Second Annual- Seattle Shave-Con 2015

“If you haven’t heard, “You should go to a Shave Meet sometime… You’ll learn more in a few hours than you could in a month of searching Online!”, then you are certainly about to!”

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Shave Meets like the “Second Annual Seattle Shave-Con 2015” are an absolute must-see if there is even an outside chance to get there. First, there’s the Shave Gear that you get to see up-close and personal to touch, feel and smell…

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Then, there is the camaraderie, good times, great food and great drink…

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Afterward, there is great Teaching and Instruction on anything from simple Gear Recommendations all the way up to specialized and specific instruction on topics like Honing, Stropping and Restoration…

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Did I forget to mention there are often Raffles, Give-Aways and more for the Swag donated by the great Artisans, Vendors and Craftsman of the Wet Shaving world?

The pics below are of Mitch who won a Straight Razor Starter Set donated by Razors Edge Work… 11/16″ Wostenholm 1XL with Matching Coffin then a TGN Brush Handle with a 22mm 2-Band Synthetic Knot and the Strop was skillfully made and donated by Jeff Logan!!

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“Whether you’ve been Wet Shaving for a month or most of your life, going to a Wet Shaving Meet & Greet will surely be the shaving-highlight of your year!”

The Link to more information about the Seattle Shave-Con can be found below:

http://www.seattleshavecon.com/

“How A Seemingly ‘Good Deal’ On A Razor Can Cost You In The Long Run”

“Sometimes you see a deal that is just too good to pass up… Acquisition Disorder is rearing its’ ugly head and you barely notice what you are doing until you hit the  “Complete Transaction” button… Oftentimes, it is only then that you begin to do the critical thinking and background work you should have done in the first place.”

Bad Razor 1

I was recently contacted by someone who had purchased a “Straight Razor Shaving Kit” from Amazon at a really great price. For people with more experience, that is ‘Caution Flag Number One’Cheap Price. I asked for pictures as I didn’t recognize the name Equinox International and, just from the pictures, the razor seemed to have a really nice fit and finish and a solid grind/metal work. This was actually a more challenging situation as this brings me to ‘Caution Flag Number Two’ Looks too good for the price. There are some introductory razors out there which have their merits at a low price point but also carry the added burden of about a 50% Quality Control percentage meaning that, out of every 2 you buy, you are going to have one which will require Restorative Work beyond Basic Honing. For a New-In-Box razor, in my opinion, that is just not acceptable. However, there are people who love them and don’t mind putting the time, energy and money into it and making lemonade out of lemons. But, it is just simply not my preference… If I’m going to put time, money, effort on top of blood, sweat and tears into something it is going to be a 100 year old razor that I can truly be proud of and expect to get another 100 years out of… A RestoredNIB” razor just doesn’t do it for me and so I’ll leave those type projects for the people who want them.

Bad Razor 2

However, when you are working on projects for someone else, sometimes you have to put in your due diligence and be a little flexible. Thankfully there are resources found in Forums like StraightRazorPlace.com and multiple Facebook Groups such as… Straight Razor Place Facebookers, Razor & Brush,  and Wet Shaving Enablers Buy, Sell, & Trade… which have information on “Brands Of Razors Best Avoided”. Like I mentioned above, there are razors out there which are controversial and so you may find yourself on one side of that fence or another. But, if you are just starting out, it is best to listen to what the majority are saying initially until you get enough experience under your belt with which to make better critical decisions. Alas, that brings us to ‘Caution Flag Number Three’What if it isn’t on those lists?

That is exactly the case with this razor… It was not included in any of the “Brands Of Razors Best Avoided”. So, I was stuck with a judgment call but I had one more resource left that was sketchy at best… Amazon Reviews. As it turned out, they were no help as no-one reviewing seemed to know what they were talking about from a Honing Perspective.

Bad Razor 3

I ultimately ended up Honing the razor and I was initially so excited about the results that I Wishlisted this brand on Amazon preparing to order a bunch of them in order to set up a large number of Beginner Razors… At $9 each, as long as they held an edge they were going to be a steal! Discretion is always the best course of action and I have enough experience to know I must cover all the bases first before committing to a decision so I kept them on the Wishlist pending a Shave-Test… All people who hone razors should perform a live Shave-Test (.. whether it is your own razor or you are honing for someone else..) to make sure that the edge is “Shave-Ready” meaning keen, smooth and comfortable as that is the only true test which can give you this information; and even then, it is still subjective.

Unfortunately, that is where this story ends… I did the Shave-Test and with the first handful of strokes I knew I was right in the pocket for Shave Ready. However, in the next handful of strokes I knew there was an issue… Every following stroke seemed to drop the level of keen and smooth a bit until, before I was even done with my first pass, the razor was barely shaving at all even with added pressure which is something you are not supposed to use in the first place. Now I knew the reason for the low price point even if I didn’t know the exact reason… It could have been steel that was just too soft, an improper or absent heat-treat or another factor specific to the steel of this razor. What I knew was that the steel would not hold an edge whatsoever despite having a spot-on, shave-ready hone to start out with. Ultimately, I needed confirmation and that part was simple… I posted on one of the Facebook Shaving Groups with pictures and a description and it was not long before someone replied stating their experience with the Equinox International was nearly the same as mine.

“Despite the initial positives of a Low Price Point, Good Fit & Finish, and not finding it on the “Brands Of Razors Best Avoided”… This razor should absolutely be avoided. There are other controversial razor brands out there but some of those are able to be made Shave-Ready and hold an edge well once you get it there with proper honing. With something like this situation, unless you know what is lacking in the steel and have the knowledge and ability to correct it, there is simply nothing you can do but learn from the experience… Worst of all, sometimes a learning experience like this can cost you money on top of time and effort wasted.”

Take a look at my website: RazorsEdgeWork.com and my Razor Blog for more information on Razor Honing, Restoration and Wet Shaving. Contact me here if you have more detailed questions or if you’d like additional information on any of the services I provide.

“An Example Of A Functional Restoration”

“I’ve been trying to come up with a term that helps describe what I typically do with a Straight Razor when working on it and have been tossing around ‘Functional Restoration’ as a way to describe how I find a razor that has potential and then restore it using as much of the original parts as possible but without going into the ‘custom restoration’ realm… Not that I have anything against Custom Restorations, I am just still learning how to make scales and use materials that I was previously unfamiliar with. The following is a great example of what I mean when I say ‘Functional Restoration’…”

These are the ‘Before’ Pics I saw on eBay… An “A. Weber & Co” from “Keokuk, Iowa” German Ground SR with “Imperial/Extra Hollow Ground Warranted” etched onto the front blade face.

Imperial Before 1

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This Ad just popped up during random eBay searching and didn’t have a lot of detail other than, “.. about 3/4″ blade..”, in the description so I knew I’d have the metal real-estate to work with. Upon casual inspection I believed the scales to be just some composite/plastic. The Crack and the weird looking Wedge were also things I noticed right away.

I received the straight razor and at first noticed that the scales were likely something other than plastic… They felt stiffer and ‘colder’ than plastic and so I kept that in the back of my head as I was looking at everything else. The chip was indeed large but the rear stabilizers did not stick out so much they were hitting the hone so I knew I’d have plenty of room to work that and it would be just a matter of what was left over afterward. The “Pinch”, as I call it, was something weird… To me, it looked like someone used one of those 70’s Style Handheld Sharpeners on it and then slipped/rotated causing lateral force applications in opposition as the mark on one side did not quite line up with the other side. ?? The metal was coming off anyway so I didn’t stress over it too much but still makes me wonder what happened. There was a split in one of the scales and a very-homemade wedge out of some type of cardboard-ish material. I think they replaced the Wedge with something thinner so as not to risk worsening the crack. Otherwise, the straight razor was in decent condition. The deciding factor was when mine was the only Bid… I now had myself a Project!!!

I typically pop ’em apart right away but I wanted to make sure I was going to be able to remove that metal effectively and still have a functional, nice-looking straight razor afterward. Out comes the DMT… And, I was on that thing for quite a while… I used alternating Circles, X-Strokes and BKT which works really well toward the end when the chip is getting down there as you can feel the ‘drop’ during the BKT which told me there was still work to be done. Eventually I got her there!

Now I knew the Project was a GO… So, next step was figuring out a Wedge… I save ‘everything’ from any Hobby as I’ve just found from experience that the minute you toss something out you need the dang thing not long after… So, I have a little Straight Razor Graveyard in a baggie and I had a few different types of broken Black Scales and a set of broken Red Scales… I thought long and hard about the Red but ultimately decided on Black so roughed it out and found that the scales on this razor were just a little off-set with one being thinner/shorter and the other longer/thicker… So, the Wedge was going to stick out a bit on one side and would need to have an appropriate taper to blend between the two lengths. That brought me to this stage:

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I started to work on the Scales a bit and started to see little ‘pits’ in there that lead me to believe they were likely Bone… I’d never worked Bone before so wanted to get a second opinion and it was confirmed they were indeed Bone. That is the great thing about the Wet Shaving Community in general is that there is almost always help not too far way. Once I had the scales sanded just lightly using Micro-Mesh I cleaned them up again and stabilized the Crack with CA… Left it overnight then started sanding again focusing on removing the excess CA… I considered only afterward that I could have applied then wiped the excess CA off prior to drying overnight so had a LOT of sanding to do. BUT, the really cool part was that the textures and color variations within the Bone were coming out beautifully and luckily enough providing some serious camouflage for the Crack… It was getting harder and harder to see the more I worked. I ended the day with coating them in Castor Oil which is my go-to oil… Not that it is something special but simply because it was what was laying around a few years ago when I was looking for something the first time. Turns out Castor Oil works incredibly well to rehydrate scales and I’ve been using it exclusively since.

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That left Hand-Buffing out the Scales, Razor Polishing, Re-Pinning, Wedge Finishing/Shaping/Tapering and then Honing. I had an Owner in mind for this one so we both decided that stainless steel would be the right hardware and so I used that and it really off-set the brightness of the blade as well as the black color on the wedge perfectly. No issues during fit/tightening but I did bring that Wedge down pretty flat so as to avoid stressing the Crack… It was quite stabile and really well blended in but I did not want to risk breaking it open again.

Honing went well and I started with 2 layers of tape on a Norton 1k then, once the bevel was set, dropped to 1 level of tape and continued on until it was set again. I finished the rest with one layer of tape. I was hoping that the varied angles during bevel set would help me remove more metal and allow me to sneak right down to the point where the Crack ended so I didn’t lose any more metal than I had to. After all was said and done she still measured in at 13/16’ths so just a really nice sized razor considering where she started!! I finished the rest of my series with one layer of tape… Norton 4/8, MST Thuri, Naniwa 12k then Llyn Idwal for the last dance. Stropped her- 20 Felt Pasted w/CrOx, 40 on Plain Felt, 60 on an SRD Premium I and then 40 on an SRD Roo and she was complete!

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She shaves absolutely like a dream! The only down-side is I picked this one out for a Friend and, once I had the metal work done, sent him pics and talked to him about it ‘prior’ to shaving… Lesson learned… NEVER offer someone a razor until AFTER the Test Shave… I regretted telling him about it from the first stroke… It was just that buttery smooth and consistent.

I’ve still got soo much room to grow but this build, in particular, had me saying, “Hey! I did that!”, in a genuinely child-like and overwhelmingly impressed voice. It was easily my best shave ever from a Honing I did!

A few years ago I would have been one of those on eBay that passed this razor by thinking, “What would someone do with that broken thing?”, and now I’m on the other side looking at this finished razor shaking my head and saying, “I was the only bidder!!??”

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“As the pictures show… This razor simply turned out beautiful and she shaves like a dream… A great example of something that was so initially unappealing no-one else would bid on her. I’m thinking I’d get a completely different response if I put her back up on eBay now! This was definitely a most successful Functional Restoration.”

“When Patina Reaches Perfection”

Sometimes you come across a Razor that has lived a long life, been held by many hands and has earned every nick, ding, chip and bit of rust. The question when you find it is not always simple to answer…

“Should I restore this Razor or just get it functional?”

I recently received a Razor that had me scratching my head with just that question.

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This is a ‘Henckels #12’ with Wood Handles… The Blade was in okay shape and had a nice little Smile going for it… The Scales were very warped but the Hardware appeared to be quite old and the overall “look” of the Razor showed a lot of promise.

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The main issue was that someone had re-scaled with material that was too short and so the tip of the razor was hitting the lead wedge and the only way it would close completely was nesting between the wedge and the scale and would jeopardize any new edge put on it.

Patina 3I have had some success using just a simple Humidifier to steam scales and then get them straight so I gave that a shot and it worked… It did not straighten them all the way but it was enough to allow the blade to be centered properly.

Patina 4The last hurdle was the toughest… The lead wedge was just too big and to replace it meant I’d have to take the entire razor apart and putting shiny hardware on a razor like this would be a crime. So, that left only a full-restoration or figure out the issue with the wedge.

I played around with adjusting the pivot and had the scales as straight as possible but the tip was still solidly hitting the wedge. Then, it struck me, lead is pretty soft so why not try filing it down. Using a Jeweler’s Micro-File I was able to do just that. I created enough space for the razor to close properly!

The pictures above are what it looked like after the initial work was done and I had the Bevel set. The only thing I did aside from the above is soak the scales heavily in Castor Oil to hydrate them and the razor turned out beautiful and was completely functional!

“Sometimes ‘Bright-N-Shiny’ is just not the way to go!”

… as these ‘after’ Pics of the finished razor show!

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“When It All Just Seems To Go Wrong”

“Sometimes things happen… No matter how careful you are, stuff just occasionally happens. :-(“

Boker Chip

The pic above is a Brand New Boker ‘King Cutter’ that lost a brief but fierce battle with a faucet. Not a huge chip and there was no crack to go along with it… But, still not what you want to have happen in your first handful of shaves. Sometimes, though, it happens.

What to do? First, don’t freak out and make it worse. Hurling a razor across the room after an incident like this will not get you what you want. So, take a deep breath then take a couple more. Second, if you have some experience with Honing/Repair ‘now’ is not the time to make the assessment when emotions are at their highest. Finish your routine, clean and dry the razor as you would normally then come back to it later when you can be more calm and objective. Then, take a closer look and plan your fix or research your resources needed for this kind of repair.

If you just started wet shaving and do not Hone/Repair then now is the time to seek out some resources. There are numerous Sites, Pages and Groups out there that have just tons of information as well as links or recommendations to people that Hone/Repair or any other type support you may need. If you are not already involved in this way then do some research and try some out… Each place has their own unique attitude and flavor so don’t hesitate or lurk very long… Your best bet is to dive right in and get involved, Post or Start Threads. Once you’ve got a feel for the place you can better determine if it is the right ‘fit’ and you can certainly be active in as many Groups as you’d like and in as many formats as you can imagine. You could even start your own!

Now that the emotions have died down and you have the information you need it is time to select the person you are going to use for this support. Personal Recommendations are great ways to start… Browsing a Page or Website also helps… Ultimately, you have to take a leap of faith and contact someone directly. Just use the same type of intuition you did when first seeking out a Group and you’ll likely be fine. “Shave Ready” means something different to each person so there is not much way around that type of subjectivity… While one person may be fine scraping a crusty shell across their face to shave, someone else may have particular needs or preferences related to skin condition or sensitivity and it all boils down to personal comfort levels and experience. Those who choose to Hone Professionally should be well-versed in Wet Shaving, be helpful and polite as well as be open to questions and details… So, when you contact them just be open and up front so you can get the best read possible prior to making your decision. Ask about Price, Warranty/Guarantee (if any), Procedures/Specifics, Time Needed For Repair… Pay particular attention to Pricing as that is where you can possibly sweeten your deal. My Extended Coverage Honing is a good example of this where you can save 33% on your Re-Hone when you buy it up front.

Boker Repair

The above picture is the same Boker ‘King Cutter’ after repair. I used an alternating progression of BKT on the side of my Norton 1k along with Bevel Setting on the 1K without slurry to remove the chip and then went through my current Progression- Norton 1k, Norton 4/8, MST Thuri, Naniwa 12k, Llyn Idwal. Stropping Progression- SRD Premium Felt pasted with CrOx x 20, SRD Premium Felt x 40, SRD Premium I x 60 then finished on an SRD Roo x 40 (20 Regular/20 Light). I avoided the Slurry on the 1K on the outside chance I could create a crack and so wanted the smoothest surface possible. The BKT were also an invaluable tool as, simply by the feedback, I could tell when the chip was gone which I then confirmed with magnification.

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Happily, the Boker Repaired and Honed perfectly… The Test Shave was very nice and comfortable and there were no other issues to address. Working New Razors definitely has some advantages over Restorations. The Boker is paired in this picture with a C-Mon Blackie that was a Restoration I did and happened to Hone at the same time as the Boker. Both came out beautifully!

So, what do you do when you get your razor back? Gently wipe the oil away and Shave! You should not need to worry about Stropping so just make sure to set aside enough shaving time to really assess your blade and see how it goes. If all is well, tell other people about the Resource you found… If something is off, contact the person you hired to do the Repair/Honing and discuss your issue. So many of the Groups out there related to Wet Shaving are bringing back things in addition to Wet Shaving… Like Gentlemanly/Womanly Courtesy and Respect as well as Honest and Open Communication. If there is something wrong or something you do not understand then simply contact that person and address the issue directly. I have always been overwhelmingly pleased at how courteous, supportive and honest people are out there and I’m sure you’ll find the same thing!

“What? No BIG advice?!”, you say… Well, Wet Shaving is so individually specific it is tough to come up with those One-Size-Fits-All pieces of advice… But, for Chips like the one in this blade, my best advice is to, “.. always keep your eye on the blade..” when it is in your hand! Many people choose to only wipe their razors on a towel draped over a shoulder, arm or folded on the edge of the vanity… And, that often works but it doesn’t really get down to the issue which is that many times we are trying to do two things at once while shaving ie, feeling the closeness of the shave with one hand or looking into the mirror as we are dipping the razor into the water for a rinse… That is the ‘moment’ when things can all go wrong! If you simply keep your eyes always on the blade when it is in your hand then I think that is the simplest and most effective advice to give!

Some Nice, Fully Restored Beginner’s Sets

If you can pair a Shave Ready Razor with a properly prepped Barber’s Hone you are well on your way to being able to shave with a Straight Razor and maintain the edge properly.

Here are a few pics of Beginner’s Sets recently completed:

Boker Set
This is a nice 5/8″ Boker paired with a Swaty Austria Hone. Razor completely restored and Honed to Shave Ready. Hone lapped, chamfered and ready to go!

 

SRD Set
This is a tough to find 5/8″ SRD/Droescher paired with a matching Droescher imported Three Line Swaty. Razor completely Restored and Honed to Shave Ready. Hone lapped, chamfered and ready to go!

 

Wosty Set
This is a very nice 5/8″ Wostenholm 1XL in Matching Box paired with a Zanol Barber’s Hone. Razor has been completely Restored and Honed to Shave Ready. Hone has been lapped, chamfered and is ready to roll!

“From Trash To Treasure- Wade & Butcher Faux Frameback Wedge Restore”

“Sometimes what looks like Trash may actually be salvageable Treasure. With the right tools, focus and patience you can sometimes come out ahead when you would have thought it was a total loss.”

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This is what I started with. A straight razor acquired in a bundle deal that was so corroded and rusty I didn’t know what would be left after restoration. By wiping things down a bit with a damp cloth I could see it was a Wade & Butcher so why not give it a chance?

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I try to do as much work by hand as possible to avoid damage from power tools but this one was going to be a challenge. However, seeing the horn scales and the faux frameback on top of being a Wedge as well as the Wade & Butcher stamp I could ‘mostly’ make out with magnification, I knew this one was worth a try.

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For the blade itself I started out with 600 grit sandpaper but quickly realized I was too high so dropped back to 400 grit and could tell I was getting somewhere. By switching hands a LOT I was able to start seeing some progress.

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At about this point I knew I was not going to be able to restore it to a ‘beautiful’ state so starting to skew toward ‘function’. I ultimately ended up using a Dremel with a buffing wheel loaded with Flitz to make better progress… The deciding point on “More Power!” was when the razor twice demanded a blood sacrifice during hand-sanding with the second cut making a perfect “X” right through the first one. I actually glanced at my vice with evil thoughts when that happened but decided to hang in there after the Dremel showed some promise.

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The horn scales had some delamination as well as some writing so for them I used Micro-Mesh on both the inside and outside. I knew my goal was a functional “survivor” look so did not want to take it to high-gloss perfect so ended up going deep enough to remove the writing but left some scratching and I took most of the delamination away but did leave some as it just seemed right. After they were shined up I coated them in Castor Oil to rehydrate. Why Castor Oil? It was what I had laying around and it worked perfectly!

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Note in the picture above/right that you can read the stamp much more easily than before and I actually stopped working this area earlier on as I noticed I was starting to remove the stamp and I wanted to avoid that.

Once I had the steel as polished out as I could I took out my micro-fasteners and did a test/temporary pinning… Turns out with just one quick flick the blade was seating center without an issue so I knew this was going to turn out well. Sometimes razors just ‘speak’ to you in certain ways and I’m getting better at letting that intuition guide me. I used brass washers and pins and had trouble with the pivot so had to re-pin. During that process one of the washers got a little bent and as I was looking at it I noticed that matched the overall ‘look’ of the razor so played around with beating up the washers a bit and I scratched the pins up to get them to match as well and I think the result is quite appealing to the overall appearance of the razor.

Honing is always the big question mark with this much corrosion on steel but, having come this far, I was committed to go all the way. I spent a lot of time at the 1k level setting the bevel then looking under magnification for any large fissures from the corrosion and luckily enough it went fine. I went through my standard progression from there… 4k/8k, Thuringian (MST), Naniwa Super Stone 12k and finished on a new stone I picked up that was described as a “Black Escher”. I’m not sure what it is but it improves the edge following 12k so works great for my progression. Frequently I would check under magnification and stay on areas if there were a fissure near the edge and, with diligence, it paid off. I took it through 25 laps on CrOx pasted felt then to a SRD Premium I Strop and finished on an SRD Roo Strop.

This razor project turned out great, shaves really well and is a perfect example of what can be done with a razor that initially looked to be in too poor shape to even attempt. It may not be to everyone’s taste but turning a rusty clunker sitting in a junk pile into a really nice shaving razor with this overall look at completion… I’d think most would call that a WIN!

– Shawn

 

“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly about buying Straight Razors and Gear!”

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‘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!

Straight Razor:

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.

Leather Strop:

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.

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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!

or,

~ 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!

Shawn

Shaving 11 Shaving 10Shaving 5

“The Importance Of A Clean & Dry Razor…”

This simply cannot be stated often or strongly enough and there are many opinions, techniques, options and products out there. I prefer the KISS approach…

After Shaving with my Straight Razor I rinse the blade in warm water then set aside to dry as I rinse my Brush and put away my other gear. Then I wipe the razor gently with a towel and apply Tuf-Glide using Tuf-Cloth prior to placing it open-mouthed over my Razor Stand to fully dry a few hours. Sentry Solutions offers an incredibly effective and affordable product that I have been using with guns, knives and now razors for many years. I simply cut a corner off of my Tuf-Cloth and keep it full of Tuf-Glide placed in a pill-sized Ziploc in my Shave Den for easy, accessible use.

Keep your gear in top shape and it will serve you throughout your lifetime!

– Shawn