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How does a straight razor become sharp - and stay that way?

Shaving requires a sharp knife. An ordinary knife will work, but the best type of knife for the job is a straight razor. Sharpening one is a fine art.

A blade goes from sharp to dull when the sharp edge wears away. Atoms of metal at the keen edge of the blade chip off. A sharpening stone is used to recreate the wedge shape at the tip of the blade. By pushing the edge of the blade into the stone, the stone can carve away the metal and create a sharp wedge, bringing the edge of the blade to an atom-slicing point.

But the stone will leave a microscopic bit of roughness on the blade's sharp edge. This roughness is removed by using a leather strop. By running the blade on the leather in the opposite direction used on the stone, the microserrations on the edge of the blade are aligned. That brings the blade to maximum microscopic sharpness.

Doing all this honing and stropping requires tremendous skill, and it takes a lot of time. Creating a smooth, razor-sharp edge is not easy. In addition, using this long, exceedingly sharp razor blade on the face is inherently dangerous. If the only shaving blade is a straight razor, it's no wonder that people preferred to let their beards grow ? and that creation of the safety razor was a welcome innovation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.