Even the most ardent straight razor fans will not recommend the first time user take on an entire shave on the very first try. There is definitely a learning curve to becoming proficient with a straight razor.
Start by experimenting with different grips until you find the one most comfortable for you. A comfortable grip is important for control.
Remember the best cutting angle is 30 degrees. Fewer than 30 degrees and you will rip the hair out by its root. More than 30 degrees and you will very likely slice yourself to ribbons. The only areas for which this rule does not apply are the chin and the upper lip. For these two trouble spots only, angle the back of the blade a little closer to your skin and proceed with caution.
Start with a razor that has been professionally honed. A disposable blade straight razor [like the Parker, offered on this site] would be considered shave ready.
Shaving with a straight razor is an art, and patience is a prerequisite.
Make certain you have prepped the beard [thoroughly moistened with hot water] either by showering first, or by washing the face at the sink.
Lather the beard with a badger shaving brush using a soap or cream that does not dry quickly. Be certain the area you are shaving is always moist with lather - dry lather causes drag and you will very likely cut into the skin. Always shave with a gentle touch [don’t press down on the razor, let the blade do the cutting], and be relaxed. Stretching the skin is very important to create a flat shaving surface.
It is recommended you break the following steps over several days. Do one step, and then complete the remainder of that day’s shave with your regular razor. Next day proceed to the next step, but only if you were happy with the results of the previous day; otherwise, repeat the previous step.
Step 1: Stroke downward or with the grain from your sideburn down to the jaw on the side of your dominant hand. The easiest way to begin is to lay the razor flat on your cheek and then lift the spine slightly and immediately start moving down the cheek. Be sure to use the fingers of your other hand to stretch the skin in the opposite direction of the stroke - this gives a smooth surface for the razor to glide over and reduces the chance of a cut. Short strokes of approximately one inch should be utilized down to the jaw line to complete the first pass. For the second pass over the same area, slightly longer strokes can be used to clean up any remaining whiskers. This ends your first phase with a straight razor. Complete the remainder of your shave with your regular razor.
Step 2: Repeat what you did in Step 1, but you now can add the cheek area on that side from where the beard starts and shave with the grain or downward to the jaw line. This ends your second phase with a straight razor. Complete the remainder of your shave with your regular razor.
Step 3: Repeat what you did in Step 2, but you now can add the moustache area shaving with the grain or downward to the upper lip. It is good to curl the upper lip over teeth to stretch and flatten the area. You can shave the entire moustache area with your dominant hand. This ends your third phase with a straight razor. Complete the remainder of your shave with your regular razor.
Step 4: Repeat what you did in Step 3, but you now can add the section of your beard from the jaw line and chin line on that dominant side down to where the beard stops on the neck. This will be a downward or with the grain stroke. This ends your fourth phase with a straight razor. Complete the remainder of your shave with your regular razor.
Steps 5, 6, 7: Repeat what you did in Step 4 … and now you are going to start shaving the other side of your face using your non dominant hand. Only take on the opposite side of the face from the sideburn to the jaw line. Again, once you are comfortable with shaving this area, you can move to the cheek and neck on the non dominant side over the next couple days using the non dominant hand to shave with the grain. This ends your fifth, sixth and seventh steps with a straight razor. Complete the remainder of your shave with your regular razor.
Step 8: Repeat what you did in Step 7 … and now the chin. You can shave the entire chin with your dominant hand. To create a tight flat surface curl your lower lip over your bottom teeth. Stroke with the grain or downward from the lower lip to the top of the chin and on each side of the chin. Then shave the actual chin. You have completed an entire shave with a straight razor.
From here you can experiment with across the grain strokes and against the grain strokes; also with multiple passes.
These straight razor shaving hints are not absolutes. It would require a very long commentary to give a complete explanation on how to shave with a straight razor, enumerating all possible variables on grips and techniques. QED feels it would be more helpful for a first time user to view several of the many videos on straight razor shaving on Google Video at http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=straight+razor
. With the videos you find most informative you can halt the video, practice what you’ve just seen with the Parker (without installed blade), then continue with the video. This way you can eventually map-out how you intend to shave your entire face and neck.
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Important Note: We do not provide use instructions or straight razor counseling telephonically or via email. Straight razor shaving is a unique and individual experience which you must learn for yourself. Like working with all sharp objects, straight razor shaving can cause bodily harm. We do not guarantee or warranty the quality of a shave using any of our products or information. The use of the information on this page - and the safeguarding of children and other adults with access to the straight razor - is strictly at the liability of the user (and any other participants) and releases QED, Inc. of any type of responsibility or liability.