• Beginner's Tips: February 2014

    I am honored to be asked to provide this month’s Beginner Tips. I wanted to focus on some “keys” that beginners might have missed. The keys are the little facts that you might have missed that, to me, make a big difference. You might call them “secrets”, but there are no secrets to a good straight shave, I promise.

    Critical “Keys”
    Here, for the month of February I present the “keys” I think you might have missed.

    We have talked extensively this month, as we do many months, about “setting the bevel”, but I believe we should also give equal attention to the act of the final sharpening. This step requires quite a bit of skill, primarily in making a good, repeatable stroke on the stone, keeping the razor flat. Here is an image of how I hold the razor. This technique allows me to hold the razor flat, without adding unneeded downward pressure. This is very critical.

    In the picture (above), I am holding the shank with the thumb and index finger. Most importantly, my pinky finger is held under the scales, preventing them from dropping. The index finger and thumb create a pivot point, and the pinky finger prevents the razor from lifting. How? It prevents the scales from dropping. When the scales cannot drop, the blade cannot lift.
    Notice in the following picture, with a stone, the razor is flat on the stone as I hone, and yet, I’m not touching the blade at all. I’m honing and applying zero pressure down on the blade.

    Hold the strop taut, and keep the razor perfectly flat. Use only enough pressure to feel some draw. One important key, that you might have missed, is that the razor is held at an angle when stropping. I believe this helps prevent rolling the edge. Remember, razor FLAT, but at a slight angle. The spine should NOT be perpendicular to the length of the strop when stropping.
    How did I discover this key? I re-read the 1961 Barber’s Manual in the help files, again (probably my 50th reading). In the Barber’s Manual, it states “the razor is stropped with the back moving forward and at a slight angle (p. 25)”. I find the razor’s edge becomes much smoother this way.

    Building a Lather
    The “key” to building a lather is infusing the cream with water. This is accomplished by actively agitating the brush into the cream, and adding water as you go. Whip the lather up, using water and air together, to accomplish this. It is similar to how you whip up fluffy eggs or a nice meringue using egg whites. Get the amount of water correct and you’ll hit the mark as you whip. When you hit the right water content, the lather explodes in the bowl. Yes, I recommend beginners use a bowl, and heat it up using sink water, prior to building the lather. If you prefer to build lather on your face, that’s fine.

    I believe that the “key” to shaving with a straight is using a light touch with the blade. Get the angle right and use no pressure when moving the blade down your face. If the razor does not cut well, return to honing and stropping. Stretch the skin and stroke gently. Keep the razor at about 30 degrees, slightly less if you prefer. A 30 degree angle is best achieved by watching the spine. Usually about 2 spine widths away from the skin is close to 30 degrees. You can hear the razor shaving, with a scraping sound as you shave. It is often described as a knife over burnt toast. Hold the razor gently, so that the blade can ride along the skin comfortably.

    So, there are the tips for this month. Remember, I am only focusing on the “keys” you might have missed. These suggestions are not comprehensive.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beginner's Tips: February 2014 started by AFDavis11 View original post