Unfortunately, there is no one answer to this problem. A straight razor should not need honing for a long time. Provided you properly strop after each use, it should be between six months to a year in between honing. However, when you first start, the razor will invariably dull quicker and need re-sharpening. In the beginning, three to four months of good shaves is actually a good starting point. One month is not unheard of and re-honing your razor is just something that needs to be done as you journey down the long road toward straight shaving nirvana. Below I have compiled a list of the five most likely causes and their solutions.
- Poor stropping technique – This is actually quite common among new straight razor users. The cause is rolling the edge. By dragging the edge perpendicular or near to perpendicular from the strop, you will roll the edge. The good news is this is 100% fixable through proper stropping technique. This why stropping is so important. Click here to read our article about stropping!
- Rust – Rust is the enemy of sharp. Sadly the only cure to rust is to re-hone/sharpen the razor. Rust happens naturally, but there are certain things that can increase the rust rate: not drying the razor completely, storing it in the bathroom, or living in a humid climate. The good news is that there are things you can do to retard rust formation. Oil the blade when not in use, strop on a dry towel after use, stropping on linen/cotton, storing the razor somewhere dry, wrapping the razor in wax paper & place it in a waterproof box, etc..
- High Angle – The higher the angle you shave your hairs with, the quicker your razor will dull. The solution is to lower the angle. This is hard for new straight razor users to accomplish because increasing the angle makes it a little easier to get a closer shave, but at the cost of edge longevity. In addition, increasing the razor’s angle helps compensate for a razor in need of honing. Thus, it becomes a vicious downward spiral; the only real solution is to sharpen/hone the razor if you are stuck in this vicious circle.
- Coarse Hair – Sadly there is nothing we can do about this. Some men’s beards are so coarse that they just eat up razors. If this is the problem, it really doesn’t matter terribly much how well honed/sharpened the straight razor was to begin with, your coarse beard will just dull it. But don’t despair! There are things you can do. Soaking your beard softens the hairs and allows for easier cutting. Using a pre-shave lotion that soaks the hairs further softens the hairs, making it easier to shave. Proper stretching also helps, along with doing two with the grain passes.
- Never sharp – The sharper your razor starts off at, the sharper it will be several months later. A good honing will pay dividends in the end.