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!

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