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Preparing for first straight razor purchase

Gentlemen,

I have recently taken an interest in learning to shave with a straight razor and would very much appreciate some advice.

I originally thought I would get a Feather Artist Club shavette so I wouldn’t have to deal with a strop and honing while I decide if I liked a straight or not.

Further research showed people generally leaning toward just buying an inexpensive straight to get the real experience and most didn’t use the shavette for very long before moving on to a straight and seemed to regret wasting the money on it.
Do you agree with this in general?

A recommended post to read on B&B lead me to Straight Razor Designs where I found what appears to be fair prices and professional sharpening provided with each purchase.

I’m looking at one of the least expensive sets to get started. It looks like it will run me about $150 for a Dovo Best Quality 5/8” with a strop. What I can’t find for sure is if that razor is a full hollow or not, can anyone confirm this? Being a complete newbie to straights, I think a 5/8” full hollow is a good starting razor. Opinions?

I was also pointed to Whipped Dog and if I buy a vintage it looks like I can save even more money. I’ve read plenty of favorable comments about them but I haven’t done much research on vintage yet so I’m leaning toward a new Dovo or Ralf Aust. I am also considering a sight unseen razor but I think I’d like a little more control over what I get.

Is the razor and strop all I need to get started? I already have all the soaps, brushes and whatnot for DE shaving.
If I like it then I’ll have to look into getting the pastes and other items to maintain the razor but I don’t think I need those to get started do I?

Unless I absolutely fall in love with straight razor shaving I’ll most likely only use it once or twice a week on the weekends when I have time to really enjoy the experience. How often should I expect to need to send it out to be professionally honed using it once or twice a week? My beard is not coarse and assume decent technique (eventually lol).

Strop question: For the non-leather part of the strop, what would be best for me to pick, the Matched Webbing, Premium Fabric or the Hard Pressed Wool Felt and why? I plan to upgrade from the 2” to the 3” because that seems better in the long run.

I’ll be looking to make the purchase next month if all goes well so any input, recommendations and advice is appreciated.

Thanks for reading!
 
Whipped Dog has an amazing reputation here. He won't send out anything that isn't shave ready and if he does I am certain he would resolve the issue immediately.

I would recommend trying out a sight unseen and if you don't dig straight shaving, no big loss.

If you do dig it - then you have also lost nothing, and in fact, started on your descent into full blown SRAD.
 
Unless I absolutely fall in love with straight razor shaving

This sentence that you wrote would make me more inclined to nudge you towards a sight unseen from Whipped Dog.

A razor and strop is in the neighborhood of $50. (I think, I haven't checked in a while...) While your other choice, while a bit prettier, is 3 times that.
Now add to it that you are beginning. That high dollar strop will hurt more when you nick it than the poor man's strop will. (Don't ask me how I know......)

If you do end up falling in the rabbit hole, now you have a practice strop, and you also have a razor to learn to hone on when you upgrade because you don't have enough of them.
 
I think all of you are talking good sense.
That's a great point about nicking the strop. I'm all but certain to do that I'm sure.

A sight unseen and a poor man's strop would set me back a mere $59. Make it a flawed razor and it's only $44.
If I bought the poor man's kit it would only be an additional $9 and that would also give me the balsa strop.
Do I need anything else just to get started?
 
The Dovo they offer is a hollow ground. I had an AOS straight that was made by Dovo and it was a great razor. The 5/8 blade made it great for learning.

I enjoy SRD strops and currently use one of their English Bridle strops. I have used all three fabric strops.

The nylon webbing felt "zippy". Nylon is obviously plastic and the blade just zipped along the strop with no resistance.

The pressed wool felt strop felt "fuzzy". The pressed wool fabric naturally has these fibers that stick up. It felt like fuzzy cardboard to me. Its still a great strop.

The premium cotton material is a blend of both worlds. The tight weaving leaving no fabric standing up and the natural cotton eliminates the zippy feeling.

I would recommend all of their strops as they are very good quality. If I had to choose, I would go with the premium cotton followed by the nylon webbing and then the pressed wool. Yes the most expensive material is my least favorite.
 
I think all of you are talking good sense.
That's a great point about nicking the strop. I'm all but certain to do that I'm sure.

A sight unseen and a poor man's strop would set me back a mere $59. Make it a flawed razor and it's only $44.
If I bought the poor man's kit it would only be an additional $9 and that would also give me the balsa strop.
Do I need anything else just to get started?

That would be plenty to get you started. The strop and balsa should keep you going for a little while. If it does go dull on you, I think Larry offers re-honing services, and I get bored occasionally, so I'd do it a couple times for you if you would cover shipping.
 
The Dovo they offer is a hollow ground. I had an AOS straight that was made by Dovo and it was a great razor. The 5/8 blade made it great for learning.

I enjoy SRD strops and currently use one of their English Bridle strops. I have used all three fabric strops.

The nylon webbing felt "zippy". Nylon is obviously plastic and the blade just zipped along the strop with no resistance.

The pressed wool felt strop felt "fuzzy". The pressed wool fabric naturally has these fibers that stick up. It felt like fuzzy cardboard to me. Its still a great strop.

The premium cotton material is a blend of both worlds. The tight weaving leaving no fabric standing up and the natural cotton eliminates the zippy feeling.

I would recommend all of their strops as they are very good quality. If I had to choose, I would go with the premium cotton followed by the nylon webbing and then the pressed wool. Yes the most expensive material is my least favorite.
Thanks for that comparison. I have an English bridal strop from them, but I got the zippy nylon. Wasn't sure about any of them at the time I bought it. Might just have to order me a replacement piece. After all, my nylon is "all worn out" you know....
 
Thanks for that comparison. I have an English bridal strop from them, but I got the zippy nylon. Wasn't sure about any of them at the time I bought it. Might just have to order me a replacement piece. After all, my nylon is "all worn out" you know....
Happy to help. You could always treat the nylon strop with CrOx. That's how I justified getting another strop. :001_rolle
 
That's some great information azwetshaver, thank you.
A generous offer sfeile, thank you.

Since everyone thinks so highly of Whipped Dog it looks like I'll order a sight unseen and poor man's strop kit.
May as well save a few bucks while I learn. I like the idea of having an inexpensive razor to ruin, I mean learn with.
 

Doc4

Stumpy in cold weather
I originally thought I would get a Feather Artist Club shavette so I wouldn’t have to deal with a strop and honing while I decide if I liked a straight or not.

Further research showed people generally leaning toward just buying an inexpensive straight to get the real experience and most didn’t use the shavette for very long before moving on to a straight and seemed to regret wasting the money on it.
Do you agree with this in general?

I went that route, years ago. (BTW, a Feather Artist Club is NOT a "Shavette" ... two different beasts, although both look kind of like straight razors and have replaceable blades.) IMHO the shave you get from the Feather is significantly different from an actual straight ... man, those Feather blades are shaaaaaaarp!!! ... so you will be learning a different technique and bleeding a LOT more in the learning curve.

I would not say I "wasted" my money, but ... if you want to shave with a real straight ... get a real straight straight-away.

A recommended post to read on B&B lead me to Straight Razor Designs where I found what appears to be fair prices and professional sharpening provided with each purchase.

IMHO, you will do better at Westcoast shaving for a set or individual parts. IF you want "one stop shopping" at good prices ... and good honing ... this is the first place to go.
Straight Razor Gift Sets and Kits |West Coast Shaving

I also recommend Rasupur. It's in Europe ... Germany IIRC ... but good prices and the razors all come with excellent honing included.
Solingen Straight Razors @ Rasurpur

And for a strop ... don't mess about the bush. Just go for the best: Tony Miller.
The Well Shaved Gentleman The Heirloom Razor Strop Company

Is the razor and strop all I need to get started? I already have all the soaps, brushes and whatnot for DE shaving.
If I like it then I’ll have to look into getting the pastes and other items to maintain the razor but I don’t think I need those to get started do I?

Correct.

How often should I expect to need to send it out to be professionally honed using it once or twice a week? My beard is not coarse and assume decent technique (eventually lol).

This can depend on individual preferences ... sooner or later you get that particular "feel" from your shave and you know it's time for a honing. Personally I like to do "mini-honings" more frequently rather than wait for "wow, this really needs work", although if you are sending it out, you probably want to wait longer to get your money's worth. But I bet you get a couple months' out of the initial honing, easy.
 
That's some great info Doc, thanks for taking the time. I hadn't considered West Coast Shaving. I don't often buy from them because I'm in California and get dinged with tax and shipping but that looks good.
I'll definitely look into Tony Miller once I get past the learning stage.
 
You are getting good advice here from everyone. I will add my 2 cents:

Go with whipped dog and Larry. Larry is more than a razor seller he is a great guy and a teacher. He is very patient with questions and really knows his stuff!

The poor man's strop is all you need. DO NOT STROP IT when you get it. Just shave so you know what "shave ready" should feel like. Start WTG and cheeks only. Clean up with your DE that's how most of us did it.

When you strop- you probably will dull the razor quickly as you learn. Larry will re hone it for you for $15 last time I checked and that is a good price.

I will add my name to those who offer to re-hone it for you (No charge just shipping) I saw @sfeile offered too. You should take him up on it he is better than me lol!

Anyway- TRY not to spend a lot of money right away. That New Dovo or Aust won't shave you any better than the sight unseen AND the whipped dog straight will be a vintage! Almost all vintage razors are good quality shavers you really can't go wrong.

Be careful of the cheap new razors on eBay- Gold dollars are ok ZY are ok, but despite what they say they are NOT shave ready.

There are guys on this forum who sell GD's honed properly and they are great shavers. Life2short sells them on the marketplace for about $20 and he includes a year of free honing any time you need it.

Despite what you may hear or read GD's and ZY's properly honed are great shavers.


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Almost forgot...a balsa strop is a waste of money in the beginning. Learn to strop properly on leather and your razor will stay sharp a long time.

You will read about "x" stroke on the narrow strop. I am going to tell you something that may not be popular, but true nonetheless- just strop. Don't worry if you don't have a perfect x stroke. Trying to do that too early can tear up the strop- just make sure the spine is always on the strop and go slow at first. You will improve quickly.

Don't get a Tony Miller strop (or any expensive strop) just yet- wait till you are not scratching, gouging, and nicking the practice strop.

Linen is nice but not necessary yet either- just dry your razor really well and strop leather a few passes after you shave.

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I strongly recommend the modified GD66 as sold by some members here on B&B. I got one in March from @life2short1971 and the edge is out of this world!


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Shaving once or twice a week with a straight makes for a super-long learning curve that is already sufficiently steep for most. If you're not able (or willing) to commit to shaving with a straight, full time, go with a cheap razor. Getting cut shaving once or twice on the weekends most often results in a committed DE shaver.
 
Thanks for all the friendly advice everyone.
I went back and forth all weekend about what I was going to do but finally I sent Larry a payment for a sight unseen and a poor man's strop.
That should be enough for me to find out what straight razor shaving is all about. I suspect I will enjoy it and the SRAD will commence shortly after it arrives...

I spent some time looking into how to sharpen a straight and found out it's nothing like what I expected. This was my main concern to using straights.
I had assumed it was just like sharpening a chefs knife or a hunting knife where you have to maintain a specific angle by hand throughout the sharpening process. A process that has always been hit and miss for me since it takes a great deal of practice to do it consistently and I don't do it as often as I should.
But after watching many videos it actually looks pretty easy. I'm now looking at creating a short list of the required stones to keep the edge fresh and sharp.

From what I have read so far I think I can get by just fine with an 8k and then some kind of finishing stone. Still trying to decide on that one.
 
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