Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dorco Prime Revisited -- Happily

I continue to use and tinker with my single-pass, mostly-against-grain shaves, which is my shaving method of choice -- especially when I've got the right equipment in my fingers. Bear in mind that I use light pressure and always use long, slow buffing strokes; that is, the razor stays in contact with my face during both the shaving and return strokes. This constant-contact technique helps to re-spread moisture and lather as I shave. After the solitary main pass, I always make touch-up strokes, often with some additional added moisture, to complete those patches not already sufficiently smooth.

Yesterday I had the brainstorm to pull out my Dorco Prime one-piece (that is, twist-to-open) razor. This razor is a high-quality instrument. It's a visual twin to the Weishi 9306-F, but it's not an identical twin. The razors (Weishi vs. Dorco) have slightly different weights, and I'm now convinced (as I suspected months ago) that the razors have different shaving characters. The Dorco Prime razor is slightly more aggressive, which is a good thing. Its shave character is such that it is still mild, but it's just aggressive enough to provide a good shave to guys like me without much risk of injury.

Not only is the Dorco Prime razor of good quality, when one acquires the starter set, which is a terriffic value, it includes a cache of Dorco ST-301 blades, which I find to be of high quality and utility, while still being priced very reasonably.


Another nice aspect of the Dorco Prime starter set is the nice case for the razor. It is a cut above the typical plastic case that comes with some razors.

I'm going to continue to use the Dorco Prime razor, which has now been awarded a place in my in-bathroom shaving drawer. This, in addition to my favorite Merkur 33C, will be one of the razors that I go to for daily use. So if you are one who likes the convenience and general performance of a one-piece razor, and also likes a relatively mild shave character, I would suggest that you give the Dorco Prime marque another look.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Right Tool For the Job

I don't know about you, but I surely wouldn't use a screwdriver to drive a nail. And I wouldn't use a pair of pliers to tighten a bolt. Obviously, it's usually a good idea that whenever possible to use the right tool for the job at hand.

Shaving is somewhat similar. Not only are there razors better suited to one's beard and skin, but there are also razors better suited to one's shaving process.

It remains my belief that much of the shaving world -- that is, beyond the rather small sub culture of shaving enthusiasts -- performs a one-pass, with-grain shave. As a result, many razors have been designed with that process in mind. However, despite the razor-designer's intentions, some razors are better suited for one shaving process over another.

Below, I'm going to give some examples, but keep in mind there are true for me. My examples may not be true for you and your skin and beard. My examples are merely.... well, examples.

1) I've continued to experiment with one-pass, against-grain shaves. (Note: the term, one pass, means one primary pass. No matter how many passes I take, I usually add several clean-up strokes to address areas not sufficiently smooth.) I have found that if I take slow against-grain strokes with light pressure, I can use my Merkur 33C Classic three-piece razor and get as good a shave as if I started with with-grain strokes and worked my way to against-grain strokes.

At the other extreme, when I take my Gillette Slim Adjustable set on its mildest setting, a single, against-grain pass is going to produce weepers and irritation.

Using my Gillette Tech (c. 1948) and the same against-grain single pass yields results somewhere in between.

2) However, setting my Gillette Slim to about 3 (out of nine), which is still a mild setting, I can do a one-pass shave that is largely with grain but includes some cross-grain strokes, and can get a good shave. I can't do that with the Merkur 33 and get the same closeness.

3) It's my opinion that more aggressive designs such as slant-bar razors or those with more blade exposure were drawn up with a single-pass, with-grain shave in mind. Oh, I understand that many shavers will use these for cross-grain and against-grain strokes -- some quite successfully; but for many of us these razors are best left for single-pass, with-grain shaves.

I also have found that three-piece razors -- at least the milder-shaving variety that I tend to prefer -- are much more comfortable shaving against grain as compared to one-piece designs (butterfly-door, twist-to-open razors). Even my Weishi 9306, though extremely mild, doesn't give the best against-grain results -- especially when doing single-pass, against-grain shaves. The Weishi 9306 is best used for multi-pass shaves.

As every handy man knows, it's best to use the tool that is best suited for the task at hand. Shaving choices are no different.

Happy shaving!


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Keeping the Safety in Safety Razors

I occasionally think about the best recommendations for new DE (double-edge) shavers. Part of the calculation includes quality of shave, but it also includes value as well.

Now if I were recommending the least expensive razors that have adequate quality, the leader in the clubhouse would be the Rimei RM2003 razor. However, there is a catch: I find that razor just a bit too aggressive for me to use it often. That's not to say that everyone will agree. Many use razors much more aggressive. And, frankly, for the mass of shavers out there, the RM2003 -- similar to the various vintage Gillette Tech designs (especially the post WWII designs) -- may be close to the ideal compromise between safety and aggressiveness. [Update 19 Sep 2016: The RM2003 is also good for a one-pass, with-grain shave.]

Those razors that are more aggressive, those ultra-aggressive razor designs, seem to appeal to a couple of legitimate segments of the DE-user market: those who can go for the ultimate baby-smooth outcome, and those who get satisfaction from using DE (safety) razor designs that are not really so safe (I think of this appeal of the aggressive DE as being the proving-one's-manhood appeal). [Update 19 Sep 2016: There is another market segment as suggested in my preceding update: those one-pass, with-grain shavers.]

As I've repeatedly written, my beard and face (and temperament, which is a bit impatient) are not well matched with aggressive razor designs or ridiculously sharp blades (Feather). For those whose faces (and personality) better tolerate extreme razors and blades, they may be able to routinely go for baby smooth. The owners of those same faces may also be able to shave with DE razors that approach being straight razors that masquerade as safety razor designs.

After all, if you have to carefully manage the angle of DE blade to face so that you don't peel off strips of your own hide, how safe, really, is that "safety" razor?

The safety razor was invented and successfully marketed for a reason. If straight razors were such a great tool for the daily shave, they'd still be remarkably popular today; but they are not. I, myself, have been tempted many times over the years to give the venerable straight razor a go, but the reality is that if I can't consistently get a blood-free shave with moderate safety razors, then it doesn't take a genius to figure out that a straight razor is probably not a great choice for me. Even if I could start out safely using careful technique, I know myself well enough to be fairly sure that by shave's end, I would be confidently rushing a bit and would likely incur injury.

So to anyone who asks (including both new and experienced DE users), I would suggest that discretion truly is the better part of valor. Stated less obliquely, this means that I recommend a safe safety razor -- one that is more likely to protect the user from needless injury.

On the other hand, my experience is that extremely mild razors are not terribly safe either -- at least not for me. This is because they are so mild that they encourage excessive passes and pressure, which is a formula for irritation and weepers.

Within the range of acceptable DE designs for my face for a daily shave with a sharp-enough blade, I once again repeat my options as follows:

  • Merkur 33C Classic double-edge razor
  • Merkur 15C open comb double-edge razor and related razors with the same razor head including the 1904 and the 25C long handle 
  • Gillette Tech, post WWII, double-edge razor
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable on mild settings


What's your experience? What do you think?

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Easy Lathing of Hard Shave Soap

Piggy backing on yesterday's article, some criticize Williams shave soap as being difficult to make a good lather. One reason for this is that Williams is a hard shave soap.

Some men go to some trouble to soften a hard soap so that it's easier to swirl onto a wet brush, thus getting enough product on the brush that a hearty lather can be made. This includes soaking rituals in which warm or hot water is applied to the puck prior to loading the brush with soap.

In my experience there are two things that can be done individually or in concert to make hard-soap lathering a breeze, a walk in the park, duck soup.

1) Prior to your shave, wet your beard as desired and then simply rub the flat of the hard soap puck directly on your unshaven whiskers. Then dip the tips of your damp shave brush into water.
(I use a re-purposed Greek-yogurt container holding about a half inch of cool water). Then face lather and as necessary again dip the brush tips into the water to add moisture so that your lather is adequately wet and not pasty. (I often dip my brush tips four or five times as I face lather.)

2) Stop rinsing your shave brush after your shave. If you keep your brush free of stubble, blood, and dead skin cells, there's no reason to rinse your brush; it won't harm the brush. Just let the existing lather dry between shaves. The dried lather is uber easy to revive by just adding water and re-whipping the lather on face or in a bowl. (I prefer to skip the bowl, which I have found to be completely unnecessary, and just more stuff that it has been a pleasure to shed.)

Using these methods can simplify and streamline your shaves -- and also save you some money if you open your mind and give value products such as Williams shave soap another try.

Happy shaving!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Two Value Observations....

The other day I did something unusual (for me). I was at my corner pharmacy and, on impulse, bought a puck of Williams shave soap, which still typically sells in the ballpark of US$3 (or less) per puck.

Many men look down their nose at Williams. However, as I've said before, I was a marketing major long ago prior to my retraining as a registered-dietitian nutritionist. And marketing majors know that for many people, product price significantly affects perception. Low price must mean cheap goods, right?

Well, not necessarily. Williams is a tallow-based soap, which often means good performance. It's bouquet is pleasant, in my humble opinion.

Some complain that it is difficult to lather. But it's not. I never had difficulty lathering Williams, but I think the easiest way is to face lather. That is, wet the beard, rub the flat of the puck directly on the wet whiskers. Then with a wet brush lather away.

I believe Williams soap to be a sleeper; it's the best value available in shave soap -- and it's often available locally in retail stores.


I put a new Dorco ST-301 blade in my Merkur 33C this week, and have gotten some very good shaves. In the mild and forgiving 33, the Dorco 301 seems an ideal blade for my face. It's sharp enough to give a close shave, but smooth enough that I get virtually no irritation or sightings of blood.

The 301s are also a reasonably durable blade. As with all my blades, after each shave I press them dry and then give them a light stropping with a single light swipe down my forearm for each side of each edge. Then I put them back into my dried razor for the next day's shave.

I believe these blades are a good value, and I'm pleasantly surprised about the results whenever I use them.

Happy shaving!