This past Monday evening, I had the privilege of sitting down with Larry Andriessen (Larry Andro - Whipped Dog Razors) for a two-hour session on honing. Other than refreshing an edge on a Swaty barber's hone, I have never honed a razor. I was excited to learn that he lives only an hour and a half from my home and was willing to give me a tutoring session.
Larry is a great teacher. We started with a 5/8 Le Grelot 150 eBay razor that had a slight frown. He slowly took me through all the steps to make the razor shave-ready from light bread-knifing through a progression of grits from 220-12,000, finishing with .25 diamond spray on felt and the final stropping on leather. Throughout, he carefully explained not only what he was doing, but also why he was doing a particular thing. He was also careful to mention how others might disagree with him and what they might do instead. He was very self-assured and explained his philosophy of honing. My assessment is that he is very much a pragmatist who is process oriented and chooses to do that which is both effective and efficient.
Along the way, I learned how to see the shine on a razor's edge, how to make the razor's edge disappear, how to successfully use the thumb test through the various stages of honing, and how to use the HHT test to check the full length of the razor. I must admit that everything I knew about how and why to use the HHT was wrong. Learning the how and why of the thumb test and the HHT test was invaluable. I also learned how to use the variety of strokes necessary for good honing. Rather than teaching me a "method," he taught me a "process" that allows me a great deal of independence in learning how to hone a razor.
After the two-hour session, I believe I now possess the knowlege necessary to hone a razor from the beginning to shave-ready. Notice that I said the "knowledge" rather than "ability," "skill," or "experience." Only time and experience will tell whether I have the patience, ability, or skill to learn the art of honing.
To begin my long journey in honing, Larry gave me a throw-away Torrey razor with cracked scales. He quipped, "If the scales break, that's what duct tape is for!" I took the Torrey and my newly shave-ready Le Grelot with me; leaving 5 other razors with him for honing. Hopefully, by the time I return to retrieve them, I will be farther up the learning curve of honing.
I want to publically thank Larry for his graciousness and time. Between his demonstrations and my questions, it took two hours to do what was probably a twenty to thirty minute job for him. There is no way I can properly thank him for the knowledge he imparted by giving me this special time. His love for straight razors and honing is very obvious but more obvious is his desire to help beginners experience the thrill of straight razor shaving by providing low cost shave-ready straights and other materials to get them started. He genuinely cares about others. Larry is truly an excellent teacher, a gentleman, an artist, and a class act. Thank You Larry!