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Background & Comments on the BESS
As many know by now, the BESS is an acronym for the "Brubacher Edge Sharpness Scale" which was first conceived in 2012 by Mike Brubacher. The following addresses some points that we hope to find common ground on with our users and prospective users relative to the BESS. If we don't agree that's fine. We won't be angry with you and hope you won't be angry with us.
At BESSU the definition of "sharp" as it relates to edges and the BESS is unambiguous. BESSU defines "sharp" as a measure of the width and radius of the edge apex. The output of BESS related test instrumentation is very simply an indication of those apex dimensions. For internal QC purposes, BESSU has defined the basis for the BESS scale, the edge of a double edge razor blade, dimensionally. These apex width and radius numbers have no meaning nor relativity to the average user though. Therefore BESSU will continue to describe the basis for the BESS as "the edge of a standard DE razor blade" for so long as makers of common and inexpensive DE blades continue to manufacture to the same general dimensional specification that they have for the past 50 years or more. For those who are curious, approximations of the same dimensions that BESSU uses as an internal standard can be found via various public sources including this one “Experiments on Knife Sharpening” by Verhoeven and thank you to one of our users and good friends in Australia for bringing this resource to one of our licensee's attention.
Simply, and as a matter of discussion at BESSU we sometimes find ourselves comparing our efforts to those who have preceded us. With this in mind we find ourselves in a strong kinship with two other scales. The Rockwell Hardness Test and the Celsius Temperature Scale and for two very disparate reasons. Rockwell and Bess share many things but the two factors that stand out are that we both share a scale and instrumentation that is matched to that scale and that neither process, Rockwell or BESS, is based on any fundamental of physics or science. There is no "boiling point of water" experiment or "speed of light" calculation to fall back upon with either. The Rockwell's indenter is analogous to our test media. In many ways the BESS is a much simpler and straight forward calculation than the Rockwell. Rockwell requires several different indenters and loads in order to cover the possible range of hardness characteristics of common materials while BESS requires only one test media to cover all useful edge sharpness ranges. Our hats are off to the two Rockwells for tackling such a difficult subject but primarily, for persevering.
We identify with Celsius because our standard scale, the BESS "A", shares a "0" basis point that, like Celsius, can go negative but more so because of the matter dealt with in the "BESSU definition of sharp" paragraph that led off this page. In explanation;
BESSU does not strive to force our definitions of terms on anyone. We simply try to explain our adoption of definitions so that if we invoke a term like "sharp" you know what we are referring to. The same applies to the term "keen". For BESSU, sharp and keen, relative to edges, have the same meaning because that is how the two words are treated, commonly, in the English language. In the thesaurus and dictionaries we use sharp points to keen and keen points to sharp so, in this small section of the world that BESSU occupies, the terms may be used interchangeably.
We sometimes see the question "what is sharp?" posed and usually so in some form of social media. The question seems to beg an expansion of a very old and simple definition because, surely, the questioner can identify and describe the edge characteristics that differentiate a butter knife from a straight razor. Right? Instead, it seems that the question is more symbolically asking this; "If an axe is more suitable for cutting down a tree than a razor blade, does that mean the axe could be said to be sharper than the razor blade?" In our opinion, yes... but only if that's the way you choose to see it. The way BESSU sees it, no. We don't think that it is useful to rewrite the simple meaning and definition of a common word in order to facilitate the inclusion of other recently described factors. What is required here is new terminology. Terms that, by definition, include all factors or at least the newly defined ones. These thoughts bring us back to our identification with the Celsius scale;
We agree that sharpness only addresses one aspect of a given cutting, chopping, or slicing tool's ability to perform it's assigned task. Sharpness is certainly a very important consideration in that equation but not the only consideration. Similarly, if someone were to report that the outside air temperature is 7º C (45 F) an individual from South Florida might say that it is pretty cold outside while a visitor from Norway might say it sounds quite pleasant. Now if that same person were to add that the humidity is high and the wind howling even the Norwegian might change his opinion and agree with the Floridian. So when it comes to a decision as to whether or not to don a jacket, an accurate measurement of air temperature is often not the only consideration. Eventual identification of these added comfort factors, humidity and wind speed, were apparently not sufficient cause for weathermen to redefine the common meaning of "temperature" though. That's why Mr's Siple and Passel took the first step with their "wind chill" calculations. Undoubtedly, they were assisted in this endeavor by a thermometer and anemometer.
Perhaps someone in the blade industry will take inspiration from these two men and identify and quantify the various edge characteristics and efficiencies of cutting edges on a designed task basis. What a great benefit to the blade industry this would be. If someone should begin this research project they will almost certainly be assisted by the ability to measure, record and communicate accurate edge sharpness data.