There is no man who does not enjoy a close shave when they are trimming their beards. Unfortunately, these are services that are not so readily available for some people. They can only be accessed at a trained barber’s and such professionals are not exactly easy to find. This is why the razor comes highly favored by a good number of men across the country. This is one of those razors that you can always be sure will not disappoint you when it comes to getting that super close shave. The best part of it is that you can give yourself a shave right from the comfort of your home- or anywhere on this planet. When using one of this classic razors, there are some skills that you need to acquire such as those of sharpening the razor. Before even discussing how to sharpen a razor here is brief overview of exactly what this device is and the different types available in the market.
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What exactly is a straight razor?
A straight type razor is simply a shaving tool that consists of a blade and a pair of handles. The handle and the blade are held together by a pin. The blade swing in and out of the handle as it is needed. The materials used to make the blade are often stainless steel or some form of carbon. This will depend heavily on the manufacturer/brand for instance the Dovo razor is made from carbon-steel. This is one of the most popular brands in the market today. The razor is usually balanced in a way that the weight of the blade is balanced relative to the weight of the handle (known as scales) which can be made from just about any material from wood and horn to celluloid and similar materials.
Types of razors available in market
They can be categorized depending on a variety of criteria. One of the commonly used bases of categorizing razors is the shape of the tip of the blade. Basically there are three shapes that the tip of the blade can assume. Thus you can purchase:
- Spike/square point razor
- Round point razor
- French point razor
The square-pointed razor has a square-like point at the end. This is the best razor for detailed work where selecting specific hairs is important. It however can be a dreadful nightmare if you are one of those people who do not pay attention while shaving. The square/spike pointed razor can be quite unforgiving. A simple mistake and the tip will slide into you cheek- not a pretty sight even at the thought of it.
The French point is almost similar to the square but it is a little bit more pointed than the square-point as it juts out of the blade in a triangular manner or a smooth dome. It brings with it better precision especially in places that are really hard to shave. It is nonetheless used by people who have experience shaving with straight-razors.
This is where the round-tipped razor comes in. This one is more lenient on your skin while you shave. The tip is round and thus you can afford to be a little bit careless. It will not slice through your skin as the others might do. It is very friendly and it comes highly recommended as the best blade for beginners.
There are several other tip styles including the barber’s notch. This one is more of a rounded-tip blade but then it has a notch at the end which allows for better maneuverability in areas that are really difficult to shave such as the nostrils and ears. Yes, you can shave just about anything using the razor- not just beards.
Categorizing razors according to blade material
Razors can also be categorized depending on the material that has been used to make the blade. As aforementioned, the two most common materials used to make razors are stainless steel and carbon steel. When you go looking for razors for sale you will most definitely come across these two materials. The choice you make depends on your skill using the blades.
Carbon-steel blades are mostly found in vintage razors. It is easier to use as well as to sharpen compared to the stainless steel. However, it also dulls faster than stainless steel a flaw that it makes up for with its ease of sharpening. The blade can be sharpened very fast and that is why carbon-steel blades come highly recommended by some people.
Stainless steel blades are more difficult to sharpen but they also make up for this with the fact that they take quite some time to dull. This material is very common is the new blades such as the Dovo razors that are extremely popular all over the world nowadays.
Things to do before using a blade
Of course the use of the razor is to shave but then again it depends on whether you are using a replaceable, disposable or classic blade. The classic blades require sharpening (honing) and stropping before you use them. Here is how you are going to go about it:
How to sharpen a straight razor
You will need a hone to sharpen the razor. A ceramic (barber hone) comes highly recommended- it will do a good job. There are also whetstones that can be used to sharpen the razor. The first thing that you do before honing is to wipe the hone properly. If you are using a whetstone then a lubricant is in order. The lubricant could be anything such as water, oil or even shaving lather. The lubricant prevents the blade from heating up which may cause it to bend thus compromising the integrity of the blade. Using the barber hone does not require a lubricant though.
Lay the stone on a flat surface with the coarser side facing up then place the blade perfectly flat on the stone. The edge and the spine of the blade should touch the stone. Sharpen the razor by holding it by the shank. Sweep the blade from side to side as you work so that the entire edge is sharpened evenly. The blade should be drawn from heel to point with gentle pressure- the edge of the blade should lead the stroke. In other words the edge should be pointing in the direction you are stroking.
You can determine whether the blade is sufficiently sharp by running it over your thumbnail. Do not worry; it is not to cut yourself- moisten your thumbnail and run the blade over it. With a smooth and steady grip, a well-sharpened blade should dig into your nail.
Stropping the blade
After honing, the blade is not exactly ready to deliver the wonderful razor shaving experience that it should. The blade is usually left rough and thus stropping has to be done. The rough edges will be smoothened giving the razor the keen edge that makes shaving an enjoyable experience. The strop usually comes with two sides- a canvas side and leather side. If you are stropping right after honing you should use the leather side but if stropping in between shaving, you should use the canvas side. The edge of the blade should trail the stroke and not lead as in the honing process.
How to use the blade
A major challenge most people have when just beginning to use the straight blade is how to hold them. Gripping a razor basically depends on the person; people tend to develop different ways of holding the razor. However, there is a basic grip that you can employ regardless of whether you are right or left-handed. First, let the first three fingers rest on the back of the blade with your small finger on the tang. The thumb should be on the side of the blade- somewhere near the middle. This will enable you to control the razor. You may have to adjust the grip as you shave different parts of your face. However, there is no strict law of how you should hold the razor; find a comfortable position for yourself and you will be good to go.
Before you start shaving with a razor you should make a point of softening your beard. It is easier to shave the beard when it is soft than when it is dry and tough. You can soften the hair by applying a warm moist towel for a few minutes before shaving.
Tips to shave properly and effectively
There is one thing that makes shaving a dreadful experience- getting a cut. There are several reasons why you would get a cut as you shave. One of these is because of using a dull blade. Make a point of ensuring the blade is sharp enough before you use it. You do not have to sharpen your straight blade razor before every use. When done well, a blade can go as many as eight weeks without requiring further honing. Secondly, do not shave in such a hurry. Remember a plentiful amount of care is required when using certain types of razors. Once you are done with your shaving, make sure that you clean the blade and dry it before you store it away. A clean and dry blade will not dull too fast.