The answer to how to hold a safety razor really is as simple however you feel comfortable while at the same time limiting any nicks or cuts. But since you find yourself here you are probably really new to traditional wet shaving or are contemplating your first razor. So here are some pointers for when you pick up that razor (for the first time or otherwise).
Your ultimate goal is to find a razor that is best suited for you. Not only for the size of your hands, but skin type, and the kind of hair that you have (coarse or less so). This does pose a bit of a problem for those who do not have access to a brick and mortar store that would allow you to hold and get a feel of various razors. For most of us, we are limited to purchasing our classic razor supplies online which means that we are reliant on reviews or razors to get an idea if the razor will be right for us.
How to Hold a Short Handle Safety Razor
Although razor handles come in different lengths you can easily group them into two categories: short handle or long handle. A great example of a short handled introductory razor is the Merkur 1904 Classic razor (click on link for a full review). Using the 1904 as an example the shorter handle, if you have never used one, actually provides a great deal of control. For both the downward and upward cutting motion I use three fingers. With the downward motion I use three fingers. I use my forefinger for support and my thumb and middle finger to hold the razor. Take a look at the image for a better idea.
For the against the grain motion I use my thumb and forefinger to secure the handle and my middle finger as support. Again take a look at the image for a better idea.
How to Hold a Long Handle
A longer handled safety razor like the Parker 89r or the Edwin Jagger 89lbl (both good option for someone starting out or upgrading) obviously gives you more to hold on to, making it a better option if you have larger hands. The approach to holding a long handled razor for the most part is much the same but instead of three fingers, some may find it more comfortable using four to grip the handle. I personally tend to hold the razor a little differently resting my forefinger under the razor head. I find it comfortable and gives me more control. I can’t do this with a short handle razor however. Take a look at the images below for how I hold a long handled safety razor when using a down stroke.
And for against the grain my approach is more or less the same as when I use a long handled razor.
Razor Angle and Razor Pressure
Simply holding your razor correctly will not guarantee the perfect shave. There are a couple other factors to consider when it comes to holding your safety razor. The angle at which you hold your razor and the pressure you use both play a big role when it comes to a comfortable and efficient shave.
Sorting out the correct angle at which you hold your razor, and the amount of pressure to use, is more difficult than learning how to hold to simple hold the razor. As you shave different areas of your face you may require an angle adjustment or need to add or ease up on the pressure. Additionally, different razors may require different approaches.
You shouldn’t let this deter you however. All that is really needed is spending some time with the razor, learning what amount of pressure is needed and what angle works best. It really comes down to practice.
Generally you want the weight of the razor to do most of the work. You shouldn’t be adding too much pressure while shaving. As for the best angle to hold your razor. You probably want to start with the top of the head of the razor against your cheek and slowly pivot the head so the blade is around 30 degrees. Of course you will need to play with it to fine tune it but that makes for a good starting point.
In the end, like many things, it really comes down to getting your hands on the tools and using them. Be use a quality soap, and follow up your shave with a decent aftershave.
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