Monday, January 30, 2017

Coming Attractions: On-Line Garage Sale, Parker-Variant Review

A Garage Sale Coming Soon!

Yep, in keeping with my interest to continue pursuing a more simple life, it's a win-win opportunity for the both of us. I get to reduce my inventory of stuff, and you have the opportunity to get a razor that has been lightly used and at a reduced cost.

Stay tuned for this one. I need to confirm shipping costs so there are  no surprises, and I'll start posting the available inventory.

A partial list (from memory; I'm not at home as I write this) of the razors that will be available is as follows (in no particular order):
  • Merkur 37C slant
  • Merkur 33C Classic
  • Merkur 030 "Bakelite" w/case in original packaging
  • Weishi 9306F one piece (TTO)
  • Dorco Prime one piece (TTO - visually identical to the Weishi 9306F but slightly different weight and different shaving character: more aggressive)
  • Rimei RM2003 (two available)
  • Gillette Tech, c. 1948, gold toned 
  • Gillette Tech c. 1965, travel razor in gold travel case with original (unused) blade
  • Lord LP1822L (the popular L.6 razor head!)
  • Maggard MR3B (with the original v1 razor head and the no-longer-produced "big boy" handle that's chrome with the wide black grip
I will provide photos and details for each. They all shave like new and most of those in current production are in as-new condition. The minor exceptions will be explained.

The Parker Variant is in Play!

The Variant razor from Parker is safe and secure in my bathroom drawer, and so far has been a very interesting razor to study and use. I will be writing an in-depth review of both its shaving character and design details that, to my knowledge, have not yet been published anywhere.

This looks to be a must-not-miss article that will be displayed here in the near future -- although I'm still gathering information and experience at the present time. Be sure to check back for this one; you'll be glad you did.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Adjusting One's Thinking....

My first double-edge razor was my dad's 1963 Gillette Slim adjustable. It took me a long time to develop any affinity for this particular instrument. I always found that when I used it for a shave, any given setting was never quite right.

Yet I was reading a recent article in about the best mild razors, which both led me to a new approach to using an adjustable razor as well as awakening my dormant razor-acquisition disease. If Mantic59 is reading this, he's probably rolling on the floor laughing because I had written to him about the article and averred that I WILL NOT BE BUYING ANOTHER RAZOR. CASE CLOSED.
The 1963 Slim Adjustable by Gillette.

[Sheepishly:] Um, well, so much for will power and resolutions.

So, truth be told, I did order another razor, which will be arriving soon. I ordered the Parker Variant adjustable razor, which Mantic59 has called his new favorite, with which he will part only when you "pry it from [his] cold, dead fingers." (This is a link to the Sharpologist review of the Parker Variant -- published in late 2016.)

I ordered this as a second adjustable-razor option, and what I hope will be a more preferable option to my Gillette Slim. But the important thing is WHY I broke my vow to acquire no more razors.

Okay, it's first crucial to recall that I have some problem areas to shave. The worst is my lower neck. Then under my jawline. Also, like many, my upper lip is sensitive and doesn't like to be shaved against the grain. Remember, too, that my chin and lower lip are difficult to shave because of contours, the coarseness of the hair (on the sides of my chin) and the direction of the grain.

The Parker Variant adjustable razor:
my new, favorite razor, I hope.
No single razor seems to be ideal, and the previously-suggested-and-tried concept of using multiple razors doesn't work well for me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's awkward to use multiple blades and keep track of usage -- and it's also awkward to switch a blade from one razor to another during a shave. Secondly, the multiple-razor-for-a-shave idea is awkward when doing a single lathering for a shave as well -- as I do for my patch-shaving process.

Also, frankly, I'm tired of having so much unnecessary STUFF. For a couple of years now, I've been trying to simplify my life, not have so much extraneous gear that I don't really need. I find that the stuff I own, OWNS ME as well. Even all those razors are another small burden that I'd like to minimize. This is, of course, at odds with my ever-present razor-acquisition disease.

So I'm hoping that having two adjustable razors for shaving my beard, and a single, mild open-comb razor (the Merkur 15C) for trimming the hair on the back of my neck will be all the razors that I really need. They will provide some variety but also greater simplicity.

(By the way, if this simplified approach works for me, I'll have an on-line garage sale, where I'll offer my extra razors for acquisition by others.)

Here's how I plan to use the adjustables:

When shaving my most vulnerable areas such as my lower neck and sub jawline, I will use a very mild setting. When shaving lips and chin, I'll use a moderate setting. When going after the planes of my cheeks, which I really enjoy being shaved VERY closely, I can use a much more aggressive setting because those areas well tolerate more aggressive instruments. (I got a good shave this morning using this method, my Slim and a new Lord Platinum Class blade.)

The Parker Variant should arrive tomorrow. Really looking forward to that!

Happy shaving!

My Beard....

Under a shade tree.
Regular readers of my blog know that I prefer razors that are not hyper aggressive and I don't especially have a lot of love for Feather blades.

Taken during a rehearsal break on stage.
I also often repeat that I have sensitive skin, which, in certain areas such as my lower neck and under my jawline, are more susceptible to weepers.

Some may also suspect that I have a light beard based on my shaving-gear preferences. However, I would suggest that this is not so. Although my beard may not be the MOST dense or the MOST tough, it's not exactly wimpy and whispy either.

As you can see from the photos (taken long ago, when I was playing a role in a stage play that benefitted from having a beard), my beard is respectable. For these photos, my neck is shaved and I may have trimmed around my lower lip and on my upper cheeks (I honestly don't recall).

Anyway, I post these vintage photos just to give readers a bit more information about the nature of my beard, so they can better assess how my likes and preferences may correspond to their own.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Feather, Tech and Arko, Oh My!

Today I had a sixth shave with the Feather-brand blade that I last wrote about. Today's shave had the blade in my post-war (c. 1948) Gillette Tech razor. My soap was the much-maligned Arko stick, which I actually think is one of the best values out there, and, frankly, just a really good shaving soap. (The fragrance, which is so controversial, is greatly improved by simply letting a new Arko stick air out unwrapped for a few weeks. The bouquet then becomes much more mild and probably more acceptable to a majority of users.)

The bottom line on today's shave is that this one was finally, overall, a good shave. The combination of the used Feather blade, the Tech, and the Arko soap gave a close, comfortable shave, and finally, finally, minimal insult to my skin.

Though I reneged on my statement long ago that I'd never use Feather blades, I stand by the idea that I certainly wouldn't buy any significant quantity and use them regularly. No, there are too many blades available that are much less expensive and offer me a close, comfortable, bloodless shave right out of the wrapper.

The details on today's shave include the following:

  • Several cool-water splash-and-rubs as an initial beard preparation
  • A warm water wash cloth application for about 30 seconds as pre-lather preparation
  • Arko shave stick rubbed on my damp beard for face lathering
  • My un-rinsed (filled with old, clean, previously-used lather) badger brush was dipped in warm water for face lathering -- and I only lathered once, as usual, for the entire shave (I rely on buffing-type strokes to re-spread lather for subsequent strokes after the first ones in a given region -- and I will add water and sometimes lather from the underside of the razor with my free hand when necessary; by the way, I don't rinse my razor during a shave -- only after)
  • A regional, anti-raking shave starting in most beard regions with long buffing strokes that were vertical and, therefore, largely against grain (the exceptions were my lips and chin, which started with vertical and largely with-grain strokes)
  • After my initial strokes, I made others across grain and often from varying directions -- sometimes all four (and under my chin and on my upper neck, I also use J-hooking strokes, when I want a close shave, which I did this morning)
  • After the shave I wiped my freshly-shaved mug with a cool, damp wash cloth
  • Then I applied some generic witch hazel
  • Then I applied some after-shave balm
Happy shaving!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Eating Crow, Choking on the Feathers....

I have used a Feather blade for the last two days.

Oh, yeah, I'm the guy that wrote an article about how I'd never use Feather blades.

Well, the fact of the matter is that I had a trial pack of Feathers hanging around for a while, and haven't had a trial shave with the Feather brand for a long time. So I thought, what the heck. I took a new Feather blade, put it in the mildest razor head in my regular rotation, which is the Merkur 33C Classic, and took it for a test flight, you might say. I should mention that I also used my fat, heavy Maggard handle for this maiden shave with the fresh Feather blade.

My second shave on that same blade was using the Lord L6 razor head (which comes as part of the LP1822L razor), but this time went the other way, and instead of using a fat, heavy handle, I used the ultra-light plastic handle from my Merkur 030 "Bakelite" razor.

I went from the heavy handle on shave one to the light handle with shave two for a very specific reason. My first shave with the fresh blade didn't seem to offer a great deal of "feel." That is, despite my intention of using a very light touch, the heavy handle seemed to diminish, dampen the sensation of the razor head against my skin. So by using the plastic handle, I succeeded in regaining "feel," which led to a much more confident shave.

It's interesting how remarkable the Feather blades are -- but bear in mind that remarkable can be either good or bad. With the Merkur 33 razor head and the fat, heavy Maggard handle, the closeness of that initial shave was about what I'd expect with the 33, but I actually got several pinpoint weepers -- and in places that I'm not usually accustomed to seeing them.

In my Feather shave this morning with the Lord razor head and the light plastic handle, I got a close, comfortable shave -- essentially as close as I ever get with any of my razors, but this time had just a few weepers in the more usual places, which is on my lower neck.

So in making some preliminary conclusions, I certainly agree with the common consensus that Feather blades are sharp, but maybe too sharp to be ideal for me. Based on initial sharpness, I could use them regularly (in a mild razor) if I had to. However, when I factor in the cost of the blades as compared to other sharp blades -- Astra is the first brand that comes to mind -- then, no, I would not pay the premium for the Feather brand.

Also, there remains the question of blade durability. There is some opinion offered in shaving forums that Feathers are not particularly durable. However, I take that with a grain of salt. There are too many variables involved that run the gamut from swarthy, wiry-haired gents (whose beards destroy blades) to those who take no care of their shaving tools (leaving blades wet and soapy after their shave) to those who are simply wasteful and prejudiced about blade longevity. As you may know, I take care of my blades, carefully pressing them dry after use and gently palm stropping them a bit before loading into the next razor for a subsequent shave. I typically get 10 to 20 daily shaves from my blades before putting them into the recycle can.

So as the sages say, "Never say never." I have to take the hit for that one, having previously written that I'd never use Feather blades. However, although I'll use up my small inventory of them, it's unlikely that I'll buy more. Of course, opinions do vary.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Light Touch

I was reading a recent article within about (among other things) how straight-razor shaving can improve one's double-edge (DE) shaves. (This article can be read at -- I recommend it.)

The article makes some good points, and my main take-away point was to continue to focus on light shaving pressure. For some (like me) old habits die hard, and, despite my best intentions as well as the on-target advice from others, I've been using more pressure than appropriate for a long time.

By using a light touch, I've been able to get better shaves with more aggressive razors. For example, this morning I used my Merkur 37C slant DE and got an extremely close shave with minimal insult to skin (a few tiny dot weepers on my upper neck). The secret? Well, I took the advice of the afore-mentioned Sharpologist article by holding the razor handle in a finger-tip grip, nearer the end of the handle than the razor head, and using the lightest pressure of which I was capable at the time (one might always improve, right?).

I still did my customary one-lather, regional shave, and for most of it made my initial strokes generally (not perfectly) against the grain of my beard.

The light touch really can pay off, and is allowing me to forego my previous predilection for mild razors. Oh, I still use my Lord L6 razor head on occasion, with good results, but I'm now enjoying razors that I previously avoided including my 37C slant. I'm also going to push my performance envelop with my Gillette Slim, and will therefore once again be testing shaves set in the mid and upper ranges of its capabilities.

And the light touch doesn't just apply to shaving, does it? Compare the phrases a light touch versus heavy handed. Generally a  heavy handed approach suggests less than the best tactic -- often applied to bullies -- and smacks of private fears and insecurity. A light touch suggests calm experience, wisdom, and confidence.

Unfortunately, I've often been guilty of being a bit heavy handed both while shaving and in other situations as well. But we do the best we can, and I'm always moving forward trying to use a lighter touch in every arena.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Rimei RM2003 Shave this Morning....

If you have learned to shave with an appropriately-light touch (and it took me a long time to actually do that!), I believe that the Rimei RM2003 razor can be perhaps the best value in double-edge razors. It took me a long time to learn to really appreciate this razor, but now that the clouds have parted, I can enjoy the function of this instrument.

My shave this morning was close and comfortable, without even re-awakening the significant weeper on my mid neck that I so carelessly created yesterday with the "Bakelite" razor from Merkur.

We can't get an accurate blade angle from this image because
the camera isn't looking directly down the blade edge, but it does
show the quality of the sharply-defined bends in the baseplate
as well as the blade reveal, which is greater than a classic Tech.

The RM2003 is a chrome-plated, modern take on the classic post-WWII Gillette Tech razors. It's not a clone by any means -- having obvious physical differences and a slightly more aggressive shave character -- but it's hewn from the same basic qualities: simplicity, value, and effectiveness.

There are challenges in buying this razor. First of all, there are unscrupulous sellers who offer shoddy imitations. They have similar names such as RI MEI. Secondly, there are sometimes quality-control issues with the real thing. For example, I received my first bona fide RM2003 with a bend in a safety bar that made the razor unusable. The seller was slow to replace, but I used Amazon's refund policy to get my money back, no problem. But when I found a seller who was actually honest and selling the real product, I bought several to give as gifts and even a back-up razor for me (perhaps an irrational move, but I can always give that one away as well).

This is an old photo from an eBay seller. It's not quite right
because the handle shown isn't the style that comes with
current RM2003s. Maybe it's just an old pic, or maybe it's
a knock off of the real thing and doesn't come with the
real RM2003 razor head, which is a common ploy.
Buyer beware, and be sure to shop where there is a
dependable refund policy in place.
The real deal comes in a blue-and-clear-plastic case. It also comes with a Chinese blade that may best be immediately recycled rather than being used for shaving. The top cap has tabs in its four corners -- one of which can be seen in the close-up photo above. The baseplate has sharply-defined corners -- again as can be seen in the photo -- and is chrome plated. It is also rigid and not easily bent, as are some of the cheesy imitators. Lastly, the handle on the real deal is also chrome plated with a square pattern incised in the main part of the handle. (Cheap imitators have a handle with long grooves running down its length.)

Anyway, I've acquired a new appreciation for this low-cost-but-high-value razor. Maybe you will too. The offerings on Amazon cost a few dollars more than the lowest-cost sellers, but 1) the buyer protection is good and 2) they're available.


 Happy shaving!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Near Perfect "Bakelite" Shave, Then Oops!

Today I took my morning shave with the Merkur "Bakelite" razor and a seventh-use SuperMax Titanium blade.

The "Bakelite" razor is one of the more aggressive razors in my regular stable. It has a pretty positive blade exposure (blade edge above the shave plane) as shown in the close-up photo below -- and actually the blade exposure may be more positive than illustrated because the safety bar is actually recessed a bit from the visible side of the baseplate, which means that the shave plane is a bit steeper than drawn and the blade edge more exposed.

The blade-bar span of this razor is generous as well -- again perhaps a bit more than it seems in the photo. [UPDATE: Also, the span from the blade edge to the top cap is exceptionally long as well due to the thick top cap required by the choice of plastic material rather than metal. The combination of long spans to the top cap and the safety bar magnify the effect of the positive blade exposure.] Meaning that this razor, all tolled, is a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Anyway, I got a close, flawless shave this morning until.... well, I was going for near perfection, and trying to clean up my mid neck. I was using almost horizontal strokes (that is, side to side, not vertical) to try and get very smooth on my neck. I didn't pull the skin sufficiently tight, and the blade nicked my mid neck, causing a significant weeper that required styptic pencil.

Ah well, despite my cockpit error, the shave was pretty good nonetheless.

Tomorrow I'm using another relatively aggressive razor from my stable, the Rimei RM2003 -- one of the best values in double-edge shaving. I'm interested in comparing the aggressiveness and quality of shave to the "Bakelite" razor.


Compared to my shave yesterday with the Gillette Slim Adjustable, this one was more aggressive, more risky owing to the greater blade exposure and the longer blade-bar span.

Stay tuned for the comparison to the Rimei RM2003.

Happy shaving!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fresh Perspective on My Gillette Slim Adjustable

My vintage 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable razor is an interesting instrument. I have recently come to fully appreciate it, and have given it a place in my regular stable of daily-use razors.

The Slim set to it's mildest adjustment. Note the positive blade
exposure at A. The blade-bar gap is the distance from A to B.

It is interesting because no matter what the setting from 1 (extremely mild) to 9 (pretty damned aggressive), the blade exposure is always positive. (For those who haven't read most of my articles, a positive blade exposure means that the blade edge is above the shave plane, which is formed by the top cap and safety bar.) At a setting of one, the positive blade exposure is small -- as is the blade-bar span. The the opposite extreme, the positive blade exposure is greater, and the blade-bar span is much greater as well.

On its max-aggressive setting, the blade exposure is more positive
and the blade-bar span is much greater. Handle with care!

As I've come to understand this razor, I now use it at settings of 1 or 2. This allows me to take advantage of the more aggressive aspect of its milder settings, which is the slightly positive blade exposure, which helps to get a close shave with little risk -- as long as I maintain very light pressure of razor against face.

The aggressiveness of the positive blade exposure at these mild settings is mitigated by the small blade-bar span.

The result is that I can get a low-risk shave, but one that is reasonably close without doing too many extra razor strokes. I got a very nice shave this morning with the Slim and a SuperMax Titanium blade.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Keeping Up One's Enthusiasm for Shaving

What keeps one's interest high in shaving?

Actually, I think it's similar to what keeps one's interest in a movie, TV show or novel. A good story writer will have the characters experience a challenge, set back or other difficult situation fairly regularly, which keeps the audience wondering how this latest challenge will be resolved.

It's the whole cliff-hanger concept. The hero or heroine is trapped in a dire circumstance as the episode ends. This open issue, this unanswered question is what keeps them coming back to the next episode with interest and enthusiasm.

So what about shaving?

From personal experience, when I had reduced my daily shave to the simple methodology of one razor (the Merkur 33C), whatever blade was up in the rotation, and one of my three shaving soaps, the outcome was certain, there was no challenge -- no unanswered question, and, as a result, the process became (yawn) a bore.

However, when I reintroduced a variety of razors -- many of which brought a bit higher level of risk and reward -- the challenge was back. With that came the daily question: how well will today's shave turn out?

That question brought anticipation and enthusiasm. It was that unanswered question that could only be addressed with, well, let's find out. That small question brought all the fun back just like at the beginning.

Happy shaving in the new year!