Monday, February 27, 2017

How to Open a Parker Shavette to Change Blades

A new shavette, which is a barber's straight razor that uses replaceable half-DE blades, can be difficult to open to insert a blade -- in particular the design as shown here and especially when the shavette is new and also especially when one doesn't really know how to do it.

The Parker-brand shavettes that I'm talking about today have a blade that acts similarly to the pieces of bread in a sandwich, enclosing the sharp edge between the blade sides.

This is how the shavette looks when opened. My names
for its parts are (for the purposes of this article), from left
to right, the clasp, the top blade (no sharp edge),
the bottom blade (with pins, no sharp edge), and the
scales. The removable half-DE blade will be referred
to as the edge. The shank is the part you hold when shaving
and lies between the pivot of the scales and the pivot 
of the clasp. The curved indentation in the top blade is
key to easy opening of the razor for removal and
insertion of the edge.
When brand new, these split-blade shavettes can be difficult to open for edge insertion. The challenge is that once the clasp is opened, which will permit the blade halves to be separated, it's difficult to pry the halves apart far enough to lift the top half over the pins of the bottom half -- that is, unless you know how.

Some new users have remarked in reviews about the difficulty of opening the razor for blade insertion/removal. At least one reviewer has suggested the use of prying tools. This is NOT necessary and not recommended.

To open the razor, obviously you should pivot the scales so they are in line with and opposed to the blade assembly.

Then open the clasp to a 90-degree angle to the blade. This will make it possible to separate the upper- and lower-blade halves.

Next, hold the shank of the blade in one hand, ready to fan the two blade halves apart like one would fan a hand of playing cards. Then the trick is to simply press the tip of the thumb of your free hand (the one not holding the razor shank) into the indentation at the point of the blade. Your thumb tip acts like a wedge to separate the blade halves enough that the top half rises above the pins of the bottom blade, thus allowing your hand holding the shank to fan apart the two blade halves.

From there it's easy to insert a fresh edge (half-DE blade), and close up the razor for shaving.

That's it.

Garage Sale Continues -- Make Me an Offer

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my garage-sale razors, and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch.

But if you think my prices are out of line, send me an email, make me an offer! Let's see if we can find a point of win-win.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Brush Care: Rinsing, Storing, Rotating

Four Questions of Brush Care

The main questions of brush care are the following:

  • Should you rinse your brush after shaving, or not?
  • Should you store your brush bristles up or down?
  • Should you shake out and dry your brushes as much as possible
  • Should you rotate brushes?

In my opinion, the answer to all these questions is, it depends. Let's look further into these questions, shall we?

Brush-Construction Issues

Shaving brushes are either of natural or synthetic bristle. Both fibers are going to be relatively tough and resilient with respect to water. Yet natural bristle, deprived of the oils provided by their host in their natural state, may suffer over time, possibly becoming brittle -- although they may be more likely to develop split ends, which might actually improve the brush, as is the case with boar-bristle brushes as they are broken in during the first few weeks of use.

Then there is the issue of the adhesive that binds the knot (the collection of bristles) together and holds the knot in the handle. Sometimes these adhesives tend to weaken with prolonged exposure to water.

Also the handle material may be less than ideal such as with wooden handles. Wood, when repeatedly subjected to cycles of wetting and drying can develop dry rot. Plastic, of course, will be pretty much invincible in the face of most threats.

Store Up or Down?

Hanging a brush to dry with bristles down is a no-brainer optimal choice. However, is that required?

Not necessarily. If your post-shave brush care includes rinsing well, shaking as much water from the brush as possible, and perhaps even swiping the damp brush on a dry towel to remove as much water as possible, then setting the brush on its handle bottom and letting it dry bristles up poses little threat to the longevity of the brush life.

Of course, if you store the brush standing on its bristles, then they are likely to take on a "set," a shape that deviates from the original fan shape of a brush in good condition.

In my opinion, which is based on experience, there is little risk to hanging a brush to dry irrespective of whether you rinse and remove moisture or not. If you dry bristles up, then more fastidious rinsing and drying may certainly have long-term benefits.

To Rinse or Not to Rinse: That Is the Question

For many months I have not rinsed my humble Tweezerman badger brush (the same brush, apparently, as the economy Escali brand). I have noticed no degradation of the brush at all. In fact, for this low-end badger brush in particular, the accumulated soap near the handle has given it more backbone, which has improved it a bit.

However, there is a case to be made for rinsing. The reasons might be several.

First of all, it's a conservative approach. Take care of your tools is the general maxim. You would never store a paint brush without first cleaning it, though a soapy shave brush isn't quite the same thing as an unwashed paint brush, is it? Okay, maybe that is NOT the most air-tight argument for rinsing a brush, but there are other reasons to do so. 

As suggested above in the preceding section, how you store your brush should influence post-shave brush care. Specifically, if you store the brush with bristles skyward, then thorough rinsing and drying as much as is reasonable is probably the way to go. This will help to preserve the adhesive in the brush as well as any non-plastic materials in the handle.

Turning to sensory factors, if you use different shave soaps or creams, you might not want to commingle the fragrances from shave to shave. So if you tend to use the same brush every day, but use it with shave lubricants of diverging aromas, then, clearly, rinsing of the brush would be a logical behavior.

Rotating Brushes

If you have more than one brush and enjoy experiencing the subtle difference of one to another, then there's no reason not to rotate brush use.

Another reason for multiple-brush use brings us back to using soaps and creams of varying bouquets. If you fall into the don't-need-to-rinse-my-brush-after-shaving camp, but do like to vary shave soaps, then you might then dedicate one brush to each of the soaps/creams in your rotation. If you do this, then it also might be a good idea to have a hanging stand for each brush for drying, or at least dry each brush bristles down (hanging) over night on your solitary stand before storing the brush bristles up or lying on its side.

My Personal Choice

For a long time now, I've neither rinsed nor dried my brush, and simply let it hang dry from one shave to the next. I've had no problem with the brush, no indication of any potential developing problems either. However, I've recently begun to acquire shave soaps of widely varying olfactory characteristics. So to fully enjoy the unique bouquet of each, I have just started going back to a daily rinse and dry of my brush.

Garage Sale Continues -- Make Me an Offer

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my garage-sale razors, and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch and the best value is probably the Merkur 37C slant, which I've only priced at a give-away price because of its history, not its current condition or its shave quality.

But if you think my prices are out of line, send me an email, make me an offer! Let's see if we can find a point of win-win.

Happy shaving!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Straights, Adjustables, Exfoliation and Layers of a Shave

Provoking Thought

A comment on yesterday's article by Thad Launderville got me to thinking....

I had not considered the exfoliating effect of cumulative close shaves -- especially when the depth of the exfoliation is not limited by the safety bar of a mild DE razor.

In fact, I've generally not given much thought to exfoliation at all. Oh, I knew the reality that scraping (even gently) a sharp blade across one's skin would remove dead skin cells of the upper layer of the epidermis. This is unquestionably true.

I also knew that much talk of exfoliation by things like a shaving brush was closer to nonsense than bedrock fact. Certainly any exfoliation of dead skin cells by a wet shaving brush is going to the removal of those that were already hanging on by a thread -- so to speak.

Premature Retirement of the Straight?

However, Thad got me to thinking that maybe I'd given up on my barbers' straight razor, the Parker SRX, a bit prematurely. A more appropriate reaction to yesterday's shave might be to continue to use the straight, but not every day. My inexpert use of the straight -- even for just a first pass of a shave -- may remove too much of the top layer of skin cells, which may leave my skin overly susceptible to injury on subsequent passes with any razor and on subsequent shaves in the next day or two.

Rather than letting my shavette gather dust from disuse, a better approach might be to use it more judiciously. After all, do most guys shave daily with a straight razor? My guess is no. Did men shave every day with a straight back in the day, when a straight razor was their only option? Again my guess is no. And to Thad's point, the straight razor -- especially one equipped with a sharp, new disposable blade -- may exfoliate to a degree that the skin loses too much of its protective layer of dead skin cells.

This is Why We Buy Adjustables

So today I took out my Parker Variant, dialed it down to a mild setting and got a close, comfortable shave despite no overreaching, no baby-bottom-smooth aspirations (though, actually, the shave turned out very close nonetheless). A key aspect of today's shave was its lack of irritation, which is the underlying point of this article. Using the adjustability of my favorite shaving instrument combined with the discretion of good judgement, I shaved hair but not many layers of skin cells.

Tomorrow I'll use the Variant again either on the same mild setting, or, depending on my mood, I may dial it up a bit for those sections of beard that I feel are ready for a bit more attack -- but maybe not. After all, today's shave was totally-adequately close, and really not irritating.

In a few day's I'll return to the straight to keep developing my skills including a lighter touch so that I do better shaving and less extreme exfoliation. That is likely to be my plan for the near future at minimum: first pass with the shavette once or twice per week. The rest of the time, take full advantage of the comfort and adjustablity of the Parker Variant.

Garage Sale Continues -- Make Me an Offer

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my garage-sale razors, and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch and the best value is probably the Merkur 37C slant, which I've only priced at a give-away price because of its history, not its current condition or its shave quality.

But if you think my prices are out of line, send me an email, make me an offer! Let's see if we can find a point of win-win.

Happy shaving!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Long Learning Curve with the Straight Razor

Tiring of the Straight Experiment

The straight-razor experiment is getting old. I shaved today using a new Shark brand half DE blade for my first pass and nipped myself several times. Maybe I should have corked the blade just to tone it down a bit. After yesterday's shave, today was something of a disappointment to say the least.

I have to admit that I miss the simplicity and bloodless shaves of my favorite DE razors.

The learning curve is much longer and steeper than I thought -- but I guess I really didn't  give it much thought.

I think that for a few days I'm going to give this experiment a rest -- along with  my face. Back to DE shaving tomorrow.

Gently-Used Razors Available

My "garage sale" of razors I no longer need is still going. Check out the available selection here. Email with questions if desired.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Observations on Straight Technique

Gently-Used Razors Available

My "garage sale" of razors I no longer need is still going. Check out the available selection here. Email with questions if desired.

Straight-Technique Talk

I'm no expert on using a disposable-blade barbers' straight razor (a.k.a. shavette), but here are a few things I've learned:
    By the way, this barber's grip is about what I use: three fingers
    on the blade side of the scales, just the pinky on the tang.
  • When initially applying razor to one's face to begin a stroke or stroke sequence, wherever possible apply the blade flat against the skin. Then once on the skin, tip the spine of the blade up and away from the skin to find your shaving angle. This avoids a hard landing with edge against skin causing damage.
  • I think I know why pros use reciprocating cuts (similar to buffing -- NOT SAWING!) as they shave a (large or small) facet of the beard. It's actually the same reason I tend to use reciprocating strokes with my DE razors: the return (non-cutting) stroke tends to spread moisture and soap back for the next forward (shaving) stroke. When I don't do this with my shavette, my blade tends to stick a bit as I try to shave -- even when mid-shave I've applied new, damp lather to a given area.
  • Keep the angle between blade and skin very small. This allows a slicing cut of the whisker while minimizing the chances that one makes a slicing cut of the skin. While following this advice I've been able to make a first pass on my lower neck largely against the grain without any damage or irritation to the skin whatsoever. 
  • All the advice about stretching the skin is right on target. The stretch doesn't have to be extreme, however. Just don't let the skin surface become loose; keep it tight and firm.

This Morning's Shave

I took a first pass with the Parker SRX straight, and then cleaned things up with a full second pass using my Parker Variant. These are a fun 1-2 combination that offers both challenge and a good shave.
The Parker SRX barber's razor.

My first pass (with the SRX) was with the grain on my cheeks, under jaw, upper neck and upper lip. I went across the grain (or nearly so) on my lower lip, and fully cross grain on my chin. On my lower neck I went pretty much against the grain though not perfectly so. This was a fourth shave on a half-Derby-Extra blade, which was on its last legs and went into the recycle can after the shave.
The Parker Variant adjustable DE razor.

The second (final) pass (with the Variant and a sixth-use Shark blade) was pretty much against the grain except on my upper lip, which was cross grain. I used a low setting of about 2-1/2 on the Variant, which was quite adequate to finish what was a comfortable and completely-close-enough shave.

Happy shaving!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Razor "Garage" Sale! Going... Going...

My promised "garage" sale continues for razors that I really don't need or use much anymore. Better for them to have a good home rather than sit in a closet. Razors are in as-new condition unless noted, but will not come with original packaging unless noted. All prices include the cost of packaging and mailing within the USA.

If you have an interest in a particular razor but want more info about condition or any other detail, email for more information and photos as appropriate.

Note: I take meticulous care of my razors. I don't drop them, and fastidiously clean and dry them after each use. If you see one you like, email me at First come, first served, and winners will be determined by time stamp on the email. Payment by PayPal or credit card.

1965 Gillette Travel Tech Razor, Unused Vintage Blade & Zippered Gold Vinyl Travel Case

In very good condition. Plated Zamak top cap, which is consistent with all Techs of this era. The usual Tech baseplate.

Shaves just like any post-WW-II Tech.
Razor head will accept any standard handle.

Both top cap and baseplate plated, and the plating is fully intact and in good shape.

Short stainless-steel handle (20 g handle weight) is a surprisingly good shaver. This handle is ultra compact, but of a good weight for its size. So because the threads on this razor are standard, the razor head in this set can be swapped for your favorite three-piece-razor's head, and you can use that for traveling if you choose.

The plastic case is a little stiff from age but has no visible defects. Great item for collectors or travelers. The last photo shows the case in relation to a pair of reading glasses, which gives you an idea of how compact a package this travel set is.

My price: $18.99
$24 includes packaging & shipping.

Dorco Prime TTO

A modern version of a Gillette Superspeed. Weighing in at 55g (1.9 oz) this has the heft, grip and shave of a classic razor. With a moderate shave character, it also comes with a tough, lined travel/storage case. Like new.

Handle size: 3-1/8" long, 7/16" dia.

My price: $10.99
 $14 includes shipping & packaging

Lord LP1822L (w/ L.6 Razor Head)

This razor comes with the 4" aluminum handle and weighs in at 44 g (1.6 oz). A mild shaver which is similar to but more aggressive than the Merkur 33 due to the unique cross-section shape of the L.6 safety bar, which gives a slightly larger span between the bar and blade edge.

Like new. Compare at $14, then add shipping.

My price: $6.99
$9 includes shipping & packaging

Sold! Merkur 33C Classic DE: 

This one has a mild shave character and many like to pair it with a sharp blade for best results. Excellent for DE beginners, those with sensitive skin, and those with lots of contours and complicated terrain. Weight: 56g (2.0 oz). Classic handle size: 3" long, 3/8" dia.
Shipped in an un-padded blue and clear Rimei case.
This one is in almost-new condition. On the top cap near the blade-tab sides are two small areas where the mirror finish is slightly fogged. This is only a most subtle cosmetic issue; the protective chrome finish is completely intact.
Compare at $25 or more new, then add shipping.
My price: $15.99
 $19 includes shipping & packaging  Sold!

Sold! Merkur 15C Open Comb

A classic three-piece razor with mild shaving character but due to the open-comb baseplate has the ability to shave hair of any length. Great for removing beards/mustaches, trimming the edges of hairlines such as beards or the back of the neck, or even for every day shaves. Classic handle length of 3" and 3/8" diameter. Ships in a blue-and-clear-plastic Rimei case.  
Like-new condition.
My price: $10.99
$14 includes packing & shipping.   Sold!

Sold! C.1948 Gold-Toned Gillette Tech Razor - Very Good Condition

This gold-toned Gillette Tech was manufactured between 1946 and 1950, and we know this by the absence of date codes and the shape of the lather slots in the baseplate.
  o The handle looks almost like new.
  o The baseplate is also in very good condition.
  o The top cap has all its plating/coating intact and the Gillette logo is clearly visible. There are a few patches with slight lightening of the gold-toned coating and minor blemishes (see photos).
 Gillette Tech: My price: $18.99 includes packaging & shipping.

SOLD! Heavy-Weight Parker SRX All-Stainless-Steel Barber Razor

Like new in original box. High-gloss stainless-steel construction features heavy weight for those who like a heavy razor and would like a barber razor with the mass similar to a traditional straight without needing the difficult, expensive, and time-consuming honing and stropping. 
Use this to get a low-investment start in straight-razor shaving or as a travel straight.
Takes recyclable, replaceable half-DE blades mounted in the fan-and-clasp design, which many find easier to use.
Like-new condition.
Compare at $25 plus shipping.
My price: $12.99
$17 includes packing & shipping.

SOLD! Merkur 030 Bakelite Three-Piece

Like new. Used only a handful of times to test the shave. Shaving character is a deceivingly comfortable, non-irritating shave despite moderate to slightly aggressive capability -- meaning don't get lulled into complacency. Very light weight. Many prize this as a travel razor because of its lightness and shaving character. Can provide a close shave. Comes with original box, plastic case, and the full, unused package of Merkur blades.
My price $16 including shipping/packaging   SOLD!

SOLD! Merkur 37C Slant
If you've ever want to try the classic slant at a bargain price, this is your opportunity. Though it has no visible flaws, the razor baseplate was removed from the handle and re-fitted (it's a long story), now being well secured with epoxy. (If I didn't tell you, you wouldn't know.) It shaves like it did when it was new, but it has in fact been repaired. Weight: 75g (2.6 oz). 
Compare at $39 or more, then add shipping.
My price $17 including shipping/packaging   SOLD!

SOLD! Weishi 9306-F TTO

Weighing 57g (2.0 oz), this is a mild shaver, perfect for beginners, light beards, or those special sensitive areas. Like new and with its original plastic travel/storage case. Handle length: 3-1/8".
My price $19 including shipping/packaging SOLD!

SOLD! Gillette Tech Razor, Gold Toned, c 1948  

In very good shape, this razor shows only a little wear along the safety bars and the edges of the top cap and the ball end of the handle -- but not that much wear. (The photo exaggerates the paleness of the wear.) The Gillette emblem on the top cap is clearly visible. In all a fine specimen. This one is not a give away, but worth every bit of my price. Shipped in a blue-and-clear-plastic Weishi case as shown. Weight: 61g (2.2 oz). Handle: 3"  SOLD!
My price $19 including shipping/packaging 

SOLD!  Maggard MR3B (Maggard v1 razor head)

Like new. Buy this razor for the handle, which is no longer in production. The handle alone weighs 65 g (2.3 oz), is a classic 3" in length, but is 5/8" in diameter! The bottom cap of the handle screws off and you can fill the hollow handle with bee-bees or other weighty material to add even more heft if you like. Material looks to be chromed steel with a nicely knurled black accent band in the central part of the handle.
SOLD! My price $19 including shipping/packaging

If any of these strike your fancy, make your claim by email (, then we'll work out payment via PayPal or credit card, you ensure I have the correct mailing address, then I deliver the parcel to the post office.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Straight Notes

Clean First Pass

I took nearly a full first pass with the shavette this morning, with not a single new nick or cut. I used both my right and left hands for the shave. Ironically, I did a second pass with a double edge (DE), and actually did nick myself at the jawline when shaving with my left (non-dominant) hand.
A seller's photo of my Parker SRX barbers' straight razor, with
disposable half-DE razor blades.

Rethinking the Angles

I should probably update my thoughts on shaving angles when using a straight or shavette. I wrote a couple of days ago, based on recommendations of others, that the straight can tolerate a larger angle between blade and skin -- as much as 45 degrees. I now question that advice. It's probably a good idea in general to keep the blade-skin angle for both shavettes and classic straights at 30 degrees or less.

After all, most DEs are designed to have the blade at about a 30-degree angle, which may be a bit too much of a scraping angle for some skin. Hence the justification for trying the barbers' razor, which may cut sweetest when closer to 20 degrees between blade and skin.

Weight and Grip

Some users or prospective users of the Parker SRX might be concerned about the weight of the scales making it difficult to maintain the desired acute angle between blade and skin. Dry hands definitely helps in this effort. I have also found that if I open the angle between the razor head and the scales to about 135 degrees (by keeping just my little finger on the tang and my other three fingers on the blade side of the scales), there's no effort at all to control the razor angle.

Snapping Blades

If you have a  shavette that takes half-DE blades, a common recommendation is, instead of buying half-DE blades, to bend a whole DE blade in half, while still in its wrapper, until it snaps in half. This works okay, but at the point of breakage, the blade has a curve to it, which if put in the razor with the curve upward can make it difficult to seat the blade properly. It's not a big deal, but the problem goes away entirely if you take some old scissors and cut the blades in half instead of snapping them.

Happy shaving!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Bad Ass or Dumb Ass?

Today was my second full shave with the barber's straight razor, the SRX shavette from Parker.

Bad Ass versus Dumb Ass

Last night I was ruminating about the use of a straight razor rather than the many safety-razor options. Some guys think that shaving with a straight is very bad ass, very cool. Yet after watching experienced barbers use a straight in their trade, everything about the skill suggests artistry, not macho.

Come to think of it, bad asses often don't shave at all!
I watched the way many barbers hold their razor, and it is a delicate and sensitive grip. The strokes, too, are precise and gentle.

Bad ass suggests power, lack of respect for authority, general distain for many conventions, boldness. I see very little commonality between the expert use of a straight razor and anything bad ass. Use of a straight requires delicacy, care, respect for the capabilities of the razor, and caution. Shaving with a hunting knife may be bad ass; shaving with a straight razor requires sensitivity. In fact, I now realize that those who think straight-razor shaving is bad ass may be ignorant of these realities. To use a harsh term, they might be nearing the category of dumb ass.

Today's Straight Shave

And speaking of dumb asses, consider me. It is day two of the disposable-blade straight-razor experiment. Clearly in the short run there is no benefit to using the straight. I get a much closer, much safer shave using my double-edge (DE) razors. I have my moments when I think I must be a total dumb ass for parting with my Parker Variant DE for even a single morning.
People who think straight-razor shaving is
bad ass?  This writer?

However, along with that bad news, there is good news. More details on the bad news includes plenty of nicks and minor cuts. The styptic pencil came in handy again today. The closeness of today's shave may be just a little better than I used to get using my cartridge razors in a single pass, when I knew nothing about how to get a good shave. My face looks like I had a physical fight with an alley cat. That's the bad news.

The good news is that I'm getting noticeably better with the razor. The wounds are from the occasional mistake, but the razor feels more comfortable in either hand. I'm finding and maintaining the correct angle more easily. I've shaved against the grain in areas of my face including the most delicate lower-neck area, and have had zero problems with that. (Most of my wounds are high on the cheeks and in the lip and chin areas. It's interesting that my high-cheek wounds are all done with my dominant hand -- perhaps overconfidence is nipping me.)

I have some minor razor burn high on my cheeks, but elsewhere my skin feels pretty good if one ignores the nicks and other similar insults. I see potential here for a reasonably close and irritation-free shave when I perfect my skills.

More to come.

Happy shaving!

Friday, February 17, 2017

Day One with the No-Safety Razor

First of all, the idea of practicing with a straight razor (or facsimile thereof) on a balloon turned out to be kind of a joke. It's easy to shave a balloon. I tried this yesterday when the razor arrived.
The Parker SRX: a disposable-blade straight razor.

I also lightly scraped my face with the razor minus the blade. Somewhat useful, perhaps, for developing some of the required muscle memory, but not entirely like shaving with an actual blade.

But true to my nature (impetuous, impatient), I did take a quick lather late yesterday afternoon and drew the razor (with blade this time) across my slight late-afternoon stubble just to give it a go.

My results were encouraging, but hardly a raging success. The process isn't too difficult on the planes of the cheeks, but gets more interesting as one moves to the less planar geography. It's also easy for the neophyte to make a mistake (duh!) -- even in the easy areas. My initial try yielded a couple of minor nicks and a weeper or two, but nothing of consequence -- but I didn't do a whole shave either.

After that, I went back to youtube and watched some more pro videos. I noticed when they tended to use the tip versus the middle versus the heel of the blade. I also notice the subtle oblique strokes that they use in which the blade edge is not quite perpendicular to the direction of the stroke.
To load or remove a blade the Parker SRX requires that one uses
a finger nail to separate the halves of the razor head, lift one half over
the brass pins and slide them apart as shown. This is a little tricky
at first but after a few tries started to become easier.

This morning I dove into my first full shave even before I had my first cup of coffee. I did a Noxema (classic) face wash. Then more Noxema and water left on underneath an applied warm wash cloth. Then Arko face lathered.

Lather drying during the shave is a challenge. At least one of the pros emphasized in his video that the actual shave should go quickly because of this problem. I assume that new amateurs like me need to re-lather a few times, which I did.

I did one-and-a-half passes -- all with grain for the most part. From there I called it a day: no follow up with a DE.

In all, my first shave was pretty crappy, to be honest, but that's about what I expected. It wasn't all that close and there were a few nicks that required some styptic. A highlight was my upper lip, which was shaved in a single pass about as closely as I normally get with a DE shave. In all, though, I escaped not much worse for wear.

It was fun, and not scary; it's not like I'm going to slice a vein or anything. I noticed that from yesterday's initial, tentative attempt to today's full shave my skill showed noticeable improvement. I'm going to continue to use this razor, though likely not doing a full shave every day. I will probably use it for some strokes every day to keep my skills current and improving.

Now, about the razor and its use: dry hands are important -- both the one holding the razor and the free hand that is manipulating the skin to get smooth, flatter surfaces. Also, like the pros, I chose to wipe used lather on a towel rather than rinsing with water, a practice more compatible with the concept of dry hands and razor.

Though I will likely use a blade for more than one shave, I can't imagine just leaving the blade in the razor between shaves. That practice seems to encourage too much water to linger on the gear, which encourages rust and a dull blade. So I removed the blade and dried both it and the razor, and stored the razor open and separate from the blade.

The razor itself is hefty; it's no light weight. The design of the razor head, with its pivoting split,is a good design for amateur home shavers because it allows us to use half-DE blades. If I were a pro and getting paid for my labors, I would use one of the slide-in designs because they seem quicker and easier despite their likely higher cost of razor and blades.

The razor is advertised as being stainless steel, but I don't know about that; it looks like chromed steel to me, which is different. This is a common false claim by both razor sellers and reviewers alike, who simply may not know the difference. Update: It actually is stainless. However, I didn't really care about that; at the time I ordered the razor I knew that if it were really stainless steel, it would likely be more expensive, which is was. Anyway, the razor is obviously protected to some degree against the ravages of water, and because it's certainly made of steel (of some kind) it's tough unlike those with aluminium or plastic scales. I will simply take good daily care of it by cleaning and drying, and it should last a good, long time.

That's it for now. Happy shaving!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Preparing for My New Barber Straight

Since being talked out of acquiring and shaving with a straight in the mid 1970s, I never believed that I'd be doing what I'm doing.

I ordered a barber-style straight razor that uses disposable half-DE blades.
The Parker SRX comes with five ready-to-use blades, but any
favorite DE blade can be cut or snapped in half and used.

I had such a good experience with the customer service from, that I ordered the Parker SRX barber's razor, which should arrive today.

I've been watching shaving videos, and I find the pro demos the most instructive. In general, the pros tend to take shorter strokes and frequently use only the half-inch near the point of the razor -- there are exceptions, of course. Amateurs tend to use the middle of the edge and make a wider cut -- and again, there are certainly exceptions.

Another difference is that amateurs tend to rinse the lather and stubble off the razor; pros tend to wipe the razor on a dry towel.

I've even started using my left (non-dominant) hand more during my DE shaves to develop a little more hand-eye-coordination. I also intend to do practice strokes against my face without a blade in the razor to create muscle memory and thereby build better proficiency. I even went as far as buying a package of balloons, which I intend to inflate, lather up, and shave with a blade in my razor. After all, it's better to pop a balloon than the cut my handsome mug.

Why a straight, you ask? I am interested to see if the shave can be any better -- eventually, that is. Also, a benefit of a non-safety razor is that the user can -- for better or worse -- totally control the angle of the blade against skin. By using a more acute (smaller) angle between blade and skin, the shave should, in concept anyway, be less scraping and thereby less irritating.

There's also the much-proffered-by-barbers idea that when the skin is stretched, the hairs stand up straighter and can be cut more closely even when only shaving with the grain. I believe this to some degree but I'm not swallowing it whole. My own experiments, both just by running my hand over my unshaved face and when using my DE, suggest that, yes, stretching the skin does help the hair be more available for the blade, but still is unlikely to shave as close as shaving against grain.

More to come. Happy shaving! (And dump Trump -- end the corruption, conflicts of interest and big-business influence before any real harm is done.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Detroit Iron, Detroit Style

If someone mentions Detroit Iron, Detroit Style, images of Camaros, Mustangs, or Corvettes might spring to  mind.

But today as I write of Detroit Iron, Detroit Style, I'm talking about grooming and grooming products like double-edge (DE), straight, and barbers' razors as well as other grooming products.

The interior of the Detroit Grooming Barber Shop
as viewed from near the front door.
The Detroit Grooming Barber Shop is in Ferndale, Michigan: a community just north of Detroit on the main street of Detroit, Woodward Avenue. Woodward Avenue, also known as M1, runs from near the river front in downtown Detroit to Pontiac, Michigan, which is about 20 miles to the north. In between is a continuous series of communities including Ferndale.

Some of Detroit Grooming Company's products on display.
The Detroit Grooming Barber Shop is a cool place where you can get a cut and a shave, but you can also peruse various grooming supplies including their own line of barbers' razors (replaceable blades), straight razors, and DE razors.

Their own line of locally-designed razors includes several that are both very unique and manufactured in the USA as well. The most noteworthy is their ultra-heavyweight, stainless-steel DE razor weighing in at about 220 grams (7.75 ounces). Aptly named The Alpha, this razor is available with either a smooth or knurled handle and is said to offer an aggressive shave character.

The Alpha razors from the Detroit Grooming Company.
For more information or to book an appointment for a cut or a shave, see their web site at

For more information about the products available, see their web site at

Happy shaving!

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Variant Adventure

Today's Kit

I continue to enjoy the use of my Parker Variant razor. Today's shave used my unpretentious Palmolive shave stick with four drops of glycerin added for richer lather, my equally-unpretentious and never-rinsed Tweezermans/Escali badger brush, a seventh-use Lord Platinum-Class blade, and the Variant.
My easy-to-love Parker Variant adjustable razor.
I did my typical patch shave (a.k.a. regional shave), which uses one main face lathering and on-skin, reciprocating, anti-raking strokes to re-spread lather and moisture over just-shaved areas for additional strokes. I took full advantage of the adjustable capabilities of the Variant, and changed up my usual routine a bit.

Regional Order

Today I started with the upper lip and a Variant setting of 3, shaving with grain, then a setting of 1 shaving against grain. I moved to my lower neck with a Variant setting of 3, using downward strokes (almost against grain), then horizontal strokes (also almost against grain), then diagonal-downward strokes (precisely against grain).

I kept the Variant set on 3 and did cross-grain strokes on my lower lip and chin, followed by careful against-grain strokes. Still using a setting of 3, I shaved under chin and upper neck under chin with against-grain strokes.

Then setting the Variant to 6 (5+1), I shaved the planes of my cheeks with against-grain strokes, then cross-grain strokes, then finally against-grain once again.
I keep my lather clean
and never rinse my brush
after shaves.

Discretion is the Better Part of Valor

All was going well by this time, and emboldened by my success to this point, I impetuously chose to keep the Variant set at 6 to do my sub-jaw line and remaining upper-neck areas. Using upward strokes (nearly against grain) followed by precisely-against-grain strokes I completed the main phase of the shave. On the right side this went well. On the left side I opened up about five small weepers (rats!). Adding some extra lather from under the razor (I don't rinse my razor during the shave -- there's no need to do so) and some moisture, I used J-hooking strokes on my upper neck and sub-jaw areas to go for about as smooth a shave as is possible.

Lesson learned here: a setting of 6 under my jaw line is too aggressive. Perhaps after the weepers are healed up a bit I will try a setting of 3 in this area, and maybe afterward dial up to 4 or 4.5 for clean up strokes.

In all, a good albeit imperfect shave. Maybe next time.... ;-)

Happy shaving!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Grandad's Parker Variant Initial Review: A Question of Emotional Balance

If you haven't guessed based on my announced up-coming shaving "garage" sale, I do like the Parker Variant razor (a lot). But describing it to you becomes a delicate balance of forbearance and effusion -- a risky balance like walking a tightrope or climbing a razor-thin ridge on your way to a snow-encrusted mountain peak.

My Variant razor by Parker.

USPS Delivers.... Disappointment

My Variant tale begins with a balancing act between impatience and excitement as well as expectation and anger. I placed my order with, and they shipped the Variant promptly (great!) via 1st-class USPS. Then I got the shipment-tracking info from the postal service and watched the sporadic progress of my new "baby," anticipating delivery on the USPS-predicted delivery date. Long story short, the USPS always delivers -- but too often they deliver disappointment. Watching their package-tracking progress is like watching your favorite football team get repeatedly hosed by bad refereeing (and we Detroit Lions fans know a lot about that one!).

The parcel arrives at a given transfer center and... sits. Then it's listed as shipped on to the next stop... but wait... hours later it's listed again as just shipping out to the next stop. AAARRRRGGGGHHHH! (What the Hell is going on?) Then it gets to the final transfer point and -- you guessed it -- it sits. It boggles my mind how the USPS predicts a delivery day thereby getting my expectations up (after all, they told me the predicted delivery day), and then that day comes and goes with no delivery. AAARRRGGGGHHHH!

Initial Concerns

So the razor arrives -- finally! As you might expect, I dove into the package as soon as possible and began my normal, careful safety inspection of the razor. I detect what seems to be a subtle, easily-overlooked misalignment of the blade edge to the safety bar. Hmmm. I double check. My excitement is taking a misstep off that mountain ridge and is in danger of sliding into the abyss of despair.

After all, if such a misalignment is real, it could result in harsh shaves -- or worse. So I called to discuss my concern and ended up talking to the head honcho -- not only for, but for, in effect, Parker USA. ( puts a business card in their shipments for convenient customer contact.) He was very forthcoming, very helpful, emphasized his company's focus on complete customer satisfaction. He shipped out a replacement razor that day including a mailer for the free-and-easy return of the questionable razor.

He explained that he and the Parker mother ship in India (my description, not his) were extremely focused on quality, complete customer satisfaction and getting the launch of this new razor as right as possible (and I believe him). He said that there have been a few issues and a learning curve, but they are leaving no stone unturned to get this product right, now and in the future.

So to return to the narrative: he shipped my replacement razor AND THE USPS DID IT AGAIN! AAARRRRGGGGHHHH! (Why can't the USPS under promise, leave some room for delay, lower customer expectations and then if they deliver the package sooner, the customer is delighted? There is something seriously wrong with the USPS management -- just my opinion.)

Replacement Razor Arrives

Okay, the razor finally arrives and I dive in again. But, wait a minute.... this one seems to have the same alignment issue based on eyeball inspection. Now I'm really concerned and get back on the phone to, who are once again super supportive, open, forthright and reassuring. Seriously.

Based on that conversation, I decide to give my replacement Variant a cautious trial shave. I actually put in a blade that I don't like very much, a Derby Extra that I'd had lying around forever. (I don't know exactly why I chose that blade; perhaps it had something to do with Mantic59 saying it worked well for him in his Merkur Progress.)


I begin my shave... "hey, this is NOT irritating," I'm thinking. So I begin the process of dialing up the aggression of the razor setting (according to the needs and difficulty of each region of my face) as I patch-shave my way through the entire process.

After that first shave, at the risk of overstating and losing a balanced perspective, my initial response was that the clouds parted, the sun shone, and the angels wept. Prior to that moment, my expectations were so low and my concerns so high that I probably felt just a touch more relief and joy than one should, when considering a razor and a shave. But the truth is that I actually did feel that I had just experienced the closest, most comfortable shave I've ever had.

My usual problem areas low on my neck and up under my jaw line weren't so much of a problem. I shaved them closer and more comfortably that I had come to expect was possible.

So the bottom line on that maiden shave was, alignment problem, what alignment problem? 

Since then I've continued to experiment with the razor, and I find that the only problem I have is that it inspires such confidence that I've been using pretty aggressive settings to push the performance envelope, and as a result I occasionally over-reach what my skin and beard can take. So I'm still learning the optimal balance between closeness and safety.

No Comparisons?

The comparison between this razor and my Gillette Slim is no comparison. The Variant offers a smoother shave with less risk of irritation and wounds. The comparison between this razor and my non-adjustables is, once again, no comparison. The smoothness and flexibility of the Variant makes me less inclined to use any of my non-adjustables for a shave.

My venerable Gillette Slim Adjustable really doesn't compare
well with the Parker Variant IMHO. I consider using the Slim
and then think, no, I'd rather use the Variant.
To return to the subject of balance, however, it's important to keep in mind that this is still a razor guiding sharp steel across delicate tissue. It will bite if you are careless or imprudent. It will irritate your skin if you press too hard or stroke too many times. There's no magic, but I do believe that it's a step above most other razors, despite the seeming visual-inspection mis-alignment. There obviously must be some compensating design aspects that render this visual perception irrelevant when actually shaving.

And speaking of imperfections, I had further communication with, giving them my initial feedback after a couple of shaves. They remain communicative, focused on getting the razors right and delivering total customer satisfaction. After some internal inquiries they acknowledged that there is a slight visual asymmetry in the razor head, but which doesn't affect the shave (and I fully agree). They are looking into that to see what if anything should be done about that in the future. They continue to examine all areas of design and production to evolve their process to deliver the best product possible as much as possible.


For now, as I told them, I'd say that even without further tweaks to the razor head, they have a winner. The market seems to agree, and as a result, availability has been limited. Parker is working hard to produce more high-quality Variant razors to meet the demand, and more should be available now (at least for a while) because I've timed the publication of this review with renewed razor availability.

To summarize my perspective, this instrument can pull the weight of many other options at hand. In other words, I have a bunch of razors that, thanks to the Variant, I no longer need. So to maintain utilitarian balance in my razor inventory, I will be distributing many of my current DEs to others in my "razor garage sale."

Unlike Mantic59 at, I never before had a razor with which I would part only when pried from my cold, dead fingers. But I believe that now I do.

Parker Variant Summary:

  • Head composition: Zamak plated with satin chrome
  • Handle composition: Brass plated with satin chrome
  • Weight with blade: 3.92 oz, 111 grams
  • Balance in hand: No noticeable issues
  • Handle length: 3-1/2 inches, 88.9 mm
  • Handle diameter: 1/2 inch, 12.7 mm
  • Handle grip: Excellent with high-quality knurling
  • Razor length, overall: 4 inches, 101.6 mm (at its most mild, most compact adjustment)
  • Finish: Satin chrome
  • Blade seating: Uniform blade reveal, without needing manual adjustment (blade inserted with razor inverted)
  • Adjustability: Continuous from 1 to 5+ (actually can go to, in effect, approx. 11)
  • Adjustment calibration: Consistent from one blade insertion to another
  • General shave quality: Superior

*By the way, I have received NO compensation of any kind from Parker or -- unless, of course, you count the good customer service that came with my full-price purchase of the Parker Variant razor.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Why Never a Progress?

Merkur Progress

Despite some favorable reviews -- most notably from Mantic59, a.k.a. the Sharpologist -- I was never motivated to get a Merkur brand Progress razor.

The reason for this is simple. I've used razors with chromed handles -- usually fluted -- and find them occasionally disturbingly slippery during shaves. So the many times that I've considered the Progress and its customized variations, I always eyeball that shiny chromed handle and say, no thanks; too much money, too risky a grip.

The other common objections: the plastic knob, the uncertain adjustment calibration, occasional blade-alignment complaints, etc., they don't even register in my awareness. I can't get past the potential slipperiness of the handle.

Zamak vs Pot Metal

The zinc alloy, Zamak, is often mis-identified as pot metal. This irritates the beejeebers out of me. Zamak is NOT pot metal. Zamak is a high-quality alloy that casts very well. Pot metal is random bits of metal that easily melt to be re-used, re-cast. There is a huge difference between the two.

Zamak is generally strong, although it has its weaknesses. It corrodes easily in the presence of water, which is why Zamak is always plated with a protective coating, which should be carefully preserved. Another weakness of Zamak is that when casting a brass center post into a Zamak top cap, if there is a small bubble in the casting where the post joins with the top cap, it will be a weak spot that may fracture if dropped or otherwise mishandled.

Zamak casts much more precisely than brass, which is why it is used in so many DE razors.

Review of Parker Variant Razor Coming Soon

My review of the Parker Variant razor will coincide with new supplies being available to buyers in the USA. Stay tuned, coming soon!

Happy shaving!