HOW TO USE A STRAIGHT/CUT-THROAT RAZOR?
If you want to learn how to shave with proper old school cut throat or straight razor, then go no further, just follow the simple instructions below.
What a cut throat razor looks like:
Stropping the cut throat razor
Stropping is done before every shave so that the very edge of the razor is straight and true -note that it is not sharpening which is called 'honing' and is done using a wetstone. Simply attach one end of the strop to an immovable object, like a bedpost, and hold it taut with the other end in your other hand.
Using light pressure, run the blade horizontally up the leather surface, with the blade flat against the leather and the sharp side facing you. At the end of the stroke, flip the blade over on its spine so it is facing away from you as you run the blade horizontally back down the strop. It is recommended to do this about 40-60 times.
Preparing your face
The key to a painless shave is to use plenty of warm or hot water before shaving. Either have a bath, shower or use a hot flannel to soften the bristles and open up the pores of the skin.
Make sure you massage your chosen shaving cream thoroughly into your stubble or beard. Use your fingers or a decent shaving brush. For straight cut shaving to work, the lather must not be allowed to dry.
Holding and using the razor
Look at the picture below:
Hold the razor with your dominant hand. Your thumb should be on the underside of the shank against the shoulder. Your index, middle and ring fingers should be on the opposite side (top) of the shank. The handle should be between your ring and little finger, with the little finger resting on the crescent shaped tang. Some people prefer to have the ring finger on the tang also, but this is a matter of choice.
Now for the shave! With your other hand, stretch the skin as tight as you can get it. It is recommended to hold the blade at a 30 degree angle to the skin otherwise you'll get cut! A useful way of starting is to lie the blade flat against your cheek and then lift the spine to the desired angle of 30 degrees before applying your first stroke. Use very little pressure and apply even strokes with the razor in the direction of the hair growth
Below is an example of the general direction you might want to shave using your straight razor
Once you've finished with your first shave you can then rinse, re-lather and shave again. This time though, you should go against the grain/direction of hair growth
When you have finished shaving, rinse the shaved area with warm water and then follow up with a cool water rinse to close the pores.
If you cut yourself use an Alum Block!
Straight Razor Care
When you've finished shaving, rinse the razor in some running water. Dry it by dabbing it with a cloth. It is also good practice to apply a little bit of machine oil or similar to help prevent the blade from rusting.
Caring for your strop:
Canvas/Hemp side Hanging Strop
Use the grey paste on the canvas/hemp side of the strop. Working the paste in the palm of your hand and spreading over the area you are going to use to initially align your razor blade, before using a leather strop.
Use the clear paste (Yellow) on the smooth leather and work the paste in well to prevent the leather from drying out and cracking. Once the strop is well oiled, you are ready to strop to give the razor a keen edge before shaving. The leather must be without any nicks or cuts otherwise your razor will be ruined. It is advisable to own a hand strop as well as hanging strop to help perfect your technique.
Hang the leather hanging strop on a stable hook in the wall and pull it tight. First use the coarse side of the strop (canvas/hemp) and then the smooth side(leather). Apply the razor with the blade side flat onto the strop, using light strokes back and forth, up and down the strop until the blade is sharp enough to cut a falling hair in the air.
You use the same method with the hand strop, which is probably slightly easier to use as these strops are hand held on a flat surface.
An alternative to the cut throat razor - The Shavette
Shaving with a cut throat razor is certainly one of life’s pleasures as it will give you the closest possible shave. But it does take time to master the technique and you’ll certainly need a steady hand and plenty of practice.
The handy shavette razor is similar to a straight or cut throat razor but is a more cost effective alternative and requires less maintenance as it uses changeable blades, meaning no stropping or honing. It can save time for those who are in a hurry, but still want to experience the luxury of a wet shave.