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10 Simple Tips to Get Started with a Straight Razor

10 Simple Tips to Get Started with a Straight Razor

You have just purchased your first cut throat razor and have taken it out of the packaging. It is incredibly sharp and you are going to be running it across your face. Naturally many beginners can be intimidated and overwhelmed by there first wet shave.

We have put together our 10 very best and simplest tips for any newcomer to straight razor shaving. Have a read through these and keep them in mind as you prepare for your first shave.

It takes time to master any skill - and wet shaving is definitely an art form. Do not expect to be an expert from the beginner. Take your time to focus on your skill and improve with every shave.

1. A good lather is a good shave

Shaving soap and cream serves several purposes in improving your shave - first of all it softens the hair and makes it easier to cut and secondly it acts as lubrication between the blade and your skin.

An old saying is "a beard well lathered is half shaved" and it really is true. Getting a thick lather is half the job done.

I suggest during your experimentation try shave with a high quality shaving cream and the next time use some gel from a can from a supermarket. I am certain you will have such a worse shave with the low quality gel that you will never go back!

Shaving soap lather


2. Start slowly and improve with each shave

You cannot rush perfection - and learning a new skill is a steady progression to perfection. Instead focus on improving with each and every shave. Try different methods and techniques and experiment with each shave - look at different angles, pressure, soaps, pass directions, etc.

To begin with focus on shaving with the grain. Look at results and keep an eye on red marks and how close the shave gets. Learn from each opportunity and try slightly differently next time.

This kind of testing and improvement will ultimately result in a much better result and an increase in skill very quickly. 


3. Razor maintenance is critical

The one defining difference between a straight razor and a disposal is that the straight razor can last for a lifetime - but only if you look after it.

A bathroom is also a very hostile environment for a razor - there is lots of water and humidity which can play havoc to the steel. Rust is a constant battle and keeping your razor dry when not in use must be considered from the beginning.

The other important part of razor maintenance is keeping your blade sharp - stropping after every use and honing regularly will ensure you keep getting the close shave you have been working so hard to achieve. Just because the razor arrives sharp does not mean it will stay that way indefinitely. Learning the proper way to hone a razor is also a different skill to start practicing.


4. Angles and pressure are key

One of the first things beginner's learn is the importance of angles and pressure.

Starting with angles - the human face is full of them, from the curve around your jaw to the dip under your nose and even the slope across your cheek. A cut throat razor works best at a fixed angle to the skin but because the skin changes direction you will have to adjust constantly to get the closest shave. 

My advice would be to start with 30 degrees and fine tune it going forwards. As you progress through multiple passes such as across the grain or against the grain you may want to reduce that angle to get more and more of the hair.

Straight razor angles

The majority of times people cut themselves it is because they are applying too much pressure. Reduce the pressure and make the blade do the work. If doing this results in a poorer shave then your blade is probably not sharp enough. Always focus on minimizing the amount of pressure you are applying.


5. Take your time

This links in very closely with the next point - take your time. It is not a race and for a beginner it will definitely take longer than you are used to when coming from a disposable razor that you just draw across your face and are done in 2 minutes.

Treat your new shaving routine as a ritual. If you put the time in you will get the results. 

Take time to build a thick lather, take time to focus on technique, take time to do multiple passes, and take time to focus on your preparation. All of these things will improve your shave going forwards.

As you progress in your skill you will also get faster in all of these aspects but for a beginner do not try to rush them.


6. Eliminate distractions

We often hear horror stories about how a small distraction resulted in a nick or at least a near miss. Whether it is a crying child, an enthusiast dog, a housemate, or any number of possibilities - make sure you have access to a quiet bathroom away from distractions, particularly while you are learning.


7. Avoid low quality razors

One mistake that I personally made and a lot of people interested in wet shaving do is starting off with a cheap, low quality razor. Mine was a cheap Chinese manufactured razor off eBay that cost about $10. It started off pretty blunt, got even blunter, never gave a good shave, and was thrown out very quickly.

A key piece of advice for beginners is to start with a good quality razor from a decent manufacturer - it does not have to be the most expensive razor around, but something from a solid supplier with a good reputation. This will save you a lot of wasted effort and pain down the track.

Low quality razors often arrive blunter than a butter knife, are impossible to hone properly, are not even or square, and rust extremely quickly. If you are thinking about getting an extremely cheap razor I would strongly recommend doing some more research first.


8. Practice makes perfect

It takes time to progress from beginner to intermediate and then more time to progress to master. Do not expect to skip these steps and to immediately become an expert.

Focus on deliberate practice. Try to get slightly better on every shave. Try to use less passes, achieve a closer shave, avoid nicks and cuts, and feel more confident as your progress.

Remember - practice makes perfect - and the good thing about having a shaving hobby is that you get to practice every single day.

9. Watch some tutorials

There are plenty of really great video tutorials showing some true experts explaining their craft. Watch some of these to get an idea about what to do, how different people achieve success, and find out some more tips and tricks.

Everyone's face is slightly different, so do not expect to be able to follow the very first video exactly. Watch a few different ones to see how you can customize your shave to your face.

10. Keep learning

 Wet shaving is a never ending lesson - from the art of shaving itself, to honing, trying different soaps and creams, getting the best lather... there are numerous different aspects to this hobby and is enough to keep enthusiasts entertained for their entire lives.

Keep learning, keep trying new techniques and products and you will continue to make the most out of this fantastic skill.


1 comment

  • Mick

    Even a known quality brand such as Dovo should be professionally honed prior to first use. Factory edges are not the best they can be. Not everyone who sharpens stuff can hone a razor. It takes a different technique than a knife and much finer stones. Most knives are finished on a 1000 grit ( 1k ) stone that would be considered just the starting point for a razor. A razor can be finished on 8k, but will perform much better finished on 12k or higher. So like I say, not everyone who sharpens, knows how to hone. Then there is honing technique which is also different to other edges, and that’s a whole discussion as well. Bottom line. Source a pro to hone. Don’t trust the person who works out the back of your local ‘Shaver Shop’ to be able to do it either.

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