Shaving with a Rolls Razor

Note: The author is posting this one early. It still needs edited (and most likely proof-read) but there seem to be some first Rolls shaves coming up and the author hopes this will help!

In past articles we have hunted for a Rolls, refurbished it, sharpened the blade until it’s perfect, and now you’re ready to give it a test run.  In this article, the author will detail his shaving routine as modified for the Rolls.  In truth there aren’t a lot of modifications to your routine or technique required and a Rolls shave takes little more time than any other. Further, shaving with the Rolls is a rewarding experience, if you’re into that sort of thing. The author certainly is and has found that the Rolls Razor yields a marvelously close, irritation free, near baby’s butt smooth shave every time. The author’s shaves are part of his morning routine which includes the Marine Corps’ traditional three S’s.  The entire routine takes about thirty minutes, maybe forty-five on a slow or especially luxurious day. As a general rule, the author finds the time well spent as it helps get on track and stay focused on the day.

The thing to remember with the Rolls is that while it’s referred to as a “straight on a stick” and the shaving angle should be chosen with that in mind, and while it looks somewhat intimidating when mounted up and ready to go, it’s actually a great shaver in its own right.


The author begins each shave with either a hot shower or hot water on a face cloth. Truth to tell, there’s not a lot of difference in shave quality between the two but, of course, your mileage may vary. Either way, hot water and soap are applied and rinsed and the author does not dry his face after either.  The hot water is followed by pre-shave oil (PSO) on wet hands, applied to a wet face.  The amount varies based upon viscosity, but generally the oil is completely absorbed by the time the cream or soap is applied.

While the PSO is working, the author gives the blade a good stropping, generally about a minute at the rate of about two complete passes per second.  Once the blade is stropped, remove it from the case and mount it on the handle. It’s ready to go.  Some sources recommend heating in your shaving water but the author has not found significant advantage from this action. Feel free though! You’re not going to hurt anything.

With the blade ready to go, mix up the lather of your choice and lather up!

Your First Rolls Pass

Once you’re lathered up begin your shave.  The angle is the most crucial part.  Start with the blade almost flat on your face and then increase the shave angle until you feel the razor start to cut your beard.  Hold your angle there and at that point make a complete pass with the grain of your beard. No pressure should be necessary. Let the razor do the work. At the conclusion of the pass check WTG for how close the razor is shaving. If you’re close to where you want to be, continue to march with that angle.  If there’s a significant amount of stubble, consider increasing the angle.  If you’re feeling irritation, reduce the angle.

Make one more WTG pass to confirm your angle. The author’s ideal angle with the Rolls seems to be with the flat of the blade raised just slightly more than the width of the spine of the blade off of his face.

Shaving Passes

The author’s current shave regime generally involves four passes plus cleanup under his neck and on the jaw line.  Rather than worry about “with the grain” or “against the grain,” the author makes a pass from the top down (north to south) which is mostly WTG, a mostly XTG pass from “east to west” (i.e. from the left side to the right), a mostly ATG pass from west to east, and another XTG from south to north.  If necessary (or time permitting, or just because he wants to) the author will add some ATG work in the “trouble spots” that contain stubble after the requisite passes.  Note that there is little or no irritation even after all of these passes.  Ensure that you’re using adequate lather and water, and no more than minimal pressure on the razor.

If you find the razor jumping around on the ATG passes, it may not be quite sharp enough. Try another shave before you go back to the drawing board though.

Post Shave

The author concludes his shave with a hot water rinse followed by a cold water rinse and the application of alum.  While the alum is sitting on his face, the razor is cleaned and dried and brush and mug are rinsed and put away.

The blade is removed from the handle and the handle set aside.  The author dries the blade with a tissue or towel and then blows in the hole on the back of blade to remove any water built up.  The blade is then installed in the case and stropped for about 15 seconds at the rate of about 2 complete strokes per second, to dry the edge. Once that has been accomplished the author dries the handle and stows it along with the extra blade within the case.  The hone may then be replaced and the outside of the razor wiped down.

It takes longer to write or read these steps than it does to perform them.  They are important. As the Rolls Razor company said: “Rust Ruins Razors.”

Once the razor and other gear are secured, the author removes the alum from his face with cold water, dries his face and applies the after-shave product of the day.  All in all, start to finish, including a shower, the author expends about 30 minutes in this routine.

The Blade’s Starting to Pull

If your shave is not where you’d like it to be, and you’ve worked with the angle, or if you’ve got your technique down but the blade is starting to pull, it’s most likely time to hone the blade.  You can do this inside the case on the original hone, on your straight honing gear, or on a home-made case hone.

There are a couple of differences between stropping and honing your blade.  When stropping, it seems to work best at about two complete passes per second.  Additionally, the blade is pulled across the strop with its edge trailing.  Honing is almost entirely opposite.  The blade is pulled across the hone edge first. The honing passes are rather gentle and quiet compared to the mechanical “thwapping” of stropping. In fact, running the razor full-speed on the hone may cause damage to either the stone or your blade.

When you’re ready to hone, make about seven complete passes and then use the four-way stropping precedure discussed elsewhere in this series or on the Badger and Blade WIKI. Then, before your shave for the first time, follow your normal stropping regime.

Best of luck with your Rolls Razor!


Echo4Golf Clear

2 thoughts on “Shaving with a Rolls Razor

  1. mjclark says:

    Another excellent write up Jerry!
    The very shallow angle required for Rolls shaves can come as a bit of a surprise to those who are used to DEs but it soon becomes second nature.
    I find plenty of skin stretching helps too.

    A couple of things I’ve noticed about Rolls shaves are that a freshly honed blade feels a bit harsh but that it settles in with subsequent use (this is par for the course with carbon steel, which also works better with a slicing motion).
    And secondly the “contracting stubble” phenomenon – my face feels a lot smoother twenty minutes later than it does immediately after the shave.
    This is due to the skin remoisturising, but it feels like the stubble’s retracted into the skin! Weird eh?

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