10-07-2012, 04:25 PM
#1
  • matloffm
  • Senior Member
  • Culver City, CA
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I am looking for help. I have a newly honed straight that I have used 3 times. The problem is that it barely (and I mean just barely) cuts my beard. I shave after I shower so my beard is as soft as it's going to be (which is not very). I have tried different angels, wetter lather and nothing seems to help.

I only cut myself a couple of times and that was due to forcing the razor which hits my beard and stops. I am open to any and all suggestions. I am beginning to wonder if my razor just won't work for me. Just as all DEs and blades don't work for everyone. My favorite DEs are open comb with a Feather blade. This combination gives me the smoothest results.

HuhConfused

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 10-07-2012, 04:36 PM
#2
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More water with your lather. Straight razors get really really stuck if you shave with dry lather. Very painful.

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 10-07-2012, 04:45 PM
#3
  • MickToley
  • Hi, I'm Mike and I'm a shave soap addict
  • Brooklyn, NY
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Make sure you're not using a 90 degree angle, if you are then the blade will cut nothing. Make sure your angles are correct. Skin stretching is also important. Shave WTG for your first week or so until you get more comfortable with using the straight. Don't expect your first shave to go extremely well. It just takes practice. You'll be getting smooth shaves in due time. Do you own a strop?


[Image: 400px-Cutting_angles.jpg]

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 10-07-2012, 04:55 PM
#4
  • matloffm
  • Senior Member
  • Culver City, CA
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(10-07-2012, 04:45 PM)MickToley Wrote: Make sure you're not using a 90 degree angle, if you are then the blade will cut nothing. Make sure your angles are correct. Skin stretching is also important. Shave WTG for your first week or so until you get more comfortable with using the straight. Don't expect your first shave to go extremely well. It just takes practice. You'll be getting smooth shaves in due time. Do you own a strop?


[Image: 400px-Cutting_angles.jpg]


Yes, I own a strop and use it very carefully in the X pattern as described in the demo videos. I am stretching my skin (and there is a lot to stretch Wink). I'll concentrate on the angle tonight. I am only shaving WTG. I need more practice before I try another pass.

Also, I have heard that you should not use the same razor two days in a row. Is this true?

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 10-07-2012, 05:00 PM
#5
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(10-07-2012, 04:55 PM)matloffm Wrote: Also, I have heard that you should not use the same razor two days in a row. Is this true?

Total BS. Although owning two razors has a very good advantage in having a spare.

Try shaving with just water with the grain. Tell me what happens. Just do a small test area. Use a low angle.

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 10-08-2012, 12:41 AM
#6
  • Snuff
  • Senior Member
  • Belgium
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Are you sure the razor has been honed correctly? Only then will you get it to cut the hairs without any pressure from your part. You should be able to cut the hair on your forearm with it, holding the razor about a fifth of a inch (1/2 centimeter) above the skin.

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 10-08-2012, 10:51 AM
#7
  • matloffm
  • Senior Member
  • Culver City, CA
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(10-07-2012, 05:00 PM)asharperrazor Wrote:
(10-07-2012, 04:55 PM)matloffm Wrote: Also, I have heard that you should not use the same razor two days in a row. Is this true?

Total BS. Although owning two razors has a very good advantage in having a spare.

Try shaving with just water with the grain. Tell me what happens. Just do a small test area. Use a low angle.

I did this test and the blade cut the beard, but the metal stuck to my wet cheek and stuttered. I hope that tells you what I am doing wrong.

As for the honing, ASharperRazor did the honing. I selected the standard edge, maybe I should have gone for a more aggressive edge?

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 10-08-2012, 01:09 PM
#8
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Got stuck to your cheek and stuttered... I'm at a loss.

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 10-08-2012, 01:29 PM
#9
  • P Funk
  • I can only carry 50 chickens at a time
  • Bay Area, NorCal
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I had a similar issue when I took up straights. Aggressive DEs were all I used. I thought the issue was unproper honing, blade size/weight and of course I knew technique was a factor as well.

If you're beard is similar to mine (thick and wiry/strong), you can try to let the lather soak into your beard before your first pass. Let it soak in about 10 minutes, adding water to keep it from drying out as needed. This really helped soften up my beard. I, too, usually shaved after a shower and tried various other beard prep techniques (hot towels, etc, etc). Letting the later sit seems to work the best for me.

This was suggested to me from other forum members and helped me turn the corner. They also suggested the ways to check the sharpness of the razor so I was able to eliminate that. I also had a few different razors honed by different honemeisters which allowed me to know what a real edge is supposed to feel like.
Now that wasn't the only issue. I continued to work on blade angle which was equally important and now I get some some near bbs shaves (still working on it). I thought my angle was near correct from the get go but found that I wasn't keeping is consistent as I moved the blade across my face.

I have also found that a bigger blade seems to go through my beard a bit smoother. This is not to say I can't use a 5/8 or smaller. I just need to be more diligent. Whatever blade you have should A DE is sharper so I do not need the extra prep when using one of those but it really pays off when using a straight.

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 10-08-2012, 01:48 PM
#10
  • matloffm
  • Senior Member
  • Culver City, CA
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(10-08-2012, 01:29 PM)P Funk Wrote: I had a similar issue when I took up straights. Aggressive DEs were all I used. I thought the issue was unproper honing, blade size/weight and of course I knew technique was a factor as well.

If you're beard is similar to mine (thick and wiry/strong), you can try to let the lather soak into your beard before your first pass. Let it soak in about 10 minutes, adding water to keep it from drying out as needed. This really helped soften up my beard. I, too, usually shaved after a shower and tried various other beard prep techniques (hot towels, etc, etc). Letting the later sit seems to work the best for me.

This was suggested to me from other forum members and helped me turn the corner. They also suggested the ways to check the sharpness of the razor so I was able to eliminate that. I also had a few different razors honed by different honemeisters which allowed me to know what a real edge is supposed to feel like.
Now that wasn't the only issue. I continued to work on blade angle which was equally important and now I get some some near bbs shaves (still working on it). I thought my angle was near correct from the get go but found that I wasn't keeping is consistent as I moved the blade across my face.

I have also found that a bigger blade seems to go through my beard a bit smoother. This is not to say I can't use a 5/8 or smaller. I just need to be more diligent. Whatever blade you have should A DE is sharper so I do not need the extra prep when using one of those but it really pays off when using a straight.

Thanks for your response. Did you find any other razor characteristics beside width that made a difference, e.g. degree of hollowing, etc.?

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 10-08-2012, 03:03 PM
#11
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It's actually the total weight of the razor that people with wiry beards like. So, you can either increase the width of the razor ie going from 5/8 to 7/8, increase thickness (ie hollow to wedge), or both.

I should note that a heavier razor doesn't actually cut better, it only adds more momentum to the stroke. Thus, making it easier for the user to get the razor going through the stubble without stopping due to lack of momentum. A hollow cuts just as well, but you have to input more force behind the blade.

That said, heavier razors are harder to control.

Straight razor shaving comfort comes down to one word: confidence. If you confidently move the blade through your whiskers, the blade will cut cleanly and effortlessly. If you hesitate, it bites.

Try this:
Shave in short confident strokes. I'm assuming you can get an inch of movement before the blade gets stuck? Stop right before that point, moved the razor back, repeat. Maybe that will help.

You really don't have to shave in one stroke, you can split it up into several strokes.

Stick with just the cheeks.

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 10-08-2012, 05:17 PM
#12
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(10-08-2012, 03:03 PM)asharperrazor Wrote: It's actually the total weight of the razor that people with wiry beards like. So, you can either increase the width of the razor ie going from 5/8 to 7/8, increase thickness (ie hollow to wedge), or both.

I should note that a heavier razor doesn't actually cut better, it only adds more momentum to the stroke. Thus, making it easier for the user to get the razor going through the stubble without stopping due to lack of momentum. A hollow cuts just as well, but you have to input more force behind the blade.

That said, heavier razors are harder to control.

Straight razor shaving comfort comes down to one word: confidence. If you confidently move the blade through your whiskers, the blade will cut cleanly and effortlessly. If you hesitate, it bites.

Try this:
Shave in short confident strokes. I'm assuming you can get an inch of movement before the blade gets stuck? Stop right before that point, moved the razor back, repeat. Maybe that will help.


You really don't have to shave in one stroke, you can split it up into several strokes.

Stick with just the cheeks.
Well stated!
The only way to gain confidence is practice. Angles, the strokes that work, stropping, building a wetter lather, etc, are all skills that take time. I do think the long learning curve was the cause of the straight's demise. Keep working at it! Using the straight is an art in a class all it's own.

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 10-08-2012, 05:43 PM
#13
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That 'got stuck' to your cheek comment almost makes me wonder if you have too little angle... Is the space between the spine of the blade and your cheek about the same width as the razor spine itself?

BTW - it doesn't matter how course your beard is, please don't think it's 'straight razor proof'....

My beard hairs are so course, my cheeks can practically take the place of a wire brush. When I turned 25 I asked my barber for a shave instead of just my usual hair cut. This is the guy I'd gone to since I was 2 years old and I'd watched him give countless guys straight razor shaves throughout the years. He hesitated for a moment and said, 'With your beard I wouldn't recommend it. I can do it, but you'll bleed.' So I told him never mind...

Two years ago (e.g. 13 years later) I finally got up the nerve to try it myself. No problem whatsoever (sure there was a bit of razor burn now and then and the occasional nick during the first month or two, but no more bleeding than with a DE) and I've used nothing but straights since.

As for my original barber, I can only guess he either really wasn't that confident in himself, or didn't know how to keep as sharp an edge on his blades as he thought he did...

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 10-08-2012, 07:24 PM
#14
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(10-08-2012, 05:43 PM)Malacoda Wrote: That 'got stuck' to your cheek comment almost makes me wonder if you have too little angle... Is the space between the spine of the blade and your cheek about the same width as the razor spine itself?

I've been thinking that might be the issue too.

Try this too. Start with your normal angle, then keep raising the spine until either you find the best angle or you can't cut anymore.

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 10-08-2012, 07:45 PM
#15
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Yes, it sounds like the angle is off. Also, I was told, when I started 3 months ago straight razor shaving, the lather needs to be wetter than when shaving with DEs or SEs. I don't make a perfect lather, so as it dries out I keep adding more drops of water to the brush and go back over the dry areas. Lather dryness definitely gives you that stutter effect.

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 10-08-2012, 07:57 PM
#16
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(10-08-2012, 07:45 PM)lindyhop66 Wrote: Yes, it sounds like the angle is off. Also, I was told, when I started 3 months ago straight razor shaving, the lather needs to be wetter than when shaving with DEs or SEs. I don't make a perfect lather, so as it dries out I keep adding more drops of water to the brush and go back over the dry areas. Lather dryness definitely gives you that stutter effect.

Non soaking wet lather with a straight can be awful. The other day I let the lather on my chin dry out more than I should. Went over it, felt like I was pulling hairs. Rubbed my hand over the area, BBS. Dodgy

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 10-08-2012, 08:38 PM
#17
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So maybe that should be a new technique, like stripping hair with wax but using a razor.

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 10-08-2012, 08:52 PM
#18
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(10-08-2012, 07:45 PM)lindyhop66 Wrote: Yes, it sounds like the angle is off. Also, I was told, when I started 3 months ago straight razor shaving, the lather needs to be wetter than when shaving with DEs or SEs. I don't make a perfect lather, so as it dries out I keep adding more drops of water to the brush and go back over the dry areas. Lather dryness definitely gives you that stutter effect.


+2 i was thinking the same thing when i read your comment.
Good luck.

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 10-09-2012, 03:20 AM
#19
  • Obie
  • Senior Member
  • Glendale, Wisconsin
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matloffm, here are some thoughts:

1. I usually avoid a pasty thick lather and opt for one that is on the watery side, as I find the razor glides better.
2. No comment on the initial honing, since I don't know know how well it was honed.
3. One of the most important elements of straight razor shaving is the proper stropping technique. How good is yours? If not good, you could have dulled your newly-honed razor.
4. As a rule, I keep a relatively shallow angle on my razor, say around a 20-degree angle, especially with the heavier grinds. The 20 or 30-degree angle is a general rule. General. There is room for variation. So thoroughly examine your shaving technique.
5. Keep the pressure low. The straight razor is sassy. Push it and she'll bite you.
6. Finally, think of the straight razor as a bird. If you hold it too tightly, you'll kill it. If you hold it too loosely, it'll fly away. Easy does it.

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 10-09-2012, 09:50 AM
#20
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I have talked to people who think I'm crazy to have an interest in shaving as a hobby. The reason, which they may never understand, is that I use a straight razor. You always have to be careful, you always have to be alert, and when you do all those things something still may happen that surprises you. For example, I just honed a razor I got on ebay at least 4 or 5 times before I could get a good shave with it. Other times it isn't that tough.

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