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About ShaveSmith

A brief Trip , Kitchen Knife with African Blackwood

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My new brother got married, and I’m happy to call his wife family.

Took a flight, train, and drive to reach central Pennsylvania, all while carrying a 14″ chef’s knife. I have this condition where after something is done, I look at it  periodically (and neurotically) to ensure it’s safe.

It’s a thicker blade than a Japanese chef’s knife, but thinner than a German chef’s knife. Made entirely from high carbon Hitachi blue #2, hand ground, hafted with African Blackwood and aluminum pins, grip is asymmetrical, with an excellent handshake. Cutting edge shaped with a subtle nod to an itallian herb cutter called a mezzaluna for a nice rocking motion.

Hitachi blue will age and tarnish, and over time this will build into a beautiful and unique patina that protects the steel. I’m sure we can pull out a metaphor for a good marriage from this.

I’m back in the shop, crafting, typing out emails, and my faithful assistant (border collie named Indie) is helping me catch up.

-Christopher

News Article About My Shop

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QUALITY BLADESMITHING GIVES ART, PASSION, AND RITUAL TO SHAVING

Article sponsored by howtobehenry.com, written by David M. Fitzpatrick

Christopher  isn’t your typical craftsman. Some men are avid woodworkers; others restore classic cars. And even when some venture into the art and science of forging steel, they might focus on knives or swords—the sort of craft that might come to mind when you heard the word “bladesmith.”

But Christopher is a rare bladesmith, because he specializes in forging and restoring straight razors—the kind our grandfathers might have shaved with, and which are finding resurgent interest from the younger generation.

Schall’s love of bladesmithing began by learning from his father, a knife maker, but his interest in straight razors came later. Like many men, he remembers his first shave. He’d grabbed a cartridge blade and begun shaving, but quickly realized that it was important to not do it alone—that he should be taught. He fetched his father, who showed him the ropes, while his proud mother looked on. Some teenagers might have felt self-conscious about the experience, but not Schall.

“It was having a really unique experience where you learn something,” he said. “And I really wanted a ritual in the process. Straight razors really give that to you.”

Those would come later. While in college, he found his grandfather’s straight razor and taught himself how to shave with it. He was soon buying straight razors from antique shops and learning to hone them. He restored razors for two years before learning how to craft and repair handles, and his work steadily increased. By 2014, it was clear that his hobby had become a job.

Today, Schall works as a straight-razor bladesmith 12-plus hours a day—yet his passion has never wavered. “It’s still as much a hobby as it is a business,” Schall said. “When I keep this in mind, I make razors that make me happy.” As a man with a background in environmental science, Schall has a keen sense of how a straight razor is the antithesis of a disposable one. He’s restored razors as old as 200 years, which represents some serious reducing, reusing, and recycling.

“I like the idea of having a single piece of equipment that, if you take care of it, it takes care of you,” he said. “And I don’t like how most things are now built to be thrown away. A straight razor battles a throwaway mindset.”

Besides a ritual, a hobby, and a business, his craft is also a deep passion and an art. And it transcends those titles when he hears the nostalgic tale behind an old straight razor or the personal story of why someone embraced shaving with one. “Bladesmithing is a rare and artful form of crafting,” Schall said. “The story that people create behind the piece is just as valuable as actually using it.”

He’s also very attached to every razor he creates. It’s a process that happens over a month, culminating with him test-shaving with it. He even audits his own forging regularly, breaking a sample from a new batch of blades just to examine the steel grain under a microscope to ensure that the batch meets his high standards. For any man who enjoys shaving, a straight razor gives him something everlasting in a disposable world. It’s something, Schall says, that can make the simple act of shaving a very personal and powerful ritual. In our fast-food, quick-and-easy society, something as simple as shaving can be a relaxing, fulfilling experience that provides great emotional support.

“A straight-razor shave is a moment in your day when you actually have to stop and do something for yourself, by yourself,” Schall said. “You take care of yourself and learn something. I think that journey is what people find interesting.”

howtobehenry.com supports artisans in the U.S.A, and sponsored this article written by David M. Fitzpatrick.

Photographs: Lindsey Hoover

ShaveSmith Forging a Straight Razor
ShaveSmith Forging a Straight Razor
ShaveSmith Forging a Straight Razor

Some of the Tools I Use to Make Your Custom Straight Razors

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A look at the tools I use to make custom straight razors.

Straight Razor Forging Hammers

Straight Razor Forging Hammers

The large hammer is what I used to make the handle drawn out (4lbs), and the little one (over 1.5 lb) is used for detail work, and  performing wet forging to make impurities blast off the surface of the steel.

Straight Razor Forging Tongs

Straight Razor Forging Tongs

Most of my razors are forged with the rusted tongs, 1″ box jaws. They’ve become a close friend. The wolf Jaws (center) are used when I’m heat treating, or reaching areas of the forge/furnace that are tricky. The little tongs are for delicate and finish work.

Dead Kamisori

Dead Kamisori

Though very odd looking, this is something I use all day long. It’s a kamisori that I was frustrated with, and decided to scrap due to imperfections. I repurposed it as a push stick that assists me in the grinding process by adding extra support. It’s also a good reminder that good work takes time, and no matter what, I shouldn’t rush work.

My Escher

My Escher

This is a very rare rock.

This is a yellow green Escher Barber’s delight.

I use it to finish all my razor honings. This is the last stone used before I strop.

I purchased this stone and carefully removed the stickers (I’ve archived them).

This stone has been through many razors, and made many blades keen.

It sits atop a chamois that I use to wipe slurry and water away as I switch between stones.

ShaveSmith In the Newspaper

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Article from the Fort Collins Courier.

What brought you to straight razors?

My first straight razor came to me when I was in college. It was a yellow handled German hollow ground blade I found in my Grandpa’s garage. I quickly found that the ritual and closeness of a straight shave was incomparable. Thereon, I kept collecting and restoring antique blades as a hobby, and years later, started blacksmithing and grinding my own line of razors.

There is a great amount of detail that goes into your craftsmanship – what does it mean to you to work with your hands on a daily basis?

My work takes my mind and puts it into my hands. How I feel at the time is a direct result of what I craft. There’s a great deal of respect involved. Often I’m restoring someone’s great grandfather’s blade,  or putting the finishing touches on a razor that will be around for 100 years after I’m gone. It’s humbling and rewarding.

 

How would you describe straight razor shaving to a beginner?

With a straight it’s all about ritual. Shaving becomes an event, fun, and exciting. You take your time, enjoy the scent of the leather strop as you true your blade, and you learn that shaving cream can smell botanical and natural. It kick-starts a healthy perspective to start your day. There’s great satisfaction in wiping away hair with keen steel you’ve maintained for years. With a bit of practice, using a straight becomes second nature – the shaves get quick and smooth. Eventually, you get good enough that you can take a whole beard clean off in one swipe.

 

What have your clients and other members of the straight razor community taught you about shaving?

Everything. My customers are among the best people I’ve encountered. We share life stories and I often catch up with them like an old time barber. I would have never thought that taking the time for a close straight shave could have such a positive impact on my life.