Monday, August 31, 2015

Two Razors, Two Passes: Two-rriffic!

The experiment I proposed yesterday was, after today's first trial, a big success. Using the techniques that I describe below, I can get a triple-C shave: close, comfortable, and (rather) cquick.

Seeking the ideal compromise between closeness and comfort, I have previously found two passes -- generally with grain, then against grain -- to be the best starting point for knocking down my beard.

Another refinement I recommend is to make all razors strokes oblique; that is, stroking with the blade edge slightly off perpendicular to the stroke direction. As I've written many times, this slightly increases the functional, effective sharpness of the blade as well as the capacity of the razor.

Additional shaving-stroke refinements that I use and recommend include the following:
The final ingredient in an ideal two-pass shave is the choice of razors (yep, razors as in more than one).

This morning I used my vintage, heirloom 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable (originally known in the U.K., I believe, as the "New Gillette Adjustable Razor, Mark II"; in the U.S. I've found evidence it was called the New Gillette Slim Adjustable). This razor has nine settings, which Gillette originally suggested using as follows:
  • Settings 1-3 are for those with sensitive skin or light beard
  • Settings 4-6 are for those with normal beard or skin
  • Setting 7-9 are for those with thick, heavy beards
Although I have a pretty normal, not-light beard, because of my notoriously easily-injured face and neck, I used a setting of three this morning. Using all the above-mentioned shaving techniques, I got a very good standard (one-pass) shave, and could have been completely satisfied stopping there.

But since this was a two-razor experiment (and I like a close shave), I transferred my 15th-use (fifteenth!!!) Personna red-label blade into my mild Weishi 9306-F razor, and took a second pass -- also using all the techniques I've elaborated above.


The outcome was outstanding: a close shave with not a nick, cut, weeper, or irritation. Clearly this process is on the right track and I will continue to use these tools and techniques for the remainder of the week.

After I rinsed off the lather with cool tap water, I finished the shave with a witch hazel rub over my wet face. I dried my hands and cleaned up my tools including drying them with a square of TP and palm stropping the blade on my oiled hand. Then I rubbed a dab of unscented moisturizing lotion into my clean-shaven face, and topped that with Aqua Velva Ice Blue after-shave lotion just to smell good and to knock down the sticky residue of the moisturizer.

All's well that ends well.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Kickoff and a Mash Up of Other Sports Allusions

The headline doesn't allude to professional football. It's a new week, a new day, the start of the remainder of my life. Together, let's make the return a good one, break par on the back nine; let's run out the clock with a comfortable lead. So here's the current issue:

My two-pass shave this morning left something to be desired. Oh, it was pretty close, and comfortable too. The flag on the play was that I did get three weepers: one on my chin, and pinpoint weepers on my upper lip and cheek.

What to do? WHAT to DO?

What I don't want to do is go back to three passes; it's just too abusive on my delicate dermis. Yet the second pass, which I make against the grain to maximize shave closeness, is an aggressive move to the hoop that too often is called for charging. I could make the second pass across the grain, which is a less aggressive attack, but then it isn't as close as I desire.

Here's my plan. I'm going to experiment once again with a two-razor process. Pursuing that, I pulled out my inventory of DE razors, considering which might be best for an initial pass, and which for the second, final pass. After considering my three-piece razors, I'm going to stick with the vintage Tech as a first-pass, with-grain razor. Then the plan is to switch the blade into my Merkur Classic (33C) razor head to bat clean up.

But before I invoke the one-two combination of three-piece razors, I'm also going back to one-piece razors. I've dusted off my vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable and my Weishi 9306-F TTO. The Slim will be my first-pitch fastball, set somewhere between three and five (out of nine), to get my beard fairway smooth with the first-round, with-grain pass. Then I'll take the Weishi from the bull pen for an off-speed delivery, and try to get as slick as a dry putting green at the U.S. Open -- without any divots, of course.

I did consider using the Slim for both passes -- just dialing back for the encore. But after eye balling the exposure on the Slim's most gentle setting, it doesn't look congenial enough for the task. So it will be the Weishi that is pitching relief when the Slim is the starter.

The line up for tomorrow will be the one-piece-razors sequence. I'll take the 14th use of my Personna red-label blade -- the one on which I've been stropping after the shave on my oiled palm -- and lead off with the Slim, then use the Weishi as the closer.

I'll report out on that tomorrow. Stay tuned, sports fans.

Happy shaving!

Sports-Allusion Glossary:
  1. Sunday Kickoff: american football
  2. The return: american football
  3. Break par on the back nine: golf
  4. Run out the clock: american football, basketball
  5. Flag on the play: american football
  6. Move to the hoop.... charging: basketball
  7. Bat clean up: baseball
  8. One-two combination: boxing, mma
  9. First-pitch fastball: baseball
  10. Fairway smooth: golf
  11. First round: tournaments -- golf, tennis, etc
  12. Bull pen, off-speed delivery: baseball
  13. Dry putting green.... divots: golf
  14. Pitching relief: baseball
  15. Line up: baseball
  16. Lead off.... closer: baseball
How many did you notice?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Saturday Summary: Standard Shave, Stropping, and Blade Longevity

My Standard Shave This Morning

I capped the week off with a standard shave today:
  • one pass
  • with grain
It was a good standard shave:
  • quick
  • easy
  • good looking
  • skin friendly -- no irritation, no wounds
It met the minimum requirements for a shave:
  • a clean-shaven look -- that is, no visible stubble
  • smooth, when stroked in the direction of beard grain
I felt a standard shave would be adequate; after all, it's Saturday, I have an early-morning tennis match, no close contact foreseen with interesting female companions, and I'm practicing freedom from obsession this morning as well.

Stropping Subtleties

I have returned to blade stropping as part of my daily shave cleanup. Now after I give the blade and razor a quick pat dry with a square of TP, I take my small shave-oil container and simply rub the dispenser hole of the inverted bottle against the meaty part of my palm -- the part that is opposite the thumb. I then give each side of the blade edge a few palm-stropping strokes before I button up the blade back into the razor for the next shave.

I think using the oil as part of the stropping process enhances blade performance and longevity by accomplishing the following:
  • the oil reduces coating-removing friction, thus helping to preserve any metal or polymer coatings applied to the blade edge
  • the mechanics of the stropping process may help to undo shaving-induced microscopic damage to the cutting edge
  • the stropping process helps to ensure that the post-shave edge condition is free of moisture, soap residue, and other debris -- thus reducing the opportunity for microscopic oxidation of the blade edge between shaves
  • the residual oil layer on the blade tends to seal the exposed metal of the edge -- thus further reducing the opportunity for microscopic oxidation of the blade edge between shaves

Blade Longevity

Who cares about blade longevity?

Well, for one, I do. The reasons are basically two. Yes, though blades are inexpensive when compared to current, under-patent-protection cartridge razors, that doesn't mean a thoughtful person would be inclined to be wasteful.
  1. Using fewer blade per year saves me a few bucks. Not a big deal if being penny wise is only applied to razor blades. However, if one lives a mindful lifestyle and eliminates unnecessary expenditure and waste everywhere, then financial freedom -- or at least reduced financial burden -- becomes a reality.
  2. If only one person uses fewer blades each year, the environmental impact is negligible. Unfortunately, most people look at issues that way. However, if millions of shavers use fewer blades each year, the global environmental impact is significant both in terms of waste or recycling burden and in terms of resource (steel) usage.
The same thought process applies to many things that persons don't think about very much including electricity usage, driving unnecessarily large or powerful vehicles, idling one's vehicle unnecessarily, and so on.
My blade for the past 12 days has been a Personna red label. So far there's no end in sight; like the Energizer bunny, it keeps going and going. Of course, part of this longevity is my daily blade maintenance, but also my changed shaving routine that is typically two or two-and-a-half passes, with the occasional one-pass standard shave thrown in.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Using Moisturizer and After-Shave Lotion Together

I have somewhat dry skin after shaving, and if I use an alum block or liquid astringents such as witch hazel or most after-shave lotions, they make the situation worse.

But I do like to have a little post-shave fragrance on my face as long as it's not too strong or persistent.

So I have experimented with after-shave balms as well as mixing unscented moisturizing cream with a bit of alcohol-based after-shave lotion.

An alternative method that I've found effective is to complete the shave with whatever processes and applications are called for (as usual). Some days it may just be a water rinse or a water rinse followed by a witch hazel rub. Other days may need an alum rub, and sometimes I need dabs of styptic in various places (those are the really careless-shaving days).

However, the alternative after-shave method is that now I will often cap the shave with some unscented moisturizing lotion applied to the shaved area. Then I will rub on a bit of alcohol-based after shave lotion, which leaves a nice, mild fragrance but also knocks down the tendency of the moisturizer to leave a sticky residue.

Best of both worlds: moisturizing without stickiness and a nice fragrance as well.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 24, 2015

A New Discovery: The Anti-Raking Stroke -- Recommended

There is an aspect of wet shaving that I have never seen discussed. Never.

Yet, it may be of some small significance.

A clearing pattern good for removing leaves, but
perhaps not quite optimal for shaving....
Most who shave, I would assume, shave into their lather; I certainly have done so for the most part. By shaving into the lather I mean that one shaves like one would rake leaves off a lawn; that is, you start at an edge of the area to be raked, and sweep the raked leaves toward the area to be cleaned. This leaves behind you a clean swept area, and moves the raked leaves toward those not yet raked, thus easily piled up and removed. A shaving equivalent of this would be shaving one's cheek by starting high just under the sideburn or high on the cheek bone, and stroking in a pattern that is progressively downward toward the jaw line. This common approach leaves in its wake an expanse of skin that is shaven and relatively lather free.

This leaf-raking approach is rather tidy. But what might be a drawback?

Consider its effect on lather and moisture. After the first few initial strokes, each subsequent stroke begins in an area of skin already shaved and then moves into unshaven, well-lathered territory. But the already-shaved area is pretty much barren of lather and moisture. As the stroke continues into lathered real estate, the bar or comb pushes some of the lather and moisture ahead of the blade, and the blade, of course, then removes most of the remainder as it cuts whiskers.

But what of the other approach? This involves beginning each stroke in the heart of lathered territory and stroking toward an area not to be shaved or already shaved. This begins the stroke in a well lubricated spot and pushes lather and precious moisture toward the area where the stroke will end, which is initially rather clean and dry.

This anti-raking pattern helps ensure that at the end of each razor stroke there is better lubrication between blade and skin. Using the anti-raking stroke certainly is unlikely to diminish the quality of your shave, and may actually improve it.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Video: How Not to Shave

The most memorable shaving commercial of which I'm aware is the 1967 Noxzema shave cream commercial.

Done to the tune of "The Stripper," it's a clinic in how not to wield a razor.

But it's fun. Enjoy:

Happy shaving, but don't do it like this!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Optimizing a Shave and More on the Standard Shave

More on the Standard Shave

Yesterday's article musing on the standard shave got a fairly large readership. I would like to begin by following those thoughts with just a couple more:

1) Note that I define a standard shave as a daily shave.

If one shaves less frequently than every day, there is sufficient reason to make more passes than one. If one shaves infrequently -- that is, less than every other day or so -- that may be justification to consider shaving with a double-edge razor of large capacity. By large capacity, I don't mean aggressive shave character; I mean the ability to handle long growth without compromising the ability to cut closely and cleanly. By definition, this large capacity would point directly to an open-comb razor. 

Open-comb razors do not all have aggressive shave characters. For example, the Merkur 15C, with which I am very familiar, is a rather mild shaver, but, owing to it's open-comb baseplate, does have unlimited shaving capacity.

2) Despite the much-appreciated comments from those who suggested that their personal shave routine typically includes more than one pass -- as does my own personal daily routine, which is most frequently two passes, I would still maintain my position that the standard wet shave is one pass. 

Most of the western-world wet shavers are using cartridge design with two or more blades -- sad, but true. I, myself, used a pivoting, disposable, double-bladed cartridge design for years. Typical, I imagine, of most non-hobbyist, non-aficionado wet shavers, I always took one-pass shaves, and never even considered going beyond that.

Even with my classic, vintage c.1948 Gillette Tech, I can get a completely adequate shave in a single pass, which brings me to topic two this morning....

Optimizing a Standard Shave (That is, the Single-Pass Shave)

This morning I got a good shave in a single pass. Then with my second pass, the shave quality became very good. Below are some thoughts on how to optimize a standard, one-pass shave as well as any passes you choose to make beyond that.

  • Use adequate water to wet the beard, and combine that with a slick, protective shave soap.
  • Use a razor that has at least a neutral blade exposure. You don't have to use a high-risk instrument that is terribly aggressive, but if you use a razor with a negative blade exposure, where the blade edge is within the cove of the top cap and baseplate, it's difficult to get even a moderately close shave -- especially in a single pass. 
  • Use oblique strokes, in which the blade edge is NOT perpendicular to the stroke direction.
  • Use short, slow strokes of the razor. This mindful process allows one to better optimize angles and pressure to get the best hair removal without insult to the skin.

That's it for this morning. Happy shaving!

Friday, August 21, 2015

What is a Standard Shave?

I got a nice shave this morning, and it gave me reason to pause and consider the following questions:

  • What is a standard shave?
  • Where did the concept of a standard shave come from?
  • How did a three-pass shave come to be standard?

First of all, I considered the meaning of the word standard. In this usage -- as it pertains to a shave -- I think there are two meanings possible. First, normal, as in every day, common. Second, it might mean as a norm or model for comparison. 

I would go as far as to say that both meanings from the previous paragraph apply.

So what is a standard shave? I would suggest it is one that looks clean shaven and is routinely done. I would also suggest that as a norm for comparison purposes, it is a shave that meets minimal criteria to be considered adequate, not exceptional. After all, if an exceptional shave is standard, then it isn't exceptional at all -- it's just normal, average.

So is the so-called standard three-pass shave standard? 

Well, do most men in the world who wet shave take three passes -- with grain, cross grain, and against grain? Of course I don't know most men in the world, nor have I done a valid and reliable survey of that large group. However, my intuition says, no, most men who wet shave do NOT take three passes as a matter of course; nor, would I say, that men have historically taken three passes as their normal shaving routine. I believe this is true whether we're considering all wet shavers or individual subsets including barber shaves, home users of straight razors, DE users or those who use the various multi-bladed cartridge gizmos.

Take my father, for example. He served in the army during World War II, and likely to some degree acquired shaving habits from that experience. My earliest recollection of his shaves were of him using his Gillette Slim Adjustable, canned shaving foam, and making a single, careful pass.

Even some of my acquaintances whom I've tried convert either successfully or not to DE shaving resist taking more than one pass.

So, therefore, based on this admittedly flimsy, intuitive, far-less-than-air-tight rationale, I would suggest that a one-pass shave is standard. It might be considered both the norm as well as the standard by which other shaves are judged.

Where did the concept of the standard shave come from -- especially the idea of the standard three-pass shave?  I have no idea. (That's all I've got -- or am willing to say, at any rate.)

However, I would respectfully submit to you for your consideration that a one-pass, generally-with-grain shave is standard. Properly done, with whatever instrument you choose (I choose a DE razor, of course), it can look good, feel good when rubbed with the grain, and can be comfortable as well.

Now, it's true that my daily shave goes beyond standard. I generally take two passes, both in the vertical direction, both on my face and neck. First pass is more or less with the grain, and the final pass is more or less against the grain. I also pretty much exclusively use oblique passes, which optimize each razor stroke in terms of cutting efficiency and potential comfort. 

If I want the truly exceptional, go-for-the-gold shave, I'll add some fussing strokes after the second pass, and perhaps even a full third pass taking care to directly shave against the grain in all sectors of my handsome mug. However, if I do that all the time, my skin becomes hopelessly irritated and a mine field of minor wounds.

So to summarize, I think a standard wet shave is a one-pass shave -- irrespective of whether you're using a straight, cartridge, or double edge . The logical corollary is that the idea of a "standard three-pass shave" is often misinterpreted, misapplied. (Notice I did not call it bunk.) I think that the phrase, standard three-pass shave should be taken to mean that if one is going to go for the gold and make three separate passes, then the standard approach would be with the grain, then across the grain, and end with against the grain of the hair growth.

That's what I think. How about you?

Happy shaving!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Windows Upgrade and Other Changes

Windows 10 Upgrade

This morning I took the plunge and upgraded my computer's operating system from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Though filled with trepidation, and after backing up my most critical data, I did the deed and emerged surprisingly untroubled. The upgrade has seemed to require zero post-installation adjustment.

Yes, there are some minor differences between the familiar, comfortable Windows 7 and the new Windows 10, but those differences are so minor that I just kept on swimming through my normal morning routine (after the upgrade procedure) without missing a stroke.

Shave-Prep Upgrade

I tried a new wrinkle in my shave prep and I think it's another upgrade. This morning in addition to my normal cool-water splashes and rub prior to lathering, I used the following procedure:
  1. Cool water splash & rub (as usual)
  2. Wetting of the outside of the shaving brush to eliminate wispy dried soap from floating away (as usual)
  3. Another cool water splash & rub using the soap in my hand from the brush wetting (as usual)
  4. Quick face wash using generic bath soap & cool water
  5. Applied a dab of moisturizing lotion to my wet face
  6. Rubbed on soap stick (as usual)
  7. Ran a bit of tap water into the brush and face lathered (as usual)
  8. I also applied another dab of moisturizer to my wet face between passes prior to re-lathering 
Then I took a two-pass shave and which was so confidence-inspiring that I shaved as though there were no blade in the razor (which was really stupid) and, despite that, emerged with a pretty close shave but also with three little weepers and a very minor cut.

Stroke Upgrade

I followed the old-school stroke recommendation of Gillette, and did the entire shave with oblique strokes. I will continue to do this going forward.

Making oblique strokes really isn't an advanced technique. It's so easy. The trick is to decide what direction in which you'll make your stroke, then simply cant the razor a bit so that the blade edge is just off perpendicular from your stroke direction.

This doesn't really take any practice or special skill. All it takes is the discipline to keep the razor edge at the chosen angle in relation to the stroke direction.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Pushing the Blade-Life Envelope and Palm Stropping

The Eleventh Shave

I have written many times that I'm reluctant to cork or strop a coated blade -- especially when rather new -- because I'm concerned about the abrasive treatment doing more harm than good to the fragile edge of the blade.

But you may know that lately I've abandoned by practice of using a new DE blade every Sunday morning. Instead, I've been exploring areas closer to the limits of various blades' performance.

Yesterday, for example, was my tenth shave with a Dorco ST-301 blade. The shave was as close as I would normally expect, but I had noticeable irritation that lingered a bit after the shave. So today, in preparation for the eleventh shave with this blade, I palm stropped it making two strokes on each side of the edge; that is a total of eight palm-stropping strokes on the blade.

The result was a normally-close shave -- no degradation there -- but there was significantly less irritation than yesterday. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the palm-stropping certainly didn't reduce the quality of the shave -- at least not for this one use.

Effects of Edge Coatings and Stropping

Only based on what I have read including reports on microscopic studies done by others, the effects of shaving on the edge of a stainless-steel blade includes deformation of the fragile edge. It may experience some crushing or bending over, thus reducing the effective sharpness of the blade. By stropping a used blade, this may to some degree partially restore the edge by reducing the amount or degree of edge deformation.

I have also read about the purpose of various edge coatings. Metal coatings such as chromium and platinum have been reported to toughen the edge, to make it more durable. Polymeric coatings such as PTFE are intended to act as a lubricant making the edge pass more smoothly over skin. Yet these coatings -- especially the metallic ones -- are very thin, and stropping a newer blade with the intention of extending its useful life may actually remove the coating with resulting adverse effects.

Yet palm or arm stropping a very-used blade may bring very little risk of adversely affecting the blade edge. The coatings are likely gone or less effective, and the edge may be due for some mechanical improvement.

Another subtlety associated with stropping is whether it should be done before or after blade use. Post-shave stropping will certainly help to remove edge-degrading water and other contaminants. However, for those of us who gently clean and dry blades after the shave, stropping would add nothing in that regard. All it would do would be to potentially improve the evenness of the edge.

But there may be a benefit to waiting and stropping the blade only as part of the pre-shave routine.

A Bit About the Nature of Metals

At one point in my life I was a mechanical-engineering student. Part of that discipline is the study of materials science. One thing I remember from those days is about the molecular nature of metals. You ever bend a paper clip until it breaks? This happens because as one bends metal, it deforms the microscopic crystals of which it is composed. This deformation causes the metal to be both harder and more brittle. The more you bend the metal, the harder it gets, but also increasingly susceptible to fracture. 

This outcome of deforming metal is called strain hardening. This is why automobile manufacturers can take rather soft sheet metal and by stamping contours into it, can make it more rigid and suitable for use as auto-body panels.

However, an interesting property of metal is that over time, the atoms in the deformed crystals of metal tend to migrate into new alignment. This migration reduces the stiffness of the formerly-strain-hardened metal, rendering it softer, more pliable. That is why a ten-year-old car is not as crash worthy as a new car; the crystals in the metal have rearranged making the panels in the car more easily bent, less resistant to new deformation.

This applies to razor blades.... maybe.

The edge of a razor blade is so thin and fragile that the abuse of normal use certainly deforms the edge irrespective of coatings. So at some point in its useful life, the blade edge is subjected to strain hardening. Though it takes an automobile fender literally years for its microscopic crystals to naturally reverse strain hardening, because of the extremely small scale of the blade edge, it is possible (not guaranteed) that after a few hours the effects of the strain hardening from the previous shave may diminish. On the other hand, it may also be possible that the  strain hardening due to normal blade deformation may be minimal to begin with -- in which case there is no reason to delay blade stropping.


Without further research, all I can suggest is that, all other things equal, there is no harm but possible benefit in delaying the stropping of a used blade until just prior to the shave.

I can also say that there is likely some benefit to stropping a used blade. At the very least, stropping may actually further strain harden a shave-deformed edge, thus making it more resistant to further deformation.  However, how used it should be before one starts stropping depends on the blade's coatings. If it is uncoated (that is, plain stainless steel), then there is likely little risk to stropping early and often. However, stropping a coated blade too early in its useful life cycle may be counter productive due to premature removal of the applied edge coatings, which could reduce edge toughness, comfort, or both.

Certainly if I've got approaching ten shaves from a blade and it begins to feel less comfortable but otherwise seems sharp enough, then a little pre-shave stropping is likely to be included in my routine. I draw this conclusion because I assume that a degrading blade will first be irritating on my sensitive skin before it begins to cut hair less effectively. However, others with less sensitive skin may simply try experimenting with stropping a blade prior to the shave as it gets within a shave or two of its normal useful life; then by stropping these nearly-used-up blades, one may get some additional quality use from any given blade -- that is, if one is so inclined to go to that trouble. For me, it's more a question of academic interest rather than squeezing maximum useful life from my blades.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Best of Grandad: Picking the Right Razor for You, Part 2

[This article was originally published on Sept 11, 2014. This version has been slightly modified from the original version.]

Yesterday I began an ambitious article intended to summarize the essential guidelines for making more appropriate double-edge-razor choices. The article became too lengthy for a single post, so this is the conclusion of that topic.

You should first read yesterday's article. Then based on your skin and beard characteristics, you should then have a general idea of the capability and face-friendliness of a razor that will work best for you.

Now we continue:

Harshness versus Capability

Although all other things equal, a more capable, higher-capacity razor does run the risk of shaving more harshly, the two are not directly related. Also, mild shaving straight-bar razors can be used in a way to increase capability. More subtle design factors as well as choice of shaving technique can influence razor harshness and capacity. Some examples:
  • In two razors with equivalent blade reveal (how much blade is visible when viewed from above the top cap) and equivalent blade exposure (how well the edge is protected within the cove of the top cap and safety bar or comb), the angle of the blade in relation to the shaving plane may affect the amount of scraping that a blade does on the skin, making a given razor more or less harsh. That's why I tend to favor many unscrew-to-open razors over butterfly-door designs; I think, in general, the butterfly-style razors scrape a bit more, the unscrew razors a bit less. As I mention below, this perceived extra scraping of the butterfly-style razors may, alternatively, be due to the micro scallops on the safety bars, which will more greatly reduce the amount of lather on the skin as the blade passes as compared to a typical unscrew-to-open design.
  • The slant razors might be categorized generally as high capacity, but only moderate harshness. There are several reasons for this. On the Merkur 37C slant, with which I am very familiar, the blade exposure is neutral, that is, the blade edge is about even with the mouth of the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar. This makes the potential harshness of the shave moderate. Yet the slanted blade and the large gap between the edge and the safety bar offers exceptional shaving capacity. So used properly, this razor can offer a reduction in shaving passes to eliminate a significant volume of hair with the possibility of low irritation.
  • An oblique stroke, in which the
    stroke direction is not perpendicular
    to the blade edge.
  • Mild straight-bar razors can be used with oblique strokes to increase the effective blade gap and the effective sharpness of the blade, while still maintaining a mild-shaving character.

So Let's Get to It

If you are a damn-the-torpedoes-type newbie, then you should probably get a mild, unscrew-to-open, starter razor to avoid potential irritation and blood loss. However, if your are the look-before-you-leap-type newbie, then follow the available, consensus guidelines for good shaving as well as razor selection (in this article) and get a razor to match your skin and beard.

If you have tougher skin that doesn't irritate easily as discussed yesterday, your choices are fairly simple.

Yesterday's article listed four categories of razor-type suggestions for those with tougher skin, and four suggestions for those with sensitive skin. The following will help you translate those general suggestions into specific razor choices.

Relevant Razor-Design Aspects 

The two things one might be most concerned with in choosing a double-edge razor is capacity (volume and length of hair it can handle) and harshness (likelihood of encouraging skin irritation).

Determining Razor Capacity

The primary design characteristics that affect razor capacity follow:
  1. Blade-bar span(for straight-bar and slant razors). The larger the span between the blade edge and the safety bar [measured along the shave plane], the more hair the razor can mow. (Since open-comb razors have no bar, open-comb razor have virtually unlimited capacity!
  2. Safety-bar design or open comb. Since the safety bar precedes the blade in a razor stroke, the more the whiskers are allowed to stand tall as the blade approaches, the better they can be cut down. So open-comb razors or safety bars with larger scallops or teeth will tend to support larger razor capacity. 
Exposure and span in combination can offset or increase one another. A razor with negative exposure but a large span can still be moderately-high capability. Negative exposure with a small span would be low capacity. Large span and exposure would be very high capability.

Determining Razor Harshness

Exaggerated blade angles: angle at left will be less harsh;
at right will be more scraping, more harsh. 
The primary design characteristics that affect razor harshness follow:
  1. Blade exposure. The top cap or butterfly doors of a razor combined with the safety bar or open comb form a shaving plane, between which sits the blade edge. How much the edge sits below or above that plane is a key factor that influences aggressiveness of the razor design. An aggressive razor will shave closely more easily, but also poses more risk for nicks, cuts, weepers, and irritation.  
  2. Blade-bar span. The larger the span the greater the capability, but also the more likely that a bump or wave of skin can get in front of the blade edge causing irritation or blood loss.
  3. Blade angle. The more the blade is aligned with the shaving plane, the more it will tend cut more, scrape less. (The actual blade bend is irrelevant; what matters is the blade angle in relation to the top cap and base plate.) 
  4. Blade reveal. When you look down onto the top cap or butterfly doors of a double-edge razor, the amount of blade that is exposed is the blade reveal. The more the blades are not covered by the razor top, the more chance they may vibrate (as subtle micro-vibrations) while shaving, which may contribute to shave harshness.
  5. Edge slant. This is only seen in slant-bar razors and can get complicated. Suffice it to say that in a slant-bar razor, the twist in the blade gives the edge a varied blade angle along its length, thus giving varied harshness long the edge as well. This is offset to some degree by a varying blade span -- at least in the Merkur-brand slants -- as well as the edge slant itself. Bottom line is that the slant-head razors might be categorized as moderate harshness (when properly used: light pressure and direct strokes) -- despite their high capacity.
  6. Safety-bar design or open comb. As stated above, the safety bar or comb precedes the blade in the razor stroke. Either will, to some degree, remove some protective lather from the face. Larger gaps (between the scallops or the spaces between teeth) in a safety bar or comb allow more protecting lather to remain on the skin as the blade edge arrives. Therefore bigger scallops or space between comb teeth may encourage slightly less harshness.

But Which Specific Razor?

This writer hasn't seen or shaved with all available razors (obviously), so you will have to take the information from this entire article of yesterday and today, and use that to sleuth out the objective truth about various razors of interest to you. User reviews are not reliable, though they will offer clues as to the true design characteristics of a razor. Seller reviews and product descriptions are similarly lacking sufficient objective data and are too often subject to the same myth perpetuation, misunderstanding, and exaggeration of user reviews, but can be interpreted in the light of objective knowledge to be helpful in understanding the true character of a given razor. Photos can be helpful as well -- especially if they show close ups of the blade in the razor head.

Here are some example analyses of razors with which I am familiar. These comments are geared toward those users with sensitive skin (and if in doubt, assume your skin is or will be sensitive), since those folk have to be the most careful and selective. None of these comments should be taken as a recommendation -- especially because there are other factors of quality control, reliability of blade positioning without additional adjustment, razor-material composition, price, durability, handle length, razor weight, and so on. Also, these comments focus exclusively on the characteristics of the shaving head, disregarding the handle as much as possible.

Merkur 37C, 39C slant-bar razors. High capability, moderate harshness. Good first-pass razor especially with heavy beards or several day's growth, but be careful on subsequent passes -- light pressure and always strictly direct strokes -- especially if you have sensitive skin. Also a good pairing for a heavy-growth beard as a first-pass razor followed by a very face-friendly, mildly-shaving razor for subsequent passes. As a daily shaver, with this razor I can often get a reasonably-close shave in a single pass.

Maggard razor head on the MR#B handle.
Maggard-brand shaving heads. Maggard three-piece razors all use the same shaving head paired with different handles. Their heads are reputed to be patterned after Edwin Jagger 89-style heads. My Maggard example (MR3B, which has a fat, heavy handle on the standard Maggard razor head) is moderate capacity and moderate harshness. This is due to the combination of neutral-to-slightly-positive edge exposure, larger blade reveal, moderate blade-bar span, scalloped safety bar, and blade angle. Like the Merkur slants, though not as high capacity, this can be good for heavier beards or a couple day's growth, but if you have sensitive skin, be especially careful on subsequent passes, or use a milder razor for second and later passes.

Merkur 33C razor head showing blade exposure.
Merkur 33C and related three-piece, unscrew-to-open razors. Merkur straight-bar razors are noted for being moderately-low capacity and face friendly. The blade exposure is slightly negative (below the shaving plane); the span is modest but not the smallest, and the reveal is also rather small, which limits edge vibration. The safety bar is scalloped. If you shave daily, this design should be a comfortable one-razor choice when paired with the proper blade to suit your hair and skin. 

However, if your beard grows exceptionally fast or you skip days between shaves, the capacity of these razors may at some point require more passes, and once again, to minimize skin irritation, you might be inclined to add a more capable first-pass razor to reduce the total daily razor strokes against sensitive skin. Then use the Merkur 33C et al as a second-pass-and-beyond razor.
The LP1822L shave head.

Lord LP1822L (formerly model L6). The shave head on this is similar to but different than the Merkur 3-piece straight-bar designs. The net outcome, though, is they have similar shaving characteristics. 

Merkur 15C open-comb razor. Like other Merkurs, a face-friendly shave, but offers larger capacity than their safety-bar razors due to the open comb. Also, again due to the open comb, may keep more protective lather present which might make the shave a little gentler on skin. Still, the blade exposure is limited, meaning a very mild shave when compared to other open-comb razors. A fine daily shaver, and if you skip shaving on some days or your beard grows exceptionally fast, may also be a good choice because the open comb tends to allow high capacity despite its mild nature. 

Gillette Slim set to 1.
The most common open comb that I see discussed on the Internet is the Muhle R41, which by comparison is a much more aggressive razor but much higher risk to sensitive skin. Other Merkur open-comb razors may use the same head (I'm not sure, but wouldn't be surprised), thus would have the same shaving characteristics, but paired with a different handle to suit varying customer preferences in that regard.

Gillette Slim set to 9.
Vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable. A twist-to-open, butterfly-door-style razor that has varying capability due to its adjustable blade-bar span. [UPDATE: This adjustment may also change the blade exposure to some degree (it difficult to precisely tell by eyeballing); but if so, the larger the span, the greater the exposure.] It has fairly small blade reveal. However, possibly because of the blade angle, I find it to give a more harsh shave no matter what the span setting, and keep this family heirloom in the closet most of the time. Like virtually all butterfly-door-style razors, the safety bars have tiny slits, thus wiping away most lather before the blade, which may also
be a contributing factor to the slight additional harshness of these butterfly-door designs.

Weishi 9306-F. The top is fully closed; the asymmetrical door closure is due
to a characteristic of its manufacture. Note the remarkably small blade reveal
and exposure, which gives the razor its small shaving capability.  Despite that,
I still find the shave rather harsh, likely due to the blade angle in relation to
the shaving plane of the top cap and safety bar. 

Weishi 9306 series of razors. A twist-to-open, butterfly-door-style razor, with small blade reveal, exposure, and blade-bar span. A low capacity razor but can give a harsh shave, again possibly due to blade angle. Like virtually all butterfly-door-style razors, the safety bars have tiny slits, thus wiping away most lather before the blade, which may also be a contributing factor to the slight additional harshness of these butterfly-door designs.
Weishi 2003-M.

Weishi 2003 series of razors. A twist-to-open, butterfly-door-style razor, with small blade reveal, exposure, and moderate blade-bar span. More capacity than its 9306 cousins, but likewise, not the most face-friendly shave possibly due to blade angle. Like virtually all butterfly-door-style razors, the safety bars have tiny slits, thus wiping away most lather before the blade, which may also be a contributing factor to the slight additional harshness of these butterfly-door designs.

Wilkinson Sword Classic.

Wilkinson Sword Classic. A unscrew-to-open, two-piece razor. Small blade reveal, span, and negative exposure. Face friendly but small capacity. Paired with the right blade for beard and face, probably adequate for daily shaves for just about anybody if extreme closeness isn't a requirement. A very close daily shave may require additional passes that, day after day, might take its toll on sensitive skin. Could be a nice finishing razor following a more capable instrument for the first pass. A drawback to this razor's design is the safety bar, which is lacking teeth or scallops of any kind. This may tend to squeegee away more lather from the skin just prior to the blade pass, perhaps making the shave slightly more harsh than otherwise.


I have tried to give enough information in this two-part article to make you independently able to evaluate many if not most razors for suitability. If you have questions, feel free to post them in comments and we can take it from there.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday Summary: Blades, X-Passes, Relative Aggression

Blade Usage:

I got eleven shaves from my last Rapira Platinum Lux blade. This was followed by getting eight shaves from the Dorco ST-300 blade that I arm stropped prior to the first use. Currently, this morning I had my ninth shave from the Dorco ST-301 blade. 

Though I had a generally good shave this morning with this blade in the c.'48 Tech, I do have just a bit of lingering -- though not visible -- irritation. I'm not sure whether this is due to the blade getting a bit tired, or some other reason (see below).

The X-Shave

Back from the late 1940s through the 1960s, X-planes were experimental. It started with the Bell X-1, in which Chuck Yeagar broke the sound barrier, and continued through the X-15, which crossed the border of space, and involved other experimental planes beyond the X-15 as well

Yes, my X-shave is experimental, but the X refers to the stroke directions of the two passes. I have tried this before and rejected the concept, but I had a better outcome this morning. The first pass (of two) in an X-shave is with grain, but also slightly cross grain. Similarly, the second pass (of two) is against grain, but also cross grain -- and as necessary, can be more cross grain than against grain.

This morning I got a pretty good shave using this X pattern and only two passes, and required significantly less fussing on and below my jaw line than usual. As I mentioned above, I do have a bit of minor, lingering irritation on my cheeks mostly, but I can't pin down if it's due to the shave pattern, the blade (which is getting long in the tooth), a combination of the two, or other factors.

The Merkur 33 Alternative

I used my Merkur Classic razor head for a few shaves this week, and though a less aggressive shaver than my Techs or Tech wannabees, I don't think it was significantly milder in terms of skin damage than the Techs. This may be due to the fact that I unconsciously press a bit harder to compensate for its negative blade exposure, or that I make extra strokes for the same reason. 

Although I'm still keeping the 33 in my bathroom cabinet for the time being, my sense is that its long-term residence may be the bedroom closet once again.

Merkur 33 Mildness

And speaking of the 33's shave character, this is more anecdotal evidence that not all Merkur razors are equally aggressive. Few would dispute that the Merkur 34 HD razor is more aggressive in shave character than the humble Gillette Tech. Yet the Merkur 33 is milder (and, objectively, has a more negative blade exposure) than the Tech (which has a fairly neutral edge exposure). I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist (do you get the tie in with the X-planes?) to draw a conclusion about the relative shave characters of the Merkur 33 as compared to the 34HD.

Tech Care

My c.'48 Gillette Tech remains the go-to razor head, paired with its factory-supplied handle, both with their factory-applied gold tone over nickel plating over brass. Because this is a vintage razor still in pretty good shape -- still sporting the Gillette logo on the top cap and having some gold-tone fading only along the safety bar and edges of the top cap -- I'm taking it easy during my daily after-shave clean up. In the same way that I pat dry, not rub dry, my razor blades to preserve the edge coating as much as possible, I have begun relying on a water rinse and gentle drying of the razor itself to minimize as much as possible the removal of more original finish.

Happy shaving -- and y'all tech care now!  ;-)

Friday, August 14, 2015

My Best Shave Routine

[Post-publication note: I abandoned yesterday's plan to have a third consecutive shave with the Merkur 33 razor head, and returned to the Gillette Tech. I followed steps 1-13 below, and got a good shave -- hardly baby smooth, but a good compromise between closeness and comfort.]

My routine works for me though perhaps not everyone. Here is pretty much my current process for getting my best shave, which is a compromise between comfort (including minimizing minor wounds) and closeness:
  1. Razor: post-WWII Tech or facsimile
  2. Coated blade (but not Derby Extra, unless with first-use corking and pre-shave stropping)
  3. Cool water splash and rub to wet beard
  4. Wet outside of Omega Syntex brush knot (I have come to prefer synthetic-bristled brushes because they don't require or benefit from pre-shave soaking; they hold water by water tension, so one can simply drizzle cool water into the inverted brush for face lathering)
  5. Repeat water splash and rub, which also applies the soap residue in my palm from the wetting of the outside of the brush
  6. Apply shave stick to wet beard (I prefer Arko or my own Grandad's formula for the safest shave)
  7. Run a bit of water directly into the brush knot
  8. Face lather
  9. Add more water directly into the brush knot, continue lathering, and repeat adding water as necessary to get a wet, creamy lather
  10. First pass generally with grain (strokes are generally down over most of my beard, and up on the lower half of my neck)
  11. Cool water rinse
  12. Apply more lather from that remaining on the brush
  13. Second pass cross grain with some additional fussing on and under jawline using lather from the underside of the razor

    Done on the average day
  14. If going for the gold of an exceptionally-close shave: cool water rinse, and final application of lather from brush
  15. Third pass against grain with additional touch-up strokes as desired using extra water and lather from underside of razor head
  16. Cool water rinse and post-shave treatments as necessary and desired such as alum block, styptic pencil, witch hazel, and other lotions and balms 
Happy routine shaving!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Niggleing Lower Neck

Today was a second consecutive shave with the Merkur 33 Classic razor head. It would have been a fine shave, except the second pass, against grain (AG), on my lower neck went awry, causing some irritation and weepers -- an inauspicious continuation of earlier shaves this week.

I hate when that happens.

I seem to get a better second-pass, AG result in this area with the Tech, rather than the slightly-milder 33. I'm not quite sure why, but it seems to be the case.

Tomorrow I'll take a third consecutive shave with the mild Merkur 33, but this time go cross grain in the second and final pass.

If that is successful, I'll keep doing it until the area is fully healed, and then try an AG second pass on my lower neck and see if I can get it done without incident.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Simplicity by Addition

Lately I have felt the burden of unnecessary possessions and routines in my life. In my resulting efforts to simplify all things reasonable and possible, I had reduced my on-hand razors in my bathroom cabinet to two: the c.1948 Gillette Tech and the recently-made Rimei RM2003 razor heads, and the single c.1948 Gillette ball-end handle.
I'm still thinking, thinking, thinking....

Yet the drive for simplicity caused me to ponder further my shaving-tool options. I have been comparing the Rimei to the Gillette, and I can't tell much difference. So the obvious solution is to eliminate one redundant option. And so I did.

The Rimei, though an excellent value and option for the new DE user as well as for a low-risk-if-lost, easily-replaced travel razor, it really has no justification for a place in my bathroom cabinet when I have the post-WWII Tech on hand. So, whoosh, the RM2003 was broomed from the bathroom and banished to the bedroom closet shoe box that holds my too-many unused razors.

And if you read my article from yesterday, you know that I'm the low-need-for-variety guy, so you're probably thinking I've finally simplified myself to a single razor head and handle in the bathroom cabinet.

Well.... um.... not exactly....  But it's not as foolish or inconsistent as one might think.

The only hardware I need on a regular basis.
After all, in my large collection of work-shop tools, I have many screwdrivers and wrenches. Not because I have a desire for variety, but because they are somewhat specialized. Obviously there are different sizes of nut and bolt heads and there are different types and sizes of screws. So it is function that drives my tool-box variety, not whim.

So when I removed the Rimei razor head from the cabinet, I filled its former spot with my trusty Merkur 33 Classic razor head. This will be used for those morning-after shaves, when on the previous day, using the Tech razor I get a little carried away going for the baby-smooth shave. If I fail to achieve that goal and instead do a bit too much damage to my ultra-sensitive skin as I did yesterday, I can use the slightly milder Merkur Classic razor head and three passes and get a very good shave with minimal insult to my damaged dermis as I did today.

So I have simplified by reducing redundancy in my bathroom cabinet, but added a functional option. Simplicity by addition.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Moment of Reflection

I'm not a new-experience kind of guy. For years (back in the days when I ate ice cream) I would go to the 31-flavors place and always get.... vanilla. When I went to a Chinese restaurant, I would always order sweet-and-sour chicken. Even as a much younger child, for a time my parents had a dinner routine where once each week we would go to this little one-off restaurant called The Flaming Pit. I don't know what that restaurant's specialty was (probably steak if they had a specialty), but I always ordered fried, breaded, butterflied shrimp. Always. Without fail.

Therefore it's no wonder that I don't especially seek out new "experiences" using various DE razors. I've found the razors I prefer, and I'm not much interested in sampling others of different makes, models, designs, or eras. Thank you very much.

Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not implying there's anything wrong with liking variety. Hey, get your Superman ice cream this week, rocky road next, moose tracks after that, then.... whatever. Same with DE razors; have at it: vintage open combs, German adjustables, slants, one piece TTOs, etc. .... the sky's the limit. Just not for me. I've found my mamma-bear razor: not too gentle, not too aggressive, it's just right for me.

In the search for my razor, I'm pleased and proud that I figured out the design characteristics that helped me understand the DE instrument. In some small way -- though almost no one was listening -- I've also taken some of the trial and error out of finding the right razor; well, more accurately, I've potentially taken some of the trial and error out of the equation -- especially if more razor sellers would offer close-up photos of the razor head with blade installed and the camera aimed directly down the blade edge.

Anyway, as a consequence of my completed quest to find the right razor, accompanied by my remarkable lack of desire for razor variety, I have been finding it somewhat difficult to get all jacked up about more and different razor reviews. This is despite the fact that I'm sure there are many DE aficionados who still have an interest as they still seek their ideal razor or more variety in their razor choices.

So in that regard, I apologize. For the time being, I just can't do more razor analysis and trials; my thirst has been slaked. There are my old articles on various instruments that I've sampled, however, which can be perused in the archives of this blog.

Even the subject of blades has pretty much run its course through my brain pan. I'm just not sensing that there are interesting questions to be answered, not a lot of problems to be solved -- and I do like solving problems and finding answers to interesting questions; it may be something I do best -- even though my intuitive methods may not always satisfy some of the more strict and rigorous among you. That's okay; there are many ways to get through life: many methods, many paths. And I'm not even saying mine is the best way for everyone, but it works for me much of the time.

I have tried to convince the world of the grace and perhaps slightly higher consciousness in the way Grandad shaved. Frankly, however, I have probably been preaching to the choir; I've saved precious few from the dark side of the multi-bladed cartridge razor and canned shave lube. I've been equally unsuccessful in enlightening those stuck in the twilight of electric-razor shaves. Ah well, like I said, there are many ways to go through life, and also many ways to get a shave.

I do want to take this moment to thank my readers -- both the enthusiastic and the reluctant, those who think my writing is genius, and those who are sure that I'm a complete blockhead. I appreciate the fact that we've had a chance to share, discuss, disagree, and occasionally get our dander up a bit.

If this article sounds like a farewell piece, I don't believe that it is. I'm just offering a bit of perspective on how things look to me at this moment.

Here's what I know for sure: I'm going to do my best to enjoy my next shave. I wish the same for you.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Best of Grandad: Merkur 33 Vs. 34HD

[This article was first published on March 2, 2015. To some readers, the conclusions it presents are controversial, arguable, outright wrong. To me, it is iron-clad, without-a-doubt correct. Further anecdotal evidence is that my same friend mentioned in the article also shaved with the Rimei RM2003 razor, which is more aggressive in character than both the Lord and the Merkur 33. Yet he also finds this razor not as effective in a single-pass shave.]

News flash: Common mythology propagated by far too many postings on Internet shaving forums is wrong again: Despite the untested, unconfirmed rumors that the Merkur 33 and 34HD razors have the same razor head design, this rumor is false. They have different shave characteristics; the 34HD has a more aggressive razor-head design than its mild-mannered cousin, the 33 Classic.

Though I have long studied the 33 Classic razor, I have not had the pleasure of measuring the 34HD to get primary data. Thus I have not compared the design specifics of the two models, which most of those who have helped to sustain this myth should have done -- and I'm sad to say, that group includes this writer. But I have seen the error of my ways and hope never to repeat this type of mistake. Still, without primary data on the 34HD, how can I now assert so confidently that it and the 33 Classic do not, in fact, have the same razor head design?

It was a close friend of mine who, unintentionally, busted the myth. Here's the rest of the story:

On the advice of a silly ass, who months ago suggested that the 34HD was an appropriate high-end razor for a DE newbie (that silly ass is this writer), my close friend purchased one. Over the next few months, despite watching the requisite videos and using appropriate shave cream, brush, and diligent due care, was unable to get a shave without blood loss.

He is not one to complain, but when I finally learned about his commitment to DE shaving and the troubled outcomes of his shaves, I was greatly dismayed to learn of his plight and his expenditure on a razor he can't fully enjoy. The very reason I had recommended the 34HD as a higher-end starter razor was due to the common misinformation (or delusion) that its razor head is essentially the same as that of the 33 Classic, and that the only significant difference is the size and weight of the handle. Therefore I had intended to recommend a razor of mild-shaving character that would encourage a new DE shaver by having an instrument that easily provides comfortable shaves.

I immediately suspected the problem was that, unlike my favored 33 Classic, the 34HD was too aggressive for his face. So without telling him my concerns, I simply ordered a Lord LP1822L and had it sent to his home.

Later, when I inquired as to which razor he preferred and why, he thanked me heartily for the Lord razor, saying that though it doesn't shave as closely in a single pass when he's in a hurry, he is consistently getting low-irritation, no-blood shaves from the Lord LP1822L, and much prefers that razor for his morning ritual.

That said, one could easily and correctly infer that generally speaking, since the Lord and the Merkur 33 Classic offer similar shaves, then the 33 and the 34HD certainly do not. And that is exactly what I am asserting. I will even go further. I have measured the Lord L.6 razor head (which is on the LP1822L razor), and it has the same blade angle and approximately the same negative blade exposure as the Merkur 33. Where they differ is in the safety bar cross-section profile, which makes the blade span slightly larger in the L.6 -- meaning it shaves slightly more aggressively than the 33, and this has been born out not only in measurements but in evaluation shaves!

So this means that not only does the 34HD shave more aggressively than the Lord L.6, it also means that because the 33 Classic razor is a bit milder still, the difference in shave character between the 34HD and the 33 Classic is even greater than the difference between the 34HD and the Lord LP1822L!

Myth busted. The Merkur 34HD two-piece razor does not have the same head design as the Merkur 33 Classic, and the 33 offers the milder, more face-friendly shave.

Happy shaving, and continue to question everything!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Best of Grandad: Lord L.6 Vs. Merkur 33

[Originally published on October 28, 2014. This article has been updated to correct the terminology, using the term span instead of gap to name the distance between the blade edge and the line on the safety bar that determines the shave plane.]

The Lord LP1822L DE razors, also known as the L.6 or just the L6, shaved much like my Merkur 33C Classic razor in informal comparison shaves. This impression was so strong that I assumed that the Lord razor head was a copy of the Merkur 33.

Yet last week in studying some comparison photos of both razor heads, this assumption was clearly wrong. So today I'm using new close-up photos to try to better understand the design differences between the two razors, and perhaps pinpoint where each might really excel as well as why they leave such similar initial shaving impressions.

[UPDATE: After a subsequent week of alternating between these two razor heads, I was able to distinguish between the two; they don't give exactly the same shave. As was predicted below merely from the following analysis in this article, careful shave trials also show that, all other things pretty much equal, the Lord gives a slightly closer shave, but also slightly higher risk.]
Merkur 33C razor head

Lord LP1822L (L6) razor head

Using the photos and general inspection, three similarities become evident:

Blade reveal:

For this design aspect, I not only used the photos included here, but I also simply looked at both razors from the top-cap view -- looking straight at the top cap (with blade installed, of course), and with the handle of the razor pointing away from my eyes and hidden from view. The respective blade reveals are about the same.

Blade angle:

I discovered that eyeballing the differences in the photos isn't always reliable. This was certainly true regarding blade angle. From just looking at the photos on my computer screen, I would have estimated the blade angle on the Lord razor to be smaller. Ah, but then I printed the photos on letter-size paper:
When printed on letter-size paper and the shave-plane and blade lines extended and measured with a protractor -- despite looking different when eyeballed, they measure the same: 30 degrees.
I took my ancient drafting kit -- you know, pencils, ruler, triangles, protractors, compasses, et cetera -- and extended the lines of the shave planes and the blades. Then using the protractor, I measured the blade angles. Despite initial appearances, the blade angles of both razors are the same, 30 degrees.

Blade exposure:

This is a tough call. Looking at both the on-line photos as well as the enlarged hard copies, finding the exact edge of the blade is somewhat difficult. What is not debatable is that both exposures are negative, that is, below the shave plane and within the protective cove formed by the top cap and baseplate. The Lord may protect the edge slightly more with a more negative exposure, but that's a difficult call to make with certainty. It's probably best to leave the call as they are similar.

Based on those three design factors, the razors should shave pretty much the same. But now it's time to consider the design differences and their potential impact:

Blade-bar span, safety-bar cross-section, and respective orientation:

These two design aspects should probably be considered together because, in combination, they influence how the edge meets hair and (ideally) avoids skin.

If one measures the blade-bar gap -- the shortest distance between blade edge and any point on the baseplate -- the gap on the Lord head is smaller, which would lead some to incorrectly  believe a less-aggressive shaving character. But the contour of its baseplate compensates, making the gap irrelevant. In fact, because of the ramp-in contour of the Lord's baseplate cross section, the span -- the distance between the blade edge and the point of the baseplate that determines the shave plane -- is actually much larger than the shortest-distance measurement -- and much larger than the Merkur's span as well. And it is the span, not the gap, that contributes in determining shave character of a razor head.

Therefore I would expect the Lord razor to be slightly more aggressive in its shaving character. I suggest that it would still give a mild and face-friendly shave -- in particular due to its blade exposure and angle. However, it might be a bit more inclined to nip loose skin, and it might more easily tackle a multi-day growth of beard. On the other hand, the ramp-in contour of the Lord baseplate may simply offset the effect of the smaller minimum-measurement blade-bar gap, thus giving them nearly identical shaving characteristics.

Obviously these differences between the razor heads are slight. This would explain the similarity in their respective shaving characters. I will be alternating razor heads this week, and will report my impressions in my end-of-week shave summary.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Saturday Summary

"Using a DE razor is like using toilet paper: you can't always rely on one swipe to get the job done." -- Grandad

Hardware in the Cabinet: 

Currently, in keeping with my efforts to simplify everything in my life, I have further pared down my at-my-fingertips shaving gear. My current razor heads in my bathroom cabinet are two: the c.1948 Gillette Tech in original gold tone and the chrome Rimei RM2003 -- two razor heads that shave very similarly. I now have a single razor handle, which is the c. 1948 gold-tone Gillette ball-end. All the other hardware is stored in a shoe box in a bedroom closet. Eventually I'll get much of it out of the house and into others' hands.

I have enjoyed shaving with the stubby 1965 nickel-plated steel travel ball-end handle, but have decided it's just cabinet clutter. So I've stored it in the original zippered Gillette travel case along with the vintage Gillette blade and the nickel-plated 1965 Tech head (Zamak top cap and stamped-metal baseplate). If I take a trip, the only handle I'll pack is the stubby '65, and will pair that with a single razor head, which one will depend on my whim as I'm packing.

From the Alpha to the....

Omega Syntex is back to my every-day brush. Since I've gone to storing used lather right in the brush over night and face lathering in the morning, I've successfully used my Van Der Hagen boar brush for this purpose, but found that because I've eliminated pre-shave soaking of the brush, the synthetic bristles of the Omega make the shave routine the most simple. 

With dried soap in the brush, I gently roll its knot in my wet palm to moisten the wispy dried lather so it doesn't float away, then I run a small amount of cool water right from the tap into the knot. As I build lather right on my face (no bowl), I'll repeat the running of tap water into the bristles a few times until I get the lather wet enough to be right.

I never tried my Tweezerman badger brush for this non-soaking, no-bowl process because it has so little backbone, I think it's exclusively a bowl-lathering brush.

Smellin' it Up

I haven't yet simplified shaving soap or after-shave options. I'm still using four different balm options:
  • Gillette (blue bottle)
  • Gillette for sensitive skin (white bottle)
  • Neutrogena for sensitive skin
  • Nivea for sensitive skin
I'm also using Aqua Velva lotions mixed with Aveeno unscented moisturizer:
  • Ice Blue
  • Musk
As far as shave soaps, my own unpretentious Grandad's soap is my go-to base, but occasionally I'll add some Palmolive or Arko to the mix just for variety -- and I've got to eventually use this stuff up. And for the record -- as I've previously mentioned -- I think the Palmolive stick smells nice and lathers well, but doesn't give the best protection in my humble opinion. The Arko is a terrific value and I like the stuff, but some object to the scent, which can be a bit harsh if you're not expecting it.

Just for a bit of olfactory enjoyment, I also will sometimes add a drop or two of after-shave lotion (not balm) to the bristles of my shave brush as I make lather.


I was temped to write a book-end article, similar to the one with which I started this blog so many months ago, which might serve as a capstone, a closing of the curtain on my on-line DE ruminations. I'm not quite done with the blog, however -- despite that I'm often inclined to simply enjoy my morning shaves and be done with discussing them.

About those Blades....

I have gotten to the point that I don't much care about the blade that I'm using. I think my insouciance comes from the effective-but-somewhat-mild nature of the Tech-type razor heads on which I've settled -- as well as my frequent two-pass rather than three-pass shaves. Of course, I can only speak for myself (due to that varying-mileage thing :-D ) but I still think that if one gives them a chance, the Tech razors and modern imitations are a great design. If you want the Tech experience without a lot of time, trouble, and expense of shopping on that auction web site, find the Rimei RM2003 razor on and spend the US$4 to give it a try. The real post-WWII Techs have pretty much the same shaving character as this razor. The pre-war Techs are slightly more aggressive in nature.

Today will be the second use of a Dorco ST-301 blade, which opened a few neck weepers yesterday due to my cavalier usage of a new blade. I did, however, get a close shave in two passes, and if I were more careful, probably could have avoided the weepers. Yesterday was a very busy day for me, and I simply didn't remember that after the previous shave I had put in a new blade. I always have to be careful for the first few shaves with a new blade no matter what razor I'm using.

I'm still rotating through my cache of both large-inventory and sample-pack blades. I look forward to the time when all the usable sample blades are gone (I actually only consider the Derby Extras to be unusable without corking and stropping), and I can simplify even that rotation exclusively to the blades I've got in quantity, which are as follows:
  • Personna red label (made in Israel)
  • Personna Super (the so-called lab blue, made in the U.S.A.)
  • Astra Superior Platinum
  • SuperMax Titanium
  • Lord Platinum Class
  • Dorco ST-301


That's all I've got for now. I need to freshen my cup of coffee and start thinking about breakfast.

Happy shaving!