Best Straight Razors for you in 2016
Shaving is a ritual for men. While some enjoy the opportunity of taking a little time out of their busy schedule to pamper and groom themselves just the way they like, others see shaving as a chore.
Men who enjoy shaving would most likely welcome the return of the straight razor. Folding straight razors were first sold in England in the late 17th Century and were the only option for men until the 1900s.
The introduction of the more convenient (and perceived by many men as less harmful) safety razors ,and later electric razors turned the straight razor from an essential grooming tool for men into an outdated relic.
The straight razor, also known as the barber razor or the cut throat, is making a comeback! Whether you are one of those men who want to experiment with it or an ardent follower of straight blades, this review will give you detailed information about top straight razors to buy. However, before buying a straight razor, there are factors you need to consider before making your decision.
Everything You Need to Consider Before Buying a Straight Razor
The most important consideration when choosing a top straight razor is none other than your own patience and discipline. It is pertinent for you to note that shaving with a straight razor is not for those who are in a hurry or don’t want to spend time learning the proper technique.
Shaving with a straight razor can be likened to sipping a vintage wine- which entails slowly sipping of the wine in order to savor its sweetness and not gobbling it down your throat like water. Make sure you are prepared to be slow and deliberate as you get used to and master the blades. Ardent devotees of straight blades will tell you this traditional method makes them feel more masculine.
Another factor to consider is the price. You might wonder why a piece of steel attached to a handle is costly. Well, an exceptional quality razor will be in the hundred dollar range, and the very best can run over a thousand dollars. This is because of the material they are made from, the exceptional craftsmanship and precision that goes into forging and honing them. Note that when you buy a straight razor, it becomes a lifetime pal.
Judging a high quality razor is also another factor not to be left out. A blade can have a hard, medium or soft temper, which has a major bearing on how long it will keep its edge and how easy it will be to sharpen(hard temper is for the former, soft for the latter). The grind (the concave indentations on the blade) will also be important, because a full hollow makes the blade lighter and sharper, but also dangerous, while less of a hollow is a better choice for beginners.
Sticking with one of the major heritage manufacturers of straight razors (almost all of which are located in Germany or France) might be a better option if you don’t know the pros and cons of knives and blades.
The final thing to check is the blade’s material. Most inexpensive straight razors are made from stainless steel, which are said to cut better and last longer than old-school carbon-steel blades. However, prominent manufacturers still make their razors from carbon steel, because they have experienced craftsmen at their disposal who are able to create an extremely high-quality blade with it.
That being said, it’s about time we get to review the list of best straight razors.
Dovo Straight Razor Carbon, Ebony Wood Handle
If you are not familiar with DOVO, it is a stainless steel accessory business located in Solingen, Germany. It boasts many years of history producing items for a number of industries such as cutlery, scissors, manicure sets ,shaving brushes, and of course, the Dovo Straight Razor. This product made it to the top of the best straight razor list because it has a half-hollow blade and its ebony handle.
Although it is a half-hollow straight blade, the Dovo Straight Razor is still light and sharp but not a lethal in the hand of a newbie user. What distinguishes this straight razor from others is that it’s crafted from very high quality carbon-steel, which makes the blade durable, hard and elastic. The blades is5/8” wide and has a rounded point which is definitely easy for new users and allows for easy shaving of smaller areas of the face. However, this might not satisfy experienced users.
The ebony-scaled handle is an added bonus since it’s equally good-looking and allows for a strong grip without slipping in the hand when shaving. The downside about this straight razor is that it will require sharpening more often-which might not be fun for new users, although, ardent devotees will enjoy it. It is noteworthy to mention that Dovo ships this straight razor “factory shave’, which is their normal approach and does not mean “start shaving immediately after receiving the package”.
You will most likely have to have it honed and/or strop it a bit before first use. It can be purchased online at Amazon.com for $133.97
Boker King Cutter Straight Razor 10521
While Dovo is one of the best-known razor and cutlery manufacturers in Solingen, Boker is the other, and its straight razors are of the same high quality. The Boker King Cutter might be marked “Boker USA”, but that doesn’t mean it is produced in the US. The razor is assembled in America, while the blades are still hand-crafted in Solingen, Germany to the exceptional standards the company is famously known for.
The Boker King Cutter has a 5/8” carbon-steel alloy blade, with the alloy been an improvement on the old-school carbon steel. The alloy allows the blade be ground to an even finer edge. The blade has a rounded point with a full-hollow grind, which makes it simpler for new straight razor cutters to maneuver easily, but it’s still sharper than the half-hollow Dovo listed above. When it comes to shaving, this straight razor due to its closeness and comfort makes the list of the best straight razor for men.
Unlike the Dovo Straight Cutter, the Boker King has a plastic-scaled handle. It is not as solid as Dovo’s handle because it’s light-weighted, which creates a slight balance issue with the blade been heavier than the handle. However, after using it a few times, you will get used to it and love the shave. This straight razor supposedly comes “shave ready”, but just as mentioned above, it will still need some stropping before it’s ready to use on your face. The Boker King Cutter can be purchased online at Amazon.com for $100.01.
Thiers-Issard 6/8” Straight Razor, Round Tip, Festooned
Who says Germans are the only ones who can make quality razors? France is also famous for producing outstanding handcrafted steel blades, and the name to appreciate when discussing about French razors is Thiers-Issard. This amazing straight razor will cost you more than double the price of Dovo or Boker King; however, if you want a quality shave, this beauty will do the job exceptionally well.
The mirror-polished 6/8” blade is slightly longer than the first two reviewed products in the list of best straight razors for men. The full-hollow blade is forged and ground in France from TI Carbonsong C135 steel, with a round nose making it look less intimidating despite its length and grind. Looking at it, you will know its one-of-a kind. The handle is a masterpiece as well; it is made with blonde horn scales, and the Thiers-Issard eagle logo is etched in black on the blade to give it an elegant and striking look.
The grip is firm, the razor is well-balanced and the shaving experience you get is out of this world. The razor, which needs to be honed once you receive the package, comes with a premium calfskin travel pouch as well. It can be purchased online at Amazon.com for about $370. You might wonder why the Thiers-Issard isn’t ranked at #1 when it’s that good. It’s simply because it isn’t a beginner’s razor, and because it comes at a staggering price. For those who have some spare cash to splurge, this straight razor makes the top of the list.
Bison+Max Sprecher Signature Straight Razor
This top-quality product is made by renowned artisan, Max Sprecher, and sells for nearly a thousand dollars.
The large8/8’’ quarter-hollow blade is intimidating, and forged from 01 carbon steel, with a hardness like no other, which will likely allow this blade last for a lifetime. The wedge is made from banded faux-ivory, the assembly is made of brass pins, and the handle has scales built from ultra-high density carbon fiber uniplate. Looking at the handle, it should last as long as the blade. Bison says the signature razor was made to be a family heirloom, and it really looks like one that can be passed down from one generation to the other.
It also comes with an included Horween Chromexcel case. It is a heavier-than-usual razor, weighing more than 2.5ounces because of the length and heft of the blade. However, it doesn’t feel heavy once you begin shaving with it. It is extremely well-balanced and the feel of the blade on your skin is quite pleasurable.
It is obviously not a razor for new straight razor users or the fain-hearted, but it’s awesome. Looking at the price at which the razor is sold, it’s most likely that most people won’t be enthusiastic anytime soon to pull out their credit cards and purchase this razor. If you are looking for a lifetime buddy with exceptional quality, this is the straight razor to opt for.
Please note that this razor comes in and out of availability on Amazon. If it is not available and you want to buy it, try going straight to the manufacturer.
A.P. Donovan 7/8’ Straight Razor
Most straight razors come without any of the extra accessories you need when shaving. Those looking for a complete set and who are macho enough to try the 7/8” blade should check out the A.P. Donovan.
The product comes complete with a badger hair, mahogany and stainless steel brush, a high-quality but rather short abrasive leather strop with a metal carabiner belt and abrasive paste, soap and a carved, decorative box. This is really exciting, isn’t it? You don’t have to start looking for all these extras before you shave. Simply bring out your A.P.Donovan, and you are ready to go.
The full-hollow 7/8 inches blade is made from Japanese carbon which is as strong as the steel used on Max Sprecher. It’s balanced quite nicely by the mahogany handle without scales. Although, it is comfortable and close, new razor users shouldn’t dare this one because of the size of the blade it can be purchased on Amazon.com at about $200(shipping costs included).
Although, it’s a bit expensive than first two razors, the A.P.Donovan isn’t quite up to the task than them. However, it’s still a strong straight razor.
Dovo Forestal Straight Razor
With the Dovo Forestal, durability, performance, agility and cut-throat sharpness has been packed into this straight razor.
Its carbon-steel body provides the much needed quality and durability, while the wooden handle allows for even distribution of weight for a closer shave. The Dovo Forestal razor is absolutely low maintenance as a result of its subtle metal properties.
The most impressive feature about this straight razor is that it’s compact to store in your cupboard without expensive kits, thanks to its 5/8 inches length. Its wooden handle is comfortable, strong and beautifully designed.
This top straight razor sells for about $260 on Amazon.com. For straight razor traditionalists looking for a close shave, the Dovo Forestal won’t disappoint you.
Straight American, Straight Razor from GB Buckingham& Sons
Unlike other razors, the Straight American razor comes as a kit with all the essential accessories like the straight razor, leather cloth strop, and many other luxuries included.
All accessories are carefully included in the kit to enhance the user’s experience. The strop, though provided as an accessory is of exceptional quality and does its sharpening without disappointing you. The straight razor has steel that is hardened to HRC 61, which is quite exceptional and is specially made in America.
It provides the much needed durability to the users within this market segment. For those who know GB Buckingham and Sons, a lifetime warranty is provided as an assurance of quality. This great straight razor sells for around $235(shipping cost included) on Amazon.com. For new beginners who want to start to try straight razors, this product is highly recommended.
Simba Tec Razolution Straight Razor
Manufactured by Simba Tec, one of the leading razor manufacturers in the world, Razolution is claimed to be specifically designed to keep the edge for an extended period of time.
It features are well-balanced and provides a great alternative for those who are budget-conscious. An easy to use blade combined with no-nonsense performance makes this straight razor a reliable option. Its carbon-steel razor blade contributes to its overall performance and should be a perfect favorite for those who can’t afford premium-priced straight razor brands.
Oh! lest I forget, another feature you will love about this product is its portability. It is very suitable for travelers too (although, ensure you pack it in your hold luggage and not in your hand luggage). It can be bought at an affordable price of$70 plus free shipping on Amazon.com.
Thiers-Issard 5/8” Straight Razor
The last on the list on the best razor for men is the Thiers-Issard 5/8 inches straight razor. If you want to buy a top-quality straight razor in the mid-priced range, turn to the Thiers-Issard 5/8”.
The straight razor coms equipped with special black etching. Its 5/8 inches blade with round tip is sharp and doesn’t disappoint. Easy maintenance and no learning curve makes this product reliable. Thiers-Issard comes with a premium calfskin pouch for storing the razor securely. As at the time of the review, the price of the product was unavailable, however, some reviewers claim the Thiers-Issard is slightly lower than the Straight American Razor.
Caring For Your Razor
Remember that your most important tool is your razor. Also try to avoid buying the cheapest ones. Poor razors end up being more of a curse than a blessing. They will irritate your skin and cause nicks as long as you continue to use them. A top-quality on the other hand is a joy to behold.
Straight razors have very fine edges and all it takes to ruin the edges and possibly even require a full regrinding is to drop it on a hard surface like the sink or floor, bang it up against the sink or a tap or expose the edge of the razor to stresses it is not physically designed to withstand; and voila! You’ve got a damaged edge.
Straight razors are not like the cartridge razors where you just replace the blades when it becomes too old. You want your straight razor to last you for a lifetime? Read further. Taking care of your razor can be divided into two sections: the pre-shave maintenance and post-shave maintenance.
- Pre-Shave Maintenance
Your straight razor will most likely come shave ready but might require stropping, though might not be necessary, just so you know what the edges should cut like. A strop is needed every time you use a straight razor. It cleans the crud off the blade, gives it a better edge, and as an added bonus, adds a meditative benefits to the whole shaving process.
Stropping is a craft that requires you to slow down and really focus on what you are doing. Stropping incorrectly damages the edge and not the razor. Anytime you hone or strop a razor, ensure that the spine of the razor MUST be lying against either hone or the strop. If the spine isn’t touching while you are honing or stropping, you are damaging the bevel angle and could damage your fine edge.
Thus, always hone and strop razors with the razor lying flat on its side, and the spine touching the hone or strop. If properly cared for, just stropping before shaving will keep your razor ultra-keen for a very long time. To get the best results, strop linen first, and then leather for finishing.
If you are new to honing, the pasted strop is highly recommended for ongoing edge refreshment. Oxide, toothpaste and very fine .25 micron diamond paste are all common micro abrasives used by straight razor shavers to get the razor’s edge to the finest degree of sharpening before stropping on plain leather.
- Post-Shave Care
Carbon-steel will stain and rust. It’s the nature of steel. However, it is a worthwhile tradeoff in order to shave with the finest blade steel in the world. There’s nothing that surpasses high carbon steel that has been treated with heat and tempered just right. To reduce rust and staining, alloys are included in the steel, but they don’t actually help. Instead, they hinder the blade steel structure from being ideal for super sharp zero-radius bevels that are essential for effortless push-cutting.
Therefore, razors must be cleaned and dried after shaving. Rinsing with hot water and wiping clean with bathroom tissue (toilet paper) is the best way to achieve this. Nothing else will dry and polish a razor so easily and well as a bathroom tissue. Merely wiping your straight razor after each shave with bathroom tissue to remove moisture, and then dry tissue to give it a bit of a polish before storing it, away will keep your beloved lifetime buddy shiny, polished and ready for use the next time you use it.
If you want more protection, it is highly recommended that you use Renaissance Wax as a coating protectant. Other products commonly used are light coats of camellia oil, olive oil or mineral oil. Renaissance oil or Camellia oil are much more preferable. You do not have to strop a razor after shaving with it.
If well maintained, a good razor last for years. Just like Bison said, it would make a great family heirloom that can be passed down even to grandsons.