Straight Razor Care and Honing Classes at Portland Razor Co!

From the beginning we set out to make heirloom-quality straight razors and strops here in the US. In addition, we make it our priority to provide our customers with all of the tools and knowledge they need for a great shave. When we first started straight shaving, we read countless posts and watched endless hours of videos on the Internet. We found these resources helpful, but who couldn't use a few moments (or days, weeks, months!) away from a screen? It has always been our intention to bring the online wet shaving community offline, to give it a physical space here in the Pacific Northwest.

With these goals in mind, we have organized a skill-building class at our SW Portland workshop to teach our customers how to maintain their straight razor. We hope to build an inclusive community around wet shaving and an appreciation for the straight razor as the best shaving tool out there.

Each class will be held on a Saturday 10:30-12:30 and be lead by a Portland Razor Co. bladesmith. There are no gear requirements; you don’t even have to be the proud owner of a PR straight razor yet! Students are welcome to bring their own honing stones and razors if they wish. Most importantly, bring yourself, be ready to learn, and prepare to make some friends

As a student, you can expect to leave the 2-hour class with a new Norton 4k/8k stone, a 1.5 oz can of ballistol, and the know-how to care for your straight razor all on your own. Class size is limited, so sign-up while space is available.

2017 Schedule:
1/21/17 10:30am-12:30pm
4/29/17 10:30am-12:30pm
7/8/17 10:30am-12:30pm
11/11/17 10:30am-12:30pm

Thank you for reading and for your continued support of Portland Razor Co. as we gear up for this exciting new offering. We hope to see you here in 2017!

PR Collaborators | Evan Worthington, Craftsman Soap Co.

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.

For us, Evan Worthington of Craftsman Soap Co. is a reminder that you just never know where the best opportunities will present themselves. In 2014, mere weeks after founding Portland Razor Co., Scott was hiking the Lost Coast Trail with some friends. It was one of those, “I haven’t seen you all in forever, let’s go sequester ourselves in the wilderness because it might be another 7 years before we get a chance to do this again.” kind of trips. Scott brought a few of his straight razors to show the group (engineers, product designers, and all-around studs themselves) in an effort to get some feedback. Greg, lovingly known as Big Greg, told Scott of his friend Evan who had a line of all-natural soaps and personal care products. Evan emailed us shortly after and the rest is history...

of evan worthington craftsman soap co

Q: Tell our readers about your business. What do you do? What is your company story?
A: Being the guy behind Craftsman Soap Company, the primary objective here is making soap. Of course I consider the formulating, perfumery, photography, and business aspects of the brand, but soap making is understandably at the core. I started making and selling soap professionally almost four years ago, and had made my own supplies for a few years before that. As I invested more time and energy, Craftsman Soap Company kind of naturally took shape. I’ve always wanted the principles of the business to center around a low-tech, handcrafted approach, and an attention to quality and origins of materials. So the products have always been natural, and for a long time now all ingredients have been botanically sourced, aside from the waxes and balms which rely on beeswax.

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

A:I’d imagine this is true with most communities, but I feel a strong connection with the customers I have in Los Angeles. It’s a big community, but I still feel the connection. Being in LA, it feels good to build on the city’s contributions to the maker movement. I’m proud to print “Handcrafted in Los Angeles, California” on every box of soap.

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

A:I probably have more sharp things than I need in the workshop, I’m a fan. I have a card scraper that is probably gets the most use. It’s just a thin card of stainless that’s intended for furniture making, but it works great to clear the workbench of soap, which tends to stick to everything. A guitar string isn’t really sharp, but it’s sharp enough to fulfill all my soap cutting needs. A nice heavy gauge E-string cuts a thin kerf without breaking. And of course a good knife for just about everything. There are always bags and boxes to open, and I’m always doing some urban foraging for sprigs of herbs, flowers, and plants for photography.

Q:Where do you look for inspiration?

A: I get a lot of inspiration from my senses when I explore a new ingredient, particularly sense of smell. As an example, with perfumery I’ll take a vial of a new essential oil - say, hay absolute - and I like to see where that sort of transports me. There’s the thematic level, where floral and herbal notes like lavender and yarrow come to mind if you were to imagine a field, but there’s also the pairing of complementary scents from unexpected origins, say a citrus or a spice from thousands of miles away. In the same way those scents come together, oils and waxes can come together in soaps and balms just as harmoniously, and that harmony is very inspiring.

Q: We love your product. In your own words, what’s better about it than its big-box store competitors?

A: Being handmade certainly sets my products apart from big-box competitors, but I’m also able to address a niche audience who has an appreciation for quality and originality. I get to pull from a much broader pool of ingredients, enough to be a logistical nightmare for a factory. The choice from the very beginning to be palm free and to use sustainable and natural ingredients also sets Craftsman Soap Co. apart.

craftsman soap co product 2

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

A: I think most of the ‘Portland’ happenings in my life are pretty self-imposed. At one point I was keeping chickens and bees in the backyard, and spending a lot of time at a community ceramics studio, so every ‘what else do you do’ conversation felt pretty Portlandesque. There was also the time I went car-free for a month. Trying to explain how that was voluntary was pretty difficult.

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

A: I don’t straight shave, but I do use a safety razor. Hopefully I get some credit for that? A friend who blacksmiths in his garage forged a solid steel razor with a wedge grind that he gave me, I use it from time to time, but it definitely takes patience and skill. I’ve definitely drawn blood more than once.

craftsman soap co products 3

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

A:I make a concerted effort to act and appear professionally, but I think this throws people off sometimes, so I have to laugh when people mistake Craftsman Soap Company for something much larger. I wish more customers knew that while everything here is professional, it is still a small and genuinely handcrafted operation. There’s no gimmick or smokescreen, I legitimately weigh and blend every ingredient by hand, cut every bar of soap myself, and pour every ounce of oil, after shave, or wax into their respective bottles and tins

Q: How can readers get in touch with you?

A:Readers can find us at www.craftsmansoapco.com and reach out directly either through the contact forms on the website, at the Craftsman Soap Co. page on Facebook, on Instagram @craftsmansoapco, or by emailing us directly at hello@craftsmansoap.com.

Thank you, Evan! Keep up the good work!

The Top 5 Reasons to Shave with a Straight Razor

Wondering if shaving with a straight is right for you?

Straight shaving can have a meaningful impact on your physical, emotional, and financial well-being while reducing your impact on the environment. By deciding to become a straight shaver, you are resolving to take back control of your shave, transforming a loathsome chore into an enjoyable, empowering ritual. Here are our top 5 reasons you should be shaving with a straight razor.

top 5 reasons to straight razor shave

Portland Razor Company’s TOP 5 REASONS TO SHAVE WITH A STRAIGHT RAZOR

1: Straight Shaving is Good For Your Skin.

Gentle exfoliation, like the kind you get from straight shaving and using a shaving brush, can be great for skin health. Exfoliation removes the topmost layer of dead skin cells and promotes new cell growth, collagen production, and improved circulation. Shaving with a straight razor and applying lather with a shaving brush are two great ways to add this kind of beneficial exfoliation to your shaving routine. The brush lifts hair and dirt off the skin while applying lather and moisture, and provides the most gentle exfoliation. The straight razor clears dead cells, dirt, and lather away in one clean stroke, and your technique can be modified to provide a more or less aggressive shave.
Straight shaving is cleaner than shaving with cartridge or electric razors, reducing the risk of common skin infections like ingrown hairs, razor burn and razor bumps. Safety bars, lubricating strips, multiple blades and motors are difficult to clean and can clog with hair, skin, soap, and dirt. This can cause the blades to rust, become dull, and grow harmful bacteria which increase the risk of these aforementioned infections. A quality straight razor made with high carbon steel and proper heat treatment will take and hold a sharper edge over cheap stainless blades, and can be cleaned between each and every pass, making for a sharper, cleaner, closer shave.

2: Straight Shaving is Good for Your Brain.

Learning new skills that use both hemispheres of your brain--this study suggests digital photography or quilting--improves cognitive function, memory, and coordination. The catch is: you have to keep learning new skills to continue receiving these benefits. You can get started with straight shaving knowing only the basics of shaving and stropping, but there are many learning opportunities within the world of straight shaving. Learn to hone your straight razor, build the perfect lather, set your razor into some primo scales. While we are happy to do some of these things for you, we think you will enjoy performing them yourself once you get your feet wet -- why should we be the ones to have all the fun?
Many use straight shaving as an opportunity to meditate, which has been shown to lower stress and boost your immune system. Folks who practice this type of meditation in the morning claim that it sets them up for a more productive day. Evening shavers benefit, too! Performing an analog task like meditating or straight shaving an hour before bed--especially as part of a routine--instead of being sedentary in front of a glowing screen makes it easier to fall asleep, and improves the quality of your sleep.

3: Straight Shaving Saves You Money.

A well-cared-for straight razor should provide a lifetime of shaves and save you hundreds of dollars each year! Some savings are pretty obvious, like never needing to buy refills, sign up for a subscription, or drive to the store for blades ever again. But straight shaving saves you money in less obvious ways, too. It reduces the amount of waste you create, which in turn decreases your waste disposal bill. Harder to measure--but even more important--is the reduced pressure on landfills, which are expensive to construct, fill, and close; never mind the cost of environmental cleanup as a consequence of poorly-constructed or improperly-sealed landfills!
You can enjoy all of these savings even after accounting for startup costs and recurring costs for sharpening services! The key to getting the most out of your straight razor is in taking care of it: keeping it dry, stropping it properly, and having it honed when necessary will reduce wear and prolong its usable life and further extend your savings, even into the next generation. Long-term costs can be reduced further by purchasing a good stone and learning to hone your straight razor on your own.

4: Straight Razors are Good for the Environment.

Straight shaving is a zero-waste solution. With nothing to buy or throw away, it’s the best shaving method for the environment and a simple way to reduce your carbon footprint. Every year, 68 million American men throw away 2 billion disposable razors, generating 34 million cubic feet of hazardous, non-recyclable waste. This adds to 250+ million tons of new trash, 13% of which is plastic. In short, making the change to straight shaving is a meaningful step for the environmentally-conscious.
You can improve the environmental impact of your other shaving and grooming goods as well. We recommend natural, sustainable products from responsible sources, like those made by our friends at Craftsman Soap Co. From the Craftsman Soap Co website:

“We use recyclable packaging, post-consumer recycled papers and soy inks, and have always made our products free of palm oil because of its reputation for destructive farming practices. Coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter together create an alternative to palm oil that we believe creates a richer, fuller lather and a better bar of soap.”

5: As a Straight Shaver, You Have Control.

Straight shaving gives you total control over your shaving experience. While most razors are made one-size-fits-most, the straight razor is truly flexible. Sensitive skin? Curly hair? Kevlar growing out of your face? Your technique, angle and pressure can be modified for the ideal shave without having to change products or pay extra, and being able to take care of your own straight razor lets you know for sure that it is clean and sharp before every shave. A straight razor is a product that will treat you well if you treat it respectfully and responsibly, and taking good care of it will prolong its life and improve the quality of your shaves for years to come.

Other Sources Cited:
"Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the United States: Facts and Figures." EPA. Environmental Protection Agency, n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.
Clarke, Arthur C. "Solid and Hazard Waste." Solid and Hazard Waste. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2014.

Straight Razor Production Update | Shortened Lead Times, New Location

We are proud to announce that our lead time on straight razor orders is now only three to four weeks!

Yes, you read that correctly. Our straight razor backorder is weeks, not months.

Making Straight Razors in SW Portland

This efficiency increase can be almost entirely attributed to the setup at our new workshop. In February we began the search for a larger, more permanent space in which to make our straight razors and strops. Thanks to the venerable Kelley Roy, owner of ADX, we were directed to the building we now call home. The former cabinet shop, located just a few blocks south of Downtown Portland, recently changed ownership and is currently being renovated to house other Portland Makers. We are fortunate enough to be the first tenants in the building and look forward to meeting our future neighbors. It took a few sleepless weeks of dust masks, epoxy paint, and bribing our dads to help us out, but we are very pleased with our new 1200 square-foot space!

Straight Razor Production Upgrades

Easily the most exciting result of our move: production is faster than ever! Lead times on our straight razors are currently three to four weeks, down from three to four months this time last year. The new shop affords us space to layout our straight razor manufacturing process and allowed us to invest in more sophisticated equipment. Much of what we’ve learned comes directly from sharing ideas with fellow makers (it is just better when you work together!). I hope other makers and creatives can learn from our experience. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite upgrades we have made to our shop to improve our straight razor output:

  • Organization. One of the big selling points for the new shop is the natural, logical division of space. The warehouses we looked at prior to finalizing our decision were open-layout and would have been more effort (read: más money!) to build out. It also allowed us to separate ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ operations, improving overall quality control. Believe me, there’s nothing worse than finding steel dust from grinding razors on your half-dried wood finish. Having these divisions in place also means we can set up our old work benches and optimize them for specific tasks. Which helps create…
  • Orderliness. Far better than our old multi-multi-multi-purpose work table, each step in our straight razor production process has a dedicated station. Raw steel waits by the door to go to waterjet, straight razor blanks go by the grinders. Scales materials stay by the laser-cutter and laser-cut blanks are stored on the assembly station. We have a sink dedicated for sharpening straight razors and an anvil on a stand closeby for assembling a straight blade into scales immediately after. Leather and poly-webbing are stored inside our sewing table and strop hardware is within an arm’s reach. Relevant tools are stored at each station, and each station has its own set of tools. This one was especially helpful to me, since I tend to forget where I set things down.
  • Visual Inventory. This ties in with having dedicated stations for each step. Visual inventory just means that all materials and parts are prominently on display. This lets you know when you need to make more of something or order more material. One forgets how quickly you go through 500 brass washers until you’re down to 5 and you really, really need 6 of them...
  • Batch Production. Straight razors in production are done in batches of four and travel in a box from station to station. The order number, straight razor model, straight razor scales material, and other straight shaving add-ons in the order are printed and slipped into a cardholder on the lid of each box. This way, we always know exactly what needs to be done to complete an order. This saves time mapping out our day, we don’t check the master list as often, and assures that orders are constantly going out the door rather than languishing at a particular station for days. The 4-8 straight razor batch size seems to be our sweet spot, being able to move quickly while guaranteeing standards of quality are met at each step.
  • Automation. We have invested in a few pieces of equipment that have majorly slashed our production time. We have written before about using our Laser Cutter and Thermark to brand our razors. Our Laser Cutter also cuts templates, cuts prototype parts, and engraves our straight razor boxes. Being able to cut out a custom part in seconds is a very powerful thing if you know your way around CAD. We also purchased a clicker press. It is basically a terrifying cookie cutter. Before the clicker press, we would painstakingly cut out strop pieces by hand: first the basic shape with a rotary cutter, then the internal corners with a chisel, then the hardware holes with a hand punch. The clicker press makes very quick work (about 2 seconds!) of cutting out our strop components.
  • Error Proofing/Quality Control. Bad things happen fast, good things happen slowly. Having quality control steps built into the straight razor production process helps us achieve balance in making the best straight razor or strop possible, while getting it out the door in a reasonable timeframe. Work at every station starts and ends with a quality control step to guarantee that every batch of straight razors and strops meets our high standards. Each batch passes through multiple hands between steps, getting fresh eyes on the product and catching errors well before it gets to final assembly. If a straight razor doesn’t look exactly right, it’s far better to stop the line and take it back a step than to try and fix it after everything has been put together
  • Friday, Fun Day! We dedicated our Fridays to shop improvements, process innovations and experiments for a couple reasons.
    • First, it forces us to finish projects outside of normal straight razor production- things that are too new or risky for a normal day. This can be hanging a bike rack, setting up garbage and recycling systems, setting up lighting for our product photography corner, or nabbing great stuff from free piles around Portland (our huge cutting table was rescued from it’s destiny in a landfill on the corner of SE 3rd and Morrison). Other projects usually take the form of custom straight razors that require developing new techniques or build on our existing skillset. Each of these straight razors is a unique work of art unlike anything in our production line. These have resulted in some of our best work so far, and can be seen on our in-stock customs page.
    • Second, it helps us grow. Decorating a retail space, fabricating a new straight razor display, programming the laser-cutter, experimenting with gold plating… every project presents a challenge and an opportunity to learn. They frequently take a left turn and become something completely different from what we imagined, but that’s another fun part of the the process and why we insist on making time for it. You never know what might come of it!
    • Third, it keeps things fresh and interesting. The core straight razor production process--though much refined--has remained largely unchanged over the past three years. Although I’ve gotten much faster and more consistent at it, surface grinding my 500th straight razor felt a lot like my 50th… it’s hot, sweaty, dirty work. Knowing I get to try something new at the end of the week is a great motivator for me when work starts feeling repetitive.
    • In Short: It’s a fun way to grow individually and as a company, constantly improving and staying relevant.

I’m sure a lot will change in the coming years, but I can say with confidence that it will only get better. The focus has always been--and will continue to be--on making the best American-made straight razors we can and providing you with essential straight shaving knowledge.

With a bit more time on our hands, I’ll be attempting to create more content for the blog, videos, and tutorials. Keep your eyes open here and subscribe to our YouTube channel for updates. If you’d like to see a blog post or a video about something, let us know in the comments!

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In our last shop, this work table was used for scales assembly, finishing scales, razor assembly, razor honing, etching straight razors, packaging finished razors, shipping, and sometimes eating lunch.  Now it is dedicated to packaging and shipping.  

In our last shop, this work table was used for scales assembly, finishing scales, razor assembly, razor honing, etching straight razors, packaging finished razors, shipping, and sometimes eating lunch.  Now it is dedicated to packaging and shipping.  

 
 
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