Basic Characteristics and Terminology
Selecting the right kind of razor is a matter of personal choice. The best guides for buying high quality razors are:
1. Consult with a reliable company or salesman who can recommend the type of razor best suited for your work.
2. Consult with more experienced practitioners as to which razors they have found best for shaving
To judge the value of a razor in any other way may be misleading. Merely observing the color or design of a razor does not reveal the true quality of the implement, nor does the ring of a razor have any significance as far as its hardness or softness is concerned. Ornamental handles on razors sometimes hide inferior quality.
The important points to know about a straight razor are: the main parts, the balance, the temper, the size (length and width of blade), the grind, the style and the finish.
The straight razor is constructed of a hardened steel blade attached to a handle by means of a pivot. The handle is typically made of either hard rubber, plastic, or bone.
STRUCTURAL PARTS OF A RAZOR
When the blade is closely examined, the following eleven parts can be seen, namely: the head, back, shoulder, tang, shank, heel, edge, point, blade, pivot and handle.
The balance of a razor refers to the relative weight and length of the blade as compared with that of the handle. A straight razor is properly balanced when the weight of the blade is equal to that of the handle. Proper balance means greater ease in handling the razor during shaving resulting in better control of the razor and its edge. The balance may be determined by opening the razor to approximately 110 degrees and resting it on the first finger at the pivot. If the razor is not well balanced the head of the razor will move either upward or downward.
The grind of a razor represents the shape of the blade after it has been ground by the manufacturer. There are two general types of grind, namely: the concave grind and the wedge grind. The concave grinds come in full concave, 1/2 concave and 1/4 concave. The concave grind razor is generally preferred by most barbers. It presents a hollow appearance when observed between the back and edge of the razor, being slightly thicker between the hollow part and the extreme edge. It is often referred to as the hollow ground razor. The resistance of the beard can more easily be felt with the hollow ground razor, thus warning the practitioner to check the sharpness of the cutting edge. The 1/2 and 1/4 concave grinds have less hollowness than the full concave. However, there will not be any more thickness between the concave and the extreme edge of the razor.
The wedge grind has no hollowness or concavity, both sides of the blade forming a sharp angle at the extreme edge of the razor. Most old type razors were made with a wedge grind. For most barbers, learning how to sharpen a wedge grind is quite difficult. However, once they get accustomed to using it, they usually find that it produces an excellent shave. It is especially preferred for men with coarse, heavy beards.
Tempering the razor involves a special heat treatment imparted to the razor’s blade by the manufacturer. When a razor is properly tempered, it acquires the proper degree of hardness required for a good cutting edge. Razors can be purchased with either a hard, soft or medium temper. From this assortment, the barber-stylist can select the type of temper that produces the most satisfactory shaving results.
The hard tempered razor: i.e Stainless Steel
Will hold an edge longer, but is very difficult to sharpen once the edge is down.
The soft tempered razor: i.e. High Carbon Steel
Is very easy to sharpen, but the sharp edge does not last long.
The size of the razor deals with the length and width of the blade. The width of the razor is measured in eighths or sixteenths of an inch, but most generally in eighths, such as 4/8, 5/8, 6/8 and 7/8. The 5/8 and 9/16 inch are the two most common sizes, with the 5/8 inch size leading in demand.
The style of a razor indicates its shape and design. The modern razor has such features as a straight, parallel back and edge, a round heel, a square point, and a flat or slightly round handle. To prevent scratching the skin, the barber usually rounds off the square point of the razor slightly by drawing the point of the razor along the edge of the hone.
The finish of a razor is the condition of its surface, which may be either plain steel, crocus (polished steel) or metal plated (nickel or silver). Of these types, the crocus finish is usually the choice of the discriminating barber. Although the crocus finish is more costly, it usually lasts longer and does not show any signs of rust. The metal plated razors are undesirable because the finish wears off quickly and often hides a lesser quality steel.
Razors will maintain their cutting quality if care is taken to prevent corrosion of the extremely fine edge. After use, they should be stropped and a little castor oil applied over the cutting edge, thus preventing the corrosive action of moisture. Be careful not to drop the razor, as the blade may be damaged. When closing the razor, be careful that the cutting edge does not strike the handle.
Changeable Blade Straight Razor
A very popular type of razor being used by barbers is the straight razor with a changeable blade. This type of razor appears the same, and is employed in the same manner as the conventional razor. However, once the blade has reached the stropping stage, it is discarded and replaced with a new blade.
The blades can be obtained with a square point, a rounded point, or one end rounded and the other end square. The razor may be used with or without a guard.
Many barbers prefer this new type of razor because it eliminates stropping and honing and saves them time. Follow manufacturer’s directions for inserting a new blade or removing an old blade from this type of razor.
Changing Blade with a Guard
Removing the guard. With left hand, hold razor firmly above joint. Catching the blade in the teeth on upper part of guard, push blade out.
Slide blade into groove, pushing the end with your fingers. Place the tooth end of guard into the blade notch and slide the blade in until it clicks into position.
Slide the guard over blade making sure the open end of the guard is over cutting edge of blade.
ClassicShaving.com editor’s note:
The above information has been taken from the Standard Textbook of Professional Barber-Styling. Copyright 1938, 54, 59, 77, 83, Milady Publishing Company, Tarrytown, NY. To protect the publisher’s copyright the information above is a paraphrased version of the actual text.