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Tak's shave diary

It has begun. Well, it will have begun when Larry gets my order, and packs it up and mails it. THEN. Well, then I have to receive it. BUT AFTER THAT! Then it will have begun...

For the purposes of keeping all my newbie questions in one spot, here be this complete newb's shave diary.

I'm really looking forward to trying this. Without this site I never would have found out about Larry. I have wanted to try straight razor shaving for *years*, and always found the several hundred dollar and up 'starter kits' floating around out there. I guess I was never vigilant enough in my searches before!

I'm most worried about maintaining the edge on the blade. Stropping and honing are entirely new to me. Thanks to some reading around here, I'm familiar with what they're supposed to achieve, but never having gone through the motions it's gives me the jitters thinking about trying to not ruin a) the razor, b) the strop, c) my hand, or d) all of the above.

My facial hair grows thick in quantity but the hair itself is only mildly thick. I don't burn through disposables at the rate some you do, so I'm hoping that with care stropping I can put off buying the a hone for a while. That way when I do buy it can be a nicely sized hone for edge maintenance. Assuming I don't kill myself or just hate straight razor shaving from top to bottom. With shaving daily/every other day, at what point do you folks think a hone will become required?

Van Der Hagen and Williams soap and a VDH boar brush are the tools at my disposal right now. I've got the luxury VDH kit from Amazon.com coming, mostly for the mug and so I could compare a badger brush to the boar brush. Williams is right out as a soap, for me. After reading the how-to in the wiki I can finally get an OK lather from it regularly, but it's just too much work compared to the VDH. We do have hard water here, and I read that can be part of it. I'll probably come back to it after a few months on the VDH and see if my technique has improved to the point where it's easy to lather up.

Perhaps this is more 'diary' than you folks wanted. Man I'm a long-winded little git, ain't I :tongue_sm


Wiped out at 25
Moderator Emeritus
Good luck with your journey. I look forward to reading your log. Just remember not to strop your blade before your FIRST shave. You can also try the hanging hair test to get an idea of how sharp the blade is to begin with... although getting the hht to work is a skill set in and of itself. Just have fun fellow noober!!
With shaving daily/every other day, at what point do you folks think a hone will become required?
Stropping technique will play a role in that. Poor technique will dull a razor very quickly. Conversely, expert technique will help maintain an edge for months. Assuming your stropping isn't refined yet, a barber hone could come in play pretty soon. You can find a good one for about $30-$40. Unless you're getting razors that are completely dull, you don't need more than that.


Moderator Emeritus
Stropping technique will play a role in that. Poor technique will dull a razor very quickly. Conversely, expert technique will help maintain an edge for months. Assuming your stropping isn't refined yet, a barber hone could come in play pretty soon. You can find a good one for about $30-$40. Unless you're getting razors that are completely dull, you don't need more than that.
+1 and good luck!
Stropping technique will play a role in that. Poor technique will dull a razor very quickly. Conversely, expert technique will help maintain an edge for months. Assuming your stropping isn't refined yet, a barber hone could come in play pretty soon. You can find a good one for about $30-$40. Unless you're getting razors that are completely dull, you don't need more than that.
I'm pretty sure I dulled my blade, perhaps by stropping. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong.

I keep the strop tight enough to be almost flat. I put little pressure on the razor. I keep the spine flat and think of leading with the spine. I never lift the spine off when I turn the blade over.

I do 50 laps on linen and then 50 on leather. Maybe I'm doing too much? Any hints?

For now I'm going to keep sending my blade for honing whenever it seems necessary so I can concentrate on my shaving technique. I'm also looking for something to use as a barber hone. The options on that are pretty confusing, and I want whatever is most simple.
First shave done. Well, 1/2 done. I had to use a disposable on my neck, as I just could not for the life of me 'make it go' in all the curvature there. No biggie, I'll learn it in time. The best news is my checks and the side of my neck I did get through with the straight range between just as good as the disposable shave to infinitely smoother. I had one tiny nick that healed closed before I could finish shaving, which is much better than the visions of a bloody decapitated corpse I kept having.

I will say that the shave wasn't near as comfortable as I expected, though. It felt like there was a bit of 'pull', if that makes sense. I know it was plenty sharp enough to cut hairs as I could and still can swipe at a loose standing hair and cut it through smoothly. Also, Larry's a pro from everything I've read and seen so I highly doubt it's his edge ;)

I had about 2mm of stubble going in. I thought it could be hair length, but from what I've read straights excel at taking out longer hairs. Is 2mm (on the long end, probably shorter) too much to take on? Or better question, is that too much for a newbie to take on? :) How does hair length impact a straight shave?

What I think it's more likely is my angle I didn't exceed 30 degrees, as I've read beyond that is about when the razor starts to dig into the skin more easily. I believe I over-compensated and had an angle less than 30 degrees, despite my best effort. What I think happened (and I'll look it up after I write all this down) is that my shallow angle 'pushed' on the hairs as much as it cut them, giving the feel that it was pulling the hairs as a truly dull razor might, but cutting them when they'd stretched to the limit.

So lessons for tomorrow, focus on the angle! I'll just keep trying to nickle and dime my way through the neck growth, and keep a disposable handy for when I don't have enough time.

@TstebinsB: Thanks for the answer! I was afeared it might be sooner rather than later. I will hunt out a barber's hone in a week or two. For long term honing, I'll have to start doing more reading there. From the little I've read on hones so far, strops with pastes seem to be a somewhat lower cost (though if you choose your product carefully, not necessarily 'cheaper') alternative. If they work the same and they cost less, I may end up having to go that route just for financial reasons.

Stropping starts with tomorrow's shave, so we'll see if I get to keep all my fingers :)


Stjynnkii membörd dummpsjterd
Moderator Emeritus
The great catch-22 of straight razor shaving is that you're far more likely to dull your blade when you're a beginner, either through poor technique or stropping.

Keep a light hand in everything you do with a straight, from shaving to stropping to honing.
True that, Ouch! I wish I had a honemeister in my pocket that I could pull out and to hone my razor back to shave-ready for free, until I get to learning how! :lol:

I've been doing some more reading and watching, and think part of my problem attacking my neck is my hair grows in an apparently unusual way. The growth pattern 'swirls up', for lack of a better phrase, from the lower left of my neck at an upwards-right angle towards the jawline. So shaving 'down' from the jawline is going across the grain, almost against it. This is diagonal or inverse from every video and drawing I've seen. It's funny, but I've never paid any attention to this before.

I think this explains why despite my best efforts I've never been able to manage to grow a beards that looks any more full than 'week long bender'! :lol:

So my first pass on my neck, at least for now, is probably going to have to be upwards in order to be most WTG. I'm going to have to play pose with the razor in front of the mirror to figure out how to do this without the scales getting in the way. Do any of you with a similar growth pattern have any pointers on how to manage that pesky neck and chin?
If you tilt your head and open the jaw sideways, you can pull most of the neck skin up on your cheek making that part easier :).
If you tilt your head and open the jaw sideways, you can pull most of the neck skin up on your cheek making that part easier :).
Thank you sir, and aye that is indeed how I managed it. I just shaved down against the grain, instead of trying to get some funky upside-down grip on the razor. It worked fine but my neck is a tad raw, so I'm far from perfect, but it's closer shaved than I've ever managed before before!

Stropping was a success, woohoo! Fingers still intact, though the strop took a slice near the top. Fortunately I've got plenty of undamaged leather in the middle to work with. I'm sure I still managed to dull the razor more than sharpen it, but it'll get there :) Per Larry's very helpful instruction sheet, "Strop tight, strop light!". I feel like I used too much pressure the first few strokes. I still got a good shave from it.

This shave as a whole went much more smoothly. I paid closer attention to blade angle and kept my skin tighter than last time. I was also much more confident in holding and applying the razor. I guess I'm getting over that initial fear of instantly severing a carotid, which is a good thing to get over. I think my biggest problem honestly was this misconception of what the shave would be like. Larry addresses it in his sheet that comes with the razor, and I didn't really think about it at first. It certainly looks 'smoother' than it feels when you watch a pro do it. I'd still like to find a proper barbershop in the area and get a good straight shave, just to compare.

I'm also almost done with my first puck of Williams. I will kind of miss the scent and *almost* miss the ridiculous amount of work it takes to get a lather off that puck, but I'm really looking forward to trying my other two soaps, VDH Deluxe from the drug store and the VDH Luxury (?) puck that came with my mug.

I'm completely sold on the idea now, and am so *so* glad I found this site, and consequently Larry. I like the end results of the shave, and I like that I look forward to shaving and don't mind blocking out a little longer to do it. I ain't too busy to spend 10 minutes on something fun and practical. And, I can say "I shave with a straight razor." which is worth a million points in the 'I'm so awesome' game we all play with ourselves ;)

Cheers folks, happy gaming.
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Wiped out at 25
Moderator Emeritus
When you get your technique dialed in, and an edge that you like, the feeling will be nice and smooth with a minimal of tugging. Using the same blade, I get a nice tug-free ATG on my left side of the face using my right hand, but a tugging, not as nice shave going ATG on the right side of my face using my left hand. Every shave gets better and better, as yours will too.
The hardest part when first starting out is figuring out what works best. In the beginning we ALL think that the blade is too dull since it doesnt glide over the skin like we see all the you tube pros doing.

Check out this guy for the ultimate newbie confidence crushing shave...


Not too many can shave like him, much less noobs like us...:lol:
Kentos that video is both terrifying and mind-bogglingly awesome! :w00t: One day it'll happen, one day. And I'll one-up him by showing no blood! :lol:

Rough rough shave today. I think I did more invisible damage than I thought yesterday, because once I just *touched* my jawline with the razor it burned like crazy. It's possible I have just trashed the blade, but this really feels more like bad razor burn. Erring on the side of caution, I finished off the other 3/4th of my face with a disposable. I think I'm going to give it a few days before I try again, to let my face recover. Clean slate and all that!

The waiting stinks but hey, it's a learning curve. Can't knock 'em all out of the park :) The only part I truly hate about it is I got *the best* lather I've ever gotten off of Williams, now that I'm down to the end of the puck. ARR I was so looking forward to a nice shave with all that lather! :p

I noticed my boar is terribly beat up. I know I was pushing down on the brush too much when I started, so that didn't help, but it's not shaped well at all. It has a bit of 'peak' to it, for lack of a better word. It really makes the brush dig at the middle of the soap which is kind of annoying. I may very well thank it for its service and attempt to trim it or toss it and just use my VDH badger. It's not as stiff or full but it lathers just as well and is shaped as nicely as any brush I've seen in pictures here.

I want to thank all of you for reading this my brain dumps and for sharing your thoughts and answers to my questions. It's good to know that if I get really stumped there are pros and fellow newbies alike ready and willing to help. Cheers :)

I think I've settled on Wednesday as my try again day. A nice hump-day shave should be just the ticket to get through the rest of the week. See you folks again on Wednesday!
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Moderator Emeritus
If you work in a place that can tolerate you not shaving every day it is sometimes worth giving your skin a day to heal, especially when you are starting and you technique might not yet be 100%. I know it is frustrating because you want to have another crack at it right away, but having happier skin and longer hair to mow can be helpful.
Had to shave today. My employer is fairly lenient but there are limits ;) So here's my rambling brain-dump for shave #3 :)

My Williams is out, so I'm onto the VDH Deluxe. It lathers way easy but didn't feel as whale-snot slick on my face as the Williams did. Might have been my lather what with it being a new soap and all. I used the same boar brush I've been using. I really prefer it to my scratchy badger, but I've been lathering the badger once a day to try and break it in and see if that scratchiness changes.

Didn't nick the strop, so that's an improvement! I feel better about that. I like stropping with the blade angled so the edge all hits the leather at the same time rather than trying the X stroke. Eventually I plan on buying a strop wide enough to run the whole blade on while keeping it perpendicular to the strop. It just seems simpler and neater than the X stroke to me. Any thoughts on that?

My cheeks were fairly easy to do when going WTG. The initial hesitation with the razor is gone, so now my errors are all technique over trepidation. Progress! :) I haven't tried any ATG or XTG passes on my cheeks yet. I'll add those in after I can get my whole beard WTG (or whatever the 'most natural' feeling direction is). It's still a bit tricky around the neck. I'll try to watch/read a few things and see how people are holding the razor blade side up.

An odd discovery: my left cheek shaved smoother even though I did it with my non-dominant hand. The shave isn't as close but felt much nicer other than that. I'm probably still applying pressure with my right hand when I shouldn't be. I've noted that to watch out for next time :)

Happy shaving folks!
Shave four today. Much better. I spent more laps on the strop now that I think my technique is improved (I'd still like to watch a pro in person to get tips and advice).

No razor burn, which is nice. I'm getting better at controlling the urge to apply any pressure, and it shows. I do have a new problem though: I got a few ingrown hairs, or at least itch bump spots. I've never had that problem before. So I guess this means I shaved closer than I thought! There are three itchy spots all told and they're all on my neck, so I'm blaming my poor form there. Going to wait until Saturday to shave again I think, to avoid picking off those bumps. I'll gladly trade a few small but annoying itches for that burning raw terribleness I had at the end of last week though.

Ingrown hairs: Did you/do you experience them when shaving with a straight, when you never did with carts? What if anything helped prevent them for you?
My technique will get there in time :)

Still rocking the VDH Deluxe until it's gone. I've been whipping up practice/test lathers of a few soaps I ordered just to see if I'll like them, and also compare notes on lather. Hard water sucks, it looks like I don't get to have all the fun with mounds and mounds of lather that some of you do. I'm jealous of your soft water! :p

Cheers everyone, happy gaming :)
Number five today! Great shave. I thought I over-shaved one particular area, but after a slight tingle with the aftershave it feels fine and genuinely BABY BUTT SMOOTH!

The only problem is it's about a one inch square area, so don't go too far out or you'll just be in the close-enough territory. That's one smooth square inch, though ;)

No ingrown hairs, no irritation (but I did get a few tingly spots in addition to the BBS patch). I'm attributing those last few bumps to some unnoticed sloppiness in my technique.

I put more passes on the strop this time, around 30 laps. I certainly think that helped. I might switch out this soap though. I have nothing against the VDH deluxe, but it's not as slick as Williams, for me. I love the bigger lather but the glide isn't there. I've got Arko and VDH Luxury soaps and Prorasso and Godrej creams. The Arko felt good in my test lathers and might be just the ticket for slickness that's easier to lather than Williams.

Still haven't tried the witch hazel. I want to though, it sounds like a great way to save money on a daily aftershave. I need something scentless as I'm going into nursing clinicals and the school is pretty dang strict about the whole 'no scents' thing. I'll start with drugstore brand odorless and go from there if I like the feeling of it.

This shave is the first one I did without showering before hand (I had showered a few hours earlier). I did let the lather soak in while I stropped, then refreshed the lather and went to town. With the extra time for the lather to soak in, I don't think showering or not made a difference. Total shave time was probably around ten minutes, but I think I'll time myself tomorrow to see.

I've said it before, but I'm so glad I found this site and whippeddog!

Cheers gents, happy shaving


Wiped out at 25
Moderator Emeritus
Wow 10 minutes for a starting straight shaver is pretty amazing! I think my first week of straight shavings took me at least 30 minutes. You must have steady hands and nerves of steel.:laugh:
You must have steady hands and nerves of steel.:laugh:
Stubbornness, mostly. Sheer unbridled stubbornness. I will not be beat by you, razor! :lol:

I do need to time it though. This could definitely be a case of enjoying it so much the time flies by. I'll post back with a real count next shave :)
Number six just done :) Total time was just under 10 minutes. I only do one pass and I do leave my goatee, which I'm sure keeps the time down. I'm going to tackle the chin and nose in a few weeks, I need to get used to going smooth again.

I did catch my earlobe. I didn't even realize it at first, I thought I'd just bumped it. It's healed up fine now but ow! :blushing:
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