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Why Razor-Sharp Grinding Is Important For A Straight Razor

July 14, 2019 5 min read

Why Razor-Sharp Grinding Is Important For A Straight Razor

Naked Armor

A straight razor may look like its a simple cut of metal with a sharpened edge but there’s a lot of technical considerations in choosing the right straight razor for you.

Published by Naked Armor

The Blade Grind

Blade grinding is a term that refers to how thin the blade is on a traditional straight razor. In the early days, straight razors had thick blades that followed a wedge-shaped design down to its edge. While these razors shaved off hair as closely as today’s modern day razors, these wedge-type old razors had some disadvantages.

First, the thickness of the blade, added more weight to the razor which affected its balance. Second, because it was wedge-shaped, it meant that the side of the blades would always invariably rub against the honing surface when the blade was being honed. Third, honing the blade over time became tedious because the process caused a rapid thickening of the edge width, making it difficult to sharpen the blade.

To resolve these issues, one needed to clear the blade sides from the hone surface. This is done by grinding away metal between the cutting edge and the back with a grinding wheel, resulting in a biconcave, hollow ground blade.

Hollow Grinds Make for Thinner Blades

The more hollow the grind, the thinner the blade. A thin blade meant that the razor was lighter and flexible enough to shave along the facial contours. Nowadays, the majority of straight razors are full-hollow allowing for the sharpest edge. In the hands of a skilled shaver, a full hollow straight razor would give him the closest shave ever.

Interestingly though, old time shavers aren’t actually sold out on the efficiency of full hollow grind straight razors. The venerable publishers of the classic The Art of Shaving Manual disagree that a full hollow-or in their words, full concave- is the best. As they write in the manual:

“Our impression is that this is a mistake: that the full concave blade is not so good for shaving most beards as the three-quarters concave. In a very deeply hollow ground razor, the blade is ground extremely thin, back to a line some distance from the edge. When such an edge—almost as thin as paper—comes in contact with a stiff beard, unless the the blade is held very flat upon the face, it is quite likely to bend and spring, and a cut will be the result.”

Be that as they may, the choice of the grind is basically a matter of preference. Most shaving blogs, however, recommend full hollow grind straight razors for the serious wet shaver but for newbies, a half hollow grind is best to use while still on a learning curve.

Types of Grind

The higher the grade of hollow grinding, the easier it is for the shaver to keep the blade in perfect condition through stropping and honing. While there are 16 different grinds in the razor market today, there are eight of them which are popularly used by regular shavers. These are:

Flat ground: in general for heavy and less perfect shaving, for contour shaving.
Full hollow ground: for thorough and precise shaving.
3/8", 4/8": for eyebrows, and a very soft beards. 3/8" and 4/8" are mostly flat or half-hollow- ground straight razors.
4/8", 5/8": preferred for daily shaving, especially the 5/8" which has more torsion resistance.
6/8" and 7/8": were originally designed for persons with very large hands and/or the handicapped, but these also have very good torsion resistance and shaving characteristics.

The “Singing” Razor

Shaving enthusiasts often look for the perfect grind for their straight razors. When ground to perfection, a straight razor like this can “sing”. One can detect a full hollow with the “nail test”: when pressed on the thumbnail, the cutting edge will yield already to light pressure and then spring back fully. This means that the blade is highly elastic at the front and can thus easily follow the contour of one’s face.

Hollow vs Half Hollow Grinds

Shaving blogs, these days, often recommend the best grind for a straight razor. There are two types that are often mentioned - the hollow grind and the half-hollow grind.

The full hollow is best for most shavers. This is because it’s easier to hone and sharpen due to its thin blade. In this aspect, we buck against the opinion of traditionalists like the publishers of the Art of Shaving. The thinner the cutting edge, the easier it is to hone and sharpen. It’s also flexible enough to shave off facial hair cleanly.

The downside to a full hollow straight razor is that since it has a very fine and flexible edge, it can easily cut the face when used by unskilled hands. That’s why only use a hollow grind if you’ve been shaving for a long time and have the necessary skills to wield it.

Otherwise, you can use a half hollow.

A half hollow grind isn’t as flexible as a full hollow so that means if you’re a new shaver, you’re less likely to cut yourself since the blade won’t be easily turned at the slightest turn of your hand. Best for beginners, a half hollow grind will allow your razor to be steady in your hand while you’re still beginning to learn how to use it. It’s also best for coarse and thicker hair.

Our Perfect Combination

Here at Naked Armor, our straight razors are designed to offer the capabilities of the hollow and half-hollow designs. We like to think of it as a combination of the best parts of the two designs so it’s more versatile than your typical straight razor.

This means that our straight razors can be easily used for different types and textures of hair by a beginner or an experienced shaver. Old timers recommend that one should have at least two straight razors but with a Naked Armor straight razor, you won’t need another one.

Our straight razors are made from Japanese steel with high quality wooden handles that elevate your shaving into a luxurious experience. They’re very sharp and lightweight which makes handling it a breeze.

Check out our site to shop for your straight razor.

Other Essential Naked Armor Reads


The Newbie Guide to Straight Razor Shaving
Is A Straight Razor The Best Shave?
What Size Straight Razor Should I Use?

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