A cut throat razor comes with a single blade that is attached to the handle by a hinge and it is stored by folding its edge into a slot in the handle. This method of shaving, using a cutthroat razor or commonly known as a straight razor is the most traditional and it is argued by several traditionalists as the most ideal way to shave. The straight edge razor was called cut throat razor as it was dangerous enough to actually cut a mans’s throat
In the early civilization of Greece and Rome, iron blades with long handles and designed in the shape of a cutthroat razor, were the only practical razors until the 19th century. With the improvements in steel manufacture, there came cutthroat razors that were very sharp and capable of being resharpened.
Advancements continued and shaving habits changed in the 1900’s. In the 20th century, men were either shaved by a barber, or periodically at home when needed rather than regularly. The barber’s would have personal sets of at least seven cut throat razors that could go from Monday to Sunday. Well, times have changed and today, nearly all men shave almost everyday right at their homes using a wide variety of equipment.
Generally, the straight razor blades are made of steel and the more recent ones are made of stainless steel. You will often find the manufacturer’s markings engraved on the blades, most of which include the model. The handles of a straight razor are made from all kinds of materials ranging from plastic, rubber, wood, ivory, and metal. Additions and inlays can be from copper, wood, pearl, silver and even tortoise shells.
The cut throat razor must be properly cared for to ensure a long life and the maintenance of this important men’s accessory. While these razors are made of stainless steel are less demanding, the other ones need to be rinsed with clean water and dried after every use. If you are not using the blade for longer periods, it is advised that you rub the blade of the straight razor with light oil. Ideally, the razor itself should be stored in an un-aired dump state. There is no general valid rule for stropping or whetting the the straight razor. In most cases, drawing the razor lightly over the ball of the thumb, particularly if it has been left unused for a while is enough. The traditional wet shavers know that the facet-blade- expands, that is the microscopically discernible and fine “fin” found on the edges changes during the shave, but returns to its initial position afterwards. Nevertheless, the “fin” still wears after use for a long time and a suitable strop should then be bought.
Straight razor sharpening is so simple that you may wonder why people struggle with it. This is true if you are using a stone to sharpen it, basically pushing the blade forward or even strop sharpening which the most common. If there are pieces of leather attached to the board, and you attempt to sharpen the razor blade with a stone, then high chances are you will cut into the leather and even damage the blade. In this case, you must learn how to sharpen the razor on a leather home.
Flat blades are whetted on suspended strop or velvet knives. However, if your blade is concaved, then you will need a hanging strop made of fine leather or really supple Russia leather with either a turning device, or with hemp hose on the back. This allows for alignment of the fin in the direction facing away form the razor. If needed, the leather side of it can be rubbed with a very thin layer if abrasive paste, and with polishing paste or black paste for the final polishing.
Stropping is carried out on a flat angle with the razors back laid on the strop. The razor is drawn in a direction away from its body. The razor is then turned over and drawn towards the body. If you change the directions without turning the razor, then the blade becomes crowned or round which leads to loss of the cutting properties. In this case, a re-sharpening can be done.
Straight razors are commonly whetted in the factory. If you have a suitable strop, you should ideally keep in mind that the straight razor must “rest” first after use. After you have rinsed and dried the razor, you should not use it for at least 24 to 48 hours as the fine “fin” on the edge straightens up very slowly. If you strop the razor too soon, or even strop it incorrectly, by moving it forward and backwards without turning it over, then the fin which is needed for a close shave will break off. You should use the blade for 6 to 16 times without stropping in between the shaves.
Sharpening a straight razor is very simple and an easy task. When you do it right, it can be an inexpensive alternative. I hope that this article has shed some light in the maintenance of straight razors and ideally how to sharpen the razor. I know that you have learnt something new and you can use it to make your daily shaves much better.