How to Shave with a Straight Razor – Easy to Follow Beginners Guide
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Technology changes are happening at an accelerated rate. We see industries transform into worlds we’d never have imagined. Shaving technology has been a recipient of these changes over the years. We can enjoy this luxury, including classic shaving creams for men and multi-blade razors at affordable prices.
So, it’s not a surprise that many men are warming up to the idea of grooming and are taking personal hygiene more seriously.
With technology gifting us electric shavers– and cartridge razors, there’s a growing trend for old-school shaving.
Why Is Straight Razor Shaving Getting More Popular?
It’s simple; newer or more isn’t always better. Men are now aware of this fact and seek out efficiency instead of trending technology. Shaving with a sharp blade like your grandpa did back in the day guarantees you a better and closer shave than new razors with fancy technology.
It doesn’t matter how many blades it has or how many fancy features it has; an old-school single blade straight razor offers better results.
A couple of decades ago, our grandfather only had straight razors to keep his beards short and neat. He was okay with the shaving process until d-e safety razors came into the picture. Things got worse with cartridges and disposable razors.
And just like we’ve seen old-school fashion come back in style, straight razors and wet shaving are making a big comeback. Heck, many barbers are offering wet shaving with straight razors as a service.
Even better, manufacturing companies have picked up on the increased demand and have dedicated their time to producing quality straight razors and wet shaving products like shaving soaps and other necessary accessories like strops, styptic pencils, and alum blocks.
If you are unsure of barbers offering this service in your area, a simple, ‘straight razor shave near me’ search on Google will point you in the right direction.
But if you’d like to take matters into your own hands, you should learn the wet shaving process using a straight razor. And though there’s a learning curve to it, once you hack it, you’ll be unstoppable.
We’ll be the first to admit that using a straight razor makes one look and feel manlier. However, it’s not for everyone since it requires patience and time to correctly use the straight razor. But if you are up to the task and can take a couple of nicks and cuts along the way, learning how to use a straight razor can be the most rewarding skills you pick up.
To help you in your journey, we’ve laid out everything you’d need to know about straight razor shaving. From the pros and cons to the different parts and how to hold the straight razor in this easy to follow beginners guide below.
Pros and Cons of Straight Razor Shaving
As we’ve pointed out, straight razors offer the best close shave. But safety razors come in at a close second.
A shavette straight razor is a modified version of a traditional straight razor. The shavette straight razor has a double blade and goes for a fraction of a barber razor’s cost.
The straight razor pros are as clear as day. But, they have some drawbacks. We’ve listed some of these pros and cons below to help you decide if it’s a buy you’d consider.
- It offers the closest shave possible. It’s better than most other shaving tools
- It gives off a manly vibe
- Minimal or zero continuing costs. A straight razor requires a bigger initial investment than other shaving tools like disposable cartridges and safety razors. But the good thing is once you purchase it, you are set for a long time if not for good. It doesn’t come with continuing costs. If you take proper care of it, it will serve you for many years. Proper straight razor blade care includes honing and sharpening the blade every so often for best efficiency. You can learn how to hone and sharpen your straight razor blade, or you can opt to have a business do it for you. If you choose to take the latter option, the recurring costs might be expensive.
- Great for the environment. Cartridge and disposable razors are replaced after a couple of uses. Straight razors last for a long time, they are environmentally friendly. There’s nothing to replace or throw away over the years.
- With proper straight razor maintenance, a high-quality razor will last you a lifetime.
- There’s a learning curve to it. Using a straight razor isn’t like anything you’ve used before. Expect to cut and nick yourself a couple of times before you get the hang of it. Luckily, once you’ve learnt how to hold it and pass it over your cheeks, you shouldn’t have this problem. Aside from learning how to shave with a straight razor, you’ll also need to learn how to hone and sharpen it.
- It can be a dangerous tool. If you don’t know how to use straight-edge razors, you might end up injuring yourself. You should be careful when passing them over your skin. Remember, they aren’t called ‘cut-throat razor‘ for anything.
- High initial investment. We mentioned that straight razors cost a lot more than other shaving tools. To get the best result, you need: a straight razor, strop, honing tool, brush, shaving cream (preferably one of the best shaving creams for straight razors) or soap and aftershave. Other accessories might complete the routine and make it pleasant.
- It takes more time in the morning. If you have short time to prepare for work in the morning, shifting to a straight razor will leave you with less time. Straight shaving requires a lot of patience to do it right. But even so, most men find the extra time spent shaving to be worth the results they get.
- Requires continuous maintenance, stropping and honing. With other shaving tools, once the blade gets dull, you either dispose of the whole tool or replace the blade. This isn’t an option with the straight razor. To get the best results every time you shave, you’ll have to hone and stop the blade to keep it sharp. This process has its learning curve before you get it right and adds more time to the shaving routine.
How to Use a Straight Razor
To learn how to use a straight razor, you should understand its different parts.
Different Parts of a Straight Razor
- Point – this is the tip of the blade. It is round or square, depending on the design of the blade.
- Edge – this is the blades cutting edge that runs from the heel to its toe and ends at the blade’s tip (point)
- Heel – this is the part of a blade’s edge that is closest to the scales and pivot
- Toe – this is the bit of the edge that is close to the point
- Spine – this is the top side of the blade (the non-sharp side). It’s opposite to the edge
- Face – this is the part between the spine and the edge. It refers to the sides of a blade
- Tang – this is the part of a blade between the tail and the heel. It’s not sharp, and it’s where you hold the razor as you shave.
- Shoulder – this point where the heel and tang meet
- Tail – The end of the metal blade that’s located right after the pivot pin. It connects the blade to the scale. The tail is usually curved and allows fingers to fit below and above it.
- Scale – the non-metallic part of the straight razor that is connected to the metallic part through the pivot
- Pivot – the part connecting the blade and the scale
Holding a Straight Razor
After naming its parts, it’s time to learn how to hold a straight razor. Experts often change their grip to match the part of the face they are shaving. We will not bombard and confuse you with all that information. Instead, we will provide you with a beginner guide on the basic grip. Once you have the hang of this, you can learn how to change things up.
We have found that the best grip for a beginner is to hold the razor with the index and middle finger above the tang. Place the thumb underneath where the tang and shoulder meet.
Finally, place your ring finger and pinky on opposite sides of the tail. The pinky should be below and the ring finger above. If you do it right, the scales should be between your ring and middle fingers.
Step-By-Step Guide on Shaving with a Straight Razor
The most important part of using a straight razor is to combine its use with wet shaving. We have covered the steps on preparing the face on a different guide – how to get the perfect shave. We will skip those steps on this piece and proceed to straight razor shaving.
So, where do you start shaving? It’s up to you where you start. Most experts recommend you start from the sides, from close to your ears, and work your way downwards. Once you’ve lathered up and had your straight razor in hand, you should know how to take your first stroke. With a straight razor, the angle is important for great results.
With every stroke, have the razor at a 30-degree angle or less, depending on the part of the face you are working on. A bigger angle will have you slicing through your skin, and a very small angle will make it hard to shave.
Now that you know how to hold your straight razor and where to start, you are ready. Start from the sides, hold your straight razor in one hand, and pull your skin tight with the free hand. Tightening the skin is important to prevent nicks and cuts.
Now you can start shaving. Move the razor downwards as you take slow and even strokes over your tight skin.
Work your way down to the jawline and then tilt your head to expose the jaw. Here, shave downwards as well as you work across the jaw to your chin. When you finish working on one side of the face, switch to the other side, and repeat the process for a smooth shave.
When you are satisfied with your jawlines’ look, you can move on to the upper lip. Pull it as tight as you can with the opposite hand as you shave above the lip with slow downward motions.
You can then proceed with the same movements on and below your chin. As you are learning the technique, we recommend you shave along the grain. As you get better, you can make one pass along the grain, one across, and one against the grain to achieve a close shave. If you are confident enough, you can shave in any direction. But, shaving against the grain will increase the risk of cutting yourself. As such, we only recommend it after you’ve gotten the hang of shaving along the grain.
Also, depending on when shaving, you might opt to switch hands to shave on the opposite side. But, as a beginner, you should always use your dominant hand. Unless you trust yourself to remain in control with the ‘off’ hand.
The market is full of beginner straight razors. You can buy one of these as they tend to be more forgiving and accommodating as you learn the ropes. But whether you buy a beginner razor, a complete straight razor kit or not, you’ll have to learn the wet shaving techniques.
If we are honest, no amount of reading can prepare you for actual straight razor use. You have to do it to develop and master the technique. Ask your local barber for tips and tricks or watch some great YouTube videos showing you the steps.
If you are serious about learning wet shaving, prepare to spend some time learning it. A couple of nick’s is part of the process. The benefits of shaving with a straight razor is worth it.