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New To Straight Razors

Tomo/rbscebu,

Thanks for the information. I guess I still have quite a bit to learn. Balsa stropping could be something that I can pick up a little later down the road. As for now, the SR's that I have/want to have will not be daily shavers. As indicated earlier, I have four NA razors, and I thought they would be a good entry point in learning technique and proper maintenance. When I had them in my possession, (prior to sending back for honing), they felt like they were nice quality.

Not to hijack the post any further, but does anyone have experience with Grimm blades? I like the way they look, but my searches on B&B seem to show a lack of disinterest, or a lack of acceptance to them more or less. I would like to add an American made to my collection eventually, even if it is not my go to for an every day shave. Looking at the butcher specifically. I am aware this is not a beginner friendly blade, but I am okay with purchasing it, getting it honed properly, and waiting for that day to arrive to test my skills with. All the other SR's that I would most likely use often are in the 5/8 6/8 category.

Give the Grimms a miss, and any other razors or razor shaped objects (RSO's) that look too "kewl". Most new razors going for under $100 are junk. A few can be made to perform decently with a little work, but most in that price bracket are unredeemable garbage, and once you have bought it, it has served its purpose, which is to fleece the gullible or the unknowing. The razors that you see recommended by long standing members here or on other forums are generally a good value for the money.

For cheap but usable, Titan in Taiwan makes one model in particular that meets my approval. Unfortunately I forgot what model it was. I think it was made from HCRM-2 steel and was nominally hardened to HRC-60, and had normal, unlined wooden scales. It honed nicely and handled like a proper razor. Then there were the ZY razors, which don't seem to be on the market any more, which had a much too obtuse bevel angle and I was not impressed. Finally there are the Gold Dollars and except for the "W" models which I do not like, or the 900 which is overpriced and has too-heavy scales and spacer, can be pretty good once honed by someone who is good with that type of razor. Value is way out of proportion to the lowball price, as far as functionality goes.

Your best bang for the buck is a good vintage razor. Unfortunately, without considerable experience getting ripped off, you can be easily ripped off with razors that are no longer viable. And so, it is important to buy from someone in the community, who has a reputation to uphold. I think American vintage blades are the best buy these days. Mass produced Unions, Gencos, LIttle Valleys, Ontarios, are excellent if you get one that isn't cracked, badly pitted, or worn into a toothpick. They were made in massive quantities and are still common, and prices reflect that.

There are a lot of rebranded Gold Dollars out there, and with the conventional models you are getting a usable razor, but when they are rebranded and sold for 10x the normal price, let's hope that you do have a very very very good edge on the razor. Remember what it is you are actually getting. Most rebrands are 66, P-81, or "W" series models.

For Gold Dollars I rather like the P-81, which hones up nicely with few issues. Next, the 208, and finally the iconic but humble 66. The 100, 200, and 300 are sold as carbon steel and as stainless. However, they are not so stamped or etched. My contact at the factory says they will be happy to mark the box so you can at a glance tell them apart. The irony is lost I guess. The 800 is quite a good razor if you can find it at a good price, and is stainless. The 900, give it a miss. The P-81 is etched "Gold Dollar 1996" (the year the company was established) on the tang, and has two dimensional cutout acrylic scales and a flat acrylic spacer instead of a proper wedge. Easily distinguished from the other models.
 
What is everyone's thoughts on a Boker King Cutter as an intro straight razor? The prices seem pretty good, and the brand seems well established. 5/8 and round point, should be beginner friendly. I also like the simple design. Should I go with a 3' strop? Any suggestions on brands for that? I am assuming, but obviously not sure that Boker's would be easier to hone/maintain due to the craftsmanship?
 
@Leobambino, I have never experienced a Boker SR but they appear to have a reasonably good reputation here, although rather high in price for what you get.

As for a strop, I suggest that you start with a mid-range Chinese strop to first cut up while you learn. Once you have finished most of your strop cutting, then consider a @Tony Miller Heirloom strop. Strop width is a personal choice. My preference is for about 2½" wide.
 
A Boker will be fine! Either 5/8 or 6/8 is good for a start. I find myself gravitating towards 6/8 more and more.

I think any of the traditional Solingen makers will deliver you a good razor. I have Dovo, Boker, Aust, Klaas, Golddachs new production Solingen razors - they all shave me fine. Some were better out of the box. The others got a few laps on my Naniwa 12000 grit super stone. No edge correction was required on any of them.

+1 to pasted balsa stropping. It is easy and effective. I have several razors in my rotation that have the manufacturer's original edge, simply improved over time with diamond-pasted balsa stropping. Almost everything I use as a strop is 3" wide.

I believe a strong distinction should be made between finish honing and restoration/repair honing. If you decide to care for your razors yourself, a set of pasted balsa strops and one finish hone is the most you will need. That is not difficult at all, but it is more than the classic self-shaver with an SR and a pasted leather strop ever had to learn.

So start with a nice, new Solingen razor. Have a pro finish hone it just to give yourself confidence it's ready. Getting up and running at SR shaving wil not be nearly as difficult as assimilating all the varied advice. There are many approaches. Pick one that suits your taste, style, and budget.

Enjoy!!
 
It's a rather plain and unassuming razor, somewhat flimsy-ish scales, very slightly overpriced for what you get, but a solid performer and a low rate of lemons. If well honed, it won't let you down. You can do far worse than a 5/8 KIng Cutter. If that one really blows your skirt up, go for it. It's way better than an entry level Dovo.
 
So I am going with a few bokers. Found some good prices, and am going to pull the trigger. Now on to strops and maintenance. Any suggestions, folks? I have a decent rotation, but want these new straights to last
 
So I am going with a few bokers. Found some good prices, and am going to pull the trigger. Now on to strops and maintenance. Any suggestions, folks? I have a decent rotation, but want these new straights to last
I could also suggest at least one Bismarck. Either an actual vintage Bismarck Bismarck #2, or a Dovo Bismarck. If vintage, you want the one that is shaped exactly like the Dovo Bismarck. Any other Dovo blade of the same exact shape will work fine, and also any Revisor or TI using the same exact blade. I suspect that once you have handled a Bismarck a few times, you will wish you had bought all Bismarcks instead of the Bokers. They are very hand-friendly.
 
+1 on Ralf Aust. A 5/8" roundpoint is my pick for the novice.
If you spend the money on a quality razor, can always sell
it if you don't like it. Ralf Aust's hold their value quite well.
I prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer:

Ralf Aust Website
 
The Bismarck equivalents by Revisor are their:
6-0004 €196​
6-0005 €192​
6-0037 €134​
6-0040 €128​
6-0042 €126​
R6-052 €188 from Heinrich Böker​
Prices are current and include VAT of 19%.
 
Slash, by hand friendly, do you mean easier to control the blade? I was thinking of going with a rotation of a Boker King Cutter, a Boker Carbon Elite, and then one more to start out. Sounds like it could be a Dovo Bismarck. I also have the NA razors that will be coming back from honing that I plan to use initially to get feel and technique down.
 
Slash, by hand friendly, do you mean easier to control the blade? I was thinking of going with a rotation of a Boker King Cutter, a Boker Carbon Elite, and then one more to start out. Sounds like it could be a Dovo Bismarck. I also have the NA razors that will be coming back from honing that I plan to use initially to get feel and technique down.
Why not start with one razor, a Bismarck or same blade in different model name. Try it out for a few days and make your plan from there? Otherwise you are swinging a lot of money and leaving yourself open to buyer remorse. Either of the two bokers would be fine. Actually the Carbon Elite I believe is a Bismarck pattern blade, so you could go with that one instead of the straight up Bismarck. I am pretty sure you will be pleased with it. I am a little bit put off by the price for it, though...
 
I could start with one razor, however, I am not sure if I indicated earlier, I like to collect nice things. I have a nice collection of Scotty Cameron putters, a nice collection of fine cigars (I dont even smoke) and a few rare bourbons. Three razors, if they are good quality would satisfy the itch…for now. They have to look good, and shave good. I am actually going to use them. I guess I am just puzzled by the push for a Bismarck. Is it a finer blade? Boker looks like nice quality. Both of the Bokers that I am looking at are on a very good price in my opinion (King Cutter is 125 New). Considering I paid 94 for a NA blade, that sounds very appetizing. No knock on NA though, as I indicated earlier, their CS is top notch. I mean really top notch. My blade is off for honing that they paid for, and I am looking forward to trying it when I get it, but collecting things are fun. My barber also has a LOT of vintage that he can no longer use, that he said I could buy from him. I may look in to that in the future, but they would all have to go off for honing.
 
@Leobambino I can understand where you are coming from. Aesthetics is very important to you and you have the budget to pursue what you like the look of. Honing is not a concern for you as you will be sourcing out that requirement when needed. All you want are some good looking SR's that can be honed to shave well.

For good looking SR's, that is a personal choice. No one can make that decision for you except you.

The budget that you have available allows you a great selection of SR's from which to choose. Just about any new SR over about USD 100 manufacturer in Germany, France or Australia will be able to be honed to a fine shave-ready condition. The choice is yours.

As well as your SR's you will also need at least a brush, soap and strop. All brushes will work, from USD 2 up to the-sky's-the-limit. Again, the choice of your brush(es) is a personal choice for you. There are brushes of badger, boar, horse, synthetic and more. All behave differently but they all produce and apply lather to your face. Get a few and try them out to find what you like best.

Shaving soaps are like brushes, many to choose from. Again get a few and see what works best for you.

For a strop(s) I recommend that you discuss your requirements with @Tony Miller. He makes and sells strops, he is in no rush to sell you his strops. Tony is a fountain of knowledge with regard to strops and can guide you into making the best decision for your needs and wants.

Enjoy your journey into the wonderful gentlemanly art of SR shaving.
 
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I could also suggest at least one Bismarck. Either an actual vintage Bismarck Bismarck #2, or a Dovo Bismarck. If vintage, you want the one that is shaped exactly like the Dovo Bismarck. Any other Dovo blade of the same exact shape will work fine, and also any Revisor or TI using the same exact blade. I suspect that once you have handled a Bismarck a few times, you will wish you had bought all Bismarcks instead of the Bokers. They are very hand-friendly.
What is it about the Bismarck blades that make them different? I'm also new to straights and trying to gain some understanding about them
 
Ralf Aust

don’t mess around with inexpensive stuff. I did and almost got discouraged. I bought a honed shave ready Aust and wondered why I was wasting my time before that. My straight game improved immediately with a sharp highquality blade.
 
What is it about the Bismarck blades that make them different? I'm also new to straights and trying to gain some understanding about them
My understanding is that the difference is they do not have a vertical stabiliser at the heel/shoulder end of the blade and that they have a thumb cutout. These differences make it easier for some to hone this type or SR.

I cut my honing teeth using blades with rather pronounced stabilisers so honing non-Bismark types present no problem for me, they just require a bit more care and attention when honing.
 
My understanding is that the difference is they do not have a vertical stabiliser at the heel/shoulder end of the blade and that they have a thumb cutout. These differences make it easier for some to hone this type or SR.

I cut my honing teeth using blades with rather pronounced stabilisers so honing non-Bismark types present no problem for me, they just require a bit more care and attention when honing.
Would you suggest a Ralf Aust for a first straight? I was eyeing either this one

or
 
Would you suggest a Ralf Aust for a first straight? I was eyeing either this one

or
If I had to choose between the two (I have tried neither) for a first SR, I would choose the Ralf Aust. My reason for this is that I am not a "bling' sort of person, my personal preference is for timber scales and I would have no problem in honing the Ralf Aust.
 
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