Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: the Dorco ST-301 Blade

Dorco blades come ten in a pack, which has a used-blade slot
in the back. Consider using a recycling-blade bank for used
blades instead of the plastic packaging, which ends up leaving
the blades in a landfill forever.
This is the seventh of my weekly shave summaries This week I have used a Dorco ST-301 blade, which is manufactured in Korea and listed as having coatings of both platinum and PTFE ( that's polytetrafluoroethylene, a.k.a. the brand name,Teflon).

I've written about these blades previously, but I wanted to take a break from my weekly series with blades that are new to me. I wanted to return to a known product, to get back in touch with my formerly-regular-rotation blades for comparison purposes.

These blades are each single wrapped in a printed, unwaxed-paper wrapper, and packaged ten blades in a plastic boxes as shown. I like the single wrapper, but think the plastic boxing on the ten pack is excessive and discourages putting used blades in a blade bank for eventual recycling, which is a much better practice.

[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, which is why I use Merkur razor heads (the 33C mostly but also the 15C -- and recently, the Lord LP1822L) 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.]

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. Because I'm using a familiar blade, the shaves this week included a greater number of trial shaves and get-re-acquainted shaves with some varied razors specified below. As an unusual twist, I even started the week -- the maiden shave on this blade -- using my vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable razor, and wrote a separate review article on that shave and, specifically, on the Slim as a follow-on piece to my a recent detailed analysis of that razor's design characteristics.

What I Learned this Week:
Comparing blades is a difficult task. Because of the myriad variables, which I do try to limit to a degree, blade comparisons remain challenging because even the shave-stroking process can itself vary day to day with normal, subtle stroking differences. I made the comparison more difficult this week because of my renewed trial shaves with the Gillette and Weishi TTO razors. The Dorco ST-301 has again proven itself to be a fine blade: sharp, smooth, reasonably durable, and at a great price -- a true value. With this blade and my Merkur 33C on Monday I got one of the best overall shaves ever. I also got a a very good shave on Saturday with the same razor combined with a new shave soap. The Dorco blade is as sharp, seemingly as durable or nearly so, and about as smooth (on my face) as many of the St. Petersburg blades, but less expensive.

The Gillette Slim Adjustable razor, which months ago I banished to the supply box in my closet due to harsh shaves, has been born again. I opened my mind, gave it another look, then another go, and discovered that for me on its mildest setting, one, it can provide a close, comfortable shave. The Weishi 9306-F also gives a good shave -- though not as close as other razors, all other things equal -- and a reasonably comfortable shave if I can remember to periodically ensure that the TTO mechanism is gently snugged up during the shave so that the blade remains properly clamped in the razor head.

Using a detailed beard-grain map can help to increase the closeness and comfort of one's shave by helping to get stroke directions exactly right for the with-, cross-, and against-grain passes.

Now that heating season is upon us here in the north, I have this week more regularly used a post-shave balm with a couple of drops added of vitamin E oil for moisturizing and protection. On some days, however, a final Noxzema-and-water wash has been adequate.

Next week's blade looks to be the made-in-India SuperMax Titanium -- another blade from my large-inventory, regular-rotation cache.
Vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable
Deviating from the norm, the first shave was with my Gillette Slim Adjustable razor set on one, its most mild setting -- just to give this razor another evaluation shave. I used the Arko shave stick, minimalist beard prep, and the blade of the week, the Dorco 301. Because of my previous history of irritation with this razor -- once burned, twice shy -- I planned to only take a two-pass shave, but actually took three and a half. The end result was positive for both the blade and the razor. As I mentioned above, I wrote a separate article on this shave because of its significance as a final evaluation on the vintage Gillette razor. Finished the ritual with an alum rub, Noxzema wash, and Gillette-and-vitamin-E-oil lotion. In sum, it was a very good shave.

Using a detailed beard map as my guide, I shaved with the stock Merkur 33C, the second-use Dorco ST-301 blade, and my proprietary SS#10C soap. Three-and-a-half passes yielded perhaps my closest overall shave ever. There were three weepers: one on my chin during the first pass, and on the third pass, one next to upper lip and one below my jawline. The latter two got a touch of styptic. My skin felt a bit irritated after the final half pass, but an alum rub revealed surprisingly little -- just some on my lower neck. I washed the alum off with Noxzema and water, and put no balm on at that time -- just to see, what, if any, were necessary. A very rewarding shave today.

The Weishi 9306-F and its case: a knock off of an old
Gillette Super Speed razor.

Used the Weishi 9306-F razor (the Chinese knock off of the Gillette Super Speed), the third-use Dorco blade, and shaving soap #10C this morning. Close shave after three-and-one-half passes but irritation due to the 9306 opening a bit during the second pass, which increased the blade-shaving angle as well as diminishing the stiffness of the edge, both leading to harshness. Despite the low capacity of the razor itself, the blade performed well as did the proprietary shave soap. Finished the shave with an alum rub, a Noxzeman-and-water wash, and inexpensive balm laced with a few drops of vitamin-E oil -- all intended to soothe and seal especially the irritated skin on my lower neck and also under the jaw line. Despite the irritation due to the minor razor malfunction, the shave was close and generally pleasing to the hand. I also wrote a separate article on this shave.

After Tuesday's irritation from the minor razor malfunction, I went to the Merkur 15C open comb for today's shave, the fourth with the Dorco ST-301 blade. One lower-neck weeper near the adam's apple on the first pass. An under-jaw weeper with the second pass. And a couple of minor weepers on cheek and upper lip with the final pass. The water rinse and alum rub didn't quiet two of the weepers so they got a touch of styptic. The alum did reveal irritation on lower neck and under jaw line. I washed the alum off with Noxzema and water, and finished the shave with Neutrogena balm supplemented with a couple of vitamin-E drops. A close shave, but still marred by irritation. Not sure whether the irritation is lingering from yesterday's shave or new today.

Back to a home-base shave using my go-to Merkur 33C with the fifth-use Dorco ST-301 blade. Prior to the shave today, my skin felt good, but leery of possible lingering irritation from yesterday, I chose to deviate from my usual minimalist beard preparation. Today, after my pre-shave beard wetting with cool water, I rubbed some Noxzema cleansing cream on my entire neck below the jawline as a pre-lather shave-butter layer. I did that for each pass, and applied SS#10C lather directly over that. I did a three-pass shave and was fussy on the third pass, which yielded a very close shave everywhere, with about three weepers. An alum rub did reveal some irritation on my lower neck and around my mouth, where I shaved more aggressively than usual. Only one weeper got a touch of styptic; the others disappeared with the first water rinse after the alum. I followed that with a Noxzema-and-water wash, dried with a towel, and topped the shave with a Nivea balm supplemented with some vitamin-E oil.

A final shave today with the Weishi 9306-F to ensure suitability before I sanitize and send it off to a friend for some trial shaves. The sixth-use Dorco blade was matched with my SS#10C and minimalist beard prep. Unlike Tuesday's shave, the razor stayed buttoned up, and I got a reasonably close shave in three passes, but not nearly as close as my best shave days -- especially on my neck. There were two weepers -- one on my lower neck, which disappeared with the first water rinse, the other, under my jaw, needed a touch of styptic. An alum rub revealed irritation on my lower neck, but not much elsewhere. The Noxzema wash was followed by Neutrogena after-shave balm supplemented with three drops of vitamin-E oil. Now the 9306 gets its cleaning and, along with a small assortment of blades, gets shipped to a friend for some test drives. About two hours after the morning shave, for a closer shave, I re-shaved my entire neck making one pass with the Merkur 33 and some Palmolive shave stick. 

Seventh and final shave with the Dorco ST-301 blade using it in the Merkur 33 razor. Trying a new shave soap formulation and process, SS#11P1, I lathered and applied with my Tweezerman badger brush. Three passes and a minor touch up yielded the a very smooth shave -- essentially, over most of my beard, about as close as I get. Had a tiny nick and one very minor weeper, which both disappeared with the first water rinse. Additionally, an alum rub revealed little irritation -- much less than previous days. I attribute this to the combination of the Merkur razor and the new shave soap. To counteract the drying qualities of the alum, I applied an after-shave balm supplemented with a couple of drops of vitamin-E oil. In all, today's shave was an excellent one to wrap up the week.

For next week it looks to be the SuperMax Titanium blade.

Happy shaving!

No comments:

Post a Comment