Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Men’s Health
Published on 10-26-2009
Men have many choices when it comes to shaving, and although electric razors have become the new trend, they just don’t provide the close shave that you can get from a traditional straight razor. But purchasing a straight razor can be confusing if you don’t know the different types and the processes for each one.
The most popular type of straight razor is known as a classic straight-edge. If you want to have a traditional razor like the type your grandfather may have used, you can search online and will be able to find a vintage straight-edge razor. These are made out of a different material than the new razors. The vintage models are most often made out of carbon-steel; whereas, the newer classic straight razors are usually made out of stainless steel. The carbon-steel blades are usually easier to sharpen, but aren’t necessarily as sharp as the stainless steel versions. It really is a matter of preference as far as which one you choose. Many people also choose the razor by the handle because you want something that is comfortable to hold and control when you shave.
Both the vintage and newer classic straight-edges have to be honed at least twice a year, and stropped before every shave. Stropping is a method of realigning/redefining and straightening the edge of the razor to get a closer shave. After many uses, blades develop microscopic bends and ridges. Stropping eliminates these and thereby sharpens the razor. For everyday use, you will need to strop your razor before and after shaving. If you have a really coarse or thick beard, you will also need to strop several times in between shaving. This means that if you purchase a classic straight-edge, you will also have to purchase a strop and strop paste.
The most popular type of strop is the western belt style. This is the type that you usually see in old western movies where the barber has the hanging strop next to his station. These are attached to a set object, and then held taught when stropping. It is a good idea to also purchase a sharpening stone to periodically sharpen the blade on the stone too. Another type of strop is a German Paddle. You don’t need to pull on this one because it is already a firm area. These have a leather strop on one side and a water hone on the other side. The stropping paste should only be used on the leather side of the belt. Most places that sell the strops will sell the paste. The paste is non-abrasive and conditions the leather on the strop to make the process easier. You will need to apply the paste during your initial strop use, and then every few months thereafter. In addition to buying the paste, you should buy special oil to apply to the razor after you clean it to keep it from rusting.
If you just don’t want to deal with the hassle of stropping your razor before each shave, you might want to consider purchasing a disposable straight razor, or getting one that has a handle you keep, and a blade you replace. You can also purchase these models on the Internet. The advantage is that you save time when preparing to shave, and you can just throw out the razor or blade when it gets dull. However, this can be more expensive in the long run over purchasing a classic straight-edge razor because you have to continually purchase new blades or entire razors.
A straight razor is the best tool for getting a clean, close shave if you purchase the right products. Buy the razor and handle that best fit your level of comfort, and then invest in a good strop, strop paste, and conditioning oil.