A close shave: How to master a cut-throat razor
Shaving with a cut-throat razor can transform the daily chore of grooming into an enjoyable experience – a ritual that teaches self-confidence while it spiffs you up for the day.
There’s certainly something cool and manly about shaving in this traditional way. The time, preparation, methodical rhythm of the brush as it swirls building lather, the cool, dangerous sensation of sharp steel sliding across your face; it brings a sense of manliness, suave 007 to the every day. This feeling and style of shaving once practiced by grandfathers, then regulated to the barbershop, is now making a movement back into the modern man’s bathroom. If you want to take a few more minutes to make a chore feel like a pleasure and leave you with that Bond feeling, follow along.
Arguably, the most important step of the process is preparing your beard for the shave. While the barber uses a warm towel in his shop, the next best thing you already have, a hot shower. The heat and moisture softens the beard hairs, which are the same hardness as copper wire at the same diameter, and hydrates the skin making it more supple and resistant to injury. If you happen to have sensitive skin a good pre-shave balm or oil will help keep things hydrated longer and add an extra layer of protection.
There are many fine products on the market to shave with. The myriad of soaps, creams, oils, and elixirs that are available both from known names and artisan makers are beyond count and of high quality. One thing you should not compromise on is your shaving brush. It should be from a reputable source and of the highest quality you can afford. A badger hair brush is most desirable because of its water holding ability and lather creating design. My personal favourite is the
To the heart of the matter. Your razor should be top notch, a good piece of steel from a reputable company like Dovo, Boker or Ralf Aust. The strop should be of good leather and preferably 3 inches wide. Why strop your blade? The strop aligns the molecules at the end of the razors edge, removing any burrs, and keeps that keen edge cutting. One rep of stropping is when you push the blade away from you and pull towards you, rolling the blade on the tang or back of the blade. Important to note rolling the blade on the edge will damage the edge making it dull. A good stropping should be from 30-50 of these repetitions.
When shaving with a straight razor you want to keep the angle of the blade between 20 and 30 degrees. Short, even strokes with light pressure will guide you in ridding the beard. First go with the direction of growth when starting out, and as you gain experience to across the gain and finally against the grain to obtain an extremely close shave.
After you finish your shave rinse off with warm water finishing with a cold water rinse. The cold water finish closes the pores and refreshes the skin. A good quality aftershave balm will also help close the pores and refresh but will also heal the skin from any damage that might have occurred and give you smooth finish to your shave. A rewarding feeling from a relaxing shave will leave you feeling like a million pounds, but looking like it too.
An alternative to the cut throat razor – The Shavette
Shaving with a cut throat razor is certainly one of life’s pleasures as it will give you the closest possible shave. But it does take time to master the technique and you’ll certainly need a steady hand and plenty of practice.
The handy shavette razor is similar to a straight or cut throat razor but is a more cost effective alternative and requires less maintenance as it uses changeable blades, meaning no stropping or honing. It can save time for those who are in a hurry, but still want to experience the luxury of a wet shave. I’m a big fan of The Bluebeards Revenge Shavette.
There are a number of online traditional shaving shops that sell the products I’ve discussed above but my current favourite has to be The Shaving Shack. They offer a fantastic selection of quality products and a number of purchasing incentives such as loyalty points and a free gift selection on all orders over £9.99.
Main image above courtesy of The Bluebeards Revenge