Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Shavette Nuances vs Traditional Straight Razor

A shavette is a straight razor -- just a straight with a replaceable blade, not an old-school traditional straight razor that needs to be honed and stropped.

Much is made of the huge differences between "true" straight razors and shavettes. In reality -- though there are clear differences -- they are often exaggerated, overblown by reactionary traditionalists, straight-razor snobs and those who actually don't know what they're talking about.


The major differences between a shavette (in particular, those that use half-DE blades) and traditional straight razors are as follows:
  • The weight and balance may be different. Shavettes are generally lighter, although many such as my Parker SRX are made of substantial stainless steel throughout including the scales, and therefore may have a weight more like a traditional straight -- though the balance may be different because more of the razor weight of the SRX is in the scales.
  • The cutting edge is shorter in a shavette and longer in a traditional straight.
  • The cutting edge is generally sharper in a shavette due to the sharpness of a DE blade, and therefore, the shavette may be more "tricky," more tempermental to use -- meaning they may be more likely to nip and cut.
So the reality is that a shavette may have a bit longer learning curve due primarily to the sharpness of the edge.

The other differences can be accommodated by slight adjustments in the user's technique and "feel" for a given instrument. However, none of these differences should be an insurmountable problem because, after all, barbers use shavettes regularly without any difficulty.

I would suggest that for many, using a shavette is more of a mental hurdle to overcome rather than a purely physical one. That is not to say, however, that traditional straight razors and shavettes are directly interchangeable without some adjustment.

For example, the weight balance of shavettes like my SRX may be accommodated by keeping the scales more in line with the shank of the razor when in use. Many straight-shaving demonstrators suggest a grip of two fingers on either side of the scales, and keeping the scales at about a 90-degree angle to the shank of the razor. This may work when most of razor weight is in the blade and not in the scales, but for those razors with heavy scales, the shank-scale angle may be better at a more obtuse angle such as 135 degrees. The grip to achieve that is more easily done with three fingers on the shank side of the scales and just a pinky on the tang. Incidentally, this seems to be the grip that barbers (the real pros) tend to use more often than not. It seems that the amateurs are the ones that seem to more often favor the two-fingers-on-each-side-of-the-scales grip.

A second physical adjustment I might suggest is corking a new half-DE blade when initially inserted in the shavette. The amounts to literally drawing the edge of the blade through cork -- literally cutting into it. This corking process can consist of one or more cuts -- the number depending on the sharpness of the new blade and one's tolerance of or requirement for that sharpness.

Another suggestion has been to dull the edge ends (that is, the corners) of the  half-DE blade -- both the toe and the heel of the edge. That way the user is less likely to catch the corner of the blade on skin and thereby cause an injury.

Other than those differences and accommodations, the differences in using a shavette as compared to a traditional straight razor are small and subtle.

Garage Sale Continues -- Make Me an Offer

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my garage-sale razors, and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch.

But if you think my prices are out of line, send me an email, make me an offer! Let's see if we can find a point of win-win.

Happy shaving!

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