Shave Like Your Great Grandpa: The Ultimate Straight Razor Shaving Guide

by Brett on October 6, 2009 · 154 comments

in Dress & Grooming, Shaving

shaveheader

Our very first post on the Art of Manliness was a introductory guide to shaving like your grandpa with a double-edged safety razor. Since then, we’ve received requests to do a similar article on straight razor shaving. Well, after months of experimenting with straight razor shaving myself and researching the subject in old books on barbering, I present this beginner’s guide to shaving like your great-grandpa. I couldn’t possibly put everything there is to know about straight razor shaving in a single article, but the following presents the essentials of this old-time shaving ritual.

Benefits of Straight Razor Shaving

Better shaves. I thought my shaves couldn’t get any better after I upgraded from my Mach5 to an old school safety razor. I was wrong. The first time I shaved with a straight razor, my face looked as smooth as a baby’s behind. My wife noticed the difference without me even telling her what I had done and declared that it was the smoothest she’d ever seen. So make the switch to a straight razor. Your face will thank you for it.

Reduced costs. The upfront costs to get started with straight razor shaving are a bit on the expensive side. But after you buy all the gear, you’re set for life. You’ll never have to buy razor cartridges or double edge blades ever again. Just give your straight razor a nice stropping and you’re good to go. The only cost you’ll have from here on out is an occasional tube of shaving cream.

Environmentally friendly. Today’s modern shaving racket creates needless waste. When you’re done with a cartridge, you have to throw it out. When you buy new cartridges, you’re left with a ton of packaging material. Shaving with a safety razor reduces this waste, but straight razors take it one step further. The only waste you’ll create is biodegradable shaving scum. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, greenies.

Meditative. Straight razor shaving has meditative benefits. It’s a craft that requires you to slow down and really focus on what you’re doing. After a few times of shaving with a straight razor, you just might start to notice yourself entering an incredibly manly zen-like state.

You’ll feel like more of a bad ass. You’ll be shaving with a tool that can double as a lethal weapon. Putting razor-sharp steel next to your throat every morning reminds you that you’re alive.

The Tools

The Razor. Your most important tool is your razor. Don’t get skimpy with your razor and buy the cheapest one. You don’t want the cheapest; you want the best. Poor razors end up being more trouble than they’re worth. They will irritate your skin and cause nicks and cuts that will annoy you as long as you use it. A good quality razor, on the other hand, is a joy to use. If well maintained, a good razor will last for years. Your great-grandsons might even use it.

razorparts

You can purchase straight razors either new or used. You can find used straight razors on ebay and antique stores. Used razors will likely have imperfections in the blade that will require professional honing. A professional blade restoration will set you back about 30 bones, but it will save you from cutting the crap out of your face.

If you’d like a new razor, check out classicshaving.com or straightrazordesigns.com. You can purchase pre-sharpened blades that are ready to use the first time you shave for about $130.

When shopping for razors, consider the following factors:

  1. Check the steel’s quality. A razor with good temper sharpens better than poorer quality steels. One way to check if you have a well tempered blade is to catch the point of the blade under your thumbnail and let it slip off quickly. If the blade gives a good clear ring, it’s likely well tempered. If it doesn’t, the blade was likely tempered unevenly.
  2. Most modern straight razors are ground with a hollow. Hollowing places a concave on each side of the blade that makes the razor lighter, sharper, and easier to handle. You can purchase blades with varying degrees of hollowing. While full concaves will give you the sharpest edge, it’s not recommend for beginners. When such an edge comes in contact with a stiff beard, unless you hold the blade very flat on the face, it is quite likely to bend and spring, resulting in a cut.
  3. Also consider the blade’s width when selecting a straight razor. Don’t select one that’s too wide. Look for a 5/8 size. It’s easy to control and follows your face’s contours more closely than other blades.
  4. Finally, consider what type of blade point you want. Blades come in either rounded or sharp points. Sharp points have a tendency to nick and cut, so go with a rounded point.

Suggested Razors

Dovo Straight Razor with Black Handle 5/8″
Le Grelot Red Stamina 5/8″

Dovo All Steel Straight Razor 5/8″
Dovo Red Wood Straight Razor 5/8″

The Hone. When you look at a razor’s edge under a microscope, you’ll see that it’s composed of several points that resemble saw teeth. When a razor becomes dull, these teeth are irregular and point in different directions. Honing a blade restores these teeth to their original condition.

The $10 whetstone you use to sharpen your pocketknife won’t work as a hone for your razor blade. They’re just too coarse for shaving blades. We need a quality hone with finer grit to get that sharp clean edge that will make shaving comfortable. A woodworking whetsone with a 4,000/8,000 grit combination will work, and you can easily find them at most hardware stores or online.

Another hone option is a ceramic or “barber hone.” These are little trickier to find. Most are vintage, and you’ll have to scour eBay or antique stores to find one. Because they’re less coarse than traditional whetstones, ceramic hones require more strokes to sharpen your razor.

Suggested Hones

Norton 4,000/8,0000 Grit Combo Whetstone

If you want to find a ceramic barber hone, look on eBay.

The Strop. A blade taken directly from a hone is left rough and unfit to put on the face. Stropping your blade smooths the rough edges off your blade and sets those teeth in perfect alignment. This gives your straight razor that keen edge that makes shaving a breeze.

The most common strop is the hanging strop. Hanging strops consist of two parts: one canvas strip and one leather strip. Again, don’t get chintzy with your strop. Cheaper models use coarse canvas and leather. Unless you want to ruin your razor, you should never put it to such a sub-par strop.

Suggested Strops

Fromm Leather Strop
Edwin Jager Strop
Heirloom Razor Strop Co. (Company is owned by a guy named Tony who makes strops as a side business. His strops come highly recommended.)
Straight Razor Designs Strops

Brush. A brush helps hydrate the shaving cream in order to form a thick and rich shaving lather. Using a brush to lather up helps get the shaving cream up under each whisker which results in better, smoother shaves. Plus, it just feels nice on your face to lather up with a brush.

Brushes are made of either boar or badger hair. Boar hair brushes costs less, but they hold less moisture and consequently create a poor lather. Badger hair brushes cost more, but they produce a better lather. You can pick up a nice badger brush at any Crabtree and Evelyn or Art of Shaving. If you don’t have those in your area, try Amazon.

Suggested Brushes
Omega Creamy Curved Handle Pure Badger Shaving Brush
Porter’s Badger Shaving Brush
Omega Brownie Junior Badger Shaving Brush with Stand

Shaving Cream or Soap. You commit shaving sacrilege when you use a straight razor with the mass-produced chemical goop that gets passed off as shaving cream. Invest in some quality shaving creams and soaps. They may cost more than the crap you buy in a can, but natural shaving creams and soaps nourish your face and make you feel absolutely manly. Plus, I’ve found creams and soaps last longer than shaving gels, so you end up saving money in the long run.

Suggested Creams and Soaps
Proraso Eucalyptus & Menthol Shaving Cream
Kiss My Face Fragrance Free Moisture Shave
Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood Shaving Cream Jar
Body Shop For Men Shave Cream

How to Hone a Straight Razor

Honing a razor intimidates many men. However, honing isn’t that hard once you know how to do it properly. This quick guide will show you how.

1. Wipe the stone clean

2. If you’re using a whetstone, you’ll need to add a lubricant to the stone’s surface. Water, oil, or even a bit of shaving lather can work. The lubricant serves two purposes. First, it prevents the blade from heating up as you scrape it across the stone. If the blade gets too hot, you can actually cause some warping in the metal which will ruin the blade. Second, lubricant clears off any steel and stone particles that are created during honing. You need a clear surface to get the job done right.

If you’re using a ceramic stone, you don’t have to add lubrication.

3. Lay the stone on a flat surface with the coarser side up.

4. Place the razor perfectly flat on the hone so the spine and edge touch the stone. If the edge only touches, you’ll end up with a short bevel and a dull edge.

5. Hold the razor by the shank and start sharpening. Because the blade is longer than the stone’s width, you’ll need to sweep the blade sideways as you work, so you sharpen the entire edge evenly. Draw the blade from heel to point, forward against the edge, and with moderate pressure. When honing, the blade’s edge LEADS the stroke. This means the blade’s edge should point in the direction you stroke.

6. Without lifting the blade from the stone, turn the edge up, so that the razor rests on the back of the blade.

7. Draw the blade from heel to point, towards you. Again, apply moderate pressure.

honingrazor

Diagram of proper honing

8. Continue honing until the blade is sufficiently sharp. A quick way to determine whether a blade is sharp enough is to draw the edge (from heel to point) very lightly, across a moistened thumbnail. If the blade digs into your thumbnail, with a smooth, steady grip, your blade is sufficiently sharp and is ready for stropping. A blunt razor will pass over the nail smoothly. An over-honed razor will stick into your nail and produce a harsh, disagreeable feeling.

The time required to hone your razor depends on your razor’s condition. If it’s in good shape, 8 to 10 strokes in each direction should do the trick. If you have several nicks in the razor, you’ll need to put in more time. If your razor is in really bad shape, send it to a professional cutler to have it properly ground.

Many men avoid straight razor shaving because they think they’ll have to hone the blade every time they shave. In reality, if you keep your blade dry and properly stropped, you won’t have to hone it that often. Most good blades can go 6 to 8 weeks between honings. You’ll know you need to hone it because stropping won’t sharpen it anymore.

How to Strop a Straight Razor

To get the most comfortable and effective shave, strop your straight razor every time you shave.

1. Hang your strop from your bathroom drawer using the hook on one end of the strop.

2. If you’re stropping right after honing, just use the strop’s leather side. Between shaves, start off with the canvas side before using the leather.

3. Holding the handle at the strop’s bottom in your left hand, pull the strop tight. If the strop is loose and you take your blade over it, you could end up with a rounded, dull edge, which means you’ll have to hone it more frequently.

4. Hold the razor by its shank in your right hand and place it flat on the strop on the end farthest from you. Unlike honing, the razor’s edge will TRAIL, and not lead the strokes. So, when you’re stroking the razor AWAY from you, the blade’s edge should face TOWARDS you. When you’re stroking the razor TOWARDS you, the blade’s edge should face AWAY from you.

5. Draw the blade towards you (again with edge pointing away from you), always keeping the heel of the razor in advance of the point of the razor.

stropping1

6. When you reach the strop’s end, rotate the razor on its back until the un-stropped side comes in contact with the strop. The razor’s edge should face TOWARDS you now.

stropping2

7. Draw the blade away from you, keeping the heel in advance of the point.

15-20 strokes in each direction on the strop should get your blade nice and sharp. If you’re first starting out with straight razor shaving, take slow and even strokes. Develop speed gradually. Once you get the hang of it, stropping a razor shouldn’t take more than 30 seconds.

How to Hold a Straight Razor

For first-time straight razor shavers, a big question looming on their minds is: “How in the heck do I hold this thing?” Ask five different straight razor aficionados how to hold a straight razor and you’re likely to get five different answers. Advanced straight razor shavers change up grips depending on whether they’re shaving with, across, or against the grain or if they’re shaving a certain part of their face. For the beginner, we suggest this basic grip:

razorhold

Rest the first three fingers on the back of the blade. Rest your pinkie on the blade’s tang. Place your thumb on the side of the blade near the middle. This grip gives you nice control of the razor. You may have to adjust it when you shave different parts of your face, like your upper lip or your jaw. For more examples of how you can hold a razor, check out the Straight Razor Palace Wiki.

Everyone has their personal preference when it comes to the technique they use with a straight razor. Below we provide a suggested way to shave. As you gain experience wielding a straight razor, you’ll find yourself changing things up to suit your preference. If a particular way to shave with a straight razor works for you, then do it.

Beard Prep

For a comfortable, close shave, a little preparation before putting blade to face goes a long way. Soft whiskers cut more easily than dry whiskers. That’s why barbers wrap a hot towel around your face when you get a straight razor shave. The heat and water combination softens your beard and makes it ready for shaving. You can replicate the barbershop experience by soaking a towel in hot water, wringing it out, and placing it on your face for a few minutes.

If you don’t have the time for such luxury, just shave after you get out of a hot shower. If you want a really soft beard, rub some hair conditioner into your beard before you start showering and rinse it out when you’re done.

Lather Up

Place a nickel-sized dollop of shaving cream into your mug. If you’re using shaving soap, put the soap cake at the bottom of the mug. Soak your brush in hot water. Flick excess water off the brush. With the brush, mix the cream/soap thoroughly, using a combined stirring and churning motion until a thick lather appears. The more you rub the brush on the cream, the thicker the lather.

Apply the lather to your face with your brush in swirling motions. Ensure that lather gets up under every single whisker. When you’ve covered your face completely, take a few strokes to even everything out.

The Shave Stroke

Begin with slow, even strokes and shave in the direction of your beard growth. Shaving against the grain can cause ingrown hairs and razor bumps. Hold the blade at a 30-degree angle. Anything more and you risk cutting yourself; anything less and you won’t cut the whiskers. Also, apply very little pressure when you shave. Let the razor do the work! Pressing down on the razor will only cause cuts.

Shave the Right Side of Your Face

shaveright

Start off by shaving the right side of your face. Reach over your head with your left hand and draw the skin upward with your fingers, thus making a smooth shaving surface. Shave downward until you clear about half the right cheek. Slide the left hand down further until the fingers rest in the middle of the cheek. Pull the skin upward. Continue shaving downward until you shave the entire right side of the face.

Shave the Right Side Under Your Jaw

shaverightjaw

After shaving the right cheek, move on to the right jaw. Tilt your head back and to the left, exposing the skin under your right jaw. With the fingers of your left hand, draw the skin tight under the jaw. Shave downward if the beard grows in that direction.

Shave the Left Side of Your Face

shaveleft

Many right handed shavers switch hands to shave the left side of their face. Personally, I don’t trust the dexterity and touch in my left hand to make the switch. So I continue using my right hand to shave.

Place the fingers of your left hand in front of and just above the ear. Pull upward on the skin so as to draw the skin taut. With the razor in your right hand, toe pointing upward, reach across the face, and shave downward. Walk your left fingers down as you get to the lower part of the cheek and chin. Keep pulling the skin taut.

Shave the Left Side Under the Jaw

shaveleftjaw

Tilt your head back and to the right, exposing the skin under your left jaw. Pull the skin downward with your left hand and shave with the grain.

Shave the Upper Lip

Draw the upper lip down as much as possible to tighten skin. Shave downwards.

Shaving the Chin

Draw your lower lip up as much as possible. This will pull the skin tight, making it easier to shave the whiskers underneath your lip and on your chin.

Shaving Under the Chin

shaveneck

Throw your head back and elevate the chin. With your left fingers, draw skin downward. Take extra care as you shave. The skin under the neck is much more sensitive and prone to cutting.

Important Note: Always wear a sweet vest when shaving with a straight razor. This greatly improves the quality of your shaves.

Should I do multiple passes?

If you want that smooth as a baby’s behind look, you’ll have to do multiple passes with the razor going across and against the grain. For the beginner, I recommend just going over your face again with a downward stroke. Shaving across and against the grain increases the chances of cutting yourself.

After you gain some experience with your straight razor, you can try adding an across the grain and against the grain pass. An across-the-grain pass is when you shave in the direction perpendicular to that which the beard grows. So if your whiskers grow downward on your cheek, you’ll shave across your cheek from right to left or left to right. Shaving against the grain involves shaving against the direction your beard grows. It’s basically the reverse of shaving downward.

If you decide to do multiple passes, the sequence goes thusly:

  1. Shave with the grain.
  2. Shave across the grain.
  3. Shave against the grain.

Before each pass, wash your face off and re-lather.

Post-Shave

Rinse your face off with cool water. Splash a manly smelling aftershave on your face. Witch hazel and bay rum are nice. Aftershave helps reduce skin irritation and leaves your skin looking healthy. Follow by applying a small quantity of talcum powder to your face.

Dealing with Nicks and Cuts

Cuts and nicks happen for several reasons, such as:

  • Using a dull razor
  • Holding the razor improperly
  • Shaving with a razor that’s too hollow
  • Shaving in too great a hurry
  • Shaving against the grain

When you first start out with a straight razor, you’re guaranteed to cut yourself. Don’t let this discourage you. Cuts happen to even the best barbers. Just keep at it. You’ll get the hang of it.

You can stop most minor cuts and nicks by simply pressing the cut together while adding pressure. If that doesn’t work, take a syptic pencil to the cut. If you cut your jugular, well, you’re sort of screwed. So don’t do that.

Getting Started

Some might understandably balk at plunking down $150 dollars for all the tools  needed for getting started with straight razor shaving. After all, what if you don’t end up enjoying this method of shaving? (I’m pretty sure you will, but hey, you never know.) Luckily, there is a way to very cheaply dip your toes into the straight razor waters. Pick up a disposable straight razor from a beauty supply store or elsewhere. They only cost a few bucks, and there’s no need for honing and stropping. Just throw it away when the blade dulls. At that point, you’ll know if you want to go in whole hog or not.

Further Reading

As I mentioned at the beginning, this post is just a beginners guide to straight razor shaving. Hopefully, we provided you with enough info to help you get started with this glorious man ritual. But don’t end your straight razor education here. People have written gobs and gobs about straight razor shaving. Below I include a list of must read sites on straight razor shaving. These sites will fill you in on more details:

Straight Razor Place. This site has it all. An active, supportive community, an awesome Wiki, product reviews, and an epic straight razor shaving how to video. Bookmark this site.

Badger and Blade.

Classic Shaving. Not only do they sell straight razor gear, they also have how to articles on the subject.

Sources:

Shaving Made Easy; What the man who shaves ought to know, 1905 You can download this awesome book in a easy to read PDF format from us. Click here for more details.

The Practice and Science of Standard Barbering, 1951

{ 150 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Andrew D October 6, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Love it! Might have to upgrade from the DE safety razor in the near future. Thanks!

-Andrew

2 Luke - AspiringGentleman October 6, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Having tried both, you can’t beat a DE for pure comfort and control. The straight blade has a much longer learning curve.

3 Jonny | thelifething.com October 6, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Word of caution. Good striaght blades are expensive but well worth investing in unless you would like your face to look like that of Frankenstines

4 Iain Dwyer October 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm

A good compromise between a DE safety and a straight edge is a barbers straight edge. I got one about a year ago from a barber supply shop. It takes standard double razor blades (broken in half, carefully!) but is otherwise just like a straight razor. It gets rid of the hassle of stropping and the like, with the added benefit of the accuracy of a straight razor. In my small, humid bathroom I get about a week per blade. At 10 blades (x 2) per set, that’s roughly five months per set. At $8 for 10 double blades, that ain’t bad.

If you shave at the gym like I used to (until I bought a kettlebell, look up articles on AOM) it’s also a great conversation starter. Most guys have never even seen a straight razor outside of movies.

5 Michael D. Denny October 6, 2009 at 11:40 pm

straightazorplace.com

plus check out youtube. lots of videos from L. Abrahms there, who is THE MAN on all things about shaving like a Man.

6 Perry Clease October 7, 2009 at 12:59 am

I have a full beard and mustache now, but when I had to shave for work I used a straight razor. It was almost a Zen experience.

7 Steve October 7, 2009 at 1:11 am

I’ve shaved with a barber’s straight razor (Disposable blades) off an on for years. It can give an excellent shave once you have some practice, and it is kinda fun to do. You can get a razor and ten blades at any beauty supply store for under $20. I’m sure a finely honed, stropped, high temper steel blade is better, but before you start dropping Benjamins on the project, you might want to see what Andrew Jackson can do.

The only downside is that it takes longer to use than a safety razor, and for a guy like me, any extra minute of morning routine is likely to get skipped in the rush to get out the door on time.

Oh, and for some extra fun, once you know how to shave fairly well with a straight razor, you can grab nearly any sharp blade and give yourself a decent shave. It’s not a bad party trick during a camping trip or weekend with the guys.

8 James Cassell October 7, 2009 at 1:51 am

Seems like a pretty big investment if you’re not sure it’s something you’re going to keep with.

I might try this someday, but for now, I’ll just keep with the throw-away razor cartridges.

9 Cotswolds B&B October 7, 2009 at 2:31 am

Great article. Maybe I didnt stick with the double edge blade for long enough to get proficient, but I found I got a cleaner shave with the modern alternatives. My only experience with the straight blades is at our local Turkish barber as the occassional treat. I love keeping the faith with the old methods but again find these shaves to not be as close as I get at home.

I’ll maybe invest in a home kit and try out when the kids are a little older !

10 Kris October 7, 2009 at 3:05 am

“Important Note: Always wear a sweet vest when shaving with a straight razor. This greatly improves the quality of your shaves.”

Pardon my ignorance, but what exactly is a “sweet vest”?

11 Derrick October 7, 2009 at 6:16 am

Another beard prep tip is to massage the lather into the beard before applying the hot towel. The hair absorb more water, and are therefore softer, when treated with a base (as opposed to an acid), a property of soap.

Alternately, be sure to massage the soap into the hair in the shower.

*Tip taken from the badger and blade website.
P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

12 Rodney Hampton October 7, 2009 at 6:49 am

I use my straight razor when I have time for a great shave. I can tell you that nothing shaves closer when you go with, against, and across the grain. Anybody should be able to master the sides of the face and the neck….so it’s perfect if you have a goatie. The tricky part is the chin and above the lip, especially right below the nose where your angle of attack is pretty much straight in.

13 Murchada October 7, 2009 at 7:17 am

A straight-razor shave feels awesome. It’s also an awesome way to accidentally slit your throat! I’ll stick to the nicks from my Power Fusion (damn the blades are expensive).

It’s too bad it is pretty much impossible to find a barber shop that will do a straight-razor shave. Once in a while I find one that will do the sideburns and neck with the razor.

http://www.duncroftmasterworks.com – pendants honoring ancient warrior culture
http://www.murchadaoutfitters.com – unique, manly shirts

14 str8 razor October 7, 2009 at 8:36 am

I think two things worth mentioning if you are looking at straight razor shaving are Illinois strops (I have a #127) and the Burma-Shave kit. The shave kit isn’t the highest quality, but it is definitely the most nostalgic. IMO

15 Brian Escamilla October 7, 2009 at 9:20 am

Great post! I have over a hundred straight razors (in varying states ranging from shavers to beaters) and I’ve never gotten a better shave from any multi-bladed modern cartridge razor or even a DE (which I use on weekdays). I remember when I was starting out I was kind of turned off by the initial cost of buying a straight razor and all the associated paraphernalia. Since then, I’ve found a few ways to cut costs without cutting quality.

First off, if you aren’t sure about making the commitment, start off with a shavette (replaceable blade razor) from a company like Dovo. You can pick one up for about $30 without needing a strop or hone and get started right away to see if you like it. Personally, I think the shave from a shavette is sub-par compared to a regular straight razor, but if you want to save money, that’s the way to go.

Second, if you’re ready to take the plunge on a real razor, buy a used one from a reputable “honemeister.” I never buy new razors. They aren’t worth the $100 plus, IMO, when you can get a better quality shaver for $30-$60 that’s been honed and tested by an experienced honer like Lynn Abrams or Bill Ellis. Alternatively, you can research quality razor manufacturers and look for one in decent shape off eBay. For $20 you can send it to Lynn to have it professionally honed and/or repaired if necessary.

Third, there’s no need to spend so much money on consumables (unless you want to, of course). I use Williams cake soap exclusively and I love it. I can buy it at CVS or Walgreens for about a dollar each and hoard them under my sink. Also, it makes a great dressing for the linen strop. No oils, creams, pre, post treatments are necessary. For aftershave, good old Old Spice or Clubman/Pinaud (also cheap and readily available) works fine.

Finally, there are some things you do have to spend the money on. First, the strop: I hate, Hate, HATE Illinois strops. That’s just one man’s opinion, but I’ve used enough to know. Do yourself a favor and get an Heirloom New Standard strop from Tony. It’s worth every penny and it’s modular so you can replace parts as necessary (very rare). Second, the hone: Get a Norton 3″ 4k/8k combo stone. This will take care of all of the honing you will ever need to touch up a working razor. Later on you can worry about specialty stones, pasted strops, etc. Third, the brush: If you can spare it, get yourself a Silvertip Badger brush. Silvertip refers to the badger’s chest hair (how much more manly can you get?) which holds water like no other. It’s expensive up front, but in the end you will use less water and less soap, plus it feels great on your face. You can start with a boar-hair brush if you’re low on cash, but once you get a Silvertip, the boar brush will get relegated to basting BBQ ribs.

That’s about it for the essentials. Afterwards you can (and will) spend more money on luxury items and acquiring more razors, but you won’t regret it. Plus, you’ll have a great skill and heirloom to pass on you your son (or daughter, straights work better on leg hair than any paisely, pastel, plastic girly razor…or so I’ve heard).

16 Roger Imhada October 7, 2009 at 9:24 am

Murchada, are you a man or a mouse? I have yet to meet or speak with anyone who has cut their throat with a straight and I’ve been using one for years. A powerfusion is what my wife uses to shave her legs.

Great article, well researched. Thanks for spreading the word guys

17 Brett McKay October 7, 2009 at 9:25 am

@James Cassell-

The way I tried it out at first was by buying disposable straight razors at a beauty supply store. They’re just a few bucks, and you don’t need a hone or a strop. And they actually give a very decent shave. A great risk-free way to dip your toes in. See here:

http://www.texasbeautysupplies.com/andishwi2frb.html

@Kris-
It was a joke. The man pictured is from the 19th century and is wearing an old fashioned vest.

18 paul October 7, 2009 at 9:36 am

Hey, GREAT post and some great comments.
(Sadly I’ve just grown in my mountain man beard)

Anyway, is there a copyright on the 1905 piece: “Shaving Made Easy; What the man who shaves ought to know, 1905″ I’d love to see that scanned in and made available pdf!!

19 Michael October 7, 2009 at 10:30 am

Getting a good shave should be the main goal when choosing a razor, but for those interested in the price factor, I made up these spreadsheets a few weeks back. I’m down to about 6 cartridges for my Gillette Atra and it is starting to get corroded after 6 years of service, so I started looking at my options.

The spreadsheed has three columns. You can punch in your current razor info in the middle one and compare it to the price of a safety razor and a straight razor and a strop.

Look online:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tyRiR3kcX8DnP96C1bpbt7Q&output=html

Download and play with it:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tyRiR3kcX8DnP96C1bpbt7Q&output=xls

I ended up deciding on the safety razor, since I want to be able to shave more quickly than a straight razor would require. I’m also hesitant to plop down $150 or whatever it would cost for a straight razor without knowing if I’d even like it.

20 Vincen October 7, 2009 at 11:17 am

An enjoyable book I happened to read about shaving in general: “Sharp Practice: The Real Man’s Guide to Shaving “, it has tips, history and suggestions. As for shaving for first timers to start practicing using a brken DE blade using a cheap plastic handle, for a few bucks you will gain the necessary practice you need to start using a straight; BTW and IMO a Straight Razor is much more forgibving than a DE, since it provides a more accurate feel and feedback. Before investing in hones and such have it sharpened by a pro, it should last about a year (in the US there are several websited who would be happy to do it for you at a fee). I have been straight razor shaving for a few years now and I would not go back to the disposable junk unless I had to.
Cheers

21 Brett McKay October 7, 2009 at 11:31 am

@Michael-

Interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing that spreadsheet. Also, see my comment to James above about buying a cheap disposable razor as an easy way to try this type of shaving for only a few dollars.

22 Chemical Erik October 7, 2009 at 11:38 am

I’ll have to take issue with the bashing of boar brushes. While the cheap boar brushes you pick up from WalMart will make poor lather, the high end boar brushes are IMO just as good as all but the very best badger brushes for a much lower cost. They do require a little break-in (2-3 weeks) to reach this performance, but the good brushes will split at the ends of the bristles and become softer and hold more water. They never hold as much water as a badger, but most badgers hold more water than you need. A boar brush holds enough water for good lather and little to no extra. A 31XXX series Omega brush or Vulfix boar brush will be the equal of a brush twice the cost and more than sufficient for most. If’ you don’t mind spending about $100 on a shaving brush, by all means go for badger brush, but I’d buy a $20-$30 boar brush over any $40-$60 badger.

23 Jeff October 7, 2009 at 11:45 am

If you like the article, watch a video…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUK56EqF-B0

24 Brian Escamilla October 7, 2009 at 1:11 pm

@ Chemical Erik,

I have to respectfully disagree with your stance on boar brushes. I have used many in the past (in an attempt to save money) starting with the cheap ones found at CVS and Walgreens to higher end boar brushes by Vulfix and Muhle-Pinsel. While the higher end boar brushes were unquestionably better than the low end stuff, it just wasn’t THAT much better compared to the wow-factor of badger hair. It’s not so much the quality of the brush, but rather the properties of boar hair.

First off, boar hair stinks, plain and simple. Each of my boar brushes required multiple overnight soakings (like, a week’s worth) in conditioner before the stench went away. Badger hair brushes smell for about 2 or 3 shaves and then they smell like your shave soap.

Second, boar brushes don’t retain much heat or water. The thick hairs offer little insulation and must constantly be run under hot water to build up a suitable lather. Badger brushes are denser and keep the lather nice and warm.

Third, boar bristles are very stiff. They break-in some with age, but more likely than not, the bristles will break before they soften. Granted, my higher end boar brushes lost much less hair than the cheapos, but still more than my badger brushes. Badger hair is much more flexible and contours to your face. Some of the cheaper boar brushes feel like a paint brush.

Maybe my comment about using them as a barbecue brush was a bit much, but FWIW, I use my old boar brushes to wash my face. The stiffer bristles provide a gentle exfoliating action when used along with some Club Scrub cleanser or similar.

In the end, whatever brush fits your budget and provides you a satisfying shave is ultimately the best brush for you.

25 Adam Rogge October 7, 2009 at 1:22 pm

Ah, the straight razor. Every time I shave with my DE Safety razor, I think about the straight razor. I then begin shaving the back of my head, and decide that not being able to see what I am shaving with a straight razor could cause a tremendous amount of damage.

Anyone out there shave their heads with a straight razor?

26 Murchada October 7, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Roger Imhada, I am no mouse. I lost 2 of my best friends to straight razors. One of them bled out all over his bathroom floor on the day of his wedding. He was only 16. The other had been shaving with a straight razor for years. He got distracted and an instant later he was a headless corpse.

Do not trust a straight razor; they wait patiently for their chance to strike.

Thanks for bringing up those painful memories.

http://www.duncroftmasterworks.com – pendants honoring ancient warrior culture
http://www.murchadaoutfitters.com – unique, manly shirts

27 Khürt Williams October 7, 2009 at 3:09 pm

As @James Cassell said” Seems like a pretty big investment if you’re not sure it’s something you’re going to keep with.”

@Brett McKay – I may try that suggestion. My motivation is get a closer shave. I am not as concerned with the environmental impact of my current shaving choices.

28 Jeff October 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

You can also leave them laying around in the bathroom if you are tired of the bothersome children in your house.

29 Chemical Erik October 7, 2009 at 3:51 pm

@ Brian Escamilla
No argument about the drug store boar brushes – they’re terrible. I’d also say that if you’re willing to spend enough a high end badger brush is the best you can get.
The scent issue seems very hit and miss regardless of boar or badger in my experience.
Boar bristles are firmer, but the tips are still soft. So in this aspect, it really just depends on personal preference. No problem if your preference is different than mine.
Really, I’m directing my comments toward those on a budget. I and the majority of those who’ve tried both feel the nicer boar brushes are better than entry level badger brushes for less money. The simple approach that badger is simply better than boar is an over simplification. A few guys even prefer a good boar brush over high end badgers, but they are a definite minority. Overall, I’d recommend a good boar for anyone not ready to spend say $75 minimum to get into a truly high quality badger brush.

30 Sir Lancelot October 7, 2009 at 5:03 pm

Michael, you get five days out of your razor blades?

31 Marton October 7, 2009 at 8:58 pm

I used one of those for a few months, but it was taking too much time and I was having problems with some points on my neck, so I switched to a Safety Double Edge blade, and it’s working greatly for me.
I plan on trying the straight razor again sometime soon, but I’ll wait until I have some more time available, like a vacation.

32 acai October 8, 2009 at 3:22 am

Awesome post. I have read first time such kind of post. Its very interesting, informative and useful. I am going to buy straight razor. Thanks for sharing.

33 Gary October 8, 2009 at 6:15 am

I use my grand father’s DE safety razor…..razor blades are 8 cents a piece…I get 2-3 full shaves. I use a brush and either Trufitt & Hill or Art of Shaving shave cream in the tub.

I cannot come close to getting a better shave with the modern appliances.

Straight razors scare the daylights out of me…..

34 Francisco October 8, 2009 at 7:05 am

Great post! Thanks for doing something on this fine art of shaving!
However, if you want more information on this particular subject, the place to go – the “online Meca” – of straight razor shaving is http://www.straightrazorplace.com. You will find every single thing in there and every single question you might have will be answered by fellow stright razor shavers that are always willing to help. Check it out!

35 Katherine Taylor October 8, 2009 at 7:58 am

Isn’t that a little bit dangerous? but i find it really sexy :)

36 Nicholas Fournier October 8, 2009 at 9:12 am

Great article, but I have to disagree with one thing. A good quality boar brush can make an exceptional lather, a lather every bit as good as that of a quality badger brush. Boar brushes just need some time to break in and then you need to build your lather for a little longer. Also, if you’re using hard triple milled soaps, then a boar brush is a benefit because the stiffer backbone with the soft tips works wonderfully.

37 Brian Escamilla October 8, 2009 at 9:40 am

I notice a few comments hinting that straight razor shaving is dangerous and/or somehow irresponsible if you have kids around. I’m willing to bet that most if not all of us have a butcher block or drawer full of razor sharp kitchen knives and a garage full of power tools, yet I don’t often hear about someone disemboweling themselves while chopping onions or decapitating someone while pruning the hedges.
Straight razors are no safer or more dangerous than any other tool we might use and they require proper care and handling. Straights (in their modern, folding form) have been used since the 1700′s and remained popular in many countries until the 1950′s. No one questioned their safety until King Gillete came along with his marketing campaing to sell disposable blades and dragged the straight razor through the mud. Many men who didn’t want to take on the steeper learning curve of a straight bought into the hype to justify spending money on replacement blades and that was the beginning of the end for the straight razor.
However, the straight razor still remains as one of the closest-shaving, most hygienic, and, in the long run, cheapest methods of whisker-removal.

38 Kevin October 8, 2009 at 3:15 pm

Pardon me if this has already been answered. Too many great posts to read to read them all. How does a straight razor mesh with airline travel? Will I always have to check my bags or will the TSA be hauling my but in behind closed doors?

39 Ryan October 9, 2009 at 12:12 am

Kevin, Unfortunately you will always have to put your razor in your checked bag. This makes complete sense. A straight razor is basically a really really sharp knife.
The reason I said unfortunately is that I would worry about losing it. At over $150 per razor, I would be really upset if I lost one. You are probably better off taking your old razor and not your straight razor with you on a trip via plane.

40 Kevin October 9, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Ah. That is what I figured and what I feared. I may be getting a consulting job soon and be joining the ranks of the road warriors. I had so hoped to add this ritual to my daily routine but alas, it seems I will have to make due with regular razors, which I hate.

41 N October 9, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Bah.. Real men have beards and people love them for it.

42 dave9 October 10, 2009 at 3:27 am

+1 on the Dovo Shavette. It’s an inexpensive way to try out the straight technique. It takes some getting used to but it does give you much closer shaves than a double edge. You can get sleeves that hold 3 different blade types including double edges snapped in half. The Feather disposable straight system looks nice as well, but it’s pricey.

I’ve also gone the cheap route and use the VanDerHagen brand cake soap from Walgreens. It may not smell as nice as some of the boutique soaps, but it works well, better than the Williams IMHO…

43 Peter October 10, 2009 at 3:43 am

Wonderful article! You can go for disposable razors that promise shaving convenience in a small plastic package, but where’s the fun in that? Shaving would be a more interesting experience if you use something bolder, something that lets you do the shaving efficiently, while giving you a feeling of living (quite literally) on the razor’s edge. A straight razor would be just the tool you’re looking for.

44 Lee October 12, 2009 at 8:45 am

I’d like to thank Bret for doing a follow-up on his DE Razor article addressing those of us who, after reading that article on the manliness of shaving as our grandfather’s did, took the ball and ran all the way past DE razors and straight to…well, straight razors, no pun intended… I purchased a new Thiers-Issard and starter set from Art of Shaving this past February, which came with a standard badger brush (no silvertip, yet, I’m still young and relatively broke…) Shaving Cream, rather than a soap cake, and an addition I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who is just starting out in the straight-razor world: Pre-shave Oil. It works with the softening your beard undergoes in a nice hot shower, and further prepares your whiskers for the blade. When you are still learning the touch of a straight razor after growing up shaving with cartridge razors, it can make all the difference between turning your face to something resembling ground hamburger, and getting a passable shave out of it.

I’m writing now because this past weekend I took the time to apply a couple of the tips Bret posed, which were different than some of the other advice I had gotten about straight razoring. Namely, the three-fingers on the back of the blade, and only the pinky on the tang. I tried this grip, and suddenly, I realized what I had been doing wrong. It helped me readdress the angle I had been shaving at, just ever so slightly, so that all of a sudden, my shave was virtually perfect. Once I had the touch, the rest of my face hasn’t felt that smooth…well, ever, I think.

Oh, and for those who think beards are more manly…I compromise. I keep a true goatee beard (chin and “soul patch” only, no hair on my upper lip) Well and neatly trimmed, of course.

45 N October 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Just in case you thought that keeping a hairless face is manly in some way
http://artofmanliness.com/2008/11/28/growing-a-manly-beard/
http://artofmanliness.com/2008/11/02/20-manliest-mustaches-and-beards-from-facial-hair-history/
http://community.artofmanliness.com/group/beards

I don’t get it. Why would a male *not* want a beard/mustache? Unless it’s a medical reason.

46 Darrell Underwood November 10, 2009 at 10:23 am

I had wondered about straight razor shaving for years. A while back, I was excited to see a small town barber using them and was dissapointed to find out they only used them to shave the backs of patron’s necks. After reading the article, I was fired up. Over the past few months, I have been carefully gathering my gear. Last night, I shaved for the first time. It was the best shave I have ever had. My face felt great. The shave was so close, I realized I didn’t need to shave this morning. Normally, even with the best disposables, I would have a good shadow after 12 hours. One question for anyone who may know, who was John Engstrom? I picked up one of his blades. Found a picture of one in an 1897 Sears catalog. Also, the Indiana State Museum has a blade similar to mine. Anyone know anything about this guy?

47 Tim November 15, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Hey ya’ll!

I’d actually be very interested in finding out, when you guys with blonde beards were able to grow your first beard.
I’m 16 right now and I got blonde-reddish hair, but I have to shave since 1 or 2 years, but I don’t think I can grow a real beard.. you don’t really see the hairs, until you’re near the mirror.

48 adam November 16, 2009 at 10:09 am

Great post on shaving! I think most men including myself need to learn how to shave correctly these days, it’s not about whacking on some foam and slicing your face up with a bic, if you take your time and use a single blad razor of good quality you cant go wrong, and why do we even use foam when a brush and soap is by far the superior option, well written posts that is informative, I have a post about shaving, not as in depth as this one but useful none the less, here it is: http://blokebuddy.com/2009/grooming/shaving/

49 JonEdanger November 18, 2009 at 10:55 pm

@Kevin: No, they’ll just take your razor. Same for DE blades.

50 JonEdanger November 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm

If anyone has actually read down this far in comments please take some advice from a long-time straight razor shaver: Don’t try to hone a razor until you’ve been shaving with one long enough to know when one needs to be honed. Start with a freshly honed razor honed by a professional.

51 Ben November 19, 2009 at 8:54 am

its expensive starting out but you can find forums and get a quality razor and strop and lots more information. i have been doing this for a while now and its better, cheaper and relaxing. like Jon said done try to hone it yourself if your just learning how to shave you will ruin the edge of the blade. good luck to anyone wanting to learn how to do this. all i can say is take your time and dont get in a hurry!

52 John November 29, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I heard this is a great way to scar your face and cause infections. I was also told that straight razors are banned by the military for these reasons. If you are doing this to save money you may end up paying more in the long run due to hospital bills.

53 1776J December 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Wonderful article!

Great stuff.

However, it is a misnomer that you will get a closer shave with a straight razor. The fact is, it depends a lot on the individual’s skin and toughness (or lack thereof) of their skin.
In the past I have gone to several barbers who did indeed give straight razor shaves, and they all told me that you will get a closer shave with your modern blade because with three or even two blades, one lifts as the other cuts the hairs. The real issue with this that most people are not aware of, is one that can be a menace to us men,… INGROWN HAIRS! Yes, indeed the hair is cut close to the skin, in fact, TO CLOSE, as it is actually pulled out of the skin a little with the first blade and then actually cut with the second blade, thus resulting in a hair that recedes back INTO the pores or the skin, likewise the hair then often grows on an angle, dirt or grease gets into the hair follicle/pores and BINGO,… you got yourself an ingrown hair,… or several!

In fact, I myself actually have a tough beard that needs to be gone over in at last two times, in two different directions in order to get that “baby’s behind” closeness. It is however, much easier to go with an old turn of the century Gilette safety razor or something of the like. Less chances for ill-fated cuts, and especially the nicks associated with us men who have shapely faces, chins, cheeks, etc.

Otherwise, break out a good straight blade,… whip out the hone and read up a LOT before taking a whack at your face!

When done correctly, yes it is a joy, though after several passes on tough beards, your skin pays the price of being beat up a little.

54 hejsan December 23, 2009 at 3:47 pm

If you truly master a straight razor shave,
you will get the best closest shave possible with no irritation to your skin whatsoever
but the learning curve for straight razor shaving is steeper than shaving with a DE razor.

55 Andrew January 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

I have a straight razor kit (sans the hone) and know how to shave with the straight, but I use my DE razor mostly. The trick with a straight, in my experience is keeping the edge sharp and stropping it correctly. I ruined the edge a couple of times with poor stropping and had to send it out to get properly honed again. A bad edge on a razor = bad shave. Got to be nice and sharp.

But, man, there really is nothing like giving yourself a good straight razor shave. I swear it increases testosterone. I always feel like a bad a** for the rest of the day when I use my straight. I’m hoping to refine my straight razor skills in the future.

56 Dennard January 7, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I shaved for years using a safety (double edge) razor and loved it. I’m keeping my beard for now, but if I decide to shave it off, I’m tempted to try straight razor shaving. It might not be for me, but you can’t deny its manliness.

57 Allen January 25, 2010 at 1:22 pm

I did it. I went and bought a cheapie SR with disposable blades. I love the thing. Only one little cut yesterday. True, it takes more time, but I feel much more manly today!

58 Justin January 25, 2010 at 6:14 pm

I really enjoyed this article. I was interested in reading the book, too, however I don’t really think I’d like to pay $4 for an ePub that’s available from the Internet Archive (scanned from the Library of Congress’s original copy) for free…

Here’s the link if anyone is interested in reading it and doesn’t want to pay for it: http://ia360618.us.archive.org/2/items/shavingmadeeasyw0020th/shavingmadeeasyw0020th.pdf

59 James January 27, 2010 at 6:58 am

Thanks for the article. I found it to be very informative. It tipped the scales for me, causing me to bite the bullet & enter the world of straight razor shaving. Can’t wait for my package to arrive!

60 James February 20, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Someone stole my straight razor at the locker room.

61 Bryan February 24, 2010 at 9:49 am

John, really? The military banned straight razors? You should definately only speak when you know what you’re talking about.

Justin, thank you for the link to the Shaving Made Easy book, it is excellent!

I am in the military and I can’t tell you how many times my superiors have ragged me because of my shave. No one believes that I shave in the morning before work because after lunch I look like Grizzly Adams. I’m sold, thank you for the introduction to this particular art of manliness.

62 Bryan February 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

*definitely

63 Matt March 2, 2010 at 12:02 am

Just bought a German Maxard, works great. Wondering if anyone knows anything about this brand?

64 Dan March 4, 2010 at 2:42 am

So I decided this past year when I turned 30 that I wanted to learn eventually how to shave with a straight razor. Knowing that the investment was going to be rather large, and not wanting to make a mistake I decided to wean myself into it by first purchasing the DE razor and basic shaving brush and working my way up to it. One of the marked best decisions I’ve ever made. I’m still a bit reserved about making the move up to the straight razor (I’ve got sharp jaws that are a pain to work with), I’m hoping the next transition will be a good one. One question: The care of the razor (sharpening/honing/stropping) I’m nervous about. While learning, is it possible to ruin the blade? Is a introductary straight razor needed before purchasing the final one?

65 Frank March 15, 2010 at 1:57 am

I use a DE right now but I first purchased a straight razor. I was not shaving with it correctly or it was not sharp enough…I bought a ceramic stone to hone it, and I honed it, but still was unable to get it to cut correctly. The DE is amazing and I am NEVER going back to the fusion but I still want to shave with my straight razor I have locked away in a drawer. I hope I didn’t ruin the blade trying to hone it and have to send it off but this article makes me want to go and attempt the straight razor shave again…

66 Toby March 24, 2010 at 9:25 pm

I made the move to shaving with a straight razor recently. It is becoming a much looked forward to part of my day. Being really focused while shaving is a stress reliever. Splash on some Bay Rum aftershave and badda bing feeling like a million bucks. This also caused me to seek out the oldest barber in town practicing for 52 years to learn from the pro. His shop was cool and glad I went. Also glad to stumble upon this website. ~~~~Good day gentlemen.

67 Jim April 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Does Christopher Moltisanti know that you’re using his image for the Shave Stroke instructions? :)

68 Panos the Greek June 17, 2010 at 10:49 am

just going through some of the old aom articles, and while this one recommends warm water, while other articles promote cold water shaves. some clarification about where aom stands on the issue?

69 jdreyfuss June 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I just got mine earlier this week. I’ve used it twice and I’ll say this: I have never gotten a closer shave out of anything. I know it will take some practice, so I’m shaving at night right now in case I cut myself and wouldn’t have time for it to stop bleeding before I go to work. By the way, my first attempt left me looking like I’d gotten into a fight with a badger, but my second attempt only yielded one cut, though it is prominent and right on my cheek.
As far as face sides, if you are at all ambidextrous, switch hands. It’s easier than trying to find a way to hold it upside down without cutting yourself.

70 jdreyfuss June 19, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Oh, also http://www.vintagebladesllc.com is where I got mine. It’s a 5/8″ Dovo with a resin handle and it came with an heirloom strop for $130. They’re prices are more expensive if you want a showier handle, but for utilitarian purposes I don’t think you can do better than the deal I got.

71 Randy Palmer August 10, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Man, how the razors have came a long. As a thirty year old, I have used them all. To this day, still have not found a favorite.

72 Mason September 27, 2012 at 12:12 am

I’ve been straight shaving for a while now(got my grand dad’s razor as an heirloom). In regards to the ceramic barber’s hone, try asking if he can order you one. Every barber gets supplies from somewhere and chances are he can get a stone for you from his supplier. If he’s.a really cool barber he’ll eat the shipping cost like mine did. Best of luck and happy shaving.

73 Mason September 27, 2012 at 12:14 am

By the way my stone only set me back 20 bucks so its well worth the investment.

74 Lee October 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Just picked up one of the disposable “hair sharpeners” for eight bucks, gonna get started and see if it’s for me. Found it looking for a DE razor and figured…why not?

75 Sean October 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

Guys, stop wasting your time on this. Even the shops in Mayfair in London use the Gillette Fusion because it’s better than a straight razor. If you want a face that has smooth, strong skin, read this: http://www.lewrockwell.com/tucker/tucker65.html I’ve been doing it for a year now. It’s life changing.

76 Luke October 7, 2012 at 3:37 pm

I’ve joined the ranks of straight razor afficionados in the last year, and to me the best part about it is the process. If you’re a person that wants the fastest and most efficient of everything, straight razor shaving may not be for you. The process is romantic in the classical sense of the word, and if you’re a guy that wants to savor life, you’ll love straight razor shaving.

77 Spencer October 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm

I´ll be honest I always thought straight shaving was pretty cool, but I never knew where to begin. A couple years ago while visiting family in my hometown in Ohio, we were talking about straight shaves while walking through the town square, then lo and behold there´s a straight blade emporium right off the square! To cut to the chase I ended up buying the whole kit, never looked back. I haven’t even had to buy shaving soap since, that stuff lasts forever.
For me shaving was always kind of relaxing, but straight shaving is a real experience. There’s a whole ritual basically, but nothing makes you feel quite as dapper as a straight shave. It’s also a great conversation whenever people ask.
I would like to address the steep learning curve though… Yes it’s there, and there’s all sorts of ways to aid you in getting past it, but there’s really nothing to prep you for a bringing that blade down your face. You just have to take the plunge and accept that a couple nicks and cuts might happen. Once you do you’ll never be able to go back.

78 Saxon November 13, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Great article. One thing you might want to add is that if you sport a partial beard, a straightedge is far superior to any other kind of razor in making that fine, precise edge.

79 joe November 17, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I had 3 straight razor shaves from barbers in Turkey. It was a revelation! Great close shave and no ingrown hairs – but in all instances they shaved my face twice. Never did they do multiple passes in one shave. They just did a complete lather and shave, twice.

80 Benjamin P December 25, 2012 at 1:28 am

I just finished my first shave with a straight razor, it is seriously the only manly way to remove your manly beard. The parts of my face not cut or razor burned (surprisingly minimal) are smoother than a baby’s bottom!

81 Scott January 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Just finished my first straight razor shave, and only got one minor cut. I took it slow: about 30 minutes. The face was a breeze. The neck, however, was problematic. I have hair on my neck growing in all directions. I made two passes on my face and it’s very smooth. I did about five passes on my neck and I can still feel some small stubble. This is going to take some practice to get right. So far I’m really liking the results, and so is my wife. Happy wife, happy life!

82 Logan Phillips January 12, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Read this article awhile back immediately went and bought me a strait razor. Have never in my life received such a magnificent shave.

Now I am in search of old razors from flea markets. Not so much as a grooming chore, but more of a growing hobby.

83 Nick January 15, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I can’t wait to try! Do you have any recommendations regarding professional honing for an old razor?

84 bill j January 25, 2013 at 8:38 pm

@Nick – Go to http://www.straightrazordesigns.com/ for honing service. One of the most respected outfits in the business.

For anyone who read the Badger vs. Boar argument above…if you’re on a budget check out Semogue boar brushes. I own the model 830 and like it better than any of my badgers.

85 Peter February 8, 2013 at 5:54 am

Thanks for the great article. One thing, you mention using talcum powder. I read it is very dangerous to inhale talcum powder.

86 Amanda February 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I am wanting to buy a straight razor for my husband but, of course know nothing about anything…is their a best brand.. or better maker to buy from, with all the accesories?

87 Brian February 26, 2013 at 6:53 pm

@ Amanda

Call Styraight Razor Designs and they will help you choose what you need.
330-598-1414
I’m not affiliated, but like others have pointed out, the guy that runs it is “the man” when it comes to straights.

88 Peter Pen February 27, 2013 at 2:45 am

Shaving with a straight razor is like wearing a vintage mechanical watch – requires more attention and time, but sure brings different kind of satisfaction.

89 Tyler March 2, 2013 at 1:22 am

You can grab a 12,000 grit water stone for around $25.00 at amazon.com.

90 James March 8, 2013 at 9:36 am

I just completed my first straight razor shave last night. It was from a cyclone (german steel) I found in a junk store for $11. I had to repair the blade (was chipped), hone and strop it. Shave went great! And knowing that I was able to do all of that myself and can now replace my disposable razors is an excellent feeling. And I have this site to thank for the information. Thanks AoM!

91 Frost73 March 11, 2013 at 1:12 am

Excellent article! I had been thinking about trying a straight razor shave based on a friend’s suggestion, and this gave me some great info. I took the economical route and purchased a straight razor that uses disposable blades, and had my first straight razor shave today. Granted, I nearly pulled a Vincent Van Gogh while shaving the left side of my face, but at least I didn’t sever the jugular. As such, I’ll chalk up my first attempt as a success. My skin will need to get used to the straight razor, but with a little practice, I can tell that it will in fact be a great shave. My neck and scars, however, have always been a pain to shave regardless of the method used. Since I’m on leave this week, I’ll have plenty of time to get the hang of it. Being in the military, I’m often pressed for time during the work week, so I consider a straight razor shave to be a weekend treat! Who knows, perhaps once I really start getting into this method of shaving, I may upgrade to a good quality razor. In any case, I do enjoy using the soap and brush rather than the canned shaving creams and gels!

92 Paul March 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Don’t throw out that Mach 3 just yet.

When you are starting out you will need to learn the feel of the razor and when to sharpen, etc. Some places on your face won’t shave right. So instead of pushing harder, simply follow up with your Mach 3. It’s much better than pushing harder and the resultant cuts. As you gain the feel of the razor, you will need the Mach 3 less and less.

Also when you are in a hurry, use the Mach 3 unless you are a fan of blood & gore. Straight razor shaving is a 19th century process that requires you to slow down and be patient. Take your time and enjoy the shave.

93 Seedy March 23, 2013 at 1:48 pm

I love this blog, and enjoy reading the pieces, but I believe (and hope) it isn’t meant to be taken too seriously.

Our fathers and grandfathers shaved the way they did because it was all that was available at the time – not because it was some much-loved ‘manly ritual’. Grandfather might have used a straight razor, but I bet he ditched it when safety razors came along. Now many men use electric shavers because (used properly) they give excellent results, and are easy, safe and enjoyable to use. If Grandfather could have gone forward in time – to now – he might have found them an unbelievable luxury.

If you want to shave with something like a carving knife, then fine. But I now expect to see articles on this site suggesting that we go back to using cars that have to be started with a handle, so we can ‘drive like Grandpa’; or maybe we could return to the years of unsafe working practices and equipment, so we can relive the ‘classic manly ritual’ of losing several fingers while operating a circular saw.

94 A March 24, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Seedy:

The site is def. aimed at being entertaining. That being said, there are MANY men who enjoy a straight razor. Hell, there are message boards dedicated to these people who swear by straight razors.

There are many who claim switching to a straight razor or DE razor from the modern electric/cartridge razors provided a closer and less irritated shave.

Saying that our grandfathers would have enjoyed the luxury of an electric razor is a stretch. I use both a disposable cartridge and a “top of the line” electric razor. The electric razor does not provide nearly as close of a shave, and is sometimes more irritating for my skin.

If you are uncoordinated, then by all means stay away from a straight razor.

95 William Cornelison March 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Hi, Thanks for the article on straight razor shaving! I can’t wait to get into it!
I am looking at vintage straight razors on eBay as well as sharpening stones for my blade. Would you recommend the Diamond Sharpening System for honing a straight razor? :
http://www.amazon.com/Smiths-TRI-6-Arkansas-TRI-HONE-Sharpening/dp/B00062BIT4/ref=sr_1_4?s=hi&ie=UTF8&qid=1364667493&sr=1-4&keywords=diamond+system

Thanks!

96 Ramon March 31, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Seedy,

I know it sounds archaic, but yes, lots of us use straights to shave for practical reasons. The following are mine;

1) I hate electrics. I’ve tried four different ones and each time I just didn’t like the quality of shave. You could always feel the stubble. That said there was definitely a convenience factor.

2) Cartridge razors are expensive as hell. I switched from Mach 3s to some generic knock off because my coarse facial hair dulled the blades in 3 or 4 shaves, and that equals a lot of money. Even the knock offs were too expensive. Straights have a high initial investment but very little upkeep. I use the barber straight that uses disposable blades, but these blades are like 100 or more blades for less than $20. Huge difference in cost.

3) It’s really not that slow. If you get the hang of it, you can do a decent shave in ten minutes, from lathering the soap to aftershave., especially if you shave often and can get away with two passes. If you have more time, you can go slower and make 3 passes and go for baby smooth.

4) Shaping is a billion times easier. If you have a goatee or any kind of shaped facial hair, it’s a god send.

5) More control. You can adjust the angle of attack on the fly for troubled spots or stay at a gentle angle for less difficult spots to save time. The best analogy I have is shaving with a safety or electric is like driving an automatic, and straights are like driving a manual.

97 joshua May 6, 2013 at 8:59 pm

because of this article I decided to enter the world of straight razor shaving. I purchased a cheap pakistan made blade and found later that it is indeed cheap. Don’t buy those blades. I will be purchasing a Dovo soon. My bday is wed…in 2 days, maybe someone got the hint! in not I will get one for myself. My lady thinks its sexy when she saw me with the other one. :)

98 Chris May 7, 2013 at 9:55 am

Bought a German Solingen blade many years ago and after seeing this site took it out of the drawer and made the switch from my fairly useless electric razor. It’s only my fourth day using it, and the results – apart from the chin area which I have not mastered yet, are wonderful and I’m only using 1 -1 1/2 passes. The first day however was terrible, still can see the results of multiple nicks – teaches one never to slice! One technique not mentioned on this site, but was demonstrated on a Y-tube video is to hold the blade with both hands when shaving the under chin and neck area – works like a charm. If the main function of the soap is to lubricate the skin, would not something like olive oil (baby oil?) work even better? – that’s what the ancient Romans used.

99 Patrik May 9, 2013 at 9:36 pm

@John I was in the army, I am currently 24 and I used a straight razor every time I shaved. A CO of mine and a few sergeants even asked to watch me use it once because they had never seen one used before. I’d be willing to bet that back in places like Vietnam or during the Pacific theatre (mainly for Marines) they weren’t allowed for obvious reason. Terrible humidity and fungi and bacteria, etc etc, But on every day duty they are just fine. Also, even an inexperienced straight razor user shouldn’t cut themselves enough to allow for infection, and if they do cut themselves, they should have enough common sense to treat the wound. Crisis averted all around. A lot of people say a lot of stupid things about things they might not like due to misunderstanding said thing, or it being different from the norm of their lifestyle, so I’d take stories and opinions like that with a grain of salt. Since the first time I ever used a straight razor I’ve never cut myself worse than a minute or so bleed. Styptic pencils can be your best friend while you are starting out and getting the hang of angles and holding techniques.

Just my two cents though.

100 Sahal May 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

How does this compare to a traditional wet shave? which one in your opinion is better?

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