Newer to straight razor shaving and need some custom advice.

Discussion in 'Shave School' started by DiverJay82, Feb 2, 2020.

  1. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    For the past 20 years I would only shave once a week because of how much irritation I got from disposable supermarket safety razors. I finally decided to try out wet shaving and started with a DE safety razor. I moved over to a straight edge injector style razor and have been very happy since. I currently use a Parker handle with Feather blades. I picked up my supplies (oil, cream, after shave, etc.) from The Art of Shaving and have been quite pleased with their products so far.

    Now into the real reason I am here. I would like to get deeper in and move over to a solid straight edge. I decided to try it out by purchasing a cheap Chinese made SE and strop from Amazon and it showed up sharp, but absolutely not shave ready. I put a new edge on it and worked on it until my my hands were about to fall off and still could not pass a hanging hair test. Tried a quick shave and immediately had to go back to my Feather blades. Is this something that could be due to trying out a cheaply made blade or is it most likely poor technique and lack of experience? Should I continue trying to improve my skills with this blade or just pop for the real deal?
    Edison Carter likes this.
  2. Edison Carter

    Edison Carter Goo-bloomin' Stankster

    Hi Jay.
    I am no expert on honing but have learned how to get the edge that suits me.

    You will find a number of honing options available, low cost to high.

    Sometimes inexpensive Chinese razors may not be the best choice starting off even though a decent shaving edge can be put on them. Many professional honers would rather not fool with them because sometimes people do not understand why it costs $35 to make a shaver out their $5 razor.

    I went from straights to shavettes and have a slight preference for shavettes mostly for simplicity.

    I always recommend a 'known edge' for the acclimation period on true straights. Then you will have a feeling for what you're after.

    I'm gonna tag Glen @gssixgun to the thread because sometimes he has decent 'starters' available and he is a great professional honer who freely shares his knowledge and experience.

    Do check out the threads under straight razors.
    DaltonGang likes this.
  3. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    I really appreciate the info. I would love to find a professional in my area, but honestly I have no idea even how to find one . The closest access I have to any real products is an Art of Shaving store 40min from home. They have some pretty nice stuff from what I've seen (fairly uneducated eye that is), but no real expert for real information. I would have no problem buying the proper tools if I knew I wasn't going to destroy them immediately with poor technique. Only reason I started cheap.
    Edison Carter likes this.
  4. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor
    Can we see a pic of the Razor you bought or a link to it ???
    There are many RSO's out there especially on Amazon, if we can see it we can at least start there..
    Edison Carter likes this.
  5. Chuck Naill

    Chuck Naill Well-Known Member

  6. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    Edison Carter likes this.
  7. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Although this razor looks cool, it will be the absolute worst Straight Razor to learn on. I own a couple of these, and can tell you a little about them. This is a Gold Dollar W59, or clone. The steel should be good, and will take a good edge, when properly honed.
    But, the shape of the blade makes it very awkward to Strop. High likelihood you will slip while stropping, and slice the strop.
    The Scales(handle) of the razor are thick and awkward, making it more likely to screw up your stropping.
    The spiked point of that blade is very dangerous. It will cut you, unless you have a lot of experience with Straight Razor shaving.
    Long story short, choose another razor to learn on. The Gold Dollar W59 is difficult to use, even for those with many years of experience. . Choose a round nosed razor.
    Look at what others are purchasing, style wise.

  8. Edison Carter

    Edison Carter Goo-bloomin' Stankster

    Unfortunately, storefront operations supporting the wet shaving community are limited. I have used online resources for everything related.
  9. speedster

    speedster Well-Known Member

    Get a real straight razor and make it vintage or at least not the bottom of the line DOVO.
    Keithmax and Edison Carter like this.
  10. Slash McCoy

    Slash McCoy Well-Known Member

    Supporting Vendor
    That. Dalton speaks wisely.

    The first W59 I ever tried left me with very favorable impressions except that I disliked the juvenile "way kewl" styling. I ordered some more, recently, and the bevel is set at a very high angle. This preliminary factory bevel was set with the spine elevated very high above probably a wheel. And the grinder did not believe in being gentle with it. So, a LOT of coarse grit work has to be done initially, to bring that quasi-bevel back in line with the spine. It just isn't even worth it. If you just got to have a go with that one, do a web search for Setting The Bevel With The Burr Method and figure on starting in with very coarse media to get the heavy lifting done. You aren't risking much there. Those are $7 razors. After honing the burr off, run a normal progression and try a sharpness test or even a full on shave test. Don't be surprised if you dont nail a perfect edge your first time at bat. If you get the bevel properly set then you are a big step forward from where you are now. Remember, raising a burr is only half of the process. The burr simply proves to you that the two bevel planes meet. The burr must then be carefully honed off. You can't leave that burr at your edge. It is the same as never having set the bevel. This is not the only way of setting a bevel and most experienced honers do not usually use that method, and many crusade vigorously against it, but it is the simple way to gitter done first time and know that you gotter done. You can use a more civilized technique on your next razor, after doing some more reading.

    If you want to go with a Gold Dollar then I recommend one of the classic models, even the humble under $4 #66. A higher model number will be of slightly higher fit and finish standard. Your best bet currently would be either a 1996 or a W62, and those two appear to be identical. The W62 is the only "W" series model that I currently can vouch for.

    As Dalton says, the GD steel is pretty decent. It won't hold its own against finest Swedish, but it isn't bad. The grinding is all over the place, mostly centered around the low end of the scale. At best this yields some not so attractive razors. Well, pretty don't shave, but it also gives you razors that can have all sorts of issues when honing, particularly when setting the initial bevel. Picking the right model is important if you either are just starting out, or you don't have a lot of time to waste on a very cheap razor.

    Now back to your razor. Do you have a strong magnifying glass? It will help, the first time you do what I am going to tell you to do. Take your razor into or under a very bright light. Tilt and rotate it around, watch the reflection of the light move. Get used to manipulating that point of bright reflection on the razor. Now bring it to the bevel. The polished strip of steel next to the edge. You will notice that only a very small amount of rolling the razor makes the reflection turn off like a switch. That tells you that the bevel is nice and flat. But does it extend all the way out to the very edge of the razor? That bevel surface needs to meet the one on the other side of the razor in a tight apex. Most likely it does not. There is the root of your problem. The bevel is probably not set.

    You can also paint the bevel and edge with a sharpie marker. Give the razor 3 or 4 light laps on a stone. Now look at it in the light with the magnifying glass. Where you see Sharpie ink is removed, you have contact with the hone. Where it remains, you do not.

    You can continue to do regular alternating laps on your bevel setter for a few DAYS probably, and eventually get the bevel set where it checks visually and also gives you a good indication on the thumbnail test or the cherry tomato test. Then your bevel is set or nearly so anyway. You need a good bevel from end to end. So you have to test it from end to end. Or you can dip down into very coarse grits and get the bevel close enough to set that part of the blade checks fine and part still isn't quite there, and start progressing in grit so that by the time you are up to 1k grit, your bevel is set or nearly so, and finish it up on the 1k. Watch for chipping at the coarse grits. Some stones and some steels are very prone to chipping, some not so much.

    I am sure you realize by now that a good edge already exists in there under a surface layer of poorly ground steel, and the object is to remove all the steel that is not part of that perfect razor edge but no more than necessary. Big chips force you to keep going until they are gone. So examine your edge periodically. Usually you won't get chipping until the bevel is nearly formed at the site of the chip. So as long as you still see an unbroken line of raw unhoned steel at the edge, you should be good.

    Among the worst offenders for chipping are the various diamond plates, especially when they are new, out of the box. So use them with care and monitor the state of the edge closely if you use them. They cut fast, very fast, generally and so they have their uses. Also if they come flat, they stay pretty flat. Really cheap ones, like from Harbor Freight, sometimes are not very flat and suitable only for the roughest work. DMTs are pretty flat but when new they have a lot of proud diamonds that need to be beaten down a bit before they leave behind a nice surface on the steel. Honing a few SS kitchen knives usually tames them. I just acquired a Sharpal that wasn't too bad out the box. Anyway, watch for chipping if you attack the razor with coarse media. Finer grit, smaller chips, generally. Once you are over 600 grit then you can breathe a little easier.

    You can just HONE it, with sets of half laps or circles or standard alternating laps, or you can use the burr method. Whatever blows your skirt up. Just make sure you understand the process and how to detect the burr, before you do it that way.

    The spine of this razor is already too thin for a correct bevel angle, so torque the edge down onto the stone. Still keep the spine flat on the stone, but let the edge bear most of the pressure. You don't need to take steel from the spine in this case but you need to take a lot from the edge. With most Gold Dollar models it is almost the other way around. The W59 and W60 are meant to be knockoffs of other razors, I think PRC if memory serves me.

    You could hardly be blamed for just tossing that razor and starting fresh with a decent vintage blade. You BEST bet would be acquiring a shave ready vintage razor from a seller well known on this or another forum. Many razors are claimed online by the seller to be shave ready but are merely "internet shave ready". In other words, not. Verify the seller and that he has a reputation to uphold and knows what he is doing and what he is talking about. Never buy a razor from someone who doesn't shave with one, and never have a razor honed by someone who doesn't also shave with one. By seller, I mean both commercial vendors, and ordinary consumers and hobbyists selling off their surplus wares. As long as their reputations are valuable and vulnerable and they are vouched for by others who also have reputations at stake, you are fairly safe. Any razor forum's Buy/Sell/Trade subforums will be a good place to look. Until you know the difference, avoid fleabay for shave ready razors. There are a very few sellers that are good and that sell shave ready razors, but they are vastly outnumbered by pickers, some women who don't shave their faces at all, who use the term Shave Ready just as a buzz word to bring attention to their listings.

    Starting shave ready really makes the learning process easier. You can focus on your shave technique, and you have a benchmark for your future forays into honing your own razor. Plus if you start with a shave ready razor, when it starts getting dull you only need your finisher to touch up the edge. 99% of your honing will be nothing more than refreshing your edge. Once set, the bevel should never need to be reset.
    Keithmax, PLANofMAN and Edison Carter like this.
  11. gssixgun

    gssixgun At this point in time...

    Supporting Vendor

    Okay let us take it a step at a time...

    You attempted to hone the edge,,, Using what ???

    Brand and Grit would help here.. That is IF you decide you want to hone it yourself...
  12. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Learn to use a straight razor, before you attempt to hone one.
  13. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    No-name stones, 600, 1000, 4000, 8000
    Edison Carter likes this.
  14. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    Has anyone here used blades from Art of Shaving? If so, opinions? That is really the only place I have to go check out. I'm a very touch and feel kind of purchaser. I have been using a shavette for a while and want to get a good blade, but only started with this cheap one to see how I would like it. If I could pick one up with an equivalent edge to my feather blades, I would be very happy.
  15. Edison Carter

    Edison Carter Goo-bloomin' Stankster

    FWIW, I have read that AoS is not meeting expectations at many locations and will be closing them. I have no experience doing business there, but a quick review of the straights available there indicate high pricing. I'm guessing they are offering private labeled razors from companies like Dovo, Boker, Thiers-Issard.

    I have gotten a number of straights at The proprietor no longer operates a storefront but will personally hone your razor to shave ready. Pricing is mostly $100-$300. I recommend him. is another option.
    Keithmax likes this.
  16. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    Can you make any recommendations on what to look for in a first blade? Brand, features, etc.
  17. Slash McCoy

    Slash McCoy Well-Known Member

    Supporting Vendor
    That makes your stones a wild card. An unknown quantity. They could be usable and likely are. They could also just be utter garbage.

    Normally we finish at about 12k grit or sometimes higher. At one time, a Norton 8k was considered a finisher. Now the community mostly disregards that standard and wants to see an edge finished on a natural or a synthetic of minimum 10k and preferably 12k grit. The numbers don't tell the whole story though, since there are different grit scales.

    But back to your 8k grit, if you do your part and really max it out and nail that edge good, the 8k edge should shave you without too much trauma. If it can't, then you need to work at your edge quality some more, and having a finer finisher won't help you. Another thing is your shave technique. If you don't truly know how to shave with it, then you can't really judge the razor's performance. This is why it is recommended to learn to shave first, and then learn to hone. The all important shave test can't give you real world results until your shave technique is refined enough to give you a good shave. The ultimate test of your razor is the shave test. The ultimate test of your shave is a known shave ready razor. Starting with a dull one and trying to hone it while trying to learn to use it is difficult. That's how I started and it took literally years for me to get it together. Now, we have internet, and coaching is available, but it still doesn't ensure success when you are doing it what is generally acknowledged as the wrong way.

    If you are gonna go for it, get that bevel set first. Get it there, or at least close, with the 600. Let it do your heavy lifting. Do not under any circumstances bother with the 4k until you are absolutely positive the bevel is set by the 1k stage. It would do NO GOOD.

    Still not ready to give up on it? Good luck. And learn from your experience. I suggest you write down all the times and grits and techniques and approximate pressures you use in a log. You might be dismayed at the end to see that you have dozens of hours of hard work invested in your $7-$8 razor. It is not impossible. It can be done. But when you multiply your hours of work by what you think an hour of your time is worth, you could owe yourself several hundred dollars pretty easily.

    For quantifying pressure, I don't try to estimate it in pounds. I figure by the weight of my whole arm, the weight of my forearm, or my hand, a finger, or just the weight of the razor. Sometimes for really heavy going, I will rest the stone on a bench and apply some upper body weight LOL! That is not very often, I can tell you. Forget I even said that for now. Full arm weight I consider heavy pressure. Weight of the blade only I consider light pressure. As you get your bevel sorted out, at the end you should be reducing pressure. We will get to your progression later. Nothing good can come of this (except the learning experience) until that bevel is set, or you have tossed that loser blade and started with a good one. Preferably shave ready, applied to face using good accepted prep and shave technique, instead of to your no name hones.

    By the way, you have done some reading on the forum about honing, right? You do know that the spine belongs flat on the stone along with the edge, right? Just making sure we are not putting the car before the horse.
    Keithmax likes this.
  18. Edison Carter

    Edison Carter Goo-bloomin' Stankster

    I'm going to be partial to what I started with.

    Dovo, half-hollow, 5/8 round point.

    Caution - if you go for the plastic-is scales known as celluloid, use care around any solvent. I spritzed isopropyl alcohol on one and they promptly crumbled
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  19. DiverJay82

    DiverJay82 Member

    By taking into consideration all the information I have gained from one day on the forum I am going to purchase a new blade to get the feel for a properly honed blade for a comparison. I plan to use the current cheapo to practice honing and see if I could actually get it ready for a shave. Just something for me to accomplish.

    Slash, I have read a lot about honing already, but know that reading and watching videos is no replacement for real world experience. The one thing that I didn't know about at first was the tape, so I did grind down quite a bit of my spine while working on the bevel. Good thing I started cheap.

    Edison, Could I expect a Dovo blade like you mentioned to show up shave ready?
    Keithmax and Edison Carter like this.
  20. Slash McCoy

    Slash McCoy Well-Known Member

    Supporting Vendor
    I have never bought a thing from AOS. I have gone into their shops and looked around at all the pretty stuff. Not a bad place to actually see a particular razor in 3D but as vendors go, they seem overpriced, and a lot of their expert staff seems to be college girls who I am sure are expert at shaving their faces with straight razors, and honing them, too, right? LOL. As for disposable blades, their stock is a bit limited but way mroe selection than your local drugstore these days. I could see picking up a pack there to try. But once you settle on a brand, I suggest you buy online by the 100. There are also online sellers that sell samplers. That is a good way to study blades, especially DE blades. Online shops like Fendrihans, West Coast Shaving, and others are good bets, for trying packs or single blades before springing for 100 that you aren't sure you will like.

    I saw mentioned so I assume it is okay to post urls here of vendors. Jarrod is indeed a good source and I have bought a couple of my Dovo Bismarcks from him. AFAIK he hones all the razors he sells but you should always specify whether you want it honed, or not. His edges are certainly good enough to consider shave-ready. If you can't shave with his edges then you can't shave. If you want a new razor, BTW, you could do much worse than a Bismarck. Very ergonomic. A pleasure to use, to strop, and to hone, and FWIW a very nice looking razor as well. Ralf Aust is another maker and seller, and his razors are also retailed by several vendors. Probably a bit more bang for the buck than the Bismarcks but I have not had the pleasure of using a Ralf Aust and I just really like both the Dovo Bismarck and the pre-Dovo Bismarck #2 that it actually is. Like I said, Mr. Aust sells his own razors so you can buy direct or you can buy from a vendor. There's two good ideas for a new razor. , a Bismarck or an Aust. Me, I would lean toward a nice vintage from a reputable seller but do it like you feel it. Just don't pull the trigger without verifying the seller, especially if you are buying because it is supposed to be shave ready.

    Nothing wrong with a shavette. Some are a bit more wobbly and bloodthirsty than others, though. And you are buying throwaway blades, and you are missing out on a lot of the mystique and dare I say it... elitism. I have never used the Feather AC type shavettes, just cheapies. Nevertheless I found nearly all to be okay once I was familiar with its quirks. I generally use the half DE blade type, and use Feather DE blades. They just do a better job for me. I recently bought one on fleabay that came with a Feather long blade and so I loaded the Feather in it and liked it very much. Impressive shave, for only $3-something. I won't be using it after the blade is dull because well, I am too cheap to spring for the high class blades, but Feather DE blades are only about $22 for a hundred blades which snap in two for double the pleasure. Again I mostly go with cheapies and jsut toss any that totally suck. The one Sallys sells isn't bad and for the last couple of years before I retired, I always took a pair of them to sea with me so I didn't have to bring stropping or honing paraphernalia. I can tell you that Parker or Kai or Feather shavettes are more highly regarded but I can't say how much of that is price placebo effect and how much is real because I have never been tempted to upgrade something that I now rarely use, anyway. If you like that format and just want to good around with long blade shavettes, you might look for a Weck Sextoblade or similar, or a knockoff. Personna, Schick, Kai, several companies besides Feather make long format blades but Feather definitely rules the roost there. The DE world, too, but the price difference between Feathers and also-rans is less. Anyway, be sure for the long format, that the blade and the razor are compatible because there are a couple of different standards.

    You might even want to try a vintage Schick Injector and the Chinese made modern production Schick blades. Pretty nice hoe-handle system and a big cool factor. You can pick those razors up for as little as $8 or so.

    If you are already shaving successfully with a shavette, you are halfway there. The biggest difference is while the shavette starts out with a very very sharp blade, most straight razors will be sporting an edge that has a bit less cutting power, though there are exceptions. Anyway, you can expect with a straight razor to have to do a little more of the work yourself, in the shave. But you will most likely cut yourself less, and maybe have less irritation. Depending on the nuances of your shave style.
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