Friday, October 31, 2014

Analysis of the Merkur 15C Open-Comb Razor Design

An open comb razor is excellent for shaving long hair owing to its virtually unlimited shaving capacity. So those who shave less than daily -- and especially those who skip many days between shaves or who shave and adjust the margins of facial hair -- will find an open-comb razor a useful option.

As I've written before, though many think of open-comb designs as being aggressive and potentially providing a harsh shave because of their unlimited capacity as well as the reputation of some open-comb razors such as the Muhle R41, this aggressive shaving character isn't always the case. The Merkur 15C is an excellent example of an open-comb razor with a very mild shaving character. As we examine side-view photos of this instrument, the reasons for its mild shave will become apparent.

The 15C blade exposure is negative (the red dot highlights the blade edge), the blade angle measures 29 degrees -- very close to the 30 degree angle of its sibling, the Merkur 33C. Though the blade-baseplate gap is very small in the side view as shown, remember that the open-comb baseplate design has large gaps between the teeth, which may allow the skin to squeeze up closer to the blade edge.
The blade edge is more visible in this photo, so the negative blade exposure is also more easily seen.
As both photos above show, the blade exposure of the razor is negative; that is, the blade edge lies below the shave plane. This is one reason that the razor gives such a mild shave. Also contributing to the mild shave is the very small gap between blade edge and baseplate. However, the mildness of this small gap is off set to some degree by the open gaps between the baseplate teeth, which allow the skin to potentially bulge up and be at greater risk for nicks and weepers. However, the tooth design of this baseplate is flat along the shave plane. Some other razors have the appearance of a peaked-tooth profile along the shave plane, which would allow for a more skin to potentially bulge up between the teeth and get closer to the blade edge. So even in this respect, the 15C has a mild tooth profile as compared to some other open-comb designs.

The tooth profile on this Merkur 15C (above) is rather flat and the gaps between the teeth are not the largest of the open-comb designs. For example, compare this to the tooth profile and gap size of the Muhle R41 below.

This photo of the Muhle R41 raor shows the relatively larger gaps between the teeth as well as the tooth shape, which is narrow and rounded. Both these characteristics would contribute to the aggressive, more-dangerous shaving character of this razor.

The blade angle of the 15C measures about 29 degrees, which is similar to some other razors I've measured, and which are listed below:

  • Merkur 33C:  30 degrees (& negative blade exposure)
  • Lord LP1822L: 30 degrees (& negative blade exposure)
  • Weishi 9306-F:  28 degrees (& positive blade exposure)
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable, set on one:  31 degrees (& positive blade exposure)
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable, set on nine:  35 degrees (& larger positive blade exposure)

So the smaller blade angle combined with the negative blade exposure would tend to suggest a very mild shave.

Paradoxically, though this razor is of mild-shaving nature, I tend to get weepers at a higher rate than with the Merkur 33C, while seeming to have to work just a bit harder to get as close a shave with the 15C. My only explanation for this paradox might be that the open-comb design lets looser skin in certain areas of my beard get nipped by the blade, while in the smoother, tighter areas, the mild nature of the razor dominates.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Synthetic Bristle Brush: First Impressions

A seller's photo of the brush that just arrived,
the Omego Syntex.
My Omega Syntex brush arrived the other day. It is the smallest of the three brushes that I now own. It's size is reminiscent of the few vintage brushes that I've seen in antique stores and re-sale shops.

Since I'm trying to keep my additional shaving-gear acquisitions to a minimum, I rationalized this brush purchase as a contribution to my travel-shaving kit because of its smaller size and the synthetic bristles, which should be faster drying than a natural bristle.

The cost of this brush was under $12 including shipping. This is consistent with my general policy of resisting paying big bucks for any shave gear, but especially brushes. I have found my other low-cost brushes to work just fine. The Van Der Hagen boar was about $6 at a local department store, and the Tweezerman was in the $15 ballpark at the time of my purchase.

My initial impression of the firmness of the Syntex synthetic bristles is that they have good backbone similar to boar hair, but the tips lack the wispy softness of a broken-in boar brush.

As an initial lathering test, I whipped up some of my proprietary SS#10C in a lathering bowl, and found the Syntex to be not significantly different in bowl lathering than my other brushes. I didn't shave with that initial lather; that would have to wait to the following morning. I cleaned up, shook the water out of the rinsed brush, and set it, bristles up, on the counter to dry, which it did -- quickly, as expected.

Size comparison: Omega Syntex (left), Tweezerman badger
(center), and Van Der Hagen boar (right). The Syntex is likely
to retain the shape shown. The VDH brush has been stored in
a protective storage tube, so it is less fan shaped than normal
after regular use.
I think it's a handsome little brush. The handle is attractive, comfortable, and though the brush is inexpensive, doesn't to my eye or hand have the a look or feel of low quality.

I read some on-line-review comments that suggested the stark white bristles of the Syntex make it difficult to judge how much soap has been loaded onto the brush prior to making lather. However, I have not found this to be the case.

Though not as soft as my badger brush, this is not a bad thing. The bristles of the Syntex, with their backbone, make both swirling- and painting-motion application of lather to face easy and comfortable. Especially when swirling, the bristles don't tend to lay down as the badger does. Also, unlike my other brushes, especially when new, I have not yet noticed this brush shedding a single bristle.

In terms of the texture against skin, when loaded with lather, I didn't (initially) notice any significant difference in feel against skin; when face lathering, though, the bristles did feel more coarse, but not enough to keep me from using and liking this brush. The knot did hold a surprisingly large amount of lather, which is more than enough for a three-pass shave.

So in sum, these synthetic bristles are unique in some respects as compared to boar or badger. In terms of utility, however, I see no salient disadvantages. I think this brush is a terrific one in terms of both value and function. The bristles dry quickly as compared to natural, they and the handle may be less susceptible to water damage, and the brush as a whole is nice looking. I'm going to continue to use this brush for the time being; my others are, for now, stored in my shaving box in the closet.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gillette Slim Adjustable: Further Design Analysis

Based on my recent surprising (to me) discovery that the blade angle of the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor, when set on its smallest setting, is about 31 degrees -- about the same as my prized Merkur 33 -- the question remains:

Why does the Gillette Slim seem to me to give a more harsh, more irritating shave even on its most mild setting, when compared to the Merkur 33?

Since the apparent harshness of TTO razors in general and the Slim in particular isn't due to the blade angle (as I confirmed recently and immediately documented in a blog article), I believe the photos below suggest the answer. The upper picture is the Gillette Slim TTO set on its most mild setting, one. The photo clearly shows that the blade exposure is positive: the blade edge lies above the shave plane, which is a more aggressive, potentially-harsh orientation. But what about the blade-bar gap?

A casual observer may assume the blade gap is the distance between the dots at points A and C. But in reality, the gap is about twice that at A-B, when the hard-copy enlargement is measured with a ruler.

Razor edge indicated by red dot at A. Smallest gap measured at A-C. True gap at A-B.
Compare these two factors, blade exposure and gap, to those in the Merkur design. The blade exposure in the Merkur is negative: below the shave plane as indicated by the red dot near A. The minimum gap, A-C, is also about half the effective blade-bar gap at A-B, when the hard-copy photo is measured.
Razor edge indicated by red dot at A. Smallest gap measured at A-C. True gap at A-B.
A key question, though, is what is the relative gap size of the Gillette Slim when compared to the Merkur 33? That question I can't currently answer with confidence. Recent events have taught me not to trust eyeball evaluations, whether on the actual razor or a photo; and I have no micrometer to make any actual measurements (a ruler would likely be too inaccurate).

At this point, I would attribute the potentially harsh shave (that I seem to consistently experience) to the positive blade exposure of the Gillette, while the negative blade exposure of the Merkur seems to better agree with my skin texture, thinness, and general sensitivity.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Lord LP1822L Vs. the Merkur 33C Razor Heads

The Lord LP1822L DE razors, also known as the L.6 or just the L6, shaved much like my Merkur 33C Classic razor in informal comparison shaves. This impression was so strong that I assumed that the Lord razor head was a copy of the Merkur 33.

Yet last week in studying some comparison photos of both razor heads, this assumption was clearly wrong. So today I'm using new close-up photos to try to better understand the design differences between the two razors, and perhaps pinpoint where each might really excel as well as why they leave such similar initial shaving impressions.

[UPDATE: After a subsequent week of alternating between these two razor heads, I was able to distinguish between the two; they don't give exactly the same shave. As was predicted below merely from the following analysis in this article, careful shave trials also show that, all other things pretty much equal, the Lord gives a slightly closer shave, but also slightly higher risk.]
Merkur 33C razor head

Lord LP1822L (L6) razor head

Using the photos and general inspection, three similarities become evident:

Blade reveal:

For this design aspect, I not only used the photos included here, but I also simply looked at both razors from the top-cap view -- looking straight at the top cap (with blade installed, of course), and with the handle of the razor pointing away from my eyes and hidden from view. The respective blade reveals are about the same.

Blade angle:

I discovered that eyeballing the differences in the photos isn't always reliable. This was certainly true regarding blade angle. From just looking at the photos on my computer screen, I would have estimated the blade angle on the Lord razor to be smaller. Ah, but then I printed the photos on letter-size paper:
When printed on letter-size paper and the shave-plane and blade lines extended and measured with a protractor -- despite looking different when eyeballed, they measure the same: 30 degrees.
I took my ancient drafting kit -- you know, pencils, ruler, triangles, protractors, compasses, et cetera -- and extended the lines of the shave planes and the blades. Then using the protractor, I measured the blade angles. Despite initial appearances, the blade angles of both razors are the same, 30 degrees.

Blade exposure:

This is a tough call. Looking at both the on-line photos as well as the enlarged hard copies, finding the exact edge of the blade is somewhat difficult. What is not debatable is that both exposures are negative, that is, below the shave plane and within the protective cove formed by the top cap and baseplate. The Lord may protect the edge slightly more with a more negative exposure, but that's a difficult call to make with certainty. It's probably best to leave the call as they are similar.

Based on those three design factors, the razors should shave pretty much the same. But now it's time to consider the design differences and their potential impact:

Blade-bar gap, safety-bar cross-section, and respective orientation:

These two design aspects should probably be considered together because, in combination, they influence how the edge meets hair and (ideally) avoids skin.

If one measures the blade-bar gap as the shortest distance between blade edge and any point on the baseplate, the gap on the Lord head is smaller -- which would suggest a less-aggressive shaving character. But the contour of its baseplate compensates, making it effectively larger than the shortest-distance measurement would suggest. In fact, because of the ramp-in contour of the Lord's baseplate cross section, the gap between the blade edge and the point of the baseplate that determines the shave plane is actually much larger than the shortest-distance measurement -- and much larger than the Merkur's gap as well.

Therefore I would expect the Lord razor to be slightly more aggressive in its shaving character. I suggest that it would still give a mild and face-friendly shave -- in particular due to its blade exposure and angle. However, it might be a bit more inclined to nip loose skin, and it might more easily tackle a multi-day growth of beard. On the other hand, the ramp-in contour of the Lord baseplate may simply offset the effect of the smaller minimum-measurement blade-bar gap, thus giving them nearly identical shaving characteristics.

Obviously these differences between the razor heads are slight. This would explain the similarity in their respective shaving characters. I will be alternating razor heads this week, and will report my impressions in my end-of-week shave summary.

Happy shaving!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Blade-Angle CORRECTION: When I'm Wrong, I'm Wrong

Last week I published a couple of articles -- one on the Gillette Slim Adjustable, and one on the Weishi 9306-F razors -- that asserted, based on eyeballing the side-view photos of the razors, that the blade angles of these TTO razors are larger and therefore more harsh shaving than three-piece designs such as the Merkur 33C or the Lord LP1822L.

This assertion has, today, proven to be incorrect.

Just a few minutes prior to writing this correction article, I printed out enlarged copies of these TTO razors, extended the shave-plane and blade-angle lines, and measured them with a protractor.
Examples of 8-1/2" x 11" photos of razor heads.

As it turns out, yes, the Gillette blade angles are slightly larger than either the Merkur or the Lord. But not enough to make a difference -- especially when the Slim is set to its most mild setting. Embarrassingly, the Weishi blade angle is actually slightly smaller than those of the Lord or Merkur designs.

So my hypothesis about the inherent blade angle of TTO razors -- a proposition in which I was sooooo confident -- is WRONG!

Yet, if these razors do shave slightly more harshly as has been my experience, then why?

In these two razors the additional harshness may be due to a less-protected blade exposure combined with a relatively-larger blade gap, when measured along the shave plane (at least as compared to the Merkur; the Lord gap will take some additional analysis and explanation).

However, it's possible that my perception of the harshness of the TTO razors is not objective. I guess I'll have to pull them out of my closet and have some more shaves with them to see.

Happy shaving!

The Most Important Photo of a DE Razor

One picture is said to be worth a thousand words. No where is this more true than regarding photos of razors. The key issue is which photo. This is a follow-on series to an article to I wrote a couple of weeks ago. We begin with a bit of review....

When razors are sold or otherwise discussed, many photos are provided. Yet there is one view that, pretty much, tells the whole story of how a razor will shave. That view is the side-view close up with blade installed.

This view, in a single well-shot picture, can reveal a straight-bar DE razor's key design characteristics which can allow anyone to understand the nature of a given razor-head design, and, most importantly, how it will behave with his skin, beard, and shaving habits.

A good side-view close-up shot reveals much:
  • The cross-section shape of the safety bar
  • The blade-bar gap
  • The blade reveal (how much of the blade is protruding beyond the top cap)
  • The blade exposure (how the blade edge is positioned in relation to the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar)
  • The blade angle in relation to the shave plane (formed by the top cap and safety bar)
When these design aspects are considered together, one can know how a razor head will shave without relying on subjective, incomplete, often conflicting, and too-often useless reviews and opinions posted on the Internet.

To maximize the utility of a side-view close up, a line drawn in to indicate the shave plane is most helpful so that one can more easily see the blade angle and exposure.
Merkur 33C razor head

Lord LP1822L (L6) razor head
Comparing the two photos above, one can see similarities:
  • Blade exposure
  • Blade angle in relation to the shave plane
  • Blade reveal
There are also differences:
  • Blade gap -- both size and orientation
  • Safety bar cross-section shape
For today, I am once again suggesting that anyone selling a DE razor or discussing its shaving characteristics would be well advised to provide such a side-view close-up photo with the shave plane drawn in for clarity. If that were a standard procedure, there would be much less mystery about how a given razor will behave with anyone's beard and skin. More importantly, there would be much less trial and error necessary to find a best-fit razor for anyone. I am convinced that not only would this simplify the process of choosing one's best-suited shaving instruments, it would also, in many cases, reduce the likelihood of razor acquisition disease.

Tomorrow's article will take this discussion to its logical conclusion by comparing and contrasting the practical implications of these design aspects for these Merkur and Lord razors. It will cover the features that combine to give similar shave impressions despite specific design differences. Also it will look at subtle shaving-behavior differences that might be predicted just by analyzing these solitary images of each razor. Then, with these concepts in mind, I'll be shaving again with both razor heads, and will report how this objective information has influenced my ability to be more discerning during test shaves. (Those are the plans, anyway. We'll see how they work out, starting tomorrow.)

Happy shaving!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Week Ahead: Synthetic Brush and Other Explorations

On Friday I was inspired by a reader and fellow DE shaver to pursue my interest in synthetic-bristled shaving brushes. I have been window shopping for several months now, looking at various brands and price points.

With the little push of additional inspiration, I followed through and ordered a brush that I hope will be a good one for both daily use and travel. That should arrive later this week, and I'm looking forward both to the first shave with it as well as reporting on that experience in this blog.

And speaking of travel....

I have turned my attention once again to my currently-designated travel razor, the Lord LP1822L. This is because my analyses last week of the vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable and the Weishi 9306-F razor heads led me to take a closer look at my favorite Merkur 33C shave head in comparison to the Lord LP1822L. I had long assumed that the Lord was a copy of the Merkur, but I now know this is not true. Though they seem to shave alike, their design characteristics are, upon close examination, clearly different.

     Lord LP1822L razor head on the Maggard MR3B "big boy" handle. This      
week will feature a detailed analysis of this razor head compared to the Merkur
33C, as well as a first-time shave with the Lord head on a fat, heavy handle.
So this week will include a bit of further exploration of the contrast between the Lord and Merkur razor heads including using the Lord top cap and baseplate together, coupled with the "big boy" Maggard MR3B handle as well as the standard handle of the Merkur 33C. This (literal) head-to-head comparison will take place as part of this week's blade evaluation of the Gillette Silver Blue blade.

So there's a lot to look forward to including the usual surprises and unexpected outcomes. Stay tuned.

Happy shaving! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: Gillette 7 O'clock Super Platinum (Black)

This is the fifth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a Gillette 7 O'clock Super Platinum blade, manufactured in India. These are also known as 7 O'clock Blacks.  The blades are each double enclosed in translucent wax paper inside a black-and-orange-printed, unwaxed-paper wrapper, and packaged seven blades in a cardboard box as shown. Though the double wrapping on the blades may be a bit excessive, I like the simple cardboard boxing, which encourages the user, by not providing a slot for used blades in a plastic container, to put the used blade in a blade bank for eventual recycling rather than in the landfill.
The featured blade this week: the 7 O'clock blacks made
in India.

Reminder about my skin type: I have very sensitive, thin skin, somewhat loose (on the neck when shaving cross grain), with lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard. It's challenging to get a close, comfortable shave. Shaving gear must be chosen with care, which is why I use Merkur razor heads (the 33C mostly but also the 15C) as my main instruments. The handles that I pair with these razor heads are either the stock factory handle or a fatter, heavier handle from a currently-discontinued Maggard MR3B razor. Other variables in my week-long blade-evaluation shaves often include different shave soaps and post-shave skin treatments.

All-natural shave soap #10C whips to a slick creamy consistency
reminiscent of high-quality, but lower-density soft-serve ice cream.
Fragrance free, it is formulated for those with sensitive skin and
sensitive noses.
Unless otherwise specified, all shaves this week were with my minimalist beard preparation. That is, pre-shave prep was limited to splashes of cool water on my beard, cool water brush soak, a shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave. The shaves this week were mostly with the Merkur 33C razor head, either paired with the factory handle or a heavier, third-party handle. I did use the Merkur 15C open comb razor head for Friday's shave.

What I Learned this Week:
The Gillette 7 O'clock Super Platinum blade right out of the wrapper is a good one in my favored razors for my skin and beard. I got close comfortable shaves that were initially among the best I've had. The durability of the blade is not as good as some other blades reviewed in previous weeks: still sharp but shaving a bit harshly by the end of the week perhaps due to degradation of the blade's coating.

My latest prototype shave soap, #10C, continues to give a great shave without the drying effects of some other soaps, and has no added fragrance or unnatural ingredients to irritate the skin or the olfactory.

As we enter heating season, I am coming to like a Noxzema cleansing-cream face wash post shave, which leaves a subtle, protective-feeling coating on my skin as well as a fragrance that I've come to like.

Next week's blade looks to be the Russian-made Gillette Silver Blue blade.
With this week's blade, the 7 O'clock black, in my stock Merkur 33C razor, and along with my Arko shave stick, I took a three-pass shave, then added a fussy final half pass. The first pass was extremely confidence inspiring, but after the third pass, I realized this blade wasn't quite as sharp as the previous weeks', and it therefore wasn't shaving quite as closely -- thus the extra half-pass clean up. When done, I had no perceivable irritation, but after an alum rub, irritation was revealed, which was a bit more than last week's average, I would say. Also three small weepers were present; two of which took a touch of styptic. I washed the alum off with Noxzema and cool water; the idea being that I could leave that subtle, waxy residual coating that would act as a sealer against the dry, heated air indoors, and the cool air outdoors that I will experience in my tennis match later on this morning. The shave itself was, ultimately, as close as last week. Later-in-the-day update: Though I shaved before 7 am this morning, as I write this update at nearly 5 pm Sunday, my shave is still pleasing to the hand, so it may be a little better shave than last week.
Merkur 33C razor.

The 7 O'clock black blade in the stock 33C again, but today the lather is my proprietary SS#10C. A non-fussy three-pass shave had some excitement in the second pass cross grain, when I didn't pull my neck skin tight enough and had some irritation and minor weepers due to my pilot error. Third pass against grain was uneventful. Cool-water rinse and alum rub indicated irritation on my neck, not surprisingly. After that I used a water-and-Noxzema wash and rinse to remove alum residue, acquire that Noxzema smell that I've come to like, and leave that subtle, waxy, minor-protective coating. Despite the simplicity of the shave, the result is still pleasing to the hand.

Frankenrazor II: the Merkur 33C razor
head coupled with the Maggard MR3B handle,
which is, as of this writing, out of production.
Used the Frankenrazor II, with the third-use 7 O'clock black blade, and, once again, my shave soap #10C. Three passes and no fussing yielded a good shave. Alum rub revealed a bit of irritation in a few spots, but a Noxzema wash and an hour of time passed left my face smooth, comfortable, and pleasing to the hand.

The fourth-use 7-O'clock Black blade was again in Frankenrazor II for this morning's shave, but I deviated from my minimalist shave today. I used a Noxzema-and-water prep layer under my shave soap formulation #10C for each pass. I then took a non-fussy three-pass shave, with modifications to the across-grain and against-grain directions on my mid neck, seeking a closer, more comfortable shave in that area. The neck pattern didn't work out as planned; I got a few weepers and irritation (indicated by the post-shave alum rub) there, but the overall shave was otherwise fairly close and comfortable, but not as close as yesterday. After the alum rub, I did a final face wash with Noxzema. More fussing or a fourth pass would have yielded baby smooth on my cheeks. The Noxzema pre-lathering applications smelled good, but didn't seem to add to the quality of the shave.

Arko shave stick lubricated this day's shave with the fifth-use 7 O'clock black blade in Frankenrazor II. I took an essentially four-pass shave, experimenting with shave directions again on my neck. A close result everywhere except lower neck, where I was treading somewhat carefully. Yet I wonder if the blade isn't beginning to  fade given today's attempt to shave very closely, which required four passes. Also, the alum rub revealed irritation on face and neck,which isn't surprising given the excessive passes today, but a contributing factor may be the dulling of the blade. Finished the shave with some Gillette sensitive-skin balm.

Merkur 15C razor head paired with
the Maggard MR3B handle.

I used my open-comb Merkur 15C razor head on the MR3B handle, the sixth-use 7 O'clock black blade, and SS#10C. Three non-fussy passes gave a close shave but with some weepers and minor immediate skin irritation -- and I didn't need alum to indicate the irritation. Used a touch of styptic on two weepers and a bit of alum rub on my chin and under jaw line for its soothing effect. A post-shave Noxzema wash and application of Nivea sensitive-skin balm finished off the shave with good results. I still wonder if the coating on the blade is fragile as compared to some of my other blades, and has worn off during this week of shaves, while the blade remains sharp, thus yielding a close shave but with more irritation than earlier shaves.

Today's shave used the stock Merkur 33C razor and the Arko shave stick to finish the week as it began for a final comparison shave. The harsh shaves of the past few days have left the most sensitive areas of my beard a little tender. So today's shave was with no fussing, and only two passes. After the second-pass rinse, there was no perceivable irritation. An alum rub further revealed almost no irritation as well. Then I took a Noxzema-and-water wash to smell nice and as a sealer on my skin. It was a close-enough and very-comfortable shave to finish the week.

On to the Gillette Silver Blue blade next week.

Happy shaving!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Analysis of the Weishi 9306-F Shave Head

The Weishi 9306-F a Chinese copy of an old Gillette Super Speed razor. It is largely brass substrate with a chrome finish. I have previously written a review of this razor, so today, as a follow-on to yesterday's analysis of the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor head, today I'll take a similar look at the Weishi, which also seems to be sold under the Micro Touch One brand.
Side view of the Weishi 9306-F razor with blade mounted. The shave plane is drawn in to better show the blade exposure and blade angle in relation to the shave plane. (BTW, the butterfly doors are closed as much as this razor allows. The asymmetrical closure is a characteristic of this particular razor.)

Side view of the vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable razor with blade mounted and adjusted to one, its lowest-capacity setting. The shave plane is again shown.
To review the four design characteristics shown in these side views...

  • Blade reveal is the length of blade exposed beyond the edge of the top cap. All other things equal, larger reveal means potentially a more-harsh shave.
  • Blade exposure is the degree that the blade edge lies above or below the shave plane. Generally speaking, larger exposure means potentially a more-harsh shave.
  • Blade gap (between the blade edge and the safety bar) is a key determinant of razor shaving capacity. Larger gap (more capacity) generally means more risk, a potentially more-harsh shave.
  • Blade angle (the acute angle, the one less than 90 degrees, in relation to the shave plane) determines whether the blade cuts whiskers with more of a slicing action or more of a scraping action. Larger acute angles mean more of a scraping cut, which is a more harsh cutting action.
  • It should also be mentioned that the angle of the shave plane itself in relation to the razor handle is largely irrelevant. That only determines the angle that the user must hold the razor handle in relation to the face to optimize the cutting efficiency of the razor. It is the angle of the blade in relation to the shave plane that affects the potential degree of shave harshness.

Although the Weishi and Gillette side-view camera angles are slightly different, they do suggest very similar blade reveal, exposure, gap, and angle -- that is, when the Gillette Slim is set to its most mild setting. The Weishi has a slightly smaller blade exposure and the gap is arguably perhaps a bit larger. These two factors would tend to offset each other, thus suggesting the shave of both razors would be similar.

The key characteristic of note is the similar blade angle (in relation to the shave plane). Again, both the Gillette and Weishi razors are very much alike in that regard. So even though these razors are of very limited shaving capacity (when the Slim Adjustable is set to one), their acute blade angles are noticeably larger than the blade angle of the Merkur 33C (as discussed yesterday), as well as the Lord LP1822L razor head.

[CORRECTION UPDATE: After printing enlarged versions of these photos, extending the shave-plane and blade-angle lines, and then measuring the blade angle with a protractor, I have proven my eyeball assessment of these angles to be incorrect. The Weishi's blade angle is actually about 28 degrees -- smaller than the Merkur or Lord! If the relative harshness actually exists, it is more likely due to the neutral blade exposure combined with possibly a larger blade gap, when measured along the shave plane, compared to the Merkur.]

Side views of both the Merkur and Lord are shown below.
A side view of the Merkur 33C with the shave plane drawn in. The acute blade angle in relation to the shave plane is significantly smaller in the 33C than the TTOs above, which is going to provide a more face-friendly, less-harsh slicing cut of the whiskers. [CORRECTION: Not true. See the correction update, above.]
A side view of the Lord LP1822L razor head with the shave plane drawn in. It has an acute blade angle in relation to the shave plane that is similar to the 33C, so it too will provide a more face-friendly, less-harsh slicing cut of the whiskers. [CORRECTION: Not true. See the correction update, above.]
These four razors provide evidence tending to support my general assertion that if one has rather sensitive skin, a TTO razor such as the Gillette Slim and the Weishi, the subject of today's article, are less desirable that three-piece designs such as the Merkur or Lord brands as shown here.

In particular, the Weishi 9306-F, though being a low-capacity, low-risk razor (in terms of nicks and cuts), it will give a relatively-harsh shave on sensitive skin owing, primarily, to its comparatively-large acute blade angle as shown here in the photos. [CORRECTION: Not true. See the correction update, above.]

Again, to quote Walter Cronkite: "That's the way it is." [At least when one includes the correction update, above.]

Happy shaving!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Analysis of the Vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable Razor Head

The Gillette Slim Adjustable was my first DE razor -- inherited from my father. This one was manufactured in 1963.
The Gillette Slim Adjustable razor is the model that Sean Connery as James Bond shaved with in the movie, Goldfinger.
The Gillette Adjustables including the Fat Boy and the Slim are much revered in the DE-shaving community. I myself have written respectfully about my own Slim at times.

Yet the truth is that I don't like this razor very much. I prefer my Merkur 33C and 15C razors any day. [UPDATE 24Mar2015: I'd ammend that now to say I prefer my Merkur 33 and my Rimei RM2003, though I no longer have such a distaste for the Slim -- but I don't like it enough to use it in place of my two current favorites just mentioned.]

Reasons why some persons like the Gillette Slim:
  • It's a twist-to-open, butterfly-door design, which some prefer to the earlier three-piece designs
  • The blade-bar gap is adjustable allowing capacity adjustments from modest to large
  • It is made of brass, which is durable and hefty, and is of high-quality construction
  • They, the users, have fairly smooth, tough skin
Here is the reason that I don't use the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor:
  • I have found the shaves it provides are a bit too harsh as compared to my Merkur three-piece razors, the 33C and 15C.
The more interesting question, in my opinion, is why are the Gillette-Slim shaves relatively harsh despite its adjustability? Let's begin with a few side views of the Slim's shave head with blade mounted:
This shows the blade reveal, exposure, angle, and gap on the lowest setting, one.

This shows the blade reveal, exposure, angle, and gap on the highest setting, nine.
The blade reveal is the distance that the edge of the blade extends from the top cap of the razor. The Slim has a relatively small blade reveal. When all other things are equal, a small reveal probably contributes to a less-harsh shave, when compared to a razor with a greater blade reveal. Unfortunately, this is neither the only harshness factor, nor the most important.

The blade gap (between the blade edge and the safety bar) is the adjustable feature in this razor. The gap is one of the major design factors that determines the shaving capacity of a razor. If one has a lot of hair to mow down, or it is thick and wiry, a larger gap will allow the blade to take a bigger, more effective bite. However, the larger the gap, the greater the risk that the blade will bite skin as well -- particularly if one's skin is rather uneven or loose. So what many believe is that if they have sensitive or otherwise at-risk skin that may be loose or uneven, the shave harshness can be dialed down by reducing the blade-bar gap via the adjustment feature of the razor. Unfortunately, that isn't exactly true as we shall discuss below.

The capacity of the razor can be adjusted, and this will also adjust the riskiness of the shave, but doesn't affect two key factors that influence harshness of shave on sensitive skin. Those two factors are blade exposure and blade angle.

Blade exposure is the degree to which the blade edge lies above or below the shaving plane. The shaving plane is determined by the edge of the top cap and the safety bar. So when viewed on its edge, the shaving plane in these pictures would look like a straight line that goes from lower left to upper right as shown below.
With the razor set on nine and the shaving plane drawn in, one can see that the blade exposure is positive; that is, it lies protruding unprotected above the shave plan rather than on the shave plane or within the protective cove of  the top cap and safety bar.
Even with the razor adjusted to one, the blade edge is just slightly above the drawn-in shaving plane, though this slightly-positive exposure is more easily seen when this photo is more greatly enlarged. (Click on the photo to see an enlarged version.) Note also the acute angle of the blade in relation to the shave plane. Then compare this to the angle of the Merkur 33C, below.
So contributing to the riskiness of this razor's shave is the slightly-positive to clearly-positive blade exposure -- depending, of course, on the adjustment setting one chooses.

The final factor, which in my opinion contributes most to the relative harshness of the Slim's shave, is the blade angle in relation to the shaving plane. The smaller the acute angle (less than 90 degrees), the more the blade tends to slice hair and scrape less. When one compares the blade-to-shave-plane angles of the Gillette Slim to the Merkur 33C as shown below, the 33C has a significantly smaller angle, thus slicing more rather than scraping hair off the face. This slicing action is much more face friendly, much less harsh -- especially when combined with a slightly-negative blade exposure and a modest blade-bar gap.

[CORRECTION UPDATE: After printing enlarged versions of these photos, extending the shave-plane and blade-angle lines, and then measuring the blade angle with a protractor, I have proven my eyeball assessment of these angles to be incorrect. When set to one, the Gillette Slim's blade angle is about 31 degrees, and when set to nine, is about 35 degrees. Especially at the lower setting, this angle has little to do with the extra perceived harshness of the shave. If the relative harshness actually exists, it is more likely due to the positive blade exposure combined with the larger blade gap when measured along the shave plane and as compared to the Merkur.]
The blade relationship to the shave plane on my beloved Merkur 33C. Note the blade edge is slightly under the shave plane, the blade gap is smaller even than the Slim on its smallest setting. Most importantly, note the acute angle of the blade in relation to the shave plane is smaller even than the Slim set to one. [UPDATE: Smaller, yes, but not by much.]
It is true that these design characteristics limit the 33C's capacity, but large capacity isn't needed for those who shave daily. For those who need both large capacity and face friendliness, the Merkur open-comb razors may be a great option such as the Merkur 15C.

So as one can see from the photos, the much-beloved and admired Gillette Slim Adjustable razor may be a well-made instrument, but one that will offer those with sensitive skin or otherwise at-risk skin the potential for a harsh shave, when compared to other more face-friendly razors such as the Merkur 33C Classic. In fact, I go as far as to suggest that most, if not all, TTO razors have this larger blade-to-plane angle, when compared to select three-piece razors, which renders the TTO shaves relatively harsh. That has been my experience with every TTO razor I've tried -- even the otherwise mild-shaving Weishi 9306-F (a.k.a. the Micro Touch One razor).

[CORRECTION: When I'm wrong, I'm wrong. The blade angles, as noted above in the correction update, are not significantly different between TTO razors and three-piece designs -- especially when the adjustables are set to their lowest setting.]

In sum, the rather large acute angle of the blade makes TTO razors in general -- and the Gillette Slim Adjustable in particular -- unnecessarily harsh on my sensitive and at-risk skin, especially when combined with its positive blade exposure irrespective of adjustment setting. So it sits in the shoe box in my closet unloved, unused because it is clearly not the best razor for those like me who want minimal harshness in their DE razor.

Like Walter Cronkite used to say as he closed his evening news broadcasts: "That's the way it is." [Please see the correction update, above.]

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trash or Treasure Razor? Part 4: Final Adjustments, Final Conclusions

I was ready to shave with the trash/treasure razor this morning, when I decided a few more adjustments may be appropriate.
Checking the upper plane of the baseplate for twirst against a
flat surface. Rocking indicates twist. In this orientation, it did
not rock at all.

It occurred to me to check for twist in the baseplate -- both in the upper flat that contacts the underside of the top cap as well as the plane of the safety bars. I chose to do a rough check by putting the baseplate on a known flat surface and checking to see if it rocks like a chair with a short leg.

Checking the upper plane indicated it was fairly flat, not twisted. (Photo at right.)

Checking the plane of the safety bars, the lower edge of the baseplate, indicated that plane was twisted. When oriented against a flat counter as shown below, the baseplate rocked -- indicating that two diagonally-opposed corners were lower than the other two. This was not good.
Checking the plane of the safety bars as shown revealed that
the baseplate rocked like a chair with a short leg -- indicating
a twist in that lower plane.

Yet every time that I re-assembled the razor with a blade, the gaps between safety bar and blade edge (as well as top-cap edge) were even. Repeatedly I rotated the baseplate 180 degrees when reassembling to see if the safety-bar-and-blade-edge orientation changes when the baseplate was assembled with either safety bar under a given blade edge. There were differences, but the bottom line is that when I took the twist out of the baseplate, the blade-bar orientation was always worse; the safety bars were no longer parallel to the blade edges.

This indicates that the top cap itself is not properly symmetrical; it has a twist. So this razor was never going to be ideally set up. I could adjust the baseplate to correspond to the top cap so the razor was marginally shave worthy, but it would never be truly right, and would always require care to ensure that the baseplate was assembled in the best orientation to match the top cap.
As it turns out, not only does the baseplate need adjustment,
but also the top cap is not appropriately symmetrical, and
needs adjustment as well.... but there's no simple way to do that.

After this realization, I adjusted the baseplate so that it would likely give a rather mild shave relative to the overall unchangeable characteristics of this razor. Then I resolved to shave with it the following morning.

Then I reflected, asking myself if I am going to draw a razor blade across my sensitive skin when mounted in a marginal razor such as this one. To what end? Further adding to my reluctance to shave with such a marginal instrument is the large blade reveal of this particular razor. (Blade reveal is the amount of blade that is exposed to view when the razor is viewed from above the top cap. The larger the blade reveal, the more the blade edge can micro-flex, micro-vibrate -- leading to potentially a more harsh shave.)

In the course of the day prior to the shave test, I vacillated, taking the razor in and out of the bathroom as I first resolved to do the shave test, then decided it wasn't worth the risk of, at minimum, excessive irritation. I went back and forth several times.

Ultimately I decided against the test shave. If I were very cash strapped and needed an absolutely-least-expensive razor with which to shave, I would have done it. And it might have worked adequately -- even well, possibly. But the facts are that I'm not that poor, and I have shaving instruments in my possession that are pretty much ideal to meet my shaving needs: my Merkur 33C and 15C razors. I didn't want to risk even the chance of nicks, weepers and razor burn that could spoil my shaves for the rest of the week.

So, is this razor trash or treasure? In my opinion it certainly isn't treasure. No matter how much I adjusted it, it would never match the standards of the original, vintage, stamped-baseplate, three-piece razors as I hoped it might. Is it trash? Probably not to the financially desperate, but it's alarmingly close. The only value to me was as an extra handle in my shaving shoe box and as a learning device: helping me to understand the limitations of such an inexpensive razor, and how to perhaps extract the best of it in spite of those limitations.

That's how I see it. Happy shaving!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trash or Treasure Razor? Part 3: The Adjustment Process

The adjustment process is iterative, That is, you must repeat the same steps, the same adjustment-inspect cycle repeatedly until you get a configuration that you think, by inspection, would be appropriate for your skin and hair. Then you must give it a test shave. Depending on how that goes, you might then have to do another adjust-inspect series of cycles until you are ready for another test shave.

The baseplate of this razor has four oval holes on each side that separate the
safety bars from the baseplate's central portion that sits under the top cap. 

Properly done and with a stamped baseplate that is not seriously deformed, the only adjusting tool you should need is the flat-blade screwdriver. Pliers are probably not needed, but if so, would be for bending the metal baseplate in a way that can't take advantage of any holes that would allow use of the screwdriver as a lever.
This is the orientation of the screwdriver in the oval baseplate holes that one
uses to adjust the safety bar up, thus making the blade exposure smaller, and
the shave character of the razor more mild. To do this, one holds the baseplate
in one hand and the screwdriver in the other, and GENTLY lifts upward on the
screwdriver. (It takes very little force to bend this soft steel.) One starts with an
end hole and makes the same adjustment in all four holes sequentially along the
length of each safety bar. Frequently re-assemble the razor and blade to assess if
your adjustment has been adequate, excessive, or just right. You must assess the
safety bar for straightness, being parallel to the blade edge, and for desired
degree of edge exposure.

Step 1: Assemble & Inspect
This is the orientation of the baseplate and screwdriver that one uses to make
the blade exposure larger. This is necessary if one uses excessive force in
making the blade exposure smaller. Remember, do this GENTLY; not much
force is necessary to bend the safety bar.
Before you begin adjusting, assemble the razor including a blade. Then go through the inspection steps as described in my safety-redux article (click here to read). Then note what adjustments are required to the safety bars of the baseplate to make them 1) straight, 2) parallel to the top cap and blade edges, and 3) of the appropriate blade-bar gap to give the razor the shaving character that you desire.

Step 2: Adjust
The photo above shows the general method for GENTLY prying the safety bar upward to give the razor more milder shaving characteristics. Experiment with how much force you use, erring on the side of caution. You can move the steel even though it feels like you are not.

This is the slightly-more aggressive edge of the
razor for my initial shave test.
Of course, you would begin the adjustment process in the place that needs the most change (or at one end of the safety bar if it needs the same degree of adjustment along its length). Then use the screwdriver in the oval holes as shown to make SMALL adjustments at each location. It is better to have to make several very small adjustments in the same direction than it is to make overly large adjustments going back and forth. Large repeated adjustments could strain harden the steel, making it stiffer, more difficult to adjust (in the same way that one can break a paper clip by repeatedly bending it back and forth (that is, larger gap, then smaller gap, then larger, and so on), which strain hardens the metal until it becomes brittle.)

Step 3: Inspect
This is the milder edge of the razor for my initial shave test.
The shave test will determine which way I make final
After you have made your initial round of adjustments, reassemble the razor including the blade. Then run through the inspection sequence of step 1 again, and see if you think another cycle of adjustment is appropriate.

Step 4: The Test Shave
After you have arrived at a point where you are reluctant to make further adjustment without a test shave, it's time to give the razor a go.

By the way, the test shave isn't just for after the final adjustment. On my own razor, I adjusted the two safety bars to slightly different gaps. This would, in concept, allow me to test each side during the same shave to determine which side offered the best set up for me. Then using that test information, I would go back and do another series of adjust-inspect iterations until ready for another test shave.

This adjust-inspect-test cycle is then repeated until the razor performs as desired, or it's declared a hopeless case and abandoned.

Happy shaving!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trash or Treasure Razor? Part 2: The Hardware

This is part two of a short series of articles describing an attempt to rescue and transform what is perhaps the least expensive, new, all-metal DE razor. As it arrived in my mailbox from China, it was dangerous, with a blade exposure that could literally shred one's skin if used unknowingly, inexpertly.
This is what the Trash/Treasure razor looked like right out of the package.
Unfortunately, I modified the baseplace before I thought to take a photo with
blade inserted to show the factory-original blade exposure.

Because I never thought I'd be discussing this razor much less once again considering shaving with it, when it arrived, I never took a close-up, side-view photo of this razor head with a blade mounted to document the hazardous orientation of the blade. I started experimenting with changing the shape of the baseplate before I realized that this little project should be something I should share in this web site.

The process involved in this trash-or-treasure experiment is to use some simple hand tools, some simple inspection techniques, and a little patience to see if this cheapest of razors can be transformed into a usable instrument for any person who shaves.

The good news about this razor is that it has some characteristics missing from other inexpensive Chinese razors that I've tried. For one, its top cap holds the razor blade straight and parallel. This gives it the potential to be saved. Second, the blade angle in relation to the shaving plane formed by the top cap and the safety bar seems to have the potential to be relatively small, which offers the possibility that it will tend to cut whiskers more than scrape, which can yield a more face-friendly shave. The third positive aspect of this razor is that, when the razor is fitted with a blade and properly assembled (using the recommended method), it tends to self-center the blade quite well -- something that at least one razor I've reviewed doesn't do.

For me, the razor must be made into a much milder shaver because of my sensitive, thin, and somewhat loose skin. For others, the razor can be modified to be less mild than I would prefer; however, as it came from the factory, it was far too aggressive to be a safe, daily razor for pretty much anybody.

The tools of this process are simple: a small, flat-blade screwdriver and perhaps a small pair of pliers. You also need sharp near vision to inspect your work, so if necessary, have your reading glasses or magnifying goggles on hand. To inspect and evaluate the outcome of your adjustments, you will also apply the information in my earlier article, How to Inspect a DE Razor Before First Use.
The hardware for this Trash/Treasure project: the razor (of course), a small, flat-
blade screwdriver, which is the primary adjusting tool, and some small pliers as

The process entails using the screw driver, primarily, to make small adjustments to the safety bar. Because the baseplate steel is soft and the screwdriver provides much leverage, it doesn't take much force on the screwdriver to make the needed small changes to the baseplate's safety bar. Then using the inspection techniques in my previously-mentioned article, one then repeatedly reassembles the razor with blade to check the adjustment outcomes and notes further adjustments needed. This adjust-inspect-adjust-inspect iteration continues until the baseplate is oriented so that its safety bars are straight and parallel to the blade edges as well as having a blade-bar gap and blade exposure that are both the same and sized to give you the shaving character that best fits your face and beard.

Tomorrow the adjustments begin.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Trash or Treasure Razor? Part 1

In March of 2014, I ordered the least-expensive, all-metal DE razor that I could find. At the time, I paid $3.31 including shipping! As of this writing, the same or similar razor (perhaps with a shorter, more traditional-length handle) can be purchased for $2.73 including shipping. A drawback to ordering this razor -- in addition to the fact that it's extremely inexpensive, which brings in a whole raft of questions -- is that it ships from China, and will likely take several weeks to arrive.
This is what this razor looked like in the package.

I have never shaved with this razor. When I examined it prior to my intended first use, I followed my own recommended safety protocol, and found the razor to be ridiculously aggressive in shaving character, and obviously unsuitable for use on my face -- or any other, I thought at the time. I found the blade exposure to be alarmingly positive -- that is, the blade was not at all protected within the cove formed by the top cap and baseplate safety bar. An unsuspecting user could literally rip his face to shreds with the razor as it arrived at my mailbox.

This is the disassembled "Silver Tone Double Edge Razor with Non-Slip Handle."
The finish on the baseplate is not as bad as it seems in the picture -- actually it's fine.
(This will be shown in photos in up-coming articles in the next few days.)
But the baseplate, being made of soft, stamped steel,is a key element in this story.
I wrote a scathing review on my seller's web site advising all to avoid this dangerous implement. Initially I gave it one star out of five -- the least possible. Then I upgraded it to two stars, suggesting that one could use the heavier handle and discard the razor head. Then recently I .... but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself with with story.

After my initial inspection showing the blade to be ridiculously positive (that is, dangerously exposed), I put it in the shaving shoe box in my closet, never again to be used -- at least not the shaving head -- or so I thought.

Then the other day I was surfing vintage Gillette Tech razors, and an idea occurred to me -- a thought that connected two otherwise unrelated facts. The Tech was, I believe, the first razor with a stamped-steel baseplate, similar to this Chinese razor. This is fact one. Fact two has to do with a simple repair I made to my vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable razor (and which is mentioned in my article on inspecting a safety razor), in which I straightened out a minor bend in one of its stamped-steel safety bars. What if, I thought, I could use the same repair process on the Chinese razor to adjust its shaving character for the better? It might not only be usable, but it might, just maybe, offer a good, mild shave similar to a vintage Gillette Tech.

This began my little project to transform this trashy, nightmare razor into possibly the best value in DE razors. The experiment begins with tomorrow's article. Stay tuned....

And happy shaving!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: Polsilver Iridium Blade

This is the fourth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a Polsiler Super Iridium blade. The blades are each wrapped in a single wax-paper-like wrapper, and then packaged five blades in a cardboard box as shown. I like this kind of packaging, which is bio-degradable, and encourages the user, by not providing a slot for used blades in a plastic container, to put the used blade in a blade bank for eventual recycling rather than in the landfill.
The Russian-made Polsilver Super Iridium blade.

Reminder: I have very sensitive, thin skin with lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard. It's challenging to get a close, comfortable shave. Shaving gear must be chosen with care, which is why I use Merkur razors (the 33C mainly and occasionally the 15C) as my main instruments. Variables in my shaves often include blade choice (usually both coated and sharp), shave prep and post-shave skin treatment.

Unless otherwise specified, all shaves this week were with my minimalist beard preparation. That is, pre-shave prep was limited to splashes of cool water on my beard, cool water brush soak, a shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave. The shaves this week were also limited to a single razor head, the Merkur 33C, with either its factory handle or as Frankenrazor II, using the Maggard MR3B "big-boy" handle.

What I Learned this Week:
The Polsilver Super Iridium blade is sharp and smooth, and would be a perfect blade for me perhaps if I were using an even milder razor such as the Wilkinson Sword Classic, or if I had just a bit tougher skin. As it is, I think the blade is just a bit too sharp to be ideal for me, which is not surprising; I would have predicted that with what I know about my favorite blades and the general character of the Polsilver. Also, all other things equal, the Polsilver has a higher price, which would reduce my enthusiasm even if it were as well suited to my beard. Still, I'm sure some others will find it to be an ideal blade for their circumstances if both their beard and skin are a bit tougher than mine.

My latest prototype shave soap, #10C, is proving that the additional effort to find the perfect formula is paying off. Its richer lather takes an extra few seconds to create and is more creamy than frothy, but gives a great shave with natural additives to minimize the drying effects of some other soaps, and has no added fragrance or unnatural ingredients to irritate the skin or the olfactory.

With my normal Merkur 33C shave head, a three-pass shave is best done in the usual order: WG, XG, AG. Reversing the final two passes, with against grain in the second pass and cross grain in the third, causes undue irritation.

Noxzema classic-clean cleansing cream is a pleasant and effective shave butter when applied with wet hands onto a wet beard. Though I prefer to use a brush to apply shaving lubricants (soaps), I like the outcome and fragrance that a Noxzema shave provides.

Next week's blade looks to be the Gillette 7-O'clock Super Platinum blade manufactured in India, which I suspect will be a better choice for my beard and skin.
All-natural shave soap #10C whips to a slick creamy consistency
reminiscent of high-quality, but lower-density soft-serve ice cream.
Fragrance free, it is formulated for those with sensitive skin.
First frost last night; heating season is upon us here in Michigan. Using this week's blade, Polsilver Super Iridium, in my stock Merkur 33C razor, along with my latest shave-soap prototype, SS#10C, I took a three-pass shave. The outcome was very close, very smooth. There were a few weepers. After the cool-water rinses, I felt little irritation, so I used the alum block to see if it could indicate more subtle skin upset -- and it did, but not much. After the third-pass rinse and alum, two weepers remained that then disappeared with a touch of styptic. Initial impressions of the Polsilver Iridium blade is that it is slightly sharper than last week's Bluebird, but very smooth as well. Again, just based on this first shave, on my skin, the Polsilver is maybe just a touch sharper than I need, bringing with it just a touch of unwanted irritation -- not much mind you; I'm splitting hairs, but that's my first impression. Diverging from the minimalist approach after the shave, I applied some subtly-fragranced Nivea after-shave balm for sensitive skin as an acknowledgement to the cool weather and the dry heat in the house.
The stock Merkur 33C with the factory

The Polsilver blade in the stock 33C again, but today the lather is Arko shave stick. A three-pass shave with a fussy third pass yielded in a very close shave with some minor irritation that was revealed for the most part by the after-shave alum rub as well as a few minor weepers, which disappeared with the alum application. Used Neutrogena balm for sensitive skin after the shave. After the Neutrogena balm settled in and dried up, my shave is very hand friendly.

Frankenrazor II: Merkur 33C head
mated with the Maggard MR3B
"big-boy" handle. The handle alone
weighs 63 grams.
Used Frankenrazor II today just for fun, with the third-use Polsilver blade, and back to my custom shave soap #10C. Three passes with a fussy third pass left a close shave but some irritation as revealed by the alum rub. Serious cockpit error (too oblique an oblique stroke produced a cut on my neck under my right ear, and the shave opened some repeat weepers from previous shaves. Styptic on the cut & the two weepers made them disappear to the eye. My sense continues that the Polsilver is a high-quality blade but just a touch too sharp to hit my shaving sweet spot. Used a splash of witch hazel after the alum; then finished with a cool water rinse, and capped the shave with some Gillette balm for sensitive skin.

Though I prefer the process of brush
and soap, the Noxzema cream applied
with the hands onto a wet beard  is an
excellent shave butter. It's also a nice
after-shave wash. 
A cool-water-and-Noxzema-only minimalist shave today -- of course with the fourth-use Polsilver blade -- and Frankenrazor II once again. Three passes, not much fussing. The shave was comfortable and extremely close, which is very pleasing to the hand, but the alum-block rub after the shave (as an irritation indicator) did reveal slight irritation -- a sensation that quickly disappeared after I rinsed the alum off with more cool water. (There were also two residual weepers from previous shaves that disappeared with the first water rinse.) The Noxzema leaves a subtle coating on the skin that is difficult to describe. It gives a sense of an oil-based coating, but is not oily. It's almost like a subtle, protective sealer that will likely be helpful in cold weather. It also leaves a subtle, characteristic fragrance of camphor and eucalyptus that, though I found offensive as a child, I have grown to really like.

Minimalist, cool-water shave using Arko shave stick, the Merkur 33C classic razor (with factory handle), and the fifth shave with the Polsilver blade. After not using the Arko since Monday, the lemon fragrance was a bit strong and not as welcome to my nose today. Three passes with a fussy third pass. Uneventful, close shave, with three small weepers. Post-shave alum treatment revealed minor irritation in those places where I was fussing to get the closest shave. Washed the alum off with Noxzema and water to try to achieve that Noxzema finish coating that I was struggling to describe yesterday.

Minimalist, cool-water shave with my SS#10C and the 33C razor. Sixth shave with the Polsilver blade. Face lathered SS#10C, and had a thought that the best shave soaps require just a bit more attention to bring out their best rich, creamy lather. Used a three-pass shave, but the second pass was partially done against grain, which was irritating, a bad move. Also gave myself a nick and a weeper from careless stroking, which were treated with a touch of styptic after the third pass. Then an alum rub revealed irritation in the areas where the second pass was against grain. Washed off the alum using Noxzema. Twenty minutes after the shave, I applied some Nivea post-shave balm for sensitive skin.

I repeated yesterday's shave but with the normal three passes (WG, XG, AG) to see if the irritation of yesterday's shave can be eliminated by a less-aggressive, more-normal shaving process. As I suspected, the "normal" three-pass shave was better. I used non-fussy passes and got a close, comfortable shave. An alum rub -- just to test for irritation -- revealed only a minimal amount, and my after-shave treatment (beyond the alum rub) was just splashes of cold water. Shave soap #10C was slick, rich, and creamy -- world class -- and with no fragrance to irritate the skin or the nose.

Happy shaving!