‘MoneyTalksNews’ has published some great articles about the rising cost of modern shaving gear estimating that just one replacement cartridge for modern shaving gear averages $3 and if you use one cartridge per week that is a cost of about $160 per year; just in cartridges that are ultimately thrown away! That doesn’t take into consideration updating the handle of your shaving system, buying canned cream which creates more trash and the added expense of items related to addressing “razor burn” which is a common issue with modern shaving gear but one that is eliminated with Straight Razor Shaving!
If you are interested in Straight Razor Shaving for yourself or buying Shaving Gear as a gift you may already know that you are entering new, VERY new territory.
The first thing you want to focus on is not to let yourself get overwhelmed… Before the turn of the century a young boy of about 12 would receive his first straight razor from a relative who would many times also teach them about care and use of the razor… So, if a 12 year old could have been entrusted with this responsibility then chances are good you will emerge victorious!
Also, try not to put yourself into a punitive mindset where all you see are negatives… Remember that $160 per year spent on disposable cartridges? Focus on saving that money each year as straight razors, when taken care of properly, will last generations!
The basic items of gear we will be talking about in this Blog are: Brush & Soap, Straight Razor and finally a Leather Strop.
Brush & Soap:
The Good– Once you find yourself the Brush and Soap you want to start with it is likely to last many weeks if not months longer than the ‘canned goop‘ you are currently using. Also, there is nothing wrong with using these two items as an initial gift to simply augment disposable razor cartridge shaving and many times this will give you some insight into their level of interest about Wet Shaving. As with so many other things, the sky is the limit on cost but Amazon has a Van Der Hagen set with Soap, Brush and Scuttle for under $10!
The Bad– Like everything related to Hobbies and Men’s Hobbies in particular, there is a vast and varied array of Brushes and Soaps which include big swings in both cost as well as quality. However, like the Van Der Hagen linked above, deals can be found readily but not always locally so when searching for wet shaving gear you should save the gas and shop Online. Straight Razor Designs is one great example and resource for all things Wet Shaving!
The Ugly– The biggest downside of gift-giving is the person disliking or not using the gift you worked so hard to find for them. In regards to straight razor shaving or any new hobby the difference is typically education and knowledge… ie, “Do they know how to use it?”. If you are already versed in this area then teaching them the ropes can be a great additional gift. If you know as little about this as the person you are buying for have no fear… Websites like Straight Razor Place and other shaving related online forums have information, interaction, videos, membership and local meets to address and promote all things straight razor related!
The Good– As most Straight Razor Converts would likely tell you, this portion should be titled “The Great!“… straight razor shaving holds so many benefits compared to modern shaving gear it is tough to list or even remember them all! Likely the most common is eliminated shaving irritation.
Prior to switching to straight razors I had such discomfort from shaving that I did so at most once per week and going longer when I had an excuse or could get away with it. But, from the moment I switched to straight razors and wet shaving that was all eliminated and to this day I still use modern shaving gear to shave my head but straight razors to shave my face/neck and it ends with my head being itchy and irritated and face and neck just feeling cool and smooth.
I won’t go into too much detail but the modern shaving commercials explain it well enough where one blade lifts (read: “PULLS”) a whisker and prepares for the subsequent blades to finish cutting which takes anywhere from 2 to 6 blades apparently. Another way to say that is that it takes 6 inferior blades/edges to cut what one properly honed edge can with a straight razor. No wonder there is such a dramatic difference in the results between modern shaving gear and straight razors! As mentioned above, these razors will last generations so this is not just a piece of gear you are going to keep dumping money into and creating heaps of trash along the way either.
The Bad– Like the bad with Soaps and Brushes there is also a varied array of cost and quality for straight razors. It would be burdensome to go into specific detail so, remember, there are online resources with details and videos far greater than I could include in this simple Blog. So, the first thing to consider when buying a straight razor is, “Are you a gambler or not?”. If you are a person who doesn’t mind shopping for great bargains or deals and the occasional disappointment that comes from missing your mark then your target may be eBay as they are a tremendous resource for straight razors and related gear and offer a great deal of used razors at fair prices. The difficulty is knowing what to stay away from and there is not a lot of agreement but the following is a short summary…
Don’t buy Pakistani or razors from India as there have been too many poor quality blades under those names to risk it when you are not experienced… Also, don’t buy new razors with prices that seem too good to be true; they are quite simply and specifically that and paying good money just to watch a dream turn into a nightmare is not the way to go!
Next, read descriptions carefully and don’t be afraid to email questions to Sellers to get more detail or a ‘read’ on the person doing the selling. Finally, look for “Shave Ready” straight razors meaning that someone who knows something about them has honed the edge to a level with which they are appropriate and comfortable to shave with. Opinions vary and there are people who may use terms like this to promote sales but that is all part of the Gambling Experience and most likely the energy that drives Gamblers to continue Gambling. If you are NOT a Gambler then buying new is your ticket and the best thing about buying new is you can often bundle gear to get better deals as online vendors compete for your dollar! While the initial cost of new razors is often higher there is also a near guaranteed success rate ensuring you will get a great razor that is ready to go right out of the box.
The Ugly– Remember the term “Shave Ready”? That applies to new razors also as they simply do not come out of the factory ready to shave with unless you purchase from a custom maker or from a vendor that includes “Professional Honing Services” with their purchases. So, that means if you scored a great deal on an eBay razor you know the person is going to love you will still have to factor in Professional Honing Services. I offer professional honing services on my website to give you an idea of prices. Please realize that honing prices and quality fluctuate like everything else.
And lastly we come to what may be the Linchpin when it comes to straight razor shaving. Just like it takes education, time and practice to develop skill when shaving with a straight razor, it may actually take longer with which to develop the skills to properly care for and maintain the edge of a razor and edge maintenance means Stropping. There are many recommendations when it comes to material type, placement and frequency for stropping so I am going to narrow this focus to simply a Leather Strop which will come with a secondary material of cotton, canvas, wool or nylon webbing. The secondary material will come into play more preferentially than anything so if this is a gift just stick with the standard secondary material that comes with the leather strop rather than adding additional initial cost. Secondary material can always be changed at a later date.
The Good– Longevity, like with straight razors, rides high in the positive category of leather strops as they will also last generations when taken care of properly. Using a three inch strop is the best standard to give you great results. Also, with a properly cared for strop in their arsenal, the person you are buying for will be able to maintain their straight razor for months or possibly a year!
The Bad– The top of the Bad List for Stropping is that by doing it incorrectly you can dull the edge of your straight razor such that it must be sent off to be re-honed professionally and that can be an expensive lesson. On my website I offer Basic Honing which starts at $15 and Extended Coverage Honing which starts at $25 but includes a Re-Hone any time within 6 months after my initial honing. This service is offered specifically to address issues with improper honing, misuse or abuse. Also, nicking and cutting your strop is fairly common and if it is a big enough nick or cut the strop must be repaired and sometimes replaced. I strongly recommend for a first razor that you focus on buying a Shave Ready razor that will give you anywhere from a handful to a dozen shaves prior to needing to be stropped allowing someone to use that time and develop the skills necessary to keep their gear in top shape. Strops also come in a variety of quality and prices so, if possible, buy them bundled with a straight razor or possibly save the strop for a later purchase after time and practice have allowed some skill to develop and therefore avoid someone attempting to develop two new skills all at one time. If bundling is not possible then using the same care with your strop purchase that you used when buying the straight razor still applies. Learn as much as you can then make your purchase from a person you feel you can trust.
The Ugly– The biggest downside with Stropping is that it may actually be harder to initially learn than switching to straight razor shaving itself! Most everyone shopping for shaving gear has some experience with the process of shaving but it is a rare thing that someone has experience with stropping prior to buying their first strop. Use Online Resources, Ask Questions and Watch Videos by the half-dozen and you will get there. As cool as it is to be able to grab a strop and quickly slap a razor back and forth, that is the last thing you should do. You should initially go very slow and start by lying your strop on top of a table or other flat surface and that takes some discipline to make yourself go slowly and carefully when you are so excited and wanting to learn quickly. With that in mind, that is the other reason to buy and use the straight razor first so some mistakes can be made and lessons learned. After this initial humbling straight razor shaving experience is the time to introduce learning to strop so that going slowly and carefully become the rule.
Finally, remember that $160 we talked about saving in just 12 months not using disposable cartridges? Let’s put a couple scenarios out there using that number…
~ You are an admitted Gambler and have some skill with online auction sites like eBay. You also stumbled across an artfully written Blog like this one and have purchased the Van Der Hagen starter kit for $10 which means your Soap and Brush are already taken care of. After a lot of research, preparation and unsuccessful bidding you finally win a decent used, aka “Vintage” or “Antique”, straight razor for $30. You also noticed that the person selling the straight razor had a few used strops for sale and after a lot of learning and investigation you email the Seller and score it for $25 which is five dollars less than his asking but since you bought the razor also he gives you a deal. So far you are in $65 and you remembered Professional Honing Services so came back to my site and chose the Extended Coverage Honing for $25 which leaves you down a total of $90 with $70 leftover from the $160 you started with which is a great start on other shaving gear in the future. You can also rest easy knowing that you are holding a re-hone certificate in case anything happens during the learning phase over the next 6 months!
~ You know nothing about Wet Shaving and have even less desire to learn so you stumbled across this Blog and thought you’d go Online to try to find the best deal and found that Straight Razor Designs has Straight Razor Wet Shaving Sets starting at $169 which is a little above your budget of $160 but you can skip your weekend trip to Starbucks and save that much so you jump right in and buy it all and the razor comes Professionally Honed so you won’t have that added expense to consider!
There are positives and negatives to any approach including either of these and whereas bundling may save money initially you will also be getting a 2″ strop rather than a 3″ which may end up costing you more down the road. The market for wet shaving gear is warming up so as a last resort, always remember that you can turn around and sell your gear and likely return 50% of your money so that minimizes any financial risk substantially.
I’ve read so many posts and comments online about people worrying about the start-up cost of wet shaving gear that I’ve come to the conclusion it is simply the novelty of the items and inexperience of the buyers which drives that nervous energy… For me, someone selling a cup of coffee north of five bucks is a far greater concern than someone selling a used 100 year-old straight razor for $30!
The bottom line is to watch your pennies and see where you are leaking money prior to developing a budget. Three trips a week to Starbucks for that $5 coffee will run you just under $800/year so you’ve most likely got room and money to play with once you identify those soft areas… Research and educate yourself Online or with other people you know that already practice straight razor shaving… Buy from someone you truly ‘feel‘ you can trust… Finally, realize that there are a number of Online Communities and Forums just waiting for the next person to sign up so they can spread their skills, ideas and knowledge about a previously dull, daily routine they’ve all turned into a hobby that they truly enjoy!
If you have questions you can email me through this website or you can comment on any of the Blog entries directly at the bottom of the page… Best of luck on your Shaving Journey!