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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Curtain Falls on 2014

Another year is closing. It's a wrap. Stick a fork in it; it's done. So we turn the page, and move forward into another annum.

Life seems to be a constant process of moving on. We make our mistakes, hopefully learn from them, even more hopefully we forgive ourselves for them, and then move on and try not to repeat them. People that we know and possibly love pass through -- sometimes changing their sphere of circulation with a relocation or an altered circle of friends, sometimes passing from this life, this world entirely.

I tend to be somewhat reflective, especially at this time of year. Historically, my new-year celebration is more quiet reflection in solitude than reveling in a crowd.

The end of the year is an artificial boundary as are so many things in life. It actually just keeps on rolling on, and life itself doesn't care about our bookkeeping. There is only NOW.

I appreciate that view, but find it of little value. In my NOW moment, I am here alone, everyone else asleep in the house (except for sweet and faithful Sadie, our dog). Many of those I have known in my journey to this NOW moment have long become unavailable to me; they are solidly part of the PAST.

Fittingly, I passed a former girlfriend in a shopping mall yesterday. It has been 30 years since I last saw her. Yesterday she was almost past me before I recognized who she was. She didn't stop and turn around as I did, though in that brief flash of eye contact as our paths literally crossed once again, in that instant, I'm sure I saw recognition in her eyes. But in that NOW moment, we were locked into our history, the story of our lives in which we had become strangers separated by a great, yawning chasm of time and separate activity -- two travelers moving infinitely farther away from each other within the same metropolitan area.

I am slow to forgive myself for past mistakes -- even minor ones -- and they often pop into my mind to torment me at unwelcome times. It is one of my shortcomings; I have a difficult time completely moving on. At those moments, I often wish that I could go back and do an episode over again differently, say a different thing, make a different choice, be more honest in expressing my feelings, or be more kind in my honesty. Had I been smarter, more generally aware, there were things with that long-lost girlfriend that I would have done differently (not only her, but several others as well), which surely would have altered our physics, our orbits, our states of mind, our paths into the future.

But whatever the incident from my past, that play is over, the curtain has come down, and it's now history, alive only in my imperfect memory.

So tonight is the opening night on another show. We ride our NOW moment forward from the final act of this calendar year. We are all adventurers forging into the unknown tomorrow.

Happy new year, and happy shaving!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Odds 'N Ends Tuesday

Recently I've been using two-pass shaves: with grain and against grain. Because I shave daily, my results have been essentially the same as with three-pass shaves -- that is, with a fussy second pass the two-pass shaves are about as close as three pass shaves.

* * * 

All the anticipation of ordering the two new Chinese razors, the RiMei and the JunJie, has gotten me off balance with expectation. I'm really hoping that the RiMei razor is as high quality as the example photos provided by Shawn would suggest. An inexpensive razor with a low blade angle and a slight negative blade exposure that is, at the same time, well made and of adequate materials -- well, that is the holy grail of razors.

I think I'm set up for disappointment simply by my expectations.

* * * 

I don't know if I'm ordering blades that are all about the same -- each being coated and sharp -- but most of the blades that I've been trying seem to be similar. About the only blade that I've found inadequate is the Derby Extra, which I thought might not be quite sharp enough. The Polsilver might have been a bit too sharp for me. All the rest have been in an acceptable range. There is some perceivable variation, but not enough to be terribly important.

* * * 

My latest shave-soap formulation, 11P1, hasn't changed for a while. I think it is world class. However, because of the superfatting -- both the amount and the fats used, which make the soap very skin friendly, not drying, the soap has lost some of the stiffness to the lather that was present in earlier formulations. The soap likes a lot of water and when properly lathered, makes a slick, wet, creamy lather that brushes on the face in a rather shallow layer.

When I lather this shave soap, I get my brush wet (obviously), then whisk a generous amount of the soft soap onto the brush from my storage cup. I then add water to my five-inch-diameter lathering bowl and vigorously whip the brush back and forth in it (not in the customary circular swirls). I get excellent results, but I wonder if the average person will be put off by the "softness", the lack of stiffness to the lather.


If you have thoughts on any of these odds 'n ends, I'd love to hear from you.

Happy shaving!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Latest Chinese-Razor Orders

This is one of the photos on the ebay listing for the $6 Rimei
razor that I ordered a few days ago.
A few days ago, I ordered what I hope will be a higher-quality RiMei razor from China. Unfortunately, this razor appears at the current time to be only available on Amazon for a total of about $20, which is too much to pay. However, it also appears to be listed on ebay for about $6, and that's what I initially purchased.

Just yesterday, in an anonymous comment on an article in this blog, a reader advised me that this razor may be available on ebay under the brand listing of JunJie for just under $2. So I just ordered one of these as well.
This is one of the photos on the ebay listing for the $2 JunJie
razor that I ordered this morning.

Ordering products this way from Chinese sellers can be a real crap shoot; you roll the dice and hope your number comes up. Chinese sellers are notorious for advertising one thing and delivering another. This doesn't even take into account the language barrier. So I will report the results of these purchases when the items arrive in a couple of weeks.

The photos look suspiciously alike, though they are unreliable. In fact, one of the photos for the $6 Rimei razor shows a razor with a different handle. So who knows?

I was intrigued by the side view of Shawn's RiMei razor, which shows a blade angle of about 26 degrees, which is a nice, friendly shaving angle, and a blade exposure that is slightly negative -- also a friendly characteristic. When my latest razors arrive, I'll provide a similar report on each, with photos of course.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The REAL Rimei Razor

Thanks to Shawn, a reader of my blog, I have a couple of photos of a bona fide Rimei DE razor. This is the real thing, not one of the cheapo Chinese knock-off razors. And from the photos, you can tell the difference.
This is the side view of the actual Chinese-made Rimei razor. It is symmetrical, has a top-cap design that reflects some engineering, and has a baseplate that has appropriate contours and is made of thicker metal. This razor is advertised as being made from stainless steel.

This is one of two cheap Chnese-made knock-off razors, and both are similar in materials and workmanship. This one is the un-branded razor. The other was branded as Ri,Mei (sic). The Ri,Mei razor was made with slightly thicker steel in the baseplate (though not comparable to the Rimei brand) and with a slightly different punched-hole pattern in the baseplate. These knock-off razors can be adjusted to be shave worthy, but from the photos, the Rimei is clearly in a better class of product.
While both of the knock-off razors arrived with a shaving geometry that was pretty much unusable, the Rimei looks to be quite a safe instrument with mild shaving character. This can be seen from the side view of a single edge, shown below:

The higher-quality Rimei razor has a low blade angle of about 26 degrees, which should cleanly cut whiskers with low irritation. Further, the slightly-negative blade exposure should also offer a safe, comfortable shave.
The REAL Rimei razor isn't cheap, but it's not at all expensive either. Currently priced at about $20 (U.S.) including shipping (that's on Amazon -- it is available on ebay for less than $6), it looks to be a reasonable value. Although the last thing that I need is yet another DE razor, I admit that I'm sorely tempted to order one of these just to check it out.

If you have one of these REAL Rimei razors, I'd love to read your impressions of it.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: The Wilkinson Sword Blade

This is the fourteenth of my weekly shave summaries. This week, I'm using a German-made Wilkinson Sword Classic blade. (This is in contrast to last week's manufactured-in-India Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade.) This blade is triple coated with chromium, ceramic, and PTFE.

They come single wrapped and in cardboard boxes of five individually-wrapped blades.


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

Now called Grandad's Shave Soap
-- slick 'n creamy, for sensitive skin.
[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:
The German-made Wilkinson Sword blade is another that is sufficiently sharp and durable. I noticed no drop off in shave quality during the week. The blade may well be good for more shaves, but it's too inconvenient for me to go more than a week with a single blade; I take a new blade every Sunday morning. However, though this tripble-coated blade is comfortable, it is not as comfortable as other blades, and I probably wouldn't be buying more. 

My trash-or-treasure razor is a safe, comfortable instrument that can shave closely on hairs growing more straight out of the skin, with little grain. On hair with moderate to significant grain, it is difficult to get a close shave with the geometry of this razor. On the other hand, the holy-grail razor, as it's currently set up, can provide a very close shave, but, due to its positive blade exposure, needs to be handled with care.

Ah, but the Merkur 33 remains the go-to instrument. Comfortable and easy, this razor give a reliable shave in two or three passes. It won't get my face completely baby smooth, but it approaches that closeness without much effort, and with little risk of irritation and other unpleasantries.


Merkur 33C Classic
Sunday:
With the Merkur 33 razor, I did a three-pass shave using buffing strokes for all passes. I did get a big weeper near the corner of my mouth and a nick just on the underside of my chin. Only the weeper needed styptic. All the buffing with a new blade left my skin feeling slightly irritated, so after the cool-water rinse and the Noxzema wash, I used a little Gillette after-shave balm for sensitive skin supplemented with a few drops of vitamin-E oil. Overall result was a very close, and, ultimately, comfortable shave.

Monday:
The Chinese "holy-grail" razor, which,
despite its appearance here, actually
has a "silver tone."
Today I did first and third passes with my experimental "holy-grail" razor in its first-adjustment orientation, not as it came from the factory. The second pass was done with my venerable Merkur 33. Close shave, but after the third pass, was left with much irritation and many weepers. The positive blade exposure in the Chinese "holy-grail" razor was obvious in the "feel" and sound of the shave, as well as the closeness and residual irritation. Used alum block over the entire face, followed by styptic in several places. Then a cool-water face wash (to remove the alum and styptic), followed by a Noxzema wash, and capped off with Gillette revitalizing gel supplemented by vitamin-E oil.

Tuesday:
After the extreme irritation of yesterday's shave, which I attribute to a combination of the positive blade exposure of the "holy-grail" razor and the aggressive, all-buffing-technique of yesterdays shave, I went with the low-angle trash-or-treasure Chinese razor. Three passes and a bit of touch up produced a low-irritation shave -- despite that my skin was still sore in places from yesterday. The closeness of today's shave was not terribly close, revealing stubble when the hand is rubbed against grain. However, close enough with no contribution to the discomfort from yesterday. Shave ended with a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, and some vitamin-E, vitamin-B5 and sunscreen face moisturizer supplemented with a drop of vitamin-E oil. My skin is still healing in some places from the damage of Monday's shave, but at least I didn't do more damage today.

Wednesday:
Again today to allow my face to recover from Monday's shave, I did two passes with the Merkur 33, then a final pass with the trash-or-treasure (ToT) razor, which has an extremely mild shaving character, with very low blade angles and a slightly-negative blade exposure. A comfortable, blood-less shave was achieved with a bit of fussing on the third pass. The shave was not particularly close, because my ToT razor has such a non-aggressive shaving character. After the Noxzema wash, I used face moisturizer with a bit of vitamin-E oil.
The Lord L.6 razor head on the Maggard
MR3B handle for Thursday's shave.

Thursday:
Today's shave was with the Lord L.6 razor head for the first pass, then the holy-grail razor as a finishing instrument in the second, final pass. A water rinse and Noxzema wash followed along with a bit of touch-up stroking with the holy-grail razor. The shave was capped off with Nivea balm for sensitive skin to soothe the bit of irritation that I felt. There were also four tiny point weepers that disappeared with the post-shave rinses and wash. The closeness of this shave was baby smooth on my cheeks and very close elsewhere. Despite the minor irritation, it was one of the closer overall shaves that I've had.

Friday:
Two passes today with the Merkur 33. The first pass was normal oblique strokes with the grain, and the second pass was mostly all buffing, mostly against grain except for my upper lip, which was cross grain in both directions. Very good shave: no irritation, one nick under my chin (due to cavalier buffing), and completely close enough. Water rinse, a touch of styptic on the nick, second water rinse, and a Noxzema wash. That was it. :-)

Saturday:
A three pass shave: the first two with the Merkur 33 -- with grain and against grain. Final pass with the holy-grail (HG) razor going for baby smooth. I opened a few weepers with the positive-exposure HG razor, and had a bit of irritation after the second and third passes.

For next week I'm shaving with a Russian Rapira blade.

Happy shaving!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Holy Grail Come Back

If Monday's nine-inning debut (actually three-pass debut, but this is a baseball metaphor) of the holy-grail razor was a bust, then yesterday's shave with the razor as a closer (final pass) was a come-back success.
The cheapo holy-grail razor as it first arrived, prior to my essential adjustments to tune its shaving character

Still wary from the awful shave that I had using the much-tuned cheapo Chinese knock-off razor on Tuesday, I did a two-pass shave yesterday using the Lord L.6 for the first with-grain pass, and the holy-grail razor for the second against-grain pass.

The outcome was one of the closest overall shaves that I've had. There was also just a little lingering irritation and four pin-point weepers that disappeared very quickly with no attention needed.

This indicates that it is clearly possible to get the cheapest of all-metal razors and with some patience, adjust them to be shave worthy.

I have done this twice now. First with the Ri,Mei (sic) brand razor, which is also a cheapo knock off on the apparently much-higher-quality Rimei razor, and which I've adjusted to be a low-angle, low-irritation, low-edge-exposure instrument. Then, most recently, the unbranded holy-grail razor has been adjusted to be about a 30-degree-angle, slightly-positive-edge exposure razor that is capable of delivering a close, reasonably-comfortable shave.

These razors need to be handled with kid gloves. They are likely to rust if you put them away wet. They will surely get out of whack if you drop them or even accidentally knock them around.

Yet for three dollars and change (U.S.), they are inexpensive, and can be adjusted to be effective.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Misuse of Buffing Strokes

I had a terrible shave on Tuesday. All my fault.

I had adjusted the holy-grail razor to have about a 30-degree blade angle and a slightly positive blade exposure (above the shave plane). Also, I had been having good results using buffing strokes for all three passes when using my mild-shaving Merkur 33 razor. So I was feeling rather confident and seeking the perfect shave, thinking that this combination of a more aggressive razor set up combined with a buffing technique would rule the day.

Long story short, I irritated the beejeebers out of my face, and also left patches (not spots) of weepers. All this required a styptic application, then a thorough alum-block rub, followed by some more styptic-pencil treatment, then my customary face rinse, Noxzema wash, and then balm and additional moisturizers -- both with added vitamin-E oil.

Further, on Wednesday's shave to minimize additional abuse on my face and neck, I took it really easy, and got a fine-looking shave, but not nearly as close feeling as I prefer. At least there wasn't a bit of irritation or blood. Yet even on Wednesday evening, one could still see residual irritated-looking patches that were damaged by Tuesday's shave.

Things are pretty much back to normal today. The body's powers of recuperation and regeneration are truly amazing.

But what did I learn?

I learned that I will limit overall buffing strokes to only those razors with negative blade exposure. That, I think, is the primary lesson.

As for the holy-grail razor in its current state of adjustment, I may shave today using it as a final-pass finishing razor (but not with buffing strokes). More to follow; stay tuned.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

RiMei Razors and Cheap Knock Offs

A reader, Shawn, commented about the difference between his RiMei razor and the two inexpensive Chinese-made razors that I have purchased, experimented with, and written about. Shawn was also thoughtful enough to provide links to a couple of photos of his RiMei razor, one of which is inserted immediately below:

From Shawn, a reader: this is a photo of his actual RiMei razor.
This is the Ri,Mei (sic) razor that I received less than a year ago, but which I have modified to have a much smaller blade gap and and exposure. Clearly, when compared to Shawn's razor, this is a different design, lower quality, and, in all probability, not the same manufacturer. In sum, it's a cheap knock off.
This razor is my second cheap Chinese-made knock-off razor (which is featured in my holy-grail articles), but this one had no brand. It has even thinner baseplate steel and was even more poorly made and packaged. Like my Ri,Mei (sic) above, this one as pictured has been modified to both fix baseplate shipping damage as well as to change the shaving character of the razor.

What is interesting is that each of the two cheapo Chinese razors that I purchased cost less than $4 (U.S.) to purchase -- and that price included shipping! Yet checking the price for an actual RiMei brand razor on Amazon today lists the price of the RiMei razor at about $20 (U.S.) including shipping. This significant difference in price seems justified when comparing photos of Shawn's razor to my two.

This is the photo associated with the sales page on Amazon for the actual RiMei razor. This appears to be comparable to Shawn's razor, consistent with the higher apparent quality, which justifies the higher price tag.

Another obvious point of comparison in these razors is the oval holes in the baseplate that separate the safety bars from the rest of the baseplate and which allow shaving soap to pass to the underside of the razor when shaving. On the bona fide RiMei razor, the higher quality one, there are four holes associated with each safety bar. On my Ri,Mei razor, there are also four. On my unbranded razor, there are only two -- meaning that instead of having five connections between safety bar and main baseplate, there are only three.

Another difference is the top caps of the razors. The RiMei seems to have a top cap of a more complicated, better-made design. The two knock-off razors have similar, simpler, less-well-designed top caps.

Obviously higher quality costs more. Still, it is interesting to adjust my two cheap-o razors to test how much treasure can be extracted from what is, out of the package, trash. And so the holy-grail experiment continues.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holy-Grail Razor: First Adjustments

The point of this holy-grail experiment is to arrive at the holy grail of razors: an inexpensive, close- but comfortable-shaving instrument.

Job one in adjusting the holy-grail razor is to ensure that it can be salvaged. So I checked the top cap for in-plane edges and eye-balled the same edges for being parallel. I have described this process in a previous article. The top cap edges were definitely in the same plane and close enough to parallel to proceed with the project.
This is a side view with blade as the razor was first assembled out of the shipping envelope. Its asymmetical baseplate with non-parallel safety bars, ridiculous blade-bar gap and resulting extremely-positive blade exposure makes this a potentially dangerous shaving instrument as shown.

Since my objective was achieve fairly uniform shaving characteristics on both edges of this razor, my first step was to straighten the safety bar that had presumably been bent in transit. I had a choice in doing this. One option was to restore the bent edge to match the opposite as it might have come from the factory prior to damage in shipping. However, I was going to be modifying the baseplate at both safety bars to make the blade gap much smaller, which would also have the effect of making the blade angle much smaller as well, and would slightly reduce the positive blade exposure.

So instead of restoring the bent safety bar to its likely factory orientation (which would have been to increase the blade gap), I adjusted it to be straight and parallel with the top cap, but with what would be a much smaller blade-bar gap. The main tool that I used was a flat-blade screwdriver, which I use to lever the safety bar into a new orientation by passing the blade over or under the safety bar (as appropriate) and slightly through the punched oval holes that separate the safety bar from the rest of the baseplate. Another tool that I used was a pair of small pliers with a narrow, elongated nose that is bent at about a 30-degree angle. The challenge in making these adjustments is to change the orientation of the safety bars, while keeping them parallel and in the same general contour so that both edges of the razor shave about the same.

This most recent Chinese-made razor has its baseplate made from a bit thinner steel than my original Re,Mei-brand razor [correction: that's Ri,Mei (sic)]. The thinner steel allows me to make slight adjustments with my hands, unaided by tools. So very minor adjustments were made simply pressing with my thumbs in the direction needed.
This is more to my liking. The smaller blade angle and gap should provide a milder shave, but the still-positive blade exposure will allow for a slightly closer shave than my favorite razors, which have negative blade exposures. This first adjustment is not quite uniform -- each edge being slightly different. This will allow for a test shave and subsequent tuning.

What I achieved in this first round of adjustments was blade angles that averaged about 29 degrees. Given the lack of precision in manufacturing, there is compromise required in accepting final adjustments. I chose to put a premium on safety bars being parallel to blade edges, which led to a bit of variation in blade angle -- even on a single edge, where the angle at one end of the edge differed slightly from that at the other end.

Happy shaving!

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Holy-Grail-Experiment Razor has Arrived

This is the image associatedon the Amazon sales page
with my latest razor acquisition

The Chinese-made razor that I ordered on December 5th, arrived on December 20th.  My total cost including shipping was $3.19. The image at right is the one associated with its product-sales page on Amazon.com.

This razor, unlike a similar one I ordered months ago, was not in a blister pack. It was shipped in a small, square envelope. The razor was disassembled to better lie flat, I assume. The baseplate was nested under the top cap, and these two parts were in a small, transparent plastic bag. The handle was separate and loose within the shipping envelope.

The baseplate arrived bent out of symmetrical shape. I assume that it was not manufactured that way and was damaged in transit.

The handle of the razor is accurately represented in the seller's image. Here is my photo of the razor as it first arrived, but I assembled the razor, inserting a blade:

Below is a side view highlighting the asymmetrical bend of the baseplate:

Below is a view of the baseplate alone on a flat surface highlighting the twist in the baseplate and the slight curve of the edge:

Below are two photos contrasting the blade angle on each side of the razor:



I have sent an replacement-requested email to a seller identified as "happyshopping2014" with these photos attached. I will report on the progress of that issue.

Regarding the condition of the baseplate, strangely enough, the more extreme angle seems to be the blade angle from the factory. The smaller angle is on the side of the baseplate with the curved edge and appears to have been flattened a bit in transit.

I would be very cautious about using such a razor with such an extreme positive blade exposure and blade angle, but as shawnsel explained in comments on an earlier article, those guys who are doing "steep-angle shaving" (where the handle is oriented in a small angle to the face resulting in a large angle of blade to face -- a high, "scraping" angle) might like a symmetrical razor with large blade angles.

I'm going to proceed with the holy-grail experiment, trying to tune this razor to be a keeper, and I'll keep you informed of the progress on all fronts.

Happy shaving

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Shaving Technique: Buff It Up

No, this is about shaving, not buffing your shoes!
Because of my easily-nicked, sensitive skin, I prefer to shave with moderately-mild-shaving razors such as the Merkur 33C Classic or the Lord L.6 razor head (which comes as part of their LP1822L razor). A key design characteristic of these razors is the negative blade exposure. This means that the blade edge is below the shave plane of the razor head, safely within the protective enclosure formed by the razor top cap and safety bar.

The good news about razor heads with a negative blade exposure is that they can offer a low-irritation shave and low tendency to nick. The bad news is that it is much more challenging to get the perfect baby-smooth shave.

A typical excellent shave for me is nearly baby smooth and has just the slightest sensation of stubble when pressing very firmly against the skin and rubbing against the grain.

I have found that with these mild razors, the safest and shortest path to an excellent shave is using buffing strokes for all three passes: with grain, across grain, and against grain. If I'm really pressed for time, the buffing stroke also lets me optimize closeness when limited to a single pass.

I think buffing strokes, when properly executed, are safest for a couple of reasons:

  • They tend to be short in length
  • Buffing strokes are reciprocating; that is, they are a cut-and-return, back-and-forth stroke. The return part of the movement, the non-cutting, return stroke, if done with the razor against the skin, drags some water-laden shave soap with it. This allows the forward movement of the buffing stroke, the one that does the cutting, to glide more smoothly, comfortably, and safely.
To repeat a point from the second bullet above: this buffing technique keeps the razor against skin for the entire duration of a series of buffing strokes.

Therefore, the more positive the blade exposure of the razor you are using, the more careful you should be with this buffing technique until you understand its nuances on your face with your chosen razor.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: the Gillette Wilkinson Sword Blade

This is the thirteenth of my weekly shave summaries. This week, I'm using a Indian-made (as it says on the box) Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade. This blade is, according to some Internet sellers, platinum coated; the packaging itself doesn't specify coating so I'm skeptical about that. They come single wrapped and in cardboard boxes of five individually-wrapped blades.


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

Now called Grandad's Shave Soap
-- slick 'n creamy, for sensitive skin.
[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:
The Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade is one of those that works for me. Sufficiently sharp yet comfortable on sensitive skin, they are also a sufficiently durable blade. At the best price on ebay, they seem like a very good value if one is willing to wait for them to arrive.

Regarding shaving technique, the Merkur 33C razor used with buffing strokes on all passes may yield the closest shave that this razor can offer, while still keeping the risk of blood loss very low.

Merkur 33C Classic
Sunday:
With the Merkur 33 razor, the first pass was without incident. The perilous second pass nicked my mid neck, and on both passes I could feel the blade cutting -- pulling just a bit -- but was sharp enough. For the third pass I put the blade in my low-angle, modified Chinese razor. This pass was a little fussy, and opened up about four weepers, which each got a touch of styptic. The overall shave was moderately close but not nearly record breaking. Irritation was low. After a couple of cool-water rinses, I washed with Noxzema, and that was it.

Monday:
Lord L.6 razor head with the Maggard
MR3B handle, which is currently offered
only in all chrome, identified as the MR3.
With the Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade in the Lord L.6 head and a heavy, fat handle, I did a non-fussy three-pass shave. First pass uneventful. Second cross-grain pass a challenge as well, with a slight weeper on my lower neck and two minor cuts under my jaw line while making j-hooking strokes. Third pass was uneventful. A touch of styptic handled my shaving errors. A cool-water rinse washed away most of the residual styptic, and a Noxzema wash capped the shave. Typically close, very comfortable with little post-shave irritation. After repeated appreciation of the shave by rubbing with my hand, three hours after the shave I applied some after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin E.

Tuesday:
Merkur 15C open-comb razor.
Today was a fussy shave by any definition. Four passes, first and third with the Merkur 15C open comb, second pass with the Merkur 33C, and final pass with the modified ReMei (low blade angle) -- and all using the same Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade of the week. A comfortable shave, but for all the trouble of switching blades, not significantly closer than a normal three-pass shave with the 33C. Three weepers, all opened using the 15C razor, disappeared with cool-water rinses. Finished off the shave with a Noxzema wash and Gillette balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Wednesday:
Two passes using the Merkur 33 and a final, somewhat fussy pass with the modified (low blade angle) Re,Mei razor -- all, of course, with the Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade of the week. Used Arko shave stick this morning. Three weepers disappeared after the water rinse and the Noxzema wash. Again finished the shave with a balm, this time Neutrogena brand, supplemented by vitamin-E oil. No irritation after the shave, but only average closeness -- a good shave, not great.

Thursday:
A basic three-pass shave with the 33 razor and Grandad's soap provided a good shave. No nicks, no weepers. After the usual cool-water rinse, I finished with a Noxzema wash and some Gillette gel supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Friday:
Same shave process and equipment as yesterday but with a third pass that was mostly buffing. One tiny weeper on my chin and the slightest nick on my upper lip disappeared quickly with styptic. The usual rinse and Noxzema wash was followed by Nivea balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. A very good shave due, largely I think, to the buffing of the third pass.

Saturday:
Closing this week's shaves with the same gear I've used for the past two: the Merkur 33 razor, Grandad's shave soap, and cool-water, minimalist shave prep. Three passes using mostly buffing strokes for each gave a good shave -- on par with the past few days, which is as good as I believe I can get with the Merkur 33 razor. I re-opened the nick on my upper lip from yesterday and had one low-neck weeper, but both of these disappeared with cool-water rinses. Finished the shave with a Noxzema-and-water wash, during which I did a bit of final buffing. Really good shave!

For next week I'm shaving with a German-made Wilkinson Sword blade (in contrast to this week's Indian-made Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade).

Happy shaving!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Changing of the Guard

In my life, it has been a week for transitions. My mother's brother, my Uncle Gordie, died this week, and my wife's mother too.

Many of us get to an age where we witness the older generation passing on. I have certainly reached that time. At Gordie's gathering (for lack of a better term) at the funeral home, I re-connected with relatives whom I rarely see anymore outside of funerals, and I met others for the first time, who, over the years, were born and grew up beyond my view.

Neither my mother in law nor my uncle were completely well recently, and though their passing wasn't anticipated so soon, we knew it was drawing closer (isn't it for all of us?). Yet the sudden finality of death often seems to arrive with a quiet impact.

We remember those who are now gone from us. At the funeral home, the digital photo show on a flatscreen and the hard-copy photos on a cork board contained images of others who have passed as well. Some, like my father and other uncles who have passed, were brought back to us in those images frozen in a past time. There were old hunting-trip photos and many pics taken at parties during those by-gone years.

There was even one black-and-white photo from 1948 -- before my parents had even met -- a group photo at a birthday party. What was noteworthy about this pic was not just the healthy youth and joy of people that I had only known when they were old. No, in this particular image, I was apparently the only one who noticed a young man and woman with serious expressions, who were on opposite sides of the eight-by-ten, landscape-orientation photo. Unlike almost everyone else in the picture, who were looking into the camera, intent on making a good photograph, these two appeared to be caught making eye contact with each other, a connection across a room at the instant the camera shutter blinked open. What, if anything, did that exchanged look mean? It will remain a mystery forever because the young man in the photo is now an old man, who suffers from a failing memory inside a crumbling body. And the woman is unidentified -- unknown to all who were asked about her.

The players are constantly changing in the world, but the game goes on. It is ineluctable that our passing will come too, but in the mean time, we stop and remember those who worked, parented, partied, and even made eye contact across a room in a long-distant celebration -- the potential prelude to a more personal interaction. Ah, the sweet stuff of life as it rolls unceasingly forward; always familiar yet always changing.

The changing of the guard often comes with ceremony. And ceremony brings its own customs -- often uniforms or procedures. This usually involves looking good -- and that usually involves . . .

a good shave.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Does Your Face Toughen Over Time, Adjusting to DE Shaving?

I have read in several places where DE shavers have suggested that one's face toughens up -- that is, adjusts -- to the process of DE shaving.

This begs the question: is this urban myth, and what is really happening is that one is tuning the process to adjust to one's face?

I think the answer to the preceding question is yes. I think that one's face doesn't adjust. I can sense no calluses, which is the only way I know that skin becomes more abrasion resistant.

Of course, there's no way for me to rewind the clock and devise some kind of experiment to test this, comparing early-shaves skin sensitivity to many-shaves-under-the-belt skin sensitivity.

In my case, I would attribute my more comfortable, less irritating shaves of late as compared to my early DE shaves to the following factors:

  • Higher quality shave soap
  • Cool-water beard preparation (I long ago abandoned warm-water shaving prep)
  • Better matching of razor and blade combinations to my beard and skin requirements
  • Better shaving stroke choices during each pass -- including oblique vs. direct strokes, stroke direction, and straight vs. j-hooking strokes
  • Better razor-pressure modulation
What do you think? What's your experience?

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Very Aggressive Razor for Sensitive Skin?

In a comment to my article on debunking YMMV, a reader, shawnsel, suggested that some very aggressive razor designs such as the Muhle R41 can provide a very close, low-irritation shave.

I have not had the opportunity to experience this myself because I don't have such a razor in my stable. Though I recall that the Re,Mei razor, my trash-or-treasure razor, when new had a very aggressive set up with a huge blade exposure, large blade gap, and large reveal. It was such an aggressive design, however, that I was reluctant to use it fearing significant nicks and cuts; I actually described it in one review as "a straight razor masquerading as a safety razor."

In modifying that razor, by moving the safety bars up toward the blade, it simultaneously reduced the exposure, gap, and angle of the blade. Not only did the reduced exposure and gap, making its shaving character more mild, the smaller blade angle allowed it to provide a very low-irritation shave in addition to reducing its tendency to bite.

So for those of you with sensitive skin that is easily irritated, a razor with a large blade exposure (that is, with the blade edge up above the shave plane formed by the top cap and safety bar) can be used with the handle at a larger angle to the face. This handle-away shaving angle makes the blade more parallel to the skin, which is another way of saying it reduces the effective blade angle of the razor. (It also tends to lift the safety bar off the skin, thus reducing the safety-razor protection, and making the experience closer to a straight-razor risk.)

Because a small blade angle is a less-scraping and more-slicing orientation, it tends to be low on skin irritation. So if you have skin easily irritated and can manage the instrument to shave and not cut, the outcome can be a fine shave. It seems to me that the same persons who find this approach appealing, would also be good candidates for using a straight razor. (I am not included in this group.)

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Focus

As a casual fan of the Detroit Lions American Football team in the National Football League, I've been following this season with some interest. They have talent and a new head coach -- all of which will allow them to make a run at the playoffs for the first time in a long time. They are currently at the playoff threshold, and how they perform in the next two games will determine if they are in at all, and if so, if they have home-field advantage in any of their playoff games.

Yet the real issue is their focus. The media folk keep asking about players' and coach's feelings regarding making the playoffs as that possibility becomes increasingly likely, and the coach keeps refusing to address those questions, saying that you can't focus on two things at once. His point is that the more you focus on outcome instead of the task immediately at hand, the less likely it is that the desired outcome will actually occur.

As a competitive tennis player, I agree with the Lions' coach because I wrestle with this issue often when I play a tennis match. When my focus is to win the match I tend to play more aggressively. This leads to more unforced errors, which too often leads to defeat, not victory. Yet when I focus on tactics -- specifically on the placement of each shot, and then, when I get the desired reply, hitting a more aggressive, forcing shot, and then doing it again if necessary -- this often leads to victory.

I even think that this is true with my DE shaving. When I focus on the outcome of a baby-smooth shave, I tend to be less careful as I make my passes and my strokes. Yet when I am completely in the moment and focus on making each stroke a good one, the outcome improves. I get fewer weepers and a closer shave.

Without a doubt his issue of focus applies to almost every endeavor including life itself. Tend to process of achieving your goal, and achievement of the goal becomes more likely. Take a shortcut or ignore the prerequisites, and the goal is too often outside our reach.

Happy shaving!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Beautify the World: Promote Shaving

Every where I look, men are out in public, in the media, attending functions looking unshaven and scruffy. Worse perhaps are the sports stars, who are not only not shaving, they are growing these long, unkempt, mountain-man beards.

It has become fashionable to look like a bum, a homeless person, or the leader of an obscure religious sect.

I was particularly struck by this as I watched the local pre-football-game TV shows yesterday. Local on-air media types were sporting all forms of facial hair -- and mostly they didn't look good. In fact, some of them looked down right awful.

I guess it's a fashion trend. They come and go, and I can't wait for this one to pass. However, it's interesting to me that even the perceptions of young women have been altered. I heard a young woman say that she likes facial hair, which is quite a turn around from most of my adult life, when women generally preferred the clean-shaven look -- and feel.

This is bad for the beautification of America and the world. If the women don't complain, and commonly-available shaving gear is very expensive and uncomfortable to use, this could go on for a long time.

So let's get proactive. Mention to your unshaven buddies how much better they look after a shave. Chat up the ladies; sell the clean-shaven look. Keep planting those seeds, and maybe we can reverse the trend.

Do your part to beautify the world.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Wrong Way to Start DE Shaving -- and Wise Old Sayings

Here is a cautionary tale that exemplifies why it's a good idea to learn something about double-edge (DE) shaving before just giving it a go. It's also a tale that illustrates the wisdom of not going too far to influence the behavior of others; let them find their own way.


A friend of mine one day got the idea to quit the multi-blade gizmos and go old school. This was a good thing.
A vintage Pomco-brand slant-bar razor.

However, because he had a tough, multi-directional beard and sensitive skin, he got the idea from somewhere that he should shave with a vintage slant-bar razor (which is a very aggressive design). So he bought the razor and a single brand of blades, foamed up with his customary canned goo, and proceeded to scrape, nick, and cut his way to such a brutal shave that he put the slant razor away and didn't give DE shaving another thought for years!

Then recently, I loaned him a very mild shaving butterfly-opening razor, a Weishi 9306. I advised him that this razor was as unassertive as his slant bar was aggressive. I warned him that this razor was to merely learn not to fear the process and to develop some skill with the instrument. I told him that the ideal razor for him was going to be one more capable than the Weishi but less than his slant razor. I even wrote out an email advising him on both shaving technique and the use of the sample of shaving soap that I provided.

He wasn't listening; he wasn't reading . . . at all.

Instead of reading my recommendations, he ignored them. He didn't use the shave soap I provided. He didn't even give any indication that he understood that the Weishi razor was about as mild a razor as one could find, and was one that was merely, for him, a counterpoint to his slant razor. So on a day when he was rushed for work, he tried a quick shave with the Weishi, then later remarked that he didn't get as close a shave as he would have thought.

Duh. Ultra-mild razor. Poor awareness of the proper razor angle. No patience to learn proper technique. Didn't listen. Didn't read. Limited time. All this adds up to poor outcome.

That old saying applies to this situation: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. He was still hopelessly lost in the fog of the unknown (another saying comes to mind: don't cast your pearls before swine). There is also yet another applicable saying: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I tried to help, but it was a waste of time and other resources. I was in the hell of high disappointment and frustration. If he was the horse, what was I? The horse's backside?

I guess we all have to find our own way, despite the best intentions of others. I probably should not have interfered. He wasn't sufficiently motivated, and I wasn't willing to fully spoon feed him the necessary technique and gear by getting him a more ideal more-mid-capable first razor for his beard and skin such as the Lord LP1822L (a.k.a. the L.6).

All I accomplished was to waste my time, my money for shipping the trial gear to his house, my precious shave soap, and my energy that I put into the entire endeavor. And who knows when I'll get back the loaner Weishi razor?

I should have known better. Now I do. The final old saying that applies to me is this: once burned, twice shy.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: The Voskhod Blade

This is the twelfth of my weekly shave summaries. This week, I'm using a Russian-made Voskhod blade. This blade is chromium and Teflon coated per the company's web site. They come double wrapped as shown below.

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

Now called Grandad's Shave Soap
-- slick 'n creamy, for sensitive skin.
[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:
The Voskhod blade gives a comfortable, low-irritation shave, is sharp enough to handle my moderately-tough beard, and durable enough to last an entire week. At the right price, this blade would be another that could find its way into my high-quantity inventory and become a regular in my blade rotation.

Occasional shaves with a low-blade-angle razor such as my modified Re,Mei on Saturday also suggest that blade angle is a significant design factor influencing harshness and the resulting post-shave irritation.

Sunday:
Using the Merkur 33 razor, the first pass was uneventful, with none of the minor tugging that I felt last week with the Merkur Super blade. Second pass also uneventful. Third non-fussy pass opened three small weepers, one on my chin and two on my upper lip. However, shave was pretty close for such a non-fussy shave and there was no irritation. The maiden shave with this blade led me to want to order more. Will take a breath and wait until the end of the week to evaluate blade durability. Touch of styptic on the upper-lip weepers, followed by the Noxzema-and-water wash, and Gillette after-shave balm for sensitive skin supplemented with vitamin-E oil.
Merkur 33C Classic

Monday:
A repeat of yesterday's shave and with similar results. A close shave everywhere -- more close than usual under my jaw line. No irritation and a single weeper, which  was probably re-opened from yesterday and got a touch of styptic. The shave was finished off with a Noxzema-and-water wash, and a splash of tea-tree after-shave soother.


Tuesday:
Unwrapped Arko shave stick and the
container in which I store it.
Today the primary variable was the shave soap using Arko shave stick instead of Grandad's for sensitive skin. With the Voskhod blade in the Merkur 33 once again, a three-pass shave with just a bit of fussing again yielded a great shave. The Arko is a great shave stick, but my skin felt just a touch dry after the water rinse and Noxzema wash. So I did apply a bit of after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Wednesday:
Today was the Voskhod blade and the Merkur 33 razor but back to my Grandad's shave soap. I took three passes plus a fussy extra 3/4 pass and got a very close shave with no irritation beyond a two weepers and a trivial cut on my chin, all of which got a touch of styptic and disappeared. After that it was the usual water rinse and Noxzema wash. Because of the low irritation, I simply applied Aveeno daily-moisturizing lotion to my face and neck as a moisturizer and protectant.

Lord L.6 razor head with the Maggard
MR3B handle, which is currently offered
only in all chrome, identified as the MR3.
Thursday:
Today the Voskhod blade was in the Lord L.6 razor head with the Maggard "big boy" fat-and-heavy handle, again using Grandad's shave soap. Two normal passes with a fussy third gave another very good shave but with several weepers that got a touch of styptic. Then a Noxzema wash and some face moisturizer with sunscreen finished the shave. The Lord razor made perhaps the slightest bit of difference giving an ever-so-slightly closer shave but with an additional weeper or two.

Friday:
Using the Voskhod blade, of course, I did two passes with the Merkur 33 and the final fussy pass with the Gillette Slim Adjustable set on 1. The shave was not baby smooth everywhere, but was a bit closer to that aspect of the ideal shave -- especially on my cheeks, which were pretty much baby smooth. There were several pin-point weepers that disappeared after the cool-water rinses and the Noxzema wash. There was also noticeable post-shave irritation (slight burn), which was highlighted by the Noxzema, but then quickly disappeared. I finished the shave with Gillette lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Overall in terms of closeness, I don't think I can do much better, but the weepers can improve and the irritation reduced.

Saturday:
Again today -- the final shave of this Voskhod week -- the first two passes were with the 33 razor, and the final pass was with my modified low-angle trash-or-treasure razor. A single third-pass weeper on my upper lip got a touch of styptic. The shave wasn't an improvement over Friday's shave in terms of closeness, but the post-shave irritation was lower. I finished the shave with only a Noxzema-and-water wash.

For next week I'm shaving with a made-in-India Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade.

Happy shaving!

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Finishing Razor for a Bloodless Baby-Smooth Shave?

My shaving reality is that using my favorite razor, the Merkur 33C, and one of the better-matched blades for my face and beard, in three passes along with some extra fussing I can get near to a baby-smooth shave. But there is a cost.

To get my best shave with the 33, which has a negative blade exposure*, I probably have to use a bit more pressure and lots of extra strokes after the second pass to get that truly remarkable shave. The typical cost of my closest shaves is a few weepers. It would be really great if I could get as close or closer without any blood shed at all.

A major contributing factor to this cost of a remarkable shave is my particular beard and skin. However, because it's much easier to change my shaving gear than my face, the logical direction to look is how I can adjust my shaving gear or process to address this close-shave-but-weepers challenge.

So this brings me back so a solution that is similar to an idea that has been discussed before. The old idea was a specialized razor for each pass, which I first read about on BruceOnShaving.com. However, I don't think this different-razor-for-each-pass approach is necessary in my experience. The 33 is virtually perfect except that it doesn't get quite close enough for the ideal baby-smooth finish. The solution might be to find a razor with a less-negative blade exposure -- perhaps neutral or just slightly positive -- but still has a rather mild shaving character for just the final pass.

A couple of my razors come to mind as possible finishing razors. One is the trash-or-treasure razor, the Chinese Re,Mei, which I modified to have a very small blade angle (~26 degrees), but which has a very large (~2.3 mm) blade gap, and a slightly-positive blade exposure. Another possibility is my vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable, which, when set on one, has a smaller (~1.4 mm) blade gap but a slightly positive blade exposure and a blade angle of about 31 degrees. The Re,Mei razor is more likely to nip because of its huge blade gap, positive blade exposure, and small blade angle (which is more slicing). However, its general irritation factor would be reduced due to the small blade angle. The Gillette, on the other hand, is less likely to bite due to the smaller blade gap, but might be a bit more irritating because of the slightly-larger blade angle, which tends to scrape a bit more.

After pondering this for a minute, I will try the Gillette first for a few days. Then give the Re,Mei a try. I'll let you know the outcomes.

Happy shaving!

* Blade exposure is the design aspect of a DE razor that determines whether and how much the blade is protected within the cove formed by the razor's top cap and safety bar. If the blade edge is within the cove, under the shave plane formed by the top cap and safety bar, the blade exposure is negative. If the blade edge is above the shave plane, outside the protective cove of the safety bar and top cap, the exposure is said to be positive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Shave Soap Characteristics

I give a fair amount of thought and attention to shave soap because I make my own. There are two separate questions that a shaving-soap maker might ask:

  1. What makes a shaving soap great?
  2. What makes users think a shaving soap is great?
These questions seem to be the same, but they're not. In the same way that some DE users think that razor weight and balance are significant (and generally they are not; they are merely characteristics of which users are aware, and to which they attribute importance -- even though characteristics of blade angle, blade exposure, and blade gap are far more important), there are obvious characteristics of shave soap that are readily perceivable, but are less important to the actual shave-facilitation functioning of the soap during the shave.

Slickness - How well the soap allows the razor to glide over skin is a primary characteristic of great shave soap. Another term for slickness might be glide.

Creaminess - The richness, the viscosity of the lather is another quality of a great shave soap. The opposite of this quality would be thinner and more watery.

Foam stiffness - A shave lather that is creamy but not stiff is thin. A great shave soap doesn't have to have much foam stiffness, which, I believe, is referred to by some as cushion. Actually, the concept of cushion is an illusion; the act of shaving is in no way similar to pole vaulting over a high bar. However, a stiff, not-runny lather is psychologically reassuring, and a quality that makes us think a shaving soap is good.

Reuseability - This is a trait that thrifty shavers might appreciate. Reusability is the degree to which a soap -- once converted to lather -- can be dried and reused for another shave. Those persons who rinse the stubble and residual lather off their face with clean water between passes are prime candidates for reusing lather, because the lather in their bowl and brush tends to remain uncontaminated. Therefore after the shave, the clean lather can be squeezed out of the brush and, with a finger, wiped out of the bowl and returned to the soap puck to dry and be re-used rather than rinsed down the drain. Some soaps (such as Arko shave stick in my experience) cannot be reused in this way because they tend to allow microbial growth when the water content of the soap gets too high.

Tendency to dry skin - A bit of a moisturizing quality in the shave soap will offset the natural tendency of soap (and the act of shaving) to remove natural oils from the skin. So those with dry skin or in cooler climes that require indoor heating will want a shave soap that doesn't promote dry skin.

Ease of lathering - An easy-to-lather soap is another characteristic that makes users think a shave soap is great. In fact, some top-drawer creamy, moisturizing shave soaps may need a bit of extra attention to make lather, but it is the creamy, non-drying qualities -- the very qualities that contribute to make a shave soap great -- that often drive the need for a bit more attention to lathering.

Non irritability, non toxicity - Some skin is sensitive to certain soap additives or fragrances. Pure soap and natural, skin-friendly moisturizers tend to minimize the degree to which a soap irritates or might cause long-term harm.

It was the desire to make the perfect shave soap that led me to start making my own shave soap. Every month I have been circling in on the perfect balance of these qualities. I'll let you know when I get there.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Frugal Shaver: Maximizing Effective Blade Life

It is possible to optimize the durability and cutting performance of a DE blade. Below are some do-s and don't-s to maximize the useful life of a DE razor blade.

Don't:

  • Don't palm strop, arm strop, or strop in any way a coated blade. The coatings are thin and relatively vulnerable, and any abrading against the blade edge will prematurely wear away the coating.
  • For the same reasons as given in the preceding bullet, don't even wipe a coated blade clean or dry. The wiping is just another form of abrasion that will unnecessarily remove some of the coating from the blade. Some blades even have that proscription printed right on their wrapper: Do not wipe blade.
  • Though blades are made of stainless steel, which resists corrosion, the fragile blade edges are susceptible to oxidative reactions, so if you want your blades to last as long as possible, don't put your razor away with the blade wet. This begs the question of how to dry the blade, since the preceding bullets advise not wiping or stropping the blade if it is coated. This is answered in the do list below.
Do:
  • Do rinse the stubble, soap, and other contaminants off your blade after the shave.
  • Do dry the blade, but not by wiping or stropping if it is coated. My daily ritual includes removing the blade from the razor and putting the rinsed blade flat on a dry washcloth, which itself is flat on the bathroom counter. (I also use the washcloth as a surface for disassembly and reassembly of my three-piece razors.) I then take a square of toilet paper and lightly press it on the blade to dry the upper surface. I then turn the blade over onto a dry part of the cloth and use the same square of TP to press onto the second side of the blade to dry that. (I then use the TP square to dry the razor head prior to reinserting the blade for the next day's shave; see the following bullet.)
  • You may wipe or strop an uncoated blade without damaging it.
  • Do ensure that your razor is dry before you re-insert the used blade. This will not only help extend the life of each blade (assuming you use a given blade for more than one shave), but may in some cases -- though not all -- also help extend the life of your razor.
  • Do store the razor and blade in a space that is relatively dry, not humid.
  • As an alternative, some store their razor and blade submerged in a small quantity of mineral oil. This can work as well, but I choose not to do this because it can be messy and I don't want to have an open jar of mineral oil around that might get spilled.
Is it necessary to take this advice? No, if you simply rinse and shake out your razor, it should be fine -- especially if you periodically clean, dry, and lubricate the razor. As for the blades, they'll be fine too; you just might not get as many good shaves from a blade that isn't handled for optimal durability.

Happy shaving!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Beginner's Double-Edge Razor?

I don't strongly advocate the concept of a beginner's or a starter DE razor.

The whole idea behind this concept is that one is likely to cut one's self unless starting DE shaving with an instrument of rather mild shaving character. I think this works fine if a new DE shaver is rather insular and reluctant to read or learn anything before diving in and trying his luck with "old-school" shaving.

However, if a new DE shaver is open to finding and heeding the most basic shaving advice, I would then recommend not simply a mild-shaving razor, but rather finding a razor well suited to his beard and skin. Once the ball-park razor is found, he can then apply the following basic advice:

  1. Don't press the DE razor against the face while shaving. Feel as though you are shaving with no pressure of razor against skin.
  2. Find a blade that is likely to be suitable for your beard and skin. This will involve some trial and error, but not as much as some seem to suggest. If your skin is sensitive, you will be wise to use coated blades. If your beard is tough, a sharper blade will be best. And actually, it makes sense for all new DE shavers to begin with coated blades for greater comfort. Just those with tougher beards will want sharper blades such as Astra, Gillette, Personna, et al; while those with less-dense, less-wiry beards can go with blades that are not quite as sharp like Derby Extras among others.
  3. Shave initially with the grain of your beard, and keep the razor handle pointed in the direction of your razor strokes. This will keep the blade edge perpendicular to your shaving-stroke direction, which will minimize your risk for nicks and cuts while you become accustomed to DE technique.
  4. As your skill improves, add a second, cross-grain pass (that is, re-lather and shave) to get a closer shave. Eventually add a third pass that can be against grain, or, in very sensitive areas such as the upper lip, cross grain in the direction opposite to the second pass.
Ah, but how to find the razor that is in the ball park for your beard and face? Great question! To answer it I will refer you to a two-part article I wrote a while ago on this very subject (click here).

Happy shaving!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Perilous Second Pass

I never have any difficulty with first pass with grain. Though really my first pass is mostly with grain and partially across grain because my neck hair tends to grow in all directions. (I shave with upward strokes on my lower neck, downward strokes on my upper neck, and my mid-neck hair tends to grow laterally (side to side), which I've found is safest to shave on the first pass with either upward or downward strokes cross grain.)

It is in the second pass that weepers often tend to appear. This is usually due to the difficulty of shaving my thin, slightly-loose skin under my jaw and on my neck with lateral strokes. I have taken to making J-hook strokes on various areas of my neck during the second pass to help with this issue. As one might suggest, I also pull the skin taught with my non-razor hand as one might do when shaving with a straight razor.

Sometimes, though, my second-pass problems occur because of a careless, cavalier attitude fostered by the confidence-inspiring first pass. This on a rare occasion will even result in in minor cuts caused by a confident lack of attention.

On the third pass I am usually more focused, though I do sometimes get very minor pin-point weepers from shaving extremely closely, going for the baby-smooth shave.

But what to do? How can I improve the second pass?

Probably being more mindful and therefore more careful is a good place to start. But it's going to involve technique adjustments as well, because the problematic real estate from the jawline down has contours, hair grain, and skin characteristics that are just plain difficult to shave.

I have modified my technique to include oblique strokes -- mostly to reduce the effective width of the blade edge to better shave the concave surface of my neck as it transitions from under jaw to mid neck. Also purely lateral strokes just don't work; I have to shave in a slightly upward direction just to optimize the blade contact with beard in that transition area.

By the way, I have also tried various razors of different shaving character, and the Merkur 33, my favorite in general, also seems to perform as well as any on the second pass in my most challenging real estate.

Do you have any areas that are consistently challenging to shave?

Happy shaving?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weekly Shave Review: The Merkur Super Blade

This is the eleventh of my weekly shave summaries. This week, I'm finally using one of the sample platinum-coated Merkur Super blades that came with my Merkur razors. I had avoided the blade previously because they seemed to get mixed reviews and were high priced compared the the DE blades that I prefer. However, it is time to give the Merkur blade its day in the sun -- or, rather, it's week in the razor.
Now called Grandad's Shave Soap
-- slick 'n creamy, for sensitive skin.

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

[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.

Merkur 33C Classic
What I Learned this Week:
Despite a weak start, by the end of the week I found the Merkur Super blade to be adequately sharp and smooth. It's strange though that the shaves have gotten better as the week has gone on; I seem to be growing accustomed to the feel of the blade as it shaves, and the outcomes (such as Friday's and Saturday's shaves) have been as good as any. For the price, however, I can say that I won't be buying any of these blades. I can get as good a shave with blades significantly less expensive.

Sunday:
Three passes with a fussy final pass yielded slightly better than my typically-close shave when using the Merkur blade in my Merkur 33 razor. The blade gave unusually loud auditory feedback as it shaved, though it seemed to tug a little at the whiskers leading me to think that it wasn't quite as sharp out of the wrapper as some other blades. I also got a few more weepers than normal as I made that third fussy pass. Only two needed a touch of styptic, however, following my cool-water rinses and the Noxzema-and-water wash. The shave is pleasing to the hand with no significant irritation.

Monday:
Another use of the Merkur blade in the Merkur 33 razor gave a close shave that felt a bit irritated after the shave, rinse, and the wash with Noxzema. The shave was close because I used a very fussy third pass that was probably equivalent to taking a fourth. A couple of weepers disappeared without styptic or alum. After the Noxzema wash I used an inexpensive soothing balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil, which completely soothed the minor irritation, leaving a close shave that is appealing to the hand.

I actually took a second shave today in the afternoon to test my modified Ri,Mei razor paired with a used Astra blade (not this week's Merkur). The shave was encouraging enough to warrant more shaving with the Ri,Mei. I had minor irritation, which was more likely due to the second three-pass shave of the day -- that is, too many razor strokes -- rather than due to issues of specific razor or blade.

Ri,Mei razor, with stamped-steel baseplate.
Tuesday:
Today I took a spontaneous detour from the plan and put a new Personna red-label blade into my Ri,Mei razor to give it another go with a better blade. Overall it was a mild shave, reasonably close and comfortable. A fussy third pass created some weepers on my mid and upper neck that took some styptic. Otherwise it was a comfortable shave that finished with water rinse, Noxzema wash, and after-shave balm supplemented with drops of vitamin-E oil.


Wednesday:
Today I shaved with the Merkur blade in the Ri,Mei razor, which is more aggressive than the Merkur 33 but with a smaller blade angle. A non-fussy three-pass shave left me acceptably smooth and not irritated except for the five or so weepers, which after a cool-water rinse, got a styptic treatment. I followed this with a Noxzema-and-water wash, and after-shave lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Thursday:
Lord L.6 razor head with the Maggard
M3B handle, which isn't currently
available.
With the Merkur blade in the L.6 razor head, I took a two-pass shave, in which the Merkur blade tugged just a bit, but gave a completely acceptable shave. I created three weepers on my neck, where I got just a bit fussy trying to get a little closer on those areas where the highly-directional hair lays down and also grows in inconsistent directions over fairly thin, loose skin. After a Noxzema-and-water wash, the weepers got a touch of styptic, and then, after rinsing the styptic off, I applied balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Friday:
Back to the Merkur-blade, Merkur-razor (model 33) combination today, with Grandad's shave soap. Good three-pass shave that became excellent with touch up during the post-shave Noxzema-and-water wash. Styptic applied on four weepers, and the shave was topped off with Nivea balm supplemented by vitamin-E oil.

Saturday:
The final shave with the Merkur platinum-coated blade was in the Merkur 33 razor with minimalist cool-water prep and Grandad's shave soap. One of the better shaves of the week in that it was close with minimal weepers -- just one -- after three passes. No styptic, no alum. The cool-water rinse was followed by a Noxzema-and-water wash, and then Neutrogena after-shave balm supplemented with three drops of vitamin-E oil.

For next week I'm shaving with a Voskhod blade.

Happy shaving!