Face Technology – the last nick…Posted: March 26, 2009
pic courtesy druzziel
It’s now been a few months since I started using a straight razor or ‘cut-throats’ as they’re jauntily called – how we laughed on the way to casualty… actually I use it (reasonably comfortably and efficiently) every other day.
Here’s what has happened since then:
1. Since the initial nervy swipes using the razor that I bought from Brians, (and because I have two sons who now see that they can have one each at some point in the future) – I visited Taylors of Old Bond Street and purchased my very own new Solingen razor, case and strop.
2. I went back to Brian’s and also bought a honing stone which is even older than the razor – Brian remembers being told it was in the shop when the original owner bought it in the 1930’s.
3. Most importantly in terms of learning to shave like your Great Grandfather, I now completely understand how our forefathers (foremothers are excluded as women already have an amazing capacity for pain..) were able to tolerate what they had to, overcome what they must and achieve what they did. I also understand why beards were so popular.
Whatever the context – be it missionary zeal, colonial avarice or just plain running away from pain and toward something better – If you have never:
rubbed a block of alum onto a recently straight-shaved face
or even better, dabbed a wet ‘styptic pencil’ onto an open and bleeding cut,
you will never understand, having started a day thus, how ready you could be to
* wear a tight collar, shout and stare at dusky maidens’ ankles until you’re spent
* explore an unknown continent wearing a 3 piece suit, tie and new boots
* work in a bootblack bottling mine for 22 hours wearing a cap and braces
* do all of the above and generally feel that everyone else should also be enjoying hard work, discipline and pain
or just jump on a wagon and go and look for a new life.
As wikipedia puts it
“- A styptic or hemostatic pencil is a short stick of medication, usually anhydrous aluminum sulfate (a type of alum) or titanium dioxide, which is used for stanching blood by causing blood vessels to contract at the site of the wound.
Before safety razors were invented, it was an essential part of a shaving kit and was used to seal cuts caused by improper shaving. Some people continue to use styptic pencils for minor skin wounds from safety or electric razors.
While effective at stopping blood loss, some who use it feel that the sting of the medication as it takes effect can be worse than the pain of the cut itself.”
There’s plenty of advice and videos all over the internets about how to sharpen, shave and generally adapt to straight razors so I’m not going to repeat it here.
The sum total of my wisdom/experience is:
1. Sharpening, stropping and shaving has a very long learning curve (I’m way from finished) – BUT learning each of them is worthwhile.
2. You cant over-strop (as long as its flat), soften your beard too much (with oil, steam, pre-shave, cream and/or whatever you want to use) or pull your skin too tight when shaving
3. Don’t rush – ever
4. W Somerset Maugham once said “In every shave there is a philosophy”. Look for yours.
PS You probably wont find it here: