For the adventurous shaver, using a straight razor can be a fun challenge. Using a straight razor appeals to a variety of men, from those who collect knives and cutlery to the environmentally or economically conscious who don't want to purchase replacement blades. The larger cutting edge of the razor gives you complete control over the blade angle and the old-school, traditional style of shaving is enjoyed by many. We recently discovered an article written by our friends at-The Shaving Shack about the basics of straight razor shaving. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel, so with their permission, we're sharing their tips on how to shave with a straight razor.
The Straight Razor
First, it is important to know the parts of a straight razor:
Preparing the Razor
The shave-ready straight razor is prepared for shaving by moving it against a razor strop. Strops are usually made from quality leather, although they can be other materials. The Shaving Shack says, "Stropping aligns the edge of the blade so that the steel is pointing in the same direction. Simply attach one end of the strop to an immovable object, like a bedpost, and hold it taut with the other end in your other hand." It is important to clarify that stropping is not the same as sharpening, which is called "honing" and is done using a wetstone. Before using a straight, your razor must be sharpened to be "shave ready" and then be be honed every few months. You will need to use a strop prior to every shave to ensure that your razor has a clean, straight edge each time.
Using light pressure, run the blade horizontally up the leather surface, with the blade flat against the leather and the sharp side facing you. At the end of the stroke, flip the blade over so it's again facing you as you run the blade horizontally back down the strop. It is recommended to do this about 40-60 times.
Preparing Your Face
The key to a comfortable shave is to use plenty of warm or hot water before shaving. Either have a bath, shower, or use a hot flannel to soften the bristles and open up the pores of the skin. Make sure you massage your chosen shaving cream thoroughly into your stubble or beard. Use your fingers or a decent shaving brush. For straight razor shaving to work, the lather must not be allowed to dry.
Holding and Using the Razor
Hold the razor with your dominant hand. Your thumb should be on the underside of the shank against the shoulder. Your index, middle and ring fingers should be on the opposite side (top) of the shank. The handle should be between your ring and little finger, with the little finger resting on the crescent shaped tang. Some people prefer to have the ring finger on the tang also, but this is a matter of choice.
Shaving with a Straight Razor
Now for the shave! With your other hand, stretch the skin as tight as you can get it. It is recommended to hold the blade at a 30 degree angle to the skin otherwise you'll get cut! A useful way of starting is to lie the blade flat against your cheek and then lift the spine to the desired angle of 30 degrees before applying your first stroke. Use very little pressure and apply even strokes with the razor in the direction of the hair growth.
Below is an example of the general direction you might want to shave using your straight razor:
Once you've finished with your first shave you can then rinse, relather and shave again. This time though, you should go against the grain/direction of hair growth.
When you have finished shaving, rinse the shaved area with warm water and then follow up with a cool water rinse to close the pores. If you cut yourself, you can use an alum block or nick stick.
Straight Razor Care
When you've finished shaving, rinse the razor in running water to remove hair and lather from the blade. Dry it by dabbing it with a cloth or towel.
While becoming proficient at straight shaving takes practice, many men find that it is a fun challenge to master. There are many benefits to straight shaving, from the low costs of never buying replacement blades to the better control maneuvering a larger blade edge across your skin. Straight shaving often provides the smoothest, closest shave possible, and a ritual that many look forward to each morning.