Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Razor and Blade Care: to Dry, to Strop; That is a Question...

As a life-long hands-on kind of guy, I've been using tools since I was five years of age, when I partially disassembled (and reassembled, I must add) my bicycle for the first time.

My father taught me a little about taking care of my tools. I remember him instructing me in the clean up of (house) painting gear, so it would be usable and good as new next time. I have always been rather thrifty as well, so I guess taking care of my stuff for the long haul is part of my nature.

So that perspective carries over to shaving instruments as well. I rinse my shaving brushes well, then vigorously remove the water using inertia by making a repeated, rapid slinging motion over the bathtub, then hang them under my bathroom medicine cabinet using hook & loop fasteners (a.k.a. Velcro).

My three-piece razors, which are all that I currently use with regularity, I disassemble, rinse, and dry after every shave. What I choose to do isn't completely necessary, I know; but I will  likely never have any problems with peeling chrome or other issues with the finish thanks to my habits of tool clean up and maintenance.

But blades.... what about blades? This can be somewhat controversial. Given that today's blades are made out of stainless steel, they are very low maintenance. Stainless steel is tough and resists oxidation. However, the edges of any scalpel-sharp blade are also, by definition, fragile. The edge is susceptible to dulling from small physical trauma beyond the basic use of shaving hair. It is also arguably susceptible to invisible oxidative deterioration on the microscopic tips of the edges. Yet there is the risk that the very act of maintaining the blade may offer potential damage, thereby shortening rather than lengthening its useful life.

Here's what I do:

If it is a coated blade, as most of mine are, I do remove the blade from the razor, rinse under running water to remove any remaining soap and debris, and, on a flat surface, will carefully blot dry with toilet tissue. Then I re-insert the blade into the desired razor for the next shave. Though I used to palm strop or arm strop coated blades, no longer. I am now concerned that even this minor friction may be unnecessarily removing more of the precious coating off the blade edge, thus making subsequent shaves more harsh rather than less.

If it is an un-coated blade, as is my least-preferred inventory of Lord Platinum Class blades, I also remove the blade from the razor and rinse. I will also pat it dry. As a final step, I will palm or arm strop these blades before re-inserting in the desired razor for the next shave. This careful stropping may help to align any micro deviation of the edge due to the minor trauma of the shave.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Happy shaving!

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