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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The SuperMax Titanium Blade

This is the nineteenth of my weekly shave summaries. This week is another blade previously reviewed: the SuperMax Titanium blade, which is manufactured in India and listed in some places as having a coating of titanium, in others a coating of PTFE, and still other sites as having both coatings. The packaging doesn't specify a coating.

My primary shave soap again this week is the first pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formula 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.]

The shave prep this week, unless otherwise specified, was a cool-water rinse only, followed by Grandad's shave soap lathered with a boar brush.

Merkur 33C Classic as it comes
from the factory.
What I Learned this Week:
The SuperMax Titanium blade is adequately sharp and comfortable for my beard and skin, respectively. This week it performed well in my Merkur 33C and Lord L.6 razor heads as well as in my Gillette Slim Adjustable razor.

A more important concept that has proved promising this week is the two-razor shave. A mild, face-friendly razor is used for the first two passes, and a more aggressive razor is used for the final, against-grain pass. I prefer my 33C for the initial passes and my Gillette Slim Adjustable for the final, finishing pass.

Sunday:
Again the normal baseline shave of the week with the 33 razor. Since my skin is still recovering from the harsh shaves last week, this week kicks off with a two-pass shave. It was a reasonable, fairly close shave, and not a weeper in sight. No irritation either. Only took some cool-water rinses after the shave before applying some Nivea after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. A good start to the week. Things are looking up.

Monday:
Pre-shave, my face was starting to feel normal again. So today I used the same blade and razor as yesterday to get the most face-friendly shave, keep the trend going. A cool-water rub preceded the non-fussy three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG). The outcome was pretty trouble free. A small, lone weeper on my chin disappeared without styptic or alum block. The shave was topped off with my usual cool-water rinse, Noxzema wash, and, today, with Neutrogena after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Today's shave, though not record-setting close, was a good, close shave with no irritation and no first-aid of any kind needed.

Tuesday: the 33C head on
the Maggard MR3B handle.
Tuesday:
Today of course using the same SuperMax blade, but this time I put the heavy MR3B handle on the 33C razor head. Similar three-pass shave process to yesterday, except I was a bit fussy on the final pass. A single neck weeper was the only blemish on an otherwise fine shave: close and comfortable. The shave ended with cool-water rinses followed only by Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

The Merkur 15C open-comb head
with the fat, heavy MR3B handle.
Wednesday:
Trying to do a better job with the open-comb 15C razor head than I did a week ago, I paired it with the MR3B handle and took a three-pass shave with fussiness around the jaw line and just under after the third pass. One larger and three pin-point weepers on my neck all disappeared with cool water rinses. No styptic, alum block, or Noxzema wash today. Finished off with Gillette lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Thursday:
Returning today to the 33C razor head on the MR3B big-boy handle, I took a three-pass shave with a fussy clean-up pass that amounted to almost a fourth. I slightly nicked my chin and had a couple of weepers that all took a touch of styptic. After rinsing that off and towel drying, I simply used Gillette after-shave gel supplemented with vitamin-E oil to complete the shave. Except for the minor blood shed, one of my better shaves: smooth, and comfortable this morning.

Friday:
The Gillette Slim is potentially back into my bathroom cabinet
to stay for use as a final-pass razor for the closest shave possible.

Two passes with the 33C head on the heavy Maggard handle, then a third-pass finish against the grain using the SuperMax blade transferred into the Gillette Slim. Started the third pass with the Slim set to one (out of nine), but that was not aggressive enough to be effective per the perfect-shave plan. I quickly advanced to a setting of three for the remainder of the third, AG pass, which had a bit of fussing, but less than usual. A few weepers (four) got a touch of styptic, but the shave was reasonably comfortable and unusually close in the problem areas around and under my chin and under the jaw line and upper neck. Cheeks not quite baby smooth, but overall, one of the closest shaves ever. After I rinsed off the styptic, I finished with a Noxzema wash followed by application of Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. In all, a superior shave. Tomorrow I will use a setting of four on the Slim for the the final pass.

Saturday:
Today's shave was as suggested in yesterday's summary: the Merkur 33C for the first two passes, and a final pass with the Gillette Slim set to four. In terms of smoothness, it was about the same as yesterday, which is very good. However, the more aggressive setting against my face requires a touch too much care, which I didn't quite provide. So this day's shave had, actually, not more weepers, but a couple of minor cuts that took a touch of styptic pencil. The shave was finished with cool-water rinses, a Noxzema wash, and Nivea after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Rating today's shave (each on 1-5 scale, 5 being best):     Closeness-4.4, Irritation-4, Wounds-3

For next week I'm returning to the Astra Superior Platinum blade.

Happy shaving!

Friday, January 30, 2015

New Path to the Perfect Shave?

Okay, I should admit that despite my best intentions and efforts, I never vanquished my desire for the consistently perfect shave: baby smooth, no blood, no irritation.
I'm seeking that new path to a perfect shave.

I've come close, but there are challenges on all fronts. It's difficult to be consistently baby smooth with no insult or injury to my skin.

Lately I've settled for fairly smooth, but not quite baby smooth all over, and in return I've lowered the irritation factor to near zero except for limited weepers.

Previously, I tried using aggressive razors such as a slant bar and limiting the passes to two. But this increased the risk of damage to skin both in terms of nicks/weepers and just general irritation on my ultra-sensitive skin.

I also tried the multiple-razor approach of BruceOnShaving.com, which is to use a different razor for each pass, each subsequent razor being less harsh, less risky to skin. For me, this approach was a colossal failure, increasing irritation with no better results than just the normal three passes with my favorite solitary razor.

So here's my latest brainstorm for consistently achieving the perfect shave: first two passes with a mild razor such as my preferred Merkur 33C, then a final pass with a razor more aggressive than my Merkur 33C -- such as the slant bar or my Gillette Slim. And my plan is to try exactly that.

The idea is that this will possibly accomplish two positive things:

  • Keep irritation, due to extra fussy passes, low by eliminating the extra fussiness.
  • The more aggressive razor in the final pass will shave closer, thus making it easier to get an uber-close shave
The risk is increased chances of irritation, weepers, and nicks due to the aggressiveness of the final-pass razor. So I'll have to be extra careful, really on my game.

That's the plan. First I'll give the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor a go as my finishing razor. Then perhaps I'll try some shaves using the slant for the final pass. I'll report on the outcomes as soon as possible.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's in the Cabinet, 29 Jan 2015

I've further simplified my at-hand razor options. I now keep mostly three-piece-razor components, not complete razors, in the bathroom cabinet.

Back row, left to right: vitamin-E oil, skin moisturizer with sun screen, tea-tree-oil after shave, used-blade bank underneath alum block, Nivea after-shave balm, Neutrogena after-shave balm, Gillette after-shave lotion, and Gillette after-shave gel. Center, left to right: Lord L.6 razor head, Merkur-brand traditional-sized chrome handle, Merkur 15C razor head, and the Merkur 33C razor head assembled with the Maggard MR3B handle. Not shown: thin styptic pencil, shave brushes, an assortment of new blades, and my shave soap and left-over lather, which are typically left out of the way on the counter along with the brush I used that day so both soap and brush will dry thoroughly before next use. The empty blade wrapper under the assembled razor is from the blade that I'm using in the current week.

I currently keep only two razor handles in the cabinet. One is the traditional-sized, chromed, nicely-knurled handle of the type included with both my Merkur 33C and 15C. The other is the fat, heavy, black-accented, two-piece Maggard MR3B handle.

I then pair either of the handles with the razor head of my choice according to the blade that I'm using and my whim on that day.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Closer Look at My Troubled Shaves with the 15C

[UPDATE 30 DEC 2015: The Merkur 15C is now my razor of choice much of the time. At the time I wrote this article, I had been regularly using the Merkur 33C Classic razor, which is a very mild shaver and tended to encourage me using too much pressure to get a close shave. Another contributing factor to my learning to really like the 15C is that I have abandoned my pursuit of the holy grail of shaving, which is the baby-smooth shave. On my face, if I get overall baby smooth, then blood shed is unavoidable. I have come to appreciate the shave that is smooth if I don't press too hard when evaluating the smoothness. With this appropriate-for-my-face approach of using the requisite light pressure and not over-striving for unrealistic smoothness, the 15C really shines for me.]

Last week, I abused my face with a couple of shaves with the Merkur 15C. Though some months ago I wrote an article nominating this razor, the 15C open comb, as the best overall compromise razor for every shaver, individuals can have issues with it. I, for one, have a hard time getting a weeper free shave (though that's true for me with almost any razor, when I take a very close shave).

Yet at face value, the 15C should be an extremely comfortable shaver. That is if one only looks at the blade exposure and blade angle as illustrated in the side-view photos below.

The blade exposure of this razor is negative: the blade edge is below the shave plane. This orientation is less likely to bite than similar razors with a positive blade exposure.

The blade angle of this razor is fairly mild, with 30 degrees (or less) being the norm for many face-friendly razors.

Part of the explanation for my occasionally rough shaves with the 15C such as that first one with it last week is that I occasionally lose my mind and do something not particularly smart. For example, I may do a two-pass shave with, then against, grain. Though I can safely do this with some other razor designs, by skipping the cross-grain pass with an open-comb razor in particular, one increases the likelihood of nicks and weepers as the rake of the hair angle when shaving against grain encourages the blade to ride down -- sometimes dangerously close -- toward the skin. Once my skin is nicked and generally irritated, no matter what I do the next day, it will likely be uncomfortable and far from perfect.

This is the view that can provoke thought. Despite the mild blade exposure and angle, when pressing the razor too firmly against skin or shaving against the grain on hairs too long and too firm, the blade can nip skin bulging slightly between the teeth. 

So here are the precautions I will take going forward with this razor:
  • I will always remove hair incrementally without short cuts -- meaning that I will always make a first pass with grain, second pass cross grain, and never do an against-grain pass before the third pass.
  • I will always keep in mind that this open-comb design, though relatively mild, still offers less protection than a similar set up with a safety bar such as the Merkur 33C Classic. This means light pressure and respect for the razor's threat.

Happy shaving!


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Another One Bites the Dust (Another Rimei Vendor, That Is)

The Rimei RM2003 and characteristic plastic case. I love the
tight angles in the stamped, plated baseplate!
In my seemingly interminable quest to acquire a well-made Rimei RM2003 razor (the good Rimei that many praise), I have failed again.

The sole RM2003 that I have received from an eBay seller was manufactured or packaged with defects: a bent safety bar on one side of the razor head and uneven safety-bar-flange lengths. However, because one safety bar was straight, I was at least able to do a trial shave with that safe side.

Bent safety bar.
The razor seemed to shave quite well, very well in fact. So much so that it further heightened my desire to have this razor both for my own use and as a gift for a couple of friends.

So the vendor acknowledges the razor defects from the photos I sent, and asks me, do I desire a refund or replacement? I tell him that I'd really like the razor if he can send one without flaws.

He says he will, then doesn't re-ship anything for a week.

During that week, I email him through the 'bay's internal messaging process asking has he shipped a razor, when, and expected arrival time.

No reply.

After about a week of waiting, I send a second message, this time more threatening: either reply with shipping info, or if I don't hear from you in three days, I'm requesting a refund from eBay.

Within 24 hours he replys: haven't shipped replacement razor yet; you want the razor or a refund? he asks.

Some customer service.  I message back that I want a refund.

I do have what I hope is another RM2003 on order from a DX.com (deals extreme) vendor. I say, I hope, because usually these sellers don't list the model number in their sales ads, which is very frustrating. They also often post images of other models or even different manufacturer's razors in the same ad (this one, in particular, did that).

Even if they ship the right razor, my big concern is whether any of these razors are manufactured to tolerances close enough to ensure that any come out of the factory without flaws. I'll let you know.

Happy shaving!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Another Open Letter to Razor Sellers (and Buyers)

I've just gone through a flurry of  reship and refund activity for several inexpensive razors sold on eBay and Amazon. They involved orders of gear from Chinese manufacturers and sellers.

With most of these sellers I would no longer do business because I have learned through trial and error that they provide misinformation in their product-sales advertisements. The most common misinformation is showing an image of a razor, and then shipping a razor that is not quite the same -- in a bad way.

So my first recommendation to sellers is photograph and display in your sales ad exactly what you sell. Then sell exactly what you've photographed.

Don't assume that because you provide a photo of a three-piece razor (usually a Rimei RM2003 or a twin) that because you deliver some other three-piece razor (such as a Rimei A2001 or some un-branded terribly-made junk) that you've fulfilled your part of the bargain.

Secondly, provide model numbers of the product you're selling. In the case of bona fide Rimei razors, they have model numbers. List them. Use them. Actually give the buyer a chance to really understand what product you're going to send.

If you don't have a model number, say so. Give the source of the razor, the manufacturer, if possible.

To summarize the first two recommendations: BE OPEN AND HONEST. Try it; it can feel good, and it can be good for business, resulting in fewer refunds, reshipments, and ticked-off customers.

Lastly for the sellers, and this is an oldie, but a goodie: provide close-up, side-view photos of the razor head with the blade installed. As I have written previously, this side-view close-up photo of razor head and blade can give a prospective buyer a real indication of the shaving character of the instrument.

And if you're a potential buyer of these mail-order razors, BEWARE. Sometimes you can't do anything but try a purchase to see what comes over, but be sure you buy through a sales outlet that has strong buyer-protection policies. If the razor is damaged, get a refund. If the razor isn't the quality suggested in the ad, get a refund.

The only way we can discourage unscrupulous, misleading vendors is to punish their dishonesty by hitting them where we can: in the wallet.

Happy shaving -- and buying, and selling!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

More on the Rimei Confusion

On Thursday, I posted an article about the bait-and-switch experience that I had ordering what I hoped would be a great value in a Chinese razor similar to the value received when getting a properly-made bona fide Rimei razor.

The razor I received was not as advertised. Specifically, it wasn't the razor pictured -- the high-quality Rimei razor: the one with the plastic case, the one I really desired. And though a razor arrived with the brand torn off of the top of the blister pack (no plastic case in sight), it appears it wasn't even a JunJie brand as described. If one reads the small print on the bottom front of the blister pack, it seems to be a cheaper model also produced by Rimei, the same company that makes the higher-quality razor shown in the bait-and-switch photos.

The front of the blister pack suggests affiliation with the Rimei brand.

The back of the blister pack also suggests that Rimei is the manufacturer, not JunJie. Note the web URL (www.rimei.com.cn) and the email address (rimei@vip.163.com). Also the model number, RM:A2001, is prominent.

Apparently Rimei makes at least three models of three-piece DE razors. The one I hoped to get was the one pictured below, the RM2003, which I actually DID receive from an eBay seller (though defective -- a defect-free replacement has been promised), who charged about $6.

One of the photos from the bait-and-switch JunJie-razor ad on eBay. This is actually a photo of a higher-quality Rimei razor, model RM2003, which can be purchased for about $6 from another eBay seller at the time of this writing or for about $4 on dx.com.

The Rimei three-piece razor that comes in a cardboard-backed blister pack as pictured in the top two photos is the model RM:A2001 or just A2001. There is also a metal-and-plastic-handled model A2019, with which I have no direct experience. My exposure to the A2001, however, suggests it is a much lower-quality product than the RM2003, which is described below. The Rimei A2001 has thinner, bumpy plating on the handle and top cap. The baseplate, though also stamped steel, never appears to be plated, which may make it susceptible to rusting if one leaves it wet. Worse, this baseplate has gentle curves that make the safety bars appear more like wings than the usual safety bars of a Gillette Tech. Further, every razor of this type has required adjustments (bending) of the baseplate before it would be shave worthy.

The following is a photo that is often representing the Rimei A2001 razor (and perhaps other similar knock offs that may even be of even lower quality:

The silver-toned razor often means the Rimei A2001 model, or sometimes an even lower quality. Note the RiMei brand on the blade. Looks nice: note the sharp, precise bends in the baseplate; but looks can be misrepresented....
In reality, the Rimei A2001 razor really looks like this:

This is the first silver-toned Ri,Mei razor I bought. Doesn't look that bad from this angle. However, check out the side view of the razor head with a blade installed, below.

Yikes! This is what the Ri,Mei razor, model A2001, looked like fresh out of the bubble pack after I installed a blade! Shave with that? No thanks. No cleanly-stamped, precise corners in that baseplate!

All that said, the Rimei model RM2003 is a keeper and a good razor, if you can acquire one without defects. (The only one I've received had a defective baseplate with a slightly bent safety bar and uneven-length flanges on the respective safety bars; only the bent safety bar was a show stopper. But I am hoping to get a defect free replacement.). However, the good side of this razor actually shaves quite well.

Unlike the bubble-packed Rimei A2001, the RM2003 comes in an attractive black cardboard box. Within that is the familiar clear-and-blue plastic box with small in-built mirror, a Rimei blade, and the razor itself. By the way, this RM2003 is often advertised as stainless steel, but it is not; it is chrome plated.

Unlike the A2001, the top cap of the RM2003 has distinguishing tabs on the ends, and though the baseplate is made of stamped, chromed steel, the stamping is typically of higher quality with sharply-angled, precise bends and a mild shaving character.

The Rimei RM2003 doesn't come in a blister pack. It comes in this black cardboard box.

This was the good side of my RM2003, the edge that was shave worthy, unbent.

Though the safety-bar flanges are of unequal lengths (the one on the left is much shorter), the superior quality of the stamping on the RM2003, immediately above, as compared to the A2001, far above, is obvious.
The better Rimei, the RM2003, is a razor to acquire; there may not be a better value in the world -- that is, if you can find one that is properly made. The A2001, on the other hand, is not worth the time to order one -- unless the ones I've received are somehow counterfeit. (In fact I have ordered two; both were for razor-modification experiments.)

Sources that will likely not pull a bait-and-switch scam and through which the Rimei RM2003 razor is likely available are listed below, but I can provide no guarantees to assure you that the razors will be the correct model or defect free (buyer beware; perform your due diligence; and be prepared to negotiate for refund or replacement!):

http://www.dx.com/p/rimei-stainless-steel-double-edge-blade-razor-silver-116281#.VMQ8FEfF_3M
or
http://www.ebay.com/itm/RIMEI-Stainless-Steel-Double-Edge-Blade-High-Quality-Razor-/281470550889?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4188f3c369

Happy shaving!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The Dorco ST-301 Blade, the Merkur 15C and other Misadventures

This is the eighteenth of my weekly shave summaries. This week is another blade previously reviewed: the Dorco ST-301 blade, which is made in Korea.

My primary shave soap again this week is the first pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formula 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.]

The shave prep this week, unless otherwise specified, was a cool-water face wash using a mild bath soap that has been superfatted with some additional fatty acids such as olive oil or shea butter.

Merkur 33C Classic
What I Learned this Week:
This has been a shave week to forget! Ugh!

Starting with a more irritating shave from the Dorco ST-301 blade in my Merkur 33 than I had anticipated based on previous experience, the week really went into the dumper when I put this blade into my Merkur open-comb razor (the 15C) for two days. This blade-razor combination really did some damage to my skin. Then I put the 301 into my Lord L.6 razor head, which was still a bit too aggressive for my beat-up face. Finishing the week on Saturday with my one-good-edge Rimei RM2003 razor (to be soon replaced by the seller with a defect-free razor, I hope), I ended the week with the residual irritation and weepers starting to calm down.

This blade wasn't as good this week as I remembered. I went to my last ST-301 review, and I liked it much better then. Actually, the shaves with last week's Lord Platinum Class blade were better, which I never thought I'd be writing. Perhaps a bad blade this week?

I'm going to write a separate article about the 15C open-comb razor, which has always been not aggressive in its design, yet always manages to generate more irritation and weepers than my favored razor. It is a paradox that I'll soon explore soon in this blog.

For now, the Dorco blade is on double-secret probation, and when it next assumes front and center in my rotation, I'm going to approach its use with extreme care and face-friendly razors.

Sunday:
Baseline shave of the week with the 33 razor. Two passes, but the second was so fussy that it was basically a third. A moderately-close shave, with some weepers. Only cool-water rinses after the shave before applying some Nivea after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Monday:
Second shave with the ST-301 blade in the 33 Classic. A fussy shave that was disappointing with the several weepers in its wake. Cool-water rinses followed up with styptic touch up, then a cool-water wash with Noxzema. Finished the shave with much-needed Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil

Tuesday:
Today I used warm, body-temperature water for the shave and initial wash with olive-oil superfatted bath soap. Same hardware as yesterday, taking two passes -- the second being a bit fussy. Re-opened some weepers from yesterday. :-(  Warm water rinse, then a Noxzema wash followed by a touch of styptic on the three weepers. Finished with Gillette lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Moderately close shave. The blade felt a little harsh today on my skin, but didn't pull whiskers. Might be just some residual tenderness from yesterday's rather rough shave.

Wednesday:
Merkur 15C open-comb razor.

Today, due to someone liking my Amazon review of the Merkur open-comb 15C razor and the resulting email in my inbox, I was inspired to give this razor a go for this morning's shave. Again today the blade felt harsh on my face but didn't pull. Two passes, the second being against grain but then fussy too, left me not quite satisfied. After the rinse and Noxzema wash, I left the Noxzema on and did a third three-quarter pass, which left me satisfied with the closeness of the shave.

Despite being a fairly mild shaver, the 15C open-comb razor allows me to feel the blade slightly more than my favorite 33C. This makes the potential for weepers a bit higher, and today I had two. After a touch of styptic, these disappeared, and then I used some after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil to complete the shave.

Thursday:
Used the 15C razor like yesterday with the fifth-use Dorco ST-301 blade. The ST-301 in the 15C doesn't work well for me -- at least  not this week. Not only is it more difficult to get as close a shave as with the 33C razor, the 15C open comb also seems to create more weepers. This morning I took a fairly careful three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG) and had to use the alum block, then styptic on the weepers that didn't close with just alum. Then I used witch hazel, then another touch of styptic, then a cool water rinse to remove any residual alum and styptic (if these are present when washing with Noxzema, a gritty precipitate forms), then a Noxzema wash. Finally after a few minutes, I returned to the bathroom to apply an after-shave lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Friday:
A close shave today with the Dorco blade in my Lord L.6 razor head. Minimalist beard prep and three passes (WG, XG, AG) left several weepers -- likely due to the 15C shaves of the prior two days. Cold water rinses, a Noxzema wash, touches of styptic, and some Gillette lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil finished the shave.
The Rimei RM2003 -- the good model,
if you can get a defect-free version.

Saturday:
With my face still healing from the Wednesday-through-Friday shaves of this week, I put the Dorco blade into my one-defective-safety-bar Rimei RM2003 razor and shaved with only the good edge. A two pass shave added no appreciable injury, but did inflame some not-yet-healed patches from earlier shaves this week. Cool water rinses were followed by some administration of styptic. After a bit of gear clean up, I rinsed off the styptic, had a Noxzema wash, towel dried, and applied some Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

My defective, one-sided Rimei RM2003 acquitted itself well, offering a close, well-behaved, reasonably comfortable shave despite my beat-up face from earlier shaves this week. I actually am looking forward to the arrival of my replacement, a non-defective version of this razor. I think it could truly be a keeper, a daily shaver.

For next week I'm returning to the SuperMax Titanium blade.

Happy shaving!

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Obsessive Shaver: Periodic Maintenance of Chrome-Plated Razors

Some users of chrome-plated razors such as my Merkur products 33C (Classic), 15C (open comb), and 37C (slant bar) develop problems with flaking chrome over time.

Admittedly a minority of chromed-razor users experience this problem, but it does exist. I have read that the Merkur customer support staff offers little solace to customers when this happens, blaming hard, calciferous water and not following Merkur's recommended maintenance steps.

Merkur recommends:

  • Cleaning with a soft nail brush or toothbrush the moving parts of the razor after each shave to thoroughly remove soap residue
  • Regularly (depending on how hard the water is) put the razor parts in a diluted decalcifying solution for 15 to 30 minutes (not more), removing the parts every few minutes (presumably to check if they are decalcified)

Here's what I now do because I'm a bit obsessive about care of my tools:
  • When I first get a razor, I actually wax it with a durable polymeric auto wax. (I use a brand that recommends its use only once per year on a car.) I then would re-wax the razor about once a year.
  • I actually disassemble my two- or three-piece razors after each shave, then....
  • I rinse the blade in water, and gently press (not wipe) the blade dry with a square of TP on top, a washcloth underneath; then I flip the blade and repeat
  • I rinse the razor parts, then dry thoroughly with the same TP square
  • Then I reassemble the clean and dry razor for the next shave

I believe that I will never have chrome-flaking problems following these steps. I also believe that my gentle care of my blades contributes to their trouble-free longevity; I easily get seven shaves from each blade (I shave every day), then replace the blade every Sunday morning to keep the bookkeeping simple.

However, if one is not as obsessive about tool maintenance as I am, one might follow these steps for relatively trouble-free razor life:
  • Wax a new razor with a durable auto wax when new and once a year thereafter.
  • Daily, rinse the razor clean in water, shake it out, also perhaps blow out as much moisture as possible, and then set out to dry in the open air.
  • When it's time to change the blade, thoroughly clean and dry the razor using a soft toothbrush or equivalent. Then insert the new blade.

Your thoughts?

Happy shaving!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shocker!! The $1.97 Razor is Rip-Off Junk!

Yesterday my $1.97 razor arrived from China. Okay, I know that I shouldn't expect much for $1.97, but the photos in the sales ad raised my hopes. The photos in the sales ad were a dead ringer for the Rimei razor I ordered some weeks back. Hmmmm. Well, I hoped that the seller wasn't a crook and would deliver the goods that he displayed.

So I kept my hopes up as I waited for the "Hot Men JunJie old style double Edge blade razor shaver sharp veneer Hair Razor" from the eBay seller, your365shop.

Unfortunately it was a scam, a visual lie. While I wasn't looking (because I'm in the U.S.A. and the seller is in China), the seller pulled a bait-and-switch ploy sending a different product than was photographed for the sales ad.

Below, I've shown the sales-ad photos along with similar photos of the product as delivered:

From the sales ad: Nice case, eh? Photo looks like a high-quality Rimei twin. (Turns out, these are photos of a better-quality, more-expensive Rimei, not the razor the seller is actually selling.)

Here's the packaging as delivered: an envelope and a blister pack with the brand torn off. Hey, where's that nice plastic case?

Another ad photo. Notice the details of the handle design.


Delivered razor: handle design isn't quite the same, is it? Not as nicely chromed either. Hey, where's that better razor?

Another ad photo. See the little tabs on the end of the top cap;  and the angles, curves of the baseplate;  the thick, smooth chrome?

Razor as delivered has no tabs on the top cap. Baseplate is similar but center diamond stamping is more oval. The corners of the safety bar are not as sharply defined. Again the handle is shown to be significantly different. The chrome is thin and bumpy.

From the sales ad: Again notice the tabs on the top cap and the sharp, well-stamped contours of the baseplate on the sales-photo razor.

Again, the razor as delivered has no tabs on the end of the top cap. The baseplate has completely different contours as well as thinner metal, and, as stated above, the overall chrome is much lower quality.
As I suspected but hoped wasn't true, the sales-ad photos were of a Rimei razor, not the alleged JunJie-brand junk (alliterative, isn't it -- ironic) that the seller delivered.

The razor delivered is in no way the equivalent of a Rimei razor -- even a defective one as was shipped to me. Big disappointment.  :-(

I've begun the eBay process of getting a refund from the seller. The two bucks isn't a big deal, but the only way we can discourage unethical sellers is to take the profit out of their crooked deals.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Shifting Sands of Blade Preference

Last week's blade review was on the Lord Platinum Class blade. Of the  blades that I have in a large quantity, this one had been acceptable but, of those acceptable blades, was actually my least favorite.

The strange thing is that as I rotate through the use of both my large-inventory blades as well as those in my small-quantity samples inventory, my opinions of certain blades change like the surface of desert sands shift in the wind.

What is troubling to me is that there seems to be no consistency to this shifting of opinion. It would make sense if I started liking blades that were previously too sharp and began completely rejecting blades I previously thought slightly dull. But it cuts both ways (pun intended): some blades such as the Lord PC I previously thought a bit dull and on the harsh side of acceptable I now find seemingly improved; but also blades I previously thought a bit on the sharp-harsh side I also find improved.

I don't think my shaving technique is changing; in fact, I'd bet it's quite stable. My shaving process, too, is fairly stable despite occasional minor deviations from my usual routine. Certainly my face isn't changing; it's as sensitive today as when I first shaved with my dad's Gillette Slim and that awful generic, uncoated-stainless drug-store blade.

This week I'm using a Dorco ST-301 blade, and, just the opposite of the Lord PC, I'm not enjoying its shaves quite as much as I had previously. Of course, it's always possible that I got a blade that has some manufacturing variation, but I seriously doubt that. Given my background in manufacturing and quality processes, I know that in an automated manufacturing process, if the variation of the product is starting to go south, it's a gradual process and blades in a sequence would tend to have only small variation from one to the next. There would likely be little noticeable decline (or improvement).

On the other hand, maybe I'm just not quite awake enough in the early mornings when I shave, and my perceptions are off kilter. Or maybe I'm in the Twilight Zone.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chrome Plating Vs. Stainless Steel in a Razor

Again dealing with writer's block this morning, I was browsing Amazon, looking at a Rimei-razor listing, reading the reviews, questions and answers.

A stainless-steel sink.

The sole question asked was about the plating, if any, on the razor. This particular razor is usually advertised as being made of stainless steel (I haven't seen any sales ads that say otherwise; CORRECTION: I've seen only one). Yet it is made of metal unknown to me that has been chrome plated. The unknown metal is NOT stainless steel, however. I can say that because no manufacturer is going to go to the trouble and expense of making a razor from stainless, which is more expensive and more difficult to work that mild steel, then chrome plate it, and then sell it for $6 to $20 dollars (which is the price range that I've seen for a genuine Rimei razor [UPDATE: specifically, the model RM2003]). This makes NO sense.

Kitchen sinks, if they are unfinished/uncoated steel, are made of stainless. Stainless has more chromium in it that other steel; it's the extra chromium that makes it resistant to water-induced stains and rusting.

So if a razor is made of stainless, it will not have a chrome finish; there is no need. Yet if someone wants to sell a razor with a chrome finish for aesthetic reasons, they would make it out of less expensive, easier-to-work materials and then chrome plate that. Chrome plating is not only attractive; it is, like stainless steel, unlikely to rust or stain when intact and undamaged.

So I couldn't resist, and weighed in on the answers to the is-the-Rimei-actually-stainless question. I couldn't help myself.

One goofball actually answered yes, it is stainless, and then went off on a tangential review of the Rimei product. Oh well, everyone has an opinion; it's just that some opinions are more valuable than others.

Happy shaving!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Updates on Recent Cheapo Chinese Razors, Sellers, Problems, and Promises

In my most recent rounds of purchasing inexpensive Chinese-made DE razors from sellers on Amazon and Ebay, here's the status of delivery, and problem follow up and outcome to date:

Via Amazon:

Silver-tone razor as advertised.
Silver Tone Double Edge Blade Razor Shaver w Nonslip Metal Handle, sold by Happyshopping2014; total selling price: $3.19. The razor was ordered on 1 Dec 2014 and arrived on about 21 Dec 2014.

Silver-tone razor as delivered. Only
the handle resembles the razor as
advertised.  :-(
The razor as advertised, was pictured at left. The razor as delivered was at right; it was carelessly packed, allowing the thin, stamped-steel baseplate to be bent in transit. Frankly, however, if it weren't bent during the shipping process, it would have been dangerously configured anyway. 

I sent Happyshopping2014 an email with photos describing the condition of the delivered product. Seller replied, promised sending a new razor. As of today, nothing has arrived. Last week on Friday (16 Jan 2015) I sent an email inquiring about the status of the re-shipment and informing him that if nothing has changed as of the end of January, I will begin the refund process through Amazon.  As of this morning (Monday, 19 Jan 2015) I have received no reply. 

Via Ebay:


Rimei as advertised.
Razor 1:
RIMEI Stainless Steel Double-Edge Blade High Quality Razor, sold by hanetus; total selling price: $5.95. This razor was ordered on 27 Dec 2014 and arrived on about 13 Jan 2015.

Rimei as delivered.
The razor arrived with no damage from shipping; I am sure of that because it was inside a protective plastic case, which was undamaged. However, the razor itself was defective, having a bent safety bar as shown at left, and also having the baseplate manufacted poorly, unevenly, such that the flanges of the safety bars were different lengths and the blade angles of the razor were different by about two degrees when comparing one edge to the other. Also, the razor was not stainless steel (which I pretty much knew it wouldn't be); it had a chrome finish.

I contacted the seller, sending photos of the razor defects (although I did not mention the stainless-versus-chrome issue). After two emails from me (the original with photos and a follow-up inquiry), hanetus committed to the following: "We will reship you a perfect condition product shortly." 

I actually have some hope that I will receive an instrument in good condition as promised. I will report on the outcome if and when the replacement arrives.


JunJie razor as pictured. Hmmm.. looks
suspiciously like the more-pricy Rimei.
Razor 2:
Hot Men JunJie old style double Edge blade razor shaver sharp veneer Hair Razor, sold by your365shop; total selling price: $1.97. This razor was ordered on 29 Dec 2014 and has not yet arrived.

This razor had a series of photos in the sales ad, and all the pictures were ringers for the Rimei razor. Either the seller will deliver a Rimei, or the sales ad is a version of bait and switch. I am leery and suspect a bait-and-switch scam because the Rimei is relatively high quality, when compared to other Chinese razors, and this JunJie was less than half the cost of the bona fide Rimei razor. I've ordered other Chinese razors including a Ri,mei (sic) brand, all of which were priced at less than $3.25 and were basically trash, not treasure. 

I will report on what razor actually arrives when the blessed event takes place.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Frugal Shaver: Re-Using Shave Soap -- Two Options

I have written previously about re-using clean shave lather. What I mean by reusing clean shave lather is that with certain shave soaps including my preferred Grandad's shave soap as well as the ubiquitous Williams-brand shave soap, after the shave, any clean lather left in the shave brush and bowl is wiped or squeezed out and deposited on top of the soap puck in its storage cup. (I found this doesn't work well with certain soap formulations such as Arko and Palmolive brands due to interesting and colorful fuchsia microbial growth. Therefore I ceased this reuse practice when I was using Arko every day, but since I've made the switch to my favored Grandad's shave soap for sensitive skin, I'm back to saving and re-using lather every day, with great results.)

Wet, clean, uncontaminated lather from my morning shave drying in the white puck cup and the blue shaving bowl.

I then turn the lather-filled soap-puck cup on its side and set it into my five-inch lathering bowl. This allows excess water in the lather to run out of the soap-puck cup, and the clean residual lather in the cup dries to a light, flaky foam. The soap dissolved in the water that runs into the lathering bowl also dries leaving a soapy residue. Both the residue in the bowl and the light, flaky foam in the puck cup can be reused in subsequent shaves, thus reducing the soapy waste that daily is run down the drain and into the sewer or the septic tank. It also makes my shave soap last much longer before needing replacement.

What this lather reuse requires is the right soap, as mentioned above, and the practice of thoroughly rinsing one's face with clean water prior to applying a coating of shave-soap lather for each pass. Obviously this rinsing step keeps contaminants out of the shave lather in brush and bowl, keeping it clean and suitable for drying and reuse.

The other option of reusing shave soap involves unclean lather that may contain whisker stubble or even a bit of blood from a nick or weeper. Because this process doesn't involve storing used lather, it can be done with any shave soap or cream including those that don't store well overnight when once already lathered and wet.

When making a fussy pass that involves shaving the same face or neck real estate more than once to get extra close, instead of washing down the drain the used lather that has been squeegeed off my skin as a natural part of the shaving process, I will often run a finger under the baseplate of my razor to scoop off the lather and re-apply that to my skin. I will also wet a finger or two and re-wet the area to be re-shaved before wiping on the once-shaved lather. This extra water is very helpful to lubricate the area because once-shaved lather can be a bit dry, too pasty; and the combination of the fresh water and the once-shaved lather can be very slick, delightfully protective, and very effective.

With the result of rinsing less lather down the drain each day, these processes both save money and lighten the environmental impact of your shaving routine.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Weekly Blade Review: The Lord Platinum Class Blade and Face Lathering

This is the seventeenth of my weekly shave summaries. This week, I'm using an Egyptian-made Lord Platinum Class blade. The packaging as well as the Lord International web site doesn't mention the type of coating, if any, on the blade, and I've assumed in the past that it was uncoated. Sellers' information is conflicting; it seems that some just tend to make things up. One or more say chromium coated, or platinum coated, or PTFE coated, or a combination of platinum and PTFE! So I emailed Lord International last Sunday morning trying to learn the truth. And what I received in reply was bupkis, nada, zip, zero! (It's very disappointing when a company offers a point of contact for additional information and then IGNORES INQUIRIES.)

My primary shave soap again this week is the first pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formula 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.
My Omega Syntex

What I Learned this Week:
Natural-bristle brushes (at least my Van Der Hagen boar and Tweezerman badger) seem to face lather a little better and with less coarseness than my Omega Syntex synthetic-bristled brush. But with a little care and attention, the Syntex face lathers fine as well. It holds a lot of water, so an extra shake before face lathering seemed to improve the outcome. In terms of bowl-lathering abilities, all my brushes -- boar, badger, and synthetic -- work just fine.

The Lord Platinum Class blade is a better blade than I remember, and for my beard is adequately sharp, comfortable, and durable. I don't regret buying 100 of these blades on a whim, and look forward to using them again as part of my regular rotation. They work very well in my preferred razor, the Merkur 33 Classic. Their sharpness and comfort combined with their very reasonable cost make them a good value for my needs.

And speaking of the Merkur 33C Classic razor, it remains my go-to instrument, offering a comfortable, low-risk shave that can be close enough in a single pass -- especially if done with all-buffing strokes with the grain, or mostly baby smooth if I get really fussy in multiple passes.

Finally, I think that the pre-shave face wash with cool water and a super-fatted bath soap leads to a slightly better shave outcome than just splashing water alone.
Merkur 33C Classic

Sunday:
As usual to get a baseline shave, I used my Merkur 33C Classic razor. I face lathered Grandad's shave soap with my Van Der Hagen boar brush, took a three-pass shave with an extra final, fussy half pass, and got a terrific shave -- one of the best. This was quite a surprise because my expectations for the Lord Platinum were low from previous experience. Maybe it's the shave soap... I'm not sure; but it was a great shave completed only with a cool-water rinse and a Noxzema face wash.
Van Der Hagen boar.

Monday:
With a shea-butter-supplemented bath soap pre-shave wash and water rinse, I used the same gear as yesterday including the face lathering with Grandad's soap with the Van Der Hagen brush. The first pass was pretty much all buffing strokes. Second and third passes were a combination of direct and oblique strokes. After the shave was a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema-and-cool-water wash, and an after-shave balm with added vitamin E. The net result was a very good shave -- near excellent, a keeper any day.

Tweezerman badger.
Tuesday:
Another shea-butter pre-shave wash and cool-water rinse followed by a one-and-three-quarters-pass shave -- again with the 33 and this week's Lord Platinum Class blade. I face-lathered today with my inexpensive Tweezerman badger brush and my Grandad's shave soap. First pass was all buffing with the grain, and the final three-quarters pass was mostly against the grain with no buffing. Topped off this abbreviated shave with a Noxzema-and-cool-water wash, and then Nivea after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. The shave looked good, was close enough, and very skin friendly.

Wednesday:
Beard prep today was cool water wetting followed by a cool-water wash with a liquid face soap, which was rinsed off before face lathering Grandad's soap with my Van Der Hagen (VDH)boar brush. Keeping the Lord blade in my Merkur 33 razor, I did a two-pass shave, the first pass (WG) being pretty much all buffing. I did carelessly inflict a first-pass minor cut on myself at my jawline, but a touch of styptic made that disappear. Cool water rinse and a Noxzema wash was capped off with Nivea balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Other than the cut, it was a nice shave.

Yesterday, I also washed my two natural-bristled brushes with some combination shampoo-conditioner, and combed them out -- all in an effort to reduce the number of bristles that are appearing in my daily shave lather. Today with the VDH brush, it seemed to be effective.

Thursday:
With an olive-oil-supplemented (super fatted) bath-soap face wash using cool water as beard prep, I face lathered Grandad's shave soap with the Omega Syntex brush, and took a two-pass shave. The passes were with grain and against grain, and the second pass was fussy on my chin, and around and under my jaw line. It was a very good shave: close (except under my jawline), and comfortable everywhere. Shave was capped with a Noxzema-and-cool-water face wash, a towel dry, and Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Friday:
Again used a pre-shave face wash with yesterday's olive-oil-super-fatted bath soap and cool water. Then applied bowl-lathered Grandad's shave soap. After another two-pass shave, with a fussy second pass, using the fifth-use Lord blade in the Merkur 33 razor, I appreciated the close, comfortable shave. I skipped the Noxzema post-shave wash, and just enjoyed a cool-water rinse, finished off with Neutrogena after-shave balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. An efficient shave this morning.

Saturday:
For this shave, I once again began with a face wash of super-fatted bath soap and cool tap water. With bowl-lathered shave soap -- Grandad's, of course -- I took a two-pass shave with a fussy second pass, which all together amounted to about a three-pass shave. Close and comfortable, the shave finished with a cool-water rinse, towel dry, and Gillette after-shave lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

For next week I'm returning to the Dorco ST-301 blade.

Happy shaving!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rethinking (Again) My Synthetic Brush for Face Lathering

Yesterday's article caused me to ponder further my Omega Syntex brush and the difficulties I've had getting a great lather when face lathering.

It is true that the bristles in this brush are synthetic, meaning their ends are likely stubbier than natural bristles. They also absorb no water, yet the knot holds a great deal of water due to water tension, which will be discussed further below. The bristles also feel much stiffer than natural ones, meaning they are much more coarse when rubbed against one's face.

After giving this issue more thought, I suspected that my face-lathering results with this brush, which were less than optimal, have been due to a combination of two factors: 1) the relatively large volume of water that this brush can hold, and 2) the coarseness of the bristles.

The reason these factors work together to inhibit easy face lathering is that the generous amount of water held in the knot makes a the initial lather thin and watery, while the coarseness of the bristles discourage the user (me) from working the initially-thin lather sufficiently to whip up a thick, rich foam.

So I gave it another go yesterday after posting my article, "Shave Brush as Olympic Power Lifter?", in which I was critical of the Syntex's ability to face lather well. But this time I was armed with better information due to yesterday's post-article ruminations.

So I shook out water from the brush just a bit more than usual before loading it with soap; but I didn't make it too dry because my Grandad's shave soap does work with generous water. Then I loaded the brush with soap -- not excessively, but I made sure not to skimp either. Then my final step in my modified face-lathering process was to ignore the friction of bristle tips against face, and just keep working the soap on my face until the appropriate lather texture was achieved.

It really didn't take much extra effort or time; it just took some confidence in the outcome. Bottom line: it worked! I achieved a good lather and got a fine shave.

So this means that my initial travel-gear plan wasn't flawed after all. For trips away from home that call for light packing, I'll take a small soap stick, the Omega Syntex brush, and a razor. The Syntex will offer the anticipated advantages of being small, light, quick drying, and less susceptible to any moisture-driven damage to the bristles from drying bristles up on the bathroom counter.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Shaving Brush as Olympic Power Lifter?

I chuckle every time I read a comment from a shaver that repeats one of the silliest shaving myths that I've heard:

The action of applying shave soap to face with a brush "lifts" the whiskers
in the lather, thus making them "stand up" for the shave.

The brush and lather "lifts" stubble like an olympic
power lifter raises heavy iron? Um, not a chance.
Ridiculous.

Preposterous.

If you shave every day as I do, the hair is too short and wiry to have its natural orientation changed by swirling lather over it with a moisture-softened shaving brush. In fact, my stubble is so coarse, I believe I could use it instead of sandpaper to smooth wood. [UPDATE: Also, if the hair is longer, then the shape of it may change in the lather, but the first key fraction of a millimeter at the skin level does not change significantly, does not make shaving more effective.] If you think that a brush lifts a day's growth of stubble any more or less than simply wetting and washing one's face, you need some kind of surgical logic implant.

I also kind of chuckle when a badger brush is extolled as being soooooo much better than boar. Different, yes. Somewhat softer against the skin, yes. Way better? Really? Seriously? Could it be that that evaluation is simply a rationalization of the silly price that some pay for a simple shaving brush?

However, I have repeatedly, objectively seen that bristle type can matter with some soaps when building lather directly on the face. Whether boar or badger doesn't matter much in my experience, but I have objectively, repeatedly seen a difference in the lather-making capability of my little Omega brand Syntex brush. When compared to either boar or badger, the synthetic bristles don't build thick lather as efficiently. This is most evident when face lathering.

When lathering my preferred shave soap, it has some significant superfatting* to be more skin friendly, but it also therefore requires a technique adjustment to make good lather. Another consequence of this superfatting is that my synthetic-bristled brush makes fine lather in a five-inch lathering bowl, but not so readily when I skip the bowl and instead face lather. My natural-bristled brushes (both boar and badger), on the other hand, make lather in a bowl or on my face just fine.

Omega Syntex.
Why is my little Omega Syntex an inferior face latherer? Could be a number of factors. I suspect that the bristles tips are different than natural ones; the synthetic tips are likely more blunt. The synthetic bristles are also stiffer. The knot is also tighter, more cylindrical, less fan shaped on my Omega Syntex. Whatever the underlying reasons (and if I had to bet, I'd suggest it's the blunt bristle tips), the synthetic bristles on my brush don't seem as capable to whip the necessary air into the soapy slurry to transform it into rich lather.

This implies that the Omega Syntex likely won't be the travel brush that I had originally envisioned. I had thought that I'd skip lugging aq bowl altogether, and just bring a stick of shave soap and a small, light brush, and face lather with it.

However, if I'm wrong about its ability to lift whiskers, maybe I can use the brush to lift some boxes into my attic.  ;-)

Happy shaving!

*Superfatting is a soap-making term that implies that residual fatty acids are left in the soap after all the alkaline reactants are used up. This is usually done to ensure that the soap is less harsh, less drying on the skin.