How to Hone a Straight Razor
You've probably heard about how a straight razor shave can give you the closest shave. But did you know that you need to hone a straight razor so that you get the best shave possible?
If you're looking to adopt a classic style of straight razor shaving, honing your straight razor is a must in order to get a smooth, close shave. Discovering the technique of honing a straight razor might seem tricky or intimidating, but it can actually be quite manageable with some preparation and patience.
On average, straight razors need to be honed after every 60-70 shaves. This timing can vary depending on how thick your hair is and how often you shave.
Here are three things that will help you determine when to hone your straight razor blade.
- You start to feel the blade pull on your hair and skin when shaving.
- It's not giving you as smooth of a shave as you're used to.
- You are noticing more ingrown hairs or razor burns after a shave.
Why You Need to Hone Your Straight Razor
You need to hone your straight razor regularly to ensure it continues to give you a close and comfortable shave. Not only will the process extend the life of the razor and reduce ingrown hairs, but it will also keep it razor-sharp and fully functional.
Sharpening and honing your razor regularly keep it in optimal condition to provide a clean, precise shave every time. By taking good care of your razor, you can ensure you are using an effective tool and reduce irritation caused by improper sharpening or honing techniques.
A dull straight razor can lead to:
- Ingrown hairs
- Razor bumps
- Skin irritation
- Nicks and cuts
- An overall bad shave
Essential Equipment to Keep Your Blade Sharp
Sharpening stones are essential tools for honing a dull razor. They come in various sizes and shapes and are made from natural stones like granite or quartzite. The type of stone you use will depend on the level of sharpness you want to achieve. Generally, finer stones are used for finer edges, while coarser stones are better suited for dull edges or a blunt razor.
Sharpening stones can range from 400 grit all the way up to finer grit, like 12,000 grit. Each type is suggested for different steps in the honing process. Here are our recommendations.
- 800 - 1,000 Grit: Preparation and Minor Repairs
- 4,000 - 8,000 Grit: Sharpening the Edge and Touch-Ups
- 8,000 - 10,000 Grit: Polishing and Finishing
A leather strop is a piece of leather used in the honing process to help maintain an edge on the razor and remove any burrs that may form after sharpening. It is recommended to use a strop before and after each shave to ensure maximum performance and a sharp blade. Think of your leather strop as your razor’s bestie—the two go hand in hand and you never see one without the other.
There are several types of strops available, including:
- Bench Strop
- Paddle Strop
- Hanging Strop
- Leather Strop
We recommend the Dovo Straight Razor Leather Strop.
Chromium oxide is a compound that is commonly used in the honing process of straight razors. It is a fine powder that can be applied to the sharpening stone to help polish the blade and create an incredibly smooth edge. Chromium oxide helps to remove any burrs and imperfections on the edge of the razor and improves its performance. This helps to reduce irritation and make your shave a lot more comfortable.
Step-by-Step Guide for Honing Your Straight Razor
Step 1: Prepare Your Straight Razor Blade and Sharpening Stone
Before beginning, you should ensure that both your blade and stone are clean and free of any debris or oils. To do this, you can use a soft cloth to wipe down the blade and the stone. Once you have your stone and razor clean, it's time to begin honing.
Step 2: Begin Honing Your Blade on the Stone's Surface
Start by using a lower grit stone, place the stone on a flat surface, and hold the blade at a 20-degree angle to the stone. Gently move the blade across the stone in a back-and-forth motion. Take your time and make sure you don't use any additional pressure, as this can damage it. You should also make sure to cover each side of the blade evenly. After a few passes on each side, switch to a higher grit stone and repeat the process.
Step 3: Bevel Setting
Bevel setting is the process of setting the angle of the blade to ensure that it is properly honed. This is done after sharpening with a stone and before stropping. It's important to get the bevel set correctly to maintain an effective shaving edge on your razor for a smooth shave. If the bevel isn't set correctly, it can cause issues like skin irritation or nicks when shaving.
Step 4: Sharpen the Edge and Touch-Up
Once the bevel is set, you can use a higher grit stone to sharpen the edge and make any touch-ups. This is done by taking even strokes on both sides of the blade until you have achieved your desired sharpness. You should be careful not to press too hard, as this can damage the blade.
Step 5: Strop Your Blade
Stropping is an important step in the honing process as it helps to remove any burrs from the blade and maintain an edge. To do this, you should hold a leather strop tautly and lay the razor flat on the strop. Then you move the cutting edge across it in an even motion. Make sure to do this on both sides of the blade until it's completely smooth.
Step 6: Polishing and Finishing
Once your blade is sharpened and stropped, it's time to finish it off with a polishing stone. This will give your blade a smooth and shiny finish that won't get easily dull. Start by using a lower grit stone first and slowly work up to higher grits until you reach the desired level of polish. Once you've achieved your desired level of polish, you're finished and ready to start shaving.
Step 7: Test for Sharpness
Once you have finished honing your straight razor, it's important to test the sharpness before using it. You can do this a few ways, and our favorites are performing an arm hair test or a hanging hair test.
For the arm hair test, you will just simply use the blade to shave a small portion of your arm hair. If it cuts through the hair without touching your skin, you are good to go.
For the hanging hair test, you bring the blade up to a single strand of hair and cut it. If it cuts the hair, you have a perfectly honed blade.
How to Maintain Your Straight Razor
After using your straight razor, it is important to clean the blade and strop. This will help maintain its sharpness and prevent corrosion. To clean the blade, use a soft cloth to wipe away any debris or oils from your shave. Avoid using water as this can cause rusting of the blade. For the leather strop, you can use a soft brush or cloth to remove any debris. Once cleaned, your straight razor should be ready for use again.
Honing your straight razor is a necessary step to ensure that it continues to perform its best and give you the closest shave possible. With the proper tools and technique, honing your razor is an easy process that will quickly become second nature.
Check out our collection of shaving accessories to ensure you have everything you need for an enjoyable shave.