Nearly Beardless Dwarf's (AKA Thaekor) Straight Razor Journal

Discussion in 'Journals and Diaries' started by thaekor, Mar 25, 2012.

  1. I know it is recommended to try straight razor on a Saturday, but I had a date for Saturday night, and didn't want to go and possibly be bleeding. So, Saturday, I used my Merkur Futur with Feather Hi-Stainless blades, a combination of Van Der Hagen deluxe soap and Art of Shaving Lemon cream, and got the best BBS shave I have ever gotten. Feeling good about that, this morning I decided to try the straight I got from earlier last week. The instructions said not to strop it the first time, that it was ready to shave, so I just cleaned the petroleum jelly off the blade, and proceeded to lather up. I started on my right cheek and it took me a moment to get the angle right, and then switched to my left hand and did my left cheek. I am lucky, in that I have a goatee, so I don't have to worry about the usual (at least from what I read on here) problem spots of chin and upper lip. I did notice though that the blade seemed to "skip". It felt like it was pulling away from my face, and them coming back to rest on my skin as I was on the underside of my neck (below my right cheek). I am not sure what would cause that, blade angle, pressure, grip? I managed 2 WTG passes, and 1 XTG (from ear to nose on the cheeks, and sort of diagonal on the underside, though straight north to south directly under the chin area). No nicks, or cuts, but when I used my alum block, it sure did sting, so I must have been just shy of actual cuts.

    I had a really hard time finding a comfortable hold on the razor where I could still see the mirror, pretty much everywhere other than my cheeks. I tried a few different grips, in both my left and right hand, but couldn't find one comfortable. Once finished, I took the razor and strop to the kitchen table, and stropped for 10 strokes in either direction, I am not sure what number of strokes I should be going for, I have read, that the number should go up, as the blade gets more dull. It isn't as good of results as I am able to get with a DE razor, but for my first go, I am satisfied
  2. Nice work! Welcome!
  3. Congrats on your first straight shave and nice work. Better job than I on my first time. At first I couldn't outdo my DE shaves with a straight but, now I can get better shaves than the DE can get me, especially around my chin, and my face feels less irritated than the DE did.

    Still, good job, and keep working at it and you'll be there in no time. Sounds like you got a good start at it!
  4. Many go for around 50 or more laps (a lap is one stroke forward, one stroke back). Some people are mindful of linen #, leather # of laps. Everyone gets their own comfortable routine. You will find yours.

  5. ~~~this skipping is happening mainly because your strokes (blade movement) are not steady and sure. Practice makes perfect. Eventually you will be making that blade zing around your face like a pro

    ~~~more than likely, your blade angle is too great. Try keeping the spine lower to your skin so the edge wont dig into your want the blade to skim over your skin and cut beard, not cut into your skin. that's where the stoing comes from

    ~~~Eventually you will not need to see where the blade is. You will know where it is by feel. Give it time

    ~~~make sure you keep the spine on the strop at all times when moving the blade. If you can, try to clean the blade well before putting it to your strop so as to keep dried lather and whiskars off the strop surface. You can accomplish this by wiping the edge well with a damp wash cloth, w/the cloth moving away from the edge in a trailing fashion

    One of the reasons you want to lightly strop your razor after shaving is to dry the blade's edge...if you leave any moisture on the blade and edge, especially the edge, the moisture can and will begin to microscopically chip the edge through rusting (microscopic rust) make sure your blade is as dry as you can get it before stropping on leather. try some light gentle stropping on a clean dry cloth before hitting it on your leather strop

    I like to do 20 to 30 light leather laps on the strop after the shave but that's me and my style of post shave stropping. the strops I use have linen components and I use the linen first to help remove shave soap and to also dry the blade before it hits the leather but any slight amounts of moisture (very slight) will be removed from the strop through friction when stropping on leather...but wipe away large amounts of moisture from the blade before stropping

    One thing I like to do with any of my straights before stropping is to do a wipe with paper toweling. I like and use the 1/2 sheet Bounty towels, folded in half so they fit between the schales and I'll move the paper towel around the shank/tang on each side of the blade by doing one side then flipping the blade over and wiping the other side dry. If not dried properly, this portion of your razor is susceptable to rust. On an old damaged blade this might not seem important yet it is a good habit to get into when you acquire some nicer straight razors. FWIW I often shave with beater razors but I treat them like they are new razors I don't want to damage. Practice makes perfect


    Reddick Fla.
  6. So, how do I turn this into, and or create a journal? I did my 2nd straight shave this morning, and would like to chronicle the process a bit, but don't want to have a bunch of separate posts/threads to keep track of. Do, I just start a thread and call it a journal, or is it a forum setting?
  7. You can just start a thread and call it a journal I believe.
  8. @OP - If you just want to continue this thread as your journal, but with a different title, ask a Mod to change it:biggrin1:
  9. I think that is exactly what I will try to do.
    So on to Shave #2

    I started by stropping 30 laps, managed to put my first slight nick in my poor man strop near the bottom right hand side. So I am glad I went with the poor man version. Lathered up with a mixture of Bald Frog (sample came with my order from Larry @ whipped dog) and Art of Shaving lemon cream) I never had good results with straight up shaving soap using DE's, so I have been hesitant with them for straights. It has been just shy of a week since my last straight razor shave. Did 2 north to south passes, and 1 ear to nose pass. I kept a very shallow angle. After the first north to south pass, I noticed red razor burn bumps on both cheeks. I haven't had razor burn like this, since I left the cartridge world behind over a year ago. I focused solely on angle this time around. Holding the blade very shallow to the skin, almost laying flat against the skin. I assume the redness and burn is either I have damaged the edge with newbie stropping technique, or I am using entirely too much pressure. Cleaned up with my DE (Merkur Futur set on a 2.5 with Feather Hi-stainless blades), with a North to South pass to get any missed areas.

    I am still having a hard time with trying to figure out how to hold it comfortably. I can't manage to see around my hands and scales, which isn't a big problem except for when I start at my sideburns. I don't want to end up with sideburns at the top of my head after a few straight shaves, because I keep needing to "even" them out.. I read or saw, somewhere that people use straights and DE's to trim up their neckline, by just feeling for the hairline and shaving below that. Maybe I will try that next time.

    If I have damaged the edge with stropping, will the balsa wood/pastes be enough to bring it back, or do I need to place an order for honing equipment soon? I am leaning toward lapping sheets, because of lower start-up costs, and larger possible work area. Ok, now to find a mod to ask politely to change this threat title. :)
  10. I've found if you tilt your head forward abit when you start your side-burns you can manage to see what's going on much more easily. Hope that made sense.
  11. It's kinda pricey, but I bought a 10" mirror on a swing arm from Bed Bath and Beyond. It mounts on the wall. It will lay flat against the wall or swing out a little over a foot. This lets me keep track of my shaving much better than leaning over the sink.

    My wife loves the magnifying side for plucking her eyebrows. <- this is how you sell the purchase to SWMBO.

    About $40.
  12. Congratulations on your entry into the straight razor world. Be advised it all gets worse from here on out (the aquisition disorders). Sounds like you did a good job on your first shave. I wuld say sting from alum was too much pressure and blade angle.

    I personaly never knew what a proper lather was until I started straight shaving. If your lather is dry or begins to dry that will also cause the razor to skip. you want a nice wet, slick lather that still has some good cushion for protection. It does feel uncomfortable, but keep at it and you will become more comfortable. Also good skin stretching is key to close and comfortable.

    Here's to many more successful shaves!

  13. I will have to try this, because other than sideburns and around my goatee, I don't really have to see it. I think I can go off of sound and feel.

    I actually just installed an 8 inch swing arm mirror on the wall last night, part of the reason I chose to use the straight this morning instead of the DE. It helped, but unfortunately, the way my bathroom is, the mirror had to be mounted a bit higher than I would like. So, I may need to make some adjustments to how it is mounted. Oh, well a little spackle and paint and no one is the wiser.

    I have noticed the lather tends to dry out, and I am having to reapply 1/2 way through each pass, for it to stay wet. I notice a lot of posts on here, mention shave soap. Is there a reason there seems to be more soap posters than cream posters? It may just be simple coincidence with the posts I am choosing to read, just have more soap entries. I will definitely try a wetter lather tomorrow, whether I go cream, soap, or combo.
  14. Straight Shave #3

    So, last night, thinking about yesterday's straight shave, I decided to strop the razor for about 40 passes, to practice stropping more, and to try to touch up the edge. Went in this morning trying to focus on blade angle and pressure. I also made my lather quite a bit wetter. Ended up with it all over the sink by the time I was done, maybe too wet.

    1st pass:
    cheeks: WTG I tried using Grips tip on tilting your head forward to see my sideburn area better. Worked wonders, I didn't feel like I was working blind. Still having a few hiccups trying to get a comfortable grip especially for my left (non-dominate) hand.
    neck:WTG/XTG because I can't find a grip that I feel comfortable for on this part of my face, I end up doing weird WTG/XTG strokes... Much more work needed.

    2nd pass:
    cheeks: WTG again, I think I may start trying as I believe Grips/Noahpictures (I forget which, I spend a good portion of yesterday afternoon reading back journals) in doing the first beard reduction pass with a DE. Once the majority of the beard is removed it seems to go much smoother, but by that point my skin is on the verge of irritation and I don't want to push it. I did manage to cut myself twice on this pass. Once was a cross face grip (right hand holding toe of razor to left side of goatee) I find this to be easier to see to trim the sides of my goatee area. Oddly, do much better trimming the right side of my goatee with my left hand than vice versa. Second cut was at the transition from right cheek to right neck. Both were closed up by the time I lathered up for 3rd pass.
    neck: WTG/XTG again, because of the grip. I am tempted to buy a shavette, and not put a blade it in, so I can practice my grip with something and not have to worry about any trips to the ER if I fumble. Would it be worth it, to spend $15-20 for a more accurate feel, or just grab a butter knife... I will have to think on that one. I mean $15-20 would buy me a pack of 10 sheets of lapping film from Thorslab and shipping...

    3rd pass:
    Switched to DE to do cleanup. I went for an ATG cleanup pass, since I have a date tonight, and want to look presentable. The DE felt much smoother, I think a good portion of that was the wetter lather. How did I not know this sooner.

    I think I am still using too much pressure on the beard reduction first portion of my shave. Tomorrow I will try the DE first pass, and then go to the straight, and see how that goes. Ended with 30 passes on the strop. I really have to pay attention to the X pattern, otherwise the toe just hangs off the strop and gets nothing for that pass. Have to remember to slow down and focus on what I am doing. I see what everyone means with all the AD's I never felt the need to "collect" gear with the DE. Once I found blades and cream that I liked, I just stuck with that. I am already looking at lapping film, wider strops, honing stones, shaving soaps, etc, etc. I think if money permits I will break down and get a lapping film honing setup in the very near future, and if... Actually who am I kidding?... When that happens, I will probably go back to Larry and order another sight unseen, so I can rotate honing/shaving.
  15. I'm glad my advice has helped. The first reduction pass is still my toughest so using a DE the first few times on the first pass will let you focus on your holds, etc. without having to also deal with the initial thickness of your growth. It certainly helped me.
  16. Kentos

    Kentos Moderator Emeritus

    I would say you are off to a good start. While blade angle is very important, razor burn is much more a product of too much pressure, while angle will exacerbate it.

    Try to concentrate on just skimming off the lather from your face, or even imagine you are shaving somewhere MUCH more sensitive :smile: Unlike a DE since there is no guard you really can shave with 0 pressure, and use skin stretching to coax the hairs above the level of the skin.
  17. Shave #4

    Much better overall shave this time, a few problems but not where I would have expected them. I went with an even wetter AoS Lavender shaving cream this time. So wet, in fact that I didn't have enough to do all passes and had to lather up a tiny bit more for the cleanup pass.

    1st pass:
    cheeks: WTG (N-S) Normal DE shave. The Merkur Futur is heavy enough to make beard reduction very quick.
    neck: WTG (Ear to nose) Again normal DE shave here. My beard on the neck area goes from ear to nose, and kind of meets under my right eye. There is actually one spot just below my chin/goatee just under my right eye, where it grows in this crop circle like area. Always an interesting endeavor navigating this area. (Also always wondered if I let it grow out to a full beard if I would have a whirlpool patch right there... I will probably never find out, since I actually like shaving)

    2nd pass: First pass with straight
    cheeks: WTG (N-S) tried using even less pressure as Kentos suggested. I think the combination of lighter pressure and the wetter lather made for an incredibly comfortable shave. The lather was wet enough that it kind of rolled in a wave just in front of the razor until enough gathered and then it rolled down my face. I saw it as a very light lather squeegee(yes that is how that is supposed to be spelled, I had to look it up to make sure).
    neck: XTG (N-S) I decided to stick with XTG for my neck area for the time being, since it is the least uncomfortable angle to hold the blade for the time being. I used my right hand only, so on the left hand side of my face, under my ear, it actually became more of a diagonal stroke (think ear to belly button)

    3rd pass: First straight razor pass went so well, that I decided to do this one exactly the same way, just removing a bit more. Very comfortable, with a few patches of longer hair still on the neck area.

    4th pass: DE cleanup. Went with an ATG (S-N)
    neck: going S-N I usually start at my neck and work my way up to my sideburns/cheeks. This isn't truly ATG for the neck area, more an XTG just going in the opposite direction from normal.
    cheeks: ATG (S-N) decided to try something referred to as blade buffing (hadn't seen that term until just recently and wanted to try it, in retrospect shouldn't have) Managed to get several small nicks on this pass (up until here this was a completely nick/cut free shave....) I did find that if you have used an alum block on your fingertips to better grip/stretch the skin, you can just touch your finger to the nick and it will seal pretty quickly, at least for the first 2 or 3.

    If I hadn't gotten adventurous and cocky with blade buffing, on the cleanup. This would have been my most comfortable/smoothest/damage free straight shave yet. Wetter lather is key, and extremely light pressure is a definite improvement. I think I managed to perform a partial guillotine stroke on the 3rd pass near my whirlpool hair growth area, without trying to. Just a product of the way I was holding the blade and approached it. It surprised me in that I wasn't trying to and by how natural it felt, but I was too nervous to try it on purpose elsewhere yet.

    After drying the blade and stropping for 30 passes, I was examining the blade bevel under my bright bathroom light trying to inspect the edge that way, since I don't get the HHT, or other thumbnail tests and I noticed on one side the bevel has a slight brownish discoloration near the toe. Could this be rust, and if so, what do I need to do? Pasted balsa to hone/polish it off, or would I need more than just balsa and paste for that? I have ordered a loupe to see the edge in more detail. If I remember correctly off the top of my head it was a 30x. If I don't change my mind between now and tomorrow, I am going to go ahead and order the lapping sheets to start a honing setup. How long does it usually take to completely hone a razor? If it takes a couple of hours, I may have to order a second straight to always have one ready.
  18. Kentos

    Kentos Moderator Emeritus

    Since the razor should still be shave ready or close to it, a good stropping should take care of the brown stuff. It is likely a cause of not fully drying the edge. Without going through your earlier posts, are you stropping post shave? I do around 10 laps after drying the thing on a towel to make doubly sure it's dry. It is likely patina and won't affect the shave. If it rust you will need to go down to a bevel setter to fix:(.

    If you are going to try your hand at honing I would suggest you add another shaver ready razor to the quiver before you try. It won't take 2 hours, but a newbie hone job rarely goes well on the first try :).
  19. +1

    The "brown stuff" is a mystery to me. If it's rust you should stop shaving with the razor to avoid tetanus IMO
  20. The very first shave, I didn't use the leather strop after the shave. I used a flat hand towel on the dresser and did 2 or 3 passes if I remember to dry it. The 2nd shave, honestly I don't recall, the last 2 I have finished up with the hand towel, and 10 passes on the strop. When I say brown stuff, it isn't large spots, they are tiny little specs. It is about the size and shape of the patina spots on the grind portion of the blade. The reason I asked was because it looks more a brownish color, where as the patina looks more a black. I will make sure to do extra passes tomorrow before I shave and see if that will polish it out. I tried to take a picture of it, and can't get it into focus. I will look into another sight unseen (or possibly half seen), and the honing/lapping film in case it is more serious. At this point I may as well go all in (as money will permit) since I am too stubborn to back down and stop. :)

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