Guide to Jargon & Technical Aspects of Straight Razors
This section has been added to the site in response to questions from prospective buyers who aren’t sure of the terminology used or who are interested in some of the more technical aspects of straight razors.
The picture and video below provide an introduction to the various parts of a straight razor.
STRAIGHT RAZOR SIZES
The ‘size’ of a blade is usually measured in multiples of 1/8 of an inch and is the distance from the SPINE to the EDGE (see above). Sizes range commonly from 4/8 (four eighths of an inch) to 8/8 (one full inch) though extremely narrow blades of 2/8 and very large examples up to 12/8 (one and a half inches) and beyond may be found. Just to confuse the issue, sizes of 9/16 and 11/16 do crop up regularly! We currently stock razors from 2/8 to 7/8 in size.
In relation to blade points it should be notes that these have different names in different countries. However, the three most common are:
Round points are generally favoured in Europe generally over other point types.
Square points are also called spike points (especially in the USA) and are less favoured in Europe.
Dreadnought points are also called notch points although strictly speaking this is not true – a Dreadnought point may be seen as above (it resembles the prow of a WW1 ‘dreadnought’ battleship) and also with a semi-circular ‘Sheffield notch’ cut out of the blade point. This was largely a cosmetic effect.
Several other point styles are made, including oblique and Spanish. However, the three above are most common, with the dreadnought generally being found on older razors (say pre-1900), though we do stock 6/8 and 7/8 new ‘dreadnought’ blades from Thiers-Issard.
Another thing to remember about blades is their overall shape. The basic shapes are –
Straight (or parallel) – the most common shape in hollow ground razors. This means that the spine and edge are straight and run parallel to each other, as in the square point blade shown above.
Swept spine – sometimes seen in larger wedge razors, this means that the edge is straight but the spine is curved concavely, as in the dreadnought blade above.
Swept edge – sometimes known as a ‘smiling’ edge, especially in the USA, this is the reverse of the swept spine. In this layout the spine is straight and the edge curved convexly, as in the dreadnought blade above.
Fully swept – as can be guessed, this blade shape means that both spine and edge are curved along the same radius. This is more common in wedge razors of the later 19th Century. The dreadnought blade above is in fact a fully swept blade. The amount of sweep can vary from a gentle sweep to a scimitar-like curve as in the ‘parabola’ style blades.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
NOSE – the part of the blade where SPINE meets POINT.
POINT – generally, the whole end of the blade, which can be of various shapes.
TIP – the part of the blade where EDGE meets POINT.
SPINE – the blunt ‘back’ of the blade from NOSE to TANG.
EDGE – the sharp section of the blade between TIP and HEEL.
HEEL – the section of blade that sweeps up to meet the TANG.
TANG – the section of the razor that is held during shaving. Generally marked with the maker’s name or trademarks. May have JIMPS cut into the upper and lower surfaces.
JIMPS – also known as ‘fluttings’, are serrated sections above and below the TANG that aid grip during shaving. They may be above, below, above and below, or not present at all depending on the razor’s make and age.
TRIGGER – also known as the ‘little tang’ or ‘monkey tail’. This aids opening the razor and also provides a positive location for the third finger whilst shaving.
PIVOT PIN – Of brass or steel, this is the pivot point for the blade.
HEEL PIN – this is the pin that holds the SCALES fixed together at their bottom end. There may also be a CENTRAL PIN midway between the two, sometimes called a ‘tang pin’.
SCALES – also known as ‘handles’. These are the two pieces of plastic, bone, Bakelite, ivory or other material that guard the blade when closed and can vary from plain black to highly worked and decorated. All perform the same function, however.
BLADE STABILISERS – give torsional rigidity to hollow ground blades.
BLADE DEPTH – measured in 1/8’s of an inch. One with a blade 1/2” deep would be described as a 4/8 and so on (see below).
HONE WEAR LINE – the ‘flat’ on the spine shoulder caused by the abrasion of the hone when the blade has been re-honed. I generally define hone wear thus:
Minimal – the hone wear line is under 1/16” wide.
Evident – the hone wear line is between 1/16” and 1/8” wide
Pronounced – the hone wear line is over 1/8” wide
Full-wedge blades do not always fall under this system due to their very flat sides – hone wear often seems far worse than it actually is – individual descriptions will then apply.
GRINDS AND THE HENCKELS SCALE
Grind is defined as the transactional geometry of a blade. Blades can be straight grind with a wedge shape, hollow grind with biconcave sides, or transitional grinds. Full hollow grind blades have a belly or ridge which gives the thin metal torsional resistance. When the blade rests on a flat surface, the sides of a straight grind blade touch the surface. The belly never reaches the surface.
The above statement is the best answer I can give to the often asked question “what’s the difference between a wedge blade and a hollow-ground one?”. The reality of the matter is that the majority of blades are (nowadays) hollow-ground. Full wedge blades are usually only found on razors made before about 1880. A ¼ or ½ hollow grind will generally have one BLADE STABILISER, full hollow ground blades usually have two.
Historically there were many varying degrees of grind, from full wedge to extreme hollow-ground. The Henckels scale (below) shows the 16 different grades of grind available in their 1914 catalogue, 1 being full-wedge and 16 extreme hollow.
When you multiply the above degrees of grind by the point shape and depth of blade, it adds up to the fact that Henckels – just one (albeit major) razor maker was in that year offering some 480 different razor models in their production schedule – and that’s just counting the three main blade point shapes mentioned above!
I do hope that this page has answered most of your questions regarding the jargon and specifications that relate to straight razors. As always, there are exceptions – (‘Bismarck’ style shoulderless blades for example!) but this page should cover the main points. I don’t pretend that everyone will agree with my terminology but I use it as my standard and keep to it wherever possible. Again, if you have any questions do drop me a line.
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“Just a quick note to say many thanks for the terrific job you did with that wedge. It went through my stubble like a knife through butter. Superb shave!”
“Thank you so much for your help; the last couple of shaves I have had this week have been nearing perfect. This has been so gratifying, as I feel I can now use the razor to its fullest, and it may become the treasured possession I hope it to be.” “Your service has been absolutely perfect; I couldn’t ask any more of you, thank you once again.”
“I just wanted to say that the Puma shaves perfectly, great job on getting a new edge on it! I am extremely happy with the results and that this 60 year old razor is now back in action, after who knows how long. Top job!”
“Thank you Adam. Sincerely appreciate your excellent customer service.”
“I just want to say that I’ve received the razor and used it and, without exaggerating, it’s now unbelievable. Can’t thank you enough, and to think I’d be scraping away and wondering why it wasn’t efficient straight from the retailers.”
“Hi Adam the T.I.Spartacus has arrived and I have to say that it is immaculate, that includes the scales as well. It sure is a eye catcher and I couldn’t be more pleased with it. Thanks very much.” [6/8 festonne spine, desert ironwood scales]"
“Absolutely excellent service from start to finish. Always answered queries clearly and concisely and gave sound advice. I was steered away from potentially spending more than I had to, given my relative beginner status. Will definitely shop here again! Cheers, Adam”
“Received my blades back today. Just completed a shave. Was the best shave I’ve had since I started using a straight razor, approx 4 years ago. A great service, thank you!”
“Without my knowledge my wife purchased a Thiers Issard desert ironwood scales for me, and I must say what a fantastic blade it is. I have had the opportunity to use it a few times it beats my old straight razor hands down which I recently had honed by you which was a very good shave on return but I must say on receiving my new straight razor I am blown away by the result. God bless my wife and thank you for the supply of such a fine piece of engineering. I would not deal with anyone other than the Invisible Edge.”
“I just returned to the office after a week-long holiday and opened my package. I can’t even begin to describe how much the razor has exceeded my expectations! Thanks for all your help!”
“Hi Adam …. I got the razors back in Saturday. They shave great! Thanks for the prompt and friendly service.”
“Just to let you know that the razor arrived safely this morning. But I also want to thank you so much for the excellent service you have given me. The razors come back wonderfully restored – a pleasure to use. Your admin is so efficient and clear about where things are up to. However, your efficiency and courtesy in providing your service has made it a real pleasure. Makes me wish I had another razor to send!”
“Hey Adam. Got the Dovo. Simply a beaut. Many many thanks for sending it out to me today” [Dovo Stainless Steel Buffalo Horn IE010041]
“I got the razor back safe and sound last week and used it for the first time at the weekend – Perfect! Thanks for your help”
“Many thanks for honing and re-pinning my Puma razor. I’m delighted with how smooth and sharp it is, it’s probably the best shave I’ve ever had. I have sensitive skin and not a single nick or bit of irritation.”
“I ordered a dovo razor, razor oil and a strop. Fast and well packaged delivery. Really well sharpened and oiled razor. Rated 10 and praise. I will buy other items from them. Recommended. You are very good, keep it up guys.”
“Just shaved with the newly-honed razor. Amazingly smooth- absolutely delightful experience. Thanks very much.”
“Just wanted to say thank you for the advice you have been able to provide on straight razors, honing and stropping. I recevied your honing stones this morning and following your advice I’ve been able to restore the edge of my Boker King Cutter and once again enjoy a pleasant shave with no pulling/tugging. I did purchase a Dovo Astrale from you 5-6 months ago, this is still wonderfully sharp, no need to re-hone this baby yet. I so use the two straights alternately so it is a true credit to your professionalism and workmanship. Just wanted to let you know my appreciation for your advice and work, and once again thank you for inspiring the confidence in myself to give it a go.”
“Just got around to trying this razor after getting it from you last week – holy cow, the edge on this thing is nuts. I thought I was getting good at putting my own edges on razors but this was was in another league compared to anything I’ve had from anyone else or my own honing.”
“It’s Arran here again wanting to firstly say a huge thank you for my recent purchase it’s been a revelation and am glad to say my technique is improving each shave and very much enjoying the straight razor experience! Even so much so that I’m already wanting to add to my razor collection”
“Just to let you know the razor arrived safe and sound and looks absolutely fantastic. Many thanks – and hopefully will be shopping with you in January!”
“Just got it. Absolutely sensational!”
“… the Spartacus razor was here awaiting our return and it is absolutely STUNNING!!! The rams horn is really something else and the blade itself is a complete work of art. He is over the moon. And the brown leather holder is perfect for it”
“Received package thanks. Never used a straight razor before. Just had a go and perfect. No cuts and I used both hands as the experienced boys do. Maybe beginers luck mind, however I did take my time as i was really nervous. I think im converted now.”
“I have just shaved with my beautiful Dovo Natural Razor and what a lovely experience, ready to go, super sharp and the shave I have been looking for for so long. Delivery was exactly as stated. Your advice was spot on. So nice to deal with a great company like yours.”
“I really appreciate the care you’ve shown in this. It’s probably fair to say that this is the best customer service I’ve ever received when buying something online before. I really appreciate it.”
“Hi I would just like to say I’m extremely happy with my new razors especially the boker what a beautiful piece. The quality is outstanding and the service I’ve had from you has been exceptional I’ve only had a handful of open shaves so far but thoroughly enjoying every part of the new shaving even the little nicks I’m getting but a little more practice and I’ll get there. All your products that I’ve tried so far have also been very good so I will use no other company for shaving products other than the invisible edge.”
“I would like to say a big thank you for the help and advice with my first straight razor purchase. You saved me money in addition to providing the highest standard of service. I will now recommend anyone new or skilled to you, and will continue my trading with only you. My razor arrived in no time and sharper than I thought possible.”
“Would just like to say thank you for this new razor [IE030205] it’s absolutely beautiful and after a short test it’s pinging hair away like its nothing. I’m actually pleased the previous razor was out of stock, and have just ordered a pouch to go with. Thank you again.”
“Just to let you know that the razor arrived today and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. First shave done and I’m very happy with the size/weight/finish of the razor. Many thanks for your advice/information the other day and I look forward to doing business with you in the future.”
“Received my newly sharpened razor today. Looks great cannot believe how sharp and clean and shiny it looks. All trace of rust has gone. Thanks for an excellent job.”
“I just want to thank you for your support in every step of my purchase. I liked my strop and whetstone but the straight razor, I can’t describe it with any word. I am using a different brand and this is my first Thiers and it is like the Nirvana of the straight razors. From now on I have a 7/8 war axe :)”
“FYI, I received the TI and used it for the first time this evening. The razor shaves like a dream and I am really impressed with the quality of the workmanship – great razor!”
“I have just received the parcel, this razor is like a piece of art… Thank you so much !”
“Hi Adam received the Ralf Aust and just wanted say what a razor and what a shave” [Ralf Aust 6/8 Horn, French Point IE280002]
“I have made several purchases from Invisible Edge now. They are always friendly, able to offer expert advice on all aspects of cut throat razor shaving and their products are fantastic.”
“I am writing this to express my 100% satisfaction with your products,and information from your website. So happy to be one of your customers. Thank you.”
“Brush arrived OK. Very pleased with the quality for the price. Super soft yet firm enough. Beats the competition by some margin. Many thanks.”
“Just thought I’d let you know my Ralf Aust razor arrived. It’s a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and a pleasure to use. Thank you for the swift posting and I will definately use your company again.”
“Many thanks for the service over the past few months. I have ordered numerous items from the website and I am delighted with them; the craftsmanship is exquisite. Thank you for providing an excellent source of goods that are usually so difficult to come by. I used to find shaving tedious but now it is an absolute joy and a relaxing experience”
“Received [Aust 5/8] last Friday and used this weekend and last. It’s an absolute joy to use — far exceeds other straight razors I’ve used. Extremely pleased all round — many thanks for your help and advice.”
“Package received and I’m very happy and delighted with my Iwasaki razor and strop. I will be buying from you again. Cannot believe how sharp this razor is…..plus protective packaging was very good”
“Hi, received my razor and strop today, just opened it and it’s an amazing looking blade. Think I made a good choice, thanks so much.”
“All was received and very pleased with the products and service – I definitely look forward to using your services again in the future.”
“A great big thank you to you and your team the stone is beautiful wonderful colour, the stone was packed to perfection. Very happy with both my stones from you and your team.”
“I ordered the Dovo Bismark (and other bits) from you on Friday afternoon. Just a quick message to say a big thanks for your advice (and patience). Everything turned up this morning and just tried my new Bismark this evening. Just amazing. It felt so much easier to use than the shavette I’ve been using and has to be the closest shave I’ve ever had. It must be beginers luck as I have got away without nicking myself too. I’m definitely a convert now.”
“Hi Adam,That was quick, they arrived yesterday morning! You’ve done a brilliant job, thank you. They look great and I can’t wait to try them out”
“I would like to thank you for all your help and advice about picking a straight razor. I have taken my first shave and I am extremely pleased with the results. Super sharp. Fantastic service.”
“Thanks for your good services. I will come back to you soon for my next razor and shaving accessories”
“Goods received. All good. Very fast! Very impressed with the strop bed. I’ll be back.”
We have always used the term "straight razor" but in truth most people know this type of razor as a "cut-throat razor" or, less frequently, as an "open razor". It really doesn't matter, all these terms relate to the same implement.
We have a variety of razor starter kits which include everything necessary to start your venture into straight razor shaving. They also make an ideal shaving gift. This section also includes some entry level razors which are good choices for a beginner. Alternatively you can put together your own choices and perhaps upgrade the razor or strop. Please just ask if you need help.
We ship Worldwide, and shipping is free to all countries for orders over £125, but there is a charge for orders of a lower value. Full details may be found in our Delivery and Returns Policy. Prices are determined in GBP. For your convenience you are able to see indicative prices in U.S. Dollars and Euros but payment will be taken in GBP and there will inevitably be some variation to the U.S. Dollar and Euro prices shown. We accept payment by all major credit and debit cards as well as through Paypal.
If you are just starting out with a straight razor then we have a wealth of information on the website for beginners. Please visit our Information section which includes advice about choosing a cut-throat razor, how to strop a razor and much more. We are also always happy to offer advice and assistance where we can. Please just ask.
Our aim is to help our customers keep their razors in use. Now and again every razor will benefit from being honed. As not all our customers wish to learn how to hone we offer a straight razor honing and stropping service where we will sharpen your cut-throat razor on our premises and return it to you. This service is available for all razors we sell, vintage razors and some other brands of new razor but there are brands of new razor that we will not accept. Please see our Sharpening Service section for more details. We also offer a service to fit scales (razor handles) purchased from us.
This term relates to the fact that once unfolded from the scales (i.e. the handle) the razor's edge is open or unprotected, as opposed to a safety razor where the edge is shielded to some extent.