Thursday, August 28, 2014

Your First Straight Razor: The Gold Dollar

Its very seldom to see people shaving using a straight razor nowadays as it seems that the long lost tradition of straight razor shaving is all but a bygone era that is well remembered by old timers such as you grand fathers. Today, most men shave using a safety razor or an electric shave as these both offer a convenient way of shaving off their mustache and beard in the morning. The only place that you will ever see straight razors being used is in a barber shop, a salon or in an old movie. Unfortunately, straight razors have seemingly outlived their popularity since electric and safety razors are easier to use.
However, there are still some people that prefer straight razors over the more modern electric and safety razors as traditional shaving implements such as the cut throat razor offer a cleaner and smoother shave compared to modern day safety razors. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of the use of the straight razor by people and straight razor enthusiasts that has revived people's interest in the lost traditional art and ritual of cut throat shaving. It is easily quite understandable why most traditional shavers prefer the straight razor over the safety razor because of the ritualistic approach in how it is undertaken.

You can ask any old timer who has used a straight razor for their entire life of how it feels to shave using a very sharp scalpel like razor blade under their neck, keeping a very steady hand over any sudden movements on their hand and trying to avoid cutting themselves, just for the thrill of being able to achieve a smooth, clean shave. The risk involved in learning to negotiate a sharp razor on your face does not seem to be a fun way of starting the morning, but it does give traditional shavers a sort of adrenalin rush.

In the olden days, if a boy enters the age of adolescence, their fathers would usually give them a straight razor as a welcome gift on their entry to manhood. Straight razors are usually passed on from generation to generation as heirlooms within the family and is often used for decades among the men in the family. Traditional straight razors such as Dovo, Theirs-Issard, Boker and Parker are among the well known brands of straight razors that have the reputation of being among the sharpest in the world. 

Unfortunately, these old brands are quite expensive today since their reputation precedes them with regard to craftsmanship and fine quality. There are a lot of affordable brands nowadays that are available in the market for just as little as $10 to $20 which you can buy without spending a substantial amount of money should you decide that straight razor shaving is not your cup of tea. A fairly cheap and inexpensive straight razor should be more than adequate to get you started in learning the fine art of shaving using a straight razor.

One well known inexpensive brand that most people buy is the Gold Dollar straight razor that is made in China which is made of 5/8th carbon steel blade which can be bought just about anywhere. The blade of the Gold Dollar is made from carbon steel which means it will rust after prolonged use, especially if you do not clean it after you use it and apply a thin coat of light oil in order to reduce oxidation when you keep it away for safe keeping. The Gold Dollar straight razor does not come in shave ready although it is pretty sharp to begin with, but not sharp enough to give you a decent clean shave, unless of course you do not mind carving your face with a cheese grate, as that's what it feels if you do not use a perfectly honed straight razor.

Since it is your first time to use a straight razor, we may suggest that you take very good care of how you handle the blade of the razor, for your own safety. Make sure that you have your newly acquired razor hones by a person who knows how to bring out the sharpness of its blade to its full shaving potential. Take slow hand motions to make you get used to the sharpness of the blade and its weight against your face so that you can estimate the force that you have to exert to successfully attain a smooth and cut free shaved face.

The Glorious Bygone Era of Traditional Straight Razors

The traditional straight razor or more lovingly called “cut-throatrazor” has been around since the early part of the 19th century, but it was not until 1932 that the first commercially produced straight razors started to be sold in Germany. These straight razors were made in Solingen, a small town in Germany which is known to produce some of the best cutlery products in the world, particularly scissors, knives and in this case, straight razors. 

Besides Germany, England and France are also considered to be among the best countries in Europe that make some of the world's best straight razors with regard to having the sharpest razor blades that earn their reputation of giving you the smoothest shave possible. Straight razors, particularly those that are made from England, France and Germany are made from the highest quality carbon steel materials. Carbon steel has been the first choice in making these sharp blades because of their unique metallurgical properties. 

The most common method of making the straight razor blades require carbon steel bars to undergo a heating process to slightly soften its metallurgical properties. Once the carbon steel bars are hot enough, they are subjected to a forge cutter, which cuts the initial shape of the straight razor while giving it its shape, along with its hollow ground. The newly cut blades are then dipped in powdered lead and is again dipped in molten lead to further tempering it, fortifying the hardness of its blade. It is then taken out from its molten lead bath and immersed in oil to seal off its pores, making it more resistant to oxidation

The heat tempered blades are then given their initial sharpening by subjecting them to a double wheeled grinding whetstone that gives the straight razor its distinctive concave cross section. After getting an initial sharpness, the blades are finally given one last honing that is undertaken by craftsmen who are well experienced in sharpening straight razors with their hands. The final stage in the production is attaching the scales (the handle) of the straight razor by inserting pin stems through the razor blade's tang, in which they are finally inspected and given the “falling hair” cutting test to determine the quality of their sharpness.