• Beginners' Tips: January 2015

    Many of us receive shaving gear as presents over the holiday season. And for the new shaver in this happy position the new year is a time for girding our loins, facing the mirror and putting an unprotected naked blade to our necks. Perhaps the most voiced (and probably the most unvoiced) concern I've seen here over the years from beginners is the one regarding cutting or nicking yourself and, more to the point, how to avoid it.

    First off, pretty much everyone will nick or cut themselves at some point no matter how careful you try to be. I'm not saying this to scare you, it's just one of those things that will most likely happen - like nicking your strop. If (or when) this happens to you it is important to analyse the events that lead to this outcome and think about how to avoid them next time. Below I will outline some of the knowledge I've gained over the years from my nick and cut events. With any luck some of them might help you.

    Probably the biggest factor in nicks and cuts is that the razor is not sharp enough. When you use a razor that is not sharp enough it tends to hang up and pull and struggle through the stubble. This in turn leads the shaver to use more pressure than is necessary, or to hack away a bit with the blade, and increase their chance of nicks and cuts. So make sure your razor is shave-ready.

    The direction of the blade as it moves across the skin should be generally perpendicular to the spine. Lateral movement of the blade parallel to the spine should be avoided at all costs, particularly when you first start out. People talk of a scything motion with a straight - I would avoid that to begin with. It is a slightly more advance stroke for slightly more advanced users.

    Blade angle is important - a steep angle will increase the chances of cutting yourself.

    The movement (or lack thereof) of the blade on the skin is also a factor with nicks and cuts. I find it best if the blade is in motion just before it touches the skin, and remain in motion until just after it leaves the skin. A shortish, deft stroke minimises the risk of nicks and cuts - try to avoid stopping to adjust hand or arm positions, or modify or adjust your grip, when the blade is on your face. This is the one that always gets me - I get overconfident and change hand position on the fly, or modify my grip halfway through a stroke, and the next thing I know I have a 3 inch cut. Just take the blade away, do your adjustments for the next stroke, line it up off your face, and then decisively shave that bit. It might seem a bit start/stop to begin with, but pretty soon it becomes second nature, and it starts to become a part of your natural stroke.

    Don't be afraid to develop a "buffing" technique with straights. It might look a bit dangerous, but nothing could be further from the truth. Just lock your elbow and move the razor from the wrist in shortish strokes to start, and progress to a more buffer-y effect as you gain confidence. I can say with absolute honesty that I have never nicked myself while blade buffing. It is on those longer, less controlled strokes that I tend to come undone if not careful.

    Stretching. Stretching is quite vital with straights. This is not just so that you get a close shave. It is also a way to avoid nicks and cuts: a nicely stretched, flat surface will be a lot easier and safer to shave with an open straight edge than a bumpy or loose surface. Again, make sure that the area to be shaved with a particular stroke is well-stretched beforehand, and the stretch held throughout the stroke. Don't go adjusting the stretch halfway through a stroke.

    Finally, a healthy respect for the blade does not go amiss. Not fear, but respect. It is usually when I start taking my "mastery" for granted that my razors bite me.

    gugi, JeffR, DoughBoy68 and 34 others like this.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beginners' Tips: January 2015 started by Jimbo View original post