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Of all the different types of razors on the market, learning how use and how to sharpen a straight razor may be the most finteresting. Other razor blades allow you to toss the razor blade when it dulls, and even some straight razors have disposable blades. In a world dominated by convenience, this practice is normal.
However, straight razors are making a comeback. They allow you to shave just like your grandfathers did and feel cool while you do it. If you’re going to use an old-fashioned one, you’re going to have to learn how to sharpen a straight razor blade.
HOW TO SHARPEN A STRAIGHT RAZOR
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There are multiple steps to ensure your vintage straight razor is sharp enough, so make sure you take the time to do them properly. These steps include testing the blade’s sharpness, using a barber’s hone, and utilizing a strop between shaves.
If these terms sound foreign, don’t worry. You have plenty of time to learn about each of them and put them into practice. Before you know it, you’ll be straight razor shaving like a pro.
Before you can start learning how to sharpen a straight razor, you first need to learn how to tell if a straight razor is sharp.
TEST THE BLADE’S SHARPNESS
Generally, you can tell that your blade is dull if it no longer cuts the way it used to. However, you will need to determine how dull the blade is. That will determine whether you can sharpen it with just a strop or if you need a straight razor stone.
There are a handful of ways to test the sharpness, including using your hair, thumbprint, and fingernail.
For one, you can test a single hair against your straight razor blade. Pluck a hair from your head and hold it by the root. Next, keep the blade completely still while you bring the hair onto the blade.
If it is sharp enough, it will cut the hair easily. If it catches or snags, it’s time to learn how to sharpen a straight razor with a hone.
To test the blade against your thumbprint, wet your thumb first. Then, drag it across the blade (not along it). If it tickles, the blade is still sharp enough.
If the blade gives a strong tickle, it’s likely too dull.
Last of all, you can test your straight razor blade over a wet fingernail. Take the blade just over the top of your nail and note how it reacts. If it cuts into the nail slightly, you have the right sharpness.
If it appears not to have an effect on the nail, you need to keep sharpening the straight razor blade.
USING A HONE
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The best straight razor strop can only do its job if you use it before every shave. It has two sides: one typically of leather and another of fabric. The fabric side removes any unwanted particles from the blade that can hinder its sharpness, while the leather side aligns the blade’s edge.
If you want to learn how to sharpen a straight razor, you will also need to learn how to use a strop. You will feel the difference if you don’t!
To start, hang up one end of the strop and hold the other side taut. It should face you at about a 45-degree angle. Experts recommend this angle for beginners, but you’ll be fine as long as the strop won’t move while using it.
Just like with honing, the X-pattern is crucial to stropping. This is especially true if you only have a two or three-inch strop to work with.
Place the blade against the leather with the spine pointing away from you, and elevate it slightly so the blade sits at an angle. Next, push the razor away from you with light pressure until the entire blade comes in contact with the leather.
After this, flip the blade around so that the spine is facing you. Keep the blade touching the strop as you flip it and pull it down the leather toward you with the same amount of pressure as before. Ideally, you would repeat this process between 10 and 15 times.
Masculine people, by their nature, tend to want to make everything into a journey with a goal.
Using light motions, pull the blade toward you at an angle so it does not go straight down the stone. An X-pattern will ensure that all parts of the blade make contact with the whetstone. Just make sure you don’t drag it across the stone sideways, or you can dull the blade again.
When you think the blade is sufficiently sharp, try one of the few ways to test how sharp the straight razor blade is.
DIFFERENT MATERIALS AND STYLES
It’s important to note that all strops aren’t the same. Strops come in a variety of different leathers (cowhide, vegan, and buffalo, for example), and you can even use newspaper wrapped around a wooden block as a strop.
Also, while the hanging strop is the most popular, it isn’t the only style available. Some prefer a paddle strop with different leathers and fabrics on each side of the wooden paddle.
As long as you have the right material though, you can pick whichever strop you prefer.
PROPERLY CARING FOR THE EQUIPMENT
It is not enough to know how to sharpen a straight razor if you don’t take care of your equipment. Certain practices will extend the life of the blade so you can keep shaving will no hassle. In fact, most of these practices apply to blades other than straight razors.
For one, it helps to clean off your blade every few strokes. This removes any sort of debris that could get in the way and force the blade to work harder.
You should also clean the blade after you finish shaving and dry it thoroughly. This will prevent any sort of rusting or corrosion. Thankfully, stainless steel doesn’t rust easily, but you should still clean it regularly.
You can even use a hairdryer to speed up the drying process and remove any hairs that stuck to the metal.
However, bathrooms are the most humid rooms in the house, so they are not safe from moisture out in the open. Be sure to store your straight razor in a drawer or bag to keep moisture out.
Lastly, you can spend less time sharpening a straight razor if you prep your face beforehand. If your skin is ready for the shave, your razor will not have to work as hard. This means that it won’t dull as fast.
PReppiNG THE FACE FOR THE PERFECT SHAVE
All that work learning how to sharpen a straight razor won’t give you the same results if you don’t prepare your face before shaving. It’s pretty simple too, with just a handful of steps. If you follow them, you’ll have the closest, most perfect shave of your life.
OPEN UP YOUR FACE
You can do this by taking a shower or simply washing your face. The warm water and steam will open your pores and soften the hair follicles, making them much easier to shave.
A good lather or shaving cream makes all the difference. If you want to apply it the old fashioned way, consider investing in a shaving brush.
THIS WAY NOT THAT WAY
By shaving with the grain, you can avoid irritating any sensitive skin. Once you have gone with the grain, feel free to shave against it for a closer shave.
WATER IS YOUR FRIEND
Once again, rinsing will remove any excess lather and hair. This allows the blade to cut evenly across your skin without missing spots.
MMMM IT SMELLS GOOD AND HAS A PURPOSE
Aftershave has great properties that will soothe your skin after shaving. It can prevent irritation and clean any cuts you may have caused along the way.
LEARN HOW TO SHARPEN A STRAIGHT
RAZOR FOR A BETTER SHAVING EXPERIENCE
Now that you know how to sharpen a straight razor, it’s time to start practicing. Using straight razors has a bit of a learning curve, but you can get the hang of it in no time. Just remember to test the blade’s sharpness, use a honing stone, and utilize a strop before every shave.
If you maintain the blade, it will last a long time and offer an endless number of shaves to you. In a day when most throw out dull blades, the thought of never buying another is enticing!
Be sure to tell us all about your experience learning how to sharpen a straight razor in the comments section. Your tips can help others who are trying to learn