How To Shave With A Straight Razor

Congratulations on your new blade.

Congratulations are due. Adding a fine blade to your daily shave will uplift your morning routine.

What follows are tips and tricks that help you develop the smoothest shave with a straight razor. You’ll also learn to care for your blade, and ensure it lasts generations.

As always, drop me a line with any questions, I’m happy to help.

Best,

-Christopher

christopher@shavesmith.com

STRAIGHT RAZOR ANATOMY

The different parts of your blade

CARING FOR YOUR RAZOR

How to keep your blade sharp and keen.

F. Herder, Gold inlayed Handles

Proper stropping on a piece of leather will ensure that the razor’s edge remains sharp.

After your shave, your razor should be dried completely, coated with a rust-preventing oil (mineral oil, petroleum jelly, or other), and placed in a dry storage area. It is recommended to send your razor for honing when it starts to feel dull, and tug the beard during a shave. Often, a need to rehone occurs every 4-6 months.

Before Your First Shave

Start simply, then build to an artful shave.

When you purchase a blade from me, your razor has been honed, true and sharp, and should deliver an excellent shave.

Before you use your razor, carefully remove the protective oil coating from the blade with a tissue, being cautious to not touch the sharp edge.

Do not strop the blade prior to your first use.

It ships professionally stropped, and will deliver a smooth shave at arrival.

Be aware that your initial shaves with a straight razor may be tricky.  Over time, you will acquire the necessary skills to deliver comfortable and artful shaves.

The following routines may help you develop a better straight razor shave. It is highly recommend that you apply a pre-shave oil prior to shaving. For some, this provides protection against nicks, and aids smoothness to razor movement.

A light application of olive oil on the skin is adequate if commercial options are unavailable.

Straight shaving is done in “passes.” One with the grain of your beard, one across the beard grain, and one against.  In between each of these passes, close the razor into its protective scales, and hold it in your non-dominate hand as you relather and apply shaving cream. This simple, and often overlooked, procedure ensures you don’t drop, bump, or damage the razor/yourself.

Being unaware of the razors whereabouts, even if for only a moment, is dangerous.

HOW TO STROP

A key skill to master - you strop for every shave.

Anchor your strop to a secure place, and ensure it hangs freely.

Pull the strop bottom tight with your non-dominant hand, and create a smooth, flat, horizontal stropping surface.

Rub your free hand up and down the strop vigorously. This action warms the leather, ensures the strop is free of debris, and treats the leather with beneficial oils from the hand.

Open the razor, and hold the shank securely between the thumb and forefinger.

Place the razor’s blade on the leather, with the sharp edge pointing AWAY from the direction of intended stropping direction (this arrangement is called, spine-leading).

Gently slide the blade along the strop, spine leading, without applying much downward pressure. Once you reach the end of the strop, rotate the blade on the strop, using the spine as a pivot point.

Repeat the sliding movement in the opposite direction. The combined “back-and-forth” direction is called a “pass.” Repeat until the edge is trued. Often, people conduct 35-50 passes to bring the edge true.

SAMPLE ROUTINE

A great first straight razor shave.

In shower:

  • Wash face with moisturizing facial soap.
  • Hydrate face with hot water for 2-5 minutes.

At shaving station:

  • Apply pre-shave treatment (oil).
  • Build lather from soap. Apply lather to cheeks.
  • Shave the cheek areas with straight razor, with a 15 degree angle, going with grain of the beard. Use very light pressure, and stretch skin tight during shave.
  • Dry, clean and store straight razor.
  • Finish shaving in your typical fashion (cartage, safety razor)
  • Wash face off with extra lather and cold water.
  • Apply astringents : Alum, let dry. Witch Hazel, let dry.
  • Moisturize: Balm/lotion.
  • Cologne.

AFTER YOUR FIRST SHAVE

The road to mastery.

Continue using a simple routine for several sessions as you settle into razor shaving. Be sure to perform 50 stropping passes before or after each shave session. Continue using this shaving routine until you are completely comfortable shaving your cheeks.

Once this becomes second nature, slowly add more areas to shave (like the neck), and gradually work up to multiple passes from different angles. Before long, shaving with a straight will become natural, and you will develop unique form that is your own.

Over time, you may want to hone your own straight razor, and feel free to drop me a line and I’ll help you through the process.