Straight Razor Care and Storage

Portland Razor Co. blades are made of 01 tool steel, a high-carbon steel with excellent edge retention, workability, and good corrosion resistance. It is not, however, a stainless steel and requires some special care.

  • Keep your straight razor clean and dry between uses.
  • Strop it well between uses. This keeps the edge keen, and clean of debris that can cause corrosion on the blade or irritation on your skin. 
  • For long-term storage, apply a very thin coat of light oil (camellia is recommended) or Ballistol and wipe off the excess.
  • Store in a breathable/moisture-wicking container. PR has nice merino wool sheaths available for purchase, but a sock will do! Do not store straight razors in a leather sheath long-term.
  • Using your straight razor regularly is the surest way to make sure you are cognizant of its condition. Inspect yours frequently to assure that it is always ready to perform! 
  • Finally, store your straight razor out of reach of children. 

Honing at Portland Razor Co. Part III

WARNING: RAZORS ARE EXTREMELY SHARP. MISUSE CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY! SHOULD YOU ATTEMPT ANY OF THE TASKS DESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

Any informed discussion about honing has to begin by saying: there isn't just one way to make a razor sharp. The ultimate test of any honing method is the act of shaving, and judging how well the blade removes hair and feels against the skin. If it cuts hair and doesn't ruin your face, then it works. How well it works depends on an infinite number of factors that may have nothing or everything to do with honing, from the quality of the steel to whether or not you drank coffee with or without sugar this morning.

Part III of this series covers how we hone a razor at Portland Razor Co., from setting a bevel on a virgin blade to final polishing and stropping...

Everyone has different priorities, and choosing a honing method is no exception. When we founded Portland Razor Co., we decided that a razor would never leave our shop less than shave-ready. It had to be functional, durable, and affordable. Honing became part of that equation, and we needed a reliable, repeatable method for getting shave-ready edges on hardened O1 tool steel that didn't take forever, and also didn't cost thousands of dollars. What follows is the best solution we found to meet our needs.

(Left to Right) DMT Diamond stones, Naniwa Chosera/Professional 1k, Norton 4k/8k, Naniwa 12K "Superstone"

(Left to Right) DMT Diamond stones, Naniwa Chosera/Professional 1k, Norton 4k/8k, Naniwa 12K "Superstone"

Our Hone Progression:

  1. DMT Dia-Sharp Extra Coarse diamond stone - initial bevel setting
  2. DMT Dia-Sharp Course diamond stone - final bevel setting 
  3. Naniwa Chosera/Professional 1K
  4. Norton 4k
  5. Norton 8k
  6. Naniwa 12k "superstone"
  7. Chromium Oxide-pasted nylon strop
  8. Nylon strop
  9. Hanging Hair Test

Setup

We don't mind getting our table tops wet and covered in metal dust, so our setup utilizes individual stone holders and a spray bottle UPDATE: We now have a dedicated honing station with running water.

Bevel Angle

The angle of the bevel is determined by the height difference from spine to the edge on the razor. A little geometry is required to illustrate this: by changing either the thickness of the spine or the width of the blade, you can manipulate the angle of the cutting bevel as it sits on the hone. A thicker spine in relation to blade width will result in a steeper, more open bevel angle. A wider blade in relation to the spine will create a more acute, or closed bevel. 

Putting this geometry into practice is quite simple: just set the razor flat on its side on top of the stone. We use 7/32" thick steel stock for 6/8 blades to achieve the proper bevel angle. We apply one layer of Super 88 electrical tape to the razor's spine for the factory hone, as this sets the ideal starting angle for the bevel and protects the spine (we don't feel the razor should arrive from the factory with visible hone marks). UPDATE 10/23/2017: due to production changes, we now hone all of our production razors without tape. 

1. Bevel Setting. Setting the initial bevel on a straight razor lays the foundation for all the following steps by establishing the cutting bevel's angle. At this step, we are grinding either side of the blade down evenly until they meet in the middle, creating a continuous cutting surface the length of the blade. The goal is to remove a lot of material quickly, but evenly. Starting on the Extra Coarse DMT stone, we do this by alternating between small circle strokes with the spine elevated OFF the hone, and longer circle strokes with the spine ON the hone. It's useful to think of the edge as several different parts: ultimately, we want to be removing material from the very edge (front of the razor as it travels across the hone), but any material we remove from the edge must also be removed behind it (the flat surface of the bevel). In bevel setting, we find it best to knock down material at the front first by elevating the spine and to follow up with longer circle strokes with the spine on the hone to flatten the face of the bevel. 

2. Bevel Setting cont'd. We transition to the Coarse DMT when we can still see a hair-thin reflection along the edge using a flashlight--we call this the "Shine Test". The bevel is almost set, and so we don't elevate the spine off the stone during circle strokes much, if at all.  We continue until there is no reflection along the entire edge of the razor, passing the Shine Test. The razor can pop hairs at this point, but the bevel is very rough and needs to be smoothed and polished with increasingly finer stones.

3, 4, 5. Honing. After the initial bevel angle has been established, honing can begin. We start on the Naniwa 1K, and move up to the next stone once all the hone lines from the previous stone have been smoothed on the bevel and it has an even shine. If we are honing a razor that has been in use for some time, we can usually start on the Norton 4K stone. However, razors with visible nicks on the edge will start on the Naniwa 1K, or even the DMT coarse if wear is extensive enough.

We use deliberate X-pattern honing strokes (push away, flip over the spine, pull back, with the blade travelling diagonally across the stone drawing an "X"). Some stones are narrower than the length of the blade, and so the diagonal path of the stroke ensures that the whole blade passes evenly over the stone. However, this means that the heel will come off the stone, and we have to be especially careful not to apply pressure to the heel as it passes off the stone, as this will cause a problematic groove on the bevel. 

We sometimes vary our stroke, using 3-4 strokes of each and assessing how the blade is behaving. For example:

  • Apply pressure heel-to-toe as it passes across the hone. This is especially handy on smiling blades, but also helps sharpen the toe and heel of the razor more quickly. We make sure to pass evenly and seamlessly from heel to toe during the stroke, applying pressure as a wave that rolls from one hand to the other. 
  • J-stroke. Draw a "J" as the razor passes down the hone. We combine this with heel-to-toe for added variance.
  • (Almost) elevate the spine. Apply rotational torque so the spine aaaaalmost comes off the hone, but doesn't. Here, we can feel pressure transition on to the very cutting edge of the blade, much like bevel setting. We are essentially trying to do the same thing; remove material at the front of the edge before flattening the face of the bevel behind it. We sometimes combine this with a stroke that draws straight down the hone to address the middle of the blade more directly.

6. Polishing. The Naniwa 12K Super Stone has it's own gravity. When the stone is lapped level and has the right amount of water on it, it will just grab the razor and make it perfect. We use very light pressure to move the razor across the hone, and let the stone pull the razor in and do its work. This is our finishing stone and produces the final cutting edge and polish that makes our razors truly Shave-Ready.

7. Polishing on Pasted StropSome shavers like paste, some do not. Well, we like it a lot, and will do a good 20-40 passes on it before sending a blade out the door. Chromium Oxide polishes the bevel and smooooooths that edge just the finest amount without removing much material, while also keening the edge. 

8. Stropping. How well we strop the razor can determine whether or not it will pass Hanging Hair. We strop on nylon for 100+ passes. You'll notice we do not normally strop on leather as part of our honing process. This is because we get comparable results going straight from the nylon to shaving as with leather, although stropping on leather can certainly get you an extra 10% in performance.

9. Hanging Hair Test. We test along the entire length of the razor, cutting a hair unsupported at least 1/2" out. We are looking for dull spots where the hair just slides off the edge instead of exploding... and I do mean exploding! The hair makes an audible "pop" when the blade is sharp enough. 

If you're trying this at home, step 10 is to lather up and shave with it! 

We hope you have enjoyed this series, and thank you for taking the time to learn more about our craft. If you want to learn even more about honing, email us and ask about future class offerings at our shop in Portland, OR.

Honing a straight razor with an X-pattern stroke on a Naniwa 12,000 grit stone

Honing a straight razor with an X-pattern stroke on a Naniwa 12,000 grit stone

Honing at Portland Razor Co. Part II - How to Hone

WARNING: RAZORS ARE EXTREMELY SHARP. MISUSE CAN CAUSE SERIOUS INJURY! SHOULD YOU ATTEMPT ANY OF THE TASKS DESCRIBED IN THIS ARTICLE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

Any informed discussion about honing has to begin by saying: there isn't just one way to make a razor sharp. The ultimate test of any honing method is the act of shaving, and judging how well the blade removes hair and feels against the skin. If it cuts hair and doesn't ruin your face, then it works. How well it works depends on an infinite number of factors that may have nothing or everything to do with honing, from the quality of the steel to whether or not you drank coffee with or without sugar this morning.

Part II of this series will discuss discerning when to hone, choosing your first hone, lapping the hone, examining the razor, and setting up your honing station. Finally, we will cover the basic technique for honing a razor: the X-pattern honing stroke.

When to Hone

You've noticed lately that you don't enjoy shaving. It seems harder than it was last week, the results aren't as good, and your face is red and puffy afterwards no matter how much lotion you use. You've been diligent about practicing your stropping, even posted videos to the forums for veteran shavers to critique. Your shaves were going so well a while back, almost getting that baby-butt smoothness. But now your results are patchy, at best. Well, chances are your razor is dull or damaged and honing is already way overdue. 

A more likely scenario is that you've put your razor through its paces for a few months and the edge has been knocked down beyond what normal stropping can restore. If you really want to put off honing, you can try pasting your strop, but only if you're confident that your technique is up to snuff. Eventually the razor will need to be honed, and you can either fork out the money to have someone else do it, or you can buy yourself a good hone and invest some time in a new skill set.

Assuming you have chosen the latter option, here is what you'll need to get started:

The Hone 

Which hone should you use? A quick google search will yield a lot of suggestions, and a dive into the forums will yield even more. Belgian Blues, coticule stones, natural stones, resin stones, ceramic stones... You get the idea. One hone which is affordable, consistent, and comes highly recommended is the Norton 4k/8k waterstone. It's a great for anyone wanting the simplicity of a one-stone system: the 4k side is abrasive enough to work out minor nicks and scratches, and the 8k is fine enough to produce a shave-ready edge. We use this hone in our manufacturing process and it does a great job at refreshing razors after prolonged use. One drawback of the Norton 4k/8k is that it must be lapped before its first use, as the surface finish from the factory is too abrasive and not consistent with the rest of the stone. 

If you want to tackle a more seriously damaged razor, a more aggressive hone like the 1k Naniwa Professional (formerly Chosera), or even a coarse DMT diamond stone will likely be necessary. The advantage of the DMT stone is that the hone's base is precision-ground and guaranteed to be perfectly flat, and does double duty as a great lapping stone.

In general, you want to remove the least amount of material possible, and so you'll want to start honing with the finest stone that will yield the desired result. Starting on a coarser stone will remove material faster, but too coarse a stone will leave deep hone lines on the bevel which will have to be smoothed out on finer stones. Starting on a finer hone removes material more evenly, but one which is too fine will take much longer and wear out the hone. Better to start on too fine a hone and realize you need a more abrasive one, than to start on too coarse a stone and realize you've removed too much material. 

Lapping The Hone

Your hone should be flat and clean of debris before you start honing. This doesn't have to be done before every session, but after multiple honings the tiny pores in the stone will start to fill with swarf--fine pieces of metal and stone--which reduces the stone's abrasive quality. Lapping clears swarf and levels the stone by exposing fresh material. This does reduce the thickness of the stone over time, but this is a less pressing issue than a dull razor.

  • To lap your hone, hold it in one hand with the lapping stone facing it in the other.
  • Under running water, press the stones firmly together and rub them back and forth so that the whole surface of the hone is worked by the lapping stone. 
  • Continue until fresh material is exposed on the hone's entire surface. 
  • You may also choose to chamfer the corners of your stone.. You do this by placing the edges of the hone perpendicular to the lapping stone and rubbing them together, creating a 45 degree angle in relation to the hone's surface. This is to reduce the consequences of some common mistakes, like applying too much pressure to the heel as it passes off the stone.

Once your stone is flat and clean, it is time to address the blade itself. 

Examining the Straight Razor

  • Determine the shape of your razor.
    • Razors that are straight are the easiest to hone, and require no special considerations.
    • A "smiling" razor, one whose edge projects outwards in the middle, will have to be honed in a rocking heel-to-toe pattern, taking care not to wear out the middle of the blade.
    • A "frowning" razor whose edge is concave has been over-honed and is damaged. Honing this will require some more involved restoration for it to be effective.
    • A blade which is bent or curved to the side is quite common, especially with vintage razors with an extreme hollow grind. Steel fatigues over time and can warp, but the degree of warping will determine whether or not the blade can be honed. If the blade is bent sharply, it is likely useless. 
  • Look for any visible signs of wear on the blade. Imperfections will show up as reflections under a light. More obvious examples include chips, grooves, and scratches on the bevel's edge and flat surface, all of which cause irritation. 
  • Rust is an issue that deserves it's own article. Light oxidation can be wiped away with a clean cloth, and a little oil will help remove and prevent further rust. Rust which has penetrated the razor's surface can be a serious problem, especially once it has worked its way to the cutting edge or has rusted through the whole thickness of the blade, which can render your razor useless. 
  • Examine the width of the bevel. An even bevel is a sign of a well-ground and well-honed razor. A bevel that is wider at the toe and heel may indicate improper honing: it is quite common to apply too much pressure on either end of the razor, causing it to deflect and flatten on the stone. This can cause your blade to wear unevenly, and may eventually cause the blade to "smile," or curve. 
  • Does your razor require tape for honing? We hone our razors with one piece of Super 88 on the spine to set the proper bevel angle. Taping protects the spine from wear and elevates it off the hone to manipulate the angle. However, after honing over several years, the blade width will have narrowed and the tape should be removed. Over time, hone wear will start to affect the spine at the same rate as the cutting edge, which helps maintain the proper angle.  UPDATE 10/23/2017: due to production changes, we now hone all of our production razors without tape. 

Setup

The honing station at Portland Razor Co. HQ

The honing station at Portland Razor Co. HQ

  • You'd be amazed how hard metal dust is to get rid of. While the kitchen table may seem like a great candidate, think twice, or at least cover it with a towel.  
  • You will need a source of clean water to lubricate the hone, so a sink, pan, or spray bottle should be kept handy. 
  • Have a safe place to set the razor while you move your stones around and ensure that there's nothing to bump into while you work.
  • A clean cloth can be used to wipe the razor, but be particularly careful not to cut yourself or mar the blade's surface with metal dust in the cloth. Soft T-shirt material works well. 
  • Have a system to clean or lap your stones with running water, as metal dust will build up in a slurry (swarf) on your stones if you are setting new bevels or doing a lot of honing.

Honing

Sharpening a straight razor using X-pattern honing strokes.

Sharpening a straight razor using X-pattern honing strokes.

DO NOT:

  • Cut yourself handling the razor!
  • Cut off your fingertips because you put them on the hone!
  • Lift the spine off the stone EXCEPT while setting a new bevel.
  • Apply pressure to either end of the blade as it comes off the stone; this will create a groove in the bevel where it passes over the edge.
  • Use too much pressure; the blade can deflect and flatten onto the stone. This is especially true of razors with a half or full-hollow grind.
  • Flip over the blade edge when changing direction.  

DO:

  • Start with light pressure, increasing as you get more comfortable honing and get to know the razor you're working on.
  • Flip over the spine, even leaving it on the stone.
  • Lead with the edge of the blade as it travels across the hone, spine trailing.
  • Use the thumb and forefinger of both hands to hold either end of the blade.
  • Apply a small amount of torque so that there is greater pressure on the edge than on the spine.
  • Go slowly; the only time I have cut myself badly was while honing a razor. 
  • Be intentional. Every pass across the hone is an opportunity to learn something about the characteristics of your stone, the razor, your fingers; to learn their unique textures, sounds, and smells. 

The X-pattern Honing Stroke.. For a demonstration of the honing stroke, refer to the .GIF animation above.

Keep your hone well-lubricated with water, wetting from a pan or spray bottle.

Keep your hone well-lubricated with water, wetting from a pan or spray bottle.

  1. Lubricate the hone with water; it's surface should be reflective and glassy.
  2. Place the razor flat on the hone, spine and bevel both in contact.
  3. With the edge leading, push the blade away from you and at a slight diagonal across the hone so that the whole blade passes over the hone.
  4. Stop short of the end of the hone, flipping it over its spine and NOT the edge.
  5. Pull the blade towards you at a slight diagonal.
  6. Flip the blade over its spine.
  7. Repeat until the blade's edge is even and gives off no reflections under a flashlight and the bevel has an even finish. For a routine touch-up, this may take as few as 10 passes on each stone. Check your work frequently. 
  8. Move on to a finer hone and repeat steps 1-7.

In Part III of this series, you'll learn about one of the last steps in our manufacturing process: how we set the bevel on a new razor, including our full hone progression, with tips and tricks to help improve your own honing. 

Honing at Portland Razor Co. Part I - Overview

WARNING: Razors are extremely sharp. misuse can cause serious injury! Should you attempt any of the tasks described in this article, you do so at your own risk. 

Any informed discussion about honing has to begin by saying: there isn't just one way to make a razor sharp. The ultimate test of any honing method is the act of shaving, and judging how well the blade removes hair and feels against the skin. If it cuts hair and doesn't ruin your face, then it works. How well it works depends on an infinite number of factors that may have nothing or everything to do with honing, from the quality of the steel to whether or not you drank coffee with or without sugar this morning.

honinghands.jpeg

Part I of this series will familiarize you with the common terms, concepts and techniques related to honing. We will cover when to hone, and what you need to start honing on your own. Sharpening a razor is quite simple and can be done safely and effectively by most people in the comfort of their own home! This series sets out to demystify the process called "honing," and equip straight shavers with the knowledge to sharpen their own blade.

Basic Vocab

  • Honing: The process of sharpening a razor or similar blade. This is done by methodically passing the razor across increasingly fine stones, called hones.
  • Hone: A whetstone, especially one used to sharpen a razor. The word hone can be used interchangeably with whetstone or waterstone, and is the primary tool for sharpening a razor. These are made from a variety of natural and man-made materials, and come in varying grits. For our purposes, most honing is done with stones between 1,000 and 12,000 grit.
  • Bevel: Refers to the angle of the cutting edge of the blade. Straight razors actually have two bevels: the first is normally called the "hollow grind," and refers to the concave surface that makes up most of the blade. The second bevel, sometimes called the "primary" or "cutting edge" is what actually cuts hair, and this is the one we refer to most while honing. The angle of the final bevel is set by the ratio of spine thickness to blade width, and how the blade rests when the bevel and spine are in contact with the hone.
  • Polished Edge: Describes a perfectly smooth, continuous edge. A truly polished edge will appear as a continuous black line under a microscope. This type of edge is characteristic of well-honed razors. 
  • Serrated Edge: An edge which is dentated, sawtoothed, or jagged This does not mean the blade is not "sharp," as serrations may be microscopic and are often capable of cutting hair. This type of edge is more characteristic of utility knives. 
  • Swarf: Fine pieces of metal, stone, and other materials produced during honing. Swarf is notoriously hard to clean up, gets stuck in the porous surface of hones, and can mar the blade. Swarf can be minimized by cleaning hones frequently.
  • Lapping: A technique for cleaning and flattening hones. This is done with a lapping stone or similar tool with an established, perfectly flat surface.
  • Hanging Hair Test: A test for establishing the shaving potential of a razor. A well-honed razor should be able to cleanly cut a hanging hair, unsupported by at least 1/2 inch. This test is done by holding a hair between your fingers, hanging it perpendicular to the razor's edge, and pushing it into the blade. This test should be conducted along the blade's entire length. 
  • Shave Ready: An arbitrary (but useful) term for describing a razor capable of producing a comfortable shave. For a razor to be called "shave-ready", it must be sharp enough to effortlessly cut hair against the skin without causing irritation. This means that the blade is free of nicks or scratches, and is perfectly sharp along its entire length. While not a conclusive test (shaving is the only conclusive test) a good way to determine whether your razor might be shave-ready is to shine a light at the cutting edge and look for reflections; any imperfections along the edge will reflect light that your eye can perceive. We call this the "shine test," and it is the safest way to check the razor's edge because you don't have to physically touch it. This is most easily done with an illuminated jeweler's loupe.

When To Hone

Starting out, it might be difficult to determine whether your razor needs honing. Indications that your razor might need to be honed include (in order of increasing severity):

  • Your razor does not pass the Hanging Hair test
  • Your razor no longer cuts hair effectively
  • You experience excessive irritation while shaving 
  • There are visible nicks or grooves on the blade's edge

It's hard to estimate how frequently your razor will need to be honed because everybody (and every razor) is different. Some factors that will affect the time between honings include how frequently you shave, the number of passes you do, the coarseness of your hair, your technique, the way you strop... even humidity can be a factor.

If you've decided your razor needs to be honed, you can mail your razor to us and we will hone it for you for $20 plus the cost of shipping. But ideally, you will  be able to keep and maintain your razor yourself for the rest of your life. Not because we mind honing rzors, we actually quite like it, but because caring for your own tools is rewarding and fun!

To hone at home, all you need in addition to your strop and straight razor is a good hone and practice. We recommend the Norton 4k/8k waterstone as a good first hone; the 4k side is abrasive enough to work out minor nicks and scratches, and the 8k is fine enough to produce a shave-ready edge. Combined with a good strop, this combination can keep your razor going indefinitely. 

In Part II of this series, we'll go more in-depth into honing, with tips to get you started at home. 

 

Straight Razor Care - Pins

Straight Razor Pin, Closeup

Straight Razor Pin, Closeup

What is a pin?

Traditional Straight Razors have two distinct parts: the blade and the scales. This article is focused on the joining of those two parts, namely the pins where the blade and scales meet.

What we call the “pin” is essentially a solid, or round head rivet; a permanent mechanical fastener consisting of a simple rod and a head which is deformed with a hammer. It’s a simple technology with a noble history, dating as far back as the Bronze Age; it was even used to make the legendary Viking longships! In what is called clinker boat building, Vikings used an iron nail driven between overlapping planks and rounded the exposed end with a hammer in a process called clenching.

Hand-pinning achieves spectacular results and is well worth the added effort. Sure, it’s tedious work; our 1/16” pins and washers are hard to hold and easy to lose, and never mind the unsecured straight razor blade swinging round your fingers! But the results are beautiful and secure compared to modern screws and rivets. Not only that, but they can easily be readjusted without disassembly.

Pins for straight razor and knife making are most commonly made of brass, nickel/silver alloys, and stainless steel. We use brass pins because we like the way they look and feel. Regardless of the material, pins sometimes come loose and will need to be retightened. Pins become more and more problematic as they loosen, causing ‘play’ at the hinge which can irrevocably damage the scales and pins. The scale material will weaken and the head of the pin will be forced to expand outward to accommodate the new range of motion, until you end up with cracked or broken scales and a useless pin that cannot be salvaged. For these reasons, it’s much easier to maintain your straight razor by periodically tightening the pin than it is to replace or restore badly damaged pins and scales.

Why Pins Come Loose.

Pins work primarily by pinching from either side of the joined pieces, and to a lesser degree by expansion within the scales. Tension is lost over time usually because the pin wasn’t peined tightly to begin with, but the scales can also deform and become compromised due to friction, corrosion, mold, etc. The most common cause of lost tension is friction from regular use, and anything short of an actual breakage is quite easy to fix on your own!

How to Diagnose and Fix Problem Pins

Tight straight razor pins that make it difficult to open or close the razor can be loosened simply by creating friction: opening and closing the straight razor a lot (we actually recommend this as a way for your to become familiar with a new razor, and to break in the pin). Conversely, too much friction over time will loosen the pin. Consciously take note of how easily your razor opens before each shave, and of how well it stays open on its own. Any ‘play’ side to side in the hinge will eventually cause the razor to open and close off-track and should be addressed immediately.

Tightening the straight razor’s pin is quite simple. However, there are times when simply tightening the pin should be avoided.

Do NOT tighten the pin if:

  • The scales have any cracks or breakage around the pin.
  • The pin is recessed within the scale material due to over-tightening.
  • The pin’s head is flattened and brittle.
  • The pin is visibly broken or cracked.

A razor with any of the above problems will eventually need re-pinning (read below). If the pin itself looks to be in good condition and there is no damage to the scales, you are clear to start tightening the pin. You will need a small hammer (ideally a rounded ball-pein hammer) and a jeweler’s anvil or other hard surface.

Peining

Peining

Tightening the pin:

  1. With the straight razor closed, place it on it’s side, balancing the pin on the anvil.
  2. With the hammer, give the pin a few firm taps. Alternatively, you can pein it gently with the rounded portion of your ball-pein hammer with light, circular taps. Take care not to strike the scales!
  3. Flip the razor over and repeat on the opposite side. This will keep the straight razor centered in the scales.
  4. Open and close the razor to test the tension. If you feel no change, tap a few more times on either side.
  5. Repeat until you have achieved the desired tension. At Portland Razor Co., we gauge tension by whether or not the razor can strike a pose, balancing upright on the tail and scales without closing.

Re-Pinning:

Sometimes a pin or the scales simply can't be salvaged, in which case the pin will have to be entirely replaced. Because the pin is a permanent fixture, it will have to be destroyed for removal either by filing, grinding, or drilling it out. Take extra care during removal if you plan to reuse the same scales! Once you the old pin is removed, you can replace it with new brass rod and a few washers. 

At Portland Razor Co. for each production razor we use 

  1. Assemble the razor on the length of brass rod with the #0 washers on the outside, then the scales, then wide washers between the scales and blade.
  2. Leaving about 1/16" on either side, cut the brass rod with the diagonal cutters.
  3. File one end of the brass rod so it is flat on top. 
  4. Pein one end of the brass rod. Go slowly and use light taps around the edge of the rod, rather than hitting it centered, so it will lie down smoothly. 
  5. Flip the razor over and ensure that the washers are still in place. Pein the opposite side.
  6. Continue peining, alternating sides, until both sides of the pin are smooth and good tension is achieved. 

Or, you can send it to our shop in Portland...

Long Term Care

Some straight shavers choose to oil their pins to smooth the action of the hinge and preserve the metal, and there’s something to be said for going the extra mile here. However, a small amount of corrosion on the brass can actually help keep the hinge tight, and won’t normally penetrate enough to compromise the integrity of the brass or steel. If you decide to store your straight razor for a long time, it would be beneficial to apply a light coat of oil and work it into the action of the hinge, lubricating the pin and preventing deep rust.

Regularly tighten the pins on your straight razor for the same reasons you strop the blade at every shave. A straight razor that is well-stropped between shaves will keep its edge longer and is easier to restore to a keen edge than one that has been shaved with multiple times without stropping. Similarly, tightening a pin which is only a little loose is much easier and safer than trying to tighten a razor with wobble and breakage. It’s the sum of many tiny efforts over time that add up to the greatest overall experience, and will help you get the most out of your straight razor.