How to Hone/Sharpen a Straight Razor | What the Experts Say
Shaving with a standard straight razor can be an incredibly rewarding experience. It provides you with a cleaner shave and even offers benefits for your overall complexion.
You just need one perfectly honed blade to get the job done. But buying the blade is just step one. You also need to take care of it so that you can reduce irritation and save money for a long time to come.
Why Sharpen a Straight Razor?
Once you decide you’re ready to shave regularly, you need the best razor around. The last thing you want is a dull razor getting in the way. The best case scenario is that you’ll wind up with an uneven shave. At worst, you could have blotches and redness on your skin.
A dull blade also increases the risk of you cutting yourself. Every man has gone through this, and it’s a real hassle to adhere bits of toilet paper to your face to stop the bleeding.
Razors naturally get dull over time, so you need to sharpen it regularly to continue reaping all of the benefits.
Stropping vs. Honing
You need a razor that’s “shave ready,” meaning a razor sharp enough to cut through hair. There are two different processes for maintaining the sharpest edge around.
Stropping a Razor
Stropping a razor involves polishing the blade to eliminate microscopic imperfections. In a way, it’s almost like cleaning the razor to ensure it cuts through hair ideally.
First things first, you need to purchase a strop. Different ones are available made from varying materials, but leather tends to be best.
It’s important to invest in a high-quality strop. It pays for itself in the long run. Once you have that, simply follow these steps.
- Set up your strop and rub your hand over it. This warms it up to prepare it for the blade.
- Lay the razor on the edge of the stropping surface with the blade facing you.
- Move the razor away from you across the stropping surface. You don’t need to apply a ton of pressure. Let the weight of the razor guide you.
- Once you’ve reached the end, roll the razor so that it’s now facing away from you.
- Move the razor toward you across the stropping surface with the spine now facing you.
- Repeat roughly 20 to 40 times until the blade is sharp once again.
Honing a Razor
Honing is the process of removing metal from the razor until it’s shave ready. This is done through specialized rocks you will need to purchase to do this correctly.
For best results, you’ll want to purchase several stones with varying grit levels. Ideally, you’ll get stones with 1,000, 4,000, and 8,000 grit. 10,000 grit stones are nice, but they are optional.
As you hone, you’ll also want water handy to keep the stones lubricated as you go through this process.
- Set up your stones and razor in an area where you have plenty of room to move, free of obstructions.
- Place the razor on the stone so that the blade is flat. The edge should face away from you.
- Run the razor over the stone without applying any additional pressure.
- Roll the razor on the spine so that the blade is now facing you.
- Push the razor over the rock gently without applying pressure or lifting the spine.
- Repeat as needed until the blade is as sharp as you need it.
How to Sharpen Your Straight Razor
Each of these does something different with your blade. Stropping removes irregularities while honing smoothes the blade surface. You need to do both for the cleanest shave possible.
Once you go through these steps, it’s merely a matter of maintaining your razor. Start by drying it after every use to prevent discoloration.
It’s also a good idea to apply mineral oil to the blade, especially if it’ll be stored for any considerable length of time.
Storing Your Straight Razor Between Shaves
Keep your straight razor in a well-ventilated area. The burr of the straight razor may have bent during shaving, so leave it alone for 48 hours. Throughout this time, the burr can realign itself.
Remember, a clean, sharp blade is only part of the way to get the best shave possible. You also want to learn the proper way to shave with the grain so that you nick each hair as effectively as possible.
Corsillo, Liza. “The Very Best Straight Razors.” New York Magazine, 20 May 2022. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/best-straight-razors.html
Munce, Garrett. “The 8 Best Straight Razors for Men.” Men’s Health, 19 Apr. 2022. https://www.menshealth.com/grooming/g38290358/best-straight-razors/