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Just had my first straight-razor shave

Hi there, everybody.

I just had my first shave with a real straight-razor. I have always wanted to try one, but always found the cost too prohibitive. I'm very much a "minimalist", and even some of the deals I've seen with old vintage blades for $70 or so are too rich for my blood. So, I'm sure you can guess what's next... I got a Gold Dollar.

I actually got a bunch of stuff...

A 3k/8k combination generic chinese waterstone for $16
A 8k/10k combination agate hone... Which I'm fairly sure is actually just some bathroom tiles that someone cut up and glued together, but at least I only paid $8.
A vegtable-tanned leather strop with some chromium oxide compound for $10
And the Gold Dollar for $12. I'm not sure which model it is because I can't find a number anywhere on it. I'd post a link to it on Amazon but not sure if that's allowed? I can't seem to find the rules so far. But anyway it's one of the ones without the stabilizer, nice hollow grind, looks about 6/8" wide.

So aside from getting ripped off on the bathroom tiles, I think I came out pretty good, $50 total. I already have a Norton 220/1K waterstone, and a kangaroo-hide paddle strop that I won in a sharpening contest. I've never really had high-grit hones though, so it was nice to get the 3k/8k one and the stropping stuff. Figured if I didn't like the straight razor, at least I'd have some new sharpening equipment.

I've never shaved with a straight razor before, but I have shaved with my pocket knives. I'm very much a minimalist, normally finishing my knife edge's on a DMT fine hone, and making them whittle hair. Before I won a sharpening contest, people didn't believe I could get them that sharp with such a coarse grit, so I took a video of me shaving with one fresh off the DMT to prove it. I actually kind of liked it, so tried it a few more times, but it's really a pain in the butt to try to maintain a pocket knife at that level of sharpness.

The Gold Dollar was advertised as "shave ready" and I had my doubts, so I tried it on my arm hair first, and it tugged quite a bit. I mean, it would have shaved, but it would have been about as comfortable as my pocket knife off the 600 grit. So I loaded up the new strop I got with buffing compound, did about 40 laps (20 per side), then did 20 per side on the kangaroo hide, and it was noticeably more polished and tugged a lot less. So it really didn't need much work, but it wasn't exactly the best looking bevel. It had a bit of a "smile" and there was about an 1/8" down near the heel that someone really messed up. Looks like someone let the edge of the belt sander dig into it a little, leaving a little bit of a "gap" where the bevel disappears before the heel--not sure I described that the best, but anyway, I wasn't expecting solid craftsmanship. It also came with some free rust spots too!

I didn't have any more money for a brush or any soaps, so I just used some Barbasol. I feel like that might be a sin to say around here... But hey, like I said, minimalist. I might try to find some stuff like that later on, but I didn't want to spend the money up front just in case the razor turned to be garbage. But I did do a little bit of "prep" by putting a hot, wet towel on my face, pre-washing with soap, etc.

The shave was not bad, but not great. It "tugged" a little bit. Nowhere near as bad as when I shaved with my pocket knife, but really not quite as smooth as a disposable cartridge razor either, so I'm sure it would not get high marks among any real enthusiast. However, it shaved hair off my face, didn't leave my skin irritated, and I managed not to cut myself, so I'll call that a success! I still need to practice technique. I kept forgetting to hold my skin taut, and caught myself holding it by the handle instead of by the blade and tang a couple times. I tried switching it to my left hand to do the left side of my face, but it just felt SO funky that I was not comfortable trying it, so I just kept it in my right hand and basically watched what I was doing by looking underneath my arm as it went across my face. Definitely unorthodox, but that's how I did it with my pocket knives the few times I tried it.

I did two passes, and was satisfied. I mean it definitely wasn't "baby butt smooth" and there was some stubble I missed on my neck, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that my grain goes in some weird directions on my neck, and just getting a hang of the technique. It was definitely every bit as clean shaving as a disposable cartridge, though I do tend to buy the cheap single-blade ones and not those ones with 65 blades in them.

So yeah it seems like this will be fun! I am going to give it a few more tries before deciding if I want to reset the bevel or anything. I'd rather not waste any more steel than I need to. Maybe I'll buy a second one for experimenting. I'll probably look around at the brick and mortar for a brush and some shaving soaps sometime down the line, but I don't think I'll be looking into anything too extravagant. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to get into using a straight razor was so that I never had to buy disposables again. Now the only consumable I'll have to keep buying is a can of Barbasol, and the last one I got lasted a year so that's some good savings.

I'm gonna go investigate this 8k/10k "hone" a little more and see how bad I got ripped off there. Seriously I am almost 100% sure these are just bathroom tiles, they're even glazed like tiles would be haha There is absolutely no abrasiveness to them at all, it's more like steeling a knife edge than sharpening them. I took them to some 320 grit sandpaper to see if I could abrade the glazing off and reveal some grit, but they're still extremely smooth, The supposed-8k side feels about half as abrasive as the 8k waterstone I just bought. Pretty sure I got hosed.

Well anyway this is pretty rambly for an intro. Time to go grow some more hair so I can try this out again :D
 
Welcome to the gentlemanly art of SR shaving. Don't worry, you will improve with every shave.

Once a bevel it set, further honing is not sharpening the edge, it is only polishing the edge. Don't expect to feel like sharpening a knife. An SR is not a knife.

I started SR shaving a little over a year ago and like you, I was a minimalist. Now I have 45 SR's.

While you are still a minimalist, I suggest a cheap but good-to-use Chinese synthetic brush.
ZY (Chinese) Pure Badger - Synthetic - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/reviews/zy-chinese-pure-badger-synthetic.211723/

and a stck of Arko shave soap for about USD 2 or 3.
 
Hi, I'm kind of new here myself but I will welcome you anyway! I think you are already bringing a fun, different approach to this. It's going to be interesting to see how your approach evolves. I have usually tried to take a minimalist approach to things as well although I've invested more money than I expected on razors and soaps, etc. But my long term goal is not to have a lot of stuff but to figure out what works really, really well for me and just focus on that. I have a soft spot for finding inexpensive options that really perform--Tabac being my latest example of that! As @rbscebu suggests, I will probably try Arko the next time I place an order. You are gutsy for shaving with a pocket knife, in my opinion, and for embracing your first SR shave with flair.
 
Dundee, you sound like you are Australian?? If so, trot down to Woolies and get a tub of Jack the Barber shave cream and the Jack the Barber synthetic brush (normally retail at $10 each, sometimes discounted to $7). You'll get a much better shaving experience.

You sound like you know a bit about blades, so that should hold you in good stead. GD razors are ok to start with especially because they are cheap and if it isn't for, then it's no big deal. I hear you on the minimalist thing, I liked the idea of having one razor for life. I got lucky and bought a really nice little (4/8") German blade which has served me well for 22 years. You may run into trouble when you start getting hooked on straight shaving. Symptoms include:
  • Dreaming or thinking about tomorrow's shave the night before.
  • Planning on which brush, razor, cream you'll use
  • Posting a well constructed photo of the shaving equipment immediately post shave
  • Trawling the Bay for bargain razors for sale (they do exist)
  • Being a B&B member for more than 10 years
If these symptoms arise you'll find no help hear, to the contrary you'll just get ennoblement. You'll end up a shell of a man with an extensive shave cave and a collection of razors that middle aged odd men drool over. Be warned.
 
Welcome to the gentlemanly art of SR shaving. Don't worry, you will improve with every shave.

Once a bevel it set, further honing is not sharpening the edge, it is only polishing the edge. Don't expect to feel like sharpening a knife. An SR is not a knife.

I started SR shaving a little over a year ago and like you, I was a minimalist. Now I have 45 SR's.

While you are still a minimalist, I suggest a cheap but good-to-use Chinese synthetic brush.
ZY (Chinese) Pure Badger - Synthetic - https://www.badgerandblade.com/forum/reviews/zy-chinese-pure-badger-synthetic.211723/

and a stck of Arko shave soap for about USD 2 or 3.

Thanks, I'll check that out! It looks like I'm gonna have to get the soaps online, can't seem to find any in local stores. Seems like a good bargain.

Hi, I'm kind of new here myself but I will welcome you anyway! I think you are already bringing a fun, different approach to this. It's going to be interesting to see how your approach evolves. I have usually tried to take a minimalist approach to things as well although I've invested more money than I expected on razors and soaps, etc. But my long term goal is not to have a lot of stuff but to figure out what works really, really well for me and just focus on that. I have a soft spot for finding inexpensive options that really perform--Tabac being my latest example of that! As @rbscebu suggests, I will probably try Arko the next time I place an order. You are gutsy for shaving with a pocket knife, in my opinion, and for embracing your first SR shave with flair.

Yeah I definitely have a soft spot for finding inexpensive options too. Sometimes that comes back to bite me though, with these 8k and 10k bathroom tiles being a shining example!

PM me and I'll send you a synthetic brush.

Oh thanks, very generous! I'll shoot you a PM.

Dundee, you sound like you are Australian?? If so, trot down to Woolies and get a tub of Jack the Barber shave cream and the Jack the Barber synthetic brush (normally retail at $10 each, sometimes discounted to $7). You'll get a much better shaving experience.

You sound like you know a bit about blades, so that should hold you in good stead. GD razors are ok to start with especially because they are cheap and if it isn't for, then it's no big deal. I hear you on the minimalist thing, I liked the idea of having one razor for life. I got lucky and bought a really nice little (4/8") German blade which has served me well for 22 years. You may run into trouble when you start getting hooked on straight shaving. Symptoms include:
  • Dreaming or thinking about tomorrow's shave the night before.
  • Planning on which brush, razor, cream you'll use
  • Posting a well constructed photo of the shaving equipment immediately post shave
  • Trawling the Bay for bargain razors for sale (they do exist)
  • Being a B&B member for more than 10 years
If these symptoms arise you'll find no help hear, to the contrary you'll just get ennoblement. You'll end up a shell of a man with an extensive shave cave and a collection of razors that middle aged odd men drool over. Be warned.

No, not an Aussie. Was just trying to think of a username and thought of that scene from "The Crocodile Dundee" where he was shaving with his bowie. My apologies if you're an Aussie and hate that film haha

I feel like I'm already going down an interesting route, I've shaved more times in the last 48 hours than I have in the previous month! Been playing with getting the razor sharper and trying to get a smoother shave. Trying to get that BBS level, but not quite there yet.

I did end up resetting the bevel. The little imperfection down near the heel just really bothered me, so I ground that out as well as the smile. Turns out the spine was not very uniformly thick from the factory, so I fixed that too. Obviously I'm far from a connoisseur, but doesn't seem like a bad outcome from $12 and a little elbow grease.

Sadly though, this cheap 3k/8k chinese waterstone is not very good. I'm not sure why, but initially the 3k was putting a really high polish on, but then after building up some swarf, changed to quite a hazy finish, and the 8k was just hazy from the start. The material is super soft and builds up a slurry super fast. I have my doubt that the grit is really what's advertised. I was prepared for that after only spending $16 on it though, so I'm not too heart broken.

It did at least leave it at a good place to start with a chromium-oxide loaded strop. Glued it onto the back of the paddle strop I already have, so now one side has the chromium oxide on cow leather, and the other side has the bare kangaroo hide. The edge is now passing the hanging-hair test, though only if dragged towards the follicle; would like to see it pass in either direction. Not really sure if having finished on a higher grit before stropping would affect that.

Tried another shave, even though I had barely even grown any stubble since last time. Still not super smooth, but I wonder if that has to do with the way I'm shaving. The grain of my hair goes in a kind of interesting direction.. Each side goes down from my ear along my cheek towards the chin, but on the right side it kind of ends a little short of the chin, and so if I run my finger from my right ear down, it goes with the grain right up until I get to my chin, and then starts going against it. It makes it kind of difficult to get a good with-the-grain shave for the majority of my face, especially since I still am really not used to holding the razor in both hands. So I've just been doing with-the-grain on the right side, but then as I near my chin, end up switching to across-the-grain on the lower cheek and chin area, and then from the neck upwards to the other ear it's all across-the grain.

I'm comfortable with that motion, so I'm going to wait until I get some good shave soap and see if that helps get a closer shave before I try to alter that. The portions where I managed to go with-the-grain sure do seem a lot smoother. I tend to get ingrown hairs pretty easily, so I'm not daring enough to go against-the-grain, but across-the-grain is not bad besides the lack of closeness. Hoping some better shaving soap might help with that.

Anyway, I could blab forever, so I'm cutting myself off!
 
@Dundee, stop trying to get a BBS result with your SR. Just shave the lather off your face and forget about the whisker. The whiskers will come off with the lather. BBS results will come over time as you develop your technique. Most are looking at 20 to 40 SR shaves to get "there".

Trust me (I'm an engineer), it will be very much worth the effort.
 
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