Sunday, August 2, 2009

Old Tech: Straight Razors

Many folks, men and women alike, complain having to shave. Today with safety and electric razors, the straight razor has fallen out of favor, certainly giving less reason to complain.

Nope, I’ve never used a straight razor. The one pictured was my father’s before he passed away a couple years back. He’d worked over 40 years of his life as a barber. Back when I started writing my first novel I asked him a little about straight razors: how to handle and shave with one, about sharpening and using the leather strap (strop) he had hanging from his barber chair when I was a kid—all background for a character.

My dad said when he was in barber school back in the 1960s, to practice and demonstrate your skill you had shave all of the shaving cream off of a balloon without making it pop. Not an easy skill to master, but certainly important before attempting to shave a human. As you might imagine, it doesn’t take much to inflict a bit of blood loss on oneself or a customer if you’re not careful or, even worse, don’t know what you’re doing. In years past (and even where it might still occur today) suspect it took some trust in your barber to lay back your head, exposing your neck to that ‘razor sharp’ implement.

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