Straight razors are having a resurgence lately and you might be considering jumping on board. If you’re not one hundred percent sure what exactly a straight razor is, let this introduction be your guide. You can learn further down the page what the best straight razors are.
You might also have heard of them called open razors or cut throat razors. This refers to the way the blade has no protection, and is “open” to your skin. For a very long time, these were the only means known to man, and a visit to the local barbers would often incorporate a shave.
The blades are NOT disposable, but rather need stropping and sometimes honing.
Even though they declined and were eventually replaced by safety razors (thanks to King C. Gillette), and then cartridge razors, they are still being manufactured. You can find companies in Europe (mostly Solingen, Germany but also France and United Kingdom), Asia (mostly Japan), and North America.
There’s also a big antique razor market.
Straight Razor Quality
Buying anything but the best straight razors is madness. The right razor is a very important thing. You might not want to read that and might be hoping that the cheap brands you’ve come across on Amazon or elsewhere are worth buying. You’d be wrong.
When you are using a piece of steel that is supposed to last you a very long time (perhaps even forever), you want to make sure it is top quality. There are many knock-off, cheap, or even junk razors out there marketed as top quality cut throat razors, but most of them are not worth your time. Anything under $50 is definitely going to be more trouble than it’s worth.
The best steel is often cited as being from Solingen, Germany, or Sheffield, United Kingdom. Sheffield Steel is known as a hallmark worldwide.
What Do You Actually Need?
This video should really help you figure out what you actually need when it comes to buying a straight razor. Further down the page we’ve got a list of some of the best.
Parts Of Straight Razors
It’s important to be aware of the various parts of a straight razor. You’re not going to need to know them and select them, but understanding how intricately they are put together will help you know why to avoid buying badly crafted blades.
This is the “pin” that the narrow end of the blade rotates on. If this is badly put together, the blade could slip mid-shave. As you can imagine, this isn’t going to end well for your face.
This is the part that you hold and is often badly made in cheaper models. It’s easy for the scales to crack, so even though some of them are very nicely decorated, you want to avoid something that feels lacking in quality.
That said, even the popular brands like Dovo sometimes have plastic handles, so it doesn’t have to be particularly weighty in order to be a sign of quality.
You might also see references to things like the shank, the tang, the stabiliser, or the heel. These are more important for hobbyists or those who want to do repair work.
I wouldn’t worry too much about the details of these right now.
Straight razors are made from a process of forging, hardening (tempering), grinding, and then finishing. They’re not something that can be readily mass-produced, although the bigger manufacturers still do manage to produce a large amount every year.
I’m telling you this because if you find a blade on Amazon for $25, you should ask yourself what kind of quality compromises were made.
This is an artisan craft with a lot of steps, so you really ought to be prepared to pay a higher price.
There are lots of different widths of blade. The most common/preferred and best for beginners is the 6/8 inch. You can also find some 5/8 blades that will be fine for you to use.
If a blade is not at one of these angles, it’s much more likely that you’ll end up cutting yourself.
Check the image below.
Choosing Your Razor
There really are a lot of razors to choose from though, and many of them are more than acceptable, so it is difficult for me to list them all. Instead, I’ll list my “top three” brands, and then give you some more information at the bottom of the page to help you identify whether a brand you come across is good or not.
Best Cut Throat Razors
My top three brands are Dovo, Fromm, and Giesen & Forsthoff. This is based on personal opinion and experience/research, so it is not conclusive. I’ll explain below why they make it into my top three.
I would be surprised if they didn’t make it into every top three lists, because they are the Apple of straight razors. The most well known, the easiest to get hold of, great quality and great value.
Dovo are manufactured in surprisingly high numbers given the decreased popularity of this type of razor, which shows how high their demand is within the reduced market.
What’s more, they are great for beginners and veterans alike, with a wide range of blades available.
There are a lot of good things said about Fromm across the Internet. While the more experienced straight razor users among us might feel they are not the best quality, there are many who use them daily without issue.
I would agree they are definitely more of an “entry-level” razor or a backup razor for when your top quality one needs maintenance, but that is part of the appeal.
If you want a razor which is affordable, yet still provides a very good shave and stays sharp, Fromm is most likely for you.
Giesen & Forsthoff
If you would prefer to go for something higher quality than Fromm, but still in the affordable price range, this is your top choice. G & F blades are a lot cheaper than Dovo, but are not too far behind in quality. The company has a long history of producing good quality blades.
Other Notable Brands
I assumed when making this post that a lot of people searching for this topic would be beginners looking to buy their first blade. Therefore, when I selected my three recommendations, I based them on a criteria of affordability, quality, availability, and ease of use/maintenance.
If you wanted to search for something more “executive” or higher end, then you would be able to find them, and others might not agree with my list either. I stand by my selections though. None of the three brands mentioned above will be a bad purchase by any means, and that is what matters the most.
If you find another brand that you are unsure of, ask yourself the following questions:
- How does the price compare with other blades? If it is significantly cheaper, something is probably wrong.
- Are there many reviews/mentions of it online? If you can’t find information about it here, something is probably wrong!
- Is the source trustworthy? This part should be self explanatory.
If you can, inspect the steel/blade and the handles/hinges. If something looks cheap or poorly made, don’t buy it. You don’t want “cut throat” to become a literal name because you’ve shredded your skin to pieces due to a faulty razor.
Why Use A Straight?
Maintenance And Honing
Despite what a lot of people say, a straight razor that is freshly bought does NOT need to be sent off to a professional honer. I had this information directly from Dovo themselves.
Their suggestion is that a user “wears-in” a straight razor, slowly stropping it every couple of days. As you grow in skill, you will also get better at sharpening your blade. It’s also a good idea to let the blade “sit” and only shave every 48 hours.
In other words, get a razor, get a strop, and then learn how to use them together.
You are always welcome to post a comment below to add your own best cut throat razors, or ask questions about other brands.