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!


  1. Nice to hear that the brush experiment is going well. I wonder if it would be different with a natural one like boar or badger?

    btw, something about that optimal angle - you should be able to gauge from audio feedback is you have the correct angle. Listen to the cutting of the stubble ;)

    1. I will soon get to trying the no-rinse-brush experiment with my Van Der Hagen boar. Will report as usual.

      Regarding audio feedback and optimal angle, I completely agree. This is the method that I use to help determine best blade angle.

  2. I'm toying with the idea of buying a synthetic brush. :)

    1. I originally bought mine to be a no-fuss travel brush. It's rather small, has an un-changing compact knot shape -- rather cylindrical rather than fan shaped, and doesn't absorb water into the bristles, so it can be shaken out and left on the counter to dry bristles up. (As I've mentioned previously, the brush holds water -- quite a lot -- through water tension, not absorption.)

      Also as I've previously mentioned, I was initially surprised by the harshness of the bristle tips against facial skin, but either they've mellowed or my skin has de-sensitized in that regard. I suspect the latter because I still think this is the only one of my three brushes (badger, boar, & synthetic) that might actually exfoliate a bit -- so I don't think the bristles have mellowed much.