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Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques

JW Lewis

Straight Razor Shaving Techniques

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: lathering

It takes some prac­tice, and steady hands are a must, but it’s worth the effort to learn how to shave with a straight razor the way grand­pa – or great grand­pa – did.

A good razor, strop, and hone don’t come on the cheap. But, once you’ve got­ten the right gear, you’ll nev­er have to spend anoth­er dime on razors again. It’s an envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly shav­ing solu­tion that leaves you with a smooth, baby soft face.

Pre-shave preparation – Stropping and Honing razor blades.

Strop­ping sets the tiny teeth of the razor edge into per­fect align­ment. The strop will con­sist of a can­vas strip and a leather strip, with a hook at one end. Attach the hook to a door­knob or bed post and pass the blade up the can­vas sur­face of the strop with light pres­sure, keep­ing the blade flat and lead­ing with the spine.

When you reach the end of the strop, flip the blade over and then run it back down. Twen­ty times with the can­vas side and anoth­er 20 with the leather is a good rule of thumb. If you strop it prop­er­ly every time you shave, you should only have to hone it about every 6 to 8 weeks.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: honing

Employ­ing the right tech­nique for strop­ping and hon­ing is cru­cial.

Aside from actu­al­ly lay­ing a sharp blade against your face, hon­ing the razor is eas­i­ly the most intim­i­dat­ing aspect of learn­ing how to shave with a straight razor.

With the entire blade, includ­ing the spine and edge, per­fect­ly flat against the hone, sharp­en by pass­ing the blade side­ways from the heel to the point over the hone, lead­ing with the sharp edge. For a well main­tained razor, about 8 to 10 strokes should do it.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: prep

Apply­ing a hot tow­el helps to soft­en the skin and hair, facil­i­tat­ing a smooth shave.

Pre-shave preparation — Shave oils and creams.

After you’ve made sure the razor is cut-throat sharp, the next step is to prep your face for the harsh pro­ce­dure it will be sub­ject­ed to. Using a hot tow­el direct­ly on your face works best to soft­en the skin and hair, which allows the razor to glide eas­i­ly. Alter­na­tive­ly, shav­ing right after a hot show­er works equal­ly well.

For a tru­ly reward­ing expe­ri­ence, apply a pre-shave oil or cream to fur­ther mois­tur­ize and soft­en the hair. This helps reduce a lot of the irri­ta­tion com­mon­ly expe­ri­enced by many after shav­ing. The whole process can be a bit time con­sum­ing, but prac­tice makes per­fect in your straight razor shav­ing rou­tine.

Next, lath­er up using shav­ing cream and a pre­mi­um shav­ing brush — prefer­ably con­tain­ing bad­ger hair bris­tles. Besides bad­ger hair, syn­thet­ic and boar bris­tle is also avail­able but bad­ger hair is con­sid­ered best for lath­er­ing.

Lath­er­ing direct­ly on your face does not work well. Instead, invest in a qual­i­ty shav­ing bowl that will make lath­er­ing up very sim­ple. With just a pea-sized amount, you can real­ly work up a rich lath­er that would pro­vide a smooth shave.

The right straight razor shaving techniques to use.

Hold­ing the razor in your dom­i­nant hand, your thumb should sta­bi­lize the razor on the under­side, with your index, ring, and mid­dle fin­gers on the top of the shank. Hold the han­dle with your ring and lit­tle fin­ger, rest­ing one of them on the tang (the cres­cent shaped part). Now on to the shave.

With your free hand, stretch your skin back so it’s taut. Hold­ing the blade at about a 30 degree angle, pass the blade over your face in the direc­tion of hair growth, using light pres­sure and even strokes.

Once you’ve gone over the whole area once, rinse, lath­er up again and do it a sec­ond time, this time run­ning the razor against the direc­tion of hair growth.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: technique

A steady hand does the trick.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: 14 stroke shave

Anoth­er tech­nique that can be employed for a straight razor shave.

A short video from Truefitt & Hill on straight razor shaving.

Safety during straight razor shaving.

Remem­ber to slow down and focus. This is your moment of zen before the day begins, and it can’t be rushed. As men­tioned before, remem­ber to keep your­self wet. A hot show­er, or a hot, wet tow­el wrapped around your face opens up the pores of your skin.

As you shave, make sure that the shav­ing cream stays wet and add water as need­ed.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: straight razor

A scene from the Tru­e­fitt & Hill bar­ber­shop in Toron­to.

Post-shave treatment with oils and creams.

When you are done, rinse first with warm water to remove all the lath­er, and then with cool water to close your pores. A good after­shave can help calm the skin.

Rinse the razor in cool water and dab it dry with a soft cloth. Apply a drop or two of machine or oth­er oil once a week to keep the blade from rust­ing.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: after shave

Light­ly dab­bing some after­shave works well to calm the skin, and pro­vides pro­tec­tion.

Avoiding nicks and cuts when shaving with a straight razor.

As a begin­ner, you will cut your­self. That’s a giv­en. The best way to avoid them is to keep your razor prop­er­ly main­tained. For small nicks and cuts, an alum block is your first choice.

An alum block is a stone that is some­thing like a crys­tal. Moist­en the alum block with cold water and rub it gen­tly over the area. It can act as a gen­er­al anti­sep­tic and aids razor burn as well as help­ing to stop bleed­ing. It will leave your skin feel­ing cool and fresh.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: lounge

A gentleman’s heav­en. Noth­ing beats get­ting a shave in a bar­ber­shop from a sea­soned vet.

Tips for those new to shaving with a straight razor.

Invest­ing in an expen­sive straight razor right off the bat can be a bit over­whelm­ing. The high cost and rou­tine main­te­nance (strop­ping and hon­ing) can eas­i­ly put off any new­bie from tak­ing the plunge.

To curb any sec­ond thoughts, there are a num­ber of cheap options avail­able on Ama­zon for a straight razor. These razors fit straight edge bar­ber razor blades, which are dis­pos­able and can be thrown out after each use.

Each sin­gle blade fits into a slot on the razor and locks into place. Once you’ve com­plet­ed your shave, you sim­ply remove the blade and toss it out — very sim­i­lar to what your bar­ber would use. This is by far the most cost effec­tive option for those just start­ing out with straight razor shav­ing.

Once you get your feet (read: face) wet, invest­ing in high­er qual­i­ty acces­sories will only serve to improve the over­all shav­ing expe­ri­ence.

Invest in the best straight razor shaving gear you can afford.

The dif­fer­ence between a good and sub­stan­dard qual­i­ty razor lies large­ly in the steel. Tay­lor of Old Bond Street man­u­fac­tures a high­ly rec­om­mend­ed line of shav­ing prod­ucts, includ­ing shav­ing cream. Oth­er qual­i­ty brands include the Dovo and Bök­er brands from Solin­gen, along with Thiers-Issard and Tru­fitt & Hill.

Exper­i­ment with dif­fer­ent brands and prod­ucts until you find the right com­bi­na­tion for your skin. Although the upfront costs can be high, the ben­e­fits far out­weigh them. And with high qual­i­ty prod­ucts, a lit­tle goes a long way, so effec­tive­ly you won’t be spend­ing all that much.

Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: art of shaving

A nice lit­tle pack­age con­sist­ing of a pre-shave gel, shav­ing cream, and after­shave balm — from the art of shav­ing.


Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: truefitt

Tru­e­fitt & Hill man­u­fac­tures some of the best shav­ing prod­ucts on the mar­ket.


Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: razor blade

A mas­ter­piece of crafts­man­ship from Ezra Arthur.


Tips For The Best Straight Razor Shaving Techniques: shaving products

What’s in your shav­ing kit?

Pho­to cred­its: Tru­e­fitt & Hill // Ezra Arthur // The Art Of Shav­ing