Straight Shaving for Beginners – Selecting a Straight Razor

Last updated on December 20th, 2018 by Russ

Switching over to a straight razor from disposable razors is an extremely rewarding experience, but it can be intimidating for any beginning.

There are so many different razors, strops, and brushes out there that it can be difficult to make that first step.

This is a brief explanation about the different kinds of razors available and how to pick the best one of you.

Razors can be split up into several categories

There are several types of razors. Each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Remember that your skill level, time, budget and preference will determine what you’ll choose.

A good starting point would always be a cartridge razor because these require almost no skill. But as you go along, you’ll realize that replacing cartridges cost a lot of money.

Related: If you’re looking for a razor, you can check this article I wrote about the best razor deals right now for products like the safety razor, cartridge razor and much more. Get the best deals for yourself or buy it as a gift.

So the next step up would be a safety razor then a shavette, all the way up to a straight razor.

If you have sensitive skin then please strongly consider a safety razor because the single blade design works great on such. The multi-blade design of cartridges will often times cause more irritation. And the more blades there are, the smaller the gap.

Gunk, dead skin and facial hair are trapped in this tiny area and what you’ll get is a dirty razor. You don’t want a dirty razor on sensitive skin, even on non-sensitive skin right?

Use the information below as a guide for you to choose the right tool that’ll fit your needs. If you don’t have the time to learn the intricacies of using a safety or straight razor then by all means go with a disposable and cartridge. Just remember that these tools have some cons with it – primarily the cost.

But if you do have time to learn then go with the better tool in my opinion which is the safety and straight razor.

The latter will take more time to learn but will give the best results.

Disposable razors

Disposable razors are what you are probably using now. They are available at most supermarkets.

They blocks easily, are only good for a single shave, and leave a rough stubble behind. This is what we are trying to avoid.

Double edge razors

Double edge or DE razors have a similar shape to a disposable razor but use a disposable blade on a permanent handle.

Safety razors are a step up to a disposable or cartridge razor in that it cuts close with much less irritation because it uses a single blade.

In terms of technique, there will be some variances between using these two shavers. Obviously, the safety razor is less forgiving because the head does not pivot unlike in a cartridge razor.

But once you’ve got the technique down it’ll be a better shaving experience.

You’ll also save a lot of money (literally thousands) in the long run because DE blades are cheap! The beauty is you can choose a specific blade type that’ll suite your skin’s sensitivity and facial hair. That is not possible with a disposable or cartridge.

Shavette

A shavette is a straight razor with a disposable blade. They can be trickier to shave with because of the thin razor blade, but they do not require any maintenance such as stropping or honing.

Simply shave, replace the blade, and you are ready to go again.

This is a good tool to start with if you’re transitioning from a safety razor to a straight razor. The design is similar to a straight razor so you’ll get a head start in mastering technique.

Straight razor

A straight razor is the epitome of wet shaving. They have a permanent blade attached to a rotating handle.

They give the closest possible shave because you can sharpen them regularly using a strop or honing stone.

Yes, there is some maintenance work to keep the blade sharp but these shavers will last a lifetime if you take good care of it.

Naturally, our favourite type of razor is a straight razor, and even within this category there are numerous variations available.

Anything from the blade height, blade angle, tip shape, handle weight, and steel type can be different between razors.

Blade Height

The most common straight razors come in anything from 4/8th of an inch to 7/8th of an inch.

The larger the razor the heavy it is and can be more difficult to access tight areas such as under the nose due to the size of the back of the blade. We recommend 5/8th of an inch for beginners.

Blade Grind

Also known as concaves these represent the angle of the blade and also influence the razor weight.

These range from wedge which has the thickest and heaviest blade to hollow which is extremely fine and light.

A beginner should start with a medium ranged grind such as a ½ hollow razor.

Tip Shape

The shape of the tip can vary from square, round or barber’s tip.

The sharper the tip the easier it can be to access tight areas such as under the nose, but they are more likely to cut.

A beginner should start with a round tip to avoid cuts until you have mastered the technique.

My one piece of advice would be to purchase a high quality razor – there are a large number of razors available online that are of a very poor quality, are extremely cheap, and are blunter than a butter knife.

I have seen beginners purchase a cheap razor as a test but the experience was so poor that it puts them off wet shaving altogether. A quality razor may cost more initially, but the shaving experience and the maintainability will really justify the expense.

If you have selected a straight razor then a strop is also a requirement. You’ll need to strop the razor prior to shaving to ensure the blade is sharp by aligning the metal edge. There are different types of strops to choose from some are leather while others are fabric.

Consider the width of the strop and whether it is suitable for your razor.

There are a few different stropping options

1. Standard leather and fabric strop

The most common type of strop and the most suitable for beginners are a combination of leather and fabric.

One downside would be width. These strops are narrow so you’ll need to use the x-pattern to strop. No really a big deal once you master the proper stropping technique.

2. Wide leather and fabric strop

These strops use the same material as a standard strop, only wider. You will not need to use the x-directional pattern when using this.

3. Paddle strop

A paddle strop has the fabric and leather material attached to a wooden paddle.

To Wrap Up

To truly get a world class shave without spending a lot of money on a professional, you’ll need to consider wet shaving. It does not matter if you use a straight razor or safety razor, the results will blow you away. But it will take time to master the skill in order to achieve world class results.

Upfront costs will be higher to a cartridge but you’ll actually save money in the long run. Please consider sharing this article if you find it useful.

Getting started in the world of wet shaving is an extremely rewarding experience, and is a great way to turn a daily chore into something fun.

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