Shaving with a straight razor is definitely a time-honored tradition, and is considered by many to be a lost art in today’s fast-paced world of convenience and disposability. For many men, straight razors are also an area of interest in terms of collecting and restoring old or vintage blades. Perhaps you have thought more than once about seeking out a vintage straight razor for restoration purposes. This is an excellent idea, not only for the sake of preserving something from an earlier era, but also because it can be far less expensive than buying a new one!
Where To Find Old Or Vintage Straight Razors?
The cool thing is that the razor you seek may be a lot closer than you think. You may have a grandfather, father or uncle who either purchased one for himself, or kept one that was passed down from a previous generation. If you don’t have any luck with that approach, try any antiques store or even a pawn shop. Many times the straight razors are kept in display cases where other similar “manly memorabilia” items reside, including cufflinks, pens, eyeglasses, and wristwatches. You might be surprised at the kinds of straight razors you can score by visiting these types of small shops.
Straight Razors To Avoid
There’s a difference between purchasing a straight razor that needs a little “TLC” and one that is a lost cause. Avoid the straight razors that have these kinds of issues:
* Chips or small missing areas, especially close to the cutting edge
* Heat-damaged blades, which are typically discolored or display burn marks
* Blades that have significant rust, especially close to the cutting edge
* Deep-pitted or pock-marked blades
* Blades that either have excessive amounts of scratch marks, or have a flattened spine; these types of blades won’t have a lot of life left, even if you do a good job of restoring them.
Tools You Will Need To Restore A Straight Razor
You will need the right tools if you want to get started off on the right foot. The following list should get you all set up:
- Metal polish – Some popular brands include Maas, Flitz and Mother’s.
- A ball-peen hammer and a regular hammer
- Wet/dry sandpaper – You can find this type of sandpaper at Lowe’s, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Harbor Freight, or any other type of home improvement/hardware store.
- Rags or an old shirt that you don’t plan on wearing anymore.
The Restoration Process: A 3-Step Process
Okay, now here’s the fun part. Keep in mind that many blades will have a certain patina, or naturally darkened appearance, due to the age of the straight razor. It is also not uncommon to find small rust spots that have crept in due to time and moisture. Your job will be to breathe new life into this razor using the following steps:
Use the sandpaper to resurface the blade and remove any rust. You should work towards achieving a smooth, even surface. You can do this by hand, or you can use a power tool such as a Dremel oscillating tool to do it for you. You will more than likely have to test out several different grits, but keep in mind that the lower grits (e.g., 80/120, 220, 320, 400) are for the more intense jobs such as removing pits or major rust spots. You can use the higher grits (e.g. 1500) to bring about a brighter finish to the metal. Ultra-high grits such as 10,000 can give your blade an almost mirror-like appearance, but that’s a matter of preference more than a necessity. Sand with long strokes that run the length of the blade, and be sure to take it slow and steady. If you’re using a power tool, be sure to wear protective eyewear; there’s nothing un-manly about that. If sanding by hand in particular, be mindful of the position of your fingers at all times; after all, we are dealing with a razor here.
Use the metal polish to shine that bad boy up. You can do this by hand using the rags, or you can put some buffing wheels on your Dremel to accomplish the task. This will help to remove the patina as well as any light scratches, and bring out the natural shine of the blade.
Now clean the scales and pins with a polishing or buffing agent. You can use the Maas for this, or any other type of popular polishing product such as Turtle Wax. Use the ball-peen hammer to tighten up loose pins by gently tapping on them from both sides. You can also use toothpicks or cotton swabs to clean those tight or hard-to-reach spots.
Congratulations – you have officially restored your straight razor!