Thanks for the post!
I'm thinking that a stainless razor would make more sense for me from a maintenance standpoint, but they are obviously more expensive. Is there a good entry-level stainless, or should I just fo with carbon for now in case I don't like it?
I see that Vintage Blades has this entry-level package. Any thoughts?
Honestly, I'm not really afraid of seriously hurting or disfiguring myself (I'm mroe afraid of my kids doig that if I leave the thing in reach). I'm more worried about having an unpleasant and somewhat painful experience, while getting crappy shaves and wasting money, and thus being frustrated at myself for going on a fool's errand.
Ultimately, however, it's also just my tendencey to research the hell out of things before I pull the trigger (as those who followed my thread on grills in the Speakeasy can attest to!). I am "Obsessed," after all.
Ach! You have not researched this nearly enough! You can't just go over to Vintage Blades and buy their off the rack beginners set up, even though it seems perfectly fine, and is not too bad a deal!
Entry level Dovos, which I think is what this is, get good reviews by virtually everyone. I do not even know what is better about more expensive Dovos other than the scales get more interesting and if you really get up the there starts to be various embossing on the blade.
It will be so much more satisfying if you really do research this to death!
I would be more inclined to buy something off someone on these forums or over at Straight Razor Place.com, or one of the other fora that I know less well. I do not think the sellers will steer you too wrong. Make sure you get it something that is shave ready though. And no wedges--too hard to hone if you ever get to that point. No spikes either. I would say either 5/8 or 6/8, although what I am about to talk about my actually be larger. I would also trust Ken Rup (whatever his full last name is!) to get you set up with sort of a beginners set. http://ruprazor.com/store/index.php Folks like his beginners strop for instance. I think he would sell you an appropriate razor and does great job honing. Shipping is included in his prices, if I remember, which is a good deal.
Now, all of this fairly recently, was a lot easier. One could just say find yourself a shave ready Wapienica I (stainless steel scales so a bit heavy) or Wapienica II (plastic scales, and probably a little lighter all around, thinner too, probably) or the so-called "Double Arrow," again, shave ready is important. Ken Rup himself must have sold hundreds of all three kinds. They, especially the Wapis, are reliably good razors, easy to come by, and quite inexpensive. (Read up on them. The history of the Wapi is in particular very interesting.) But the supplies of these seem to have dried up considerably. Still if one comes up on the fora or classifieds it is probably a good deal and will save you a little money over a Dovo, although the Dovo will have nicer scales. Right now, I do not thing there is a standard beginners straight. (Although believe me, the DAs and the Wapi blade were very good. Nothing particularly beginner about them.) I do think most sellers around here would not steer you too wrong.
Now for a strop. I bought something unbelievably cheap off EBay and have been completely happy. You can probably get this one for $12 delivered. I think it is the one I have. If you screw it up learning to strop, no big deal. I think for a hanging strop all you really need is a fairly even long piece of leather of some kind. I do not think you will be able to find such a piece of leather for as little as this costs. http://cgi.ebay.com/STROP-FOR-STARI...39:1|240:1318|301:1|293:1|294:50#ht_549wt_955
Someone else may have good reasons why this is a bad strop. For $12 you can always toss it and get a better on after awhile. Seems to me though that leather is pretty much leather for this purpose. Another strop may have better draw, but at the most what does that mean? A few fewer strokes?
I never thought about stainless versus carbon steel and I do not remember reading much about any preference for stainless. I do not think I would pay anything more for stainless. I do not know if there are advantages or not. Dry your razor on a towel and try to put it away somewhere that is not damp and I do not think you are going to have corrosion problems. Maybe someone else has ideas on this. With modern pastes, such as diamond paste, I do not think the hardness of stainless is a great disadvantage.
So there you go. I have told you more than I know. I am sure others will have some ideas, too. I am not saying that the Vintage Blades deal is a bad one. You can probably have more fun shopping a little harder, since you seem to me into that. I am pretty much a cheap skate myself. Have fun. Folks know a lot.