Should I Try Out A Kamisori Over A Straight Razor?

September 18, 2018

Should I Try Out A Kamisori Over A Straight Razor?

Naked Armor

Brought to Japan by Korean monks, the Kamisori eventually became an important grooming tool for the Samurai.

Published by Naked Armor.

A kami—what?

You, oh American reader, secure and smug in the straight and narrow ways of Western traditional wet shaving, would probably be surprised to know that there is a whole other world out there beyond safety and straight razors.

It’s like that latest box office hit, Crazy Rich Asians.

Who would have known that in a small city like Singapore, some 213,000 of the world’s top 1% of global wealth holders live in opulence and luxury?

As it happens, some Crazy Rich Asian probably invented a kamisori too.

Well, at least centuries ago. In feudal Japan.

Razor in Japanese

A Kamisori means ‘razor’ in Japanese. Hence, the name Kamisori Razor is kinda redundant, since the Japanese refer to any kind of razor as kamisori. Yes, even your basic cartridge disposable is a kamisori-from their point of view.

What the West means though, when referring to Kamisori, is the Japanese version of a straight razor. The Kamisori is a continuous piece of steel with a flat-headed blade on one end and a thin, long handle on the other.

Unlike a straight razor, the Kamisori blade can’t be folded into a handle. For better grip, however, its handle is traditionally covered by twine and rubber.

A Kamisori is also designed to be used with only one side. If you are right-handed, you will need a Kamisori right handed blade. For lefties, there’s a Kamisori razor designed just for you too.

The Blade’s The Thing

The reason why there are separate kamisori blades for righties and lefties is that of the way they are ground.

The Sharpologist has an excellent explanation on why there are two versions of the blade. Unlike western ones, Japanese razor blades are ground unequally. This means that one side, called Ura, will have a significant hollow, while the opposite side, called the Omote, will be slightly ground out.

The reason for this is because Japanese blades are traditionally made of soft iron and hard steel. The steel is used as a cutting edge, while the iron is used as a base for the steel. Since iron is soft, it needs to be thicker to be able to support honing. The Ura part is the steel portion and so requires sharpening, while the Omote is the iron portion, so it is left largely unground.

If you are a lefty, you will need to use a Kamisori with an Ura favoring your left side. These days, however, shaving connoisseurs say that with the proper honing, one can use a Kamisori with both sides. It’s all a matter of preference.

The Kamisori is a whole new level of shaving experience. And by this, I don’t just mean its design. Kamisori is an expensive lot because of the high-quality steel that goes into its manufacture. The most expensive is the ultra-rare Tamahagane steel which requires master level artisanal skill to produce. It’s the technique that was used to make legendary samurai swords in ancient times.

— Derek, Naked Armor Founder

Who Came Up With The Kamisori?

The original Kamisori design came from Korea courtesy of the Buddhist monks who found their way to Japan. The monks used the kamisori to shave their heads as a symbol of their faith. By the time, Japan’s Bushido Era came rolling in, and the Samurai rose into prominence, the kamisori acquired a religious and cultural significance among the Japanese. It became an important tool in the rituals of the Samurai since they used it to style their facial hair.

Today, despite competition from Western-style straight razors, Kamisori razors continue to be popular among the Japanese.

Should I Try Out a Kamisori over a Straight Razor?

Physical differences aside, there is nothing better or worse between a Kamisori razor and a straight razor. It’s just two different ways of shaving, both of which can give a fantastic result if done correctly. That being said, there are three qualities that you should look out to help you decide which one will suit you.

• The Grind

Because a Kamisori is ground asymmetrically, each side of the blade can give you a different angle of attack. That can give you a whole lot of other options to maneuver the blade than when using a straight razor. This is very important especially when you have a beard to maintain. If your facial hair has both thick and thin areas, you can use one Kamisori side to cut through thick hair and then flip it to style the thinner hair spots.

• The Grip

If you have problems with holding on to a straight razor’s folding handle, then the Kamisori’s straight handle will suit you. Because it’s not a folding handle, you don’t need to worry about slipping your grip. Kamisori handles are traditionally wrapped in natural twine and covered with rubber, to ensure that you can grip it the best way you know how.

• The Blade Length

Kamisori blades are usually no more than two inches in length. This makes it ideal for detailing your beard. It is small enough that you can easily maneuver it in trimming your beard without accidentally cutting sideburns or mustaches. If you have thick and coarser hair though, your best bet would be a heavy bladed western straight razor. Because it's heavier and less flexible than a Kamisori, you can cut the hair easily, giving you a smoother shave.

The Next Best Thing To A Kamisori

The Kamisori is a whole new level of shaving experience. And by this, I don’t just mean its design. Kamisori is an expensive lot because of the high-quality steel that goes into its manufacture. The most expensive is the ultra-rare Tamahagane steel which requires master level artisanal skill to produce. It’s the technique that was used to make legendary samurai swords in ancient times.

Because it’s a small blade, one might need more time and effort to learn how to use and maintain it properly. The honing, in particular, can be quite tricky to master, because of the Kamisori’s unique grind. One might go through quite a lengthy period of slow, careful shaving until one becomes confident using the Kamisori.

A straight razor, meanwhile, offers the same shaving experience at a slightly less expensive cost and shorter learning curve. They also have the potential to become heirloom pieces that increase in value each year. Also, most American men shave because they want to be clean shaven and not because they want to maintain and style their beards. If you want a no-frills kind of accessory to get the job done, then a straight razor will do the work nicely.

However, If You Still Want A Japanese Blade…

You can always opt for a western style straight razor made from Japanese stainless steel. Naked Armor’s line of straight razors is artisanal-made from Japanese high-grade steel. True, it ain’t Tamahagane grade steel, but it also comes from the ancient samurai tradition of blade making. This is why Naked Armor’s razor blades are light but keenly sharp. We use Japanese knife steel with a hardness of 61-65 HRC—the perfect mixture of strength and precision!

Why settle for an ordinary straight razor when you can have a Naked Armor Straight Razor? Click Add to Cart now.



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