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The Knize
05-31-2009, 12:55 AM
Maybe I have just missed it but I do not remember much discussion of this point, Is there a great advantage or disadvantage (other than higher price for stainless) to getting a stainless steel straight razor as opposed to carbon steel?

In a kitchen knife there would be easily explained trade offs of one for the other, but I am not sure the same holds for a razor or not. What do folks think?

gugi
05-31-2009, 01:13 AM
stainless steel is easier to keep nice and shiny.
it stains less than the carbon steel. in some climates this can make dramatic difference.

mdunn
05-31-2009, 02:34 AM
I find that stainless can go for longer before hitting the hones too

mparker762
05-31-2009, 09:17 AM
There are easily explained tradeoffs for stainless vs carbon for razors as well, unfortunately they're easily explained both directions :biggrin:

The biggest one IMO is simply the number of stainless razors out there vs the number of carbon steel razors. We have huge numbers of carbon steel razors from the 1820's onwards, but stainless razors are pretty recent and came in towards the very end of the straight razor era. So there just aren't many of them, and they aren't very interesting; sheffield didn't make stainless choppers, the swedes didn't make delicate little stainless framebacks, etc.

Generally speaking, stainless razors are slightly softer than carbon steel razors yet are also slightly harder to sharpen. They do corrode less quickly than carbon steel, which gives them some of the same advantages that stainless gives kitchen knives - they're both used in a wet environment so corrosion is a big edge-killer. OTOH razors must be much sharper than kitchen knives to be useful, and it's harder to make stainless take a really top-notch edge. The alloying is trickier and the heat treatment is tricker and the honing is trickier, and you're still going to wind up 4-5rc below the best carbon steel blades. So there's a greater chance that the corrosion-resistance just may not matter for a given combination of razor and honer - if you can't get a comfortable shave then it doesn't matter that the edge will last 50% longer...

That said, there are some stainless razors out there that are wonderful shavers once honed up, and will hold their edge a long time. But there are 100x more carbon steel razors out there that are equally wonderful to shave with and hold their edge long enough that rehoning isn't a problem, and can be honed to their limit by a greater percentage of the straight shaving population.

So carbon steel razors wind up being the most popular.

leighton
05-31-2009, 12:07 PM
Thats not true about SS being softer than HCS.

SS alloys can have as much carbon % as some HCS alloys. The only thing that makes them stainless is the % of the corrosion reistant materials. SS can be HT'd to the same hardness levels as HCS. That said, there are probably *more* junk SS razors out there than HCS blades because of our friends in Pakistan and America or wherever those cheap SS wallhangers are made in.

In the end it probably won't matter. Buy both and try them is my advice. If you live in Hawaii or somewhere with high humidity you probably want to think long and hard about SS though.

mparker762
05-31-2009, 04:33 PM
Thats not true about SS being softer than HCS.

SS alloys can have as much carbon % as some HCS alloys. The only thing that makes them stainless is the % of the corrosion reistant materials. SS can be HT'd to the same hardness levels as HCS. That said, there are probably *more* junk SS razors out there than HCS blades because of our friends in Pakistan and America or wherever those cheap SS wallhangers are made in.



There's a reason the best SS razors tend to be 57-60RC while the best HCS razors frequently run 62+.

It's not a matter of how much carbon you can pack into the steel once you pass the eutectic. If you can't keep the grain size small and the brittleness in control at high hardness levels then the razor won't shave well, and may not even hold an edge. The chromium causes problems by promoting carbide formation and larger grain size. So when balancing between hardness and grain structure, stainless seems to land you about 2 points softer than HCS. I've had an ATS34 razor hardened at 65RC and it would take a wicked edge, but the edge wouldn't hold up for a single pass. Had it retreated with the hardness dropped back down to 61RC and it was fine. I've got several HCS razors that are 65RC that take and hold a great edge.

The Knize
05-31-2009, 09:34 PM
Thanks everyone. I was not thinking about the crappy razors or the world. More like when should one buy a Dovo stainless steel blade and when a carbon steel.

I had never considered getting stainless. For the most part, I use carbon steel kitchen knifes, too. I do not tend to leave my expensive tools lying around in something that is going cause them to rust, for one thing! Also, I am not sure why I trade something harder to sharpen/hone in the first instance for something that would hold an edge a bit longer.

Sounds like, except for some climate issues--I should be so lucky as to live in Hiwaii--HCS is the way to go.

Seraphim
05-31-2009, 09:45 PM
Thanks everyone. I was not thinking about the crappy razors or the world. More like when should one buy a Dovo stainless steel blade and when a carbon steel.

I had never considered getting stainless. For the most part, I use carbon steel kitchen knifes, too. I do not tend to leave my expensive tools lying around in something that is going cause them to rust, for one thing! Also, I am not sure why I trade something harder to sharpen/hone in the first instance for something that would hold an edge a bit longer.

Sounds like, except for some climate issues--I should be so lucky as to live in Hiwaii--HCS is the way to go.

Stainless, in my experience is only slightly, if at all, noticeably more difficult to hone. I use diamond lapping film, which may account for why I have no issues with honing it (i.e.-diamond will cut through anything....). I really think that aspect is blown quite out of reasonable proportion.

A Dovo 5/8 stainless, or Dovo Renaissance will shave as smoothly as 95% of the razors out there. The newer Henckles Friodurs are a bit more tempermental in getting a smooth edge on them, so i can't recommend them as a first forray into stainless razors.

The biggest drawback to stainless, as mentioned above is that there are not a wide range of choices available out there. The shave you can get, and the ease of maintenance are the key attributes. It really is nice to not have to be neurotic about drying and oiling a SS razor, compared to a HCS one.

I also happen to have many HCS razors, and they are all very fine as well. I wouldn't place SS above them, but most certainly not beneath them either.

mparker762
05-31-2009, 09:47 PM
I do not tend to leave my expensive tools lying around in something that is going cause them to rust, for one thing!

It's not so much a matter of visible rust as it is microscopic rust along the edge, and this forms during the shave and continues overnight. The pre-shave stropping removes most of this, but it will eventually dull the edge. Stainless razors suffer from this corrosive dulling to a much lesser degree. Whether this is worth the negatives just kind of depends on the particular circumstances.


I really think that aspect is blown quite out of reasonable proportion.

I agree. Stainless is a bit more difficult to hone, but not hugely so. There is a bit of difference, and they do take a bit more time, and I think newbies (who are already generally anxious about the honing process) read too much into this. I suspect SS is a mostly tougher that first time you try to hone one, because they are a bit different, but once you get the hang of it they're not really much tougher than HCS.

To be honest, the razors that are really annoying to hone are the really hypereutectic non-stainless steels. Like the Livi Takeda Tamahagane razors, or the TI Carbonsong razors like the Silverwing, or the TI wootz damascus razors, or the Classic Shaving NOS Filarmonicas, all of which are much harder to hone than any Friodur.

gugi
05-31-2009, 09:55 PM
Stainless, in my experience is only slightly, if at all, noticeably more difficult to hone. I use diamond lapping film, which may account for why I have no issues with honing it (i.e.-diamond will cut through anything....). I really think that aspect is blown quite out of reasonable proportion.

that's most certainly true - the difference is not dramatic and the most difficult razors i've honed have been carbon (speaking among the really good steels here, crappy steel is the hardest to hone to satisfactory level).



The biggest drawback to stainless, as mentioned above is that there are not a wide range of choices available out there.

I think that's a godsend to new guys :) three choices of dovo stainless - no.41, no.105 and the rennaisance. Very different looks so the choice should be rather straightforward :biggrin1:

leighton
05-31-2009, 11:20 PM
There's a reason the best SS razors tend to be 57-60RC while the best HCS razors frequently run 62+.

I haven't heard that before. If true, the rest of the argument makes sense.

cfriend
05-31-2009, 11:25 PM
stainless... stains less...

:biggrin1:

The Knize
05-31-2009, 11:35 PM
Thanks for all of the incredible responses. Not sure I can absorb all of it.

Sounds like stainless is a tad more difficult to hone, in general, tends to hold a good edge at least a tad bit longer (mparker says much less micro rusting, suggesting a lot longer), and generally costs a tad more. (Not talking Wooz Damascus here! A whole different set of trade offs there!)

At this point, I personally am more likely to be adding vintage razors than new ones anyway, but this should be very useful to those buying new. I am in awe of the knowledge and experience of those taking the time to respond here. Many thanks.

scottish steve
06-01-2009, 04:00 AM
When I was checking out bushknives, I was very surprised to hear that s.s. is softer AND more diffcult to sharpen, but with some hands-on experience, you can hear it when sharpening...the s/s has a less crisp feel to it...and feel it when working with it. Apart from Mora's phenomenal 12x27 steel, (which includes silicone in the recipe), stainless is almost universally regarded as not for serious bushcraft use, by many on the main uk forum.

leighton
06-01-2009, 10:18 AM
Thanks for all of the incredible responses. Not sure I can absorb all of it.

Sounds like stainless is a tad more difficult to hone, in general, tends to hold a good edge at least a tad bit longer (mparker says much less micro rusting, suggesting a lot longer), and generally costs a tad more. (Not talking Wooz Damascus here! A whole different set of trade offs there!)

At this point, I personally am more likely to be adding vintage razors than new ones anyway, but this should be very useful to those buying new. I am in awe of the knowledge and experience of those taking the time to respond here. Many thanks.

Geneva Cutlery Co. aka Genco made a SS line. The razors have a pyramid on the tang. IRRC.

mparker762
06-01-2009, 10:23 AM
Geneva Cutlery Co. aka Genco made a SS line. The razors have a pyramid on the tang. IRRC.

As did dubl duck and C-Mon. Puma also, though so far they've not impressed me.