Types of Straight Shaving Razors & Which Is Suitable For You

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To really understand the difference between straight razors, it is important to be well versed in the different parts of the straight razor. This does not simply mean the ‘Blade’ and the ‘Handle’.

The biggest differences between types of razors lie in the way the blade is constructed. All razors are made of some type of steel; stainless steel is the most common with modern razors, but high carbon blades are often seen on higher end razors as well as Damascus steel.

Stainless steel is steel that is at least 10% chromium, and this type of steel has a greater resistance to oxidation, or rust. It is also generally a much harder steel than high carbon blades, so it does not have to be sharpened as often. It is also harder to sharpen though, which can be a drawback.

The grind of a blade, and the shape of the actual cutting portion of the blade (the edge) are going to be the most important factors in the performance of the blade.

The grind refers to the shape of the blade when viewed from the front of the blade. The true wedge shape goes from the heavier width at the back of the blade (the Spine) straight to the edge. A hollow ground blade shaves off some of that material, giving it a hollow or concave appearance. This is very important in the mechanics of the blade and how the edge is sharpened, and it is the reason that straight razors very rarely use a true wedge shape.

The shoulder of a razor blade demarks the ending of the cutting surface of the straight razor – after the shoulder lies the tang, which will often have a company logo or other artwork. As in other blades, the tang is what is used to connect the blade to the handle, but unlike most blades, the shaver’s hand will grip the tang. Small variations in shape and size can make or break a razor, as well gripping surfaces which may be placed in the tang (ridges of notches which aid in gripping the blade). These notches are called ‘Jimps’ and help make the feel of the razor one that you love or one that you just don’t care about.

The next factor is the shape of the Edge when viewed from the side, and there are 4 major shapes. The straight edge is the most widely used (hence the name, straight edged razor), but there is also the Smile Edge (the ends of the edge are higher than the center of the edge, making a ‘smile’ shape), the Frown Edge (the ends of the edge are lower than the center of the edge, making a frowny shape, the honed toe or honed out toe, where the edge at the tip of the razor slants down to the shoulder end of the edge.

Of all the shapes, the Frown Edge in particular is very hard to sharpen effectively and is usually avoided.

The Handle and Scales

shaving-with-a-straight-razorFinally, the handle will make a big difference. On a straight razor, the handle material is usually called the ‘Scales’. This can be plastic, wood or any other material, including a solid steel handle with scales cut into it, or solid silver (or some other metal). This will largely be a matter of feel, and the scales can often be replaced with something that has a better feel, or when a razor gets old.

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