If a straight razor catches or tugs while shaving, it is time for a sharpening. To keep a razor sharp only two tools are needed, a sharpening stone and a leather strop. A delicate and deliberate touch is necessary when working with a straight razor. More cuts to fingers occur while sharpening than facial cuts while shaving.
The first step is to hone the razor on a sharpening stone, or whetstone. A fine stone should be used. Take the razor and hold the blade flat against the stone using only the weight of the razor to make the contact with the stone. Gently move the razor, blade first across the stone. Then flip it over and move the opposite direction to assure that both sides of the blade are sharpened. Be sure that the swipe of the blade and number of stokes are equal for both sides of the delicate blade. Sharpening needs to be done once or twice per year. Stropping should be done with each shave. Hold the razor flat against the strop; this time the blade trails. Several slow and gentle swipes done daily should keep the razor sharp enough for the closest shave.
Straight razor enthusiasts site the link to historic tradition and the benefit to the environment as reasons for using them. Antique straight razors are a real collector’s item and can be found at antique stores, flea markets, and online. Antique razors that have been maintained can still be used and offer a very economical choice when buying a straight razor. Inspect the blade with a lens to be sure there is no rust, pitting or damage to the fine edge.
Ask a barber for advice when considering changing to a straight razor. A large part of the barber school curriculum centered on the use of razors, and many old time barbers will enjoy sharing their knowledge.
The Daily Collegian Online – Published independently by students at Penn State “A Trim Tradition” http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/1993/01/01-14-93tdc/01-14-93dnews-7.asp
MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory