Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Razor Technician: Checking a Top Cap for Dimensional Uniformity

Some time ago I posted an article on how to check a new razor for safe use. It involved ensuring that the razor held the blade edges straight and uniformly exposed.

Since then I've had come up against a couple of situations that suggest further verification of the "trueness," the uniformity, the correctness of a given razor's condition. As a result of these situations, one of my concerns with a three-piece razor is the whether the key edges of the top cap are straight, parallel, and properly aligned with the baseplate.

The specific top-cap characteristics to be tested are as follows:
Test one: sight along an edge to determine straightness.

  1. Are the long edges of the top cap (that lie above the blade edge) straight?
  2. Are the long edges of the top cap in the same plane?
  3. Are the long edges of the top cap parallel?
  4. Is the plane of the top-cap edges parallel to the plane of the baseplate?
The first two tests, addressing numbers one and two above, are performed similarly to the way a wood worker checks the straightness of a board both for bow and twist.

Test one simply requires that the examiner sights along the particular long edge being inspected. That is, in the same way a carpenter will sight down the long dimension of a board to see if it is bowed, one would hold the top cap a foot or so from his face and "point" the edge of the razor top cap at his eye to detect any deviation from a straight line.
Test two: sight across the edges of the top cap to see if they
are in the same plane.

Test two is to sight across the edges to confirm that they align. To do this, hold the inverted (threaded rod up) top cap again about a foot from your face. Orient the top cap so that its long edges are parallel to a line determined by your eyes; that is, instead of looking down an edge as in test one, you will be looking across both edges. Arrange the top cap in your view so that the near edge aligns with the far edge in your line of sight. If the edges are in the same plane as they should be, you should be able to orient the top cap so that the edges appear to be parallel as you look across them. To see this clearly, you may have to choose the background and lighting carefully so that the edges are clearly illuminated and contrast against the background. I did this test near a window for good light, and held the top cap down over a dark table, allowing the light from the window to reflect up off the edges to my eye, while having the dark table as a contrasting background color.

Perhaps an easier test two is to simply put a blade onto the inverted top cap. If the (unflexed and presumed-flat) blade settles evenly onto both edges of the top cap without any gaps along the edge, that would indicate that the edges are in the same plane.

If test one confirms that the edges are straight, and test two confirms that the edges lie in the same plane, then test three is using a micrometer to measure the distance between the top-cap edges (that is, the width of the top cap from edge to edge). If the edges are uniformly equidistant as well as in the same plane, then they are parallel.

Test four is a bit tricky because it requires a baseplate that is not twisted and a top cap with a sufficiently-long threaded rod to allow the top cap to "float" as described below. To check the baseplate for twist, put it, inverted, on a known flat surface and seeing if the baseplate rocks. (It shouldn't.) A second check would be similar to test two, above, where one sights along the plane or upper surfaces of the baseplate to see that they are generally flat and parallel. If these conditions don't exist, or if the threaded rod isn't sufficiently long, then you can't perform test four.

Test four: adjust the "tightness" of the top-cap screw so that
the threads support the top cap and allow it to "float" just
above the flat razor blade.
To do test four, one would assemble the razor including a blade. However, don't tighten the baseplate snug against the top cap. Instead, once the top cap has been threaded onto the top cap a bit, hold the razor upright -- that is, with the top cap up and the handle down. Then adjust the degree to which the handle is threaded so that, with the baseplate supported by the handle, the threaded rod in the top cap is screwed into the handle so that the top cap is "floating" above the baseplate and just touching the unbent blade. Ideally, the top cap would be uniformly just touching or just above the unbent blade. If the top cap is askew, then either its functional plane isn't perpendicular to its threaded rod, or the threaded rod is too short or threads too imprecise to give an accurate indication of the top cap's condition.

If the threaded rod is too short to allow the completion of test four, then the safety tests in my earlier article on inspecting a new razor should be sufficient to complete the inspection of the entire razor and the top cap specifically.

These are the tests to determine if the top cap of your two- or three-piece razor is "in shape" properly hold a DE blade against the baseplate for a safe shave.

Happy shaving!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weekly Review: the Derby-Extra Blade (DOA), Then Astra SP

This is the tenth of my weekly shave summaries This week I started with a Derby Extra blade made in Turkey, but it seemed DOA (dead on arrival) out of the package, so I quickly switched to an Astra Superior Platinum blade, which is manufactured, I believe, in St. Petersburg, Russia. Then like Lazarus rising from the dead, I resurrected the Derby blade and tried it in a slightly more capable razor to see if that improved the shave.
Now called Grandad's Shave Soap
-- slick 'n creamy, for sensitive skin.

My shave soap this week is the first pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formerly called SS#11P1).

Both the Derby Extra and Astra Superior Platinum blades are single wrapped individually.

[Reminder about my skin type: I have very sensitive, thin skin, somewhat loose (on the neck when shaving horizontally), 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.]

Unless otherwise specified, all shaves this week were with my minimalist beard preparation.

What I Learned this Week:
I don't think I'll spend any money buying Derby Extra blades in bulk. The new blade I used for my first shave didn't seem defective, but it did seem not sufficiently sharp, tugging at my whiskers during its several passes of the week. It was not even particularly comfortable against my skin, which was a disappointment as well. Its replacement for the other shaves this week, the Astra Superior Platinum blade, was sharp and gave me a good, reliable shave, but not quite as comfortable on my skin as my most compatible blade to date, the Personna red-label blade from Israel. The Astras tend to leave little weepers in their wake when I go for a very close shave -- especially on my mid and lower neck.
Merkur 33C Classic

As usual, my initial shave of the week was with the Merkur 33 razor. I had been really looking forward to another trial with a Derby Extra blade because of its apparently-complex, multi-molecule coating (chromium, ceramic, tungsten, platinum, and a polymer - presumably PTFE) and its inexpensive price. However, maybe because I was spooked by many negative reviews, during the first pass, the brand-new blade seemed to be uncomfortably tugging at my whiskers. So rather than risk insult to my skin from too many passes or too much pressure, I recycled the blade and put in a new Astra SP blade as described above. Second and third passes went well, with one weeper and one little nick -- both of which disappeared from my neck with the cool-water rinse after the shave. I then did a cool-water-and-Noxzema wash, followed by some after-shave balm supplemented with a couple of drops of vitamin-E oil. Initially I felt a hint of irritation post shave, but after the rinse, wash, and balm, am left with a fairly close and comfortable result: a very good but not quite excellent shave.

Same shave gear as yesterday with the Astra SP blade: the Merkur 33 and Grandad's shave soap. Two weepers and, like yesterday, extremely minor irritation after the cool-water rinse. The result of the shave was very close, and the minor irritation disappeared after a few minutes. I finished the shave with some after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Today's shave is very pleasing to the hand.

A quick shave today: two passes with the Astra blade in the 33. Not a bit of irritation and not a single weeper -- nothing to mar a good-enough shave, a looking-good shave, a going-to-work shave. Post shave I did a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema-and-cool-water wash, and some Neurtrogena after-shave balm with added vitamin-E oil as a protectant against cold winds outside. A little later, after re-thinking my limited shave, I did a third pass on my neck to get a closer shave that wouldn't rub sharp remaining whiskers against the collar of my shirt. My face was sufficiently closely shaved to not require further attention. My neck was mildly irritated from this last pass, and left two small weepers. These disappeared after I topped off that final half pass with a cool-water-and-Noxzema wash.

Two passes -- largely with oblique strokes -- using the resurrected Derby Extra blade in the Lord L.6 razor head (and the heavy Maggard MR3B handle) still tugged a bit on my whiskers. Neither of these two passes was particularly close despite the slightly higher capacity of the L.6. A final third pass with the Astra SP blade in the stock Merkur 33 razor was a nice finish for the shave. Cool water rinses and a Noxzema wash finished were the after-shave treatments. The Derby blade, though risen from the dead for this shave, was more like a zombie than fully alive.

Back to the Astra blade in the 33. Using Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy shave soap, I took a three-pass shave that was close and comfortable but with several small weepers, most on my neck. A few cool-water rinses followed by a Noxzema-and-cool-water wash followed the shave, and then a small nick under my jaw line got a touch of styptic. Today's shave is pleasing to the hand.

Due to my carelessness, a minor cut along my right jawline and a few weepers on my right mid neck marred an otherwise close, irritation-free shave in three passes plus a bit of clean up. The Astra blade in the 33 razor performed as usual, and the damp, slick, creamy lather of this morning's Grandad's shave soap allowed for a fussy third pass. I followed the shave with the usual cool-water rinse and a water-and-Noxzema wash. Then the cut took a couple of dabs of styptic and the weepers got a touch as well.  After equipment clean up, I rinsed the residual styptic off my skin and was good to go.

Final shave of the week with the Astra SP in the Merkur 33 razor. Three passes with Grandad's shave soap gave a close shave with no irritation. I did have two small weepers that got a touch of styptic after the cool-water rinse. Then a Noxzema-and-water wash finished the shave.

For next week I'm shaving with the long-awaited Merkur blade made in Germany.

Happy shaving!

Finding a Razor for a Dull Blade?

A couple of weeks ago, I found that the SuperMax Titanium blade seemed to give me a better shave with the Lord L.6 razor than the ever-so-slightly-less-aggressive Merkur 33. The idea to try the L.6 with the SuperMax blade stemmed from the fact that, compared to other blades in my inventory, the SuperMax was smooth but seemed just not quite as sharp. I hadn't previously noticed the slight difference in shave characteristic with this blade, so though perhaps not quite as sharp as my Personna Labs or Red Labels, or my Astra Superior Platinums, the SuperMax blade has been sharp enough -- though apparently just a touch less sharp than the others I've been using.

It seems that my weekly blade trials and accompanying weekly-shave-review articles are making me more perceptive of the subtle differences in shave outcome with different blades and razors.

So this week, in giving the Derby Extra blade a trial, my first pass on Sunday morning seemed to pull more on that initial run than most of my other blades do after a full week of shaves. That single pass combined with some on-line reviews that I've read, which claim the blade is dull. . .  well, that lead me to think the blade was DOA (that's dead on arrival) and set it aside, using instead an Astra SP blade to finish that shave as well as shaves on the following two days.

Lord L.6 razor head on the
Maggard MR3B handle.
Later in the day after Tuesday's shave, I got to thinking about the Derby Extra blade, and wondered if I hadn't been too hasty in declaring it a goner for my beard. I speculated that perhaps, like the SuperMax blade, by putting the Derby into a razor with slightly more aggressive shaving characteristics (but not much), that it might perform adequately. After all, I really wanted to like this blade because of the apparent complexity of its coating, which I hoped would give an uber-comfortable shave, and also because of the Derby price, which is inexpensive when purchased in bulk.
Merkur 33C

So on Wednesday, I lathered up my slickest, creamiest shave soap, Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy for Sensitive Skin, and did two full passes with the Derby Extra in the Lord L.6 razor head, paired with the extra-heavy, extra-fat Maggard MR3B handle.

Both passes seemed to tug, and neither was particularly close despite using oblique strokes for both. I was also feeling just the slightest subtle irritation -- perhaps due to unconsciously pressing too hard to compensate for the blade; so for the third pass, I returned to the Astra blade in the Merkur 33 razor. The shave outcome was good, being pretty close and, in the end, not irritating. I do believe, however, that the shave was saved by that final pass, which comfortably cleaned up the remnants of the first two passes.


If one has a blade that is sharper than needed, it makes complete sense to use that blade in a mild-shaving razor. This can balance the shave characteristics of the razor-blade combination, and perhaps give the perfect shave for that face.

But going the other way is tricky.

If a blade is just sharp enough for one's whiskers, then putting that blade in a razor that has larger capacity or other more aggressive design aspects such as a more positive blade exposure or is a slant-bar razor, this choice may improve the quality of the shave outcome. However, if the blade is not quite sharp enough to cut one's whiskers even when using oblique strokes, a different razor is unlikely to save the day.

Such is the case with the Derby Extra blade on my face. Despite that I wanted to love this blade because of its price and the promise of a smooth shave due to its complex coating, the blade I tried just isn't sharp enough for my hair. (And if one blade isn't sharp enough, then I don't want to use the brand even if other blades in the pack are better; if a company can't manage its quality control, then I don't need the blade, when there are so many others that are both good and consistent.)

So despite being beloved by some other users, for me the Derby Extra blade is not quite sharp enough to do the job on my beard. And because there is not a razor that can fix this situation, my remaining inventory of Derby Extras will be given to friends as appropriate for them to try.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A)

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States -- a national time of feasting, football (American), and occasionally, reflection on the good in our lives.

As far as feasting goes, since I'm a person who since mid September has, for health reasons, become one who consumes only plant-based whole foods, with no added fats or oils, my dining options are more limited than in past years. But rather than focusing on what I no longer eat, I will celebrate my good health, which requires no medications and allows me to be highly functional and even athletic in my chosen sport of tennis.

For more information on my vegan dietary regimen, watch the movie, "Forks over Knives," which is available on Netflix et al.

For football, we have the annual Detroit Lions' thanksgiving-day game, which will start mid day. This team, though mired in mediocrity for over 50 years, makes me thankful that their current record so far this season is seven wins against four losses, and they are still in the running to make the playoffs at season's end.

Beyond this, there is much for which to be thankful. Friends, family, health, relative prosperity. . .

I hope you can find many things for which you are thankful.

Oh, and happy shaving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Morning Rant: Annoying Blade Reviews

Occasionally I scan shaving-product reviews on line looking for helpful information on various products. Most reviews are a little helpful at best; but some are really useless. A few of these reviews are just kind of humorous, others thoughtless. But some others seem to be written by the mentally challenged. Below are some representative reviews (actual reviews are enclosed in quotation marks) followed by comments I'd like to make in reply:
  • "did you receive product." (This was actually the complete review in its entirety.) Huh? Okay, well possibly English is not your primary language, but if you didn't get the product, why do a review??? Also, did you even review your comments before you hit the publish button? Some may argue that a no-delivery review is helpful. NO. Not if the product is available from several sellers and you don't specify which one didn't deliver. Also, did you follow up with the seller and get a refund? If not, you're just whining. Also, on sites like Amazon, not only is there a specific seller-feedback area, where these kinds of experiences are to be reported, in many cases you can get a no-questions-asked refund with the click of a button.
  •  "... My whiskers must be coarse because the ... razors tore up my face. Not very sharp." Uh, they tore up your face because they're not sharp? I would think a dull blade would pull, not draw blood. Maybe just a little cockpit error here? Pressing too hard? Poor technique? Wrong razor for blade?
  • "cut my fingers getting blade out of the package ... " If you can't handle sharp objects, maybe you should be shaving with an electric. Does mommy cut up your food at dinner so you are safe?
  • Generic pet peeve: referring to blades as razors. No, the sharp thingies that one puts in a DE razor are called BLADES!
  • Another generic peeve: referring to a DE razor as a handle. No, the razor is the razor, and the part that you actually hold -- and is removable in a three-piece razor -- is called a handle.
  • "... I haven't found a blade yet that doesn't leave me bumpy or bleeding." Maybe you just haven't found the right razor!
  • "Ok, but not in the top three." Oh, I see.... NOT! What is your beard and skin type? What razor did you use? What are the three blades that you think are at the top? If you don't provide this, your comments are USELESS!!!
  • "You must have a device to achieve your desire. Individually the blades are floppy and difficult to use." Yes, DE blades are awkward to use on your face if you don't put them in a RAZOR! Also, sometimes one can achieve one's desire with a friend, not a device. ;-)
  • "I've only tried one of these blades so far, so I could have gotten a bad blade..." Well then WHY DIDN'T YOU TRY MORE BEFORE YOUR WROTE A PRODUCT REVIEW? This happens often. The worst are when someone writes, "I haven't actually used the product yet, but..." and then they give some silly opinion.  Really?
  • Generic pet peeve: "YMMV" STOP! ENOUGH! This is so bloody obvious; it's not clever! We get it: you're an experienced DE shaver who regularly lurks in on-line shaving forums. If you want to be helpful, then stop telling everyone their mileage may vary, and instead address the key factors that cause varying shave outcomes from person to person. This would include razor-design aspects such as blade exposure, blade-bar gap, blade angle, et cetera, as well as personal factors of hair type, skin sensitivity, beard prep, et cetera.
  • "there's no disposal slot..." What is this, 1960? Have you heard of recycling? Imagine every bit of trash that you send to the landfill, then multiply it by 1,000,000 thoughtless persons doing the same thing. It costs next to nothing to put used blades in a tin can with a slot, and after five years or so, send the full can to the recycling plant.
Whew, thanks for letting me vent. I feel better.  ;-)

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This Week's Derby-Extra Test-Sample Blade

I have several sample packs of Derby Extra double-edge razor blades. (I bought one, and a few others were included with other shaving purchases.) Manufactured in Turkey, they have a reputation for being of mild character; that is, they are said to not be the sharpest blade -- good for some users, inadequate for others -- but they also are known for being not very irritating to the skin.

The aspect that is most intriguing about the Derby Extra blade is its coating, which is said to include chromium, ceramic, platinum, tungsten, and a polymer (presumably PTFE, a.k.a. Teflon).

As you may already know, I only shave with coated blades because my sensitive skin is so easily irritated, and I've found that coated blades can increase the comfort factor a great deal.

After last week's shaves with the Personna-brand red-label blades made in Israel, I was very interested in how the red-label blades might compare to the Derby Extra. The red-label Personna was sufficiently sharp, but more importantly, was an extremely comfortable blade on my skin. It was the best matched blade for my beard that I have yet to find. However, when one compares the current cost of the red-label to, say, the Derby Extras in bulk quantities of 100 blades, the Derby is about half the cost.

So as tempted as I was to order 100 red-label blades (which I don't really need for the foreseeable future), I thought I should give the Derby Extra brand another go to see if it is suitable for my face as well.

There are still two lingering questions about the Derby Extra brand, however.... sharpness and quality control.

Recent reviews on Amazon have suggested that a minority of Derby-brand users have had problems with inconsistent blade quality and performance, which to me is a significant issue. I expect one hundred percent uniformity and consistency. Other Derby-brand users have complained that the blade isn't sharp enough to comfortably cut their beard.

My one-blade week-long trial of the Derby Extra blade will be published on Saturday. In the mean time, what is your experience with this blade? In particular, I would want to know about perceived sharpness as well as blade-to-blade consistency related to manufacturing and packaging quality control. Please feel free to add your comment to this article.

Happy shaving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Merkur 37 Slant Shave with a Red-Label Blade

Two things happened independently recently, which brought about a third, unexpected event: I shaved once again with the mighty Merkur slant-bar razor, the model 37C. This razor had been banished to my clothes closet, buried in my shaving-supplies shoe box, not to be used because of its harshness on my skin. A typical shave with this razor leaves me with irritated skin and weepers.
My slant-bar razor got another use -- this time with a
blade very compatible with my face.

However, two things together led me back to the 37 slant, causing me to reconsider the razor. The biggest factor was my week-long trial of the Personna red-label blades, which I found to be an excellent blade for my skin and beard when used in my Merkur 33 or my Lord L.6. Coincidentally during this week long blade evaluation, I used my newly-acquired caliper micrometer, and did a final study and analysis of the Merkur 37C -- this go-round including measurements of its key design aspects.

The suitability of the blade for me, combined with having the slant razor on my mind led me to wonder how it would shave with a blade that seems to be so compatible with my face. So I pulled the razor out of storage once again and resolved to try a two-pass shave.

My two passes were planned to be with grain and against grain. However, in the second pass, the against-grain pass underneath my jaw was clearly irritating; I probably would have been better advised to go across grain in the second pass. So since I was shaving neck upward, I modified the rest of the second pass to be cross grain on my face. Aside from the irritation under my jaw, the second pass was not irritating, so I did a partial third pass on my face against grain, and under my jaw line cross grain.

The result was a close shave (except, of course, for my jaw line and underneath, where I was taking it easy after the second pass) with a single small weeper on my upper lip, slight irritation (not much) on my cheeks, and moderate, lingering irritation under my jaw. I followed the shave with a cool-water rinse, then a water-and-Noxzema wash, and capped off with an after-shave-lotion-and-vitamin-E oil rub. Neither styptic nor alum was necessary.

This re visitation of the slant has led me to consider the instrument for those days when I want to optimize the outcome of a single with-grain pass. Other than that, I think I can do as well in two or three passes with my normal milder-shaving razors mentioned above. This is particularly true when I take both closeness and irritation of shave into consideration.

Since I rarely limit my shave to a single pass, the razor will remain in the closet for the time being.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unusual Use of the Arko Shave Stick

Last week I tried an experiment with my Arko shave stick, using it in a way that few probably have.

Most use the shave stick as intended; that is, they wet their beard and rub the soap stick directly on the damp whiskers. Then with their wet shave brush, they face lather. Others will press the malleable stick into a mug or bowl and make lather there as one would do with a common puck of shave soap.

I split the difference.

Let me explain: I have a 5-inch-diameter plastic bowl that I have used both as a separate lathering bowl when storing the soap in another mug or cup, but I have also used the bowl as a soap-storage-and-lathering container. For those days when it was doing the double duty of both storage and lathering, I had roughed up with sandpaper about a four-centimeter-diameter circle in the center of the bowl bottom to give the soap puck a better surface to cling to, thus minimizing the tendency of the puck to swirl around the bowl as I was making lather.
The roughed-up center of the bowl bottom shows clearly here.

So on this fateful morning, instead of rubbing the Arko stick on my wet beard, I rubbed it into the rough circle in the bottom of the lathering bowl. Then I used my damp badger brush to make lather in the bowl. The first lather was a bit thin, so I swiped the lather away from the bowl center and applied soap again, and then made more lather. I probably should have done this a third time because the lather continued to be more frothy and less creamy than usual. Instead, I just applied it to my face and had the shave.

The resulting lather wasn't as slick or as creamy on the face. But I made the best of it, took a three-pass shave that, though not terribly close, didn't result in a single weeper or nick, and was irritation free. This is probably a testament to the razor-blade combination and the wisdom of a conservative, not-terribly-fussy shave.

I think that the limiting factor in this process was the small area of rough surface in the bowl. Had the area been significantly larger, I probably would have been able to rub off sufficient soap onto the bowl to yield the familiar slick, creamy lather of a more normal shave with Arko.

Will I try to get this process right by roughing up more of the inner-bowl surface so I can get more soap onto the bowl? No. I don't really see the point beyond this little trial. In the future, I'll just use the shave stick as intended: rubbing on my face and making lather there.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: Personna Red-Label Platinum Chrome Blades

This is the ninth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a Personna Platinum Chrome blade (in the predominantly red-label packaging), which is manufactured in Israel as indicated on the box. The blade wrapper indicates that this blade is distributed by the American Safety Razor Co of Verona, Virginia; this refutes some claims on the Internet that this blade is not part of the "official" Personna brand.

My shave soaps this week are another week of mostly the first pre-production run of the formula and process that I call SS#11P1 (now officially referred to as Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, or just Grandad's shave soap) and, for one shave, the Arko shave stick.

These Personna red-label blades are each single wrapped, and bundled five blades in a cardboard box as shown. I like the cardboard boxing on the five pack, encouraging the deposit of used-up blades in a blade bank for eventual recycling.

[Reminder about my skin type: I have very sensitive, thin skin, somewhat loose (on the neck when shaving horizontally), 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.]

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 (when using a natural bristle; a synthetic bristle only needs to be wetted, not soaked), a shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave.

What I Learned this Week:
The Personna red-label blade is the best I've tried for my beard and skin. It's sufficiently sharp, adequately durable to meet my longevity criterion, and amazingly comfortable.

Arko shave stick is best used as designed -- that is, as a shave stick to be rubbed on a wet beard, then face lathered. My rubbing-on-bowl-bottom experiment on Wednesday confirmed this. (I also have issues with pressing it into a mug or bowl and using it like a puck of soap; I'll post an article about this in the near future.)
Merkur 33C Classic

Merkur 33 and Grandad's shave soap kick off the week with a three-pass shave and the featured Personna red-lable platinum chrome blade. A bit of fussing on the third pass contributed to an excellent shave: very close, comfortable, and only the most minor weeper or two on the final pass. I truly believe that this is about as good a shave as I can get with the face-friendly Merkur 33. No sytptic, no alum required. The shave ended with a cool-water rinse and a Noxzema-and-water wash. This maiden shave with the Personna red had me shopping the blades to evaluate prices.

Another three-pass shave with the same gear and supplies as yesterday. The red-label Personna works so well on my face when paired with the Merkur 33 that I got a little cavalier and nicked myself while doing some third-pass touch ups. Though the nick got a touch of styptic, the three small weepers disappeared with the first cool-water rinse. I finished the shave with a Noxzema-and-water wash. Another very close, comfortable shave -- top drawer, in fact -- that is, if I dismiss my own carelessness. This shave was pleasing to the hand well into the late afternoon.

Lord L.6 (a.k.a. LP1822L) razor head
on the heavy, fat MR3B handle.
This blade has been so good on my face, that I keep being tempted to order a hundred of these red-pack blades just based on these first shaves and despite the fact that I have a large inventory of other blades on hand.

Although I was reluctant to mess with near perfection, for this shave I instead chose to use the Lord L.6 razor head (a.k.a. the model LP1822L) but with the heavy Maggard MR3B handle. I kept the same red-label blade and shave soap as previous shaves this week. Three passes with fussy touch up gave another excellent shave. A minor nick (on upper lip due to my carelessness) and neck weeper disappeared with the cool-water rinse. The shave was topped off with a Noxzema-and-water wash. No styptic or alum was used, nor was any after-shave lotions or balms.

If this blade holds up for the remainder of the week, it will be the best blade I've found for my skin and beard so far. We'll see....

Returned to the Merkur 33 razor and the same red-label blade but with Arko shave stick used in a different way today. (I will post a separate article on today's unique, non-standard use of the Arko shave stick.) The lather wasn't as slick and rich as usual, and the simple three-pass shave was safe, with no irritation, nicks or weepers, but not remarkably close like recent shaves. I chose not to try for a very close shave because of the lather. I finished with a water rinse and a water-and-Noxzema wash.

With the blade still in the Merkur 33 but with the home-grown Grandad's shave soap, I took a normal three-pass shave and then added a nearly complete fourth fussy pass. The shave was very close -- about as close as I can get with the low-blade-exposure 33 -- with only two weepers and just the slightest bit of irritation on my lower neck. The weeper on my chin took a touch of styptic, and the other on my neck disappeared with the first water rinse. I finished the process with a water-and-Noxzema wash. The Noxzema calmed any irritation, and I was left with a smooth, happy face. A truly good shave -- in terms of closeness and resulting comfort it was a step closer to the perfect shave!

The quality of the shaves this week and today's shave in particular have nearly pushed me over the edge to place an order for a large quantity of these blades. I'm going to try to complete the week before I order, but it's very tempting.

The Merkur 37C slant-bar razor. Too
harsh on my skin for normal use, but
today tested with the red-label blade.

Today saw the Merkur 37 slant razor pulled out of the closet as a risky test of the blade in a razor that is known to be harsh on my skin. For comparison and optimal protection, the shave soap was my home-grown  Grandad's. Two-and-a-half passes gave a pretty-darn-close shave but with some unwelcome irritation under my jaw, but otherwise acceptable. (In the coming week I'll post an article focusing on this shave.)

With the red-label Personna back in my comfortable Merkur 33 and with Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, I took the final shave of the week with this blade. Three passes -- the third being fussy -- yielded the same close, comfortable shave I've been getting most of the week. Like the others, this one was followed by a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema-and-water wash, and some after-shave lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil

For next week it looks to be the Derby Extra blade, which is made in Turkey.

Happy shaving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Razor Analysis: Merkur 37 Slant Bar in Detail

Though the blade reveal is constant,
the gap, blade angle (not slant), and
edge exposure vary as one measures
left to right. The constant slant, as
shown, increases the effective sharp-
ness of the blade.
This razor gives me an extremely close shave; I have gotten baby smooth in about two passes. However, I don't use this razor much -- in fact, I keep it in my shave box in my closet rather than in the bathroom cabinet -- because its shaving characteristics are too harsh for my skin.

Of course, as I've written before, the most salient feature of the razor's design is the slant of the blade as pictured at left. The most important thing the slant does is increase the effective sharpness of the blade, which has been explained in more detail in a previous article.

But what, specifically, makes this razor both so formidable but also so threatening?

Using my caliper micrometer, I have taken some measurements of the 37's key design characteristics, which are summarized below in the following table*:
                    Blade Reveal (mm)    Blade Gap (mm)    Blade Angle (deg)   Edge Exposure   
Merkur 37               1.5                   0.8 (L) to 1.3 (R)    33 (L) to 26.5 (R)      +++ (L) to + (R)
Merkur 33               1.3                              1.3                       30 deg                    Negative

* Table Notes:
1) Measurements are difficult to measure precisely -- even with a precise measuring instrument -- so everything should be considered a ballpark estimate.
2) Because the Merkur 37 is a slant-bar design, its blade gap, angle, and exposure vary consistently from one end of the edge to the other. So two measurements are given for each of these design aspects representing the dimension at the extreme ends of the edge, left and right, as indicated.
3) I have included the measurements of the Merkur 33 -- a mild-shaving razor -- for comparison purposes.
4) The edge exposure for the Merkur 37 varies from highly positive (that is, exposed, unprotected by the cove of the top cap and safety bar) at the left end of the blade edge,and slightly positive at the right end of the blade edge.
5) The blade gap is measured from the blade edge to the top of the safety-bar tooth, so the gap from the blade edge to the the bottom of the tooth is significantly larger, thus offering a very large shaving capacity for the hair while maintaining a more moderate gap in which to somewhat reduce the chances of  accidentally nipping skin.
6) All measurements were taken while the razors were fitted with a Personna Lab (blue) blade.
This side view of the left end of the edge shows a large blade
angle of 33 degrees combined with a large positive blade ex-
posure -- both of which would offer a more harsh shave. This
harshness is offset a bit by the smaller blade gap a this end.

The generous blade reveal of 1.5 mm would provide plenty of audible feedback while shaving. Normally this might also contribute to micro vibrations of the blade, which could add a bit of harshness to the shave (theoretically). But because of the likely blade-stiffening twist due to the slant-bar design, the vibrations of the blade for both audible feedback as well as harshness are likely damped, attenuated a bit.

In terms of potential harshness or risk of the shave, the Merkur 37 has varying characteristics as one measures from left to right along the edge. At the left end of the edge, the blade angle of 33 degrees and the significant blade exposure above the shave plane suggest  potential shaving risk. Also at that end, the blade gap, though at its smallest for this razor at about 0.8 mm, is still providing a large shaving capacity due to the upward-toothed design of the safety bar. The small gap (measured at the smallest distance between blade edge and safety-bar tooth) mitigates to a small degree the potential harshness of the blade angle and exposure, but less than it might because the toothed safety bar, which itself offers more shaving capacity, but also greater shaving risk.
The right end of blade (pictured here in side view, of course)
shows milder characteristics: a small blade angle combined
with a smaller positive blade exposure.

The right end of the blade edge has a different story. With mild blade angle (26.5 degrees) and smaller positive blade exposure above the shave plane, this side would be less of a risky shave -- that is until one factored in the larger 1.3 mm blade-bar gap, which offers generous shaving capacity that is, again, enhanced by the toothed design of the bar itself. The right end, therefore, still offers a large shaving capacity, which brings shaving risk with it, but this end still would shave less harshly than the left end because of its smaller blade angle and edge exposure above the shave plane.

The capacity and risk of the 37 slant are also increased by the uncommon scalloped surface of the top cap, which makes it more likely that skin might bulge upward and be nipped by the blade.

So by including some ballpark measurements, they tend to support my previously-published qualitative analysis -- although the numbers probably tell a more extreme story. The measurements and side-view photos lead me to characterize this razor as a potentially more-harsh shaver than I would have done otherwise. It's strengths are shaving capacity and the sharpness-enhancing slant of the blade, but its capability brings risk of nicks and cuts, while its slant characteristics bring potential for harshness and the resulting irritated skin especially near the left end of the blade edge.

This razor is probably best matched against a combination of tough beard and not-too-sensitive, not-too-loose skin. This combination will allow the formidable cutting capacity and close-shaving design to do their work without causing irritation and blood loss.

That's the summary evaluation of the Merkur 37 C slant-bar razor by the (approximate) numbers.

[UPDATE: Next week I'll be posting an article about my most recent shave with this slant razor paired with a new test blade. Stay tuned....]

Happy shaving!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Now With Measurements: Lord L.6 Vs. Merkur 33 Redux

A short while ago I looked at and compared the respective razor-head designs of the Lord LP1822L DE razors, also known as the L.6 or just the L6, and the Merkur 33C Classic razor.

Now with my newly-acquired micrometer, I can add some quantitative data to supplement my earlier qualitative analyses.

In the photos below, point A is the orange dot that highlights the edge of the blade. Distance A-D represents the blade reveal. For the Lord razor, distance A-C gives the illusion of a smaller blade-bar gap due to the design of the baseplate cross section, but as the shave-plane line shows, actually distance A-B represents the blade-bar gap in both razors.

For emphasis in this article, the dimensions are preceded by a tilde (~) to indicate that they are approximate -- in the ballpark, but hardly accurate to the nearest hundredth of a millimeter. This is because in any given razor dimension there are usually not two hard points against which I can snug up the micrometer as one would when measuring the outside diameter of a rod or the inside diameter of a pipe. Even the blade angles are approximate because those measurements depend on photos, which may not be perfect side views of the blade, thus affecting the appearance of the blade angle.

Merkur 33C razor head
Lord LP1822L (L6) razor head
Below is a table comparing some design-aspect dimensions of both razors

                                            Blade Angle     Blade Gap     Blade Reveal    Blade Exposure
Lord LP1822L (L.6)              ~30 deg         ~2.1 mm (A-B)      ~1.3 mm       Slightly Negative
 Merkur 33C                         ~30 deg            ~1.3 mm           ~1.3 mm            Negative

So comparing relevant measurements:
  • Both razors have approximately the same blade angle.
  • Both razors have about the same blade reveal. 
  • The 33 has a more negative, that is, more mild, blade exposure.
  • The LP1822L has a larger blade gap (A-B), although its actual blade gap (A-B) isn't quite as large as it may seem -- another potential illusion. The way to roughly judge this is to use the blade exposure as a rough gauge. Using dividers on the hard copy photos, they reveal that the Merkur blade gap is about equal to its blade reveal. The Lord actual blade gap is about 1.5 times the length of its blade reveal. So since the blade reveals of the razors measure about the same, the actual blade gap of the Lord razor is about 50% larger than the gap on the Merkur.
So this further explains the difference in the shave characters of these two razors. The larger blade gap and closer-to-neutral blade exposure of the LP1822L creates a more aggressive shaving character in this razor, offering a closer but riskier shave as compared to the Merkur 33.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Acquisition Disease: The Thrill of New Arrivals

The other day I was getting mail from our home's mailbox. There was a small package similar in size to a new razor or an order of razor blades. I admit that the sight of this package gave me a small sense of excitement as I briefly envisioned what might be inside.

Then I remembered that I hadn't ordered anything new, and, checking the addressee, confirmed that the package wasn't for me.

That momentary thrill of possibly receiving something new has lingered, stayed with me in the emotional background of my days. I have revisited that feeling as I have considered it from time to time. In my ruminations, I have been honest with myself and realized that I get more enjoyment out of that initial delivery and the opening of a package as though it were a surprise gift, than I get from actually having and using the product.
The year-round Santa Clause for adults?

Oh, don't get me wrong: using whatever I ordered is usually a positive thing, but it doesn't match the initial fun of the product arrival.

I believe that this a significant component of the acquisition disease with which some shaving hobbyists cope. I suspect that many of us are tempted to order new gear and supplies because, at an emotional level, we want to re-create that little thrill when our "gift" to ourselves arrives at the door or in the mailbox.

Can you relate?

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Micrometer Maniac: Gillette Slim Redux

In the past week or so, I have returned to my Vintage Gillette Slim razor. A shave with a Dorco ST-301 blade in the razor on a setting of one (its most mild setting) resulted in a good shave that has kept this instrument off the auction block.

However, when I put a fourth-use SuperMax Titanium blade in the Slim -- still set on one -- I had to take four passes to get a close shave, which left my skin significantly and unacceptably irritated. The question next asked must be, why? I took basically the same four-pass shave a day earlier with the same blade in my Merkur 33, and the shave was quite acceptable. On the day following the harsh Slim shave, I used the same blade in the Lord L.6, and got a good three-pass shave. So it wasn't the number of passes (based on the previous shave with the 33), and it wasn't the blade (based on the subsequent shave with the L.6). The shave soap was unchanged as well.
Gillette Slim set to one: A-B is the blade gap, and point A
indicates the positive blade exposure (above the shave plane).

Merkur 33: A-B is the blade gap, and point A indicates the
negative blade exposure (below the shave plane).

So why was the Slim much more harsh in four passes than the Merkur?

The dimensions of the razors may tell the story. Let's look at a head-to-head comparison:

                                            Blade Angle     Blade Gap     Blade Reveal    Blade Exposure
Gillette Slim (on one)            ~31 deg           ~0.6 mm          ~1.3 mm         Slightly positive
Merkur 33C                          ~30 deg           ~0.9 mm          ~1.3 mm           Negative

[* The tilde (~)  in the chart above indicates an approximate dimension.]

The blade gaps and exposures of each razor, in combination, may tend to equalize the respective shaving harshness of the razors. That is, the Slim has a smaller gap but larger exposure, while the 33 is the opposite.

However, it may simply be that the positive blade exposure on the Slim combined with its minimally-larger blade angle as compared to the exposure and angle on the 33 makes the Slim shave more harshly -- especially when the number of strokes against one's face accumulates such as when a four-pass shave is made. Another contributing factor may be that the scallops on the Merkur are much deeper than the small grooves in the stamped safety bar of the Slim, which may cause the Slim to limit the amount of lather on the skin until actually contacting the blade.

So in the future, if and when I use the Slim, it will be with my sharpest, coated blades to maximize cutting efficiency and smoothness, and, thereby, limit the shave to no more than three passes to limit resulting irritation.

Happy shaving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Baby Smooth Versus Close and Comfortable

If I had tougher hide on my face and neck -- especially if it were round and smooth, there would be no compromise between closeness and comfort of shave. I would take no prisoners. Every day's shave would be baby smooth and my skin would likely not complain a bit.
With the smooth, round face and neck contours that Johah
Hill has in this photo, it would be easy to remove his beard
with a high-capacity, high-risk razor.
If only....
Lots of contours, folds, and loose skin make his beard a
mine field if using a high-capacity, high-risk razor.

But the reality is, my skin has a limited tolerance of scalpel-sharp steel passes. Further, it's thin, not terribly tight, and has depressions within depressions. I choose my razor, blades, and lathers with care to try to get the smoothest daily shave possible without causing unsustainable irritation to my epidermis.

My anointed razor is my oft-mentioned Merkur 33, the so-called Classic model. Of all the razors I've tried, this one has the head design that, with good shaving technique, allows the blade to shave nearly baby smooth on those flat or slightly convex surfaces, but without irritation. Other razors, such as my Merkur 37 slant or my Gillette Slim Adjustable, have a combination of blade exposure, blade-bar gap, and blade angle that can shave close, but is much more likely to irritate and nick.

My blades are always coated for smoothness. My shaving lather is always slick and creamy, and whenever possible, also not drying after the shave.

I admit to a bit of annoyance with those who have skin smooth, uniform, and tough like an over-stuffed Thanksgiving turkey breast, and smugly make shaving videos implying their superiority because they can shave with a slant razor, or a Muhle R41, or some other wickedly-capable razor and be like: "What's the problem? Anyone should be able to do this."

Well, not everyone is over stuffed. Some of us have skin in some places that's a little closer to the skin folds of a blood hound's muzzle.

So for some of us, we do have to compromise -- especially if we only have one or a limited number of razor and blade combinations from which to choose. For example, with my Merkur 33 and most of my regular blades such as the Astra Superior Platinum, I get a good and sometimes near-great shave, but can't quite get there all the time, because we have to live with our skin in the hours after the shave. However, if I put a SuperMax Titanium blade in my ever-so-slightly-more-aggressive Lord L.6 razor, and use my best shave soap, the shave can be elevated to near perfection. But there is still that slight compromise between absolute perfection and excessive stroking, which leads to irritation. We also have to be ready to do it all over again tomorrow. This requires foresight and forbearance. We draw a line in the sand, and say this has to be good enough.

And it is.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

What's in the Cabinet: My Current Shave Brushes

I'm not a shave-brush collector, though I do have more than some traditional shavers. I have three, none of which would an aficionado call top drawer.
My three inexpensive shave brushes:
Left: Omega Syntex (synthetic), Center: Tweezerman (badger), Right: Van Der Hagen (boar)

I have never had the pleasure of swishing a very high-end brush against my beard; but I've never had the pain of paying for one either. Maybe expensive shave brushes are totally worth the price, and I just haven't learned that yet.

I have merely tried inexpensive brushes of each of the three common bristles: boar, badger, and synthetic. I was interested in trying an inexpensive horse-hair brush from Turkey, with which I had been teased by the now-dormant but still-available blog site, BruceOnShaving. However, by the time I read his article and was willing to order one, they had disappeared from the available market.

All three of my brushes work fine, but some are better suited for certain tasks.

The Omega synthetic was purchased (that is, rationalized) as a travel brush because it is rather small, but more importantly, because its synthetic bristles will dry quickly. Also, of the three brushes, the synthetic is probably best suited to dry sitting upright on the bathroom counter -- though I still hang it to dry when used at home. This brush is excellent for bowl lathering, but was initially the most harsh of the three when face lathering -- though not really harsh, and quite sufficient and usable. Ironically, I use a soap stick when traveling, so in that capacity this brush would be exclusively used for face lathering. One of the nice qualities of this brush is that it hasn't shed a bristle since it arrived, while the two natural-bristle brushes do still leave an occasional hair behind in the bowl, which can be annoying.

The Van Der Hagen boar is a fine all-purpose brush with the largest knot (and handle) of the three and excellent backbone combined with the softer tips that come when a boar brush is broken in. It was also the least expensive of the three as well as the most available, being sold in my area in a Meijer department store as well as in my local drug store (that's the chemist's shop, for you in Great Britain).

The Tweezerman badger is the softest of the three, and was the most expensive as well -- though still not pricey. It has the least backbone, and is the softest against skin. Prior to the arrival of the Omega brush, this Tweezerman was the one I used daily merely because it was a bit smaller, fit my face better.

All three are a good value and highly usable. The best? Tough call; I, personally am ambivalent though I do lean toward a smaller brush. That said, I tend to appreciate each for its best features, but don't have a favorite because each has its imperfections.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: SuperMax Titanium Blade and SS#11P1

This is the eighth of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a SuperMax Titanium blade, which is manufactured in India and listed in some places as have a coatings of titanium, in others a coating of PTFE (that's polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. the brand name,Teflon), and still other sites list both titanium and PTFE coatings. The packaging doesn't specify a coating.

Like last week's blade, I've also mentioned  these SuperMax blades previously (though never in a proper review article), but I wanted for one more week to extend my break from my weekly series with blades that are new to me. This week my reasons for the familiar blade do include a respite from the unfamiliar blades, but also, more importantly, I'm testing a new shave soap.

My soap is the first pre-production run of the formula and process that I call SS#11P1. It is derived from my final prototype soap, which was SS#10C. Comparing the production of the two soaps, their formulas are almost the same in terms of fat and oil components of the soap and post cook fat additives for gentleness on skin. The primary differences are a deviation in the respective types of alkali used to make soap as well as the process of production.

These SuperMax blades are each double wrapped in an inner waxed-paper wrapper, than over that is a printed, unwaxed-paper wrapper, and packaged five blades in a cardboard box as shown. I like the double wrapping is a bit of overkill, but think the cardboard boxing on the five pack is good, encouraging putting used blades in a blade bank for eventual recycling.

[Reminder about my skin type: I have very sensitive, thin skin, somewhat loose (on the neck when shaving horizontally), 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.]

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 (when using a natural bristle; a synthetic bristle only needs to be wetted, not soaked), a shave soap, and a cool-tap-water shave. As I implied above, all shaves this week used shave soap SS#11P1.

What I Learned this Week:
The SuperMax Titanium blade may not be quite as sharp as some of my other blades in the cache, so it sometimes takes a bit more work to get a close shave in the Merkur 33. But when in the Lord L.6 razor head, which is just a bit more aggressive owing to its slightly-larger blade-bar gap and slightly-less-negative blade exposure, it can be a little better match, and I can get a slightly closer shave in three passes.

My latest shave-soap formulation that yields a dense, creamy-slick lather has been working well; I think this formulation is a keeper for those with sensitive skin who want an all-natural, slick, protecting, fragrance-free product.
Merkur 33C razor
I kicked off this week using the beard prep of a minimalist shave, shave soap SS#11P1, a new SuperMax Titanium blade right out of its double wrapper and inserted into the Merkur 33C. Took a three-pass shave with an extremely fussy third pass -- lots of buffing and j-hooking -- which was probably the equivalent of a third and fourth pass. The result was a very close shave, and the alum revealed only a little irritation on the entire neck -- much less than anticipated. The SuperMax blade seemed to require more work to get a very close shave (so am I seeing a subtle difference in sharpness of the SuperMax?), but was smooth -- and the shave soap was clearly protecting well. I re-opened an under-jay nick from yesterday, and had the most minor weeper on my chin. Both disappeared during the after-shave process. Washed the alum off with Noxzema and water, then a final after-shave lotion supplemented with a couple of drops of vitamin-E oil.

Lord L.6 (a.k.a. LP1822L) razor head
on the heavy, fat MR3B handle.
Thinking about this first shave of the week leads me to wonder.... if the SuperMax is just a tad less sharp than some of my other regular blades, perhaps I should next put it in the Lord L.6 razor head, which is just the slightest bit more aggressive than the Merkur 33. The combination may be a step closer to the ideal shave. That's on deck for tomorrow's shave.

Minimalist bear prep followed by SS#11P1 and the SuperMax Titanium blade in the Lord L.6 shave head. The shave soap whipped into the best lather so far using my badger brush and about five bristle-tip additions of water. Three passes -- the third only being slightly fussy in my most difficult areas -- yielded a shave as good or better than yesterday. I was right about pairing the Lord razor head with the SuperMax blade (see the notes from yesterday, above). One small weeper on my lower neck disappeared after cool water rinses. I didn't need alum for soothing, but did apply it anyway as an irritation indicator -- of which there was some under my right jaw line and on my lower neck. Water rinse to get most of the alum off (because it creates a coarse precipitate when the Noxzema mixes with the alum directly), then a Noxzema-and-water wash, followed by a balm-and-vitamin-E finishing coat. A superb shave -- maybe one of my best ever!

Today was a second shave with the Lord-SuperMax combination to ensure yesterday's shave wasn't just a fluke. A three-pass shave with a bit of extra fussing on the third pass again yielded a very close shave, but which was marred by one nick on my neck and several small weepers. I didn't use alum after the shave, and the nick and weepers disappeared with the water rinse, followed by the Noxzema-and-water wash. To finish the shave, I applied Neutrogena balm supplemented by vitamin-E oil. A very close, smooth shave that is very rewarding to the hand.

Gillette Slim close up -- on its most
mild setting, one.
Learning from the last two outstanding shaves, I thought the SuperMax might also pair well with my Gillette Slim Adjustable razor. With its slightly positive blade exposure -- even on its most mild setting -- the Slim might have just enough (or too much?) additional attack to compliment the characteristics of the SuperMax-T blade. Using my favored setting of one, the most mild setting, I took a three-pass shave to test this razor-blade combination. I noticed that the Slim doesn't provide as much audible feedback as the Lord -- probably due to its smaller blade reveal (that is, how much of the blade can be seen when looking straight down on the razor top). And three passes wasn't enough. I did a fussy fourth pass, which left me smooth but quite not as close as the last two shaves. Worse though, my face was generally irritated -- and I didn't need alum to show me -- and with a few weepers possibly re-opened from yesterday. Today I did an alum rub not to reveal irritation, but to try to calm things down, and, of course, got that initial burn from the alum on all the irritation. Then a water rinse followed by a Noxzema-and-water wash felt soothing: the eucalyptus and the fatty acids in the Noxzema can have that effect, which lasted for a full five minutes or more after I dried off. Approaching ten minutes after the shave, my skin had an invisible irritation burn. So I went back and applied balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

The fifth shave with the blade occurred today paired with the Lord L.6 razor head. This will test whether yesterday's harsh shave was due to the blade suddenly degrading or due to the razor and too many shave strokes. A straight-forward three-pass shave was comfortable but with one nick (I think I shaved off a tiny skin bump) and several weepers, three of which took a touch of styptic. The end shave was good but not baby smooth with the hand against the grain. It was low enough in irritation that I finished the shave with only a Noxzema-and-water wash to have that cool eucalyptus feeling and smell along with that slightest, pleasant "sealing" layer that Noxzema seems to always leave behind. In total, the shave today was good but not spectacular. Low irritation, and totally close enough. I suspect that I'm seeing subtle differences in the blade -- meaning that this particular SuperMax T blade is not quite as sharp or smooth over the course of the week as some others such as the St. Petersburg (location of factory) blades. (The St. Petersburg blades include Polsilver, Astra, and several Gillette blades.)

Today with the Merkur 33 to see if a three-pass shave can shave similar to yesterday. I got an excellent shave after just a bit of fussing on the third pass. There were about four small weepers that disappeared after water rinses. No alum or styptic today. Just a post-shave wash with water and Noxzema. No after shave balms or lotions either. A close (but not completely baby smooth against the grain), irritation-free shave that is very pleasing to the hand. 

Closed the week with the seventh shave on the SuperMax T blade in the Merkur 33 razor again. Three passes and a bit of touch up gave a comfortable shave. The only after-shave treatment today was to rub on some Noxzema cleansing cream and rinse it off with water. The shave was as close as usual with the 33; that is, not baby smooth, but close and pleasing to both hand and eye.

For next week it looks to be the Personna Platinum (red label) blade, which is made in Israel.

Happy shaving!

Friday, November 14, 2014

My Caliper Micrometer for Taking Razor Measurements

Tired of trying to eyeball blade-bar gaps on razors and unable to be the least bit precise in discussing aspects of razor design such as blade reveal, I finally broke down and purchased a little digital micrometer for measuring aspects of razor-head design.

This is my new digital caliper micrometer for better assessing razor-head-
design aspects to better understand razors' shaving characteristics.
After taking some initial measurements, I can say that this activity is as much art as science because, even with precise measuring tools such as this micrometer, it is very difficult to be totally precise. This is due to the various dips and curves of the razor head as well as even just the smallness of the areas being measured. For example, to measure the blade gap, it is easy to get the caliper blade against the edge of a (used-up) razor blade, which is indicated by point A in the example razor-head close up below. But finding the precise point B is a challenge -- very difficult to measure to the hundredth of a millimeter.
An example razor-head close-photo. Points A-B determine the blade gap,
but it's difficult to determine the exact location of point B.

In other words, measuring a blade gap or reveal is not the same as measuring the outside diameter of a rod or the inside diameter of a pipe, where one can snug the caliper blades tight against the dimension-defining surfaces. The razor measurements are much more subjective as to where the start or end points of the measurement actually lie. So these measurements should be considered estimates, not precise dimensions.

However, despite the lack of absolute precision, measurements with this device will be in the ballpark and can begin to quantify for comparison some of the design characteristics that have been previously discussed only in qualitative terms. The new data may be approximate, but now we have some numbers to discuss.

I'll be including new data in upcoming posts so we all can get a better grasp on razor design and the process of matching razor and blade to our own beards.

Happy shaving!