Let’s take a moment to discuss the various grinds you will find today. There are approximately 16 different grinds, but we’ll go over the top 4 categories to keep it simple. The grinds are classified by the hollowness of the blade. Essentially, the thinner the blade is closer to the edge, the more hollow the grind.
You may hear this term quite often on the forums. A ‘full Wedge” or “flat” razor is ground flat with no concave shape to the bevel of the blade. Identification is quite easy. It’s literally a triangle of steel. Full wedge straight razors were the norm in the 18th an early 19th centuries but became increasingly unpopular with the innovations of hollow grinding. A prime example of a full wedge is the massive 8/8 Wade & Butcher “for barber’s use only” razor you see sky-rocket in price on eBay. Today only a few custom razor artisans produce a true “full wedge” blade.
Shaving with a true “full wedge” straight razor is quite an experience. The razor produces very little noise and will cut through even the thickest whiskers. Most will be well over 100 years old so the history behind them is quite intriguing. Wedge blades also retain sharpness for a long time.
These razors provide a unique shave that may not be for everyone, especially for those just starting out. They tend to have a longer learning curve then hollow grind razors and are difficult to hone. Many honing services refuse to work on wedge blades which makes servicing them difficult. Be cautious when bidding on razors that are advertised as a ‘full wedge’ on eBay as many of them are partially hollow ground razors advertised incorrectly.
This grind consist of ¼ of the actual blade being ground in a concave shape. These razors are sometimes inadvertently called a “partial wedge” which then gets thrown into the wedge category. This makes identification for this category the hardest. The shave with this grind tends to be favored among those with heavier beards, and those who are starting out as the blade is very forgiving. Many vintage razors from the 19th and 20th centuries were made with this grind. Today you can find many custom razor companies such as “Hart Steel” that produce razors in this fashion.
These razors provide a similar feel as a “wedge” blade when shaving without all the headaches. They are easier to find, easier to service and easier to use.
Quarter-hollow grind razors share a few of the same cons as wedge blades just on a shorter level. Learning curve is significantly shorter but still longer than its hollow counterparts.
If you really want to try a wedge style blade then this is the grind for you.
A true example of the best of both worlds. A half-hollow blade is slightly concave right down the middle. These razors tend to be difficult to find in both new and vintage forms and can be hard to identify.
The blade is very forgiving and easier to hone then that of a quarter hollow. Companies such as Hart Steel, Dovo and Thiers Issard still produce half-hollow razors today but with limited selection. Shaving with a half-hollow blade is a great experience if you want to try a heavier razor but still enjoy the maneuverability and sound of a hollow-ground blade.
By far the most common grind out there for razors produced in the last 100 years. A full hollow blade is fully concaved and tends to achieve the sharpest edge possible. These razors are far less forgiving than its predecessors and requires more caution when learning. Some hollow ground razors with a deeper grind are called “extra hollow” or singing” razors by the sound unique the razors make when in use.
The best way to identify a hollow ground razor is to strop it. If it sounds like a sword coming out of a sheath (like in a movie) than its hollow ground. Boker, Dovo, Thiers Issard, are just some of the manufactures producing hollow ground razors today.
Full-hollow straight razors are the majority of what’s produced today. These blades can achieve a level of sharp that our ancestors only dreamed about. A properly honed full-hollow straight razor can be the most comfortable shave you’ll ever experience.