A stitch in time? Maintaining your straight razor.

Are you familiar with the old expression a stitch in time saves nine?

It means that one stitch, just when it's needed saves having to stich nine later on, possibly when it's not so convenient.  I like this expression, it's a good approach to follow in life.  Changing the oil in your car's engine is better done in a garage when it's due, rather than wait until the oil-warning light illuminates your car's dashboard or pulling over to the side of the road to listen to the engine's dying piston strokes.

Adopting the same approach to the maintenance of your straight razor is wise.  Maintaining a straight razor is important.  Without it, ugly things happen.

 

This razor wasn't maintained.

 

The good news, it's not difficult and you don't need special equipment.  When it comes to finding out about razor maintenance, there's a lot of good and useful information out there.  Here are my thoughts on the topic. I believe that you can maintain your razor and keep it functional and looking beautiful for years to come.  I'm going to argue that maintenance should happen every time you use your straight razor. It's the old stitch in time approach. 

So many people have contacted me, tempted by a straight razor, but anxious because they've heard that maintaining a straight razor is really hard, time consuming and technical.

Why do so many feel that maintaining a razor is beyond the ordinary guy's capability and potential?  It's not difficult to maintain a straight razor. 

 

 

Zen and the Art of Straight Razor Maintenance.

 

Actually, there's no zen about it. I'm not sure that there's a lot of art involved either.  All that's required is a love of your razor and a commitment to keeping it in fine fettle. Oh, yes - some air, paper and oil. Let's get started! 

 

Keep it dry. You know why.

Water. You need to have ingest it at least every 36 hours.  It's ingrained in our health and hygiene routines. Particularly, if you've come to the world of straight razor shaving from the rinse it under the running hot water world of safety razor shaving. Unfortunately, your razor hates water. It's like Kryptonite to it.  Keep your razor away from water for as long as possible and you'll be doing your beloved blade a favour. 

In fact, one of the benefits of straight razor shaving is the fact that, once a good lather has been produced, water isn't required.  It's true.  Straight razors are made for the age of the great outdoors, for the battle trench, for the house where hot running water was scarce.  You can wipe the lather off the face of the razor, by wiping it (spine forward, of course) on a flannel.  One of the advantages of doing this is that it reduces the risk of knocking the edge of your razor against the tap or the wash hand basin.

 Oh, yes.  Remember that soap hates your razor too, so make sure that it's wiped off. Soap can collect along the edge, it has the potential to stain if left to its own devices. It can be a good idea to run hot water over the face of the razor to rinse off the soap, taking care that the water doesn't reach as high as the pivot.  

A great tip for maintenance is to ensure that you take a piece of toilet tissue, fold it in half, then run it down the scales, both inside and out (with the razor open, naturally).  It doesn't harm to wipe the blade dry too, perhaps on a clean cloth, just like you do when you're stropping. I hope that makes sense.  The point of this is to remove as much surface water after each shave as you can. 

 

Oil.

Ok, now we have a razor that's dry along the inside of the scales and along the blade and tang.  The next stage of maintenance involves a substance which loves your razor. Oil.

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, you don't need a lot of oil, just a few drops will do.  I always put a few drops on the spots highlighted in green (see below). 

 

 Basically, I could have said just put some on the spine, tangs and pivot. 

 

A friend of mine uses a cotton-bud to wipe the blade across the face of the blade (keeping clear of the edge).

Some prefer gun-oil, some a light mineral oil.  Personally, I prefer my own blend of oil, which not only works, but it smells great too. Get in touch, I'll happily sell you some oil in convenient quantities.

I sell the oil I use on all my razors. 20ml of peace of mind.

 

Oil will protect your razor from rust and lubricate moving parts.  Below is a video of me oiling a razor before packing it up. The important thing to remember about oiling a razor is, what goes on must come off. So bear this in mind before you next strop your razor. Too much oil on a razor can ruin a strop.

 

The next important factor in maintaining a razor is all around us.  No, not social media, but air. We need it to breathe and your razor needs it after it's shaved you!  So, after a shave, make sure that your razor sits resting, in air that's not too humid for a minimum 24 hours. Don't keep your razors in your bathroom if you can avoid it.  Trust me, the humid air will attack your razor. Obviously, be careful where you leave your razor while it's breathing and resting.  Remember that if you have children in the house, your razor could be dangerously attractive to them.

I also think that it's a good idea to let your razor rest for a couple of days before shaving with it again. This lets the edge recover. I don't understand why this should be, but I am convinced that it does.  This means that if you intend to shave every day, you're going to need more than one straight razor. Woohoo, I say.

 That moment you realise you're going to need a bigger razor budget.

 

Thus far we've covered three things that will protect your razor. Air, paper tissue and oil.  Nothing complicated or expensive in that list, is there?  True, yet those three things will protect your razor.  It's 70% of maintenance.  

So, I hear you think, "when is he going to discuss hones, diamond pastes and all those things I need to invest in"?  I'm not.  There's no need because the remaining 30% of maintenance is:

  • keeping your edge in fine fettle; and
  • maintaining the correct tension of the blade in the scales.  

Ok 25% of maintenance involves a strop or strops. A linen or cotton pre-strop (10-25 laps) and a leather strop (no more than 60 laps) will keep your edge good for ages. Here's a great video on stropping, it's well worth watching.

 

 

There we have it my friends, 95% of maintenance involves nothing more than paper, air, oil and a strop.

I promise that the remaining 5%, or how to tighten your razor in the scales, will be covered at a future time.

 

So, maintenance happens after every single shave!

 

What do you think? Let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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