Shaving with a Cut Throat Razor
Choosing the Right Cut Throat Razor
Shaving with a cut throat razor will take longer than conventional shaving, but once you have mastered the skill it will provide you with the ultimate shave, it is a ritual that goes back hundreds of years and will provide you with a feeling that you're doing things right. Nicks and cuts tend to bleed less and heal quicker than conventional wet shaving because the angle you shave at is steeper, cartridge and safety razors often either leave a flapping piece of skin or take a shallow chunk of skin over a large area.
Cut throat razors also work out a lot cheaper, cared for correctly one will last a life time, think how much of a saving you would make compared to your spending on cartridge razors.
The important points to know about and consider when choosing a straight razor are; the temper, the size, the grind, the balance and the style and finish.
The balance of a razor refers to the relative weight and length of the blade as compared with that of the handle. A cut throat razor is properly balanced when the weight of the blade is equal to that of the handle. Proper balance means greater ease in shaving with the razor.
The grind of the razor represents the shape of the blade after it has been ground over a stone. The most common types of grinds are; the full concave, also known as hollow ground, the half concave or half hollow ground, and the wedge grind
The full hollow ground razors are the easiest to learn to sharpen and the most forgiving when you're shaving. The less concave the blade the stiffer it will be, a wedge grind requires a certain skill, but once you become accustomed to it, it will produce an excellent shave.
Temper,tempering the razor involves a special heat treatment given by the manufacturer. When cut throat razors are properly tempered, they acquire the proper degree of hardness and toughness necessary for good cutting quality. Razor can be purchased with either a hard, soft or medium temper. From this assortment, you can select the kind of temper which produces the most satisfactory shaving results. Generally the medium temper is preferred.
The size of the razor deals with the length and width of the blade. The width of the razor is measured in eighths or sixteenths of an inch, most generally in eighths such as 4/8, 5/8, 6/8 and 7/8. The 5/8 inch size is the one most frequently used.
The style of a razor indicates its shape and design, such as a square point, a round heel a straight panel back and edge and a flat or slightly round handle.
The finish of a razor is the condition of its surface, this can be either plain steel, crocus (polished steel) or metal plated (nickel or silver). Although the crocus is most costly it usually lasts longer and does not show any signs of rusting. The plated razors are undesirable because they wear off quickly and often hide a poor quality steel.
Learning to Use a Cut Throat Razor
As a beginner, try practicing first on the less problematic areas of your face, the cheeks being the easiest place to start, apprentice barbers actually train using a balloon covered in shaving cream
Hold the razor at an angle of about 30 degrees to your face. As you become more experienced you will find yourself varying the angle, holding it more upright going round corners for example, but remember, hold the razor too flat and it will rip and drag at the stubble giving an uncomfortable shave, hold the razor too upright and it's more likely to cut into the skin.
When shaving, the razor should be opened into an L shape with the blade edge on the outside of the L. The razor should be held with the thumb and three fingers, thumb on the blade at all times and the handle going across the palm and pointing away from the face.
Pull the skin taut and shave with smooth strokes, the movement should be without any jerks or chopping, as much as possible try to keep each stroke about 3 cm in length. Shave first in the direction of the stubble growth, then apply water or re-apply shaving cream and shave across it. For an extremely smooth shave re-lather and shave again this time going against the grain, be careful as for many people this can cause irritation.
Once you have mastered the cheeks and gained more confidence you can move on to the more difficult areas of your face, the neck being considered the next step up. When you come to your upper lip shave it in two halves, from the centre going right in one stroke, then from the centre going left in one stroke. The chin, along with the jaw line will be the most difficult, you can shave the chin in a similar way to the upper lip dividing it into two halves, or in one long stroke going right across the chin.
Learning to shave with a cut throat razor is not an easy skill to master and will take time and practice.
Caring for a Cut Throat Razor
After each use always clean and dry your razor, then store in a dry place. Ideally a razor should be given 24 to 48 hours for the cutting edge to resettle and straighten.
Care of cut throat razors. After use, they should be stropped and a little caster oil applied over the cutting edge, thus preventing the corrosive action of moisture. Be careful not to drop the razor as the blade may be damaged.
Stropping a Cut Throat Razor
To maintain a keen edge on the razor regular stropping is a must.
A strop should be hung at chest height, pull strop tight and keep the razor almost flat, pull towards you applying light pressure blunt edge first, turn blade over and push back, repeat ten to fifteen times, so blade edge is trailing and making sure you turn the blade after each stroke otherwise you will make the blades edge round. Another good habit is to turn blade over on its blunt side minimising the risk of catching and blunting the edge. Use a strop paste to really give the blade a good polish and to prolong the life of the strop.
Honing a Cut Throat Razor
To sharpen a cut throat razor you will need a 'Belgium wet stone,' these can have grades of grit which vary from 1000 which you would use if you razor needs a lot of work and the blades edge needs o be totally rebuilt, through to the extremely fine grit of 8000, these you would use to put the delicate sharpest edge on your razor. Normally for honing you will need a medium course grit such as a 4000, to grind out any nicks and the 8000 to put that fine edge on your razor, conveniently stones usually come with two stones joined together, on one side you'll have the 4000 and when you flip it over the 8000.
A wet stone as indicated by its name needs to be thoroughly soaked while it is being used, you will find you will need to keep adding water as you work on the razor. Place the stone on a flat stable surface with enough room for free movement of your arms, beware that honing a razor does get messy so it's probably best not to do it on something like a white carpet. If the cut throat razor is particularly blunt or has a nick in it start with the 4000, otherwise go straight to the 8000.
When sharpening a cut throat razor the sharpening goes the opposite way as it would if you were stropping, you push the blade away from you along the stone, then pull the blade back toward you keeping the blades edge facing you. When you turn the blade over between strokes a good habit to get into is flipping the blade on its spine so you don't run the risk of knocking the blades edge on the stone and undo all your work.
To get an even edge on each stroke go across the stone as well as along in an X shape. hone the razor an equal number of times on both sides and keep the pressure even, keep checking to make sure you are sharpening evenly not only on each side but also along the blade.
Keep the blade flat, there should be 2 points of your razor touching the stone; the spine and the blades edge. If you have an ornate razor with decorations on the spine put electrical tape over it to protect it. To see if a blade is sharp enough the simplest method is to drag your thumb lightly across the blade, if the skin catches then it's sharp, notice I said across the blade not along it, if you push a thumb along it will slice and cut you. Another method is to take a long hair and see if the razor can cut it while its daggling.
Below is a video demonstrating shaving techniques, it was not made by ourselves and the producers have no connection with GroomingHealth, but we liked the video so much we thought we would include it