Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Cut throat

Over the last year or so, I have been learning how to shave with a straight or cut throat razor. Why? You may ask.
Well; one day back then, my electric razor gave up the ghost and died. I used a safety razor to shave with and being a cheapskate, I resented buying all these razor blades that really did not last that long and can be expensive to buy. I refused to buy disposable plastic razors and think they are the Devil's own tools. This is an environmental issue. When we buy these, we are buying landfill waste that is made from a finite resource.

I have had a straight razor in a draw for years but only once or twice experimented with it and failed, so it just sat in my draw. Being into sharpening woodworking tools and abrasives, I have collected a fair amount of stones - both man made and natural - so I decided to learn the traditional craft of shaving.
It has not been easy, but it has been enjoyable. As with learning any new craft, at first it seems difficult if not impossible. Putting a razor sharp knife on you face is challenging, as is getting the perfect shaving edge. It is only in the last few months that I have been able to complete a full face shave with only my straight razor. The cheeks and neck are easy to shave, but the chin and upper lip do take time to master. The most sensitive part of the face is the upper lip and shaving it with a straight edge can be a bit difficult and painful. I often used to finished off with my safety razor whilst still learning.
There is also something very calming as well as satisfying about using a straight razor to shave; there is something ritualistic in the process. There is nothing hurried about it. Sharpening the razor on hones and strops is best done with  attention, and deliberate movements and the steps to a smooth shave are always the same. A warm flannel on the face, mixing and applying the shaving cream or soap, and slow deliberate cuts of the razor. It can be a meditation, a practice of mindfulness. I really am in the `now` moment when shaving and if not, a nick in my skin soon brings be back to the present.
The other intangible side is the tradition and owning of both process, and tools. The fact that we are using a knife that has essentially remained unchanged since the invention of a metal, that can hold a razor edge. I am responsible for my tools, and  the maintenance of them. The only thing I have to buy now is my shaving cream and that lasts a fair while. One good razor will see me out.
It has also been an excuse to find and learn about natural stones, some of which have been purchased very cheaply from car boot sales or tool stalls at woodfairs. Being Taurean, collecting stones is the perfect hobby. Not only are stones very attractive to me (I am often picking pebbles off the beach) but they are very functional and some of them can be worth a few quid too!
There are many forums on the internet about shaving, just do a search. They will give advice about any question you care to ask.
Me, I am off to have a slow shave and to savour being here now in this moment, and to feel empowered by the fact I have learned and taken control of another way of shaving, that is not buying into the need for the newest or cheapest, and the creation of yet more landfill.