Straight Razor Care and Maintenance Tips for Barbers and Stylists

Our Pro Line consists of products we recommend for performing top-notch services in barber shops and salons. We received a question this week regarding our Pro Line which we feel might be helpful to other barbers and stylists using our straight razors. With Sydney’s permission, we have included her original email below:

“I am a barber and I recently purchased a straight razor from you guys. I am absolutely in love with it, however, I couldn’t find definitive after care instructions on your site. Any and all help is greatly appreciated.

Best,
Sydney

 

First, we love this question and what it says about Sydney’s professionalism. Not only has she invested in quality, sustainable tools for the trade, she's taking the initiative in learning to care for those tools and protect her investment! For those seeking a competent barber near Simi Valley, look no further. You can book an appointment here: @syd.scissorhands

straight razor shaving in the Portland Shave Shop Barber Shop in Portland, OR

Straight Razor Care, Between Services

Fortunately, caring for your Cascade Steel straight razor between shaves is super easy and can be broken down into the three S’s:

Strop! — Sanitize! — Store!

Strop

Stropping keeps your razor keen, clean, and ready to shave effortlessly. After sanitation and skin prep, having a sharp blade is the most important factor in providing a quality shave service, so don’t skip it! The more often you strop, the less time it takes each stropping to restore the edge to shaving sharp. At a minimum, strop your razor at the beginning and end of every shift, but ideally before every service. While this may seem like a cumbersome chore--especially at first while you’re getting the technique down--just remember how much time is wasted changing blades in your shavette. It also gets a lot faster the more you practice. Skipping the strop or doing so improperly will result in lost time waiting for the razor to be sharpened down the road. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our in-depth stropping tutorial.

Sanitize

Between services, rinse the entire razor and immerse in an approved disinfectant. This isn’t just because it’s required by health authorities (which we’ve written about extensively in a previous post); keeping your razor clean will keep it looking and performing its absolute best. Since you’re using our Cascade Steel razors, the entire razor is safe to immerse in water and high-level disinfectants for worry-free sanitation and compliance.

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Store

Once your razor is properly stropped and sanitized, close and store it somewhere safe. Ideally, your razor should have its own sheath or box; don’t just toss it in your kit, since other tools can slide between the razor’s scales and damage the edge inadvertently. A toothbrush travel holder is an easy-to-clean and widely available storage solution for your cutthroat razor!

We hope you found this helpful! If you have any other questions, please send them to us!



PR Collaborators | Rick Molitor of New Basin Distilling

PR Collaborators is a blog series highlighting hardworking individuals who help Portland Razor Co. be the best we can be. We consider the people and companies featured here to be integral to our success and hope our readers will show their support for these wonderful makers.

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We met Rick Molitor of New Basin Distilling Co in 2015 via a chance encounter and, as one does over a dram of good American whiskey, we hatched an idea. Rick had just finished bottling a batch of Resignation Rye and needed to retire one of the Oregon white oak barrels used to age it. Though no longer useful for aging fine liquor, Rick hoped we might be able to turn it into something other than firewood. We happily obliged by making a limited set of co-branded Cascade Steel straight razors with unique engravings and scales which showed off the unique character of charred, rye-stained Oregon white oak. Rick has helped us over the years to raise funds and awareness for men’s health issues, supported our business by co-sponsoring events, and keeps our friends and clients happy with a steady flow of luxurious libations at the Portland Shave Shop.

Q: Tell our readers about your business. What do you do? What is your company story?

New Basin Distilling Company is a true Farm to Bottle distillery. We are proud to take our own farm grown grain and turn it into liquid magic. Our story started like any group of drinking buddies. It doesn't take long

Q: Is being in Oregon important to you and your business? Why/why not?

This is a catch 22 - we love Oregon. 3 of the 5 New Basin partners are multi-generational Oregonian. We have fertile fields for our grain production and the world's best water-Opal Springs water can't be beat for natural purity and flavor. Being 100% Distilled in Oregon is important to us. However, the business climate and tax structure for distilled spirits in Oregon is a huge obstacle for Oregon distilleries. The current tax structure on distilled spirits range from 31 to 51% of the listed price just in Oregon. With these numbers, along with local and Federal taxes we are starting to see distilleries close or move out of the State.

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Q: What sharp things do you use (knives, razors, axes, etc) at work? What tools are your favorite to use?

We love the collaboration with Portland Razor with the creation of a razor with scales made from one of our Resignation Rye Whiskey barrels. This is the sharpest item I've carried in our tasting room.

Q: Do you straight shave? If not, would you consider it?

I have received many straight razor shaves but never shaved myself. Would love to learn!

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Q: Where do you look for inspiration?

My son is currently attending OSU in the Food Science/Fermentation Studies Program. He has helped New Basin Distilling create more efficient and effective distilling procedures. I'm excited for younger distillers to challenge and change the landscape of what make a true American Whiskey.

Q: We love your product and are proud to serve it in our barbershop! In your own words, what’s better about it than its big-box store competitors?

You really can't compare locally grown, milled, mashed, fermented and distilled product. I can literally walk you into one of our rye and wheat field. Also, as stated above, naturally raw and untouched water from Opal Springs makes our whiskey that much better!

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Q: What is the most “Portland” thing to ever happen to you?

Serving New Basin Distilling Cocktails at a Portland Fashion Week party!

Q: What is one thing you wish more of your customers knew about you or your work?

How passionate and true we are to making an amazing Farm-to-Bottle Oregon Whiskey!

Q: How can readers get in touch with you?

Get a bottle at your local liquor store, swing in the distillery at 2063 NW Andrews Dr. Madras, OR, 97741 give us a call at 541-980-4595, on the web at www.newbasin.com, follow us on Facebook @NewBasinDistilling or search #newbasindistilling

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How to Grip Your Straight Razor

In this article, we’ll cover the basic grips used for shaving with a straight razor. This is a starting point for developing your own comfort and style in handling your new razor, and is not an exhaustive list.

Keep our Anatomy of a Straight Razor graphic handy if you need help keeping your tangs and spines sorted.

Safety

Remember that the tang and spine are the safest place to grip the razor. Never hold a razor by the scales! The pivot can always come loose and holding only the scales may cause the razor to swing open or shut unexpectedly. Finally, always close the razor before setting it down. This protects the razor from incidental damage, and nobody needs an open razor blade lying around.

In all of the grips described below, your pressure should be relaxed but firm like a handshake. Keep your wrist straight (straight lines are stable lines) and avoid unnecessary movements. Relax, and initiate movements with your shoulder, following through with the wrist. Do not push or move the razor with your fingers.

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1. Basic Grip

This is the starting point for most straight shavers. With the razor’s scales opened 270 degrees and the edge down, grip the tang with two fingers in front of the scales, two behind, and your thumb underneath. This allows you to apply pressure on the tang but also the scales between your fingers, giving maximum control and balance.

2. Pinch Grip

From the basic grip, simply roll the razor between your fingers until the thumb and forefinger pinch the sides of the tang, rather than the top and bottom. This grip is great for upward, against-the-grain strokes on the face.

3. Reverse/Push Grip

Grip the tang with thumb on the spine. This grip is more advanced but is especially useful for barbers shaving other people, and leg shavers. Pushing the blade away from you can be difficult while you build muscle memory, but this will allow you to shave in more comfortable positions and in the direction of hair growth more easily.

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Experiment with variations of these grips to suit your hands, razor, and the surface you’re shaving. Remember, this is not an exhaustive list and there is no right way to grip the razor, just whatever works for you! If you’ve tried using a straight razor before, what grips do you find useful? When do you use them? Let us know in the comments below ↓↓↓




How to Start Straight Razor Shaving

So, you’ve decided to start shaving with a straight razor- Welcome! There’s a lot to learn, and we’re here to help you have the best experience possible. This article covers everything you need to get into your first straight razor shave, from supplies and setup to actually shaving for the first time.

Setup

The first step to getting a great straight shave is having the right tools. Quality pieces will deliver the best results and last a lifetime with proper care. We've already written about the myth of the 'beginner' razor. And, since you are on our blog, I hold no hesitation in injecting some self promotion here: every razor we offer on our site is of great quality!

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Hardware, the stuff that works forever:

  • Straight Razor - your razor should be clean, sharp, and free of rust before every shave.
  • Strop - maintenance tool used used to draw out your razor's edge so it stays shaving-sharp.
  • Shave Brush - a shave brush helps form a lather with your shave soap and provides exfoliation before the shave.
  • Shave Mug/Bowl/Scuttle (optional) - These help you fine-tune your shaving lather by allowing you to control the water-to-soap ratio, while also giving you a reservoir to keep extra lather during the shave. It also makes your bathroom look very fancy.
  • Clean, dry hand towel or washcloth.
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Software, the stuff you'll need to restock at some point:

  • Pre-Shave Conditioner (recommended) - Especially with course hair, conditioning will prove to be extremely effective for softening hair.
  • Shave Soap - Use a soap designed for shaving. Such a soap will make a protective barrier between your skin and the blade, soften hairs, and help the hairs stand up to be cut.
  • Alum Block or Styptic Matches (recommended) - Alum is an astringent and antiseptic in solid form. This can be used to make your skin tacky and easier to grip (more on this later). It is also helpful in treating minor nicks and cuts from shaving. It can also be used as an aftershave treatment. One alum block should last years! Styptic matches are a convenient, single-use alternative.
  • Aftershave (recommended) - Aftershave contains mild antiseptics and astringents which cool and tighten the skin, relieve irritation, and prevent minor skin infections that commonly cause razor burn and razor bumps.

Before the Shave:

  • Set up somewhere clean, well-lit, and free from distractions. Have a safe place to set your razor down.
  • Inspect the razor. Check that the scales are intact and get a sense for the tightness or looseness of the pin. Make sure the blade is free of rust and that the cutting edge looks smooth and not chipped.
  • Strop the razor. Start with the prep side, then move to the finishing side.
  • Give your hair plenty of time to hydrate and soften. A hot shower or soaking with several hot towels is a good way to do this. Use this time to feel your hair and take note of the direction or “grain” of their growth. For the most gentle shave, you want to start by shaving with the direction of hair growth. For a closer shave, you can shave across or even against the grain. It may be helpful to divide the shaving area into “zones” based on which direction the hair grows, shaving one zone at a time.
  • Lather Up. If using a shaving brush, load the tip with cream and slowly add water, agitating the bristles until a thick lather with tiny bubbles forms.
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Your First Straight Shave // the face

  • Apply Pre-Shave Conditioner. Dispense a dime-sized amount of conditioner onto your palm. Rub your hands together and massage into the skin and hair, removing any excess with a moist towel. Allow essential oil fragrance to bloom and cool the skin for a soothing, aromatic shaving experience.
  • Grip the razor. Two fingers in front, two in back, with the thumb underneath. Use a firm but gentle grip, like a handshake. At the end of the day, the grip that works is the right one, but this is a good place to start. When you put the blade to your skin, keep it moving and use an angle 15-30 degrees off your skin. This should go without saying, but: no slicing motions!
  • Gently pull the skin tight. This creates a firm surface for the razor to cut the hair against and will result in a smoother shave. You can also pull your skin in different direction to shave hard-to-reach areas like under the jaw or on either side of the throat. If your skin is too slippery to pull effectively, you can swipe your fingers on an alum block to make them stick to your skin better.
  • The First Pass. Start with the flat part of the cheeks, pulling the skin tight and bringing the razor downward in short, controlled strokes. If this goes well, proceed to the jaw, neck, upper lip, and then chin. Shave in the direction of hair growth, and only shave where there is lather! If some whiskers are left behind, don’t worry, you can get them on the next pass after you re-lather.
  • Rinse, Re-lather, Second Pass. Shaving only where there is lather will minimize irritation and give better results. Shave with the grain or across the grain for a closer second pass, catching any whiskers you may have missed.

Your First Straight Shave // the legs

  • Apply Pre-Shave Conditioner. Dispense a dime-sized amount of conditioner onto your palm. Rub your hands together and massage into the skin and hair, removing any excess with a moist towel. Allow essential oil fragrance to bloom and cool the skin for a soothing, aromatic shaving experience.
  • Grip the razor. Two fingers in front, two in back, with the thumb underneath. Use a firm but gentle grip, like a handshake. At the end of the day, the grip that works is the right one, but this is a good place to start. When you put the blade to your skin, keep it moving and use an angle 15-30 degrees off your skin. This should go without saying, but: no slicing motions!
  • Think back to your "zones". Maybe they are the front of the shin, back of the calf, sides of the knees, front of the knee, back of the knee, etc. Choose one "zone" and lather using swirling motions. Next, use a "painting" motion to smooth out the lather. Leave the rest of your zones without lather.
  • Gently pull the skin tight. This creates a firm surface for the razor to cut the hair against and will result in a smoother shave. You can also pull your skin in different direction to shave hard-to-reach areas like around the knee or ankle. If your skin is too slippery to pull effectively, you can swipe your fingers on an alum block to make them stick better.
  • The First Pass. Start with the flat areas, pulling the skin tight and shaving in the direction of hair growth in short, controlled strokes. If this goes well, proceed to the shin, around the ankle, and around the knees. Lather one zone at a time and work up to trickier spots. If some hairs are left behind, don’t worry, you can get them on the next pass after you re-lather.
  • Rinse, Re-lather, Second Pass. Shaving only where there is lather minimizes irritation and give better results. Shave with the grain or across the grain for a closer second pass, catching any hair you may have missed.
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Clean Up

  • Damage Control (as needed). Stay calm. You can do this. Shaving nicks can bleed a lot and always look worse than they actually are. Straight razors are very sharp and make clean cuts, so this also means they tend to scar less than other razor nicks! Accidents do happen, so if you suddenly see crimson mixing with your shaving lather, take a moment to rinse the offending wound with cool water and apply alum or a styptic match to disinfect; apply pressure to stop the bleeding. Then, if you’re up to the task, shake it off and start the shave again with a fresh lather.
  • Apply Aftershave (recommended). Shaving removes the topmost layer of skin, exposing it to the elements and a higher risk of infection. Aftershave is an important last step to disinfect, close pores, cool and tighten your skin for a clean, refreshing finish. Aftershave can take many forms. They all work, so the choice is entirely personal.
  • Strop the Straight Razor. Completely drying the razor, stropping it a few times, and applying a drop of oil will assure that it is clean and ready for the next shave.

Nailed it!

You just completed your first straight shave! It may not be the closest shave of your life, but don’t worry. Take pride in the process and in your progress. Straight shaving takes time and practice to master, but enjoy it and learn to ditch the "let's-just-get-this-over-with" feeing a cartridge razor creates in the pit of your stomach! By having the right gear and practicing, you are already ahead of the curve and on your way to your best shave ever!