I went through this, exactly, not too long ago. Different razor but the same thing as for being in doubt why my first SR is not shaving like I thought it would. Here is what I learned.Hello fellow razor enthusiasts,
First apologies for the long post! The reason I was originally attracted to a straight razor wet shaving was the reports on the forums and the web that a straight razor will give you smooth shave with the least irritation. I am new to straight razor shaving and I am doing my best to trouble shoot my struggles. I recently purchased a 6/8 Ralf Aust and widely considered to be a great starter razor. When I received the razor, I tried a hanging hair test on the blade edge, and it failed. It seemed like the blade could have been sharper on arrival, however, I have nothing to compare it with since the Ralf Aust is my first straight razor. I decided that I would try shaving with the razor the way it came and evaluate from there. After shaving with it for about a week (20 strops on canvas/ 40 strops on English bridle leather). So far, my experience has been mixed, I can get a shave out of the razor, but I feel like the shave is anything but smooth and irritation free. I was hoping the blade would gently glide across my face effortlessly cutting my stubble much like some of my DE razors are able to do. I feel like I must apply way too much pressure on the razor to cut a day of growth. I have tried a lighter touch focusing on a few long strokes to minimize the irritation and avoid buffing an area over and over, however, the light touch feels like the razor is skipping over the stubble failing to cut and occasionally tangling or tugging. My suspicion is the added pressure is leading to extreme irritation that surpasses even some of my most aggressive DE Razors. This leads me to my next question, is the blade too light for a day’s growth of stubble? I have read some people say they prefer the extra heft of a heavier blade. Would I be smart to try a thicker grind? Am I better off with a 1/4 hollow over a full hollow? I did take a break from the straight razor and used my DE after seven straight days. Comparing the two I must admit that the DE gave me just as close of a shave with less irritation. That being said wet shaving is a hobby for and I am not ready to abandon straight razors I just want to know which point along the process am I falling short?
1. Your SR is not sharp enough for your beard.
2. You need wetter, thinner, slicker lather that allows the razor to glide freely.
3. Your technique will need practice, you will get irritation for weeks, but you can't use any Pressure at all. If the hairs are not being removed with a no Pressure stroke at low angle (distance of the spine away from the face same as spine thickness and less), the razor is for sure not sharp enough.
4. Don't think about other gear. Get your SR truly sharp and then it's just about working on your technique to reduce irritation.
1. Sharpness: The SR wasn't sharp enough for my thick beard. I'm not in US, and I purchased a SR from a guy that was selling honed SRs from AliExpress, presenting them as mind-blowingly sharp and very much shave ready. After realising I don't have an option to have it honed expertly, I bought honing gear and learned how to hone. I still have much to learn, but my edges are sharper than the one I got from the guy honing for money.
Once I had an edge sharp enough for my beard, it was night and day, no tugging or skipping. Sure, some areas need a second/third pass to be shaved evenly close, but no Pressure is needed. Better yet - the lighter the touch, the closer the shave.
At this Point I still struggled with irritation and I do to this day. Here are some changes that lead to making progress, in terms of getting less irritation.
2. Lather: the wetter, the better. You don't need thickness, you don't need cushion, you don't need fluffiness. You need slickness. Slickest lather is the one that Has so much water in it that it's shiny and thin when applied to the face. If yo would add a bit more water to it, it would start to drip and be more of a soapy water. Building lather like this is foolproof with this method: load any soap and load a huge amount of it with a brush that Has Been soaked, but shake out most of the water. With a slightly damp brush, load, load, load a lot of soap. Wet your Palm/face and build your lather there. Bowls, in my experience, generate bubbly lather which is killed with half the amount of water you can add to lather if face/palm lathering. At first, the lather is pasty, dry. Dip the tips of the brush into water and swirl some more. Repeat 2-3 times and splay the brush while doing so. Now you have enough volume of lather and you Can start dipping the tips of your brush into water and painting the lather around your face. Dip and paint, until it SEEMS that the lather will drip Down. Done. You might test this out before shaving to see when the lather is killed and there is too much water. When shaving, stop adding water just when you think any more of it will kill the lather.
This shiny, thin and slick lather makes the SR glide SO MUCH better, it's like a Miracle. With a DE you will get by with thicker lather. Not with a SR.
3. Technique: NO PRESSURE. If your lather is slick and thin and the SR is not shaving with "angel's touch", it's not sharp enough, return to Point 1. Pressure is number 1 issue of irritation. I get it, my beard is like a wire, hard to cut. I'm a big guy, I was always heavy-handed. So I thought shaving without means putting the razor against the skin and not press too much. In reality, it's more like trying to always leave a tiny, microscopic gap between the face and the blade. And Once you touch that skin as lightly as possible - that's your best shave ever, right there.
Angle: no 30° avreage-youtube-shaving-tutorial nonsense. That's too aggressive. Does work with a shavette but not with a SR. Sharp SR will cut with the spine touching the skin. Lifting it up from the skin makes shaving more efficient and still comfortable. But only lift the spine as far as the spine's thickness. If your spine is 1/4 of an inch thick, that's how far it should be from your face while shaving at the most.
4. I don't need another SR. Grind, size, bevel angle, heft of the razor - doesn't matter, until you Can shave with a random razor you know nothing about. Once you get a decent shave with a SR, even then you are only observing that with a different blade, the feel of the shave is also different, but the outcome the same. If this is your hobby you sure will get all the possible types, grinds and sizes. But only after you Can shave with any razor well, you Can judge what works best for you and the changes between the razors are not mind-blowing. Pretty much it's All about the edge that has Been put on the blade. I was able to put a great edge on a Gold dollar after 3 days of learning how to hone. Then I put an edge on a vintage razors that sells for 150$ in good condition and shave ready. Same shave with both of them.
The only thing Up for consideration for you now, based on my humble opinion, is getting a shavette. They All do the same thing which is allow you to take a DE blade and instead of putting it in your safety razor, snap it in half and put it into the shavette, then shave with it like you would with a SR. This takes Sharpness out of the equation. This option Can cost you under 10$. It will show you that NO Pressure works best and removes hair effortlessly. It will punish you for using too much pressure, but it will let you get away with more angle. Also it will work best with the slickest of lather. You Can always use it if you want a SR shave but your razor is being honed.
To practice technique without destroying your whole face, you can shave one small easy to get spot and finnish the shave with a safety razor. One try with a shavette on your dominant hand side will tell you a lot, especially above the jaw line on your cheeks where SR shaving is easiest. With slick lather and your best attempt at a stroke with no pressure, with the spine no more than 1/4 of an inch away from the skin, the hair will be gone with the lather. If you would then use alum on that spot and feel stinging, you probably just used too much pressure and it will get better with practice.