• Beginners Tips: December 2014

    I wanted to shave with the straight razor in my early twenties, but life got in the way and I did not start until my early sixties. When you start, then, does not matter as long as you do. Once you experience the pleasure of straight razor shaving, I doubt youíll return to your old ways.

    Whatever you do, donít start on the cheap, because your results will reflect that. Every new venture has an initial cost and straight razor shaving is no different. Purchasing a low quality razor and strop to save a few extra dollars most likely will result in a cheap shave. It is also a waste of money, to me, anyway. Spend the money and give yourself a good start.

    Whatís more, see what you buy. Ordering shave gear without seeing it just because it is cheap is no bargain in the end, because with sight-unseen, you donít know what you get. Also, stay off eBay until you know your way around the straight razor world. eBay is notorious for lofty descriptions. Not only that, but almost every straight razor is noted as shave ready, when it is far from it.

    In the beginning, it is temping to buy one razor after another. Donít. Take your time buying razors, because your taste will change and the razor you love today you might not tomorrow ó Start with a 4/8, 5/8 or 6/8, all ideal blade sizes for beginners. Is it not a good idea to experiment with different blades? Yes, of course, experiment with as many different razors as you reasonably can. Slowly, though, and methodically, as you give yourself time to evaluate your taste while honing your skill.

    Save some of the money for a good strop. A cheap strop that pretends to have something that looks like leather is not much of a bargain. A quality strop, something that will improve with age and possibly find a permanent home in your shave den, need not be expensive. You donít need a Kanoyama to start with, but there are plenty of quality strops reasonably priced.

    What if I cut the strop, you might ask? Well, what if you donít? Why compromise a good start by struggling with a useless strop? Sure, you can strop on a variety of objects, such as a rolled newspaper, palm of your hand, blue jeans, and so on, but why bother with that? Get a real strop for your first. Slow down and pay attention. A few nicks in the strop along the edges are innocent, and you can smooth them by sanding. If you put a big gash in the strop and render it useless, buy another one. Remember, that is part of the learning curve.

    Yes, stropping properly takes skill and practice. The strop is essential to the straight razor experience. Thatís why you should not dismiss it as something minor, or a luxury. The strop is more than that; it is your straight razorís friend. Learn to strop and learn it well. Strop before each shave. The strop does not sharpen your blade; rather, it reconstructs it after the previous shave.

    I strop the way the old time barbers did: the blade at an angle, with the toe leading, and then returning with the heel leading. This also gives me the X-pattern automatically. I use about six or seven inches of length on the strop, because this way I can manipulate the blade between the thumb and the index finger easily, thus experiencing smooth and seamless strokes. As a rule, my stropping count is 30 strokes on linen and 60 on leather.

    Leave the honing for later. There is plenty of time for that ó I waited several years. In the beginning, honing your skill with the razor and the strop take precedent over honing. During the time I waited, I continued studying stones and honing. I watched quality videos, and asked questions. In time, with practice that included some mistakes, I finally sat with three honing giants: Lynn, Randy and Sham.

    Find a teacher and learn. I have been lucky to learn honing from the masters, all three generous with their knowledge and willingness to share. Most of all, I am grateful to the noble Lynn Abrams, for he has taught me much of what I know about straight razors, shaving, stropping and honing.
    Jimbo, Adam G., JimmyHAD and 42 others like this.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beginners Tips: December 2014 started by Obie View original post