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Welcome to Robert Williams Custom straight razors.  I have been making Custom Straight Razors since 2006 and have been making knives for many years.   All my razors are handmade and I do each step from forging, heat treating, art, engraving, scrimshaw, etc., right here in my shop.  These are my own original designs, often in collaboration with customers and, though often copied, are not truly duplicated.   The result of my experience and craftsmanship is a razor that is surpassed by no other in shaving quality.

Whether you want a superior daily shaver or an heirloom set fit for a royal gift or anything in between, contact me and we’ll make it happen.

 

 

 

 

Cowcatcher with ruby setting in tang and jeweled spine

 

I would be very happy to discuss making a custom razor for you and to help you with the design elements and ideas to make a razor that will be a cherished heirloom for your family and a wonderful shaver for you for the rest of your life.

Please be sure to visit my Photo Gallery.  There are a lot of razors to look over and you may find something that inspires you.

 

English Barber with rainbow giraffe

 

If you would like to purchase one of my handmade razors immediately rather than wait on a custom order, there are usually one or more available at Shavingshop.com –  Robert Williams Premium Handmade Razors.  

About Stropping

It’s hard to imagine that rubbing very hard steel across leather will actually do much of anything to it, but the effect of stropping a razor on an untreated leather strop prior to shaving is evident when you shave.   So what’s the deal?   What does stropping do to the edge?    And the answer is that it burnishes the steel and will actually remove the steel, albeit very slowly and in a very non-agressive fashion. If you take a super clean piece of very hard steel and rub the hell out of a piece of leather, it will blacken and that’s the metal being removed through the burnishing action. Use some very light colored leather and you’ll see the color turning in pretty short order.

The more you strop, the more wear there is on the steel and after some time, what scratch patterns on the edge existed after honing get completely worn away. This is what many notice to be the “sweet spot” in their honing cycle when their razor seems to improve in shaving quality with each subsequent shave for a while before eventually possibly degrading again. Once the edge has been really well burnished to the point where there is as close to a zero radius bevel and as close to zero deviation of the straight line edge, a razor is as smooth and sharp as it’s ever going to be.

You can definitely see the polishing/burnishing effect of stropping on the edge under high magnification. At the micro level, the burnishing wears away the high points of the edge first, removing the tiny “teeth” in a good, gentle fashion and that’s important because the “teeth” or “fin” that we’ve come to think of as the razor’s edge tend to be uneven, brittle and easily broken off. Breaking them off with use is not good because that leaves micro-level flat spots. Worn away through the burnishing action of leather, the flat spots are minimized to the greatest degree and the edge is both stronger and smoother because of that.

Although it was rarely, if ever explained why in old barber’s handbooks, (or today’s instruction) it was always and still is strongly recommended to strop thoroughly after honing before shaving. I’m sure this has puzzled some people who come off a hone with a razor that cuts free standing hair and passes hanging hair tests, etc…. it’s certainly sharp enough to shave right off the hone, so why not? And the answer is because the burnishing effect of the leather makes for not only an even better edge, but for a smoother AND more durable edge. The more even the edge, the less leverage there is for any small microstructures (peaks) to be snapped off in use.

Do NOT put paste or abrasive of any kind on your daily razor strop.   You you don’t want to create scratch patterns with your stropping, you want to reduce them and burnishing on leather that has not been coated with any sort of abrasive is just the thing for this.

Razor Edge Geometry Introduction

In this article, I will try to explain the characteristics of a razor’s edge geometry.    For cutting tools of all kinds, edge geometry is hugely important.   The wrong geometry will always result in very poor performance of any and all cutting tools.

The four elements of a cutting edge that must all work together for optimum performance at any given (coldwork) task are:

  1. Hardness
  2. Toughness
  3. Abrasion resistance
  4. Edge Geometry

Razors are “push cutting” tools.   Other types of cutting edge tools may use other methods of cutting such as slicing, scoring and gouging.   All these methods applied to different materials are best suited to different edge geometries.   Scissors, razors and serrated bread knives all are very, very different in geometry because of the mechanical properties they need to be ideal for the task they’re designed to perform.   And, of course, those properties make them rather unsuitable for other applications.    Scissors and bread knives would perform poorly for push cutting beard stubble and hair from skin with minimal damage to skin and close, clean reliable cutting on the hair.

So, we’ll focus on razor geometry here.  :)

And that has to start with an understanding of the task at hand.    We want to cut hair from the face at or below the level of the skin on the follicle.   The goal is to clear the skin of all hair doing it very close, very comfortable and with little or no damage of any sort to the skin, itself, in the process but mechanically cutting/shearing it.

Additionally, what we want out of the tool is very good edge retention so we spend much more time shaving than honing, stropping and maintaining it.   This is an important consideration.

So what is a great geometry for this?

First and foremost, we need an edge with as close to zero radius as possible;  no rounding or flat spots at all.  This enables it to start cutting with very little pressure.  The smaller the radius of the tip of the edge, the greater the shear force exerted in the smallest possible area.   This enables the edge to penetrate and begin shearing very quickly and very easily.  The edge must, however, widen at an angle sufficient to provide support for that cutting edge so that it doesn’t fail and deform during the cutting.   The angle of the bevel on a razor blade provides this geometry.  If it is too obtuse, it will not cut as easily.  If it is too acute, it will fail while cutting or at the very least will not maintain it’s proper geometry for long.    Generally, a bevel of around 14 to 18 degrees will be very good for this.

So, how do we know what the bevel angle really is?    There’s an easy way to tell.   Proper edge geometry for a razor is set by the maker and consists of a blade width that is 4 times the size of the spine width where the spine contacts the blade and the edge contacts a hone.    An 8/8 razor should have approximately a 1/4″ width spine.   Slightly thicker or slightly thinner would be OK but it shouldn’t vary considerably from the 4:1 ratio if the blade has good geometry;  say somewhere between 4.2:1 and 3.7 to 1.

So that’s the edge geometry of a razor.    Understanding this helps us understand how to hone to maintain this geometry, particularly at the very fine edge.


Caring for your razor

This applies to all straight razors and not just Williams Custom razors.

Caring for your razor(s) falls into two categories

  1. * post shave maintenance:  cleaning and corrosion resistance
  2. * pre-shave maintenance:    honing/stropping.

But let’s cover some basics very quickly.  Straight razors have very, very fine edges and all it takes to ruin your edge and possibly even require a full regrinding is to drop it on a hard surface like the sink or the floor, bang it up against the sink or a faucett or otherwise expose the edge of the razor to stresses it is not physically designed to withstand.   Don’t use your razor for any purpose except shaving.    Use other tools for other cutting jobs.

1.  Pre-Shave maintenance:

Your Williams razor will come shave ready and shouldn’t even require stropping.   If you don’t have experience stropping, I don’t recommend you strop it before shaving just so you know what the edge should cut like.  Stropping incorrectly can damage the edge, but not the razor, itself.  IMPORTANT:   Any time you hone or strop a razor, the spine of the razor MUST be lying against either hone or strop every time the edge touches the hone or strop.  If the spine isn’t touching while you are stropping or honing, you are ruining the bevel angle and could damage your fine edge.  So always hone and strop razors with the razor laying flat on it’s side, spine touching hone or strop.

If properly cared for, merely stropping before shaving will keep your razor ultra-keen for a very long time.  Months and possibly years.   My own daily shaving razor has been giving me superb shaves for over 9 months without any pre-shave care but stropping linen first and then leather for finishing.

If, eventually you do need to touch it up, a very fine razor hone is a good choice for that and/or a pasted strop.  If you are new to honing, I’d recommend the pasted strop as your choice for ongoing edge refreshing.   Chromium Oxide, toothpaste and very fine .25 micron diamond paste are all common micro abrasives used by straight razor shavers for really taking a razor’s edge to the finest degree of sharpness before stropping on plain leather.

2.  Post Shave care:

Carbon steel will stain and rust.   It’s the nature of the steel.  It is, however, a very worthwhile tradeoff in order to shave with the finest blade steel in the world.  Nothing surpasses high quality high carbon steel that has been heat treated and tempered just right.   More corrosion resistant “stainless” steels will still rust and stain, but are more resistant to this.  And the tradeoff is that alloys are included in the steel that are very good for retarding rust and staining, but don’t help and actually hinder the blade steel structure from being ideal for super sharp zero-radius bevels that are necessary for effortless push-cutting (how razors are designed to cut).

So, razors must be cleaned and dried after shaving.  Rinsing with hot running water and wiping clean with bathroom tissue (toilet paper) is the best way to accomplish this.   Nothing else will dry and polish a razor as well and as easily as simple bathroom tissue.  Merely wiping it after each shave with tissue to remove moisture and then dry tissue to give it a bit of a polish up before putting it away will keep your razor shiny, polished and ready for use next time you use it.  In fact, it will only polish more brightly with each iteration of use this way.

If you want more protection, I recommend Renaissance Wax as a coating protectant.  Other products commonly used are light coats of camllia oil, olive oil or mineral oil.  Renaissance wax or Camellia oil would be my recommendations.

You do not have to strop a razor after shaving with it.