There is an art in choosing your first straight razor. It is not always about the brand or the steel. Sometimes, the best straight razor for beginners follows specific straight razor dimensions and sizes, which will undoubtedly define your blade’s precision.
The male preoccupation about size, notwithstanding, razor blade size is a perfectly legit concern among shaving enthusiasts.
Somewhere in this article, you’re probably expecting some penis size joke. Understandable, given the phallic overtones of the topic, but we’re keeping this blog clean, so we’ll try not to oblige.
Instead, we’ll fill you up with the foundation you need when choosing your first straight razor.
In this article:
- What is a Straight Razor?
- Why Size Matters
- Straight Razor Sizes
- Handle Types
- Size Vs. Weight of Straight Razors
- What Size Should My Straight Razor Blade Be?
What is a Straight Razor?
Razors have been around since the cavemen decided to groom their body hair. At first, they used clamshells and shark teeth,1 but they eventually opted for steel blades once the societies progressed—with traditional single-edged blade razors as the pioneers, then later on the cartridge razors and safety razors as modern counterparts.
Straight razors are classic shaving tools with a stainless or carbon steel single-edge blade attached to a handle with a pivot pin. It has 13 parts, creating a mechanism that results in a smooth and close shave.
The different parts of a straight razor are the following:
- Pivot pin - connecting peg between the scales and the razor blade
- Scales - official term for a straight razor handle
- Tang - other end of the blade for balancing or stabilizing the finger
- Shank - binding metal section between the blade and the pivot pin
- Jimps - ridges or “fluting” under the shank assisting better grip on the underside of the shank
- Shoulder - end of a straight razor blade or the section between the shank and spine
- Spine - top side of the blade
- Point - straight razor blade’s profile or flat end
- Face - blade’s side surface that can be customized with logos, initials, and other decorations
- Toe - endpoint of the blade’s cutting edge
- Edge - straight razor blade’s cutting edge or sharp cut-throat surface
- Heel - area under the shoulder, connecting the heel and shank, aiming to protect the thumb
- Stabilizer - embossed area between the shoulder and heel
The straight razor’s foundation centers on the blade’s size, determined by its grind, width, and length. These account for the balance between the handle and the blade and the blade’s material, finish and polish.
Some steel can be difficult to grind into thinner widths, sharper edges, and a more lustrous finish.2 Hence, wet shaving beginners should consider the importance of knowing the correct dimensions when looking for the best straight razor for beginners.
If you want to know if carbon steel blades are better than stainless steel blades, you can read our article on Best Steel For Straight Razors.
Shavette Vs. Straight Razor
Since we are already talking about blades, it is also important to note one of the other types of straight razor—the shavette.
Shavette straight razors have the same pivoted design as a traditional straight razor, but their difference lies in their blades. A shavette uses disposable blades, while a traditional straight razor uses a fixed full metal blade.
However, it does not entirely suggest that it is better to use shavettes vs. straight razors. Beginners should also not use a shavette as an entry-level alternative.
Shavettes are lighter in weight and smaller in size than straight razors.3 Its blade size is only half of a double-edge (DE) blade, with a cutting edge that is only as long as a straight razor blade’s width. Hence, you will be confusing your grip in transition, wherein you will still learn how to grip a straight razor eventually.
Why Size Matters
Today’s straight razor design has not differed widely since its introduction in the 1680s. It is still technically a razor with its blade folded into its handle and has many components, with the blade and the handle as its main parts.
Between the two, many dismiss the handle’s purpose for purely aesthetic function, like those of the Elizabethan era razor handles. However, a straight razor’s handle does have a purpose, and it is to allow you to hold the blade comfortably enough to achieve maximum precision and that you can wield it sharp and true.
For blades, on the other hand, size always matters.4 Here’s why:
- The blade size decides how smooth your shaving experience would be.
- If you pick a straight razor with a large blade, the chances are high that you will experience difficulty shaving the areas around the ears, under the nose, etc.
- Choosing a smaller blade will allow you to maneuver it easily around your face while shaving. It would be easier to trim the edges or shape your beard if you like.
Consider these factors when you look for the best straight razor for beginners.
Straight Razor Sizes
There are several ways to measure a straight razor. If you are not familiar, you could be doing it from the tip to the tang or from the blade's tip to the end of the scales. But technically, the true defining factor for shaving enthusiasts is the straight razor’s blade size.
So how does one measure blade size in a straight razor?
Blade Sizes Of A Straight Razor
Straight razor dimensions or a straight razor’s blade size can be determined by the blade’s width or the distance between the top of the spine to the blade’s cutting edge.5
The blade’s width is represented as a fraction like 13/16, 5/8, 4/8, etc. The fraction essentially represents the blade size divided into an inch.6 So, an 8/8 blade means that it has a 1-inch blade, a 13/16 is .813 inches, 4/8 = 1/29 inch, etc.
Now you may ask how these widths are different?
Large and Wide Blades
A large razor blade is just what you need if you’re aiming for a blitzkrieg, take-no-prisoners kind of an approach in your war with your facial hair. Large or wide straight razor blades with widths above 6/8 will allow you to shave off large stubble patches with the least strokes and hold more lather.
It’s also recommended for those who have heavier beards. Its added size and weight will help plow the sharp edge through the whiskers like a red-hot knife on butter.
Small and Narrow Blades
However, if you want to trim your beards, a narrow razor blade would be ideal. Straight razor blades from 5/8 down are easier to control, making it safer for those who are only at the first level of their straight razor shaving experience.
It lets you maneuver the blade without challenge in the face’s hard-to-reach areas, like below the earlobe, or under the nose.
The general rule for some wet shavers is that big razors with wider blades are not maneuverable.7 To a certain extent, it is true. But if the blade is honed quite well, wide blades can give the same level of shaving satisfaction as a narrow razor blade would.
Meanwhile, the thickness of a straight razor is defined by the grind or the shape of the blade’s edge. Straight razor blade grinds can either be hollow ground with a concave shape or a wedge with an inverted triangle shape. Between the two, hollow ground blades are easier to bevel, hone, and strop.
A straight razor’s scales or handle is curved and sized slightly longer than the blade.8 This design makes it easier for the blade to be folded in the handle, safeguarding the cutting edge when not in use. It also provides support or balance while shaving.
Having a well-balanced straight razor is crucial; hence, manufacturers are careful when choosing the handle's material.
Often, the type of the scales will affect the balance of a razor. Lighter material like plastic disrupts proper maneuvering, while the heavier ones, like wood, enable you to maintain the appropriate balance.
Size Vs. Weight of Straight Razors
It might be tempting to put a blade size against overall razor weight, but neither quality is more important than the other. Both qualities are linked to a straight razor’s performance.
The weight and length of both handle and blade determine how steady a straight razor can be. The mechanics of a straight razor’s balance depend on the counterweight principle.
This means that the handle's weight should equal that of the blade, no matter the material of the handle or scales.
How to Know if Your Straight Razor is Balanced?
Use the pivot pin as a reference to check whether the razor has balance. A straight razor is well-balanced only when it balances properly on an open razor’s pivot pin or the bolt that allows the straight razor to open and close so you can use it.
This balance should be a result of the corresponding distribution of the weight of both blades and handle in a way that one offsets the other.9
So, while the size is important for effective shaving, the weight of a straight razor determines its balance. And without proper balance, a straight razor is not only useless but also dangerous.
What Size Should My Straight Razor Blade Be?
For beginners, the best straight razor dimension is one with a 5/8 blade size and Dutch or round blade point.10 Avoid narrow blades with square points as it has a meaner tip that can easily nick your skin.
Straight razors, like the Dovo Best Quality 5/8 Straight Razor, have blades that are 5/8 wide are all-rounders for different shaving techniques and functions because it can cater to enough areas and give you the proper precision—even for tight spaces, like ears, sideburns, and the philtrum.
Whether you need the razor just for trimming or all-out shaving, a 5/8 blade will give you the desired results. This is perfect for a newbie like you, although it will also work perfectly for shaving pros.
They’re beautifully handcrafted, with exquisite wood handles and high-quality Japanese stainless steel blades with a hardness rating of 61-65 HRC.
The thing that sets apart a Naked Armor blade from the rest is a hybrid blade, crafted between the half hollow and a full hollow grind with a round point. It gives you the best aspects of the two designs, giving you a luxurious shaving experience.
The straight edge razor blade is 7/8 wide at the widest point and 5/8 at the tapered end. It’s perfect for shaving or for trimming.
Still need convincing? Check out these excellent reviews. Otherwise, click Add to Cart below.
Naked Armor straight razor blades are easy to clean and maintain with a leather strop. And their durability is well-guaranteed. These blades can easily handle tough shaving tasks, leaving you with nothing but baby-smooth skin and no nicks, especially if you use it with a lather from organic shaving soap.
So, without any delay, visit Naked Armor to get access to the most efficient and durable straight razor blades.
More Naked Armor Reads
- E. Trex. Shaving history begins with shark teeth. CNN.com. https://edition.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/08/17/mf.shaving/index.html
- Why is carbon steel easier to sharpen? Blade Forums. https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/why-is-carbon-steel-easier-to-sharpen.1243364/
- Shavette Vs. Straight Razor Comparison: What’s The Difference & Which Is Better For Shaving? Bespoke Unite. https://bespokeunit.com/shaving/shavette-vs-straight-razor/
- What Size Straight Razor Should I Use? Japan Scissors. https://www.japanscissors.com.au/blogs/barber-articles/what-size-straight-razor-should-i-use. November 24, 2020
- Section 5-3, Width of Blade…. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/section-5-3-width-of-blade.28458/
- Adriano. CHOOSING A STRAIGHT RAZOR. Beard & Blade. https://www.beardandblade.com.au/blogs/academy/choosing-a-straight-razor
- Straight razor sizes. Badger & Blade. https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/threads/straight-razor-sizes.436142/
- STRAIGHT RAZOR WITH A BONE HANDLE: OBJECT DESIGN AND CULTURE OF USAGE. University Of Chicago. https://voices.uchicago.edu/reproducingraceandgender/2020/03/17/straight-razor-with-a-bone-handle-object-design-and-culture-of-usage/. March 17, 2020
- The Beginners Guide To Straight Razors. Grown Man Shave. https://grownmanshave.com/blogs/grown-man-shave-society-articles/the-beginners-guide-to-straight-razors
- 5/8 vs 6/8. Shave Nook. http://shavenook.com/showthread.php?tid=28439#:~:text=Beginners%20should%20start%20with%20a,a%20smaller%20or%20larger%20razor.