If you’re now enjoying the experience of your straight razor shaving, you need to learn how to sharpen a straight razor if yours has a permanent blade.
It’s true, honing a razor is not heart surgery, but you do need patience, and a bit of practice to get it right. For those new to sharpening a straight razor, you’ll be needing a strop and a new razor. Most sharpened straight razors should last you a couple of months.
Also, it’s better you first learn how to strop a razor the right way, before learning how to hone one. As a matter of fact, some men frown on using a hone, as they like the feel of a strop exclusively.
Nonetheless, after using your straight razor for a few months, you’ll have to conduct straight razor sharpening procedure. For those that have been using a strop, you need to get yourself a good polishing hone. Remember, a very sharp razor is indeed a safer razor, so it’s crucial you maintain a good sharp edge on your blade.
The three main goals of Straight razor sharpening are:
> Making sure to straighten the blade, thus focusing on removing any visible nicks or irregularities.
> You’ll be looking to smooth out the straight razors edge, which is sometimes referred to as the (bevel).
> Finally, you want to make sure the bevel is sharpened to perfection.
First Initial Step: Testing Your Straight Razor’s Sharpness
You first need to determine if your razor needs sharpening. This is the first step, so do not discount its importance. It’s better to identify how dull your blade is before you start your straight razor sharpening.
It would also make you aware what grit is missing from the blade to restore its edge. With frequent use, you’ll soon be in a better position to determine if and when your razor should be honed. All the same, below are some “tests” you can perform to determine how sharp your straight razor is.
No 1 Test – Shave. While this might sound like a no-brainer, give yourself a close shave with the shaving tool.
From personal experience, you want to pay close attention to irritation, hair-pulling, comfort, and closeness. If you find that the razor is pulling your facial hair, it might be because it’s a little dull.
If, on the other hand, it conveniently skips right over the facial hair or causes skin irritation, it might be too sharp.
No 2 Test – Conduct Single hair cutting. You might want to grit your teeth as you pluck a single hair out of your head.
It might hurt a little, but please try not to scream as we don’t want to wake up the neighbors. If the razor is sharp enough it will cut the healthy hair cleanly. If on the other hand it tears or catches, it probably means you have to hone the blade.
No 3 Test – Using Your Thumbprint. Please be careful as you conduct this test. Slightly wet your thumb and move it across (please not along!) the edge of the straight razor.
You’re trying to determine how the blade catches your fingerprint. If a slight tickle is produced, the razor is probably just right.
If it produces a tickle that makes it feel like a kitchen knife, it’s probably time for straight razor sharpening.
Equipment Needed for Straight Razor Sharpening
We need some assumptions here, so our focus will be on hones (not strops). Nowadays, it’s possible to find varieties of hones with many different grits.
Lastly, I assume you’re trying to sharpen the razor that came with your shaver and not one you made from scratch. Below are some of the sharpening a straight razor tools you need:
*A good sharpening stone
*A well-designed strop (that’ll keep your razor sharp after honing)
*A Good sharpening stone holder (this one is optional, but it does help make the process much safer and easier)
*Finally, a tray and towel (this final step is also optional)
Two of Our Favorite Hones
While the online marketplace is loaded with different types of hones, the following two are the ones we found to be ideal for conducting straight razor sharpening.
Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone
The Norton 24336 Japanese-Style Combination Waterstone is one of the best most effective sharpening tools you can buy.
This tool comes with a 4000/8000 grit combination, which is just right for most razor types. The enclosed blue plastic box that’s used to store the item can also be used as a stand if you need one.
The box is also designed to act as a reservoir to keep the stone in an ideal wet condition in between uses. This unique set-up is what makes this hone incredibly powerful at sharpening razors at different levels of sharpness.
One of the best features of this sharpening stone is the size – at 3-inch. Most stones come in 1-inch setup and can create problems when sharpening your razor. The 3-inch frame is perfect for sharpening the whole length of the razor blade all at once.
Smith’s TRI-6 Arkansas TRI-HONE Sharpening Stones System
This an all-inclusive sharpening system. It comes with three rotating sharpening stones. This sharpening tool has a medium stone, a fine stone, and a coarse stone.
You probably need to experiment to find which of the stones can a sharpen straight razor better. Truthfully, I prefer the set up of this model as compared to the top tool. The price is also a great selling point.
While you might find other sharpening stones online, we do highly recommend the two models above, as they’re both all purpose stones also.
How To Hone a Straight Razor
Sharpening straight razor is an act that takes several practices to get perfection. Based on the sharpening tool you’re using, pay careful attention to the instructions, to prevent any injury from occurring.
The most important point is to utilize very slow light strokes as you slide the razor across the tool. Your goal is to get your razor sharp enough to deliver high-quality close shave.
This is not a race to get it done quickly, as you might over-sharpen your straight razor if you’re in a hurry. Slow and steady, gets the job done right.
Here is a great video I found with more advanced straight razor sharpening tips – from Plexuss.