What is really important about a straight razor?

In this lesson of the A. P. Donovan Straight Razor Academy, you’ll learn how to find the right razor to suit your needs, what really matters and what to look for.

First and foremost, weight makes a difference. You should be able to hold the razor with three fingers and control it safely for five minutes without your hand getting tired. But how heavy is that?

This is where Einstein comes in: it's all relative. A slightly-built man who is only 1.5 meters tall will definitely experience a 100g razor differently than a 2.20-meter mountain of muscle. Pick up household objects that weigh between 50g and 100g and see for yourself. You’ll quickly find the weight you’re comfortable with.

The handle has both a functional role and an emotional impact. A handle is designed to allow you to hold the razor securely. It should sit comfortably, without slipping, and be a little lighter than the blade. Handling and touch are important aspects of its function. The way it feels and the way it looks combine to create the emotional side of a handle. When you shave with a straight razor, you’re enjoying the ultimate manly luxury. You should enjoy holding the razor in your hand to experience the ritual to the full. Your guests should also see the cool kit that you have when they use your bathroom.

Plastic handles feel cheap, no matter what kind. Wood is the most traditional material, but the best handles combine both wood and metal.

Now let’s turn to the blade. You should also take a look at the video entitled “Which razor blade is right for me?

A stainless steel blade offers “low maintenance.” A proportion of chromium in the steel ensures that the steel only corrodes very slowly. Precisely this chromium also ensures that the blade is slightly softer than traditional steel, which means it becomes blunt more quickly and needs to be sharpened on the whetstone more often.

Carbon steel is somewhat harder and therefore retains its sharpness a little longer. On the other hand, it also rusts very quickly.

Finally, there is also Damascus steel. It looks interesting, but it offers no particular benefits over standard quality steel. Once again, the hardness and susceptibility of Damascus steel to corrosion all depends on the proportion of chromium in the steel.

Many beginners, when making their first purchase of a straight razor, have to decide between a Shavette or a permanent blade? The benefits of a Shavette are the low cost and the ease with which blades can be exchanged. This means that the blade never needs sharpening, it is more hygienic in a commercial setting, and is easier to care for.

The benefits of a permanent blade: well, it’s simply more manly, looks better, and has a distinctive style. Nor are there any ongoing costs. If properly cared for, it will outlast several human lifespans and is a great item to pass down through the generations. These blades are generally longer, and mostly sharper than industrially created blades.

So what do we recommend now?

As a beginner, you should choose a user-friendly blade that offers good value for money. After all, a straight-edge razor might not be right for you at all. In the worst case scenario, it might only last one shave before going in the trash. A razor with a rounded head, a stainless blade of three quarters or seven eighths of an inch, with a simple wood or plastic handle should be enough to get started. But don’t go too cheap either, as you run the risk of missing out on the benefits of a straight-edge razor due to a bad experience.

Advanced shavers can choose a sharper head to shape their contours and edges perfectly. The blade can also reduce in size; for instance, a five-eighths of an inch blade, which can be made from carbon or Damascus steel.

And what about pros? They’ll already know exactly what they want.

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