As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m reasonably certain that I have inattentive type ADHD. One of the ways in which it has affected my life, is that I have a hard time with housekeeping. I don’t feel like going into much detail on that, but one of the effects is that my kitchen knives have not been treated well, and need a great deal of care. Fortunately, I currently have the time to work on that, which is a luxury I do not take for granted. In fact, it relates to the expensiveness of poverty that we discussed the other day. Having a sharp knife is nice, and not everyone has the time to maintain them. Those with money can outsource that chore, but a lot of other folks just have to deal with dull knives, especially if they forget that there’s one sitting in water sometimes.
I also have another edged instrument that really needs some work, though I’ve kept it in much better condition. you see, while you were wasting your time with Gillette and other such disposable grooming instruments, I was studying the blade. Specifically I decided to buy a straight razor, over a decade ago, and learn how to use it.
I’m not sure how much money I’ve saved, but given the price of Gillette blades when I stopped using them, I think it’s been at least a couple hundred dollars. This razor, if I take care of it, will keep working for the rest of my life, or close to it, but I had to have a couple hundred dollars to invest in a good razor and a good strop, and I also went for a nice brush. It’s the Sam Vimes Boots Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness in action. I had the money and the time to buy this, and to learn how to use it.
I decided to work on it now, because after all this time, I also decided to buy another one, for a couple reasons. The first is just that alternating will make the edge last longer on both of them, and make both razors last longer. Hopefully I’ll get to will them to someone some day. The other reason is that it’s a bit hard to tell exactly how sharp my razor is. It works well enough, but I can feel that it’s dull, for a razor. The question is, how sharp is sharp enough?
There are tests, of course. The popular one is pulling out a beard hair, holding it by the base, and seeing if you can cut it just by applying pressure. If the razor’s too dull, it’ll just bend the hair over. But it’s also been a decade since I’ve shaved with a really sharp razor, and I’d really like something to compare to.
There’s also a luxury in having the time to rely on a razor like this. I’ve absolutely cut myself, especially when shaving around the ears, and rushing is generally not a good idea. It’s part of why I didn’t exactly fight to keep shaving my face when Tegan said she preferred a full beard – I had committed to something that was cheaper and more environmentally friendly in the long run, but a great deal more work.
I’m looking forward to the new razor – I don’t indulge in new stuff very often – and I very much want a world where everyone has the resources to save money like this if they want to.
I saved for a bit to buy the new razor, so I feel like I can afford it, but if you want me to feel even better about it, you can join my small but wonderful group of patrons. I don’t have a lot of benefits right at this moment, but I’m working on changing that.
My BIL uses a straight razor, and I’ve been curious but wasn’t sure it was correct to ask about it. Thanks for describing it so well! I agree, it’s a more economical choice for so many reasons.
Abe Drayton says
It’s enough of a “masculine signifier” that I doubt most guys would object to talking about it, but obviously I don’t know your BIL
I used a straight razor for a bit back in the 90s…
Since then, I’ve taken to shaving my head as well as my face, and I don’t think I could manage that quite as well with a straight razor.
Also, since my brief enlistment stint, I’ve done more than three lifetimes worth of shaving, ironing, boot polishing, and dusting, and am more than done with any and all of those. I don’t much care for how messy head hair is, and my face can get kinda itchy if I put off shaving too long, so I still do that twice a week, but I don’t particularly care how “close” the shave is, I’m just aiming for something twixt itchy facial hair and shaving bumps/blisters/ingrown hairs whatever from too frequent shavings.
Possibly dumb question, but do you have a strop for your straight razor? It’s been a while since I’ve read up on this stuff, let alone practiced any of it, but I was under the impression that something like a whetstone was only necessary for severely neglected/corroded blades, and for daily intended use, a leather strop with a very mildly abrasive compound (I have no idea what the grit# was, it’s been a long time…) was more than sufficient?
If nothing else, a straight razor still has some appeal to me as something that could be used nearly indefinitely in a scenario where one is independent of society, whether that is some sort of adventure/travel, homesteading, post-apocolyptic-whatever, being a fugitive, etc…
Abe Drayton says
I did mention getting a strop in the post, yeah.
The thing is, leather strops generally re-align the edge, rather than doing any grinding, and the more abrasive woven canvas strop I have in lieu of paste isn’t enough over time. A lot of people recommend honing your razor ever six months or so to keep it at its sharpest, but I’m assuming that’s with daily face shaving.
I shave my head and throat every couple of weeks or so, and I’ve only added the head to the list of things in the last couple years. I keep the beard short, but I honestly can’t imagine shaving it. I hadn’t ever expected to shave my head, at least until I started balding, but I honestly like how the mohawk looks, and having exposed scalp is actually really nice for thermoregulation. It’s like I’ve got cooling panels on my head!
But it’s been over a decade since I got the thing, and I’ve honed it maybe… twice?
It’s still sharp enough to shave, but it’s not as smooth, and razorburn is more of a problem.
For anyone looking for a cheaper & more sustainable shaving option than disposable cartridge razors, but not ready or able to go the full straight razor route, there is a very good compromise option in the double-edge safety razor. I use a straight razor (the same Dovo Prima as Abe, actually) when I have the time, but use a DE razor when I’m in a hurry. OK, they still use disposable blades, but they’re very cheap (I use a premium brand, which cost less than £10 for a box of 100), a good DE handle is cheaper than a straight razor, and since the blades are just steel, they’re recyclable (packaged safely!). A DE razor is also easier to learn to use.
@lochaber: yes, you use a strop for daily maintenance (not necessarily with any compound).