How to Shave with a Straight Razor for that Incredible Shaving Experience!
Straight razor shaving is the oldest form of shaving that has been around since centuries. While straight razor has undergone many transformations over the millennia, but the principle still remains the same. From sharp edged corals, to bronze and to crude steel knives, and new hollow ground cut throat razors, it’s definitely made an indelible dent in the human history. The modern straight razors are still being used by many and this form of shaving is making a comeback among select few women and men who cherish the joys of cut throat razor shaving.
There could be many reasons for the switch. Many people want an irritation free, and close shave. Perhaps they’re wary of razor bumps. Some men love the self-sufficiency that straight razor provides. They take up the art solely because they can sharpen their razor themselves. Others do it for its manliness aspect. It’s undeniable that straight razor shaving is the manliest way to shave! Still others want to save the fragile environment because cut throat razor produces minimal waste than any other shaving method; close to zero in fact.
What are the requirements?The most obvious requirement on how to shave with a straight razor is the razor itself. Many manufacturers now offer straight razors. Currently there are many semi-custom and custom makers on the market. You can also buy vintage razors for hundred of dollars. Most of the razors look pretty similar, but avoid one with square points as they can easily poke your cheek with its pointy tip. Also stay away from blades that have more than 6/8” inch width, as larger ones can become unwieldy. Only buy new razors made in Germany, US, or France. They’re the best!
Aside from cut throat razor, you will have to buy a canned shaving cream, though it’s not recommended. This is mainly because you won’t get the full benefits of switching. You’ll also need a strop if you want to use straight razor for a long time. If you don’t strop your razor, it can go dull within a week or two. You will want a boar/badger/horsehair brush and some soap. Traditional soaps are much better and cheaper than canned goo. Also keep few first aid items handy. Your first aid should have a styptic pencil and a moleskin or a liquid band-air. You should also keep an alum block.
And that’s it, and if you really want to be self-sufficient, and want to learn a new skill, you should buy a hone to keep your razor sharp. Alternatively, you can send your razor for sharpening. It would cost you few dollars. This can be a bargain considering you’ll have to spend hundreds of dollars buying the same equipment that pros use. You’ll also have to spend lot of time in becoming truly proficient at honing.
Shaving with a straight razor
If you have a straight razor with a good shaving edge, you still need to stop its edges. For this, you’ll need a strop, which is a double-sided strip of leather and canvas used to run shaving blade backwards and forwards in two strokes. One backward and forward motion is referred to as a “lap”. For best results, you should lap your straight razor, 15-25 times on each side of the strop, by starting on the canvas first and then using the leather-faced side. Stropping is important as this process restores the edges of straight razor between the shaves and also removes all residues.
Start off by taking a regular shower as this will open up your skin pores. Many straight razor shaves prefer to use a pre-shaving product or conditioner to ex-foliate the skin and soften the beard before shaving. Now run some hot water and strop your razor, and keep a towel ready to clean up spills during your shave. Take your time during first few months of shave as you observe your technique and improve them with each future shave.
Shaving soaps and creams are important for getting a good quality shave with a straight cut throat razor. Never use a conventional shaving gel as they offer no skin protection when using a straight razor and you will make a much bigger mess during and after your shave. There are many shaving soaps and creams on the market, and as you progress with straight razor shaving, you will easily identify which suites you best.
With shaving brush to hand, soak it in hot water, and gently shave out all excess water in the sink. Now add a spot of shaving cream on your brush and slowly start scrubbing your face with this brush. Apply moderate pressure in circular motion in both the directions until the neck and face area have a fairly consistent coating of shaving.
Now you’re ready to shave with your straight razor. Pull your skin tight using your non-shaving hand and start with a downwards shaving pass on your face. Unlike conventional safety razors, you’ll soon learn that best shaves with a straight razor come by using skin pulling techniques that you’ll learn as you go.
Try to tighten your skin with your hand or fingers during each stroke when using a straight razor. Shaving on a slack skin can result in deep cuts and snagging. The straight razor should be held approximately 28-32 degrees to the face, perhaps slightly shallower. Anything higher than this will result in possible cuts and poor cutting results.
During first few shaves using a straight razor, you do not have to complete the whole shave. This will save you a great deal of frustration trying to reach seemingly inaccessible areas, and will also reduce changed of getting a nick. Here patience is key! Once you’ve successfully completed your first downward pass, you can try an upward pass to get a close shave.
Splash off all remaining cream from your face and re-apply some shaving cream using light pressure of shaving brush. Again, use circular motions until your neck and face areas have good coating of shaving cream. Soak and wipe your razor using a kitchen towel. Now you’re ready to start the second, upward pass. Using the same shaving techniques in the reverse direction, pull the skin on your neck downwards using one hand, and use a 30 degree angle to start upward strokes, with a gentle and consistent pressure until the entire neck area is done. Now pull the skin downwards from your lower chin area and work your up over your jawbone onto the cheeks.
At this stage, start pulling your skin upwards on your cheek area and maintain your strokes with a straight razor until your cheeks are done. Shave upward stroke on the chin areas and moustache, though you should do this only if you really need to, and only once you’re confident in doing so.
When you’ve finished both passes on your skin, clean your straight razor with some cold water and use a kitchen towel to remove all moisture from the razor. You can also pick up the razor and blow off any excess water through the gap in the scales as well. This will prevent any water from dripping down into the gaps where the washers and pins meet the blade which is where the majority of rust spots start on a razor if it’s poorly maintained.That it! Now you’ve learned how to shave with a straight razor in a perfect way.