Shaving with a straight edge razor gives you lots of control over the process, and you also get to have that old school, amazing shave you always wanted. It makes a lot of sense to invest in a good straight edge razor if you want to have the best shaving experience.
With that in mind, it does take a bit of a trial and error to identify what straight edge razor you should buy. But at the same time, you also need to think about its maintenance requirements. We are here to teach you how often you need to sharpen your razor and also how you can do that properly!
Honing or stropping
If you want to have a sharp straight edge razor, you can go with one of the two processes named honing or stropping. Each one of them has its pros and cons, and it will help you ensure that you’re getting the best value and results.
Stropping requires you to polish the blade with the idea of removing microscopic imperfections. It can help you remove those either before you shave or after you shave.
The process is great if you want to keep the blade sharp and ready to use. Ideally, you want to start stropping the blade every time you use the razor. Investing in a good strop and practicing the skill often will help you solve any issue, and results can actually be great here.
This process allows you to polish the blade so it will cut properly once again. A good stropping technique will increase the lifetime of the blade. However, in time your blade will lose its cutting properties, and in that case you will need to focus on honing.
The honing process involves metal removal with the use of abrasive tools. The idea is to make your blade ready for shaving. Honing is basically sharpening, so it involves a lot of care and attention. It’s important to have the right tools to hone or strop your razor.
Low quality materials can end up damaging your blade, so the last thing you want is to buy those. Invest in a very high quality sharpening system, and you will be very happy with the process and results every time.
Also Read: When Should I Change my Safety Razor Blade?
What sharpening tools do you need for stropping?
After you buy your straight razor, it’s extremely important to invest in a strop. Leather strops are the best, but there are other materials like newspaper or vinyl that can work just as nicely. You can go with different strop types, as they might fit your needs better than others.
A bench strop for example has a more industrial appeal and it comes with a piece of wood and leather fixed to it. This is great for a beginner, and it will suit your needs if you want abrasive pastes. A loom strop on the other hand has leather that was stretched around and which also comes with a handle. This is less common and quite expensive as well.
Hanging strops are the most popular because they hang on a hook and you can pull them to use properly. It’s an inexpensive, yet reliable and durable strop, which is why most people use it. Lastly, you have the paddle strop which is a bench strop with a handle.
You can keep it in a single hand, which is great. The performance is great, but for some reason it’s not very popular, in fact it’s the least popular when compared with all the others out there. As we mentioned above, the highest quality strop is an amazing investment, and that’s the thing you want to go for. It will convey the value and quality you want, with results being second to none.
Buying the right stones and films
If you want to sharpen your blade, a great idea is to buy either stones or films. These are known for delivering a great sharpening experience, and the quality itself can be second to none. It does take a bit of a trial and error to identify what works for you, but the potential can indeed be very good if you do this correctly.
Synthetic water stones are man-made, and they can deliver consistency, which is why they are so popular in the first place. Both professionals and beginners can use them without a problem. You can also use lapping films, they are mostly suitable for electrical work, and they are great for honing in particular.
Most people use natural stones because they provide that natural appeal and consistency. The advantage that comes from this is you have more control over the honing process, however the lack of grit ratings can lead to a few problems. That’s why you want to manage this accordingly and ensure that you obtain the best possible value and results.
When you pick a stone for your straight edge razor, a good idea is to focus on finding the right grit size. You will notice that there are different grit sizes:
- 1000 grit is great for bevel setting
- 4000 grit is developing the cutting edge
- 8000 grit helps develop the shaving edge
- 1000 grit is completing the edge. This is optional, but very helpful.
How can you hone a razor?
Honing a razor is challenging, it takes time to master, but it’s also a very rewarding process. You can find a multitude of different tools and you can also use all kinds of methods to complete the process. With that in mind, you are free to choose the type of stones you want for the honing process. For this guide, we will use synthetic water stones, but you can use anything you want.
Setting up the work area and your stones
Since this can be a rather dangerous process, you do want to remove any obstructions and also ensure that you have enough room for this entire process. Once you do that, soak the stones in clean water. You also want to have running water ready to go here. Ensure that the stones were lapped too, otherwise they might end up damaging your blade.
Add your straight edge razor on the stone
The idea here is to have the razor flat, and the edge must be away from you. Now you want to use the right hand to hold the tang and handle. As you do that, the middle fingers and left index have to be on the blade. You want to do that because your blade stays flat. During this process you want to spray the stone with water, as it will help a lot.
Start running the razor over your stone
The trick here is to not use pressure. The right hand needs to hold the blade, just like we mentioned in the previous step. You need to push it gently and then when you reach the last inch of the stone you will need to stop. Again, you must spray water over your stone to ensure lubrication. Otherwise results will be inadequate.
Rolling the stone on its spine
You want to do that in order for the cutting edge to face you right now. After you do that, make sure that you roll the razor to ensure that the edge is towards you. Spray down the stone, maintain the spine right on the stone as it will help stay away from any damage.
Push the razor over the stone
It’s important to keep the razor toward you, but as we said, don’t place any pressure at all here. It will help you a lot since it will give you the results and value that you may need.
Perform a sharpness test
The best method you can use to see the efficiency of your sharpening process is via performing a dedicated test. The blade condition might require you to use multiple stones with different grit values.
This is normal, in fact most of the older blades will need that. If you’re using a newer straight edge razor, then you don’t really need multiple stones to begin with.
When it comes to ways you can test the sharpness of the blade, that’s all up to you. There are all kinds of unique, simpler methods you can use, and all of them work very nicely.
Many use the arm hair test, use it to shave arm hair quickly. It’s a good idea to ensure the razor passes such a test before you go for something better than the 1000 grit stone
We recommend the hanging hair test if you want to move over from the 4000 grit stone. This test requires you to cut a single piece of hair. Then you can go to the shave test.
Of course this is the big thing, mainly because it allows you to really focus on delivering the best quality and value, and the experience itself can be well worth the effort.
Maintenance tips for your straight edge razor
When you buy a straight edge razor, you will need to sharpen it from time to time. But there are other maintenance tips that you need to take into account as well. Here are some of the things we recommend everyone to do if they own a straight edge razor.
- It’s extremely important to dry your straight edge razor properly and ensure that you do that after every shave. Why is that important? It will help you prevent blade discoloration and rust. These issues are very common, so drying is a crucial aspect that you need to take into consideration as much as possible.
- Wipe the razor with a microfiber towel after you dry the razor, and then let it air dry with the blade open. You should never store a damp straight edge razor, as that’s definitely going to impact its longevity, quality and durability.
- Wipe the blade with some mineral oil. You can even use some baby oil if you want. This is great if you want to prevent any rust that comes from room humidity. It matters a lot if you’re storing the razor for a very long time. We recommend mineral oil because this is anti-oxidation, and that matters a lot.
- Avoid over-sharpening the blade. Yes, you can end up sharpening it more than it needs, and that will end up being a problem. Follow the maintenance guidelines that you received when you bought the straight edge razor.
- Never keep your straight edge razor in a humid area. Always ensure that the razor is placed in a dry place and, as we mentioned earlier, don’t keep it damp. Otherwise there can be issues and you want to avoid that.
- Avoid cleaning the straight edge razor with bleach or any other type of cleaning chemical. You may think it helps, but it’s actually the opposite. This will leave spots on the blade, not to mention the fact that it can lead to significant damage in the long run. That’s why you want to address the issue properly and as quickly as possible.
How much will your straight razor last?
Depending on how much you use it, the straight edge razor can last for around 2 months, sometimes even more. As we mentioned above, you need to ensure that you take good care of it to avoid any problems. Bad sharpening habits and low maintenance can be very tricky, and you want to address that as quickly as possible.
Once you buy a good straight edge razor, it’s very important to take good care of it. Proper maintenance can make a huge difference, as you noticed above. On top of that, you do want to sharpen the unit properly and ensure that you always keep it ready to use.
Of course, you will also need to buy the right accessories, like sharpening stones if you want to have a sharp, reliable and durable straight edge razor. Use all this information and you will have no problem making sure that your straight edge razor is sharpened properly and without any errors!