November 09, 2020 6 min read

Choosing traditional straight razors has remained one of the most frequently asked questions in the men’s world. Shopping for a razor could be challenging for barbers, hairdressers, and other individuals despite having access to product descriptions. 

You might have wondered why one razor is more expensive than another, which types are for beginners/professionals, or the best razor point types out there. Indeed, the questions never truly end. However, to help you make better decisions and enjoy your buying experience, we have provided a guide that reveals everything you need to know about cut-throat razors. How to choose traditional straight razors could be much simpler than you think. Find out more.

What Is A Traditional Cut Throat Razor?

Classic or traditional razor straight blades are referred to as ‘Cut Throat’ razors. They might also be termed ‘Traditional Straight Razors’ or ‘Classic Straight Razors.’ Each nomenclature essentially has the same meaning.

Cutthroat razors have been an age-long feature in personal items. Hence, it is not surprising that people want to find out how to choose traditional straight razors. Many wet shaving faithful argue that classic razors remain the most effective way of shaving up close. 

Classic razors have a single straight blade that a pin attaches to the handle. When not in use, the blades simply fold back into the handle/scale. Steel blades must be top-quality and industrial-grade to enjoy a clean shave. Silver steel and carbon steel are the most commonly used steel blades. 

Sheffield steel in England has received international acclaims. Thanks to the city’s repertoire in steel production, razor manufacturers are easily drawn to it. Note that cut-throat razors must undergo regular maintenance to get the best out of them. Regular maintenance includes all of the following:

  • Clean and wipe dry after each use
  • Storing in a well-aerated area
  • Keeping out of reach of children

Like every other instrument with a sharp edge, the razor’s edge or fin needs stropping on a leather belt regularly. Stropping removes those tiny burrs that sit on the fin when you shave. It also straightens fins that may fold over during shaves. 

Understanding how to care for your razor helps you to choose and buy one. Top-quality razors should give you a close, smooth, and tug-free shave for at least nine months before honing. Nevertheless, honing your cutthroat is a skill that might take some people months to acquire.

Razor Steel Types

Choosing metal or steel products could be difficult because of the intricate differences between material types and brands. However, there are a few facts about cutting steel below to guide you:

  • Sharper blades are tantamount harder steel
  • HRC (Rockwell) hardness is the index for measuring steel hardness
  • Most razor blades have an average HRC hardness of between 55 and 62.
  • Higher quality steel is obviously more expensive 

The steel used for making razor blades falls into two main categories:

  • Carbon steel: Honing is longer, but the edge holds longer also.
  • Stainless steel: Might lose edges quickly but is resistant to environmental factors, such as rust and corrosion.

Nowadays, carbon steel is preferred because of the prevalence of poor quality stainless steel out there. Stainless steel that has not been hardened is blunt and often frustrating to use. Nonetheless, it all boils down to the manufacturer because a competent manufacturer can use any steel type to make quality razors.  

Razor Blade Width

 

Blade differences could occur based on the razor's width, weight, and how easy it is to access hidden areas of the face, such as under the nose. Razorblade widths come in fractions of an inch:

  • 3/8" and 4/8": These razors are the smallest, but they come with their perks. Their small size allows people to maneuver their way around the upper lip and under the nose. Thus, you can get more feedback on the position of the razor.
  • 5/8" and 6/8": This size category is often described as ‘regular’ or ‘normal’ because they are in the middle of available ranges. Blades here are relatively light and easy to use. These sizes are often recommended for beginners.
  • 7/8" and 8/8": These large-size blades have the advantage of extra size, which translates to less resistance by the hairs and, ultimately, a good shave. Thus, you can still get a clean shave even with a relatively blunt razor. Likewise, the increased surface area holds more lather and reduces the need to wipe often. However, the size might be considered a disadvantage because of how difficult it is to maneuver in difficult positions.

Choosing Razor Cross (Grind) Section

The blade cross-section also influences the total weight of the razor. For instance, a full wedge razor blade contains more steel than that of a full hollow. Below is a diagram of common grind viewed from the point.

 

 

There is also a grind known as a singing hollow. This razor is remarkably hollow and named ‘singing' because of its sound when shaving. The hollow grind is mainly used to make honing easier. The razor's bevel should align with the spine so that the remainder of steel is far from the whining stone.

 

Choosing Razor Point Types

 

How to choose traditional straight razors Involves understanding the shape and style of the razor's tip. Hence, when selecting one, you must consider both aesthetics and performance. Below are some of the different types of razor points:

  • Round points: By far, the most common and user-friendly style, round points are best for beginners since they do not have sharp points that could easily injure them with the wrong technique or angle.
  • Flat/square/spike points: This category of points makes it easier for the user to access the more remote areas, such as beneath the ears and under the nose. However, they are not as forgiving as sharp points. Thus, inexperienced shaves often get cut when they shave from incorrect angles.
  • Barber's notch: This is a mix of incomplete round points. In other words, the round point has a part of it taken out. The reason behind this innovation is not far-fetched. It considers the round point’s safety alongside the increased flexibility around the shaver's nostrils and lips.

 

Razor Shoulder Styles

 

There are three main types of razor shoulders:

  • Shoulderless
  • Single shoulder
  • Double shoulder

The shoulder's role is to stabilize the razor because stability is important for thinner and finer grind razors. However, the type of shoulder does not have a direct effect on the performance of a razor. Single or double shoulders are much more common because they strengthen your grip on the razor, unlike the shoulderless razors.

 

Razor Blade Finishing

 

The type of blade finishing is merely aesthetic. Hence, it has no bearing on the overall performance of the razor blade or the steel quality. There are two major types of blade finishing. However, there are several subcategories between 5them:

  • Satin Razor Blades: Satin finishing is similar to the look of 'brushed-steel' derived from multiple fine scratches. Finer blocks produce satin-type finishing while the more coarse ones give a Matt finish. Please note that none of them polish metal. Rather, they are designed to impart a particular finish.
  • Polished Razor Blades: You might have seen a shiny blade before. Mirror-polished finishes make blades shine more and the surface less prone to stains. Hence, it is not surprising that this finish is often used for straight razors made of carbon steel.

History Of Cut Throat Razors

A brief history of cut-throat razors reveals everything you need to know about their relevance today. Since ancient civilization began in Rome and Greece, men had used iron blades with handles crafted in the shape of cutthroat. This practice continued till the 19th century. At the turn of the century, there were improvements in steel and metallurgy. Thus, these razors had to be reshaped and reinvented.

Again in the 20th century, advancements emerged in razor technology. At this time, most men shaved or left it to a trustworthy person. Better off customers usually had sets of seven stamped cut-throat razors for every day of the week. 

Consequently, users could easily access shave-ready razors every morning of the week. More so, shaving could be weekly or bi-weekly, and the user had to stop his razors from making sure the blade was sharp for every weekday.

A straight cutthroat is a simple tool. However, it has shown again and again that it is timeless. The mid-20th century straight razors integrate a design that has been evolving since the 16th century. Over 400 years! Razors reached a plateau in their design in the 1930s and have not seen too many changes since then.

Conclusion 

Razors are simple tools now, thanks to refinement. While modern straight razors might not reflect the prototypes' value a hundred years ago, they are made of top-quality steel. Moreover, steel blades are more efficient nowadays. Choosing high-quality and durable traditional straight razors should no longer become an issue for you after reading this detailed guide.

James Adams
James Adams

James is an experienced hairdressing and barbering enthusiast. He has experience in the Japanese and North American scissor market and strives to bring information on haircutting shears in one place. Writing for Japan Scissors USA, he focuses on Japanese hairdressing scissor brands, models, and the manufacturing process, so you can make the best choice in scissors the first time round.


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