Straight Razor Maintenance – Keep It Sharp

straight razor maintenance

If you want to take shaving seriously, one thing you should learn about is straight razor maintenance.

Straight razors are not like the cartridge razors you are probably used to, where you just replace the blade when it gets too old (usually after about only 10 shaves!). You want your straight razor to last you for a long time. There is some good news for you:

With correct maintenance and care, a straight razor will last you for life

A strop is needed every time you use a straight razor. It cleans the crud off the blade, gives it a better edge, and as an added bonus, adds a meditative stage to the whole shaving experience.

Learning how to use a hone can take a bit of time, but nothing will be better for keeping your blade sharp. It also increases your relationship with the blade, and makes you more of a man.

This page is going to be walking you through everything you need to know about how to carry out that correct maintenance.

Straight Razor Maintenance Tips

Tip One: Making a Razor “Shave-Ready”

Shave-ready means exactly what it sounds like. Many razors will arrive NOT shave-ready after you purchase them. This means they will need to be sharpened. You have several options here:

  1. Just buy a razor that comes shave-ready (limits your options)
  2. Send it off to a professional to do it for you or find a store nearby that offers this service (costs about $20-$30)
  3. Learn how to do it yourself.
  4. Grow into it.

For option 4, this is because many razor manufacturers like Dovo actually recommend you just start out using a strop on your blade. They say that it’s better to build up your razors sharpness as you increase your skill in both shaving and stropping.
Honing is definitely something you can learn as well, but it’s not urgent.

Best Razor Hone

This Norton Japanese hone is probably one of the best available on the market right now and for the price you can currently get it, you know you're getting good quality for a reasonable price. 

Cheap hones can do more damage than good to a blade, which is why we recommend picking this one up as your first and last.​

I think everybody should learn how to hone a blade at some point. In the beginning you should get it done professionally though, then you will have something to reference when you learn how to do it yourself.

You will need to get hold of a sharpening stone, more commonly known as a “hone”. There are different degrees of hone though, so I would recommend you get hold of a 4000/8000 one.

Note: Some people feel 8k is not enough and like to use a finishing stone, for a beginner though, 8k should be fine.

Once you have got a suitable hone, you can follow the video below, or get this book. (Probably easier to watch the video)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPYmfyw-5WU

I would add the following tips:

  • If your blade doesn’t feel sharp after the first time, no problem. It takes practice. Re-watch the video and try again.
  • Be patient. The hardest thing to master is using the correct pressure.

Maintaining Your Razor

As well as honing it when you first get it, and once every 3-6 months (depending on quality), you should be “stropping” the blade with every shave.

Best Razor Strop

Cheap strops don't last anywhere near as good as a quality one, so make this a one-off expense rather than several cheap purchases.

What this means is: Using a leather strop to keep the blade in good condition. (See video below)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgsEKpA4SUI
So when is the best time to strop? and why?
Stropping should be performed before you shave. It is essential if you want to keep your blade sharp and holding its edge, and giving you the closest shave properly.
I would say 15-25 strops is the best amount, but it will depend on the quality of your blade and strop.
Some people will also wipe the blade on a towel to dry it prior to stropping, I would suggest you can do this (use the same motions as with a strop) every now and then in addition to the strop.
I had it pointed out to me by Em of ShavePlace.com that you shouldn’t strop a blade after the shave as it can break off the microscopic particles of the blade after use (when the blade is soft).
Dovo recommend letting a razor rest for 24-48 hours before stropping again.
I know what you are thinking: “Oh man, I have to buy the razor, the hone, the strop, what else?” Well, for maintenance purposes, that is it.

Remember, one of the biggest advantages of having a straight razor, after quality of shave, is the fact that it will last you for life. Think of any initial investments as a one-off, and your shaving bill will be near zero after that
 

Ok, so what hone and/or strop should I start out with? 

Two Must Have's: Strop + Hone

A strop is needed every time you use a straight razor. It cleans the crud off the blade, gives it a better edge, and as an added bonus, adds a meditative stage to the whole shaving experience.

Learning how to use a hone can take a bit of time, but nothing will be better for keeping your blade sharp. It also increases your relationship with the blade, and makes you more of a man.