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Best Straight Razors for Beginners and Pros – Reviews Updated 2018
With the many straight razors on the market all claiming to be the best straight razor of the century, it is a daunting process to choose the one most likely to provide you with the most satisfaction. We all want the best for ourselves which is only natural.
However, getting the best is not always an easy process. The fact that there are several brands, makes and models of straight razors in the market do not make the decision-making process any easier.
- 1 7 Factors to Keep in Mind When You Want to Buy The Best Straight Razor
- 2 The 10 Top Pick Cut-throat Razors 2018
- 2.1 Dovo Straight Razor Carbon
- 2.2 Tradition
- 2.3 Convenience
- 2.4 Blade
- 2.5 Handle
- 2.6 Edge
- 2.7 Design
- 2.8 Verdict
- 2.9 Feather Artist Club SS Straight Razor
- 2.10 Verdict
- 2.11 Parker SRW Stainless Steel Straight Edge Barber Razor (Shavette)
- 2.12 Verdict
- 2.13 Thiers-Issard 6/8 Straight Razor
- 2.14 Verdict
- 2.15 Böker King Cutter Straight Razor
- 2.16 Verdict
- 2.17 Dovo Silver Shavette Straight Razor
- 2.18 Verdict
- 2.19 Feather Artist Club DX Folding Wood Handle Razor
- 2.20 Verdict
- 2.21 Classic Samurai CS-102 Professional Barber Straight Edge Razor
- 2.22 Verdict
- 2.23 Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8 Straight Razor
- 2.24 Verdict
- 3 Straight Razors Maintenance – Everything You Need to Know
- 3.1 Why Should You Buy a Straight Edge Razor?
- 3.2 Before You Buy a Straight Razor
- 3.3 Cross-sections of Razors Degree of Hollowness
- 3.4 German Straight Razors Brands
- 3.5 Dovo
- 3.6 Giesen & Forsthoff – AKA Timor
- 3.7 Böker
- 3.8 French Straight Razors Brands
- 3.9 The Shavette/Feather Razor
- 3.10 Buying Guide and Shaving Technique
- 3.11 Straight Razors Penetrating the Market
- 3.12 Factors to Consider When Buying a Straight Razor
- 3.13 How Much Should I Pay For it?
- 3.14 How Do I Tell the Quality it?
- 3.15 The Point, Width, Material, and Balance
- 3.16 When You Have Received Your Straight Razor
- 3.17 Straight Razor Maintenance
- 3.18 Stropping Your Straight Razor
- 3.19 Honing Your Straight Razor
- 3.20 How to Shave With a Straight Razor
- 4 5 Easy Steps to do When Shaving with a Straight Razor
- 5 Straight Razors Compared to Other Products
- 6 A Closer Look
- 7 Straight Razors Compared to Other Types of Razors
- 8 Below is How We Made Our Choice For This List
If you are a beginner in the art of traditional shaving, you might also want to check out our reviews of straight razor kits.
Luckily, we have compiled a list of important factors to consider while making the decision. These considerations are designed to add to your knowledge of what is available as well as equip you with knowledge of the qualities making a quality straight razor whether you decide to go for the Editors’ Choice – the Dovo Carbon or some other top picks.
Suffering from SASS (Short Attention Span Syndrome)? Jump right to:
With that out of the way, let us get into the thick of things.
7 Factors to Keep in Mind When You Want to Buy The Best Straight Razor
Hollowness/ Blade W.
|Dovo Straight Razor Carbon||Round Point|
|Wood||Great grip, German made handcraft, Great for beginners||Carbon steel requires more maintenance to keep it in perfect condition|
|Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor||Round point|
|Disposable Replacement blades||Heat-resistant resin gum handle||Easy to replace blades, Convenience, Sharp blades||More expensive than other straight razors with replacement blades|
|Parker SRW Stainless Steel Straight Edge Barber Razor||Round point|
|Disposable Replacement blades||Plastic||Beginner friendly, Easy to change blades, Inexpensive||Plastic handle|
|Thiers-Issard 6/8" Straight Razor||Round point|
|Bone scales||Good quality, Perfect grip||Carbon steel requires more maintenance to keep it in perfect condition|
|Boker Straight Razor, King Cutter||Round point|
|Plastic||Affordable, Great quality, Easy to use||Plastic handle, Might not last you a lifetime|
|Dovo Silver Shavette Straight Razor||Square point|
|Disposable Replacement blades||Aluminum||Maintenance free, Inexpensive, Easy to learn how to use||Construction feels a bit "light"|
|Feather DX Folding Wood Handle Razor||Round point|
|Disposable Replacement blades||Resinated wood||Great craftsmanship, Easy to use, Replace blades, Convenience, Sharp blades||Expensive|
|Classic Samurai CS-102 Razor||Round point|
|Disposable Replacement blades||Surgical Grade Stainless Steel||Newbie friendly, Great value, Maintenance free, Plastic pouch protection||A bit heavy|
|Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8 Straight Razor||Square point|
|Carbon fiber uni plate||Durable, Great balance||Expensive, Needs a steady and experienced hand, Difficult to find online|
1. Blade Type
Top quality blades are produced with subtle but very important differences. Below is information to help with your understanding of these features to assist with your choice.
This blade point is semicircular. It is devoid of sharp ends. Compared to other blade types, it proves to be slightly more forgiving. As such, it is better suited for beginners learning the art.
Square point blades have a straight point profile. This terminates into a sharp point that is perpendicular to the cutting edge of the blade. It proves to be particularly useful in shaving smaller areas. It does, however, require some experience to handle correctly.
The profile designed on a French point blade looks like a quarter circle. It has a sharp point at the very end just like the square point. Other persons refer to it as the oblique point.
2. Blade Width
The blade width refers to the distance between the cutting edge and the back or dull edge of the blade. The width is expressed in simple 1/8 increments. As such, a 4/8 blade translates to half an inch wide while the 8/8 blade translates into a 1-inch wide blade.
I should point out that the width of the blade does in no way affect the closeness of the shave. This is provided you hone and strop the blade to give it the required sharpness. Smaller blades tend to be easier to strop than larger ones.
Large blades provide a more aggressive shave. They do, however, prove very difficult to shave under the nose especially for beginners. This goes for other hard to reach areas as well.
Smaller blades provide ample room to see where and how you are shaving.
3. Modern VS. Vintage Models
On a broad spectrum, you only have two choices to make with regards to the straight razors. This is either a vintage or modern open version. They vary greatly and have their own pros and cons.
If you are into buying old products are restoring them to their original glory, or close to it, then vintage straight razors will prove to be the best and by far the most attractive option on the table. The fact that you can get them at an affordable price is certainly a plus. You should be warned though. They do require some tender care to restore them to their original glory and be perfect for shaving. If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you hone the shaving skill first with the modern open model before jumping to the vintage varieties.
Modern razors as you would expect have the added advantage of featuring the new technology available in the market. They feature better craftsmanship and more often than not, they have years of experience and shaving backing their design and engineering. Needless to say, the condition of modern version is way better than that of a vintage blade. But then again, a vintage well-maintained blade is usually of the same quality if not better than the modern alternatives.
No, temper in this context does not refer to those moments you flip out on your family and friends. It refers to the blades ability to retain its sharpness as well as its ease of sharpening.
Blades come with three tempers including soft, medium and hard. Generally, a hard temper model will keep the edge for longer while soft tempered edges are easier to sharpen.
Straight razors are designed from carbon steel or stainless steel. Stainless steel usually is less expensive and also last longer between sharpenings. On the other hand, carbon steel blades are higher in quality and are slightly more expensive. Most men prefer getting razors produced from stainless steel. The combination of quality and affordability is too sweet to ignore.
Grind refers to the concave indentation on the blade. A full hollow grind usually makes a blade sharper and lighter. On the flip side, a less hollow grind is not as sharp and is considered more suitable for beginners in the game.
7. A Shavette – What About It?
A shavette (trademark of the German manufacturer Dovo) can be likened to training wheels on bicycles. They are perfect for beginners learning the ropes and making the transition between normal shaving and the use of straight razors. They resemble straight razors in many ways. They feature a standard double-edge disposable (replaceable) blade – in some cases the same kind that you would still use with a safety razor. No stropping and honing involved. It is a great way to get the hang of the shaving motion and generally, the technique of straight razors.
They are far cheaper compared to actual open models. There are now several manufacturers that are using this system with their own personal touches – such as Feather and Parker.
The 10 Top Pick Cut-throat Razors 2018
Dovo is a German company. It is reputed for providing high-quality products. The Dovo Carbon is one example that is hard to beat. This beauty is also a contender for the best quality open razor for newbies. Let us have a closer look.
Dovo has been producing superior blades for a long time. This is since 1906. They have over time built a highly respected name and solid reputation for themselves. A reputation for excellence and that is well deserved. Solingen, the part of Germany where they are based, was already popular for producing quality cutting tools when Dovo got into the shaving industry.
Dovo prefers to ship all of its razors ready to go out of the box. This is to mean that before shaving, you do not have to take it through any setup or assembly.
The Dovo blade is full hollow, sharp and light. Additionally, it features a rounded point that is highly suitable for beginners. It is made of carbon steel that is durable, elastic and hard. The blade is a round point type – 5/8-inches wide. This is an added plus for the open razor lovers.
The handle is made from wood. It is ebony in color and looks great. Additionally, it has a strong grip and will not slip from your hand.
The edge of this blade is fine. It is as fine as gets when it comes to quality blades. This not only enhances the shave quality you get but also provides you with a graceful feel requiring no extra pressure.
The Dovo Carbon features a simple design that is stylish and elegant. It looks great.
When it comes to open razors, you will notice (if you haven’t already), the sharpness of the blade is not everything. But nonetheless, it still means a lot.
The Feather Artist Club SS comes in first place courtesy of its sharp blade. With this beauty, you will not have to worry whether the blade is sharp enough or not. Additionally, you have the tech backing of a famed Japanese company.
This company and brand are one of the most respected and reputable in the industry. Simply put, it is the best of the best.
Here is what has skyrocketed this model into fame over the past few years. First and foremost the Feather Artist Club SS is a straight razor like any other with regards to its body design and shape but features a disposable blade.
As such, you are in a way getting the best of both worlds. The sharp blade requires no stropping and honing. Its maintenance is a walk in the park, and it can easily be replaced.
But this introduces a new concept of removing and replacing the blade. Before you freak out, the removal and replacement process is a walk in the park. All you have to do is pinch the razor head and allow the blade to drop from the socket. It is an easy and fast process.
You do, however, still need to exercise caution throughout the process since after all, you are dealing with sharp blades, and any mishap could certainly spill a bit of blood.
You will be pleased to note that the blade head is spring mounted. This contributed to its ease of blade removal as well as its ease of cleaning the Feather SS with water. I should mention that the blade is also disinfectant safe.
With that, let’s have a look at some of the other features of the Feather SS.
- Feather SS is made of stainless steel. It is built to last for ages
- The Feather SS features a resin handle. This handle sets it apart from its competition. It is heat resistant and gives a superior grip. Switching hands to get to the hard to reach and sensitive places such as the jawline and neck are easier with this innovation. While the handle is also shorter than that of many others the majority of reviewers feel it comfortable in their hands.
- The sharpness of the blade and the overall design allow for shaving without applying undue pressure.
- The handle takes 4 different Feather replacement blades (Professional, Super, Light, and Pro-Guard) that will allow you to adjust your shave to suit your skin type and beard coarseness.
- The Feather SS is comfortable and has a lightweight design. This makes it very easy to maneuver the face. Ultimately, the goal is to get a close shave every time you place the handle on your face. The Feather SS achieves this with great finesse.
- The craftsmanship coupled with the design of the Feather SS makes it very easy for newbies to handle. Shaving with an open razor no doubt requires care and technique as discussed in this piece. But it certainly does not hurt to have a friendlier learning curve.
- Blade Type – Round Point blade
The Parker SRW Shavette is designed with professionals in mind. It is however still a perfect choice for beginners and experienced shavers alike. The price is affordable and hard to beat. On top of this, it is a very high-quality product.
The Parker company has been in the industry for quite some time. In this period, it has proven itself a leader in design and innovation. The stainless steel Parker SRW lives up to the hype and industry high standards.
Below are some of the features it sports.
- The blade cover of the SRW is constructed from stainless steel and not aluminum as many believe and as is the norm with other brands
- Reviewers have taken note of the Parker SRW in their hand. They complement its great balance and weight which make it smooth to use and nick and cut free.
- It accommodates both half double edge and single edge disposables. These blades are designed to securely snap into the blade holder. The overall design makes it easy to change the blades. It is without a doubt a great advantage for professional barbers who do not have time to waste changing blades.
- It features a rounded tip which minimizes the risk of cuts and nicks. It is beginner friendly.
- It features a 100 sharp blade perfect for professional use. It is perfect for individuals looking for comfort while shaving
- Most reviewers term Parker SRW as fun
- Blade Type – Round Point blade
Despite Germany being the leading manufacturer of quality blades; France is also known for its exceptional steel blades. One of the leading manufacturing companies of handcrafted steel blades in France is Thiers-Issard. Thiers Issard has been in the industry long enough producing good quality products which have allowed them to make their way to the top of the list of the best razor manufacturers.
What is outstanding about this French blade is its dependability which will always give you the shave that you desire since satisfaction is guaranteed. However, Thiers-Issard 6/8″ could fetch up to twice the price of Böker, but this could be directly attributable to its good quality and high performance that leaves you with the best shave you could get.
This mirror-polished round point blade with a width of 6/8” is a little longer than Böker which makes it more efficient despite the fact that it could demand a slightly more experience hand when shaving with it. A full-hollow designed blade with perfect forging and grounding in France and manufactured with a round nose, it has an exceptionally good look. From its appearance, it is easy to notice its high quality make.
The handle of Thiers-Issard 6/8″ is unique, designed with horn scales and with the company’s logo portrayed in black color on the razor, perfectly rhymes with its elegant look. It is designed to provide a firm grip when using it, and the fact that it is perfectly balanced is a plus, which gives you a satisfying shaving experience. Their steel construction is quite excellent, and amazingly among today’s many mass manufacturers, Thiers Issard remains outstanding courtesy of its good quality steel construction on its products.
Thiers-Issard 6/8″ needs to be honed to a suitable edge. The honing process requires experience levels which could be uncommon for beginners since it is time-consuming and could be a little difficult.
The Boker King Cutter is one of the best in the market. This razor being a product of Solingen, Germany is definitely of good quality with high performance. One great thing about the Böker King Cutter is affordability, and it leaves you with a perfectly smooth shave. So what has made it earn its way to top straight razors? Well, if the quality of the product is something to go by, then this baby has it all. Designed with one of the best blades, it very efficient and does its job day in and day out nicely with a minimum of hassles. After using Boker King Cutter, you might never want to try another due to its reliability, performance, and durability. Sometimes this razor comes with a “Böker USA” brand. This should not worry you because it implies that it was assembled in the USA but not that it is made there. Even when assembled in a different country, Boker King Cutter maintains its high-quality standard. It is constructed with a 5/8” carbon-steel round point blade that is reinforced with alloy. The alloy enhancement improves the functioning of the blade since it assists the blade to be ground to a suitable edge.
With a design of a rounded point that is filled with full-hollow-grind, it is quite easy for beginners to make use of Boker King Cutter with ease. The plastic material used to construct its handle makes the Böker King Cutter quite light and can be easily balanced during your shave. Despite the fact that it comes as a “’shave ready”, you need to strop it before you begin your shaving. However, with continual usage, you are going to gain experience and will likely fall in love this beauty.
It is important to bear in mind that while the shavettes are considered to be more of training wheels in the wet shaving industry, it does not mean that they are of low quality compared to other open razors. This clearly stands out with the Dovo Shavette.
While it is a beginner razor, perfect for beginners needing some time to master the art of this type of shaving, it works great for pros as well. It is a perfect means to try straight shaving while keeping your initial investment to a minimum. The Shavette is well priced, and despite the fact that the square point blade is disposable and you have to replace it regularly, it is a fairly easy blade to maintain. But when you look at it from the perspective of the requirement of sharpening blades, it is not expensive. As a matter of fact, they help you save some cash on this end.
While this has the style and looks of a traditional razor, in the way it folds, it is lighter. With the Silver Shavette, there are also blade holder options with regards to color and blade. These are green, black and clear.
Every holder comes with a different blade type. The clear for instance features a double-edged blade that is split into two portions while the black features a blade similar to the double-edged blade, only longer.
Last but not least, the green unit features a blade that is stiff compared to the other two types. Its blade length resembles the traditional open razors.
Note that the green and black holders are costlier than the clear holder. Also worth noting is that while the blade’s sharpness is a great thing, you need to take extra care not to nick or cut yourself.
The Feather DX is perfect for shaving purists. The beautiful wooden handle is a very classy touch. It delivers a close and smooth shave especially in the hands of an experienced shaver.
The Feather shaving Company has been in the game for more than 80 years. As such they certainly know a thing or two about the shaving industry – “cutthroat” to be specific.
The Feather DX round point blade is replaceable. The blade is as sharp as you would expect in any other quality product. And the best part is that they need no stropping or honing either. The blade head is spring mounted and features a one-touch mechanism that makes it easy to take apart and reassemble during cleaning. To keep the handle of the blade at your desired angle is a pivot screw. It also helps to maintain constant tension.
The handle is made from resinated wood which is a special polymer that is chemical and water resistant and is heat treated. With these qualities, you can easily sterilize the razor in boiling water.
The sharp blade means that one wrong move can have you shedding a bit of blood. It is imperative to exercise care and caution while shaving.
This masterpiece is perfect for both pros and newbies in the game. Classic Samurai CS-102 has a lot playing in its favor. With it, you enjoy a great shaving experience at a fraction of the cost of other open razors. But this low price does not mean cheap or inferior quality. On the contrary, it is loved and preferred by professionals for its high quality.
Here are some of the many features:
- Classic Samurai CS-102 is made of stainless steel. It is easy to take apart change parts and reassemble as needed
- The Samurai CS-102 features a great synthesis of weight and balance. It is user-friendly especially for individuals learning the technique
- It comes in a pouch (plastic) for added protection. This helps to extend the life of the straight razor
- It is offered in a range of colors
- Round point disposable blades
Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8 Straight Razor
How much are you willing to spend on razors? If you are willing to spend huge, then this model is the one to buy. Its high price could be attributed to the admirable features that this razor possesses. Being a product of collaboration with the famous artisan Max Sprecher, its quality has to be worth your money. Inspired by their slogan “Designed for Life” Ezra Arthur (former Bison) is known for its outstanding quality products. They have earned their way to the top of my list due to the high durability and quality level of the products they manufacture. With an Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8, your investment in quality and durability is at its maximum, and it leaves you with nothing else other than fulfillment after using it. Your shaving experience is about to be made better with this outstanding performing straight razor.
This large 8/8” quarter-hallow grounded square point blade is constructed using carbon steel with a strength that enables the razor to have a long life. From its durability, Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8 could last throughout your lifetime which explains why it comes with a relatively higher price. Its wedge is designed with banded faux-ivory, it is assembled with brass pins, and its handle contains scales constructed from uniquely high-density carbon fiber. Ezra Arthur + Max Sprecher Custom 8/8 is quite different from other razors regarding weight; it is heavier than most others weighing up to 2.5 ounces which could be due to its length. However, you hardly feel the weight once you begin your shaving process. The balance of this razor is made perfect which gives you the best feeling when on your skin during shaving. It might not be the best choice for anyone that is new in using open razors.
Straight Razors Maintenance – Everything You Need to Know
The classic razor, also known as “cut-throats”, “straight edge” or “straight razor” was born in Sheffield, England, around 1680. Today there are two main types:
- The classic variant with a permanent blade that must be honed & stropped
- The straight razor with interchangeable double-edge blades, also known as Shavette. Shavette is a trademark of the German manufacturer Dovo and is a “replaceable-blade razor that you use like a straight razor” (not to be confused with a safety razor). A double edge razor feels somewhat different in your hand, but the shaving technique is similar. You don’t need a strop and hone, but you will need to buy replacement blades.
This article is focused on the classic type, but there are similarities with the Shavette except for stropping and honing.
Please note: Do not fall for the temptation of using your grandfather’s old straight razor, the one with small notches and rust without a check-up and service. Most old & used straight razors need a thorough overhaul with a whetstone and a strop.
Why Should You Buy a Straight Edge Razor?
- It is an age-old tool which is still highly functional. It is comparable to driving a classic car with the driving characteristics of a factory-new Jaguar
- It provides an even closer shave than with safety razors since the blade edge slides directly on the skin
- It is fun, and your wife or partner will probably think you’re crazy
- It is a one-time investment for life, and your daily cost of luxury shaving will be minuscule after that
Anyone can learn how to use a straight edge razor; it is not dependent on your age. To use a straight razor is the same as using a traditional razor, the only difference is the grip. What you have is a very sharp edge slide across your skin – in principle the same as a safety razor.
You might get some minor cuts starting out, but if that happens, the damage will be just as if you were cutting yourself with a traditional razor – not particularly extensive in other words. If you want to be on the safe side, you can obtain a Hemostop Styptic Pencil that easily fixes cuts that bleed.
Before You Buy a Straight Razor
Remember – a good straight blade razor is an investment for life. Buy a German made one from Solingen Steel (like a Dovo or Giesen-Forsthoff) or an American made (Hart Steel). When holding a straight razor in your hand and it says Solingen, you know you have a product that is made from the finest steel in the world, with a unique quality of manufacture.
Avoid buying cut-throat razors from other than these manufacturers. Their inferior steel quality will quickly wear out and soon start wreaking havoc with your skin. We have reviewed 10 of the most popular straight razor kits here.
The blade of a razor is usually made of either stainless steel or carbon steel.
- Stainless steel contains chromium particles makes the surface resistant to stains and wear, and is an increasingly popular choice for razors. It is important to note that steel that must be cured hard enough to function in a straight cut razor may not contain enough chrome to be 100 percent corrosion free and therefore needs to be polished and coated with knife oil now and then. Razors of stainless steel are characterized by low maintenance and need less frequent sharpening early on, but need to be honed and stropped more often once you have started.
- Blades of carbon steel contain, as its name suggests, more carbon than other types of steel. This makes the steel harder so that the blade can get a thinner, crisper edge. For this reason, carbon steel has become the traditional material for straight razors. Carbon steel is not stainless and therefore requires that you strop the blade after shaving to polish the steel. Razors of carbon steel are characterized by being easy to hone but must be sharpened more often, and require careful maintenance with polishing and knife oil. Certain blades are called “Blue Steel”. This is post-treated carbon steel and works basically as carbon steel.
Straight razors are available with different widths of the blade: 1/2, 9/16, 5/8, 3/4 and 7/8 inches. The most common width is 5/8 inch (about 16 mm), and this width is appropriate for most users. Men with a very coarse beard may prefer a wider blade that may slide somewhat easier through thick hair.
Some straight razors have a so-called round nose at the tip, while others have a straight nose. Some producers like Dovo use the terms “spike point” and “round point” as well to describe this.
This is mostly about style and taste. That said; it is somewhat easier to cut around a beard or a mustache with a razor with a straight nose since it is easier to see exactly where the razor shaves. A straight razor with a round nose is convenient when shaving the face since it can easily be maneuvered around without sticking yourself with the point of the blade.
Cross-sections of Razors Degree of Hollowness
There are as many as 16 different honing profiles of razors, which are grouped into three main types:
- Straight Wedge
- Half Hollow
- Full Hollow
- Straight Wedge (Dovo uses the term “Flat Ground” for this profile) means that the blade has a wedge-shaped profile with relatively straight sides. The blade is thicker, and the razor weighs more. Men with thick hair growth and strong hands may prefer this style. The blade bends less during shaving and thus becomes easier to use, but can be slightly less comfortable when shaving compared to knives with Hollow grinding.
- Half Hollow (Dovo uses the term “1/2 Hollow Ground” for this profile) means that the blade has concave sides (arcs inwards) and therefore becomes thinner toward the edge than a Straight Wedge. The blade is, therefore, more flexible and more responsive to the user, which means that you must be a little easier on the touch during shaving, while comfort is often perceived as better.
- Full Hollow (Dovo uses the term “Full Hollow Ground” for this profile) involves even more concave grinding profile and thus an even thinner blade. That means more precision and comfort than Half Hollow, but since the blade bends more under shaving, you must be extra careful to avoid minor cuts.
You need not be too concerned about the difference between blade types. As a rule, it is far more important how well the straight razor is set up, than how wide it is or what kind of profile it has. The essential thing is that you choose a razor of high quality that feels good to you, and that you understand and are prepared for the maintenance required.
German Straight Razors Brands
By referring to straight razors from Germany, I am actually not talking about the entire nation but the small town of Solingen. Located in North Rhine-Westphalia, Solingen has been one of the renowned epicenters of superior quality European cutlery for ages. Being German myself, to some people I may sound biased when I say that Solingen produces the ultimate prime quality blades. But I say so because I know they are good, and I am sure you will agree when you experience their quality. Solingen-branded open razors have proved so good that in 1938 this name had to be given legal protection!
Established in 1906 by Carl Dorp and Carl-Arthur Voos, Dovo is one of the most famed straight razor brands from Solingen. In the course of its century-plus existence, Dovo has swallowed up a number of other blade brands such as Tennis, Ankerflagge, Fontana, Kronpunkt, and Bismarck, bringing under one roof extensive manufacturing expertise and experience and thus leading to today’s premier quality straight razors.
For Dovo products, even the least pricey is guaranteed to serve you perfectly for many years to come provided you provide a bit of proper care and attention. If you want to get a price-friendly straight razor, Dovo Best Quality blades typically retail at between USD110 (85 euros) and USD300 (230 euros) in the lower-end market segment. Dovo blades come in a wide range of handle materials including Spanish oak, ebony, desert ironwood, buffalo horn, and ordinary plastic.
Although wood-made Dovo handles are usually considered water-resistant, this is not actually completely correct since the razor is not meant to become wet. To most people, actually, the handle material is not all that important — just go for the one that appeals to your eyes most.
Giesen & Forsthoff – AKA Timor
Giesen & Forsthoff was founded in 1920 in Germany’s stronghold of sharp knives, Solingen. In the German shaving context, the brand is known for affordable open razors where the blade does not take a back seat to anyone, but where the handle is a bit more spartan than on many razors from competitor Dovo. Under the trademark “Timor” the Giesen & Forsthoff Company was very popular in Europe and especially in Scandinavia in the period before and after World War II. One of their most popular models is the Timor Straight Razor Plum Wood, Dark Plum.
Founded in 1869, Böker is another major manufacturer from Solingen, albeit less renowned than Dovo. With their famed focus on employing the very best in expertise and raw materials, Böker’s main objective has always been to maintain their manufacturing standards at the very highest level.
Although the demand for open razors had waned gradually in the years following the end of the Second World War, the global market has seen some massive revival in recent years. While in the past the Solingen Company was mostly known as a hunting knife maker, today they also boast some of the most sought-after shaving masterpieces in the market. Böker designs and manufactures all their straight razors using some of the best traditional techniques, with up to 150 steps being followed to end up with these great products of shaving craftsmanship.
All Böker razors are hand-made, with the most pricey model being made from powdered, metallurgical stainless Damascus material and forming up to 180 layers of the renowned steel type for a pocketful price of USD$$$. The company also makes less expensive alternatives like the Böker King Cutter and the Böker Silver Steel.
Note: While silver was actually used to make Boker blades up to around the year 2000, today this is only a marketing term. The silver made the blade’s surface structure more refined, enhancing the Boker razor’s overall cutting experience.
Bonus Tip: You may consider paying for your Böker blades in euros rather than dollars; the euro prices seem better. I am reliably informed that Böker is planning to have more offerings later in the year, so keep your ears on the alert. Personally, I prefer those amazing-looking blades adorned with a traditional hollow-ground shape. However, the imitation ivory-made handle scales are perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea.
French Straight Razors Brands
If you ask any true connoisseur about French open razors, more often than not their immediate answer will be Thiers-Issard. While Dovo can be termed as the Mercedes Benz of the razor world and Boker the BMW, Thiers-Issard is the Aston Martin!
Founded in 1884 by Pierre Thiers, the legendary blade manufacturer was borne out of the barrel-chested blacksmith’s own talent and expertise in hammering out prime quality metallic items at the forge, eventually becoming a pro razor designer.
Initially, Thiers passed on his master knowledge and business to his son, Pierre Thiers Junior, with other members of their family joining the company later on. Although no longer family-owned, Thiers-Issard still jealously guards the high quality and tradition of its originators, with the fact that they still use only Sheffield steel to make their open razors being perhaps the best evidence of this. For those of us who love great works of art, Thiers-Issard’s special edition models are our mainstay, price notwithstanding. But other less pricey alternatives are available, with good maintenance being the only thing standing between a great Thiers-Issard razor and generations of use.
The Shavette/Feather Razor
Many buyers may confuse an exchangeable cartridge-equipped Shavette either from Dovo (that has the patent for the ‘Shavette’ Trademark), Parker or a Feather for a traditional open razor, but this is actually a combination of a disposable razor and a straight razor. While it is equipped with the form of a straight razor, this type carries a disposable blade. There are many manufacturers of blades for these razors, one of the more popular is the Derby blades. Probably you have felt or seen a Shavette in a barber’s shop when the barber is cleaning up your neck or another customer’s below the hairline. Compared to classic straight razors, these types are normally less costly than straight razors, typically USD 25-50 (20-40 euros) lower. Actually, they are great options for beginners who do not have to hone and strop before shaving, or you can use them as an interim step as you plan to invest in a more decent straight shaver as experience is gained.
Buying Guide and Shaving Technique
If men were being honest they would say that shaving is a chore for them. Well, for most of them anyway since there are still those who enjoy it. They seize the opportunity readily and take time to ensure that they are well groomed. Making first impressions is after all seemingly imperative in this life. For those men who enjoy shaving and grooming, they welcome the return of straight razor shaving with open arms. They are of the opinion that this form of traditional shaving should not have disappeared as with so many other things from the past.
Now a little history of the open razors to help you appreciate their return. The use of folding razor dates back to the 17th century in England. For the longest time, about a century, they were the only option men had for grooming and keeping their faces baby-butt smooth. But the 1900s ushered in a new era that saw the creation of safety razors followed closely by that of electric razors. These inventions, needless to say, turned the once ‘worshiped’ straight razors into relics rarely used. Only daring souls still used open bladed razors; either for nostalgic purposes or just because it made them feel a little bit more masculine.
There is one thing that straight razor enthusiasts have in common – they share a love for the fine things in life. They also seem to have a significant amount of patience which allows them to savor moments and experiences. In the recent times, safety razor manufacturers have gone on record to state that they have experienced a massive drop in their sales. On the other hand, straight razor brands state that they have experienced exponential growth. This could only mean one thing – straight razors are back and with a bang.
Straight Razors Penetrating the Market
Straight razors are also referred to as true razors or the cutthroat razor and are, as mentioned, making a big comeback. Whether you are one of those men looking to give these razor types a try or an open blade devotee, it is important to know the considerations to make while choosing the best straight-edge razor and in learning the perfect techniques for straight razor shaving.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Straight Razor
In this piece, we shall have a look at some of the factors we deem important when it comes to choosing a great open blade razor. However, I should point out that some of the most important considerations have nothing to do with the type of blade you choose. On the contrary, it has more to do with your discipline levels and patience.
Straight razor shaving is not for individuals who are always in a hurry or cannot stand spending the time to learn the technique of proper straight shaving. As you prepare to buy your straight razor and transform into a “razor man”, you should be prepared to be deliberately slow to master your blade. This is important because the efficiency of the razor you choose will also depend on your technique. A novice wielding event the best cut-throat razor on the market can easily render the razor next to useless.
How Much Should I Pay For it?
A fortune? Honestly, how much should one pay for a simple piece of metal with a handle? Well, you do not have to spend all your savings, but a high-quality product will cost several hundred dollars. Some of the best in the market have price tags in the range of thousands of dollars. The difference in price is caused by the material used for construction, the precision and craftsmanship that is used to forge the razors as well as in honing them.
As you prepare to make a purchase, remember that these tools are designed to serve you for a lifetime.
How Do I Tell the Quality it?
Can a new shaver judge the quality of this classic tool? Yes, they can. However, learning how to tell the quality is possibly an even more difficult and challenging process than learning how to use the razor. For instance, an open razor blade can have a medium, soft or hard temper. This greatly affects just how long its edge will remain as well as the ease of sharpening the razor. Hard tempered straight razors tend to keep their edge for longer while the softly tempered razors prove easier to sharpen.
The indentations on the blade also referred to as the grind, are an important characteristic. Why? Well, a complete hollow grind lightens the blade and makes it sharper. But with the increased sharpness comes an increased safety hazard. The opposite is true for a less hollow straight razor making them a better choice for newbies to the art of open razor shaving.
That said, also remember that the needs of different persons are different. Sticking to one straight razor brand with a reputation that precedes itself is the surest way of choosing a great razor.
The Point, Width, Material, and Balance
With regards to this consideration, there are two questions that do not need you to be an expert to answer correctly. The first is pertaining to the width of the blade. Wide blades are usually considered as harder to manage. They, however, can contain more lather while shaving thus facilitating the shaving process. On the flip side, narrow blades are perfect for reaching tight spots such as behind the ears and under the nose.
The second question is the blade point. Generally, round pointed blades are easier to manage while the square versions though more precise are tougher for a user to handle.
It is, however, a relief to note the ease in determining a well-balanced open razor. This is a good thing since it is a key element which determines how easy it is to handle the blade and shave consistently. The handle on the razor has got to be solid not to mention comfortable. It should feature scales which that help add to the grip.
When you first pick up a blade at the local store for scrutiny, the very first thing you will check, consciously or unconsciously, is the blade material. The cheap and affordable straight razors are made of stainless steel. The stainless blades are said to last longer and cut better compared to the carbon steel blade.
But despite these advantages, most brands still prefer and insist on manufacturing their razors with carbon steel blades since they can produce high-quality blades with this material.
When You Have Received Your Straight Razor
When you buy a new straight razor you will often see that the blade is coated with oil. This is because the vendors are aware that the blades may be stored for a while in a warehouse or shop and don’t want the steel to discolor. It is advisable to rinse the blade in hot water before first use to avoid getting oil on the strop.
Please note that most straight razors will need a bit of honing & stropping before first use. This will save both your skin and ego some pain.
Straight Razor Maintenance
Unlike Shavettes and safety razors, classic straight razors use the same blade throughout its (and your) life. Good maintenance is therefore essential. If your straight razor is not going to be used for a long time, you should coat it with knife oil. Rust is rarely a problem, but without oil, the knife may become stained and discolored.
Stropping Your Straight Razor
A strop is a piece of leather that is used to keep the blade dry and edge straight. If you take a look at a straight razor that has just been used to shave and put it under an electron microscope you will see that the edge looks a bit jagged and out of alignment, similar to a disorderly fence. Stropping flattens out these “teeth” so that the edge is sharp and smooth.
When stropping it is important to remember that you lead with the back of the knife first, followed by the cutting edge. Doing it the other way, with the edge first – risk you cutting into the strop and getting a blunt edge. Most strops are narrower than the blade, which requires you to strop diagonally, by pulling the blade diagonally across the strop.
The straight razor should be turned on it’s back. It is also wise to turn while the blade is in motion over the strop. If you stop the motion with the blade and then turn it, it does not take more than a slight tremor in your hand before the edge makes a notch in your strop.
Keep a firm tension in the strop and relax the hand holding the knife. Do not use force, just let the blade barely bow the leather in your strop. If you use too much pressure there is a risk of creating a split in the cutting edge over time.
The speed you are using pulling the straight razor across the leather is no factor in affecting the result. Take it slow at first and speed up when you feel comfortable.
How many times you need to strop varies. If you have a strop with linen underneath, you can strop 20 to 25 times before changing over and strop a minimum of 25 times on the leather side. This is not a definitive rule, just strop until you feel the knife shaves well. Carbon steel razors usually benefit from a few laps on the leather side of the strop after shaving to be polished shiny again.
Honing Your Straight Razor
Your razor will get duller over time. This is normal, considering that facial hair is as strong as copper wire (see for yourself how blunt scissors becomes of cutting power cords). The edge will be rounded evenly and will in some places develop tiny notches. Unless you are blessed with the eyesight of an eagle, it will be difficult to observe this with the naked eye, but under a microscope, it is very clear. To correct this, you need to hone away a fine layer from both sides of the edge. There are different types of sharpening stones and many different vendors. As a beginner, you may want to start with two hones: One 4000 grade and one in 8000. Just as with sandpaper – higher numbers mean a more fine-grained whetstone.
Honing is performed in the opposite direction of stropping. Edge first, not the back, until you reach the end. Then turn the shaving knife over on the back and go in the opposite direction with the edge first. It is important that you take the same number of strokes on each side of the blade. As with the strop, you must let the blade go diagonally to cover the entire cutting edge length.
The shaving knife should lie completely flat on the sharpening stone with both the edge and the back touching the hone simultaneously. All honing profiles are designed to provide the correct edge angle when the blade has been sharpened flat. The whetstone must be kept moist with water while being used. In the old days, barbers used saliva, but this is entirely up to you and what you prefer.
You should only sharpen each side 4 or 5 times before switching to a finer whetstone. Honing too much can cause a layer of debris from the whetstone forming on the blade edge, often called “wire edge”, which will make shaving extremely uncomfortable. Fear not – this is easy to solve. Hone the blade a few rounds with its back first. That will remove the debris, but remember to sharpen it again with edge first afterward.
How often do you need to hone? This varies with your beard and the material of your blade. When you feel that it leaves a little extra stubble, is time for honing, this usually occurs after about two months use.
If you can’t face the thought of honing, you can buy stropping paste. The stropping paste contains an abrasive which makes the edge sharp. It has some of the same benefits as a whetstone, but it’s a grainy ointment you rub into the leather of a strop. Get an extra strop for this as you do not want abrasives on the leather you use for your regular stropping.
How to Shave With a Straight Razor
While they might be back and gaining traction in the market, you have to understand that compared to the tools that technology has presented us in the recent past to make shaving more convenient, for effective straight razor shaving, you will need to master the technique.
And truth be told, it is not the easiest thing in the world, especially if you are just getting into it. But this is not to say that it is impossible. To get you started, below are the fundamentals of straight shaving you need to get a hang of.
5 Easy Steps to do When Shaving with a Straight Razor
Preparing for open razor shaving basically involves two things; sharpening the blade and softening the hair to be shaved. Blade sharpening can be done with a razor stone or a razor strap while softening the hair is done with warm water.
You can either take a warm shower and kill two birds with one stone (I personally prefer this – method) or use a wet towel. If you will be using a replaceable blade you should ensure that it is sharp at all times, replacing often.
2. Lather the Area You Need to Shave
You can use your fingers to apply the gel, soap or one of our tested shaving creams. However, it can prove to be slightly tricky to get the shaving gel under the hairs. It is recommended that you use one of our recommended shaving brushes for this.
3. The Grip
When it comes to holding the razor, everyone has their preference. However, one method that most people seem to agree on and has proved to be effective is resting the first three fingers on the straight razor blade’s back and rest the pinky on the blade tang. The tang is the blades narrow part that is just after the pivot. The thumb should rest on the blade’s side close to the middle.
4. Shaving Stroke
Make even and slow strokes with the blade. This is especially important if you are just starting out and are learning the techniques. You should always make the strokes with the grain of your beard.
You should always start by shaving your cheeks. Use the free hand to draw the skin upwards to tighten it to avoid nicking yourself. Start from the top and move downwards. Afterwards, you should proceed to shave under the jaw while still tightening the skin in the process. After this spot, shave the upper lip and finally under the chin.
Straight Razors Compared to Other Products
So open razors are also known as cutthroat razors. With such a reputation, why in the world would people prefer these? Why risk getting nicked if you make a mistake or do not have the right technique?
This is a great question. To answer this question, let us make a comparison between the common razor and cut-throat razors. Why do people still hold them in high regard?
A Closer Look
What Are They?
They are basically simple shaving tools. They feature a handle and a sharp blade. They have been around for the longest time and are still very effective in shaving.
Traditional open razors feature a metallic blade. These blades are usually made of stainless steel which requires constant sharpening and honing to maintain its sharpness. A single blade can, however, last a lifetime when given proper care.
Getting a quality straight-edge razor is expensive. When you compare the price to that of other shaving equipment, the price might seem over the top, but the great thing is that they are long-term investments.
There is no way around this. Open razors require you to master the shaving technique and compared to other types of razors, they do feature a steeper learning curve. You cannot be completely effective after your first shaving experience. It is not a simple process and it requires patience. However, if you do stick with it, you are sure to be well rewarded.
Straight Razors Compared to Other Types of Razors
Since you have been doing some research, you most likely are aware that while straight razors share some features, they still are different. Additionally, while they are in many ways one of the simplest shaving tools available, they also are complicated (if that is even possible).
Without a doubt, they are unique and differ with:
Your beloved grandfather may not have used safety razors, but your dad most likely used it on a daily basis. They have been around for quite some time and they still are popular up to date. The beauty of safety razors is that they come in several different designs including 3-piece, 2-piece and butterfly designs. If you have never used these before, you will go through a learning curve.
Like shavettes, double-edged razors also feature removable blades. These should be replaced every week depending on your frequency of shaving.
Also worth noting is that when buying safety razors, you will spend considerably less than you would when buying straight razors. However, in the long run, courtesy of the replacement blades, they end up being quite pricey.
Yes, cartridge razors are practically everywhere. They are available in local supermarkets and convenient stores. Manufacturers run ads for their products on TVs and even at Super Bowl. But is their abundance of supply make them the best option? Well, not quite.
Cartridge razors are cheap and portable. They do not have a learning curve to them. A newbie can start using one of these and not nick or cut themselves. They allow a lot of room for sloppiness. Some of the best units features tilted heads. The tilted head is designed to provide a perfect shaving angle and comfort while shaving.
As above-mentioned, you can purchase a cartridge razor practically anywhere. That said, what are their drawbacks?
Well, they feature low-cost blades. While it is a great thing that they are cheap, they do not provide a close shave. If you are looking for a clean and close shave, you should consider a safety or straight razor.
With cartridge razors, you can purchase the kind that is completely disposable. After use, and when the blade becomes dull, you can toss it out in the bin and purchase another. If you are on the move and in a hurry, they also prove to be one of the best.
But be it as it may, experts recommend spending some bit of cash to get a high-end cartridge razor.
Truth be told, none of the above-mentioned shaving tool options can beat the convenience of an electric razor. These razors just need to be switched on and they are ready for use. They are available in two different designs; rotary and foil. Some are even great for wet shaving.
Whether an electric razor can provide you with a close shave is a matter that can be debated. But then again, what razor option can provide you with a comparable quick shave?
Below is How We Made Our Choice For This List
It was no easy process compiling this list. Determining the best units came down to research, personal experience and reviews of past users. For example, if a razor has numerous positive reviews and ratings but was not popular or did not have a lot of traffic and sales, we dug into its details to prove its worth on the list.
And there you have it. All you need to learn about the famed “cut throat” razors and shaving techniques.
Last update on 2018-09-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API