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Newbie tiptoes into straight-razors...

Hey folks.

At the start of this year, I commenced wetshaving with a DE safety-razor and I have had excellent shaves with it. But I've always wondered what it was like to shave with a straight-razor. They're just so cool-looking and awesome to hold! I've wanted one for a long time, but for various reasons, I never bought one.

Until now.

Behold...



I'm not sure how old it is, but it's a surgical-grade AE Sculap straight-razor made in Germany from rustless stainless-steel. I bought it today at the local flea-market. I have since cleaned it, sharpened it and given it a strop on an old belt.

I have a couple of questions.

1. Did I make a good purchase?
2. How do I look after one of these?

I've already had a shave with it...I must say, it's a nerve-wracking experience! It's certainly SHAVING me, but I think I need to work on my technique a bit. Or sharpen it more. One or the other. Perhaps both! I didn't cut myself (always a good thing) but I did get a bit of what I can only assume is razor-burn. Is that a sign that the blade isn't sharp enough yet? Or am I just a klutz with a straight-razor?
 
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I don't know how good of a deal you got but I would recommend looking at http://www.whippeddog.com/ and get a known shave ready razor and strop.

Larry is a wealth of info and a great guy to deal with.
 
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Oh boy...where to begin :lol:

First off congrats on starting your journey! I suggest a journal...it will keep you on track and give you somewhere to post your adventures (good and bad) so others can follow and learn from your success and occasional failure.

Now, I dont recognize the blade, but someone else who is a diehard collector will surely jump in and make a comment as to its overall quality...ability to hold an edge etc.

As to its "sharpness" you would be a very lucky man to find a "shave ready" str8 at a flea market. I'd say probably 99% of the time (statistic pulled from my rear but you get the driving point of the comment)...you have to send off a new (or old) str8 to be professionally honed by a honemeister. How did you sharpen the edge? Most str8 razors are sharpened on specially made hones...if you didn't use one of these, you might be in for a rough shave!

As to the razorburn...it takes AWHILE to learn from a str8...technique is everything...we've all been there and the first few shaves quite frankly...suck.

That said, dont get discouraged...read the tutorials, watch the shave videos, ask lots of questions and ...for the love....send that razor to a honemeister on this board! Yes, it will cost you a bit (usually 20-30 bucks) to get a good edge...but it will be well worth it and you'll know for sure the blade is sharp!

Best of luck!
 
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Luc

Moderator Emeritus
I would also recommend a honemeister: http://wiki.badgerandblade.com/index.php/Honemeister

Putting an edge yourself isn't forbidden but having a pro doing it will set the bar on how sharp it really should be!

+1 on the journal thread. I think those are good as you document how you go and if you have any questions, someone will be able to answer you (more than 1 often).

do you have any other pictures of the straight? German made razors are usually great but I don't think I ever saw that brand...
 
How to answer all the questions...

1. I sharpened it on a regular sharpening/honing stone. I lost count of how many strokes, but at least a hundred strokes or passes on each side of the stone on and off, over about half an hour. I still haven't achieved "hanging-hair cut" sharpness yet, hopefully I will soon.

I didn't expect it to be razor-sharp (groan!!) when I bought it, but given its background (from the research I did, it's a surgical-grade razor), I expected it to be fairly sharp already. I gave it another sharpen anyway and a strop on an old belt. I'm yet to get my hands on a proper strop. The man who I bought it from is a regular at the local flea-market. He sells anything that can kill, or be killed. Antique ivory and bone carvings, scrimshaw and more blades than a swordsmith! He had about six straight-razors for sale today. I picked that one because it was clean, rustless, looked about the right size for me (I'm a small chap) and it looked kinda minimalist and modern. And it also looked pretty easy to clean.

2. On a level of 1-10, I think this shave is about a seven. It's not perfect, but it DOES shave. It didn't get all the stubble off, but on the other hand, I didn't cut myself. I did get a bit of razor-burn, though. I would only have gotten a marginally better shave with my safety-razor (and my safety-razor shaves are usually excellent) so I think I did pretty good.

3. I'm only a student, I don't have the money to spend on all the fancy-schmancy accessories. In fact COST was one thing that made me hold out from buying a straight for so long. I *knew* - Once I bought it, it's a money-saver, but actually buying it was tricky.

Here's a couple more photos...


 

Luc

Moderator Emeritus
Do you know what grit is the stone that you have?

If it's a low grit, it will set the bevel but won't be smooth. If it's a higher grit, it will set a smooth edge/finish. However, if the bevel is not set properly, you will probably do countless laps...

I maintain that you should send it to a honemeister, it doesn't cost that much and you will have the assurance of a shave ready straight.
 
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Hi Luc,

I initially thought that the stone was pretty high grit, but when I look at it again, I realise that I can't actually remember what the grit-level is.

I did notice one thing though - Your location.

I'm a Melbournian too. Do you know any places in town where I could buy a better/new sharpening/honing stone and/or a strop?
 
Hone wear and edge looks uneven (possible frown near the heel?). Hard to tell from the pics, but whatever the case, like everyone has told you thus far, get it in 100% shave ready condition by a pro. You're probably far better off that way than trying to do it yourself. Good luck.
 
Aesculap is a German company that makes some of the best (IMHO) surgical instruments in the world. The razor in question is used for shave preps before surgery. I'd be surprised if they are still made as shaving before surgery has fallen out of favor and clippers are now used. I have a program on my office computer that will tell me if it's still available and what a new one costs, I'll report back tomorrow.
 

Luc

Moderator Emeritus
Hi Luc,

I initially thought that the stone was pretty high grit, but when I look at it again, I realise that I can't actually remember what the grit-level is.

I did notice one thing though - Your location.

I'm a Melbournian too. Do you know any places in town where I could buy a better/new sharpening/honing stone and/or a strop?
Hones are a bit difficult to come by. There are a few shops that carry some Carbatec tools. From there you could pick-up some DMT diamond plates... I think some members had luck using the coarse/medium/fine DMT but I didn't try it myself.

I think your best bet would be to buy a hone off BST or contact a honemeister. It all depends what you want to do too. If you want to restore heavy chips or just maintenance. In the case of heavy chips, you might need a few hones.

For the strop, well, those a difficult to come by at a cheap price. Some members here can make some but I doubt you will find something locally. You might be lucky and see one on ebay that will go for cheap but I doubt it as you wouldn't be the only one checking.
 
I maintain that you should send it to a honemeister, it doesn't cost that much and you will have the assurance of a shave ready straight.
I agree. Get it set by a honemeister and know that it is correctly set up. Thereafter, if you use a strop you should go some way to keeping it in good condition BUT if you think that buying a straight will save you money you are likely to be in for a surprise. I think most of us using straights have at least two to allow the blades to 'rest' - whether or not it makes a difference is something to be debated forever. The blade will eventually dull through normal use and need resharpening, the more it's used the sooner that day will come. Again I would venture that most of us have the minimum equipment to achieve this - a high grade stone and possibly diamond pastes of different grades and chromium oxide on various types of surface.

However that's in the future. I think it extremely unlikely your blade was "shave ready". Unless you can be absolutely certain that it has reached this standard subsequent maintenance is like trying to put a suit on a monkey and calling it a bank manager. It might look the part but it's never going to pass for the real deal.

A final thought. If the stone you used to sharpen this razor is the one you use for your knives (kitchen and/or hunting), axes, machetes then there is every likelihood the stone is too coarse for use on a straight razor. To put this into context: I have a 10K stone to refresh my razors and honemeisters work up from the lower grades to 10K and 12K stones to finish off.

I hope this helps, it's not meant to discourage you from joining the ranks of straight users. We're all here to get the best possible shave and to help others get that too.
 
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I spoke with my aesculap rep and he said that the razor in question was discontinued so he doesn't have any real info on it, it doesn't show up in my catalog program either. Sorry i couldn't get any real details on it's background.
 
You'r first razor and you shaved with it after you honed it yourself....I would say you didn't tiptoe in, you closed your nose and cannon-balled in :w00t:.

Everybody's suggestions are spot on, you'll find straight razor shaving is one of life's great pleasures.
 
I watched about six or seven videos online about how to hone a razor, so I felt pretty confident, and I'd read up on blade-angles and pressure and whatnot (most of which I remembered from my DE shaving).

I had my second shave today, and I must say...I'm pretty darn impressed. It's certainly working and I'm suitably satisfied to give it another shot. I have learnt one thing - straight shaving is more technical than DE shaving. I read the various instructions (found on this forum and other places) about shaving with, across and against the grain and I must say that it's helped considerably. It's not *quite* perfect yet, but practice will perfection make...
 
Congrats brother....its sufficient to say you are WAAAY ahead of the power curve of B&Bers who have tried str8s....

1) You honed your razor before you ever tried shaving with it
2) You've now shaved with it twice getting decent results.

That deserves a :thumbup1: in my book!
 
Kind of reminescent of a Wapi, with the stainless scales. You may find that the handle is a bit heavy, affecting the balance of the razor.

Congratulations on your results. A professional-quality honing will give you a reference point, and solve your irritation problem. Then, if you want to continue to do your own honing, start out with a fine stone like a 12K, which will be nice for maintaining an edge between "real" honings. Maybe drop down to an 8K. If you get bit bad by the bug and want to buy more flea market or ebay razors, you will want a coarse, fast-cutting stone for removing the large amount of steel that often must be removed to restore a basket case. For refining the bevel or setting the bevel on a razor that is not too far gone, you want something like a 1K water stone. A 4K or 5K and an 8K you will use in succession after setting your bevel on the 1K, and you use the 12K that you will already have bought for the final polish on the edge.
 
What's a good standard honing-stone? I keep reading about 4,000 & 8,000 grit stones. I wonder where I can buy one. I'm not sure what the grit on my current stone is (it doesn't say it anywhere) but it is a two-grit stone with one side fine and one side coarse.
 
Anyone of a number of online vendors sell good hones. Gentlemen's Best and Vintage Blades are but two of the vendors frequented by members of B&B.

I'll refrain from offering advice on what hones to get...your question is as loaded as an M-1 Garand on 6 June 1944 at Omaha beach...but I'm sure you'll get an answer...or 40!! :lol:
 
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