• Beginners Tips: September 2013

    First, I should address the new person you're seeing writing these. Do not run for the hills yet - we're trying to ensure these tips come without interruption every month, so expect to see more contributors!

    Like Glen usually does, I've been reading the posts in this section and thinking of common themes that may be worth addressing in a special post.

    So, here are my tips for this month:

    1.) Slow down. Yes, trying to shave with a straight razor is really exciting, you've got the adrenaline flowing... It's time to slow down!
    First, take the time to figure out how to make a decent lather. It's not hard, but it takes experience. And you don't need to wait until the next shave to gain a little more experience and improve a little more. Just load your brush, build some lather, if it seems too dry add a little bit of water, until it's too runny, then start over. Do it three times, then five, then ten, you should be starting to get the hang of it. Preparing your face skin and beard is just as important as shaving technique, and it's so much easier to figure out - so take the time to do it well it and your progress will go much faster.

    Next you have to strop - the movies or the videos you've seen make it look so cool when done fast. Well, that's the perfect time to slow down again - do it fast and in no time you will end up with two halves of a strop and a dull razor.
    My suggestion is to instead lay the strop along the edge of a table or counter and strop the razor slowly but deliberately, one side away from you, turn it over the spine and then the other side towards you.
    What you want to concentrate on is keeping he spine down on the strop. As long as the spine is down in contact with the strop you can't really damage the edge with exerting pressure. It takes experience to get the hang of stropping and again, you could do it over and over to build the muscle memory, and not wait until the next shave to get a little bit more improvement.

    Time for the shave. You will probably be fairly slow just because it's awkward to hold the razor, your hand moves differently in the mirror than what you expect, and generally you've made it through life until you could grow a beard, so you do posses a sense of self-preservation and are a little leery about cutting yourself
    You'll quickly notice that things are not so bad as you have anticipated. Your skin is pretty tough and doesn't cut that easy. What you have to pay attention to is keeping the spine of the razor relatively close to your face (about 2 spine-widths away is a good approximation), and move the razor perpendicular to the edge, definitely not along the edge.
    You have to make deliberate strokes, but you should again slow down in how much you're trying to accomplish. Do not try for the smoothest possible skin - do with-the-grain pass and call it a day. It will be presentable enough, if you can't live with it use your former method to finish up. Yes, virtually everybody can do their whole face, try across-the-grain and against the grain on their first attempt, so you're not going to be one of the few exceptions.
    But if you're smart your goal should be to build proficiency quickly, not to show off how much you can do. And in order to build proficiency you need to master the details. So, work on that WTG stroke first - try to get it become completely trivial before you move to working on something else.

    2.) Be patient. It really takes time. I don't care how fast you think you're learning, you are not going to be very good in one week, or two weeks, or one month or two months. You'll become to get the hang of it. It will take you about six months or a year before you start getting proficient at this type of shaving. So, no point to rush things, or get frustrated - just be patient and enjoy the process.

    3.) Get help. Yes, I know you're already on this site looking for help. But really getting help depends on you.
    First of all, it is extremely difficult to troubleshoot somebody else's issue over the internet. There are dozens of things that may be wrong, and the differences that distinguish between them can be very subtle. In addition you have a ton of fellow newbies with just enough experience to think they've got it all, who are projecting their own problems onto you. They certainly lack the experience of listening and asking relevant questions, but they are still very eager to offer their help. The people you need to pay most attention to are the ones with many years of experience not only not just in shaving with a straight razor but in helping others.

    However, the best possible way to get help is to find somebody local to you who would be willing to meet with you in person and show you what they know, see what you're doing, offer suggestions what you could do differently.

    So, these are the tips for this month, and as Lynn says 'Have fun'.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beginners Tips: September 2013 started by gugi View original post