Shaving Sense/Cents: Straight Razors

By GreenUp! Community Blogger – Tice

My how the timing worked out perfectly for this entry!  Now that we’ve covered some of the tools of the trade for ‘wet shaving,’ we are now going to up the ante and talk about the most ‘green’ shave of them all, straight razor (SR) shaving!  Here is a link that describes a straight razor in detail.  Yesterday, I received 3 shave-ready blades in the mail, all ready to carve up my face!  I received 2 of them, a Bartmann and a Trusteel from Larry Andreassen of the Whipped Dog.  I paid him to hone (sharpen) them for me, and he offers a great price and super service for $13 per blade.  He also sells shave-ready blades.  The other was a Columbia shave ready SR I purchased for $15.00 (+$2.00 shipping) from the Straight Razor Place classifieds.  I decided to use the Columbia 6/8 razor, and despite the unknown, everything went well!  In fact, I believed even before I got my first straight razor that I was going to enjoy it, and I did!  It went a little something like this…

Straight Razor is the greenest, most sustainable form of shavingStraight Razor is the greenest, most sustainable form of shaving

First, I prepared a hot, wet washcloth to wrap over my cheeks and beard to open up the pores and soften my hairs.  Then I prepared a rich, thick lather with my badger brush, Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream, and Burma Shave mug.   I lathered up my face, and…for the first time in my life, I had a straight razor shave!  While being far from perfect, I was slow and deliberate, I hit all the right areas, and I didn’t nick or cut myself!  What I did do was shave with the grain (WTG) on my cheeks and beard, shaved my lower lip and chin, and I even went against the grain (ATG) on my left cheek before I decided I went pretty far for my first time.  I did not touch my upper lip as that will require considerable skill, having to maneuver under my nose, and I have to be especially careful with my moles.  I also wanted to study up on the proper cross the grain (XTG) and ATG techniques before I took it any further.  I finished up with my trusty Gillette Adjustable safety razor for a baby butt smooth (BBS) shave.  As a side note, I’ve used the Treet DE blade 5 times and it’s one of my favorites so far.  I may get another shave or two out of that blade just yet!

So what is it going to take for you to make the switch?  First of all, I highly recommend using the DE safety razor for at least a couple of weeks and get used to shaving with a single blade.  I would not jump in from a current cartridge razor directly to a SR.  Try to ‘feel’ the shave and understand how you don’t have to push the blade in to your skin.  This will be very helpful in the learning curve and understanding how razors and shaving techniques play in to getting a great shave.  After doing this, I’d say you could venture in to SR shaving.  Again, be sure to utilize Youtube videos, and read the forums on Badger & Blade for further instruction.  I personally didn’t watch but one video a few weeks ago, but I did get great print information from Larry at the Whipped Dog on SR shaving.  He covered SR shaving for newbies, including angles and techniques.  He also said you should start with the cheeks and sideburns, and graduate to other areas over time, but obviously I felt more comfortable to go further my first time.  Please don’t feel that you have to do the same.  You can find Larry’s comprehensive straight razor shaving manual here.

Ok, but what about the equipment, and how much is it going to cost?  Well, the good thing is you are about halfway done with the things you need if you have already purchased your shave brush, mug, and your new luxurious soap or cream.  Luckily for you, there are millions of straight razors in existence today.  With all of that variety, be sure to understand what kind of blade you’re looking for, and get something that speaks to you in both functional and aesthetic design.  Remember, these are showpieces and conversation starters!  I’m going to make my recommendations based on functionality instead of collectability.  I would take one of two roads when you decide on getting your first SR.  One, get a shave-ready vintage blade from the classifieds at B&B or SRP, or check out what Larry has for sale at The Whipped Dog.  You should be able to get a functional (and sometimes very nice) shave-ready SR for $20-$50.  If you would like to get a new blade, I suggest checking out the Dovo blades on Straight Razor Designs starting at around $70.  What is nice about SRD, is they provide you with a shave-ready honed blade (not all new blades are shave-ready, so buyer beware), and a certificate for your first re-honing for free, which is a $20 value!  If you want to spend closer to a hundred or slightly over, you’ll start seeing some really ornate and beautiful blades.  Stay away from Chinese blades, not only because they make cheap razors, but just because there are so many awesome pre-loved razors out there, plus many gorgeous new blades from Europe, whose economy could use more assistance anyway, right?

If you are interested in picking out a vintage blade to restore, you can get them in varying condition (from poor all the way to shave-ready) on Ebay, Etsy, Ruby Lane, Bonanza, antique stores, and maybe even thrift stores if you are lucky.  If you do not buy a shave-ready blade (one that has been honed and sanitized), you can do as I did and send it out for a honing service, and it will return shave-ready.  If you decide to pick up a vintage blade that needs restoration, it may just need to be polished and honed (I suggest using MAAS, a soft cloth, and a lot of elbow grease to clean them up), but stay away from blades with chips, cracks, major rust, extreme pitting, or broken scales.  Please contact me first before you buy ANY vintage SR blade unless you educate yourself fully on them before buying.  What you might think is a great deal could be junk!

The more the merrier The more the merrier

In addition to the blade itself, you will need a leather strop to keep it true, and the Illinois #206 comes highly recommended by my cousin, and it’ll run you about $35-$40.  They are typically used before and after shaves to keep them sharp.  Here is how you use them.  You should properly oil your razors to keep them from rusting, since the majority of them are carbon steel.  Some are stainless, so they won’t rust, but they are slightly harder to hone.  You can buy balsa hones with sharpening paste, wet sharpening stones, or coticules, but unless you’re super handy and capable of DIY, I would suggest sending it out for the honing service.  You will probably have to hone a razor once every 3 to 6 months, and perhaps it would make sense to own 2 or 3 of them to use in rotation, not only because you would send them out less frequently, but you can get different shaving experiences, because all razors are not the same.

Leather StropeOil will help maintain the integrity of the straight razorHone for sharpening

How is this the ‘greenest’ shave of them all?  There is absolutely zero waste with these blades!  Straight razors can last for many years as long as you properly maintain and care for them.  When I say maintain, I truly mean there is maintenance in the process, but it can be well worth it with the quality of shave you will be able to achieve over time, and learning a practice that has been going on for centuries.  It will cost a little more than DE safety razor shaving (unless you hone them yourself), but SR shaving is described by many as an art form.

Now that we’ve covered DE safety razors, brushes, mugs, soaps, creams, gels, and now straight razors, I should have enough information to make a final entry on the remaining peripherals of shaving that I haven’t talked about yet, so look out for that in the coming days.  Again, please direct your questions or feedback to this post or you can contact me personally at tice75@yahoo.com.  Happy Shaving!

-Tice

One thought on “Shaving Sense/Cents: Straight Razors

  1. Straight Razor

    Whether you are a collector or just a good old boy who wants to start using one, you need to know where to buy straight razor.

    Your best bet is do a search online or visit pawn shops or maybe even a knife shop, if you know where there is one. If you do collect them then you should look at flea markets and go to auctions to buy straight razor to expand your collection. Antique stores may be a good place to find vintage razors, as well.

    If you find one you may then need to clean it before you add it to your collection or even start using it. There are specific steps to follow to achieve this and bring your new razor back to life, so to speak.

    First, if the razor happens to be all metal then you can place the whole thing in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes to let the dirt and grime loosen up a bit. Then take a brush to it and scrub the heck out of it. The brush you use does not have to be anything special. An old tooth brush will do just fine.

    Scrub off all the loosened dirt and then take a cotton swab to get into any engravings or decoration that are holding stubborn dirt. Depending on the way the blade was stored you may have to use some type of degreaser on it to clean it successfully.

    If the straight razor is badly rusted you may want to clean it up by using a grinder and taking the rust off that way. you could sharpen the blade at the same time unless ther is still some cleaning to do then wait and sharpen the blade at a later time to save your fingers and hand from cuts while you are handling it.

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