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Your straight razor from Excalibur Cutlery has been pre sharpened at the factory, and is ready to use out of the box.
If you are using a straight razor for the first time, start with the flattest and easiest areas of your face. Hold the razor with tree fingers at the shank (the end of the blade, where it pivots to the handle). Having lathered up with a quality shaving soap, hold the skin taught with your other hand and shave with the straight razor at a 30 degree angle to your face. If you hold the razor too flat, it is likely to cut your skin; if you hold it too steep, it will tear the stubble. Always shave in the direction of the cutting edge, and never swipe sideways. First shave downwards, and then back upwards.
After use, wipe clean and dry for storage. The durable, high-carbon steel used in Excalibur Cutlery's razors must be kept dry to prevent corrosion. If the razor is not to be used for a longer period, it is advisable to coat it lightly with oil. Never store the razor in a damp, unventilated place.
Stropping does not sharpen your razor per se, but aligns the straight edge. During use, the blade of the straight razor will form small irregularities from being pressed against your skin; this is due to the thin, hollow-ground nature of the blade. Stropping will restore the straight edge to your blade. It is recommended to strop with each use (before or after).
Your strop may have both a canvas and a leather component. First strop about 20 strokes on the canvas, and then about 50 on the leather. After shaving, another 20 strokes on the leather helps to clean the surface of the blade. A strop paste may be applied to treat the leather and help polish the surface of the blade.
Hang your strop from a hook or nail and hold the bottom edge so it is taught. Holding the open razor at the shank, place the blade flat against the strop with the spine and edge both touching the surface. Using light pressure, draw the razor away from you with the sharp edge trailing (if you strop with the sharp edge leading, you are apt to cut into and ruin your strop). When you get to the top, pivot the razor over its spine (roll the shank through your thumb and fingers like a pencil) and draw the razor back towards you. A full ‘round trip’ equals one stroke. There is no need to go fast like you see in the movies; you will gain speed and finesse with practice.
The sharp edge of your straight razor requires occasional sharpening with a honing stone. Depending on the thickness of your beard and frequency of use, your razor could go a few months or over a year between honings.
You can use a wet stone or dry stone to hone your razor. A grit of 4,000 to 8,000 is recommended for routine honing; if your razor has become extremely worn, use a lower-grit stone at first.
Place the razor flat on the stone, holding it by the shank. With both the spine and blade edge in contact with the stone, slide the blade along the surface with the blade edge leading (the opposite direction as stropping). When you reach the end of the stone, roll the razor over the spine so the blade is now facing the other way and go back in the other direction. Each ‘round trip’ counts as one stroke. It is important to maintain even contact, using light pressure. There is no need to go fast.
Honing removes metal from the blade, so you do not want to over-hone. How much to hone depends on how dull your blade has gotten. It will take some practice, honing and then shaving, to determine how much is enough. A well-honed and stropped blade should last for at least several months before more honing is required.
If you wipe clean and dry your razor after use, strop regularly and do not over-hone, your straight razor should last more than a lifetime.
You can find videos that demonstrate these procedures through a simple search on Google or YouTube.