1.14.2013

How to Perform a Three-Pass Straight Razor Shave

Overview
I prefer to think of the straight razor shave as an art or an experience rather than a morning routine. If you are looking for the quickest, easiest way to shave your beard before you head out the door in the morning, then look no further than the standard safety razor. If, however, you would describe yourself as a romantic, an old soul, or simply prefer the charm of certain lost traditions, then the straight razor shave may be for you.

Once you have done your research, decided to jump into straight razors, and have purchased your supplies, know this: it will likely take you ~100 shaves with the straight before you become proficient. Your first straight razor shave will likely be a long (> 1 hour) and somewhat challenging experience, but hang in there. Your confidence, comfort and proficiency will increase dramatically with successive shaves.

It is common for the first timer to think that there straight razor is not sharp enough due to excessive tugging on the beard. Assuming you received your straight after being professionally honed, it is most likely poor technique causing the tug on your beard. This will smooth with time and practice. So let's get started.

Straight Razor Shave | Image Credit: Art of Manliness




What You’ll Need

  1. Water
  2. Straight Razor
  3.  Brush*
  4.  Pre-Shave Cream/Gel*
  5. Shaving Cream/Soap
  6. After-Shave Balm/Cream/Lotion/Gel*
  7. Towel
  8. Alum Block*
  9. Styptic Pencil*
  10. Cologne*

*optional but highly recommended

What You’ll Do
  1. Before shaving, you should shower with hot water and wash your beard with soap.
  2. After showering, gather your supplies in front of the sink.
  3. Soak the brush in hot water for one minute.
  4. Apply hot water to your beard and do not dry off.
  5. Apply pre-shave cream/gel to your beard and do not wash off.
  6. Apply shaving cream/soap to your beard using the brush.
  7. Perform the first pass with the grain (WTG).
  8. Perform the second pass across the grain (XTG).
  9. Perform the third pass against the grain (ATG).
  10. Rinse your face with cold water to close up the pores.
  11. Lightly towel dry your face and neck.
  12. Rub a few drops of water on the alum block and gently rub the block over your face and neck.
  13. Treat any severe cuts with a styptic pencil.
  14. Apply after-shave balm/cream/lotion/gel.
  15.  If desired, apply cologne on the base of the neck and behind the ears.


Tips
  1. During the WTG pass, the razor edge should be held at a 30 degree angle to the skin. During the XTG pass, this changes to 15 degrees. During the ATG pass, this changes to 5 degrees such that the spine of the razor is nearly flat against the skin.
  2. Move the blade across the skin in short, deliberate strokes. Range of motion increases with experience. 
  3. During the first and second pass on your face, it is recommended that you use your right hand to shave the right side of your face and your left hand to shave the left side of your face. On the neck, it is recommended that you use your right hand to shave the left side of your neck and your left hand to shave the right side of your neck. However, the truly correct method is the one that yields the best results so feel free to experiment.
  4. While shaving the face, place your off-hand above the desired shaving area to pull the skin taught. This will help create a flat shaving surface for the blade. It is also helpful to blow a slight amount of air into the cheek being shaved to achieve a similar result. 
  5. Never move the razor edge horizontally across the skin as you would when cutting a piece of meat.
  6. Rinse off the blade every so often to remove excess shaving cream/soap and hairs, but be careful not to knock the blade against the side of the sink as this can damage the beveled edge of your straight. 
Photos

Image Credit: Straight Razor Place


Videos

Video Credit: The Superior Shave


Video Credit: Geofatboy


Sources

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