hone concave

Jack shaved with a cut-throat razor. Being a frugal man, he regarded disposables as wasteful, their blades dangerous, though sometimes useful. He had a set of old cut-throats which had belonged to his father Carol. They were kept in their ancient velvet-lined box, where they lay dormant but threatening in specially-shaped grooves. He favoured one particular razor, and had a leather strop on which he would hone the blade each morning before shaving. The sight of my father scraping the lethal edge over his stretched-out and exposed neck was always compelling, and I wanted to shave too. He carved Raymond and me each a wooden cut-throat. The blade, painted with silver roof paint, folded back into the black-enameled wooden handle. Standing beneath Jack on the cracked, subsiding bathroom floor of his bungalow, we lathered a stick of shaving-soap with his badger-hair brush, foamed our faces and scraped the suds from our chins.

Uys shaved with a Gillette safety razor. This we regarded as inferior, but changing technologies were to impact on Jack’s preference. Stropping compound, the special abrasive applied to the strop, became unavailable in the early 1970s. I was able to fill the gap with Tripoli compound, an abrasive that jewellers use in polishing, and whose cutting properties impressed him, but the strop could only go so far before the entire blade needed to be re-ground, so that its two concave faces would again allow the strop to touch only the cutting edge of the blade. Eventually the last razor-grinder in Cape Town died or went out of business, and Jack was forced to switch to a safety-razor. By the end of his life he was using aerosol shaving cream.


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