Best Straight Razor: Unraveling the Mysteries of Straight Razor Shaving
So you’ve decided that your father and grandfather were onto something after all.
They knew that smooth lines and soft skin were a sharp combination, and the straight razor would take them there. It’s calm, controlled, and classy.
And after surviving three hundred years of history, how could it not be? Originating in 1680, this razor has seen several manufacturers, varying materials, and names ranging from the open razor to the cut-throat razor. Here is the reason for your trepidation.
You want to shave your face with Sweeney Todd’s knife.
What seemed like a nostalgic, gentlemanly choice now has you lost in a sea of information, products, and images of meat pies. Well, let’s get you started with this straightforward, detailed guide to the whats, wheres, and hows of straight razor shaving.
Quick Comparison: Our Picks for the Best Straight Razors
|Feather Dx Folding Wood Handle||sus316 stainless steel||wood|
|Classic Samurai CS-102 Stainless Steel Professional||stainless steel||metal|
|Velvet Forge||stainless steel||metal|
|Boker Straight Razor Elite||carbon steel||carbon fiber|
|A.P. Donovan Straight Razor 7/8||alloy steel||wood|
You’ll find more information about these razors below but you can click on the links above to see the latest prices and reviews in Amazon. Don’t forget to scroll down to see more tips on how to choose a straight razor that covers a lot of sub topics.
Economical, efficient, and environmentally friendly are all top reasons to consider the switch.
Shaves from a straight razor often last longer than those from electric or disposable razors.
Why is that? Made of either stainless steel or high-carbon steel, these blades feature a specific and customized geometry that aids their ability to effectively cut hair while following the contour of your face.
Honing and stropping them will also save you the money and hassle of having to regularly replace them. And with fewer packaging materials, they also contribute to environmental responsibility.
Now you will be dapper, strapping, AND clean shaven while saving the planet.
Most barbers will tell you that going to the store is a must. Hold several razors–feeling how their weight and balance sit in your hand.
While vintage ones include elegant detailing and history, they might not be the best choice for a novice.
The website wellgroomedfellow.com recommends beginning with razors that have not only been professionally honed, but that also contain blades free of nicks and scratches.
You are looking for a quality, well-tempered steel with a width in the range of 5/8. This will make it easier to control on the changing contour of your face.
A rounded point on the blade with less hollowing is also recommended while you are mastering your technique. Price point should not be ignored in this equation.
While this is not the time to skimp, you also don’t need to break the bank on your first razor. See our bullet points below for more specifics on types of razors and their general anatomy.
European Straight Razor
According to knifeplanet.com, this is the classic razor with which you are probably most familiar.
It features a blade and handle fixed together with a pivot pin.
This razor is durable, dependable, and daring. Although it doubles nicely as a lethal weapon, it will surely become a long lasting favorite once you master the technique of its use.
This razor serves as a good choice for the nervous novice.
The shavette uses replaceable blades, so no honing or stropping is required. With a price point as low as $30, this might be a great jumping off point for newbies.
Asian Straight Razor
With exceptional precision and a keen blade, the Asian straight razor is an excellent choice for the attentive shaver.
A bit smaller than the others, this razor easily serves the harder to reach crevices and angles of your face and neck–think around your ears and nose.
Once you have settled on the type of razor for you, it’s time to review the anatomy.
These three categories will help you determine whether the razor best suited to your face and hand. Who knew a strip of steel could be so intricate?
Tempering is the act of heating a metal–giving it a certain degree of flexibility and toughness.
The three classifications of steel blades are: hard-tempered, medium-tempered, and soft-tempered.
A hard-tempered blade is more difficult to sharpen, but it will keep its edge longer. Medium and soft-tempered blades are decreasing variations of the hard-tempered one.
This refers to the balance between the blade and the handle.
You want something that is evenly balanced when suspended from the pivot point. Uneven weight distribution may lead to tipping while shaving, risking a nick or cut.
The grind of a razor essentially refers to the shape of the blade.
Your two main choices are wedge versus concave. The wedge grind best serves men with coarser hair as it is both heavier and more robust.
The downside to a “wedge” razor is it will not follow the contours of the face because of its stiffness and will not give as close a shave.
A concave or full hollow ground razor is much thinner and offers an incredibly close shave because the delicate edges can bend or flex to the contours of your face.
They are extremely challenging to make (particularly extra hallow ground variants) and therefore tend to be more expensive.
Then there are the in-between types such as the 1/4 hallow, 1/2 hallow, etc.
According to Badger and Blade, heavily bearded men will benefit most from wedges, 1/2 hallow and 1/4 hallow blades but this does not mean that does not mean someone with a light beard cannot get a good shave with a wedge. Choosing a grind will depend on personal preference.
The end of a razor, opposite of the handle, is called the tip. The Sharpologist defines five different types, each one serving a different purpose.
Spike Point (or square tip)
The “spike point” otherwise known as a square tip is reserved only for the most experienced shavers. These razors can reach the hardest to reach areas such as the mustache area under the nose and under the ear lobe.
The round tip, however, is by far the safest edge and recommended for the amateur or beginner straight razor shaver.
This razor has a very unique shape that collectors many collectors say are the best looking straight razors available. Special care must be taken however when stropping these razors as they are known to “bite” and can damage the strop.
A French tip is combination of the round and Spanish point. It has a smaller diameter which makes it each to shave hard to reach areas and the round point keeps those nicks and cuts to a minimum.
The final tip is known as the barber’s notch. This razor should be reserved primarily for professionals, as it is most functional when shaving someone else.
So you’ve chosen your first straight razor. Now it’s time to accessorize it. Proper care will ensure that it lasts not only your lifetime, but also that of your son and even grandson!
Investing in a high quality strop will go a long way to preserving the integrity of your blade. Regular stropping will keep your blade clean–removing bits of skin, cream, and hair.
This might set you back $30 or $40, but it’s worth the investment.
Your razor isn’t the only thing in need of some affection.
What about your skin? Shaving brushes come in badger or boar’s hair, with several authorities, including straightrazorplace.com, agreeing that badger hair is your best choice. Used to apply cream to the face prior to shaving, this coarse hair will create a thicker, more luxurious lather.
Aftershave is your final step. Functioning as both a disinfectant and a moisturizer, its use is important as it greatly reduces post-shaving skin irritation. Aftershave is often scented, leaving you smooth and aromatic.
So your equipment is readied your nerves are steeled, and you are ready to wield that razor.
Esquire.com gives us a step by step guide, along with a few extra tips, to straight razor shaving. Above all, take your time. There is no rush to this process, and the technique of shaving is perhaps the most important part.
Begin by wetting the face and using that badger brush to apply the shaving cream.
Holding the blade at a 30 degree angle to your skin, proceed with long, slow downward strokes.
Make sure you are moving with the grain, as going against it will likely lead to bumps and ingrown hairs. Begin with your cheeks, continuing on to your chin, upper lip, and finally your neck.
Only shave against the grain if you are experienced enough with proper grip technique.
If you have sensitive skin, try shaving across the grain to reduce irritation.
Use your free hand to hold the skin taut as you shave. Taking care to keep a gentle grip on the razor, apply light pressure so the razor can do the work for you.
Rinsing, drying, and after-shave applications are your final steps.
You’re not seeing double. There are numerous straight razors currently on the market, and knowing which one to buy can be challenging.
As you’ve most likely noticed, price points vary from incredibly cheap ($9) to shockingly expensive ($500).
For the beginner, we recommend finding a comfortable middle ground. In our reviews below, we have selected five quality products at manageable prices.
Feather Dx Folding Wood Handle
Designed with replaceable blades, there is no need for honing or stropping–skills that novices might not yet be ready to execute.
Users report that not only is the wooden handle exceptionally comfortable, but also that the entire razor is a great value.
Reviewing users were not limited to men. Women also liked it for shaving their legs. The only reported concern was with regard to the razor’s sharpness. You should expect some nicks as you adjust to it.
Bottom line: If you’re new to shaving with a straight razor, this is a great option because of the disposable blades. You don’t need to learn the art of stropping at the get go but of course replacement blades cost money and it adds up over time but these refills don’t cost a lot.
Classic Samurai CS-102 Stainless Steel Professional
This is the most affordable razor on our list.
Consumers who were still unsure about straight razors found this to be a more agreeable way to test the waters.
Like the Feather Dx razor, the Samurai CS-102 also uses replaceable blades and comes with a pack of 100 extra blades.
New users appreciated this product’s convenience while they worked on mastering their general shaving technique.
In addition to good balance, reviews found that the item was easy to hold.
Among the most prevalent complaints were reports that the razor did not hold the blade securely. Some users found that the blade continuously slipped out during replacement.
Bottom line: This is the cheapest option of all the razors featured here so if you aren’t willing to invest in a substantial among to buy a quality cut throat razor this may be a good option. Like the Feather this also uses disposable blades so you don’t have to learn how to strop.
Despite coming with an exceptionally blade, this item also totes a lifetime sharpening warranty when you register your purchase online.
Customers say that this company’s customer service cannot be beat.
If you are unhappy with the product, representatives will work with you to resolve the issue until you are satisfied.
Criticisms of the Velvet Forge straight razor state that in some instances not only was the blade was not completely straight and that the handle was also too heavy–creating an imbalance in the item.
Bottom line: This black beauty uses a genuine stainless steel blade that will last a lifetime plus the lifetime sharpening warranty means that you will never have to spend money on refills ever again!
Boker Elite 140614
The Boker Straight Razor Elite is a customer favorite. Ready to use out of the box, this product provides excellent balance, high quality steel, and a reasonable price tag.
Customer reviews were extremely enthusiastic about the carbon fiber handle–saying that it added a professional feel to the razor.
Durability was also mentioned, so if longevity is of concern to you this item is a logical choice. Of the very few negatives listed, one reviewer felt that the blade should have been more honed.
Bottom line: Perhaps the best bang for the buck option of the 5 razors here, the Boker Elite uses high quality steel, carbon fiber handle that gives very good balance and at less than $200.
A.P. Donovan 7/8 Set in Mahogany
Housed in a beautiful wooden box, items included are: straight razor, badger brush, shaving cream, and leather strap for stropping.
The razor itself is made of alloy-steel and has a handle made of wood from Madagascar.
Customers love the wood and find the razor to be both reliable and well-weighted.
Drawbacks were limited to the leather strap and blade. Consumers felt that the leather seemed to be of lower quality than the rest of the kit, while the blade needed sharpening before initial use.
So you’ve combed through this article, worked up the nerve, and are ready to hit the stores for purchase.
While all five of our razor selections are winners, the A.P. Donovan Straight Razor ⅞ Set in Mahogany stands out as a best choice for newbies.
Not only do you get a solid razor, but the paraphernalia is all included.
These extra items, in addition to the razor, could easily run your initial cost well into the $200-$300 range and beyond.
The razor itself is dependable, balanced, and made of quality steel.
Although the strop received limp reviews, it is most likely a good enough quality for the individual learning how to use it.
Once you have mastered your technique and are looking to upgrade, this box set would make a nice starter set for a son, nephew, or grandson.
While the price tag may seem a bit high right now, remember how much you will be saving in replacement blades and batteries.
Straight razor shaving truly is a time honored tradition. Count yourself among the many men who have passed before you on this quintessentially masculine rite of passage.