Straight razors are meant to be with you for a long time. So, you can never be too picky when choosing one.
The truth is, there are a lot of straight razors on the market. Most of them come in different sizes and are made with different materials. Straight razor brands like Dovo really take pride in the artisanship that goes into making individual razors. You can go through ten brands and see thirty unique designs. This can be overwhelming, and you may be tempted to just pick up any blade.
A straight razor is not a disposable cartridge you can just get rid of after one or two uses. How clean your shave is going to be depends greatly on your straight razor’s quality. For those that are new to straight shaving, this is going to be a challenge.
That’s because straight razors don’t come cheap. So, you have to be careful enough to pick one that’s worth the price. What’s more? The price is not the only thing you need to watch out for. You need to pay attention to the right grind, style and also the blade temper.
This article is going to give you some insights on how to pick the perfect straight razor as well as what you need to know before you even set out on this adventure, so to speak.
Table of Contents
What is a Straight Razor?
As a result of the popularity of cartridge razors, a lot of people are unfamiliar with the straight razor, what it looks like and how to use it.
No matter how unfamiliar a straight razor is to you, it has been around for generations. In fact its roots can be traced back to the early Egyptian civilization where the straight razor was one of the only available traditional shaving tools available for men.
However, what truly sets the straight razor apart from its modern counterparts is that it is a tool available to the elites and the craftsmanship involved in its creation is top-notch. Unlike the conventional electric razors and cartridge razors, the straight razor is not made by machine.
Making straight razors involve a rigorous process that can mostly be done by hand. Simply putting a sheet of metal in a machine will not achieve the right finished product.
In the first place, the steel has to go through a series of forging, hardening and tempering processes in order to form the right shape and take on the ideal strength for straight razors. After these processes, the steel that is now the perfect strength has to be ground, hones and sharpened to get a cut-throat edge.
As a matter of fact, straight razor manufacturers like Dovo don’t use cheap plastic and steel in their razors. Their creations are made with authentic steel and wood that can withstand the test of time.
Parts of a Straight Razor
Picking the right straight razor is going to be difficult if you don’t know about what you want to buy to begin with. Without the knowledge of specific parts, the guide which is meant to help you can end up causing more harm than good.
- Tang – this is the metal section of the razor which gives your fingers the chance to have a proper grip.
- Pivot Pin – this is the bolt that connects the handle to the tang and is also responsible for the opening and closing feature of the straight razor.
- Jimps – these are ridges like speed bumps on the tang that provide a firmer grip and prevent the razor from slipping through your fingers while you’re holding it.
- Handle –This is the part of the straight razor that’s not sharp and the blade can easily be folded into.
What to Look Out for When Picking a Straight Razor
Now that you know about some parts of the straight razor, it’s time to learn what to look out for in a straight razor when you want to buy one for yourself.
To us, the most visually-striking part of the straight razor is the handle. This can be made from a number of materials ranging from wood to plastic to animal horns. When it comes to craftsmanship, these handles usually compete with the blades they protect.
A good straight razor should have an even distribution of weight between the handle and the blade to ensure that when it’s held anywhere around the neck and the face, it’ll be balanced. Famous brands like Dovo and Thierssard have years of experience when it comes to creating straight razors with balance between the handle and the blade.
Unlike cartridge razors with disposable blades, straight razors have fixed blades that need to be constantly sharpened to keep them effective. Before each use, every razor is going to need stropping with a leather strop. You’re also going to have to hone them periodically with sharpening stones to give the cut-throat edge especially where the blade has been dulled.
Depending on how often you use your razor, you should sharpen it once or twice a year.
As a beginner, you should know about shavettes. They are basically straight razors with disposable blades. What this means is that you can learn about the basics of straight shaving without having to worry about the maintenance aspect like stropping and honing. They’re also cheaper than the traditional straight razor. However, they’re not very economical in the long run. Shavettes are less daunting especially if you’re not sure that straight shaving is for you.
This refers to the tip of the blade. Depending on the brand of the razor or the discretion of the craftsman, the tip can vary from round or sharp. Whichever point is best depends on your personal preference. However, as a beginner straight shaver, going with round points can reduce how many times you’re likely to nick your skin. However, where intricate shaping is necessary, square points are more preferable.
The thickness of the blade can be affected by the width of the blade. In many situations beginner straight shavers pick blades that are too wide when they’re starting out. Something average that’s not too narrow or too wide like 4/8 should be enough to provide the kind of control necessary to become sufficient is handling a straight razor.