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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: Personna Red Label Blade

This is the thirty first of my weekly shave summaries. This week involves the Personna Red Label (PRL) blade.


This week, my razors are limited to three: the Merkur Classic, Lord L.6, and Rimei RM2003 razor heads all on the Merkur Classic handle. The plan is to use the Lord razor head for the bulk of my shaves.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, which is just getting comments from the initial users of the sample offering. I'm pleased to say that I've gotten positive feedback saying it's easy to later, slick and creamy, not drying, and rinses cleanly. I've also received suggestions for similar soap formulations with minor tweaks such as adding fragrance.

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:

New/Different in This Week's Review:
  • The PRL blade, made in Israel.
  • Emphasis on my favorite razor heads -- especially on the Lord L.6, which is becoming my preferred instrument for its nice compromise between face friendliness and closeness of shave.

What I Learned this Week:
  • The PRL blade remains one of my most preferred, being adequately sharp, but also comfortable on my skin.
  • The Lord L.6 razor head is my preferred instrument for a very close shave but I have to be cautious.
  • The Merkur 33 razor head is the go -to choice for an easy, fairly-close shave.
  • My Rimei RM2003 razor head shaves just a bit too closely to assure a wound-free shave, and tends to leave weepers in its wake whenever I try to take advantage of its more-aggressive nature.


Next Week:
The Gillette 7-O'Clock blade is on deck.

This week's shave journal:

The Merkur Classic, model 33C.
Sunday:
The PRL blade is in the Merkur Classic razor for an assured low-risk shave to start the week. Three passes with some fussing in the second and third gave an acceptable shave. I re-opened two pre-existing weepers, which disappeared without needing any attention. After shave treatments were a cool-water rinse capped off with Gillette (blue bottle) gel.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.22, Irritation-4.4, Wounds-4.7

Summary rating4.39**  (A nice shave to start the week.)

The Lord L.6 razor head on the
Merkur Classic handle.
Monday:
What was to be a simple three-pass shave was spoiled by cockpit error this morning. The L.6 razor head was providing a close shave until some cavalier strokes created unnecessary blood shed. Finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, styptic application, witch hazel rub, and Gillette gel (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.1; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.5.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.37, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating4.19**  (A nice shave spoiled by a careless lack of mindfulness.)


Tuesday:

In an effort to get a fast, efficient shave, today I pulled out the Merkur Slant (37C) and did a quick two-pass (WG, XG) shave. Reopened a weeper on my cheek but the other wounds from yesterday were largely undisturbed. Did open two pinpoint weepers on my chin. Finished with cool water, styptic on re-opened weeper, alum on the chin, and Gillette (blue) gel.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.64, Irritation-4.2, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating3.86**  Not a great shave; not a great idea using the slant.

Wednesday:
Trying to recover from the mediocre at best shaves of the last few days, I got back on the horse by pulling out the Lord L.6 with the Personna red, and took a three-pass shave. With only a little fussing got a very good shave, which was followed by a cool-water rinse and a splash of witch hazel prior to my morning shower. After the shower I applied some Neutrogena balm because I like the smell.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.7; Neck - 4.8.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.72, Irritation-4.7, Wounds-4.8

Summary rating4.74**  WOW.  :-)

Thursday:
Same gear and process as yesterday. A couple of tiny weepers. Rinsed with cool water, then a splash of witch hazel. Finished the shave with a cool-water Noxzema wash.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.8; Cheeks - 4.9; Lower lip & chin - 4.9; Under jawline - 4.6; Neck - 4.7.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.78, Irritation-4.4, Wounds-4.3

Summary rating4.57**  A good shave.

Rimei RM2003 head on the Merkur
Classic handle.
Friday:
Today used the Rimei RM2003 razor with the Personna red that had five previous shaves on it. Three standard passes yielded a close shave with a few pinpoint weepers. Finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, witch hazel splash, alum rub, and Gillette gel (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.3; Neck - 4.8.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.64, Irritation-4.2, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.37**  A close shave with some weepers.

Saturday:
Three passes again today with the Personna red in the RM2003. Finished with cool-water rinses, a splash of witch hazel, an alum rub, and Gillette gel (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.7; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.5.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.46, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating3.98**  A fairly-close shave, but no fun; too many weepers.

*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.

**Regarding the single-number overall shave rating: To give equal weight to shave closeness and harshness, I now double the shave-closeness rating, then add the values for closeness, irritation, and wounds, and divide that sum by four.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Straight-Razor Rejection

Back in about 1976 I first got the idea to shave with a straight razor. Of course, there was no Internet then, so there were no on-line forums or vendors, and straight razors were difficult to find. Also, whenever I made inquiries about obtaining one, I was universally discouraged and treated like a a person of unsound mind.


I did acquire my first shaving brush and puck of shaving soap from the local drug store, which I used with my double-bladed cartridge disposable razor. I used brush and mug until a friend mentioned this wasn't necessary, and I could just use bath soap. He was quite right and those early old-school shaving implements were lost in time; the two-blade cartridge razors could give an adequate, safe, one-pass shave just using bath soap as shaving soap.

I have never lost the hankering to shave with a straight, however. Yet knowing what I know now, I will not acquire and use a straight razor.

The reasons I started DE shaving with mug and brush were those that follow:
  • Economical
  • Ecologically more friendly 
The reasons I continued DE shaving are these:
  • Very close shaves
  • Enjoyable process
  • And the two initial reasons: economy and ecological friendliness
Shaving with a straight razor is a small step forward in terms of ecological friendliness because there is not even the disposable DE blade to routinely discard. However, in terms of economy, it's not even close: the investment in a straight razor, strop, and honing gear makes the entire enterprise a loser from the perspective of cost.

Also, I have about a five-year inventory of DE blades.

The final and biggest nail in my straight-razor inclination is that I know for certain that I won't be able to match the quality of the DE shave with a straight -- both in terms of consistent closeness and, most importantly, safe, relatively-woundless shaves.

Case closed.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Back on the Horse

After Monday's lousy shave due to my silly carelessness, and yesterday's mediocre shave with the slant, I decided to return to the scene of the crime with my Lord L.6 razor head and Personna red-label blade in combination with the Merkur Classic handle.


WOW! Without a lot of fussing, I got a terrific shave.

For details on the shave, look for this Saturday's weekly shave review article.

In the meantime, I must admit that the differences between the Merkur Classic (33C) and the Lord L.6 razor head (which comes as part of the LP1822L razor) are becoming much more clear. When I take my time and with due care, I get a perceptibly closer shave with the L.6 without any difference in irritation. As I've written before, this is due to the larger blade-bar span of the L.6 -- with the other significant design aspects being about the same when comparing the 33C to the L.6 razor heads.

Though I admit my preferences have been fickle, I'm currently tempted to say that the L.6 razor head is winning me over and slowly but clearly becoming my preferred instrument for the near-ideal compromise between a close and safe shave.

I hope your shave this morning was top drawer like mine.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Limited Time and a Return to the Slant

I'm going through another transition, tomorrow returning to a nine-to-five work schedule. In preparing for this change, this morning I was experimenting with hardware for an efficient shave in what might be limited morning time before leaving for work.

So I chose to pull the Merkur Slant razor out of the bedroom closet, and try a limited-pass shave to see if I could get an acceptable shave. I shaved with grain (WG) and cross grain (XG).


The WG pass opened a wound from yesterday on my cheek, when I had carelessly shaved off the top of an unnoticed skin bump. The rest of the WG pass was uneventful.

The XG pass was more interesting because, of course, the design of the slant razor suggests one should make only direct strokes (that is, strokes in which the direction is perpendicular to the blade edge). [CORRECTION UPDATE: What I should have said in the preceding parentheses is that direct strokes are those in which the direction of the stroke is parallel to the razor handle.] This requires that the contours of the skin surface dictate the stroke direction whenever skin topography isn't compatible with precisely-XG strokes. This means that on my neck in particular, some of my strokes were almost against grain, which is risky in a second pass.

Things worked out okay, with no major disasters, but not a great shave either. The slant still irritates my skin more than necessary -- even in two passes. It is more aggressive than my other razors, but that still doesn't allow it to provide a close shave in less that three passes.

What today's experiment reminded me was that the slant isn't right for my beard, and I can probably get a better two-pass shave with my Lord L.6 or Rimei RM2003 razor heads, likely being lower irritation, fewer wounds, and as close a shave -- or better.

So tomorrow, when I'm really on the clock, it looks to be the L.6 is at the plate (even though there's no clock in baseball ;-). Then maybe Thursday I'll give the RM2003 a crack.

A bit more detail will be in my weekly shave summary on Saturday.

Happy shaving!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cockpit Errors in This Morning's Shave

This morning I ruined a good shave with some careless shaving errors. This doesn't happen that often, but when ever it does, I really hate it.

If I'm using the wrong equipment, errors are much more likely to happen. but with my favored razors, the worst I should see are some minor pin-point weepers.

Not today; I got a weeper the size of a small state park on my neck in my second (cross-grain) pass. Worse, on my third (against-grain) pass, I got a long gouge along my jawline from a careless beginning to a stroke.

I had such high hopes for this shave using one of my preferred blades, the Personna red label, in the Lord L.6 razor head.  This combination can give me a close, comfortable shave with little blood loss when I shave with appropriate care.

Hope your technique was better than mine this morning.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

On After-Shave Lotions, Potions, and Balms

I admit to thoroughly pedestrian taste when it comes to the subject of after-shave products. Completely low brow. In fact, if it weren't mostly alcohol based, I might be using Aqua Velva after-shave lotion because I've always liked its smell.

I sometimes use generic drug-store variety witch hazel as a mild astringent after my cool-water rinses. Yet the truth is I don't enjoy the smell of generic witch hazel.

The only after-shave lotion that I use occasionally, which also has astringent properties, is a tea-tree lotion with a pleasing citrus note that I got at my local Target department store. The drawback to this is that I usually follow it with some kind of balm or moisturizer, which overpowers the citrus scent of the lotion.

The balms that I use are only four -- all main stream. Two are by Gillette, the others by Nivea and Neutrogena. Of these four, I like the Nivea balm for sensitive skin the least; it is the most runny, and its bouquet is too girly for my taste -- like flowers or something. The Gillette balm in the white bottle is third in my preference, again because I don't like the smell as much as my preferred two.

My second favorite balm of the four is the Gillette brand in the blue bottle. Again it is the bouquet that determines its place in the heirarchy. The Gillette blue is masculine but just a bit strong. My favorite is the Neutrogena for sensitive skin, which has a fragrance that to my nose is just right.

The unifying quality to all these products is that they are either available on the shelf of my local drug store or Target department store.

What do you think, what are your favorites?

Happy shaving!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: Gillette Wilkinson Sword Blade

This is the thirtieth of my weekly shave summaries. This week involves the Gillette Wilkinson Sword (GWS) blade -- again in various razors of increasing aggressiveness, but all still rather mild.


Like last week, my intended razors this week will progressively increase in aggressiveness of razor design. Starting with the Weishi 9306-F (the most mild), I'll move to the Dorco Prime (to continue distinguishing any difference from the 9306), then the Merkur 33, then the Lord L.6 razor head, and then finally to the Rimei RM2003. All of the three-piece razors will be used with the classic handle from the Merkur 33.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, which is just getting comments from the initial users of the sample offering. I'm pleased to say that I've gotten positive feedback saying it's easy to later, slick and creamy, not drying, and rinses cleanly. I've also received suggestions for similar soap formulations with minor tweaks such as adding fragrance.

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:

New/Different in This Week's Review:
  • The GWS blade, made in India.

What I Learned this Week:
  • The GWS blade is sharp and fairly comfortable for my face. I'm left with the impression that it's good, but not enough to make me rush to order a large quantity.
  • The Lord L.6 razor head (which comes on the LP1822L razor) was my favorite this week, shaving closely and comfortably.
  • The two TTO razors, the Weishi and the Dorco Prime, will go back into closet storage. They aren't bad for my beard, but the Merkur Classic, Lord L.6, and Rimei RM2003 razor heads shave a bit closer with no less comfort.

Next Week:
The Israeli-made Personna red-label blade is on deck.

This week's shave journal:

Sunday:
The Weishi 9306-F.
With a fresh GWS blade in the Weishi 9306-F, I took a fussy three-pass shave. Owing to the mildness of the 9306 and the less-extreme blade (as compared to last week's Polsilver), I did less damage to my skin, but not as close a shave. The only wounds were minor weepers in one patch of skin beneath my right ear where the grain is crazy and the skin slightly raised. I finished with a cool-water rinse, a splash of witch hazel, and finally Gillette after-shave gel (blue bottle) supplemented with three drops of vitamin-E oil.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.02, Irritation-4.4, Wounds-4.4

Summary rating4.21**  (Not a bad shave. Not as close as I love, but with little skin insult.)

The Dorco Prime, visually
a twin for the Weishi.
Monday:
A basic three pass shave with the Dorco Prime razor holding the second use GWS blade gave a slightly closer shave than yesterday. No new wounds but some from yesterday (and last week) were re-opened. After-shave treatments included a cool-water rinse, a splash of generic witch hazel, and application of Neutrogena balm for sensitive skin.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.22, Irritation-4.4, Wounds-4.4

Summary rating4.31**


The Merkur Classic, model 33C.
Tuesday:
Returning to the Merkur Classic razor for the third shave on the GWS blade, the plan was to make three generic passes to get a reasonable shave without unnecessarily opening the remaining-yet-invisible and still-healing weepers from previous shaves.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.3; Lower lip & chin - 4.4; Under jawline - 4.3; Neck - 4.6.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.36, Irritation-4.2, Wounds-4.7

Summary rating4.41**  A nice shave.

Wednesday:
The Lord L.6 razor head on the
Merkur Classic handle.
Like last week, I put this week's GWS Sword blade in the Lord L.6 razor head on the Merkur Classic handle. Three passes with just a bit of fussing at the end again resulted in a good shav. Finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, a splash of witch hazel, and some undoctored Gillete gel (blue bottle). I could really feel the blade this morning, but in a good way -- shaving but not irritating.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.3; Under jawline - 4.3; Neck - 4.3.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.32, Irritation-4.7, Wounds-4.3

Summary rating4.41**  A good shave this morning.  :-)

Thursday:
Yesterday's shave was so good, I decided to use the same gear again. So with the GWS blade again in the Lord L.6 razor head, three passes, with a bit of fussing on the third, resulted in a really good shave: close, comfortable, no wounds except for a single pin-point weeper under my jaw re-opened from a previous shave. Ended with the usual cool-water rinse, towel dry, and application of un-doctored Neutrogena balm.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.4; Cheeks - 4.9; Lower lip & chin - 4.7; Under jawline - 4.6; Neck - 4.6.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.64, Irritation-4.6, Wounds-4.9

Summary rating4.70**  A really good shave!!  Wow!  :-)

Friday:
The previous two shaves have been so good, I'm doing it again with the Lord L.6 and today's sixth-use GWS blade. Three passes and just a little fussing ended in a pretty good shave with just three of the most minor weepers. Again finished with a cool-water rinse and application of Gillette balm (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.7; Under jawline - 4.3; Neck - 4.7.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.50, Irritation-4.6, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.40**

Saturday:
Rimei RM2003 head on the Merkur
Classic handle.
For the final shave with this week's GWS blade, I used the RM2003 from Rimei. Three careful passes with some fussing gave a close shave but some new weepers, which disappeared with some judicious rinsing and a few dabs with some TP. Finished with a cool-water rinse, witch hazel splash, some tea-tree lotion, and Gillette gel (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.9; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.4; Neck - 4.4.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.44, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.22**  (A good shave but not the best of the week.)

*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.

**Regarding the single-number overall shave rating: To give equal weight to shave closeness and harshness, I now double the shave-closeness rating, then add the values for closeness, irritation, and wounds, and divide that sum by four.

Happy shaving!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Third Shave This Week with the Lord L.6 Razor Head

My shaves with the Lord L.6 razor head have been so good that I've been reluctant to give it up. Today was the third straight shave, and I keep getting close, comfortable shaves.

I just can't stand too much of a good thing, however, so tomorrow I will use my Rimei RM2003 just to compare.

The Rimei RM2003 razor head on the handle from the Merkur Classic (33C).

The Rimei has a just-above-neutral blade exposure, which is more positive than the L.6, so it should be easier to get that close shave that I love. However, the Rimei also has a smaller blade angle (in relation to the shave plane) than the L.6, so it is also a lower-irritation shave. The only real question is whether I can avoid wounds with the Rimei.

Tune in tomorrow for my weekly shave summary to find out the answer to that question.

Today looks to be a beautiful, sunny spring day, so I'm hoping I can fit in some tennis late this afternoon. Before then, I'm giving my final lecture of the semester in my university health and nutrition class. Next week is the final exam, and after calculating and posting semester grades, it's on to other work for the summer.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

That Troublesome Neck Area

If you are like me, you have a beard that grows not only on your face but also down your neck nearly all the way to your collar bones (technically called the clavicles). Also if you are like me, your neck skin is lean, not well padded with fat, so the neck skin follows the contours of the underlying anatomy. Finally if you are like me, your skin, being sensitive as well as thin, is also susceptible to nicks and weepers from normal shaving. Combine that with a tough beard and non-uniform grain or uniform grain that grows in directions other than straight up or down, shaving mid neck area can be challenging.

So if you want a close shave on your neck, what to do? What to do?

Well, first of all, a mild razor is called for. The uber-aggressive designs that some use -- specifically with a large blade exposure or blade span (or worse, both) -- will likely grab and wound this thin, sensitive, highly-contoured neck skin quite readily leaving wounds in its wake. This is one of several reasons that I exclusively use razors that are considered by most to be of moderate to mild shave character. For a close shave, three passes are required.


Particularly problematic can be the sternocleidomastoid muscles (shown above making their V shape, running from above the sternum to below the ears). To shave the neck, the chin is usually elevated as in the illustration, which tightens the skin, but also causes the sternocleidomastoid muscles to stand proud, causing difficult-to-shave depressions between them.

Further manual tightening of the skin with the non-razor hand can help, but only helps so much. The solution is that for one of the three passes, the razor's blade edge must be parallel to these sternocleidomastoid muscles. This is especially true if the grain of the beard tends to run side to side.

So to shave closely in this real estate, the blade edge will be on the diagonal to be parallel to these troublesome muscles. When making razor strokes across the neck (as opposed to up or down the neck), they will either have to be oblique strokes (that is, the blade edge not square to stroke direction), or they will have to be not directly across the neck, but rather directed diagonally across the neck and not precisely side to side.

When I shave this area and under my jaw line, I have to use both methods if I want a close, safe shave.

Is this area difficult for you? What are your solutions when you really want a smooth shave?

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Lord L.6 Razor Head

After coming out and stating once again that the Merkur Classic (33C) razor is my current fave, it may not, however, be my BFF.

The Lord L.6 razor head on the Merkur Classic handle. The L.6 comes as part of the Lord LP1822L razor.

This morning's shave with the Lord L.6 razor head (which comes with the Lord LP1822L razor) was a head turner.

When paired with the right blade and good technique, on my face the L.6 has just that extra bit of blade-bar span that allows a slightly closer shave. Yep, there's more risk for the sensitive of skin, but the shave can be perceptibly closer.

Had a great shave this morning, and the L.6 razor head from the folk at Lord is appropriately getting deserved attention in my awareness.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Shaving Gear I Own But Don't Favor

As a companion posting to last Sunday's, this article discusses my shaving tools that I generally don't use.  Of course, just because I don't use certain gear doesn't mean it's necessarily inferior; it just doesn't work as well on my face.

Razors:

Weishi 9306-F / Dorco Prime: These visually-indistinguishable TTO razors are made of brass (to a large extent, at least), are chrome plated, and have nice knurling for a firm grip. They are just slightly too mild for me because I like very close shaves. If I were slightly less picky, these would be fine as every-day shavers for me.

Merkur 37C Slant Bar: With the in-built slant of the edge combined with the varying blade angle, exposure, and span along the blade, this shaves closely but is a bit harsh on my skin. I may return to this from time to time to re-evaluate, but for now is stored in the closet.

Shave Factory TTO:  With its smooth, slightly-fluted handle (which is slippery when wet -- eesh!), this TTO razor is also a bit aggressive and harsh for me. I gave it away to a relative, and don't care if I ever get it back.

Maggard MR3B:  Nice fat handle that has a black anodized accent, this razor has a shave character that is too aggressive for me to appreciate. It also doesn't self center the blade, which is a characteristic I just can't abide. It lives in my closet -- even the handle, which I have come to think is unnecessary. These days I just use the stock Merkur Classic handle on all my three-piece razors in the regular rotation.

Gillette Slim Adjustable TTO:  My dad's only DE razor that I have known, I keep it for that reason. (Some day I may sell it.) It's not a bad razor; it just isn't right enough for my face to replace my regulars.

Wilkinson Sword Classic:  This two-piece razor made of plastic with a metal rod in the handle is of mild character -- maybe just a touch too mild -- and, like the Gillette Slim, isn't a bad instrument but doesn't offer enough benefit to justify regular use.

Several Cheap Chinese Trash-or-Treasure Razors:  One of these silver-toned razors -- all of which I've metal-smithed to correct and customize their shave performance -- is in my gym bag for those rare times when I don't shave in the morning, which I virtually always do. (The last morning shave I missed was in September of 2014, when I was hospitalized for appendicitis.) Generally speaking, they're not good enough to use regularly, but are good enough to use in a pinch.

Weishi 2003-M:  This all-aluminum TTO design was oh for two from the factory in terms of holding the blade straight and providing a comfortable shave. I tossed one in the trash and metal-worked the other, which offers a slightly more aggressive shave character than its 9306 cousin. It doesn't give me the most comfortable shave, and I haven't considered using it  for a long time. I don't even know if Weishi still makes this one.

Brushes:

Omega Syntex synthetic:  Holds lots of water, never sheds a bristle. However, the bristles are a bit harsh on skin. Performs OK, but I just like my Van Der Hagen boar more.

Tweezerman Badger:  Soft, and face friendly, it doesn't offer a lot of backbone, and sheds the occasional bristle. No serious complaints about this one either; but still prefer the uber-inexpensive VDH boar brush.

Happy shaving!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Key Questions Remain About the New Rockwell Razor

The Rockwell 6S Razor is an interesting three-piece DE razor that apparently comes with three different baseplates. These three are reversible, which provides the  user with (one would assume) six different varieties of shaving character. It looks to be of high quality materials and well made. The packaging seems nice.


Their site implies one should reserve a 6S for purchase. And $75 for such a razor and unique design doesn't seem unreasonable.

Yet what is wrong with this picture?

The problem is it might be a great razor for the purchaser or it might be a pig in a poke. (If you don't know what this means, click on the phrase for an explanation from Wikipedia.)

OK, this is a six-setting adjustable razor without the twist; got it. However, just because a razor is adjustable doesn't mean it will provide a rewarding shave for every user. For example, I have a Gillette Slim Adjustable, but it sits in a shoe box in a closet because I get better shaves from other non-adjustable razors. Adjustment provides variety in shave character, but adjustment has limits, and the available settings may not be ideal for a given user.

Here's what the Rockwell Razor folk are not providing as of this writing, but should:

  • Detailed specifications of the key design aspects for each of the six baseplate options. Those key design aspects are 1) blade exposure (how far the blade edge is above or below the shave plane formed by the safety bar and the top cap), 2) blade angle (the angle of the blade in relation to the shave plane), and 3) blade span (the distance between the blade edge and the imaginary line on the safety bar that touches the face when shaving; that is, the line on the safety bar that determines the shave plane of the razor head).
  • Side-view close-up photos of the razor head with blade installed and the camera lens aimed directly down the blade edge. Each of the six configurations should have a photo as just described.
  • It would also be nice if each of the photos had a description explaining how one would expect the shave character to be based on the key design aspects pictured. This would help those shoppers who don't yet fully understand the relevance to shave character of exposure, span, and angle.
I'm not currently in the market for another DE razor; I have that base well covered, thanks very much. If I were open to a new razor, would I order a Rockwell? With the information provided, no way -- unless there was an iron-clad all-money-back guarantee that I would be happy with the shave performance. Even then would I order? Maybe, only maybe.

But I shouldn't have to rely on a performance guarantee. I should be able to make a better-informed purchase decision right from the jump without having to rely on hope, faith, and meaningless sales puffery from a seller that their razor is good (whatever that may mean). (And please note, I'm speaking of all razor sellers, not calling out Rockwell in particular.)

I am not saying the Rockwell folk are a bad lot; they're probably good, well-intentioned people, with an interesting new approach to razor adjustability. Unfortunately, they just haven't apparently read and acted on my articles that speak to razor sellers providing better design information to allow better purchase decisions.

However, it is time that DE sellers and manufacturers stepped up and offered more relevant information on their products. It isn't just about looks and materials. First and foremost, it's about how their razors shave. And short of buying and trying, the only way to get a sense of likely razor performance is for 1) buyers to understand how the big-three design aspects apply to their needs, and 2) for sellers to provide data on what those design specs are for any given razor.

Happy shaving (and shopping)!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

My Current Preferences in Primary Shaving Gear

My preferences regarding DE gear tend to change. Why? I guess there are several reasons. I continue to experiment, and as I learn, preferences will change. Also, I think that as time goes on and I gain more experience with different products, I simply get more well acquainted with them and my opinions change -- for better or worse.

So this morning, thanks to some comments on yesterday's article, I've been motivated to offer some thoughts on my current preferences and priorities.

Every week in my Saturday shave reviews, I include the same paragraph on my skin type, so I won't bore you with that here. If you haven't seen that, any Saturday article from the last seven months will likely have that information.

Razors:

My favorite razor is probably the Merkur Classic (model 33C). Consistently face friendly yet offering a shave that is about as close as my skin can tolerate on average (albeit very mild), I always feel comfortable with this razor.



Honorable mention goes to the Lord LP1822L and in particular its L.6 shave head, which is similar to the Merkur Classic. I don't like the aluminum handle on this razor only because of the softness of the metal, rendering its threads susceptible to damage over time. Otherwise, I think the handle is just fine.



I also like the Rimei RM2003 razor. Though it is too aggressive for my skin when paired with very sharp blades and therefore likely to leave weepers in its wake, it also provides the closest shave of those that suit me, and with it I can sometimes get a very good shave indeed.

Over time and various trials, I have become less fond on my Merkur open-comb razor, the model 15C. I don't find that it shaves closer than the 33C, but seems to leave a bit more irritation and weepers. So I do keep this on hand for trimming the back of my neck, where the skin is much less sensitive, and for trimming any hairline such as above the back of my neck.

Blades:

Gun to my head, I would say that the Personna red-label made in Israel is my favorite, but not by a mile. The Personna Super (the so-called lab-blue blade) is good for me, as are Astra Superior Platinum, Dorco ST-301, SuperMax Titanium, and others including Blue Bird (really like), Gillette Silver Blue (also really like), and other blades from Gillette as well. Generally a coated blade in the mid-price range is my preference. Feathers and Polsilver seem a bit too sharp to be excellent for me, and combined with their price tag makes them not worth it for me. The only other blade that I've tried and tend to avoid is the Derby Extra, which on my face feels like it tugs the whiskers a bit and leaves some skin irritation as well -- the worst of both worlds.



Soaps/Creams:

Since I formulated my own soap, Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, that one is suited to my face. I've tried others but found them a bit drying or not slick enough.

Brushes:

I'm frugal, so I have only tried brushes with a very modest price tag -- and not many of those. My favorite from my stable of three (Omega Syntex synthetic bristle, Tweezerman badger, and Van Der Hagen boar brisle) is the VDH boar. With use, the boar bristle tips develop split ends (a good thing) and thereby become softer and face friendly, but the boar bristles retain good backbone. Yep, this brush has shed an occasional bristle, but that has diminished over time, and I consider this brush an excellent value and a pleasure to use.



Well those are my preferences in the primary gear that one uses for a shave. Happy shaving!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The Polsilver Iridium Blade with Various Razors

This is the twenty-nineth of my weekly shave summaries. This week discusses the sharp, coated Polsilver Super Iridium blade in various razors of increasing aggressiveness -- but all still rather mild.

My intended razors this week will progressively increase in aggressiveness of razor design. Starting with the Weishi 9306-F (the most mild), I'll move to the Dorco Prime (to continue distinguishing any difference from the 9306), then the Merkur 33, then the Lord L.6 razor head, and then finally to the Rimei RM2003. All of the three-piece razors will be used with the classic handle from the Merkur 33.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, which is just getting comments from the initial users of the sample offering. I'm pleased to say that I've gotten positive feedback saying it's easy to later, slick and creamy, not drying, and rinses cleanly. I've also received suggestions for similar soap formulations with minor tweaks such as adding fragrance.

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:

New/Different in This Week's Review:
  • The Polsilver Super Iridium blade, made in St. Petersburg, Russia
  • The day-to-day incremental increase in aggressiveness of each day's chosen razor's shave character, though all typically mild to suit my sensitive skin

What I Learned this Week:
  • The Polsilver Super Iridium blade is just a bit sharp and irritating for my sensitive skin, making any attempt at the close shave that I prefer difficult to do without minor blood appearing.
  • After about a week of shaves (seven shaves), the blade seems to be dulling slightly and to the point where I might get a shave without weepers, but it's too much trouble to go through a week of spoiled shaves just to eventually get to some that I can really appreciate.
  • The Polsilver's sharpness and tendency to irritate my sensitive skin combined with its higher price makes it one that I won't buy in bulk, and am just using the remaining blades from my five-pack sample. (I've given a couple away to friends to try.)
  • The difference in shaving character between my Weishi 9306-F and the Dorco Prime TTO razors is too close to call. For me, I think I have to work just a little too hard to get a close shave with either, and, ironically, the mildness of the razors may encourage more pressure against skin engendering just a touch more irritation and a few more weepers than razors with just a little more aggression in their basically-mild character.
  • Though I tend to think of the following razors in this increasing order of aggressiveness (though all are extremely mild shavers) -- Weishi 9306-F, Dorco Prime, Merkur Classic (33C) -- they all shave about the same. Yes, there are variations in the daily shave, which are likely random; but they each offer similar capability for a close shave. Of the three, however, I prefer the Merkur Classic, which seems the least grating on my skin.
  • The Lord L.6 razor head is slightly more capable than the Merkur Classic. The indication for this is the closer shave that I get on my cheeks with the L.6. However, for my face, the overall best razor with a very sharp blade such as the Polsilver remains the Merkur Classic (33C), offering the best compromise between potential for closeness, and risk of wounds and irritation.
  • The Rimei RM2003 razor head is too much razor for my face, when paired with this Polsilver blade.
  • For optimal shaving, I need to slow both the rate of my strokes as well as the speed of each individual stroke; that is, I need to counteract my natural tendency to hurry.

Next Week:
The Gillette Wilkinson Sword blade is on deck.

This week's shave journal:

Sunday:
The Weishi 9306-F.
With the fresh-from-the wrapper Polsilver blade in the Weishi 9306-F razor I took a careful three-pass shave (WG, AG, XG -- no that's not a typo: I shaved against grain on the second pass and cross grain in the third) with some additional fussing including an against grain fourth pass on my upper lip. Even with the mild razor and some careful shaving, the ultra sharp Polsilver blade opened a number of minor weepers and minor cockpit error caused a nick under my jawline. The shave ended with the usual cool-water rinse, a splash of witch hazel, a touch of styptic on one weeper and on the nick, a splash of tea tree after shave lotion, and some Gillette balm (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 5.0; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.7; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 4.2.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.48, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating4.24**  (Once again like last week, a pretty nice shave with a rating lowered by some minor second- and third-pass wounds.)

The Dorco Prime, visually
a twin for the Weishi.
Monday:
Just like last week's Monday shave, I took three passes, with the last being very fussy. Today I used the Dorco Prime razor trying to compare the closeness of the shave on my cheeks with yesterday's shave. Finished with a cool-water rinse, witch hazel splash, and Neutrogena balm. Very difficult to judge for sure, but I don't think the Dorco Prime is shaving much closer than the Weishi; the difference on the cheeks may be due to the essentially double against-grain pass that I took today.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.40, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating4.08**


The Merkur Classic, model 33C.
Tuesday:
Today was a three-pass shave with some fussing on my upper lip, which resulted in a minor nick (*&^%$#@!!!). This spoiled an otherwise fine shave. Though sharp, I seem to consistently find the Polsilver blade just a bit irritating. I closed out the shave with the usual cool-water rinse, a touch of styptic, and that was it. I'll apply some moisturizer with sunscreen before I leave the house.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.2; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.3; Neck - 4.7.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.44, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.9

Summary rating4.20**  A pretty good shave spoiled by that nick on my upper lip.  :-(

Wednesday:
The Lord L.6 razor head on the
Merkur Classic handle.
Today per the week's plan, I had the Polsilver blade in the Lord L.6 razor head on the Merkur Classic handle. Three no-fuss passes resulted in a good shave a bit closer on my cheeks than previous days though not quite baby smooth. Finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, a single touch of styptic on a small but prolific weeper, and some un-doctored Neurtogena balm.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.26, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.13**

Thursday:
Rimei RM2003 head on the Merkur
Classic handle.

Completing the five-razor seqence, today was the Rimei RM2003 head on the Merkur Classic handle -- of course, with the fifth-use Polsilver Super Iridium blade. This combination of razor head and blade is probably too aggressive for my skin. Three non-fussy passes gave a fairly close shave, but lots of weepers, which required styptic treatment. The irony of this blade-razor combination is that, being too aggressive, I really don't get much closer than with other alternatives because I have to be gentle to avoid excessive blood loss. I finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, a witch hazel splash, styptic pencil, and some Gillette lotion for sensitive skin (white bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.6; Neck - 4.6.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.54, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating4.02**  (A good shave spoiled by significant weepers.)

Friday:
After yesterday's blood letting, I returned to the trusty Merkur Classic razor to take the sixth shave of the week with the Polsilver Super Iridium blade. Three simple passes gave an acceptable shave, but unfortunately with some weepers from yesterday reopened. I should emphasize that these wounds are painless; I only know they've occurred when blood appears. The shave was finished with a cool-water rinse, a witch hazel splash, and application of Nivea sensitive-skin balm.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.1; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.7.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.36, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.18**

Saturday:
Still trying (and failing) to not re-open weeper wounds from previous shaves, I took the final three-pass shave (with fussing on the final pass) with the Polsilver in my Merkur Classic (33C) razor. I topped the shave with a cool-water rinse, some tea-tree after-shave lotion, then some Neurtogena gel supplemented with three drops of vitamin-E oil.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.48, Irritation-4.6, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.39**  (By far, the best shave of the week, but still diminished by the recurring weepers.)

*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.

**Regarding the single-number overall shave rating: To give equal weight to shave closeness and harshness, I now double the shave-closeness rating, then add the values for closeness, irritation, and wounds, and divide that sum by four.

Happy shaving!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Rating Shaves by the Numbers

Putting a number to a subjective evaluation gives a sense of clarity. It gives a handy way to make comparisons that would otherwise be difficult.


This is what I did when I sketched out my shave-rating system. And it has been a success.

Well.... actually no, it hasn't.

If assigning numbers is difficult (and it is), it's even more difficult to tease some meaningful information out of those numbers. This is why the discipline and science of statistical analysis was created.

The famous statistician and business consultant, W. Edwards Deming, showed this clearly in his master work, the book Out of the Crisis. He used the example of dropping a marble through a funnel-type devise onto a target. The goal of this experiment was to create the tightest scatter pattern of outcomes after repeated dropping of the marble onto the target.

The most intuitive method was to adjust the dropping device after each trial, and the adjustment would compensate for the degree of error in the previous drop. Kind of makes sense, right? If the marble drops a centimeter to the left, then move the dropping device one centimeter to the right. Outcome should be perfect!

But no. Actually, using this method of adjustment cause the scatter pattern to explode with variation, creating not an orderly, accurate outcome, but instead a chaotic mess with no accuracy, no increasing repeatability at all.

The best result was when the outcomes were analysed using statistical methods, which resulted in the scatter pattern decreasing, and the outcome of the marble drops becoming increasingly focused, more precise.

So the rating system that I've devised -- imperfect though it may be in and of itself -- is only a crude baby step in comparing gear and shaves. Though this baby step can use much refining, the biggest hurdle would be to apply statistical methods to actually begin the process of gleaning meaningful conclusions from the numbers.

A rating system isn't a mistake; it's just not the complete answer to understanding the truth that may be hidden in the numbers.

Food for thought.... and analysis.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Why is This Razor Becoming the Mass-Market Starter Razor?

The razor shown below is becoming the de-facto starter razor for the masses, re-introducing the metal DE safety razor to those who have only previously known electrics or multi-bladed (or single bladed) disposable plastic razors.

Is this TTO razor a MicroTouch One? Dorco Prime? Van Der Hagen? Weishi? Some other?
It appears that this razor, which I allege is likely made by Weishi, has become the razor of choice for marketers re-branding it with their own name and selling as part of a DE starter set.

The characteristics of this razor include the following:
  • Twist-to-open (TTO) design 
  • Chrome plated
  • Non-slip / low-slip handle
  • Mild shave character, reputed to have the shave head patterned off the classic Gillette Super Speed razor
Though this razor may not please the majority of shaving hobbyists or aficionados, who tend to sample many new and vintage instruments, I think it's no accident that so many marketers have chosen this razor as their "starter" offering.

The razor is first and foremost, reasonably inexpensive. Though far from the cheapest, it is certainly available for under $25. And this makes sense; you don't want to try and sell a $70 razor to someone who isn't sure they'll use it for more than a week.

Secondly, it's a TTO design, which lowers another barrier to entry by offering the more familiar design (as opposed to the more esoteric two- and three-piece razors). And further, this design is often (incorrectly) perceived by the uninitiated as being safer and easier to change blades.

Thirdly, it has a mild shaving character, which after a first use will remove a great deal of the DE fear factor. So many who have never tried DE shaving perceive it as a dangerous, risky proposition. This pussy cat of a razor helps to douse the flames of that fear.

Beyond those reasons, the razor is nice looking, feels good in the finger tips, and with reasonable care, can be somewhat durable.

So it's no accident that this razor is becoming increasingly visible and available. These marketing guys actually know what they're doing.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

My Local Target has a Toe in the DE Door....

Target department stores cater, in my view, to women. This is not an enclave of maleness. Their tools, sporting goods, even their men's clothing departments are rather small, weak, and lack the male appeal of more.... well.... more masculine stores.

Still, I stop there once in a great while to look for an item for the kitchen or the laundry room, and when I do, I take a pass or two through the shaving aisle just to see what a big-box department store is selling.

The way business is done at many of the larger retail chains is that product manufacturers pay the retailer for the privilege of displaying their products on the retailer's shelves. I don't know if Target, specifically, has this practice, but I suspect so.

So I was surprised to see about three or so different boxed products of old-school shaving gear in the men's shaving aisle. All were Van Der Hagen brand, and included two different "starter sets" and one container of DE blades. The blades were expensive, coming in a small-quantity package, selling for something approaching one dollar per blade, and no specific manufacturer. They were labeled as either PTFE or Teflon coated (I don't remember which -- though, of course, Teflon is the name brand for PTFE). The two starter sets were interesting to me because of their contents.

The boxed starter set that contained a DE razor (remember that everything was Van Der Hagen brand) was another twin for the chrome-plated Weishi 9306 TTO. This razor seems to be the primary instrument that is re-branded by several companies (MicroTouch, Dorco Prime, now Van Der Hagen, et al) for mass distribution.

The other boxed set contained a badger brush and no razor. I found this of interest because I think Van Der Hagen sells a terrific value brush containing boar hair, and this was the first time I've noticed them selling one with badger bristles.

The fact is that this tiny offering of DE and traditional shaving accessories by Target does not signify a major sea change in US shaving practices; but it may indicate a small one. This suggests to me that not Target, but rather Van Der Hagen is seeing growth in their traditional-shaving products sufficient to display their wares in the major national department store chain. This in itself probably says something positive about the resurgence of DE shaving -- even if this Target offering is short lived.

I don't expect to someday soon see a Merkur razor at Target, for example. And I don't anticipate ever buying my 100-pack of Personna red-label blades there either. Still, it may introduce more of the uninformed masses about the availability of DE shaving gear, and may therefore be good for us all who prefer this method.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Things I'd Like to Do Regarding DE Shaving

I started this blog to discuss and celebrate the things I liked about DE shaving. But in the process of keeping it going for over a year now, my ambition has broadened a bit.

However, on some days, when I'm tired, instead of discussing and celebrating, I'd like to just enjoy my morning shave without the looming question of what will I write today?

On more ambitious days, I would like to be a serious agent of change. Some of the things I'd like to change include the following:

  • I'd like to raise the general design and engineering awareness of DE razors to elevate it well beyond the all-too-common discussion of razor weight and balance.
  • I'd like all razor sellers to provide a side-view close-up down-the-edge photo of the razor head with blade installed so that every buyer can get an idea of the blade exposure, blade-bar span, and blade angle.
  • I'd also like to see all manufacturers provide, at minimum, precise dimensions on those same three design aspects.
  • I'd like to help all DE-product shoppers and buyers have an easier time selecting the right equipment for their beard and skin without having to do extensive sampling, extensive trial-and-error evaluations.
  • I'd like to find a way to have a standardized rating of DE blades for sharpness and comfort, which would help to cut down on trial-and-error evaluations of blades.
I'd like to design and manufacture a custom DE razor that is more adjustable than current designs. This would include making the exposure, angle, and span independent variables; that is, each independently adjustable. (Currently, all the designs that I know of allow adjustment of the span, and as a result of that, the exposure and angle adjust in a fixed way accordingly.)

I'd like to offer two versions of Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin -- the original unscented formulation and a second version with a pleasant, manly fragrance.

I'd like to design and make the ultimate DE razor rack.

For now, however, after accomplishing my second point of this article (which is to have written it), I'd like to accomplish my first point, which is to enjoy this mornings shave process and outcome.

Happy shaving!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Monday Morning Quarterback

Looking at film from the weekend, here's a recap of what's going on behind the scenes at Grandad....

Shave Soap:
The first feedback is in from those who have received samples of Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin. The initial outside review is that the soap lathers easily, does, in fact, like lots of water, is slick and creamy; is not drying on the skin, and rinses off easily. The requests for full-sized quantities of the soap have started to come in.
Clean, left-over lather from Grandad's Shave Soap for
Sensitive Skin after this morning's shave.

Also have had a request for adding fragrance. I will be looking into that. The delay in this process is that it isn't as simple as dumping in something during the soap-making process. This added-during-the-cook process of getting a pleasing scent into the soap is the way many hobbyists and amateurs do it, but it's wasteful, inefficient, and unnecessarily drives up the cost. A better way to add fragrance to soap is to add it after the soap is done.

Professional producers often add fragrance by milling the soap; that is, by grinding it into small bits in a no-heat process and adding the fragrance to the cool bits. This milling may be done several times to achieve greater homogeneity in the finished product. Hence that is why you will often see soap advertised as triple milled. So before Grandad's Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin can be offered in two versions, scented and unscented, I need to pick an initial fragrance and then get the gear necessary to mill the soap.

I will also soon be offering for purchase the unscented version in a full, not sample quantity and the sample offer will be going away. What has delayed the full-quantity offering is pretty basic stuff; in this case it's finding shipping packaging that will be optimally cost effective to maximize the value to users of Grandad's Shave Soap. (I'm not called "the frugal shaver" for nothing; and I'm always trying to help other maximize value -- not just for me. Some others can testify to that; I have refunded some sample purchasers part of their pre payment when the post office has charged less than predicted for postage fees.)

Actually a second minor delay is getting the gear and process to form the soap in the desired finished shape. I'm working on that too.

Reviews of Products, Shaves, and Other Issues:
I often have former reviews in the back of my mind. This is because I find the process of testing shaving products to be subjective and changing. I may have an opinion at a point in time, then after revisiting the issue later, find that my opinion has changed. I don't think this is terribly uncommon, but the difference is that I usually put my thoughts in writing and publish them for the world to see.

I guess the lesson here is that unless I'm discussing the technical aspects of razor design, in which the only thing that has changed is my choice of terminology to be more consistent with the rest of the world, everything else is built on shifting sands.

For example, today I'll be shaving again with the Dorco Prime TTO razor, which appears to be a twin for a Weishi 9306 product. Yet after using the Dorco for more than a week and comparing it directly to the Weishi, I'm still not sure if they shave the same of if the Dorco doesn't provide a slightly closer shave. Today will help to decide that answer (I hope). The results will be available in the "What I Learned this Week" section of Saturday's weekly shave review article.

That's it for now. Hope to see you again....

Happy shaving!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The Dorco Prime Starter Set

Dorco Prime starter set: TTO razor, 30 ST-301 blades,
and a  nice case with mirror.
This is the twenty-eighth of my weekly shave summaries. This week discusses the Dorco Prime starter set, with twist-to-open razor, 30 Dorco ST-301 blades (which, like their ST-300s, are made in Vietnam), and a nice brown-plastic travel case that has a small mirror built in. The ST-301 blade comes single wrapped in paper, and the ten packs come in a plastic container. A number of individual blades in their paper wrappers will fit in the travel case with the razor, but the entire ten pack in its plastic case will not, which is fine in my view.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin, which is being used for the initial offering of 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:



New/Different in This Week's Review:
  • The Dorco Prime razor.
  • The use of the Dorco ST-301 blades for most of the week, finishing with last week's ST-300 blade for the final two shaves.
  • Since I finished last week with two shaves on an ST-301 blade from the Dorco Prime set, I will begin the week with that same blade, thus starting this week with the third shave on the 301 blade in the Dorco Prime razor.

What I Learned this Week:
  • I'd rather have some minor blood shed and a very close, near-totally-baby-smooth shave, than a mediocre, coarse shave and no wounds at all.
  • The Dorco Prime razor -- likely a twin to a chrome-plated Weishi 9306 version -- can give an good daily shave -- and I could use this razor as a daily instrument.
  • The Dorco Prime DE razor and the Weishi 9306-F give me shaves that are indistinguishable from one another.
  • My one day, Thursday, returning to the Merkur 33, however, gave a better overall shave -- even with a last-use ST-301 blade! -- slightly less irritation, fewer wounds, a bit closer. However, this was before I slowed down my shaving strokes a bit.
  • I like the Dorco ST-301 blades, and they are a good blade for me to use and give me good results, but they're not the absolute perfect match for my skin (matching blade to skin is a very personal thing).
  • On Thursday's shave I began making slower strokes with the razor, which, going forward, may improve the overall quality of my shaves.

Next Week:
The Polsilver Super Iridium blade is on deck.

This week's shave journal:

Sunday:
Dorco Prime razor
and ST-301 blade.

With a two-shave ST-301 blade in the Dorco Prime TTO razor, I determined to take a non-fussy three-pass shave. Finished with cool-water rinse, splash of tea-tree lotion, and Gillette gel (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.8.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.40, Irritation-4.2, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.25**  (A pretty nice shave with a rating lowered by some minor third-pass wounds.)

Monday:
Three passes, with the last being very fussy, gave me as close a shave as I've had. The extremely close and fussy third pass did open some minor wounds. Finished with a cool-water rinse, tea-tree after-shave lotion, a partial beard alum rub, and Gillette lotion for sensitive skin (white bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.7; Neck - 4.2.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.48, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.24**   (Again a good shave with a diminished rating because of minor wounds.)


Tuesday:
Today I planned on a not-very-close three-pass shave that didn't include an against-grain pass, but in reality added a near-full fourth pass. This planned "light" shave was to allow my repeating minor wounds to heal so later in this week I can return to attempts at maximum closeness -- thus really pushing the performance envelope of the Dorco Prime razor. (I would also like to try a fresh Personna blade in this razor.) However, in the second pass, I unwisely got too tricky on my mid and upper neck. Damage done, I finished the shave with a light touch but with thoroughness. After the shave, I used a cool-water rinse, a splash of witch hazel, and Neutrogena balm (my favorite scent) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

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

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.08, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating3.92**  (A forgettable shave.)

Wednesday:
The Weishi 9306-F: an apparent twin
to the Dorco Prime razor.
Today I pulled out my Weishi 9306-F to do a comparison shave to the Dorco Prime razor. I did a no-frills three-pass shave still using the ST-301 blade, which prior to today had five shaves on it. I finished the shave with a cool-water rinse, witch hazel rub, and face moisturizer with sunscreen that was also supplemented with a bit of vitamin-E oil.

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

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

Summary rating4.12**  (Not a bad shave, just unremarkable.)

Thursday:
Merkur 33 with blade, side view.

I put the Dorco ST-301 blade into my Merkur 33 for a comparison shave to the Chinese TTOs, the Dorco Prime and the Weishi. Another three-pass shave with six previous shaves already on the 301 blade. (This is the last shave for this blade, and tomorrow I'll return to the five-use Dorco ST-300 blade from last week.) Such a pleasant shave! Finished only with a cool-water rinse and some Neutrogena balm, which is my favorite fragrance.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.7; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.3.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.44, Irritation-4.3, Wounds-4.8

Summary rating4.50**  (A nice shave -- even with the final-use -- seventh-shave -- ST-301 blade.)

Friday:
A ten-minute shave today. Two passes (WG, AG) using the Weishi TTO, a sixth-use Dorco ST-300 blade, and initially fast strokes, which I then remembered to moderate. Finished with a cool-water rinse, a touch of alum on my neck (where I carelessly opened a pre-existing weeper due to my iinitial impatience), then some straight, un-doctored Gillette balm (blue bottle).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.8; Cheeks - 3.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 3.7; Neck - 3.7.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.90, Irritation-4.8, Wounds-4.5

Summary rating4.28**  (This might be a good process for late-to-work mornings.)

Saturday:
Merkur 15C with blade, side view.
On a whim, I wanted to try the Merkur 15C open comb razor with mindful slower strokes. I intended a two-pass shave (WG, AG), but after the second pass, I couldn't get close enough with the 15C, so I put the final use Dorco ST-300 blade in the Weishi TTO and did another AG pass. The passes with the 15C opened a few small weepers on my neck and despite my careful passes, left a bit of irritation. I finished the shave with only a cool-water rinse and application of un-doctored Nivea after-shave balm. Not a bad shave, but I think I'll keep the 15C for hair-line and back-of-neck trimming.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.2; Lower lip & chin - 4.8; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.3.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.40, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating4.20**

*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.

**Regarding the single-number overall shave rating: To give equal weight to shave closeness and harshness, I now double the shave-closeness rating, then add the values for closeness, irritation, and wounds, and divide that sum by four.

Happy shaving!