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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: Lord Platinum Class Blade

This is the twenty-third of my weekly shave summaries. This week revisits the Lord Platinum Class blade made in Egypt.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formula SS#11P1), which will be used for client samples.

Reminder about my skin type: 
  • Sensitive & thin skin, somewhat loose on neck
  • Lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard
  • Challenging to get a close, comfortable shave

Face care this week, unless otherwise specified:
  • Cool-water rinse only, prior to lathering
  • Grandad's shave soap lathered with a boar brush
  • (After-shave treatments are specified in each day's notes)

New in This Week's Review:
  • The second pre-production run of Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin

What I Learned this Week:
  • My two favorite razors, the RM2003 and the Merkur 33C have different design factors (which I'll discuss in an up-coming article), but both can work well on my face despite having different shaving characters.
  • Stretching skin slightly up over the jaw helps get a close shave under my jawline.
  • The Lord Platinum Class blade remains a less than ideal match for my skin, and maiden shaves with a new blade work better with a negative-blade-exposure razor such as my second-favorite razor, the Merkur 33 Classic. Subsequent shaves are acceptable with the RM2003 as well.
  • Next week, when testing a Feather blade for the first time, the initial shave will definitely be in the Merkur 33, not the Rimei.
The stock RM2003,
 with its factory handle.

Sunday:
A non-fussy three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG) with my new Rimei RM2003 razor as it comes from the factory, and a new Lord Platinum Class blade provided gave lots of weepers that appeared in the third pass. The post-shave treatment was simply a cool-water rinse, a quick alum rub on the weepers, and application of Nivea after-shave lotion for sensitive skin supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.8; Cheeks - 5.0; Lower lip & chin - 3.5; Under jawline - 3.6; Neck - 3.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.38, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 3.79   (Not a great shave: not particularly close nor comfortable.)

Monday:
The Merkur 33 showing blade exposure.
Today the shave was with my Merkur 33 razor to try to match the Lord blade with a shaving instrument that, in combination with the blade, may be more compatible with my face and beard due to the negative blade exposure compensating for the relative harshness of the blade on my skin. Taking it easy after yesterday's rough shave, I limited the shave to two passes (with grain and across grain). I completed the shave with a cool-water rinse and an application of Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.0; Cheeks - 3.5; Lower lip & chin - 3.8; Under jawline - 3.0; Neck - 3.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.26, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-5.0

Summary rating: 4.42   (Though this shave has a high numerical rating, I value closeness very highly, and as a result, I consider this a mediocre shave because of its unremarkable, unrewarding closeness.)

Tuesday:
Looking for a bit closer shave than yesterday but with the same hardware, I planned to take a three pass shave -- but this one was to be with grain followed by two opposing passes across grain. After the three passes, I was unsatisfied with the closeness of the shave, so I took a fourth, against-grain pass over most of my face except for my upper lip. In the third pass, which was cross grain from the direction that I normally do not use, I created a minor cut under my Adam's apple, low on my neck, which marred an otherwise fine shave. Finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, a splash of some tea-tree lotion, and Nivea balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Overall, the shave was very good, but the smoothness was limited by mild character of the 33 razor. On the other hand, the 33 is very friendly to my face, and the overall irritation and wound results were very good.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 5.0; Under jawline - 4.8; Neck - 4.5.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.6, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.37   A good shave diminished by that single wound from cockpit error, for which I deviated from my normal wound rating to get a better rating of the shave from the gear used.

Wednesday:
Using the RM2003 with this week's blade, I took a three-pass shave with a bit of touch up after the third pass. I finished with a cool-water rinse, Noxzema wash, and Gillette gel (white bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.6; Under jawline - 3.6; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.24, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-4.5

Summary rating: 4.58   Another good, no-fuss shave.

Thursday:
Using the 33 razor, took a 3-and-1/2-pass shave; very close. Even shaved against grain on upper lip. Finished with cool-water, tea-tree lotion, then Gillette lotion (blue bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 5.0; Cheeks - 5.0; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 4.4.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.64, Irritation-4.8, Wounds-4.4

Summary rating: 4.61  One of my better shaves.  :-)

Friday:
Shaved with a newly-arrived (a back-up) Rimei RM2003 razor, with what appeared to be a cosmetic, not functional flaw in the top-cap edge. A three-pass shave, finished with cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, tea-tree lotion, and capped off with Gillette lotion (blue bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.6; Under jawline - 3.5; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.18, Irritation-4.8, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.33 

Saturday:
The final shave of this week was with the Lord Platinum Class blade in the Merkur 33. Four passes included against-grain shaving on my upper lip. One old, not-yet-healed weeper was re-opened on the second pass, and two new ones on the fourth. Aside from the wounds, which diminished an otherwise excellent shave, it would have been near perfect. Post shave skin care included touches of styptic on the weepers, a cool water rinse, followed by a Noxzema wash, a splash of tea-tree after-shave lotion, then Gillette lotion (blue bottle) supplemented by vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 5.0; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.6; Under jawline - 4.4; Neck - 4.6.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.68, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.39   A very nice shave to finish the week.

Next Week:
For next week I'm trying for the first time a Feather blade.  Because of its reputation for sharpness but not optimal face-friendliness, I'm going to start the week using the Feather blade my Merkur 33 razor. 

*Rating Key:
Closeness -- a separate evaluation is done for each of these five areas: a) upper lip, b) cheeks, c) chin, d) under jaw line, and e) neck; then these five are averaged together for a single closeness rating. The following are the scale criteria:
5 – Smooth when rubbed against grain & other directions
4 – Smooth across grain but not against grain
3 – Smooth with grain only
2 – Not smooth to touch, but appears adequately clean shaven
1 – Not smooth to touch, and stubble apparent

Irritation:
5 – No perceivable irritation
4 – Minor irritation just after the shave, disappears quickly with time or applied balm
3 – Minor irritation that lingers for more than an hour but less than six
2 – Irritation that is perceived throughout the day
1 – Visible razor burn

Wounds:
5 – Absence of any wounds
4 – Pinpoint weepers only
3 – A total of three or less nicks, small cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
2 – A total of four to six  nicks, cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
1 – Worse than 2, above (first aid, quick!)

Regarding use of tenths of rating points: For closeness or irritation, each additional tenth of a rating point represents about 10% of the shaving area in question. For wounds, it represents gradations within a rating. For example, if I have, say, six pinpoint weepers only, I might give a wound rating of 4. However, if I only have one wound, which is a pinpoint weeper, that would likely get a rating of 4.9.

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Challenges of Beard Grain

I would guess that the most commonly recognized challenge of beard grain is direction. Not only do many beards have a grain that doesn't run downward like shingles on a roof, many beards also have grain that grows in several directions -- not just up, sideways or down, but also up, down, sideways, and in swirls simultaneously.

Grain. Okay, it's not beard grain, but unfortunately some beards do grow with varied
grain direction and lean angle, which can make shaving more interesting.

This multi-directional grain transforms the three-pass shave distinctly away from the simple down, across, and up passes. Not only do the individual passes become other directional, they can also become multi directional. In addition, for multi-directional grain, the strokes of each pass cannot always be precisely with, across, or against grain as the basic three-pass shave pattern would suggest.

Obviously, as most know, there is some compromise required, some adjustment away from the ideal in order to cope with troublesome grain-direction patterns.

Less commonly discussed is grain angle. That is the the amount of lean of the hair shafts in relation to the plane of the skin, irrespective of lean direction.

Grain lean angle is a mixed bag. No-lean hairs are growing straight out of the skin. In my experience they can be shaved closely, but as time elapses after the shave, these tend to be the first hairs that I feel as I rub my face. Of course, these hairs have no particular need to be shaved in any order of shaving-stroke direction; the more important factor is not order of pass direction, but rather that one simply shaves each pass from a different direction -- ideally from something approximating three of the four cardinal points.

At the opposite end of the range, hairs with an extreme lean behave quite differently in my experience. Extreme lean is best managed with the with-, across-, and against-grain passes. Unfortunately, the lean also minimizes the effectiveness of each pass -- tending to leave more hair on the face after each pass. Also, in the final against-grain pass, because the hairs might be just a tad longer that those with less lean angle, the razor's edge might tend to get grabbed by the remaining hair shaft, causing the blade to ride down a bit toward the skin, making irritation, nicks, and weepers more likely.

However, this tendency for the large-lean hairs to encourage the blade to ride closer to the skin also makes for a potentially-closer shave. On this facial real estate, the final against-grain pass should be taken with extra care -- especially when one has sensitive skin -- to appropriately balance between a close shave and a close shave with irritation and blood shed.

To summarize lean-angle realities, low- or no-angle hairs may be easier to shave comfortably and closely in three passes but may tend to be the first to be felt a few hours after the shave. While large-lean-angle hair is likely more difficult to shave comfortably and closely, but because of the larger lean, will not be perceived as quickly as post-shave growth when one rubs his beard.

It's something on which to ruminate as one takes his shave. Hope it's a good one.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Solving the Problem with Premium (Razors, That Is)

First off, I will define what I mean by a premium razor, which has the following characteristics:
  • Made of water-tolerant materials such as a brass substrate or stainless steel
  • Manufacturing quality is high -- meaning that the razor is defect free and symmetrical having both edges provide the same shave characteristics
A premium razor, therefore, promises the following performance;
  • It will provide consistent shaves
  • It will not corrode or decay over time
  • It can, therefore, last decades -- meaning it has the potential to be an heirloom instrument
So.... all that said, what's the problem? Where's the rub? The irritation? The nick, the cut? What makes you weep? (Okay, I'm done with silly shaving puns.)

Well, it all comes back to the big three design characteristics: blade exposure, angle, and gap. Premium razors, though top drawer in terms of quality and PRICE, are not much different than a $4 razor in terms of potentially providing a good match to your face, beard, and blade choice.

In other words, in terms of shave experience, buying premium razor is the same as buying any other razor: you might get good shaves, mediocre shaves, or.... they might suck. A big price tag and the presumably high-quality accomanying instrument ensure exactly nothing when it comes to shaving experience. The only difference with a premium razor is that whatever the shave experience, if that's your only razor, you could get to enjoy that experience -- for good or ill -- for a lifetime!

So if I'm going to lay out over US$100, I would expect to know the likely shaving character of the razor prior to making my purchase, not after.

But how is this done, one might ask with a gasp!

It's so simple; for a start, every razor for sale should be shown with a razor blade installed, pictured in a side-view close up, with the camera lens looking straight down the blade edge. This side view can suggest all three design aspects in a single picture.

An example of an ideal razor-seller's photo: side view aimed down razor edge, shave plane drawn in, and blade extened to show angle without obscuring the actual edge end point. Given this photo, would you buy this razor? I would not!

Better would be to have the seller draw in the shave plane of the razor within this side-view photo. That way the prospective buyer can clearly see whether the blade exposure is positive (above the plane), negative (below the plane, within the protective cove), or neutral.

Better still would be, additionally, to extend the line of the blade, without obscuring its end point, so that the blade angle can be seen in relation to the shave plane.

Best would be to provide precise data on these three aspects: exposure, angle, and gap (for those razors that aren't open comb) in addition to the photos.

Until this becomes the common practice for razor sellers, only those who are 1) ignorant of razor design or 2) those with so much money that they don't care if they waste $100 or more or 3) those whose skin is indelicate will take a chance on buying a razor with unconfirmed shaving characteristics.

Demand appropriate sales practices from your DE vendors.

And happy shaving!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Reader's Question from the Mail Bag

Another reason to shave with a DE....


Question:


Dear Shaving Like Grandad:

I used to use a 2 blade Astra. My handle corroded away.  The 3 blade, 4 blade, etc., besides seeming silly, are too bulky.

So I started to use the 2 blade disposables.  Suddenly they don’t work.

I bought a pack of Gillette sensor 2 (or whatever) and they didn’t shave, 3-4 times over my facial hair and it was still there. So I threw them out, and got Schick, and they didn’t work.

I have one two blade left and I have been shaving with it. When it wears out, I am not sure how I will shave.

My facial hair is tough.

Are others running into this problem?

Answer:


Thanks for writing. My focus, interest, and knowledge is on double-edge shaving -- that is, not multi-bladed cartridge razors, but rather the old fashioned razors that take a single, separate, more-or-less rectangular blade that has two edges for shaving. So you're outside my area of expertise when we talk about cartridge shaving systems, which I have abandoned.

That said, do you mean Atra, instead of Astra? Based on just a bit of research, the Atra was a metal handle that accepted double-bladed cartridges. If that corroded away, likely it was made of a zinc-based alloy such as ZAMAK, and then plated in a protective chrome plating. The plating is done because zinc-based alloys actually will degrade over time when exposed to water. So if the handle corroded, the protective plating must have been damaged allowing water to come into contact with the underlying substrate.

I don't have cartridge-based shaving recommendations, but if you order a $4 Rimei razor as an experiment, and get some trial packages of DE blades, you might try an old-school double edge razor. This razor can be ordered from the following URL:

http://www.dx.com/p/rimei-stainless-steel-double-edge-blade-razor-silver-116281#.VO2srfnF_3M

 If you give this a try, there are several other things you must plan to do:

1. It will take about three weeks to receive the razor, so you have to have a stop-gap shaving plan ready.

2. View some how-to videos on YouTube so that you understand the different technique that DE shaving requires (light pressure, and beard reduction through multiple passes). I recommend that you begin with those offered by mantic59, who has helped many DE newcomers get started more safely and effectively. Find him at the following URL:
https://www.youtube.com/user/mantic59/videos

3. Make sure your assortment of blade-sample packs includes some Russian-made blades, which tend to be sharp, durable, and reasonably comfortable, but also try Personna -- both the blue (US made) and red (Israeli made) labels.

4. Get an inexpensive shave brush (I recommend Van Der Hagen boar bristled) and a good shave soap or cream.  (Perhaps let me know and I'll send you a low-cost sample of my own Grandad's shave soap for sensitive skin.)

Finally, to answer your final question, I don't receive much feedback on performance of cartridge shaving systems (actually none) so I don't know what's going on, but I'm not surprised.

Good luck to you!

Best regards,

Doug
Shave Like Grandad weblog

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Big Three DE Razor Design Factors

Generally speaking, I'm trying to raise awareness in the DE-shaving community of the more esoteric aspects of razor design. This is one of my major themes.

Every once in a while I return to shaving forums when I'm looking for specific information on one thing or another. Each time, I am struck by the superficiality and incredibly poor analysis that is displayed in many of the postings.

I am so tired of reading about balance and weight with no mention of the really important design characteristics of blade exposure (where the blade edge lies in relation to the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar), blade angle (in relation to the shave plane of the top cap and safety bar), and, where applicable, blade-bar gap. Blade reveal (that is, how much of the blade is visible from under the top cap can also be a factor, but the big three are exposure, angle, and gap.

The DE community, both sellers and buyers, are woefully ignorant of the importance of these big-three design factors. I have never seen a razor purveyor publish side-on photos of the blade edge of an instrument for sale. If done, one would better understand how the razor might behave and could make better purchase decisions.

For example, I'd like to consider buying a Merkur Progress razor. However, before I can do that, I would need to know the blade angles at the extremes of the razor's adjustments. Likewise for blade gap and exposure. If I don't know this information, then I'm shelling out about US$70 for a pig in a poke; adjustability in no way guarantees a good shave for every user. Generally speaking, adjustability will influence the big three design factors (angle, gap, and exposure), but only within the range determined by unchanging design factors.

The classic example of this is my Gillette Slim Adjustable. Well made, durable, and of materials that will not degrade over time, it gives me mediocre to bad shaves at every setting because the blade angle cannot be made small enough via the blade-gap adjustment to give me a non-irritating shave over multiple passes.

I will persist in my attempt to raise awareness of the big three design factors in DE razors. If more buyers would demand this objective information in terms of both numerical data and the all-important side-view photos along the razor's mounted blade edge, then more sellers would provide it. Thereby, we could make better purchase decisions without relying on the inefficient trial-and-error method.

Happy shaving!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Back to the Merkur Classic This Week

After a harsh shave to open the week using a Lord Platinum Class blade in my Rimei RM2003 razor, I've put the Lord blade into my Merkur 33C Classic razor for today's shave -- and likely for the rest of the week.

Merkur 33C Classic Razor

As I've often written, the Lord PC blade isn't the best of my inventory for my skin; it just seems to shave a little rough. When put in a razor that has a slightly positive blade exposure (that is, the blade edge lies above the shave plane formed by the razor's top cap and safety bar) such as the RM2003, the edge can bear down a bit too much and thereby rile sensitive skin. This can be true even when the razor has low blade angles (such as the RM2003), which help to make the shave easier on delicate dermis.

With the shave plane drawn in, the negative blade exposure of the Merkur 33 is clearly seen.

But this blade in the Merkur 33, which has a negative blade exposure and a moderate blade-bar gap, is much better behaved.

Similarly, when I take my first shave with a Feather blade next week, it will also be in the 33 razor. I have previously written that I probably wouldn't shave with a Feather blade because, based on published information, it is likely too sharp and not sufficiently face friendly to give me a pleasant shave. However, I already had the package of blades on hand, so I figured I might as well test my unproven hypothesis about Feather blades and my face being an imperfect match.

So my weekly shave review this coming Saturday will be on the latest Lord Platinum Class adventure, but a week from this Saturday will be about my safari into Feather land.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Weighing In on Razor Handles

I have gone back and forth on the issue of which handle to use on my various three-piece razors.

Recently I ditched all my handles except for the very heavy, very fat Maggard MR3B handle, and kept that single handle in my bathroom cabinet along with a few, select razor heads.

After a week of using that "big boy" handle exclusively, it just didn't feel right. Also, I'm not one of those who loves a heavy razor. Frankly, I'd just as soon use a lighter razor.

So yesterday I restored the factory handles to my primary razors and how happily use those. The list of my current razors at hand in my medicine cabinet is as follows -- along with their reasons for being included there:

  • Rimei RM2003 is my go-to razor when I want a close, comfortable shave with coated blades that are comfortably-compatible with my skin. These blades include Personna (red and blue), Astra SP, SuperMax Titanium, Dorco ST-301, etc.
  • Merkur 33C Classic is my razor when using blades that might be harsh on my skin such as the Lord Platinum Class, Feather, and perhaps uncoated stainess blades if I'm forced to use one.
  • Merkur 15C open comb is still in my cabinet for those occasions when I want to shave the back of my neck or trim the hairline just above the back of my neck.
There is much complaining on the Internet about hands being "too large" for traditionally-sized razor handles. I, personally, am on the record as saying this isn't about handles too small, but rather is about incorrect grips on scalpel-sharp shaving instruments.

A razor should be held in the finger tips, not in the hand like a paint scraper.

My big complaint about handles is not their size, but their traction. I strongly dislike plated handles that are smooth or merely with gentle fluting; at best, they tend to twist in my finger tips, and at worst, they tend to get dropped. No, give me a handle with nice sharp grooves, knurling, checked patterns -- anything that gives me a secure grip when my hand might be wet and soapy -- and I'm happy.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: Personna Red Label, Rimei RM2003

This is the twenty-second of my weekly shave summaries. This week tests my newest razor, the three-piece Rimei RM2003, and revisits the Personna Platinum blade, the Israeli-made red-label blade.

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: 

  • Sensitive & thin skin, somewhat loose on neck
  • Lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard
  • Challenging to get a close, comfortable shave


Rimei RM2003 razor & case
Face care this week, unless otherwise specified:

  • Cool-water rinse only, prior to lathering
  • Grandad's shave soap lathered with a boar brush
  • (After-shave treatments are specified in each day's notes)

New in This Week's Review:
  • Rimei RM2003 razor, sometimes with its factory handle, sometimes with the fat, heavy Maggard MR3B handle

What I Learned this Week:

  • If you get one without performance-inhibiting manufacturing defects (unlike the first one I received), the RM2003 razor by Rimei gives me excellent shaves -- in most cases for me, better than razors that are purchased for seven to ten times what I paid for the Rimei. I really, really like this razor. It seems to give me both a very close and comfortable shave.
  • The Rimei RM2003, at its current price point of as low as about $5 U.S. (plus or minus depending on vendor -- but some have asked as much as $20), is an excellent value for the experienced or beginning double-edge shaver -- especially those with sensitive skin.
  • The RM2003 may not be a collector piece, but it is a very practical, utilitarian instrument.
  • My RM2003 shaves slightly differently on its respective sides: one edge is about a neutral blade exposure (blade edge about at the shave plane) with a smaller blade angle (~26 degrees), while the other edge has a slightly positive edge exposure (above the shave plane) and a larger blade angle (~28 degrees).
  • With the RM2003, I don't need a special finishing razor for the third pass, so I can put the Gillette Slim Adjustable back into the shaving box up on the shelf in my clothes closet.
  • The likely reasons for my good results with the RM2003 will be presented in an up-coming article.
  • The Personna Platinum (red-label) blade remains one of my very favorites for its sharpness and comfort.

Sunday:
The RM2003 razor head on the ultra-fat,
heavy Maggard MR3B handle.

A non-fussy three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG) with my new Rimei RM2003 razor head on the Maggard MR3B handle and the fresh Personna red-label blade provided, what is for me, a near-perfect shave. This shave had no new wounds; it just re-opened two pin-point weepers from previous shaves. The post-shave treatment was simply a cool-water rinse, a quick alum rub to check for irritation (there was none), and application of Gillette after-shave gel (the blue bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 5.0; Under jawline - 4.4; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.48, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-4.5

The RM2003 with the factory handle.
Note: the handle looks relatively thin
in this shot only due to the distortion
of the camera lens.
Summary rating: 4.66  (Wow! A really good way to start the week.)

Monday:
Three passes and just a bit of fussing at the end gave another great shave. Today saw the RM2003 razor head with the second-use Personna-red blade on the stock RM2003 handle as shown at right. A cool water rinse and some Nivea balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil completed the shave.

The following rating was done about three hours after the shave because I got distracted immediately after. So the numbers may be a bit off, but the shave was really good -- no irritation, no wounds, pretty darned close:

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.3; Cheeks - 5.0; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.3, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-5.0

Summary rating: 4.46

Tuesday:
Returning to the Rimei RM2003 razor head paired with the Maggard "big boy" handle, I took the third shave with the Personna-red blade. Three passes slightly re-opened a cut under my chin from last week that had been healing, and re-opened a weeper also from last week on my upper lip. The shave also felt slightly harsh, which is unlike the previous shaves with the RM2003, so I wondered if I were pressing a bit hard, or if the blade was going off, which is also unusual for the Personna red. After cool water rinses, a splash of witch hazel, and a Noxzema wash, I used a touch of styptic under my chin. Then after counter clean up, I finished with Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 5.0; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.2, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating: 3.73   A good shave diminished by careless shaving -- especially around pre-existing, healing wounds.

Wednesday:
I resolved to be more careful today -- especially in the vicinity of healing wounds -- after yesterday's good-but-still-disappointing shave. Deviating from my normal minimalist beard prep, today I added a cool-water Noxzema wash after the usual cool-water rinse. Then I lathered and did three-passes with the RM2003 razor head on the Maggard "big-boy" handle and this week's Personna red-label blade. Post shave, I rinsed with cool water, did another Noxzema wash, applied Tea-Tree after-shave lotion, then Gillette lotion supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.6; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 3.5; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.16, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.39   A good, no-fuss shave.

Thursday:
Thursdays through Saturday I used the
stock RM2003; that is, with the factory
handle.

Three passes with a fussy third using the stock RM2003 including the factory handle. Post shave, I did the usual cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, styptic on a re-opened couple of weepers, another water rinse, and Nivea balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil. With better shaves provided by the RM2003 and the more discriminating evaluations, I may begin changing my blades twice per week: on Sunday and again on Wednesday.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.4; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.24, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.08

Friday:
Another X-pass trial on Friday.

Today, I'm finishing the week with a slightly-used Personna red-label blade that's been lurking in my cabinet and have this morning done another X-pass shave to see if the RM2003 allows this process to work on my beard. After the two passes, I did a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, a touch of styptic on a single re-opened weeper on my lip, and Gillette gel supplemented with vitamin-E oil. Better results today than my previous X-pass trials, but not as good as the usual three-pass shave.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.6; Cheeks - 3.6; Lower lip & chin - 4.2; Under jawline - 3.0; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.88, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 3.96   The RM2003 handles the X-pass shave a bit better than some others.

Saturday:
With the stock (as from the factory) RM2003 with the Personna-red blade that opened this week's shaves, I took a methodical-but-not-too-fussy three-pass shave. Both the process and the outcome were enjoyable. The shave finished in rather minimalist style, having only a cool-water rinse capped with some Gillette (blue bottle) lotion supplemented by vitamin-E oil to smell good and to have some cold-weather protection.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.4; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.42, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.31   A very nice shave to finish the week.

Next Week:
For next week I'm returning to the Lord Platinum Class blade.  I'm looking forward to next week to see how this blade performs in the RM2003. 

*Rating Key:
Closeness -- a separate evaluation is done for each of these five areas: a) upper lip, b) cheeks, c) chin, d) under jaw line, and e) neck; then these five are averaged together for a single closeness rating. The following are the scale criteria:
5 – Smooth when rubbed against grain & other directions
4 – Smooth across grain but not against grain
3 – Smooth with grain only
2 – Not smooth to touch, but appears adequately clean shaven
1 – Not smooth to touch, and stubble apparent

Irritation:
5 – No perceivable irritation
4 – Minor irritation just after the shave, disappears quickly with time or applied balm
3 – Minor irritation that lingers for more than an hour but less than six
2 – Irritation that is perceived throughout the day
1 – Visible razor burn

Wounds:
5 – Absence of any wounds
4 – Pinpoint weepers only
3 – A total of three or less nicks, small cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
2 – A total of four to six  nicks, cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
1 – Worse than 2, above (first aid, quick!)

Regarding use of tenths of rating points: For closeness or irritation, each additional tenth of a rating point represents about 10% of the shaving area in question. For wounds, it represents gradations within a rating. For example, if I have, say, six pinpoint weepers only, I might give a wound rating of 4. However, if I only have one wound, which is a pinpoint weeper, that would likely get a rating of 4.9.

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Blade Durability and Razor Design

I've come up with a new hypothesis to be tested. It is that when shaving with razors of different blade exposure, blade longevity may be affected. Specifically, when using a razor with negative blade exposure (that is, blade edge is below the shave plane, within the cove of the top cap and safety bar), one might get a greater number of comfortable shaves from a given blade than when using a razor with a more aggressive, positive blade exposure (that is, blade edge lies above the shave plane determined by the top cap and safety bar).

What got me to have these suspicions is the shaves with the my newest BFF razor, the Rimei RM2003. During the week, perhaps I am imagining it, but it seems as though the shaves are degrading ever so slightly as the mileage on the weekly blade increases. I have not noticed this previously when using other razors. I looked this morning at the RM2003's approximate head-design specs. Although the two edges of the razor don't appear to be quite identical (what do you expect from a US$4 razor?), it can be generalized to say that the razor has a slightly positive blade exposure, but a low blade angle. It also appears to have a moderate blade-bar gap. The combination of low-ish blade angle and small-ish blade gap may explain its face-friendly characteristics, while the positive-ish blade exposure may account for the ability of the razor to shave surprisingly closely -- given its face-friendly nature.

So if the blade is making just a bit more contact with skin during the morning three-pass shave, it is possible that some of the protective coating on my blades is being abraded away more quickly than with my previous regular-use razors, all of which tended to have a negative blade exposure. This abrasion may explain the slightly faster blade degradation that I might be sensing.

So I might alter my shave routine in the following ways:

  1. I might continue to go for the gold every morning with a three pass shave, but change blades twice per week, Sunday and Wednesday, instead of just once weekly on Sunday.
  2. I might once again try the X-pass shave pattern using oblique stroke to see if it works better for my beard with this new, face-friendlier razor, and keep my current blade-replacement schedule to once per week.
  3. I might just do a two-pass (WG, XG, no AG) shave as my normal daily shave, and only go for the brass ring on special days, and still change the blade only once per week. (I probably won't be able to do this just because I do love that extra smoothness that comes from that third, AG pass.)
I think for tomorrow's shave, I'll be trying option #2, above.

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Holy Grail Unearthed?

Early in December of last year, I posted a short article about searching for "the Holy Grail of razors, which is an inexpensive, close-but-comfortable-shaving razor."



After several trials with dirt-cheap razors from China, which focused on taking a trash razor and modifying the stamped-steel baseplate to have better shaving characteristics, I had largely abandoned my hunt for this holy-grail of razors.

It occurred to me yesterday, that I may have unwittingly found the treasure in my latest acquisition, the Rimei RM2003. With no modifications needed, this razor seems to meet my criteria -- at least on my mug it offers both a remarkably close and comfortable shave, when paired with an appropriate blade. (I haven't had the motivation, yet, to shave with one of the included blades that have come with the several Chinese razors that I've purchased.) Of course, my recent articles have included commentary on this razor, which is pictured in the following image:



My evaluation shaves with this razor continue, but it looks like this one will remain the darling of my razor inventory despite its modest cost and humble origins.

Of course, because this razor is available at such a low price, there will be many who are unable to recognize the quality of the shaves that it can deliver -- and the shaves are especially for those of us with very sensitive skin. My marketing training taught me that it's human nature for some of us to be unable to objectively evaluate quality apart from price; for some of us, low price automatically makes some folk believe that it's a second-rate (or worse) product.

Nonetheless, I still believe the Grail may have been unearthed at last. Hallelujah!

Happy shaving (and question everything -- objectively)!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What's in the Cabinet? What's not?

I keep my primary shaving brush, soap cup, and lathering bowl on the bathroom counter. But the contents of my main shaving shelf in the bathroom cabinet have been simplified since I've met my latest BFF (best friend forever), the Rimei RM2003 razor head. I know it's sudden, since we only got acquainted last week; but when it's right, you just know.

I am in love with the RM2003, and I don't think it's just a fling. The shaves I get are so good, so close and face friendly, that I have already taken several steps toward long-term commitment (that is, commitment toward daily use of this razor, not commitment of me into an institution for the mentally ill :-). These steps, which indicate my true affection for the shaves of the RM2003 razor head, include the following:

  • I have removed my previously-favorite razor head, the Merkur 33C, to the shaving shoe box in my clothes closet.
  • Ditto for the Lord L.6 razor head: into storage.
  • Same for the Gillette Slim Adjustable razor: into storage.
  • I only keep one three-piece-razor handle in the bathroom, which is the fat, heavy Maggard MR3B handle -- the one with the black accent coating on the knurling.
  • I still keep the Merkur 15C open-comb razor head in the cabinet in case I need to shave the back of my neck and trim my back hairline.

Here's what the cabinet shelf looks like this morning:

Center, clockwise from left: a slightly-used Derby Extra blade in its wrapper, the Merkur 15C open-comb razor head sitting on a slightly-used Personna blade in its wrapper, and the Rimei RM2003 razor head coupled with the Maggard MR3B handle resting on the empty wrapper of the Personna blade in the Rimei razor head.
Background, clockwise from left: styptic pencil & cap, vitamin-E oil, skin moisturizer with sun screen, tea-tree-oil after shave, alum block in open container on top of the used-blade bank, Nivea balm, Neutrogena balm, Gillette gel, and Gillette lotion.

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Frugal Shaver's Perspective

A fellow contacted me by email, responding to my blog articles and noting that I tend to focus on inexpensive stuff. He suggested that he would be interested in reading my reviews of more premium products. I took the time to write him a reply, and it occurred to me that part of that email might be appropriate for this weblog. So here is some of that content:



I do tend to focus on cheaper products. Many years ago, when I got my first degree, which was in business/marketing (I subsequently studied mechanical engineering and dietetics), I came to really understand the link between product image and price. Sometimes a higher price buys you better quality and features, sometimes not. Sometimes better quality and more features matter, sometimes not. Sometimes a high price tag just buys you image. (Take Gray Goose vodka, for example, which proclaimed itself "the best tasting vodka in the world!" Yet vodka, by legal definition, has no taste! Hmmm, marketing hype -- which costs the purchaser an arm and a leg. But interestingly, many of us like our purchases better when we spend more.) So I guess since those early university days I've focused on finding products that deliver the necessary/desirable features and benefits without the premium price tag.

Some non-shaving examples from my life: in my family, we tend to drive Ford and Honda vehicles, not their up-scale marques, Lincoln and Acura. In 1950, Cadillac manufacturing tolerances were superior to other makes -- even those in the GM line; but today, one is paying for image along with features. The trick for me is figuring out which are worth the investment and ignoring the psychological ones. My tennis racquets are designed for top players, but I don't play Wilson or Babolat or even Prince brands because they tend to be 20-150% more expensive than my three Head Microgel racquets, which are EXCELLENT racquets and totally suitable for very good players.

In shaving, after almost a year of trying various razors (admittedly lower-end except for my Gillette Slim Adjustable and a trio of Merkur models), I've fallen in love with almost the cheapest razor available, the Rimei RM2003, which can be had for $4 (U.S.) but gives me literally the best shaves of every razor I've tried -- and the truth is, I don't think it can get better; so why would I, personally, spend more for the same or less? I would enjoy testing more upscale razors just to see where their value lies (in image or performance?), but the costs for me are prohibitive. If you know of a way that I can wheedle test products out of manufacturers without purchasing, please let me know.

As for brushes, I use three: an Omega synthetic, a Tweezerman badger, and a Van Der Hagen boar. Though the VDH was my first purchase of the three, it has once again become my favorite, having just enough backbone yet with the soft split ends of the tips being very face friendly. I can't imagine a better functioning brush, so why spend the money?

I'm not knocking premium products and premium prices; it just isn't my style, when avoidable. There are times when I do buy premium: footware, for example -- I've found in shoes and boots, you do get what you pay for.

This is why I often label myself the frugal shaver.

Happy shaving (and question everything -- including value for the price ;-)!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Rimei RM2003 Surprises!

On Friday, my latest Rimei purchase, the RM2003, arrived. It took three full weeks shipping time, but it arrived intact, and for the price of the razor plus no added shipping charge, I can't complain.
Rimei RM2003 disassembled.

After doing my inspection routine, I determined that this razor, unlike the first one I received, was shave worthy; so I gave it a go.

Okay, the sample size of one shave with a week-old blade that's one shave away from the recycle bank is both small and generally can't be assumed to be representative. However, that said, the shave was....

Surprisingly good -- bordering on spectacular!

I will do a follow-up article on the details of this razor because I can't at the moment explain why its maiden shave was not only surprisingly close in three passes, but was also both comfortable and produced nearly no wounds. For me, given my general experiences, it was an excellent shave. Perhaps one of my best ever.

I will be doing more shaves with this razor this week, and will be looking more closely at the design geometry to figure out if the first shave was just a fluke or something to be expected.

I have to admit, though, that I liked the first shave so much, I ordered another RM2003 for a gift to a friend and still another one, as a back-up or travel razor, for myself.

Stay tuned; more to come!

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The Personna Lab-Blue Blade, the Lord L.6 et al, and Rating Gradations

This is the twenty-first of my weekly shave summaries. This week is another blade previously reviewed: the Personna Super, the so-called lab-blue blade, which is manufactured in the U.S.A. and listed as being "comfort coated," having a PTFE 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. After-shave treatments are specified in each day's notes.
The Lord L.6 razor head with a Maggard MR3B handle is my
go-to razor this week instead of my customary Merkur 33C.

New in This Week's Review:
I am using a Lord L.6 razor head on the Maggard MR3B handle as my go-to razor this week. My thought is that, since the L.6, though mild, is just a slightly more aggressive design than my preferred Merkur 33, I might inch closer to the perfect shave if I give this another thorough, open-minded series of evaluation shaves.

I will also, like last week, be using the Gillette Slim with the same Personna red-label blade for some, not all, final passes this week.

Gillette Slim Adjustable.
I am also continuing to use my new shave-rating system, which is briefly outlined at the end of this article, and on which an entire article has been written for Sharpologist.com. This week though, I've incorporated an additional gradation, which is using tenths of rating points. Each additional tenth of a rating point represents about 10% of the shaving area in question. For example, if I'm rating cheeks for closeness of shave, and about 40% of that area is smooth in all directions, then I would rate that a 4.4.  This will add more objectivity to the evaluations, which last week I was struggling (and not succeeding) to provide in discriminating between shave subtleties.

I've also included a one-number average rating for the shave. This make rough comparisons easier, but also allows for appreciating the nuances, which are available in the smoothness breakouts and the three-category breakouts as well.

What I Learned this Week:
The X-pass shave process has been a failure. I get a closer and more comfortable shave with the normal three passes.

The US-made Personna lab-blue blade is top drawer right out of the package. ....



Sunday:
A non-fussy three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG) with the Lord L.6 and the fresh Personna-blue blade provided a superior shave this morning. Though the L.6 has a negative blade exposure similar to the Merkur 33, the blade gap of the L.6 is slightly larger, thus giving it a slightly more aggressive shave character. This worked well with the lab-blue blade giving a shave that was as good as any of those of last week. This shave was so good and pleasant, the post-shave treatment was simply a couple of cool-water rinses and application of Gillette after-shave lotion for sensitive skin (the white bottle) supplemented with three drops of vitamin-E oil. (No styptic, no alum, no Noxzema wash.)

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.4; Under jawline - 3.6; Neck - 4.4.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.2, Irritation-4.4, Wounds-4.9

Summary rating: 4.50

Monday:
Using the Personna blue blade in the Merkur 33 razor head today for all three passes -- and getting very fussy with the third pass, I got a good, close shave this morning. After the shave, just a cool-water rinse, towel dry, and application of Gillette after-shave lotion (white bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.6; Under jawline - 4.1; Neck - 4.4.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.3, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.9

Summary rating: 4.40

Tuesday:

The two-pass X-shaving pattern
of Tuesday's shave.
Today again with the L.6 razor head, the Personna blue blade, and the heavy Maggard MR3B handle, I tried a new shaving-pass pattern. Instead of the usual three passes, I tried a two-pass X pattern, in which the first pass is a generally-diagonal direction, a compromise between with-grain and cross-grain directions. The final pass is the complimentary direction, a compromise between cross-grain and against-grain directions. It would have been a fair shave, but right out of the gate I carelessly gave myself a significant nick on my Adams apple, which cast a pall over the entire event. I will try this X-pattern shave again tomorrow. The shave ended with styptic and dabbing of TP on the big nick, then a Noxzema wash, then Gillette lotion with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.0; Lower lip & chin - 3.8; Under jawline - 3.6; Neck - 3.8.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.8, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating: 3.77

Wednesday:
This week's Personna-blue blade was in the Merkur 33 today for an X-pass shave -- the least-fussy shave since I can't remember when. Neither terribly close nor comfortable, I finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, and Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.0; Cheeks - 3.6; Lower lip & chin - 3.0; Under jawline - 3.0; Neck - 3.2.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.1, Irritation-3.0, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating: 3.20

Thursday:
Today was the first two passes with my Lord L.6 razor head paired with the lab-blue blade of the week and coupled with the heavy Maggard handle. The third and fourth passes were a return to the Gillette Slim on three for pass three, and on four for pass four, with the Personna red-label blade that already had several passes under its belt. The fourth, nearly full pass (didn't shave my neck a fourth time) yielded several weepers, but the irritation was only moderate, and the shave close. Finished with cool-water rinse, Noxzema wash, alum rub, and a touch of styptic on two pinpoint weepers that I kept opening with my post-shave fussing.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.3; Cheeks - 4.6; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.4, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating: 3.80   Despite the low summary rating, I value closeness and low irritation, and I think this shave was pretty good.

Friday:
A generic three-pass shave with the Lord L.6 razor head and the Personna lab-blue blade, both on the heavy Maggard MR3B handle would have given a nice, no-blood, no-irritation, no-fuss shave except for a careless stroke on the third pass under my chin, which opened a nasty cut (*&^%$#@!!!).

After the cool-water rinse and first aid for the cut, I finished with a Noxzema wash capped off with Gillette after-shave lotion (blue bottle) supplemented by vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.6; Cheeks - 4.0; Lower lip & chin - 4.0; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 3.6.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.8, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating: 3.77

Saturday:

The Rimei RM2003 used for Saturday's shave.
A Rimei RM2003 razor arrived yesterday, and this one appears to be shave worthy with no significant defects. So I used that for today's shave. I took a non-fussy three-pass shave and, even with the seventh-use Personna blue-wrapper blade, the shave was close and comfortable. Three small weepers were the only wounds, and only one of those needed just the slightest touch of styptic. I can't explain it, but despite being a mild-shaving razor, the shave was pretty darned close. The shave ended with a cool-water rinse, a Noxzema wash, and Neutrogena balm supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.2; Lower lip & chin - 4.4; Under jawline - 3.6; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.0, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.00  (Actually a nice shave despite the week-old blade and the mild, inexpensive razor.)

Next Week:
For next week I'm returning to the Israeli-made Personna Platinum red-label blade. Still in search of the optimal shave, next week I'll be using my new Rimei RM2003 razor.

*Rating Key:
Closeness -- a separate evaluation is done for each of these five areas: a) upper lip, b) cheeks, c) chin, d) under jaw line, and e) neck; then these five are averaged together for a single closeness rating. The following are the scale criteria:
5 – Smooth when rubbed against grain & other directions
4 – Smooth across grain but not against grain
3 – Smooth with grain only
2 – Not smooth to touch, but appears adequately clean shaven
1 – Not smooth to touch, and stubble apparent

Irritation:
5 – No perceivable irritation
4 – Minor irritation just after the shave, disappears quickly with time or applied balm
3 – Minor irritation that lingers for more than an hour but less than six
2 – Irritation that is perceived throughout the day
1 – Visible razor burn

Wounds:
5 – Absence of any wounds
4 – Pinpoint weepers only
3 – A total of three or less nicks, small cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
2 – A total of four to six  nicks, cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
1 – Worse than 2, above (first aid, quick!)

Regarding use of tenths of rating points: For closeness or irritation, each additional tenth of a rating point represents about 10% of the shaving area in question. For wounds, it represents gradations within a rating. For example, if I have, say, six pinpoint weepers only, I might give a wound rating of 4. However, if I only have one wound, which is a pinpoint weeper, that would likely get a rating of 4.9.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The X-Pass Shaving Pattern


If you were expecting eerie music, suggestions of other-worldly incidents, and a mis-matched pair of FBI agents attempting to unravel a mystery -- all like a spin off of the old TV series, The X-Files -- sorry, I hope you're not disappointed. The term, X-passes, actually refers to a concept for an efficient, two-pass wet shave. No ghosts or aliens involved.

The Promise of Saving Strokes, Time

Consider the accepted three-pass shave: with grain (WG), cross grain (XG), and against grain (AG). Of course, this is a proven process. However, there may be days when you may want to save some time or simply make fewer strokes with sharpened steel against sensitive skin, and yet still get a closer shave than you might in a single WG pass or a two-pass shave WG and XG. In that circumstance, the X-pass shave, in theory, may be the answer for you.

For discussion purposes, imagine a beard with a simple, consistent downward-growing grain. The first pass of an X-pass shave would be a downward-diagonal stroke, simultaneously shaving both WG and XG. This is the mild, beard-trimming knock-down pass. The second pass would be an upward-diagonal stroke, this time simultaneously splitting the difference between the XG and AG strokes in a single pass. This would be the finishing pass.

An X-pass, in effect, shaves between the lines of a standard three-pass shave, and, thereby, saves strokes, reducing the toll on your skin, and, through elimination of an entire lather-shave pass, buys you some extra time as well.

Obviously, an X-pass shave may not achieve the closeness of a fussy three-pass shave, but it might be acceptably similar.

Razor and Technique Factors

If you use a high-capacity razor such as an open-comb or slant-bar, an X-pass shave might possibly be comfortably done whether you shave every day or only once a week. If you shave every day, even a very mild-shaving razor may be completely adequate. This is expecially true if you combine the X-pass shaving pattern with oblique razor strokes (a.k.a. the Gillette slide).

As any wood worker who uses old-school hand tools (such as hand planes) knows, oblique strokes have the effect of increasing the effective sharpness of the blade's edge, thus allowing it to slice through hair more easily. Oblique strokes also increase the effective size of the blade-bar gap, thus increasing the capacity of any razor with a safety bar (as opposed to open-comb designs).

Regarding beard grain, of course it might be simpler to use the X-pass concept if one's beard grain is consistent. But for those of us, like this writer, who have less uniform grain patterns, varying beard grain might not diminish shave outcome. It may not be necessary to make your X-pass strokes strictly on the diagonal (in relation to the grain) to achieve good results. As long as that first beard-reduction pass is more or less somewhere within the WG to XG range, it will likely do the job sufficiently to allow a comfortable, safe finishing pass that's in the XG to AG spectrum.

Does an X-Pass Shave Deliver the Goods?

After trying this process with high hopes for two days, I would have to say, for me, no. The shaves weren't particularly close and they weren't particularly face friendly. In fact, this process for me, with my highly-angled grain, sucked the joy out of my shaves. I suppose if my hair grew more upright, more perpendicularly to my skin surface and didn't lay down so extremely, it might work better.

Maybe some of you more adventurous souls could give it a try and see if if works for you and report to the rest of in as a comment to this article.

Question everything, and happy shaving!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Uninformed Opinions on DE Shaving and Gear

News flash just across the wire:
There are facts and there are opinions, and in DE shaving forums, one is often confused for the other.


The root cause of this problem is trusting, gullible souls who read an opinion and then repeat it as though it were true. (And I have to admit that I was one of those for a time, but no longer! For my earlier transgressions, I apologize; I have seen the light.)

Below are three common examples of opinions that have not been verified, and in fact are not true (or likely not true). I, myself, have previously perpetuated a few unverified opinions, mistaking them as facts by not verifying them. Here are my three examples for today:
  • The Merkur 33 and the Lord L.6 razor heads have the same shaving characteristics.
  • The Merkur 33 and 34 razors have the same shaving characteristics; the only difference is their weight and handle dimensions.
  • The Rimei RM2003 razor is often sold as being made of stainless steel. Prospective buyers occasionally ask if it's really stainless. All too frequently, people will answer saying, yes, it's stainless (but it's not; it's chrome plated).
The Merkur 33 and Lord L.6 razor heads shave similarly, but they are not the same. Using measurements and observations rather than a vague sense of reality, I have confirmed that these razors have similar design characteristics, but differ most in their respective blade-bar gaps -- the L.6 having the larger gap and, therefore, is a bit less mild in its shaving nature. (I have come to appreciate that slightly more aggressive character.)

Regarding the 33 versus the 34 razor heads, I own and really like my Merkur 33 razor head. It is good for my uber-sensitive skin. I do NOT own nor have shaved with the Merkur 34. Yet, in the past, I, myself, have ignorantly, foolishly recommended this razor in lieu of the 33 because I read in several shaving forums that they are essentially razor heads with the same shaving characteristics. (Yeah, I do know that the 33 is a three-piece razor and the 34 is a two-piece design; still, they have been alleged to shave the same, which I now seriously doubt.)

After I recommended the 34 to a friend, he reported after months of use that he can't get a shave without blood letting, no matter what he does, no matter how light his touch. This caused me to ruminate: hmmm, I thought, this doesn't sound like how my 33 would behave. So I did some more research, and not surprisingly, there are voices in the wilderness that suggest that the 34 is a more aggressive shaver than its cousin the 33. If I could get my hands on a 34 without dropping about forty bucks, I would examine, measure, and compare the two shaving heads and get right to the bottom of the matter. I wish everyone would do that before popping off with half-baked opinions.

The Rimei misinformation is the most troubling of all. There are folk who actually OWN the bloody razor (as I do) and yet will, with a straight face (presumably), advise others WRONGLY that it's made of stainless (for $4 yet)! These guys apparently don't know the difference between stainless steel and chrome plating, yet they're posing as someone who can advise others CORRECTLY on this subject!

My bottom line on this uninformed-opinion issue is that none of us should try to pass off as truth something we have not personally verified, or for which we have not at least seen clearly-supporting data. For many months, my personal motto has been question everything. So let's all go forth and sin no more.

Question everything.

Happy shaving!