The Coticule Dungeon
2013-02-15 23:34 by Bart Torfs
Is Dilucot dead?
Recently, there is a renewed interest in an old Youtube clip, featuring Liam Finnegan of the Waldorf Barbershop, Dublin Ireland, honing a traditional razor on a Coticule. It is not a full sharpening we see in that clip, but actually a sort of touch-up procedure, capable of bringing a declining edge back into a good shaving condition. Mr. Finnegan uses a thin watery slurry, and performs classical X-strokes. About halfway through the routine he dips the blade into a jar of water (not unlike the "ellipticot" method) after which he works the surface of his Coticule a little bit with a slurry stone. He also uses a special circling motion each time the blade is flipped over, that seems to have a function for bringing the blade behind the puddle of fluid.
I've received several questions in the last week, by members who are confused about how this method is seemingly in contradiction with the premise of Dilucot.
I believe it is not.
The confusion sprouts from a couple of faulty assumptions.
1. The different scope of both procedures.
Dilucot/Unicot describe how a dull razor with possible bevel inaccuracies (very dull, convex, or with wrong angle) can be fully sharpened to shaving sharpness. Mr Finnegan shows how a razor that has been in normal shaving routine can be serviced when the edge starts to decline. He does not make use of a rich slurry. Dilucot/Unicot do start with a richer slurry, to enhance the speed of a Coticule for bevel work. It is this richer slurry that imparts a keenness limitation that can be overcome by progressing to thinner slurry or water. How much the density of a slurry limits a Coticule is something that every Coticule owner can observe for his particular specimen, by performing 20-30 X-strokes with a well-sharpened razor on a milky slurry. The tendency to regress varies between Coticules, but it is there, ready to be observed.
2. A common misconception about the effect of "dulling on glass"
If a razor's edge is lightly dragged over a glass object, like the bottom of a glass or a beer bottle, it takes usually only one passage, sometimes two, to make the edge duck all shaving ability. Therefor, many deem such a razor truly dull, which it is not. In fact, such an edge can still be stropped back into as good as its original shaving condition by a decent stropping on clean leather. I don't know why this occurs. It would be interesting to examine this observation by aid of a series of SEM images.
But the fact remains, that razors, predulled in this fashion, pick up new sharpness surprisingly fast, *provided* that they carried a good bevel to start with. In case of a bad (convex or off-angle) bevel, the very edge will not make contact with the hone, and will remain "predulled" for as long as the bevel isn't brought to the correct geometry.
People often overestimate the effect of the passage on glass, and think that a method that works for reviving such an edge, is at the same time proven to bring back a really deteriorated edge with similar ease. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Mr. Finnegan's procedure, as warmly as I can recommend it for touch-ups, and as a viable finishing procedure in more or less the same right as the finishing sequence of Emmanuel Giannoulakis' Ellipticot method, it does not include a bevel correction stage, as included by Unicot and Dilucot.
3. Overestimation of the dilution strategy of Dilucot.
No matter how often I have shared my opinion that the dilution sequence of dilucot is not to be considered too crucial, in mind of many Coticuleers this often remained the most mythical part of the procedure. As if all the magic is somehow secretly embedded in the dilution of the slurry and into the hands of the true Coticule master to perform it with sorcerous control. It is of course not. I've always maintained that if the edge arrives at a good HHT-1 (the violin level) at the end of the dilution stage, it is ready to be finished (on very thin slurry or water, according to personal preference).
4. Speaking of personal preferences.
Whether or not the edges finished on thin slurry shave acceptably, remains a matter of personal preference.
I often smile when someone points me to forum statements by people who claim that their face requires "the sharpness of synthetics". I smile, because I know the sharpness of Shaptons, Naniwas, lapping films and pastes. And because I know the sharpness that can be achieved with a Coticule.
But I must admit that I need to finish on water (including a "dirty water" version of Ellipticot), to arrive at the kind of sharpness I prefer. Finishing on light slurry gives me edges I find agreeable, soft to the skin, and capable of a close shave, but they lack the "glide" I like. I am slightly concerned that this current wave of slurry finishing is in the end going to feed the still stubbornly maintained misconception that Coticules are not fit to make a razor "plenty sharp".
5. And some science
As said, Mr. Finnegan reworks the surface of his Coticule halfway through the procedure. Nic Fanzo, aka Disburden on most shaving forums, was actually the gentlemen to bring Mr. Finnegan's procedure back into today's spotlight. Nic speculated that it is actually this reworking of the surface that possibly adds to the success he and other have had with this procedure. He might very well be onto something here. Nonetheless, hypothesis can only be trued by attempts to break them. I have been trying to follow Nic's guidelines, by copying the steps he shared in a recent ArtisanShaving topic, called: Using Milky slurry and arriving at shave ready (please note that I do not agree with the term "Milky slurry").
I've run as little as 4 trials, various razors and Coticules, all known good bevels, predulled on glass for the occasion. Each time I arrived at HHT 2, bordering on 3, before my first attempt at reworking the surface. Each time I did additional work, reworking the surface after 50 more laps and another reworking after 30 laps. I probed with the HHT using the same hair before each instance of reworking the surface, dipping the slurry stone in water, as per Nic's instructions. I found no HHT improvement. It is of course quite possible that I simply did not manage to reproduce Nic's results. As said, I was not entirely pleased with my trial shaves. That in itself might indicate that my results may not serve to disprove Nic's hypothesis. Further testing by others is advisable. It could easily be so that Mr. Finnegans results can be obtained with or without reworking the surface.