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larkaa
12-01-2010, 11:08 PM
Firstly, note that I have not yet jumped into using a straight blade. In fact, the sheer amount of “stuff” I seem to need is putting me off to the idea of making the transition. So, I come to this forum seeking advice.

To help explain a little more, let me clarify that my interest in using a straight razor is for its minimalism. I am slowly changing many of my habits to avoid rampant consumerism. I now put more time into contemplating my purchases. I am also moving away from the plethora of personal products I once kept in my closet, and instead purchasing only items that (1) will better my life for a significant amount of time and (2) that will endure a couple years.

At the moment, I use four things to shave.

1. A single blade safety razor
2. Shaving oil rather than cream
3. A dose of cold water to close my pores after shaving
4. After-shave

From my understanding, to correctly use a straight blade, I will need at minimum the following: straight blade, oils to keep straight blade from rusting, brush, soaps, strop, strop abrasive pastes, hone, and a diamond plate to flatten hone.

It seems to me that men in the 1800s did not keep this many products around to maintain a shave. Did they own a diamond plate to flatten their hone, did they go out and purchase abrasive pastes, or seek out special oils to coat their razor? Or, perhaps, were many of these necessities made at home?

Basically, I want to know what is the *minimum* necessary to own and maintain a straight blade. This is not about being cheap or skeptical about straight razors, but more because of my personal goal to live simply and happily. Also note that I consider a hone necessary, since I live in a location where sending my razor out to be honed will be impractical.

I’m looking forward to hearing your advice!

Fletch
12-01-2010, 11:22 PM
I'm new to straight shaving myself however what I have been told is basically... If you get a shave ready razor all you really need is a strop to keep it that way.

Maybe folks can chime in on the whole rusting thing but I would assume most any petroleum based product can work as an anti rust agent. I'd imagine a thin coat of Vaseline could work.

vitaman
12-01-2010, 11:27 PM
Hi and welcome to B&B. To get started using a straight all you will need is a shave ready straight razor. A straight is considered "shave ready" when a seasoned honer has honed the edge. New razors do not come SR. They need to be professionally honed.
The other item you will need is a leather strop. I would recommend a starter strop as it is common to nick a strop when first starting out. Check out the BST here for a SR straight and a strop. Also, the Straight razor forum here has a lot of useful info. Good luck and enjoy.

Luc
12-01-2010, 11:30 PM
Welcome to B&B!

You can use the current shaving oil instead of a shaving brush with a shaving soap. I find the lather better and more efficient than oil but YMMV.

A straight razor and a strop is the very minimum set up to get started. You will need to send the straight out to be honed and then you should be able to shave for a while until the razor needs honing again.

To maintain that edge, the minimum can be a barber hone. It will first need to be lapped and off you go. No plates, no pastes, you're good with that.

Doing it that way will get you a setup that work but be aware that you won't have the smoothest edge possible. I find edges off a barber hone rough but that's me, some are very happy with their.

This should help too: http://wiki.badgerandblade.com/index.php/Straight_Razor_FAQs

Legion
12-02-2010, 12:07 AM
Absolute minimum;

Razor

Something to strop on, even if it is newspaper.

Some sort of lubrication for your face.

You dont need oil for the blade if you are using it all the time. You don't need to hone yourself, you can mail it to a pro. You would probably want something to touch up your blade when it dulls but you can use leather or balsa loaded with CrO or diamond paste. A brush and soap is nice (and recommended) but you can use oil, bath soap, or chicken fat, if you want. It's your face.

For the record, the guys in the old days that did not want to get together a shaving "kit" of some sort just went to the barber once or twice a week and had him do it. Most guys who shaved themselves would of had a brush, soap, mug, strop, touch-up hone, and one or two razors. It would be handy to have a spare while the first was being properly honed.

taffy
12-02-2010, 12:11 AM
I suppose once you get a straight and a strop, thats it, you have your shaving oil already, and send the razor out for honing when required.

larkaa
12-02-2010, 12:16 AM
Thanks for the response Luc.

The barber's hone won't need to be re-flattened before each honing? Obviously the hone would only be used once or twice a year, but if I can't send my razor to be sharpened, then it's an issue. And, going back to the pastes, why do people use them at all if they're not necessary?

I've read up on straight shaving a lot in the last six months, so the process is clear. What I don't find is any historical comparisons. I'm extremely curious to find out how a man kept up his blade's edge in the 1700-1800s. I suspect it would be closer to the strop plus baber's hone combination. Does anyone know?

For a bit of background, I currently live in China. I will want to purchase the necessities when I return home to the US for Christmas, then bring back whatever I need to maintain my razor for following year in China. Sending my razor out for honing will not be a simple procedure. Thus, a hone is necessary.

Luc
12-02-2010, 12:23 AM
Thanks for the response Luc.

The barber's hone won't need to be re-flattened before each honing? Obviously the hone would only be used once or twice a year, but if I can't send my razor to be sharpened, then it's an issue. And, going back to the pastes, why do people use them at all if they're not necessary?

I've read up on straight shaving a lot in the last six months, so the process is clear. What I don't find is any historical comparisons. I'm extremely curious to find out how a man kept up his blade's edge in the 1700-1800s. I suspect it would be closer to the strop plus baber's hone combination. Does anyone know?

For a bit of background, I currently live in China. I will want to purchase the necessities when I return home to the US for Christmas, then bring back whatever I need to maintain my razor for following year in China. Sending my razor out for honing will not be a simple procedure. Thus, a hone is necessary.

The barber hone should be lapped once in a while but some never do and some do. Normally, your honemeister should be able to do it for you maybe once a year or every 2 years.

This is where 2 straights are useful (often seen in a boxset of 2). When one is dull, you use the other while it's being sharpen.

Pastes are not useless. I do not use them myself as I get results that I like out of my stone. Something like a barber hone won't give me the finish I like. To continue the process of honing, pastes are added on a strop (you wouldn't use those on a daily basis) to get a finer finish on the edge (making it smoother). You could see it as luxury, I see it as a cheaper way to avoid buying a high end stone. The results won't be the same, but then, different stones give different results.

No idea what they were doing then. For honing, you can mail it out somewhere else, even the US.

kg4ghn
12-02-2010, 01:50 AM
Assuming you don't have sensitive skin, you could in theory shave for the rest of your life with just a straight, a strop, and a barber's hone. The edge for me off of the one barber's hone I tried was rough. If you don't mind spending the money once, you could instead buy a coticule and be much better off for your minimalist honing needs.

As far as lapping, you can do that with some sandpaper on a flat surface, and on a stone like a coticule or a barber's hone, lapping every time isn't neccesary. They will stay flat longer than a soft synthetic hone like naniwas and nortons. It will benefit from being lapped from time to time. Judging by the appearance of a lot of barber hones seen on ebay with their heavy dishing it is possible some people never lapped their hones.

So by using a straight you are adding a strop and hone to your list but taking away keeping a stock of DE blades. Only you can decide if it is worth it or not.

Legion
12-02-2010, 01:51 AM
A barber hone is very hard and you usually Only do seven to ten laps on it. You can go for several years without lapping. When you do you can do it with wet/dry sandpaper. If you are in china you could buy one of the Chinese 12k stones and use that to keep your edge. That and a strop will keep you going forever.

MaritimeFanatic
12-02-2010, 02:28 AM
+1 on the Chinese 12k stone. I have used this stone for several months to touch up my razors and it provides a very nice smooth edge. It's not the end all be all, but it is pretty dang good.

Many people seem to think that you absolutely need all sorts of pastes/sprays/diamond plates/microscopes/all that jazz, but you really don't. Now, while you don't need them, they can be very fun! They're more in-depth things about the hobby; that's all. A razor, strop, and a touch-up hone is all you need. watch out for RAD though - you'll "need" more of everything!:biggrin1:

Troggie
12-02-2010, 04:12 AM
If you are thinking of taking the plunge and do not want a lot of extras then go to http://www.Straightrazordesigns.com They are currently running a holiday special that any razor purchase will get free honing for the life of the razor.

So in that case you would just need the Razor (maybe 2 so you have one if you send the other out for honing ) and a strop.

The Shaving soap and brush are sorta optional since you use shave oil but I have found a good soap with a brush has given me a much better shave with my straights than normal gels or foams. Some of the triple milled soaps can last a year or more depending on how often you shave as well.

If you want to keep your own blade sharp without sending it out for honing then you would also need a barbers hone or the Chinese natural stone for touch ups.

But basics are just a shave ready razor and strop. Everything else is either to possibly save some money in the long run ( hones to keep sharp) or for comfort purposes ( soaps/creams and shaving brush) of the shave.

michiganlover
12-02-2010, 04:19 AM
I'm extremely curious to find out how a man kept up his blade's edge in the 1700-1800s. I suspect it would be closer to the strop plus baber's hone combination. Does anyone know?


In that time period, honing services were widely available. You either took your razor to your local barber for honing, or there was a traveling person who stopped in your town, and picked up razors for honing.

In theory, you should be able to maintain your straight forever with nothing more than a strop, and a Barber's Hone.

By the way, pastes don't have to be expensive. You can add them to any suitably sized piece of leather (don't add them to your daily strop), and be good to go. You can buy enough paste to last a year for $3 from Larry Andro of Whipped Dog Straights (he sells barber's hones as well).

http://www.whippeddog.com/-----$19---Poor-Man-Strop-Kit-with-Leather-Strop/

Shangas
12-02-2010, 04:24 AM
Hi Larkaa,

I can assure you that you do NOT need everything that you have just listed. To get decent straight shaves, at the VERY LEAST, you should have:

1. Straight-razor. Obviously. Something that's in good condition and from a good makr. Sheffield, Solingen and Thiers straights are generally considered the best.
2. A strop. Made of leather, at least two inches wide (three would be better), and about a foot long. Can be either hanging or paddle. Hanging is more traditional and a bit more space-saving.
3. Honing-stone, two-sided, dual-grit.
4. Shaving-soap and/or cream (either/or. Doesn't really matter).
5. Badger-hair shaving-brush.
6. Lathering bowl/mug or scuttle. (pick one).

At the very least, you will need that.

All the extra stuff like oils,pastes and lubricants etc aren't really necessary. The oil is to stop the blade from rusting, but if you keep the razor dry, that won't happen anyway.

Those six things are all you really need to straight shaving. All the other stuff are just "bonus features" that aren't absolutely necessary and which you can get by without, quite easily.

If you want to cut back even more money, then you can do this easily by just using a cereal-bowl or a coffee-mug to lather in, and a smooth, flat, leather belt to strop on. Some people have even suggested using newspaper to strop on. Never having done that myself, I can't comment on its effectiveness, but a belt (if it's perfectly smooth) will serve as an excellent strop.

global_dev
12-02-2010, 04:44 AM
I am a newbie also, been doing this since only Aug'10 or so and i don't think you need to send it out to be professionally honed, although convenient, or perhaps if you really can't get an acceptable edge yourself. if you get some used hones, you can get away with a very acceptable edge even if you don't know what a "professionally" honed edge is like. Although a professionally honed edge can be really sweet, IMO not necessary if you can get it sharp enough, though some might consider this bad advice. It's my guess that people who actually owned razors back in the day (mid 1800s to 1900s) shaved with a decent edge that works off a barber stone and a strop...

I just shaved with a brand new Gold Dollar 108 (my bro bought it off the bay) i set the bevel and finished the edge yesterday while listening to the TV, using DMT plates C/F (~$55), a coticule ($price varies), and a natural chinese 12K ($20). I would imagine substitute the coticule for a Norton 4/8K or something like that. or forgo everything else for a coticule and you might be good to go. I only bought the DMT plates since I knew i was going to want to set bevels and quickly. you might be able to use the DMT C as a lapping plate for the 12K (at least that is what i did).

inexpensive strop is needed. i don't have any pastes or sprays.

don't need a brush, you could get some brushless shave creams.

i bought a small bottle of Rem oil (i think it's gun oil) from a sporting goods store. it should last a really really long time since i out only a 2 drops on a blade if i don't plan on using it soon.

A 2 pass shave with that GD108 got me a DFS. it wasn't the absolute best edge I have ever shaved with, but it was really really nice and I was pleased with my efforts.

and done. although that free honing for life special sounds so sweet that I may have to get in on it myself.

gull
12-02-2010, 06:06 AM
You need a razor, strop, and barber hone. That's it. If you ever need your hone lapped, get some sandpaper.

For prep, a soap and brush would be nice, but oil, or even water would do the job.

bradyarz
12-02-2010, 06:13 AM
i too got into straights partly for the minimalism. i don't own any pastes. i do all my touch ups on a coticule. i have one strop.

Chimensch
12-02-2010, 06:39 AM
Before I found the Internet forums, I shaved for 28 years with just a razor, strop and barbers hone (Swaty "Three-Line"). The Swaty never needed to be lapped. By the way, I spent a month in China last year and you should be able to find everything you need there. In Xian, I found a barber that still uses a straight and I watched him hone his razors. You should be able to purchase razors, hones and strops in China if you look around.

Fish Slayer
12-02-2010, 07:05 AM
In the 1800’s people were much more self sufficient. DIY was the norm and getting an edge sharp was probably a very common skill to have. People tended to have fewer conveniences and had do things more from “scratch” meaning that knives, chisels, hand planes etc were used a lot more and people would have to know how to keep them sharp. With that in mind, a fine sharpening stone (pretty much a hone) would be a very common item to have and know how to use. I suspect as things slowly became more modernized that specialized barber’s hones started to become available.
I have never used or sharpened a straight razor, but I have developed an interest in woodworking hand tools and took the time to understand how to get an edge sharp. With the exception of needing a strop, I bet that I could get a straight razor shave ready with the items that I have on hand.

Slash McCoy
12-02-2010, 07:17 AM
Since you are in china maybe you should look for a gold dollar razor, then pay a barber to hone it for you. You can make a paddle strop by glueing a piece of a wide, smooth belt to a wood slat. You can probably find a cheap brush at a department store, and ditto on some reasonably good soap. When you go to the US you might get a hanging strop for regular use, and either a fine hone or some paste to use on the paddle. That would be pretty minimal.

Go West Young Man
12-02-2010, 11:47 AM
Hi Larkaa,

I can assure you that you do NOT need everything that you have just listed. To get decent straight shaves, at the VERY LEAST, you should have:

1. Straight-razor. Obviously. Something that's in good condition and from a good makr. Sheffield, Solingen and Thiers straights are generally considered the best.
2. A strop. Made of leather, at least two inches wide (three would be better), and about a foot long. Can be either hanging or paddle. Hanging is more traditional and a bit more space-saving.
3. Honing-stone, two-sided, dual-grit.
4. Shaving-soap and/or cream (either/or. Doesn't really matter).
5. Badger-hair shaving-brush.
6. Lathering bowl/mug or scuttle. (pick one).

At the very least, you will need that.
Those six things are all you really need to straight shaving.

#5 and #6 are completely optional, and #3 is only needed if (like the OP) you can't or don't want to send your razor out for professional honing.

Greglam
12-02-2010, 06:43 PM
To help explain a little more, let me clarify that my interest in using a straight razor is for its minimalism. I am slowly changing many of my habits to avoid rampant consumerism. I now put more time into contemplating my purchases. I am also moving away from the plethora of personal products I once kept in my closet, and instead purchasing only items that (1) will better my life for a significant amount of time and (2) that will endure a couple years.

Basically, I want to know what is the *minimum* necessary to own and maintain a straight blade. This is not about being cheap or skeptical about straight razors, but more because of my personal goal to live simply and happily. Also note that I consider a hone necessary, since I live in a location where sending my razor out to be honed will be impractical.

I’m looking forward to hearing your advice!

First, a very sincere welcome to you. Before I switched from carts to DE shaving I considered straights but did not want to deal with all of the "maintenance" issues. For me, with everything I have going on, going the DE route was much more practical. So, I will leave the advice to the chaps here who know straight shaving.

Please allow me to offer some advice relative to your desire to live simply and maintain a "minimalist" attitude towards shaving and consumerism in general and shave-related consumerism in particular. If you are sincere about this, then I offer you the following advice in all sincerity and as one who has a deep Franciscan spirituality: get yourself set up and then never come back to B&B.

Because if you do continue to peruse these boards, and unless you have a will literally made of iron, in two months you will have more shaving creams, prep oils, aftershaves, brushes, strops, skin foods, and other various doodads than you ever knew existed.

I can't even imagine what the percentage is of the members of B&B who took up wet shaving "to shave money", myself included. I literally sat and crunched the numbers on what it would cost per blade, per shave, determined how much economic sense it made to switch to DE. Yeah, now I'm sitting on enough shaving soap to last me for 5 years, I have enough aftershave splashes to float a small warship, three razors....you get the point.

But, as they say about the road to Hello, the road to wet shaving is likewise paved with good intentions, and if you are anything at all like the rest of us, I (and I'm sure "we") will be very happy to have you with us and share in our "acquisition disorders" and look forward to hearing about your experiences with your new straight set-up.

Cheers and all the best!
-Greg

Ace$N8s
12-02-2010, 11:34 PM
I use a straight on Sundays, why, I just do. I have a lot of stuff because I suffer from SRAD (straight razor accusation disorder). I find that over the last 2 years I have kept a nice edge on my straights with the use of a leather strop (one side pasted), and a barbers hone.

I must mention that honing a razor is a skill that takes time. I like the experience of learning, have the time and the resources to invest in the needed materials.

If I just wanted to shave, I could get by with the least expense using any chunk of leather for a strop, a heavy 2 1/2" belt will work, and you can paste one side and leave the other side plain. This is not optimal, just say'in it's inexpensive. And for a minimal investment a badger brush and a disk of soap in a coffee cup would do the job.

Go with the 2 razors as others have said, and have the edges set by a Honer (shave ready). That way you will know if your razor has an adequately sharp edge when you do them your self.

Proinsias
12-03-2010, 01:55 PM
Before I found the Internet forums, I shaved for 28 years with just a razor, strop and barbers hone (Swaty "Three-Line"). The Swaty never needed to be lapped. By the way, I spent a month in China last year and you should be able to find everything you need there. In Xian, I found a barber that still uses a straight and I watched him hone his razors. You should be able to purchase razors, hones and strops in China if you look around.

this

fccexpert
12-06-2010, 01:37 PM
You can go minimal, what you are going to need are the following:

A straight razor (duh)
Soap or oil for your face. I prefer soap, but if you like oil that's fine
Something to keep the razor sharp (I use a Norton waterstone)

That's it. You can lap the waterstone with standpaper on a flat surface, and you can strop the razor on the heal of your hand.

Now I will fess up to having a bit more. I use soap and a brush, and I have an Illinois strop at home. I also have a few more sharpening stones (because I need them to sharpen other tools like serrated edged knives), and I do have a carborundom lapping stone. I do, however, do heal of the hand stropping when I travel so I don't have to pack my strop, and I really don't use anything but the Norton to hone my razor.

TenorClef
12-06-2010, 01:49 PM
You could just buy a shave ready straight, a leather strop and use your existing brush/soap or whatever you shave with. Once the straight starts to feel like its not doing the job any more send it away to get it honed.....simple.

mdunn
12-06-2010, 01:51 PM
see the 'what you need and why you need it' link in my sig.

all you really need is a blade, a strop and a barbers hone to shave the rest of your life.