How To Shave With A Straight Razor
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If you are looking to get the perfect shave and you are sick of compromises, then you need to learn how to shave with a straight razor. Straight razor shaving is a difficult art, but it will provide you with the smoothest shave you've ever had. Not only that, but learning how to shave with a straight razor is very cathartic and extremely cool. You'll be smooth, smell great and learn an art than men have been practicing for centuries.
This article is a primer on how to shave with a straight razor. The only way to really learn how to do this is by buying one and practicing, but this piece will hopefully give you an understanding of the processes involved with straight razor shaving. We'll talk about the materials necessary to get started, the techniques involved, and what to avoid.
Let's begin, and look at how to shave with a straight razor.
Shaving Supplies Required:
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Before we get into the actual practice of how to shave with a straight razor, let's talk about the materials you'll need to get started. First and foremost, you'll need a razor itself. Since straight razor shaving is making a bit of a comeback these days, you can find a lot of quality solutions online. You should make sure to find a high quality razor made of surgical steel. Expect to pay well over $100 for a quality one. This is a lot of money to spend, but remember that a well cared for straight razor will last the rest of your life.
You'll need some kind of shaving soap and a bristle brush. While it's possible to use canned shaving foam, I highly recommend getting a dish, bar of shaving soap and a bristle brush to complete the experience. It's actually a money saving system, and it avoids the corrosive components of canned foam, not to mention the unecessary packaging waste.
Lastly, you'll require a good quality hone and a strop. These are unique pieces necessary to a well maintained blade. Straight razor shaving is not maintenance free. The hone is like a whetstone with a very fine grit, used to sharpen your blade. The strop is a long strip of material with canvas on one side and leather on the other. The stop is used to clean and hone your blade after every shave. When learning how to shave with a straight razor, it's important to learn how to use a hone and strop too.
Stropping the Blade
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If you're learning how to shave with a straight razor, I cannot emphasize enough that you'll need to strop your blade after every shave. This keeps the blade sharp and ready for action the next time. The stropping action keeps the blade clean, wipes off all residue from the shave, and sharpens it for the next use. Straight razor shaving isn't maintenance free, but stropping doesn't take very long.
If you have a cloth strop, hold it taught. If your strop is one of the paddle kind, just hold it straight. Lay the blade flat against the material, with the edge pressed slightly against it. Draw your blade across the strop with the sharp end trailing (so if you're stropping towards yourself, the blade would be facing away from yourself). The idea here is to 'wipe' the sharp blade against the strop without dulling it. Straight razor shaving and stropping go hand in hand, so this will take some practice.
A note: you only need to use the leather side of the strop right after you hone the blade. All other times you can just use the canvas side.
Straight Razor Shaving Techniques
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Straight razor shaving is all about practice, so be prepared to have to try this a few times before you get it right. Go slowly and carefully and you'll be fine. Learning how to shave with a straight razor isn't insurmountable as long as you have some patience.
I suggest shaving after a shower, or using a hot towel beforehand; it makes sure the whiskers are nice and soft and ready to be cut. Lather your face well with the bristle brush and the shaving soap. Angle the blade so that it's almost flat against your face, and begin with slow strokes, shaving with the grain of the hair. Straight razor shaving isn't the same as cartridge shaving. Don't apply weight, the razor's weight will be enough to cut the hair. It's a little unusual to not press down to shave, but you'll get used to it. Learning how to shave with a straight razor is a process, so experiment with what works for you.
Once you've gone over your face once with with grain, you can then shave perpendicular to the grain, and then against the grain if necessary. Be sure to lather up for each new pass to avoid ingrown hairs and razor burn. If you cut yourself, just use a small square of toilet paper or kleenex to dry it.
Straight razor shaving is a bit of an art, so budget a decent amount of time for your first shave. Go slowly and try not to get frustrated. Be sure to use a good aftershave or balm to soothe your face after you finish.