Finding the best straight razor takes a lot of consideration. They tend to be expensive because of their high quality balance and finely-honed steel.
They are also quite difficult to use – not only in knowing how to shave with a straight razor – but also learning how to sharpen a straight razor.
That’s why we recommend disposable blade straight razors – known as shavettes – as part of this guide. But first let’s take a look at the classic straight razor.
- Leading brand
- Gold lettering
- Stainless steel handle
- Quality manufacturer
- Premier French Crafsmanship
- High quality steel
- Leading brand
- High quality steel
- Use standard DE razor blades
- Replaceable injector blades
- Great value
- Replaceable injector blades
- Perfect balance
The Best Straight Razor
Based in Solingen, Germany, an area renowned for its steel technology, Dovo are legendary in their manufacture of razors. They are the parent company by the renowned Merkur safety razors that are some of the best safety razors in the world.
The Dovo Bismarck is the ultimate Dovo straight razor with hand-filled 24K gold lettering on the blade.
While the price puts it in the premium range above Dovo’s other straight razors, it certainly isn’t the most expensive razor. What’s more is experience suggests that this premium line of Dovo razors faces a higher level of quality control and so you are unlikely to receive an imperfect blade.
Meanwhile the beautiful design, great shave and strop experience and the reliable quality control mean you are sure to be impressed with your investment.
The Art of Shaving is often criticized by wet shavers for selling out to Proctor and Gamble and forming a more artisanal advertising path for Gillette multi-blade razors. However, their straight razors are second to none.
That’s because Art of Shaving straight razors are made by Thiers Issard, the most popular being a staight razor with a stainless steel handle that gives it a lot of extra weight. We cover more about Thiers Issard next, but the availability and great brand reputation of Art of Shaving makes this collaboration a sure winner.
Dovo Straight Razor Prima Silver Steel
The first thing you’ll notice about the Dovo straight razor is its sheer beauty. The ebony wood handle and gold branding on the blade reminds you of the appeal of straight razors as an ancient, finely-crafted implement fit for royalty.
In terms of performance you won’t find much better. A thin edge and lightweight build means it is beautiful to shave with and easy to maintain.
Dovo is obviously not the best budget straight razor at over $100, but it is the last razor you will ever need to buy. Combine it with the best shaving soap, luxurious aftershave and a Simpsons shaving brush and you’ll have one of the best shaving kits in the world.
Along with Dovo, Thiers Issard is perceived as one of the leading manufacturers of straight razors in the world since 1884.
Pierre Thiers himself came from a long line of master razor makers. Nevertheless, the firm is also known for its renowned cutlery including the celebrated Sabatier kitchen knives. Both new and vintage Thiers Issard razors are highly sought after by shaving enthusiasts and this model is no exception.
A superior quality straight razor, the 889 Red Stamina Bison is both a pleasure to look at and use. Expertly made, it is well-balanced and easy to strop.
Fully hollow-ground C135 carbon steel with a round nose. Handmade in France. Comes pre-honed, so it`s shave-ready.
Titan Straight Razor
Titan straight razors can be a good budget option. They are made in Asia and often labelled by grooming brands as their own.
It’s not the highest quality razor but for the price it is certainly usable.
Many straight razor shaving enthusiasts actually use a Titan as a regular part of their rotation because it doesn’t matter if it gets worn out or damaged unlike an expensive Dovo or Thiers Issard.
Shavette Disposable Blade Straight Razors – Best Straight Razor For Beginners
The best beginner straight razor is clearly the shavette.
A shavette is the convenient cousin of the straight razor. While straight razor shaving requires lots of care and attention to maintain the blade, a shavette usually uses a simple double edge blade from a traditional safety razor.
More specialised replaceable blade straight razors like Kai and Feather use injector blades – another universal design of razor blade that has been around for decades, also used by the Supply safety razor.
Shavette is actually a brand name from premium shaving manufacturer Dovo that is now used for all replaceable blade straight razors.
The disposable blade straight razor features a similar design to a straight razor but tends to be lighter as it doesn’t hold a full blade. Instead the handle supports a small mechanism for clasping safety razor blades.
You can buy shavette blades readymade or simply (and with attention to safety) snap a double edge razor blade in half for some models. They are designed to do this and the holes used to hold the blade to a safety razor also fit a shavette.
These were originally made for barbers to offer razor haircuts. Today barbers also use them for shaving for hygiene reasons since the blades can be changed between customers. But what about straight razor shaving at home?
Straight Razor vs Shavette
Many see this has a gentle entry to straight razor shaving by taking out the care of the big straight razor and replacing it with more of the lightweight disposable experience we are used to. However, many experienced shavers warn that this is a totally different experience to straight razor shaving and the two are not comparable.
A straight razor is much heavier and the profile of the blade is different and more forgiving than using a DE razor blade. With DE blades you are still left with the sharp corner as you would with a safety razor, whereas a straight razor is more rounded to avoid cuts, although alternative blades are available. The Proguard blades used by the Feather DX and Kai razors actually have more protective corners.
Ultimately the question of straight razor vs shavette is all about cost and convenience. With a shavette you don’t need to worry about steel quality, grind profile or how to strop a straight razor. Instead you can just put a blade in and get to work.
It feels great, plus you get the benefits of a straight razor in terms of accuracy – you can create very intricate facial hair styles.
However the DX costs about 2-3 times as much, and the only real difference is in the material used to construct the scales – meaning the handle.
So if you’re looking for a professional quality shavette shave for a good value and aren’t concerned about elaborate scales then this could be for you.
- Best all-round value
- Suitable for use with Kai`s refill blades, such as the Titan Mild or Titan Mild Protouch MG.
- Head is completely removeable for easy cleaning.
The Feather DX is undoubtedly the closest thing to a straight razor without all the time-consuming maintenance.
Feather razors are made in Japan by Jatai, the world leaders in the manufacture of modern, top end shaving razors and blades such as the popular Feather AS-D2 safety razor.
The blade holder has enough heft to it that you can shave properly using just the blade weight.
Strangely the blade clasp has nothing to grip the holes in the blade so the the blade is held by friction alone. However, quality Japanese engineering should ensure this is perfectly safe.
This is also nicely weighted so you can really shave just with the weight of the blade holder.
The Feather SS is very similar to the Feather DX but it is half the price. In general the SS is probably better for beginners as the clasp has a wider bevel to it in order to help protect the skin.
The SS is also lighter than the DX. In general it is aimed more at professional barbers, hence the Artist Club, because it is made with materials designed to withstand high heat and disinfectant chemicals better. It too uses injector style blades.
Overall the DX offers a superior shaving experience if you are familiar with straight razors.
The Dovo shavette is actually among the cheaper varieties despite Dovo’s elite reputation. This is also the “original” brand that coined the term Shavette. This could well be the best straight razor for beginners.
Overall it is cheap and practical as an all-rounder but doesn’t have any exceptional qualities.
The blades are held firmly in place by a plastic insert that act as a clamp. It is also very lightweight and so shaving requires more manual force than other heavier models. Some people prefer this weight and find it more mobile.
The Dovo comes with different sizes of inserts in order to take different blades. If you insert a short blade into a longer holder then you can easily forget about the parts that are not being shaved. This can be avoided by using longer blades. As shown in the image you can switch between standard double edge razor blades snapped in half and dedicated shavette blades.
Nice and simple, at less than $20 this stainless steel construction comes with a wooden scales and Wilkinson Sword blades to snap in half.
The wood is a bit cheap and light but still a nice upgrade on plastic for the price. The clasp mechanism is solid, although the pivot fastening on the scales does come loose after about a year or so.
Japanese Straight Razors – The Kamisori
As we regularly mention Japan’s Seki is one of the world’s top razor regions alongisde Solingen in Germany and Sheffield in the UK. Japanese straight razors are a work of art in themselves and function slightly differently to a western straight razor.
Shaving in Japan is a highly respected ritual and so a Kamisori is made with great care to provide the best experience.
Kamisori straight razors tend to feature long handles for optimum control. They also tend to have a smaller blade so you can reach difficult areas. Again the Japanese straight razor is about very careful, meticulous shaving and taking your time.
Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor
Perhaps the most famous mass-market kamisori is actually made by Feather. This is actually a kind of shavette just like the regular Feather SS as it uses disposable blades but the handle style means it is very much a Kamisori Japanese straight razor.
The Feather DX’s cousin the Feather SS has rounded edges around the blade clasp in order to limit the angle of the blade – kind of like a traditional safety razor. This safety feature makes it ideal for beginners, although at a cost of some maneuverability.
The Feather SS is comparably priced to the Kai Captain, but the shape of the holder does not have the same manoeuvrability as the DX and the Kai.
Osami Mizuike Kamisori
An Osami Mizuike kamisori is the real deal. Mizuike is a fourth generation craftsman in the Banshu region of southwest Hyogo Prefecture. Within the region, the city of Ono is famed as an area that spearheaded its own unique development of the cutlery industry, producing everyday items such as razors, scissors, knives and scythes for agricultural use. He continues to create cutlery using tools that have survived from 120 years ago, and that includes high quality Japanese straight razors that are hard to find outside Japan.
Buying Guide – What Makes The Best Straight Razor?
Different steels will result in different blades. Stainless steel is popular for more mass-produced blades and genreally requires less care but carbon steel offers a superior quality blade.
You’ll notice straight razors come with a variety of blade shapes. In reality, there are loads of very technical aspects to the anatomy of a straight razor.
The end of the razor – the nose or point – tends to be the most significant factor. A more rounded nose avoids a point that could prove dangerous while a straight point offers more precision but requires skilled hands.
This can get a little technical, but the grind of a straight razor is all to do with the profile of the blade. The best straight razors are hollow-ground which means the cross-section of the blade is like two concave curves converging. That means the cutting edge is incrdeibly fine and flexible.
There are different levels of hollow grind and a flatter or less hollow grind won’t be as sharp. More hollow blades are lighter and more forgiving thanks to their flexibility, although the most hollow blades can also be fragile.
It can be confusing to see all the measurements involved in straight razors but it’s actually quite simple.
The blade width refers to space between the spine (the back blunt edge of the razor) and the cutting edge. The width is expressed in 1/8 increments, so an 8/8 blade is 1 inch wide, and a 4/8 blade is a half inch wide. Overall, the most common sizes are 5/8″ and 6/8″.
In practice there isn’t much difference between them but smaller blades tend to be easier to use. You can imagine how a wider blade makes it more difficult to see where you’re shaving. A larger blade can also be a bit clumsy in places like under the nose and will obviously be heavier.
Handle or Scales
The handle of a straight razor is called the scales. Most today are plastic or resin but you can also find wood, horn and stainless steel. This is all largely a matter of personal preference but do consider weight and balance when choosing the material of your scales.
Straight Razor vs Safety Razor
Safety razors will always be more convenient than straights. That’s exactly why they were invented 100 years ago as an attempt to fix a blade in a tool that let you simply change blades rather than sharpening and stropping a straight razor all the time. However that was also the first instance of our modern throwaway culture when it comes to shaving.
Overall this safety razor vs straight razor comparison should make it clear that safety razors have a pretty compelling case over straight razors. However, the look and feel or a straight razor is something some of us simply cannot get away from.
- Closest shave guaranteed
- Zero-waste – the most eco-friendly razor
- Ancient and awesome
- Requires regular stropping and sharpening
- Much easier to cut yourself
- Takes a lot of practice
- Much easier – doesn’t require sharpening and stropping
- Cheaper razors
- Safer (Duh)
- Not as close a shave
- Old blades need disposal
- Not as badass
James Bond Skyfall Razor Scene
Their are certainly advantages to shaving like this besides the lack of waste. For instance, many simply can’t get over the medidative feeling of dragging a sharp blade across your skin. Remember that scene in Skyfall when James Bond says “sometimes the old ways are best”? Straight razor sales went through the roof that year.
That single scene encapsulated so much of the appeal of wet shaving – a calm and careful process that has been honoured for centuries.
How to Shave With a Straight Razor
How to shave with a straight razor takes years to learn. A basic shave can be completed no problem at all. But a true barber-level shave takes hundreds of learned strokes taking account of the shape of the face.
For a straight razor, after a visual check to verify no obvious issues, give it a good stropping.
This usually consists of around 30 laps on linen and 60 laps on leather (these are not hard and fast numbers as personal preference and stropping technique plays a big role here).
Essentially the technique for shaving starts with the grip. The shape of a razor is made to make this as easy and natural as possible.
You should start at the top and work your way round, rather like shaving with a safety razor. Many shavers find the best step is best if you tip your head away from the blade to stretch the skin on that side of the face.
Bring your other hand over the head and use it to hold the skin tight.
You should then gently glide the blade in small downward strokes no more than an inch long. The process looks and feels like you are scooping up little bits of the shaving soap lather and then wiping it on a towel.
This is the basic technique that allows you to start shaving. But learning the full technique will take a lot more research and practice.
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