Most new razors are covered with a layer of grease as a protection against rust. Remove this grease by soaking the razor's blade in boiling, hot water and wipe dry thoroughly. Since straight razors are made of steel and are in contact with water often, they run the risk of developing rust stains. Properly cleaning and drying the blade as well as the inner sides of the handle after each use avoid this deterioration. It is recommended that you store your razor in a cool, dry place. In order to maintain it's sharpness, the razor MUST be manually sharpened on a leather strop before and after each use.
One way to keep a sharp edge is to take the time, each time you use the razor to shave with, to clean, wipe off the blade and dry it for it's next use. One of the surest ways to destroy edges is NOT TO CLEAN THEM properly on a daily basis. It is worth the extra 5 minutes or so to wash it off, wipe it, and check for nicks and strop it for the next use. Strop the razor prior to putting it away and also before using it on your next shave. It's also amazing how much longer your razor's edge will last between honing because of ths care and upkeep.
From time to time the edge on your razor will need honing to reestablish a keen edge. Nicks occur on an edge from being dropped or shavers have just used them too long without sharpening or honing. If you use your razor to cut anything other than your beard, you drop it or you do not strop it on a regular basis you WILL DULL the blade. When this occurs it will need to be resharpened.
TIP: If your razor loses it's edge suddenly and won't cut or pulls when shaving, try running the blade under hot water for a couple of minutes. This warms the steel and reestablishes a good cutting edge. This is used in colder climates.
A quick way to determine whether a blade is sharp enough is to draw the edge (from heel to point) very lightly, across a moistened thumbnail. If the blade digs into your thumbnail, with a smooth, steady grip, your blade is sufficiently sharp and is ready for stropping. A blunt razor will pass over the nail smoothly. An over-honed razor will stick into your nail and produce a harsh, disagreeable feeling.
The time required to hone your razor depends on your razor's condition. If it's in good shape, 8 to 10 strokes in each direction should do the trick. If you have several nicks in the razor, you'll need to put in more time. If your razor is in really bad shape, send it to a professional sharpener to have it properly honed.
Many men avoid straight razor shaving because they think they'll have to hone the blade every time they shave. In reality, if you keep your blade clean, dry and properly stropped, you won't have to hone it that often. Most good blades can go 9 to 12 months between honings. You'll know you need to hone it because stropping won't sharpen it anymore.
Your most important tool is your razor. Don't get skimpy with your razor and buy the cheapest one. You don't want the cheapest; you want the best. Poor razors are more trouble than they're worth. They irritate your skin and cause nicks and cuts that will annoy you as long as you use it. A good quality razor, on the other hand, is a joy to use. If well maintained, a good razor will last for years. You can pass it down to your grandsons.
You can purchase straight razors either new or used. You can find used straight razors on E Bay and in antique stores. Used razors will likely have imperfections in the blade that will require professional honing. A professional blade restoration will set you back about 30 bones, but it will save you from cutting your face.
You can purchase pre-sharpened razors that are ready to use the first time you shave for about $130. When shopping for razors, consider the following factors:
1. Check the steel's quality. A razor with good temper sharpens better than poorer quality steels. One
way to check if you have a well tempered blade is to catch the point of the blade under your
thumbnail and let it slip off quickly. If the blade gives a good clear ring, it's likely well tempered. If
it doesn't, the blade was likely tempered unevenly.
2. Most modern straight razors are ground with a hollow. Hollowing places a concave on each side of
the blade that makes the razor lighter, sharper, and easier to handle. You can purchase blades with
varying degrees of hollowing. While full concaves will give you the sharpest edge, it's not recommend
for beginners. When such an edge comes in contact with a stiff beard, unless you hold the blade very
flat on the face, it is quite likely to bend and spring, resulting in a cut.
A blade taken directly from a hone is left rough and unfit to put on the face. Stropping your blade smoothes the rough edges off your blade and sets those teeth in perfect alignment. This gives your straight razor that keen edge that makes shaving a breeze. The most common strop is the hanging strop which is about 2 3/8" wide. Hanging strops consist of two parts: one canvas strip and one leather strip. Cheaper models use coarser canvas and leather. Unless you want to ruin your razor, you should never put it to such a sub-par strop.
HOW TO STROP A STRAIGHT RAZOR
To get the most comfortable and effective shave, strop your straight razor every time before and after you shave.
1. Hang your strop from your bathroom door knob using the hook and a piece of sturdy twine on one
end of the strop.
2. If you're stropping right after honing, just use the strop's leather side. Between shaves, start off with
the canvas side before using the leather side.
3. Holding the handle at the strop's bottom in your left hand, pull the strop tight. If the strop is loose
and you take your blade over it, you could end up with a rounded, dull edge, which means you'll have
to hone it more frequently.
4. Hold the razor by its shank in your right hand and place it flat on the strop on the end farthest from
you. Unlike honing, the razor's edge will TRAIL, and not lead the strokes. So, when you're stroking
the razor AWAY from you, the blade's edge should face TOWARDS you. When you're stroking the
razor TOWARD you, the blade's edge should face AWAY from you.
5. Draw the blade towards you (again with edge pointing away from you), always keeping the heel of the
razor in advance of the point of the razor.
6. When you reach the strop's end, rotate the razor on its back, held flat, until the un-stropped side
comes in contact with the strop. The razor's edge should face TOWARDS you now.
7. Draw the blade away from you, keeping the heel in advance of the point. 15-20 strokes in each
direction on the strop should get your blade nice and sharp. If you're first starting out with straight
razor shaving, take slow and even strokes. Develop speed gradually.
Once you get the hang of it, stropping a razor shouldn't take more than 30 seconds.