The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Using a straight razor for a lame?

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Felila's picture
Felila

Using a straight razor for a lame?

My pack of old-style razor blades is used up and I'm hunting for another place to buy blades to use as lames. A Quattro cartridge is of no use as baking equipment, but multi-blade cartridges is all the local supermarkets seem to carry.

I wondered if there was such a thing as a lame that could be resharpened and used indefinitely and then realized: of course, a straight razor, as used to be standard male equipment in past centuries, before Gillette and the razor blade.

Has anyone here used a straight razor as a lame? How did that work? Was it hard to find a razor?

Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I admit that I've never used one but that doesn't mean you can't. After all, some folks like to use a scalpel for slashing their loaves. Straight edge razors are available on Ebay from inexpensive Chinese razors for $6 to old, collectibles with silver inlays for much more. Amazon.com is another marketplace to check. You will have to learn how to sharpen them and have the proper gear to do so but that shouldn't be too expensive.

fermento's picture
fermento

I have never tried it, so I'm just speculating, but the good thing about a razor blade or a scalpel is the blade remains thin for its depth, making it glide easily through the cut. Would the rapidly increasing thickness of the straight razor get in the way of a clean cut?

kozulich's picture
kozulich

I haven't tried it as a lame, but I've thought about it.  I have several.  They aren't hard to find at all.  You can buy them new or used.  Ebay, antique shops, or from internet shaving shops.  Even some local barber supply places have them.  The best ones are German (Dovo from Solingen, Germany) or French (Thiers-Issard from Thiers, France).  They can be a bit spendy (but not compared to the constant expense of disposable cartridge razors), and there is definitely a skill to getting them razor sharp, but its a skill our forefathers all mastered, so its well within the grasp of anyone with a bit of determination.  You'd probably want to go with a "spike" design - which is to say a blade where the tip is square rather than rounded.  I don't know that I would buy one specifically for a lame, as that would probably not be cost effective, but if you already have one, or come across a used bargain, why not?  Incidentally, you can buy a box of 100 quality double-edged "safety" razors for $10.  That would score a lot of bread for very little money.

Using shaving soap rather than canned gel or foam, a badger hair shaving brush, and either a straight razor or a double-edged safety razor, I reckon I spend less than a penny a shave, and its just as smooth and comfortable as any quattro cartridge.  Plus, I'm not filling up a landfill.

proth5's picture
proth5

One of the great characteristics of a lame is the curve in the blade which helps create the flap that will become the "ear" in a baguette.  While you can get this with a straight blade, it is more difficult.

So many bakers use a lame.  You can get new blades from TMB baking - in quantities that will probably last you a lifetime.  You can also get a blade holder. These are very inexpensive and really make a difference.

I have seem lames with replaceable blades that contain plastic with the blade to snap into the holder, but really, why? Double edged blades can be recycled, if you are concerned about that.

Frankly, every world class baker I have seen in the past week (I just finished up with Europain and the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie) uses a blade holder and a double edged razor blade for loaves without a lot of inclusions.  That would put me in mind to blow the 5-6bucks on a blade holder.

You might also try a beauty supply stores (like Sally - or any other known brand) for a smaller supply of high quality double edged blades.

Hope this helps...

 

jcking's picture
jcking

You may have better luck finding old style razor blades at a CVS type drug store or Home Depot. It's important to CAREFULLY clean them after each use. It's not so much that they get dull, rather they can collect tiny bits of dough that make them seem unusable.

tn gabe's picture
tn gabe

You might cut the ears off all your loaves ala Reservoir Dogs!

Yeah, I know, terrible, but I just couldn't help myself.

Felila's picture
Felila

I looked at TMB -- it's for professionals and you can't order just from the web. Also, I don't have $40 for the lifetime supply of double-edge razor blades :(  This is the US and I'm food-stamp poor. $3 for 1o blades seems like a bad deal after I pay for shipping.  

I'll look for another website that sells to amateurs. Poor ones. I should probably get the holder, and see if I can find a local source for blades. 

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Try http://sfbi.com/baking_supplies.html.

TMB handles supplies for SFBI and sells to anyone. True, you had to call to place an order, but now SFBI has it's own online ordering.

As to the razor blades, WalMart sells double-edge razor blades. Check your local dollar stores, drug stores, etc. The cheap ones aren't great for shaving, but bread dough isn't quite as discriminating.

rjerden's picture
rjerden

I use a chopstick (not the ones they give you for takeout) and thread on a double edged blade. Try Wal-Mart or Sally's Beauty supply for the blades. I give them a quick spray of PAM before scoring. It seems to reduce drag.

jennyloh's picture
jennyloh

I've been uing Gilette blades and a wooden chopstick as lame. The blades can be used several times. And 1pack if 5 had lasted me more than 1 year. I don't change the blades frequently. And I've been baking every week. Serves me well. 

BjornErik's picture
BjornErik

but have never used it as a lame.  However, the type I use takes replaceable blades so I can avoid honing and stropping the razor.  (These are the type most barbers who continue to use razors use, as most local and state laws would not allow them to use the same blade on multiple people)  I do use the replaceable blades, however, to slash my bread dough, and they do a great job.  The whole razor unit would be too thick and the wet dough would grab the razor as it passes through the cut, but a nice clean single edge blade does a great job.  The blades are reasonably priced, and individually wrapped, but the shipping does a number on the total price.  Available in packs 120 & 240.  Google <Shark razor blades> or <Straight razor blades> to check them out.  Essentially they are a double edge blade snapped in half... easy to do, but be careful if you do your own.  

A standard straight razor would not be a practical tool as they range from an inexpensive $75. to well over $1,000.  Add 2 or 3 different sharpening stone grits (more $ for the fine grits needed) and a leather strop ($50) to keep it sharp and you're talking money.  Cleaning it after each use would probably, if you are not careful, put little nicks in it and require a bit of upkeep.  Even though the the blade is metal it doesn't take much to damage it (such as dropping it or accidently hitting something with it) which would require sending it to the factory or a professional sharpener to have the edge reground... more big bucks.  I'd invest in a lame or plain razor blades.

Grenage's picture
Grenage

I'd just like to add that I use a straight razor, and experience no problems.  It scores the bread very well.

I already had a blade, stone and strop (all of which can be bought very cheaply), so I just bought a second-hand straight for bread.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Meet "Mack the Knife" - my scoring blade.   

Wild-Yeast

thihal123's picture
thihal123

Or go to an art supply store and use an x-acto knife. Those are common.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

flour has a plastic lame with a curved blade for $7.  Just have them toss one in with your next flour order.  isand66 (Ian) told me about it after I asked him how he slashed so beautifully.  Just haven't gotten around to it yet and still can't slash like him as a result.

Red5's picture
Red5

Go to Wal-Mart

Go to the section where they keep razors, shaving cream, etc

Get a pack of whatever double-edged razor blades they carry, Wilkenson "Sword" brand was what they had last time I went 

Go to the section that carries coffee supplies

Get a box wooden stir sticks

Put the two together and not worry about razors, lames, or other bread scoring issues for the next few years. 

golfermd's picture
golfermd

I shave with straight razors and am not sure what a "lame" is. Are you talking about the disposable blade type of straight razor? If so check here: http://www.classicshaving.com/catalog/item/1240646/796569.htm

Dan

Felila's picture
Felila

Bakers use a lot of French terms and lame is one of them. It's just "blade". From the Latin "lamina", which shows up in the English word "laminated".  In baking, it's the very sharp blade you use to slash loaves before baking. If you google for bread lame, you'll see commercial lame handles that can be inserted into disposable blades so that they curve. OR, as someone else said, you can use a coffee stirrer :)

Right now I'm using my bread knife, which isn't working too well. However, I'm crippled and broke, my car needs fixing, and I can't go out shopping without a lot of fuss or expense. So I make do.