If you look at different websites that sell straight razors you will find that some websites sell “shave ready” straight razors , while other websites sell only “factory honed” straight razors and still others make no mention of this at all. I came across this while researching websites that sell straight razor shaving kits in my last post. If you are new to straight razors this can be very confusing. In this post I will explain the difference between these different types of straight razors and give you my opinion about them.
Shave Ready Straight Razors
A shave ready straight razor is a straight razor that has been honed more than what has been done at the factory/manufacturer. Usually, a vendor of straight razors has either honed them himself or hired somone to hone these straight razors to get them to the point where someone can just pick it up and shave with it for the first time without having to strop or do anything.
Factory Honed Straight Razors
Factory honed straight razors are straight razors that have been honed at the factory. There is some debate as to whether factory honed straight razors are “shave ready”. Some websites that sell factory honed straight razors will say that they need a simple stropping before use. Other websites say that factory honed straight razors will require honing. In general, I get the feeling that factory honed straight razors are far more “hit and miss” than “shave ready” straight razors when it comes to actually being able to pick it up and shave with it without any additional honing/stropping.
Which is better?
If you spend enough time in straight razors forum the general consensus will usually be that if you are new to straight razor shaving then it’s best to buy a shave ready straight razor first. You then use the straight razor WITHOUT stropping it for your first shave that way you know you have a straight razor with a good edge. This will help you know if your shaving technique is poor and you don’t have to worry about if the edge is not sharp enough.
On the other hand if you buy a factory honed straight razor you will probably have to strop it at a minimum. This introduces another variable into the shaving equation. Let’s think about this for a second.
Let’s say you are brand new to shaving with straight razors. You buy a straight razor that has only been factory honed. You also buy a strop or the strop was included as part of a straight razor shaving set. If you are new to stropping a straight razor there is a chance that you will actually damage the edge while stropping it due to improper stropping technique and/or inexperience. Now you definitely won’t get a good shave and be left wondering if your technique is wrong, the straight razor is bad, or if you damaged the edge.
With a shave ready straight razor you don’t have to worry about that. You know that you should be able to get at least one good shave out of it, by good shave I mean the straight razor cutting through your beard. If you don’t get a good shave then it’s because of your shaving technique(wrong angle) and not the edge or razor itself.
To be fair when you strop a shave ready straight razor for the first time, there is a chance that you will damage the edge to where you won’t get a good shave. The difference here will be is that you know that you already got a good shave with it once before, so you will know it’s your stropping technique that will need to be improved and not your shaving technique.
Why Do Some Websites Sell “Shave Ready” and Others Sell Factory Ready?
I think this is mostly a business decision. Some websites choose to add this as a value added service. However, there is another aspect to it: factory warranty. When vendors choose to give the straight razor additional honing to make them “shave ready” this most likely will void the factory warranty on the straight razor. This is because the straight razor was honed by someone other than the factory.
If you sell straight razors you have to make a choice. Choose between providing additional honing/stropping to make sure the customer will receive a straight razor that has a guaranteed good shaving edge and void the factory warranty by doing so or just selling the straight razor as is potentially leading to customer complaints if the edge of the straight razor isn’t sharp enough.
Each one has its own pros and cons, so I think each business owner has weighed those in making the decision to offer truly shave ready straight razors or just sell straight razors that have only been factory honed.
My Overall Opinion
I don’t think a “shave ready” or a factory honed straight razor is better than the other one. They are both the same razor it’s just to what degree they have been honed. If you are new to shaving and stropping straight razors then I would suggest you play it safe and buy a shave ready straight razor. If you are experienced with stropping then you can probably buy a factory honed razor, strop it and get a good shave from it.