I thought that I’d write a brief introduction to shaving with a traditional double edged safety razor for those of you that may be interested, but are new to this way of shaving.
I first started using a double edged razor in 2012 after becoming tired of the multi-blade cartridge razors partly due to the cost of the cartridges, and due to the cartridges continually clogging up – I spent more time unblocking the razor than I spent actually shaving. I started to carry out some research into safety razors and finally bought a Merkur 34c, some soap and a boar hair brush. There was a bit of a learning curve as I had to effectively learn how to shave again! I found that you didn’t need to apply any pressure using a safety razor as you do with a disposable or multi-blade razor and afterwards, that I had gotten a far closer shave that I’d ever managed to achieve before with and cartridge or electric razor. No ingrowing hair and no electric razor burn!
The shaves take a little longer when you first start as you need to take care while you’re learning, and there’s some preparation work to do first. Ideally shower first to warm face and soften your beard, if this is not practical, you can use hot water and a flannel to warm your face. You will need a shaving brush and a good shaving soap or cream (not gunk out of a can); create a lather over your face and then you’re ready to shave. I shave with 3 separate passes: one with the grain, one across the grain and finally one against the grain. Afterwards, rinse your face off with cold water and run over your face with an alum block or styptic pencil which will seal off an nicks you may have made and you’re ready to rock!
Below I’ve included a quick guide to some of products that you can buy and some descriptions of the different types.
There are two types of traditional razors (double edged safety razors and straight or cut throat razors), which I’ll cover separately as there a few different kinds of each.
Double edged safety razors use a variety of blades which vary in price, but are much cheaper than any multi-blade systems and start at around 20 pence per blade. There are many different manufacturers including Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Astra, Derby and Feather to name a few.
There are 3 types of opening mechanism which are, 2 piece, 3 piece and TTO (twist to open) also known as a ‘butterfly’ razor. Razors come with different types of safety bar too; you can get a solid bar (closed comb) (Merkur 34c or Muhle R89) which gives a less aggressive shave, an open comb (these have gaps in the bar which look similar to teeth) which exposes more of the blade and gives a more aggressive (and closer) shave; and example ‘OC’ razor would be the Muhle R41.
Finally there are ‘slant bar’ razors which as the name suggests, have a slanted safety bar which gives a ‘scythe’ effect when shaving, (Merkur 37c and 39c are 2 examples).
The 2 basic types of straight or cut throat razor, the fixed blade type which you sharpen with an stone and leather strop, and the shavette type which use replaceable blades.
The blades of straight razors vary in their depth and shape too, the most common and popular type being 5/8″ with a rounded hollow spine. There are many different shapes and weights available, but I won’t list them all here as there are far too many!
Straight razors come in 2 styles as well, there are the traditional folding razor where the blade folds into the handle, and the Japanese style which the blade and handle don’t fold.
There are also several types of shaving brush available, synthetic hair, boar hair and badger hair; badger hair brushes come in 4 different grades: Pure Badger, Best Badger, Super Badger and finally Silvertip.
Boar hair brushes are coarser than badger hair and they don’t retain water as well as a badger hair brush, but they are cheaper to buy.
Pure Badger are the entry level of badger hair brush and are a good starting point as they’re relatively cheap and start at around £20 due to the hair being the most readily available type. Pure Badger hair is generally coarser than higher quality grade brushes, but will soften when they’re broken in. It’s important to note however, that even when broken in, Pure Badger brushes will never achieve the same level of softness as higher grade brushes do.
Best Badger brushes are the next step up from Pure Badger and you’ll immediately notice a difference in the softness of the hair and the amount of water that it’s able to retain which make them good to use with creams and soaps which are denser as they are more absorbent to water and ultimately create a richer lather than Pure Badger brushes can.
Moving on to the Super Badger brushes, these are made from even softer badger hair and are even more absorbent and offer a more luxurious brush still, which are both denser and softer. These brushes are extremely soft and extra care is need when drying them. These brushes are more expensive than Pure or Best Badger brushes.
Finally, there are Silvertip badger brushes which use the very best, softest and most absorbent badger hair. These brushes are extremely soft and create excellent lathers from both soaps and creams, but they are also the most expensive grade of brush as the hair used is rarer. They are however, the most luxurious brush on the market.
It should be noted that there are many factors to consider when buying a brush other than just the grade of hair used. For example, some Super Badger brushes can be more expensive than a Silvertip brush dependent on the materials used and the size of the knot on the brush.
That’s it for this blog, but I’ll be adding more soon including in depth reviews on razors, soaps and other products. Any questions, please feel free to message us on Facebook, or better still why not call in and see the range?