Best Straight Razor – Top 5 Sharpest Reviews for Feb. 2017
Shaving is a chore for most men, although there are certainly some who enjoy the opportunity to take a little time for themselves while making sure they’re groomed just the way they like – these men welcome the return of the straight razor.
For a select few, though, shaving is truly an art. That’s because they have mastered the time-honored use of the old-fashioned straight razor.
Folding straight razors were first sold in England in the late 17th century and were basically the only option for men until the 1900s. The development of more convenient (and to most, less dangerous) safety razors, and later electric razors, turned the straight razor from a ubiquitous fixture in all bathrooms into a seldom-used relic.
Except, that is, for those daring souls who still swear by the straight razor for reasons of nostalgia and tradition, because they feel more masculine shaving the old fashioned way – or, in the majority of cases, because they believe a straight blade gives the closest shave possible with the greatest degree of control. A straight razor enthusiast is someone who enjoys the finer things in life and has the patience to savour experiences such a fine wine lovingly stored in a top of the range wine refrigerator. In fact, many manufacturers of safety and disposable razors have recently reported drops in sales, while those who sell straight razors say their sales are on the rise.
Straight Razor Shaving is Making a Comeback!
The straight razor, also called the barber razor, true razor – or for obvious reasons, the cutthroat razor – is making a comeback. Whether you’re one of those men thinking of giving it a try or a devotee of straight blades, the Groom+Style review team have investigated the options and put together our list of the top 5 best straight razors on the market.
Straight Razor Buying Considerations
The Groom+Style team will be running down the features we believe are most important when choosing a straight razor, but the most important consideration has nothing to do with the blade you choose: your own patience and discipline. Shaving with a straight razor isn’t for those who are always in a hurry or don’t want to spend time learning proper technique. Make sure you’re prepared to be slow and deliberate as you get used to and master a blade, before laying out the surprisingly big bucks that you’ll pay for the best straight razors.
How Much Will a Straight Razor Cost?
Big bucks? How much could a piece of steel attached to a handle cost, anyway? Well, a very good-quality straight razor will be in the hundred dollar range, and the very finest can run you over a thousand dollars. That’s because of the material they’re made from, and the exceptional craftsmanship and precision that goes into forging and honing them. Remember, though, that a straight razor is (theoretically, at least) a purchase that will last a lifetime.
How to Judge a High Quality Straight Razor?
Judging a straight razor is even more complicated than learning to use it. For example, a blade can have a hard, medium or soft temper, which has a major bearing on how long it will keep its edge and how easy it will be to sharpen (hard temper is better for the former, soft for the latter). The grind (the concave indentations on the blade) will also be important, because a full hollow makes the blade lighter and sharper but also more dangerous, while less of a hollow is a better choice for those newer to straight razors. Each man’s needs and preferences will be different. Sticking with one of the major heritage manufacturers of straight razors (almost all of which are located in Germany or France) might be the best bet if you’re unsure about the ins and outs of knives and blades.
Straight Razor Width, Point, Balance and Material
There are two “blade questions” that don’t require much expertise. The first is the width (a wider blade is harder to manage but can hold more lather, a narrower blade can reach touch spots like under the nose or behind the ears) and the second is the blade’s point (a round point is simpler to manage, a square one is more precise but tougher to handle). What’s easier to determine is whether a straight razor is well-balanced; that’s a key factor in how easy the blade is to use and how consistent a shave it will deliver. The handle must be comfortable and solid, ideally with scales that ensure a good grip.
The final thing to check is the blade’s material. Most inexpensive straight razors are made from stainless steel, which are said to cut better and last longer between sharpenings than old-school carbon-steel blades. However, landmark manufacturers still make their razors from carbon steel, because they have the experienced craftsmen able to create an extremely high-quality blade with it.
Let’s cut to the chase and get to our top 5 best straight razor reviews.
1. Dovo Straight Razor Carbon, Ebony Wood Handle
Groom+Style mentioned landmark manufacturers of straight razors, and the best of the best have historically been located in Solingen, Germany. Dovo has been setting the standard for Solingen straight razors for more than a century and this model is a wonderful example. There are actually several terrific Dovo razors in the same general price range, around $100; the review team chose this one because it has a half-hollow blade and because we like the ebony handle more than the plastic one used on the company’s slightly less expensive full-hollow models.
Although it’s a half-hollow straight razor, this Dovo is still light and sharp but not as lethal a weapon in the hand of a novice user. What makes it really stand out is that it’s crafted from very high-quality carbon steel, which makes the blade hard, durable and elastic. The downside is that it will require sharpening more often – but for many devotees of straight razors, that’s half the fun. The blade is 5/8” wide and has a rounded point, which might not satisfy an experienced user, but is definitely easier for new users and allows easy shaving of smaller areas of the face. The ebony-scaled handle is another plus since it’s both beautiful and provides a strong grip without slipping in the hand.
We should note that Dovo ships this straight razor “factory shave ready,” which is their normal approach and does not really mean “shave ready.” You’ll probably have to have it honed and/or strop it a bit before your first use – but it’s definitely worth it.
This is one great shave at a very reasonable price.
Facts and figures on the Dovo Straight Razor Carbon, Ebony Wood Handle:
2. Boker King Cutter Straight Razor 140521
Dovo is one of the best-known razor and cutlery manufacturers in Solingen. Boker is the other, and its straight razors are of the same high quality. The King Cutter, we should mention, might be marked “Boker USA” but that just means that the razor is assembled in America. The blades are still hand-ground in Solingen to the exquisite standards the company has been famous for.
The King Cutter has a 5/8” carbon-steel alloy blade, with the alloy actually an improvement on the traditional carbon steel because it lets the blade be ground to an even finer edge. The blade has a rounded point with a full-hollow grind, so it’s simpler for new straight razor users to maneuver but will be sharper than the half-hollow Dovo we’ve just looked at. The bottom line is the shave, of course, and it’s an outstanding one, both in its closeness and its comfort.
The plastic-scaled handle is the only reason the King Cutter ranks second on our list. It’s not as solid as the handle on the Dovo and since it’s quite light, that creates a slight balance issue with the blade being heavier than the handle. After using it a few times, though, you’ll get used to it and love the shave. This Boker straight razor supposedly comes “shave ready,” but it will still probably need some stropping before it’s ready for your face.
Priced similarly to the Dovo, it’s our second choice but might be many readers’ first choice.
Looking closer at the Boker King Cutter Straight Razor 140521:
3. Thiers-Issard 6/8″ Straight Razor, Round Tip, Festooned
Germany isn’t the only nation known for its exquisite blades; France is also famed for producing outstanding handcrafted steel blades, and the name to know in French straight razors is Thiers-Issard. This beauty will cost you more than double the price of the Dovo or Boker – but wow, what a shave.
The mirror-polished 6/8” blade is (obviously) slightly longer than the first two reviewed products in our list of the top 5 best straight razors, so it’s more efficient even if takes a little more experience (or care) when used. The full-hollow blade is forged and ground in France from TI Carbonsong C135 steel, with a round nose making it slightly less intimidating despite its length and grind. You can see the quality just from looking at it – it’s a masterpiece. The handle is a masterpiece as well, made with blonde horn scales, and the Thiers-Issard eagle logo is etched in black on the blade to complete the elegant and striking look of this straight razor. The grip is firm, the razor is extremely well-balanced and the shave is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. It will be a revelation. The razor, which still needs to be finished-honed once you’ve received it, comes with a premium calfskin travel pouch as well.
If the Thiers-Issard is that good, why isn’t it ranked at #1? Quite simply because this isn’t a beginner’s straight razor, and because it carries a premium price. If you’re ready for a razor like this, consider it our top choice.
Digging deeper on the Thiers-Issard 6/8″ Straight Razor, Round Tip, Festooned:
4. Bison + Max Sprecher Signature Straight Razor
You didn’t believe how expensive straight razors can get? Get a gander at this model made by renowned razor artisan Max Sprecher, which sells for nearly a thousand dollars.
The large 8/8 inch quarter-hollow ground blade is imposing in and of itself, forged from 01 carbon steel with a hardness that will likely allow this razor to last for the rest of your life. The wedge is made from banded faux-ivory, the assembly is done with brass pins, and the handle has scales built from ultra-high density carbon fiber uniplate (which looks like wood grain); they should last just as long as the blade, and will make you smile every time you look at this beauty. Bison says this signature razor was created to be a family heirloom, and it really should be. It comes with an included Horween Chromexcel leather case, by the way.
This is a heavier-than-usual straight razor, coming in at more than 2.5 ounces because of the length and heft of the blade, but it doesn’t feel heavy once you begin shaving with it. It’s extremely well-balanced and the feel of the blade on your skin is, quite simply, a pleasure. This is obviously not a razor for the faint-hearted or those new to straight razors, but it’s fabulous.
Is the shave from this Max Sprecher razor better than the Thiers-Issard we just reviewed? Yes, by a bit. Are most people ever going to pull out the credit card to experience it? Not likely. That’s why we rank it down here at #4.
Specifications for the Bison + Max Sprecher Signature Straight Razor:
Note: This razor comes in and out of availability on Amazon. If it is not available and you want to buy it, try going straight to the manufacturer.
5. A.P. Donovan 7/8” Straight Razor Set
Most straight razors come without any of the extras you need to actually shave. Those looking for a complete set, and who are confident enough to brave a 7/8 inch blade, should check out the A.P. Donovan offering that comes complete with a badger hair, mahogany and stainless steel brush, a high-quality (but short) abrasive leather strop with a metal carabiner belt and abrasive paste, soap and a carved, decorative wooden box.
Oh yes, the razor. That’s great, too. The full-hollow 7/8 inch blade is made from Japanese carbon steel that’s as strong as the steel used on the Max Sprecher, and it’s balanced quite nicely by the mahogany handle (without scales). The shave is comfortable and close, but don’t try this one as your first straight razor because of the size of the blade.
Priced higher than our top two choices because of the extras it’s packaged with, the A.P. Donovan isn’t quite up to par with the Dovo or Boker. It’s still a strong entrant, especially if you don’t want to have to run out to find everything else you’ll need to actually use it.
More info on the A.P. Donovan 7/8” Straight Razor Set:
That is it for our updated list of the top 5 best straight razors for Feb. 2017 – if you are curious about our choices from previous years then continue reading.
Dovo Forestal Straight Razor
For traditionalists, it is all about quality and Dovo delivers it with this brilliant razor – big time! Dovo are renowned for their masterpieces but have exceeded their own expectations with the Forestal. Durability, performance, agility and cut throat sharpness have all been packed into this monster. Its carbon steel body provides the much needed quality and durability while the wooden handle ensures equal distribution of weight for a closer shave. Forestal shines in overall value as the razor is absolutely low maintenance due to its subtle metal combination. What’s impressive is that this design comes with a length of just around 5-8 inches making it compact to store in your cupboard without expensive kits.
On the aesthetics, the comfortable, strong and beautiful curvature of the wooden handle just blows your mind. During our trials, the team found this to be a sheer delight to test for numerous reasons, but quality, both in terms of performance and aesthetics makes Forestal probably the best mid-range straight razor money can buy at the moment.
Straight American, Straight Razor from GB Buckingham and Sons
There is no need for an introduction to GB Buckingham and Sons if you are a shaving enthusiasts. Groom+Style couldn’t wait to test this razor as soon as it was announced. Unlike other straight razors, it comes as a kit with all the essential accessories, including straight razor, leather, cloth strop, and many other luxuries. All accessories are carefully added to the kit to improve the user’s experience. The strop, though provided as an accessory, is of premium quality and does its sharpening without breaking a sweat.
The straight razor itself has steel that is hardened to HRC 61, which is quite staggering and is specially made in the United States. This provides the much needed durability to the users within this market segment. As with other GB models, a lifetime warranty is provided as an assurance of its quality.
Groom+Style recommends this as probably the best razor available for all beginners who want to start their straight razor (or cut-throat razor, sorry we just love saying those words, cut-throat razor) journey or for those who are after a razor in the mid-priced range.
Simba Tec Razolution Straight Razor
Razolution is manufactured by Simba Tec, one of the leading razor manufacturers in the world. It is claimed to be specially made to keep the edge for an extended period of time.
Its features are well balanced and provide a great alternative in the budget market. An easy to use blade along with no nonsense performance put this in an all-time reliable razor pedestal. It is tailor made for our modern plug-and-play world- no more huge learning curves! Its carbon steel razor blade adds to its overall performance and is the favourite of mere mortals like us who can’t afford premium brands. Oh! Did we mention that due to its portability, it is aptly suited for travelers too…(although be sure to pack it in your hold luggage not in your hand luggage)?
Thiers-Issard 5/8″ straight razor
When people want to buy one of the best straight razors in the mid priced range (typically slightly cheaper than the Straight American Razor) they will turn to Thiers-issard. It truly is a French marvel and renowned for quality. A fiercely backed razor by its well-known manufacturer, Thiers-Issard, punches above its weight.
The variant Groom+Style tried came equipped with Carbon song blade with special black etching. Its 5/8″ blade with round tip is sharp and doesn’t disappoint and we sometimes joked that this blade could outlive us. Easy maintenance and no learning curve makes this a very reliable product. Thiers-Issard comes with a premium calf skin pouch for storing the razor securely.
If you are still trying to decide what direction to take your shaving you can also read about whether straight razor shaving or safety razor shaving is better! Or jump straight in and review the top 5 best safety razors on the market.