How to sharpen a straight razor, according to a master barber - The Manual

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Learning how to master certain, or multiple, life skills is one that can make any man that much more interesting. Having a breadth of knowledge on multiple skill sets not only makes you that much more interesting but polarizing as well — see Ernest Hemingway as a reference. Barber Razor Disposable Blade

How to sharpen a straight razor, according to a master barber - The Manual

From bartending to being a home barista, handling your own engine repairs, or a little light plumbing, there’s something gratifying about being a man that can do it all. There are plenty of us, though, who can mix a mean Manhattan or change a faucet, but how many men truly know the art of shaving with a straight razor?

The key, besides properly prepping your face and beard for a straight razor shave, is to have an exceedingly sharp, quality razor.

We caught up with The Art of Shaving’s Master Barber, Samuel Segev, to hone our sharpening technique and understand exactly how to sharpen a straight razor. There’s a lot involved, but if you’re willing to commit to straight razor shaving, then you’re probably also ready to perfect your technique and acquire some pro-level accouterments.

“A dull straight razor will pull and tug at the hair and skin,” Segev points out. “Because of this, many people tend to apply too much pressure while shaving and nick themselves.” It’s important to keep your razor as sharp as possible for every use, allowing the blade to do the job without applying a lot of muscle.

Like having the proper espresso machine or a solid pair of needle-nose pliers, you’re going to need the right tools for the job, including starting with a quality straight razor. That said, we recommend using The Art of Shaving Blade Straight Razor as its hollow ground blade delivers a smooth, clean shave that will help you achieve a freshly groomed look.

“It is recommended to strop your razor with sharpening strop paste prior to each shave. However, this does not replace honing a straight razor. When your razor begins to pull at the hair and not cut easily that’s when you’ll need to hone your razor.”

That was a lot of vocabulary. Let’s define some terms. 

What’s a strop? A strop (the noun) is a wide leather strap: one side is leather; the other is fabric, with a hook of some sort at each end. To strop (the verb) means to use the strop to sharpen a blade, like this: 

The movement actually restructures the blade’s cutting edge, making it sharp for its next use. Think of it as a kinder, gentler version of sharpening your kitchen knives on a stone or grinder. Use the fabric side to wipe away any excess metal bits, soap, etc., that remain on the blade. Be sure not to lift the blade into the air and come back down to the strap, as you are much more likely to cut or nick the strop.

To ensure your technique is safe and barber chair-ready, check out this YouTube video for an in-depth guide to stropping. Now, you may want to consider adding The Art of Shaving Hanging Razor Strop to your grooming kit to maintain your razor’s sharpness for your next shaving session.

Strop paste includes small bits of grit — in this case, aluminum oxide and diamond particles — suspended in a paste for fine sharpening. 

When buying a new straight razor, it will most likely arrive factory-honed or sharpened. “At The Art of Shaving, we find clients may prefer a sharper edge,” says Segev. “A #4000 and #8000 grit honing stone will bring a normal razor back up to shave ready. An extremely blunt razor may need a coarser stone to begin with, but generally, we recommend asking a professional to hone the razor. Make sure to strop with a leather strop and sharpening strop paste prior to every shave.”

If you’re looking for a sharper shave, or if you’ve been stropping your razor every day but feel like you need a slight touch-up, try this: 

Like any good tool, the best way to care for a straight razor is to store it properly between uses. Segev suggests storing your razor in a straight razor display box. Simply searching online will yield numerous beautifully handcrafted boxes that come with protective pads for safeguarding your precious razor from damage, keeping it in pristine condition for future use. Overall, a storage box will go a long way to ensuring it continues to work effectively. But before storing the blade, make sure to carefully wipe it down with a microfiber cloth.

As a quick refresher, remember that shaving is never as simple as it seems. Segev reminds us that if you shave incorrectly, you could leave your face with irritation. His tips for the perfect shave include: 

Perfecting the technique of shaving with a straight razor will take some time. Segev recommends consulting The Art of Shaving’s blog for some additional handy tips and tricks to make the shave go easier and safer. 

Moisturizer is an essential skin care product, whether you prefer a pared-down routine or one with a laundry list of steps. Dermatologists typically recommend applying it twice per day, every day, to keep skin well hydrated and reduce the likelihood you’ll need to contend with pesky issues like dryness, redness, and flaking.

"I tell my patients that using moisturizers twice a day, like brushing their teeth, helps maintain skin health because moisturizers are designed to protect our skin barrier," said Elaine F. Kung, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Weill-Cornell Medical College and dermatologist with Future Bright Dermatology.

Shaving can be a time consuming task, especially if you’re someone whose 5 o’clock shadow comes around at noon each day. While many of us religiously stick to our daily shaving routine, we still have to deal with one of the main concerns of shaving. Ingrown hairs form when a hair grows back into your skin as opposed to out, and usually appear post-shave, causing inflammation and itching.

Thankfully, these best ingrown hair treatments for 2023 are all geared up to revitalize your skin with potent, skin-soothing ingredients. When working these grooming products into your routine, start with a good exfoliation to cleanse the skin and deter ingrown hairs, before you double down with the best toners. Check out the best ingrown hair treatments below.

It's the question your barber asks every time, but you never know how to answer: "What do you want this time?" Reading "men's haircut" off of their services list isn't enough -- you need to come to your appointment at least semi-prepared. There are plenty of men's hairstyles out there, and getting a haircut isn't as simple as it once used to be. Sure, there are ways to fix a bad haircut, but isn't it better to get it right the first time?

If you're ever not sure what to tell your barber what you want in a haircut, this guide will point you in the right direction and have you leaving the salon feeling and looking your best. To help you out, we talked to a group of stylists who have been in the hair care business for decades to figure out what exactly you should be telling your barber next time you're in the shop.

How to sharpen a straight razor, according to a master barber - The Manual

Disposable Barber Razor The Essential Guide for MenThe Manual is simple — we show men how to live a life that is more engaged. As our name implies, we offer a suite of expert guides on a wide range of topics, including fashion, food, drink, travel, and grooming. We don’t boss you around; we’re simply here to bring authenticity and understanding to all that enriches our lives as men on a daily basis.