One of the major advantages of using a cutthroat straight razor is that it can last a lifetime. Proper care of your razor is essential if you plan on being able to shave with it until handing it down to your grandkids. At Jimmy Figg's we are all about a buy-it-once approach and looking after what you have. We hate the plastic throwaway attitude that is stufficating our modern society.
Like any quality product, good maintenance of your cutthroat razor will ensure it serves you well and lasts a very long time.
The most common way of damaging your cutthroat straight razor is hitting it on the taps or sink. Don't underestimate your chances of doing this. When you do give your razor a hard knock on the cutting edge it will require a full re-grinding which we recommend getting done by a professional.
The second most common way of damaging your cutthroat razor is by using it for something other than shaving. The blade of your straight razor has a very fine and vulnerable cutting edge. Yes, it will probably be the sharpest blade in your home but please avoid the temptation of using it to open your mail or that packet of biscuits.
Moisture Leads to Rust
The main difference between carbon steel and stainless steel blades are that the later ones will be a little more rust resistant. They will both rust however, and be more susceptible to rusting if not dried properly and in climates with high humidity. A carbon steel blade is easier to sharpen and the blade generally holds an edge better than stainless blades.
We recommend never dunking your razor completely in water, especially with scales made from natural materials such as wood or horn. It is nearly impossible to completely dry between the scales and around the pins and this moisture can lead to rusting and possible swelling of the scales.
Good care begins with how you use razor when shaving. When you rinse the shaving cream off, either after every stroke or when your done, do so with the blade pointing down, so the water does not end up around the tang or pins and between the scales.
Use a towel or tissue paper to wipe the blade dry after every rinse and to dry thoroughly when your done. Its a good idea to leave your blade out for a while to let it completely dry before putting it away in a drawer. Never leave your razor out on the vanity permanently, because the moisture in the air from each shower will find its way inside every nook and cranny.
What oil to use
Generally you want to use a very thin oil. This can be sewing machine oil, tool oil, mineral oil, honing oil, machining oil or baby oil (but not the ones made from real babies). Do not use olive oil, it dries out too quickly and can leave a gummy build up. Do not use thick oils like motor oil.
Never use anything abrasive like bleach, detergents or ammonia to clean your razor, as these will damage and deteriorate the blade.
How to apply oil
There are three ways you can apply oil to your razor. You can drip one or two drop on each side of the blade and use your fingers (very carefully) to rub the oil up and down the blade to cover the whole surface. You can use an oil soaked cloth or piece of tissue in a similar method, but this keeps your soft fingers further away from the cutting edge. The third way is by using an oil applicator like the one in the image below, which is basically a small bottle of oil with a cloth swab over the top, this method not only keeps your fingers well protected but is a cleaner way of storing the oil, as you don't have that oily cloth lying around.
Remember you only need a very thin coat of oil, excess oil will end up clogging the pins and could be soaked up by scales made form natural materials.
Keep it sharp
Keeping your cutthroat razor super sharp is essential if you want to actually shave with it. We won't go into detail on this post about how to sharpen your razor, we cover that in another post, but we recommend using a honing stone every 6 months and using a strop before each use.
Careful stropping of the blade before shaving maintains the blade's cutting ability for several months, but too much pressure on the strop can damage the fine cutting edge.
The honing stone will refresh your blade edge, while the strop will remove any soap or oil build up and keep the blade edge sharp.