Picking and using a straight razor — we ought to know about this

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    Since I have sleep apnea and my doctor now wants me to use a full-face CPAP mask, the first order of business was to shave off my beard. It will help establish a better seal between mask and skin. Paring chisels are not an option.

    Has anyone used a straight razor? We as a community ought to be able to transfer our knowledge of sharpening and maintaining tool edges to doing the same for straight razors. It’s critical knowledge, since small mistakes can result in larger amounts of blood — like, my blood.

    Recommendations for Web sites will be welcome, as will suggestions about obtaining quality tools. Maintenance suggestions and safety issues are important, and — very importantly — techniques to produce the least bloody fine results. (Did I mention that I also am required to use blood thinners?

    This is a serious issue: how for instance do I transfer my tool edge stropping technique to hollow ground fine straight razors? Can we talk Paul Sellers to produce a Video? after all, I can think of nothing better than an outstandingly great woodworker than an outstandingly great woodworker who looks at least as good as his work. Or, at least as tidy. (No offense meant, Paul.)

    This is a must for me; my health is at stake. Your contributions are much appreciated.


    I never used a razor to shave but looking online for sharpening previously I found a whole forum devoted to to straight razors. You should search them up.

    I assume sharpening a razor would be just like sharpening a thin kitchen knife. I have a Japanese style chefs knife that might as well be a razor. I sharpen it like all my others and it’s amazingly sharp.

    Sorry for your loss of beard. I haven’t shaved in 8 years and I plan on keeping it that way for the foreseeable future.

    Philipp J.

    Straight Razors are the perfect thing to go all out anal about sharpness. You’ll most likely need a couple more Strops and polishing compounds since Diamond Plates are way too agressive.

    I’d agree with Rodrat, theres forums dedicated to Straight Razors or sections on Knife Forums, probably gonna get more indepht information on there.


    I wouldn’t use a diamond stone on them. Though I don’t use diamond stones anyway. Being from eastern Oklahoma I was raised on and sharpened with Arkansas stones (novaculite) my whole life. They are great stones for all knife and tool sharpening. I know several people that use them for razors.


    Not sure if it is too late to respond.

    I converted to using a straight razor about 10 years ago and have not looked back. The trick for me was to take time learning how to use the razor. It took me over 2 months to gradually change over from disposable razors. Luckily no cuts.

    With regards to sharping, although I prefer diamond plates for tools, I prefer water stones for sharpening the razor. Can recommend the Norton water stones as they are the same width as the razor and the same set of stones have worked well since I started using the razor.


    Thank you all. Lots to think about.
    A lot of the sites I’ve googled are sales sites, and the brands of razors they sell, oddly enough, reflect the name of the vendor. I just found out that a long-time friend of mine had been collecting smoking pipes, and he decided to give them to his wife. Not to for her to use; he consigned them to an eBay specialist (for high end pipes), and so far the first batch of six pipes have sold for about US$2,000 each. His wife is happy.

    Are there good, reliable fine steel shaving razors out there that I should pay special attention to? I could imagine a $50 razor has a distinctive difference from one that might cost a couple, few hundred dollars, but I rather not let my face be the test ground.

    I like the idea of switching gradually. We’ll see. Meantime, I’ve found a brush-and-razor stand online, and I have some nice 1/2″ mahogany on the shelf downstairs. The biggest complaint is that brushes are different sizes and they don’t always fit off-the-shelf holders. I think I can make it precisely to fit. But just for one set, and for a straight (not safety) razor.

    Thomas Bittner

    I’m lazy, i use an electric razor!
    But when i first started growing whiskers my barber took the time once to give me a shave with s straight razor. I have not had a shave like that since! He said at the time that i should know what it felt like.
    I dont think there are any barbers around who could do it anymore!
    People just dont have the time is my guess.
    Sorry about your sleep apnea issue.


    Many barbers in my area still use them. Just not on me as I would fight the man who tries to take my beard. haha


    I can recommend the Dovo razor. Mine is 10 years old, still shaves nice and is about $120-150. The expense came more in buying a nice staving brush, strop and sharpening stones. Also a nice soap is recommended.

    I agree with other comments, nothing beats a straight razor shave. Once you get used using a straight razor they are also very fast, only takes me a few minutes to shave start to finish.

    Keith Szczepanski

    Search on Badger and Blade. Tons of knowledge on ALL traditional shaving.

    Jonathan Ard

    I use straight razors from time to time – it took me a couple weeks of work for about an hour a day before I could product satisfactory results. Lots of youtube videos are available. I also received a lot of help from Badger & Blade forums. I wouldn’t use your woodworking sharpening paraphernalia for your razors. I have dedicated water stones (mostly Norton) going up to an 8000 grit, a Natural stone approx 12,000 grit and I use a balsa wood strop loaded with a Chromium Oxide paste of around 60k grit. I finish with a 3″ wide leather strop hanging in the wash room. I won’t even put the blade to my face until I can cut the hairs off my arm without touching the blade to my skin. Even then, I sometimes feel the blade is too harsh and I might go to the natural stone or my finest Norton, all depends on feel. I have several Wade & Butcher’s that I’ve restored or had restored: I like them best. I also have a modern made Dovo. They are currently made in Solingen, Germany – very good blade. Don’t spend a fortune: The lower end Dovo’s use the same steel as the higher end. You’re paying for the scales. I bought a wood handled (can’t remember the species) for less than $100 US dollars. I’ve heard nothing but good about French-made Thiers Issard as well. Any blade you purchase will need a sharpening prior to use – just like your wood tools. They will be honed, not sharpened. Most online marketers will add a sharpening service for a nominal fee with the purchase of a new razor. USE IT!

    I see you have some Merkur safety razors. Honestly, if you get on ebay and find a nice Gillette adjustable, you can dial in the setting you like and I personally prefer that to my straight razors at this point. It gives me the option of a more aggressive shave, or a more gentle shave, instantly and consistently, all with less maintenance/hassle. Knowing what I know now, I personally would have preferred to have the safety razor and nothing more. That being said, I’ve invested too much time learning the intricacies of sharpening straights, spent too much time restoring them, and they are all together lovely pieces of history I enjoy using from time to time and will probably never part with them.

    Just food for thought! Good luck.

    J. W. Ard

    Michael Butterfield

    I shave with a straight razor every day. I prefer the vintage razors I have restored, which were made in Sheffield or Solingen Germany.

    However, for a first razor I would recommend a new razor from a reputable maker, or a vintage razor restored by a knowledgeable person. I have heard good things about Dovo razors, but that they need to be honed before use. The only new razor I own was made by Portland Razor Company, and I like it very much.

    In addition to Badger and Blade I would recommend the Straight Razor Place forums. You may also find a local meet-up of straight razor enthusiasts on those forums. These are generally worthwhile events for learning more, buying restored razors and learning how to hone.

    Best of luck in your endeavors, I find that shaving with a properly maintained straight razor results in results superior to any other method.

    Thomas Angle

    I cut myself enough with safety razors. If I shaved with a straight razor, I am sure my bathroom would look like a slaughter house floor. A couple guys I use to work with used the razors like the picture you posted above and they love them.

    You could always go for the laser hair removal.

    Arbovale, WV

    Proverbs 18:13
    13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

    Rowdy Whaleback

    I went through this whole straight razor thing. Personally I think it’s a bit of a fad. The design was improved upon and the single blade safety razor came about.
    You will want all the kit etc. You may begin, like me shaking under the fear of it all. You perfect your technique and eventually get a decent shave but it’s no better than any other technique or method. Using a nice brush and Trumpers lilac shave soap is a treat. But then again my Braun shaver that gets cleaned in its Base is nice too.
    You may need to give it a go to get it out of your system.


    I was going to try it (as seen above), at age 70, but add in the blood thinners I take, somehow sensibility won over. I needed a change, though and my barber (who seems to have less hair of mine to cut and more advice at his 82 years of age) suggested I use Johnson’s Baby Lotion containing butter oil, instead of regular or brushed cream. It makes a world of difference. If it starts to dry up during the shave, simply dip the safety razor in hot water.

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