Thursday, May 11, 2017

Razor Versus Technique

I was reading the latest article in this morning on a new razor from Phoenix Artisan Acoutrements (PAA)* and, in particular, their unique double-open-comb razors (DOC).

[UPDATE: I have updated perspectives on this razor (I like it!).  Take a look here: first update article and second update article.]

The PAA DOC designs are based on an earlier vintage razor, which had a comb-edged top cap. This design held moisture and lather in the top cap, and was promoted to be specifically to enhance the lubrication of the shave when performing buffing strokes. This makes a great deal of sense from a common perspective. But what is that perspective? That is a question worth discussing.

The average shaver shaves his face similar to the way one would rake leaves off a lawn. He starts at the edge of the lathered area, and stroke by stroke removes lather and whiskers as he progresses across the real estate of his beard until he completes a given pass and his face is shaved (at least to some degree) and relatively lather free. Also, the average shaver is rinsing used lather from his razor periodically as he progresses in his pass.

Given this methodology, a buffing stroke is going to shave an area and then stroke back over that relatively lubrication-free terrain to make yet another shaving stroke. This is a recipe for low-lubrication strokes, which are more likely to be irritating on skin. So why not design a razor that holds some extra lubrication in the top cap, which will be laid down to some degree as one makes the return portion of the buffing stroke, thereby providing more lubrication and minimizing chances of irritation?

Well, there's no reason NOT to use such a design UNLESS ONE CHANGES ONE'S SHAVING METHODOLOGY.

Now before I go on, I want to state for the record that I love innovation and improvement in products. I also love learning from experiments of the past and reviving good ideas that got lost in time.

But I also love innovation and improvement in technique, methodology. When the two conflict (that is, one rendering the other unnecessary), then I would always advocate the most economical choice -- and I define economy to include not only monetary cost, but also costs of time, effort, and any other relevant intangibles.

Take the slant-razor design for example. The slant razor uses a normal shaving stroke, with the handle parallel to the stroke direction, and automatically converts it to a skewed stroke, a Gillette slide. There is also the assertion that the warped blade has a stiffer edge, which can reduce irriation -- although I would dispute that belief. Anyway, those are the benefits commonly stated. However, the drawbacks are several:

  • The additional financial layout for the razor
  • Having to store the razor
    And most importantly....
  • The varying blade angle along the shaving edge offeres varying potential for irritation, with the side of the edge that has the steepest angle having the greatest likelihood of being irritating.
If one is flexible in his technique, then simply taking any non-slant razor and making skewed strokes (that is, making strokes with the razor edge skewed off perpendicular to the stroke direction) will pretty much accomplish the same outcome as a slant razor without any of the drawbacks. (I've written about all these things in the past.)

So now let's return to the DOC design. Cool? Yep. Interesting? Yep. Innovative? Yep. Necessary? Uh.... not at all.

A simple technique change offers the same benefit of the DOC without any drawbacks (in my experience). Instead of shaving in a lawn-raking pattern, one would shave in an anti-raking pattern (again, about which I've written several times in the past -- the most noteworthy article being my introductory article to the technique). 

Regular readers will know that I tend to question almost everything including cherished beliefs such as the de rigueur three-pass shave. I only have one primary lathering step in my normal shave. I tend to make my initial strokes largely (but not necessarily perfectly) against the grain, I use slow buffing strokes for the largest part of my shave, and, accordingly, I use an anti-raking stroke pattern. And I tend to get shaves that are more efficient in terms of time and trouble, and as good or better than those when I slavishly adhered to the oft-repeated mythology of best shaving methods.

So my bottom line is that if you like the DOC design for any reason, well, it's a free country (at least as long as we don't slip into full-banana-republic mode, into which we seem to be precariously sliding with the current federal administration: alternative facts, bald-faced lies, distortions, corruption, possible crimes, etc.), so have at it.

However, for me, I don't see the need. I'll be sticking to my small stable of adjustables (Parker Variant, Ming Shi 2000S, and Gillette Slim) and my solitary straight (Parker PTB).

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Razor Garage Sale Continues!!!

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.

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