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

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