A straight razor is an old-fashioned razor with a blade that can fold up into its handle.They are also called open razors and cut-throat razors.
Although straight razors were once the principal method of manual shaving, they have been largely overshadowed by the safety razor, which incorporates a disposable blade. Electric razors of various types have also been an available alternative, especially since the 1950s. Despite this, straight razors still hold a market share, and forums and outlets provide products, directions, and advice to straight razor users. Straight razor manufacturers still exist in Europe, Asia (especially Japan), and North America. Antique straight razors are also actively traded. Straight razors require considerable skill to hone and strop, and require more care during shaving.These methods were once a major portion of the curriculum in barber colleges.
The different parts of a straight razor
The first narrow-bladed folding straight razors were first listed by a Sheffield, England manufacturer in 1680. By 1740, Benjamin Huntsman was making straight razors complete with decorated handles and hollow-ground blades made from cast steel, using a process he himself invented. Huntsman’s process was adopted by the French sometime later; albeit reluctantly at first due to nationalist sentiments. The English manufacturers were even more reluctant than the French to adopt the process and only did so after they saw its success in France.
Sheffield steel, a highly polished steel, also known as ‘Sheffield silver steel’ and famous for its deep gloss finish, is considered a superior quality steel and is still used to this day in France by such manufacturers as Thiers Issard. Straight razors were the most common form of shaving before the 20th century and remained common in many countries until the 1950s.
Straight razors eventually fell out of fashion. Their first challenger was manufactured by King C. Gillette: a double-edged safety razor with replaceable blades. These new safety razors did not require any serious tutelage to use.The blades were extremely hard to sharpen, and were meant to be thrown away after one use, and rusted quickly if not discarded. They also required a smaller initial investment, although they cost more over time.Despite its long-term advantages, the straight razor lost significant market share. As shaving became less intimidating and men began to shave themselves more, the demand for barbers providing straight razor shaves decreased.
Restoring a straight razor takes time, skill and lots of patience. It also requires a large number of expensive tools to clean and sharpen the blades. On my first website, I had a section dedicated to showing people how to restore a straight razor themselves but I have since removed that page because of many people trying and complaining about how they destroyed their razors. Straight razors are extremely fragile. Its not impossible to learn but there’s a lot of stuff to take into consideration when attempting to restore a blade, its not like a kitchen knife. Drop a straight razor and your edge is gone, heat a straight razor too much and your temper will be damaged making it very difficult to hone if not impossible. Even honing a razor incorrectly can make it very hard to correct. You are welcome to ask me any questions you like and I will be happy to help.