Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Shave Across Time

Think 1963 Hardware....

With thoughts of my article the other day on the standard shave and some options, this morning I used my venerable Gillette Slim adjustable for today's shave. Though the Slim is far from my favorite razor, it is an adjustable, and I thought I'd use the mindset of an early 1960s gent, and see what kind of a shave I could get with just a standard shave.

My thinking was (and still is) that the Gillette adjustables were designed with the standard shave in mind; that is, one (pass) and done. So I took my Derby Extra blade with seven previous shaves on it, set the Slim on its mid-point setting of five, and mounted up for today's shave.

19th-Century Beginnings

Shave Prep My prep this morning was far from 1960 though. It started with my usual splash of unheated water -- an idea that I first got from a 19th-century text on shaving. The idea of the cool-water shave was put forth as eliminating the need for servants to have to heat water. And so it came to pass: no servants heated my shaving water this morning.  ;-)

Early 20th-Century Pre Shave

To clean my skin and help to soften my whiskers by saturation with moisture, I took out my jar of classic Noxzema cream. Noxzema was first sold in 1914 as a no-exzema skin cleanser.

Using generous amounts of cool water and a small scoop of Noxzema, I washed my face. I added a second application of water, but not really with the intention of rinsing. I merely wanted to ensure that my whiskers were adequately wet.

21st-Century Shave Cream

Today was a no-brush shave. I pulled out my tube of Cremo shave cream and, as I did with the Noxzema, rubbed it into my whiskers with my wet hands.

Cremo shave cream was trade marked in 2011.

Although I do generally prefer to use a shave brush, I also appreciate the cooling menthol of Cremo (which is also available in several scents and formulations) -- as well as its lubricating qualities. I also like no-brush shaving creams for traveling when I don't want to pack a brush. Wasting no time, I picked up the Slim and began my standard shave.

The Shave Process

I made my pass with vertical strokes -- largely with grain. The setting may have been just a touch aggressive; I got about four small weepers. Next time I try this, I'll use a setting of four.

The outcome of my standard shave was satisfactory, but not rewarding. So I rinsed and applied more Cremo. Then I dialed the Slim back to a setting of one and took a second pass, also with vertical strokes, but this time in the opposite direction from the first pass -- largely against grain. The exception to this was on my upper lip, on which I shaved with horizontal strokes.

Still not quite satisfied, I just added a bit of water to the residual cream on my neck and took several clean-up strokes directly against the grain on and under my jaw line.

The result was a pretty good shave. The weepers were a disappointment, and I applied alum to shut them down.

A Modern Post Shave

After I cleaned, dried and stowed my shaving hardware, I rubbed on a splash of common drugstore witch hazel to which I had added both peppermint and menthol. I went and enjoyed another cup of coffee for a few minutes while that dried.

Then I returned to the bathroom and applied a splash of Shea Nation citrus after-shave lotion, which is a nice summer option. After that dried I decided that my skin needed a bit of pampering so I took one final step.

Some time ago, on the suggestion of one of my readers, I stopped at a dollar store and bought a bottle of lotion intended both as an after-shave and general moisturizer. Without any fragrance to speak of, one of its salient features is that it dries leaving skin smooth and not sticky. I've used this on and off for quite some time, but recently improved it by adding menthol.

So I used this menthol-augmented lotion as a final application to my beard and around my eyes as well.

Closing Thoughts

I think that the old Gillette double-edge adjustables were designed to allow users to dial in the setting that could optimize their daily standard shave. Bear in mind that these were pre-shaving-hobbyist days, in which shaving was merely a requisite daily utilitarian chore. Of course, they also offered the additional benefit that if a closer shave were desired, the user could adjust the razor as needed for subsequent passes beyond the standard shave.

Modern adjustables obviously offer the same option but with the added benefit of having a slightly smoother shave character. Also, as hobbyists have experimented, many including me will often dial up the aggression of the razor setting as the shave progresses beyond the initial pass.

That said, on those days when I simply want the best good-enough shave that I can get in a single pass, I would certainly reach for one of my adjustables and dial in a fairly aggressive setting.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Variations on the Standard Shave

The Standard Shave

As I've written several times, I define a standard shave as the DE shave taken by most non-hobbyist shavers using DE-shaving gear. That is a one-pass shave taken, for the most part, in the with-grain direction.

This standard shave is a good-enough shave from a visual perspective -- especially when taken with a fairly aggressive razor. However, a standard shave is not at all rewarding to the hand even just after the shave, offering stubble resistance in anything but the with-grain direction. It also begins to look untidy rather quickly -- often showing a five-o'-clock shadow well before five in the evening.

A Fragile-Skin Variation

When my sensitive and rather fragile skin needs a break from my obsessively-close shaves, I typically take advantage of the adjustability of my preferred DE razors at hand. This includes my DOC (double-open comb) razor from PAA (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements), which is technically a non-adjustable three-piece design. This razor responds well to a slight de-snugging of the handle, which makes it shave more efficiently than the mild shave character it displays when fully snugged.

When I'm using my adjustable razors, the Parker Variant or the Ming Shi 2000S (both excellent razors in my opinion), I set either on a setting of about four for my first pass that is largely with grain. For this first pass with the DOC, I do slightly loosen the handle to give the razor a bit more bite. My so-called with-grain first pass is not obsessively with grain, but rather in a vertical direction -- downward for most of my beard and upward on my lower neck.


[Shopping note: When considering a purchase of the Variant, I suggest using the link provided above, which allows you to deal directly with Parker USA (via Amazon, an affiliate company to Shave Like Grandad); Parker USA has an excellent reputation for customer service. To get the Ming Shi 2000S, I recommend dealing with Maggard Razors (not an affiliate company), who are also known for their top-drawer customer service.]

Then depending on my mood and the overall condition of my skin, I may then do a second partial pass under my jaw line and on upper neck using the same razor setting using mostly against-grain strokes. If I want a better shave, I'll do a full second pass against grain, but with my razor dialed (or snugged) back to a maximally-mild setting.

Prep Variations

I've been enjoying various pre-lathering options. This morning after a face wash with sandalwood soap from the Sudsy Soapery (and subsequent rinse), I did a second "wash" with classic Noxzema cream, but did not rinse that off. Then I loaded my brush with menthol shave soap and face lathered. The resulting watery lather was effective and comfortable.

Some days I'll skip the initial face wash and will pre-lather with either dedicated pre-lather-and-lather-enhancing soap from PAA, or will sometimes do a pre-lathering "wash" with my shave soap of the day and wet hands.

I personally find that the hobbyist obsession with "rich, thick" lather is a mistake. Remember that this is wet shaving (emphasis on wet), and water plays a crucial role in combining with the soap or cream to make a slippery concoction. If I make any errors at all, I occasionally make lather that is too soap rich (not enough water). The proof in this pudding of effective water-rich lather is when one is to do final clean-up strokes to a face that has been just shaved, and adds moisture to the clean skin that merely has the smallest residual of shave soap. The result is still a slippery surface that allows final strokes for a close (and safe, comfortable) shave.


My shave today with the PAA DOC razor, a sixth-use Derby Extra blade used the two pass variation, but with an extra half pass of clean-up strokes below my jaw line and on my upper neck. It was a satisfying shave even though not quite baby-bottom close. Both the process and the outcome were very rewarding. Who could ask for more?

Happy shaving!