Straight razor shaving

straight razors

Adventures learning to use a straight razor

I first encountered the art of shaving with a straight razor on a blog called The Art of Manliness (which ‘real kiwi blokes’ probably don’t read) in a post called Shave Like Your Great Grandpa: The Ultimate Straight Razor Shaving Guide. I was particularly attracted by the idea of not having to keep buying disposable razor cartridges at $5 each and the inherent waste disposable stuff:

Today’s modern shaving racket creates needless waste. When you’re done with a cartridge, you have to throw it out. When you buy new cartridges, you’re left with a ton of packaging material.

Then there were the promised benefits of a better shave and “You’ll feel like more of a bad ass”.

I ditched the shaving foam in a can many years ago as it is stupidly expensive and results in empty aerosol cans heading to the landfill. So in some ways it made sense to take another step towards reducing cost and waste by using a razor that simply requires re-sharpening rather than throwing plastic cartridges away every week.

Then there is the appeal of using such an ‘old school’ shaving method, a sort of re-establishing of links back how men have shaved for many hundreds of years before the invention of disposable razor blades. In opposition to the hurried, unthinking approach to personal grooming fostered by electric shavers and blister-packed blades with instant foam from a can, everything about using a straight razor forces me to take my time. With a blade sharper than a surgeon’s scalpel placed across your throat comes undivided focus on the task!

Believe or not, there is actually an entire web forum dedicated to straight razor shaving (Straight Razor Place). This is an excellent resource for learning what to look for in a razor, how to strop the razor to fine-tune the cutting edge and tips on how to shave without removing ears, nose or otherwise slicing your face to bits. The folks posting on this site extoll the virtues of straight razor shaving, claiming it to be the closest shave you will ever achieve.

Learning what gear is needed was one thing, getting it in New Zealand meant yet more scouring the internet to find retailers to buy from. Thankfully ordering online enables us to get stuff that would otherwise be difficult to obtain here.

So in mid-March my honed and stropped ‘shave-ready’ razor arrived and I opened it eager to venture into the world of an extraordinarily close shave with no razor burn… and on seeing the blade thought, “this is insane!” The idea of putting anything that sharp near my face freaked me out.

However, money talks – I had already paid for the razor and bought a strop so was committed. I needed learn how to use this gear in order to recoup my costs.

I began with baby steps, shaving my cheeks, the only flattish part of my face, finishing the rest with a regular razor. Over the next week I progressed to being able to shave my whole face without too many cuts. Shaving under the nose is particularly awkward, I can now see why Lord Voldemort got rid of his nose – it must make shaving much easier!

photo of a styptic pencil and small block of alum

After four months using a straight razor most days, I am usually able to do the job without drawing blood. At least when a razor like this does cut it is fine and clean so heals easily. However, a puncture repair kit consisting of an alum block and styptic pencil does come in handy for moments when I’m not concentrating.

Is it a brilliantly close shave? It can be. With care and multiple passes, I can get a very smooth shave, though this carries a risk of nicks by trying too hard to get an ultra smooth shave. To be fair though, if I do the same preparation and take my time with a regular cartridge razor I can also get an equally close shave. Overall though, I like having to take my time and be careful – shaving has become one of life’s little pleasures rather than the chore I previously viewed it as.

Pros & cons of straight razor shaving:

  • Overall cost savings
  • Minimal waste
  • ‘Meditative’ shaving experience
  • Nostalgia
  • Time required for each shave and care of razors
  • Upfront cost
  • Learning curve

For a lighthearted but not overly useful video, see How to Shave With a Straight Razor. For a more useful video, check out one of the recognised experts: Straight Razor Shaving for Beginners

Some NZ retailers for shaving gear:

A useful way to save on razor blades without going to the extreme of a straight razor is to get blades by mail order from Razor Blades NZ for around $12 per month. Another worthwhile approach is to use the old style double-edged ‘safety razor’ which was the predecessor of today’s cartridge blades. By sourcing the double-edged (DE) blades online the cost becomes very reasonable.

photo of a white ceramic shaving bowl with gold rim and a black synthetic badger hair shaving brush in the bowl

Am I enough?

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is ‘Enough’


“It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”
(1 Kings 19:4 ESV)

We men are generally supposed to be strong and provide for our families. There is an unspoken but well understood code which prohibits showing or speaking of weakness or insecurity – such feelings should be masked with bravado.

The truth is that I have spent much of my married life and certainly my time as a father seriously doubting if I measure up.

Am I enough of a husband?

Am I enough of a father?

Enough of a man?

We don’t say such things out loud, but the apprehension is always there. Seeing the task before me, I know I do not measure up. Other men earn more and provide better for their wife and children. Other men are more helpful to their wives. Other men are more tender fathers, more consistent in discipline and better at teaching their children about Jesus.

Like Elijah I look at myself and see the truth – I am no better than my father, or his father. Some might reply that “of course you are enough”. They do not know the truth. I know it. God knows it.

I am a failure at what really matters. I am not enough.

God accepts this and He has done what is necessary to make up the difference between my not enough, and what is enough. The difference is Christ. God knows the truth, He doesn’t offer platitudes, He offered His Son.

Unfortunately the world and other people don’t always see this. Where it gets hard is when my wife sees that I am not enough, does she lie to herself? Or does she see Jesus making up the shortfall? Do my children see my faults and then see Christ making the difference?

Sorry, no answers in this post, only questions.

(I overran the stop timer today!)

Men, you need to get thankful

Refusing to give thanks to God puts us on a slide towards idolatry. Praising God for His blessings lets us see past evil and view the perfections of Christ. Why then are so few men making a habit of gratitude? The girls are leaving the guys way behind in spiritual maturity!

Yesterday I read from Ann Voskamp (quoting Chesterton) that “thanks is the highest form of thought”.  She asserts that the great thinkers are grateful thinkers.
Initially I thought this is taking it a bit far, placing gratitude on a pedestal and elevating into a dangerously idolatrous position.

On Consideration

However, when I give thanks for stuff I am not giving thanks to gratitude, I am giving thanks to God. If I were just cultivating ‘an attitude of gratitude’ in an attempt to make myself happier it would be idolatry, worship of myself. In contrast, by continually giving thanks (and praise) to God I am living prayerfully, as Paul exhorts (Ephesians 5:20, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Colossians 3:17).

If I cannot be bothered glorifying God for all He gives then I edge ever closer to a precipice of idolatry, foolishness and a darkened heart:

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:21 ESV)

Escape from idolatry

Each day we encounter events, situations and interactions which occur under God’s sovereign supervision. If the weather upsets my plans to do something I can get grouchy because my day has been messed up, or I can look beyond myself to ask what there may be to thank God for in this? Perhaps I am better to be doing something other than what I had planned. Maybe this weather is a blessing to others and those of us who don’t like it will get the sort of weather we do like on another day. Or it is so terrible that nobody is blessed and many suffer – in this case it is a chance to put aside my selfishness and help somehow.

I don’t thank God for what is evil, but I do look for the other blessings God gives despite evil occurring. Without this there remains only despair. Purposely looking for what I can genuinely thank God for refocuses my attention beyond the veil of evil and corruption cloaking the world and onto the perfection of Christ who remains Lord over all.

A society of fools

What happens when millions of people refuse to thank God for what He gives or to give Him glory? That society becomes darkened and foolish, chasing after delusions. As the church of Christ we are called to be light in the world. One way in which the world around us will see the light of Christ is when we remain thankful to God in situations that leave most people moaning and grumpy.

The joy of the Lord may be our strength, but how do we get it? We grow in joy as we grow in knowledge of God. God is spirit, we cannot see Him. What we can see is God’s acts in our lives – if we look. This is what I’m doing when I list eucharisteo, I am looking for the works of God in my life. And His touches are everywhere.

If the church of Christ spent more time thanking and praising God for what we have been blessed with instead of moaning about what we want the world would notice big time. Why then are so few leaders of families and churches and ministries promoting thanksgiving? Why are so few men praising God for His blessings?

Get with the game guys!

Listen up guys, it is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Praising God for what He gives is not the sole domain of Christian women, yet they seem to be the only people talking about in the blogosphere.

You don’t have to be a soccer Mom, homeschool your kids, bake your own bread and knit your own socks to give thanks in all things. In fact, Paul’s exhortations to give thanks in Ephesians and Colossians are both closely followed by direct commands to both wives and husbands.

Theoretically you can do this silently in your head while going about your work. A bit like your praying hey? You know, where you decide to pray silently and start of well, discovering minutes later that you are actually wondering if it is OK to ask God for a new car like the one you’re following now.

I’d encourage you to record what you thank God for. It needn’t be on a blog. It could be in a notebook. Or let the gadget freak in you go wild – try the iPhone app, or Evernote, Tweet your thanks, photograph it, podcast it, make a Youtube video – whatever, go nuts. By making a point of recording what you are thanking God for you force it back to the forefront of your thinking and remain aware of the need to keep at it.

C’mon men, the women are whipping your ass in giving glory to God! Perhaps we need a more hairy and testosterone laden version of the ‘gratitude community’?

Gifts I have noticed today:

827) My 19 year old expresso maker – broken, welded back together, broken again – but it still works!
828) A book I wanted to read conveniently placed in my hands.
829) A quiet day at home alone.
830) The simple lunch I am enjoying.
831) Beginning to enjoy my jogging.
832) Daughters excited to start a new school year.
833) God promises to supply all I need (Philippians 4:19)
834) Reinstatement of our child disability allowance.
835) My wife’s persistence in dealing with bureauracracy.
836) Cheap 2nd hand stereo.
837) Lots of cheap plants to go where the hedge used to be.
838) Finishing my run despite being stung on the ankle by a bee.
839) Renewed sympathy for the kids when they get bee stings!
840) Starting a prayer journal for my daughter as we pray together.

Image of runners: iStock

What does a man create?

A blog post by Ann Voskamp a few months ago in which she discussed the question of How Christian [women] May Create got me wondering how the process/art/work of creating might look for Christian men? Here are some musings and partly formed thoughts. Feel free to comment and give your own ideas.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
(Genesis 2:15 ESV)

Right from the beginning men were given a job to do. It was a nurturing, cultivating job, also a creative task in that to start with there was not so much weeding to be done in God’s garden so presumably Adam had time to implement a few ideas of his own.

As sons of Adam we create by bending creation to our will. Therefore, the results of our creating reflect both our desire and our skill. This creates a tension and often frustrations as the created reality does not match the plans in a man’s head. Perhaps this is why computer programming is a popular choice for men, in a realm created by humans bending machine code to the will of man is achievable even for men without the brawn to bend metal, timber or earth to their will.

Even after the fall Adam’s work remained the same, it just got much harder to achieve:

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:17–19 ESV)

Under the curse (Genesis 3:22), creation refuses to bow to the will of men. Therefore the strength of a man is necessary to tear open the soil, wrestle raw materials and press on against the elements. By applying wisdom a man creates new and innovative works, and at our best as a team there is no limit to what can be achieved (Genesis 11:3–6).

The prime focus of a man’s work is always provision – even if a man is an artist and has nothing to do with cultivating the ground or making food, the overall goal of his work is to generate income in order to put food on the table. We can work for noble causes and labour to create beauty or make a statement, but once our family starts to go hungry none of that holds any importance (see 1 Timothy 5:8). If providing for his family takes up all of a man he is doing a noble task – I would argue more noble than those of us who can do so by working only 40 hours a week.

Yet there is a limit to how worthwhile the works of a man can be:

What has a man from all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun? For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, (Ecclesiastes 2:22–24 ESV).

For some men perhaps all they seek is to eat, drink and enjoy the fruits of their labours. But we are created for more, much more than this.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

To be satisfied with our own work is to settle far short of the best a man can achieve, to live beneath our purpose in Christ. We yearn for  purpose, to know that our work is for more than simply putting food on the table. The most effective way to grind a man down is to give him meaningless work that has no point to it and in which he has no choices, especially if the work involves no physical exertion but is simply pushing paper across a desk all day. Only the shallowest of men work only for money, we seek to do work that is worthwhile:

Some men know how to solve crimes, others can heal pain, paint pictures, make violins, train dogs, ride a wave, kick a ball, lay cement, design glorious buildings, make new laws. We need them all. You have things inside you to do. These lie dormant waiting to be expressed. (Steve Biddulph in Manhood)

We are created for good works that proclaim and glorify His grace. In order to achieve this the will of a man must be redeemed. For me to to the works prepared for me before I even existed I must bow my will to His will. A little created creator must submit to his own creator and say along with my Brother-redeemer, “Your will be done, not mine”.

His will is not obscure or difficult to find, we are to make disciples:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

And we are to labour to make the Kingdom of God manifest on earth:

Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
(Matthew 6:10 ESV)

Image of blacksmith: Hans Splinter

Guard your heart, bro.

When I look around the church, when I talk amongst my friends, when I gaze into the world – I see men who are broken and hurting, men tied to their addictions, men out of control, men drowning in lust, so many men longing for peace and grace and mercy, and in desperate need of restoration for their tattered and broken hearts. Hearts that have gone unguarded for far too long. And I want to break this verse like an alabaster jar over their brows. I want to pour out the perfume of Redemption on their lives. I want to release the words of Solomon to his sons, that they may be free to take up their spears and stand guard over their own hearts, because their hearts are worthy of the effort…. above all else….
                  “Above all else, guard your heart, 
for it is the wellspring of life.”

Guard your heart, bro. by Jamie Wright