Thursday, March 26, 2015

Safety Razors and Narrow-Angle Shaving

In the past, whenever I pondered the role of the safety bar or comb on a DE razor, I always assumed that the configuration of the razor head would be to hold the blade edge pretty much at or slightly below the shave plane.

This, of course, is not a terribly aggressive set up -- at least not when compared to many of the razors available today. It is, however, the only type of safety razor that I will use both because of my sensistive, susceptible skin and because I like the idea of relative safety in my safety razors.

I have been somewhat surprised to learn that some DE razors have such a positive exposure that the user is able (and perhaps required) to tilt the handle further from the face such that the safety bar or comb isn't even in contact with the skin while shaving. In this usage, the razor's top cap becomes a sole pivot line about which the razor is rotated to adjust how closely the blade edge contacts the skin.

This narrow-angle (of blade to skin) shaving technique can only be done with DE razors that have significant positive blade exposure (that is, the blade edge significantly exposed above the shave plane formed by the top cap and the safety bar or comb). This means that the safety bar is taken out of the equation, and doesn't serve as a safety bar at all. In fact, if the razor were used as a safety razor was intended -- that is, touching the shave plane against skin -- the blade would be prone to removing significant dermis along with whiskers!

Basically, these uber-aggressive razor designs become a small straight razor, not a safety razor. Instead of pivoting the unguarded straight razor on its curved back, the user is pivoting the unguarded (and so-called) "safety razor" on its top cap.

Now, I admit to always having a slight hankering to shave with a straight razor. Yet I don't. This is because 1) I know that it will inevitably lead to nicks and cuts, and 2) it is unnecessarily expensive for the initial investment of gear including strops and honing blocks. I also don't think I'll get any better shave with a straight than I get with my DE -- all things considered including closeness.

But, of course, to each his own. Maybe I'd be going in the direction of uber-aggressive DE razors and narrow-angle shaving if my skin contours were rounder, my skin tougher. But things are as they are.

I'm unlikely to ever shave with a straight razor, and equally unlikely to start using non-safety safety razors -- that is, performing narrow-angle shaving with a DE design that has a significantly-positive blade exposure.

If you are one of these guys shaving with an incredibly aggressive safety-razor design, I'd love to hear how you got started with it, and what keeps you in that game.

Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. You may be one of the few who doesn't HAVE to learn the hard way. The useful narrow angles are accessible to the Rimei anyway. Just pretend you have snapped the safety bar off and
    1) place fingertips on skin BEHIND every stroke, not stretching ahead at all
    2) press the top cap into your face, gripping handle firmly
    3) actively select the most effective cutting angle
    The only thing you stand to lose is on the neck, where a perpendicular angle is best (for me)