Straight razor grinds define how the blade bevels on the skin, allowing it to achieve a close shave. Among the different grinds of a straight razor, hollow ground is the most popular for a cutting edge’s profile, especially for beginners.
Find out how the different straight razor grinds affect your wet shaving experience and which is superior between hollow ground vs. wedge razor blades.
In this article:
- Straight Razor Grinding Process
- Different Blade Grinds
- All Blades Are Not Created Equal
- Hollow Ground vs. Wedge: Best Straight Razor Grind
- The Ideal Straight Razor Grind
Straight Razor Grinding Process
Not all straight razors are the same. Despite the cutthroat sharpness of their edge, it does not mean that all single-edge blades can cater to all kinds of hair types and shaving needs. One thing that determines a straight razor’s efficiency is the width of its blade, which is shaped through the grinding process.
What is the Grinding Process?
The grinding process establishes how thin a traditional straight razor’s blade will be. It starts with a blank of steel run through a grinder, slowly removing surface layers.1 The goal is to achieve a desirable dimension fitting for a straight razor blade’s sharpness and functionality.
There are two major types of blade grinds, which are the wedge and hollow grounds. Blades that forego the grinding process wear a straight profile that forms a shape similar to a wedge. Meanwhile, those shaped into different forms are further categorized into hollow grounds.
Different Blade Grinds
During the onset of straight razor manufacturing, the wedge was the popular, if not the only kind of blade grind for single-edge blades. Blanks were more challenging to work with because they are usually made of carbon steel, which is more prone to cracking if thinned down.
However, as the years advanced, so did the forging and grinding techniques for metal and steel. Sheffield pioneered the production of stainless steel, which later on became the most popular and versatile material for urban applications and hence replacing carbon steel blades.
Due to the high-alloy properties of stainless steel vs. carbon, straight razor blades had better edge retention. Hence, they can be easily ground down to delicate thinness without compromising structural stability.
Now, blade enthusiasts enjoy more than 16 types of blade grinds.2 But for straight razors, we will focus on wedges and hollow grounds.
Here are the different kinds of straight razor blade grinds:
- Wedge - 8/8” flat edge with a distinct triangular shape
- Frameback - flat grind blades press-fitted to the spine; vintage shavettes
- Quarter Hollow - only 1/4 of the blade is ground into a concave
- Half Hollow - 3/8" and 4/8" blades ideal for eyebrows and delicate beards
- Full Hollow - 4/8" and 5/8" blades perfect for everyday use with excellent resistance to tension
- Extra Hollow - 6/8" and 7/8" blades 7/8" blades with a deeper bevel that produces a unique noise when in use.
Flat-shaped blades or wedge straight razors were a popular shaving commodity back in the early days of straight razor production. The sides of a wedge straight razor blade’s cross-section are linear, resembling a standard wedge or an upside-down triangular shape, and it does not produce any noise when in use.
This blade features an acute bevel angle and has a thinner spine than a hollow grind.3 Wedges also have better edge retention due to their thick width and therefore are better for shaving coarse and thicker beard growths.
Regular straight razors were not easy to make and required a certain craftsmanship level. Framebacks were sort of a way to cheat the rigorous blade production by using a balance of less grade and high-grade steel.4
Frameback straight razors have frames made of inferior steel material with the edge forged from higher-grade steel.5 Compared to a full wedge, these blades are lighter and easier to hone or maintain like a hollow grind, and they have a thinner tang. The only difference is that hollow ground blades were produced using more modern techniques while frameback manufacturers used old grinding methods.
Quarter Hollow Ground
When you lay modern straight razors on their side and press down, you will see a distinct curve wherein not all of the blade’s edge touches the surface. This feature is what sets it apart from a wedge or flat-shaped straight razor.
Quarter-hollow grounds or partial wedges are the first levels of hollow grinding after a wedge. It is the thickest among hollow grinds, wherein only a fourth of its edge is shaped into a distinct curve. This design allows the shaver to enjoy the wide edge of the wedge but with a more angled bevel of a thinner hollow ground.
Bearing the perfect balance between a wedge and an extra hollow, it did not take long for half-hollow ground straight razor blades to become a community favorite. Half-hollow blades have a perpetual 3/8" to 4/8” blade size,6 which is not too thin or thick, with a concave in the middle of the edge.
Half-hollow blades are also the most accessible ground in modern straight razors. Brands like Boker, and Thiers Issard use this design in their collection of single-edge traditional razors.
Their size is more forgiving for beginners to get a close, skin-level shave, and they are also easier to hone and strop. However, since this is the stepping stone to thinner blades, it does offer a certain vibration while in use.
Full Hollow Ground
Here’s another community favorite: the full hollow ground razor blades, which usually have a width of 4/8” to 5/8". It exemplifies a delicate and slim edge with the most flexibility and sharpness and requires at least 15 working stages of the grinding process to achieve.7
The visual feedback that full-hollow ground blades provide attracts many wet shaving enthusiasts, along with the calming vibrating sound it produces while shaving. Due to its width, fans have dubbed this razor grind as the “silent Whisker Wackers,” being perfect for taming thinner beard growths, like whiskers.8 Full hollow ground blades are a popular feature of Dovo straight razors.
Extra Hollow Ground
Extra hollow ground straight razor blades have edges that concave deeper than a full-hollow, creating strips down the length of the blade shaft.These blades have edges so thin that they are so flexible and sharp.9 The width of the edge also allows it to have that distinct sound while in use and is therefore fitting its alias as the singing hollow razors, similar to Solingen razors.
Its next-level sharpness and bevel are the least forgiving of all straight razor grinds. The fragility of the edge all the more makes straight razors with extra hollow ground hostile shaving tools if not handled with care. The blade’s width also accounts for a more noticeable vibration when in use.
Again, the grinding process of a straight razor (hollow ground or wedge) defines the precision of the blade’s edge. Thinner grinds are sharper and more precise, but they are more difficult to control and dangerous. On the other hand, thicker grinds are easier to manage but offer less precision.
All Blades Are Not Created Equal
It takes several steps to manufacture a straight razor. Different blades are constructed of different metals, while others have intricate ornate handles.
The precise configuration of the blade is generally categorized by three factors: the shape of the point in profile, the grinding method used to shape the blade, and the width of the blade.
The most common examples of the blade point are square, round, French (oblique), Spanish, or Barber's notch. Each of these has a slightly different profile in cross-section. Among the other points of a straight razor, Dutch or Round points are the easiest to use and the most forgiving choice.
Hollow Ground vs. Wedge: Best Straight Razor Grind
Combining various types of points with different grinding methods leads to multiple choices in blade types. In the end, those who wish to try wet shaving with a traditional straight edge single blade tend to be more intimidated and shy away from using a straight razor.
For beginners, choosing the right straight razor to begin your wet shaving journey is crucial in making your learning curve less challenging. Hence, in a straight razor, are hollow ground blades really better than wedges?
Let’s take a recap on the significant differences between a wedge and a hollow ground straight razor:
- Wedge straight razors have thicker edge profiles than hollow grounds.
- Hollow ground straight razors offer visual and audible feedback while shaving.
- Beards with thick and coarse hair strands are easier to shave using wedge straight razors.
- Hollow ground straight razors have sharper and thinner edges.
- Wedge straight razors have better edge retention but are harder to strop and hone.
- If made with high-quality steel, hollow ground blades offer excellent edge retention with easy blade maintenance.
- Thinner hollow grounds vibrate while shaving and therefore need more steady techniques.
- Thicker blades tend to hold more shaving cream or lather from shaving soap
Given these factors, there is no doubt why hollow ground straight razor blades are community favorites among every wet shaver. The ease of use and accessibility complements the vibration and somewhat uncomfortable fragility of the edge.
The Ideal Straight Razor Grind
Straight razors in between a half and full hollow grind offer the most efficient shave. The blade is neither too thin nor too thick and therefore can cater to broad variations of hair types—may it be coarse or fine.
Here are the benefits of using a hollow ground straight razor:10
- The thinner blades are more flexible and match the contours of the face better.
- It offers better feedback on the amount of resistance on the blade while shaving.
- Easier to determine the blade’s sharpness.
- Lightweight and easier to control.
- Faster learning curve.
- Fewer chances of having accidental nicks and cuts while shaving.
- Does not stick to the face while shaving.
Overall, the coarser your facial hair, the stiffer you'll want your blade to be. A hollow ground blade may be the best choice for the average beard, but if you're sporting a 5 o'clock shadow at two in the afternoon, you'll probably want a wedge blade.
This blade requires a bit more practice to master but will produce an excellent shave once you get the hang of it. These blades may not give as close a shave as a hollow ground blade, but they will cut through tough beard growth with far less effort and provide a smoother result.
Here at Naked Armor, we make sure that everyone can experience the luxury of shaving with a straight razor. That is why we use blades that have a grind between a half and a full hollow. Not only that, but we also use premium scale materials to perfectly offset the weight of the blade.
As a result, beginners and pros can enjoy using Naked Armor razors for a long time as their shaving efficiency is sublime. Yet, for the best and most comfortable shave, always use wet shaving techniques using tools like shaving brush and soap, and apply an aftershave to soothe the skin and prevent further irritations.
Choose your straight razor below:
More Essential Naked Armor Reads:
- What Is A Razor Grind? The English Shaving Company. https://www.theenglishshavingcompany.com/en_gb/blog/what-is-hollow-razor-grind/
- J. Boerelli. Straight Razor Grinds Defined. Shave Straight And Safe. https://shavestraightandsafe.com/2016/02/23/straight-razor-grinds-defined/. February 23, 2016.
- Wedge Blades, And How They Are Different. Growley Monster. http://www.growleymonster.com/wedge.html
- What is a wedge straight razor? Rampfesthudson. https://www.rampfesthudson.com/what-is-a-wedge-straight-razor/
- Frameback vs non-frameback. Sharp Razor Palace. https://sharprazorpalace.com/razors/132242-frameback-vs-non-frameback.html
- Straight razor blade width 4/8, 5/8, 6/8…. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/straight-razor-blade-width-4-8-5-8-6-8.102678/
- How Do Straight Razors Differ From Each Other? DOVO Blog. https://www.dovo.com/en/ratgeber/differences-in-straight-razors/.
- Pros and cons of a full hollow ground straight razor. The Shave Den. https://theshaveden.com/forums/threads/pros-and-cons-of-a-full-hollow-ground-straight-razor.57588/
- Extra Hollow ground razors? Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/extra-hollow-ground-razors.186668/
- Hollow vs Wedge: Make or Break Difference. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/hollow-vs-wedge-make-or-break-difference.146100/