The straight razor must be properly looked after in order to ensure the maintenance and long life of this traditional men's accessory. While straight razors made of stainless steel are less demanding, other razors have to be rinsed with clear water and thoroughly dried after each use. When not in use for longer periods, it is recommended that the razor be rubbed with light oil. Likewise, the razor should not be stored in a damp and unaired state. There is no generally valid rule for the whetting (stropping) of straight razors; in many cases, it is sufficient to draw the razor lightly over the ball of the thumb, especially when it has been left unused for several days between shaves. Wet shavers of the old school know that the facet (blade) "grows", i.e. the microscopically discernible and extremely fine "fin" on the cutting edge changes during the shave but returns to its old position afterwards; it stretches and again becomes extremely fine. Nevertheless, this fine "fin" will still wear away at some stage and a suitable strop should then be bought. There is no common rule for sharpening of razors; sometimes it is sufficient to sharpen it at the ball of the thumb, especially if the razor is not used for several days. People, who often use razors, know: the cutting edge is growing, meaning that the very fine burr on the cutting edge (which can be seen under the microscope) changes whenever the razor is used, but it finally goes back to its old position and will become very fine again. Nevertheless the burr will wear out after a certain period of time, and then the suitable razor strop should be bought.
While flat blades are whetted on a suspended strop (velvet knives), 1/2 or 1/1 concave blades require a hanging strop made of fine cowhide leather or extremely supple Russia leather either with a turning device for hanging up or with hemp hose on the back, which serves to align the "fin" in the direction pointing away from the razor. If required, the leather side can be rubbed with an extremely thin layer of fine abrasive paste (red paste) and - for a final polishing on a separate strop - with polishing paste (black paste), which is worked in with the ball of the thumb. Stropping is performed at a flat angle with the back of the razor laid on the strop; the razor is drawn in the direction away from the body. The razor is then turned over on its back and drawn in towards the body. Changing directions without turning the razor over makes the blade become round (crowned) so that the cutting properties are lost. In this case, only resharpening can help.
The beginner starts first with the smooth and unproblematic areas of the face. To do this, the opened razor is held with thumb and three fingers so that the opened holder points away from the face. Lathered with good shaving soap and thus made supple, the skin must be tightened; the razor is moved at an angle of approx. 30° firstly in the direction of growth of the beard and then against the direction of growth. If held too flat, the razor rips the stubble; if held too upright, it cuts the skin. Always move it in the direction of the cutting edge and never horizontally (danger of injury); always draw it through evenly and hold it a little more upright at corners, dimples and at the upper lip. If the razor gets damaged by being dropped or when being put into its holder, it should not be used further. Stropping does not help here; the razor must be resharpened and whetted by a specialist.
The basic materials for good straight razors are standard steels with a carbon content of 0.6% and greater and which attain a maximum of hardness, elasticity and resistance to wear in a careful process of tempering and treatment. The advantage of stainless grades of steel is that these require less looking after.
DOVO straight razors are whetted in the factory for use (whetting on leather by hand). If you own a suitable strop, you should nevertheless take into account that the razor must first "rest" after use. After the razor has been carefully rinsed and dried, it should not be used again for at least 24 - 48 hours because the fine "fin" on the cutting edge straightens up again extremely slowly. If the razor is stropped too soon (or stropped incorrectly by moving it backwards and forwards without turning it over), the "fin" which is necessary for a close shave breaks off. Between six and fifteen shaves are possible without stropping in between.
This information supplied by Dovo, the manufacturer of the best razors we at Blokey Stuff have to offer you.
Last updated 10th October 2006, re-formated 30-09-2008.