Regarding Herb Benham's April 21 column, "A close shave -- and a few close calls": As a confirmed straight-razor shaver, I would like to add a couple of thoughts for those considering taking up the practice.

First, spend the money and buy a quality, new, shave-ready razor. Lynn Abrams has a website that sells them.

Avoid pre-shave oils and treatments. They interfere with the feel of the blade on the face, tempt you to shave too fast and thus lead to cuts. Besides, if there is "stuff" like oil on your face, it gets between the skin and blade and leads to a less-close shave.

Use any decent shave soap, but lather it thick on a clean face that has been soaked in hot water. (A washcloth is good for this, as is shaving right after your shower.) The first pass should be with the grain of the beard, the second laterally across the grain, and the third should just follow the contours of the face.

Use a firm grip on the razor. Tentative grips leads to cuts. If you are still getting nicks after one week of shaving, you are doing something wrong. If you do it right, you will never go back to other methods.

And remember to strop your blade before and after shaving. Better yet, get two blades and alternate days.

Michael Lukehart