Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Garage Sale Price Reductions!

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions & ** Price Reductions ** !!!

I'm continuing to reduce my inventory of razors, seeking a win-win solution. I win because I simplify my shaving gear, and you win because you get a good razor at a reduced cost.

Many have already taken advantage of the offerings. Don't wait or you may miss a good bargain.

Keep in mind that there is about $4 of packaging and mailing costs embedded in the prices of my DE garage-sale razors (the straight is a little less expensive to mail because it's flatter), and there really isn't a lemon in the bunch.

Happy shaving!

Friday, April 14, 2017

The New Parker Variant with Charcoal Handle

Two Realities of New-Product Introductions

If you really understand product development and market introduction, you know two things:
  1. The wise company does their utmost to perfect their product prior to initial release.
  2. Despite the best efforts of the manufacturer, the new product, if it involves any level of sophistication, usually undergoes an evolution with cycles of ongoing improvement and fixes as the new product undergoes further testing and evaluation by the first waves of customers.

The Parker Variant adjustable razor with the charcoal handle.
These two truths certainly apply to automobiles, where one industry insider once referred to the initial model year of any vehicle as merely an advanced prototype. It commonly takes two or three (or more) years for auto manufacturers to sort out the findings from their initial customers that they weren't able to learn from pre-introduction testing.

Software, too, is rarely optimized at initial release despite often-rigorous beta testing, and usually undergoes seemingly continual and never-ending continuous improvement throughout its life cycle.

The Latest Parker Variant

So it should come as no surprise to savvy readers that Parker, in its initial release of its newest, advanced double-edge razor (DE), the adjustable Variant, we saw two things:
  1. The initial product was generally well received, getting in many cases rave reviews for its shave quality and capabilities.
  2. The Variant, since its initial release, has undergone subtle evolutionary changes that have made a very good DE even better.
The original-release Variant came in two finishes: all satin chrome and satin chrome with a black
The new charcoal Variant (foreground) can be
compared to the former black handle as seen in the box.
handle. The original Variant razor head was widely acclaimed as providing a close, comfortable shave. Apparently a few of the early-production Variant heads had a noticeable asymmetry. Other early-production Variants had a very subtle asymmetry, which was almost always unnoticed and nonetheless offered a high quality shave. Some of the original black-handled Variants may not have had ideal durability in the black-handle coating. All of these birthing-pain issues were most often successfully and happily remedied with prompt replacements from the seller.

This latest production lot of the Parker Variant includes subtle engineering and production tweaks to the razor's head design, and most notably, the black handle-coating material has been replaced by a new charcoal-color material and bonding process.

Not only is the new handle color very handsome and a nice companion color to the satin chrome, but the new coating, which I believe is electroplated on, offers crisp corners on the handle knurling. This knurling has always been grippy and effective on the early satin-chrome Variants, and its quality and characteristics on this charcoal handle remain unchanged: grippy and effective.

The quality of the shave offered by these latest-run Variants is at least equal to that of the earlier production. In principle, the latest design tweaks to the razor head should offer subtle improvement. However, the previous shave quality may have been sufficiently high that the razor-head tweaks offer shave-quality improvements that are too subtle to be noticeable by most.

In reading the on-line customer reviews of the Variant, the vast majority highly praise the shave quality offered by the instrument. I emphasize that users will find this latest release of the Variant to certainly provide a shave that is equal to or better than those described in earlier reviews. Any user who uses good DE technique (meaning light pressure of razor against face) can get a very good shave from this razor, when using the appropriate adjustment setting for his face and choice of blade.

The early-production Variant, which I purchased in its all-satin-chrome color scheme, was enough for me to begin to reduce my inventory of DEs (as evidenced by my on-going virtual garage sale); there was no longer any need for any other razors. I found that early Variant to be top drawer, noticeably better than most, which were now reduced to redundancy at best.

The newest Variant is at least as good as my earlier model, and better looking in my humble opinion. It is truly the razor that I prefer to use on most days, and unquestionably on those days when I want the closest, most comfortable shave that I can get.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Straight-Grip Update & An Old-School Mid-Shave Method

Straight-Razor-Grip Update

With experience, I've continued to evolve my straight-razor technique including how I hold the razor for the basic free-hand grip. (For a backhand grip, essentially the razor is rotated 180 degrees in the hand using the razor shank as the axis of rotation.) The following photos demonstrate my current basic grip on a straight razor. Note that all three photos are showing the same grip but from three different perspectives.

This grip allows for great security, control and comfort. This is pretty much the basic free-hand grip that barbers have been taught for a hundred years and more.

Removing Lather from a Straight: Euro Old School

I've observed that amateur straight-razor users -- whether using a traditional straight or a replaceable-edge barber razor -- in the middle of a pass tend to rinse excessive used lather and stubble off their razor under running water from the faucet. As I've mentioned before, there are a couple of potential problems with this method.

First, if one is using a vintage straight that is not made from stainless steel, getting water into the pivot point of the scales on the shank can be problematic. It would likely be difficult to remove or displace, and would likely lead to corrosion.

A second issue might be the challenge of water finding its way to the hand, and when combined with soap yields a slippery razor. Not a desirable situation.

Barbers are often trained to wipe their razor on a towel. This has several advantages. No running water is required. Therefore a shave can be done away from plumbing (barbers in other countries sometimes have no working plumbing and wet the beard with water from a spray bottle). When shaving a client, they can wipe their razor on a dry towel draped on their arm or a dry towel carefully laid on the client. This is quick, efficient, and has no risk of wetting hands that would then have to be dried before resuming the shave.

There are some barbers who, when shaving themselves or, in the case of a traveling barber in a foreign country who has set up shop on the side of a road and shaving a client, will wipe the used lather off their razor onto the palm of their non-razor hand.

This palm-of-the-hand method works okay if the one doing the shaving is only using his dominant hand throughout the shave to hold the razor. It gets pretty messy if switching the razor back and forth between both hands, however, and requires occasional rinsing and drying of the hand during the shave.

Then I found what I think is the best method of all, better than rinsing, towels, or the palm of the hand.

I discovered a single video of a clearly old-school barber shaving himself. He is probably not originally from the USA; he doesn't talk and merely demonstrates, while a first-language English speaker explains, narrates. This barber's method of removing shave lather from his straight razor is to wipe it on the back of his non-dominant hand behind the junction of his thumb and forefinger. This barber only shaves with his dominant hand, but I discovered that this back-of-the-hand method for wiping used lather from a straight razor, unlike the palm-of-the-hand method, works acceptably when alternating between dominant and non-dominant hands during the shave. The lather on the back of the non-dominant hand is just enough out of the way that it needn't be rinsed off until the pass is completed.

This has become my go-to way of removing lather build up from my straight razor during a pass.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Parker SRX or PTB Straight? My Preference

I think that both the barber straight razors that I've tried from Parker, the SRX and the PTB, are good razors. After taking my initial learning curve with the heavy, all-stainless-steel SRX, I then shifted to the PTB, the push-type razor with the black scales.

The Parker SRX shown with its fan-type blade-mounting system

My preference? (Drum roll, please....) I prefer the PTB at the current time.

The Parker PTB shown with its push-type blade carrier removed

Below I will discuss the features and benefits of both razors, and the reasons for my current preference should be evident.

Weight: The all-stainless SRX with its thick, substantial components is the heavyweight of the duo. If you like a heavy straight razor similar to traditional straights, the SRX may be right for you. For me, I found the PTB's plastic scales and thinner sheet-stainless-steel to offer a shaving benefit. The low-mass design gave incredible feedback to me as I shaved. Both the audible and and tactile response from the razor were superior and helped with the quality of my shave. I could literally feel the razor cutting hair, and when I occasionally made the wrong move resulting in a minor nick or cut, the low mass and high feedback of the razor seemed to allow me to more quickly adjust and minimize the damage. I would characterize the PTB as being responsive like a sports car.

Blade shape: The cross section of the SRX is rather wedge shaped with planes on either side of the removable edge (the half-DE blade) that taper toward the cutting edge. I found these plane surfaces to occasionally be a bit sticky; that is, that surface against my just-shaved skin seemed to have a lot of friction, causing the razor to drag. The PTB has different contours near the shaving edge of the razor and never seemed to drag on freshly-shaved skin.

Blade insertion and removal: If you know the best method for opening up the SRX (see my previous article here, or the article I wrote for on my learning curve with a barber's straight), I find the SRX to be easier to manage for blade changes. I have limited experience, however, with the PTB, and expect that process will get easier. My PTB, because of its obviously-different manufacturing process -- being made of formed, thin sheet stainless steel -- has a slight disuniformity in the removable blade carrier. This causes the main tab under which the removable blade is positioned to have a slightly narrower gap at the end nearer the heel of the blade. This makes blade insertion a bit tricky. I expect that I'll adjust this by bending the flap ever so slightly to correct the issue.
     [UPDATE: Just after I posted this article, I used a butter knife like a wedge, and carefully used it to SLIGHTLY spread the metal of the flap on the carrier. This was a VERY small adjustment and I did NOT need to use the knife as a lever to pry. If you make any similar adjustments, be sure to not use excessive force and make VERY SMALL adjustments - almost none. It didn't need much tuning to be perfect.]

Quality/durability: Often heavier and more substantial products leave us with the perception of quality. The SRX is no exception. The lighter weight, thinner stamped stainless steel, and the plastic scales of the PTB may lead some to conclude that it is of lower quality, a cheapie. Well, perhaps that may be the conclusion of some, but to return to my analogy of a sports car or even a racing car, because the PTB is of lighter weight and built to different specifications than a family cruiser -- perhaps even requires different driving technique and maintenance -- that doesn't make it lower quality. This includes the plastic scales on the PTB, which are adequate for their purpose and, in my opinion, do not at all suggest lower quality -- merely different design specifications.

Size: Though both razors take half DE blades, the PTB is about an inch longer, when measuring from blade tip to tang tip. Men with very large hands may prefer the longer PTB. For me, personally, both razors are sized just fine.
The new graphite version of the Variant adjustable.

Price: The SRX is about five U.S. dollars more than the PTB.

That's about it for my comparison between the two razors. If I've overlooked some aspect that's important to you, leave a comment and I'll respond.

Coming Soon....

My observations on the latest Parker Variant production, which is the graphite version. I received it yesterday from I think you won't want to miss this article.

Also there's an article in the pipeline on a detail of straight-razor shaving that some may find helpful.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Triumphant Return to my Adjustable Variant DE

After using my barber razors for several shaves, yesterday I returned to my Parker Variant adjustable double-edge (DE) razor, with an eye to getting not only an optimally close, comfortable shave, but also one in which I thoroughly enjoyed the process.

I used all the tricks at my disposal. For my shave prep I did the following:

  • Pre-shave wash with Noxzema cream
  • Hot-water splashes and rubs on the beard
  • Hot-water wash cloth on beard for approx 30 seconds
  • Rubbed in shave oil (actually common, edible kitchen oil)
  • Dry menthol shave soap puck rubbed directly over the oil and face lathered with warm water in the brush
Then during the shave, I set my Variant to a setting of 2 and used the following shaving techniques:
  • A single lathering
  • Slow buffing strokes throughout the shave
  • My buffing strokes were all in an anti-raking pattern to preserve lather on my face rather than removing it prematurely
  • First strokes cross grain on cheeks, then against grain
  • First strokes cross grain on upper lip, then with grain
  • First strokes nearly against grain under chin, then directly against grain
  • First strokes nearly against grain on lower neck, then directly against grain
  • Final clean-up strokes done with added water
After the shave I used a cold wash cloth pressed against my just-shaved face and neck to sooth and remove residual shaving lather.

I had a pin-point weeper, so I gently rubbed on some witch hazel scented with peppermint oil.

The shave was close and comfortable -- baby smooth on my cheeks.

The beauty of the pre-shave oil is that just the slightest trace remains after the shave. Most was removed by the shave itself, and the witch-hazel rub doesn't remove much if any. This slightest residue of shave oil is very pleasing on the skin and eliminates any real need for after-shave balm. The only reason I put on balm was for some fragrance as I began my day.

In all this was a terrific shave. I hope yours was as good.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

A Subtle Benefit of Pre-Shave Oil

Since I've started using my two barber razors, the heavy Parker SRX and the nimble and max-feedback Parker PTB, I've been most often using a shave oil as part of my shaving preparation.

I had long ago abandoned using shave oil as part of my double-edge-razor-shave prep; I found it messy and unnecessary. However, using the straight razor has opened my eyes to subtle benefits of using a shave oil underneath my water-based shave soap.

My Process of Using Shave Oil

Before I go on, I should explain the process I prefer when using shave oil. First I ensure my beard is well wetted with warm water. This can be done by a pre-shave shower, or, because I tend to shower in the evening and shave in the morning, I do it this way: I rub warm water into my beard several times. Then I take a washcloth wetted with very warm water and hold that against my beard for about 30 seconds.

After my beard is warmed and well wetted, only then do I rub in shave oil, which can be as simple as any inexpensive kitchen oil or a scented, dedicated shave oil.

After that I rub dry shave soap on my wet, oiled beard, and use a warm, wet brush to face lather. (Because a proper shave soap is not formulated with fatty acids that aggressively remove oil, this isn't a counter-productive process. However, if one were to use face or hand soap as a shave lubricant, then the soap would tend to remove the oil from the skin.)

After my shaves, I've been using the same wet cloth, but now saturated with cold tap water, and holding that against my shaved skin to sooth and calm.

The Lingering Benefit of Shave Oil

I've  been finding that following this process leaves just the slightest trace of oil on my skin, which seems to diminish any need for after-shave balms. I'm going to start using oil with my double-edge shaves as well and try that out for a while.

Using this process, the only reason I've had for post-shave liquids or gels is to apply any lingering fragrance that I may desire.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Parker PTB Barber Straight: First Impressions, First Shave

USPS Delivers On Time

I've mentioned when the US Postal Service doesn't deliver on time, and they deserve fair treatment, so I should mention that my last few deliveries -- both sending and receiving -- have been on time as they predicted. The delivery of this PTB barber straight was no exception. Nice job, USPS.

The Parker PTB Barber Straight: Initial Observations

This razor's blade, shank and tang are, all tolled, about an inch (~2 cm) longer than it's all-stainless cousin, the SRX. This means that those guys, who feel that their large hands and fingers are an impediment to gripping a straight razor, have more room to take whatever grip is comfortable and appropriate.

The razor is much lighter than the SRX both due to the PTB's plastic scales and the stamped stainless shank and sliding blade holder. I've read that some guys like the heavy weight of a classic straight, and for them, the SRX may be a more comfortable option. However, I've talked to some professional barbers who prefer the lighter weight of a plastic-scales and stamped-stainless sliding-blade-insertion razor.

The finish on the metal of the PTB is a non-glossy type. Although this might not look as fancy as a display piece, it doesn't show finger prints either, as does the high-gloss finish of the Parker SRX.

Blade Insertion

To my knowledge, there are three types of blade insertion mechanisms for barber-style razors. There is the pivot style with clasp, which is what the Parker SRX and many other brands use. Then there are the two flavors of sliding style, which has either a plastic or metal insertion piece. The Parker PTB is of this latter design, with all primary metal parts made of stainless steel.

Just from a random survey of how-to videos on YouTube, professional barbers seem to use all three designs. I don't have any reliable statistics, but it just seemed to me that the sliding-style barber razors were more popular with the pros although many used the pivoting style as well.

I may need some time to become familiar and comfortable with the insertion process on the PTB; my initial attempts were clumsy, awkward, and it took a bit of time to both figure it out and become more adept.

I found that it's best to remove the sliding blade carrier entirely when inserting a blade, though I've seen barbers in videos not remove the slide completely. Maybe when I get more accustomed to loading a blade in this PTB razor, I'll only do a partial slide out; time will tell for that, but for now, I remove the slide completely.

The blade carrier has a non-moving flap, under which the blade is inserted. There are two tabs in the primary blade-backing surface that limit the depth to which the blade can be pushed under the non-moving flap. In the same blade-backing surface, there are also two small bumps (too small to be called pins), that serve to retain the blade in its proper position once it's fully and properly inserted in the carrier.

The blade is inserted in the carrier by sliding its long, dull side (the opposite side of the sharp edge) under the afore-mentioned retaining flap. The long side of the blade should be centered under the flap. This would be simple except that the gap between the flap and the main surface of the carrier is rather narrow. During insertion the blade has to initially pass over the two bumps but under the two tabs and the flap. 

My experience is that, initially, I needed a bit of patience to accomplish this maneuver safely and without harming the blade edge.

The Shave 

Of course opinions will vary, but I really liked my maiden shave with this razor. I prepped my shave slightly differently than I've previously documented. This shave-prep variation had nothing to do with the razor, but rather it was a change that I thought might be generally beneficial. 

I splashed and rubbed some warm water into my beard. Then instead of applying shave oil, I applied a warm, wet towel for 30 seconds or so. Then I rubbed in some shave oil, followed by rubbing my soap stick on my whiskers, and then face lathering with a warm, wet brush.

I had a new half-Dorco-ST301 blade in the PTB and began my shave in the usual manner: first pass with all strokes made in the easiest and safest directions for me and my current state of straight-razor skill. (I don't describe this because your skills and most-comfortable-stroke directions are likely to vary from mine.) I did gently stretch my skin as I shaved for better safety and to better optimize the closeness of the pass.

After that first pass, I did a partial second pass on my neck, under-jawline and chin areas.

My First-Shave Impressions, Comparisons

It's difficult to compare first shaves with the SRX to the PTB because I'm more experienced, more proficient performing the first Parker PTB shave than I was with the SRX, which was my first use of any straight razor. That said, I really liked using the PTB. Its lightness, its lack of mass gave me much feedback on the behavior of the edge against my beard. I could actually feel the whiskers being cut. The audible feedback was also excellent; you can very much hear the whiskers being shaved. In all, I felt like I had very good feedback and control with this razor.


I got a pretty good shave for only taking 1-1/2 passes. There was no skin irritation at all, and only two pin-point weepers, which may have been residual from yesterday's very-close shave with my Parker Variant DE.

This razor certainly has not diminished my confidence, and I'll be using it again tomorrow, putting a second shave on the same blade.

Razor Garage Sale Continues w/ New Additions -- 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!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Complacency, A New Straight Order, and More Razors into the Garage Sale


I've enjoyed shaving with my Parker SRX barber straight. I do admit to a little trepidation before each shave because, after all, it's walking the high wire without a net. That pre-shave concern is a good thing, however. It keeps me focused -- at least at the start.

The Parker SRX all-stainless barber razor.

It must be the nature of my personality because I'm seeing the same tendencies that I used to have (still have??) with a double-edge razor (DE) when I now shave with the straight. That tendency is to become a bit careless as my shave enters its final phase.

It happened again this morning. I had a fresh half-Dorco-ST301 blade in the SRX and had completed a successful first pass. I was pretty much going to call it good, but I wasn't quite satisfied with the closeness on my entire neck, so I re-lathered and shaved that area again. With upward strokes, I got a bit complacent and created a minor cut near the curve of the skin where under jaw meets neck.  @#$%@#%!!

Oops, I did it again....

I ordered  a Parker PTB barber straight, which is scheduled by the post office to be delivered tomorrow -- but with the USPS, you never really know, so we'll see.

The Parker PTB barber razor.

I ordered this razor, which has black resin (that is, plastic) scales and a sliding blade-insertion mechanism because I wanted to compare the lighter overall weight, the resulting different balance, and the insertion and blade-holding design of this razor to its Parker-brand cousin, the SRX.

The PTB with the stainless-steel blade-holding slide removed.

Like the SRX, the PTB's metal parts are also made of stainless steel, so I'm expecting a durable and handsome product. It also uses half-DE blades, so there's no special blade to buy and I can continue to draw on my existing inventory of DE blades. I'll let you know about the balance and shaving character of it in the near future.


Garage Sale Additions

I'll be soon updating my garage-sale page to include two additional razors: the mild-shaving Merkur 15C open-comb razor, which is in like-new condition, and a vintage Gillette Travel Tech razor. 

The Merkur open-comb razor is excellent for shaving hair of any length, so it's great for those who only shave occasionally or who sporadically shave the back of their neck between haircuts. 

The Travel Tech is a 1965 model, has the same shave character as my earlier c. 1948 Techs, features a short steel handle, an unused vintage blade in its wrapper, and comes in a gold vinyl zippered travel case. The Travel Tech, like other Techs of its particular era, has a Zamak top cap, is in very good condition and could be a nice addition for collectors.

I'll be posting photos and suggested prices soon, but if you're interested before then, just send me an email.

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!