Weekend Minimalism: Straight Edge Razors

Note: This was written by Rob, and is re-posted from April 2011.

It’s Friday, aces!

Today I have another bit of old tech for you! One of the things I love about old technology is that it can force you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Straight razors do just that. It will take a mundane daily ritual and make it fun, or at least interesting. If nothing else the sight of yourself in the mirror holding a piece of raw steel to your neck will erase any doubts about your manliness.

Sweeny Todd?
Sweeny Todd?

The biggest advantage of straight razor shaving, is that you can use the same blade indefinitely. This means less waste. It also means you will always shave with a good blade.

If you’ve shaved with a disposable or cartridge razor, this skill will come pretty easy for you. As you can imagine, it is easier to cut yourself with one of these, and most likely you will suffer the occasional nick, but this has been the extent of my injuries. Really, you won’t end up in the emergency room if you use common sense. Once you get the hang of it, shaving becomes something to look forward to, rather than a mundane face scraping.

The razors:

Pictured above from left to right are an Obeera (Solingen, Germany), Keen Kutter (USA), and a Bengal (USA). These are all vintage blades, and all shave just a little different. New razors run from $3 to about $200. As you can imagine, the $3 razor is something that you would not wish on your worst enemy, and the $200 razor is perfect for a shaving fanatic. This is where vintage blades come in.The fact is, great razors were made right here in the U.S. for a long time, and from very good steel at that. Typically, you can find these for $20 or less (my Keen Kutter was $3.50). Then you send them off to get honed for about $15-$25. A great deal of razors were also produced in Solingen Germany. These also tend to be extremely good blades. If you must have new, then Dovo, Thiers-Issard and Boker still produce amazing products, just make sure that when you order it, it’s “Shave Ready” or you will need to send it off to get honed. Typically a razor will need honing about twice a year. You can send it out, or learn this skill yourself.

Shaving needs:

Also pictured are a Strop, Shaving Brush, and Shaving Soap.

The strop is an icon: the sound of steel hitting leather promising a sharp edge. The strop is there to “dress” the blade for use, it will remove corrosion and microscopic burrs from the cutting edge, rather than letting your face do that job. It takes a little time to get the hang of but before long you can strop 30 laps in a few seconds. This one is from Rupprazor.com.

The Shaving Brush and Soap are pretty self explanatory. You wet the brush and use it to make a lather from the soap. The deal here, is that in my opinion, commercial shaving cream is way too thick. With this setup, you will soon develop just the right lather film for your skin.

Eventually you will want a hone, so that you can maintain your own blade, but first get one honed professionally, so you get an idea of how a good blade behaves.

Final Thoughts:

If you are busy, and can’t set aside 15 minutes for a proper shave, then this is not for you. If you do a rush job, you’ll finish it up with band-aids. If you don’t mind taking the extra time, then why not give it a try? Consider that you are replacing countless landfill-bound cheap plastic razors with a fine piece of craftsmanship. And if you buy vintage, then you are paying a skilled craftsman to hone it. This is putting your money right back into the American economy, rather than a landfill.

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