04-27-2013, 10:17 AM
#1
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A little exposition first, I have been attempting to shave using straight razors off and on for nearly a month now. Mostly I have found that the razors did not cut the hair and irritated the skin. I figured that the biggest issues were a lack of skill and blades in need of honing, but I also felt as if straight razors may just not be for me. I mean there are enough DE blades out there that I just can not use, so why should straight razors be any different? I actually seriously considered getting rid of all my straight razor gear and buying a Parker SRW so that I wouldn't feel like a total failure. Well, I have a poor man's strop kit, a barber's hone. a few different straights, and some gear that I bought specifically to restore old razors...so I wasn't willing to give up on the process without a fight.

I had recently made an eBay purchase of a Union Cutlery 5/8 square tip (I am unsure of the grind, but after looking at pictures and talking to some folks, I am certain that it is either a full hollow or an extra hollow). I really liked the razor and loved the fact that it was made by the company that would become Ka-Bar (ooh-rah, yut, and various other Marine Corps grunts), so I asked a well known restorer to take a look at some pics of the razor to see if he could give me an idea of how much it might cost to restore. He turned down the job, saying that the razor was not a good candidate for restoration. From a purely economic standpoint he may have been right, I mean who puts $100 worth of work into a $75 razor? I decided that he was wrong and did the basic work myself, sanding and polishing the blade, the scales, and the accents as much as my limited equipment and abilities would allow. It came out looking MUCH better than when I started and without any serious issues, but it was certainly not pristine (I'll work on it more soon). Once I had a razor that I was not embarrassed to be seen using I sent it off to Whipped Dog for honing. It came back yesterday, the blade honed and coated in vaseline and looking super sharp. I couldn't wait to dive in face first with this razor.

Today I took the Union Cutlery out for a spin. I took a nice hot shower, splashed some water on my face, rubbed some preshave oil on, lathered up a healthy dose of AoS unscented cream, and went at it. I was giddy with joy when I saw the results of my first stroke, my left cheek actually lost hair without loosing skin! I completed two passes, one with the grain and one against the grain. I did some minor clean up around sensitive areas with my trusty black handle super speed and a Gillette 7 O'Clock Yellow, but the general shave was all the Union Cutlery. I did get bitten by the square point a couple of times (mostly without noticing until I looked in the mirror and said, "Huh, when did I do that?") and I did get some razor burn on my upper lip, but other than that it was a good experience and a nearly BBS shave. I have a hard time getting my right side and around my nostrils, but I figure that will come with time.

I am left with some ideas about straight razors which may or may not be true. First is that I have a really hard time using anything other than a full hollow razor. The other blade that I have shave ready is a James Rodgers & Co. 5/8 barber's notch that claims to be some kind of hollow ground, but sounds and feels more like the wedges that I have seen. It glides smoothly and is certainly sharp, but it does not sound or perform like the Union Cutlery and I still have yet to be able to get a full shave out of it. Second is that I really like barber's notches because they seem easier to manipulate around tight corners without stabbing yourself (as much as I like the Union Cutlery, I have to admit that its square point is deadly). Third is that straight razors are definitely for me. I had a sore back from leaning over the counter to get a better angle in the mirror, a few nicks, and it took four times as long to shave with a straight razor as it does to shave with a DE, but I was still smiling and happy at the end. Even stropping and oiling the blade made me smile. Finally is that I still have a ways to go before I am actually good at using a straight razor. I will continue to work on my skills now that I have a razor that I know will work well for me and I look forward to many great shaves, but I do realize that I am still very much a novice

[Image: a5uza5y4.jpg]
The happy set up of my first successful straight razor shave.


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 04-27-2013, 10:54 AM
#2
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Congratulations on your first successful straight shave. I know the feeling, and it is good in a manly kind of way.

You did a nice job of cleaning up that old razor. I don't use square points for the exact reasons you gave. Just to easy for that little nick or sometimes that serious gash.

Your full hollow razors do sing and they are actually a little flexible. Your wedges and 1/4 grinds do not sing.

I personally prefer 1/4 to 1/2 ground razors.

I also only do two passes, but mine are WTG and XTG except for the neck area where I do some light ATG touch up.

I've never been good at honing a razor but I just love the sound of the razor going across the strop in the mornings.

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 04-27-2013, 04:10 PM
#3
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Congratulations on the successful shave!

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 04-27-2013, 04:48 PM
#4
  • oscar11
  • Senior Member
  • North Dakota
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Congrats with your shave. Don't be to quick to judge razor type. My guess is that your perspective will change a little with time. All types will deliver excellent shaves. I enjoy going from a noisy full hollow to a silent shaving wedge and everything in between. Enjoy your shaves and good luck. BTW, nice job on the razor.

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 04-27-2013, 09:28 PM
#5
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Now man you're in and there's no way back. Congratulations.

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 04-28-2013, 10:48 AM
#6
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Congratulations on your first straight razor shave. It is generally considered easier to learn with round points, however, once you've had some experience under your belt, definitely try a square point. I find that point easier to position now.

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 04-28-2013, 02:13 PM
#7
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That was a great read with a happy ending. I agree with the others. I scarcely even notice grind except when it's a full wedge and I do have some problems with those.

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 04-29-2013, 02:39 AM
#8
  • Obie
  • Senior Member
  • Glendale, Wisconsin
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Jabberwock,
Good show on embracing the straight razor. As you know, there is a long learning curve. Initially, though, try to concentrate on getting a comfortable shave rather than one that is marble smooth. Time will take care of that. Also, it is essential to have a properly honed razor. Give it time and you'll be hooked.

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 04-29-2013, 07:02 AM
#9
  • Leon
  • Active Member
  • Porto, Portugal
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Congratulations.

As for your insights, you're comparing totally different blades, wedges to full hollow. They should feel different and if you said they didn't, something was wrong. It's all a matter of what works best for you. Sometimes I go full hollow, other times I go wedge.

I'm glad you're giving it a try and it looks like you're getting it. Be patience, the learning curve is long and steep, but eventually everyone gets there.

Good luck

(04-27-2013, 10:17 AM)Jabberwock Wrote: I am left with some ideas about straight razors which may or may not be true. First is that I have a really hard time using anything other than a full hollow razor. The other blade that I have shave ready is a James Rodgers & Co. 5/8 barber's notch that claims to be some kind of hollow ground, but sounds and feels more like the wedges that I have seen. It glides smoothly and is certainly sharp, but it does not sound or perform like the Union Cutlery and I still have yet to be able to get a full shave out of it. Second is that I really like barber's notches because they seem easier to manipulate around tight corners without stabbing yourself (as much as I like the Union Cutlery, I have to admit that its square point is deadly). Third is that straight razors are definitely for me. I had a sore back from leaning over the counter to get a better angle in the mirror, a few nicks, and it took four times as long to shave with a straight razor as it does to shave with a DE, but I was still smiling and happy at the end. Even stropping and oiling the blade made me smile. Finally is that I still have a ways to go before I am actually good at using a straight razor. I will continue to work on my skills now that I have a razor that I know will work well for me and I look forward to many great shaves, but I do realize that I am still very much a novice

[Image: a5uza5y4.jpg]
The happy set up of my first successful straight razor shave.


Sent from my Transformer using Xparent Cyan Tapatalk 2

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 04-29-2013, 07:47 AM
#10
  • Snuff
  • Senior Member
  • Belgium
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(04-27-2013, 10:17 AM)Jabberwock Wrote: but I was still smiling and happy at the end.

I will continue to work on my skills now that I have a razor that I know will work well for me and I look forward to many great shaves, but I do realize that I am still very much a novice

Two important points, Enjoy it (don't get frustrated) and the realization that your a novice and things only can get better from here on.

We all had to start somewhere and since there are so many things involved that can influence the result (honing, stropping, shaving technique) it took us all a while to get good at it. If you keep practicing you'll get better and better shaves

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 04-30-2013, 02:05 AM
#11
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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Congrats!

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 04-30-2013, 09:01 PM
#12
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Jabberwok - great read, really explored the novice experience.

I also want to thank you for detailing the time requirements for straight razor shaving. I've been wanting one, but I don't have 20-30 minutes to shave every morning. Maybe I'll pick one up downtown (there's a perk to living near a tourist town - antique shops) and try it over the summer.

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 05-01-2013, 05:32 AM
#13
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It definitely takes longer to shave with a straight razor and if you're pressed for time then I do not suggest doing it every day. The dangers of face mutilation due to rushing a straight razor shave are very real.

I too live in an area with an abundance of antique stores, junk shops, and flea markets. I have found many great DE razors in these places, but only a few usable straight razors. Most of the straights that I have come across are horribly corroded, chipped beyond repair, or warped. Every once in a while I do come across one that looks worth restoring, but it will usually have an outrageous price attached. Folks without any understanding of traditional wet shaving see DE razors as useless junk and straight razors as priceless antiques...I think that they imagine most of these razors to be much older and more valuable than they actually are. If you're patient and use a careful eye on the edge of the blade when you do manage to find one, then I'm sure your searching will eventually pay off.

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