Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Recycling the Rapira & Stropping DE Blades

The Rapira Platinum Lux blade gave eleven complete shaves, but I recycled it this morning after starting the 12th because I imagined that it was pulling just a bit.

I replaced it with a trial Dorco ST-300 blade. I've used many Dorco ST-301s, but the ST-300 is unexplored territory for me. I have looked into the difference between the 301s and the 300s, and it appears that stories vary. Some folklore says they are the same blade, which doesn't make sense to me. After all, why sell the same blade in the same markets but with two different product numbers? Something must be different.

Anyway, I arm stropped the new ST-300, which left me with a very funny feeling: as though I was degrading a perfectly good new blade with this stropping business. The subsequent shave was fine, although the blade didn't seem out-of-the-wrapper sharp. Perhaps it was my imagination, but that was my nagging suspicion.

The other day -- prior to posting yesterday's article -- I got back to considering corking and stropping of DE blades after reading an old thread in The Shave Den. A self-proclaimed 50-year shaver initiated the topic, affirming that corking a new blade (in styrofoam) and pre-shave arm stropping of used blades resulted in smoother shaves, when all other things were equal. I'm sure that this fellow was onto something;  however, after considering further, I'm re-thinking my stropping experiment.

The reason for my re-thinking is that this long-time blade stropper didn't specify what DE blades he was stropping. And so we return to my concern about stropping a coated DE blade being counter productive by degrading the coating before improving the blade edge. If this long-time DE user was using uncoated blades, the stropping process may well have helped to maintain a smooth edge at the microscopic level -- resulting in a smoother shave. However, as I've written many times, I buy only coated blades, so stropping and corking may just represent unnecessary self-inflicted blade abuse.

So in a reversal of yesterday's article, I'm not going to be corking, styrofoaming, stropping, or otherwise tuning my blades. The only exceptions are in the following circumstances:

  • Using an old, nearly-worn-out blade with no replacement at hand: this would be a time for pre-shave stropping
  • Using an uncoated stainless blade: this would be a situation where a first-use corking (with styrofoam, not cork) would be appropriate, and pre-shave stropping in subsequent shaves

I will continue to do my post-shave blade-drying routine (pressing, not wiping), and my post-shave razor cleaning and drying.

As far as the new Dorco ST-300 blade from this morning's shave is concerned, I'll just use it without much evaluation because I may have already damaged it through my first-use stropping. I'll save the evaluations on this particular model for another blade that I haven't modified prior to use.

Smooth shaving!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Corking & Stropping DE Blades

Starting tomorrow I'll be returning to corking and arm-stropping DE blades in an effort to achieve maximum smoothness of shave.

I'm starting with a 12th-use (!) Rapira Platinum Lux blade, which is 1) the most daily shaves I've tried to get from a DE blade (although I'm making fewer daily passes than I previously have done -- two passes currently versus three passes previously), and 2) corking and stropping runs counter to my concern about removing the factory applied coatings on my blades.

Now, of course, there isn't much concern about coating removal on a 12th-use blade, but it's a different story on a new blade. I will be "corking" a new blade only prior to the first use, and won't be using cork at all. Instead I'll be using a styrofoam packing peanut.

As always, I'll keep you informed about this experiment.

Happy shaving!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Grandad's Tips: Shaving Technique

Holding the Razor

Of course there's no law about how to hold a razor, and to each his own. However, you don't see a surgeon ever hold a scalpel like she's about to gut a deer, and there's a reason for that. Surgeons hold their cutting implements in the tips of their digits (that is, fingers and thumb) to have an appropriately light touch with the essential control. I recommend that anyone using a double-edged razor do the same. I even wrote an article about how to hold a DE razor. Check it out.

Pressure on Face

Light pressure is the way, the light, and the truth. If one has been shaving with a multi-bladed cartridge razor, which allows the user to press pretty hard with impunity, he may think when he's doing his first DE shaves that he's using no pressure, but actually may still be using too much. Also, if one starts DE shaving with a very mild razor that has a negative blade exposure (meaning the blade edge is within the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar/guard), this too may encourage using more pressure of razor against face than necessary.

That said, I don't care for the common expression of let the weight of the razor do the work. After all, technically speaking, weight is dependent on gravity, and since we shave surfaces that are mostly vertical, the weight of the razor may cause the implement to drop, but has little to do with pressure on the face. It might be more accurate to say let the mass of the razor do the work, but this isn't entirely helpful either. After all, I've used some very light razors that shave just fine.

I would leave it this way: use just enough pressure of razor against face to ensure that the razor stays in contact with the face and isn't skipping and bounding over stubble. Rely on additional passes, not additional pressure to get a closer shave.


There are two basic types of DE shaving strokes, direct and oblique. A direct stroke is where the direction of the stroke is perpendicular to the blade edge. An oblique stroke is where the the stroke direction is slightly askew in relation to the blade edge; that is, the blade edge is not quite perpendicular to the direction of the stroke. One should be aware of this difference and not mindlessly make oblique strokes while assuming that they are direct strokes. Direct strokes are less likely to bite -- all other things equal. Oblique strokes, however, can slightly  increase the aggressiveness of a given razor (except slant-bar razors), and can slightly increase the effective sharpness of a blade.

For more information about direct and oblique strokes, review my article that I dedicated to this subject.

Advanced strokes include buffing and J-hooking. I suggest doing an Internet search for videos on these techniques. I don't often use J-hooking, but I routinely use buffing strokes against the grain on my cheeks during my second, final pass. I can to this because my razors are relatively unaggressive and my cheeks are rather flat.

Number of Passes per Shave

I admit that what got me hooked on DE shaving was the closeness of the shave after multiple passes. This approach of valuing closeness over comfort often left my face smooth, but irritated and often wounded. I would take three and sometimes four passes.

If I were to do it all over again knowing what I know now, I might instead start with two-pass, with-grain-then-across-grain shaves. They would look acceptable and be fairly close. But importantly, they would also be not terribly abusive; they would be reasonably low risk. When I could do that consistently with no wounds or irritation, I would move on to three-pass shaves or experiment with two-pass shaves that are against grain on the second pass, which, of course, I currently do on early work days or when otherwise short of time.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Saturday Summary: Rapira PL Blade, Std 2-Pass Shave, Going Where No Man Has Gone...

Another shave week is over -- this time with the Rapira Platinum Lux blade. It's more than adequately sharp, but I find the blade to be slightly irritating against my skin even in just a two-pass shave -- though admittedly my second pass against grain is a fairly aggressive move even with the mild Tech razors that I prefer.

However, moving forward I'm going where no man has gone before.... well, actually, where I've never gone before, and that is that I'm going to start using blades until they no longer shave well. When they start to pull or tug, I'll replace them. There are several reasons for this, and they are listed below in no particular order:

  • I've gone to fewer shaving passes per week, which is less wear and tear on the blades
  • I will be able to get a better idea of the relative durability of the various blades that I use
  • Thinking ecologically, why recycle (or worse, throw in the landfill) a blade that still has perfectly good use left in it?
  • Why waste money (even pennies) on disposing of a product while it's still useful?

My standard daily shave with my beloved Tech razor heads is now a two-pass shave. Though not  baby smooth, it still has its benefits:
  • Good looking shave
  • Rewarding to the hand
  • Prolongs useful blade life
  • Saves time
  • Less abuse on sensitive skin

I have found my after-shave admixture of  fragrance-free Aveeno moisturizing lotion combined with a few drops of a desired after-shave lotion to be quite effective.

The benefits are as follows:
  • Great moisturization
  • I can get any fragrance available in an after-shave lotion; I'm not limited to those available as a balm
  • Less expensive than most after-shave balms
The only drawback might be the following:
  • The balm admixture of lotion and after shave doesn't dry silky smooth on the skin as do some balms; there is a residual moisture on the skin (which I think is a good thing, but some might not)

The experiment of face lathering and not rinsing the brush out after the shave has been so successful that I no longer consider it an experiment; it's now a daily practice, part of my ritual. I don't see myself going back to bowl lathering any time soon except perhaps to use up bits of shave stick when they've gotten used up to that point. Even then, I'll perhaps load the brush with soap from a small bowl, but then will simply face lather as has become my norm. I will certainly never again rinse the lather from a brush except for when circumstances suggest it such as in certain travel situations.


The experiment of not soaking the brush has also transitioned from test to normal. In fact, let me take a moment and list some of the practices espoused by many as required that I would suggest are merely choices, options:
  • Pre-shave soaking of a natural-bristled brush in hot water -- or any water, for that matter. Totally not necessary and merely a choice if one prefers a hot shave. I, myself, prefer a cool-water shave, which may be less prone to rinse away precious skin oils. I simply run some cool water into an inverted brush (that is, bristles up), turn it over and let the excess run out, and then get on with face lathering.
  • Rinsing lather from the brush and carefully grooming the brush to dry after the shave. Of course not: just leave the lather in the brush, and set or hang it to dry as is until the next shave.
  • Elaborate beard preparation with pre-shave shower; hot, wet towels; face washing; or other fussy hair-wetting rituals. Nope, I find that just rubbing in some cool water right out of the cold-water tap works fine. I typically will rub cool water into my beard when I begin getting ready for the shave, and then one more time just before I begin to apply shave stick on my beard for the face lathering process.
  • The "standard" three-pass shave: nope, as explained above. I will use a single with-grain pass when in an extreme hurry or when I'll be soon after applying sunscreen. Two passes are my new normal, and three passes are reserved for when I choose to shave extra close.
Happy shaving!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Grandad's Tips: A First-DE-Razor Suggestion

Though the reflection on the top cap gives the impression
that this is a one-piece, twist-to-open razor, it is not. This
is a three-piece razor with the usual separate top cap,
base plate and handle.
In the past, I've written about first-DE-razor options. I have continued to ponder this conundrum and have additional thoughts -- significantly refined from those previous.

I think a first DE razor should be low cost. After all, there's no need to invest a lot of money into an instrument that you don't know will be ideal for you.

However, it should be of reasonable quality. There are some cheapo Chinese-made razors that if they don't arrive defective to begin with, they are still so ridiculously aggressive in their shaving character that they are positively dangerous. So adequate quality for a good shave, but not excessive quality to keep the price down, is also an important factor.

Equally important, the razor should be fairly mild in shaving character, but not excessively so; I would suggest that a neutral blade exposure (meaning that the blade edge is at the level of the shave plane formed by the top cap and safety bar) will be able to shave most beards adequately, and yet will not encourage excessive pressure due to extreme mildness of shaving character.

One of my Rimei Rm2003 razors.
The best first razor, in my opinion, is the Rimei RM2003 -- the Tech imitator. It is certainly inexpensive -- costing less than $10 (as low as $4 on including shipping from China, has a low blade angle in relation to its shave plane -- which can make it a low-irritation shaver, and has a blade-edge exposure that is fairly neutral. Its shaving character is very similar to the post-WWII Gillette Tech razors (that's 1946 up to the end of their production in the 1970s.) From that Rimei razor, after months of shaving, one can reasonably determine whether he needs a more aggressive razor, or if this Tech imitator is about right for his skin and beard.
The Rimei RM2003 comes in a plastic
case along with a blade that should be
immediately recycled, not used.

For those who have never used a three-piece razor, be sure to review my instructions -- based on a recommended process from Merkur razors -- on how to put a blade in a two- or three-piece razor safely, easily, and giving the best chance for the blade to self center without requiring adjustment.

Happy DE shaving!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Rewarding Herecy

And so I continue to challenge cherished beliefs -- with great results.

I am still not rinsing my boar brush full of lather after the shave; just letting it hang dry lather and all. Not only that, I don't soak my boar brush in warm water before the shave....

I don't soak a natural-bristled brush at all prior to lathering up!

I simply lay or roll the brush knot in my wet palm to moisten the dried lather so it doesn't float off as I start to lather. Then I run some water directly into the knot out of the cool-water tap.

Then I lather and shave with result not one bit diminished from when I followed the herd. In fact, when compared to hot-water shaves, my cool-water shaves have been consistently better -- less irritation.

Happy shaving -- and following the road less traveled!

Monday, July 20, 2015

The No-Rinse Boar-Brush Experiment Begins

Yesterday morning I began using my boar brush once again, but also began the experiment of NOT rinsing the lather out of the brush after the shave. I simply hung it to dry lather and all.

If you missed my earlier articles, I've been doing this with a synthetic brush for a couple of weeks. I know it's herecy to not rinse the brush, but I got this idea from Gillette itself. On the Internet, I saw an image of a Gillette pamphlet from around 1920 that suggested this very practice: that is, don't rinse the brush after the shave and simply let it dry as is.

I've taken my heretical experiment a step further. Since soaking a brush full of lather is going to cause some of the lather to rinse out, this morning I didn't do a pre-shave soak of my boar brush either. I treated it the same way I did my synthetic; that is, laid the side of the knot in my wet hand to dampen the lather so the wispy dried lather didn't float away. Then I ran a little cool tap water directly into the knot, applied soap stick to damp face, and began face lathering. I added water to the brush about five times before I got the desired lather consistency.

That was it. I got a fine pre-work shave. But the question remains: how will the brush hold up over time?

Stay tuned, and happy shaving!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Sunny Sunday Shave

It's sunny and hot in metro Detroit. So in a little while I'm likely to apply some sun screen to my face and neck and play some tennis.

This impacts my morning shave because I find the chemicals in sun screen to be irritating. Applied to wounded or irritated skin anywhere on me, the sun screen tends to create a burning sensation along with angry red splotches. So on mornings when I might be using sunscreen on shaved skin, I take a single, with-grain pass to minimize sun-screen problems later.

Today's single-pass shave was with a fresh Rapira Platinum Lux blade, and though I can't draw much of a conclusion from a single pass, it was essentially zero irritation, which I can't say about my first pass a week ago with that *&^%$#@ Derby Extra blade. Today's was a good looking shave, but not rewarding when rubbed with my hand.

In earlier reviews, I have liked the Rapira blade, though I thought it might be overly sharp for my needs. Since my razor preferences have shifted to slightly more aggressive razor heads -- though still fairly mild -- perhaps my affinity for this blade will have gotten even more positive, which would push it to the top shelf in my blade preferences.

We'll see. More to come. Happy shaving!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saturday Summary: Derby, Rapira, Dried Soapy Brushes, and Tech Talk

Just had my last shave of the week with the Derby Extra blade. Remember that this blade is the second of the week; the first I chucked into the recycle bank after two rough shaves.

Yet I tried the Derby brand again after a reader suggested palm stropping a new Derby blade to improve its shave worthiness. I did this and found it did actually improve the shave. However....

The improvement wasn't enough. For example, today was my fifth shave on this second Derby blade. Since it's Saturday, I resolved to take my time and get a close shave. I did three passes. The first pass was generally with the grain, shaving with vertical strokes -- mostly downward except on my lower neck, which got upward strokes. The second pass was the opposite: mostly upward strokes except for my lower neck, which received downward strokes, and my upper lip, which got horizontal, cross-grain strokes. The third and final pass was again upward (against grain) on my cheeks and also on my upper lip, and more or less horizontal everywhere else. In all it was a very close shave, with essentially no wounds, and I would have considered it a top-drawer shave except for the lingering burning irritation left by the damned Derby blade.

No thank you; not again. No more Derby Extra blades for me. They just rile my skin too much. There are many more blades that give much more comfortable shaves and don't need any post-manufacture custom attention such as palm stropping or corking. Fortunately I don't have a large inventory of these blades to jettison.


So this week I'll be using a Russian-made Rapira blade, which as I recall from my last week-long trial of the brand, was completely acceptable; I don't recall any specific complaints, so we'll give 'er another go and, as usual, will report out next Saturday.


The dried-soapy-brush experiment continues with excellent results. I've been using the synthetic-bristled Omega Syntex brush to face lather. After the shave, I simply take my brush full of lather and hang it to dry (without rinsing or fussing on the brush at all) on my home-made coat-hanger-wire brush stand.

Pre-shave, after I've applied soap to my damp beard for face lathering, I hold a bit of cool tap water in my cupped left hand and gently lay the brush in the water, remove, rotate and repeat, which dampens the entire outer cylinder of the bristle knot and its dried lather. This prevents the wispy dried lather on the outer barrel of the knot from breaking off and floating uselessly away as I make lather. Then after the outer bristles are damp, I invert the brush (bristle tips up) and carefully add a bit of water to the inner part of the knot either from the tap itself or letting the water drip from my wet fingers. Then I will face lather, and during that process, may add water to the inner part of the knot several times to get lather consistency moist enough.

One of the pleasant side effects of the dried brush experiment is the mingling of scents in the brush. Some days I've added Palmolive shave stick on my face, with its pleasing bouquet; other days I've used Arko, which to my nose is still acceptable, though I don't find it as pleasing as I used to. I also use my own Grandad's shave soap, with is unscented, but have been adding a few drops of after-shave lotion into the brush just before I face lather.

The bottom line is that these various scents linger in the brush, and this morning, for example, I didn't add any after shave to my Grandad's soap with which I lathered, but still enjoyed the remnant bouquet in the brush's residual lather from previous shaves.


I continue to rotate through my Tech and Tech-wannabe razor heads: the c. 1946-1950 Gillette, the 1965 Gillette Travel Tech, and the new Rimei RM2003. The handles that I've been using are only two: the ball-end handle from the post-war Tech, and the shorty ball-end travel handle from the '65 Tech. Surprisingly, I enjoy the feel of the travel handle despite its significantly shorter length and slightly smaller diameter.

These three razor heads shave similarly but not identically. The biggest difference is in their optimal angle to the face; I believe the Gillettes perform best at a slightly larger blade angle than the Rimei and some other razors that I've used.

And so another Saturday summary is in the books. Happy shaving!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Little Help from My Friends....

Yesterday I wrote about my second bad shave with a Derby Extra blade.

A couple of kind souls offered some advice, which I took seriously.

First, Stephen suggested he's had similar experiences with Derby blades, and rather than suffering with them, chucked them for more desirable brand. I thought about this and figured that tomorrow, after a third shave with an irritating blade, what if I were hit in the head by a meteorite? Would I want my last shave to be pretty bad? No, of course not, so I slipped the twice-used Derby blade into my recycle bank, and started to load a Rapira Platinum.
Help from a friend

Something interrupted my re-load, however, and before I got back to it, I noticed that another reader, Anonymous (a common name ;-), had suggested having similar issues with the Derby Extra, but found that palm stropping or corking the blade solved the problem for him.

Now as you may know, I'm not a huge proponent of stropping or corking of coated blades because they likely degrade coatings present on the blade edge from the factory. But, I figured, what the hell, I hate the Derby Extra blades anyway, so why not take out a fresh one, palm strop the thing, and give it a go?

And so I did. I loaded a new and freshly palm-stropped Derby Extra into my Travel Tech with the shorty travel handle.

Then this morning I took my normal work-day shave: a two pass (with grain, then against) and then a bit of fussing under the jaw line and on my upper neck. The outcome wasn't bad, was completely acceptable.

And so I got by. Stephen was completely right in saying that I needn't suffer with a blade poorly matched to my skin, and Anonymous was on track saying that palm stropping a Derby Extra blade can render it usable, when it would have been otherwise.

So sing it with me: "Oooo, I get by..."

Happy shaving and helping!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Derby Extra Day Two

Ugh. With this blade in the Rimei RM2003 razor head, I took a two-pass shave (WG, AG) that was irritated after the first pass. The second was worse.

Once again not giving in to the temptation to recycle the blade and use a brand that I like, instead I put the blade into my Weishi 9306 one-piece razor for tomorrow's shave.

Hoping for the best.  Happy shaving!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Week Ahead

This week's blade is the Derby Extra. In the past I have been somewhat intolerant of this blade.

I used it for the first shave of the week in my 1946-1950 Gillette Tech, using a two-pass shave (WG, AG) plus a little fussing. I got a very close shave, but with irritation and a few minor wounds. I was tempted to once again toss the blade and put in a fresh one that I actually like for tomorrow and the remainder of the week, but I desisted. Instead, I put the Derby into the Rimei RM2003 razor head paired with the gold-toned Tech ball-end handle for tomorrow.

It's very difficult to be objective in doing these evaluations. This is why when researchers are doing clinical experiments, they do them double blind; that is, neither the test subject nor the researcher knows which version of the variable in question (in this case it would be a blade) is being used. Of course, I can't do this when evaluating blades; I know what blade I've unwrapped and inserted in the razor.

I have wondered whether my consistent dislike of the Derby Extra blade has been preconceived prejudice -- influenced by my past readings of so many negative reviews. So I'm going to do my best to give this blade the entire week to see if it's just the first shave or two that is a bit rough.

The unrinsed-brush experiment continues, and I must say that I continue to like the results so far. I have been face lathering, and the use of various soaps including not only my usual home-made Grandad's scented with a bit of Aqua Velva as well as the interspersing of Palmolive and Arko has been very pleasant. The lather dries nicely in the brush, and I may not go back to the lathering bowl; I like the simplicity and thriftiness of this current process.

I have also been enjoying my after-shave admixture. I stopped using the moisturizer with sunscreen, and for the last week or so have been using instead an unscented Aveeno moisturizer then mixed with a few drops of either Aqua Velva Ice Blue or Musk after shaves.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Summary: Lord Platinum Class, Travel Handle, Work-Day Shaves, and Other Notes

c.1946-1950 Gillette Ball-End-Handle Tech on left; 
1965 Gillette Travel Tech on Right
My recent every-day two-pass shaves have been quite good. As a simple with-grain (mostly), then against-grain (mostly) shave, they are quite safe and smooth as well as fairly fast at about 12 minutes. By mostly with and against grain, I mean that first-pass strokes are largely downward, and second-pass strokes are generally upward (except for on my upper lip), even though the grain of my beard does vary here and there.

This week's Lord Platinum Class blades have performed quite well in the Tech razor heads that I've been using. This week was a rotation through the brass-substrate, gold-colored, post-WWII Gillette Tech head; my 1965 nickel-plated Gillette Travel Tech head with the cast-Zamak top cap; and the Rimei RM2003 modern imitation Tech head. (When I say head, I mean both the top cap and base plate, of course.)

The handle that I've been using most frequently of late is the gold-colored ball end that came with the late-'40s model Tech, and which is shown in the pictures. I find it to offer good grip, and a nice weight. Visually the gold-colored handle pairs well not only with its original razor-head mate, but also with the nickel and chrome plating of the other Tech-style razor heads that I prefer.

c.1946-1950 Gillette Ball-End-Handle Tech on left;
1965 Gillette Travel Tech on Right
This week I've also pulled out the short-but-reasonably-heavy (20 grams) steel-substrate Travel Tech handle from its vintage zippered case and used that with all of the razor heads for morning shaves. I don't travel that often, but when I do, I want to bring along a razor that I like -- that I'm completely comfortable using -- and the travel handle with any of the Tech heads is a pleasure to use.

Though not expensive, my vintage shaving components are valuable to me, and I would not pack my vintage travel handle or a vintage razor head in checked luggage. Instead I would either pack it (without blades, of course) in a carry-on bag, or simply put it in my pocket, when flying.

The Lord Platinum Class blades have previously been at the bottom of my list of preferred blades from my cache of large-inventory blades. However, with these two-pass work-day shaves, I can't tell much difference between this blade and others that I have preferred more in the past. This is the least expensive blade that I use, and when paired with a Tech head and a two-pass shave, it is probably the best value of any of the blades that I've used.

Also, I've been using an Omega Syntex brush ever since I started the no-rinsing-of-the-brush experiments. Though it was initially harsh feeling when new, I have come to really like this inexpensive little performer for face lathering, which is all I've been doing since I started the no-rinse tests. My face doesn't notice the brush any longer, but I don't know if it's the brush or my face that has changed. The brush hasn't ever lost a bristle that I can recall, and, because the bristles don't absorb water but merely hold it between bristles, there's no pre-shave soaking of the brush required, so it's quick and easy to use in the time-limited shaves before work. If you try one of these brushes, which I would recommend, you may find it harsh at first, but if so, give it some time before you reject it.

That's it for this Saturday summary. Happy shaving!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Grandad's Best: How to Insert a Blade in a 3-Piece Razor

*UTO stands for unscrew to open; this includes all two- and three-piece razors, and does not include TTO (twist-to-open), butterfly-door style razors.
Two two-piece razors: Merkur 37C slant (left) and
Wilkinson Sword Classic (right). Both top caps are shown
in the proper orientation for blade insertion, although
a cloth on the counter between it and the top
cap will prevent marring a chrome finish.

Many shavers use UTO-design razors, but never learned to properly insert a blade. First, a bit about the razor design:

A two-piece DE razor has a top cap and a separate handle-baseplate assembly. The key characteristic of this design is that the baseplate, with its safety bars, is attached to the handle. Some examples of razors of this design are the Wilkinson Sword Classic and the Merkur 37C slant bar. The Wilkinson razor does not further disassemble, while the Merkur's handle-baseplate assembly can be further disassembled into the handle-baseplate piece, a threaded knob (that engages the threaded rod on the top cap), and a small spring ring, which retains the threaded knob in the barrel of the handle-baseplate piece.
Above: An inexpensive three-piece razor shown with
baseplate clearly a separate piece from the handle.

A three-piece DE razor has a top cap, a separate baseplate, and a separate handle. When assembled, the threaded rod on the top cap screws into the threaded handle, and these two sandwich the baseplate in between.

When inserting a blade, all UTO razors are best assembled upside down; that is, handle up, on a padded surface. The steps are as follows:
Press the baseplate firmly down against the top cap while
tightening the handle. Do put a cushioning cloth (not shown)
between the counter and the top cap to prevent damaging
the finish on the metal.
  1. Put a towel or wash cloth on a counter. This is to prevent marring the finish of the metal top cap over time.
  2. Put the razor's top cap on the cloth, with threaded rod pointing up.
  3. Put the blade over the threaded rod and allow it to settle into the top cap. This is a key step, which allows the blade to initially self center as much as possible into the underside (which is now up) of the top cap.
  4. Put the baseplate and handle over the threaded rod of the top cap, but don't screw it tight yet.
  5. With the razor still upside down (handle up) on the counter, with your fingers press the baseplate down onto the blade and top cap. This is also a key step, which tends to maintain the blade in its self-centered position and not allow it to shift.
  6. Tighten the handle to lock the blade in position within the razor head.
  7. Verify even blade reveal by looking straight
    down at the top cap of the assembled razor.
  8. Verify even blade reveal by looking straight down on the top cap.
Now you're ready to shave with your UTO razor. Make it a good one.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tech Photo Essay

Pre-WWII Gillette Tech:

1938-1941 Tech: No date codes, triangular lather slots (two per edge), large diamond-shaped stamping in center of baseplate, short center bars on underside of top cap, with corresponding slots in base plate, and characteristic corner tabs under top cap.

The gold plating on this one is mostly gone, so the top cap no longer bears the Gillette logo on its upper surface.

Thick, durable metal used for the base plate.

Post-WWII Techs:

Left to right: 1946-1950 Gillette Tech, 1965 Travel Tech, and new Rimei RM2003 Tech facsimile. Note the differences in the top-cap undersides: the early post-war version has corner tabs and a center bar longer than the pre-war; the 1965 model has no center bar or bullet posts and relies on corner tabs alone, and the Rimei has bullet posts in addition to the corner tabs.

Left to right: the 1946-1950 Gillette Tech shows the original logo on the top cap; the 1965, with its cast top cap and nickel plating, has Gillette embossing; and the chrome-plated Rimei is plain and simple.

Side view of the base plates reveals differences. The Gillettes have thicker metal in their base plates -- the earlier Gillette also has a more curved cross section than the 1965 version. The Rimei, though of thinner metal, is completely adequate in stiffness, though the thinner metal probably is the reason that it has four lather slots per edge rather than the Gillettes' two -- the thinner Rimei obviously needs more support for the safety bars.

Happy Tech shaving!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: Astra SP, Dried Soapy Brushes, and the Aqua Velva Man

It's been an eventful week. Most notably, I took an inventory of my DE razors, thinking that perhaps I could come up with a list to sell and some to simply pitch in the trash can.

After doing this inventory, I did actually trash the Wilkinson Sword Classic and a Rimei that arrived damaged from the seller and on which I had scratched its chrome plating in trying to repair it. I couldn't bring myself to jettison the three trash-or-treasure razors that I'd modified to be mild shavers of varied degree but which I'll probably never use. I couldn't even throw away the one-piece, all-aluminum, ultra-light Weishi 2003-m, on which I had to use jeweler's pliers to metal smith the doors so that the blade edges would lie straight. In so doing, I had marred the surface of the top cap so that it's cosmetically imperfect; as a result it's unsalable, and I'll probably never shave with this razor anyway because it isn't as mild as its more famous brass-substrate cousins, the Weishi 9306, the MicroTouch One, the Dorco, and the Van Der Hagen.

The razor-inventory process did cure me of razor acquisition disorder, however. When I took them out of the closet shoe box and surveyed them all at one time, I realized how over the months this has gotten completely out of hand, and I have too many razors. I was mortified at the silly waste of excess DE razors.


The soapy-brush experiment has gone well. Using a synthetic-bristled brush, I believe there's no issue at all with not rinsing the brush after use and simply letting the lather dry in place for the next shave. In the future, when I get back to using my boar brush, I'll continue the experiment and report out the results.


The week's shaves with the Astra Superior Platinum blade in my Techs were fine as in good enough, adequate. They were low irritation shaves and fairly close despite my generally using only two passes: with grain and against. Yet my three-pass shave (with, across, and against grain) on Friday (yesterday) was not quite baby smooth on my cheeks, and opened a few tiny weepers. This morning I'm going to again take three passes, but this time making the final two both against the grain.


Also, my wife has liked the slight lingering scent of the Aqua Velva Ice Blue usage as part of my shaving-lather preparation and with my post-shave moisturizing. In fact and much to my surprise, she encouraged me to try some Aqua Velva musk after shave, which I had privately rejected prior to discussing it with her. So with her encouragement, I'll probably get some of that today and try it out tomorrow.

Happy shaving!

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Aqua Velva Man

Remember the old advertising slogan on TV in the USA: "There's something about an Aqua Velva man"?

Well, that's me. I finally broke down and bought a bottle of Aqua Velva blue aftershave from my corner pharmacy. I've always liked the clean, manly smell.

I'm not much of an old-school after-shave kind of guy, however. My concern is with the alcohol content and its effect on my sensitive skin. So I don't simply splash it on after my shave. Oh no, I've been using my Aqua Velva in unusual and rewarding ways.

Not me. But I guess that Aqua Velva
men come in all types and sizes.
As you may know, my preferred, privately-made shave soap, Grandad's, is made without added fragrance. I use it both pressed into a re-purposed Greek-yogurt cup, in which I swirl my wet brush prior to making lather; and I also roll it into a cylindrical shaving stick for application directly to my wet beard when I choose. Since I purchased the Aqua Velva, I've been adding a small amount to my yogurt cup of shave soap, and when I swirl my brush in the cup, I now have Aqua Velva fragrance as well as its stimulating and cooling effect added to my shave soap.

The second unusual way that I use my Aqua Velva is after the shave, but I don't apply it as intended then either.

That's me: ladies' man, tennis player extraordinaire,
bon vivant, and well-groomed Aqua Velva man.
What I do is take some inexpensive non-greasy face moisturizer, which also happens to have a bit of sunscreen in it: SPF 15. I squirt some of this into my palm, and.... wait for it.... I add a few milliliters of Aqua Velva. I mix that in my palm with my finger and then apply that admixture to my freshly-shaved face.

It is a wonderful after-shave balm that leaves my skin cool, smooth, moisturized, and refreshed. Best of all, I smell like Aqua Velva!

Happy shaving, and may you develop into an Aqua Velva man!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Talkin' Techs

I have now had the good fortune to use genuine Gillette Tech razors from three different eras, and one modern facsimile.

The actual Techs I've used are as follows:
  • Pre-WWII Tech head, c. 1938-1941
  • Post-WWII Tech with the ball-end handle, c.1946-1950
  • Travel Tech, 1965

The pre-war Tech head was made of brass -- both the top cap and base plate. Ditto the post-war version, and the Travel Tech had a brass base plate (or possibly steel -- I'm not sure which due to the plating)  and top cap of cast zamak (a zinc alloy, too often disparagingly, unfairly, referred to as pot metal, which it is not).

I also include a non-Gillete, non-vintage razor as a near Tech, which is the following:
  •  Rimei RM2003 - a modern Tech facsimile

The Rimei is chrome plated, and the substrates of the head and base plate are zamak and steel (I presume), respectively.

I've seen posts in various shaving forums incorrectly refer to other three-piece razors as "Techs" such as Lord or Merkur three-piece instruments. These are not Techs. They have cast baseplates, not the characteristic stamped steel. The Merkur and Lord razor heads also lack the top-cap corner tabs (which are discussed below). They also lack the characteristic Tech shaving character. Though in terms of shaving capacity, when compared to post-WWII Techs, they are similarly mild (the Merkur 33C Classic is slightly more mild and the Lord L.6 slightly less so), the Techs have a characteristic low-irritation quality that makes them a bit unique and, in my opinion, perferable to both the Merkur 33 and the Lord L.6. 

Techs are all razors of pretty mild shaving character, but that doesn't mean they're not capable of shaving baby smooth; they're just face friendly.

Tech design differences include the following:
  • The pre-war Tech base plate has two triangular lather slots per edge
  • The post-war and Travel Techs have base plates with two oval lather slots per edge
  • The Rimei has four oval lather slots per edge in its base plate
  • Both the early Techs have a center bar in the top cap, which help to align the blade, and corresponding slots in the baseplate
  • The '65 Tech has no center bar in the top cap, and relies only on the corner tabs to align the blade (and this works well)
  • The Rimei has no center bar in the top cap, and instead uses bullet posts to help align the blade
  • The Rimei base plate, though still sufficiently rigid, is stamped from thinner metal than the true Gillette Techs
  • All have handles different from each other

But they have their similarities too, as described below:

  • Corner tabs, which help align the blade, in the underside of the top cap
  • Diamond shaped indentation stamped into the base plates -- though they vary in size; the Rimei's is the smallest because of the presence of the bullet posts

If I were to rank the four in terms of relative aggressiveness (from most to least aggressive), I would put them in the following order:
  1. Pre-war Tech
  2. '65 Travel Tech
  3. Rimei
  4. '46-'50 Tech

The pre-war Tech with the triangular lather slots is clearly the more aggressive razor of this group. It was also, not surprisingly, the most likely to irritate my delicate dermis and cause minor wounds. The Travel Tech and the Rimei are very close in shave character, though I find the Rimei slightly less irritating, so by default I'm calling it a slightly milder shaver. The '48-'50 post-war Tech provides a lovely shave, with little damage done to sensitive skin, but still capable of providing a very close shave if one shaves with the best razor angle and makes sufficient passes (but it clearly isn't going to happen in a single pass or two :-).

I actually like all of these razors, but because my skin is so susceptible to injury, I would rank my order of preference this way:
  1. Rimei / '46-'50 Tech (I couldn't pick a consistent preference)
  2. '65 Travel Tech
  3. '38-'41 Tech
I have lately become so fond of the Tech shaving character, that in my bathroom cabinet, I currently only have two razor heads and one handle:

  • The c. 1946-1950 Tech razor head
  • A Rimei RM2003 razor head
  • The c. 1946-1950 Tech ball-end handle

So if you want a Tech shave for the least money (and have a factory-new instrument to boot), try the Rimei RM2003. If you want the real thing from Gillette, you'll have to go and search the used/collectible market, but be aware that the different models and eras do shave differently, though all within the same general ballpark.

Happy Tech shaving!

Morning After: Report Three

Quick report before work this morning:

I continue to happily face lather using my usual cool water before, during, and after the shave.

The whole point of the experiment is testing the effects of NOT rinsing the brush full of shave lather after the shave, and simply hanging it to dry over night unrinsed.

Concerned about microbial growth, I researched this a bit. It turns out that the pinkish hue in my lathering bowl that I saw many months ago WAS bacteria but it was a variety that is air borne, ubiquitous, is rather harmless, and  likes to flourish in bathtubs, showers, shower curtains etc. because it likes soap and soap scum. Anyway, I'm happy to report that I'm currently not seeing any perceptible signs of that or any other bacteria.

On deck for the near future is an article on Tech razors. I've had it done for several days, but I was hoping to insert photos, which, strangely, can take more time.

So I'll either get the photos done tonight, or publish it tomorrow without photos and do a separate photo essay on the same subject on Friday or soon thereafter.

Happy shaving!