So you want to shave with a Cut-Throat Razor? Not a problem. It isn't nearly as scary as it looks, and with time and practice you can get great results. There are some very tangible benefits to shaving with a Cut-Throat too;
Before shaving it's important to prepare your face. Don't shave straight after you wake up, give your skin some time to settle down first - 30 minutes should do it.
Strop your razor - the microscopic cutting edge will be serrated after your last shave and it won't feel good on your skin. You can use a pre-strop to remove any dirt from the blade to prevent your leather strop getting dirty, then strop using the leather strop to align the edge of the blade. There are plenty of good stropping diagrams and demonstrations on the internet which are worthwhile watching. Until you're confident go slow - damaged gear isn't much fun.
Wet your skin using hot water. A shower is best, but a face-cloth and a basin of hot water will do. The heat softens the skin, making it more pliable and less prone to nicks. It also opens the pores, exposing more of the hair folicle for a closer shave.
Lather up by first wetting your brush in the basin of hot water and shake off any excess. Whisk your brush around on your soap getting as much in the bristle tips as you can, then whip up the lather either in a shave bowl/mug or directly onto your face. This is where a good brush helps, holding lots of soap and water and working it underneath the stubble while massaging the skin. The aim here is to make the stubble stand up, holding it there with the lather. Your face doesn't need to look like a fluffy white cloud when your finished - any lather not touching the skin or stubble isn't going to do anything for you.
When beginning it's a good idea to start just by shaving down your side-burns to get a feel for the angle and pressure required. Use your old razor to do the rest of your face. Once confidence increases keep adding different parts of your face - the cheeks, throat, chin etc. Then when you can complete the first pass over your entire face, move on to the second and third passes.
The first pass is done in the same direction as your stubble, and it's going to be different on the various parts of your face. Take some time to study how your beard grows, this will show you which direction to shave in. Also use the hand not holding the razor to gently stretch the skin about to be shaved, flattening it out and exposing more of the hair. Again there are loads of demos on youtube on how to do this - it's worth watching a few to get a feel for it. Take your stropped cut-throat and hold it at a 20 -30° angle to your face at the top of one side-burn. Without applying any pressure against your skin guide the blade down with the grain of the stubble. Work slowly around the face and neck until all areas have been shaved.
The second pass goes against the grain. This is more difficult than the first pass and is where the majority of nicks occur, but the results are fantastic and it's well worth the time to learn how to do it well. Repeat the shaving action from the first pass, but this time with the blade pointing in the opposite direction. Remember to rotate the blade when going round corners to maintain the correct shaving angle. Some men reapply a lather to their face for the second pass, others just use water and the soap already on their face - whatever works for you.
The third pass goes across the grain e.g. down your jaw line. This is mostly for your face and jaw, achieving the smoothest results possible.
The first thing to do is carefully rinse and dry your razor. All razors will rust given the opportunity so keep them dry as much as possible.
Rinse your face with cold water - the water removes the left-over soap and the cold causes your skin to shrink, pulling in what's left of your stubble to give the smoothest finish.
Condition your skin to sooth and moisturise and stop up any nicks. A Stiptec pencil can be used to staunch any cuts. A wet block of alum rubbed over the skin helps sooth the skin if you were a little heavy-handed with your razor. There are a huge range of after-shave lotions and potions for moisturising, and locking in the mositure, as well as smelling good. Keep trying things until you find what works for you.
Looking after your gear
Keep it dry - especially your razor and brush. Don't keep your shaving gear in the bathroom, it's humid in there. Better to keep your brush and razor in a dry environment such as a bedroom drawer, and always make sure they are completely dry befor putting them away.
Razors. If your razor is pulling rather than cutting your stubble, it's time for a touch-up. The easiest method is to use a fine abrasive paste on a linen or canvas strop and give the razor a few laps before your next shave. Any visible damage such as chips or dents in the cutting edge will need to be honed out. Owning a waterstone and learning to use it is a good option if you're going to be cut-throat shaving for any real length of time, or you can get someone else to do it (We offer a honing service if you're interested). If you're not sure whether a razor is sharp enough before shaving, try the Hanging Hair Test (HHT). This test is a minimum for a shave-ready razor, but if it doesn't pass you can be pretty sure it isn't going to shave well.
When shaving the super-fine cutting-edge of the razor is bent out of line (on a very small scale). Razors need 24-48 hours to recover after use so if you shave every day it's recommended to have a number of razors, known as a 'rotation'. That way there's always a razor ready to go. If you have a particularly coarse beard you may even notice that the razor doesn't perform as well towards the end of your shave as it was at the beginning, having a second razor ready is a good option.
Strops. Over time leather strops can get dirty and/or dry out. Wiping them gently with a damp rag will remove a lot of the dirt, but tends to leave your strop harder (and less effective) once dried. Use a fat-based strop conditioner to make the leather more supple. The oils off the palm of your hand are excellent for keeping a strop nice and soft, just rub your palm down the leather stropping surface a few times before use.
Here are some of the better resources on the internet for further reading on all things Cut-Throat. We particularly recommend the Straight Razor Place Wiki page for beginners as an excellent place to start learning.