The Straight Razor.

Posted by The Two Barbers 27/02/2018 0 Comment(s) SHAVING,


The Straight razor



At first, a little bit of technical qualification on execution and production of a straight razor which consists of a blade with tang and 2 scales (handles). Contrary to regular knives, the straight razor has a hollow grinding, which – depending on the thickness – will be discerned as flat ground, half or three quarter hollow ground, or full hollow ground (see sketch page 4). In these increments, quality and price of the straight razor in the blade widths from 3/8" to 6/8" are reflected. The most common are straight razors in 5/8" (= 16.25 mm). Due to the limited conditioning possibilities in the 17th century, flat ground blades are amongst the primary blade shapes. They were mainly in use for medical purposes as scalpels, later on also for a full or contour shave. Flat ground straight razors of 2/8" width are suitable for the cosmetic shave of eyebrows. Nowadays, hairdressing salons use such straight razors of 3/8" width for thinning of hair (over a comb). Flat ground straight razors are also used for pre-surgery shaves in hospitals. Half or full hollow ground straight razors, preferably in the widths 5/8" and 6/8", meet the requi - rements for a thorough and deep shave in the entire area of cheek, upper lip, chin and neck through their flexibility.




The Straight razor SHAPE AND STEEL


 Customarily, flat ground straight razors are offered nowadays with a so-called French point, whereas half or full hollow ground straight razors come with a round point, very rarely with a square point. In addition, hollow ground blades have a double stabilizing piece for additional stability which builds the transition from tang to blade. Full hollow ground blades especially, with their thinnest part being located between the spine and the ridge combine major flexibility with major longitudinal torsional stiffness. The coaction of the shape and the fine cutting edge produce a thorough wet shave with a straight razor. Specialties, such as square point and concave mirror, are regional shapes. Mild steel with a carbon content of 1% and more is considered the basic material for the classic straight razor, which will achieve maximum possible hardness, elasticity and wear resistance with a meticulous tempering treatment. The advantages of the stainless steel qualities are in the lesser maintenance requirements. Nevertheless, rusting cannot be excluded, depending on water quality and care. Stainless chromium steel used to be favored primarily by barber shops. With today’s hygiene standards, razors with exchangeable blades like the »DOVO« Shavette™ are now in use.


Maintenance of the straight razor


After using it, the straight razor must be rinsed off – preferably with clear, hot water – and thoroughly dried off (without touching the blade with naked fingers). During extended storage it is recommended to oil the blade with a highly fluid oil which is free of acid and resin. The razor should be stored in a dry and well-aired environment. It is important to also clean the handle inside and out of any soap residue, and to also dry the handles on both the outside and inside and all the hard to reach places (such as the area where the blade is mounted which is often overlooked). The razor should only be stored when thoroughly dried. Fingerprints, acids from cleaning agents, and chlorinated water will quickly tarnish mild steel (incipient rust). Disinfectants are equally damaging for steel and handle. For the stropping of the razor there are two important rules: always strop PRIOR TO THE SHAVE, and between 2 shaves the blade should rest for a minimum of 48 hours (better yet: several days). Wet shavers of the old school know: “the cutting edge grows” which means that the wafer-thin ridge (visible under the microscope) looks like the teeth of a comb. The ridge bends because of the cutting performance during the shave, but will return to its old position due to its elasticity, and regain its wafer-thin ridge. Therefore it can be sufficient in some cases to whet the razor over the heel of hand PRIOR TO THE SHAVE. The fine ridge dissipates again, and then the razor strop that should be bought with the razor must be used, prepared with the fatty paste.


Strop and Stropping


While the wedge shaped straight razor is pushed against a handheld strop, a classic hanging strop made of fine, vegetable-tanned calf leather, is used for half or full hollow ground razors. The hanging strop features a swivel grommet for hanging, and some of them also come with a canvas strap on the backside. The canvas side is for strop - ping the blade with pulverized dolomite. For the leather side we recommend our fine leather balm (fatty paste) without sharpening properties. The leather balm should be thinly applied by heel of hand or with a cotton cloth, then polished with the cloth. The blade must not stick to the fatty layer on the strop surface. The leather must be clean and undamaged. Fine metal splinters that came off the blade during the stropping will damage the blade and point to a broken off ridge. In that case the razor needs to be re-sharpened. Other razors will also be damaged if stropped on the corrupted strop. The stropping is executed by applying the cutting edge and the spine of the razor simultaneously onto the tightened strop which provides the angle. The blade must only be PULLED in the direction of the spine - carefully, without pressure, but with constant contact with the leather surface. The blade must only be turned over the spine and the pulled into the other direc - tion. Turning it over the cutting edge with destroy the ridge, and then only grinding by a professional will help!


The Shave


A razor maintained in such a way is not prepared for an experiential shave. A thorough shave starts with soaking the whiskers, for example during a shower or by applying a wet, warm washcloth. With the lather – preferably from shaving soaps with a high glycerin content – you will soften up the whiskers with massaging brush sweeps for a few minutes and let them swell.




The novice will at first start with the unproblematic, even zones of the face and will hold the open straight razor with thumb and three fingers in a way that the open scales point away from the face . The shave commences with the grain, very light pressure and constant contact of the ridge with the soaped-up skin, solely with first third of the ridge from the tip. In an angle of approx. 30° towards the surface of the skin the blade is guided in straight, short strokes across the skin. At the same time, the skin is stretched tight with the second hand, which is always following the razor spine. With that, the whiskers are always stood up optimally, and a “running away” of the skin can be avoided. An evenly scratching sound develops. If the angle is too flat, the razor will drag the stubble, if the angle is too steep, the razor cuts into the skin, or moves over the stubble without any shaving effect. It is important to always move the blade vertically scratching in the direction of the cutting edge, never turn or pull (risk of injury!), always scratch evenly, and hold the razor a bit steeper at corners, dimples und upper lip. If necessary, give the shave a second go against the grain. Dropping the razor onto a hard surface, or the edge coming into contact with the scales, usually renders the razor unusable. Therefore it is important that blade is fitted carefully into the gap between the scales when it is folded together. The scales can warp with temperature! If the edge is damaged, mere stropping won’t do, but only a proper regrind und stropping executed by a skilled worker. Please ask your retailer or »DOVO« directly for the repair flat rate.

by Dovo Solingen