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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

More DOC Recovery Shaves

Still recovering from that disastrous series of shaves initiated with the Gillette Slim and a new Personna Red blade, I've taken the 8th, 9th, and 10th shaves with the blade in my Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' (PAA) double-open comb (DOC) razor.

Today's shave was the best of the three, and nearly as good as I can get with any razor. This proves that a really good shave can be had with even a very mild razor when properly wielded.

I used the DOC at its maximum mildness (that is, fully snugged up), and did a two-pass shave and some touch-up strokes. My initial pass was largely against the grain. My second pass was also largely against grain, but also included other stroke directions as necessary on my chin, lips and below the jaw line. Touch-up strokes focused on under jaw line and on my neck.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

It's Not Apollo 13, but We're Working the Problem(s)....

Recovering From a Bad Shave

Yesterday I continued my alternating-razor experiment, but I made a boneheaded move. Instead of taking my usual conservative, multi-pass shave, I instead dialed my Gillette Slim up to three (of nine), and resolved to do a one-pass, with-grain shave.

Bear in mind that I already had numerous small wounds from the maiden shave with the Slim and a new Personna Red blade, and these wounds were getting daily irritation in subsequent shaves.

This one-pass shave was a disaster. Maybe I became cavalier and therefore careless. I'm not sure. But in any case, I opened up some fresh wounds. So one thing I've learned is to leave the $%^&*@ Slim in the shaving drawer until my blade is nearing the end of its useful life.

However, there is some good news. What I wanted from today's shave was a shave that looked good, but wasn't going to freshen or rile any existing skin insult. So I installed my Personna Red blade into my Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' double-open-comb razor (a.k.a. the DOC). You may recall that this razor is a mild shaver, despite its open-comb design. It can also be made more aggressive by not tightening the handle all the way, but for today's shave, I wanted a lap cat of a razor.
The original, nickel-plated DOC razor.

Another wonderful characteristic of the DOC is that its combed top cap leaves a good deal of lather on the face after stroking. This is especially true when using reciprocating (that is, buffing) strokes. This razor allowed me to get, essentially, a three-pass shave with only a single lathering because I used reciprocating strokes for the entire shave.

The shave was close enough, and importantly, did not open any new wounds and left the old wounds alone to continue healing. Mission accomplished.

De-stinking the Soap of Many Samples

My cream-cheese tub of shave soap accumulated from many samples that offended my olfactory, resulted (as I've previously written) in an easy-lathering, slick soap that smelled like dead flowers, an old lady's bath powder, or potpourri -- all of which I strongly dislike.

Initially the plan was to let it air out for as long as it took to attenuate the stink. I grew impatient, however, and tried splashing in some Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave, which helped temporarily; but that's all.

So the other day I added some menthol crystals, some peppermint oil, a bit of water, and carefully re-melted and re-stirred the soap. The result was an improved bouquet. It's still not my favorite, but I now find it acceptable -- though I continue to leave it in the open air. Anyway, mission accomplished for the time being.

Happy shaving!


Friday, December 8, 2017

After Six Shaves Alternating Between the Slim and the Variant Adjustables....

Today was the sixth shave on my current Personna Red blade. Starting with that initial, rough shave using my Gillette Slim and the fresh Personna, I've continued to alternate daily between my Parker Variant and the Slim. Since that first shave, which, despite my careful, conservative approach, opened many weepers and a couple of tiny cuts, I've been shaving with an eye to still get a close shave, but one that didn't too much interrupt the healing of those first-shave-in-this-series wounds.

The Variant has been the superior razor every time so far. It offers the ability to shave as closely as the Slim but with less irritation and out-right wounds. I've been using very mild settings of these razors, but the Slim still tends to offer more risk of skin insult. Today's shave with the Variant did re-awake a few of the pre-existing wounds from that first Slim shave, but all cleared up without needing any alum or styptic.

My thinking is going toward the idea of always choosing a razor (and razor setting, for an adjustable) that best fits where the currently-in-play blade is in its life cycle. For example, as far as the Personna Red is concerned, I would never choose the Slim as my preferred razor for at least the first six shaves with the blade. (In fact, this current experiment is intended to find out at what point of blade usage does the Slim become a desirable razor option.) Clearly, when a blade nears the end of its useful life, for me, the Slim does actually become a viable, good-shave, low-insult razor choice -- as evidenced by my good shaves with the Slim and a 23rd- and 24th-use SuperMax Titanium blade.

I also remain convinced that an adjustable is a great razor option because one can adjust the razor to better suit the blade characteristics. This adjustability has its limits -- obviously. The Slim is limited in that its design just doesn't work well for me even at its mildest setting, when paired with a newish blade. Yet the Slim is further hampered by its discreet adjustment options, rather than the infinitely adjustable designs of other contemporary, truely-adjustable razors such as the Merkur Futur (and Futur knock-offs), the Merkur Progress, and the Parker Variant. Today, for example, my Variant was set to one for the first pass, but then dialed up slightly to about one and a half for subsequent strokes.

Stay tuned: more to come.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Blade Matters: Usefulness of Adjustable Razors

My most recent SuperMax Titanium blade gave me 24 good shaves before being retired to the recycle can. The last two shaves of those 24 were done with my Gillette Slim Adjustable. Those shaves among others recently caused me to re-think my use of the Slim for only commemorative occasions.

Previously, I've tried the Slim on various settings of the nine available though I've never shaved above six, and infrequently at or near that aggressive of a setting. I got my good, recent shaves varying the setting between one and three -- depending on the area being shaved as well as the stroke direction in relation to beard grain and also what pass I was making. Generally I'd make first-pass strokes across grain, with the razor set to one, although I stroked with grain on my upper lip. Then the second pass, again on one, was largely against the grain except on my upper lip, which was across the grain. My final pass was with the razor set to two and was again against grain. Final clean up strokes were done as needed with a razor setting of three.

When I replaced the recycled SuperMax blade with a Personna Red, I took its first shave using the Slim. I did the first pass on one and the second on two, with clean-up strokes also on two. That maiden shave with the Personna Red was a bit rough, leaving irritation and a number of small weepers in its wake. The second shave with the Red on the following day had it installed in my Parker Variant. I followed a similar process, with the idea in mind to go easy and not irritate the previous day's injuries. I was somewhat successful, but not perfectly so.

Then this morning I again used the same Personna blade for its third use back into the Slim. Another conservative, careful shave again gave poor results with unacceptable irritation and blood letting.

I'm starting to see a trend here. With a fresh, sharp blade, the Slim is too aggressive on any setting to give me both a close and comfortable shave. If I keep it set to one, I have to work very hard to get a reasonably close shave; but if I set it beyond that, the razor begins to attack my skin along with beard. My initial thought is that for old-but-still-usable blades, the Slim may be a great razor option. It allows dialing in the blade-bar-gap that may be just right for getting an optimal shave with a blade that isn't itself optimally sharp. However, with a new blade, a more skin-friendly razor such as the Variant may be a better choice.

I'm going to continue using the same blade and alternating daily between the Slim and the Variant for the useful life of this blade. Three shaves in, I've gotten off to a rocky start with that first shave with the Slim, and my skin is still recovering. However, as I continue this two-razor shimmy, I'll let you know at what point the worm begins to turn, when the Slim begins to offer a good, close, comfortable shave and how that compares to the Variant as the blade ages.

Happy shaving!

Friday, December 1, 2017

New Appreciation for an Old Classic: Gillette Slim Adjustable

Years after discovering my dad's long-abandoned Gillette Slim, I have learned to use its adjustability for optimal effect on my beard, and finally, finally like the instrument enough to include it as a regular for use in my daily shave.
I have a difficult time getting the lighting right
when I photograph my Slim. It is actually in good
condition, with an intact, uniform plating, though
my photos often look otherwise.

Long relegated to the back of my bathroom razor drawer as a special-occasion razor -- ceremonial, if you will, for days like Fathers' Day and my dad's birthday -- I always appreciated it for its quality and durability, but not its shave. Made of brass and plated with nickel, the potential reliability over the years if properly looked after as well as its flexibility due to its adjustable blade-bar span has made this workhorse a respected and collectible shaving icon.

I previously never had much love for the Slim, however. Yet something changed over time. Perhaps a combination of things. I know my shaving pressure has gotten lighter over the years as my razor choices have evolved and influenced my shaving technique. Perhaps my skin is less sensitive as well. Yet for whatever reasons, I have been using the Slim for several days now, getting rewarding shaves that have caused me to completely re-evaluate my perspective on this vintage instrument.

My Current Process with the Slim Fully Uses its Adjustability

This classic razor, manufactured in 1963, is a one-piece design
(a butterfly type), with an adjustable blade-bar gap. This may
be my best photo reflecting the good condition of my Slim.
Lately for my morning shaves I've been heating a Greek-yogurt cupful of water in the microwave for a minute, and using that to make lather. So this means that I'm back to doing warm-water shaves. Also, with the Slim, I've been using my soap of many samples, which has remarkable slickness. My beard prep is perhaps simpler than most others may use. I do my first warm-water lathering on my dry beard. Then I set out the remainder of my gear for the shave. After that, I re-lather once or twice before actually beginning the shave itself.
I start with the Slim set to 2 (out of 9). My first pass is largely across grain, though on my upper lip and on my chin it is both across and with grain.

Then for my second pass, I set the razor to 1 and shave my upper lip against grain. Then I set the razor to 3 and shave shave the remainder of my beard against the grain.

Final clean-up strokes on neck, chin and jaw line are done simply by adding warm water to the residual soap on my skin, and with the razor still set to 3, re-touch those areas that are not quite smooth enough.

This morning, once again, I got a very good shave that was about as close as I can get without insult to my skin. 

Happy shaving!


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

More on My Soap-Sample Admixture -- Wow!

This morning I had a 19th shave with a SuperMax Titanium blade (19th!!!) -- today in a 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor head (the one that's nickel plated, with the cast-Zamak top cap), using my Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) DOC handle. I got a very good shave!

This is my complete '65 Travel Tech kit. I only use the baseplate
and top cap for my shaves, choosing to use a standard-length handle
from PAA, which has a matching nickel-plating finish.
A significant contributor to this outcome was the shave soap. For the past couple of shaves I've been using my admixture of various shave-soap samples melted into a re-purposed (#5 plastic -- that's important because #5 plastic is heat tolerant and completely safe to use in a microwave oven) cream-cheese container. The drawback to this conglomeration of many soaps is that it stinks like dead flowers, since, after all, the whole reason for this jumble of soaps is that each one stank individually. I tried covering up the stink by adding some Aqua Velva Ice Blue aftershave to the open-to-the-air container. This helped a bit, but not at all entirely. The plan is to continue to leave the container in the open air and trust that eventually the stink will attenuate and become more tolerable.

This tub of soap may not look too fancy and, unfortunately, smells
like an old lady's bath powder -- that is, like dead flowers -- but it
whips up to the richest, slickest lather that I've ever seen! I'm hoping
that, left out in the open air long enought, the stink will diminish.
The really good news is that this soap admixture lathers beautifully. Not only is the soap lather aesthetically pleasing for its richness (I say aesthetically because I don't really believe that rich lather matters much; I believe the concept of lather cushion doesn't really manifest in physical experience), but more importantly, the slickness of this combination of many soaps is almost unbelievable! I've never used any individual shave soap, cream or butter that has the slickness of this soap admixture. Even after the shave, the slickness is remarkable to the extent that I had to rinse three times with water and then with a splash of witch hazel, and still the slickness remained. I finally had to wipe my wet face with a terry-cloth towel to remove the beautiful slickness of this soap of many samples.

The shave was almost as close as I can get; my skin irritation was minimal. The after effects were so mild that I didn't use my preferred PAA after-shave jelly with the Black Bot fragrance. Instead I used my Black Bot after-shave balm as a protecting moisturizer.

I use this balm when I primarily am seeking a moisturizing "sealer."
For soothing, I prefer the jelly with the Black Bot scent.
How do I get so many shaves from my blades? Is my beard merely peach fuzz? No, my beard is fairly tough, and has rather extreme grain in both angle to the skin and varied direction -- all of which can make baby-smooth outcomes merely a pipe dream. As for my blades, I carefully clean, dry, and palm strop them after each use. Why do I push the limits to extract as much use as possible before recycling the blade? This is because we have to stop having a disposable mentality and see the bigger picture. Our world is filling up with refuse -- much of which are pollutants to some degree. We are also wasting resources such as steel, which end up buried instead of being re-used for some positive purpose.

Happy shaving, but shave responsibly!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Sharpologist.com Article and My Current Thinking on Straight Razors

A few days ago, I wrote a comment to an article on Sharpologist.com. The article extolled the virtues of a straight-razor shave. I thought it was a bit over the top, and shared my comments, which are printed below.

To read the sharpologist.com article and all comments, here's the link:

https://sharpologist.com/2017/11/5-reasons-afraid-shaving-straight-razor.html

Below is my comment in its entirety. I'm printing this because I never followed up in this blog with my ultimate feelings about a straight-razor shave, and I have decided that that was an unfortunate omission on my part. So here are my current thoughts on straights as I posted them in the sharpologist.com comment:

I’m a long-time DE user, who has been also using straights for about a year or so. I was reluctant to comment on this article, but finally chose to do so because I found some of its suggestions to be bothersome — that is, not necessarily true. I wanted to paint a more balanced picture of an average guy who was interested in using a straight razor.
I did enjoy learning to use a straight razor — both my traditional 5/8ths and my replaceable-blade barbers’ straight. It’s a skill I’m kind of proud to have acquired. That said, these days I use my DEs most often, and generally get a better shave. I think straights are oversold in many cases. For years I’ve heard some (including barbers) assert that straights give a better shave. I am certain that this claim is utter nonsense. Getting a straight shave from a barber may be an occasion of pampering and fussing, but a better shave? — only if one doesn’t normally get a good shave to begin with. After all, a DE uses a single, straight blade; properly used, it shaves as close as any straight and with an infinitely greater safety margin.
Ultimately I found that straights are really not less irritating on the skin than a DE. That is, of course, unless you only make a single with-grain pass with a straight skillfully used — as compared to more passes with the DE or having problematic shaves with a cartridge-style razor. (Duh.)
Most straight razors are forgiving??? Nonsense unless you are comparing them to a Bowie knife, box cutter, chain saw, or other non-shaving, sharp implement. Please…. this assertion is ridiculous. Yes, properly wielded, a straight can give a good, wound free shave. To characterize them as forgiving should probably be classified as simply untrue.
It is very true that straights should be used with care. That they eventually become easy to use is arguable, and certainly not universally true. I wrote fondly about my learning experiences with straight razors, but ultimately tired of the unending risk and occasional nicks or cuts especially after the first largely-with-grain pass. I never fully mastered shaving against grain with a backhand grip because of this nick-and-cut fatigue.
I would agree that straights may be enjoyably used; I certainly enjoyed them in those giddy early days — and wrote about it. However, the truth is that I now mostly stick to my DEs because I get closer, safer shaves. I occasionally do a one-pass shave with a straight just for a minor proficiency run to maintain my existing skills, and I shave the back of my neck with a straight as well because straights (and open-comb DEs) are ideally suited for shaving longer hair.
And yes, generations have use straights. However, that’s only half the story. The safety razor was conceived and evolved because most men found the straight razor to be an imperfect, inconvenient tool for regular grooming.
I apologize for my comments if they seem at all harsh. My intention is merely to give what I believe to be more realistic counterpoint to what struck me as misleading information about straight-razor shaving. I would encourage anyone that is interested to give straights a try, but with realistic expectations going into the endeavor. If you find the process to be as practical and enjoyable as the author of this article, well, great! After all, opinions and experiences do vary. However, it’s best to keep in mind that for nearly a hundred years, straight razors completely disappeared from the mainstream of self-shaving men — and are arguably still absent except for the minority of us who are shaving hobbyists. This decline in the use of straights happened for valid reasons as I’ve suggested above.
Happy shaving!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

De-Stinking Offensive Shave Soaps

I've previously written about Arko shave soap and its controversial bouquet. If you hate the smell of Arko, leave it unwrapped for weeks, and eventually the smell diminishes so that it's mild and pleasant.

Though Arko's fragrance never bothered me personally, I absolutely hate many flowery scents, which remind me of dying flowers, potpouri, or an old-lady's clothes closet.

Last spring I acquired many shave-soap samples and a couple of actual large-quantity raffle give aways. Most of these have stayed in my bathroom drawer because I found their fragrances to, in the main, offend my olfactory. This includes some well-known and expensive brands.

Last week I got tired of seeing and storing all these samples. So rather than throw them away, I scraped all the small samples into a re-purposed cream-cheese number-five-plastic bowl. To that I added a bit of water and carefully melted the soap in the microwave to better conform to the bowl shape.

The large, raffle-winning tubs of soap -- that to my nose smelled awful -- those I simply left open to the air in their original containers. All the tubs of soap -- both the factory packaged and the mass of aggregated samples -- still stank [updated, corrected verb conjugation] after a day or two. So I got a brainstorm. I remembered that I had a pump bottle of an unscented odor-removing product called Smells Begone.

This morning I sprayed this odor-removing product onto the tubs of shave soap, and immediately the offending fragrances were diminished. Unfortunately, in the two factory-packed tubs, the fragrance returned after the odor remover had dried. In the home-mixed tub of many soap samples, the offending odor has remained reduced to some degree. This may be because the surface of my home-melted soap mixture is much lumpier and bumpier, which offers more surface area and pockets for the odor reducer to stay and work its magic.

I'll report in the future on the progress of this soap de-stinking project.

Happy shaving!


Friday, November 24, 2017

Update and Correction Regarding the Lord-Brand L.6 Razor Head: Potential Quality Issues

I received an email from a reader the other day regarding the Lord-brand razor, the LP1822L. This razor couples the L.6 razor head with the four-inch-long aluminium handle -- hence the L designation -- for long -- at the end of the model number.

This detail-oriented reader, Richard, observed that his L.6 razor head was different from mine; his having a clear positive blade exposure (in which the blade edge lies above the shave plane and therefore outside the protective cove of the top cap and safety bar).

So I pulled out the L.6 razor head that is at hand in my shaving drawer. I re-checked it for blade exposure. Sure enough, the first of the two edges that I checked had a slight negative exposure. However, when I checked the other edge, it was slightly positive. Apparently in the past, when I had checked this razor for blade exposure, I must have always had the bad luck to check the negative-exposure side and assumed the opposite side was the same. (Shame on me.)

Recently, in a moment of weakness and excessive infatuation with the L.6 razor head, I purchased a second one (for reasons that don't seem completely rational at the moment). In any case, I pulled this one out of storage and, low and behold, it was the same as my older version: slightly negative blade exposure on one side, slightly positive on the other.

So I have three resulting comments.

For one, I erred in my evaluation of this razor head, which is not quite so user friendly as I thought. And after confirming with reader Richard that he was, in fact, evaluating his own L.6 razor head and not the L.5, apparently either Lord has changed the molds for this razor head or they are having some production inconsistency, which is the very definition of poor quality control.

Secondly, this begs the question: when shaving, why did I not notice the difference in razor design between sides of the razor head? I would submit that it's the same reason that early versions of Parker's Variant shaved perfectly well despite the slight blade-exposure inconsistency on one edge, where one of the safety bars had a slight undesirable curvature. The reason both defects went unnoticed during shaves is that, within a certain range of moderate razor aggression, technique -- specifically a light pressure of razor against face -- trumps the precision of the razor design.

Lastly, I can no longer recommend the Lord LP1822L razor, which, as I wrote above, pairs the L.6 razor head with the four-inch aluminium handle. My discovery of the assymetry in my own two razors is enough to rescind my recommendation. That another shaver has found the L.6 razor head to have positive blade exposure on both edges is worse.

I stand corrected.

Happy shaving!


Monday, November 20, 2017

My Williams Verdict

My Williams brand shave-soap trial is over. The verdict is in. Others have sung its praises as being a well-functioning shave soap at a bargain-basement price, while still others sing a different tune calling its lather inferior.

[The following link is an offer of three pucks of soap for those who can't get the product in their local stores:]



Williams shave soap is, therefore, in its own modest way, controversial. It is one of the most, if not THE most, readily available shave soaps at local retailers. It has a mild bouquet. It lathers easily enough in my locality's hard water.

It is also inexpensive. And there's the rub (perhaps). Williams is criticized for its lather, which will be discussed further below. But is its lather really deficient, or is it the well-known (by experts in marketing) bias by a percentage of the market against inexpensive products being perceived as being inferior simply because of their low price?

Here's my recent experience as I consciously put Williams soap through its paces in contrast to some other soaps:

For eight consecutive days I used the same razor, blade, brush and shaving process (which included loading soap onto my brush from its puck-storage cup, then face lathering). The only significant change was the shave soap -- alternating back and forth daily between Williams and other soaps. Then for two additional daily shaves I used a single different razor but kept the same blade, brush, and process, merely having the ninth shave with Williams and the tenth with a premium blend of non-Williams soap.

The Gear

For all the shaves I used the same SuperMax Titanium blade, allowing it to age shave by shave, which is why I returned to Williams soap every other day: to compare shave outcomes between the various soaps as the edge quality evolved. I also used the same Omega Syntex brush for all the shaves, which I rinsed clean after each day's use so that I didn't mingle the soaps.

     

As for the razors, for the first eight shaves I used my Rimei RM2003 razor. For the last two shaves I used my Parker Variant. I should note that though my shaves with the RM2003 were good, I did get slightly closer outcomes when I used the Variant and took advantage of adjusting its setting as I progressed through the shave.

Lather Richness

One of the comparison soaps was my Arko shave stick, which I've slightly melted into one of my many re-purposed Greek-yogurt cups, which means that one loads the soap onto the damp brush just like one would commonly use any puck of shave soap such as Williams. (I say commonly because pucks of hard shave soap can also be rubbed directly on wet beard stubble and then face lathered, which I have done in the past, but not for this ten-day trial.) Arko, too, is controversial -- not because of its lather, which most agree is quite good, but rather because of its fragrance. (I've also written many times that the fragrance of Arko diminishes to a pleasant, mild bouquet if left unwrapped in the open air for a time.)

To compare the richness of Williams' lather to that of Arko or some other more premium soaps (or soap combinations), the density of Williams' lather may be, on average, slightly lower -- but not much. If one loads sufficient Williams soap onto the brush, then the lather can be sufficiently rich. I really can't consider that as a serious defect, although it is a minor difference. It's not a defect because, in my experience, lather richness doesn't affect shave quality. It doesn't seem to significantly influence the rapidity of the lather drying out. It doesn't provide any additional cushion (despite many shavers' claims to the contrary -- but remember, lather isn't a pad like you'd find in a pole-vault pit, and we don't slam a razor onto our skin as though we've just completed a record-setting vault; in my opinion, the concept of lather cushion is a mental construct, not existing in physical reality).

Lather Slickness

No matter how I made lather with Williams' soap, I always found it adequately slick, when doing a normal pass -- that is, lathering and then removing the lather with my razor strokes. I did find that if I made Williams lather rather thin -- that is, skimping at the stage of loading my brush with soap from the puck -- then though the resulting lather was completely fine for the normal pass, it left little residual slickness for clean-up strokes with just added water. However, when I took a few extra seconds to ensure that my brush was well loaded with Williams soap, then the resulting lather was thicker -- and here's the key result: the thicker lather had all the usual (of other soaps) and necessary residual slickness to make clean-up strokes as necessary just by adding more water to my face and neck.

The Final Soap Combination

For my tenth (and final) shave of this trial, I combined a lather booster from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) with one of my hard soaps from Pyrate Cove Soap Works. I find the Pyrate Cove soaps (no longer in business?) to be adequate, but adding the PAA lather booster to any soap certainly bumps the thickness and richness of the lather (which I've already suggested may not be significant to the quality of the overall shave), but certainly does not diminish the slickness of the lather -- and probably enhances it.

Results

My shave outcomes, that is, the closeness and amount of post-shave skin insult, were about the same no matter what shave soap I used. The only significant difference was when I skimped on loading my brush with Williams soap. The resulting lather was thinner and lacked the residual slickness for safe and comfortable clean-up strokes, when only adding water and not more lather.

Conclusions

Not surprisingly, my view remains consistent in that Williams is an adequate shave soap. You may find others with, to your nose, a more appealing bouquet. You may find soaps or lather enhancers that offer thicker, richer lather. Yet, bottom line, I do think that Williams doesn't provide an inferior shave outcome, when properly used (meaning, of course, that you must load enough soap onto your brush).

I should also point out that my Syntex brush has a lot of backbone and a narrow, tight knot, which makes easier the loading of soap from a hard puck. Perhaps those who use fatter, softer brushes struggle with Williams because these brushes may be too big and soft to easily load sufficient soap from the Williams puck.

I will continue to use Williams soap among others because I believe it's a good value and is pretty much always available at local stores (especially pharmacies) if needed in a pinch.

Happy shaving!


Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Potential Williams Drawback, and Black Bot Hopes

After pulling my puck of Williams shave soap out of its long-term storage in a refrigerator (keeping it cool slows the chemical reaction that eventually, after a really long time, turns soap into something that looks like soap, but isn't), I've started to give this readily-available shaving product a closer look.


I've previously written that it's an adequate product and even given it some low-key compliments. After today's shave, I'm rethinking that.

Today I used my Rimei RM2003 razor with a second-use SuperMax Titanium blade, and, of course, Williams shave soap. What I've noticed about Williams, unlike some (most?) other shave soaps is that it doesn't seem to have the residual slickness when it becomes rather thin and in lower proportion to water.

Other shave soaps, for example, at the end of a shave, when touch-up strokes may be appropriate with just a little water added to the invisible soap layer left on the skin, provide good slickness, good glide, Williams, on the other hand, seems to be sticky rather than slick in those conditions.

So once again I'm in experiment mode. I'll be using the same razor and blade for a while, alternating between Williams soap and others in my soap drawer to see just how it compares for daily shaving.

Stay tuned as I post my impressions.

****

Also, I wrote an email this morning to Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA). At the Maggard Meet last spring, PAA reps were passing out sample packets of a mentolated after-shave jelly in the Black Bot fragrance. I really liked this product -- both the soothing, cooling feel of the mentholated jelly and the Black Bot scent, which is a modern nod to the old Hai Karate brand Black Belt bouquet. (I already have balm, shave soap, and deoderant in the Black Bot fragrance.)


So I'm waiting to hear back on the availability of the mentholated after-shave jelly in any scent but especially in the Black Bot version.


I'll keep you posted on that as well.
UPDATE: I received word that the jelly aftershave is available, and so I immediately ordered some!


Happy shaving!



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Small But Significant Difference Between Gillette's Slim and Parker's Variant

Looks just like a chrome Weishi 9306, but it
shaves differently. It's the Dorco Prime DE.
Since I have become aware of my razor-preference changes, in which I've become less enamoured with negative-blade-exposure razors, I've actually been rethinking my opinions of various razors that I've previously rejected as unsuitable for my use. Unfortunately, this includes some that I've passed along to others, which includes the Merkur 37C Slant and the Merkur 030 Bakelite. (Maybe it's time to consider purchasing one of the slants from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements.)

There are a couple of razors still in my possession that deserve yet another look. This includes the
Dorco Prime one-piece, which is a visual twin to the Weishi 9306-F, but has slight differences including weight and shave character. I will be looking into this one once again in the near future.

Today's article, however, involves two of my three adjustable razors: the Parker Variant compared to my vintage 1963 Gillette Slim. I have previously published (in 2014) a fairly detailed Gillette Slim analysis, and after giving that a re-read, I stand by my design observations in that article.
This photo is reprinted from my 2014 artcile on the Gillette Slim. Shown here
set on 1, its mildest setting, the blade edge still lies slightly above the shave
plane as shown. (This can be more easily seen if you click on the image to
display it apart from the article -- an option that enlarges the photo. More 
aggressive settings of the razor change the angle of the shave plane to be 
more vertical in this perspective, which causes the edge to rise further 
above the shave plane.

 The  Slim, as explained in the photo caption, never has the blade edge at or below the shave plane. This positive blade exposure is going to make the razor feel aggressive or at least irritating at any setting if the user presses too hard -- as I was prone to do in the past.

Comparing this design aspect of the Slim to the Parker Variant highlights a key difference: the Variant positions the blade edge neutrally -- that is, at the shave plane. Though the difference between the two is small, it's probably just enough that a comfortable pressure of razor against skin with the Variant is likely to be irritating and likely to nip with the Slim.

There is another aspect of the comparison between Slim and Variant that could also affect the difference in their relative shave characters. That aspect is the blade angle in relation to the shave plane. This is something that I'll explore another day.

By the way, it isn't necessary to make detailed photos along the blade edge and draw in the shave plane to observe blade exposure -- that is, at least when the exposure is neutral or positive. (To document the extent of negative blade exposure, you do have to make a photo and draw in the shave plane.) This non-photo observation of blade exposure is done in one of the observations that I recommend when checking out a DE razor prior to first use, which I documented in an article long ago.

This procedure is illustrated in pic. 5 of that article, which in that context was intended to confirm that the blade edge was parallel to the safety bar (or comb). The procedure involves having a blade mounted in the razor. Then holding the razor before your eyes, oriented with the broad side of the razor head toward you and with handle pointed downward, the razor is rotated so the head moves away from you and the handle moves toward you. This causes the blade-bar gap to become visually smaller as the handle rises and the head recedes. If you focus your visual attention on the blade edge as you rotate the razor, you will see that the blade edge will appear to line up with the safety bar (or comb). If you rotate until the safety bar lines up with the top cap, you can see that the blade edge either 1) disappears, which means the razor has a negative blade exposure, 2) just lines up with both the safety bar and top cap, which means a neutral blade exposure, or 3) remains visible above the safety-bar-and-top-cap plane, which means a positive blade exposure.

(By the way, this procedure was sufficient to detect the subtle alignment flaw in early Variants, where the end of one safety bar dipped slightly, thus allowing ineven blade exposure along one edge of the blade. This subtle defect has been long corrected.)

Returning now to the comparison between the Slim and the Variant, I believe that for me to fully appreciate the Slim as a viable instrument for my face, I'm must use a lighter touch, even less pressure, than I'm currently accustomed. So perhaps, armed with the new information, I may finally learn to enjoy using the Slim. I'll let you know.

Happy shaving!



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Great Morning Shave with Economy Implements & Supplies!

This morning I had a great shave using inexpensive tools and supplies. The focus of this article, however, is on the razor.

The razor was my Rimei RM2003 double-edge safety razor, which is both a fine instrument and a great value to purchase. Buying one is not without risk though.

This is the real thing. Pay close attention to the handle.
The risk is in misleading sales information from sellers who are accidentally or intentionally trying to sell an inferior product. The RM2003 model has a razor head that I really like, and a handle that is passable, but one that I would replace with a handle that offers sharper incising -- which translates to a better grip when wet and soapy.

I originally bought my RM2003 via DX.com, and it was shipped from China, taking two weeks or slightly less to arrive. I paid a total of about U.S $4. As of this morning, I can no longer find this item on DX.com. However, it's available on ebay.com and amazon.com. The razor alone (recommended purchase) can be had from ebay.com, with Rimei.China as the seller, for about U.S.$9.

Be wary of other sellers at lower price points. Some will sell you an inferior razor in a case similar to the blue-and-clear one provided with the actual RM2003. Some clues to the inferior razor include the description of "silver toned" and photos that have the wrong handle (see pic below).

This is NOT the RM2003! This is the tell-tale handle that comes
with inferior imitators -- sometimes manufactured by Rimei.
In my experience, Rimei makes both the high-quality RM2003
as well as similar, but inferior, razors such as the RM2001.
In addition to the description and handle-design clues, the actual RM2003 has corner tabs on the underside of the top cap. These tabs position the blade similarly to the way 1960s-era Gillette Techs (with the cast Zamak top cap) did.

Though Rimei finally caught on that the U.S.$4 price tag was too much of a give away, the razor is still an exceptional value at more than twice that price.

The blade that I used for today's shave was a seventh-use Dorco ST-301. The shave soap was Williams. The shave brush was my usual: the Omega Syntex. I used warm water for the shave, and held both my lathering water (for dipping the brush) and my razor-rinsing water (for removing excess lather from the razor during the shave) in re-purposed Greek yogurt cups. Also, rather than running the tap to get warm water for my shave -- which in my house takes a long time -- instead I filled one of the yogurt cups with cool water, heated it for minute in the microwave, and then poured off some of that into the other yogurt cup.

Williams shave soap is often maligned, but for less that $2 per puck at local drug stores (some sell it for $1.39, others for about $3), it does the job. Now when I compare it to Arko, another value soap that I can only get online, Arko leaves my skin more moisturized after the shave and probably lathers better, but I find Williams to be good enough. And that is no backhanded compliment. Williams is, in my opinion, completely adequate for the task even in my local hard water. Unlike Arko, Williams' bouquet is not strongly offensive right out of the box. (Many complain about Arko's fragrance, but if you leave it unwrapped in the open air, over time its bouquet attenuates pleasantly.)

When new, using a bit of water along with the freshly-opened Williams puck into yet another re-purposed Greek yogurt cup, I heated them briefly in the microwave to slightly melt the underside of the soap puck so that when cooled, it was firmly affixed into the cup. (By the way, these yogurt cups are made of #5 plastic, which is very heat tolerant, and therefore well suited to heating and melting things in a microwave oven.)

Once my soaps are stuck into their plastic cup, I load soap into my damp brush and then face lather, dipping the brush tip into my lathering water as needed. I do not make lather in a bowl any longer because it requires unnecessary time, gear, and effort. I have long discovered that face lathering saves time and trouble. I always have enough residual lather in the brush to complete my shaves. If for some reason I did not, it would be a simple matter to load a bit more soap from the puck as needed.

Even using value/economy products, I can these days get a really good shave. My process has evolved to where I even shave against grain on my upper lip with this Rimei and other razors of similar design (and degree of aggression) including my '65 Gillette Travel Tech razor head and the Parker Variant on its mildest setting.

The bottom line is that even if one is on a tight budget, with appropriate skill, an excellent shave can be had without investing a great deal of money.

Happy shaving!



Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Three-Pass Shave is Unnecessary

The three-pass shave that is so commonly advocated and performed by hobbyist double-edge (DE) shavers -- you know: with grain, across grain, then against grain -- involves wasted time and energy for many, if not most, shavers.

If you follow this advice, you may never again have to do a whole-beard with-grain pass.

For the longest time with DE razors, I have routinely shaved without doing a full-beard with-grain first pass. Most often I do a two-pass-plus-clean-up shave beginning either with across-grain or against-grain strokes. (When using a straight razor, however, I always do a first pass that is primarily with grain.) No matter which DE process I use (skipping a with-grain pass and using an across- or against-grain first pass), my clean-shaven outcome ALWAYS feels baby smooth when stroking with the grain of my beard.

This morning, for example, I took a warm-water shave. I heated a re-purposed Greek-yogurt cup full of water in the microwave for a minute. Then I poured most of that into another yogurt cup to be used for razor rinsing. The remainder of the warm water stayed in the first yogurt cup to be used for brush dipping when making lather.

For shave soap I use Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA) Black Bot shave soap. My razor was the Parker Variant equipped with a third-use Dorco blade.


The first pass was across grain with the Variant set to one. Second pass was against grain (even on my upper lip) with the Variant on two. I made extra clean-up strokes without re-lathering on my chin and below my jaw line.

Post shave, I rinsed with water, then applied a splash of witch hazel. I finished the shave by applying PAA's Black Bot balm.

A great shave to start a great day.

Happy shaving!




Wednesday, November 1, 2017

On "Best Razors...."

Sharpologist.com posted an article the other day on what might be razors that fit into the category of best. I recommend using the link in the previous sentence, which will take you to that article, and I recommend reading it if you haven't already done so. It's a good article.

I do have some thoughts on the subject, which as Sharpologist suggests, is a difficult one to tackle. My reasons for buying into the difficult-to-address argument are several. This include the following:

  • Different persons are likely to have different hair characteristics including thickness, density, severity of grain (that is, the severity of the angle of the hair follicle in relation to the skin surface), and the variability of the grain.
  • Different persons are going to have shaving skills that vary one from one person to another.
  • Changing individual preferences/needs: my experience is that my own personal razor preferences have changed quite a bit over time, potentially due to several factors. My own shaving skill has evolved perhaps simply due to time and experience, but also likely due to my having acquired and become somewhat (not fully) adept with straight razors. Also, I've made the argument that perhaps individuals' skin sensitivity reduces over time due to repeated daily shaves.
Given all these variables it's truly difficult to say what are the best razors even if one breaks them out by price categories. I commend Sharpologist for providing the information, which may be helpful to many readers.

My own story of razor preference is, honestly, perplexing. My current at-hand in-bathroom razors are shown in the photo below:
From left to right: 5/8" traditional straight razor in a black leather sleeve, Parker PTB barber straight (with black handle), Ming Shi 2000S (Futur knock off), Parker Variant (w/ charcoal handle). The right-most column of three-piece razor components from top to bottom: Rimei RM2003 razor head on the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' (PAA) double-open-comb (DOC) handle, 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor head, PAA DOC razor head; Lord LP1822L razor head (the L.6).
(If you're curious about the containers at the top, the orange cap is a cache of new, unused DE blades. The center open amber vial contains new, unused half-DE blades (for the barber razor). The blue container contains nail clippers, small scissors, and nail file.) My Gillette Slim Adjustable is up at the back of the drawer, hidden from view in this photo.
The bottom line on my changing preferences involves the following primary factor:

My comfort with and tolerance of razors with a neutral blade exposure (blade exposure is where the blade edge lies in relation to the shave plane formed by the top cap and the safety bar or comb) has significantly increased. Where previously I preferred razors with a negative blade exposure (blade edge slightly below the shave plane, inside the protective cove of the razor head), I now find I get my most rewarding shaves with razors that have that neutral blade exposure because they can shave  fairly closely but are not all that likely to bite.

My most recent addition to the shave drawer is the RM2003 from Rimei, the least costly razor that I've owned (originally purchased from DX.com -- and for clarity, the least costly useable razor; years ago I purchased some $2 razors that were junk). In my early DE shaving days, I had a difficult time avoiding nicks and weepers with this (RM2003) implement, but now I find it thoroughly enjoyable to use.

I should also note that for the adjustable razors, after initially experimenting with more aggressive settings, these days I've mellowed, am not so determined to get as close as possible to a baby-smooth outcome. As a result, I typically use these razors in their lower settings -- usually on one for the first pass or two, and then on two for clean up.

****
By the way, for those of you who have been watching the MLB World Series on TV, I've been finding the broadcasts to be very visually appealing. My only complaint is that some of the players would make a better presentation of themselves if they'd get a shave and a haircut. Just sayin'.

Happy shaving! 




Monday, October 30, 2017

Examining Evolving Razor Preferences

c. 1948 (1946-1950) Tech
Many months ago I decided to sell my two c.1948 Gillette Tech razors because I consistently felt they were too harsh on my skin to consistently provide a comfortable, enjoyable shave. I also resolved to part with my 1965 Gillette Travel Tech because, in my experience, it offered the same shave character as my older Techs.

Similarly, long ago I had rejected my Lord LP1822L (with the
1965 Travel Tech
popular two-piece L.6 razor head) not because it was harsh, but because its blade-bar span was just a bit too big and tended to nip on occasion. In those days I much preferred my Merkur 33C Classic razor because its razor head had essentially identical design specs as the L.6

L.6 razor head. Note how the cross-section
contour of the safety bar significantly
increases the blade-bar span.
However, as time passed, my preferences evolved. I had already parted with my two c.1948 Techs when I re-visited my Travel Tech razor head just last week, and found that now I really appreciate its shave character. Likewise, months ago I gifted my 33C to my teenage son, and now keep the L.6 razor head at hand in my bathroom razor drawer.

I believe that my shifting preferences may be due to two factors, and these may influence the razor choices of those who are recent converts to old-school double-edge shaving.

First of all, since my early razor preference, I've shaved with more aggressive razors and razor
Parker Variant with charcoal handle
settings. This includes my straight-razor usage -- both my replaceable-blade Parker PTB straight as well as my traditional 5/8" straight razor. To successfully use these straights, one must develop a very light touch of blade against skin. Also using my modern adjustables, the Parker Variant and the Futur-imitating Ming Shi 2000S, I've experimented with fairly aggressive settings, which has helped to modify my razor pressure to become somewhat lighter and more delicate.
Ming Shi 2000S

Some estimated spec detail on the
RM2003 from Rimei
A second factor in my evolving razor preferences is the potential shift in my skin. Similar to the way professional cooks often become used to handling very hot food and utensils, which causes their fingers to be less sensitive to heat, I suspect that my skin has become desensitized to some extent, which might make the blade angle of the Techs, for example, to not feel so scraping and thereby irritating on my face.

This leads me back to other razors that I've previously rejected. My 1963 Gillette Slim is one I have kept at hand for purely sentimental reasons; it was my father's razor. But like a convict potentially wrongly convicted, this razor deserves a re-trial. So too does my Rimei RM2003 razor. I've had this in the closet shaving box for a while now; it's been banished because I thought it just a hair too aggressive to be a daily shaver. However, since I've become aware of my evolving preferences.... who knows?

I'd be interested to hear if others have experience a similar evolution in razor preference. Feel free to comment.

Happy shaving!



Friday, October 27, 2017

Limited-Water Wet Shaving, and a Surprising Vintage Redux

In my community, we have had a water emergency for several days. A water main broke, and several days were needed for the replacement pipe to arrive. It was installed Wednesday, but there was a leak. All of this means that we don't have potable water at the tap until Monday.

The state of my local tap water,
which is likely to persist for a total of at least seven days.

Although bathing in our potentially-bio-contaminated water is not proscribed by local authorities, because of the risk of wounds, I'm not interested in wet shaving with tap water. No thanks. So I've been practicing limited-water, cool-water shaving using room-temperature bottled water (or previously-boiled water, which has subsequently cooled to room temperature).

In addition to my shave soap, razor, and blade, I use two re-purposed Greek-yogurt containers for water. One is for brush wetting and the other is for razor rinsing. (I also used two cups for soap.)

The four re-purposed Greek-yogurt cups for todays shave.
In the background are the two water cups. At near left is the
bay-rum soap. Near right is the lather-booster puck from PAA.

Shave Prep

I pour a small amount of safe water -- about a half-inch deep -- into the container for lathering. I keep this on the right side of the sink as a matter of habit, which prevents me from accidentally using the wrong cup during any part of the shave. Into the container for rinsing, I pour water to about an inch deep, and set that to my left for rinsing accumulated lather from the razor.

For this shave (and yesterday's), I pulled out my lather-booster soap from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements. I rubbed the puck directly onto my dry, facial and neck stubble. Then I dipped my Omega Syntex brush, which I wrote about several days ago, into the cup to my right and face lathered my initial face prep.

     

While that initial lather sat on my day-old beard, I took the time to set out the remainder of the gear for the shave. That done, I re-wet my shave brush with another dip in the cup of lathering water, and loaded the already-foamy brush from a puck of bay rum soap. Another dip of the brush into the lathering water, and I then face lathered right over the initial lather-booster layer of foam. I always dip the brush into the lathering water a few times during face lathering, which ensures that my lather is sufficiently hydrated.

Today's Razor: Vintage Gillette and a PAA Handle

My razor for today's (and yesterday's) shave was another razor reclaimed from the few unsold razors in my previous garage sale. It is a 1965 Gillette Travel Tech (TT) razor, with the Zamak top cap that is nickel plated and has the Gillette moniker incised into it.

The '65 Gillette Travel Tech top cap and baseplate combine
nicely with the PAA handle. All are nickel plated.

Although I still have more razors than I actually need including this mid-century Gillette, in retrospect I'm so glad that no one bought it. Although I originally deemed it virtually the same in shave character as my all-brass Techs -- meaning it didn't give me the best shave, and was therefore expendable -- in this revival usage, I find that now I really like it and have gotten some great shaves with it.

I have paired the TT razor head with the handle from my PAA double-open-comb razor. The TT top cap, baseplate, and the PAA handle are all nickel plated, so they are a natural and attractive coupling. I also really like the PAA handle -- it's the only three-piece handle I keep at hand in my razor drawer -- because of its excellent and attractive knurling.

The Shave

I used a two-pass shave process this morning. All my strokes were long, slow reciprocating strokes made in an anti-raking pattern. First pass was largely cross grain. After the first pass, I rinse my razor head in the rinsing water at the left of my sink. Then I re-lathered and used pretty much an against-grain stroke direction. I used special care when shaving problem areas such as under my jaw line, on my lower neck and my upper lip.

The outcome was excellent. It was about as close as I can get without inflicting skin damage. I hope your shave is as good.

Happy shaving!



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Experiment With Your Shaving Process

I get my best shaves when I deviate from common shaving processes. For example, the hobbyists three-pass shave -- with grain, then across grain, and finally against grain -- just doesn't work well for me. It's not aggressive enough in the first two passes and thereby leaves too much beard for the third pass. If I want a close shave (and if not, then why three passes in the first place?!?), I always have to do a fourth pass, which often gets irritating.

I have found that being more bold, not so worried about following the herd, and using a different shave process, this works much better for me. Of course, process is influenced by your choice of razor.
We're talkin' shaving process!

For example, this morning I chose my Parker Variant adjustable razor with a third-use Dorco ST-301 blade. The Variant has a neutral blade exposure at its mildest setting -- meaning that the blade edge is pretty much in (neither above nor below) the shave plane formed by the top cap and the safety bar. This means that even at its mildest setting, it has the potential to shave pretty closely.

So I set the razor to "1" (its mildest setting) and make my first pass in a direction that is largely between across and against grain. On my upper lip, I am a bit less aggressive and use stroke directions that are between with and across grain.

My second pass is directly against the grain except, again, on my upper lip, where it is between across and against the grain.

For my third pass, I dial the razor to "2" and repeat the stroke directions of the second pass. I may also shave my upper lip directly against the grain.

The result is often about as close a shave (almost baby smooth) as I can get without requiring treatment for nicks. 

What are your preferred shaving processes?

Happy shaving!




Friday, October 20, 2017

Omega Syntex Brush: A Long-Term Evaluation

The ideal qualities that any brush might have include the following:
  • Moderate size: large enough to lather one's face easily without being so large that lather ends up in unwanted geography
  • Holds sufficient moisture and lather
  • Has good backbone
  • Maintains its shape
  • Made of durable materials
  • Dries quickly
  • Doesn't require much care
  • Isn't stupidly expensive
  • Is comfortable to use against one's skin
  • To be manufactured, it doesn't rely on dead animals
  • When new, there's no offensive odor to dissipate 
The Omega brand Syntex model brush is a near ideal option. I've used it for several years, and it has become the only brush that I use. The reasons correspond to those listed above.

It is one of the least expensive brushes available. Its knot has good backbone, and is just-right sized for applying lather to face while maintaining optimal control. It holds mosture and lather well. Being made of synthetic fibers, it dries quickly, never stinks of dead animals, is impervious to water damage, and you can just set it on the counter top to dry after shaving -- whether you choose to rinse or not.

     

The one caveat that I would offer is that when this brush is new, the bristle tips are a bit abrasive against skin. With use they become broken in and the abrasive issue goes the way of the dodo bird. 

I prefer the Syntex to my boar brush, which is too big. I prefer the Syntex to my badger brush, which doesn't have a lot of backbone. None of my brushes were very expensive, and the Syntex was between the others' price points, currently available for about U.S. $13.

I characterize this brush as great for traveling or at-home use. It's also great for bowl or face lathering. It's available in three plastic handle colors: green, blue and red. If you're in the market for a new brush and have the patience to use it gently until broken in, I heartily recommend this one.

Happy shaving!