While electric and cartridge razors may be the most common methods of shaving nowadays, there are still plenty of people who like to shave the old-fashioned way using a straight razor.
These razors are great for clean shaves with minimal irritation, but you can still encounter issues if you don’t keep your razor sharp.
That’s why we’ve made this handy step-by-step guide to sharpening a straight razor!
Here, we’ll teach you all you need to know about how to keep your straight razor in top condition so you can get back to shaving in no time!
So let’s jump into it, shall we?
Why Do You Need To Keep Your Razor Sharp?
Before we can take a look at how to sharpen a straight razor, we need to know why it’s so important to do so in the first place.
Like any other blade, a straight razor will start to become blunt and dull with use.
This makes it far less effective than it should be and has a big impact on how you shave.
When your straight razor’s blade is blunt, it struggles to cut through the hair follicles on your face.
Instead, it ends up pulling them out, or even just not dealing with them at all.
On top of leaving your facial hair patchy, this can also be painful while you’re shaving and leads to razor rash.
Keeping your razor, well, razor-sharp will make sure you get a smooth, effective shave that leaves your skin smooth and prevents irritation.
Sharpening Vs. Stropping
Sharpening isn’t the only maintenance your straight razor needs. You also have to ‘strop’ the blade – this refers to realigning the edge of the blade.
Stropping is different from sharpening in that it doesn’t sharpen the blade, per se.
Instead, it straightens and polishes the razor’s edge to remove any tiny inconsistencies in the blade.
This is just as important as sharpening the razor, as it keeps the edge smooth and gets rid of any nicks or irregularities on the blade that might cause irritation.
How To Sharpen Your Straight Razor: A Step-By-Step Guide
Okay – so now that we know why you need to keep your straight razor sharp, it’s time to actually sharpen it!
Here, we’ll break down each step in the process so you can get your razor back into shape in no time.
Prepare Your Water Stones
First of all, you need to get your water stones ready. These are a type of sharpening block that comes in a variety of different grit sizes.
Water stones are used to sharpen razors and knives by honing the blade to a thin, sharp edge.
To prepare your water stones, simply soak them in water for around 10 minutes or until the stone is fully saturated with water.
Depending on the shape your razor is in, you may need multiple grit sizes.
Always work from a lower grit to a higher grit; moving from low to high means that your blade will be sharp and maintain a clean, smooth edge.
Open The Razor And Lay It Flat On The Water Stone
Once the water stones have finished soaking, take them out of the water and place them flat on the table.
Add an extra bit of water to the top of the water stone, making sure that the surface of the stone is completely wet.
Then, open up your straight razor and lay the blade flat on the water stone with the blade facing towards you.
It’s important to make sure the razor is flat so that it sharpens evenly and without damaging the edge.
Pull/Push The Blade Along The Stone
Now it’s time to start sharpening! Holding the razor firmly by either end of the spine, pull it towards you in an even sweeping motion.
When the razor reaches the edge of the stone, turn it over by twisting the handle in your fingers. Then, repeat the motion going away from you.
This is one round ‘trip’ of sharpening. Continue doing this motion until you’ve reached 8 round trips, then dry off the razor with a dry towel.
Repeat With Higher Grits
Depending on how blunt your straight razor is, you can then move on to a higher grit if necessary.
Repeat the same process as before for 8 rounds, drying off the blade when done. Once you’ve finished, your blade is ready to go!
Stropping Your Straight Razor
You don’t need to sharpen your razor super regularly, and it’s only really necessary when the blade is noticeably dull and blunt.
Typically, you should sharpen your razor every 60-70 shaves, depending on how much you shave.
However, you may still notice some tugging or difficulty while shaving, even if you’ve just sharpened your razor a few shaves prior.
This is a sign that your straight razor needs a strop – this is a form of honing and polishing the blade to give it that razor-sharp edge.
Here’s how to do it!
Prepare Your Strop
First, you need to get the strop ready. This is a long strip with leather on one side and fabric on the other side.
Attach the strop to a table or other secure surface, a little above waist height (or whatever’s most comfortable for you).
Unlike water stones, you don’t need to do any other preparation here.
Brush The Blade Against The Fabric Side
You need to start with the fabric side of the strop, as this has a lower ‘grit’ than the leather.
Stretch the strop until it’s taught, and place the blade flat on the strop with the blade facing away from the direction you’re moving it in.
Then, using the same technique as sharpening, perform around 25 trips with the razor.
It’s important to lead with the spine of your straight razor so you don’t damage your strop with the blade.
Repeat With The Leather Side
When you’ve finished with the fabric side, move on to the leather side. Here, you just need to do the same motion as before.
Perform around 50 trips on the leather side to make sure your straight razor’s blade is perfectly aligned and good to go!
Keeping your straight razor sharp is the key to a smooth shave.
Using this handy guide, you’ll be able to make sure your straight razor is properly sharpened and stropped in no time at all.
So now that you know how to sharpen your straight razor, all you need to do is put your newfound knowledge to the test, and enjoy a smooth, clean shave!