What’s The Deal with Lapping Film?

Lapping film has generated a lot of attention in the past 3-5 years.  Many people have begun using lapping film and have shared their results in multiple forums and websites.

So what is lapping film? Here’s the definition in a nut shell:

Lapping Film: a precision polyester base coated with minerals such as diamonds, aluminum oxide, silicon oxide, silicon carbide and/or cerium oxide originally used to process and polish optical fiber connectors to ensure efficient light/signal transmission.  

In short, originally lapping film had nothing to do with straight razors. Several members of a major wet shaving forum decided to try lapping film with several vintage straight razors.   They figured if it can work with fiber optics then why not blades?  They were right.

Lapping film is measured in microns.  We discussed microns in “The Guide to Straight Razor Strops” some time ago when measuring abrasiveness with diamond pastes.  Same concept here.

To hone with lapping film is basically the same process as you would with stones with a few exceptions. .  You need to stick it to a flat surface (glass is best). Some lapping films have adhesive backs so all need to do is stick it on and away you go.  If it doesn’t or if you want to use multiple sheets when honing a little water on the glass will help the film stick.

Since the grit is measured in microns it’s a little confusing to choose the size for each progression of honing.  Don’t worry, we have you covered.  Here is a chart that converts it for you:

100,000 grit 0- 0.5 micron 1/4 sheet sizes
60,000 0-1 1/2
14,000 0-2 1
13,000 1-2 1.5
9,000 2-3 2.5
8,000 2-4 3
5,000 2-6 4
4,500 4-6 5
2,800 5-10 7
1,800 6-12 9
1,400 8-20 14
1,200 10-20 15
1,050 12-25 18
800 20-30 25


When setting the bevel of the razor you’ll want to start at the 18 micron size and move your way up.

Now to answer our original question: “Does Lapping Film really work?” Yes indeed!  Lapping film works incredible well and will achieve a shave ready edge just like all the other methods.  Although lapping film does in fact work it is not recommend for the beginner.  Lapping film requires a delicate touch and more preparation that only experienced hands can really handle.

The best part of lapping film is……..it’s cheap, like really cheap. A complete honing set will cost you under $25.  That about 10% of what a set of honing stones will put you back.  It’s definitely worth a try.

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