What is Pre-Shave Conditioner?

We seek to provide our customers with the highest-quality products and the knowledge and skills to use them. To that end, we are proud to introduce our new Executive Pre-Shave Conditioner as part of our new Executive Shave Essentials line.

portland razor co pre shave conditioner

What is Pre-Shave Conditioner?

Pre-shave conditioners are chemically and functionally different from pre-shave oils. Pre-shave oils primarily add lubricity to your shave, and help to get more performance out of cheap shave creams and soaps. Since our Executive Shave Cream already contains high levels of quality, natural oils for lubrication, we decided to go a different route: use a pre-shave conditioner to soften the hair and extend the life of the razor's edge. Our Executive Pre-Shave Conditioner has a lower pH (higher acidity) than pre-shave oils. This quality of our Pre-Shave Conditioner softens hair and makes the hair easier to cut. Because hairs will be softer, less pressure may be used during shaving and the blade will experience less wear and tear. For our first pre-shave conditioner, we have added eucalyptus and mint essential oils to create a soothing, cooling sensation while you prep for your shave.

How to Use the Executive Pre-Shave Conditioner

The best time to shave is always after a shower, when the hair is hydrated and warm; a hot, moist towel is a great substitute if you don't want to shower. While your hair is hydrated and gently towel-dried:

  1. Dispense a dime-sized amount of conditioner onto your palm.
  2. Rub your hands together and massage into the hair.
  3. You can remove any excess with moist towel.
  4. Allow essential oil fragrance to bloom and cool the skin for a soothing, aromatic shaving experience.
  5. Lather shave soap/shave cream as usual.

PRE-SHAVE CONDITIONER SPECS:

Eucalyptus Mint Scent, Handmade in Portland, OR, 3.3 oz., Crafted from high quality, natural ingredients, formulated for smooth and comfortable shaves, Easy-pour, shatter-proof bottle. Ingredients: Water, Cetearyl Alcohol, Betaine, Coco-Glucoside, Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Sunflower Oil, Coconut Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Jojoba Oil, Aloe Leave Juice Powder, Xanthan Gum, Essential Oil Blend, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Benzoic Acid, Dehydroacetic Acid, Vitamin E

The Executive Pre-Shave Conditioner softens hair, extending the life of the razor's edge and soothes and cools the skin for a more comfortable traditional wet shave, no matter what blade you’re using! 

Source: https://www.portlandrazorco.com/shave-esse...

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.  

 
 
straight razor blog july 206 1

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