11 Apr How to Shave With a Straight Razor – Straight Razor Shaving
Shaving with a straight razor is a type of art-form. Historically, the only option that men had for shaving their faces was a straight razor. It wasn’t until the 1950s when safety razors were made widely available that his shifted. Though using safety razor is likely a quicker, more convenient shave, it isn’t necessarily better. Straight razors provide a type of shave unlike any other.
What Are Straight Razors?
A straight razor is a shaving tool that has an open, sharp blade on one side, and a handle on the other. The blade easily folds into the handle during non-use. These razors are often called open razors and cut-throat razors. Typically, straight razors do require more skill and care than other methods of shaving as a free blade can be incredibly dangerous in a novices’ hand.
The parts of a straight razor, though simple, may seem a bit intricate at times. The narrow end of the blade will rotate on a pin that is called a pivot; this happens between two protective pieces that are known as the scale or the handle. There is an upward curved piece of metal called a tang which is where the fingers can rest to stabilize the blade while shaving. When a straight razor gets made, it includes the tempering and hardening of the blades and the handle. After this occurs, there is a finishing process that the blade goes through by being polished in gloss.
Why is Straight Razor Shaving Better?
There’s a reason that many people prefer the straight razor shave to any other shave. There are specific benefits that cannot result with other types of hair removal. Traditionally speaking, the straight razor has such key advantages because of its original inception and the need for shaving methods to be effective, sustainable and superior. Here are all the benefits of a straight razor shave:
No More Razor Burn
If you have incredibly sensitive skin that is prone to developing rashes, bumps or razor burn, this may naturally be a better fit for you. This type of reaction is often due to clogged pores that can result from the accumulation of dead skin cells that form around improperly cut hair; this becomes a perpetual problem with safety razors because of design and how they cut the hair. Straight razors cut hair in a smoother, more complete manner. Cleaner cuts mean less dead skin left on your face; this will lead to less irritation, or even eliminate irritation altogether.
A Superior Shave
Straight razors are manufactured to last much longer than other options. Many people can get away with not having to shave every single day with the type of close shave that a straight razor gives them. Due to the sharpness and length of the blade, you are getting the very closest shave possible; this will provide the most transformative shave that is possible by any razor on the market.
The amount of money you may spend on safety razors, shaving cream and aftershave may not be adequately registering until you truly think about it. However, the lifespan of an average safety razor is a mere 12-15 shaves, whereas a straight razor can be used for years, only requiring a honing every so often. The most inexpensive safety razor will add up after the multiple purchases that are required. While the straight razor kit may seem like an investment, in the beginning, you’ll see your money’s worth within about a month.
Should I Use A Straight Edge Razor?
If you have enough time to learn how to shave properly with a straight razor, you should consider taking it up as a hobby. There are numerous benefits that you’ll certainly enjoy by deciding to rid yourself of facial hair the old fashioned way. If you are naturally nervous, have shaky hands or suffer from negative and harmful thoughts, then perhaps using a straight razor may not be for you.
Another thing to consider is how much better for the earth and environment this type of shaving is. Those old safety razors that you end up throwing away at least once a month have to end up somewhere. They, much like most other garbage that we discard of, end up in landfills, and they aren’t biodegradable. If you are interested in lessening your carbon footprint, choosing to shave with a straight razor is preferred.
Straight Razor Designs
Individual barbers specialize in the art of straight razor shaves. While usually an electric razor is used for most standard hair cuts, lineups and trims, a straight razor can also be used to etch in particular designs into the hair. Due to its sharp blade, it can cut all the way to the scalp. Many athletes are known for displaying eccentric and unusual designs on the side or back of their heads. A real masterfully skilled barber can etch an intricate and unique design alongside a proper haircut.
Not all blades within the straight razor are the same. Many of them are classified based on their point type. There are three main kinds of points.
- Round points – as the name suggests, these points are semicircular which means that it lacks any sharp points; this is one of the most modern blades as it’s more forgiving than the other two types. Thus, there is more room for errors when using this type. A secondary edge type called a half rounded point is also an option.
- Square points – this position profile is angular and straight and has a very sharp point that is perpendicular to the edge of the razor. This blade is used as a precise method to get rid of hair in small spaces. It is the type of blade that requires the most experience in handling.
- French points – this is also known as an oblique point as it looks like a quarter circle, with a sharp curve. It lacks the abrupt straight line of the square points but still offers a bit of an angular tip. The biggest difference between this one and the square point is predominately aesthetic, although the French point does make it easier to reach certain hard to reach spots such as around the nose and ear.
How to Shave With a Straight Razor
The first time you hold a straight razor before a shave, you may feel a bit nervous as it’s completely unfamiliar territory. But as long as you follow specific techniques and tips, you’ll get the hang of it and become a pro at the straight razor in no time. How you hold the razor is one of the most vital parts of the process.
Get A Grip
The basic grip is likely the best option for a novice. Take your first three fingers and rest them on the back of the blade. Set your pinkie on the blade’s tang, rest your thumb on the unsharp part of the blade near the middle; this gives you adequate control of the razor.
Prepping your beard is incredibly crucial to the results you will end up getting when using a straight razor. For a close, comfortable shave, make sure your facial hair has been prepped for softness. Soft hair is easier to cut then dry, brittle hair. The easiest way to treat the hair before a shave is to wrap a hot towel around your face. You may recall seeing this practice done in old movies or television shows. The water combined with the heat allows the beard to soften and makes it optimal for shaving. Shaving after a hot shower is also an option.
Important: don’t skimp on shaving cream. Most of the stuff you can get at the drugstore that comes in a can is glorified soap. Most straight razor combo kits come with a thick, quality cream. Opt for this option.
Always start your strokes in the direction of your beard growth. More experienced shavers will often shave against the beard growth as well, which yields the closest, most long lasting shave. Hold the blade at a 30-degree angle; this is a precise angle because anything more than that may result in a cut, anything less won’t cut the hairs. Many first timers make the mistake of using too much pressure when they shave, this only causes cuts. The blade will work as it’s designed to, don’t press down too hard.
Start on the right side of your face by reaching over your head with your left hand and drawing the skin upwards. Hold it steadily as you shave the right side of your face with downward strokes until half the cheek is finished. Then slide the left hand further down to pull the skin taut for the rest of that side. Continue shaving downward until the right side of the face is done.
You’ll then want to move down to the right part of the jaw. Tilt your head back and slant to the left, giving yourself full access to the right side of your jaw. Draw the skin tight under the jaw with your left hand. With shorter strokes than before, shave downward.
Repeat the exact steps you took on the right side of your face on your left. For first time shavers, it’s important to use your dominant hand. If you are right handed, continue to use your right hand, so with your left hand just above your ear, pull upward to hold the skin taut. Make sure that the tow is pointing upwards, reach across the face and begin shaving downward.
Tilt your head back and slant to the right, expose the skin under the jaw, pull the skin taut and make shorter, downward strokes until your entire jaw is completed.
Draw up your lower lip with your fingers, pulling the skin tight; this allows you to make short strokes underneath your lip and along your chin. Always make downward strokes.
What is the Best Straight Razor?
Price: $117.03 on Amazon.com
A classic black handled straight razor that can work for every type of man. It’s a standard straight razor with a 5/8 inch carbon steel blade. Heavy duty, it’s durable and can potentially last for years. This particular blade is made specially to prevent tarnish or dulling. This straight razor, though simple in design and appearance, is made with expert craftsmanship and delicacy. As the most inexpensive straight razor on the list, it is a good place for a novice to start as it provides a specific amount of dexterity and can fit into any budget.
Price: $174.00 on Amazon.com
A gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing design with olive wood handles. A full hollow 5/8 stainless steel blade. This straight razor is very low maintenance and only requires very minimal tune-ups for the sake of upkeep. The olive-wood provides it with a unique look that will undoubtedly please those who have an eye for interesting and eclectic pieces. Depending on your bathroom setup and décor outlay, this type of razor can be easily displayed on a countertop or shelf.
Price: $299.98 on Amazon.com
The priciest option on this list, this expert blade features a three carbon steel blade which is a highly revered and efficient blade. The sharp steel includes a type of branding etched in a gold kind of ink. The handle is a bit of a rosewood hue. This well-made blade made it so that honing the razor doesn’t need to be done more than a few times over the life span of the razor. This type of razor can last for decades if it’s maintained and taken care of properly.
How To Hone A Straight Razor
Every straight razor at one point or another will need to go through a honing process. But what is honing exactly? Well, when you look at any razors edge under a microscope, you’ll see what will look like several points which resemble saw teeth. Over a specific amount of use, a blade will become dull, and the teeth will start to point in irregular, random directions. When you hone a blade, you are restoring the blade’s teeth to its original direction and sharpness.
To sharpen your straight razor, you will need to use a type of product that is made specifically for the honing practice. We suggest this product here: Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone.
Many people are incredibly intimidated by the honing process, but that’s simply because it’s unfamiliar to those who haven’t done it. Here’s a guide to how to get started.
- Wipe the stone off completely. Ensure that it’s clean.
- Use a lubricant if you’re using a whetstone. You can use oil, water, or even some shaving lather; this controls the amount of heat generated when you scrape the blade against the stone. It also gets rid of any excess stone and steel particles that accumulate during the honing process. If you’re using a ceramic stone, lubrication is not necessary.
- Lay the stone with the coarser side up.
- Lay the razor flat on the hone with the spine and the edge touching the stone.
- Grasp the razor by the shank and start the sharpening process. Sweep the blade sideways back and forth to sharpen the entire edge evenly. When you hone, you want to lead the stroke with the blades edge. Always face the blade outward when you stroke.
- Keep the blade against the stone, with the edge up to ensure that the razor rests on the back of the blade.
- Applying mild pressure, draw the blade from heel to point back and forth.
- Hone the blade until it is sharp enough. Testing the blade for adequate sharpness.
It doesn’t take that much time to hone your razor once you get the hang of the techniques used. Roughly, 8 to 10 strokes in each direction should make the razor sufficiently sharp. There is a misconception that you have to hone the blade every single time you shave; this isn’t true. As long as the blade is properly stropped and kept dry, you’ll only need to hone once every couple of months or so.
What is the Best Straight Razor Strop?
Not all strops are created equal. But the importance of the strop is unmatched. You’ll want to strop your straight razor every single time you shave. Here are two great strop options.
Price: $33.41 on Amazon.com
This strop is brown in color with comfortable plastic handles. It includes a finger rest. This strop can be used by pet groomers, barbers and even for personal use. This product has ball-tipped, curved blades. Incredibly easy to use and store, this strop is made with a smooth leather grain of the highest quality. Steeped and made with a high concentration of zinc oxide to aid in the sharpening of your blade. Made in America, this strop is crafted from premium cowhide to ensure the sharpest blade.
Price: $64.95 on Amazon.com
A dark red, twin razor polishing strop, made in the USA. This product is the type of strop that is a great counterpart to any straight razor. It’s high-quality grade latigo leather cured over a given period. A dual strop, one for sharpening and one for polishing the blade. Both strops come together joined with a clasp and convenient handles which allow for the perfect amount of tension needed while stropping. A top of the line strop that provides all the elements that will help your blade remain sharp and efficient.
How To Strop A Straight Razor
- Hang the strop from a bathroom drawer from the hook on the end of the strop.
- The first time you strop, you’ll want to do it directly after honing. Between shaves, you can start with the canvas side before using the leather side.
- Hold the handle with one hand, pulling the strop taut.
- Hold the razor by its shank and place it flat against the strop on the end farthest from you. It’s the exact opposite of the honing process. The razor’s edge trails, so when you’re stroking away from you, the blade must face towards you. When stroking the razor towards you, the blade must face away from you.
- Draw the blade back and forth, keeping the heel of the razor at an angle above the point.
- About 15-20 strokes are typically needed in each direction to sharpen the blade successfully. It may take a bit of time to get used to the process but after you become familiar, stropping will only take about a minute.
To help maintain your strop, purchasing a strop dressing is advised. It will contribute to the maintenance of the supple and soft feel of the strop’s surface. Individual strop dressings will even increase the amount of drag that you get when sharpening the blade. Fromm Strop Dressing is one of the best choices as its affordable, not too thick and durable.
Can I Just Get A Straight Razor Kit?
You absolutely can and should. If you are going to make the decision to start taking your facial hair removal seriously, you’re going to need more than just a straight razor. While there are numerous benefits to using a straight razor to shave. The entire process is more of a way of life than a quick instrument change. Many who use a straight razor, as opposed to safety or electronic razor, state that it sometimes requires a complete mind-shift, not necessarily a mindless grooming task any longer, but something they consider a hobby and something they sincerely enjoy.
Here are some great straight razor kits to choose from:
Price: $199.88 on Amazon.com
This kit has all the aspects necessary to start taking this type of shaving seriously. There is a straight black razor, a wood brush complete with a razor stand, a leather strop, strop paste, and an alum block. This kit is essentially shave-ready, though the honing and stropping elements are there for upkeep, the blade is ready to go. The Dovo straight razor is considered the preeminent razor in today’s market. Very few manufacturers have created a straight razor as capable and reliable as this one. This kit is a fantastic and complete gift for a man who has interests in the tradition and character solidifying aspects of using a straight razor.
Price: $64.99 on Amazon.com
A great inexpensive kit that’s full of value and ready to use right out of the box. The straight razor in this kit is hand sharpened by professionals and is ready for use as soon as it’s opened. If you aren’t incredibly comfortable with honing and stroping the blade, this is the kit for you. The manufacturer offers a lifetime free sharpening service, the only thing you have to pay is shipping; this, of course, will take a longer amount of time than you simply honing and stroping the blade by yourself. But having the option is great. The fantastic thing about this kit is that it comes with a 8-page beginners guide on how to strop and shave using the blade. Also, the standard elements of most kits, synthetic brush, shave soap, 3” wide strop, and straight razor box are included.
Price: $196.95 on Amazon.com
This gorgeous straight blade, made of Japanese steel gleams. It has a gold etched logo that signifies just how well-crafted the blade is. A beautiful mahogany handle that is easy to hold and maneuver. The shaving brush fibers comes from top quality hair from Badger. A soft and gentle shaving cream that can be used on even the most sensitive skin is included. The A.P. Donovan leather strop is highly impressive as it comes from a Kazakh cow. The quality almost 100,000 grain of a typical grindstone. It’s rough microscopic particles enough to sharpen even the toughest blade. This product is perfect for traveling. Everything has a spot and doesn’t take up much room. If you are constantly on the go, this may be the perfect straight razor kit for you.
Though changing your shaving practices to include a straight razor is not a small undertaking, it can be an enjoyable experience rooted in tradition, culture, and a smooth face. There is something to be said about the steps required to get rid of the hair on your face in a similar fashion as your great, great grandfather. Not only is it a deeply ceremonious endeavor, but it will also provide the best shaves of your life. Give it a try and see just how fantastic a straight razor shave can be.