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!

1 comment:

  1. I have used Bic Sensitive razors with good results, but I have some Bic Metal single blade disposables which I prefer, possibly the metal guard allows the razor to be more effective with less pressure, so my suggestion is to give them a try, although need to get them online, and very few sources. Just my $0.02 worth.