Straight-Razor-Grip UpdateWith experience, I've continued to evolve my straight-razor technique including how I hold the razor for the basic free-hand grip. (For a backhand grip, essentially the razor is rotated 180 degrees in the hand using the razor shank as the axis of rotation.) The following photos demonstrate my current basic grip on a straight razor. Note that all three photos are showing the same grip but from three different perspectives.
This grip allows for great security, control and comfort. This is pretty much the basic free-hand grip that barbers have been taught for a hundred years and more.
Removing Lather from a Straight: Euro Old SchoolI've observed that amateur straight-razor users -- whether using a traditional straight or a replaceable-edge barber razor -- in the middle of a pass tend to rinse excessive used lather and stubble off their razor under running water from the faucet. As I've mentioned before, there are a couple of potential problems with this method.
First, if one is using a vintage straight that is not made from stainless steel, getting water into the pivot point of the scales on the shank can be problematic. It would likely be difficult to remove or displace, and would likely lead to corrosion.
A second issue might be the challenge of water finding its way to the hand, and when combined with soap yields a slippery razor. Not a desirable situation.
Barbers are often trained to wipe their razor on a towel. This has several advantages. No running water is required. Therefore a shave can be done away from plumbing (barbers in other countries sometimes have no working plumbing and wet the beard with water from a spray bottle). When shaving a client, they can wipe their razor on a dry towel draped on their arm or a dry towel carefully laid on the client. This is quick, efficient, and has no risk of wetting hands that would then have to be dried before resuming the shave.
There are some barbers who, when shaving themselves or, in the case of a traveling barber in a foreign country who has set up shop on the side of a road and shaving a client, will wipe the used lather off their razor onto the palm of their non-razor hand.
This palm-of-the-hand method works okay if the one doing the shaving is only using his dominant hand throughout the shave to hold the razor. It gets pretty messy if switching the razor back and forth between both hands, however, and requires occasional rinsing and drying of the hand during the shave.
Then I found what I think is the best method of all, better than rinsing, towels, or the palm of the hand.
I discovered a single video of a clearly old-school barber shaving himself. He is probably not originally from the USA; he doesn't talk and merely demonstrates, while a first-language English speaker explains, narrates. This barber's method of removing shave lather from his straight razor is to wipe it on the back of his non-dominant hand behind the junction of his thumb and forefinger. This barber only shaves with his dominant hand, but I discovered that this back-of-the-hand method for wiping used lather from a straight razor, unlike the palm-of-the-hand method, works acceptably when alternating between dominant and non-dominant hands during the shave. The lather on the back of the non-dominant hand is just enough out of the way that it needn't be rinsed off until the pass is completed.
This has become my go-to way of removing lather build up from my straight razor during a pass.