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New to SR Shaving

After 40 years of shaving with safety/cassette razors, I have decided to try using a straight razor. I received my first SR last week from China - USD 8.

I am not new to honing a blade having been a shipwright in Australia, however I will need to develop my stropping skills (as well as using a SR).

I am Australian living in Cebu, Philippines.


After 40 years of shaving with safety/cassette razors, I have decided to try using a straight razor. I received my first SR last week from China - USD 8.

I am not new to honing a blade having been a shipwright in Australia, however I will need to develop my stropping skills (as well as using a SR).

I am Australian living in Cebu, Philippines.
Blessings on your new adventure! Preparation and technique are essential, but if you find it is a bad shave, consider that the razor may be to blame. Do you know the brand?
As for technique, the best advice I ever heard (and still follow) is this: treat the flat of the blade like the cap of a DE. Adjust the blade angle accordingly.
Welcome to the forums. Glad you joined. Stropping will come easily with a little practice, in my opinion. Just take your time while you are getting a handle on it. Also, a cheap strop can be a plus, as you may well put some cut in it as you learn.

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You might want to consider a used razor as well, especially from some of the folks here. You may be able to find a great quality razor at an excellent price.

$5 for a strop is amazing. I will be interested in hearing how well they work.

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I suggest two things:
#1. Check in with the guys on the straights forums.
#2. Start following BST as you may find a great SR there!
Thankfully one of the forum moddies moved this thread to the straights section. Salamat po.
Don't toss it, but I think your razor might prove to be what we call a "RSO", or "Razor Shaped Object". I can't say for sure. The only Chinese brand I will vouch for is Gold Dollar, and even that with some reservation as they are far from ideal as a newbie razor unless someone who really knows those razors has worked a bit of magic on it. On a budget, your best bet is a good vintage blade made shave ready by a KNOWN and RESPECTED honer. The Gold Dollar W60 and a few others are exceptions. The "W" series has a nice slim bevel angle and shaves nothing like their clunky brethren. Next down the scale is the GD1996, which has the classic fat bevel angle but is of superior grind otherwise, usually with no impediments to honing. The classic models 66 through 800 have issues like stabilizers that have a lot of buildup at the heel and interfere with honing, or twisty, warpy blades where the spine and edge are not parallel, or just plain careless grinding. This in addition to the very obtuse bevel angle which runs around 19 degrees. They can shave when honed properly, just more like a Buick than a Corvette. Actually this is not such a bad thing for your first few shaves.

The Chinese makers have no concept of bevel angle or razor geometry in general, and their idea is to crank RSO's out by the tens of thousands and sell them for 1/50 of what a premium razor costs, secure in the knowledge that someone will always gravitate to that price range and buy, thinking that hey, at worst it is a waste of a few bucks. I can only imagine in my most horror filled nightmares how these things are rushed from raw forging to "finished" razor. And this is for China's premium brand. The fact that GD is in fact China's premier razor is mostly a happy accident, I think. The fact is, that the grind is poor mostly in leaving too much steel on the razor, not taking too much off. Does that tell you something? Yes, these razors are ideal partly finished, pre-hardened blanks from which to create a work of art, and there are a few of us who do that. There is even a competition every year for the nicest modified GD.

Remember, the above applies to Gold Dollars only, with a nod perhaps to the ZY 430 which has an even fatter bevel angle but more or less the same steel. The no-names are basically meant only to sell, not to be used. Those guys do not even shave with a straight razor, let alone know how to make one.

If your strop works well I will be a little surprised, but happy for you. At least it is leather. Good luck with it. A very cheap strop is best for your first few attempts anyway, as the risk of slicing or nicking it is great while you are learning.

Very few new razors are sold shave ready. Assuming your purchase can actually be made to shave at all, it will need to be honed, and this is extremely difficult to learn with no experience with using straight razors. Not so difficult at all once you truly understand what makes a shave ready edge. It is nothing like a knife edge or chisel edge or plane edge. You are dealing with an edge that flexes upward away from the honing medium under normal tool sharpening pressure, and an edge that speaks to your tender facial skin with either kindness or extreme anger, depending on many different factors.

Let me be very clear on one thing... stropping before shaving is necessary except in cases where you are unsure of your stropping skills and have a known shave ready razor in hand straight from a known skilled honer. But stropping does not really "sharpen" a razor. It only burnishes the bevel and trues up the apex where it is bent over. You can strop day and night for years and not remove any useful amount of steel from the razor. Honing is what makes your razor sharp. The bevel is set, establishing the basic geometry of the edge. Then a progression of finer media is used to polish and refine that edge. Sort of like sharpening a knife, but at a higher level. So do not be a bit surprised if you strop for hours and still can't make your purchase actually shave your face. Shaving arm hair is not a test of a razor's shave worthiness. It is a sharpness test for your pocketknife, at best. Try sweeping the razor through the air 1/4" ABOVE the skin of your forearm and see how well it mows the tips off your arm hair. That is a much better test that tells the story even if your shaving skills are not developed enough to judge by the actual shave test. If it does not treetop, even at 1/8" above the skin, it is unlikely to shave your face well at all. I am telling you this so you understand when you can't get it to shave, that at least part of the blame lies with the razor or RSO whichever the case may be.

Your presumed RSO will be useful in training your hand and arm muscles and your critical eye as you go through the motions of stropping, shaving, and maybe honing. If you aren't getting a good shave a couple weeks in, throw in the towel and get a shave ready vintage from a trusted seller. Meanwhile, there is a wealth of knowledge online, particularly here on this forum but also on other sites and on youtube. Much of it is conflicting, but that's the nature of the thing. For my take on honing for the newbie, see the sticky at the top of the Honing forum titled "Newbie Honing Compendium" and read EVERYTHING from beginning to end. That is what we call "The Method", and if you are capable of following directions exactly, precisely, with no omissions, additions, or substitutions, it will work, given a decent razor. Not only will it work, but it will give you a better than professional edge at least by your second honing attempt. IF you can follow directions. You see, there are a thousand ways to hone. Many work well. Most work somewhat. All have a certain level of skill and experience required. With any system, there are a thousand options, most of which are counterproductive. The Method is an attempt at codifying a unified system that works to bring a newbie edge up to as high a level of sharpness and comfort as the steel is capable of achieving. Change one thing without a scientifically valid reason, and all bets are off. You could end up with an edge that will shave, maybe, but it won't be the best edge that can be put on the razor.

So we have talked about cheap Chinese razors and mentioned vintage razors of quality, but I have not mentioned new premium brand razors. Maybe you are not ready for that level of financial commitment yet. That's okay. Just know that a new Boker, TI, Aust, etc made shave ready before you get it, is a game changer. And yet a good vintage will actually shave just as well, for maybe 1/4 the price, and put a bit of history in your hand and on your face.

Lastly, check in here before you buy a razor from a seller that claims it to be shave ready. There are only a few ebay sellers that even understand what shave ready means. They are mostly known on this forum. Same with sellers of new razors. Some few razors are claimed to be shave ready from the factory, but most are definitely not. A few are, and some vendors make them so, before shipping to the customer. Don't take their word for it. How do you know the seller even shaves with a straight razor? Ask on the forum. Remember that while you can post a link to a "Buy It Now" on fleabay, you cannot post a link to an open auction. That is what PM is for. So verify that seller before you trust a blade to be shave ready.
Slash identified this thing correctly as a razor shaped object, so forget about shaving with it or getting it honed. I actually have the same thing:). Not even as a practice razor, just forget about it.

About Gold Dollars/Chinese razors Slash has already said it but I will add: If you can get the 1996 for 10 euro or so, go for it. It is fatter than a "real" razor, but not the fattest and will make an excellent beginner razor if you are able to set a bevel. They become sharp enough, but not the sharpest. The Titan you are pondering is also worth it. Similar to Gold Dollar, but slightly nicer and different (dare I say, better steel). I have a higher end Titan (with the Acro steel, only get it on a sale on Aliexpress!) and besides from the loose scales (ironically my only Chinese razor with this problem) and the horrible geometry, this razor shaves like a dream. I am certain it is the steel. But the cheaper one (Acrm-2) is also good. I got mine for 18 dollar I think, so look around on Aliexpress.

That being said, vintage can also be a good idea. My top recommendation would be very old Solingen without brand name. I managed to buy one from 1910 for like 5 bucks (next to it was a similar Puma for 200). Awesome razor! Only buy when in near perfect condition, never pay brand name. Another sure bet is Russian vintage, but they are maybe not beginner. Can get very sharp, but more difficult to hone than Solingen. But make sure you don't pay (much) more than for a Chinese razor. If you wanna do that then we are talking about collecting razors, not shaving:).

I only have one real new razor (Puma) and it's quality is obvious. Good geometry, holds and keeps a very sharp edge. However the shave with it is not that much better and the price is high. I would wait with a new one until you are proficient with a Chinese and or vintage razor.
Thank you Willem-Jan. I am starting to think the same as you and Slash. It has been interesting playing around with my RSO and I have learned a lot from it.

My Titan with ACRM-2 blade should be arriving today. I picked it up new for USD 28 including delivery.
Yeah the "razor" in the original post is a piece of *&%#. I got one like it when I was starting. That thing wont hone, it's not even a letter opener. Toss and forget.
All right, that razor will serve you well. I don't know if this much is clear yet, but don't expect to be shaving with it in it's factory state. The main downside for these Chinese razors is that they usually take quite some effort to set the bevel. They might be sharp and in rare cases even shave ready, but the geometry is almost always way of. I did this with a chosera 1k, but something coarser would be better. The denim strop and strop dressing that come with it actually work well and can improve a blade that lacks keennes, if your honing efforts don't get you far enough.