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 ↓↓↓




FAQ: "Help! I Chipped My Straight Razor! Can you fix it?"

If you’re reading this article, you probably have a damaged razor. Don’t panic! It’s really no biggie, even if it makes for an uncomfortable shave. A quality straight razor can be restored to shaving-sharp without much heartache. Minor damage like chips & dings can be resolved with a basic honing service, but even major damage like a bent or broken point can at least be made functional again.

Why do Straight Razors Chip?

Shown here is a straight razor with a classic case of “sink bite.” Though a pain to shave with, the edge can be easily restored with proper tools and techniques.

Shown here is a straight razor with a classic case of “sink bite.” Though a pain to shave with, the edge can be easily restored with proper tools and techniques.

Straight razors are highly specialized tools and differ from your average kitchen or utility knife in a few key ways. Harder steels, thin blades with deep hollow grinds, acute bevel angles, and polished edges excel at shaving hair. These characteristics produce finer edges, but they are also make them more brittle, meaning the blade is more likely to break than bend. You wouldn’t want to chop an onion or shuck oysters with a straight razor, for example (at least, not one you want to shave with later)!

The most common source of damage we see is from what we call “sink bite.” This occurs when the user rinses with the blade open and bumps the edge against the faucet. Other common sources of frustration are the lids on Barbicide jars, other items in your toiletry bag, countertops, fingernails, combs, and dry shaving (did you know that when dry, human facial hair has the same hardness as an equivalent thickness of copper wire?).

How to avoid chips and dings.

Fortunately, most damage can be avoided by adopting a few simple practices:

  • Don’t touch the edge.

  • Close the razor to set it down, rinse, or sanitize*

  • Test sharpness by shaving hair, not by touching, strumming, or finger-nailing the edge

  • Strop your razor properly. Click here to view our tutorial

  • Prep your hair for shaving. Dry hair is tough, wet hair is soft!

*Our Cascade Steel is stainless, so rust is not a concern when rinsing and sanitizing the razor. Vintage razors and modern blades made of carbon steel should be kept dry and oiled to prevent rust.

How to Fix Chips & Dings

Even straight razors with major damage, like the large chip pictured here, can be made safe to use again.

Even straight razors with major damage, like the large chip pictured here, can be made safe to use again.

While a chipped razor is a pain to shave with, it isn’t the end of the world. Quality straight razors are designed with maintenance in mind, and restoring the edge is fairly straightforward. The only way to remove a chip or ding from your razor’s edge is to hone it out on a stone. While similar to knife sharpening, honing razors is a nuanced skill that requires more specialized tools and techniques than your pocket knife does. Skilled DIY’ers are encouraged to check out our tutorials, take our honing class, pick up a quality hone and give it a shot. For everyone else, you can send us your razor for a honing service for restoration.