Friday, June 30, 2017

Pre-Lathering-Product Feedback -- My Last Six Shaves

Shave Software

For all my shaves during this prep-product evaluation period, I've used the same soap, which is a non-mentholated, no-mint-content, no-aloe-content, rather generic but adequate product that has a sandalwood scent. The only products that have varied has been the pre-shave, pre-lathering products from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA),* which are as follows:
Also, for the record, I've gone back to cool-water shaves. I simply repeatedly wet my beard with cool tap water prior to using shave-prep products.

After the shave I applied peppermint witch hazel (~14% alcohol), then after-shave balm, PAA's Black Bot balm.

Shave Hardware

Today was my sixth shave with the SuperMax Titanium blade, all shaves paired with my Gillette Slim adjustable razor. All shaves were pretty much one lathering, with the equivalent of two against-grain passes followed by touch-up strokes as necessary. The settings on the Slim were 1 (mildest) for the first against-grain strokes and 4 (moderate) for the remainder except on my upper lip, on which I used the setting of 1 for all strokes.

Bear in mind that I've chosen to use the Slim for all these shaves because it is not well suited to my skin. No matter the setting, it gives me a rather harsh, irritating shave. Therefore it may be the ideal razor with which to evaluate the effect of shave-preparation products. When I compare this razor to the other DE razors at hand in my bathroom, all the others provide a much more comfortable shave. My other at-hand DE razors -- that is, those that I choose to keep in the bathroom for regular use -- are as follows:
  • Parker Variant (adjustable)
  • Ming Shi 2000S (adjustable)
  • PAA Double Open Comb
I only keep the Slim around for sentimental reasons because it was my father's last DE razor.

Product-Use Processes

For every shave I've wetted my beard adequately. After that, the process varies according to pre-lathering product: soap or gel.

For the pre-lathering soaps, I rub the puck on my wet beard and wash my face per the usage instructions. I let the soap stay for a few extra seconds while I set out some shaving gear, then rinse with cool water. After that, and again according to the usage instructions, I rub the pre-lathering-soap puck on my beard in against-grain strokes. Then similarly, I rub the sandalwood shave-soap puck on my beard and face lather with a wet brush.

For the pre-lathering gel, with my fingers I spread a thin layer of the gel over my entire wetted beard. That too I let stand for a few seconds as I set out shaving gear. Then I bowl lather the sandalwood shave soap. (I bowl lather because I don't want to remove the gel layer from my skin by wiping the sandalwood soap on my beard to face lather.) Then I apply the shave-soap lather to my beard on top of the gel layer.

For all products I let the pre-lathering product sit on my beard a few extra seconds to accomplish the following objectives:
  • The lather or gel can help ensure adequate moisture in the hair prior to the shave -- meaning the hairs are adequately softened.
  • The key ingredients such as menthol and aloe have extra time to sit on the skin, which may help to maximize their efficacy. In particular this is noticeable with the mentholated products. As the first few seconds went by after their application to my beard, I could feel the increasing sensation of coolness, which brings with it a slight anesthetizing effect.

Blade Usage

I went through two cycles of pre-lathering-product rotation because my blades tend to mellow with usage. This is particularly evident in the Slim adjustable. The first shaves with a fresh, sharp blade can be the most irritating. As I use the blade for more shaves, which I always complete with rinsing, pressing dry, and palm stropping, the blade seems to get conditioned, providing the smoother shaves during the middle and latter parts of its life cycle.

Though each shave therefore has a blade in a slightly different phase of its evolution from sharp and harsh (in the Slim, that is) to more seasoned and therefore less harsh, the transition is subtle enough that I can get a sense of the effect of each pre-lathering product.

Conclusions to Date

The most obvious conclusion is that, for me, products with menthol have a calming effect on shave outcome. Prior to this trial, I was well aware that one of my favorite shave soaps (and a good value, too!) is a mentholated soap from Pyrate Cove Soap Works. So it isn't surprising that I had my greatest affinity to the two mentholated pre-lathering products, Ice and the Prickly Pear Gel.

Of those two mentholated products, I prefer the Ice pre-lathering soap primarily for the following reason:  I can face lather without concern of diminishing the pre-lathering-product's effect. I much prefer the greater simplicity of face lathering -- including when using hard-soap pucks, which are surprisingly well suited to the face-lathering process.

That said, if one is comfortable with bowl lathering, then the gel can be a good pre-lathering product to use. It is available with or without menthol to suit one's personal preferences.

The Scentsless pre-lathering soap may be a good option for those who prefer non-mentholated products. 

I will continue to use these and other products, but going forward will use shaving instruments that are more comfortable for me including the afore-mentioned DE razors, but also with my straight razors. The usage with the straights may be the more interesting of the long-term trials because my DEs are such comfortable shavers. I'll let you know at some point how future shaves go.

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Interested In Straight-Razor Shaving?

My Article Today on

My article completing the circle from barber's straight to traditional straight razor is published today on at this link:

I hope you enjoy that, and while you're here at Shave Like Grandad, feel free to browse my other articles going back several years.

Happy shaving!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Pre-shave-trial notes and DE-Blade Maintenance

Regular readers of Shave Like Grandad will know that I'm in the earliest stages of evaluating some pre-shave products.

There are several key aspects to evaluations such as these:

  • Methodology
  • Sample size 
  • Unavoidable subjectivity

Sample Size

One can no more reliably evaluate a product from a single shave any more that one can predict a potential World Series contender from watching a single baseball game. So rather than continuing to offer my observations following each test shave with a product, I may offer weekly summaries -- which still may be a bit too frequent and reflect too small of a sample size.


I've committed to keeping my shaving methods (described in yesterday's article) consistent. One problematic aspect, however, is the blade.

I could have chosen to use a new, fresh blade of the same brand and model for each shave, but that is horribly wasteful. I can't do that. So I'm taking the other reasonable option. That is to use the same blade for its full useful life and cycle through the pre-shave products as the blade ages.

Certainly this will potentially change the shave character from day to day irrespective of the pre-shave product. So this renders more questionable one-shave comparisons of different products. However, small sample sizes have the same effect. So I'm going to cycle through the pre-shave products and look to comparing my overall impressions rather than just those from a single shave.


No matter how I try to be objective, there's no way for me to objectively measure the quality and lack of irritability of a shave. So we just have to accept that, ultimately, the conclusions that I form are merely impressions, not hard fact.

False Starts and Restarts

So this pre-shave-product comparison actually kicked off yesterday with my first use of the Scentsless (sic) pre-shave soap and lather booster. Due to my enthusiasm to start the trials, I lost my head and didn't follow the explicit usage instructions for this pre-shave soap. I did not wash and rinse my beard with the soap and then reapply the soap against the grain before lathering with my regular soap. Instead I washed as directed but did not rinse, and simply lathered over that un-rinsed pre-shave soap.

This first start was also combined with the fact that I retired my previous blade after 15 shaves and used a new blade for the kick-off pre-shave trial. The bottom line was that the combination of my least favorite at-hand razor (the Slim), a new blade (SuperMax Titanium), and the imperfect application of the pre-shave soap yielded a shave that was irritating. So I scrapped that trial and did a re-do this morning.

Today's shave with the Slim, the second-use blade, and the correct application of the pre-shave soap yielded better results. How that compares to other products and other shaves as the blade is used through its life cycle will be determined in time.

Reminder of My Blade Care

By the way, keep in mind that after each shave, I rinse clean and then press dry (using toilet tissue) my DE blades. Then with dry hands I palm strop each side of each edge of the blade for an equal number of strokes -- usually two, but sometimes as many as four.

I do believe that this careful drying and stropping of the blade leads to greater longevity. The reasons for this certainly include diminished micro-oxidation at the blade edge due to reduced moisture. Also, there may be some micro-straightening of the shave-inflicted micro damage to the blade edge.

Stay tuned for periodic updates as these pre-shave-product evaluations continue over time.

Happy shaving!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly: Shave #1

Previous Pre-shave Product Opinions

In a previous article, I wrote about a terrific shave that included using a special pre-shave soap and lather booster. This positive experience has led me into a new area of exploring a few pre-shave products that I have on hand.

As you may know, I've used pre-shave oil with ambivalence. Early on in my double-edge (DE) adventures I used and ultimately rejected shave oil as being just too messy. This can be especially true if one finds the ideal combination of razor, blade, and technique because they can render shave oil unnecessary.

When I began with straight razors, however, that was a game changer. I have felt that the benefit of shave oil -- both during and after the straight-razor shave -- tips the scales more in its favor. Recently my use of shave oil has been on top of a layer of thinly-lathered shave soap, which has become my preferred method of its use.

Unique Pre-shave Samples Arrive

Then enter Douglas Smythe of Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements* (PAA). Based on reading the PAA web site, watching some of the "I'd Lather be Shaving" (sic) videos on YouTube, and from using several of his products (including the double-open-comb DE razor and various soaps, lotions, and balms), I've really come to respect his flair for product design and development. (So much so that PAA is now an affiliate organization to Shave Like Grandad.)

He has been periodically sending samples of some PAA products. One of the products about which I was initially most skeptical was the subject of today's article: the mentholated Crown King Prickly Pear Pre-Shave Jelly (85% organic). But after the really rewarding shave the other day when using one of PAA's pre-shave soaps, I thought that the pre-shave jelly might be worth exploring.

A Modified Shave Process

The first thing I did before using the pre-shave jelly was to look up how-to-use information on the PAA web site because there are  no instructions on the two-ounce jar that I have. The usage procedure is to ensure the beard is wet, then apply a layer of jelly, then lather with preferred soap or cream. Since I'm a confirmed face latherer (as opposed to a bowl latherer), I figured that rubbing a stick of soap over the jelly layer might remove too much of the jelly, so I pulled out a lathering bowl and made lather in that rather than on my face. This allowed me to gently apply lather over the jelly, thereby better preserving the jelly layer on my beard and skin.

The Shave

Because this shave was the first of a series of pre-shave-product tests, I used the shave process that I had previously decided to use for the duration of the trials:

  • Gillette Slim razor, which as you may know is not my favorite
  • Razor settings of 1 for the first, largely-against-grain strokes and 4 for subsequent largely-against-grain strokes in the same geography -- except for my upper lip which largely received most strokes on a setting of 1
  • Beard wetted with splashes of cool tap water
  • Application of shave jelly
  • Shave soap lathered with cool water
  • Largely a one-lathering shave, though I might re-apply soap and additional water as necessary if some areas dry out 
  • Post-shave application of mint witch hazel
  • Post-witch-hazel application of aftershave balm

The cooling mentholation of the product was significant and pleasant. I got a close shave with a couple of weepers in familiar places. I attribute the weepers to the basic razor design combined with the aggressive (for me) setting of 4 that I used for much of the shave. The weepers were minor, however, and required no treatment -- disappearing without need of alum block or styptic pencil.

What was salient about the shave is that the combination of mentholation, the aloe ingredient, and other oils in the jelly apparently had a significant soothing and mild anesthetic effect. Not only was the shave very comfortable despite using a razor I don't particularly like and a blade with double-digit shaves on it, the after-shave sensation was extremely low irritation. In fact, my skin felt so good that after my witch-hazel rub, I neglected to apply aftershave balm!

Impressions and Going Forward

My immediate reaction was a desire to use the shave jelly for my next shave. However, since my up-coming shaves are a series of pre-shave trials and comparisons, I will remain disciplined and use the other pre-shave products on hand before I rotate back to the jelly.

In all, I am very impressed with the first-use of this pre-shave jelly. I'm not only looking forward to using it again with my DE razors, but am also anticipating an eventual trial to evaluate its effects on straight-razor shaves.

Stay tuned for more pre-shave-trial reporting. Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Friday, June 23, 2017

Today's Terrific Shave :-D and My Up-coming Pre-shave-products Trials

A Great Shaving Combination!

There are so many variables that factor into a great shave. Each variable makes its contribution to the total. Today I had a great shave -- close and comfortable. The only flaw in the shave was cockpit error, when I carelessly made a bit of a hard landing in a single stroke along the curve of my jaw line, which resulted in a minor cut easily disappeared with a touch of alum stick.

(By the way, the alum stick was a cool match-book-like give-away promotional piece, which I received at the Maggard Meet last May, from the good folk at Rockwell Razors. I haven't had the pleasure to try Rockwell Razors' unique multi-baseplated, find-your-best-shave instrument, but I've read many good things about it. They also sell their own brand of DE blades, and are developing an adjustable, butterfly-opening razor as well. I found Rockwell's rep at the Maggard Meet to be personable and informative despite me being my typical-for-that-day reticent self.)

Back to today's shave: it started with a great razor, the Parker Variant, on which I can always count for good results. The shave prep included one of several new shave-prep products (new to me, that is) made and distributed by Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA).*


A Brief Recounting of My Short History with PAA

I met Douglas Smythe of PAA (anyway, I believe it was him; my visual memory of the encounter is somewhat weak at this point -- I'm a bit uncertain because I don't remember seeing his characteristic handle-bar moustache) at this year's Maggard Meet. It was brief and unremarkable largely due to my own ignorance and reticence. I still remember how friendly Doug (or that person) was during our brief encounter, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen him in his many videos (of which, at that time, I was completely unaware). I was also a bit reserved due to my slight embarrassment at making a minor dismissive comment in one of my articles about PAA's fine nickel-plated double-open-comb razor, which, after actually trying it, I found the instrument be impressive in its look, shave character and price-point value.

Anyway, at that encounter with PAA at Maggard's, I received some samples including Black Bot balm. Although I haven't yet had the time to try all of the samples I received that day, the Black Bot balm was one I soon tried, liked, eventually purchased, and mentioned in a blog article. Doug saw my article, and contacted me via email. That contact has resulted in a stream of back-and-forth emails and product samples including one I tried today.

The Appeal of Mint, Menthol, and Eucalyptus

One of the samples from PAA that I received this week got its maiden trial this morning. It was a pre-shave soap and lather booster called Ice. With that product in mind as I began my morning shave, I decided that today would be a menthol-and-mint shave. 

As I may have mentioned in previous articles, over time I've discovered a real fondness for minty, cooling products that usually contain menthol, mint, eucalyptus or some combination. As a child I didn't like the scent of my aunt's Noxzema cream (see display link above), but I've found as an adult, it has grown on me, and I use it to wash my face on occasion. This appeal has drawn me to various shaving products including Cremo Cooling shave cream (see display link above), Pyrate Cove Soap Works' Menthol Shave Soap (which I really like and is a great value), and my own thrifty blend of common drug-store witch hazel and peppermint oil.

I love the scent and feel of soothing, cooling mint, menthol, and eucalyptus!

Back to Today's Shave....

So given the confluence of my love for things menthol (and related), the Ice pre-shave soap from PAA, the menthol soap in my drawer, and my home-made mint witch hazel, I had a theme for today's shave. So after some splashes of cool water, I began with a cool-water face wash using the PAA menthol and aloe product, Ice. After rinsing that off and, per the usage recommendation from PAA, I then re-applied the pre-soap to my wet beard in an against-grain direction. Then I applied the Pyrate Cove menthol soap and face lathered.

With a well-used but also well-cared-for SuperMax Titanium blade, I used my trusty Variant as the instrument of my beard's removal. I used my customary one-lathering process. I shaved my beard in regions, using an initial setting of 1.5 for the first against-grain, slow-buffing strokes, then dialing up to four for the remainder of the strokes in each region. (The exception to this was on my upper lip, on which my initial strokes were with grain, and I made follow-up strokes at the initial 1.5 setting.)

After some final clean-up strokes with razor still on four and using some added moisture and lather from underneath the razor's baseplate, I got a truly superior shave (again except for my minor landing-error cut).

I then had a splash of witch hazel, and after that dried, finished with PAA's Black Bot balm, which was the only deviation from the menthol theme of the shave -- an extremely satisfying shave!

So, was this great shave a fluke, or was the addition of the Ice pre-shave soap the kicker?

Well, this brings us to....

My Up-coming Pre-shave Soap Trials

I'm going to spend the next week or two evaluating the effect of several pre-shave products. To eliminate variables and to emphasize the potential effect of the pre-shave treatments, I'm going to use the same razor every day, a razor which is always slightly irritating and therefore not my favorite, the Gillette Slim. I'm also going to use the same blade, which tends to be consistent throughout its useful life. Lastly, I'm going to use the same soap, which I don't like as much as the Pyrate Cove Menthol, and which I'll not name because I don't want to disparage the product, which isn't necessarily bad -- it's just not my favorite cup of tea so to speak.

The pre-shave products that I'm going to repeatedly rotate through are shave oils, and three pre-shave products from PAA, which are as follows:

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Update On Sanitizing Used Razors

I have previously posted an article on cleaning and sanitizing used razors. Although the methods I advocated are perfectly correct, I no longer suggest using sterilizing solutions of things like Lysol due to their risk to human health if improperly handled.

I also warn, today, against using sanitizing agents like Barbicide or alcohol. Barbicide, like alcohol as explained below, may not be effective, and, additionally, Barbacide may pose a risk to the razor itself depending on the metals of which it is comprised. That aside, sanitizing agents like alcohol will deactivate bacteria and viruses, but that doesn't completely solve the problem.

Some bacteria, when confronted with a non-supportive environment, will form spores. These spores are remarkably tough, and are not deactivated by sanitizing agents such as alcohol. When the spores are in a more supportive environment, the active bacteria re-form and go about their business.

The univeral solution to dealing with potentially hazardous bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi, etc. on razors is not to deactivate them, but rather to remove them.

This is best done by using a releasing agent (soap), mechanical friction, and running water. That is, wash and scrub the instrument with soap (such as dish soap) and water, an old toothbrush, and then when well lathered and well scrubbed, rinse the soap (and the germs with it) down the drain.

Happy sanitizing!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Good Reading, Fun Viewing, and a Great Shave

Good Reading = Good Salesmanship

When I sell something on line, whether on an auction site, a listing site, or even on a private web site, I usually try to provide lots of written information and adequate images to give the buyer plenty of facts and anecdotes to entertain and inform.

As I read the news on line in the mornings with my coffee, I'm often frustrated by the politics and bored by the not-so-important "news," and I will often turn to my familiar shaving sites to see what new information may be available.

I occasionally read Amazon's customer reviews of shaving products looking for gold among the dross. And there's lots of dross. Many of the reviews are written by newcomers to traditional shaving, and these newcomers often don't really know what they're talking about. Other reviews are written by experienced traditional shavers, who often seem to believe in their own expertise, but often are really clueless when opining on razor design and other technical matters of shaving products.

As I've become more familiar with Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA)* and their web site, I've found that their web pages often offer entertaining reading, which is both enjoyable and also helps (I assume) to move their products. I visit their site occasionally just to read the stories of some of their products as well as some of the hard-wired reviews that they sometimes include as part of their sales patter.

Fun Viewing

Speaking of PAA, as a result of email correspondence with Doug Smythe, a key player at PAA, I became aware of the YouTube channel and regular broadcasts of "I'd Lather be Shaving" (sic), which is apparently produced in weekly episodes that run between a quarter and half an hour each. Filled with zany antics and some interesting information, I've included that channel as part of my down-time video viewing. With Doug of PAA and his co-performer, Matt Pisarcik of Razor Emporium, these guys can provide fun viewing for those with an interest or curiosity about traditional shaving and shave products.

An Adjustable Non-Adjustable?

As you may know, my stable of double-edge (DE) razors has been largely reduced to adjustables. All my modern incarnations of adjustable razors are great shavers that I really enjoy using. These are, of course, my Parker Variant, which I got from Super Safety Razors, and Ming Shi 2000S (imitation Futur), which I got from Maggard Razors. I also have that vintage (1963) Gillette Slim that belonged to my dad, and which I keep for sentimental reasons more than for my love of its shave character (which I find to be just a bit harsh).

However, my consciously-chosen limited stable of at-hand DE razors has been infiltrated by the PAA double-open-comb (DOC) three-piece razor. This morning I used this razor like an adjustable.

I've known for a long time that two- and three-piece DE razors can be made more aggressive by slightly reducing the pressure with which the top-cap-baseplate "sandwich" is held together. The lower tension can allow the natural springiness of the blade to slightly separate the razor head, offering a larger "bite" between the blade edge and the safety guard. Previously, I've never done this because most of my razors have been adequately aggressive when totally snugged up.

The PAA DOC razor, though, is nicely mild when tightly snugged and can be made nicely more aggressive when not-so-tightly snugged. So this morning, I took a single-lather shave but did two complete passes. I could do this, in part, because of the DOC's unique design that can help to leave lather on the face after buffing strokes are made (and I routinely use long, slow "buffing" strokes in my shaves). So I did my first pass with the razor tightly closed. Then I loosened the razor head and re-snugged, but not quite so tightly, and made my second pass. Both passes, by the way, were largely against the grain of my beard.

I did add some water and a bit of used lather from the underside of the razor, but got a really fine shave in what was, for the most part, a single-lather shave.

I hope your shave was as good.

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fact-Filled Friday

Further Experiments with Shave Oil

I'm on record as previously saying I didn't care for the added mess that shave oil adds to the shaving process. Paradoxically, I'm also on record as extolling some of the benefits of shave oil. I continue to experiment with it, and I'd like to share some of my current thoughts.

Type of Shave Oil

I've become a firm believer that most types of oils (that is, those that are compatible with human use; not motor oil, for example) make for good shave oil. I've used fancy, exotic shave oils and oil blends from commercial manufacturers and sellers. However, I also use cooking and edible oils such as olive oil, sunflower oil, castor oil, and others with equivalent results. The big difference between commercial shave oil and pedestrian edibles is the scent.

However, unless one is using a matched set of shave products such as shave soap, oil and balm with the same bouquet, then what's the big deal about the scent of the shave oil?  Nada, I say, nada.

My Current Process of Shave Oil Use

I do use shave oil pretty regularly. I use it when I shave with a straight, when I plan to get a very close DE shave, or just when I'm not in a rush. But I don't use it as most do; I have a bit of a twist in my process. (Ouch! That sounds painful! But it's not. ;-)

These days (because I almost never shower before my shave), my shave preparation begins with splashes of water. Then I use an inexpensive or home-made shave soap and lather that with my hands, adding water to make sure my beard becomes well hydrated. Then I often go about my business of setting out and preparing the various additional tools and accoutrements for the day's shave. Then I re-wet my hands and rub more water into my soapy beard, which thins out the soapy lather on my face.

This is where my shave-oil use deviates from the norm, I would surmise: I leave my hands wet and soapy (that's the key thing here: soapy), and pour a little oil into my soapy palm. Then I rub my hands together and work the oil from my hands into my soapy beard.

The layer of soap on my hands makes it easier to rinse the oil off my hands without having to resort to hand soap and the process of washing my hands. Although shave soap is a poor product with which to wash because of its formulation to protect rather than clean, the layer of soap under the oil on one's hands still diminishes the oil's tendency to cling to the hands.

After the oil is rubbed into my beard and my hands are rinsed, I then apply my day's ultimate shave soap over the oil-soap lather remaining on my beard, and face lather. After the shave, the majority of the oil has been removed by the shaving process. Just the slightest hint remains post shave, which I find to be protecting and therefore useful. I will often finish a shave with a splash of mint witch hazel, which does not completely remove the slight oil remaining (due to the witch hazel's low alcohol content), and then cap the process with an application of soothing, pleasant balm.

Black Bot Balm and Another PAA Product

Speaking of balm, I want to mention that I continue to enjoy the Black Bot aftershave balm from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA).* And speaking of PAA, I had my third shave with their original-design double-open-comb razor, which continues to be very high on my hit parade. With it I had an extremely close and comfortable shave this morning.

Products Received at the Maggard Meet

And speaking of PAA, which was represented at the Maggard Meet in May (very alliterative, eh? ;-), I continue to test and use various products that I received at that event. Some noteworthy products are mentioned below. I also have to state that I am not going to comment or place much weight on the bouquets of various products because olfactory sensibilities and preferences vary greatly. (For example, some years ago I worked in an office where one young man, to my senses, stank as though he were doused in ammonia! Awful, offensive! I discretely mentioned to a third co-worker that the stinky man must have washed his clothes in ammonia with insufficient rinsing. He laughed at me and said that the scent was not ammonia, but rather Patchouli essential oil -- considered by some to be healthful and pleasant smelling. Obviously opinions vary!)

The Sudsy Soapery: Lavender & Peppermint Soap with Oatmeal

Okay, this isn't a shaving product, but it's great nonetheless. I'm normally not nuts about flowery scents, but this one is an exception with its added mint bouquet. This Lavender + Peppermint soap, most importantly, even in my hard Michigan water, this soap lathers beautifully and, unlike normal bath soap, acts as a great shampoo and conditioner as well! Really! Natural soaps have the ability to both clean hair and leave it soft and manageable. 

I love this soap and will likely order some when my current (way-too-large) inventory of bath soap runs out. It's available from The Sudsy Soapery.

Through the Fire Brand, Neroli Soleil Shave Soap

I received a one-ounce sample of Neroli Soleil shave soap from the manufacturer-seller, Through the Fire Fine Craft. (It appears that as of this writing their web site is under construction, but their products are available through distributor-sellers such as Maggard, West Coast Shaving, and others. Do a web search for more information.)

This is a soft soap, and I actually loaded too much on my shave brush, but the  lather was creamy and protective. Bouquet is, as always, a personal thing that you'll have to try for yourself.

Whew. I'm out of gas for now. Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Second Double-Open-Comb Shave - Yes!

As the headline suggests, my second shave with the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements (PAA)* double-open-comb razor (DOC) -- that is, their original-design version, which is now handsomely nickel plated -- was another good one. It was different, however, from yesterday's maiden trial.

This photo from PAA better represents the look of the DOC,
which is a handsome subtle-golden-hue nickel plating.
The differences were several. Today, instead of doing a common-three-pass process, I took advantage of the combed top cap, which tends to hold some lather and moisture and leave some behind during the forward shaving stroke. So in today's shave I reverted back to my usual one-lathering process. After doing a good pre-lathering prep, then lathering, I shaved using all slow, long buffing strokes in an anti-raking pattern. The DOC design optimizes these shaving techniques.

Over any given section of my beard I made several strokes in varying directions, the order of those directions differing according to the characteristics of each section of my beard.

Another difference from yesterday's shave was the shave character of the razor itself. In today's shave, the razor was a bit milder. Apparently, this particular design is responsive to the pressure of top cap to baseplate. Before I explain further, I must emphasize that I assemble a three-piece (or two-piece) razor inverted on my counter top, a process which I believe to generally be the best method for allowing the blade to self center, for safety, and for controlling the tension of the threads while minimizing the chances for thread damage. In yesterday's shave, when assembling the razor, I was very gentle on the threading of the top cap and handle, and used moderate pressure when pressing the top-cap-and-baseplate "sandwich" together while snugging up the handle. Today, I used more pressure on the "sandwich" while snugging up the handle. This "tighter" assembly of the razor made its shave character a bit more mild.

As a result, I did not feel the blade edge on skin quite as much as yesterday. However, I got another extremely skin-friendly and close shave. As a result of this second shave, the PAA DOC razor has (amazingly) jumped up on my preference list. I honestly think very highly of this particular design and its implementation.

That's it for today. Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Phoenix Double-Open-Comb Razor and Other Options

My Latest Razor Acquisition -- Initial Impressions

Yesterday I received the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' (PAA)* double-open-comb razor (DOC), their original double-open-comb design, now nickel plated.

Although the lighting in this photo is misleading, the PAA DOC has an overall  nickel plating, which has a slight golden hue. The coloring of the handle in this photo is representative of the color of the razor head as well. It is the lighting in the photo that makes the razor head look more silvery than it really is.

My initial visual impression was that this is a very cool design. The nickel finish appears rich and flawless. Whenever I get a new double-edge razor, I ALWAYS do a complete visual inspection as I've outlined in a couple of previous articles. This inspection will reveal any significant misalignments as well as give an indication of the shave character of the instrument.

For example, when examining blade exposure (and alignment) as shown in Pic. 5 of the above-referenced inspection article, I saw that the blade exposure of this PAA DOC razor is pretty neutral; that is, the blade edge lies pretty much in or near the shave plane formed by the top cap and the safety guard. This tells me that this razor is not a threatening tiger of a razor, but isn't a lap cat either.

The feel of the razor is substantial, with most of the weight in the handle obviously due to the combed top cap, which has less material than a standard top cap in a common three-piece razor. The handle knurling is crisp and grippy.

For my first (and only so far) shave, I simply put into the DOC the used SuperMax Titanium blade from my previously-on-deck razor.

My visual inspection was telling. The neutral-ish blade exposure combined with the open-comb design allowed me to clearly feel the blade on skin. Being cautious with the first shave using an unfamiliar razor, I did a common three-pass shave -- which as you may know, is not something I usually do. After some final touch-up strokes, I ended up with a very close shave and, I have to say, very low irritation for such a close and deliberate shave.

Reasons Why the PAA DOC Makes a Favorable Impression

I will be using this razor again. After only one shave, it has worked its way into my at-hand stable of razors. The reasons for this are several as follows:
  • Open-comb designs are useful because, like straight razors and unlike safety-bar double-edge razors, they have the capability to easily shave longer hair. This makes them handy for removing beards, several days' growth, or cleaning up the back of one's neck between haircuts.
  • The DOC design actually is well suited to buffing strokes as well as an anti-raking shaving pattern -- both of which I commonly use in my daily shaves.
  • This razor is a low-irritation shaver despite the fact that it can provide very close shaves.
  • The crisp knurling, the unique double-comb design and the rich golden hue of the nickel plating make it a visually-impressive instrument.

Expanded Razor Options

I guess it's a good thing to have options. However, I'm a bit frustrated because on any given day I have impulses to shave with several razors. I continue to be drawn to the use of my two straight razors, the vintage five-eights hollow ground and the replaceable-blade barber razor (the Parker PTB). They always present an appealing technical challenge. I also like to regularly use my modern adjustables, the Parker Variant and the Ming Shi 2000S because of the closeness and safety of their shaves.

Now I've got another daily temptation in the PAA DOC, which for the moment I classify between the straights and the adjustables. It offers the opportunity for a very close shave while allowing me to mind my technique because of its close blade feel against my sensitive skin. And it is a low-irritation shaver, when properly used.

Happy shaving!

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Commentaries: 2 Soaps, 1 Balm and Some Straight & Adjustable Shaves

Two Soaps

I'm starting to work my way through the products that I received at the Maggard Meet in May. The big two were the raffle prize that I won at the end, which were shave soaps from Dr. Jon's and Crown King/Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements.*

The shave soap from Dr. Jon's comes in a large four-inch-diameter tin. I found it easy to load my brush and offered a very good protective lather. The name of this particular version of their soap is a bit confusing, and I couldn't find this particular soap on their web site this morning. Its label reads "13 WSR Shaving Soap." I don't know if it's too new to be easily found, or an older product no longer offered.  However, if all their soaps have the following formulation, they're probably quite good:

  • Stearic acid, castor oil, KOH, shea butter, mango butter, babassu oil, fragrance, NaOH, sunflower oil, avocado oil, meadowfoam oil, evening primrose oil, jojoba oil, soy wax, aloe vera concentrate slippery elm bark, citric acid
The shave soap from Crown King (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements) is called "Olive Branch Artisan Shave Soap." It comes in a three-inch plastic screw-top jar which is also excellent for loading one's shave brush. I found this soap to be particularly creamy and also providing a very good lather. Like the Dr. Jon's soap, I could not find this product on the seller's web site either, so again, I don't know whether it's too new or old and discontinued. However, the following formulation is excellent in my view, and if you can find another of their soaps with it, you'll be well equipped for a good shave:
  • Saponified stearic acid, aqua, glycerin, saponified cocos nucifera oil, saponified garcinia indica seed butter, saponified butyrosperum parkii, saponified theobroma cacoa seed butter, saponifiedricinus communus seed oil, saponified persea americana, sodium lactate, glycerin (sic), fragrance
Although I have my preferences in fragrances of shave products, I prefer to keep them to myself, when comparing one to another. My tastes may diverge from yours and I don't want to discourage trying fine products such as these if I mention a preference for one's bouquet over another.

One Balm

I have come to enjoy the post-shave moisturizing effects of the balm sample that I received from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements. Called "Black Bot Soothing Aftershave Balm," it's name is in homage to an old Hai Karate aftershave fragrance called Black Belt. I've been using the sample daily for the past few days, and appreciate both the fragrance and especially the moisturizing qualities of the product. I have put my money where my mouth is by ordering the four-ounce bottle, which should arrive next week.

Some Shaves

According to my whim, I've been rotating through my at-hand stable of razors, which is comprised of the following:
  • Vintage, hollow-ground, 5/8ths traditional straight
  • Parker push-type barber razor (a so-called shavette, the model PTB)
  • Ming Shi 2000S adjustable (an imitation Merkur Futur)
  • Parker Variant adjustable
  • Gillette Slim adjustable
My straight-razor skills have been improving. By relaxing and having occasional shaves, not daily, with my straight razors -- and also by not obsessing about the number of passes or the quality of the shaves -- my straight-razor skills have been noticeably improving. 

When I first shaved a few weeks ago with my latest razor acquisition, the vintage straight after a week or so of exclusively DE shaves, I was amazed at my comfort level with the straight. My most recent shave two days ago with it yielded my best straight-razor shave to date.

Similarly, yesterday, when I followed my vintage-razor shave with the Parker PTB, I got a similar shave. Very rewarding, very fun. However, I don't want to mislead; both shaves were good but hardly baby smooth. They were good, serviceable shaves that were completely smooth to the hand in the with-grain direction, but rubbing against the grain provided friction, of course.

In my straight-razor shaves, they have become largely two-pass shaves with touch-up strokes after. My first pass is generally downward, which means largely, more-or-less with grain until I get to my lower neck. There my downward strokes are mostly cross grain and a bit against grain. (In the past I've described these as against the grain, but it's more accurate to acknowledge that they're only partially against the grain.)

My second pass with the straight varies with the area of my beard. On my lower neck, I repeat downward strokes. On my upper neck and under chin, I stroke upward, which is kind of against the grain. On the planes of my cheeks, I repeat downward strokes or will stroke across (side to side) those areas. On my chin, I stroke side to side. On my upper lip and directly under my nose it's downward again or slightly across.

I have found that my vintage and replaceable-blade straights can shave and feel very much alike. Yesterday's shave with the Parker was a third shave on the replaceable blade, and it felt almost identical to the vintage straight. When a new blade is in the Parker, I've found it's best to be extra careful. I go as far as "corking" the blade in a Styrofoam-type packing peanut and dulling the corners of the edge to minimize catching them on skin.

This morning's shave was with the Ming Shi 2000S, and was really close and comfortable. I did a largely-against-grain first pass with the razor set to 1. The noteworthy exception was my upper lip, which I shaved with the grain. Then I did a second pass on my upper lip against grain retaining the razor setting of 1. Then I finished the second pass with the razor set to 4 using cross-grain and completely-against-grain strokes. I completed the shave with some touch-up strokes.

In all it's been a pretty good series of shaves. I hope yours have been as well.

Happy shaving!

A Few Garage-Sale Razors Remaining

If you're open to trying what may be a good value, take a look at my remaining garage-sale inventory.

Happy shopping!

*affiliate organization

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Day of Rest: My One-Pass Shave, Razor Aggression and Other Stuff

My One-Pass Shave

Following through on yesterday's plan to give my skin a relative rest, today I took a one-pass, with-grain shave. I used (for the first time) a vegan soap from Dr. Jon"s Handcrafted Soap Co. (which lathered easily, offered a rich, protecting lather, and had a pleasant bouquet), a SuperMax Titanium blade with several shaves on it, and my Parker Variant razor set on 1, its least aggressive setting.

The outcome was.... well, mission accomplished in that I have a clean-shaven look and no skin insult at all. The shave was mediocre, of course, when comparing to a multi-pass shave; but I knew that would be the case before I started. The shave was "good enough for government work," as some might say.

During the shave, I applied the straight-razor technique of skin stretching to both encourage the follicles to stand more upright and to provide a flatter, firmer surface on which the edge might ride. As with a straight-razor shave, this skin stretching may have improved slightly the closeness of the shave, it's certainly no substitute for multiple passes from multiple directions.

I finished the shave with a splash of witch hazel followed by Black Bot balm from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements,* which I mentioned yesterday.

Choosing Today's Razor

When I was deciding what setting to use on the Variant razor, I contemplated the issue of razor aggression. Today was a no-brainer because I was aiming at minimal skin insult rather than closeness of shave. In fact, when considering my choice of razor, I had five options at hand:

  • A vintage hollow-ground straight
  • A push-to-open barber straight (using a replaceable half-DE blade)
  • My Parker Variant DE
  • My Ming Shi 2000S imitation Futur
  • My Gillette Slim (code I-1: 1963)
The straight razors were immediately removed from my consideration because of their lack of the safety of a safety razor (duh!). Likewise, the Slim only crossed my mind for a minute because I've never found it to offer the lowest-of-irritation shaves even at its lowest setting; perhaps I'll save this one for another one-pass-shave day, when I've had more time with this day-of-rest process. So my options came down to the Variant or the 2000S.


With a blade in each, I examined the blade exposure (that is, the location of the blade edge in relation to the shave plane determined by the top cap and the safety bar). At the least aggressive setting, both are close to neutral, but the 2000S seems just the slightest bit positive (that is, with the edge just protruding the least little bit above the shave plane). So that  meant that the Variant got the nod.

Large Blade-to-Guard Gaps and Razor Aggression

An adjustable razor offers a variable blade-to-guard gap in the vertical direction (that is, parallel to the handle). Because the gap only adjusts vertically, this not only changes the blade-to-guard span (measured along the shave plane) but also slightly the orientation of the shaving plane, which then impacts the blade angle and blade exposure. So a small blade-guard gap means a small blade-guard span, reduced blade exposure and a smaller blade angle.

But what does this all mean in terms of shaving characteristics? Let's look at each individually, then sum it all up.
  • The more negative the blade exposure (that is, the more it lies within the protective cove of the top cap and safety guard), the less likely the razor is to nip and irritate. However, this also limits its ability to easily offer a very close shave, which will require more passes and perhaps more pressure of the razor against skin.
  • Generally speaking, the smaller the blade angle, the less it scrapes and the more it slices. A less-scraping angle usually means a less irritating razor (when all other things are the same).
  • A smaller blade-guard span means there is less opportunity for skin to bulge into the protective cove between the top cap and the safety guard, meaning, again, less opportunity for irritation or nicks.
  • A smaller blade-guard gap limits the length of hair that the razor can easily shave. Bigger gaps and open-tooth-guard designs allow for more easily shaving longer whiskers.
So, assuming a razor has a neutral blade exposure, then in simplest terms, a larger gap merely allows shaving longer whiskers. Of course, this assumes that the user has the optimal angle of razor against face. If the user is not shaving with the optimal angle, then the ability to get a close shave with a small-gap razor will also be compromised to the degree that the angle deviates from ideal.

So one conclusion that can be drawn from this examination of razor adjustments (or non-adjustable razor design) is that if one shaves every day, there's little need for aggressive razor settings since most adjustable razors -- at least the three that I own -- have a neutral-to-slightly-positive blade exposure at their least-aggressive setting. This means that if one's mastery of razor angle is solid, then a daily shaver has no compelling reason to have a large blade-guard gap.

Happy shaving!

A Few Garage-Sale Razors Remaining

If you're open to trying what may be a good value, take a look at my remaining garage-sale inventory.

Happy shopping!

*affiliate organization

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Several Related Thoughts....

Chasing Baby Smooth

Ever since I discovered old-time shaving with a double edge, I've been striving for the perfect shave: baby smooth and no skin insult of any kind. The reality is, however, that's just not going to happen. The combination of my wiry beard, angle of growth, and skin sensitivity and texture makes this theoretical ideal exactly that: theoretical.

I can get baby smooth all over, but I will have wounds; it's unavoidable. I can have happy skin, but I will feel stubble if I rub against the grain.

The solution is obvious: stop chasing baby smooth!

I will still pursue a good shave. I did so this morning. I took one of my adjustable razors, set it on its mildest setting, and made a first pass largely against the grain. Then I adjusted my razor to a middling setting, re-lathered (deviating from my oft-used single-lather shave) and again shaved largely against the grain.

Then I used some extra water and lather remaining on my face and the underside of the razor, and did touch-up strokes with the razor set to about two-thirds of full bore.

Using a light touch throughout, I got a very good shave -- not quite perfect, but close enough to satisfy.

Alternating Aspirations

I'm also planning on alternating the focus of my daily shaves. I'm thinking that every other day instead of going for a very close shave as described above, I'll simply do a single-pass, with-grain shave using one of my adjustables set on its mildest setting. 

The point of this regular ultra-light shave is to still keep the beard growth down while giving my skin time to rest and recuperate from my close-shave obsession. I'll let you know how this works out.

A Soothing Balm

When at the Maggard Meet in May, I acquired enough soap samples to keep me testing for quite a long time. I also received several after-shave-product samples including a Black Bot balm from Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements.* 

I gave this a try and found that it's a very moisturizing, soothing after-shave product. I also really like the bouquet.

The company, Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements, is the same organization that has brought several unique razor designs to market, often taking arcane vintage ideas and resurrecting them with modern design tweaks. 

Their double-open-comb razor is one such example. Although I was rather dismissive of this design intially -- thinking it innovative and interesting but not essential (what is?) -- I have been reading more review and discussion of this razor, and was sorely tempted to give it a try.

I will revisit this impulse within the next few weeks, when I place my order for the Black Bot balm.

A Few Garage-Sale Razors Remaining

If you're open to trying what may be a great value, take a look at my remaining garage-sale inventory.

Happy shaving!

*affiliate organization