icon The 2024 Beginners Guide To Straight Razors - Grown Man Shave

19 min read

Learn to¬†straight razor shave‚ÄĒit's enjoyable, economical, ecological, and straight up the¬†closest shave you can get with any style razor. We guarantee that you won't get a closer shave with any other shaving tool.

Let's jump right in, if you want to skip this article and just get started with the best straight razor for beginners‚ÄĒin our expert opinion‚ÄĒthe Solomon Straight Razor gives you the most bang for your buck. It's the best straight razor for¬†anyone looking to start wet shaving.

If you are interested in spending more money or just want to pick out something that you feel called to, this article will help you select the right old-fashioned folding razor and accessories to get started in the wet shave world. We'll teach you everything you need to know about picking out your custom razor and we'll give you tips to straight razor shaving.

Make that morning shave seamless and as close as possible by switching to a straight razor today. Here is a quick video that reviews the basics of getting started with a straight razor or you can keep reading and dive into the details.

Learn To Shave with Straight Razor

Once you chose a razor, it's important to learn how to use it properly. Proper technique involves holding the razor at the correct angle and using short, controlled strokes to shave. It's also important to use a high-quality shaving soap or cream to lubricate the skin and protect against irritation.

Don't worry, we got everything you need from mugs to shave soaps imported from the best shave companies worldwide right here at Grown Man Shave. With practice and patience, you'll be able to master the art of straight razor shaving and enjoy a close, comfortable shave every time!

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 rated straight 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 or continue below and we'll guide you through all the benefits and aspects of straight razor shaving:

Table of Contents

 straight razor for beginners

Why are so many men turning back the clock to traditional straight razors?

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-edged razors made from steel were a great innovation when they came about in Sheffield England in the year 1680 (read the complete history of straight razors). 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.  Straight razors, unlike modern cartridges with all those extra blades, do not take off more layers of skin. Modern safety razors, like the Henson AL13 (our best selling razor), can do the job better too. In fact, they can actually do more harm than a classic straight razor!

Best Straight Razors for Beginners

What Is a 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. Straight Razors can be made of different types of material from stainless steel, carbon steel, and artisanal Damascus steel. The single blade (looks kinda like a knife on a stick) is attached to the handle called the scale.

Small pivot pins on the scale (handle) hold the blade and grip together. They allow the sharp blade to fold inside the handle‚ÄĒthe same as a pocket knife is folded. Each blade is unique and handmade. Variances start with blade width, different materials, tip shape, handle material, and blade length. See this article to learn about the different parts of a¬†straight razor.

Benefits of Using the Right Straight Razor

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‚Äôs making love to your face nearly every time you use them. That‚Äôs because you‚Äôre probably switching from one of the lesser forms used to extract facial hair: cartridge razors, disposable razors, or an¬†electric razor‚ÄĒwhich 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. Many straight razor enthusiasts move between a straight razor and a safety razor as part of their daly grooming routine.

TOP 7 REASONS TO SHAVE WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR

  1. A closer shave, bar none
  2. Less irritation & razor burn
  3. More control and better shaving experience
  4. Laser-sharp shaping
  5. The money you will save
  6. It's better for the environment
  7. A straight razor feels. Awesome!

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. 

straight razor shaving for beginners

The Basics to Buying Your First Straight Razor

The most common recommendation for buying your first straight razor is not to buy a cheap one. We agree. You get what you pay for and we would not recommend buying any straight razor under $100. We guarantee you will get a butter knife on a stick. Don't waste your money and definitely stay away from most no-name razors on Amazon.com.

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 agent. 

There aren't that many quality straight razor brands out there in the world. But don't worry, Grown Man Shave carries all the best brands. In our opinion, after trying thousands of razors, the best razors are made in Germany and France. The only other brand that we like that has been making some quality razors at the lower end of the market is Naked Armor. Most of their razors are priced between $100 - $200 and they come with some exceptional guarantees. However, if you are ready to spend more dough we really like the Thiers Issard brand for amazing straight razors.

The best straight razors for beginners should check lots of detailed boxes. We know there are tons of businesses selling traditional straight razors but we guarantee you won't get a bad straight razor from us. We promise.

How do you make the right decision? 

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‚Äôll go through what types of razors available. Maybe you want a Shavette to start? Don't even know what that is‚ÄĒkeep reading and we'll walk you through the matrix of wet shaving.

 Straight Razor Anatomy and straight razor features

Straight Razor Anatomy: Important Terms and Concepts

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 better and easier to use.

What are straight razor jimps?

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. Once you master the skill of straight razor shaving, they may no longer be needed. However, plenty of lifelong wet shavers prefer razors that come with jimps for both style and function.

What is a straight razor shoulder?

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.

How wide should the straight razor be?

Straight-edge razor blades are measured according to their width. Novice shavers take note. There’s a slight difference in performance between a wide and narrow blade. Narrower blades deliver a more aggressive cut. Wider blades are easier to shave with and more forgiving.

Whatever blade you get you'll need to sharpen it (strop it) on a regular basis. Sharpening is done by gliding up and down the strop (leather band) using a very careful technique. Many newcomers get this step wrong and end up ruining the sharp edge. Check out our articles and videos for more information.

Straight razor shaving takes practice. Eventually you'll get the technique down and be able to expand your straight razor collection to more of the advanced edges and styles. 

So, What's the Measurement System All About?

Blades are measured in increments of ‚Öõ 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 ¬ĺ of an inch wide.¬† A good width straight razor for beginners is 5/8 and above. We recommend starting with a 7/8 if possible‚ÄĒthe¬†widest available blade¬†of most¬†straight razor brands.

Straight Razor Blade Grind

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.

Look for a ‚Äúhollow‚ÄĚ grind straight razor. Hollow grind¬†doesn‚Äôt mean there‚Äôs empty space inside the blade, it refers to the¬†amount of¬†metal that has been taken off the blade‚ÄĒleaving a longer, more supple, and thus a more forgiving blade. Most great straight razors¬†today come in either a full hollow or half hollow.¬†

Most common straight razor blade grinds:

  • Full hollow grind:¬†A long, thin, sharp yet forgiving blade¬†
  • Extra hollow grind:A more fine edge than a full hollow, it‚Äôs sharper and may be too flexible for newcomers
  • Singing hollow grind: Ultra-thin blade made for pros
  • Half hollow grind:¬†Thicker, a slightly wedged design (only offered by a few straight razor manufacturers)
  • Flat or straight grind:Commonly¬†called a ‚Äúwedge‚ÄĚ type ground straight razor¬†attributed to rigidity and torsion-resistance. You will often find this grind on narrow straight razors to allow very precise shaving.¬†

Start with a fine edge 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 once you get the hand of wet shaving with a straight edge razor. Part of the appeal of this hobby is trying different blade and getting to know the feel and look of a particular grind.

Stainless Steel Straight Razor Blade vs. Carbon Steel Straight Razor 101

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 not good at oiling your tools there are a few things you should know.

Tips for Using a Carbon Straight Razor Blade:

  • Completely dry your razor after use
  • Store the razor in a cool dry place
  • Cover it with a light coat of camellia oil or Naked Armor's hemp balm to protect the blade from moisture (petroleum jelly is a good substitute).

Straight Razor Pro Tip:

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. Japanese and German steel are the ones to look out for.

What is the Best Straight Razor Handle?

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‚ÄĒsome 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 one of the most important shaving fact you learn today.

The center of balance for a straight razor is at the pin where the blade and the handle meet. This is called the pivot pin. This pin is also the main connection point to the handle. The pivot pin balances the razor so that it is easier to hold, enabling you to get your neck just as easily as you can with your mustache.

It's really a personal choice. Some guys like a heavier blade, others like the feel of a light handle. Either way, start in the middle so you can master the feeling first. This is one of the reasons we like the Solomon from Naked Armor, it really hits all the beginner recommendations at an affordable price. We also like the lower end German Dovo blades for beginners that are a bit more expensive.

Tips for Picking a Straight Razor Handle:

Heavier Handles: 

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.

Lighter Handles:

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.

Straight Razor Blade Point

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.

straight razor shaving for the beginner and blade points

5 Best Straight Razors for Beginners

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. Our recommendations come from the world's best and most respected manufacturers. All the follwoing straight razors are made from carbon steel and come with rounded points, jimps, shoulders, and full hollow blades‚ÄĒall reasonably priced and tested by our staff. 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 men's straight razor kit.

Should I Buy A Straight Razor Kit?

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. The Solomon kit below as a great starter kit or the Theirs Issard kit‚ÄĒour favorite starter kit if money is no object. Let's dive into out top straight razor recommendations:

1) Naked Armor Solomon Straight Razor 7/8' Brown

Learning the art of shaving is easy with this award-winning vintage-style straight razor. The Solomon Straight Razor is an extra-durable must-have shaving tool. Designed to brave through corrosive elements and heavy-duty shaving, this straight razor has a 59-61 HRC VG-10HZ Japanese steel blade perfectly complemented by its biblical brown algum wood handle and 115-grain two-sided gold copper heads.

Naked Armor Solomon
Scale Material: Brown Algum Wood
Blade Width: 7/8"
Blade Point: Round Point
Blade Material: VG-10HZ Japanese Steel Blade
Blade Grind: Full Hollow
    Learn More Solomon Straight razor

     

    2. Dovo Tortoise Patterned Handle Round Point 5/8" Straight Razor

    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.

    Dovo Tortoise Patterned Handle Round Point 5/8" Straight Razor

    Scale Material: Totoisshell Resin
    Blade Width: 5/8"
    Blade Point: Round Point
    Blade Material: German Carbon Steel
    Blade Grind: Full Hollow 
      Learn More Dovo Tortoiseshell

       

      3. Thiers Issard Hexagon Brown Stamina Round Point Straight Razor 5/8" Le Thiernois

      ‚ÄėSinging‚Äô Hollowed or extra-hollowed, Thiers Issard's straight razor represents the finest grind and thinnest blades made in France. This nickname comes from the sound the blade makes when a softer material is dragged gently across the cutting edge - like making your water glass sing!

      Thiers Issard Straight razor
      Scale Material: Brown Stamina
      Blade Width: 5/8"
      Blade Point: Round Point
      Blade Material: C135 Carbon Steel Blade
      Blade Grind: Singing Hollowed
      Origin: Theirs, France
      Learn More Dovo Tortoiseshell

      4. Naked Armor Solomon Straight Razor Kit Custom Point 5/8" Japanese Steel Straight Razor (Best Men's Straight Razor Kit for Beginners)

      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, making it one of the best men's razors. 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!

      Naked Armor Straight Razor Kit
      Scale Material: Algum wood
      Blade Width: 7/8"
      Blade Point: Round Point
      Blade Material: Japanese steel VG-10HZ 
      Blade Grind: Full Hollow
      Naked Armor Solomon Kit

       

      Barbarette vs Shavette Here’s the Truth

      Barbarette straight razor shaving

      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. 

      Why Shavettes Straight Razors Aren’t the Best for Beginners: 

      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.

      • They have a higher learning curve than regular straight blades
      • You can feel more of a tug on your stubble with a disposable blade
      • They are much less forgiving when it comes to nips and cuts¬†

      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.

      Why You Should Start Off With a Traditional Straight Razor Blade:

      A traditional fixed blade razor is easier to handle and makes much more sense for starters. The trick is to find the right one.

      Caring for Your Straight Razor

      How To Maintain & Care for Your Straight Razor

      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.

      How to Keep a Clean Straight Razor

      1. Clean the blade with warm water and shaving soap
      2. Keep the blade dry. Blot it dry with a clean cloth or let it air dry 
      3. Disinfect it with rubbing alcohol
      4. Coat the blade with baby oil, mineral oil, or camellia oil
      5. Store away from moisture (a drawer in the bathroom is fine)
      6. Clean the handle with a damp town or dry toothbrush

      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

      Common Straight Edge Razor Questions: FAQ

      If you still have questions on your search for cut throat razors for beginners, we hope you can find the answer here.

      How do I keep a straight razor sharp?

      Antique straight razors can still be used today, but it is not the cheapest way to shave. 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:

      1. Stropping - Running the blade's edge up and down a strop (typically a piece of leather) before you shave helps keep it sharp.
      2. Honing - Every one or two months, you want to hone the blade's edge, which involves sharpening the blade against a stone.

      Don't be intimidated by the sharpening process. Not only is it fun, but it can make your instrument last for decades.

      What does ‚Äúshave ready‚ÄĚ mean?

      '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, Thiers Issard, & Naked Armor. These blades come 'shave ready' 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". You can also check the manufacturers warranty. All the brands we work with guarantee the shave readiness of the straight razor.

      What kind of shaving cream or soap do you use with a Straight Razor?

      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 and clean 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. Don't forget to map your face after applying the lather. This will help you keep track of your shaving direction.

      Modern vs Vintage Straight Razors: Is There a Difference?

      Yes!

      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.

      Should I Do Multiple Passes with Straight Razor or Just one?

      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.

      How Do I Prep My Face For Straight Razor Shaving?

      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.

      Everything You Need to Get Started with Straight Razor

      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: December 15, 2023