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Selecting Your First Straight Razor

Welcome my friend! It looks like you wish to start shaving with straight (aka "open" and "cut-throat") razor. That’s a good idea. Such razors have large number of advantages over modern devices. But this article is not about the benefits you will get. It looks like you you already know all the advantages…

But what you may not know is how to select a perfect razor and what to look at when making a purchase. Your first step is purchasing a good shaving tool. This step is important because you will be using it almost every day for a very long time. How do you make a purchase if you know nothing about where to look at?

This guide will tell you everything you need to know for purchasing a good cut-throat razor.

Parts

Let’s start from terminology. Every razor in the world consists of several parts and you must know how every part is called. The image below shows a typical shaving tool with names of most important parts.

Straight Razor Parts

The named parts are the most important. You must know how they are called because different razors have different Width, Hollow Ground, Handle, Edge sharpness. These characteristics are the most important!!! They determine how the blade will shave and thus your shaving comfort.

The Blade

The blade itself is the most important part of any razor. That’s because you cut facial hair with it and if it’s good you will be satisfied. The blade is usually made out of one of two types of steel: stainless or carbon. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. The table below shows the most important differences between these two options.

Steel Type Advantages Disadvantages
Stainless Steel
  • High tempered. This allows holding edge for longer time.
  • Requires less maintenance. You will need to sharpen it not so often.
  • More difficult to hone. Requires more time. Also more difficult to strop.
  • Higher price.
Carbon Steel
  • Softer tempered. Easier to hone and maintain sharpness of the edge.
  • The cost is usually lower.
  • Loses sharpness faster than stainless.
  • Requires special care: it can get rust if not dried and cared for.

As you see both options have different advantages and disadvantages. We would recommend to select Stainless steel blades. They require less attention and they stay sharp for longer time. But you may go with carbon steel if you wish. This characteristic is not so important. You just need to know the difference and select what you want and what you can afford.

Grind

The second important characteristic of the blade is it’s type of grind. Here are the most popular types:

  • Full hollow
  • Half hollow
  • Quarter hollow
  • Near Wedge
  • True Wedge

The image below shows the difference between these types:

Popular Straight Razor Grinds

True Wedge looks like a triangle without any hollow grinding. Such razors are good to use but they require more time to hone. Many people say that they are great for cutting beard rather than regular shaving. Full Hollow stands on the opposite side. The difference from Wedge is that a lot of metal was removed out of the blade on both sides. It’s much easier to hone such razor and it weighs less which is good.

Which one to select: full hollow, half hollow (1/2) or wedge? It’s recommended to start with half hollow or quarter hollow. But you may go with any type in general. All of them provide great shaving. The difference is not so noticeable. Many people say that Wedge is easier to use because it may forgive some mistakes while Full hollow is less forgiving and the chances to cut are higher.

Width

Width is also very important characteristic. Traditionally it is measured in 1/8th of an inch. If you see a razor with 8/8 blade that means it is 1 inch wide. 8/8 blades are heavier and can hold more soap before they need cleaning.

Straight Razor Width

Which one to select? 5/8 or 6/8 blade should be great for a beginner. But you may also buy 7/8. It will also be great. Some people say that wide full hollow blades are more difficult to master. But that’s not the reason for ignoring such razors. If you see a good 7/8 full hollow blade and you wish to buy it – do it. You will be able to master it anyway.

Making final choice…

Now you know what is the difference between straight razors you may find on Amazon and it's time to make final decision. The best straight razor for beginner has following characteristics: it's made of any type of steel (carbon or stainless), half or quarter hollow grind and 5/8-7/8 width. But once again: though there is a difference in usage, all the razors provide great shaving. A beginner will hardly notice the difference between shaving with half hollow and full hollow razors…

If you see a cool looking straight blade at a good price and you understand that you wish to use this “tool” we recommend to buy it. It’s very important to fell comfort while shaving and if you like your razor you will most likely be satisfied with shaving quality.

Recommended Offers

Now we want to tell about what not to buy. You should never buy cheap cut-throat blades. They are often sold on E-Bay and cost $5 or even less. They are made of low quality steel and are difficult to hone. Sometimes it’s even impossible to sharpen them properly. If you buy such blade and it will be your first you may get upset with straight razor shaving in general. You may decide that it’s much better to shave with modern Gillette. And this may be a serious mistake…