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What is a Straight Razor For & What are the Benefits?-West Coast Shaving

What is a Straight Razor For & What are the Benefits?

Straight razor shaving is making a comeback. And as with many nearly lost arts, there is a growing desire to understand, perfect, and share this wet shaving ritual. So, if you’ve been thinking about going “cut-throat”, read on to discover the benefits of this age-old practice as well as the history, terminology, and maintenance of a straight razor.

 

Great for your shave. How can you get the closest experience to a barbershop shave without actually going to a barbershop? With a straight razor, of course! The single, sharp edge of a straight razor allows for maximum contact with the skin, allowing you to get the closest, smoothest shave.

  • Great for your skin. Cartridge razors cut your hair under your skin, which is the main cause of ingrown hairs and shave bumps. A straight razor cuts along the surface of your skin, eliminating the skin irritation that you might be experiencing.
  • Enjoy the process. Shaving with a straight razor is an enjoyable process. It takes some time to learn the technique, but once you do, it transforms shaving from a chore to an enjoyable event.
  • Traditional. Men have been shaving with straight razors for hundred years. Straight razors last multiple lifetimes, and can become a family heirloom. Maintaining your straight razor isn't a chore, it’s part of the enjoyment of it all.

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TYPES OF STRAIGHT RAZORS

  • Grind: Describes the shape of the cross section of a straight razor. It takes much more work and skill to get a straight razor to the extra hollow state, and only the most skilled manufacturing shops in the world are able to do it well. The result is a straight razor that is lighter to hold and easier to maintain a sharp edge. The majority of straights that we carry are in the Half Hollow to Extra Hollow Range.
  • Height: The height of the blade is the height from the bottom of the Edge to the spine. The two most common straight razor blade heights are 5/8th (most common) and 6/8th. The taller the blade height the heavier the razor can be.
  • Scales: “It's the clothes that make the man” William Shakespeare once famously stated. In the same way, it’s the scales that make the straight razor. Whether you are just a modern man or an aficionado, the scales on the straight razor is more than just a place the razor resides, it's where the razors personality resides as well. Scales come in a wide variety of materials (natural to man-made), colors, and shapes to please every palate.
  • Vintage: Vintage blades are a perfect place to begin if you are looking to begin straight shaving with a straight razor. We offer lightly restored and honed razors for a great value. Shaving with a vintage piece of Americana also goes hand in hand with the tradition of straight razor shaving. Our restored vintage straight razors come with a 1-year edge guarantee.

Straight Razor Blade Material 

Most straight razors are generally made of two types of steel: carbon steel and stainless steel. While scales can be made for a wide variety of materials from natural to man-made and every color of the rainbow.

  • Carbon Steel is a softer metal. The softer steel helps the straight take its shape. They are easier to hone and require less stropping to get to a shave-ready edge. It is important to make sure that the razor is dry when not being used, so that it does not rust. Carbon steel are what the majority of straight razors are made from. We recommend starting with a Carbon Steel straight razor.
  • Stainless Steel is a harder metal. It takes a little longer to hone and may require extra laps on the strop. Stainless Steel razors tend to hold their edges longer than carbon steel. Rusting is less of a concern with Stainless Steel straight razors, so these are great for someone in a more humid area.

 

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR STRAIGHT RAZOR?

Honing. Honing is the process where a straight razor gets its fine cutting edge. This happens when a straight razor is sharpened with a series of stones with progressively higher grit. Most straight razors don’t come honed from the factory. 

 

Stropping. Stropping is the process where a straight razor is rubbed up against a canvas (referred to as Laps) and leather strop. This helps to heat the metal slightly and mold the edge back to a smooth cutting form. Stropping should happen before and after a shave.

 

Oil. A very light coating of oil should be placed on the end of the cutting edge. This helps to keep the edge protected from any moisture which can lead to rust. 

 

HISTORY OF THE STRAIGHT RAZOR

The first style of straight razors was originally made in 1680 in Sheffield, England. Earliest models had handles that were silver coated and appeared similar to many other smaller knives.

In the late 1800s the modern-day straight razor started to take its shape, to include pins and scales. With the increase of manufacturing, straight razors were being made in America and Europe, with the superior straight razors being made in Solingen, Germany. To this day, the straight razor is still the preferred tool for barbers to give you the closest and most irritation-free shave as possible.

 

STRAIGHT RAZOR TERMINOLOGY:

What is a Pin on a straight razor?

The pin on the straight razor joins the actual blade and scales on the side of the joint, and on the other end of the scales the pin holds the two pieces of scales together. The pin also allows the blade to move on the straight razor, allowing you to find the right position for a great grip while you shave.

What is the Tang on the straight razor?

The tang is the longer and smaller portion of the razor that is between the scales and the actual blade of the razor. The tang is the place where you will grip the straight razor with two or three fingers. The pointer and middle finger will rest on top and your thumb will grip the bottom of the tang.

What is the Tail on the straight razor?

The Tail is the smaller curved portion at the end of the blade. Depending on your preferred grip, your ring finger and pinkie may be placed on the tail to finish the grip.

What are Jimps on a straight razor?

Jimps are thin, parallel notches (textured grip) underneath and above the tang that increase your grip. This will vary by straight razor manufacturers.

What is the Shoulder on a straight razor?

Traveling down and away from the underside of the tang is the shoulder. The shoulder is best described as the conjunction of the blade to the tang. With some custom razors, the shoulder is left out, and the underside of the tang smoothly melds into the heel.

Where is the Edge on a straight razor?

The Edge is the part of the razor that actually does the cutting on the straight razor. It’s the part that is hidden when the straight is closed.

Where is the Point on a straight razor?

The point is located on the top of the straight razor where it comes to an end. These can have different shapes depending on the point that the manufacturer wants. Some of the different points that are still commonly in use today are French Point and Barber’s notch.

What is the Spine of a straight razor?

The spine is directly opposite the edge. This is the portion of the razor that you will “lead” with when stropping, as the edge will undoubtedly gouge the leather if the opposite is done.

What is the face on a straight razor?

The face is the widest part in all of the straight razor. This portion is what normally is ground off to make the different shapes of a straight razor. Some manufacturers will place their logo or an ornate pattern.

What are Scales on straight razor?

Scales on a straight razor is the protective sliver/sleeve where the edge of the straight razor resides when closed. The materials can vary widely including a variety of shapes,  designs, weights, and price points. Scales can be made of wood, bone, horn, acrylic, or various other materials like resin.

 

Have you gone cutthroat? Let us know your experience in the comments below. Or let us know what is holding you back.

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