The Anatomy of a Straight Razor

The straight razor has curved its name to be a useful tool in the wet shaving industry for centuries. It is also known as a cut-throat razor. In the recent past, its popularity has kept soaring, and more and more people shave using it now more than ever. Wet shavers keep increasing by the day, and the straight razor is at the top of their shopping list. For some who have been shaving with this product for long, collecting them for fun is not a strange experience. To the enthusiasts of this item, there are plenty of benefits they get.

shaving brush and a straight razor on a table

  • Provides a controlled and precise shave in comparison with other wet shaving products
  • Using it reduces the risk of getting nicks, infection, irritation, and cuts with proper application
  • A straight razor is a lifetime investment
  • It does not require disposable components and so, is friendlier to the environment
  • You get a more manly feel by just using it

Even with many people loving the straight razor for their wet shaving process, some have no idea about the anatomy of their favourite razor. Central to this ignorance is assuming that a straight razor is a simple tool. Well, it is a simple shaving item, but it has numerous components and sub-components that you need to know about to leverage on all the opportunities it has to offer. Each part of the straight razor contributes to its usefulness. There are many parts you should know.

First off, the straight razor or the cut-throat razor is made up of two main parts; the blade and the handle. The blade is usually the metal end, while the handle is a non-metal.

Man holding a straight razor

Blade

The blade is the metal part of the straight razor. It comprises of the tail, tang, jimps, shoulder, heel, spine, edge, face, toe, and the point. Most of the blades out there are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, or Damascus steel.

The stainless steel does not rust, sustains the edge longer, but is harder to sharpen. The carbon steel rusts if you don’t take care of it well, the edge wears off faster, but it is easier to sharpen. With continuous use and sharpening, the blade becomes thinner. Its edge and point are responsible for the cutting of hair, while the rest of the parts help in offering the perfect grip for a hair cut.

The handle

The handle is the non-metal part of the razor, which can be plastic, bone, resin, wood, tusk, or any other material the manufacturer finds good. Different materials determine the cost of the cut-throat razor. One can order for a bespoke handle if they are willing to spend on it. It is primarily useful for gripping during the use of the straight razor. But it further is important as storage and protective place where the blade can be tucked when not in use.

Point

The point is the sharp tip of the razor which comes in varied sizes and shapes. They come as either oblique, round, barber’s notch (hollow), French (Irish), Spanish, or square (spike). While others protrude away from the blade, the hollow and Spanish dig towards the blade. This part of the straight razor is useful in focusing on specific areas of the face particularly when you seek to achieve precise cuts in small areas and spots that are hard to reach. This part is what you need to cut hair under the nose and behind the ears. The round point is more forgiving (recommended for beginners), while the square provides you more control, which works great for industry experts.

Toe

While the point is the tip, the toe is the end point of the cutting edge normally in an angle or arc shape depending on the type of tip the straight razor has. The toe is next to the point but does not serve the same purpose. Instead, it’s used to determine if the blade is correctly adjusted. When the toe is the perfect shape, then the blade has no dents or bends, making it efficient at its duties.

Face

The face is the wall of the blade. Depending on the manufacturer, it can have a logo or writings on it to show its maker, or state the material used to make the blade. It is thinner towards the edge and thicker towards the spine. During use, it is parallel to the skin of your face.

man putting a straight razor in his pocket

Edge/Bevel

The edge is the part of the razor that is in contact with your facial skin during use. It is considered the most important because it is responsible for cutting the hair. And if you do the shaving wrong, it is can easily be the cause for nicks and cuts. If your straight razor requires sharpening and stropping, this part is where you do all the work. Depending on the material, it becomes blunt and you have to sharpen and strop for a perfect shave.

Heel

This part is the exact opposite of the toe on the lower end. The edge ends here. In blades that have a short tang, the heel will not get out of the handle. It also comes in varied shapes and provides a place for the thumb. A heel has no specified use but is part of a straight razor and so, it gives it an identity.

Spine

While the edge stays in contact with your skin, the spine will be on the opposite side. For most users, this is where you lay your index finger when the straight razor is in use. With your finger on it, you can move the razor, adjust its angles on the skin to avoid any errors during use. If the cutthroat razor was a car, the spine would be the steering wheel, determining where you are moving towards and the direction of use. It provides the rigidity you require to the entire instrument.

straight razor

Shoulder

The blade and the tang meet on the shoulder. In regards to this, it is okay to call it the joint of the straight razor, which stabilizes the blade during use. If it is not well done, it would be impossible to use the razor because the appliance will not be in the right condition to work without causing risks.

Tang

If you cannot place your finger on the spine comfortably, you’ll most likely place it on the tang (that is if the tang it too long or your index finger is short). Using this part assures you that you won’t cut your fingers because it is far from the cutting edge. It is the neck-like part which connects the handle to the blade. It plays a big role in holding the entire shaving appliance, but also often has the makers mark.

Jimps

Another part that helps in holding the cutthroat razor is the jimps. It is on the lower end of the tang and helps in holding the blade in place during use. Most people place their thumbs on it when the item is in use.

Tail

As the name suggests, it is the metal end of the straight razor. Some people place their fingers on it during the use of the straight razor. You can place your pinky or ring finger here (only a few people have the techniques of using it this way). Used in this manner, it takes the steering role to help you avoid cutting yourself. It is normally pointed away from the handle and looks like a hook. It is the extension of the tang if you like.

Pivot/Pin/Axis

The pivot is the contact point of the blade and the handle. Without it, the entire instrument cannot work as a unit. It is usually adjustable allowing the blade to move up and down in varied angles. In some straight razors, the user can adjust it to have the grip they desire, while in others, it is fixed.

man holding a straight razor

Scale

Sometimes the word scale is interchangeably used with the handle. It can also mean the decorative part of the handle. Depending on the material used, the scales can be within the handle material or curved on the outside. Some manufacturers incorporate different decorative materials on the handle to make it aesthetically appealing. They have a role in determining the price of the straight razor.

The straight razor parts can have different names in various contexts. But the ones we provide here are the most common names you might meet out there. You should not forget that the size of the blade is also responsible for the name it will get and its effectiveness as well. Therefore, the grind of the blade is responsible for the profile. The grinds come in many different styles, but the most common include, the quarter hollow, half hollow, and full hollow. Now you understand that the straight razor is not as simple as it looks. The makers must consider the anatomy we describe above and give accurate measurements for the razor to be effective at its use.

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