What should I get
It doesn't really matter which straight razor you get as long as it's shave ready. You'll see a lot of thoughts about this from a lot of shavers, but gentlemen have started out with everything from a 3/8 wedge to 5/8 full hollow to 8/8 wedge with very good success. The sizes are measured in inches from the top of the spine to the cutting edge. It doesn't really matter what razor a new user gets as long as it's legitimately "shave ready". Sure, a 5/8 or 6/8 is a nice starting place because of the relative ease of shaving and stropping of those sizes, but it is not a hard and fast rule. One quote from a new straight shaver concerning small razors was that his "3/8 razor was much easier to use in my noob hands". This is not typically an advised starter razor, but that gentleman had previously used a 6/8 and was not having as much success in his new journey.
The point is this:
- You do not know enough your about preferences (irrespective of how much reading you've done to REALLY know what you want),
- Being new to the process, you have a good chance of messing up the edge by dropping it or improperly stropping it anyway,
- You don't REALLY know that you are in it for the long haul, so get in as cheap as possible.
- Avoid buying your first straight razor on eBay.
Spend some time on the boards researching who to listen to when they proclaim a razor shave ready.
A disposable straight razor will either use a long blade or half a Double Edge blade depending on the model. Those straight razor using a disposable blade do not require honing or a strop. They are useful for a user who do not want to do the maintenance. Should you buy a disposable straight razors instead of a straight razor? It's a preference, both are different and have regular threads to discuss them. There are pros and cons for both type.
You will damage your first strop. Do not worry about that. To make the learning curve more manageable, new shavers can practice stropping technique with a butter knife. Because of the likelihood of damaging your strop, it is typically advised to get a cheap strop that will allow the new shaver to strop without fear of damaging an expensive piece of equipment.
In the case that you nick your strop, make sure that you still have a flat surface while stropping. Try to strop using your hand and if the surface still feel flat and you cannot feel the nick, it's good. In the case of a deep nick, use some glue to make the leather flat again. It might need a bit of sanding afterward to flatten the glue. For a small nick, use sandpaper to sand them out. A low grit (220) will fix the strop very quickly but the strop won't look good. If you want to keep the best appearance, try a higher grit (1200). I usually do a combination of both to erase the nick.
You do not need to hone a razor all that frequently, so that expense is:
- not really worth buying a full set of expensive stones for your own personal maintenance (unless you plan on buying a ton of eBay specials),
- not enough of an expense to be problematic in the long run anyway (especially after learning really good stropping technique),
- can be minimized significantly by utilizing pastes, a barber hone, or a couple of high grit stones.
Prospective straight razor shavers should not let this part of the maintenance intimidate them. However, do you need a hone right away? No, your first straight should come from a Honemeister to give you an idea on how sharp it should be. You can venture later in the honing process or maintaining the edge but learning how to shave with a straight, is a quest on it's own!
Great stropping technique is the key to successful long term maintenance of your razor
The point of a strop is to:
- Remove oxidation,
- Draw out the metal (restoring sharpness),
- Align the edge (provides smoothness to the edge)
A single latigo strop will be the most cost effective way to accomplish all 3 purposes. However, a linen and horsehide strop will provide the optimal means of maintaining an edge accomplishing all three jobs quite effectively.