A cut throat razor is a razor that has a single straight blade which is attached to a handle by a hinge or pin and that is stored by folding it edge-first into a slot in the handle of the razor. This method of shaving with a cut throat razor or straight razor is the most traditional and argued by some shaving traditionalists as the only way to shave.
The straight-edge razor was also called the cut-throat razor because it was dangerous enough to cut a man's throat.
You can view our current range of razors available in our Cut Throat Razors category page.
As far back as the civilisations of Rome and Greece used iron blades with a long handle and developed the shape of the cut-throat razor which was the only pratical razor until the 19th century. With improvements in steel manufacture came cut throat razor blades that were really sharp and capable of being re-sharpened.
Advances in razor technology changed shaving habits in the 20th century. In 1900, most men were either shaved by the local barber (your trusted confidante, wielding a cut throat razor), or periodically at home when required, rather than regularly. The barber's better-off customers would have personal sets of seven cut throat razors, labelled 'Sunday' to 'Saturday', called a Seven Day Set, with a razor for each day of the week. Today, nearly all men shave everyday in their own homes, using a wide variety of equipment.
A cut-throat razor must be used with extreme caution. Executive Shaving would be very pleased to give advice on using the cut-throat razor before purchase.
In general, the blades of straight razors are made of steel, the more recent razors have blades made from stainless steel. The manufacturers markings are often found engraved or etched on the blades which may include the model.
The handles of straight razors are made from all sorts of different materials, including wood, rubber, horn, ivory, bakelite, vegetable ivory, and metal. Inlays and additions can be of mother of pearl, silver, copper, ivory, wood, tortoiseshell.
The straight razor must be properly looked after in order to ensure the maintenance and long life of this traditional men's accessory. While straight razors made of stainless steel are less demanding, other straight razors have to be rinsed with clear water and thoroughly dried after each use.
When not in use for longer periods, it is recommended that the blade of the straight razor be rubbed with light oil. Likewise, the razor should not be stored in a damp and unaired state. There is no generally valid rule for the whetting (stropping) of straight razors; in many cases, it is sufficient to draw the razor lightly over the ball of the thumb, especially when it has been left unused for several days between shaves.
Wet shavers of the old school know that the facet (blade) "grows", i.e. the microscopically discernible and extremely fine "fin" on the cutting edge changes during the shave but returns to its old position afterwards; it stretches and again becomes extremely fine. Nevertheless, this fine "fin" will still wear away at some stage and a suitable strop should then be bought.
While flat blades are whetted on a suspended strop (velvet knives), 1/2 or 1/1 concave blades require a hanging strop made of fine cowhide leather or extremely supple Russia leather either with a turning device for hanging up or with hemp hose on the back, which serves to align the "fin" in the direction pointing away from the razor. If required, the leather side can be rubbed with an extremely thin layer of fine abrasive paste (red paste) and - for a final polishing on a separate strop - with polishing paste (strop paste), which is worked in with the ball of the thumb.
Stropping is performed at a flat angle with the back of the razor laid on the strop; the razor is drawn in the direction away from the body. The razor is then turned over on its back and drawn in towards the body. Changing directions without turning the razor over makes the blade become round (crowned) so that the cutting properties are lost. In this case, only resharpening can help.
Straight razors are usually whetted in the factory for use (whetting on leather by hand). If you own a suitable strop, you should nevertheless take into account that the razor must first "rest" after use. After the razor has been carefully rinsed and dried, it should not be used again for at least 24-48 hours because the fine "fin" on the cutting edge straightens up again extremely slowly. If the razor is stropped too soon (or stropped incorrectly by moving it backwards and forwards without turning it over), the "fin" which is necessary for a close shave breaks off. Between six and fifteen shaves are possible without stropping in between.
The beginner starts first with the smooth and unproblematic areas of the face. To do this, the open straight razor is held with thumb and three fingers so that the opened holder points away from the face.
Lathered with good shaving soap and thus made supple, the skin must be tightened; the straight razor is moved at an angle of approx. 30° firstly in the direction of growth of the beard and then against the direction of growth. If held too flat, the razor rips the stubble; if held too upright, it cuts the skin.
Always move it in the direction of the cutting edge and never horizontally (danger of injury); always draw it through evenly and hold it a little more upright at corners, dimples and at the upper lip.
If the razor gets damaged by being dropped or when being put into its holder, it should not be used further. Stropping does not help here; the razor must be resharpened and whetted by a specialist.
The basic materials for good straight razors are standard steels with a carbon content of 0.6% and greater and which attain a maximum of hardness, elasticity and resistance to wear in a careful process of tempering and treatment.
The advantage of stainless grades of steel is that these require less looking after.
In general, the best environment in which to store straight razors is well-ventilated, room temperature (72F or 20C), and neither too dry, nor too damp.
It is advisable to keep straight razors out of water and away from liquids as much as possible - both because water will encourage the iron-based blades to rust, and also because water can cause serious damage to many handle materials. Cleaning straight razors with bleach, ammonia or detergents is discouraged, as these substances can also cause damage.
The Blade: Metal polishes, such as Brasso, Silvo, or Autosol should never be used on the blade of a straight razor. As well as damaging the surface, they can leave polish residues which are both unattractive, and can be harmful to the blade and handle. Instead use Muhle razor maintenance oil to protect the blade from corrosion.
If the blade is exceptionally dull or nicked, the use of a sharpening stone is recommended. A leather razor strop can be used to maintain a keen edge. You know you're getting close when you can slice a piece of paper with your razor. Next, clean the entire surface of the blade with a Q-tip dampened with either ethyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol. This will help degrease the blade of the straight razor. Then, apply a thin coat of light mineral oil to the blade; let it sit for a shortwhile (10 minutes, or so), and then wipe the excess oil off using a clean, dry cloth. This oil coating will help prevent any further rusting.
If you use your straight razor, use rubbing alcohol to remove the oil before use, and again after use to clean the blade. Use mineral oil to re-oil the blade after use, as well as after sharpening. Be careful not to get any alcohol or oil on the handle.
For further advice on our range of cut thraot razors, please don't hesitate to get in touch. Call us on 0141 880 3040, email us at [email protected], or use the LiveChat function on our website.