One of the most common and safest ways to shave your beard is with a straight razor. A straight razor is a manual shaving tool that has a handle with an open blade on it. This shaving tool has been around for centuries, even before the invention of safety razors.
A straight razor is easy to use, so you don’t have to worry about cutting your face. However, note that you need to learn how to prepare your face, hold the razor, stroke the blade, and maintain the blade, among other actions. This article will show you how to shave with a straight razor like a pro.
Before You Begin
Before we begin, it is worth noting that shaving with a straight razor takes more time than an electric shave. You can expect to spend 15 minutes or more using a straight razor. Plus, this shaving tool is suitable for all skin types. All you need to do is prepare your skin for shaving and slowly follow each step in this article.
Also, you won’t experience any irritation as long as you follow each step carefully. Another point to keep in mind is the blade’s weight. Some straight razors are heavy, while some are light. Before selecting a blade, make sure you hold different blades to gauge their weight.
The weight of the blade determines the amount of pressure you will apply when shaving. The lighter the blade, the more pressure you need to apply when shaving. To be safe, always apply light pressure to your first strokes to test the tool.
Lastly, note that there are many straight razors to choose from, so be sure to do your homework. Cheap razors are a bad investment because they don’t cut hair cleanly and easily become blunt. On the other hand, a higher-quality blade gives clean cuts and is worth the investment in the long run.
Anatomy of a Straight Razor
Knowing the different parts of a straight razor and the parts to hold when shaving will make the whole process easier for you. Now, let’s identify the different parts of a straight razor blade:
One of the most important parts of a straight razor is the edge. The edge is the sharpest end of the straight razor that clears the hair follicles off from your face. The edge houses and secures the blade, allowing you to carry out your task confidently.
Also, note that the edge of a straight razor has different point types, including round, Spanish, square/spike, and French/Irish. Most quality straight razors you’ll find on the market are made with a premium stainless stain that is not easily affected by rust/corrosion.
The face is the straight razor’s flat side and lies parallel to your facial skin while shaving. This is the part where most brands place their logos.
The heel is the part that marks the end of the edge and the points where the blade cannot escape the razor. This part is often used for shaving and as a form of protection if the edges become loose.
The toe lies at the front side of the cutting edge and is usually shaped like an angle or arc. This part of the straight razor allows you to determine if it has any dents or bends that may reduce its efficiency. Furthermore, the toe can help determine whether or not the blade has been properly adjusted.
The point, also known as the tip of the razor, comes in different sizes and is usually square or rounded. Although the point isn’t particularly sharp, you can use it to shave tough spots and small areas.
Next, we have the spine, which runs along the razor’s back and lies opposite the cutting edge. Most manufacturers usually bulge the razor’s spine to make the tool easier to hold.
This part of the razor links the blade and the tang. The shoulder marks the blade’s end and the tang’s beginning. Additionally, it helps the user determine where to hold the tang while shaving.
The tang is the part of the straight razor that allows you to shave your beard safely without cutting your hands. The tang starts at the shoulder and ends at the pivot pin. Plus, it is the part of the razor you grip to get the safest and closest shave possible. If you are uncomfortable gripping the spine while shaving, move your fingers to the tang.
Although some straight razors don’t have jimps, it makes the razor more stable and usable. The jimps provide a safe spot to place your index finger and thumb while shaving. A straight razor with jimps provides better control and a cleaner grip during shaving.
The tail is an extension of the tang that sticks out beyond the pivot point. This is the safest part to place your thumb when opening the razor. Additionally, the tail allows you to adjust your angle and keep the blade balanced to avoid cuts. Only a few wet shavers know how to use this part properly
Scales are the stylish handles of the straight razor. Depending on the brand, this part can be made of wood, plastic, camel bone, and other stylish material. The handle also gives you a better grip and helps protect the blade from damage.
How to Shave With a Straight Razor
You can give yourself a clean shave at home with a simple straight razor. All you need to wield this tool is patience and confidence.
Now that you are familiar with the parts of this tool, let’s show you how to shave with a straight razor:
First, wet a towel with hot water and pat your face with the hot towel to help soften facial hair for shaving. The hotter the water, the better. Apply pre-shave oil over your face to make shaving easier. Ensure your pre-shave product contains oils such as coconut, jojoba, sunflower, or olive.
Next, fill your bowl or shaving mug with hot water and soak your shaving brush for one to two minutes. Ensure the water is hot enough to soften the bristles on the brush. Once the brush is soaked, flick your wrist to remove any excess water.
If you don’t have a brush, you can simply use your fingers to apply the cream or soap. However, a brush makes everything easier. Next, replace the water in your bowl or mug with enough shaving cream or soap cake.
Also, ensure that your shaving cream has natural essential oils like olive, coconut, jojoba, and others. Place your shaving brush in the bowl or mug, stirring the cream or soap to form a lather. The longer you stir, the thicker the lather will become.
Use the brush to apply the lather on your face and move in a circular motion until you cover the areas you want to shave. Once the cream or soap has covered the whole shaving area, sweep the brush over any peaks to flatten them out.
Make sure you never hold the scale or handle of the razor while shaving. Always rest your first three fingers on the blade’s shank and your pinky finger on the tang. Also, place your thumb close to but not directly on the blade. Note that this is just the basic grip; you can adjust your grip over time with practice.
Position the blade at a 30-degree angle from your face. Make sure the blade is neither flat nor directly pointed against your skin. The sharp edge of the blade should point downwards at your skin. Also, the razor’s handle should be positioned near your nose.
Position the blade on either the left or right side of your face, and then use your free hand to stretch your skin to make it smoother and flatter. Stretch or pull the skin for every area you shave to maintain a smoother shave.
Shaving Your Beard
Make sure the blade is positioned correctly, and then start to shave using short and sharp strokes with a grin. Begin at the top of your cheek and then work downwards towards your jaw. Try not to apply pressure or press too hard so as not to cut yourself.
Rinse the blade regularly and continue from where you left off. Do this until you cover both sides of your face. When shaving your mouth and chin areas, open your mouth wide and curl your lips in to tighten your skin for a cleaner shave.
To shave your neck and under the jaw, tilt your head backward and then use your free hand to pull up your jaw. Next, stroke downwards until you cover the areas under your jaw. You can take care of the hairs around your neck once you are done with your jaw.
Repeat the Process
Wash your face with cold water and check for areas you missed. You may have to repeat the whole process for a cleaner shave. Lather up again to do a second pass. However, note that you may have to use different strokes this time. Also, ensure to always apply shaving cream before taking a stroke.
Shave from side to side this time but do it more gently. Start from your ear and cut down to your face’s center. Ensure you rinse the blade following each stroke. If you are handling a straight blade for the first time, consider wrapping up the second pass with downward strokes.
This will help you learn how to handle the blade properly without cutting yourself. Rinse your face with cold water and re-latter one last time. Start shaving from the bottom of your neck and work your way to your chin. The reason for this third pass is to get the closest and smoothest shave possible. Try to be as gentle as possible.
Once you are done with the third pass, rinse off the cream with cold water and pat your skin dry. Apply a post-shave balm to reduce irritation. Now dry your razor with toilet paper or soft cloth. Ensure you wipe off all the moisture to prevent rusting.
When storing your blade, ensure you keep it away from your shower or steam to prevent rusting. Do not re-use the blade if it gets rusty. Using blade oil to cover the blade can help store your razor for longer. We recommend camellia oil for better results. Cover the blade with the camellia oil before putting it away.
You can practice with a balloon if you aren’t confident in your shaving skills or feel that you may injure yourself during the process. Get a balloon and apply shaving cream to it. Position the balloon before your face and gently shave off the cream.
Use short and sharp strokes and work your way around the curves of the balloon. You will do well if you can shave the balloon without popping it.
Stropping Your Blade
If you want your straight razor to serve you for a long time, stropping and honing the blade is top-level important. Stropping helps to sharpen the blade and removes any microscopic edge inconsistencies.
Stropping your blade increases usability and gives the blade a razor shape blade edge, a polished and finished look. The material used for stropping is known as the strop, and it is commonly made from smooth leather or suede. Also, note that you need to maintain the same degree and sharpening angle when stropping your blade.
How to Strop a Blade
Hang the Strop
Grab the strop and secure it on a piece of furniture such as a bedpost or a drawer knob. Most hanging strops have a hook that you can attach to furniture or solid surface. Use the leather side of the strop if you are stropping the blade after it has been honed. Start with the canvas side if you are stropping between shaves before moving on to the leather.
Position Your Fingers on the Blade
Place your fingers by the blade’s shank and ensure the sharp edge is pointing at the shank. Tighten the strop with your free hand before moving the blade to the far end. If you move the blade over a loose shank, you may have a dull and rounded edge, meaning you’ll have to hone the blade more often.
Stroke the Blade
You can either stroke the blade towards or away from you. Position the blade’s edge towards you when stroking away and position the blade’s edge away from you when stroking towards you.
Ensure the strop is tight, and don’t lift the blade when stroking. Stroke the blade towards you and then flip or rotate it on its back when you reach the strop end. The razor’s edge should be facing you now.
Repeat the same stroking pattern and work your way down to the other end of the strop. Make sure the edge is facing towards you and not touching the strop. Repeat this stropping pattern until you have a smooth blade.
It usually takes 30 strokes to strop a straight razor properly, which is 15 strokes for each side. If you are doing this for the first time, move gently and slowly. Stropping your blade shouldn’t take more than a minute once you get the hang of it.
To get the best results, ensure you sharpen the blade correctly before stropping. Also, apply the same degree when stropping for the best effects. We recommend using a quality leather strop. If you don’t have one, your old leather belt will work fine.
Honing Your Blade
Honing is one of the best ways to restore your blade’s teeth to their original condition. You would need a quality hone to give your blade the sharp, clean edge it deserves. You can hone your blade with a barber hone, a standard woodworking whetstone, or any other quality hone.
If you feel your blade’s teeth are getting dull, here’s how to restore them to a working condition:
Wipe and Lubricate the Stone
Grab a towel and wipe any debris off the stone. If you use a whetstone, lubricate it with oil or cold before you begin. Lubricating the blade helps protect it after the heat and further damage.
If you are honing the blade with a ceramic stone, you don’t have to bother about lubrication.
Position the stone on a flat surface (preferably the ground) with the coarse side facing up. The coarse side is the part we need to sharpen the blade.
Honing the Blade
Flatten the razor on the hone and ensure that the spine and edge are in contact with the stone. If only the edge is in contact with the stone, you may have a dull and short bevel. Place your fingertips on the shank and then start sharpening the blade. Make sure to position the sharp edge away from you and use your fingers to push the blade along the stone.
The blade’s edge should always point in your stroking direction. Apply moderate pressure and sweep the blade forward as you work. Start honing from the blade’s bottom and push its top part onto the stone as you stroke.
When you get to the end of the stone, flip the razor over and repeat the same stroking pattern. Make sure the bladed edge isn’t in contact with the stone. Repeat these steps until you get a smooth blade. You only need about ten strokes in each direction to sharpen your blade.
After ten strokes, test the blade by gently passing it across a moistened fingernail. Also, note that over-honing your blade may damage it. After honing the blade, strop it before using it to shave. A properly honed blade should last you about six to eight weeks.
Benefits of Straight Razor Shaving
There are several benefits of using a straight razor. One of these benefits is that it provides better shaves. Straight razors provide a smoother shave and may give you that baby face you desire. Furthermore, using a straight razor helps to reduce costs. Although the initial cost of purchasing all of the necessary equipment may be high, you won’t have to worry about spending money for a long time.
This means you don’t have to spend money on a new blade, razor cartridge, or other parts. All your razor needs is some nice stropping, and you are all set for the next shave.
Additionally, straight razors reduce the need to bother about waste disposal. The only waste you have to worry about is your shaving scum, which is easily biodegradable.
Shaving with a straight razor can be fun if only you know what to do. In this article, we’ve provided you with steps on how to shave with a straight razor. Before you get started, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the different parts of a straight razor.
Doing this will give you a better understanding of the parts to grip while shaving. Additionally, maintaining your blade is the next step to take after shaving. Ensure you regularly strop or hone your blade to keep it sharp and in good condition.
On a different note, never settle for cheap razors as this may cause you trouble in the long run. Cheap razors are known to cause skin irritations and annoying cuts. On the other hand, good quality and well-maintained razor will give you nice cuts and last for years.