Category Archives: Razors & Equipment

Guide to Buying Your First Straight Razor

I am constantly being asked this question: Which straight razor do you recommend? I’ve been meaning to write this article for a while now, but have been busy with other projects. Well, here it is; finally.

This guide is written with the beginner or non-wet-shaver looking to buy their loved one a fantastic gift in mind. Veteran straight razor users should already know what they want, but there will still be some gems of wisdom contained herein, especially the section about purchasing a vintage razor. Whether you buy a new razor or a used razor, you should stay within a certain size and shape.


The beauty of straight razors is that they come in so many different combinations of size (blade width), shape, and grind thickness. The problem with buying straight razors is sorting out which one to choose. Below are pictures depicting your options.

Razor Grinds

Razor Points

The commonly given advice to new users is to buy a 5/8″ to 6/8″ round point in hollow grind. By staying within those parameters, you cannot go wrong. However, there is much wiggle room. New straight razors do not come in spike/square points anymore. The Spanish, notch, & round points offered these days do not have the sharp tip said razors do and are perfectly fine for a beginner. The hollow grind is likewise just a suggestion. It really doesn’t matter which grind you choose, be it 1/4 hollow or a full hollow grind. One grind will not shave any better than another. The only difference is that the thicker grind will have more mass than the thinner grind. So, if you want more momentum behind your razor, go with a thicker grind, otherwise, just choose the razor that appeals to you.

Size does matter. But not that much. As long as you stay 6/8″ or under, you will be fine. In fact, some people report that they find a 4/8″ razor much easier to learn on. A 6/8″ razor is pretty large for a beginner, but not so large as to be unwieldy. A 7/8″ razor is huge. The good news is that all starter razors don’t come in such large sizes and will conform to what is universally regarded as easy to use.

To Jimp or Not to Jimp?

Jimps are small cuts in the steel that facilitate grip. They are found on the bottom or top & bottom of the tang. See the picture below. A thumb notch is another feature. It’s designed to fit your thumb. The thumb notch may or may not come with jimps.

The answer is that you should opt for jimps if available. However, you really don’t have much control over what features your razor will or will not have. Most new “beginner” razors come with bottom jimps cut into the tang.

So Which New Straight Razor Should I Buy?

The short answer is a shave ready razor that you like the look of and can afford.

Shave Ready

Let’s break that down starting with “shave ready”. Shave ready is supposed to mean a straight razor that has been sharpened to the point of being comfortable to shave with. While most people are honest about using this term and do possess the requisite skill and equipment, there are some shady sellers out there trying to increase the value of their item by using the term “shave ready.” The takeaway is to purchase your first straight razor from a verified source. Or at the very least, make sure they have a sharpness guarantee of some sort.

When evaluating a vendor, check to see who their sharpener is, what their guarantee is, and feedback from users. Also, make sure they use the exact term “shave ready” and not some derivation thereof. When in doubt, just ask them who sharpens their razors. If they give you a vague answer or say the factory does, then go elsewhere. There are plenty of vendors who don’t upcharge you for shave readiness.

Shaving forums recommend you buy from other members of the shaving forum. Most of the time, you get a good deal, sometimes you don’t. The good thing about the forum members is that they normally know what they’re doing and what shave ready means, so you are unlikely to get a bum product. The problem with the forums is that you have to be a member and you’re buying a used product. Nothing wrong with either, but some people care.

As an alternative, you can always take a gamble and if it’s not up to your standards, send it to us for sharpening.


This comes down to purely personal preference. I cannot tell you which razor looks better because my opinion is ultimately subjective. However, I can tell you that the Dovo Best features plastic scales and the fit & finish is not as good as the Bergischer Lowe. Same with the basic Thiers Issard razor found at Art of Shaving. The base model comes with plastic scales and their high end models come with natural horn or wood scales, gold wash, and a better overall finish. The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is exactly right.

If aesthetics is important to you, you probably don’t want to buy a Dovo Best and should save up your money to buy at least the Dovo Special. If you go with the cheaper model, you may just regret it for a long time. These razors are not disposable after all. You will be stuck with your choice until you can afford to replace it.


Which brings us to cost. Of course cost is important. Your first straight razor should not strain your finances. While I said above that buying a cheaper razor might not be a good idea in the long term, you don’t know yet whether you want to stick with straight razor shaving. As such, you should budget accordingly. While it is true that you may be able to sell a razor for close to what you paid for it, that isn’t always the case and will depend on who you sell it to. In reality, you’re probably just going to have to eat a good portion of the cost.

Put differently: if you are absolutely sure you will stick with straight razor shaving for life, save up and splurge. If you are not so sure or just want to try straight razor shaving, save your money and buy the cheapest functional razor possible. We offer this shave ready straight razor for less than what you will be able to find elsewhere.

Which Vintage Razor Should I Buy?

Buying a vintage razor has many advantages over buying a new razor. The most obvious is the price, followed by the quality of the manufacturing. Old razors have survived for decades or centuries because they were someone’s prized possession. This translates into good steel. While modern razors are getting better, the best razors cost a good amount of cash. Without a doubt, if you know what you are looking for, vintage razors can represent the best value for your dollar.

The problem with buying a vintage razor is that you could be buying a lemon. There’s also so many to choose from it will make your head spin.

Echoing what I have already said above, the #1 factor you need to look for is shave readiness. As such, who the seller is, is of paramount importance. Only buy from a reputable merchant or someone you trust. There are plenty of junk vintage razors out there.

If you choose to buy a restored razor, most of the pitfalls of buying vintage razors are already taken care of for you. The only choice you need to make is who to buy from. We restore our razors through a minimum of sanding in order to keep the original lines and shape of the razor. Other restorers will sand the razor to remove every single imperfection, making for a very shiny razor, but losing the original lines. See below for examples of each.

Click here to visit our gallery of work for ideas. Neither approach is wrong. You just need to choose which is right for you. Also keep in mind that the more labor that goes into a restoration, the more expensive it is. So, if you see restoration work for less than the going rate, you should make sure they don’t use a tumbler rather than a buffer or cut other corners.

This razor has been buffed and sanded a lot – the original grind lines are gone

This razor has been through our less intense restoration process

The Point

Many vintage razors come with a square point. Probably because it is easy to manufacture. Whatever the reason, the beginner is left with a pointy object that isn’t very forgiving. The very tip can be chamfered, making it much more user friendly. All other razor points do not have that issue and would be very well suited for a beginner. But don’t let the “spike” point deter you from a razor you otherwise like. It can be chamfered and it will behave similar to a round point.

What to Watch Out For

We now come to the meat of the guide. Sadly, many vintage straight razors are either too used, damaged, or rusted. The following guide will help you avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

Damage & Rust

Unless the razor has a huge chunk of steel missing, the first thing you are going to notice on a vintage razor is either the absence or presence of rust. Rust is not necessarily a deal breaker and it is usually present, but it’s not good. If the razor is completely rust free, it’s a good buy, but will cost more.

If the razor has chips, cracks, or is damaged in some way, don’t buy it, or get a professional opinion as to how much and the feasibility of dealing with the damage.

If the razor has rust present, you have to look at the edge. If the rust is pervasive along the edge, stay away. If the rust is only on the top of the razor, but not on the edge, the razor should be fine, but you want to have a professional inspect the piece to make sure the steel is still good. If you do end up wanting to purchase a razor with rust, keep in mind that rust is a signifier of pits. While we can remove the rust and minimize small pits, we cannot remove large pits without regrinding the razor. See the pictures below for some guidance.

Don’t buy this razor!!!

This razor can be restored

The other thing you want to look at is the scales. Are the scales broken anywhere? Do they have bug bites? Are pieces missing? If the scales look to be in good shape, then check to see if the pivot point is still tight. That is easily fixed by tapping lightly on the pin until the scales tighten up. However, there is a small risk of damage with really old razors and some materials. Look for rust inside the pivot point. If there is a lot of rust, you may want to stay away from the razor.

Razor Near the End of Life

While their lifespan is several generations if proper care is taken care of them, straight razors do not last forever and their lifespan can be significantly shortened by misuse. If you encounter a razor that has excessive hone wear on the spine, don’t buy it. It is that much closer to being thrown away. For some more examples of excessive wear, check out our previous post on common honing mistakes.

Another indicator of end of life is a really skinny razor. Most people sharpened their razors with the spine flat against the stone. However, some people lifted the spine and hone the razor like a knife. Today, people use tape and disguise any hone wear (not intentionally). Not normally a problem, but it is something that may be a problem.

If in doubt, pass.

In Conclusion

Vintage razors are generally excellent razors, but there are lemons out there. While they represent a better value over a new razor, you run some risks unless you purchase from a trusted restorer. New razors are, well, new. They also cost more and may not shave as well as some of the great vintage razors available. However, good values can be found. We do sell both new and vintage razors.

When choosing what you want your razor to look like, it is up to you. As long as you stay under a 6/8″ blade, you cannot make a bad choice. Just be sure to have that spike point tamed so you don’t accidentally stab yourself.

ASR’s Comprehensive Guide to Buying a New Straight Razor

Buying a straight razor is difficult. Unlike purchasing a modern cartridge razor, there are options within options. This article will focus on new straight razors only. New razors made by the likes of: Dovo, Hart Steel, Thiers Issard, Revisor, Boker, Henckels, and Wacker. If you don’t see Fromm or Double Arrow on the list, it’s for a reason.

This article is broken into two parts. The first part is for the man who has never owned a straight razor before. The second half of the article is a guide for buying a razor (either for yourself or someone else) for the man who is a veteran at straight razor shaving.

Anatomy of a Straight Razor

For you veterans, you already know all these terms. For beginner’s, these are the terms of the trade. I will be using them to reference the various parts and features of various straight razors. Please reference these photos for straight razor terms.

Straight Razor Parts | Straight Razor Points | Straight Razor Grinds


Buy Shave Ready

When looking to purchase your first straight razor, there is one thing that is universally needed: a shave ready razor. Anything less than a shave ready razor will mean your first experience with a straight razor will be either sub-par or end in disaster. A razor needs to be not only sharp enough to cut beard hair, but it also needs to be sharp enough and smooth enough to cut cleanly without pulling. Think of your disposable razor if you want an example of a razor sharp enough to shave, but causes a lot of irritation through pulling.

Only Buy Razors Advertised as Shave Ready

With teh re-emergence of the straight razor as an artisan method of shaving, many vendors offer shave ready straight razors. Beware razors not offered as shave ready because they only come with a factory edge. While some manufacturers put a decent enough edge on their razors, it isn’t nearly the same level of sharpness as from a qualified honemeister.

Razor Width/Size

Razor width is the only real decision you have to make. The razor’s width will affect how easy it is to handle, the heft of the blade, and will narrow your options. As a beginner, you should buy no larger than 6/8″. 5/8″ is the most commonly recommended width, although 4/8″ has its advantages (but since no one makes any its not really in the running).

ASR recommends a 5/8″ razor for your first straight.

The reason we recommend a 5/8″ razor over a 6/8″ and absolutely recommend against anything larger, is because of ease of control. A smaller blade is vastly more maneuverable than a larger blade. While a larger blade allows you to see the angle of the razor a little easier, that isn’t a huge concern. Control over the razor is your first and only concern when starting out. Using a straight razor is a learned skill, you can’t pick one up and expect to master it in the first shave. The smaller the blade, the lighter it is and the easier it is to move around your face. In addition, it won’t get as stuck on your nose.


If your purchasing a new razor, you are limited in your choice as to who will make your razor. The major makers are Dovo and Thiers Issard followed by Boker, Revisor, Wacker, and Hart. Giesen & Forsoff and Gold Dollar also make razors but don’t have a huge presence in the market.

Yet another option is the custom or semi custom market. Beginners are well advised to stay away from these razors because you should know exactly what you want before plopping down the premium for a unique creation.

The Point

First, you need to have a basic idea of what you are looking for. Let’s talk about the tip/point first. As a beginner it is highly recommended to stay away from square or spike tips because of the pointy edge. Many a new user and veteran has inadvertently gouged themselves with the spiked point. Every other point has a rounded edge at the tip making it much harder to stab yourself with. That said, you can always ask your razor sharpener to mellow the spike by honing the spike off.

When purchasing your first razor, the reality of the situation is that your choice is going to be limited by budget and aesthetic concerns.

As for which point is best for a beginner, it comes down to aesthetic preference. None of the designs offers any functionality over any others with the exception of the spike point, whose sharp point is great for detail work. Just purchase the razor whose point looks the best to you. Between Dovo, Thiers Issard, Boker, and Wacker you should be able to find the point you want.

The Grind

Nearly all new straight razors are hollow ground. None are wedge ground anymore (and for good reason). To get a wedge or 1/4 hollow, you will have to go the custom route. Some razors are ground 1/2 or 3/4 hollow, such as the Thiers Issard Le Grelot or the Hart razor. Aesthetically, there is very little difference between hollow and half hollow. Quarter hollow will look a little more wedge-like, but those aren’t mass produced anymore.

The grind is the last thing you should worry about when purchasing your first razor. Nearly all new razors are hollow, so there is no real choice in the matter unless you go custom.

New users should stick with a hollow grind. They are easier to manuever around your face and a lot easier to hone. The only advantage thicker grinds offer is more mass behind the razor. Men with thicker beards report that the extra mass makes it easier to get through their tough beards. Of course, you can replicate the ease of cutting by applying more force while shaving.

Jimps/Thumb Notches

Jimps are little indentations cut into the tang of the razor for better grip. If you can afford a razor with jimps, you should buy one with jimps. They offer a better grip on the razor for easier control. Most razors with jimps come with bottom jimps. Some come with top jimps. Having both means a better grip on the razor.

Jimps are highly recommended. A thumb notch is like a warm cradle for your thumb. Having both is true shaving luxury.

A thumb notch is just that. A concave notch cut into the tang for your thumb. Can be combined with jimps. A great example of both is the Thiers Issard Oak Wing. Thumb notches don’t allow for greater control, but do make a great resting place for your thumb. Plus its comfortable.

The Steel

Dovo and Thiers Issard have come out with models advertising Silver Steel or some other exotic sounding name. The truth is that with modern steel, it doesn’t matter. Modern steel is so uniform and well made that the the true difference is going to come down to the heat treatment. See our related article on what makes a razor sharp.

In terms of whether you should buy these supposedly better steels, the answer is yes. If the razor otherwise appeals to you, you should buy it. Another consideration is that these razors generally have a better level of fit and finish and thus perform slightly better according to some accounts. In the end, it’s just marketing, but usually denotes a higher end model.

Scales, Etching, etc.

There is a huge variety of scale materials to choose from. From wood to bone to plastic, they all do the same job of protecting the edge while the razor is not in use. Plastic comes in many designs, from the very plain white or black, to the iconic Dovo faux Tortoiseshell. Wood provides that unique and natural look to the straight razor, while man made materials such as Micarta offer a modern, yet refined look. Horn and bone are the most traditional choices. There are many more scale materials than I can write about in this section. The only consideration you have to make is whether you like the look of the scales on the razor.

Most modern razors come with balanced scales, but some scales are extremely heavy relative to the blade. Specifically the Dovo Mammoth Ivory and the Dovo Micarta scales. These scales are much heavier than their respective blades and throw off the balance. But they sure do look great.

Scales, spine work, and blade etching are purely aesthetic considerations. Purchase the razor you like the look of.

The same considerations go into the gold wash or etching on the blade. From the extremely simple Dovo Best to the intricate and beautiful Bergischer Lowe, there is a wide range of options. Again, for spine work. A worked spine such as that found on the Bergischer Lowe simply add to the complexity and beauty of the straight razor. Such added details also add to the cost.

How Much to Spend

The last major factor this article will touch upon is the cost. The amount of money you spend on a straight razor should fit your budget. That said, a straight razor is an investment which will pay off in the long run with incredible savings over time. However, if your only looking to try straight razor shaving, you should only buy a basic razor.

If you are sure your going to stick with straight razor shaving no matter what, buy the razor that you really want. Don’t go into debt to buy it though, they don’t cost that much.

If you aren’t sure about straight razor shaving, buy the razor that fits your budget and that you wouldn’t mind keeping for a long time. The great thing about straight razors is that they hold their value extremely well. They’re not art, but you can expect to be able to recoup ~75% of the lowest retail price.

If you just want to try straight razor shaving, your better off finding a friend to borrow one from. Otherwise, a Dovo “Best Quality” is the cheapest new straight razor you can easily find shave ready. Another option is to check out the offerings at Razor Emporium to see if there are any restored vintage razors within your price range.

Razors to Avoid

With so many sellers trying to get your money for nothing, you have to watch out for yourself and take precautions. As said earlier, only buy a shave ready razor. If the razor is not sold as shave ready, unless you want it solely for your mantlepiece, look for another vendor or count on spending an additional $20 for honing.

Avoid anything made in Pakistan. Period. This cannot be stressed enough. No matter how pretty it looks, don’t buy it.

Avoid the following razors: Timor, Fromm, & Venus. In fact, avoid any razors that claim to be made in Germany and costs less than a Dovo Best. We’re not entirely sure where these razors are made, but other countries’ made in standards are less stringent than the US’s. All you need to know about these razors is that they’re mediocre at best, don’t come shave ready, and are so close in price to a Dovo Best, your better off buying one of those.

The Ultimate Straight Razor Shaving Gift Guide

Since it is the holidays, we’re rolling out a gift giving guide. This guide is still good for the rest of the year as straight razors don’t change. This guide is written for the person who knows nothing about straight razors or straight razor shaving. Don’t worry, we did all the hard work; all you have to do is make sure the recipient doesn’t already have the item you’ve chosen to gift. So, without further introduction, let’s take a look at what to buy these people!

This article is broken up into two parts. The first part is a gift guide for the straight razor beginner. It includes ASR’s advice on exactly which straight razor to buy along with the necessary accessories that should be given along with the straight razor.

The second part of the article is all about the veteran straight razor user. This hard to buy for person already has a strop, brush, soap, and a razor. What to buy this person? Well, this is what we would want for Christmas or our birthday!

Buying a Straight Razor for the New User

While I am still working on the Comprehensive Straight Razor Buying Guide, I’ll have to make this part short. For the absolute beginner with no straight razor experience, the standard advice is to purchase a 5/8″, round point, inexpensive, new or restored straight razor. Jimps are preferable. What!? You say. Don’t worry, here are some suggestions.

Dovo Faux Tortoise Shell Straight Razor Dovo Basic Straight Razor

Dovo makes some of the nicest looking straight razors today. The Dovo Faux Tortoise Shell is a classic. The design is simply beautiful. The blade even features gold etching on the face. For the more economical purchase, the Dovo Best Quality straight razor makes a great starter razor. All function, no frills. This razor will do the same job as it’s fancier brother without the frills and pomp.

Of course, the new straight razor user needs a little bit more equipment than a straight razor. He/She also needs a strop. It is highly recommended to convert fully to wet-shaving to achieve the best shaves possible so a brush and soap should also be on the list if they don’t already own said items. The silvertip badger brush is the ultimate expression of luxury. The humble boar brush on the other hand is a fully functional basic alternative.

The new straight razor user should own a strop. The Dovo strop is as good as it gets. However, for their first strop, it is recommended to go with a less expensive, but functional strop. The Fromm basic strop fits the bill perfectly. Another good option is a loom strop. Priced in between the Dovo & Fromm hanging strops, the loom strop has the added benefit of not having to learn how to tension the strop. A really good choice for the beginning straight razor user.

Soaps, Brushes, & Strops

Geo F. Trumper Almond Shaving Soap in Wooden Bowl

Geo f. Trumper Rose Shaving Soap in Wooden Bowl

D.R. Harris Marlborough Shaving Soap in Bowl

Omega Boar Shaving Brush

Semogue Pure Badger Shaving Brush

Semogue Silvertip Badger Shaving Brush

Dovo Premium Leather Strop

Fromm Basic Razor Strop

Dovo Loom Strop

Buying a Razor for the Veteran Straight Razor User

This person already owns a straight razor and probably knows what he/she wants. This person either already owns a basic straight razor or has a fancier one like the Dovo Faux Tortoise. Buying a straight razor for this person is tricky. Thankfully, if they don’t already own a Dovo faux tortoiseshell razor, then that makes the perfect gift. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty popular razor and the recipient may already own one.

The good news is that we have just the cure. Our #1 pick if he/she doesn’t already own one is the Dovo Bergischer Lowe in Buffalo Horn Scales. Or, if your looking for something truly exotic, think about the Dovo Razor in Siberian Mammoth Ivory. Below are pictures along with a few more ideas.

Dovo Bergischer Lowe in Buffalo Horn Scales

Dovo Razor in Siberian Mammoth Ivory

Dovo Ivory Micarta Straight Razor

Dovo Ebony With Silver Engraving Plate

Dovo 5/8″ Stainless Steel Snakewood (“Schlangenholz”) Razor

Dovo Razor in Genuine Bone Scales

As you can see, each of these masterful creations are as beautiful as they are functional. Any of these razors will make a welcome addition to any straight razor enthusiast’s collection.
But wait! After buying all those razors, he needs somewhere to put them. Look no further than:

Straight Razor Display Case


It might not be marketed as such, but pen display cases are perfect for displaying a straight razor collection. This one is well made and holds seven razors, one razor for each day of the week!

Stocking Stuffers | Small Gifts

Of course, buying someone a straight razor is a rather large expenditure. If instead you are looking for something a little less expensive, then below are some small gift ideas. They include our favorite soaps and brush stands. Each of these soaps comes with a beautiful wooden bowl. They make a great gift.

Brush Stand

Geo F. Trumper Almond Shaving Soap with Wood Bowl

Geo F. Trumper Rose Shaving Soap

D.R. Harris Arlington Hard Shaving Soap

D. R. Harris Almond Shaving Soap

D.R. Harris Lavender Shaving Soap

Vulfix Travel Brush

Edwin Jagger Travel Brush

Kent Travel Size Brush

Sorry we couldn’t think of any other stocking stuffer ideas. Any other stragiht razor shaving items small enough to fit in a stocking are rather mundane daily skin care products such as moisturizers, aftershaves and other items.

Our Cleaning Service Overview

Some razors don’t need a full restoration. Some razors only need a quick polish. Today’s candidate is a Geo Wostenholm with ivory colored plastic scales. If you click on the pictures to enlarge them, you will notice that the razor is in very good condition, relatively speaking. The scales are dirty, especially on the inside and the blade is very tarnished with some very very light rust. In addition, the blade suffers from some scratches undoubtedly obtained somewhere along its long lifespan.

Since the razor’s only major blemish is tarnish from years of neglect, this razor makes a good candidate for our cleaning service. Any worse and it would need a restoration. The razor is actually relatively clean and suffers from no visible chips in the edge. A great candidate for cleaning. Although a restoration could remove the scratches, in this case they weren’t visible enough to worry about.

We start by washing the razor to remove any dirt and surface debris. Then, we polish the razor on a buffing machine using special polishing compounds. These compounds remove the tarnish and any leftover dirt and grime. Next, we thoroughly clean inside the razor and around the pivot point. This is a delicate process, so we do it by hand. Finally, we sharpen the razor. The end result is a damn shiny and shave ready razor!

Razor Restoration – Going from Rusting to Amazing

The following is an illustrated tour of how we restore a straight razor to near mirror finish. We start by sanding away any rust and oxidation that is on the blade, bringing out the clean steel underneath. We then polish the razor on an industrial buffing machine using buffing wheels & compounds to bring out the shine and luster trapped underneath all the grime. Finally, we polish the razor by hand to clean away any debris and remove any swirls left over by the buffing process.

Our buffing process does not completely remove pitting. In order to completely remove pitting, extreme sanding is necessary to grind away the metal beyond the pits. This process adds considerable time to the restoration process. In addition, unless an even inordinately larger amount of time is spent removing every single scratch mark, the razor will be left with grind marks. We do not currently offer this service because it is so time intensive that the cost would be prohibitive. We will review this decision if we receive enough requests for such work.

WARNING! A buffing machine is the most dangerous machine in the shop. If you use one always wear eye protection and a breath mask. Only work in highly ventilated areas.

Razor in Original Rusted Condition

Here is the razor in its pre-restoration condition. We wiped it down a little to get all the surface dust off. As you can see, the rust and oxidation was pretty extensive. The rust was allowed to build up quite extensively in some areas. You can see that pits had already started to form throughout most of the face of the blade. All in all, this razor was not in bad condition. The razor will turn out nice and shiny, albeit with shiny pitting.

Razor After Sanding

We use 600 grit sandpaper to scour away the rust and tarnish. You can see the steel beginning to come out. Its even starting to shine a little. While you can’t see a reflection in the steel at this stage, you can start to see what the final product is going to look like. As you can see the scratch marks are in a vertical pattern. This is to ensure that if any scratch marks are left over after the final polishing stage, that they match the factory grind marks already on the razor. We clean the tang, including the jimps, and the blade during this process. You can really see the pitting in these shots. The black grime in the pits and crevices is actually steel and abrasive that was ground off the surface of the razor. They will disappear after the final polishing stages.

Razor Midway through the Buffing Process

The next step is to buff the razor using an industrial strength buffing machine. The first part of buffing is to remove the sandpaper scratches. A cutting compound is used to remove previous scratches from the steel. This process takes half an hour or more to get a good finish and remove all the sandpaper scratches. The sun was setting when the pictures were taken, but you can see the shine starting to come through. The finish is a duller, matte finish, but the razor is a lot shinier than when it started. You can even see yourself if you shifted the razor in the right direction. It was blurry, but it was reflecting. You can also see fingerprints all over the blade from handling it for the photos. There was still compound left on the blade.

Razor After Final Polishing

This is the final finish. You can see the camera being reflected quite clearly even though it is far away. We could have done the reflecting text thing, but we chose not to. In these pictures you can see the true extent of what we can accomplish. All the pits are clearly present. As said above, we don’t remove serious pits. You can even see some marks from sanding or a tool mark from a prior owner. Because the razor is so polished, every single imperfection is magnified for you to see. You can also see yourself in the razor. The finish is a near mirror finish on the steel. However, the severe pitting throughout the surface of the razor ruins the mirror effect by distorting the image. The mirror effect is much better in the tang where the razor suffered less damage. You can see a better example of our polishing on this razor which started with much less pitting and corrosion.

This razor isn’t quite done. It still needs to be re-shod in new scales. We’ll take more pictures then and post them in this article. But that’s it.

Update: The razor is finished and the pictures have been taken. The final steps were to mount the razor in its new scales and do the final polishing by hand. As you can see, the results were fantastic!

Hard Water Lathering Problems – You Should Try Filtered Water

All of us want a better lather right?  In our search for a better lather, we have found RO water to be far superior to tap water.  Now, if you live in someplace like Hawaii, where the water is pristine, fresh, and is not hard… well, we hate you.  But for the rest of us, hard water is a cold hard reality.  Hard water makes for a less than stellar lather, does not produce as much lather, is not as slick as it can be, and is hard on your brush(es).  The solution is filtered water.  Removing all or most of the calcium and fluoride will make for a much better lather, and keep your brush cleaner, longer.

Why Hard Water is Bad

First, we must examine what hard water is. Hard water is water that has a large amount of dissolved minerals, such as calcium and magnesium. The more minerals in your water, the harder it is. In fact, the term hard water originated from our forebears having difficulty lathering with said water. It was, and still is, “hard water” to lather with. Getting even more technical, it is the Group 11 alkali earth minerals (particularly calcium or magnesium) which make the water hard. Learn more about them here. These minerals are either missing or in significantly reduced concentrations in soft water. I don’t know why its called soft water other than its the opposite of hard.

So why do the minerals interfere with the lathering process? Well, believe it or not, hard water makes lathering any soaps harder. Including your daily hand, dish, and body cleansing soaps. Soap is made from sodium byproducts, the result of combining animal or vegetable oils and fats with lye in a process called saponification, that easily bubble into a full lather when combined with pure water. When combined with soft water, the soap serves as a surfactant. The Calcium and Magnesium molecules interferes with this process. Instead of producing rich, bubbly lather, hard water makes a white precipitate (soap scum) instead. “This effect arises because the 2+ ions destroy the surfactant properties of the soap by forming a solid precipitate (the soap scum).” Wikipedia.

Thus, hardness is scientifically defined as the soap consuming properties of a water sample.

While there are many methods used to combat hard water, from boiling the water to using baking soda. The best method by far is to use enhanced water. Enhanced through actual filtration or through a soft water system.

Filtered Water

I really like RO water, but understandably, most people do not have RO systems in their houses, and they are expensive. Bottled water would be ridiculous. A water filter from Brita or Pur is not particularly expensive and will produce good results. Either the over the faucet or pitcher model will work well. And you get to drink better tasting water!

If you want the same results as RO water without the expense, go to your store and pick up a gallon of distilled water. It should only cost a dollar or two. Otherwise, buy a half gallon. Distilled water is very inexpensive and will produce the same effects as RO water. If you live in a hard water area, you really need to try soft water. It makes lathering so much easier and enjoyable.

Our Must Have Straight Razor Shaving Products

These are my tried-and-true RECOMMENDED products for NEW or OLD STRAIGHT RAZOR USERS. From the razor to the soap, I’ve listed the best of the best. I have personally tested and used each of these products. Follow the advice in my blog, use these products, and you’ll experience the joys of a traditional straight razor wet-shave every morning. As a bonus, I’ve also included some top rated pre and post shave products as well.

Sure they’re a bit pricey, but they’re all one-time costs. Even the soaps last for years and years. The razor, brush, stand and strop will last your whole life and those of your grandchildren! Divided over 50 years, your paying pennies on the dollar! Compared to the popular cartiridge razors, you’ll end up saving a ton of money in the long-run! Plus, you’ll be creating less waste and saving the environment!


J.A. Henckels Stainless Steel Straight Razor

Fromm Premium Straight Razor Leather Strop

Semogue Silvertip Shaving Brush

Omega Brush Stand

Geo F. Trumper Soap

Proraso Shaving Cream

We Also Recommend: 

Neutrogena Men Face Moisturizer
Proraso Pre Shaving Cream 3.6oz
The Art of Shaving Pre-Shave Oil
Styptic Pencil (Pack of 6)
Alum Block
Norton Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 Grit

Straight Razor Wet-Shaving Equipment: The Only Guide You Need

Below are lists of the equipment you should have in your straight razor shaving kit. Starting from the absolute minimalist to the full kitchen sink, we’ve got suggestions for every straight razor user and their commitment/budget level.

 Click on any of the pictures to purchase.

Bare Bones Minimum

This setup is recommended for the man who just wants to try a straight razor shave before jumping in. All you need in this setup is a shave ready straight razor. We cannot emphasize this point enough. Razors from Pakistan are not shave ready and never will be. Only some razors from China can be made shave ready. Fromm straight razors need to be professionally sharpened before use. Dovo and Thiers Issard usually put a decent edge on their razors from the factory, but it is still advisable to get them professionally sharpened. If you purchase a used razor, you definitely need to get it sharpened unless it is sold by a reputable seller you trust. Assuming you are already shaving, you should already have at the very least, canned shaving cream. Follow our guide on inexpensive strop alternatives and I’m sure you’ll find something you can use lying around the house or for free. Now, all that said, going this route is not a long term solution. Without proper stropping, the razor is going to go dull much quicker than it should. Expect the razor to last a week or two at most. So, if you just want to try straight razor shaving, try to figure out if you are going to stick with it after the second or third shave. Then buy a strop or sell the razor for close to what you paid for it.


The Minimalist

Wet shaving with a straight razor is a fantastic experience and places you among a select group of men who refuse to follow the flow. If you decide to join our club, you should do it right. That means buying a good straight razor, a decent strop (or making your own), a good brush, and shaving soap/cream/stick. The wet shaving gear is necessary because if your going to straight razor shave, you should do it right. A straight razor shave using canned goop is no real straight razor shave. Shaving with a straight razor is a ritual of sorts and should be enjoyed to the fullest. This means hot water, warm soap, great scents, and relaxation. There is simply no substitute for a good brush and soap. It will bring you back to the days of our forebears. Days when men used to go to the barber for a full service shave.

Enough cannot be said about why you need a strop. Unless you want to sharpen your razor yourself every other week, not using one really isn’t an option for the long term. Lets look at it this way: a beginner can expect three to six months of good straight razor shaving before the razor should be resharpened. A veteran can expect six to twelve months of daily use if he/she strops correctly using a cloth/leather strop. As you can see, the benefits of stropping are great and the cost isn’t terribly much. Especially if you make your own by heading to your local leather store, buy a 2.5″ x 14″ strip of leather, punching a hole in one end, and threading a leather thong through it. Check out our guide to stropping part 1.

Check out Shaving 101’s similar recommendations for the minimalist setup.


The Deluxe Kit

In addition to everything in the Minimalist Kit, the serious straight razor user should add the following: an alum block, a styptic pencil, liquid bandaid, aftershave, & SPF facial sunscreen. The alum block is a natural antiseptic and is used right after the shave to cleanse the skin and stop any weepers or nicks. A styptic pencil is for stopping more serious nicks so you can apply the liquid bandaid afterwards. Or you could use a regular bandaid, but trust us, the liquid version looks a lot less inconspicuous. SPF sunscreen should be used for obvious reasons. Not only does it normally come with a moisturizer, but the SPF protects your face from premature ageing. I know, I know, men shouldn’t worry about it. Okay, well, it still protects from melanoma, which is deadly serious.

The serious straight razor user may want to seriously consider a second straight razor. The reason being that you’ll want to send the razor out for resharpening when it gets dull. Or you can spend hundreds of dollars and the same amount of hours learning to hone your own razor. The second razor serves as both a backup razor and also prolongs the time period between sharpenings. By using the razor half as much, it dulls half as quickly. We recommend a sharpening schedule something like this: send each razor out every six months, but alternate the months when you send each razor. For example, on month three send the first razor; on month six send the second razor. Then wait until month 9 to resend the first razor. Repeat.

The serious straight razor needs a serious strop. No one makes a better strop in the US than Tony Miller. There are copies, but the original is still the best. Some strops from other countries are just as good or better, but they also cost substantially more. Whichever strop is purchased, it should have a cotton/linen and leather component. Ideally you would be able to take the strop apart to both replace components if you damage the leather and flip the cloth side over. Webbing is used in some strops, but we don’t really like the webbing and cannot recommend it. Buy the cotton version. The serious straight razor user may also want a chromium oxide or diamond spray for periodic touch ups in between professional sharpenings. Read our article about how to use these components for more information.

The Complete Setup

The following products are not only for completionists, they are for the serious wet shaver. As a bonus, following this routine will immensely increase your skin health and vigor. Okay, but on to the actual products. Start with a facial scrub. You should be soaking your beard before you shave anyway. Washing your face is one of the best ways to do this. Using an exfoliant scrub is recommended by some wet shavers, but any gentle facial cleanser will do. Alternatively, you can wrap a hot towel around your face. OR you can do both! The hot water and cleansing action will open the pores, soften the hairs, and remove excess oil and skin; allowing for a closer, cleaner shave.

Follow this up with a pre-shave oil. The pre-shave oil will soften the hairs even further and provide additional glide to the shaving soap. The benefit of pre-shave oil over just water is that the oil will stay on your face longer and won’t dry out as quickly. They are also advertised to help protect the skin. In addition, pre shave oil helps with the prevention of ingrown hairs, razor bumps, and weepers. The best pre-shave oils and creams use natural oils, such as coconut, sunflower, olive or other oils drawn from plants. Unlike mineral oil, natural oils are low on the grease factor, so they won’t clog pores and cause damage to your skin. Also, keep your eyes open for pre-shave oils that contain antibacterial agents; these will help guard against breakouts and painful cuts.

Post shave, wet shavers recommend a post shave cream or oil. Aftershave can also be used, but aftershaves contain alcohol which dries out the skin. Not to mention, you should be using the alum block anyway, so you have no need for the alcohol. Post-shave products will relieve burn, dryness, razor bumps, and some will even help heal cuts. In addition, they re-moisturize your face. To make it simple, look for aftershave balms and gels that contain vitamins C and E, natural oils to moisturize and aloe to help heal the skin. Post-shave products with built-in sunscreen are also a solid purchase.

The final ingredient to the complete setup is


Everything & the Kitchen Sink

This one isn’t really a recommendation, so much as an extension of razor addiction. Unfortunately straight razor use carries the risk of a slight desire to buy more. And who can blame us? Straight razors are a collectible after all. They can last for lifetimes and they look amazing (at least to the straight razor community). Anyway, on to our recommendations for the person who has it all. The kitchen sink is pictured because this person will probably be using that sink to learn how to sharpen their razor.

This person is going to want at least one other razor. Another razor is desirable for a number of reasons. By using your razor half as often, it needs to be honed half as often. No, the fin does not grow back over 48 hours, that is just hogwash and an old wive’s tale. Another benefit is that when you send the razor out to be honed, you still have a straight razor on hand to shave with. A definite benefit. Follow our recommendations above in the Deluxe Kit. A seven day set is not unheard of. In fact, they are quite possibly the coolest straight razor sets.

This person definitely wants at least one other brush. Not only does having an additional brush cut down on the wear & tear on your brushes, but it changes up the shaving experience ever so slightly; keeping things interesting. A second brush also allows the first brush to completely dry out in between shavings. This helps reduce moisture problems such as mold or smell developing. Three brushes are even better. Four brushes might be overkill, but perhaps a seven day brush set isn’t that far fetched considering they exist for straight razors. We recommend buying different brands to keep it interesting. We like Semogue and Shavemac. Penworks also makes great brushes.

And the kitchen sink setup cannot be complete without several soaps, creams, pre-shave products, and after shave products to choose from. From every scent D.R. Harris and Geo F. Trumper produce to the entire Penhaligon’s line of EDTs, this person has it all. And why shouldn’t we have a huge variety of scents. Variety is the spice of life after all. Changing the daily routine is a great way to keep things fresh.

Don’t Forget the Hones

Finally, the kitchen sink needs sharpening stones. And we say the kitchen sink because outside of a sharpening pond, there really isn’t a better place to sharpen knives and razors at. The reason being that sharpening requires a water source. A spray bottle works with some stones, but for the most part, the kitchen sink provides both drainage and a steady source of water. For this person, it is hard to beat the Norton 4k/8k stone pictured above. While not nearly as good as what professionals use, the edge off the 8k stone is shave ready. Its good to go. The added benefit of this combination stone is that it comes with a stone holder/storage container. Its also beefy enough to not require an additional holder to bring it up to the correct level. For the truly serious straight razor person who wants to sharpen their own razors, the 16k stone from Shapton is hard to beat. Purchase the stone holder too for optimal performance. Other stone holders don’t work too well with the glass/ceramic Shaptons. Again, the edge can get better but at that point, your possibly losing money compared to just sending it out for professional servicing.

The Survivalist

The survivalist’s end of the world scenario probably doesn’t include shaving at all. But the self sufficient attitude will permeate into daily life. The straight razor is the only choice for the self sufficient male. Unless this same person can forge their own razor, they’ll still need to buy one in the open market. This man will make his own strop out, preferably out of the hide of an animal he’s killed himself. There are tanneries that do this. Alternatively, he can strop on the palm of his hand and on the pants he’s wearing.

When the end of the world comes, shaving is an absolute luxury. A brush and soap is going to last a lot longer than canned shaving gel. We have no specific recommendations for the end of the world, but a boar brush might be more rugged than a silvertip shaving brush. Omega makes a nice one. Any soap should do; the problem would be finding water. The end of the world is going require the survivalist to maintain his knives and razors himself. Consequently we recommend the Norton 4k/8k or a Coticule. Either stone is incredibly versatile and can sharpen both knives and razors.

Problem Razors: The Rusted Razor

In this series we will explore fatal razor problems. We either cannot hone or restore the razor, the odds of success are too low, or the cost of restoration far exceeds the benefit/value of the razor. We will post pictures and provide you, the reader, with detailed explanations of what is wrong with the razor and what to look out for when purchasing old/vintage straight razors.

In this article, we look at the problem of rust. Rust is the killer of all things steel. As I pointed out in this article, carbon steel is made up of iron and carbon. Unfortunately, iron’s natural form is iron oxide. Thus, steel continually wants to revert to this form; we call it rusting. As you well know rust eats away at the structure of steel, both weakening the surrounding metal and causing catastrophic holes in the steel. Rust is just as bad for straight razors.

How to Prevent this from Happening

There is hope though. If the rust is only on the surface and hasn’t eaten too deep, the result may be only cosmetic in nature. If the rust has developed over a long time, pits have developed. When the rust is removed, these pits will look like craters in the steel. Again, this is a cosmetic issue as long as the pits are not near or on the edge. If there is any pitting or rust on the edge, the razor is in trouble.

We can remove the rust in the edge, but if there is no good steel above the rusted edge, then there is no hope. A close visual inspection can ascertain the odds of success, but only after removing the rust can we be certain whether the steel structure is sound. Conversely, if the rust is on the spine or nowhere near the edge of the razor, the razor is fine. The rust is cosmetic in nature only.

The pictures at the beginning of this post show a razor that is beyond saving. The edge is covered with rust. Below are closeups of the edge. The razor is a wedge, so there is a remote possibility of it being saved. The process involves regrinding the razor and removing the entire affected edge until good steel is revealed. The cost of such an operation is extensive. As you can see in the photos below, the rust was thorough and pervasive. This razor has seen the end of its useful life. Sadly, with just a little more care, the razor could have been easily saved.

Why these razors cannot be saved

In this  section I will go over why these problem razors either cannot or are not worth saving. Although if the razor is priceless, it might be worth trying to save it. In this particular case, the rust is extensive. As you can see in the above photos, the rust not only goes up to the edge, but it covers the entire cutting surface. A 20x closeup shows just how bad the rust has eaten away at the steel.

This razor can be made shiny again. Do not doubt that. However, the areas of steel that the rust has eaten away will remain. They will remain as craters in the surface of the steel. Now, as I’ve said before, if these craters were only on the face of the razor, not the edge, they would only be aesthetic. However, when these craters appear on the edge of the razor, it presents a problem. The straight razor restoration community calls the problem “the Swiss cheese effect.” We call it that because the edge looks like Swiss cheese when viewed under magnification. This is a fatal flaw because a razor’s edge needs to be perfectly smooth in order to shave well. Now, just looking at the photos you wouldn’t want to shave with the razor in its current condition. But what if I told you, I could grind away all that rust and expose shiny, new metal underneath? Sounds promising right? Okay, but now what if I told you that even though I could make it shiny again, the razor’s edge would be riddled with pock marks and craters? See the below photo and extrapolate what the edge will look like with all those pits in it. Again, click for higher resolution.

Okay, your focusing on the top of the razor. See those craters? Those craters are the pits. Now, as you can see, those pits run deep into the metal. Take note: this razor is in excellent shape; the rust is nowhere near the edge, any rust that was I was able to grind away and expose fresh, clean metal underneath. Okay. Now, imagine those pits in the edge of the above razor. That’s pretty much exactly what the edge is going to look like. The edge is going to have holes everywhere. Yet, that is not all that rust does. Read on for more info on crumbling.

Now that I’ve shown you the obvious visual signs of why you wouldn’t want to shave with such a jagged edge, I’m going to explain another phenomenon that rust does. We call it crumbling. Rust not only infects the surface of the razor, but as you can see, it digs in deep and forms large craters if left unchecked. Yet, rust doesn’t form perfect little craters, rust acts like a plant’s roots, expanding into the metal and digging in eroding the good steel and turning it into iron oxide. Just like a tree’s roots dig deep and expand in all directions, so too does rust.

This expansion into the heart of the steel is invisible. It is the silent killer of straight razors. These rust tendrils cause catastrophic collapse of the steel structure. They undermine the crystalline structure of the steel and erodes the supporting molecules. In other words, the rust weakens the steel causing it to crumble under pressure. What this means is that when the razor is being sharpened, the rust will crumble away due to no structural strength. In other words, the razor cannot get sharp. It won’t hold an edge. Well, it will still cut, but you wouldn’t want to shave with it. Unfortunately, the only way we can tell whether this crumbling effect is going to happen is when we hone the razor.

The good news is that its not all doom and gloom. Even if the edge crumbles, wedge razors can still be saved. This is because of the large amount of steel left on the razor. We can grind away the bad edge until good steel is found. Not so much with hollow razors. Yet, like all things, it depends. Send us pictures for an assessment. Okay, now the bad news. The bad news is that this process takes hours. Consequently, it is extremely expensive. All hope is not lost, but all hope of a restoration costing under $200 is.

Liquid Bandaid – Every Man Needs This in His Shave Kit

Click to Purchase


Ever since they started marketing liquid band-aids I’ve been intrigued. The concept was always so high tech and neat. The military’s been using the technology for a while now. No more problems with water, falling off, or looking funny. That said, the tech really isn’t any different than superglue. The problem was always the same as superglue. Once you opened it up, the stuff dried out and was useless. Most other brands of liquid bandaid come in single use superglue-like tubes. This stuff comes in a bottle. A bottle that can be re-used over and over again. For thousands of cuts. And trust me, it even works for cuts so bad you think you might need stitches. Yes, I’ve had to do that when I cut my finger extremely badly and I didn’t have medical insurance. Well, I still don’t, but hopefully I’ll have insurance again soon.

Over the past few years I’ve been using New-Skin liquid bandage. You would think that I would be cut more often from sharpening razors. But the truth is that I can’t even remember the last time I cut myself actually sharpening a razor. I cut myself grabbing one of my razors to be sharpened, but never while actually sharpening. No, I’m actually kind of clumsy and cut myself on stuff like broken glass and scratch myself. My accident prone self loves this stuff. It is so much more aesthetically pleasing and permanent than regular bandaids. This stuff belongs in every man’s shaving kit.

The largest advantage is that it comes in a reusable bottle. No more drying out and becoming useless. The antiseptic makes this even better. I’ve been using it to treat everything from small nicks from shaving to pretty deep wounds from being careless. To any teenagers reading this, it also works great to seal up a pimple you’ve just popped. I should note that the stuff does sting when you put it on. I feel that its the products way of telling us its killing all the cells in the area. Sort of like rubbing alcohol. Nevertheless, I prefer to stop the bleeding and sanitize using alcohol soaked toilet paper. If the bleeding persists I use a styptic pencil. The rest is common sense. All in all, for $5 this is a great addition to the first aid and shaving kit.

How to Use

Using this stuff is pretty self explanatory. However, I’ll briefly go over how I use the stuff. I should also note that this product works best in combination with a styptic pencil or alum block. First things first: stop the bleeding. If its a huge gash, see a doctor. Or if you can’t afford one, use pressure and sterile gauze to soak up the blood. For small nicks and cuts from shaving follow these simple steps: 1) Sterilize the cut with soap and water, and then a topical disinfectant. 2) Stop the bleeding using a styptic. 3) Wait for the styptic to work. 4) Unscrew the bottle, wipe off excess liquid bandaid using the lip of the bottle and apply to the wound.