Graduating from the safety razor? Good on ya, mate. You're not mountain biking yet, but at least you're off the training wheels.
Welcome to the land of true shaving, where your face will be smoother than it was when you were fourteen and getting some real bitchin' peach fuzz coming in.
Your 5-o'clock shadows will become 11-o'clock shadows, and you can get away with skipping the following day's shave if you wake up late and don't have a meeting scheduled.
Unfortunately, there is much confusion on the road to Alhambra. Picking out a straight razor can be like researching a car.
What kind of beard do I have?
Will I need a hollow ground, concave, or wedge? 5/8" seems like a popular size, but what does it measure?
Carbon vs. stainless?
Like everything else around here, there's an easy way and there's a perceived inexpensive (read: stupid) way.
The first mistake I made was finding an cheap razor that looked good on eBay. My criteria at that time were simple: 1) Under $10, and 2) no rust. That's about it.
Naturally, the ultra-slim pickin's led me to razors that were duller than Abe Simpson's regalous tales of the old days. Not knowing how sharp a real straight razor was supposed to be, I wound up scraping off most of my skin, but very little stubble.
Nice, let's not do that again.
So in the interest of lowering the learning curve by removing variables, you may want to try the disposable method.
In addition to keeping down the start-up costs associated with a strop, hone, paste, etc, the Dove Shavette assures a good blade on every shave. This allows you spend your time concentrating on technique rather than maintaining a good edge. Serious razors are expensive, and you don't want to waste a perfectly good blade through youthful exuberance.
When you're ready for the big time, though, you really have one major choice: carbon vs. stainless. A stainless steel blade won't rust or dull easily, but it won't sharpen very easily either. And stropping one is a real bitch.
This is a relatively easy decision, and a classic example of how some things just can't be improved upon.
The wheel, Pez, and a straight razor made from tempered carbon steel. Just soft enough to microscopically hone a blade into an edge sharp enough to slice an atom neatly in twain.
Buying new will save you a lot of headaches. Many are sold shave-ready, whereas that old blade on eBay will likely have to be cleaned and honed. And if you're not used to honing a blade…
If you’re shopping for a good new blade, this Dovo Straight Razor is a good place to start.
If you do buy used, for God's sake make sure you pick one that isn't rusted, warped, chipped, spindled, mutilated, or otherwise defiled. Then find a barber. An old one. Old enough to have been behind the chair upon hearing of Kennedy's assasination.
My barber still has a strop hanging from his chair for historical value. I chewed his ear once about wetshaving, and on my next visit I brought along my blade and was given the use of his hone and some excellent advice. And a $9 haircut.