Traditional Shaving with a Straight Edge Razor
Shaving with a cut throat razor set is a skill that has to be learned and mastered, so here is the Funky Retro, definitive guide to how to shave with a straight edge razor.
Types of Cut Throat Razors
A straight razor is a powerfully constructed shaving tool, a well-crafted one can be passed down for years. Straight razor shaving is a classic shaving technique, that can give you an extremely clean, close shave.
Straight razors come in a variety of metals and grinds, the scales or handles come in a number of finishes, like wood, horn and acrylic. The basic anatomy of a straight razor includes the point, the edge, the spine, the shank, tang, heel and scales.
Sharpening your Straight Edge Razor with a Leather Strop
Once you’ve selected the right straight razor, you’re ready to prepare the blade for your shave. Stropping is done to maintain sharpness.
Hang the strop securely to a wall or fixed point at about chest height, grip the lower handle firmly and pull out the strop until it’s horizontal, use the canvas side of the strop to warm the blade and remove any debris.
Moving to the leather side, hold the razor with a firm grip with the tang between the thumb and first and second fingers, fold the remaining fingers lightly around the handle.
Lay the razor blade flat on the strop near the handle, make sure the edge points toward you first, stroking up and away, at the end of the first stroke, roll the blade on its back to reverse direction.
Keep it flat and mimic the motion of your first stroke by moving the razor toward you, this time with the blade edge facing away. Move the blade from left to right to cover its entire length, do not roll the blade on its edge or it will become round and dull.
Your stropping technique should be the same on both sides, let the weight of the razor move the blade across and avoid applying additional pressure on the strop so you don’t hurt the blade’s edge.
After six or so strokes on each side of the strop, the blade is ready for a shave.
If desired, use a small amount of strop paste for protection, only use one type of grit per strop, if you use two different grits you’ll need two different strops.
Prepare for the Shave
Probably the most important part of the shave is preparing the face, we recommend shaving after a hot shower, or applying a hot towel to the face, letting it rest for a couple of minutes. This process opens the pores and lifts the hair of the face as well as softening the bristles.
Then apply a pre-shave oil to soften the beard, pre-shave oil works to reduce nicks and irritation by increasing the skin’s suppleness, as well moisturised and supple skin does not cut or become irritated as easily as dry skin.
To create the best possible lather we suggest using a shaving brush and bowl, a shaving brush is the perfect tool for creating the perfect lather. First, leave the brush to rest in some warm water and then take out and remove any excess water, then lightly cover the brush in shaving cream before using a combined stirring and churning motion until a thick lather appears, the more you rub the brush on the cream the thicker the lather.
Apply the lather to the face in swirling motions, the shaving brush will also lift the bristles and coat every single whisker. When the face is covered completely take a few strokes to even everything out.
How to Shave with a Cut Throat Razor
Wash your hands thoroughly and grab your straight razor. Pull the scales down and around to form an L-Shape, place your thumb under the shank and your first two fingers on top of the shank, they should lie between the spine and the scales. Lay your ring finger on the top of the tang and let your pinky sit freely below.
Take your first pass with the grain, following the direction of the hairs growth. Lightly stretch the skin in the opposite direction of the blades movement, take special care in the nose and chin area.
Move the blade at a 30° angle down the face in short and even strokes, after your first pass re-lather for a second pass, this time against the grain, or across, for better control use your dominant hand for both sides.
Now let’s take a look at some problem areas when shaving.
The upper lip
Draw the upper lip down as much as possible to tighten the skin and shave downwards.
Shaving the chin
Draw your lower lip up as much as possible, this will allow the skin to pull tight, making it easier to shave the areas under the lip and chin.
Under the Chin
Elevate the chin and stretch the neck as much as possible, again a smoother surface will save the embarrassment of cutting yourself. Take extra care as skin under the chin is more vulnerable to nicks and cuts.
Across the Grain
To get that extra close shave, re-lather and this time shave across the grain, so if your whiskers grow downwards, shave from left to right. You can also shave against the grain, this we recommend only for experienced shavers as it can greatly increase the chance of different shaving irritations.
Many men feel the two pass shave is enough for that smooth, baby bottom feel but some ultra-hirsute males will only be satisfied by the three pass shave, learn from experience and find out what best suits you.
Rinse your face off with cold water or apply a cold towel this closes the pores to stop skin irritation. Then apply a post-shave balm to add moisture to the skin, adding another layer of protection.
Taking care of your blade is very important since it’s carbon steel always wash and dry it thoroughly before storing.
Mastering the straight razor shave takes time and practise but this classic technique will get you a smooth, perfect shave every time.