Monday, June 29, 2015

The Morning After, Day 2

Just a quick report on my second morning with a non-rinsed brush from the previous morning:

Remember that I'm using an Omega Syntex brush, which has synthetic bristles. I have been hanging it (inverted, of course -- bristles down) to dry WITHOUT rinsing the soap out of it per a Gillette tip printed in the 1920s.

Even though there was a residual-lather mixture consisting of mostly my Grandad's soap but with some tallow-based shave soap as well, a close inspection of the brush revealed no unusual sights or smells -- meaning no obvious microbial bloom.

So I face-lathered once again using both the residual dried lather in the brush as well as some additional soap rubbed on the wet beard as usual. A two-pass shave left me ready to face the world.

For tomorrow's shave, I will try to remember to forego my Grandad's soap and use tallow-based Arko as the primary lather for the shave. Then 24 hours later, I'll once again inspect for bacterial growth.

So far so good.  Looks like Gillette & Co. knew what they were talking about.

Open questions still remain as to the long-term effect on natural-bristled brushes of daily not rinsing out the residual lather after the shave. I don't foresee an issues with the synthetic-bristled brush.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Morning After: Non-Rinsed Brush, Day 1

Yesterday after I face lathered with my Omega Syntex brush, I tried the advice from a 1920s-era Gillette pamphlet, which encouraged shavers to NOT rinse their brush after shaving, and merely let the lather on it dry overnight.

So this morning, I applied the soap to my wet beard, and carefully ran a gentle stream of tap water into my unrinsed brush -- I did this carefully because dry shaving lather is rather powdery, and can easily be shaken off the brush to float uselessly away. Then I face lathered.

My experience when re-using lather in a bowl is that the lather is slightly richer. And this face-lathering re-use was no different. Yesterday, I used mostly Grandad's shave soap, with just a bit of a non-tallow-based shave-cream sample for some scent.

Today I again used Grandad's shave soap primarily, with just a bit of tallow-based Palmolive shave stick. So tomorrow I will carefully check my brush for the tell-tale pinkish color of microbial growth, which I have observed in re-used tallow-based lather in my lathering bowl.

So far, the advice from Gillette about 95 years ago seems to be good. There are still a couple of questions to be answered:

  1. Does tallow-based-soap lather dry quickly enough to discourage microbial growth?
  2. What is the long-term effect on a brush that isn't rinsed daily?
For now, I'm continuing to use the Omega Syntex. Some time in the future I will try my Van Der Hagen boar. I will not use my badger brush because it has too little backbone to face lather comfortably.

More to come; stay tuned.  Happy shaving!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Saturday Summary: Bittersweet Bluebird of Happiness, and Unrinsed Shaving Brushes

I finished the week of shaves this morning with what I believe to be my last Bluebird blade: a happy week of shaving, but bittersweet due to their elimination from the shaving rotation for the foreseeable future. These blades are no longer available in quantity (though small packages may be still had). Though untried by many, these blades had a small devoted following. This week's blade performed well, as usual.

Next week is back to the Astra Superior Platinum blade, which is an excellent value, and one that I find to be a sharp, smooth, consistent performer.

Last week I was reading some vintage DE-shaving instructions that, as I recall, accompanied the Gillette New razor (c. 1920). In those, there was a suggestion I had not heard before, and this morning I gave it a try.

The suggestion had to do with lathering; it was to let the soap dry in the brush over night, rather than rinsing the brush clean after the shave. This is interesting to me because one of my objections to face lathering was that all that good lather left in the brush is simply wasted, rinsed down the drain. What is surprising to me about this Gillette suggestion is that when saving used lather in my lathering bowl, I had fine results with Williams, Van Der Hagen, or my own Grandad's soap, but when I tried to save tallow-based soaps such as Palmolive or Arko, interesting pinkish colors appeared in my bowl, which I attributed to microbial growth. Yet most old-time soaps were tallow based, and I'm surprised that Gillette would make this recommendation. Thus, I will test it.

So I have begun face lathering again. I have rolled my soft Grandad's shave soap into a cylinder, and use that, primarily. If I want some scent, I have a few left-over samples of various creams, or I will rub on just a bit of Palmolive or Arko stick -- any one of those in combination with my mainstay, Grandad's.

I have also this week been using my synthetic-bristled Omega Syntex brush. This brush has a good bit of backbone, and is one of the few brushes that I've used where I would say it might actually exfoliate the skin a bit. (I continue to think it is nonsense that the average boar or badger brush exfoliates.) After this morning's shave, I simply hung the Syntex to dry still full of lather. I'll report out next week on how that has worked out.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Any Silly Bugger....

Old-school wet shaving is all about a single blade edge slicing hair at the skin surface. That's what makes it great. That lone line of sharpened steel gives a close shave and a nice-looking shave. It also makes the shaving process a little challenging to achieve that perfect balance between smoothness and comfort.

Therefore, the reality is that for many, old-school wet shaving isn't perfect. For those with sensitive skin (like me), the baby-smooth shave requires sufficient contact between steel and skin that, along with removing all surface stubble, the blade edge also riles the skin surface to some extent. And the more passes that one takes over a given area of skin, the more irritation is likely to be created.

It is this necessity for balancing closenss and irritation that makes the activity so addicting; it is the challenge of walking that line -- the razor's edge, to borrow a phrase.

In a very small way, it's akin to the addiction of auto racing. As the late, great Jim Clark once said, "If there were no limit, any silly bugger could drive the car." He meant, of course, that the great drivers perform on that limit of tire adhesion, where the car is going the fastest it can, without losing traction and sliding off the road. It's about optimal performance (speed) and avoiding disaster (shunt/skid/crash). If there were no risk in auto racing, the activity of driving would be a pastime for children and idiots, like the boom of firecrackers, which eventually holds little appeal for fully-developed adults.

Old-school wet shaving is like that: getting optimal performance (the closest shave possible), while avoiding disaster (weepers, nicks, cuts, razor burn). The satisfaction of the baby-smooth shave is a driving force, and the challenge of achieving it while minimizing negative consequences makes it addicting. That's one reason why multi-blade cartridge razors are less interesting to use: yes, they can provide a good shave, but it becomes just an expensive chore, with little risk. Like Clark said, "If there's no limit, any silly bugger can [do it]."

This natural conflict of close shave versus irritation and blood loss is, in part, what drives some us in our obsessive quest for more and different shaving accessories. (Of course, some of it is just the enjoyment of variety.) Part of the motivation for different razors, soaps, and other acoutrements is like the racer's motivation to get race-car improvements: better results through technology.

Yet at some point in the racing game, technology becomes too expensive. In Indy Car, they addressed that by standardizing the chassis itself, eliminating the need for teams to design their own cars. In wet shaving, for many men, the final straw was the triple-bladed (and more) disposables, which became uncomforably costly for many, but also removed the challenge, the need for any skill. Again to paraphrase Clark, it got so that any silly bugger could get a close shave with impunity.

Yet the uncomfortable truth is that the original Trac II razors served a purpose. They largely eliminated the learning curve in wet shaving. They were designed to keep the sharp-steel edges in slightly less contact with the skin, while still providing not only a close shave (close enough for many), but also a no-skill-required shave. Yep, they clogged easily. Yep, they caused in-grown hairs. Yep, they got too expensive. Yep, they were ecologically unfriendly -- causing unnecessary deposits in land fills.

Now, when I lay it all out like in the preceding paragraph, for many of us, the decision to go old school is a no brainer. Yet the reality is that there are still many who are unmoved; you will have to pry that disposable five-bladed pivoting plastic razor from their cold, dead fingers cause they ain't lettin' go.

Well, at least now we have another way to detect silly buggers.  ;-)

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Mailbag: Answering Some Emailed Questions

Q: I can't find Bluebird blades available for purchase. Do you know of any suppliers?

A. Unfortunately, I have done some checking recently, and haven't found anyone still selling Bluebird blades in quantity.

Q: How often do you turn your blade in the razor?

A: I recall that Mark at researched this and found no benefit to the practice of turning the blade in the razor between shaves to extend the life of the blade or the quality of the shave. That said, I do flip the blade between shaves as part of my daily blade-and-razor-care process. Do I think it matters? Probably not, but I do it anyway because it costs me nothing in terms of time or trouble. It's just part of my routine.

Q: How often (if ever) do you clean and dry your blade and razor?

A: Every day as part of my shave clean up, I rinse the blade, press it dry with TP on a dry wash cloth (no wiping, no rubbing -- the coatings on the blade edge are thin and fragile), and also dry the parts of my razors on the same wash cloth, with the same square of TP. I typically would disassemble them anyway because I most frequently shave with a different razor head every day. Even when I use the occasional one-piece razor, I rinse and shake the water out, and wipe dry the exposed surfaces with that square of TP after I've used it on the blade.

So my razors NEVER have accumulated soap haze, other debris, or even water spots from day to day. I'm not saying everyone should do this. In fact, Merkur recommends (as I recall off the top of my head) to merely rinse the razor, with blade still installed, and set out to air dry after shaves. Then, I believe that they recommend wiping/cleaning the razor to remove any soap haze when changing blades -- or periodically as needed if one is a frequent blade changer.

Correction: I looked this up (that is, what Merkur recommends), and once again I've proven the unreliability of my memory. Merkur actually recommends cleaning the moving parts of the razor (as applicable) after each shave. They also recommend breaking down the razor and thoroughly cleaning it when one changes blades. Finally, if your water is hard (with high mineral content) they recommend periodic soaking in a warm, diluted de-calcifying solution for 15 to 30 minutes, moving it in the solution periodically during that time, and working any moving parts during the soak as well.

I am more fussy with my shaving instruments because I hate the thought of water, minerals, and other residue slowly doing its damage as it always eventually will. This way I should virtually never have to worry about staining or other discoloration on my more durable razors made of brass substrate, and I won't have much concern about damage to plated zamak castings on my other razors including most modern two- and three-piece razors as well as some prized vintage instruments such as my 1965 Travel Tech top cap. This is also the reason that every six to twelve months I try to put a fresh coat of polymeric auto wax on my razors -- it's another barrier to prevent or dramatically slow any long term degradation of my razors' materials.

Happy shaving (and maintaining of your shaving gear)!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Size Matters: A Tale of Four Handles

Lately I have used a variety of handles for my three-piece razors. The more interesting choices are the four that follow:
  • Maggard MR3B ('big boy"), weighing in at 63 grams
  • Rimei RM2003 handle, weighing in at 36 grams
  • Merkur 33C/15C "Classic" handle, weighing in at 29 grams
  • Gillette Travel Tech handle, weighing in at 20 grams
Left to right: Rimei RM2003 handle, Merkur Classic (33C/15C) handle,
Maggard MR3B handle, and the 1965 Gillette Travel Tech handle.

The Maggard and the Merkur handles are chrome plated, and the Maggard has an additional wide, black band in the center of the shaft. The Merkur handle, though classic in diameter and length, has very good knurling and provides a secure grip even when wet and soapy. The Maggard has nice knurling as well, and though the stylish black band looks nice (it's the reason I bought this particular model), the black coating takes some of the grip away from the handle's knurling. This drawback is negated by the large diameter of the handle, which compensates, making this handle one that is also secure in one's hand.

The Rimei handle is a bit longer than the classic length, which some will appreciate. (I, personally, don't care either way.) Its diameter is slightly larger than classic, which I think is a good thing in terms of aiding traction on the handle.. Its knurling is not classic, but instead is rather large square plateaus incised into the handle surface. These then have what appears to be a rather generous layer of chrome plate, which has the effect of perhaps diminishing one's confidence in the grippiness of the handle to a small degree, but I've actually never had a problem with it; I find it completely fine when wet and soapy.

By far the most interesting and unusual handle is that of the 1965 Gillette Travel Tech. Slightly smaller in diameter than a classic handle, it is nickel plated; its substrate is advertised as being steel, but I'm actually not sure what it is -- likely either steel or brass. It's knurling is classic, well-done, and therefore adequately grippy -- despite the small diameter as well as the stubby length. It took a moment to get used to this small handle, but after that, the shaving experience was fairly normal. I will definitely use this handle when traveling -- just for the novelty if nothing else. Of course, those who prefer to grip a razor with more of their hand as though they are scraping paint off of house clapboards would hate this handle; but those who use a finger-tip grip will find its use comfortable after just a few moments.

So does handle size matter? As long as the texture of the handle offers adequate friction when wet, I don't give a hoot about handle size -- or weight, for that matter. I get a fine shaving experience with any of these handles, and perhaps an enhanced experience when I vary my handle choices by rotating through these options.

Just for the record (though I've written this before), razors I avoid are those with smooth cylindrical handle shafts, smooth fluting, or even rather smooth six-sided antique designs from such manufacturers as Edwind Jagger, some Merkur models, and some other, less venerable names in razor production. After all, I have absolutely no interest in either dropping a slippery razor (I'm clumsy enough without help from a poorly-designed handle) or having a razor twist in my fingers while stroking aginst my face.

Your thoughts?

Happy shaving!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Rethinking Moderate Razors, What's in the Cabinet?

In the past, I've repeatedly proclaimed my preference for rather mild razors. My list of preferred instruments (in order of preference) included the following:
  1. Merkur Classic (33C)
  2. Lord L.6
  3. Rimei RM2003
Razors in my personal inventory that I avoided (and continue to do) because they're a bit too mild for me include the following:

  • Wilkinson Sword Classic (the mostly-plastic two-piece razor; mine is paradoxically both too mild and, at the same time, too harsh -- the harshness likely due to a slight waviness in any blade that is inserted into this particular razor)
  • Weishi 9306-F one piece
  • Dorco brand  one piece 
    (Both the apparent-clone Weishi and Dorco razors generally shave fine, but are too mild to offer the super-close result that I like to get once in a while in three passes.)
Did you notice that I wrote the first paragraph of this article in the past tense? This is because it seems my preference is evolving. From my former list of preferred razors, I'm using the Merkur Classic less frequently. It just doesn't shave as closely as I like even in three passes. Two passes -- forget about it. To approach baby smooth, because of the razor's negative blade exposure and modest blade-bar span, I have to apply the razor against my skin with some pressure. Yet in doing that, I've made bad habits for the use of other, more aggessive razors. In all likelihood, this Merkur Classic being my second DE razor and my first purchased one, it may have negatively affected my technique and thereby my appreciation for razors a bit more capable.

My preferences have been shifting upward slightly on the aggression scale. This is reflected in my increased use of the Rimei RM2003, which I initially liked for that occasional close shave. I have been using the L.6 razor head less frequently as well. The L.6, like the Merkur Classic, also has a negative blade exposure, which makes it tough to get a great shave without a touch of excessive force of razor against skin. Yet this razor head is slightly more aggressive than the Merkur Classic because the larger blade-bar span allows skin to bulge slightly outward allowing a slightly closer shave, but with the additional risk of nicks and weepers.

In the past couple of weeks, while I was test-driving the pre-1960s (and likely pre-1950s) Tech razor head that was loaned to me, I initially was very dubious about buying yet another razor such as the Tech. Yet I ultimately decided to take the plunge and acquire Travel Tech I've mentioned recently. My change of heart about the purchase was due to my evolving preference toward razors of slightly-less-mild character.

Also, as I had recently threatened to do, I once again pulled my Gillette Slim Adjustable out of the closet shoe box and had a shave with that. The first pass was set to six out of nine. Second pass was at four, and the final pass was at two. Though the shave was characteristically a little harsh, leaving some residual skin irritation, I think it will stay in the bathroom cabinet as a two-pass work-day instrument using moderate settings such as six for pass one, and four for pass two.Using similar thinking, I was tempted to pull out the Merkur Slant Bar (37C) once again, also as a two-pass work-day razor. I tried this many months ago, and abandoned the practice; but it was time for another go. After an initial first pass using a light touch, it was just too irritating. I finished the shave by putting the blade into the Rimei RM2003 with the tiny handle from my Travel Tech. After that, I cleaned and dried the slant as usual, then put it away in the shoe box in the closet for good. I've confirmed that if I want more efficient shaving, I'll simply use oblique strokes (a.k.a. the Gillette slide) with a straight-bar razor head.

Besides these days using a lighter touch in my shaving stroke, there are other contributing factors to my preference shift -- after all, my skin is just as sensitive as ever. For one, I think that experimenting with steep-angle shaving has added useful variety to my technique (thanks, Shawnsel!), which helps me appreciate slightly more razor aggression in the form of a slightly-positive blade exposure.

Also, my changing attitude about shaving outcome has contributed to my changing preferences. On my every-day shaves, I'm much more inclined to use a two-pass shave (with grain, then against grain) and call the outcome good enough. Of course, it won't be baby smooth, but it looks good and, actually, feels good to the hand as long as one doesn't rub against the grain with too much pressure.

So What's in the Cabinet Now?

Here are the instruments at hand, currently in my bathroom cabinet:
  • 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable
  • 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor head
  • Rimei RM2003 razor head
  • Maggard MR3B handle
  • Rimei RM2003 handle
  • 1965 Gillette Travel-Tech handle
Happy rethinking!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cleaning and Sanitizing Used Razors

Last week I bought the 1965 Gillette Travel Tech that was pictured in the brief blog I posted yesterday. I wanted to sanitize this razor well to reduce to near zero any risk from exposure to pathogens, even though I have been vaccinated for Hepititis B (because I worked in a hospital some years ago), and other really-frightening viruses such as HIV and Hepititis C are fragile and don't survive long outside living things. This concern over exposure to pathogens got me focused on the subject of ensuring that my new gear is perfectly safe to use. So after doing some research on the subject, here's my sanitizing process -- and, yes, it's likely overkill, but why take unnecessary chances when the outcome of cavalier neglect can be so significantly life altering (and damaging)?

For information on checking a razor for safe and proper alignment, you might refer to my article on inspecting and testing a new razor.

My Process of Cleaning and Sanitizing Used Razors

If the razor is caked with dried soap and other debris -- especially if it is a one-piece razor (TTO) with a mechanism that is not working well, I would soak the razor in warm water for a period of time necessary to soften/loosen the caked-on material.

When the razor's surfaces are ready for removal of any debris, I use an old toothbrush and some liquid dish detergent. Pipe cleaners and cloths may be helpful in some cases. If stubborn debris remains, more soaking may be required and perhaps some toothpaste as a mild cleaning abrasive.

Once the razor is cleaned, then I put on rubber gloves and safety goggles and mix up a Lysol disinfecting solution. I purchased a small bottle of Lysol concentrate at my local pharmacy (but I discovered that not all pharmacies carry this item, so you may have to shop around -- perhaps even at a hardware store). This disinfectant is intended to be mixed with water according to the item or area to be sanitized. For deactivating virtually any pathogen, a mixture of 6.25 ounces of Lysol concentrate is mixed with one gallon (128 ounces) of water. This is about a 20.5:1 (water:Lysol) ratio, and I round it down to an even 20:1. So I'll take one part Lysol concentrate to 20 parts water, mix it together, and use that for a final cleaning and soak.

I use the toothbrush again and the disinfecting solution (remember, use eye and skin protection: this stuff is NOT friendly to biological structures), and give the razor a final cleaning. Then I rinse the razor thoroughly with water, dry with a tissue or TP, and soak the gear in the same disinfecting solution for at least an hour. Then I rinse again with water.

Once rinsed, the razor is ready for use. For one-piece razors, though they are designed to not require any lubrication, I will initially and periodically thereafter run a few drops of mineral oil (one can use baby oil, which is mineral oil with a fragrance added) down into the handle mechanism and work that in by cycling the mechanism open and closed a few times.

For two- and three-piece razors, if the spirit moves me, I may apply a coating of one-year polymeric car wax as a sealer.

That's it.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Quick Photos of My Just-Acquired '65 Travel Tech

Just because Jacquers from South Africa asked, here are first photos of my 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor:

On the left is the Rimei RM2003, the modern imitation Tech, and on the right is the real thing from 1965 with its travel handle.

Here's the full-on top-cap view of the disassembled Travel Tech.

Not shown is the underside of the top cap, which is different from the earlier Tech that I received on loan from Stephen of Massachusetts. The underside of the top cap on this one merely has the threaded cap-central shaft and the four little tabs in the corners that are characteristic of Techs and the Rimei RM20003 as well. What this '65 Tech doesn't have is the load bar (a.k.a. the center bar) that many other older Techs had.

That's it for now because this was just a quickie glimpse at the razor for Jacquers' benefit.

Happy shaving!

Adventures with Personna Blue, Gillette Travel Tech, and the Palmolive Stick

It's been an active shaving week despite my dearth of posts. I shaved this week with the U.S.A.-made Personna lab-blue blade and, as usual, it has been a consistently-good performer.

I bought a 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor this week. It's in near mint condition, and I will be doing a more in-depth post on this in the future. For now, the most salient aspect of the purchase was that it was so much fun, so rewarding, it has caused my razor-acquisition disorder (RAD) to bloom into full flower. Therefore I spent too much time in the last few days looking on line for more razors to buy. I have doused the flames of my RAD to where they are just smoldering embers at the moment. I pulled back from the brink of ordering more redundant razors and focused on enjoying the variety of the accessories that I already have. That began with shaving soap this morning.

For most of the week I used my own shave soap formula, my Grandad's shave soap, which really works well for me. However, this morning, I wanted more of a barber-shop sensation, so I pulled out my stick of Palmolive shave soap, which has a fragrance that I really enjoy. That's the good news. The bad news is that I really think that the functional quality of Palmolive shave stick as a lubricant and skin protectant is mediocre. And there's more bad news: after a few seconds of aroma enjoyment, my nose adapts to the smell and I no longer sense it to any significant degree. (This, by the way, is characteristic of most human senses except the perception of pain. The technical term for the diminished perception of stimuli with increasing exposure is adaptation.)

Today's shave was more evidence to support my previous conclusions about Palmolive shave stick. Great aroma (for a moment), but much irritation and too many weepers. I took the same shave as yesterday, with the only difference being the shave soap: yesterday was Grandad's, today was Palmolive. The razor head was my new '65 Tech. The handle was the rotund and heavy Maggard MR3B. The blade was Personna. The passes were three. Today I got a close shave, but my skin is riled. This will diminish in a little while, but yesterday was a better shave, all things considered.

So in the coming week, here's what's on tap:

  • The Russian-made made-in-Turkey Bluebird blade, which I have really liked in the past
  • An article on cleaning, sanitizing, and prepping used razors
  • An article on how I've been rethinking my mild-razor preferences and leaning toward more moderate aggression in my razor choices
  • More variety in razor choice:
    • '65 Gillette Tech, both with the Maggard handle and the Travel Tech's original stubby handle
    • Rimei RM2003 imitation Tech
    • Merkur 37C slant bar 
    • '63 Gillette Slim Adjustable
  • More variety in number of passes as I experiment with the preceding razors in quicker work-day shaves
  • Will likely face lather with Arko shave stick in addition to my customary bowl-lathered Grandad's

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Taking a Cut at Steep-Angle Shaving

Always trying to keep an open mind, this morning I took my Rimei RM2003, which has a slightly positive blade exposure, and shaved using the steep-angle technique. To recap, this technique keeps the razor's guard against the face, using that contact as a pivot point. By then using this pivot point to reduce the angle of the razor handle to the face, and thereby increasing the angle of the blade to the face (hence the name, steep-angle shaving) one gets more of a scraping cut of the blade edge against the whiskers.

I had never considered trying this steep-angle (of the blade) approach before, because I was concerned about the scraping action of the blade leaving increased irritation in its wake.

But since I'm mister question everything, I figured that I should test even my own pre-conceived ideas.

The bottom line on this one is that my intuition was correct in that there was more lingering irritation after the shave. However, as I also suspected, much like a wood worker uses a hand scraper instead of sandpaper to get an ultra smooth finish, the slightly-more-scraping action of the edge on the beard also gave me a close shave in two passes (with grain, then against grain), with very few wounds -- just a couple of tiny weepers. The ability to pivot the shaving angle on the blade guard also gave me good control of the blade edge against skin.

In fact, this has caused me to once again rethink the use of my Gillette Slim Adjustable. I may just pull that out of the shaving box in my closet, set it to a fairly generous blade exposure, and give it a go using this steep-angle technique.

Hmmm. I guess an old dog can learn new tricks!

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Correction re: Steep-Angle Shaving Technique

Shawnsel has come to my rescue again. He kindly corrected my use of the term steep-angle shaving, which I had once again incorrectly used.

He pointed out that the steep-angle part of the technique name refers to the blade, not the handle. So the action of the razor blade, for you wood workers, is more like a scraper and less like a plane. For the rest of you non-wood workers, high-angle shaving is more like a paint scraper and less like a potato peeler.

This is not the first time I've done this (that is, made this error in the use of the term, steep-angle shaving); the concept is so basically counter intuitive to my thinking. This is because I seem to much prefer low-angle shaving, where the blade is slicing more than scraping across the face. My skin finds the slicing rather than scraping action of the blade to be less irritating.

I suppose that the larger angle of the blade to the skin will reduce the chance of nicks, scrapes and gouges; I suppose that's the benefit.

Anyway, thanks again to Shawnsel for helping me to get it right

Happy shaving!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Doin' the Shimmy

On a recent article of mine, an occasional comment contributor, Jacquers, mentioned the practice of shimming a two- or three-piece razor to increase the aggressiveness of the blade orientation. Of course, shimming isn't a new concept to me, but I never had much interest until Jacquers' suggestion got me to thinking, as I sometimes do....

Of course, I prefer razors of rather mild shaving character, but I thought that maybe a single, thin shim might make my Merkur Classic (33C) just a touch less mild -- taking it from good to perfect, and I also wondered about the largely-plastic Wilkinson Sword Classic (WSC) razor, which I have always found to be too mild as well as having just a bit of waviness to the blade, which is, of course, less than ideal because it tends to contribute to an irritating shave.

Long story short: I trimmed the edges off of a few blades that I rescued from my blade-recycle bank, and put a single shim under the blade in both my Merkur Classic and the WSC. The shim made the blade exposure positive in the Merkur and caused a slight, previously unnoticeable difference in the blade-bar span to be more pronounced. Both effects are undesirable, and therefore, the shim isn't going to work for me in the Merkur, though others might like it.

In the WSC razor, the shim improved the blade orientation to have a more neutral (less negative) blade exposure, but the blade edge was still wavy -- probably due to manufacturing irregularities in the plastic top cap. Bottom line on this one is that the WSC just isn't precise enough to position the blade edge properly. It is unsuitable for use on any face in my opinion, and I probably will jettison it to the trash bin.

So it just turns out, the shimmy isn't the dance for me. Too bad the shims aren't ideal for TTO razors, because I have several that might benefit from just a touch more aggressiveness in their shave character. If I could find a way to do that without resorting to metal smithing, I just might be doing the twist....  ;-)

Happy shaving!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Steep-Angle Shaving

I probably spend a little too much time thinking about razor design and it application to various beards and faces. But this razor-design rumination does yield some interesting questions to be addressed -- and sometimes answers are forthcoming as well.

For example, a big question is why do many men prefer razors that are of an aggressive design such that if one used these instruments with the shave plane of the razor head actually against the face, the skin would be peeled up like sod being harvested for shipment? In other words, what is the use of a so-called safety razor with such a positive blade exposure that it is not safe at all, it's basically a small straight razor, with a disposable blade and a safety bar that is pretty much superfluous?

The answer, of course, is that these razors are (and must be) used for steep-angle shaving.

Steep-angle shaving was first called to my attention some months ago by Shawn, a.k.a. shawnsel, a kind reader, who has helped to keep me accurate and consistent with DE nomenclature and concepts. Steep-angle shaving is used with razors that have a positive blade exposure, and is basically a technique that keeps the razor top cap in contact with the face, but the safety bar is held away from the skin, thus (in concept) keeping the aggressive blade orientation from peeling the skin like one would peel a potato. Hence the term steep angle, which refers to the angle of the handle that is at a larger angle with respect to the face than it would be if one were keeping both the top cap and the safety guard in contact with the skin.

I have to admit that it never occurred to me that anyone would want to essentially negate the purpose of the safety bar. It just made sense to me to buy a razor with the necessary blade orientation to give a good shave using the safety of the safety guard.

This is why you don't see me using aggressive razor designs. I prefer to walk the high wire with a safety net below me, thanks very much. As I have written many times, it is my nature to be quick and often a bit over confident, which can create wounds if not careful when shaving. And careful is not my middle name (at least not exceptionally careful).

This is why my most aggressive razors will be the Rimei RM2003 or a vintage Gillette Tech (which I've just bought, by the way -- more on that below). These razors have a slight positive blade exposure, but not enough to do serious damage if I hurry too much or have some major brain cramp while shaving. Yet they are aggressive enough to provide a very close shave if I devote the necessary care.

Another aspect of steep-angle shaving is one's facial contours. As a registered-dietitian nutritionist, I am all too aware of the super sizing of the people of the USA. Too many of us are overstuffed -- so much so, so generally, that many can't even recognize a healthily-proportioned individual; we often mistake overweight and obesity for being a normal and healthy configuration of the human body! The only good aspects that come to mind of this enlarging of our population is 1) we might have more candidates for good sumo wrestling ;-), and 2) our chins, much of our necks, and other sharp contours of our face are disappearing into a round layer of subcutaneous fat, offering a smoother, more uniform surface to shave. This second aspect means that it is easier to use very aggressive razors because there are fewer tricky contours to shave over.

[By the way, if you want a good indicator of where you stand in this regard of being over stuffed, or not, there are three general guidelines:  you are likely over stuffed if....
  • If your waist measurement at the navel (belly button) is over 40 inches (your waist, not your pants size -- and if your waist is over 34 inches, you're not in good shape unless you're very tall) 
  • Your body-mass index is 25 or over 
  • Your body-fat-percentage estimate is 19% or more.]

Now that I have been enlightened to this steep-angle-shaving technique by shawnsel, I do apply it when I use even mild razor heads like the Lord L.6, and the afore-mentioned RM2003 and Tech razor heads. The angle adjustments are small, but still necessary given the positive blade exposures. (The L.6 has a negative blade exposure, but a large-ish blade span, which can make steep-angle shaving useful at certain spots on the face.)

Regarding the Gillette Tech I just bought via a well-known Internet auction site, the razor should arrive later this coming week. It is a 1965 version, and with the stubby, steel travel handle and travel case. I intend to try out this travel handle and weigh it comparing it to others such as the aluminium Lord LP1822L handle, but will probably use a normal-to-fat-'n-heavy handle for every-day use.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Saturday Review: Gillette Silver Blue, More Tech Thoughts, and the Shaving Process

Today I'll be taking my last shave of the week with the Gillette Silver Blue blade.It has been a week of comfortable, low-irritation shaves, which is one of the reasons I have consistently enjoyed this blade whenever I've used one.

Is it my preferred blade? No, they're a bit pricey, and for the money, I think the USA-made Personna Super blade, the so-called lab-blue blade is an excellent substitute. This is for the following reasons:

  • At current market prices the Personna Super, the lab blue, is less than half the cost of the Gillette Silver Blue.
  • The Personna Super has the most ecologically-responsible packaging, when purchased in a bulk pack of 100 blades: a single, small card board box.
  • The shaves that these blades offer are similar in sharpness, comfort, and durability.
  • The Personna Supers are made in the USA, and there's something to be said for keeping our dollars local (economics used to be my hobby; although the exporting of dollars isn't a huge negative, still every bit can help our economy).
That said, if a bunch of Gillette Silver Blue blades were given to me, it would be a happy moment because I think they are a fine blade.

I had my last shave this week with the vintage Gillette Tech razor head. It's currently packaged for shipping back to the generous Stephen in Massachusetts, and I plan to leave it at the post office today. (Once again, many thanks to Stephen! I've cleaned it up for return with a bit of SoftScrub with bleach, and it looks good and is clean and sanitary.) The quality and shave character of the razor still impress me. I may still pick one up if the spirit moves me.

This whole Tech trial and my pre-work shaves of the last month or two has had me pondering the DE shaving process. I currently use a two-pass shave (with grain, then against grain) before work, which is a compromise between closeness and duration of the shaving process. Though two passes doesn't yield a baby-smooth shave, it's certainly close enough so that I don't have noticeable stubble by the end of the day. Using the vintage Tech has had me wonder if, back in the day, many men were using multiple passes on a regular basis. After all, even the Tech, with its reputation for being a mild shaver, is more aggressive in character than many new DEs made today such as the following mild razors:

  • Weishi 9306 TTOs and those rebranded such as the Dorco, MicroTouch, and Van Der Hagen
  • Wilkinson Sword Classic (two piece)
  • Merkur Classic (33C)
  • Lord LP1822L (the L.6 razor head)
I wonder if the Tech and other vintage razors were designed to give a close-enough shave in a single pass. After all, consider the straight razor; imagine it's 1905, and though safety razors are available including King Gillette's double-edged innovation, most men are still having their whiskers removed with a straight. Was anyone doing more than a single pass with a straight? I suspect not most. 

During yesterday's shave, I nicked myself near the corner of my mouth during the first pass (and it's very unusual for me to draw blood on the first pass with any razor) owing both to the slightly more aggressive character of the Tech than my regular razors and some carelessness on my part. But it got me to thinking: if it's 1905, am I just happy to be clean shaven and not obsessed with a baby-smooth outcome? I suspect so. So am I shaving with a one-and-done pass? Again, my intuition says yes. I wonder if like so many other things, we expect more today than our fore bearers of a century ago. It's not enough to be clean shaven, we like to be smoooooooth.

Maybe just for today I'll pull out the slant (my Merkur 37C) and take a one-pass shave just to see how I feel about the outcome.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Gillette Tech and the Wilkinson Sword Blade

My last shave of the week with the Wilkinson Sword blade was done using the Rimei RM2003 razor head on the Maggard "big boy" fat and heavy MR3B handle. (In fact, all my shaves lately have been with this handle.) For the first time this week, I took a standard three-pass shave. (I've been doing my faster, two-pass shaves before work: with grain, then against grain.)

This shave was very close, and though I've gotten away from using the phrase baby smooth, I was pretty much there -- at least on my cheeks.

Despite my impressions recorded in yesterday's article, I don't see much difference in the shave characters of the RM2003 and the Gillette Tech that I've been using. Yes, the Tech is better made using better, heavier materials and both edges have slightly more equal shave character, but in the scheme of things I don't think the difference is significant enough to matter. The materials in the RM2003 are good enough to do the job, both in terms of composition, thickness, and uniformity of manufacture.

Also, yesterday I believe I blamed the Tech for the slight residual irritation of my skin, but I got the same with the RM2003 this morning, so I'd chalk that up to the blade, which is sharp and durable, but not the best on my face.

Also, by the way, I've described my post-shave blade care as "patting" the blade dry with a square of toilet tissue. This isn't exactly accurate. I actually just lightly press the tissue on the blade, which is lying on a dry wash cloth. Then I flip the blade and repeat the process. My intention is to get it dry with as little abrasion on the delicate coating as possible.

So would I shave regularly with a Tech similar to my trial loaner? Sure, I think it's a fine razor head.

Ah, but would I buy one? I won't say no, but I'm not actively looking either. I don't think there's enough difference between the Tech and the Rimei RM2003 to justify the effort and expense of looking for and buying the right used razor. Also, my Lord L.6 and Merkur Classic razor heads are also similar enough to dampen my always-present razor-acquisition disease.

Finally, a special sincere thank you to Stephen from Massachusetts who had the kind generosity to offer the Tech for my trial shaves. I have really appreciated the opportunity to try out this fine example of a true old-school instrument. I'll be returning it shortly. Thanks again.

Next week's blade is one that I've liked in the past: the Gillette Silver-Blue blade. I'm looking forward to those shaves.

Happy shaving!

Friday, June 5, 2015

More on the Tech and Two-Pass Shaves

My quicker, pre-work morning shaves have been improving. Typically, I inadvertently time the shaves by the 12-minute, half-power microwave cook of my morning breakfast. I start the oven, then do my shave, and on most mornings, I'm cleaning up when the finished-cooking beeper goes off.

The use of the loaner Gillette Tech razor has helped. It is a mild razor but of those in my regular rotation, it is probably slightly more aggressive than the others. Using this in two passes with a little touch up has yielded some close and nearly bloodless shaves. I will still get a pinpoint weeper or three, on a given morning, but given the speed and closeness of the shave, this is a reasonable compromise on my kisser.

I like the Tech, and initially was tempted to go out and bid for one on eBay. Then I reflected on the situation, and pulled back the reins on my razor-acquisition disease; I got things back under control. I really don't need this razor, though I like it. I resolved to continue to get by with what I already have.

The Tech is high quality compared to new equivalents. It is very similar in shaving character to the Rimei RM2003, but there are several differences in which the Tech compares favorably. First of all, the materials: the Tech looks to be brass (the plating being long gone), and the RM2003 has a baseplate of chromed steel, and the top cap is, of course, probably chromed ZAMAK or some similar zinc-based alloy. The baseplate on the Tech is thicker, more substantial. When a blade is sandwiched between the top cap and the baseplate on the Tech, it not only positions the blade positively (as does the RM2003), but the blade is also held uniformly, providing indistinguishable shave character on both edges. The same can't be said about the RM2003, which, in all the models I've tried, shaves more aggressively on one edge than the other.

The design and orientation of the blade in the Tech I find to be ever-so-slightly more irritating than my other three regular razor heads. I guess the slight bit of extra aggressiveness (by comparison) does come with a price.

Using the Tech head has improved my use of my other regular razors. I've become more fond of the RM2003 and the Lord L.6 razor heads, though I still will typically take the maiden shave with a new blade using the Merkur Classic.

I got a very good shave this morning using the Tech head with a sixth-shave Wilkinson Sword blade on the heavy, fat Maggard MR3B handle. I hope yours was as good.

Happy shaving!