Friday, August 29, 2014

Shaving Technique: The Long and the Short of Shaving Strokes

In a previous article, I've written about direct and oblique shaving strokes. Today's article deals with stroke length. I choose to classify lengths of shaving strokes as simply long, short, and, a subset of short strokes, which are referred to as buffing strokes.

When I think of long strokes, I think of anything over about one inch (two centimeters). Although I confess that I'm prone to use long strokes when not shaving mindfully, I think they increase my chances of getting poorer results including weepers, nicks, and cuts -- mostly weepers in my usual experience.

Long strokes work best on stretches of skin that lack angles and depressions, which doesn't describe my face and neck at all. (My facial and, especially, neck skin is rather thin with lots of hills and valleys, dips, and corners.) If a person is shaving on skin that is, instead, rather fleshy, full, and smooth, then long strokes may work just fine.

Short strokes, being the compliment to long, are about an inch or less. These strokes allow for good control and frequent reset of razor angles as appropriate. When I'm using my slant razor, for example, short (and direct) strokes are the required technique. If I lapse into long, lazy swipes at my beard with this most capable of razors, I am guaranteed to draw a little blood at some time in my shave as the guillotine-like slant of the blade lops everything in its path -- including small bumps and ridges that may arise in my aggressive strokes.

Stroke length is somewhat akin to speed when parking a car in a tight space. If you drive too fast as you maneuver the automobile, you may encounter undesired contact with other objects before you can react to avoid them. Creeping slowly as you position the car allows better monitoring and control of the process, usually allowing damage-free driving. So it is with stroke length, where shorter strokes seem to provide better control in avoiding mistakes.

The ultimate short-stroke type is buffing, which is an abbreviated, back-and-forth sequence of razor movement on skin, in which each forward slide is slightly longer than the backward, thus allowing the razor to progress across the beard. This type of stroke is normally used for finishing a shave, removing the last projections of whisker to achieve the greatest smoothness.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Challenging Cherished Beliefs: Arko Soap with No Brush

As I suggested yesterday, today is the third use of my new Arko shave stick, but with a twist. Today I'll simulate an ultra-minimalist travel shave by not using a shave brush.

When one applies shave soap directly to face and massages it with wet fingers instead of brush, the appearance of the lather -- or, more accurately, the soap layer -- is quite different. It is not really lather at all; it is a lubricating soap layer.

Today's experiment actually challenges two cherished wet-shaving beliefs:
  • A brush is needed with shave soap
  • Shave soap must be whipped up into a tall lather to be effective
As for the first bullet, many wet shavers (not the aficionados, of course) simply use bath soap as shaving soap. They rub it on as though washing their face, then shave it off. This is pretty much what I did today. I wet my beard, rubbed on the Arko like yesterday. With wet hands, I rubbed the soap layer all over my entire beard, which created, not a lather, but rather a wet, soapy, slick layer. Then I shaved it off.

For years, I used common bath soap, and a double-bladed cartridge, in a similar way to shave satisfactorily. So much for the myth of the brush (any brush) being necessary.

The second cherished belief that I have enjoyed questioning is the tall, whipped-lather requirement. It really rubs me the wrong way (pun intended) when wet shavers orgasmically write about and discuss tall, whipped lather -- they even photograph it as though it's this month's pin-up girl -- like it's the criterion by which a shave soap is to be judged.

It's not.

They discuss the (imaginary) characteristic of cushion  as though their razor is doing a Fosbury Flop over the high-jump bar and needs padding to dampen the deceleration into the pit; it's like their face is a stadium bleacher seat and the razor must be padded for the duration of the spectacle to give a comfortable shave; it's like.... well, you get the idea. You could put shaving lather into your high-jump pit, or onto your stadium-bleacher seat, and all you would get for your trouble is wet and messy -- no cushion to be had.

News flash: the concept of cushion as applied to shave lather is non-existent and silly.

News flash #2: the key factors of a shave soap are how well it 1) lubricates the shave and 2) leaves your face feeling hydrated, not dry.

The fact is, one can get a satisfactory shave in the shower with just water streaming over the beard. And even more generally true, one can get a satisfactory shave using a thin, not-whipped, wet layer of shave soap on the face.

Now I am hedging a bit with my language. Do I prefer using a brush (any brush, not just one that costs $40 or more and is made from the hair of an animal fed only free-range organic food)? Yes. Using a brush allows me to keep my fingers less slippery, and allows me to hold lather in it for subsequent passes or to squeeze out, drain and dry overnight, and save for another shave. 

Do I prefer even a mediocre lather to a thin, wet layer made with wet hands on face? Yes, but only because a slightly taller layer seems to keep the shave soap from drying too quickly on the face, which allow an entire pass without having to re-hydrate the shave soap on my beard.

However, I got a close shave this morning using the Frankenrazor, although I did tend to rush a bit more than usual, leaving a few weepers in my wake. If I did this brush-free shave routinely, I would probably become more expert at the process and learn to adjust my practice to allow for the quicker drying layer of lubrication.

Will I do this again unless absolutely necessary? No, probably not. I enjoy the process of brush and bowl, and there's something to be said for a little extra pleasure in one's day. I also think that the brush-and-bowl process is less wasteful, allowing clean soap lather to be re-used rather than washed down the drain.

What do you think?

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Round Two: Arko vs. Slant Bar

Yesterday the first use of the Arko shave stick pitted against my Frankenrazor provided a wonderfully comfortable shave. A greater test of its lubricating powers comes today with a slant-bar-razor shave. The question to be answered is can the Arko shave stick protect my face from irritation and weepers when challenged by the most aggressive, capable razor in my bathroom cabinet?
The featured player in today's performance was the Arko shave stick, which is unwrapped at upper right. The supporting cast features the mighty Merkur 37C slant-bar razor.
This shave, like yesterday, was minimalist, so there were no pre-lathering products, no hot water used at any point, and no after-shave products except splashes of cool water.  Also, remembering that the Arko stick can be used with moderation -- meaning that one doesn't have to smear the dry soap over the entire wet beard -- this morning I only rubbed the stick on less than half of the area of my well-wetted beard, that is, just on my cheeks and chin, neglecting below the jawline, upper lip, and near my ears.

Initially, for a couple of seconds whipping the soap with a wet brush, the lather appeared thin and inadequate. Then it bloomed to the slick, rich lather of yesterday's shave. Because I used less soap on my face, it was easier with a bit more attention to get adequate and appropriate hydration of the lather.

I took 1-1/2 passes, but fussed over the tune-up half pass to the extent that the shave nearly became two full passes.

The result was very close to baby smooth everywhere. The key issue, though, is residual irritation, and in today's shave there was as little as I get with such a close shave and the slant-bar razor. I did get three small weepers, which disappeared on their own after a few rinses with cool water. Given my skin and preferred shaving technique, I would expect this is due to the hyper-aggressive design of the slant razor, and wouldn't expect any shave lubricant to completely eliminate this issue. It's more of equipment choice and stubborn cockpit error. Like yesterday, I would give the Arko very high marks for giving a comfortable shave both during and after.

The residual clean lather in the brush was still generous, and, like yesterday, I squeezed it into the same re-purposed Greek-yogurt cup to dry and be used another day; being conservative, I hate to rinse perfectly good shave soap down the drain.

Tomorrow it's back to Frankenrazor with Arko soap again, but with a twist. Tomorrow I'll either go full-on light-travel mode and try the Arko shave stick without a brush -- that is, just using wet fingers to make lather, or I'll try a first test of just using the dried, left-over lather from previous Arko shaves. Stay tuned.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Arko Shave Stick: First Shave, First Impressions

My first shave stick arrived yesterday. It is Arko brand, and today I've taken the maiden voyage with this product.

The stick looks just like it does in the photos on line, one of which is displayed at right. The packaging is exclusively a foil-paper wrapper, enclosing a short candle-like stub of shave soap, which I carefully unfolded at the ends and separated the mild adhesive along where the long edges of the wrapper were glued together. This will allow me to use the stick sans paper, and then when dry, wrap it back in its paper wrapper and secure with a thin rubber band -- ready for packing if I choose it when I'm traveling.

The first thing that I wanted to experience was the fragrance, which some like and some clearly don't. Some say it smells like soap, and others claim it imitates the aroma of a urinal cake.

As you may know, I make my own shave soap, which is currently formulated for sensitive, dry skin (as mine is) and a fairly challenging beard (as mine also is), so it has no added fragrance whatsoever to avoid possible irritation from those additives. As a result, I can assure you that plain, natural soap without added fragrance has hardly any scent at all. All commercial soap, unless unscented, has added fragrance, which is what gives the various brands their different characteristic bouquets.

Arko is scented to smell like a common, traditional bath soap. I found it not the least bit offensive, perhaps because I wasn't used to using a shave soap that smells like a spice rack or an expensive mens' cologne, and, from reading various reviews of the Arko brand, my expectations were therefore appropriate.

For this maiden shave, I used my Frankenrazor, with the Lord-brand blade that is not my favorite -- but which is adequate in this particular razor. On this day, I chose to use the Arko stick as it is intended, which is to rub the soft soap directly on one's wet beard, and then use a shaving brush to face lather. In a subsequent shave, I'll try the uber-minimalist traveler's option of making lather with my damp fingers rather than a brush.

Because I'm a frugal shaver, I tend to dislike the idea of daily use of a shave stick; I generally reject the idea of washing perfectly good lather down the drain, and tend to squeeze clean, unused lather out of my brush and back into my puck container, where I set it to drain and dry for the next day's use. But if traveling, the shave stick seems like a reasonable compromise of packing less gear at the price of having no puck container to hold previously-made lather as it dries overnight. If I were to use at home a shave soap packaged as a shave stick, I would be inclined to press it into a lathering bowl and use it as one uses a normal puck of shaving soap.

So I gave it a go -- a minimalist shave as has been my habit lately -- to really evaluate the capability of the Arko without any warm water or added pre- or post-shave-product assistance.

Making Lather

With dry fingers I rubbed the end of the dry shave stick, completely removed from its wrapper, all over my damp beard -- both face and neck. Then I put the stick in an empty yogurt cup to keep it clean and dry until post-shave clean up. The dry Arko layer on my beard was rather translucent, and I was concerned that I wasn't applying enough soap. No need to fear, however, because after I began to swirl the damp brush on my beard, the translucence quickly transformed to a dense, white layer. More water on the brush and more swirling created a rich creamy layer.

There was so much soap, in fact, that I had a hard time adding enough water; the lather layer remained just slightly on the pasty side. Next shave I will only soap my face, and not my neck, thereby using less soap to make it easier to get a slightly wetter lather.

The fragrance of the Arko is more pronounced when lathering than when just sniffing the dry stick. So I can understand why some might object, but I would have no problem using this every day.

The Shave

As I wrote above, I used Frankenrazor, a minimalist shave (meaning no hot/warm water, no pre-shave shower or face wash, and no additional lubes or balms), and one-and-a-half passes. My main pass was largely against grain, although I tend to use this solitary full pass to hit the whiskers from as many directions as necessary. My shaving strokes were short, mostly oblique, and almost like buffing strokes.

I used the ample remaining lather in the brush to touch up under my jaw line and on chin and upper lip. Being at home, I couldn't bear to rinse the left-over lather down the drain, so I squeezed it into another clean, empty Greek-yogurt container to dry and use for another shave.

First-Shave Evaluation

The Arko shave stick has really surprised me with this first shave. The Arko soap allowed a very close, comfortable shave, which remained comfortable in the all-revealing hour or so after the shave as well. The lingering fragrance after the shave is subtle and fresh, indicating to me a smell that says clean

There is no doubt that I will use this product again -- tomorrow paired with the formidable slant razor. So after one use, this modest, inexpensive, unassuming shave soap has impressed me and provided a great shave. More to follow; stay tuned.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Fresh Appreciation for the Slant with a Minimalist Shave

After yesterday's article about moderation and the virtues of my Frankenrazor, I returned to my slant razor, the Merkur 37C. These remain the only razors in my bathroom cabinet (the rest are in a shoe box in my closet). After yesterday declaring Frankenrazor as my favorite shaving instrument in my razor menagerie, today's shave with the slant has once again planted a small seed of doubt.
The impressive capability of the slant razor is primarily due to its slanted blade angle in relation to the handle, the large blade-bar gap, and the deep grooves in the safety bar.

Reasons against the slant for being my absolute favorite razor is its aggressive nature, which of course is a double-edged sword (pun intended). Its aggressiveness brings awesome capability for close shaves in fewer passes and on longer stubble, but also brings the risk of blood loss -- usually in the form of weepers, but also in the form of cuts for those who carelessly make oblique strokes. I have found that the risk can be offset to a large degree by modification of one's technique. Specifically, very short, almost buffing strokes seem to be the prescription for close, safe shaves with the slant. And, of course, the strokes must be direct, and not at all oblique -- and always with light pressure.

Oh, but the capability of this razor! Today I used a single-pass minimalist shave, a once-used Personna Blue blade (made in the USA), direct strokes that were short and almost buffing, and shaved primarily against the grain of my beard. After the sole complete pass, I made touch-up strokes in a few places where the direction of the hair growth varies in patches, and the result was baby smooth almost everywhere!

In terms of skin insult, there was a weeper on my chin that disappeared with cool-water rinsing. There was no other visible irritation, and the post-shave sensation of a slight burn was as minimal as my delicate skin experiences and was short lived.

The closeness of the shave, however, is sublime. Truly baby smooth on cheeks and neck. Under my jawline, which is always a smoothness and sensitivity challenge, there is just a hint of a man's beard. I know that I will  occasionally be running my hand over my face for several hours appreciating the quality of today's shave.

Though the slant razor may be more demanding in terms of technique, and though it may be more finicky in terms of compatible blades, it is a razor that I remain reluctant to banish from my bathroom cabinet.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Moderation is an Important Shaving Concept -- and Life Approach

As a registered dietitian/nutritionist, I have been educated to understand that an important concept in a healthy diet is moderation. Early on, it was difficult for me to accept the idea that there are no bad foods, only inappropriate choices in relative amounts and frequency of certain foods.

For example, french fries and soda pop are considered by many to be unhealthy dietary choices. Yet a professional dietitian would likely say that an occasional serving of french fries or a pop is harmless. Intake of any food must be viewed in the context of one's entire diet, and the important factor is the relative frequency and serving size compared to other food choices.

Another nutrition example: everyone knows that water is essential to life. Yet if you drink four or five gallons in a day, you will die! Two ounces a day is too little, five gallons is too much.

Yet another example is alcohol consumption: a little bit each day can be healthy for many persons, but a lot on a given day can dramatically shorten your life through accident, and larger quantities every day leads to life-threatening chronic illness such as oral cancer or liver diseases among others.


And so it is with so many things that don't have to be perfect. To win in tennis, you don't have to win every point -- and, in fact, you don't even have to win most of the points (though most of the time you probably would); you just have to win the right points at the right times. In flying, it used to be said with some dark humor, that any landing you can walk away from is a good one.

Moderation. It's important in so many things in life.

And so it is with the shaving process and razor choice.

I shaved this morning with one of my favorites, my Frankenrazor, the Merkur 33C head with a heavier Chinese handle. In it, I used a Lord Platinum Class blade, which is not only NOT one of my favorites, but also had almost a week's shaves on it and was ready for my home-made recycle bank. I did a two-pass shave using mostly oblique strokes, thus to a degree abandoning my minimalist-shave approach for the morning. I got a very close shave without any injury to my delicate skin.

As I rinsed for the final time, enjoying the result of the morning shave, I began pondering this idea of moderation. It isn't the quality of a given day's shave, but rather the quality of your overall shaves, that determines your shaving experience. It isn't the closeness that a given razor can achieve, but rather the comfort and closeness that you can routinely achieve that determines the razor's excellence.

Another factor in evaluating a razor is how it performs with different blades. My Frankenrazor, for example, can allow a fine shave -- close and comfortable -- with a mediocre blade as it did this morning, while other razors may provide less consistency with various blades.

With the clarity of those observations in mind, it occurred to me that my best razor of the nine that I own is the Frankenrazor. And if I were to recommend a razor, it would be the Frankenrazor's factory equivalent, which is the Merkur 34C Heavy Duty razor. It has the moderate-cutting Merkur head, suitable for every-day use or for hacking down several day's growth, but is forgiving unlike more uber-aggressive razors. It has a nicely-knurled handle for a secure grip, has substantial overall heft, and the handle barrel is of a generous diameter -- again encouraging a secure finger-tip hold on the instrument. It is a razor that exemplifies the concept of moderation -- especially in its head design.

Similarly, I am finding that a 1-1/2- to 2-1/2-pass shave is the moderate course, which, given proper care and technique, can achieve excellent daily results in shave closeness, comfort, and avoidance of blood shed.

And a final thought on moderation as applied to razor acquisition as well: nine razors is too many -- a bit over the top, wouldn't you say? Frankly, if you own one good razor, like the 34C or my Frankenrazor, that is sufficient unless you are driven to experience variety for its own sake, and even then, two is arguably enough and three begins to border on extreme. Most of my nine are stored in a closet and rarely see the light of day.

So consider your own approach to shaving -- and life. Perhaps things can go even smoother (pun intended) if you focus on moderation.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Are Weepers the Cost of a Consistently Close Shave?

In my experience, blood-letting shaving errors fall into three categories: 1) cuts, which are the most troubling, slow to heal and disappear, and due to the greatest pilot error; 2) nicks, which are usually still due to pilot error, but after a touch of styptic disappear more quickly than cuts; and 3) weepers, which I characterize as just shaving too closely: taking a little scrape of skin with the hair, and as a result, opening a capillary that oozes blood. Weepers are often so superficial that I don't even feel them being opened up.

Nicks and cuts are rare in my shaving experience, but weepers are all too frequent. This is due to my love of the close shave combined with my tendency to get both a bit careless and aggressive with my strokes at times. Another factor may be just a hair too much pressure of razor against face in the effort to get a better shave in fewer passes. I also find that my slant razor (Merkur 37C) both gives me the closest shaves in the fewest strokes, as well as probably leading the field in the production of weepers.

I sometimes get repeat weepers because I keep shaving quite closely the same slightly-injured patches of skin day after day, and once a weeper is created, it may need some rest -- a break from the close shave -- so it can properly heal and subsequently endure without complaint the passing of sharp steel across skin.

The good news is that weepers, unlike nicks and cuts, usually seem to disappear from view once the oozing of blood has stopped, whether on its own or by a splash of water, an alum rub, or touch of styptic pencil.

What are your thoughts and experiences regarding weepers? Feel free to leave a comment.

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Two Shave-Soap Sticks on Order

In the last day or so I ordered two venerable shave sticks to evaluate and compare to my own shave-soap formulation. These two sticks are the Palmolive and Arko brands. These have received generally positive and enthusiastic product reviews on the Internet, though the Arko tends to get a bit more criticism for its fragrance; some like it, but some really don't. While the Arko is available from USA-base sellers, the Palmolive ships from Europe. This means that I'll be receiving the Arko first, and then the Palmolive should arrive a week or two later (being thrifty, I am loathe to pay extra for expedited shipping).

In case you don't know, a shave stick is basically a cylinder of soft shave soap. It is intended to be rubbed directly on one's wet beard, and then whipped into an appropriate shaving lather using a damp shaving brush (or fingers). Some prefer the shave stick when traveling because one doesn't have to lug a mug or bowl, and can use the shave soap directly on the face by simply peeling away the packaging to expose the product.

In formulating my own prototype shave soap, which I use daily, I have evolved it through ten basic versions, designated by number, and then there have been variants to the basic formulations, designated by letter. My current soap is formulation 10A. When I first began contemplating my own shave soap, I consulted the ingredients of many products from pucks of shave soap through even the canned foams and gels. Two products that I made sure to review during this ingredient research included these Arko and Palmolive shave sticks. Once I had a list of likely ingredients to use, I compared fatty-acid components of various shave soap, gel, and foam products to my prospective initial formulations. From those, I chose what looked like the best one to start, shave soap #1, and began the long series of trials and evolution to arrive at the most current leader in the club house (golf metaphor).

So in the coming days and weeks, I will likely be doing both stand-alone trials and  and comparison trials pitting the shave sticks against each other as well as against my current shave soap formulation.

Stay tuned: same bat time, same bat channel (allusion to the old Batman TV series from the 1960s).

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Returning to the Slant and the Minimalist Shave

Using my now-favorite razor, the Merkur 37C slant-bar DE [UPDATE: regular readers will know that I vacillate on this, and usually prefer my Frankenrazor], my least-favorite blade of the four that I keep in larger quantity (though not a bad blade), the Lord Platinum Class, my proprietary shave soap #10A, and a one-pass minimalist ritual, I got a very close shave this morning. It was baby-bottom smooth on my face and lower neck, and adequately close under my jaw line, which has my most sensitive skin and is the most difficult to get completely smooth.
The capable Merkur 37C slant (right), and my Frankenrazor (left), which is a Merkur 33C head with a heavier Chinese handle, thus emulating to a degree the Merkur 34C. Once again through experimentation I have confirmed that these are the only two razors that I will keep in my bathroom cabinet. 

The only price to pay was a few small weepers, only one of which needed a touch of styptic pencil to quickly go away. The rest disappeared with the usual cool-water rinses after the shave.

This recent two-week trial of the one-pass shave with a minimalist ritual has confirmed several things:
This represents the blade brands currently in my inventory. Most are in
smaller quantities, but the high-quantity blades are the Personna Blue
(top center), the Lord and Dorco (lower left), and the Astra SP (lower right).

  • The Merkur 33C (and likely its heavier sibling, the 34C) razors are excellent all-purpose razors that can serve new DE users at the beginning and for the remainder of their shaving days
  • The Merkur 37C (though usually not recommended for beginners) is a highly capable and efficient razor and likely to be my go-to instrument for my daily shaves -- particularly when I want a close shave with a single lathering pass
  • The 37C shaves best when using a light touch and short, almost-buffing, direct strokes
  • My dad's heirloom Gillette Slim Adjustable is a fine razor and a nostalgic reminder of the "good old days," but is not quite as good for me to use as the Merkurs
  • Of my four larger-inventory blades, Lord Platinum Class, Personna Blue, Astra Superior Platinum, and Dorco ST-301, though none of these are bad blades, the least comfortable of these on my face is the Lord brand
  • The minimalist ritual including a one-pass shave is the way to go for me on a daily basis
  • My shave soap formulation #10A is a very good product: slick, rich, and creamy
Happy shaving!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Frankenrazor + Personna Blue + One Pass* = Close Shave

As I suggested in yesterday's post, I put a new Personna Blue (USA made) blade into the Frankenrazor, did a one-pass, minimalist shave, and got a close, good-looking result. My one-pass technique included oblique against-grain strokes for the most part, with across-grain strokes in more sensitive, visible areas such as upper lip.
The assembled Frankenrazor, a Merkur 33C head with a heavier Chinese handle, is shown next to the factory-original handle that comes as part of the 33C. The Chinese handle is a bit heaver, so I use it even though I don't have a strong preference. This razor continues to earn its spot in my bathroom cabinet as a frequently-used shaving instrument.

The one-pass claim comes with an asterisk (*), though, because I did do some additional wetting and buffing to clean up some rough areas. The ability to do these finishing strokes without more lather comes from my shave soap formula #10A, which leaves a slick residue after shaving strokes. This residue can either be rinsed off, or lightly re-wetted; and if wetted, has enough lubricating effect to allow additional strokes and razor buffing if desired.

I admit to becoming careless when using Frankenrazor, and though it is of a moderately-mild nature, when used with oblique strokes -- especially with a new, sharp blade like the Personna Blues, it has the ability to create weepers or nicks if one isn't careful. And so it was with today's shave. I had a few spots that disappeared after a touch of styptic pencil.

Frankenrazor (left) and Gillette Slim Adjustable (right). Though both are
fine instruments, my tests have proved the Frankenrazor more to my liking.
After that and my usual cool-water rinses, my skin felt unphased by the shave. I could have called it quits at that point, but today as a capstone on my shave, I wanted to have that just-shaved scent, so I rubbed on an inexpensive Gillette after-shave balm for sensitive skin.

So the things I've learned is that the Frankenrazor stays as part of my daily razor rotation, and the vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable razor has been put back in the shaving shoe box in my closet. The Frankenrazor is, for my needs, a slightly better choice, thus rendering the Gillette not only redundant, but actually less desirable. I've also confirmed that of my large-inventory blades, Lord Platinum Class, Personna Blue, Astra SP, and Dorco ST-301, the one offering the relatively and slightly-more harsh shaves is the Lord brand.

Tomorrow I'm back to the Merkur 37C slant-bar razor to re-visit its one-pass capabilities.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Frankenrazor is Less Harsh than Gillette Adjustable

Following up on yesterday's shave, I used one of my preferred razors, the Frankenrazor, made of the Merkur 33C head and a heavy Chinese handle. Into this razor, I put the Lord Platinum Class blade from yesterday's shave.

The 33C head is a less-aggressive-shaving design, and as a result, I took a full 1-1/2-pass shave (contrasted against the minimalist one-pass shaves with which I've been recently experimenting); that is, I re-lathered under my jaw line, but also took many strokes in my single lather elsewhere. I could get away with the many-strokes-single-lather process owing to the residual slickness of shave soap #10A, which performs well even after initial strokes just by adding a bit of water with the hand to the face.

Though the shave result today with Frankenrazor wasn't quite as close as yesterday's with the Gillette adjustable, it was less harsh, leaving my face noticeably less riled. Therefore, the past two day's results tend to support my on-going hypothesis that butterfly (TTO) razors are generally harsher shaving than unscrew-to-open (two- and three-piece) razors due to inherent characteristics of blade angle and perhaps blade vibration as well.

Tomorrow, still using Frankenrazor, I will see if a USA-made Personna Blue blade fresh out of the wrapper will give a a closer yet equally comfortable shave compared to the Lord brand of today's shave.

Stay tuned: same time, same channel. (For you younger readers, the previous sentence was intended to be a humorous reference to the way some television shows from the 1950s and 1960s encouraged continuing viewership.)

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Combination of Gillette Adjustable, Lord Blade, and a Minimalist Process

I am still in the process of trying to decide whether to include the Gillette Slim razor as part of my stable of daily shavers, or to put it back into the shoebox in the closet. Today's shave was another test of that vintage Gillette set on three, and this time with a second-use Lord Platinum Class blade. The one-pass shave was essentially the same as yesterday: close, but a little harsh -- leading me to pull out the alum block for a rub after the shave.
Tomorrow's shave with the Frankenrazor, left, will give me the opportunity to compare the harshness of shave to the vintage Gillette, right, when using my least-favorite blade of those in my weekly rotation: the Lord Platinum Class blade.

Because the alum is a little drying, I may apply a little after-shave balm after I finish this article.

So what does this morning's shave mean? (Often helpful to seek meaning...  ;-)

I'm inclined to revert to my old suspicions that the butterfly-door designs tend to be slightly more scraping against tender skin, and the Gillette seems to be no exception. However, it is still likely that choice of blade plays a factor -- as well as technique, obviously. The Gillette gave a good minimalist blade with a Dorco blade on a given day, but not so good on another, and clearly has seemed more harsh with the Lord brand of today's shave. As I discussed many weeks ago, it is likely the combination, but it will be interesting to compare how the Lord-brand blade feels in a nice three-piece razor.

Obviously I'll know better after tomorrow. For that shave, I'll put the same Lord blade into my much-appreciated Frankenrazor, the Merkur 33C head with the heavier Chinese handle, and give that combination a go using the same basic process and techniques of the last few days; that is, a minimalist shave with my my shave soap formula #10A, one main pass and touch-up strokes, and making those strokes against grain below the jaw line and varying strokes cross grain, against grain, and in between, when shaving above my jaw line.

And some additional words about the shave soap. After being shaved off and prior to rinsing, it leaves a thin, invisible, slick layer on my skin such that by adding the slightest additional moisture, I can safely take additional touch-up strokes without adding lather.

Also, because I'm a thrifty shaver, I squeeze the residual lather out of the brush and use my index finger of my other hand to squeegee it off and back into the soap bowl (which is a recycled Greek-yogurt cup). This clean, rich lather dries out over the intervening day and night, and for the next shave, a wet shaving brush almost instantly revitalizes it into a rich, abundant lather for the subsequent shave, ready to apply directly to face.
Though the picture really doesn't do it justice, even more than two hours after the shave, there is substantial rich, creamy lather from shave soap formula #10A.

Tune in tomorrow for the latest test to help answer the question, are butterfly-door razors really a bit more harsh on the skin than their two- and three-piece-design cousins, and will I reject the vintage Gillette (gasp!) and put it back into storage in favor of newer-built but more ancient razor designs?

Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Gillette Adjustable and Another Minimalist Shave

For today's minimalist shave, I used a last-shave, about-to-be-recycled Astra Superior Platinum blade in the Gillette Slim this morning. The adjustable razor was set to three, which is a fairly mild setting on the one-to-nine dial.
Pictured are two of the four key components of a minimalist shave: a high-quality shave soap -- in this case my own proprietary #10A for sensitive skin, and razor, which today was the Gillette Slim Adjustable set on three. In case you're wondering, the other two key components not shown are blade choice and stroke technique.

My stokes were pretty much all oblique and against grain, with the exception of my upper lip and chin, which were cross grain. Being a minimalist shave, it was pretty much one pass with a few extra touch-up strokes here and there.
Though today's blade was not at all new and was nearly
ready for the recycle tin, it was an Astra blade as pictured

The shave was a bit harsh feeling both during and a few minutes after the shave. There were also four or five very small weepers that would have probably disappeared with a few cool-water rinses, but I chose to give each a touch with a styptic pencil. So I did deviate from the absolute minimalist shave by using the trusty styptic pencil. However, there was still no need for the alum block or any after-shave balms or lotions.

The best news is that the resulting shave was very close -- very nearly baby-bottom smooth on much of my face and neck, and very close elsewhere.

Tomorrow I will try to isolate the cause of the harshness of today's shave (including the weepers) by repeating with the Gillette razor set to three, but with the almost-new Lord blade from Friday.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Lord Platinum Class Blade with a Minimalist Shave

The question to be answered in today's shave was how does the Lord Platinum blade perform in the three-piece (UTO - unscrew to open) razor made from the Merkur 33C head (top cap and baseplate) combined with a heavier, inexpensive Chinese handle, a Frankenrazor so to speak.

A five pack of the Lord Platinum Class blades. A new one of these was used in my Frankenrazor, which is the Merkur 33C Classic top cap and baseplate paired with a heavier, inexpensive Chinese handle.

The shave process was my minimalist shave, which is as follows:
  1. Cold tap-water splashes to wet beard
  2. Cold tap-water soak of brush (in a re-purposed Greek-yogurt cup) while wetting beard
  3. Use of my proprietary shave soap #10A, face lathered to a creamy, flat, opaque layer
  4. One-pass shave using oblique against-grain strokes below jaw line, and oblique cross-grain strokes above jaw line
  5. Cold tap-water rinses
I got a sufficiently-close shave with zero perceptible irritation using the Lord Platinum blade in my Frankenrazor. 

I have been somewhat critical of the Lord Platinum blade, when comparing it to my other large-inventory blades: Astra SP, Personna Blue (USA), and Dorco ST-301; I have found the Lord blade to be slightly more irritating to my sensitive skin, when used with a multi-pass shave. However, in the context of the minimalist shave, a new Lord blade is not irritating. (We will see how it holds up through the coming week's shaves in various razors.)

The larger question that I've been pondering is which of my razors is the best for my daily shaves? Since I've gone to the minimalist process, this question is still open for consideration. Previously, using a multi-pass process, I had settled on a two-razor rotation of the Frankenrazor and the Merkur 37C slant.

Tomorrow will likely be the Gillette Slim adjustable with a final-use-before-recycle-bank Astra blade to explore how it performs with the end-of-life blade and the minimalist process.

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 15, 2014

One-Pass Shaves Lead to Thoughts on My Best Overall Razor

Given the fact of my much-written-about (by me) rather dry and sensitive skin, I have been experimenting with the daily one-pass shave. The idea is to be kind to sensitive skin by minimizing its contact with sharpened steel by having fewer every-day shaving passes, thereby getting a good and good-enough daily shave, while saving your very closest baby-bottom-smooth (BBS) shaves for special occasions as needed.

I have had very good results, and have learned more about the various razors in my stable, and which I will summarize in a future article. For today, I would like to briefly discuss today's nuance of razor-and-blade combination.

Yesterday, for example, I shaved with my most efficient and aggressive razor, a Merkur-brand slant, the 37C. However, the blade I used (Dorco ST-301 -- a fine blade) was at the end of its useful life, and went into my home-made tin-can blade-recycle bank after the shave. Though that shave was close enough to be adequate throughout the day, I had a few weepers that called for the use of the alum block, which, though it quickly eliminated the weepers, is a bit drying, and so I prefer to avoid its use whenever possible.

Today, I used the Merkur 33C Classic razor head without its factory handle, and instead used the heavier handle that I have often mentioned in the past. Into this razor I inserted an Astra SP that had been used for several prior shaves. I have had generally acceptable one-pass shaves with the 33C (with one exception that felt a little furry by the end of the day), and my one-pass technique with all straight-bar razors is to shave with all oblique strokes, and against grain below the jaw line, and cross grain above the jaw line. My previous one-pass shaves with the 33C have used Dorco ST-301 blades, which I think are a fine, reasonably-priced blade, and a good one with which new DE users can develop their shaving skills for the first few months.

Today's shave was satisfying both in the overall process and the result was completely close enough -- looking good and fairly smooth to the touch -- though obviously not BBS. The blade had its effect, being still within its useful life and not on its last gasping breaths.

So regarding blades and the one-pass shave, you may not want to push blade life. Though the one-pass shave puts less wear on a blade due to the stroke reduction from fewer passes, because you are asking for more efficiency from each razor stroke, the blade life in terms of shaving days may not change significantly.

Tomorrow, I think I'll put a new Lord Platinum Class blade into the 33C. The Lord blade is not my favorite, seeming a bit harsher than the other large-quantity blades in my inventory -- due, I believe, to the fact that despite its name, the Lord blade is uncoated.

[UPDATE: Although the packaging on the Lord Platinum doesn't specify any coating, I have seen conflicting information on the Internet. One Internet seller suggests a chromium coating; a shaving-forum poster suggests double-coated teflon. The packaging of the blade is silent on the issue. !?!]

 (However, they aren't bad, and seem to get generally good reviews in Internet forums on shaving -- though this does vary depending, apparently, on beard type and razor choice.) This could be an interesting test because this recent series of one-pass shaves has brought me around to the sense that, properly used in a skilled hand, the Merkur 33C razor head (I specify head because I often use it with a handle heavier than that from the Merkur factory) remains the best all-purpose double-edge razor that I own -- better than the slant as well as the butterfly-door versions including the adjustable vintage Gillette. Further testing resuming tomorrow with the Lord blade may provide more information.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Slant Razor and Minimalist Shaving

I shaved with my slant double edge this morning using a blade about ready for the recycle blade bank. I shaved mostly against grain (cross grain on my upper lip), and got a surprisingly close shave -- pretty much baby-bottom smooth (BBS) -- on my cheeks and neck, although just under my jaw line would need more attention to be BBS.

I did a one-pass shave everywhere except my chin, on which I also shaved cross grain to get completely smooth.

The shave was marred by a few minor weepers, which were handled by a few cool-water rinses and then use of the alum block on my entire face, followed by a final cool-water rinse.

As I continue to push the performance envelope with minimalist-but-close shaves, I continue to learn about the morning ritual. This leads me to continue to re-think my recommendations for those new to double-edge shaving. Sometime in the near future I will publish updated recommendations for newbies.

So today was a minimalist blog article along with the minimalist (plus alum) shave. Tomorrow it's back to the Merkur 33C razor head to again compare another minimalist shave with that instrument.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gillette Adjustable Revisited with a One-Pass Shave

Today's shave with the Gillette Slim Adjustable was close but slightly harsh -- even using a single pass. However, I can't simply blame the razor.

Frankly, once in a great while I'm just off my game, and this must have been one of those days. If my profession were airline pilot, this would have been the day to take a train. Normally I have a cup or two of coffee before shaving, but today I pretty much stumbled from bed directly to the bathroom sink. This was likely my first mistake.

To start, I don't think I wet my brush or beard adequately; I probably shook out too much water from the brush prior to lathering. The resulting layer on my face and neck was a touch too pasty, and I didn't do anything about it -- like dip the bristles in water and lather some more (duh) as I normally would. I just used it as is, and although I got a close shave, the lather and freshly-cut stubble were a bit difficult to rinse from the razor.

Because of the rinsing difficulty, I had to open the doors to the razor bay to clean the razor as I shaved. Then at one point when my strokes were feeling particularly scraping rather than cutting, I checked the blade-tightening mechanism and, sure enough, it wasn't quite snug. So there was further evidence of cockpit error. After securing the blade, the subsequent strokes were noticeably smoother.

For this shave, my strokes were entirely oblique and pretty exclusively against grain on my neck and below the jaw line. Above the jaw line, my strokes were still oblique but a combination of cross and against grain, with a few with-the-grain strokes when touching up.

Finally, near the end of my shave, I carelessly nicked myself under my nose, which required a touch of styptic pencil.

So I deviated from my recent minimalist ritual and used the alum block after the shave and then rinsed with cool water.

In summary, a close but forgettable shave. Looking forward to tomorrow, I'll be using the slant razor -- again performing a one-pass minimalist shave, which I hope will have a more pleasing outcome. And after this unrewarding shave this morning, I'm going to use the Gillette again soon on a day when I'm fully awake -- still to evaluate whether this instrument is stored in the bathroom cabinet for regular use, or in the bedroom closet.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The One-Pass-Shave Experiments: Conquering Shaving Obsessions

Today is the fourth day of my one-pass-shave trials. And for this one, I returned to the Merkur 33C Classic razor.
The disassembled razor used in today's shave: the top cap and baseplate are from a Merkur 33C Classic razor. The handle is a heavier, and slightly longer one taken from an inexpensive Chinese razor. (Click here to read the article about the heavier handle.

This sequence of one-pass-shave days has been something of a watershed time for me. It has caused me to re-think my opinions of butterfly-door razors, and, more significantly, it has caused me to lower my push for the perfect, baby-bottom-smooth daily shave. I have been able to put my double-edge-shaving hobby back into perspective and recall the economic and ecological reasons I turned to old-school blade and brush in the first place. I have been able to enjoy both the process and the outcome of a good-but-not-perfect shave, and have also enjoyed the beneficial impact on my skin of at least halving the number of razor-sharp scrapes against my sensitive skin.

It's interesting how I have gone through stages regarding shaving. For years, I didn't care about it a bit; it was just a daily chore before work. Then after rediscovering double-edge shaving, I became obsessed with not only the perfect shave, but also with acquiring the perfect razor and blade to accomplish the task.

The first obsession that I conquered was the acquisition disease -- although not soon enough to avoid having a stable of nine razors, most of which I will probably give away. I could have just stopped with the Merkur Classic that I first bought after getting the itch to ditch the multi-blade razors, or, even before that, I could have stopped after finding my dad's Gillette adjustable. But hindsight is 20-20 as the saying goes.

Now it seems that through my trials with one-pass shaves, I have vanquished the obsession with the perfect shave, and am now satisfied with a pleasurable good-enough daily shave. My skin is just too sensitive to make the perfect shave every day. [UPDATE 8 Oct 2014: Not really. By tuning shave prep, I have gotten better at achieving the near-perfect daily shave.] But I do have the skills and experience to get that [nearly]-all-over baby-bottom-smooth shave when really needed.

Today's shave was 1-1/2 passes after a few splashes and rub-in of cool water and a quick face lather with my shave soap formula 10A. The first pass was against grain from the jawline down, and cross grain above the jawline. Not quite satisfied with that, though adequate to the eye, I did some touch-up strokes around and under the chin and on my cheeks to get the desired feel.

I finished with a couple of cool-water rinses, and then cleaned up per my usual routine.

Tomorrow it's back to the Gillette adjustable to compare to today's shave. This will help me to narrow down which razors I want to keep on hand in the bathroom cabinet for daily shaves. After that, I may go back to the shoe box in the closet and give my other razors another try for fresh, new-perspective evaluations.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The One-Pass Series, Part 3: Weishi 9306-F

My intention today was to do a one-pass shave with the Chinese version of the old Gillette Super Speed razor, the Weishi 9306-F. I say intention because I ended up doing two full passes and some buffing. Into this razor I had inserted a used Dorco ST-301 blade -- the same one used yesterday.
The Weishi 9306-f razor is a butterfly-door design with nice heft (being made of chrome-plated brass), good-gripping texture on the handle, a high-quality appearance, and mild-shaving character.

As I have written before in a full-on razor review, the Weishi 9306-F is an extremely mild razor. This makes it new-user friendly, but low capacity. After one full pass, which was against grain from my jawline down, and cross grain above (all oblique strokes), I may have looked okay, but wasn't quite satisfied with the feel of hand against face.

I should mention that today was to be another minimalist shave, meaning not only one pass, but also just splashes of cool water for beard prep, shave soap #10A (of my own formulation and manufacture), the shave itself, and rinses of cool water after each pass.

So I deviated from the minimalist approach with a second pass, which was cross grain everywhere and from the opposite direction of the first pass in those areas where pass one was cross grain.

Then I did a bit of buffing in those areas that, on my face, tend to be most stubborn, which is under the jaw line and my chin.

The net shave outcome was very close -- not baby-bottom smooth, but still pleasing to the hand -- and with no perceivable irritation. As a result, no after-shave balms or lotions were required -- an outcome that I have been seeing more consistently when using my best shave soap (that is, formula #10A). I also suspect that my moving toward minimum passes for the last few days has allowed my skin to revitalize, meaning that even razors that I found a bit irritating in the past, are now much less so.

So if I'm in a hurry, the 9306-F won't be my go-to razor because of the mildness of its capabilities; I'll go to a razor that can take a more aggressive bite out of my beard such as my slant razor or the Gillette adjustable set so that the blade-edge exposure is neutral, about even with the shaving plane of the top cap and safety bars. However, if time isn't the issue and I have the luxury of being a bit fussy about my shave, the 9306-F continues to impress in terms of its feel in the fingers and the skin-friendly characteristics, leaving not the slightest hint of blood nor any other post-shave irritation.

Also, though, the 9306-F won't find a place in my cabinet as a daily shaver because my skin doesn't need the potential irritation from the multiple passes encouraged by the mild bite of the 9306-F.

Tomorrow I'll revisit the one-pass shave with my Merkur 33C Classic. This time I'll be sure to shave against and across the grain using oblique strokes to see if I'm more satisfied with the quick shave it provides.

That's it for today. Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Vintage Gillette Excels in a Good One-Pass Shave

I'm still exploring the possibilities of the one-pass shave as an adequate daily shave. Yesterday's shave with my Merkur 33C Classic was adequate, but in the evening felt more stubbly than I'm accustomed to -- however, it still looked okay; but if I were going out to a more formal occasion, I might have taken another one-pass touch-up shave prior to leaving for the evening.

Today I pulled out my heirloom Gillette Slim Adjustable razor and put in it a twice-used Dorco ST-301 blade.

New conclusions about an old razor: This Gillette Slim Adjustable, despite being far from my favorite razor for multiple-pass shaves, performs well when making a one-pass shave. In the intitial trial it was better than the Merkur 33C in this process, and as a result, may take its place with my Merkur slant as the two instruments that I use in my regular razor rotation.

As you may know from reading my articles, I favor two- and three-piece UTO (unscrew-to-open) razors over TTO (twist-to-open, butterfly-door) designs. This is because I feel that the UTO razors give a slightly more aggressive angle to the blade resulting in slightly less scraping and less irritation after multiple-pass shaves. But in thinking about today's shave, since I'm experimenting with the performance envelope of the one-pass shave, I wondered if perhaps I have not appreciated the adjustable TTO as a good option for a good-enough daily one-pass shave.

This, I found, is where the Gillette adjustable TTO really shines. I got a very good one-and-a-half-pass shave.

As you may know, the Gillette Slim Adjustable has a one-through-nine adjustment range; one being least aggressive and nine being lawn-mower open. I set the razor to four, which by eye-ball assessment is a neutral blade exposure -- meaning that the blade edge is about even with the shaving plane determined by the top and the safety bar; it's neither enclosed in the protective cove, nor is it aggressively exposed.

I used a few cold-water splashes on my whiskers as a shave prep. Taking my newest one-ounce test puck of shave soap #10A, I wet the brush with cold tap water, and loaded the brush with soap for about 15 seconds. (I find any new, unused soap puck requires a few seconds more to whisk sufficient soap.) Then I face lathered to a flat, slick, creamy, opaque layer and began the shave.

I may not have had enough coffee because I had intended to use oblique strokes for the entire shave, but I started against the grain on my lower neck with direct strokes. Despite my mental lapse, this went great. Then, also against the grain with direct strokes, I shaved my upper neck and also, my most sensitive skin, below my jaw. This too wasn't bad, though I did get one small weeper.

After that, I finally woke up and started using oblique strokes, with which I shaved cross grain on my cheeks, chin, and upper lip. After a cold-water rinse and some touch-up strokes under my jaw and on chin and upper lip. I did a final cold-water rinse, with my face feeling surprisingly smooth.

The weeper got a touch of styptic pencil, and I finished by cleaning up tools and sink.

The net result is a surprisingly smooth shave; not quite baby-bottom smooth, of course, but satisfying in both appearance and feel. No after-shave balms or moisturizers were necessary, and I once again did not use the alum block either.

Now I think I understand what the designers of the Gillette adjustables might have been thinking as they evolved their designs. As a result, the Gillette Slim may replace my Merkur Classic and join my Merkur slant as one of my two daily go-to razors. Though to be fair, I used the Merkur Classic shaving with with-the-grain strokes, and the Gillette was cross grain and against the grain, so more evaluation may be required to make a final decision.
The Merkur 33C Classic is a three-piece straight-bar razor, which is a nice all-around razor. However, as a one-pass instrument, even using oblique-stroke technique, it does not seem to provide as close a shave as the Gillette Slim Adjustable. Further trials will tell.

Tomorrow, I plan to use my Weishi 9306-f non-adjustable TTO in a one-pass shave to see how it performs. My expectation is that it will be similar to the Merkur Classic, but that's the hypothesis to test.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Considering the One-Pass DE Shave

I began using double-edge (DE) razors, brush, and shave soap instead of the multi-blade razors and canned goo, or electrics, for three reasons: 1) they have a smaller negative environmental impact, 2) they can be more cost effective (that is, less expensive) in the long run, and 3) I never liked the noise or the feel of shaving with an electric.

Early on, I found that electrics were not for me.
Yet what really hooked me on DE shaving was the closeness of the shave when more than one pass is done -- for most of us, that's usually three passes in the quest for the perfect shave. (I admit I was also intrigued by the complexity of the process; that is, the number of variables that are involved in the shaving ritual.) When I use a normal, straight-bar DE razor, I can get a very close shave in three passes. If I use my slant-bar DE, I get about the same result in two passes.

The problem for some of us is that no matter how good our shaving technique, our tools, our shaving soap, our lather, our pre-lather preparation, and our post-shave care, our skin is going to get irritated when shaved with multiple passes every day. I repeat: I'm not talking about everyone, but just some of us with more sensitive skin, potentially getting some face and neck irritation if we make multiple passes in every single daily shave.

So this begs the question: how close does one's daily shave have to be? If you want to merely look neat, this can often be accomplished in a single pass. With a single pass, you certainly won't be baby-bottom smooth, but that isn't necessary for the average day, whether at work or simply out in the world. Of course, if you're going to be rubbing your cheeks against that special someone, then it may be time for the closest shave. But if the issue is just looking neat for your coworkers, customers, and the person you pass on the street, then the eyeball test of your shave is completely sufficient.

Frankly though, it was hard for me to seriously consider not making multiple passes because of my addiction for the very close shave. But in the interest of science, I have had this hypothesis about the one-pass DE shave being good enough on many days, and I finally committed to doing the experiment.

Yesterday, I had a one-pass shave using my Merkur 37C slant-bar razor and a blade nearly a week old. Baby-bottom smooth? No. It was neither BBS nor even close feeling except when rubbed in the direction of my shaving strokes. Yet it looked fine, completely acceptable. In fact, it was as close and looked the same as the results that I accepted every day for years when shaving with the multi-blade cartridge systems. And merely using cold water for the entire shave and a good shave soap (my SS#10A) left my skin completely unphased: not the slightest sign or symptom of irritation. Not the least bit of additional pre-lather preparation or post-shave care was necessary. Even in the late afternoon, my shave still looked acceptable.
The two razors used in this two-day test. Straight bar on the
left, slant on the right. Tomorrow I may try a butterfly-door-
style razor under the same conditions.

Today I did a one-pass shave with my Merkur 33C Classic (with the heavier Chinese handle), which is a normal straight-bar razor, using a slightly-used Dorco ST-301 blade. For this single pass, to get as close as possible, I did the entire shave using oblique strokes, which in some ways (but not completely) simulates the effect of the slant-bar razor by increasing the stubble-munching capability of the razor and the effective sharpness of the blade.

I got another great-looking shave, which was smooth to the touch in the direction of my shave strokes. I used the same ritual as yesterday: cold-water splashes; creamy, flat, cold-water lather; single pass (but, as I said above, today with the straight-bar DE and oblique strokes); and a cold-water rinse. Today, just for fun and to smell good, I used an after-shave balm, but not to soothe my skin, since no soothing was necessary.

So unless you have the heaviest and densest of beards, the one-pass shave may be adequate for your daily shave; it certainly is for mine. What do you think?

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Williams Shave Soap Instead of SS#10A? Uh . . . No.

This morning I decided to go back to my puck of Williams shave soap for a reminder of what it shaved like.

Using a badger brush, I chose to make, not a deep lather, but rather a flatter, richer lather similar to what I've become accustomed to using my own proprietary formulations. It's been a while since I've used the Williams soap, and I was surprised by how its lather seemed initially weak and frothy. As I added more soap to the brush to make the lather more creamy, I continued to be disappointed by the character of the lather, which I would describe as not as rich and creamy as that to which I've become accustomed.

Undaunted, I face lathered for a bit, and completed the process by "painting" the lather to a flat, opaque layer. It seemed too "soapy" however -- not creamy enough. So I rubbed my fingers in the lather to get a sense of its slipperiness, its potential lubricating power.

Long story short: I rinsed the lather off my face and brush, put the Williams away, and pulled out my shave soap #10A.

Ahhhhhhh . . . the familiar rich creaminess. The slick, flat, opaque layer on my beard, and the slippery feel of the smooth, just-shaved skin prior to the water rinse: there's no substitute for a really good shave soap.

After the shave with my slant razor, I realized that I won't be going back to Williams except under dire emergency conditions when I have no other alternative.

Which leads to a thought for new double-edge-razor users: along with a good razor (but not necessarily expensive), one of the first investments should probably be in a high-quality shave soap.

What do you think?

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Naked, Cold, and Efficient: A Minimalist Shave

Though I kept my pants on for today's shave, I didn't spend much time dressing my beard. Today's shave was done with ONLY the following gear and materials:

  • Cold-water rinses prior to shaving
  • Face lathering using my proprietary shave soap #10A, cold water, and an inexpensive badger brush
  • A Merkur 37C slant-bar razor and a used Astra SP blade
  • Cold-water rinses after shaving
The business end of the 37C slant-bar razor. Its efficiency allows me to get an extremely close shave with just two passes: with grain and a combination of cross and against grain. Scary razor, eh?

What I did NOT do:
  • Didn't shower or wash my face prior to the shave
  • Didn't use any pre-shave products such as shave oil
  • Didn't use warm or hot water before, during, or after the shave
  • Didn't use an alum-block rub after the shave
  • Didn't use a styptic pencil
  • Didn't use any after-shave lotions, balms, moisturizers

Along with the super-efficient Merkur slant razor, the only other products used in today's shave were an inexpensive badger-bristle brush and my own shave-soap-formulation #10A.
Previously, I have written about cold-water shaving. I am convinced that cold water doesn't adversely affect the shave, and does reduce the removal of natural face-protecting oils. Standing alone with only my skill and my latest shave-soap formulation to protect me, I used the formidable Merkur slant-bar razor, and performed a two-pass shave.

The combination of the cool water, my uber-efficient razor, my appropriate technique, and a good shave lather, I got a very close shave, literally baby-bottom smooth on my cheeks. I did get two of the smallest weepers on my left cheek, but they were so small that after a couple of cool-water rinses, they disappeared. 

Because the alum block is a dessicant, which will dry the skin, of course, I didn't use it today. The good news is that with the light touch of my shaving strokes paired with the mighty capability of the slant-bar razor, and only two passes, my face was both smooth and happy. So no soothing, calming, but drying alum was needed.

The result was face and neck skin that needed no further attention. Good to go for the rest of my day.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lord LP1822L Redux

Just for fun, I pulled out my three-piece Lord razor, model LP1822L -- formerly known as the model L6. I reviewed it months ago (click here to read the original review).

The Lord LP1822L (formerly L6). The handle, though generously long, seems bigger here due to camera-lens distortion.

I still think it shaves very much like the Merkur 33C Classic razor, though it is slightly more aggressive in character. I noticed the relative lightness of the razor as compared to my daily rotation of the afore-mentioned 33C and the Merkur 37C slant. However, this lower mass did not hamper my shave in any noticeable way.
The Lord razor juxtaposed with the Merkur 33C Classic. Both razors give a similar shave, but the Lord model is a bit more aggressive, has a significantly longer handle, and is a little lighter (because of the aluminum handle). The finish on the Merkur is better to the eye, but the Lord is about half the price.

I put in a new Dorco ST-301 blade, which I think is a good blade for the price; it's sharp, coated for better comfort, and seems reasonably durable -- so I would label it a good value, and would be comfortable recommending this blade for DE newbies as a learner blade. Once the newbie has at least three or four months of shaves with this initial blade in a good razor (I tend to recommend two- or three-piece razors such as this Lord, the Merkur 33C or 34C, or the Wilkinson Sword Classic because I think these are slightly less harsh than comparable butterfly-door razors), then it would be appropriate to sample some other blades.

The Dorco blade got hung up in the razor top cap, which hasn't happened before during disassembly. So it took just a bit of fussing to unhang the blade center from the top-cap-post threads while doing post-shave clean up.

I have to admit that I was very cavalier with today's shave, making 3-1/2 quick passes. I got a good, close shave but, due to my carelessness, had a couple of weepers under my chin.

I continued to use my shave soap formula #10 doctored with a moisturizer in the lathering bowl. The resulting post-shave irritation was more than yesterday, but not at all serious. The post-shave irritation was probably owing to the quick, rather careless shave with the new blade. I did use a touch of styptic under my chin, then the usual alum rub, and splashes of water. Still no after-shave balms necessary.

I especially would suggest this Lord razor for the ladies because the long handle would likely be helpful when shaving the lower limbs.

That's it for today. Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shave-Soap Formula #10 with an Added Moisturizer

This morning I took my proprietary shave soap formula #10 (SS#10), and added a post-cook moisturizing ingredient to the lathering bowl (making this shave soap SS#10A). As I suspected, the natural soap was an effective emulsifier, allowing the fatty moisturizer, which is similar to the oils that the skin naturally produces, to readily dissolve in the lather.

I used a straight-bar DE razor, my stock Merkur 33C, with an Astra SP blade that had the better part of a week's shaves on it. I did a full-on three-pass shave and then, to go for a really smooth shave, an extra bit of buffing as a partial fourth pass all around under my jaw line and on my cheeks.

The resulting shave was close and surprisingly comfortable. After the shave, the alum block revealed some, but not significant, skin irritation in the areas where I did the fourth pass and on my lower neck, where the skin is always sensitive. However, the good news is that though the alum indicated minor irritation, there was no transient post-shave burn in those sensitive areas. Basically, this morning's shave was about as comfortable as I have had, and as a result, again needed no after-shave balms, lotions, or anything else. Just a splash of cool water to rinse off the alum, and my skin felt good. On with the day!

I will continue to test and compare SS#10 with the added moisturizer. But so far, and especially with the added moisturizing tweak, this one continues to impress.

[UPDATE: This SS#10A formulation has consistently been good, so I've made a test puck with the moisturizer incorporated so no doctoring is necessary. This #10A formulation is now my go-to shave soap.]

Happy shaving!