Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Slant on the Morning Shave

Consistent with my revitalized commitment to re-examine everything including my entire razor inventory, I once again pulled my Merkur 37C slant-bar razor out of moth balls and have included it in my active razor rotation.

The most intimidating view of the Merkur 37C slant-bar razor.

I used it this morning paired with a fourth-use SuperMax Titanium blade. The results were instructive.

After feeling some new-razor infatuation, I previously, finally (I thought) rejected the 37C for the following reasons:

  • Always seemed to get the after-the-shave burning-skin sensation more than with other razors
  • Always seemed to get nicks/weepers
  • Didn't seem to get a significantly closer shave -- at least not one that was worth the weepers and irritation
But after a very mediocre shave yesterday with the SuperMax T in my Merkur 15C open-comb razor, I had a hankering for a much-closer outcome. (I think the 15C and the SuperMax blade may just be too mild of a combination -- which tends to support my previous contention that if one is going to use a mild razor, he'd better use a blade on the sharper end of the spectrum.)

So this morning I took pretty much a one-pass, against-grain shave with the Merkur slant. The exception to the against-grain direction was on my upper lip, which got strokes that were both with grain and across grain. (I can get away with this approach combined with a one-lathering shave because I use anti-raking strokes, which tend to spread lather and moisture over just-shaved areas rather than raking the lubrication off the face. I also use longish buffing strokes, which basically means that the return, non-cutting stroke stays on the skin, thus pushing lather and moisture back onto the just-shaved area.)

What went right in this morning's shave:
  • Close shave on the planes of my cheeks, where it can be most rewarding
  • No weepers on my neck (especially my lower neck, which is very vulnerable and sensitive)
  • Very light pressure of razor against skin worked rather well (duh!)
What can be improved in future shaves:
  • I got a couple of weepers on my chin, which should probably not be shaved against grain using the slant. In the future I will probably approach that area as I do my upper lip: with grain, then across grain.
  • Under my jaw line was not particularly close though this is always a challenge. The differernce today was that I didn't really take many additional clean-up strokes; I just wanted to see the outcome of taking a rather minimal number of strokes in the upward direction, which is almost against the grain.
What may not improve in future shaves:
  • Though my skin looked good, there was still the post-shave-burning sensation, which was not calmed much by lotions. It's not a huge problem and is now almost gone as I write this (and is probably persisting more than necessary because I keep evaluating the closeness of the shave with my hand).
What I learned this morning in addition to the above:
  • Probably rather than just mindlessly day after day going through the rotation of my razors at hand in the bathroom, I may be more attentive to skipping or choosing certain razors based on the blade I'm currently using and the number of shaves on the blade.
The bottom line is that I've once again raised the 37C slant-bar razor from the dead, and it now resides once again at hand and available for use as appropriate.

A Brief Rant

I was reading some shaving information on line recently and saw persons who should know better referring to a straight-bar razor as a closed-comb razor

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! This is just soooooooo wrong!

There is no such thing as a closed comb! A closed comb is just a bar or a strip. Can you imagine someone saying, "I combed my hair this morning with a closed comb."????  That would be stupid. It amounts to saying, "I combed my hair with a butter knife."

Don't let this happen to you! Don't sound like an idiot! Refer to non-open-comb razors by terms that actually make sense like straight-bar razor, safety-bar razor, slant-bar razor, or even simply as safety razor.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Back from Europe

For the last week I've been in London and Helsinki. My intention was to peruse some local shops and see what kind of shaving gear was available.

However, sometimes life intervenes and changes our plans. In my case, my daughter had a serious medical emergency. We managed to tour London and see a show (The Book of Mormon), but after that we became rather focused on getting medical help.

We spent most of our second night in London in the emergency department of a local hospital. Then upon arriving in Helsinki, where my daughter lives, we spent most of our second night there once again in the emergency department of a local hospital.

From that point, most of my time was dedicated to keeping my daughter company and supporting her in her recovery. When I left yesterday, she was receiving home medical support three times per day and was clearly out of the woods and on the mend.

I was so distracted by the health emergency, that it never even occurred to me to check out shaving supplies as I shopped in local Helsinki stores. Sorry about that, but I'm sure you can understand my situation.

I'll have more articles forthcoming in the immediate future.

Happy shaving, and take care of your health, too!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Big Ingrown-Hair Problem?

The other day I was awaiting the fulfillment of a family member's prescription at my local drug store. Having a few minutes to kill, I was browsing the shaving supplies, and, long story short, ended up having a conversation with another local guy who had a problem with ingrown hairs after shaving.

I gave him my business card and left. As a day or two went by, I ruminated on his problem and came up with what I think is a solution. I thought it was so good that I was prepared to loan him a sanitized razor and provide some (new, unused -- obviously) blades to try.

But he hasn't called. And I'm disappointed because I thought I had both an excellent solution as well as one that was ecologically responsible and economical to boot! I had initially thought of the three-piece Merkur 33C classic as an option for him, but because of the severity of his problem and his focus on an ingrown-free shave rather than a close shave, it became clear that I had a better suggestion.

My solution was the Weishi 9306-F razor. This particular model is the mildest double-edge razor that I have used. It has both a negative blade exposure (the blade edge lies below the shave plane formed by the top cap and the safety bar) and a very small blade-bar span (the distance between the blade edge and the safety bar). With a very light touch and a reasonably-sharp blade, this razor may be one of his best options.

The Weishi 9306-F is visually identical with some other razors including the Dorco Prime, the Van Der Hagen, and the Microtouch One, but is likely the mildest shaver of the bunch.  It's a high-quality Chinese version of a Superspeed.

I would have provided a couple of Dorco ST-301 blades, which I think are nice, sharp, durable, and very-reasonably-priced blades. I might have also included a couple of Derby Extra blades, which I, personally, don't like much, but who knows -- maybe they would have been a good option for him.

With a blade exposure that is just slightly negative and a small blade-bar span,
the Weishi 9306-F is a very well-behaved instrument.

So I'm writing this article for your information, but also for his if he happens to give this blog site a look. If he's reading, contact me and I'll be happy to let you try out my suggestion.

Happy ingrown-free shaving!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Guy Who Came In from the Cold

Though I've known for a while now that cool water shaves can be comfortable and adequate, I'm also now convinced that warm-water prep and warm lather can take the shave comfort and quality and kick it up a notch.

But if one showers at a different time of day from the appointed shaving time (or skips showering altogether on a given day), getting a warm shave can have its challenges. For example, my home is a ranch style, with the water supply entering the house at one end, where the hot-water heater is located. My shaving area is at the other end of the house, and even in summer it can take a while for my shaving faucet to run with warm water. In the winter, even longer. It keeps going and going like the Energizer bunny -- only in a bad way.

I've found an easy, responsible way to solve this problem, to come in from the cold like a suspect British spy in the 1960s, while still being ecologically astute. I adapted the idea from the 19th-century, pre-indoor-plumbing practice of having a pitcher and bowl on hand, and not relying on the bathroom faucet (much).

My gear to get an ecologically-responsible warm-water shave:
insulated carafe for the warm water, the re-purposed Greek
yogurt container for wetting the brush while face lathering and for
dipping fingers as necessary to moisten the face while shaving,
and the wash cloth to apply warm water as part of the shave prep.
My warm shave begins when I make my morning coffee. At that time, I take an insulated coffee carafe and fill it about half full with warm/hot water from the spigot closest to the hot water heater. This wastes almost no water at all. The insulated carafe keeps the water warm until I'm ready to shave. Then I take it with me into the lavatory for my shave.

I prep for my shave with (as usual) two or three splash-and-rubs on my beard using cool tap water drizzling out of the faucet. Then I shut that off and pour warm water from the carafe about a half-inch deep into a re-purposed Greek-yogurt container. Then I saturate a wash cloth with more water from the carafe. I then apply the warm, wet wash cloth to my beard. I end the pre-lathering process with pouring from the carafe a small amount of warm water into my palm, with which I dampen the clean, whispy dried lather on my shave brush from previous shaves.

I apply dry shave soap to my wet beard, dip the brush into the yogurt bowl containing warm water, and face lather -- re-dipping my brush into the warm water as needed.

I take my usual patch-and-anti-raking shave, without rinsing used lather from my razor until the shave is completed. After shaving, I pour the warm water remaining in the carafe into my hand and rinse remaining soap residue from my face and neck. Voila!


Do be a do-bee and don't be a don't-bee: consider being more ecologically responsible in all actions (and stop denying the problem, like some dumb-ass politician-elects, who assert that global warming and related climate changes are a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese -- idiotic, uninformed!). Recycle; drive smaller vehicles and drive as little as you can; use everything up and don't discard when things are still usable. Don't waste, period. Eat less animal protein (watch the movie, Cowspiracy, on Netflix if you don't understand the less-animal-protein thing).

Happy ecologically-aware shaving!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Today's Topics: Hot vs. Cool, Palm Stropping & Travel Shaves

Hot versus Cool Shave Prep

For a long time now, I've been prepping my shaves with cool tap water. I do this because my normal daily schedule works better when I shower in the evening but shave in the morning. I use cool water for my shave to eliminate the lengthy wait time (and water wasted) for my tap water to get warm.

I have been getting good shaves using the three or so splashes of cool water to prepare my beard and then the cool water used to make lather.

However, this morning I had reason to take a shower before shaving, and the shower not only prepped my beard, but allowed the tap water to be immediately warm for making lather.

I must admit that though my cool-water shaves were completely adequate, the warm-water prep and shave was noticeably better. Despite using a 14th-use blade, I got a close, comfortable shave using my Merkur "Bakelite" model 030/045 razor head on the classic metal handle of the Merkur 33C and Merkur 15C razors.

Palm Stropping

Speaking of the 14th shave with this morning's blade, I continue to do a daily clean up of my blades. For a time, I was palm stropping and oiling the blade daily. Then for several months I went to arm stropping only. More recently, I have been doing only light palm stropping -- two light strokes on each side of each edge.

I believe that the stropping -- particularly when care is taken to ensure that hands and blade are dry prior to the stropping -- is responsible for greater blade longevity simply due primarily to reducing any micro oxidation of the blade between uses. Of course, it's always possible that there is also some micro straightening of the edge as well.

For whatever the reason, however, today's shave with a hot-water prep, an old blade and a slightly-aggressive razor (the Merkur "Bakelite" 030) cut through my whiskers like butter, and left a truly superior result -- a rare near-baby-smooth surface on my cheeks.

What Makes a Great Travel Razor?

Using the "Bakelite" razor reminded me of the frequent suggestion that this 15-gram, all-plastic razor is a good travel razor.

But is lightness the only characteristic that matters when shaving away from home? I certainly don't think so.

Lightness can be important, of course. But there are other factors. 

One factor is having blades on hand for your double-edge (DE) razor. I think this is an issue, especially when traveling by air. As I've written before, one must either find (typically) generic blades at one's destination, or put them in one's checked baggage (but I never check baggage), or mail them to the destination ahead of time. None of these alternatives work for me.

Even if they did, using a slightly aggressive razor like the "Bakelite" suggests other potential challenges. I will want to make good lather, so I need a brush. I'm also likely to get minor nicks, so now I need to pack styptic pencil. All in all, this adds up to too much gear, too much trouble.

Instead, I use all-plastic two-blade (various brands) or one-blade (Bic Sensitive) disposables.  They're light, and I lighten them further by removing half the length of the handle. They're very low risk even using hand soap as shave soap. This eliminates the need for brush, styptic, and, of course, all worry about having DE blades on hand.

And so, practicing what I preach, during my up-coming trip to northern Europe, I'll be taking a disposable razor and a small chunk of shave soap. That's it for my shaving needs.

Happy shaving!

Friday, December 2, 2016

They're Ba-ack.... Variety Can Keep Your Skills as Sharp as Your Blades

In a recent article, I described cleaning out my bathroom shaving drawer, putting most of my razors in storage and limiting my daily easy access to just three. At that time, though it seemed like a good idea, still, I wondered how long this resolution to simplify and rationalize my razor options would last.

Now I know: it lasted just a couple of weeks. After giving the matter more thought, I decided to re-evaluate several razors. I'm glad I did. Not only did I give the Dorco Prime TTO another go, but this morning I shaved with my Lord LP1822L, and got a positively terrific shave! I had long ago dismissed the Lord LP1822L, with its L.6 razor head as being similar in design to my Merkur 33C Classic, but with the L.6 having a larger blade-bar span, which increased its tendency to nip if one wasn't too careful.

Well, since opening my mind to razors of slightly more aggressive shave character than my 33C, I've lightened my touch and opened my eyes to see several of my razors in a different light. Yep, some require more care while shaving, but the variety is not only kind of fun and has re-kindled my enjoyment of the process, but there are also the practical aspects.

For example, after back-to-back daily shaves with my c.1948 Gillette Tech and my Dorco Prime TTO -- both having a slightly positive blade exposure -- my skin needed a slight rest. But instead of retreating to the familiar safety of my Merkur 33, I chose the Lord LP1822L and made a mental note to use the same care that I would have with the Tech or the Dorco.

Bam! Top-drawer shave! I'm reminded that the Lord LP1822L may be another candidate for the best value in double-edge razors.

So another reason to keep razors on hand that offer a variety of shave aggression is to occasionally dip one's toe into the waters where more-aggressive razors be (aahhrrrr -- think pirate speak, matey).

Developing the flexibility to shave with razors of varying shave character can tweak one's skills to more often draw the best performance from one's shaving gear.

Happy shaving!