A man with normal beard usually shaves once a day. Normal life of an edge is about 2 – 3 months with such frequency. But such lifetime is possible if you know how to shave and maintain your straight razor. A newbie can make the edge dull much faster. If you don’t know how to properly strop the razor you can destroy its edge much faster. Poor stropping technique affects sharpness of the blade a lot. Read our Straight Razor Maintenance guide if you know nothing about this.
What to do when a razor becomes dull and doesn't provide quality shaving? The answer is simple: you need to sharpen it. There are 2 options: you can do it yourself or use special services. Rehoning at home is not so difficult. All you need is 2 or 3 different stones and chromium oxide paste.
But before purchasing special equipment or sending the blade to the service read this: you don't need to rehone your razor after it stops shaving. That’s the fact many people usually ignore. When the razor gets a little bit dull most of the people think that only complete rehoning may bring it back to life. But that’s a huge mistake. Rehoning is usually required if the razor’s edge is really dull. Before you decide to completely remake the edge try to refresh it. This may bring it back to life without sending it to special service. We reveal several amazing methods of returning sharpness below.
This is the very basic method of refreshing everybody should try first. It will work if your razor was professionally sharpened at the past and now it’s just a little bit dull and doesn’t provide comfortable shaving. All you need to change the situation is to make few strokes on a strop covered with chromium oxide, diamond spray or something like this. As you see it’s very simple! All you need is a piece of leather or separate strop and chromium oxide bar (or diamond spray). You can buy it on e-bay or somewhere else. It’s cheap and it’s great for maintaining sharpness.
Many people use back side of their main strop or back side of the second cotton strop for these purposes. Take the leather and cover it with chromium oxide. You don’t need to cover the surface with thick layer. All you need is a nice thin cover. See the image below:
If you use diamond spray or similar spray just cover the strop several times, let it dry for about 12 hours and you are ready to go. This will be an equivalent of 30 000 (30K) grit stone.
Start using this pasted strop as you normally do. But don’t do multiple strokes! The optimal amount is 4 to 7 for the purposes of refreshing. One stroke is back and forth movement. Start performing regular stropping motion as usually. You don’t need to pressure a lot. If the pressure is too serious you may harm the edge! Chromium oxide will work anyway.
Clear the blade with a towel after you finish this part and start your normal stropping routine. Take your daily strop and make 10 – 40 strokes on the canvas and then 50 – 60 strokes on the leather side. Basic technique is the same. Do it as you usually do. If you know nothing about this read our "How To Strop Straight Razor?" guide.
In most situations such refreshing is enough to return original sharpness to the edge. How do you know if these actions are enough? That’s simple. Go to the bathroom and try to shave. Normally this method allows maintaining sharpness without rehoning for many months. Just repeat it every 2 weeks or so.
When the above method refuses to work and doesn’t provide good sharpness you need to try finishing hone or high grit stone. 12 000 grit stone is one of the best. It’s much more aggressive than chromium oxide and it will help to return the edge back to life.
How to use 12K stone? First of all water it using sprayer. Then wait for some time and make 4 to 7 strokes. But this time move the blade towards the edge. That’s important! When you strop you move the razor towards the spine. But when you refresh it on the stone move it towards the edge.
After you finish with the stone go back to your chromium oxide pasted strop and polish the edge there. All the steps are described above.
If you don’t have 12K stone but have 8K stone try 8 000 grit. Maybe it will also help you. It’s more aggressive than 12K but can still do the job. Just don’t pressure.
This method is a good alternative for stropping with chromium oxide. You will need 2 honing stones for this. You don’t need to buy 2 separate stones. Nowadays you can buy combined svariant with different surfaces. For example Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone 4000/8000 is a great choice. It has 8K surface on one side and 4K on the other. This choice is one of the best for pyramid method.
So how do you use Pyramid? It’s really simple. We call it 1/3 + 1/5 technique. First of all take 5K stone and make 1 stroke on it. After this take 8K and make 3 strokes. Then return back to 5K and make 1 stroke again. After this make 5 strokes on 8K stone. That’s all!
After this go and do your normal stropping routine. For the most of you guys this should be enough. But if you feel that the razor isn’t ready for shaving strop it at chromium oxide strop or use finishing stone or 12K stone.
There is a very important thing you should always keep in mind. Pressure will kill your edge!!! Don’t pressure too much. Use the weight of your razor only. You may pressure when you rehone the blade or when you want to set the bevel. But forget about pressuring when your goal is to refresh the edge.
There are many different stones you can use for refreshing purposes. Different water stones, Japanese stones, barber stones and so on work great if you know how to use them. Just keep in mind basic rule: start with harder stone and go down to lighter. Use the pressure of the blade. These simple rules will help you a lot.
Pay attention: the amount of strokes for every method may vary for you. Everybody has different preferences and touch. If 7 strokes don’t work for you try to do 10 or 15 strokes. Find a method that works for you. The article describes basic technique but you should understand that there may be some changes.
Your razor will be ready for shaving again after you do all the steps described above. The methods are great for maintaining sharpness for a long period of time without sending your razor for rehoning.