How To Build Your Best Straight Razor Kit
There has never been a better time to begin straight edge shaving with a traditional cut-throat razor.
With minimalism becoming mainstream, and no waste and sustainability becoming everyday concepts, building your own straight edge shaving kit makes a lot of sense. Yes, minimalist shaving is a thing!
There are a lot of pros and cons to straight edge shaving, which I will cover in this article, but slowing down your life and doing a wet shave with a traditional barber razor is probably the best reason to start.
To help make the transition easier from shaving with a cartridge razor and shaving gels to doing it the way your great-grandfather used to shave, I will review some of the best straight razor kits and shaving products that you need to build your own set.
Of course, if you want to take all of the guesswork out of building your own shaving kit, you can consider buying an already done for you straight edge razor shaving kit like this one by GBS.
On a personal and professional level, I think that buying each piece individually gives you far more control and allows you to really customize all the elements that will work best for you.
No time to read the full article? This handy best straight razor kit comparison table will get you started with the right wet shave products to build your own set.
- DOVO Shavette
- Great Disposable Blade Straight Edge for Beginners
- Easy to Use
- Price: $
- Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor
- Non foldable style disposable blade straight edge with resin handle
- Easy to Use
- Price: $$
- DOVO Bizmark Straight Razor with Ebony Wood Handle
- 6/8" Acid Etched Carbon Steel Razor Blade
- Price: $$$
- Sharp Pebble Double Sided Whetstone
- 3000/8000 Grit Double Sided Whetstone
- Easy To Use:
- Price: $$
Beards have come into vogue recently, but a clean-shaven face will never go out of style. Today it seems like the bushier your mane is the better, but there’s reason to believe that clean-shaven men come off as more attractive and less aggressive. In fact, beardless men are often more likely to get hired than their bearded counterparts. Straight razors have been the barber’s tool of choice for generations, and while it takes a bit of skill and a great deal of practice, the shave is incomparable.
Pros and Cons to Straight Shaving
1. The Best Straight Razors Will Save You Money-
The average Gillette cartridges cost about $4 a head, but the blades aren’t even that sharp. Constantly purchasing those cartridge packages will add up pretty quickly. A straight razor, on the other hand, requires no replacement parts. If you purchase a good blade, it should last you a lifetime. Occasionally, you might have to invest in a new strop and a whetstone to keep your blade sharp, but over time you’ll still end up saving roughly about $6,000-7,000 you would have spent on cartridges or disposable razors.
The whole business model of the razor companies is straight out of a drug dealers playbook. Give the handle cheap with a free cartridge or two. Then the buyer is locked into their system. If you have a handle and only one kind of cartridge will work on it then you have to continue to buy those razors.
Breaking out of that closed loop system feels really good once you set up your own wet shaving kit.
2. The Best Straight Razors Will Save the Planet-
Every year, Americans throw out 2 billion razors. That’s thousands upon thousands of tons of plastic thrown away every year. With a straight razor kit, you’ll throw away the packaging and that’s it. We cannot keep filling our earth with garbage, and each of us has a responsibility to do our part. Switching from disposable razors to a straight razor might just help keep our Earth green and beautiful.
Eco-friendly shaving is clearly the way to go. Using a traditional cut throat razor is as close to zero waste hair removal as you can get.
The shaving kit doesn’t even need to be recyclable for it to help the environment. Unlike with disposable or cartridge razors, if you decide you don’t want your razor anymore, it can be given away. Though I can’t think of a reason why you would want to give your razor away!
The same goes for the rest of the kit from the strop down to the whetstone.
3. The Best Straight Razors Will Save Your Shave-
There is no doubt about it, the best straight razor kit is way better than disposable razors. The cheap razors you can buy at your local gas station are made with an inferior quality steel to keep costs to a minimum. Straight razors are made from real stainless or carbon steel that’s meant to resist dulling and corrosion. Straight razors are easier to clean, and with the blade of a surgical knife, they cut far closer than any other razors around. You’ll want to make sure to slap on some aftershave balm when you’re finished to minimize irritation, but you’ll be stunned by the results.
You’re in complete control of how sharp your razor is unlike with the other kind. You will be the one sharpening and stropping it to keep it at its peak. Instead of being at the mercy of a razor that gets dull quickly. How often have you been faced with a dull razor that happens to be your last one and can’t get to the store to pick up another?
Now, if your razor starts getting dull, you can just strop it for a few seconds to bring it right back.
Or in the case of a safety razor, just pop in another extremely sharp double edge razor and enjoy a fine and close shave.
Even though I recommend every guy to learn how to do an old school straight edge shave, it is something that takes time to perfect.
You have to be able to power through some nicks, cuts and less than perfect shaves before you finally feel like doing a straight edge wet shave is worth it.
Patience is the name of the game here.
That patience will be rewarded by a far superior shave and the satisfaction of knowing that you have mastered something that not everybody is willing to do.
How to you learn to do a proper wet shave? The first thing to do is to go to a barber that does these shaves. Sit and observe him shave others while you wait your turn.
Then when it comes your turn, pay attention to how it feels on your face when it is properly lathered. Time about how long he takes to apply the cream with the brush, how wet it is and how thick it is.
Observe how he handles the razor and which direction he goes across your beard.
Then when you are done, ask a ton of questions.
2-It Takes Time
Once you have perfected the wet shave and using a straight edge razor, it will still take around 15 minutes to shave.
That’s when you have it down pat. While learning, it will take a minimum of 20 minutes to do it right and nick free.
That’s time that some people just don’t have. While I am one that needs more beauty sleep than most, I will still get up a few minutes early on days when I am giving myself a wet shave. It is worth it in terms of results and, as I mentioned earlier, in slowing down. Learning a craft and embracing a ritual is worth the extra time it takes. Rushing through a shave is time wasted in my opinion, far more than the time it takes to do a proper professional shave at home.
And, anyway, you don’t have to do it every day. In fact I wouldn’t recommend it as it is best when you have a bit of stubble.
If you really don’t have time to dedicate to it, then save it for Monday morning when you have some stubble built up from the weekend. Then the rest of the week, you can just use a good shave oil or lotion with a cartridge or safety razor to keep the stubble from growing in.
If you work in an office that requires you to shave every day, you may even be able to pass it off by shaving every other day since you get a much closer shave. It takes longer for the hair to grow in compared to with other razors and using canned shaving cream.
3-Risk of Injury
Going back to the last point about taking time, rushing a shave when using a straight edge can be downright dangerous.
A moment when you’re not paying attention can result in a serious cut. Giving yourself a bad haircut is one thing, as hair grows back. But, you only have one face. The risk of a scar is maybe more than some guys want to risk.
If you are on any kind of blood thinner then I would hesitate to recommend that you do a shave with a straight edge or safety razor. Even on a good day, a nick can take forever to stop bleedng. If you are taking a blood thinner then you may have to see the emergency room.
For everybody else, make sure you have some bandages and even some styptic powder handy in case of a cut. At least while you are learning the ropes.
The Best Straight Edge Razor Kit Buying Guide
Before I get into the list of the best straight razor kits for beginners and professionals, let’s go over a few details to look for in the top cut-throat razors.
This is a type of steel that is hardened with carbon, making for a very durable blade. Carbon steel blades tend to have a sharper edge than stainless steel and can hold that edge longer.
If you opt for a carbon steel blade, be prepared to do your due diligence when it comes to maintaining the blade. Though it stays sharper, it does tend to discolor and rust according to the shaving products you use. It needs to be dried and razor oil applied before putting it away.
Look for either German or Japanese steel as it is the best for blades in general but especially razors.
It is usually made with a high carbon content for hardness, Japanese steel in particular. When they are sharpened these types of steel can hold their edge for much longer. They do tend to be more brittle if you oversharpen them, however.
German steel is also high carbon, but less than Japanese for a bit of a softer blade. They don’t hold their edge quite as long, but they are not as brittle.
Stainless steel is an ideal material for things that are in wet environments, like a razor blade.
Less prone to rusting and discoloring than carbon steel, it is a bit easier to maintain.
It may require more frequent honing and stropping as stainless steel isn’t as hard as carbon.
The plus side on the frequent sharpening is that they are usually easier to sharpen than carbon steel blades.
That being said, I tend to stay away from stainless steel blades since high carbon forged blades are much better. For one thing though they are easier to sharpen, you end up losing a lot of the material of a stainless steel blade so they don’t last as long as the carbon steel.
They also usually end up needing more frequent stropping as they are prone to having rough edges after they’ve been sharpened.
They are much cheaper than the high carbon version so I understand the appeal from an economical standpoint.
Though not nearly as fine an edge as a ground blade, disposables are great for the beginner wet shaver.
The blade is considerably sharper than a cartridge system, in addition to being far more effective since it is a single blade.
They are incredibly cheap, so it is still just as economical to use as a traditional straight razor.
For those that don’t want to deal with the upkeep of a fixed blade razor, this is a great alternative that still has all the benefits of doing a traditional shave.
As a barber, I am required to use a disposable blade as the barber board in my state won’t allow the use of the traditional cut throat razor on customers. And that is ok by me as it is much easier to deal with since I don’t have to maintain a blade.
If it is good enough for a professional, then a disposable double edge blade should be good enough for use at home!
The distance between the razor’s edge and the back of the blade is usually measured in 1/8” increments. A large blade will prove to be more aggressive, but it won’t easily reach the upper lip. Look for a blade of about 5/8”. This is the ideal size because the blade is easy to control, and it will move along the contours of your face.
There are different types of grinds that are very important to pay attention to. The type of grind will determine not only the quality of the shave but also impact the learning curve.
The thinner the grind, the sharper the blade. This also means that it can give you a slice much more easily.
The wider the grind the easier it is to use, but the result may feel like it drags against the skin.
This edge from a profile looks like a triangle. This is the ideal grind for beginners since it is easy to maintain the right angle for shaving, but is also easiest to hone since the lines are straight.
Hollow grind blades are made by using a spinning disc. So the edge is more concave and rounded. This makes for a very sharp edge and a very close shave.
A very thin hollow grind, however, makes for a bit more finesse required to stay safe. Thinner edges at the wrong angle can drag against the skin and either result in a cut at worst, or, at best, some razor burn.
The two types of hollow grind blades you’re likely to encounter are half hollow and full hollow. Half hollow is not quite as thin as full hollow.
Square points mean that the edge of the blade is straight. This is great for getting into tricky areas but not great if you’re not paying attention. The sharp corner can dig into the skin if you’re not careful.
Since the edge is rounded, there is less of a sharp point. A round edge blade is ideal for beginners as it is more forgiving if you make a wrong move than with the square edge.
How much should you spend on the best straight razor kit? You can spend as little or as much as your budget allows. From a few dollars to a few thousand, there is a razor for just about every price range.
Keep in mind, that if you are buying a fixed blade razor, it is going to last you a lifetime with the proper care. It is worth it to splurge and go over budget as the quality does increase when the price does.
The Best Disposable Blade Straight Edge for Beginners
DOVO Shavette Review
In my opinion, the best shavette razor is this disposable blade system by DOVO. I used one in the shop for years since it is so lightweight and easy to maneuver. When you are using a straight edge razor on your own face, maneuverability is key. Until you get the hang of it, it’s nice to have a smaller profile razor.
It takes any disposable double edge blade that you then break in half and insert using the plastic guide.
The best blades for DOVO shavettes are, in my opinion, the Persona blades from Amazon.com. Since the shavette itself is so light, it can handle a more aggressive blade like the Persona.
The one thing that I don’t like and took some getting used to is the way the razor loads. The plastic insert is very stiff when you first start using it, so it takes a steady hand to push it in and not slice your finger. Then once you have been using it for a while, the plastic gets brittle and the hinge can break. Though, when using it dozens of times a day like I used to, it was inevitable that it would break. Using it once a day means the inserts will last a long time. Besides, you can always order a few extra just in case.
All that said, for the price you have a great introduction to the world of straight razors. Eventually, you will probably grow out of the DOVO and want to upgrade to something more refined. In the meantime, this is a great razor to have your best straight razor with to learn the ropes.
Best Traditional Straight Edge Razor Under $200
DOVO Bizmark 6/8″ Straight Razor with Ebony Wood Handle
Made of carbon steel in Solingen, Germany, DOVO is one of the top brands when it to comes to well crafted, traditional best straight razor kits.
The blade is factory ready to shave. Factory ready to shave is a bit of a misnomer in that you will need to strop this before using.
The width is 6/8ths of an inch for a bit of a wider profile. The blade is also a bit thicker than is typical, for added strength and a heavier weight. The added width also makes for an ideal angle when honing.
The scales, aka handle, are made out of celluloid for a lightweight, yet solid grip. Being celluloid is great for being water resistant, as opposed to wooden scales.
As far as looks go, it is very elegant with the vintage looking etched logo on the blade. The black celluloid scales look very similar to ebony, but are obviously animal friendly.
Buying a German straight razor is never a bad idea as you can be sure it is well crafted. When the razor in question is DOVO, then you can be sure you are also getting great value for the money with your best straight razor kit.
Best Kamisori Style Non-Folding Razor
Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor
Billed as the “ultimate replaceable blade” razor, the Feather SS performs way beyond what you would expect from a disposable best straight razor kit.
With no pivot for the handle, the Feather SS can last a very long time. In fact, that is one of the main selling points of a non-foldable razor. The blade holder is made of stainless steel for durability and can survive very well in a wet environment.
Holding the razor is a bit different than one with a tang, tail, and scales, so there is a bit of a learning curve. It is not hard to master, however.
The rounded head makes it easier to maneuver than a straight one. Since the handle is made out of resin, it is autoclavable. It can resist heat up to 135°C. This makes it very easy to keep disinfected.
Changing the blades is the easiest I have ever encountered with a disposable blade straight razor. Simply press the head and one side pops off. Place the blade in and the cover clicks right back on. This is not only easy but also much safer than other ways to insert the blade.
The Best Whetstone
A whetstone is used to hone the razor. Honing is the act of sharpening the blade. It’s almost like using sandpaper to make a smooth surface on wood as it literally sands away the metal leaving a fine edge.
I think the best whetstones are Japanese and have two sides. One fine and one coarse. What grit is the best for honing a straight razor? Usually a whetstone with one side 3000 grit and the other 8000 grit will work best. The bevel of the blade is already established so you are merely polishing the blade to sharpen it up, so a coarser grit would be overkill.
Sharp Pebble Double Sided Whetstone 3000/8000 Grit
At 2.35 inches, this is the ideal width for just about the best straight razors. More narrow whetstones would require making an X pattern to be able to hone the entire length of the blade. The width of this whetstone makes it easy to go in a straight direction.
The 3000 grit side is fine enough to not grind too much of the edge while still sharpening without much effort. The 8000 side renders a nice polish that makes it intensely sharp.
Best of all is the non slip bamboo rack to hold it. This is to keep it from moving around while you hone, adding a layer of safety.
Soak the stone in water until there are no bubbles coming out and it is ready to start honing. This takes about 10 minutes or so.
Here is a short video to help you hone and strop your razor.
The Best Leather Strop for Straight Razors
Next up for essential items in your DIY straight razor set is the leather strop. Now, this might be unpopular of me to recommend a leather strop block instead of a belt, but unless you are in a barbershop, this is much easier to use and way safer.
The belt attaches to the barber chair for easy access, but having a sturdy leather strop with a solid wood handle is what you should be using at home.
Aside from the cool, retro effect of stropping a belt and looking like a boss, using it is essentially the same, as it has two sides.
Leather strop 3 x 8 inch paddle strop with compound
This wooden handled strop block is perfect for stropping your straight razor at home. It has a solid handle to hold on to reducing the risk of injury.
If you have a workshop where you plan to do your honing and stropping, there are two holes on either end that allow for you to screw the block directly into a workbench for added stability. Though you would need to unscrew it to flip it over.
At 3 inches wide, it fits the size of every straight razor.
As a bonus, it comes with the compound buffer stick that you will need to lubricate the strop before stropping your razor, which is why it made it to our list of the best straight razor kit.
That’s the Basic DIY best straight razor kit.
Those are the essential tools that you need to make your own starter shaving kit for straight edge razors.
This list is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any questions about these brands or others then make sure you reach out via the comment box below and we will answer any question you have!