Using a straight razor comes with its perks and its specific requirements. So when you enjoy months of clean close shaves, there comes a time when you need to sharpen your straight razor, or else it goes dull and you can no longer enjoy a smooth shave. Straight razors are not like disposable razors where you can discard the dull blade and get a new one attached.
For your straight razor, you need to do a bit of work. So the call of the day is – how do you sharpen a straight razor?
It’s not rocket science – but it’s not a walk in the park either. So as long as you know a few basics you can manage to sharpen your straight razor, without any casualty.
But to sharpen your razor you need to know what’s the –
Purpose of sharpening your razor
- Get rid of any inconsistencies on the blade.
- Straighten the blade for a good shave.
- Helps make the bevel as sharp as possible for the best shaving experience.
The next important question is—
When do you know that your razor is in need of sharpening?
After all, the first few months after you get it new, the razor works great. But after a few months, the razor lets you know that it’s time for a bit of honing.
Here are a few ways to find out whether your razor needs sharpening—
- Shave – the difficulty you face with shaving is going to let you know that it’s time to get honing.
- Cut your hair – pluck one single strand from your scalp and bring it absolutely close to the razor – on to it is more like it. If the razor is sharp then the razor will cut the hair clean. But if it’s not then the hair will have a snag.
- Thumbprint – draw your thumb across the razor – if there’s barely a tingle in your fingertips, then you have a blunt blade on your hands. But be careful – if the blade is real sharp, then you could lose a chunk of your finger.
- Finger nail test – it’s the same as the earlier option, except that this time you will have to pass the blade over your nail. If the blade is blunt there will be no change, but if the blade is still sharp, it will cut the nail.
And now for the final question – how do you sharpen your razor?
The Process of Honing A Razor
Honing is a process employed to define precised and sharp edges of a razor, ideal for cutting or shaving processes. Honing is done in a manner of causing friction between the blade and the honing stone. The manner of stroking varies from slow-cutting hone to fast cutting hones. Straight razor honing can be mastered by actual hands on practices, since the desired result is relatively proportional to the mastery of the strokes created in sharpening the edges of the razor blades. Keep in mind that if you are using a whetstone hone, like most of you are, you should lubricate it either with some oil, water, or even your shaving lather. This will keep the temperature of your blade under control as well as ensure that there is a smooth surface for sharpening on the hone itself.
The following should be observed when practicing or mastering a honing technique:
1. The Proper Way of Holding the Razor:
• Using your dominant hand, hold the razor by resting your index finger on the top of the shank.
• Your thumb should rest at the joint.
• Position your second finger at the back of the razor close to the edge of the shank.
• Fold and press hard your remaining fingers, enough pressure not to let the razor slip and enough movement not to hurt your hands in the process.
2. Positioning and Holding the Hone:
• Relax your palms open, rest down the hone on your free handhold the edges firmly and as steady as you can. The pressure employed should be enough to counter the movement or the strokes employed by the dominant hand on the razor.
3. Hand Strokes and Razor Positions:
• Bear in mind of the first stroke and the second stroke. These are the basic strokes in all honing techniques.
• The first stroke is done by making diagonal strokes across the hone, moving the blade in the direction of the cutting edge and the heel of the razor.
• The second stroke is done by reversing the position of the razor and maintaining the original position, stokes are done in upward motion, moving from the left bottom position to the upper left end of the hone. Complete the cycle by doing a downward motion from the top right corner of the hone going to the low right portion.
• Repeat the same strokes until the desired sharpness is achieved.
After honing your razor to your preferred sharpness, it is time to use a strop to even out the blade. After honing, the little teeth will be too sharp to use on your face, so using a strop is absolutely necessary to smooth things out.
Caring For Your Razor Hones
To keep your razor hones in pristine condition, there are simple caring techniques that you can implement to optimize the used of the same. Each and after used of a razor hone, wipe the surfaces and edges and cover the same before putting in storage. See to it that all the steel particles collected during the course of the honing process are removed. When using a dry hone, wash it with water and scrub it off with pumice stone, wipe it and keep it covered at all times to avoid the accumulation of dirt on its surface.
For new razor hones, you may need to initiate some rubbing cleaning. Check the surfaces of the razor hones prior to uses. A razor hone must be clean, dry and smooth on the surface, before any honing is done. If you properly hone your blades at the right time, you will never suffer through that annoying dull blade. The key is to stay consistent and to not wait last minute when the blade is already phasing out and nearing the total dull point.
The typical decent straight razor will need to be honed every 6-7 weeks. You should be stropping prior to every shave however, and you will realize it is time to hone when the strop just isn’t doing it’s job of sharpening the razor anymore. The process of stropping is not that difficult, and it is something that you will get used to very easily.
Below is a video that shows you a solid technique that beginners can follow when stropping and this should be done prior to shaving every time. You can hang your leather strop on a drawer by the hook on the end of it to make it even easier to manage.
And that answers how to sharpen a straight razor – it might take you a while to get the hang of it. But like everything else, practice makes perfect.