Originally posted by SRP's founder Lynn Abrams on SRP
After reading many posts about some of the problems new folks have with their first shaves, I thought it would be advantageous to present a few thoughts.
First off, there is no experienced member here who is not on a quest for the absolute perfect shave and perfect razor. Every one of us continues to enjoy the wonderful baby butt smooth shaves we get from the straight razor and that unbelievable smooth feeling after shaving with the straight razor. It is what we expect and what new people expect after reading all the wonderful information in the forums.
There are many things that go into a successful straight razor shave including good beard preparation with lots of hot water and a good soap, prepared and applied with a nice brush really working the lather into the whiskers. There is also much to be said for proper stropping, making sure the blade remains flat on the strop in a nice and even stroke with little pressure and of course not rolling the edge up at the end of the stroke. The angle of the blade when shaving is also very important. I have always found that an angle of 30 degrees or less works best for me.
Learning to shave with a straight razor however is not always as easy as some people expect. I would never recommend that someone who has never shaved with a straight razor attempt to shave their entire face on their first attempt. There are many things to take into consideration like the type of razor you are using, the width and shape of the blade and of course the shape of every individual face. No matter what anyone thinks of their tactile ability, there is a learning process that should go on here in order to develop the skills to be able to enjoy straight razor shaving for life.
Obviously you will need a razor that has been honed. You can buy pre-sharpened razors or have one that you have bought sharpened by someone. Virtually all of the people I know who hone razors test shave with them to ensure that you will get a comfortable shave. Virtually all the people I know who hone razors are willing to re-hone a razor for you if you have a hard time at first and think it might be the razor. For the overwhelming amount of people who have difficulty with their first shave, the razor is typically not the problem. It is usually either one or a combination of several things including preparation, stropping or skill level.
For your first shave, I would again recommend that you use a 30 degree or less angle with your razor and for the first time only shave from one sideburn down to the jaw. That's it. You want to develop a sense of how the razor cuts and work to perfect that feeling and the feeling of using a straight razor. After a couple of days, you can then move over into the cheek and work on that side of the face for the next couple days. When comfortable with this, you can then experiment with crossing to the other side of the face using the same hand or try the other hand which is easy for some and not so easy for others. From here, I normally recommend trying the down stroke on both sides of the neck and then trying the chin and then under the nose. When you start to feel comfortable with the process, you can then try going across grain from the jaw to the chin and then finally going up underneath the neck. By taking the time to learn to use the straight razor with this approach, you will be able to determine where and when to stretch the skin and to find out which areas you will need to go back and touch up.
I can't emphasize enough that if you feel uncomfortable at any time in the process, don't go any further. There is no reason to repeatedly nick yourself or shave your face until it is red and uncomfortable. Having said this, there can normally be a little reddening for the first couple of days until your face adapts to using the straight razor.
I normally strop a razor both before and after a shave out of habit. Some people strop just before every shave (minimum recommendation) and some people strop before and during a shave as they find this helps with shave. Everyone develops their own personal style of not only stropping, but of beard preparation and shaving itself.
This brief write up is not the end all, be all for first timers, but is purely written to give you optimal opportunity at successful straight razor shaving. I truly do understand the anticipation associated with those of you who try straight razor shaving and can tell you that I have this anticipation every time I shave. It has never gone away for me.
Straight Razor Place is here to help you to learn to shave with a straight razor and the members here will try to assist you in any way they can. It has always been that way here and we hope that you will continue to take advantage of the wealth of information and one of the greatest groups of people around.