, but I’m still here, still putting in shop time when I can and I expect things to return to normal in about three weeks.

At this point, I actually have all current issues under control for the first time in about six weeks. :) So I have time to answer some e-mails and make this post.

Thank you all for your support!

Yours,

Robert

Customer update and news 6/23/2010

As an update, I’m currently working on mid-september 2009 orders, so I’m at about 9 months lead time right now.  This should help you figure out about where you are in the work queue.

In addition to regular orders, I’m doing overtime work to get the Purist Limited orders filled.  I’ve already started on this and these will start shipping in numerical order within a week.  It will take some weeks to finish them all, but everything is on track and the project is in full swing.

As you may have noticed, gold inlays are an option if you want something very, very special.   And there will be a few new features available soon that I think will be really nice and very reasonably priced options on the custom razors.

I’m back to 100% after the carpal release surgery, which is a little quicker than I had hoped for with six months being the usual full recovery time.

And as always, if you have questions or just want to touch base, I try to stay abundantly available.  :)

Cheers!

The nitty gritty of finishing hones.

I just posted a study showing the results of a number of finishing hones and techniques in high definition/high magnification.  You can see the results in very fine detail and can make your own call on what works best.   Among the tested hones:  Escher, Japanese Naturals, Baber Hones and a few slurry/lapping results that might surprise you.   See the full study here:

WetShavingWorld.com “Study on finishing hones”

Introducing WetShavingWorld Forums

A new and very robust forum for wetshavers is now online and I would like to invite you to visit.    WetShavingWorld.com will be getting some unique content, including an ongoing metallurgical study of steel, blade edges and honing, stropping and other methods of edge maintenance at very high levels of magnification up to 640x.    The first installment is already up in the Straight Razor forum.

You can go directly to the thread with 5 images of double-edge razor blades and a freshly honed and stropped straight razor here:   The Razor’s Edge

About Stropping

It’s hard to imagine that rubbing very hard steel across leather will actually do much of anything to it, but the effect of stropping a razor on an untreated leather strop prior to shaving is evident when you shave.   So what’s the deal?   What does stropping do to the edge?    And the answer is that it burnishes the steel and will actually remove the steel, albeit very slowly and in a very non-agressive fashion. If you take a super clean piece of very hard steel and rub the hell out of a piece of leather, it will blacken and that’s the metal being removed through the burnishing action. Use some very light colored leather and you’ll see the color turning in pretty short order.

The more you strop, the more wear there is on the steel and after some time, what scratch patterns on the edge existed after honing get completely worn away. This is what many notice to be the “sweet spot” in their honing cycle when their razor seems to improve in shaving quality with each subsequent shave for a while before eventually possibly degrading again. Once the edge has been really well burnished to the point where there is as close to a zero radius bevel and as close to zero deviation of the straight line edge, a razor is as smooth and sharp as it’s ever going to be.

You can definitely see the polishing/burnishing effect of stropping on the edge under high magnification. At the micro level, the burnishing wears away the high points of the edge first, removing the tiny “teeth” in a good, gentle fashion and that’s important because the “teeth” or “fin” that we’ve come to think of as the razor’s edge tend to be uneven, brittle and easily broken off. Breaking them off with use is not good because that leaves micro-level flat spots. Worn away through the burnishing action of leather, the flat spots are minimized to the greatest degree and the edge is both stronger and smoother because of that.

Although it was rarely, if ever explained why in old barber’s handbooks, (or today’s instruction) it was always and still is strongly recommended to strop thoroughly after honing before shaving. I’m sure this has puzzled some people who come off a hone with a razor that cuts free standing hair and passes hanging hair tests, etc…. it’s certainly sharp enough to shave right off the hone, so why not? And the answer is because the burnishing effect of the leather makes for not only an even better edge, but for a smoother AND more durable edge. The more even the edge, the less leverage there is for any small microstructures (peaks) to be snapped off in use.

Do NOT put paste or abrasive of any kind on your daily razor strop.   You you don’t want to create scratch patterns with your stropping, you want to reduce them and burnishing on leather that has not been coated with any sort of abrasive is just the thing for this.

Honing Lore Q&A

I want to share my thoughts on some of the most frequently discussed and debated and possibly misunderstood honing lore.  Here are my thoughts on some topics.      I will be adding sections as time goes on, so check for updates.

Razor Honers – ultimate experts on honing? In my opinion, no.   There are no “ultimate experts”.  There are people who understand honing and have a lot of experience honing but I don’t think any particular discipline or hobby is the breeding ground for the ultimate honemeisters.   But I think by and large, the two most knowledgeable communities are woodworkers and straight razor users in that order.   Woodworkers and straight shavers are both absolutely nuts about honing and no detail is too small to generate significant interest and controversy.   While straight shavers absolutely MUST have a razor honed extremely well in order to shave comfortably, woodworkers CAN do some of their work with less than perfectly honed tools.  But really GOOD woodworker/craftsmen are at least as finicky about their steel and stones and honing as straight shavers, so there’s a lot to be learned from them.   Their community is larger and has a very, very broad base of knowledge in terms of stones, abrasives, honing methods, etc.

Pyramid Method Honing – HoneMagic or Hype?
In my opinion, it’s neither one.  There is no question that by using the pyramid method alternating coarse, then fine, then coarse, then fine, etc., you will eventually arrive at a pretty good edge.  Of course, whenever you go back to a coarser grit, you wipe out any productivity you got from using the finer grit, but you don’t have to know anything at all about knowing when a blade is ready to progress up to the next higher grit in order to eventually arrive at a serviceable edge.  That’s the value in the method for a beginner.  After each iteration, you run the blade through the usual “sharpness tests” and if it doesn’t pass, back you go again to coarse, then fine and repeat the process after the next test.  Eventually, the blade gets to a clean bevel and the finer grit refines that clean bevel and voila!   It worked like magic.  Kinda.  It’s like a magician pulling out cards in the deck one at a time and asking “is this the ace of spades”?  Eventually, it will be the ace of spades and voila!  Magic.   A more experienced and direct approach is to work the coarser hone until a full bevel is restored throughout and then move up to refine it with the finer grit.   It’s easier on the stones and easier on your time, but you do have to know when you’ve got a blade as sharp as you need to get it with the current grit so you know when to move up.   As far as results, the pyramid process provides no superior edge quality to any other method.    It’s just relatively foolproof with enough iterations.   I don’t recommend it, but it does work.

As a note on this, if you search for “pyramid honing” on Google, you’ll find it interesting that this is just a phenomenon of the straight razor shaving community.   Woodworkers, Butchers, Japanese bladesmiths, etc., don’t subscribe to this philosophy and methodology.   I think that has a lot to do with the fact that for many straight razor shavers, honing is a completely new and poorly understood process and the “pyramid method” gives them something with which they can get a good result with very little understanding of the process.  And there’s something to be said for that.  There’s always time to learn more, but having a sharp razor to shave with is a first priority.

What equipment does a beginner need? You need a medium fine and very fine hone and I would recommend the Norton 4000/8000 grit combination stone and a flattening stone to keep it true.   Additionally, finishing off with a strop charged with chromium oxide powder should be all that’s absolutely necessary for sharpening.   Do NOT use any sort of abrasive on your daily leather and canvas strop.   The 4000 grit stone is enough to put a new bevel on an older full hollow albeit with some time investment.   It’s not as coarse as I think would be ideal for creating a new bevel, but it will get the job done.  The 8000 isn’t as fine as a lot of “fine finishing” hones that cost big bucks, but a light touch and a finish with chromium oxide will create an edge that is quite good; good enough that you dont’ really NEED anything finer, but eventually you’ll probably want to get something finer if you’re like everyone else, me included.   An expensive high end finishing stone just doesn’t have to be part of your initial investment for honing and maintenance of your razor.

Taping the razor’s spine while honing?
This has become preetty popular but what’s the value in it?    Frankly, there’s not a lot of value in it from a performance perspective.  A razor that’s well designed with proper geometry doesn’t need tape and tape will alter the bevel angle somewhat to a more obtuse angle.   14 to 18 degrees is optimal.  If your razor has a bevel set at 18 degrees without tape, taping it will put the bevel outside what I consider optimal geometry on the high end.  If the razor has a bevel of less than 14 degrees, then tape could bump it back into the geometric sweet spot.  But say a razor has the proper geometry and has a 14-18 degree bevel; in that case, there is nothing to be gained by using tape except to eliminate any sign of hone wear.  In my opinion, that’s not a good enough reason to tape up a spine on anything but Damascus razors.  Because the surface of Damascus steel has been etched, honing without a taped spine will result in bright rails on either side of the hone as the spine is used, as it’s designed, as a honing guide.  And since a lot of money is paid just for the aesthetics of the damascus steel, I’d say it makes sense to compromise a bit and go ahead and tape the spine if you want to maintain the etching throughout.  Otherwise, there’s nothing at all wrong with using the spine as the honing guide as the design intended and, in fact, that’s my preference and recommendation.

Can you really “overhone” a razor? Yes, you can.   Once you’ve got a clean bevel and clean steel with the current grit and a fine touch on your honing passes, you can’t improve the edge with that grit any more.  You can grind away more steel and give yourself more opportunities to make a mistake and damage the edge with the hone, but you can’t improve an edge that’s been fully honed with the current grit until you go to a higher grit.   In the perfect world, you would move in grit up after the last stroke that completed the geometry 100% with your existing grit.  But, in my opinion, it’s better to have a few strokes too many than a few strokes too few.  Moving up to a higher grit before you’ve got a full, complete, clean bevel at the existing grit means that you’ll be honing on the finer grits much,. much longer than you’ll need to because you’ll have to do more than refine the existing bevel with the finer grit.  You’ll actually have to do more grinding with it because you didn’t get to the full bevel before you moved up.   If, after 4,000 grit, the razor isn’t easily cutting hair against the skin with all parts of the blade, you don’t have the bevel fully cleaned up yet.  Once the bevel is right, the finer stones are just for refining it and you won’t need a lot of work with them to finish the edge beautifully.  If you keep honing and honing and honing with the fine grit stones and still can’t seem to get a really sharp edge, it’s one of three things going on.   1)  really bad steel that will never take a decent edge   2) really bad technique or 3) you never came to a full bevel in the first place on the coarser grits.   #3 is far and away the most likely unless you’ve got one of the new junk razors being manufactured in Pakistan.   If you’ve got one of these, forget about getting a really good edge.  In fact, I’d forget about ever trying to shave with it.  Chalk it up to inexperience and trepidation about buying something a little more expensive but a lot better in quality.  Lots of people have done it.  It’s tempting.

Hones for Stainless Steel?
What hones are best for stainless steel?   The same hones you use for any other steel.

Is Stainless Steel harder than high carbon steel? Typically, it’s softer; not harder.   It is, however, more ductile, partially due to the softness of the steel and largely due to the alloy composition.  All alloys in steel are included for a reason and to provide some special properties for the finished steel.   Alloys used to make a steel less susceptible to staining and corrosion are added because of those properties and not because they add superior edge qualities.  On the contrary, they are compromises.  The best stainless steels are still quite good, but make no mistake about it, there are some tradeoffs in hardness, grain size, ductility and carbide structures compared to straight tool steel, which is the heart and soul of all cutting steels.  While there are a lot of different high carbon tool steels, most are very low alloy steel.  Air cooled steels (like A2) and Semi-Stainless like (D2) are among the most highly alloyed.   High speed steels (like M2 and M4) are highly alloyed, also with the alloying designed to minimize grain structure change and softening at high working temperatures.    Stainless steel is “air quenched” while most cold work tool steels are Water or Oil quenched.  The simple structures of the latter steels is capable of creating very fine edges with fine grain, provided it has been heat treated well, tempered well and hasn’t been overheated while being worked afterward.   Simple steels are my personal favorite for razors, which needn’t be particularly tough but need to be extremely sharp.   They’re prone to staining and rust without proper care but I feel the suitability of the steel is ideal for razors and so the susceptibility to corrosion is a very acceptable compromise.   Of course, the perfect steel would have the finest edge of all and be totally corrosion proof, but this magic formula still eludes metallurgists and bladesmiths of the 21st century.