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I'm embarking on my SR shaving journey

Hi all,

I'm just getting started in my SR journey. At first I decided I didn't want to mess with stropping/honing so I got a Feather SS Shavette. After reading more (and experimenting with the razor), I agree that they are VERY unforgiving. :s
So upon much advice here on the forums, I ordered a Dovo Bismarck, and a Horsehide strop from Heirloom (Tony Miller). I can see the gasps coming in already. DO NOT RUIN a Tony Miller Strop!!! I also ordered his practice strop to get me going for a while before I dive into the good stuff.

I'm now 4 shaves in and I'm learning/gaining confidence with each shave. Here are my first observations:

1. The N-S pass is very comfortable. The standard grip works fine with both hands, and I'm surprisingly capable with my non-dominant hand here.
2. Like a food, I don't stop at WTG and attempt a 3-pass shave each time. I have the nearly 1cm long battle scars to prove it.
3. No matter how hard I try, I inevitably make an errant slash or two and get a real cut (not just a weeper).
4. I'm able to get BBS on my sideburns and cheeks. It rapidly goes downhill from there.

The hardest part for me is finding the right grips to hold the razor to do my XTG/ATG passes, which necessitate me going from chin to ears. Most videos seem to show going from ears to chin.

Anyway I thought I'd share/document my journey, and hopefully chronicle my learnings as well.

Cheers everyone and thanks for all the AMAZING advice.
 
Congratulations! That's a great setup.to start with. The Bismarck and Bergischer Lowe razors are ones I hope to own some day when I am well grounded in to Straight razor shaving. Currently I am happy with vintage solingen and sheffield steel off fleabay honed myself.

The cuts may have to do with how rigidly you hold the razor and the pressure?

I am less than 100 shaves in to Straight raxoe shaving and in the initial days of my journey, I held the razor in a "death grip" in fear of the razor slipping and digging in to my skin. Fortunately It didn't cut any skin however I lost agility due to the rigidity of the fingers and wrist muscles in the "death grip"

Now I hold the razor light but firm, so my muscles relax and have sufficient dexterity in gentle movements. Thr wrist moves to do a lot a work easily.

When unsure I lay the razor flat and raise it about 2 spine widths to start again.

XTG / ATG come easy of you hold the razor firm and orientation is such that you are going to move the razor forwards and out. Assume what would happen if the thumb was to loose its razor grip. Would it flip inwards or outward ? My initial grip held it oriented inwards. That put pressure on the skin. Now i hold it oriented outwards sort of, ready to flip out or pull up easily in the fraction of second that you sense it is going wrong. And sense you will !

I am sure other more experienced Straight shavers will chime in with more experience and tips!
 
@icemanjs4, welcome to the gentlemanly art. Don't be afraid to change your grip on the SR and the angle of the scales as you shave. My SR spends about 25% of the shave opened 270° (standard). For the other time, the scales are open anything from about 60° to 340°.

There are no set rules in SR shaving technique. Just do what you are comfortable with and works for you.

With regard to drawing blood, keep your pressure very light (just enough to remove the lather) and the blade angle between ½ and 1 spine thickness from the skin (forget that 30° BS you see/hear on YouTube). The sharper the edge, the flatter the angle. Don't worry about cutting whiskers, they will come off with the lather. Watch your skin stretching.

For edge maintenance, give serious consideration to diamond pasted balsa strops.
 
Stick with it, it will get better sooner than you think.

Like already stated, it's important to keep the razor as flat as you can against the skin. Skin stretching, very little pressure, short careful strokes and one more thing that is not as obvious - common mistake with beginners is to carefully place the razor on your skin then start the stroke. You are much less likely to cut yourself if you start the stroke before making contact with your skin. Think it has to do with the fact that the edge glides on the lather.

ATG is harder to master, you can get a very acceptable shave with a two pass shave WTG and XTG.
 
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I know that you know that you shouldn't go for the 3 pass shave right away. I also know why you're tempted, I was.

If you need a reason to hold off, here's one. The more time you spend holding and using a razor, the more natural it will feel to your hands. That comfortable familiarity, which develops over time without much conscious effort in that direction, is the best base on which to build more ambitious maneuvers.
 
I am still a beginner with the straight as well, and also, I have a long way to go with my technique across and against the grain. The biggest thing that keeps me from getting cut, is knowing when to stop with the straight and finish with a safety razor. As soon as I find myself trying to rush a bit, or losing patience at all, I put the straight down immediately. If I am in a hurry, or have other things on my mind, that I cannot give total concentration to what is am doing, a straight razor never even comes out. Knowing my limitations has been keeping the blood on the right side of my skin. 😁
 
I am still a beginner with the straight as well, and also, I have a long way to go with my technique across and against the grain. The biggest thing that keeps me from getting cut, is knowing when to stop with the straight and finish with a safety razor. As soon as I find myself trying to rush a bit, or losing patience at all, I put the straight down immediately. If I am in a hurry, or have other things on my mind, that I cannot give total concentration to what is am doing, a straight razor never even comes out. Knowing my limitations has been keeping the blood on the right side of my skin. 😁
With over 500 SR shaves, I still only shave with total concentration and focus on the job at hand. Even with that, I still get the very rare nick, mainly when I put the alum away believing that I am proficient enough now that I will not need it.

Never put your alum away!
 
Time for today's update:

SR Shave #5:
Starting to get much more comfortable holding the razor (Shavette still). I switched to the Feather Artist Club ProSuper blades (even sharper) because my hair is just so damn thick.

This is the smoothest DFS straight razor shave for me to date! There are still plenty of weak spots but much less than previous shaves.

The flip side is - I'm still a bloody mess :( One cut came on my chin after a successful sideways pass, when I was lifting the blade off my skin - somehow i just hit the tip against my chin - ***. Also, most of my weepers came around my chin / moustache area. the cheeks and jaw were pretty solid.

Knowing that Shavettes are more aggressive - I really can't wait to try the real straight razor when it comes in 2 days!

@Herrenberg - I think I will take your advice and stop doing 3 pass SR shaves for a bit.
@rbscebu - Thanks for all the advice across threads. I will look up the balsa strops for sure. Hardest part I'm finding is the right places to source all the materials. Any advice here? (is this covered in one of the posts? I've only read the PDF so far)
 
Good for you! You’ll get the hang of it. If I can do it anyone can.

I’m finally at the point where a nick is the exception and not the regular. Just think that men shaved like this for over a hundred years before the safety razor came along.

You’re engaging in something that makes you extraordinary!
 
Thanks for sharing your progress. Hats off to you for doing 3 passes and adding ATG. I stick to 2 passes mostly WTG, very close and comfortable. Finding out what feels right for you is part of the experience. Enjoy the ride!
 
Hi all,

I'm just getting started in my SR journey. At first I decided I didn't want to mess with stropping/honing so I got a Feather SS Shavette. After reading more (and experimenting with the razor), I agree that they are VERY unforgiving. :s
So upon much advice here on the forums, I ordered a Dovo Bismarck, and a Horsehide strop from Heirloom (Tony Miller). I can see the gasps coming in already. DO NOT RUIN a Tony Miller Strop!!! I also ordered his practice strop to get me going for a while before I dive into the good stuff.

I'm now 4 shaves in and I'm learning/gaining confidence with each shave. Here are my first observations:

1. The N-S pass is very comfortable. The standard grip works fine with both hands, and I'm surprisingly capable with my non-dominant hand here.
2. Like a food, I don't stop at WTG and attempt a 3-pass shave each time. I have the nearly 1cm long battle scars to prove it.
3. No matter how hard I try, I inevitably make an errant slash or two and get a real cut (not just a weeper).
4. I'm able to get BBS on my sideburns and cheeks. It rapidly goes downhill from there.

The hardest part for me is finding the right grips to hold the razor to do my XTG/ATG passes, which necessitate me going from chin to ears. Most videos seem to show going from ears to chin.

Anyway I thought I'd share/document my journey, and hopefully chronicle my learnings as well.

Cheers everyone and thanks for all the AMAZING advice.
Are you stretching the skin nice and tight? Always stretch it hard, upstream. This forces more whisker out of the follicles and stands them up straighter, and helps to prevent cuts.

With a shavette, you should be nearly dragging the spine on your face. Most noobs try to shave with too high of an angle. When your Bismarck arrives, if it is supposed to be shave ready, the gap between the spine and your face should be equal to one spine thickness, no more. Less, if it is very sharp. For a true Method edge, half a spine thickness or less.

Watch out for the heel and toe. They will get you about 10x more often than the central portion of the edge.

I would recommend shifting gears a bit, and concentrating on surviving the shave unscathed, rather than chasing BBS. Nobody will notice. Let the closeness come on its own, as you gain experience.

Make your lather slick and a bit runny. Reapply as needed. That lather is your lubrication and cushion.

Watch the pressure. Keep it dead light against the face. Put razor in motion before it touches down. Think touch and go landing practice.Swoop in, touch the runway, and take off again.

The SS is much easier to learn on than the DX. You shouldn't be getting cut up too badly, 4 shaves in.

Best source of acrylic is TAP Plastics. The thicker, the better. I used to use 3/4" but now I am using 1" and even 1-1/2". The standard size is 3" wide and 12" long. Standard balsa is 1/4" thick. Don't use gorilla glue or any other glue that swells and fills. 3M spray adhesive is good, or ordinary rubber cement. Ted Pella is the highest quality diamond paste but TechDiamondTools is what most of us use. Kent is the cheapest, in their 20g tubs which last forever but they do not make .1μ so you will have to get that grit from TDT or another source.

I strongly urge you to read the thread, beginning to end. If you don't, you won't get it. Don't buy anything, cut anything, or do anything until you have read the whole thing.

How To Use a Pasted Balsa Strop | Badger & Blade
 
@Slash McCoy Thanks for the thorough writeup - this is gold! And I will not buy anything until I have done my reading!

To everyone else here - WOW - what an amazing community. Thanks for all the positive wishes - I know I'm among fine people here.

The good news: My Dovo Bismarck arrived today - it's beautiful!!! Can't wait to give her a whirl. My new strops arrive tomorrow, and I'm thinking I may practice on the practice strop, using my feather with no blade - just to get the motions down.
 
After practicing with your blade-less Feather, then practice with a bladed Feather - only on your practice strop.

You can only nick/cut your strop if you move the blade edge-leading with the edge down. That is what you need to learn to avoid.

Keep your strop reasonably tight and use light pressure so that the strop deflects 5mm or less when the blade is passing mid- length. When changing direction, rotate the blade spine-down and ensure that the edge meets the leather very gently with the razor moving spine first.

While stropping never let the spine leave contact with the leather.

It takes time, practice and concentration, but your stropping technique will develop. Remember, you are in no rush.
 
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Normally I avoid saying this, because it is controversial, and I do not wish to rain on anyone's parade, but considering your circumstances, it's worth saying.

Straight razors are easier than Shavettes. They just are. You can see exactly what is going on. There is no apparatus interfering in your getting to know the blade itself. Razor blades are really good at slashing. Straight razors are really good at telling you what is happening with your shave.
 
Nothing but solid advice from the gents on this thread. My advice in the beginning that I think is most important “Stick with it, don’t give up”. If you do that you will find your technique. Pay attention to every detail in the shave, it tells a story. When you get a memory line and donate a bit of blood, figure out at that moment how you did it. Don’t repeat.😀 I would also advise that you take the Heirloom strop purchased and put it away until you can strop any other strop for at least 5 weeks without a nick. Cheers!
 
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