The following is a guest post from Badger and Blade.
You pay how much per year for shaving?? Just for those little blade-cartridges that Gillette and Schick sell for ever-rising prices? Okay, so how would you like to never have to buy another cartridge or blade again ... and no, I don't mean grow a beard. No, this is not some strange new invention from an infomercial, but a return to the only way of shaving for hundreds of years before Gillette found a way to make us perpetual blade-purchasers.
That's right, maybe you are thinking you'd like to shave with an actual straight razor. You know, a 'cut-throat' like in Sweeney Todd and the Barber of Seville. What's that going to cost?
Well, at the start-up, it'll set you back a few dollars, there's no doubt. Now, straight razor shaving is like fly fishing: if your aim is to catch a fish or get a shave, you can get by with fairly inexpensive stuff, but if your goal is to pursue the ultimate in aesthetics and performance, you can get into some pretty pricey stuff. I'll be talking about the general basics, rather than the razor equivalents of the best Sage rod or (heaven forbid) custom made split cane rods. No, we'll stick to the 'good enough to get the job done' basics.
Okay, you need a razor. Prices for new razors (the good ones anyhow, which come from France and Germany; avoid the cheap-o specials from Pakistan and the like if you value your face) start at about $80 and can easily get up to $200, often because of the materials that the handles are made of ... which means nothing to the shave, quite frankly. So expect to pay $100 for a decent razor when you include the initial honing.
(Some decent used razors are available out there, but that's a whole different kettle of fish, trying to find a gem in among all the useless 'deals'.)
Initial honing? Yeah, get it honed to start. Razors come sharp from the factory, but nowhere near sharp enough for good shaves. Most places that sell razors offer a honing service as well, so it's not too hard to get it honed. You will also need to have it honed from time to time ... how often will depend on the durability of the razor's steel, the thickness of your beard, your stropping ability, and so on ... but let's say three times a year. You will probably spend between $20 and $25 for the honing service and postage, so let's say $25 each.
What's that "stropping" I mentioned? Remember old movies were the guy goes to a barber for a shave, and the barber starts whipping the razor back and forth on that leather strip ... well, it's a leather strop! You do that before every shave to make sure the blade is perfectly aligned. How much will a decent strop cost? Well, let's say $75. Again, you can go cheap, but a good strop can last a lifetime.
So let's crunch some numbers. You have start-up costs of $175 for a honed razor and strop, and ongoing honing costs of $75 per year. Let's say you do that for 10 years: $925 total, or $92.5 per year. Let's say you do it for 30 years: we're now down to $80.83 per year.
Okay, so maybe you want to save the $75 per year, and hone your own razor! You'll be a totally self-sufficient shaver then. Now, hones (like razors) can be likened to fly fishing ... remember those split cane rods with the four or five-figure price tag? So I'll stick to the basics. You will need (as a basic honing kit) a 4000/8000 grit double-sided hone for $65, and a "flattening" stone to keep your hone, well, flat for $28. Now, here some guys who like split-cane fly rods get other super-fine hones to finish their razors on, but yo can 'get by' with a special strop with special pastes applied ... and if you get a multi-sided one, you still have the leather and unpasted linen sides of a regular strop, and there's no additional cost for this model; you'll just need to buy tubes of paste every so often ... again, wading through the variables, let's say $10 per year.
So, what's the cost of a straight razor if you hone your own? Again, $175 start-up for razor and strop, and an additional $93 for hone and flattener for a total of $268. And we're down to $10 per year to buy strop paste. So 10 years of straight-razor shaving is only $368 ... or $36.80 per year. And if you stick with it for $30 years, the total is $568, or $18.93 per year, or a savings of over $62 annually. Outside of the initial $268 (an additional cost of $184 over cartridge shaving for the first year) it works out to an annual savings of $62.29, or over $7,600 after 30 years (assuming an 8% return)!