Friday, April 29, 2016

Merkur 33C Musings

I continue to pursue complete familiarity with a blade model before swapping for a different model/brand.

This is consistent with my long-ago recommendation that those new to double-edge (DE) shaving begin with a single razor and blade model and master that as much as possible before experimenting with sampler packs or trying other razors.

I also continue to marvel at the irony of my first DE razor purchase, the Merkur 33C Classic. When paired with my favorite blade, the Personna Platinum (the red-label blade), I consistently get close, comfortable, shaves with minimal skin insult. This may be the optimal razor-and-blade combination for my skin and beard -- and if it is not, it is certainly the leader in the club house at this point.
Merkur 33C Classic DE Razor

Yet in my ignorance born of inexperience, after my initial purchase of the Merkur 33C Classic I acquired many (too many) other makes and models of DE razors. Most are good, but none give me the consistent high-quality outcome of the mild 33 when paired with a sharp blade.

I should also mention something that I've been meaning to share for a long time about DE razors. Many razors have a more-aggressive side. It is often subtle but discernible. Once you identify the more-aggressive and less-aggressive sides of your DE razor in a given shave, you can use that knowledge to your advantage. For example, you can use the more aggressive side for a closer shave on your cheeks, where there may be less risk of injury. But on your neck, which is often a higher-risk region, you can use the less-aggressive side of the razor for finishing strokes in that area.

This aggressiveness variation exists in my 33 Classic. I use that variation just as I've suggested, with very good results. Perhaps you will find the same possibility in your preferred shaving instruments.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Against-Grain Update

I shaved this morning with first-pass against-grain strokes except on my upper lip, which were cross grain. I used a fifth-shave Personna red-label blade in my trusty Merkur 33C.

In some areas I did a second-pass equivalent of combination against-grain and cross-grain strokes. On average I'd characterize the shave as the equivalent of a two-pass shave -- even though I was using a regional-shave approach.

The result was mixed. It was a fairly-close shave, but not as close as yesterday; but to compare apples to apples, today's shave used fewer razor strokes. In terms of skin insult, the weeper count was up to about 6, although I would partly chalk that up to lingering insult from yesterday. Also I was a bit heavy handed due to my focus on trying to get a good one-pass shave, and as a result, though I stroked slowly, I found myself pressing just a bit, which is always not the best of ideas.

I'm going to return to this against-grain approach on another day, when my skin has fully recovered. At that time I'll really focus on a lighter touch.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Livin' on the Edge -- Against the Grain

I am currently using one of my favorite blades: the Personna Platinum Chrome blade -- the so-called red-label blade that is made in Israel. It has been a while since I've used this blade, having been more recently focusing on its corporate cousin, the USA-made Personna Super (lab blue), as well as the SuperMax Titanium.

Both of the Personna models work best for me in mild razors, and the Merkur 33C is becoming the leader in the clubhouse for the Personna red label. Today I took this Merkur-33C-red-label combination to a different level. After shaving my neck in the usual manner, which is a regional shave using approximately with-grain then against-grain strokes, I changed my process mid shave.

As I was about to start the last half of my shave, I decided to forego with-grain strokes and instead use against-grain strokes for the equivalent of my first pass. I did this on my chin, lower lip, jaw line, and cheeks.  On my upper lip, which is usually the last region that I shave, I did cross-grain strokes because it's very sensitive and injury prone, and I almost never shave against grain in that region.

Some readers in the past have commented that it's rather brave to begin with against-grain strokes. My comment is "it depends." If you are stroking quickly, it's beyond brave; it's down right foolhardy. However, if one makes slow, oblique, mindful strokes, I would suggest that first-pass against-grain strokes are merely efficient.

My goal with today's experiment was to see if I could get a good shave in a single pass -- pushing the performance envelope of the technology, you might say.

When the smoke cleared, my initial against-grain strokes were not sufficient to get a really close shave, so in each region I did follow-up strokes against grain and a few touch-up strokes cross grain. (On my upper lip I did follow-up strokes across grain in the other direction.) The result was a bit closer than I would normally achieve with this hardware combination -- not quite baby smooth but as near to that as I can usually achieve without significant insult to my skin. Really, today's shave was very close and though I did have three pin-point weepers, they disappeared with rinsing, and required no further attention. I merely used Gillette after-shave gel (in the blue inverted bottle) and then later applied a little non-sticky moisturizer.

The main take-away concept is that slow speed is the key when making against-grain razor strokes. It also helps to use oblique strokes, which increase the effective sharpness of any blade (whether razor, knife, chisel, hand plane, etc).

Tomorrow, my intention is to include my neck in this against-grain-first process. My lower neck is the most fragile and easily wounded region, so it will be interesting to see the outcome. You can be sure that I'll be making slow, careful strokes in this area.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Myth Busted?

When I discovered double-edge (DE) shaving technology, I fell in love with the close shaves that I could get. At the end of a day that began with a double-edge shave, my face felt as smooth as it was at the beginning of a day that started with a cartridge-razor shave.

That was when I formed the conclusion that a DE shave was superior to that provided by a cartridge razor. I added this to pre-existing reasons for DE shaves which include better economy and a smaller ecological burden.

Yet since I've returned to humble double-bladed cartridge razors for some shaves while traveling by air, I've had reason to question the superiority of a DE shave. It remains less costly than the disposable-cartridge alternatives and is clearly better ecologically. But a closer look at the shave-quality comparison is in order.

First some facts about my previous shaving habits with disposable razors including multi-bladed cartridge designs:
  • I always shaved in a single, with-grain pass.
  • For many years I had abandoned shaving soaps and shaving creams, and merely used bath soap for my cartridge shaves.
  • The entire time preceding my DE use, I paid little to no attention to matters of shaving technique and best practices.
So after DE shaving for reasonable time, I had learned to make multiple passes for a closer shave. I had also learned to shave against the grain with a DE razor, with techniques that included oblique (skewed-razor) strokes as well as slow strokes. Also, in my analysis of shaving instruments, I came to understand more about the hysteresis of the cartridge razor -- both how to use it most effectively, and also how to eliminate it when appropriate.

As a result of that, I found that when I applied my DE-shaving skills and knowledge to the use of my humble disposable, pivoting, twin-bladed plastic razor, I actually consistently achieved shaves of equivalent closeness and yet with less irritation and wounds than when I used my DE instruments.

I achieved these excellent cartridge-razor shaves by doing the following:
  • Using a good-quality shave soap and resulting lather
  • Making two passes with touch ups after that (first pass with grain, second pass against grain)
  • My with-grain strokes were rather quick and made with the razor square to the direction of shaving stroke. (Both these techniques maximize the effect of hysteresis; that is, the effectiveness of the second blade in the cartridge being maximally affected by the cut of the first blade.)
  • My against-grain strokes were made slowly and with the razor head skewed off parallel with the direction of the razor stroke. Both these techniques diminish the effect of hysteresis; the slow stroke gives the hair follicle time to retract after the cut of the first blade, and the skewed razor head effectively enlarges the distance between the blades in the cartridge. This lack of hysteresis in against-grain strokes will eliminate the additional risk of in-grown hairs, which is often attributed to cartridge razors.
My experience suggests to me that it is a myth that DE razors shave better than more modern cartridge-style razors. I would say that it is better shaving technique with DE equipment that provides closer shaves.

I would argue that believing otherwise is believing in a myth, now busted.

That said, I must again aver that I remain a committed DE shaver due to ecological and economical reasons. Hope you do too.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

SuperMax Titanium Blade Combinations with Razors

Merkur 37C slant.
I have found the SuperMax Titanium (SMT) blade to be a reasonable choice for my face and beard. However, as always, that blade-choice question can't be properly answered without considering in what razor will this blade be used.

Rimei RM2003.
My experiences are as follows:

Weishi 9306-F
At the more aggressive end of the scale, I've used the SMT blade in a slant razor, my Merkur 37C. My experience with this razor-blade combination is that if I go for a close shave, I'm likely to get weepers. Even going for a moderately-close shave presents some weeper risk.

Merkur 33C Classic
When I put this in my Rimei RM2003 razor, again, it's just slightly too aggressive when I go for a close or moderately-close shave, and weepers tend to bloom.

Ahhh, the Gillette Tech (c.1948) is just
right for me with the SMT blade.
When I go significantly milder, such as my Merkur 33C Classic, or my mildest razor, the Weishi 9306-F, it doesn't shave quite close enough without a bit too much work, too many strokes, and perhaps a bit too much pressure.

But when I pair this SMT blade with a Gillette Tech, specifically my c.1948 version, like Goldilocks found
mama bear's chair and porridge, it's just right for me.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Update on the Unrinsed-Brush Experiment

For many months now, I've been shaving with an inexpensive badger brush and NOT rinsing it after each shave. In fact, I don't rinse it at all. After the shave I just hang it to dry as is.

My inexpensive, un-rinsed badger brush after
this morning's shave. No worries, mate!
Prior to the next shave, I merely run a bit of tap water in my cupped left hand, and lay the dried-soapy brush in it to dampen the wispy dried lather to keep it from floating off during use. Then just before I face lather, I drizzle a bit of tap water directly into the bristles.

Here's an update on the results so far:

To this point, the experiment is a COMPLETE success.

My little badger brush has always been soft, but as a face-lathering brush (my preferred method), has always lacked a bit of backbone. The dried soap in the brush has solved that problem.

Another issue was that the badger brush would just occasionally shed a bristle. Again, problem solved. The soap near the base of the brush acts as an additional binder, keeping the bristles in place. I haven't lost a bristle since I stopped rinsing the brush.

Although I don't really believe that I've saved any significant money by not rinsing unused soap down the drain, I've certainly reduced some unnecessary waste that would have otherwise been run down the drain. I also haven't increased my shave-soap usage; I've probably decreased it a bit.

Despite dire warnings from at least one so-called expert (ha ha), there's no discernible downside. The brush hasn't seemed to suffer; in fact, as I said above, it may be better off.

Would I recommend this no-rinsing of the shave brush as Gillette did way back in the 1920s? I would. However, as always, "you pays your money, and you takes your choice."

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

More Travel Shaves

The Trip

On Friday I returned from a five-day whirl-wind tour of colleges on the northeast coast (of the United States) with and for the youngest child in our family. It was a rather last-minute trip, having only about a week of planning. Because last-minute air fares are rather expensive, we chose to one-way rent a car, drive from the metro-Detroit area to the various colleges, and then fly home from Boston.

Because I am a one-bag carry-on-luggage-only passenger, I had to pack not only light but also with air-travel regulations in mind -- meaning no double-edge razor blades. Also, light packing tends to encourage light-weight packing, meaning bringing a disposable plastic razor rather than anything made of metal.

My Travel Shaving Kit

So my shaving kit included only the following items:
  • One Gillette twin-bladed, pivoting-head disposable cartridge razor
  • A small stick of my home-made shave soap in a plastic pill bottle from the pharmacy
These are shown in the photo:

Things I Left Behind

What I DID NOT BRING were the following items:
  • Shaving brush
  • Other pre-shave products
  • After-shave balms or lotions
  • Styptic pencil
  • Alum block

My Travel Shaving Routine

My daily shaves all looked like this:
  1. Splash cool water onto beard and rub. Repeat two more times.
  2. Rub shave-soap stick on wet beard.
  3. With wet hands, rub beard to make a thin, creamy lather on beard.
  4. Use a regional and anti-raking shave pattern to shave close, adding water as necessary to the existing lather.
  5. Add more water as necessary and do final touch ups after my entire face was shaved.
  6. Rinse with cool water.
  7. Dry with towel.
  8. To freshly-shaved face, apply some hand lotion provided by the hotel.

Shave Outcomes

I have to admit that my travel shaves were uniformly top drawer. Absolute minimal insult to skin, yet very close. I had no regrets about the shaving accessories that I chose to bring, and I also had no regrets about the gear I left behind.

This minimalist gear of disposable razor and small shave-soap stick is going to remain my standard air-travel shaving kit for the foreseeable future.

Now does that mean that I'm going to abandon my double-edge shaving gear? Absolutely not. When I'm at home, I'm a committed DE shaver because it's the ecologically-responsible thing to do. It's also the cost-effective method to use. Over the long haul, shaving like Grandad is the right thing to do for my bank account and the world.

Happy shaving!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Give Your Face a Rest

I have days where I have a bit of a rough shave.

It may be that I've chosen too aggressive of a razor or razor setting. Other times I may have paired a razor-and-blade combination that just isn't quite right for my face. Sometimes I've just had a lapse in concentration and given myself the rare cut, or more commonly, I've just created a few weepers.

These are times for giving my mug a bit of a respite, a break from that close shave that I like so much.

Now in these days of the fashionable scruffy look, many men are only shaving every few days or so -- or less. These gents have a natural break in their grooming routine, and generally don't ever need an additional rest for abused facial skin.
Not this kind of rest!

However, I'm pretty old school in that I always smile and shake my head a bit when I see some young man on TV -- often a political pundit -- displaying a multi-day growth of beard and a studiously un-combed coiffure that give the impression that he rolled out of bed mid hunting trip, threw on a shirt and tie, and dashed to the TV studio sans shower, shave and other normal daily grooming. I sometimes facetiously wonder if they use deodorant.

It's the fashion, I know; it's considered well groomed to appear as though one sleeps outdoors in a cardboard box with all the accompanying amenities (none), most obviously appearing to lack a comb and razor.

In my opinion, this doesn't look good on many young men, but it doesn't look good on any older men with gray in their beards or even with faces that show the experience and wear of a few miles. On us, this look generally makes us look like a bum -- and I've yet to see an exception.

So when one's face has had one too many close shaves and may be just irritated, or worse, having a cut or scrape or two, it's time for a rest. But for us more experienced gentlemen, who show some obvious signs of that experience such as gray in the beard or a few lines on the face, taking a day off from shaving isn't a great idea.

Instead, I recommend a light shave; that is, a single-pass with-grain shave. This light shave won't get anywhere close to the smoothness that I prefer when rubbing hand on face, but it will knock down the beard so that -- especially early in the day -- there will be no obvious visible beard showing. You look well groomed but have avoided any abuse of a close shave on pre-irritated skin.

So my approach is to use a moderately aggressive razor-and-blade combination when I need a facial rest. This may mean a one-pass shave with my slant razor, the Merkur 37C, or perhaps my Gillette Slim adjustable set at middling number such as five out of nine. Or I might just use my Rimei RM2003 razor.

In any case, my facial-rest approach is not to go without my daily shave. My approach is to simply lighten up and accept a shave of mediocre closeness for a day or two until my skin is reinvigorated and ready for a more rewarding shave.

Happy shaving!