How To Get a Close Shave with a Straight Razor

August 08, 2018

How To Get a Close Shave with a Straight Razor

Looking for the perfect close shave? Consider using the straight razor.

Anyone who has gone through a steady diet of horror-slasher films knows that a straight razor isn’t something to take lightly at. Here’s a fun fact: straight razors were also known as cut-throat razors. In the 1900s, barbers had to undergo training to use this tool.

Only Sweeney Todd took his training to the extreme, but then that was Todd.

THE WAY OF THE PERFECT SHAVE

Despite its scary reputation, the straight razor is actually the only tool capable of giving you a close shave. Connoisseurs in the fine art of male grooming swear that using a straight razor gives you a near perfect shave.

The long blade, when handled correctly, covers more area per stroke, lessening incidents of razor bumps. It also helps exfoliate the skin, scraping away dead skin cells.

The novelist Terrin Millers waxed nostalgic about the straight razor. “There is something old-world masculine, if not reassuring, in putting a blade to your throat in your own hand in the morning, and deciding to continue living.”, he said.

So how does one get that perfectly shaved mug?

DON’T SKIMP, USE A HIGH QUALITY RAZOR BLADE

Not all straight razor blades are alike. When shopping for one, look for good tempered blades as they sharpen well. To check, The Art of Manliness site recommends catching the blade point under your thumbnail and slipping it off quickly.

If it gives a clear ring, it’s most likely to be well-tempered. Choose also a round pointed blade, as it will minimize cuts, especially if you are still a Padawan in the art of shaving.

Blade width is also an important factor in choosing your straight razor. Generally, a 5/8 size blade will allow you to easily control the blade as it sweeps through the contours of your face.

Naked Armor founder Derek Todd recommends a Japanese blade for beginners. “While German-made Solingen steel razor blades are the best in the world, Japanese-made blades are no slouches in that department either.”,he said.

Blade-making is a revered cultural tradition in Japan. “Japanese straight razor blades are sharp but light, which makes it easier for a newbie to handle,” said Todd.

Naked Armor’s Bela Straight Razor is a beautifully handcrafted gem of a razor made by Japanese artisanal sword smiths.

KEEP IT SHARP. LIKE, REALLY, REALLY SHARP

A dull blade will always get you nicked and cut. That’s why some high-quality shaving kits include a hone and a strop. You will need both in order to keep the blade keen and deadly on your whiskers.

A hone sharpens the blade by removing metal from the razor edge, while a strop aligns and straightens the edge.

It may seem a lot of effort but a finely honed blade does not need sharpening every after shaving. Most experts agree that a good blade can go 6 to 8 weeks between honings.

Master of Shaves gives an excellent video on how to do it correctly. You can also check out Naked Armor’s how-to blogpost on honing your blade.

HOLD THE STRAIGHT RAZOR PROPERLY AS IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDED UPON IT

There’s a proper way to hold the razor as a weapon of choice for your recalcitrant beard. Hold it too high, and it will cut your skin. Hold it too low, and it will tear stubble. A 30-degree angle from the face works best, adjusting when necessary.

For beginners, this is how to do a basic grip: Place your first three fingers on the back of the blade. Put your pinkie on the blade’s tang–that’s the point where the blade is held firmly by the handle-while your thumb rests on the side of the blade near the middle.

This grip will give you control over the blade. Hold it firmly and apply gentle pressure when shaving.

To see different styles of holding a razor, check out Shave Library and Naked Armor Razors.

PREP UP YOUR BEARD FOR THE KILL

Ever wondered why barbers wrap a hot towel on your face before a shave? That’s because it’s much easier to cut when the whiskers are soft from the hot moisture. If you’re shaving it yourself, its best to do it after your hot morning shower.

Apply the shaving cream to your mug in swirling motion. Use a shavings brush because it will help soften and lift the hair off your face. It will also ensure that the cream covers all your facial hair.

The brush, meanwhile, helps exfoliate dead skin cells and lubricate the pores.

SHAVE SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY

Shaving using a straight razor is a ritual. There is an almost Zen-like quality that comes from disengaging your Self from the world in order to focus on the blade strokes as it shaves off the whiskers from your face.

Pick one side of your face and begin at the sideburn, making a gentle but firm stroke downward. Keep the skin taut by pulling it with your other hand.Trust in the sharpness of the blade; make your strokes even and short.

After every stroke, rinse the blade in hot water and continue down until you shave the entire side of the face.

After shaving the cheek, move on to the right side under your jaw. Tilt your head back to expose the skin and draw it tight, before shaving it downward. Repeat the same moves for the other side for the your face.

Shaving your upper lip and chin, meanwhile, is an exercise in muscle dexterity. To make the skin as taut as possible for that smooth stroke, you need to draw your upper lip down or your lower lip up, as the case may be, in order to easily shave the whiskers.

When it comes to shaving under the chin, tread carefully, unless you want to become a Sweeney Todd copycat victim.That’s because the skin under the chin is sensitive and easily cut. Use your fingers to stretch the skin tight and carefully use downward strokes.

GQ magazine recommends shaving along the direction of the beard’s growth. Leave the across-the-grain shaving to your barber, or when you’ve become a seasoned wielder of the blade. Your mug will suffer less scars for it.

Check out Nomad Barber, Old School Italian Barber and the Art of Shaving Master Series on YouTube.

FINALLY, USE AN AFTERSHAVE

After shaving, always put on an aftershave.The aftershave reduces skin irritation and closes the skin pores.The act of putting on an aftershave also gives a satisfying denouement to the entire ritual.

It’s as if you’re giving yourself a pat for mastering the art of using a straight razor to give yourself a nice close shave.

Take it from an expert, it will be worth it. Says Todd, “It makes me sing after the sting.”

So what do you think? Are you ready to give straight razor shaving a try?

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