When it comes to looking after your facial fuzz, you can obviously invest in a beard trimmer or manual razor, but to finish off your look with absolute precision, only a straight razor will do. Also known as the cut-throat razor owing to the fact it can quite easily cut your throat, you’ll need to make sure you’ve got a steady hand before taking one to your face.
The straight razor can have its history traced back to Sheffield, England in 1680 (or even further back to the Ancient Egyptians) when the first steel-edged straight razor was developed. They were used as the primary tool for manual shaving for more than 200 years until the introduction of the safety razor. They’ve seen a significant resurgence since Miss Moneypenny intimately trimmed Daniel Craig‘s stubble in Skyfall.
While all straight razors all follow a similar design: a sharpened blade that folds into a handle, the blade material can differ, as can that of the handle, too. In fact, the handle can be made from all manner of materials, including Bakelite, celluloid, bone, plastic, wood and even tortoiseshell.
Straight Razor Types
The blade itself can be categorised into five main groups, which refer to the profile, or nose type. This is the shape you see when looking at the blade from side-on. The groups are:
- Square: Also known as the spike, or sharp, this blade type exhibits a completely straight edge, with the point at the end of the blade itself being incredibly sharp. Square blades are incredibly precise but come with the risk of pinching the skin. Use carefully!
- Barber’s Notch: A Barber’s Notch is essentially a Round design, but with a small concave notch. While it may not have been designed for this purpose, guys have found it useful to help navigate around the nostrils to trim moustache hairs.
- Round: A good option for inexperienced blade handlers as the rounded edge minimises the chance of injury. It does, however, sacrifice some of the pinpoint precision of the square point.
- French: The French blade can be used to reach ‘difficult’ areas such as under the nose, thanks to a pointed toe, curving upwards to the head of the blade.
- Spanish: A Spanish blade is similar to a Barber’s Notch in that it features a concave notch. The one on a Spanish blade, however, is much longer and the points at both the head and the toe are more pronounced, so can cause pinching if not used with care.
Straight Razor Width
You also want to take into account the width of the blade when deciding which straight razor to buy. The width of a blade is defined as “the distance between the back of the blade and the cutting edge.” Widths are recorded in units of an eighth of an inch. Sizes can vary from as narrow as 9.5mm up to 22mm, and occasionally 25m.
Straight razor newbies may want to invest in a wider blade, as it affords more surface area to scoop up the shaving gel or cream you’ve applied to your face, as well as allowing for multiple strokes before having to rinse. A wider blade is less agile however than a narrower blade, so will offer less precision as a compromise. A 16mm blade is considered to be the ‘sweet spot’ of straight razor blade widths.
Straight Razor Care
Once you’ve finished trimming your beard down to the last millimetre, or you use yours to keep your face completely hair-free, you shouldn’t just simply leave it lying around on your bathroom sink. However, if you do look after yours well enough, a straight razor actually makes for a more economical investment compared to the more convenient – and safer – cartridge razors.
Blades made of stainless steel will be rust-resistant, but won’t offer the absolute last word in sharpness. For ultra-sharp blades, you’ll want to invest in carbon steel. The flip side here, however, is that carbon steel is more prone to rusting, so you’ll want to make sure you dry it thoroughly after use and store it in a pouch. You can even apply a thin coat of petroleum jelly to further minimise the effects of oxidation.
Straight razors are similar to knives in the sense they will become blunt after each use. To sharpen them, you don’t want to get your knife sharpener out, but a strop instead. A strop is a strip of leather that can be hung that you rub the straight razor blade against. Not only does it sharpen the blade, but it polishes it and can move it back into alignment if it has become slightly bent after usage.
So, with some knowledge under your belt, time to find out the very best straight razor brands currently available. Just don’t follow in the footsteps of Sweeney Todd once you’ve purchased one.
Straight Razor FAQ
Yes. A straight razor will give a smoother shave that is longer lasting, they can last up to two days. There are also less chances of missed patches and skin irritation. After slapping on a pre-shave oil or cream, use a badger hair brush to pull the hair away from the face. Hold the razor at an angle of 30 degrees against your cheek and shave downward using small, smooth strokes. Rinse your razor after every stroke. Unlike the mass-produced razors, straight razors are carefully made by hand by skilled craftsmen. The good ones are made out of quality steel, so expect to pay dollar.
Is shaving with a straight razor better?
How to shave with a straight razor?
Why are straight razors expensive?
Yes. A straight razor will give a smoother shave that is longer lasting, they can last up to two days. There are also less chances of missed patches and skin irritation.
After slapping on a pre-shave oil or cream, use a badger hair brush to pull the hair away from the face. Hold the razor at an angle of 30 degrees against your cheek and shave downward using small, smooth strokes. Rinse your razor after every stroke.
Unlike the mass-produced razors, straight razors are carefully made by hand by skilled craftsmen. The good ones are made out of quality steel, so expect to pay dollar.
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Giesen & Forsthoff
Feather Safety Razor Co.
The Vintage Gentlemen
The company has taken to making its own collection of straight razors, which benefit from Damascus Steel, which are not only sharp and durable, but are just as much a piece of art, being made from the process of folding layer over layer.