View Full Version : First straight razor shave
09-20-2006, 10:00 AM
Well my Dovo Bismarck and Heirloom strop arrived today, from Tony at http://www.thewellshavedgentleman.com/ . :001_smile :drool:
So I tried a bit of stropping first, it went went ok but I definately need to work on my technique. It didn't make the nice clean swooshing sound that Lynn was making on his demo video.
After washing with hot water I lathered up, and put a hot towel on my face for 2 minutes, then rinsed and lathered up again. Tentatively holding my straight in the gentlest 'death grip' I could manage, I put it to work.
I got the hang of the action fairly quickly. I wasn't using much of an angle but it was making a lot of noise like when you use too much blade angle on a DE, it also felt like it was dragging quite a lot. It was removing a bit of beard, but not very much and certainly nowhere near as much as a single "with the grain" pass using a DE.
I persevered and was able to finish my first pass without any nicks or cuts at all. :001_smile
I rinsed and then lathered up again, and made another pass - this time going slightly across the grain. Again lots of noise but not much cutting, though it was obvious the beard was being reduced gradually. Again I made it to the end of the pass without any nicks or cuts, but by now I could feel a little razor burn starting to appear. I opted for safety and switched to a Futur/Feather for a last pass and T&C.
Overall I'm reasonably happy, I didn't spill any blood and the shave probably would have looked passable from a distance - at least for a couple of hours. The razor has been properly honed, but doesn't cut a hanging hair (at least not in my ham fisted paws it doesn't). I'll try another gentle pass tomorrow morning after I've showered, in case it was my prep which was at fault.
I'm going to Trumpers for a lesson a week on Friday, so hopefully they'll be able to give me some good advice on stropping and shaving.
09-20-2006, 10:36 AM
Good show Iwan! As someone who played with str8s for a while, I can tell you there is a substantial learning curve to get a great shave if you are used to a DE. Stick with it!
09-20-2006, 10:48 AM
Yeah I'll stick with it, it's a hobby which I really want to master. :smile:
For now I'll probably use my DE for shaving in the morning's before work, and I'll save the straight for weekends when I relax and take my time, and not have to hurry.
I've just done a bit more stropping practice, except I got a little carried away and managed to nick the strop a little - i hope I haven't done any damage to the blade!
I don't care who honed it or who stropped it. It's going to pull more than a DE.
I use a straight for the ritual, esthetics, and degree of difficulty that combine to create a pampering experience. I certainly don't expect to get a closer shave with it.
09-20-2006, 11:08 PM
First off, you are way ahead of the curve getting your starter kit from Tony. So let me see if I can answer or address your comments or questions.
Don't worry about the sound of the strop. Every razor is different. Stropping takes practice and will get second nature in no time. If you have an old boar hair brush try using that for your HHT.
Shaving with a straight is a learning process. If you try different angles you might find the one that works best with that razor. Try with the spine closer to your face. Always shave the easy area's and feel free to finish with a DE.
Concerning the razor burn, your face will get use to the closer shave. Lots of prep work before hand will also help.
Do expect to get a closer shave than with a DE. It takes a long time to get a perfect shave, but when you do it is amazing. One thing I like in comparing with the DE is that the straight razor shave lasts longer. Maybe that big chunk of cold steel scares the crap out of all those little whiskers!
keep at it.
09-20-2006, 11:34 PM
I don't care who honed it or who stropped it. It's going to pull more than a DE.
So some pulling is pretty normal then? I started to worry when I felt it pulling, as everything I've read tells me if it starts to drag then don't brave it out and push on through regardless. What's best in this situation, use less blade angle and maybe rinse/relather or something?
I'l try again on sunday (I'm getting a barbershop shave on saturday), maybe with longer/better preperation and some Proraso pre/post if I can pick some up saturday. I did get the impression my face/lather was a touch drier than usual when I tried the straight, so maybe I was a little off with my prep.
Yes I'll keep practicing, most likely just at weekends for now. My DVD from Lynn Abrams just arrived in the post about 2 minutes ago so i'll watch that tonight. Also I have my Trumpers lesson to look forward to next week.
Cheers for the tips guys, I'll keep at it. :thumbup:
09-21-2006, 05:18 AM
Pulling is normal, but it shouldn't be uncomfortable. Everybody's different though, the Feather AC pulls on me. On my face, a well-honed straight pulls about as much as a mach 3, except that it doesn't chop up my face while it's at it.
Prep has a lot to do with it, I find that the straight requires good prep while for the DE good prep is more optional.
Unfortunately, it's likely that you did damage your edge when you nicked your strop, the microscopic cutting fin is very delicate.
09-21-2006, 05:30 AM
Hmmm, well I only caught maybe 1/4" at the point of the razor so hopefully it's not to bad. There's no visible damage like nicks or anything, and the rest of the blade should be ok. I'll give it some careful stropping and have another go on Sunday. And when I'm at Trumpers' next Friday, I'll mention it to them. I assume as it's a 2 hour lesson I'm getting they'll show me stropping as well as shaving, and I imagine a good shop like Trumpers will have a barbers hone if necessary.
09-21-2006, 07:01 AM
The damage won't be visible with the naked eye, but then the cutting fin isn't visible either. I'd think trumpers could help with the edge if they still use traditional straights, but a lot of shops use disposable-blade straights for health reasons, so they may not have the hones and strops anymore. Barber hones are pretty inexpensive on ebay and could clean up the edge pretty quickly. They're really handy for quickly refreshing an edge.
09-21-2006, 07:15 AM
Ok I'll have a look on ebay for a barber hone. Is there any particular type/brand which is best?
I hope Trumpers will have a hone, they told me to bring along my straight to the lesson so I assume they still let people use these (on themselves at least). I know most barbers use straights with disposable blades now though, I guess that's the only thing they can use for safety these days.
09-21-2006, 08:34 AM
Not sure if you did this, but stretching is very important to the straight razor shave. It should improve the cutting action, but will also help to prevent cuts/nicks from the skin bunching up in front of the edge (I have had too many of those, and they SUCK!).
As for stropping, usually it's better to hold the strop tight, concentrating on moving the blade flat across it's surface. A slack strop could lead to edge blunting by rolling over the edge (fins).
Finally, I agree with lowering the angle; it's possible that you've got too much angle in the blade, and are scraping more than cutting.
Good luck with mastering the hobby. A reputable dealer is Tilly @ www.redtrader99.com (http://www.redtrader99.com). She can hook you up with a barber hone.
09-21-2006, 09:07 AM
Tilly is a good source, I just picked up a dubl duck combination hone from her. Barber's hones are also readily available on ebay, search for "razor hone" and you should get 20 hits or so at any time (some of these will be Tilly's auctions). The 3-line Swaty is highly regarded, but all of the barber's hones work pretty well. There's generally not a whole lot of difference between them which is good because there were seemingly hundreds of manufacturers and these hones were never rated for grit, the most information you'll get are descriptions like medium, fine, fast-cutting, etc. But any one of them will work about as well as any other; the 3-line Swaty I mentioned earlier is apparently just a little finer and a little faster than most. It's also readily identifiable because of the stamp on it and reasonably common.
The nice things about barber's hones are they were actually made for straight razors in an era when straights were the only way to go, they are usually very small and handy, and most can be used dry, wet, or with shaving lather to vary their cutting speed and to vary the type of edge on the blade depending on your needs.
09-21-2006, 11:11 AM
Thanks guys. I was just watching Lynn's DVD and he mentioned Tilley and her hones on Ebay, so I dived on there and bought one of the Kimberley barber hones he talks about on the DVD. Then I came on here and saw you both recommended her too!
I'll take the stropping slower next time, I guess the speed doesn't make much difference to the sharpness - just takes longer if you're slower. I have been holding the strop as tight as I can, as I heard that leaving it slack will roll the edge.
Thanks for the tips guys. :smile:
09-22-2006, 10:00 AM
Did you get a lot of irritation the first time?
09-22-2006, 10:13 AM
Did you get a lot of irritation the first time?
It was not as bad as say 2 passes with a DE using too much pressure, but I could tell a 3rd pass would not have been a good idea.
09-22-2006, 11:42 AM
I've found I don't need more than 2 passes if the blade is sharp, and can frequently get away with 1.5 passes. The old barbering texts teach two passes, a with-the-grain lather pass and an optional cross-grain (or against-the-grain if the customer insists) water pass.
09-22-2006, 12:09 PM
Just to add my 2 cents, given your description of noise, very little cutting, and razor burn--especially since you got your kit shave ready from Tony--my first impression is that you're probably holding the razor at too great an angle. Try laying it flat on your face at the start of a pass and slowly raise the spine off of your cheek as the razor is traversing your cheek. Pay attention to how the blade feels and sounds as the cutting angle changes. Then feel for stubble to find out what angle the razor is cutting most efficiently.
Congratulations on your bloodless first attempts. That alone is much to be proud of.
09-22-2006, 02:53 PM
To add to what has already been said, preparation and patience are the keys to success. I have migrated to 100% SE and found that razor and face prep with an unhurried approach work best.
09-22-2006, 03:37 PM
Try laying it flat on your face at the start of a pass and slowly raise the spine off of your cheek as the razor is traversing your cheek. Pay attention to how the blade feels and sounds as the cutting angle changes. Then feel for stubble to find out what angle the razor is cutting most efficiently.
I have been straight shaving for about two months now. The technique you refer to in your post is what taught me the proper angle to shave with a straight on all the various parts of my face(No two areas the same). I still have some trouble with the neck area but I am getting better. Simple but effective technique.
By the way.........WAAAAAAAAAR EAGLE...HAY! Sorry, I miss the Auburn days.:c17:
09-23-2006, 07:29 AM
Well, some serious progress was made today. I was pretty sure I'd damaged the edge on my razor by my crappy overzealous stropping, as it was pulling badly and not cutting much hair at all on the first shave I tried.
I figured I was going to need to get a hone at some point anyway, so I decided to order a Norton 4k/8k combination stone yesterday. It arrived this morning, amazingly fast delivery. I gave it a good soak then lightly did a maintainance pyramid pattern hone as suggested on Lynn's DVD. Then I lightly stropped it on the canvas and leather sides of the strop, using the proper technique this time.
What a difference it made, I just lathered up for a test pass and it was going through the hair like a hot knife through butter! Nothing at all like last time, it definately needed the light honing to bring back the edge. :thumbup:
Anyway I'm fairly happy. I'll do another couple of careful practice passes with it during the week, before my lesson on Friday. :001_smile
I also bought a cheap 5/8 Bengall on Ebay last night, since I now have the equipment needed to clean and sharpen it up. :lol: :001_rolle
Oh, and I got my first cut - on my right earlobe! :crying: :blush:
09-23-2006, 08:35 AM
Congrats on getting your edge back up to snuff! Glad to hear the overall shave went much better, and closer to expectations.
Nicked your earlobe huh? Yeah, I've done that, and man other nicks on my face -- cheeks, neck, chin. :rolleyes: For me, it's beause I wasn;t paying attention to where a spike point was on the other side of the blade; straights are longer than safety razors for sure! Now, there's this one guy over at SRP that managed to pierce his earlobe when he caught it with a SER tip. :eek:
Good luck with your lesson...
09-23-2006, 09:20 AM
Glad you got the edge back. From your description you definitely ruined your edge from stropping the first time. I know some people disagree but IMHO straights do not pull, and they give a closer shave than a DE. So much of the straights ability is tied to technique though. You must use a very steep angle and maintain that angle throughout the shave. This maintenance of angle is one of the hardest parts of shaving with a straight. As well, do not bear down on the skin with the razor, use little pressure - shave, don't scrape. Practice makes perfect.
I also recommend getting and using a Belgian hone to maintain your edge they're unparalleled. Barber hones are fine and the Norton is good but the Belgian kicks it up a notch. Hope that helps.
09-23-2006, 09:15 PM
Believe me when I say Chris (El) knows what it takes to get a sharp razor!
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