18 min read
Where to start when it comes to choosing the best straight razor for beginners? With so many choices a beginner to straight razor shaving needs to understand the elements of a single edge blade (aka a straight razor).
This knowledge not only helps you select the right instrument and use it correctly but also to make that morning shave seamless and as comfortable as possible—even closer than a double edge razor (not parker).
Experts and the experienced wet shaving aficionados will tell you -- not all straight razors bode well for the straight razor beginner. So, to make it easier for you this beginner's guide to straight razors will start with the basics and go into further detail on everything you need to know about straight razors, what is the best cut throat razor for a beginner, how to use a straight razor and how to get the closest shave of your life.
Read enough? Select your new straight razor now!
The main reason to use a old school straight razor is that they give you the closest shave possible. It's hard to pinpoint the exact reason, maybe it's the ritual, maybe nostalgia, style, or they went to a gentleman's barbershop and got a straight razor shave and it was the best shave of their life. Whatever the reason, the old ways of wet shaving techniques are making a big comeback.
Wait, If Straight Razor Shaving is so Awesome, Why Did We Stop Using Them?
Straight razors made from steel were a great innovation when they came about in Sheffield England in the year 1680. Before then, anything from seashells to shark's teeth to copper and bronze was used, so you can imagine the delight of men first shaving with a blade made from razor-sharp steel.
In time, new inventions arose meant to simplify the process. The Safety razor came about in the late 1800s as an alternative, which provided more protection against clumsy strokes but a slightly less close shave. In the mid-20th century, disposable blades began to take hold, which cut blade care and most of the ritual completely out of the process but also sacrificed accuracy and smoothness in return.
The razor industry later became dominated by heavily marketed cartridges because they were easy and many men were lead to believe that 3, 4, 5 even 6 blades must be better than one.
However, they were mistaken. A straight razor unlike modern cartridges with all those extra blades take off more layers of skin. In fact, they can actually do more harm than a classic straight razor!
A straight shaving razor is a single blade sharpened on one edge set in a handle that is folded open or closed via a blade guard.
They can be made of different types of material from stainless steel to artisanal Damascus that is attached to the handle called the scale.
Small pivot pins on the scale hold the blade and grip together. They allow the knife to fold inside the handles, the same as a pocket knife is folded inside their handle.
Each blade is unique. Variances start with blade width, different materials, tip shape, handle material, and knife length.
The benefits of using a straight razor are a closer shave and a great shaving experience. Once you fall in love with straight razors, it can feel like it’s making love to your face nearly every time you use them. That’s because you’re probably switching from one of the lesser forms used to extract facial hair: cartridge razors, disposable razors, or an electric razor, which not only leave a field of stubble that grows back quickly but are much less of a joy to use.
Even if you’re coming from the traditional wet shaving safety razor world (which is a close second to a modern straight razor) you’ll soon realize that no other shaving tool provides a better clean shave and smoother shave than the straight razor.
Needless to say, it is easy to understand the obsession. Besides, they’re beautiful instruments and it’s tempting to want them all.
Some have qualities that make them the candidates to be the best straight razor for beginners, which is where you definitely want to start, especially if you’re new to all this wet shaving stuff. But if you find yourself swooning over a more advanced blade, you can always make it a goal to work towards.
The most basic recommendation for buying your first straight razor is not to buy a cheap one. Stay away from most razors below $100. A traditional straight razor for a newcomer has to fill quite a few tasks. It needs to be forgiving so you don’t get cut, provide a smooth shave, stay razor-sharp to keep your chin as bare as the day you were born, and make you look as suave as 007. All while doing it at a reasonable price however don't shop by price a cheap straight razor might send you straight to the emergency room.
The best straight razors for beginners should check all boxes. But, doesn’t it feel like you can look at all of the different traditional straight razors and premium straight razors all day long, despite detailed product descriptions, never know if you’re making the right decision?
Recommendations for specific products can be helpful, but when you purchase straight razors especially something nicknamed a “cut-throat razor.”
It’s a serious tool, with a sharp blade. What you really need is the key to understanding the language. Once you know how to identify a premium straight razor for starters, you can breeze through the suggestions and decide which one you want for yourself.
There are many different kinds of blades in our shop, so we’re here to help point the way to the starter blades and help you understand how to work your way up to the slightly more advanced straight razor blades we have for experienced shavers.
Everything you need to know to buy your first straight razor and the key to understanding the rest is contained below. We’ll go through what types of razors you should start with, get some tips on how to shop for disposable razor blades that Shavettes and Barbarettes come with, look at some great examples so you can shop with confidence.
Straight razors are known by many names but all the same, often names as a straight edge, a cut throat razor, barber, open-blade razor, straight edge, straight blade and straight-edge razor. Even though a straight razor blade is essentially the blade and the handle, the best straight razors for newcomers have some features that make them easier to use.
Jimps are indentations along the lower portion of the smooth side of the blade (called the tang) where you rest your fingers while shaving while holding a straight razor. They provide traction, which makes it easier for the blade to stay steady in your hand. Not all straight-edge razors shave jimps and once you master the skill, they may no longer be needed. However, plenty of lifelong wet shavers prefer razors that come with jimps for both style and function.
The shoulder of the blade is a depression on the face that marks where the sharp end of the blade turns into the tail. The shoulder is really more cosmetic, but it can be useful for you to get a feel of where the smooth parts stop and the sharp parts begin when you’re just starting out.
Straight-edge razor blades are measured according to their width and novice shavers should take note. There’s a slight difference in performance between a wide and narrow blade. Thicker blades can sometimes deliver a more aggressive cut. However, wider blades can also make it harder for you to see what you are doing, which is not ideal for first-timers.
More narrow blades are best for rookies. They’re sharp, but they let you see what you’re doing, especially when hitting difficult corners around the nose and ears. Plus, they’re easier to keep sharp unlike honing by gliding up and down the strop.
Eventually, you may get enough of a feel for wet shaving with a straight edge to not even have to see what is going on, but when you’re just starting out you may need this extra field of vision. Wider blades last longer but are also a little more challenging to sharpen using a leather strop.
Blades are measured in increments of ⅛ inches from the toe of the blade (sharp bottom edge of the razor head) to the spine. So a 4/8 blade is half an inch wide and a 6/8 blade is ¾ of an inch wide. A good width straight razor for beginners is 5/8.
The straight razor blade grind refers to the flexibility and sharpness of the blade. Small variations in the shape of the blade a have big impact on the shave it provides.
The word “hollow” is used to describe the grind of the types of blades new shavers should gravitate towards. Hollow grinds doesn’t mean there’s empty space inside the blade, it just means that more of the metal has been taken off, leaving a longer, more supple, and forgiving blade. Most great straight razors today come in either a full hollow or half hollow.
Beginners usually start with a fine edge like on a full hollow grind. Eventually, you’ll find that grind is a personal choice. Things like the coarseness of your hair and your preferred shaving technique can have an effect. You might try an even thinner blade like an extra hollow or singing hollow.
Stainless steel straight razors are great for wet shavers that know how to use a strop and honing stones. The carbon straight razor is easier to sharpen and has a more forgiving blade then the stainless steel alternative.
If you’re coming from the world of cartridges and safety razors, you might’ve heard that stainless steel is the way to go. Stainless steel doesn’t oxidize in moist environments like so it stays sharper longer and is easier to maintain than carbon steel.
But there’s a different kind of thinking at play when it comes to picking a good straight-edge razor. A Safety razor pushes across your face rather than pull, like safety razors, and need a finer, less coarse blade. Stainless steel works, but it can be a little harsher, which can make it a bit more difficult to strop and sharpen.
The benefit of carbon steel is that it is very easy to strop and keep a sharp edge, which makes it a great metal for straight razors and a great choice for beginners. Carbon steel is the original material many of the most important names in shaving like Boker started back in the 19th century and is the primary metal they use to make them today.
The significant difference between these two is that chrome is added to the alloy to create stainless steel. Chrome makes the atomic structure of the stainless steel more coarse.
Unfortunately, carbon steel doesn't have protection to prevent oxidation or rust like stainless steel, so if you’re a slob (you know who you are), there are a few things you should know.
High-blade quality metals sharpen better. No matter if carbon or stainless steel, blades made from good metal should produce a clear ringing sound if you very carefully place the point of the blade under your thumbnail and give a gentle nip.
The best straight razor handle is the one that gives you a perfect balance between blade and scale. So wet shavers like the straight razor handle heavy and others like ornate designs. The handle is where you get to be creative and express yourself. The scale, (handle or blade holder), can seem like just the fun part. They can be stunning pieces of art—some are even collector's items and they come with beautiful and intricate designs. But there's more to the blade holder story: weight and balance. This part may be nestled deep into this article, but this may be the most important shaving fact you learn today.
The ideal straight-edge razor balance should be at the pivot pin, where the blade meets the handle. Hard stop. Repeat. The center of balance for a straight razor is at the pin where the blade and the handle meet. This balances the razor so that it is easier to hold in any direction, enabling you to get your neck just as easily as you can with your mustache.
But it's really a personal choice. Some guys like a heavier blade, others like the feel of a dense handle. Either way, start in the middle so you can master the feeling first.
A metal or stainless steel body tends to be heavier. Most of the work of applying pressure is done by the weight of the blade itself. With less force needed from you, they can be a good option for those with sensitive skin.
Wood or resin tends to be lighter and gives you more control of the pressure. This can come in handy in areas where detail is needed.
Feel free to start with either type of blade holder. Some woods and other lighter materials can sometimes cost less, which makes them a good place to start, plus they teach you how to use a blade properly. But there’s no hard and fast rule that says where you should start.
Many straight razors can have different kinds of blade points. Found at the top of the blade, on the side of the spine, the point is used to remove hair from hard-to-reach parts like your ears and nose and to give definition to the shape of the beard.
When you buy your first straight razor, look for a rounded point "round point" blade; skip anything with a square point. A rounded shaving head is still sharp and gives a close shave, but it is a lot safer to steer than their square point blade cousins and others like the French point, Spanish point, or Barber’s Notch. You may find a rounded shaving head to be a little less exacting, but they’re a lot safer, especially when starting out.
By now you're either got a Ph.D. in straight razor anatomy or have just skipped ahead to the recommendations. Each of the razors below is ideal for tenderfoot shavers. They come from the world's best and most respected manufacturers. All are made from carbon steel and come with rounded points, jimps, shoulders, a ⅝ full hollow blade, plus -- a reasonable price. If you are overwhelmed by all the technical aspects of a straight edge razor it is highly recommended to start with a basic entry level straight razor that is included in a set straight razor kits.
If you are new to straight razor shaving a complete straight razor kit is the perfect way to get started. It's cost effective and will save you the hassle of piecing together all the right elements to begin wet shaving. We like the quality straight razor kits from Naked Armor because they have everything you need to launch into straight razor without breaking the bank. Check out the Solomon kit below as a great starter.
Let's dive into out top straight razor recommendations:
“Reuzel '' means pork drippings in The Netherlands, where this sleek Boker tool is from, and this model is just as satisfying. It has everything you need to get started plus the carbon steel blade comes with a protective PVD coating (physical vapor deposition if you’re taking notes) that makes it last a little longer in humid places. It’s one of the most versatile straight razor blades out there.
This Dovo straight razor is a looker right from the start. You may never want to progress to other blades (who are we kidding, yes you will, straight razors are addictive) Still, The Diamant does everything a novice needs. Its rounded at the right points, has jimps on the underside of the tang, and a blade and handle that can’t help but look badass.
Like the Diamant, the blade on this handsome Dovo straight razor answers all the needs of a rookie, more so than other straight razors, but offers a suave, resin, tortoiseshell case, and special gold-etched blade. A high-quality straight razor as any.
A grown men's straight razor kit for beginners is a great way to get into wet shaving with a straight blade without being overwhelmed by all the technical aspects and should include everything you need to get started. The Thiers Issard White Resin 5/8" Round Point Straight Razor is a great best entry level straight razor for any type of facial hair and skin type. Included in the straight blade razor kit is a luxury paddle strop to keep the edge in place, stropping paste (a low grit greaseless paste applied to a strop to keep the blade sharp and to extend blade sharpness) a matching pure badge shaving brush, shaving soap and bowl, and an alum bloc used post-shave combined with water applied over the shaved area an antiseptic to combat post-shaving-related skin irritations, nicks and cuts.
Naked Armor is an award winning American made straight razor kit. The Solomon straight razor has something for just about anyone and everything you need for the beginner. A badger friendly shaving brush, a strop, sharpening paste, organic shave soap, and let us not forget the star of the show the Solomon straight edge razor. Crafted from precision Japanese steel with hybrid points somewhere between a Dutch (round point) and French point. The hybrid design offers a unique compromise unlike other. The Dutch point design guards against accidents and the French point style offers precision all presented in a dazzling natural pine wood gift box. Add the solomon straight razor kit to your next amazon order!
In the shaving industry, a straight razor that has a disposable or a replaceable blade can be called either a shavette straight razor or a barbarette it all depends on the brand. Professional barbers typically use them to bring up hairlines or shape beards. Think of them as a hybrid between a safety razor and a straight razor. Nobody want to use a dull razor! When the blade becomes dull, you can just switch it out. There’s no shortage of websites that recommend these as the best straight razor for novices, but are they?
The advantages are that you don’t have to hone or razor strop with a leather strop to sharpen your blade or really, put much care into it at all. When the blade stops working, simply pinch on the blade holder, pop out the straight razor, and add a new one. Plus, they tend to be less expensive than traditional razors, even replacement blades aren’t expensive.
While that’s all sound reasoning for it to make sense for beginners, it actually doesn’t add up, and here is why.
Shavettes are sharp, they tug on your hair and are more prone to cut your face. Allow us to take a position. Replaceable blades are great for professional barbers who are concerned with hygiene, but at home, they really don't do you any favors.
None of these are things you want out of your first blade. Even though it may seem like a good idea to start off with a hybrid instrument like a dovo shavette razor, just because a shavette looks like a traditional razor doesn’t mean it will shave like one. Not to mention, with all those parts, they break a lot easier.
A traditional fixed blade razor is easier to handle and makes much more sense for starters. The trick is to find the right one.
Maintain and care for your straight razor by keeping it clean, dry, and sharp. Let's dive into how to keep your straight razor clean.
Good blade hygiene can go a long way. Not only does it keep bacteria at bay, but it leads to less deterioration of the cutting edge over time. That means a sharper blade
Antique straight razors can still be used today. The good news is that if you keep your razor blade clean, the cutting edge will stay sharper for longer. Remember, we're not dealing with disposable blades that you can just throw away when the blade's edge gets dull.
A cutthroat razor can be kept sharp in two ways:
Don't be intimidated by the sharpening process. Not only is it fun, but it can make your instrument last for decades.
If you still have questions on your search for cut throat razors for beginners, we hope you can find the answer here.
'Shave ready' is a confusing term that is often debated in online forums. Shave ready means that the blade will be honed and ready to use out of the package. Remember there are different quality razors on the market. Most straight razor aficionados recommend buying a high-quality straight razor from brands like Boker, Dovo, and Thiers Issard will come with a factory blade on them and can be shaved right out of the box after a few passes on a strop. If you are buying something less premium, it will likely take a lot of work on a set of stones and a strop to get it "shave ready". As the age-old adage says, you get what you pay for.
You want to create a good smooth shaving surface for the closest shave. Shaving soaps are the best way to do that with a high-quality shaving brush such as badger hair brushes. If vegan friendly is your personal preference opt for a synthetic shaving brush. Use strong, moisturizing, soaps that lather well or a high quality shaving cream. Don’t use the same shaving cream as you did with your cartridge razor. A straight razor works a little differently. It’s one blade and it pushes instead of pulls. You need more powerful creams that moisturize and soften the hair.
Modern Razors: Modern straight razors, as you would expect, have the added advantage of featuring the latest technology available in the market. Years of experience, often from companies that have been in the game for centuries, have improved upon the quality.
Vintage Razors: A well-maintained vintage straight blade can be of the same quality (if not better) than the modern alternatives simply because they were made by a skilled artisan. But, a vintage straight razor requires some tender care to restore it to its original glory with professional blade restoration and may not be the best idea for starting out.
Ah, the age-old question of how many times should you pass the blade. If you're a beginner with a new straight razor, you might only want to start making a singular downward stroke (shave downward). Shave downward across half of your cheek going with the grain of your hair or the direction your beard grows. This way you can get a feel of the blade and its power. After getting enough experience you can go against the grain and across the grain, using a crisscross method.
Start with a hot towel. Getting your chin ready to start shaving and receive the razor is an important step! Luckily, it's easy. All you have to do is take a hot shower or wash your face with warm water and soap. But if you love the ritual, then take a few moments and lay a hot wet towel over your face to really create a smooth shaving surface.
Heat and water after a hot shower softens facial hair and makes cutting easier. Its also opens blocked pores, shedding dead cells and dirt on the skin.
We know making the move to straight razor shaving can be a daunting task. It can seem like there's a lot to learn and mistakes can be, well, messy. But if you start off with a good understanding of the parts of a razor then the rest will come easy and you will have a smooth, gorgeous face in no time.
If you would like to learn more and read about the history of the Art of Shaving we recommend that you grab our eBook where you will learn about the different styles like the full hollow ground and many more designs,. For getting to the end of this article we are offering you the eBook for free. Use code: Free-eBook at checkout.
Updated: September 7, 2022
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