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Thread: From butcher to barber . . . stil need help with transition

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    Default From butcher to barber . . . stil need help with transition

    I found that almost every question I posed online regarding straight razor shaving led me back to this forum. From searching a while I was convinced that EVERYTHING was my problem. Preparation, poor razor, poor strop, poor technique in both stropping and shaving, incorrect application of shaving cream, shaving with grain, against grain, and everything else I could find listed. So here's where I am now:

    I have been shaving with a straight razor for about 2 months. Initially, I purchased something embarrassing for around 10 bucks before ever looking at this site. I don't buy anything else that way but the bug to shave with a straight razor struck my mind and I grabbed something that I thought looked cool. I took it to a knife shop to get it sharpened. When returned to me the clerk handed it to me with a warning that it was sharp. She had a few bandaids on that she claimed came from the blade. She cut herself again in front of me. Noticing that she had folded the blade in backwards with the edge out led me to worry about the sharpening but it didn't matter. My excitement was high. I went home and locked the bathroom with my new supplies. I don't remember how long I took initially but I KNOW the family was grateful that we have three bathrooms. Shaving was more difficult than I had imagined and I started checking the internet. I made some changes quickly.

    I recognized that the wedge I was using really wasn't a bad pocket knife after all. I was never going to use it to shave with again. I bought a beginner razor sight unseen from whipped dog. It's an extra hollow that I cannot read any other specifics on it. Maybe I'll visit a glasses forum next. What a difference I felt!!! I was actually shaving rather than ripping out hair from my face. I also got a significantly better strop as the one in my kit I would see fit only as a children's toy. I was learning from the site here and started making more informed decisions. I bought a second razor on ebay (a twin duck dwarf) which I actually prefer over the unknown brand which I was also happy with. I found it easier to maneuver with the slightly smaller blade.

    Progression:

    1 My initial goal was to simply use a straight razor and abandon the disposables. That was done right from the start even with the difficult beginnings.
    2 My next goal was to improve the quality of my tools and therefore my shave. I felt success in that arena.
    3 Third goal was to NOT cut myself. It seemed like every shave encountered a moment of, "Great! I think I just cut myself" followed shortly after with some blood confirming my overreach with the blade. I eventually reduced this to nicks that would easily stop with the application of cold water.
    4 As I noted tugging while shaving I worked harder on face preparation, stropping, and angles while I shaved. That leaves me where I am now.

    Now:

    I might nick myself every once in a while but it is a reasonable expectation to shave and have no blood. HUGE success for me. Now that I've moved there I have set my sights higher and want a better quality shave. Everything I read suggests that EVERYTHING will solve my problem. When I work on a car I don't replace every possible part trying to fix it and I suspect that is the same with shaving. My current problem is that I am getting an uneven shave. Hair under my chin and a couple of patches on my neck that grow sideways seem to always hang on no matter what angle I come from. I will find myself shaving and then taking those three areas and reapply shaving cream to try again. I have gone over it sometimes 4 or 5 times. I have also started a habit of completely shaving twice and the first shave often leaves me feeling like all I did was dirty the sink. I am still moving further and further away from butcher mode but I don't feel as though the barber in me is coming out. Rather than shave 5 times each morning I would like suggestions on where to start. Incidentally, the few nicks that I do get are almost always on a secondary effort rather than a first pass. Perhaps I get a little hasty after the same hairs hide from my razor when it passes.

    I value this forum for everything I have learned prior to joining. I know this is long but it has been building along with my nerve to join and you just got my entire experience in one message. In spite of every struggle I find that I love the straight razor experience and have convinced one of my sons to follow suit. I find it as relaxing and satisfying as a nice hot bath. That's saying something because I admit I can lounge with the best of them. If you had the patience to read this I congratulate you. If you believe you can assist with direction I will absolutely applaud you.

    New Member

    Andy
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    Welcome.
    The areas you are having trouble with require stretching the skin. You may need to shave with the grain and again against the grain. Some spots require across the grain. Make sure your lather is moist. It takes time so have patience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bouschie View Post
    Welcome.
    The areas you are having trouble with require stretching the skin. You may need to shave with the grain and again against the grain. Some spots require across the grain. Make sure your lather is moist. It takes time so have patience.
    Stretching the skin? I actually haven't really put any effort into that. If I hadn't already shaved this morning I would love to run and try it. That would be a great simple resolve.

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    Senior Member ZipZop's Avatar
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    Aloha Andy!

    Welcome. This forum as you have posted, is the holy grail of Straight Razors. I've been using a straight blade since I was 18 and inherited my grandfather's solingen. I had the good fortune to have an older cousin that was a barber who shaved at his shop. He took me under his wing and taught me how to strop correctly (so important) and to apply the blade to my face. Even with his help, it took time for me to get a BBS (Baby Butt Smooth) shave with a straight blade. The ramp is steep, but it's a ramp worth climbing! Keep at it.

    A good prep, good soap or cream with possibly a pre-shave cream, quality lather that is not too rich not too thin and wet enough to do the job are paramount. You will only get this with experience. Stretching the skin is important. Properly honing and stropping the blade is also important. Blade presentation to your sknin with the proper angle and the proper stroke are important. All these things take time to master, but once you do, it's smooth shaving my friend. Smooth shaving. There is nothing like a straight blade when it all comes together.

    It's been decades since I first started using a straight blade, and I just recently got into honing my own razors. This has opened a whole new world of possibilities. I have honed a Gold Dollar that I got for free for buying a travel strop to a very fine edge and it has given me a superior shave. So there are a lifetime of possibilities within the art of straight razor shaving that can occupy your love of the art form. Believe me. I am just as interested in a great straight blade shave today as I was when I was 18.

    Have you watched Lynn Abram's Youtube Video on using a straight razor "for beginners"? That is a very nice well-rounded starting video. You should view it if you have not already. Just search "Lynn Abrams Beginner Shave" and you'll get the video on Youtube.

    There are gents here that have forgotten more than I know about the art of straight razor shaving. You have come to the right place. Keep at it!

    -Zip
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    "I get some lather and lather-up, then I get my razor and shave! Zip Zop, see that? My face Is ripped to shreads!" - Bill Cosby on Shaving

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    Just practice different strokes when you feel comfortable doing it and take your time learning. I was quick to learn WTG and some XTG to get nice shaves but I was not be able to get some areas all that great. Slowly over time I got better at reaching those areas and the shaves became better. Just give it time and the shaves will get closer and smoother.

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    Senior Member blabbermouth ejmolitor37's Avatar
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    Wow, fun to read your transition. Glad things are moving in the right direction for you.
    Chin and neck areas are trouble spots, I still after 2 or 3 years struggle with my chin which is not shaved very often. I have a thin neck so that still poses an issue, but I have come to realize that it's not going to get as smooth as say, my cheeks. So I get as good as I can and go on. What I do is after 2 passes to get as best I can, I then just wet trouble areas and concentrate on those not much but just a few little swipes. Helps alot.
    One other tip, shave the lather. Light pressure against the face. This is why we use multiple passes. Just take it off letting the razor do the work. Makes a big difference when applying after shave
    Face prep, I started with pre shave oil and hot towels and so on. Really wanted the whole experience. Now I put water on rubbing it a bit and shave. I have found it works way better for me anyway.
    It all comes together as you do it. Patience is a big part. Let it happen don't force it.
    Also, pick a DE razor up and don't be ashamed to use it for trouble spots. I won't tell anyone, and from time to time I still do it :O
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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Just a question from what you have posted. You mention shave cream but nothing about a brush. Do you use a brush and shave cream/soap to create a lather or do you use shaving cream from a can?

    Bob
    After listening to someone talk ever wonder who ties their shoe laces?

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    I'm not even English, but my first thought as I was reading along was…

    You poor sod!

    I'd like to to applaud you for sticking with this after your poor starts. One clue about the knife sharpening shop is that if they cannot handle the blade without cutting themselves, then they basically suck at the task. If they don't know which way the blade should go into the scales, which would seem fairly obvious to anyone with an IQ above constant drooling level, then you really don't want to trust them with your razor that you use on your face.

    The first step of course is to make certain that you have a properly honed razor. Then you absolutely need to learn how to strop properly in order to keep that sharp edge. After that, of course, you have to work on your actual shaving technique. As mentioned above, skin stretching is critical. Angle of approach of the blade relative to the skin is just as important. Remember learning how to ride a bike? Everything was a struggle to maintain balance and then it became automatic and done without thought. That angle adjustment works out the same way. You have to constantly adjust the angle to find the sweet spot for cutting but eventually it does become automatic. It just takes practice and patience.

    I think you are going to fit in here just fine. Please feel free to ask for any help that you might need.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BobH View Post
    Just a question from what you have posted. You mention shave cream but nothing about a brush. Do you use a brush and shave cream/soap to create a lather or do you use shaving cream from a can?

    Bob
    I've gone with brush and soap. I was already used to that since I copied it from my dad. I prefer it to cream from a can. I am grateful for all of the advice from everyone so far. For the immediate next step I am going to focus on shave prep and the skin stretching efforts. If nothing changes then I can rule those out. It sounds like it may really be a little of everything and will take some time. I have noticed that the angle makes a huge difference which led to my reduced blood loss. I'll have to read this thread again after trying out a couple of changes as I see all of it as valuable. Off to watch a suggested video now.

    Thanks everyone!

    Andy
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    Senior Member blabbermouth
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    Quote Originally Posted by moodyfam9 View Post
    I've gone with brush and soap. I was already used to that since I copied it from my dad. I prefer it to cream from a can. I am grateful for all of the advice from everyone so far. For the immediate next step I am going to focus on shave prep and the skin stretching efforts. If nothing changes then I can rule those out. It sounds like it may really be a little of everything and will take some time. I have noticed that the angle makes a huge difference which led to my reduced blood loss. I'll have to read this thread again after trying out a couple of changes as I see all of it as valuable. Off to watch a suggested video now.

    Thanks everyone!

    Andy
    OK, wasn't quite sure about that.

    Concentrate on the basics, making a very good lather, right angle on the blade with no pressure, skin stretching and don't try and remove all the whiskers in one pass. Normally it takes several passes for most people.

    Under the chin and around the jaw line are hard areas to get. In those areas tilt your head as far back as you can and push your jaw out to stretch the skin tight in that area. You can also with your free hand pull down on the skin at the same time.

    Bob
    After listening to someone talk ever wonder who ties their shoe laces?

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