Buying Straight Razors: How To Choose Your Razor
One can never be too choosy when picking
a straight razor.
Hence, it is necessary to have a guide on hand when buying straight razors, helping you narrow down your options.
While the average woman would not have difficulty poring over her choices just to get the perfect item, men just want to get it over with.
Of course, it is fine when it is just groceries and stuff. But when one is shopping for their grooming needs, one should not make a hasty decision, especially when it is something as personal as a straight razor.
There are lots of straight razors in the market, and they come in all sizes and materials. One might be overwhelmed by the variety to think that any razor will just suffice. But actually, it does not.
This is not just some disposable cartridge that one can use and quickly throw away. Your clean shave depends on the quality of your straight razor.
This will be quite a challenge for the newbies because straight razors are not cheap, to begin with. One has to carefully pick which is worth in gold, so to speak. It is also not only about the price. One needs to choose the style, the right grind, as well as blade temper.
Here at Naked Armor, we will give you some up-to-date guidelines on how to pick the right straight razor, along with everything you need to know first before making your choice.
What is a Straight Razor Made Of?
There is an immediate sense of unfamiliarity surrounding straight razors. After all, one’s mindset on shaving paraphernalia could be easily clouded due to disposable cartridge razors’ popularity.
No matter how novel a straight razor may seem to you, it has long been around for generations. Not to mention, you can trace back its roots to early Egyptian civilization, whereby it is one of the most traditional shaving tools known to men.
But what truly differs a straight razor from its modern counterpart, aside from the fact that it is a lavatory essential for the elites, is the craftsmanship involved in its production process. Unlike the conventional cartridge razors conquering the shelves of grocery stores, straight razors are not from cookie-cutter machines.
Creating straight razors involves a lengthy and rigorous process, which is most often done by hand. You do not simply put a sheet of metal in a machine, hoping for it to print a finished product after pressing a series of buttons.
The steel first goes through forging, hardening, and tempering to achieve the right shape and reach optimum strength that is ideal for straight razors. It is then ground, honed, and finished with sharpening tools to earn its cut-throat edge.
In point of fact, straight razor manufacturers do not use only plastics and cheap steel. Like the one from Naked Armor, straight razors that bear authentic quality wear highly acclaimed steel for the blades and famous wood for its handles.
Straight Razor Parts Index
Parts of a Straight Razor
One cannot institute his selection process of straight razors if he is unaware of what he is to hold.
You must not disregard the need to understand beforehand the different parts of a straight razor. If not, the terms on the specific guide on buying a straight razor might further confuse rather than help you.
Laid down below is an index of straight razor parts:
- Tang - the metal section allowing you to hold the straight razor correctly by giving your fingers a good grip.
- Jimps - ridges on the tang, which look like little speed bumps that help you have a firmer grip, preventing the straight razor from slipping through your fingers.
- Pivot pin - the bolt connecting the tang to the handle, and is the part responsible for opening and closing the straight razor.
- Tail - the metal end of the straight razor projecting after the pivot pin and connected to the tang, serving as an offset to help balance the blade and prevent it from closing into the handle.
- Scales - materials of which the straight razor’s handle is made of.
- Shoulder - the part of the straight razor’s blade nearest to the tang—essentially the starting section of the blade.
- Heel - located at the bottom of the tang as a safeguard to the straight razor user’s thumb.
- Edge - the sharp side of the straight razor’s blade.
- Face - the side of the blade facing parallel to your skin as you shave and is usually bearing the razor’s logo.
- Spine - the part of the straight razor opposite to the cutting edge.
- Toe - The part of the edge wherein the edge moves toward the point.
- Tip or point - the end of the straight razor.
Grinds Of A Straight Razor
The shape of the blade’s cross-section is what one would call a grind. It is among the crucial factors that most straight razor neophytes often overlook when buying straight razors.
Coincidentally, not many are aware of its importance, not unless they have long been an enthusiast or a professional barber.
Here are the basic grinds of a straight razor:
If one would take a closer look into the blade design of most vintage razors, it is hard to deny that these razors do not bear any curves in their cross-section. Instead, the absence of a cupped facade makes up for a flat or straight grind, which is known to be the wedge grind.
The design calls for a heavier blade weight, making it more challenging to glide effortlessly on your skin. However, a thicker and hefty edge is preferable for cutting thicker hair.
Today’s modern razors often have a hollow grind. Blades owning this particular cut typically started off as wedges. Manufacturers then continue to remove the steel from the sides of the triangle using a definite grinding radius to achieve a concave shape.
Straight razors that have a hollow grind have a thin cross-section below the spine, making them more flexible and easier to control while shaving. Featuring a lighter mass also gives off less pressure on your face as you groom your facial hair.
For most pros, the grind of a straight razor is one of the ultimate qualifiers of how well-made a straight razor is. It will aid in determining the way the straight razor would rest on your face as you shave, giving you an estimate of how much you can avoid cutting your skin, especially if you are a beginner.
Guidelines For Buying A Straight Razor
Earning enough acquaintance with the specifics surrounding a straight razor is your best bet in getting started to finally know how to choose a straight razor. Now that you are well-versed in straight razor jargon, we shall commence with the guide on buying a straight razor:
1. Choose a Straight Razor with a Wooden Handle
Technically, a straight razor’s handle is called the “scales.” It is two separate strips that are often held along by brass pins and washers, such as those found on the shoulder or tang of the straight razor that allows it to pivot into an open and close position. Most straight razors have two pins. In bigger and heavier razors, as many as three pins are needed to provide better strength and stability.
In Elizabethan England, straight razors had luxurious scales. They could either be made from horns, bone fragments, exotic wood, or Mother of Gem. And while there are modern straight razors that still have these kinds of scales, most of the ones on the market generally have scales made of celluloid, stainless steel, and timber wood.
A straight razor with a wooden handle not only looks classy, but it also has the right weight and balance.
Here at Naked Armor, we recommend getting a straight razor with a wooden handle because it looks classy and it feels warm and comfortable to the touch. While cold metal is perfectly fine, good-quality timber wood has some extra properties that help keep the shaving experience luxurious.
For instance, we use sandalwood timber for our luxurious straight razors. Sandalwood’s natural wood oils persist long after it has been processed into the timber. That means its therapeutic properties can have some residual effects on your skin when using your new straight razor.
2. Choose a Blade Made of Stainless Steel
Carbon steel and stainless steel are the two types of metal usually used for the blade in the modern straight razor.
However, between the two, most manufacturers prefer carbon steel because it has softer properties and is therefore easy to work with to produce a very sharp blade.
But if you want a nice straight razor that is durable, pick one with a stainless steel blade. It is significantly harder than carbon steel, so it will stay sharp longer than carbon. It is also quick to clean and is rust-resistant, unlike carbon steel.
Recent research also studied how hair deforms steel. Although it is 50 times harder than human hair, steel still gets dull after several shaves.
A stainless steel straight razor is durable, won't corrode easily, and is eco-friendly.
People often blamed this on the poor craftsmanship and low-quality materials manufacturers use in creating the blade. But what Roscioli et al. found out is that you cut off your razor’s lifetime through your shaving techniques and because of the microscopic roughness on the edges of the blade.
What does it entail? The research simply revealed the culprit responsible for why razors do not last after a few shaves. The first reason is shaving at an angle, adding more stress exerted on the razor. Partner this with the areas where the soft and hard parts of the steel meet, then chipping is formed. This, then, results in dullness.
Hence, when choosing a straight razor, it is necessary to only look for blades from quality steel, like a Japanese stainless steel blade with a hardness of 61-65 HRC, similarly to what you can find here at Naked Armor.
The only downside with stainless steel is that it takes more effort to hone it than carbon steel. But since it stays sharper longer, it will not require frequent honing.
3. Pick a Blade with a Dutch Point
A razor blade with a Dutch blade endpoint is best for first-time users for safety reasons. It wears a rounded edge, protecting you from nicks, cuts, and other possible injuries while shaving. Hence, its edge is a great tool to use for easing oneself into a straight razor shaving experience.
In terms of practicality, the Dutch’s round point is more forgiving to sudden changes in angle or direction, so one gets fewer chances of getting significant nicks and cuts.
4. Pick a Blade with the Right Size
Also known as blade height, the size of a blade matters when using a straight razor. How big the razor naturally pertains to just how much it will weigh can affect the total amount of it when you hold it in your hand. Razor heights range from 8/8 inch (which is the highest) to 3/8.
Those sporting heavier beards prefer to use bigger sizes, where 3/8 sizes are compatible with trimming mustaches. To begin with, a 5/8 or 6/8 blade for most people is a perfect size.
5. Get the Correct Grind
Manufacturers make razors in several different grinds based on purpose. Generally, most shaving pros recommend the hollow grind as the best overall grind for the average shaver.
Hollow ground blades have the thinnest grind available, which makes them easier to use and maintain. A full wedge grind may be more appropriate for thicker and coarser beards because they are better for heavy-duty use in shaving.
6. Consider a Shave Kit Instead of Just a Straight Razor
And while you are at it, why not buy a straight razor shaving kit instead. Not only does the kit come with a straight razor, but it also has the essential shaving products that one needs to build up a good shave. It is a great way to get the best bang out of your buck.
These are simply guidelines that will reduce your set of choices. However, do consider the fact that using a straight razor is not an overnight skill. Handling one requires getting used to. No one can master the grip you need as soon as you finish buying a straight razor.
When razors are made, they’re manufactured in a number of different grinds based on purpose. Generally, most shaving pros recommend the hollow grind as the best overall grind for the average shaver.
— D'Rock, Naked Armor Founder
Straight Razor Styles
When one is faced with the idea of a straight razor, the first design that comes into mind is the traditional European-style straight razor. It is the most common quintessential razor you can find today. We have already given you a quick glimpse into the specifics of its design and the purpose of each of its parts.
In that regard, one might be surprised to know that not all straight razors follow the blueprint of the European razors. So, to help you alleviate some sense of confusion, below are the other kinds of straight razors you should look out for:
Some say shavettes are the mini disposable version of a straight razor, perfect for beginners. This is because of the length of the shavette’s cutting edge, which is only as long as the width of the blade of a straight razor.
Straight razors and shavettes have a similar-looking design. However, the spine of a shavette features a crevice that allows you to slot in a double-edged (DE) safety razor blade, which you can dispose of and replace once there is a noticeable dullness.
There is no doubt that shavettes may seem like the best option for those who cannot be bothered with maintaining their blades through stropping and honing, whereas one would think it as an ideal choice for those who want to transition to a straight razor. But not all agree with such conclusions.
A Shavette Straight Razor is also known as a disposable blade straight razor.
However, when discussing its assumed benefits for beginners, there was always a heated debate. According to them, it would be better to simply directly learn using a straight razor instead of taking your time with a shavette then shifting to the former, as they differ in blade material and weight.
Also, shavettes have not always been in the picture. Shavettes first came about when the hygienic regulations became more demanding for the commercial use of straight razors. Due to the fear of spreading blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV, regulation boards decided to minimize straights and promote shavettes. If not, barbers will continue to stick with their straight razors.
Yet, the choice of using a shavette vs. a straight razor will always rely on different preferences. If you want a shaving tool with more weight that can easily cut through any type of hair, opt for a straight. On the other hand, if you know you do not have enough time to care for a straight, and do not mind using DE blades, relying on Teflon, do get a shavette.
Every nation has its own traditional version of a shaving stool. For instance, if the Egyptians were the pioneers of the conventional straight razor, Romans had a razor that looked like brass knuckles, called novacila. Meanwhile, on the Eastern part of the globe, the Japanese were known for their Kamisori razors.
Kamisori literally translates to “razor.” It has long been used by the Japanese to shave the heads of Buddhist monks and samurai as a homage to their beliefs. The design of a Kamisori may even have inspired the western straight razor as it has long been around, dating back to the medieval age.
The Kamisori’s blade is mostly from carbon-based steel, yaksuri, or rarely from iron-based tamahagane steel, which is also what samurai blades are made of. And unlike straight razors, the edge of a Kamisori has a hollow grind on one side and a partial grind on the other, making the honing process a complete art form.
When it comes to the handle, the Kamisori does not pivot back in but instead stays like a typical knife. Meanwhile, its handle is made of a native plant, rattan, wrapped and sealed using rubber to provide a steady grip for the user.
Despite its design being a thousand years old, Kamisoris are a rare luxury in the modern age. Only one company produces Tamahagane Kamisoris. However, you can easily find razors with a similar design but using different steel and handle materials.
Caring For Your Straight Razor
Upon carefully considering the guidelines you need when buying straight razors, one would think that a straight razor on the expensive side would be the best option to make the most out of their purchase. However, such is not always true.
Without a doubt, a straight razor with a high price point may bear the best and most expensive materials on the market. Yet, these qualities alone will not guarantee that your razor will last long.
The secret to owning a razor worth the gold is to know how to take care of whatever you chose to purchase. No matter how strong the blade of your straight razor may be, it will not suffice to the wearing of time. After all, constant usage leads to dull edges—an inescapable fact.
Hence, if you wish to prevent your grooming investment from turning into a waste of money, it would be best to learn how to sharpen a straight razor, following the maintenance guidelines below:
Unfortunately, most of the straight razors do not come in your home ready for shaping. This simply entails that your straight razor may not properly cut through your hair if you use it straight out of the box.
For this reason, you will need to invest in a strop to ensure that your straight razor is sharp enough to use for shaving. A strop is a sharpening tool, which is mostly made of leather. Those who indulge themselves in wet shaving with a straight razor know that it is a must to strop your razor every time before you shave. Not only will your razor glide smoothly and without a challenge on your skin, cutting through your hair, but it will also reduce nasty aftershave endeavors like razor burn and cuts.
Stropping is another skill you need to master if you truly want to get into shaving using a straight razor. However, again, it is not for everyone. It can be challenging to master for some. In such cases, they end up stropping improperly, which can then lead to a damaged edge.
When the dullness and the cuts on your straight razor’s edge could no longer be saved using a strop, your last option would be to use honing stones. Unlike a strop, honing stones often have a more abrasive surface, bringing back your blade’s sharpness to life. However, whether your straight razor has a noticeable fault, it would be better to hone it once every three to six months as a precautionary measure.
Always strop your razor before every shave.
Honing brings back your dull razor to life.
Constant use of a straight razor will affect its edge’s sharpness and the steel’s finish. Sometimes, improper storage can lead to a foggy facade to the blade. You can use a sharpening paste on your leather strop to bring back the blade’s shine.
Sharpening pastes also offer great reprieve to faulty strops. However, take note that if your leather strop does not have any problem sharpening your straight razor, steer away from sharpening pastes as these may affect the quality of your strop.
You can further know the specifics needed to maintain your straight razor through our more in-depth article on how to sharpen a straight razor. Everything you need to know about honing, stropping, grits, and other sharpening essentials are there.
Get a Naked Armor Shaving Kit
Finding the right straight razor is indeed a challenging feat. But why not make things easier for yourself and simply get a straight razor kit from Naked Armor?
Consider this as a shameless plug, but really, there are good reasons why you should consider getting a straight razor from us.
We have got a unique design for our straight razor blades. We design our straight razors in between a full and half hollow grind, using Japanese steel. This makes it versatile for entry-level clean shaving or professional beard sculpting.
There are also kits available at Naked Armor, which features a leather strop and sharpening paste. As soon as you buy your straight razor, having these on hand provides you the assurance you need for maintaining your edges.
Naked Armor's Straight Razor Kits has all the essentials that you could possibly want and need for a great
Think about it. As your skills increase through the years, you don’t need to get a spare straight razor to use for a professional cut. Your Naked Armor blade will do just fine as long as you strop it regularly.
Our shaving products are from sustainable, organic materials. Not only are they eco-friendly but luxurious as well.
Intrigued? See more of our products at our site.