Three Essential Tips For Maintaining Your Straight Razor

You’ve taken the plunge and got yourself a straight razor. You’re now part of an exclusive (but growing) club for whom nostalgia and practicality share equal credit… a callback to hardier days when swiping sharpened steel across your skin was considered manly, and the perfect shave was the mark of a gentleman.

Modern innovations are wholly designed to make things easier and simpler. But not everyone wants to do things the easy or simple way. If you’re the proud owner of a straight razor, you already know this. It takes more practice to learn. It takes more effort to master. And, instead of just chucking it out when it gets dull, you’ve chosen the responsibility of taking care of that straight razor.

Three Essential Tips For Maintaining Your Straight Razor

Treat your straight razor right, and it will give you a lifetime of perfect shaves. Repay that loyalty by learning our three essential tips for maintaining your straight razor.

1. Cleaning Up

When your razor first arrives, it may have a light coating of oil on the blade. This may be the case regardless of if your razor is mild or stainless steel. You don’t want to get blade oil on your strop (which we’ll be talking about shortly); the bare minimum for cleaning up your new razor is hot water, a toothbrush, and plain dish soap. Hydrogen peroxide and isopropyl alcohol are also handy to disinfect and provide a no-rust quick dry.

While straight razors are traditionally made of rust-prone carbon steel, many of today’s better blades are stainless steel. Yes, you could think of stainless as a shortcut, but only in the respect of maintenance. It requires the same skill to use, but the cleanup is admittedly easier given stainless steel’s resistance to rust and corrosion.

Three Essential Tips For Maintaining Your Straight Razor

2. Stropping Young Lad

When you first hear the word “strop,” you’ll probably think “strap.” A strop looks like a leather belt or a strap, so the confusion is understandable. If you’ve ever seen old films or new videos where they’re whisking the razor back and forth over a belt, that’s stropping.

Think of stropping not as sharpening, but as polishing out the microscopic defects in the edge caused by cutting through your stubble. The main idea here is that the defects are microscopic; you don’t want to wait until you see a jagged edge on your razor. Failing to strop will mean a steady decrease in the quality of your shave.

For that reason, you’ll want to strop after each shave. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many times to strop. Some strops have linen on one side and plain leather on the other; 25 times on each side usually does the trick. Simply put, strop until it feels like it will give you a razor-sharp shave again.

When it comes to stropping, “smooth” is the name of the game here. Leather is just animal skin; hard, jerky movements will slice up your strop just as it would your face. With a gentle touch, lead with the back edge of the razor and push away; turn the razor while in motion and pull it back toward you, again back-edge first.

Leading with the cutting edge by pushing it away or pulling it towards you will destroy your strop and dull your razor. Strops are usually more narrow than the razor, so you’ll be pulling the blade diagonally across the strop.

Three Essential Tips For Maintaining Your Straight Razor

3. Hone In On It

Whereas stropping is more like politely asking your razor to be just that much sharper, honing is where you’ve stopped asking nicely. Instead of leather, you’re going to use a whetstone. This is because beard hair has higher tensile strength than the same thickness copper wire. You better believe it’s going to chew up your razor over time.

If you’re familiar with how sandpaper grit works, whetstones are the same. The higher the number, the finer the grit. And, as with sandpaper, the idea is that you’re going to very carefully remove just enough steel from your razor to bring it back to sharp again. A combo of 4000-grain and 8000-grain whetstones will give you a finely honed edge without shortening the lifespan of your razor.

Honing is somewhat the opposite of stropping since you hone by going cutting edge first instead of back edge. So, push the cutting edge away, flip, and draw the cutting edge toward you. And, like stropping, gently pull the blade diagonally when honing. It’s repetition, not force, that works the magic. If you strop regularly, you’ll probably only have to hone every couple of months.

Three Essential Tips For Maintaining Your Straight Razor

Stay Sharp

After each shave, go back and give your razor a thorough cleaning to remove soap scum and disinfect it. Regularly maintained, your straight razor will reward you with perfect shaves for years to come. Just follow our three tips for shaving joy!

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