Last time I wrote, I talked about how I encountered wet shaving and my experiences with that introduction. This time, I would like to talk about straight razor shaving. Many of us know this as the manliest way of removing facial hair. We, as noobies, tend to look up to experienced SR* shavers as an ideal. Something to strive towards. We wonder if we will ever be brave enough to put a surgically sharp knife to our face and shave with it. Allow me to share my experiences with a straight razor.
Shortly after I began wet shaving, I was struck with a minor case of razor acquisition disorder (RAD for short) and purchased a Gillette tech as well as a straight razor. One thing to know about using a straight is the additional care that they require. They need to be stropped before each shave, oiled to prevent rust during storage, honed on occasion, and handled with the utmost care.
The day came for me to give my straight razor a try. I followed my normal routine but added in around 40 passes on my strop at the beginning of my shave. That day, I learned some very important things.
First, I learned that you have to respect the blade but not be afraid of it. The minute you become afraid of the razor is the minute in which you cut yourself. The thing to remember here is that you are holding a surgically sharp piece of steel to your face. If you can’t respect that then you have no business using a straight razor.
Another thing that my first shave with a straight taught me was how important face prep is. With a safety razor, you can oftentimes get away with subpar face prep. This is not true with straight razors. Good face prep cannot be stressed enough when you start using SRs and your lather is the top priority on the list. I will talk more about lather later though.
Taking care of your straight is just as important as learning to use it correctly. The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of taking care of my straight is stropping. Take the time to learn how to strop your razor correctly. Not only will it improve your shaves, but it will also save you money when you avoid slicing your strop in half. Also, take the time to dry your razor after each shave. If you are going to be storing it for a while, put a light coat of oil on it. A lot of people use mineral oil or other similar products. I use WD-40 because they produce a pen that can be used to apply it to the blade and around the pins without leaving a lot of excess.
Now, I would like to give you a noob tip. (Not to be mistaken as a pro tip.) Don’t underestimate the power of the
dark side practice lathers. Leisureguy,author of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Wet Shaving, has said countless times to make a series of practice lathers. He doesn’t say this just for fun. It has a real application. Up until the last week or so, I never realized that my lathers were of subpar quality. As I looked around and was watching some videos, I realized something. My lathers sucked. Want to know what my problem was? They needed more water. I learned that a good, thick, cushiony lather needs a lot more water than I had ever thought. If you are struggling with getting a good lather then you should try what I did. Make some practice lathers. Keep adding water until they are too watery. Then, do it again but try to stop before the ‘too-watery’ stage. Experiment until you find the perfect consistency for you. If you are short on time and don’t want to spend a morning or evening making lather, make one before shaving each day.
So, I have shared with you some of the things I learned from my first shave with a straight razor. You also got to laugh a bit at my noob moment with making lather. I have also shared some experiences and advice on making lather. Thanks for reading. As always, feedback and comments are appreciated.
*SR is an abbreviation for straight razor.
Interested in SR shaving? Check out our video series, Evolution of a Straight Razor Shaver.
Blake Origer is an avid fan of all things technology. He enjoys playing video games, fixing computers, and spending time with his family. His shaving setup of choice is a Merkur 34c, Proraso red shaving cream, and his own blend of preshave oil. Read Blake’s last article here!
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