09-14-2014, 12:27 PM
#1
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A couple years ago I bought a Boker Arbolito on clearance from Bullgoose. Very pretty razor, very light (feels a little too light). I also bought some inexpensive, less pretty vintage razors. But I think it was the first attempt, with the Boker, I gashed my chin open pretty good. Took a couple days to figure out I could grow a goatee and stop trying to shave over the wound. So now the more "difficult" areas, the chin and upper lip, are left alone.

I'm going back at it with the straights. I have not gotten a lot of practice because I can't use one in the morning (will take too much time if I bleed!) So I need to practice shaving at night, and most nights I don't really feel up to it, and I've shaved with a DE that morning anyway. But still... determined.

Today I had my third full face shave with a straight (and yes, the same Boker); It was DFS on my cheeks, a little sub-DFS on my neck, but not one weeper (first time), very little sting with the alcohol splash. I hope I'm getting some muscle memory trained even being a little overly conservative with blade angle. I'm sure that's the biggest key to today's comfort, that I didn't think "two spine widths" this time, I just started "near parallel" without trying to be too precise with "not too near". Whiskers got cut. Skin didn't.

I bought an inexpensive (relatively) j-nat that was recommended to me, because I really want to learn to hone, now, and be self-sufficient. I didn't realize that I don't really have the best flattening stone, so there's still more money to be spent. And I have to figure out slurries, and if I need a tomo nagura or can use my mini-DMT fine plate. And whether or not to seal the thing (if so, what lacquer do you guys use? I'm hardware-store challenged! I do know a bit about sharpening knives on synthetic waterstones, but that's a different thing).

Any guidance on learning to shave or learning to hone with a j-nat would be most, most welcome!

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 09-14-2014, 12:37 PM
#2
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Just some random thoughts in no particular order.

Good lord, full face shave on first attempt?? That's crazy talk. Start slowly. Shave your cheeks with the straight and the rest with your DE. Once that area is mastered, move to your neck (no jawline). Do cheeks and neck with the straight and the rest with your DE. This is a learning process. Shave the easiest areas first. Get them mastered, then start moving on to other areas. I would suggest the area between the lower lip and jawline as the next area to add. Once that little area is mastered, add in the upper lip area. Do NOT press too hard when setting the blade against the skin, you will get a weeper or nick before you even feel it. Use a "scooping" motion to start from perpendicular toward the more normal angle (unless you have a small nose). Finally once all that is figured out, work on mastering the jaw line.

This isn't a race, those who race and do their entire face will lose comfort with learning and will give up again. Baby steps.

I rather prefer half to quarter hollows myself. They have more heft and one is less likely to have a simple tiny mistake turn into a scene from Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Finally when first starting out, do not lather your entire face. You shave far more slowly when learning straights, the soap dries out and you end up losing the slickness and lubricating properties of the soap. This can lead to "skipping" of the blade on the face and an uneven shave at best, nicks or weepers at worst.

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 09-14-2014, 12:47 PM
#3
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No, it wasn't full face on first attempt... I'd done one cheek and just felt wonky and stopped... I've done both cheeks, and both cheeks and just a bit of one side of the neck...

This is my "second go-round" compared to my two-year old blood bath, not just my second attempt at shaving with the thing. Perhaps for this go-round it's my fourth. (And yeah, I did full just because it went well enough on the cheeks, went well enough edging the goatee, then I proceeded... till I got everything but the goatee, ONCE. Just one pass).

But I think I will absolutely follow your steps, not just proceed. That is, I did ok, no damage, but I didn't even "master" the cheeks. So I'll concentrate on that, makes sense.

The advice on chin and upper lip will be filed till I'm ready to lose the goatee!

Interesting on the half- to quarter- hollows. I think I've heard that, but only after I bought a full, and then my purchases were more along the lines of sight-unseen.

Anyway, yes, I perhaps would have done better to just do cheeks, and do a second pass when I was feeling ok with the first. Thanks for the advice! I'll take it to heart.

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 09-14-2014, 12:49 PM
#4
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(09-14-2014, 12:47 PM)wagstaff Wrote: The advice on chin and upper lip will be filed till I'm ready to lose the goatee!

Whatever you do, don't remove the goat with your straight. That's got disaster written all over it. 24

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 09-14-2014, 12:51 PM
#5
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Ha! Didn't even occur to me to do that. Though it might occur to me if I get comfortable with the straights in other areas when the time comes... so yeah, filing away: "don't remove goatee with straight", too. Good looking out.

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 09-14-2014, 03:19 PM
#6
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Wagstaff - I am learning right along with you a this! I'm headed to my fourth shave tomorrow, I have been doing full shaves, and wingdo is giving some good advice regarding lather in particular. Mine was getting too dry and razor was skipping. I now only lather half my face at a time. Another cause of skipping I think I've identified, is going with too steep an angle, so far no blood, but too steep is not gonna end well...

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 09-14-2014, 03:24 PM
#7
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yeah, wet, slick lather is good... I had to re-lather my left side after shaving my right, today, in fact, so it makes more sense just to not lather the whole face. Next time. I made the lather bordering on sloppy-wet, at least compared to my usual DE lathers, and that works well for me.

Congrats on no blood! I think today was my first zero-blood attempt. I only really cut myself the first time. But ... I took two years off after that! I've gotten small weepers since. But not today. Shallowed out angle is exactly the trick.

Let's keep up a bit w e/o's progress!

Are learning to hone, too?

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 09-15-2014, 08:15 AM
#8
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(09-14-2014, 03:24 PM)wagstaff Wrote: yeah, wet, slick lather is good... I had to re-lather my left side after shaving my right, today, in fact, so it makes more sense just to not lather the whole face. Next time. I made the lather bordering on sloppy-wet, at least compared to my usual DE lathers, and that works well for me.

Congrats on no blood! I think today was my first zero-blood attempt. I only really cut myself the first time. But ... I took two years off after that! I've gotten small weepers since. But not today. Shallowed out angle is exactly the trick.

Let's keep up a bit w e/o's progress!

Are learning to hone, too?
If I stick with this, learning to hone will be a "must" for me. I don't think I will be happy sending my razor out. To be honest right now I find the whole thing quite intriguing, and honing will play into completing the puzzle!
If I continue to enjoy the shave, but for some reason can't get the honing figured out, I will very likely go back to shavettes, with my DE's and my just plain cool injector, sitting in the sidelines ready for a play.

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 09-15-2014, 09:28 AM
#9
  • schnebbs
  • relapsed brush addict
  • chicago
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this thread is right up my alley, as i'm still new-ish to the straight shaving. i think i must have done everything wrong/different/weird/out-of-order that i can think of, but the learning has been invaluable.

first off, i have a full beard... so all i shave is my neck. (and yes, i also swat flies with cadillacs. =p)
secondly, i went from cartridges to a shavette to a straight, thus skipping the de phase altogether.
thirdly, i didn't buy a brush until after my 4th or 5th shave... you do NOT want to know what that was like, unless you already do, and if so, i feel your pain.

it's been an experience, to be sure. and i've also picked up a 4K/8K norton whetstone to hone with, because "shave-ready" means different things to different people. xD i will say that i'm fairly impressed with myself after my first honing session... the quality of my shaving has increased drastically.

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 09-18-2014, 06:16 PM
#10
  • joedy
  • Member
  • Shenandoah Valley, Virginia
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One piece of advice that I read a long time ago was to learn to shave with both hands so you can easily get an even shave.

It feels very strange to start with, but soon becomes natural.

-joedy

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 09-18-2014, 07:18 PM
#11
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That sort of bums me out joedy (though of course I've heard it before) -- just because I have some nerve damage and my left hand is not steady. I mean, beyond being a righty...

Still, I know people who shave one-handed, even if it is a disadvantaage, so I'm just going to stick with it. (Yes, I've done more damage to the left side of my face than to my right!)

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 09-20-2014, 07:30 PM
#12
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So I seem to, in spite of my best intentions, put off straight-razor shaving until weekends. I did an evening shave again with the Boker, today, and again ignored some of the advice I was given. It just went so well and so easily on my cheeks with the first pass, that I did my neck again, too. I did one pass and touch-ups. Tiny nick on the touch ups, in a spot to the right of my chin that seems to be where I get nicks (when I do, even with a DE, I mean).

Cheeks and most of my neck/jaw were SAS or better with one pass. I put the razor down again, just because I didn't want to push my luck. But it's feeling very do-able, now, and more so than last week, even. Before last week I really thought it was not going to be do-able for me at all. At least sometimes!

I did a second pass with a DE and ended up with a DFS. The stropping seemed way easier today than it ever has, too, though sometimes I can tell by the sound I'm not quite getting it right.

Oh, also, I went a step sloppier with the lather. Thinned it out to the point I would consider 'broken down lather' for my normal "DE" shaves. But it was Mike's and stayed very slick even that way, with better visibility. I'm not sure where I'll end up with the lathering for straights, but I think maybe somewhere a little less thin than today. It's such great soap, though, it worked great. (And I might find out that this is the way I like for straights, I'm not sure yet).

I also got to the left side of my face without it drying out or falling off me completely, so I didn't have to re-lather or half-lather for the first pass.

I'm sure I need to figure out better/cleaner grips for some of my face, and I'm not sure how it's going to go with grips once I really start paying attention to beard-mapping for multiple passes. I still am using only my right hand, and that complicates things a bit. How you guys doing? schnebbs? tinashubby? Anyone other beginners?

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 09-21-2014, 04:53 AM
#13
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I have 10-12 cheek shaves under my belt, but have not been at it for a couple weeks. I think I will give another go tonight, but with a bit wetter lather. I keep getting hung up and after some reading this past week, I think my normal lather just won't cut it for a straight. I need more slickness and glide.

My other issue is time...I don't have time every day to learn a straight so if I keep at it, it's going to take me a while!

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 09-21-2014, 05:06 AM
#14
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Cheek shaves under your belt? I'm glad I don't have to go that far. Wink

But seriously Mike, we're on about the same schedule, too. There are a few of us at least. I'm so proud of myself for not doing real harm, so maybe I'm the only one lame enough to post about his slow progress! I've only done two shave now where I did full passes, but that was after somewhere around ten cheeks-only. Some of those were one-cheek only, even. When I feel like I'm losing patience, or just don't "have it", I put it down. I think I cut myself the first time while still thinking about the next stroke and losing attention to where the razor was. Or something.

It also takes a while to strop (I'm careful there, too), and make sure everything's dry before putting it away, all that... but it's just so much more interesting, at this point, when I make time.

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 09-21-2014, 06:12 AM
#15
  • GMofmiami
  • Senior Member
  • Miami, Fl & Central America
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Gents, congrats on taking on this endeavor and sticking to it....once you get the hang of it you'll be anxious to next day's shave. It certainly is frustrating at times, trust me I know but shaving with a straight razor takes the YOU time to a whole new level IMO.

I was a DE shaver since I was a teenager (30+ years ago) but always fascinated by straights. Along the way I purchased some vintage blades had them restored and sharpened but I just couldn't get the hang of it and basically donating blood to my sink every time. I was frustrated and bummed out that I couldn't do this so I gave up and went back to DE shaving. However the straight bug never left me and I was more determined than ever to learn how to do this. So I read, saw countless numbers of videos, listened to the advice of the great members of the shaving forums, purchased new blades (agree with Doug's suggestion half and quarter hollows are terrific) and went at it. Taking it nice and slow, slightly thinner lather to provide greater slickness and shaving cheeks first, then adding the neck and so on. I remember when I completed a whole face SR shave, I felt like I needed to "strut" like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever and proclaim to the world, I'm the man!!!! LOL

Several years later, I can't imagine shaving any other way than with a straight (except when I travel to certain places as I don't want to risk the pilfering of my luggage so I take a DE). Wonderful feeling, tremendously smooooooth shaves and with my Miracle Gro type beard I basically eliminate my five o clock shadow....all done with no rush and just about 20 minutes from beginning to end, 2 pass shave.

Best of luck to you and hope it works out.

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 09-21-2014, 07:27 AM
#16
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That's some great encouragement, Greg! Thanks. (And what about full wedge, as opposed to half- or quarter- hollow? I don't have one, but see them come up sometimes and think maybe....)

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 09-21-2014, 07:51 AM
#17
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(09-21-2014, 06:12 AM)GMofmiami Wrote: I was frustrated and bummed out that I couldn't do this so I gave up and went back to DE shaving. However the straight bug never left me and I was more determined than ever to learn how to do this.

Several years later, I can't imagine shaving any other way than with a straight ....all done with no rush and just about 20 minutes from beginning to end, 2 pass shave.

Best of luck to you and hope it works out.

It's when I read posts like this that make me not put mine up for sale and go back to it...and the Sunday SOTD photos!

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 09-21-2014, 08:23 AM
#18
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(09-21-2014, 07:51 AM)Bowhnter Wrote:
(09-21-2014, 06:12 AM)GMofmiami Wrote: I was frustrated and bummed out that I couldn't do this so I gave up and went back to DE shaving. However the straight bug never left me and I was more determined than ever to learn how to do this.

Several years later, I can't imagine shaving any other way than with a straight ....all done with no rush and just about 20 minutes from beginning to end, 2 pass shave.

Best of luck to you and hope it works out.

It's when I read posts like this that make me not put mine up for sale and go back to it...and the Sunday SOTD photos!
I know what you mean about the SOTD pics ! I need some lessons on Straight razor photography !

I can do the clinical SE and DE photos but it seems to take talent for the Straights.

As far as the shaving goes , I think you have to be patient and stick to it. I can do it but it is awkward for me. I have used them for a long time but never put in the time to be proficient. But since my purchase of my Kai I have shaved with nothing else. I get faster and more effective every day now so maybe when time permits I can find a chipped or broken straight that can be cut down to a similar size as the Kai. I hate to ruin a good one cutting it down !

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 09-21-2014, 09:11 AM
#19
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(09-21-2014, 04:53 AM)Bowhnter Wrote: I have 10-12 cheek shaves under my belt, but have not been at it for a couple weeks. I think I will give another go tonight, but with a bit wetter lather. I keep getting hung up and after some reading this past week, I think my normal lather just won't cut it for a straight. I need more slickness and glide.

My other issue is time...I don't have time every day to learn a straight so if I keep at it, it's going to take me a while!


One thing you can do to "speed" up the shave time if you are rushed: strop your blade the night before use so that when you are ready to do your morning shave you can just start shaving. This should give you enough time to get cheeks and possibly throat out of the way with one pass and then do the DE shave to finish up. The best way to learn one and get better is daily use. Anything you can do to get at least some time in on a daily basis will build your confidence.

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 09-21-2014, 09:20 AM
#20
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So two days in a row... today one fairly annoying nick (on my right cheek, even, easiest place to shave! I knew it as soon as I touched my face...) Ok, it's not terrible, it's just worse than DE, because longer.

A couple of weepers on my lower neck. Even though the worst nick is on the flat of my cheek, today I wish I followed Doug's advice and left the neck alone, since it's feeling pretty sore, and stung with the alcohol splash.

Three steps forward, one back... No foreseeable scarring at least. A semi-win.

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