Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Shave Across Time

Think 1963 Hardware....

With thoughts of my article the other day on the standard shave and some options, this morning I used my venerable Gillette Slim adjustable for today's shave. Though the Slim is far from my favorite razor, it is an adjustable, and I thought I'd use the mindset of an early 1960s gent, and see what kind of a shave I could get with just a standard shave.

My thinking was (and still is) that the Gillette adjustables were designed with the standard shave in mind; that is, one (pass) and done. So I took my Derby Extra blade with seven previous shaves on it, set the Slim on its mid-point setting of five, and mounted up for today's shave.

19th-Century Beginnings

My prep this morning was far from 1960 though. It started with my usual splash of unheated water -- an idea that I first got from a 19th-century text on shaving. The idea of the cool-water shave was put forth as eliminating the need for servants to have to heat water. And so it came to pass: no servants heated my shaving water this morning.  ;-)

Early 20th-Century Pre Shave

To clean my skin and help to soften my whiskers by saturation with moisture, I took out my jar of classic Noxzema cream. Noxzema was first sold in 1914 as a no-exzema skin cleanser.

Using generous amounts of cool water and a small scoop of Noxzema, I washed my face. I added a second application of water, but not really with the intention of rinsing. I merely wanted to ensure that my whiskers were adequately wet.

21st-Century Shave Cream

Today was a no-brush shave. I pulled out my tube of Cremo shave cream and, as I did with the Noxzema, rubbed it into my whiskers with my wet hands.

Cremo shave cream was trade marked in 2011.

Although I do generally prefer to use a shave brush, I also appreciate the cooling menthol of Cremo (which is also available in several scents and formulations) -- as well as its lubricating qualities. I also like no-brush shaving creams for traveling when I don't want to pack a brush. Wasting no time, I picked up the Slim and began my standard shave.

The Shave Process

I made my pass with vertical strokes -- largely with grain. The setting may have been just a touch aggressive; I got about four small weepers. Next time I try this, I'll use a setting of four.

The outcome of my standard shave was satisfactory, but not rewarding. So I rinsed and applied more Cremo. Then I dialed the Slim back to a setting of one and took a second pass, also with vertical strokes, but this time in the opposite direction from the first pass -- largely against grain. The exception to this was on my upper lip, on which I shaved with horizontal strokes.

Still not quite satisfied, I just added a bit of water to the residual cream on my neck and took several clean-up strokes directly against the grain on and under my jaw line.

The result was a pretty good shave. The weepers were a disappointment, and I applied alum to shut them down.

A Modern Post Shave

After I cleaned, dried and stowed my shaving hardware, I rubbed on a splash of common drugstore witch hazel to which I had added both peppermint and menthol. I went and enjoyed another cup of coffee for a few minutes while that dried.

Then I returned to the bathroom and applied a splash of Shea Nation citrus after-shave lotion, which is a nice summer option. After that dried I decided that my skin needed a bit of pampering so I took one final step.

Some time ago, on the suggestion of one of my readers, I stopped at a dollar store and bought a bottle of lotion intended both as an after-shave and general moisturizer. Without any fragrance to speak of, one of its salient features is that it dries leaving skin smooth and not sticky. I've used this on and off for quite some time, but recently improved it by adding menthol.

So I used this menthol-augmented lotion as a final application to my beard and around my eyes as well.

Closing Thoughts

I think that the old Gillette double-edge adjustables were designed to allow users to dial in the setting that could optimize their daily standard shave. Bear in mind that these were pre-shaving-hobbyist days, in which shaving was merely a requisite daily utilitarian chore. Of course, they also offered the additional benefit that if a closer shave were desired, the user could adjust the razor as needed for subsequent passes beyond the standard shave.

Modern adjustables obviously offer the same option but with the added benefit of having a slightly smoother shave character. Also, as hobbyists have experimented, many including me will often dial up the aggression of the razor setting as the shave progresses beyond the initial pass.

That said, on those days when I simply want the best good-enough shave that I can get in a single pass, I would certainly reach for one of my adjustables and dial in a fairly aggressive setting.

Happy shaving!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Variations on the Standard Shave

The Standard Shave

As I've written several times, I define a standard shave as the DE shave taken by most non-hobbyist shavers using DE-shaving gear. That is a one-pass shave taken, for the most part, in the with-grain direction.

This standard shave is a good-enough shave from a visual perspective -- especially when taken with a fairly aggressive razor. However, a standard shave is not at all rewarding to the hand even just after the shave, offering stubble resistance in anything but the with-grain direction. It also begins to look untidy rather quickly -- often showing a five-o'-clock shadow well before five in the evening.

A Fragile-Skin Variation

When my sensitive and rather fragile skin needs a break from my obsessively-close shaves, I typically take advantage of the adjustability of my preferred DE razors at hand. This includes my DOC (double-open comb) razor from PAA (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements), which is technically a non-adjustable three-piece design. This razor responds well to a slight de-snugging of the handle, which makes it shave more efficiently than the mild shave character it displays when fully snugged.

When I'm using my adjustable razors, the Parker Variant or the Ming Shi 2000S (both excellent razors in my opinion), I set either on a setting of about four for my first pass that is largely with grain. For this first pass with the DOC, I do slightly loosen the handle to give the razor a bit more bite. My so-called with-grain first pass is not obsessively with grain, but rather in a vertical direction -- downward for most of my beard and upward on my lower neck.


[Shopping note: When considering a purchase of the Variant, I suggest using the link provided above, which allows you to deal directly with Parker USA (via Amazon, an affiliate company to Shave Like Grandad); Parker USA has an excellent reputation for customer service. To get the Ming Shi 2000S, I recommend dealing with Maggard Razors (not an affiliate company), who are also known for their top-drawer customer service.]

Then depending on my mood and the overall condition of my skin, I may then do a second partial pass under my jaw line and on upper neck using the same razor setting using mostly against-grain strokes. If I want a better shave, I'll do a full second pass against grain, but with my razor dialed (or snugged) back to a maximally-mild setting.

Prep Variations

I've been enjoying various pre-lathering options. This morning after a face wash with sandalwood soap from the Sudsy Soapery (and subsequent rinse), I did a second "wash" with classic Noxzema cream, but did not rinse that off. Then I loaded my brush with menthol shave soap and face lathered. The resulting watery lather was effective and comfortable.

Some days I'll skip the initial face wash and will pre-lather with either dedicated pre-lather-and-lather-enhancing soap from PAA, or will sometimes do a pre-lathering "wash" with my shave soap of the day and wet hands.

I personally find that the hobbyist obsession with "rich, thick" lather is a mistake. Remember that this is wet shaving (emphasis on wet), and water plays a crucial role in combining with the soap or cream to make a slippery concoction. If I make any errors at all, I occasionally make lather that is too soap rich (not enough water). The proof in this pudding of effective water-rich lather is when one is to do final clean-up strokes to a face that has been just shaved, and adds moisture to the clean skin that merely has the smallest residual of shave soap. The result is still a slippery surface that allows final strokes for a close (and safe, comfortable) shave.


My shave today with the PAA DOC razor, a sixth-use Derby Extra blade used the two pass variation, but with an extra half pass of clean-up strokes below my jaw line and on my upper neck. It was a satisfying shave even though not quite baby-bottom close. Both the process and the outcome were very rewarding. Who could ask for more?

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 18, 2017

A Quote That, With Luck, Will Provoke Thought

Men (and Women) are qualified for civil duty and civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love for justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good in preference to the flattery of knaves.
Edmund Burke

Happy shaving (and thinking)!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A Shark, Shavette, & Sandalwood Shave

Shark Blades

I received Shark-brand half-DE blades with my Parker barber razors. I also received full-sized Shark-brand double-edge (DE) blades with my Parker Variant adjustable razor. I find them sharp and durable. 

When I use the half-sized Shark blade in my preferred Parker PTB shavette, I don't use it straight from the wrapper. I literally "cork" the blade two strokes through the cork from a wine bottle. This seasons the edge -- takes a bit of the bite from the recyclable blade, which makes it well suited for a non-safety shave in my replaceable-blade straight razor.

The blades seem fairly long lasting as well. Today I had a very satisfactory shave with a fourth-use Shark blade in the barber straight, and have dried and palm stropped the blade in preparation for a fifth use in the near future.


Parker Shavette

As I've written previously, I like the weight and size of the Parker PTB (push-type-barber razor). As I have continued to gain shaving experience with straight razors, I find my shaving stroke (with either hand) has evolved to have a pretty consistent feather-light landing at the initiation of the stroke, and a light pressure throughout.

I do have to chuckle at some video "stars" on youtube who have long-standing growths of facial hair on chin and upper lip, yet claim to be handy with a straight razor. The primary challenge of shaving with a straight are safely shaving those very areas. For me, the hairs very high on the upper lip that are essentially just within my nose are my greatest challenge. The point of my chin is the second most challenging. The highest area under my lower lip is the third-greatest challenge. How someone can not often shave those areas and yet claim proficiency with a straight is suspect. They may actually be an expert, but the proof may be in the pudding, which in this case is shaving those most challenging areas.

I really like the PTB for its full size, its metal that is all stainless steel for durability and easy care, and its moderate (not heavy) weight, which I find to be very responsive and offering great tactile and auditory feedback as I shave.

It was actually my plan this morning to shave with a DE razor, but at the last minute, heard the call of the PTB and the anticipation of another fun, challenging shave with a straight razor. My shave delivered that fun and satisfaction, though, once again, I'll remind you that the outcome of my straight-razor shaves isn't record-setting close. In fact, my straight shaves have similar results to my twin-blade-cartridge razors that I used to have before I discovered the pleasure of old-school shaving. My straight shaves are good enough for a daily shave, but hardly baby smooth.


Sandalwood Soaps

I've been doing sandalwood shaves the past few days. My prep begins with my usual splash and rub of cool tap water. Then I wash my face with sandalwood (and grapefruit) bath soap from the Sudsy Soapery.

This sandalwood soap is special in my humble opinion. In my limited olfactory experience with sandalwood-scented products, they have seemed a bit spicy -- almost like a weak bay-rum scent. Not this soap from the Sudsy folk. This stuff clearly smells like sandalWOOD. The woody scent is not overpowering, but instead is subtle and pleasant. However, I'd not mistake this for a weak bay-rum concoction, as I used to with a sandalwood shave soap from a different manufacturer-seller.

Anyway, I left the bath soap on my face as I completed setting out shaving accoutrements, and then, without rinsing, rubbed some macadamia oil on my soapy whiskers. I then completed the shave preparation by face lathering my sandalwood shave soap into a rather thin, watery lather (as opposed to thick and fluffy). I think a slightly-thin, watery lather works well with a straight razor.

Finishing Touches

After rinsing off with cool tap water and pat drying, I rubbed in a splash of generic drug-store witch hazel that has been augmented with peppermint and menthol. After that dried (as I cleaned and dried my shaving hardware), I applied Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements' (PAA) Black Bot after-shave gel, which is currently only available as a sample, but I'm awaiting general availability, when I will buy a bottle. I really like the Black Bot scent from PAA, and this particular product has the right amount of menthol to make it great.

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 11, 2017

A Meditation on Early Gillette Razors with Modern Blades

It was an eye-opening experience a few months ago, when I saw a c.1918 Gillette razor and original (three-hole, round-end) blades. The blades had a very shiny finish, were thicker than modern blades, and were also less flexible -- probably owing to their thickness.

So this morning (after my vintage straight-razor shave), while thinking about an article for today, I began to meditate on how a modern, thinner blade might affect the shave character of early Gillette razors. I've heard that their shave character is rather aggressive, when using modern blades. So that begs the question, is it the modern blade thickness or the innate character of the design that determines their shave character? Put another way -- and perhaps more accurately -- does a modern blade make these razors' shave character different than the designers intended?

I've not had the experience of shaving with one of these early razors, which were designed to shave with Gillette's early, thicker blades. (Maybe I'll ask my friend to borrow his razor.) However, let's do some ratiocination together, and see how a modern, thinner blade might affect the shave character of these early razors.

My thought-experiment analysis begins by considering the effect of razor shims in a two- or three-piece razor. The shims will mimic using a thicker blade, but the effect may simply be easier to envision.

A shim between the blade and the baseplate widens the blade-bar span (and gap, obviously) in a modern safety bar razor. This also changes the geometry of the blade angle and exposure* in relation to the shave plane formed by the top cap and baseplate. [*Note: I define blade exposure as the degree to which the blade edge is above or below the shave plane. I define blade reveal, which is not discussed in this analysis, as the amount of blade that is visible beyond the top cap.] This shim-induced geometry change increases both blade exposure and blade angle, which thereby increases razor aggressiveness of shave character.

A shim between the blade and baseplate in an open-comb razor, has the same effect. (Despite common mythology that open-comb razors are aggressive in shave character, the primary difference between open-comb and safety-guard razors of identical geometry is that the open-comb designs have an improved ability to shave hair of any length without clogging.)

A shim between the blade and top cap has a different effect. The increased distance between blade and top cap reduces the blade exposure, much like a taller person behind the wheel of a car can see a bit more pavement just beyond the front bumper. But, surprisingly, by elevating the top cap in relation to the blade increases the blade angle in relation to the shave plane.

So let's summarize what we've figured out so far regarding the effect of using shims to simulate a thicker blade in a three-piece razor:
  • More aggressive orientation of the baseplate in relation to the blade edge in both blade angle and blade exposure
  • More aggressive orientation of the top cap in relation to blade angle
  • Less aggressive orientation of the top cap in relation to blade exposure
These conditions suggest that a thicker blade will, in sum, likely make the razor shave with a more aggressive shave character owing to the increase in blade angle and somewhat of a cancellation effect in terms of blade exposure. 

Using this type of analysis, it's easy to understand, then, that a thinner blade will have the opposite effect:
  • Less aggressive orientation of baseplate -- less aggressive (smaller) blade angle and reduced blade exposure
  • Mixed impact due to orientation of the top cap -- less aggressive blade angle, more aggressive blade exposure
So it can be concluded that a thinner blade will tend to make two- and three-piece razors have, to some degree, a less-aggressive shave character.

One might therefore conclude that vintage Gillette razors that were designed to shave with the original round-ended, three-hole blades had a more aggressive  shave character that might be experience today using modern, thinner blades.

Hmmh. Imagine that. I would have guessed otherwise.

Happy shaving!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Return to a Three-Pass Shave -- Better?

Evaluating a Three-Pass Shave

As regular readers may know, I don't usually do the oft-recommended (by others, not me)  three-pass shave. Normally I do a one-lathering shave that begins with strokes largely but not perfectly against the grain of my beard.

To make a one-lathering shave work, one must conserve lather on the face rather than scraping off; so, again, regular readers will know that I normally use two shaving techniques in combination. The first technique is reciprocating strokes in which the razor tends to stay in contact with the skin for both the hair-removing and return strokes. I also tend to shave in an anti-raking stroke pattern, which involves hair-removing razor strokes that move toward rather than away from the area just shaved.

Today I deviated from my normal routine and went to a three-pass shave. (Notice that I don't call it the standard three-pass shave because I remain convinced that among the world-wide population of traditional wet shavers -- that is, using water, lather, and a single-bladed razor, a one-pass shave is far more standard. I believe that shaving hobbyists/aficionados are the exception, not the rule.)

So I took a careful three-pass shave using my Parker Variant and an eleventh-shave Personna blue blade. After three careful passes (WTG, XTG and ATG), I wasn't quite close enough in a few regions. So I added water to those areas and using just the residual soap, made some against-grain clean-up strokes. The result was a pretty close and comfortable shave. No big surprise there, but I must note that it wasn't really an improvement over my normal daily one-lathering shave in which I make my first strokes against the grain.

Tracking Blade Usage

I mentioned above that my shave today was the eleventh shave on my current DE blade. I know this because I track usage in a very easy way.

When I open a new DE blade, I retain the paper wrapper and keep it near my razors. I also have at hand a pencil and a Sharpie in the same area. The pencil is for those blade wrappers that readily accept graphite, and the Sharpie is for those wrappers not so pencil friendly.

As I use a blade for each shave, I have rows -- one for each razor -- in which I record the number of each shave.  Below is an example of what a typical wrapper might have recorded on it (and the abbreviations represent the different razors -- MS=Ming Shi 2000S, V=Parker Variant, DOC=PAA double-open comb, and GS=Gillette Slim):

MS - 1, 4, 8, 11, 
V - 2, 5, 9, 
DOC - 3, 6, 10, 
GS - 7, 

I don't really do anything with this information beyond, over time, getting a general sense of blade longevity.

Also, as I've noted before, my somewhat uncommon blade durability is due to my daily care in which I carefully dry and gently palm strop my blades.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why I Favor Certain Razors

I've rotated through all my at-hand razors in the past week or so. If you're a regular reader, then you know that my at-hand razors -- the ones I keep in my bathroom drawer -- are six:

I have these razors at hand and no others for two fundamental reasons,on which I elaborate below.

Non-irritating Shave

First of all for me, to make the grade, a razor has to offer me a non-irritating shave. I've had many razors that can give a close shave, but those that I've rejected seem to have a shaving character that riles my skin. An example of this, and the only irritating shaver that I keep at hand, is my vintage Slim. I retain this razor as a small tribute to and reminder of my dad, who was its original owner. I had a shave with it this week for no particular reason other than to take it for a spin, and even though my objective was just a comfortable every-day shave -- not particularly close -- it was still irritating and resulted in a few unwelcome weepers.

Other fine and commonly-appreciated razors that, for me, were just a bit too irritating have included Gillette Techs, the mild Merkur 15C open comb, every one-piece razor that I've tried (including some very non-aggressive designs such as the Weishi 9306F), the Rimei RM2003, and others that don't spring to mind just now.

All my favorite razors have the key characteristic of being about as non irritating as one can expect given that they are instruments designed to repeatedly rake sharpened steel across sensitive skin.

The degree of straight razors' non-irritating quality relies, obviously, on user skill. The user's skill has two primary factors: judgement in having the blade edge be appropriately sharp, and the ability to shave safely and comfortably with the instrument. A big part of a non-irritating shave with a straight is in keeping the angle of blade to skin sufficiently small that the stroke is more slicing rather than scraping.

My preferred double-edge (DE) razors have design qualities, which I suspect (I haven't been able to empirically verify this) largely involve the angle of the blade in relation to the top cap and shaving plane, that encourage this more-slicing-and-less-scraping angle of the blade to my skin.

Closeness Capability

I do like rather mild-shaving razors. I have no interest in taking a Muhle R41 for a spin, for example. However, I don't like total-lap-cat razors either. For example, a razor that I preferred for quite a long time was the Merkur Classic, the 33C. Yet over time I found that though it offered me a relatively non-irritating shave, I felt I had to work a bit to hard to get a very close shave. So I ended up giving that one to my teen-age son as a starter DE, and he seems to be adequately satisfied so far.

The DEs that I keep at hand, without exception (including the Slim), all have the ability to give me a close shave. The adjustables, obviously, can be dialed up in intensity. The PAA (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements) DOC is a comfortable and mild-shaving instrument that can be made more aggressive by a slightly-less-snug tightening of the handle. This morning, for example, using this design quirk by tightening the handle to not-completely snug, I got a close, comfortable shave in a single lathering -- taking full advantage of the DOC design to maintain lather on the skin by using anti-raking and long reciprocating razor strokes.

My straight razors are a bit of the exception here. My skills with the straight are not adequate to get as close a shave as I can with my DEs, but, as I've written before, the fun and satisfaction of wielding a straight razor does compensate for the low probability of achieving a near-baby-smooth result.

 Razor Characteristics Unimportant to Me

Though razor heft (that is, weight) matters to some, it's not terribly important to me. Perhaps it is just coincidence that none of my favored DEs are lightweights. The Variant and 2000S razors are fairly heavy and the DOC ain't a lightweight, though, as a three-piece, classically-sized razor with it's unique combed top cap, it isn't a true heavyweight either.

The exception regarding razor weight involves my PTB barber straight. I find its lack of heft gives me both tactile and auditory feedback that I found preferable to the heavyweight shavette that I initially tried.

Another often-discussed characteristic is razor balance, which is immaterial to me. I think concerns with razor balance border on silly actually, but opinions vary and to each his own.

Happy shaving!

Friday, August 4, 2017

On Grooming: A Great Natural Soap that Doubles as Shampoo!

A while back I wrote an article that included mention of the Sudsy Soapery, a soap-making company in Belleville, Illinois. From them I received a full-size trial bar of their lavender & peppermint (with oatmeal) soap. I tried it, liked it, and briefly wrote about it.

Well, I put my money where my mouth is and ordered a couple of new bars. I did this despite having a large inventory of normal bath soap on hand, which was purchased in bulk from one of the warehouse/bulk-sale stores.

I ordered this premium Sudsy Soapery soap because, despite our hard water here in Metro Detroit, it lathers luxuriously. It also smells good. Most importantly, it makes for great shampoo that doesn't dry one's hair and scalp, thus eliminating the need for conditioner.

Because of my nearly-daily summer tennis habit, I pretty much shower at least once per day, and this includes washing my sweat-soaked hair. In the past on the advice of a doctor, who advocated using soap for hair washing, I tried using common department-store/grocery-store bath soap. I found that it didn't seem to get my hair clean, leaving what seemed like a waxy coating. However, using the "natural" soap from the Sudsy Soapery (instead of the detergent soap from mainstream manufacturers), I find that I get excellent results -- clean hair that is manageable and not dried out -- even washing it twice in a single day.

So I'll continue to use my large inventory of common bath soap as part of my showering routine (after all, I have a number of bars that have to be used up), but even while they're still being used, my hair will get the Sudsy Soapery treatment. After that, maybe I'll exclusively use "natural" soap.

Also, along with my order of a couple of lavender & peppermint soap, they included (as a trial, I assume) a full-sized bar of grapefruit and sandalwood soap, which I tried and enjoyed during my post-tennis shower yesterday. I used this on both skin and hair, with results similar to the lavender & peppermint soap.

So I can recommend an alternative to harsh hair shampoo and requisite post-shampoo conditioner: try some natural soap from the Sudsy Soapery*.

*I do not receive any compensation from Sudsy Soapery (unfortunately) for sales or recommendation of their products. I'm merely passing along what I hope might be useful and helpful information.

Happy shaving (and bathing)!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Will the Shaving Bubble Burst?

Students of economic history and market bubbles certainly are familiar with the market crash of 1929 in which unbridled optimism (the sky's the limit!) and the ability to buy stocks on credit led first to incredible stock-value inflation. Profit taking and market uncertainty led to increased selling. Too many sellers and insufficient buyers led to falling prices, which forced credit buyers to sell to cover their loans. Everything snowballed resulting in the spectacular market crash.

Similarly, in the 17th century there was a rampant speculation in tulip bulbs (of all things!), in which bulbs were selling for outrageously high (and eventually unsupportable) prices. When the market came to its senses and realized that these highly-priced bulbs did not have the requisite intrinsic value to support their prices, investors began selling to take their profit and get out. Like in the stock market, too many sellers and insufficient buyers led to falling prices -- dramatically falling prices. In the aftermath, many bulb buyers were left with tulip bulbs valued at much less than their purchase prices, with no market to sell for anything but a great loss.

Now traditional shaving is the thing. Shaving businesses, both physical and virtual, continue to  open and expand. Some of this expansion is certainly supported by new buyers entering the market. However, this expansion is also fueled to some degree by acquisition disorder, in which participants are buying products at a rate that exceeds their use.

If I were heavily invested in a shaving business, with inventory and perhaps store rent and staff to support, I would be warily and constantly watching for signs that the growth may begin to subside. Key questions include the following:

  • At what point will the rate of new entrants into the traditional-shaving arena begin to slow?
  • At what point will existing traditional-shaving enthusiasts realize that they have more than enough razors, blades, soap and aftershave?
  • Are there any economic analysts studying and predicting traditional-shaving-market trends?
I'm not that good at predicting the future. (If I were, I'd likely be rich, retired, and living elsewhere.) However, if I had a business dependent on selling shaving products, I'd be working very hard at improving my prediction skills.

Happy shaving!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Re-thinking My Favorite Razor: Variant Vs. Ming Shi 2000S

"Would you like a waffle with your choice of favorite DE razor, dear?"

After writing yesterday that the Parker Variant would be the one razor I'd choose if I only had to choose one.... well, today I'm reconsidering.

Oh, the Variant is a really good razor and may still be my first choice. However, there's a reason that the Ming Shi 2000S razor still has a parking spot in my razor drawer in the bathroom. After my shave this morning with the 2000S, it was such a smooth, comfortable shave that I'm reminded that I can't in good conscience abandon it as a candidate for the top dog in my small stable of regular-use double-edge razors. It's like the difficulty some have in choosing a favorite child.

Maybe I should call my choice of favorite razor a tie, and leave it at that.

Each razor has its relative strengths. Let me walk you through them:

  • Physical characteristics:
    The Variant has to get the nod here due to its smaller head and excellent handle knurling. The smaller head makes it easier to shave the whiskers highest up under the nose, and the handle texture gives one a secure grip even with wet and soapy hands. However, the 2000S head design does have a benefit in that it covers the end tabs of the blade, which eliminates that occasional tab nick from a careless stroke. Also, since I've been shaving with straight razors, I've developed the habit of keeping my hands dry. This has carried over to my use of my DE razors, so I no longer find the smooth-handled Futur imitator 2000S to be a grip challenge. The weights are about the same, with the Variant being slightly heavier. Both have good heft.
  • Ease of blade changing:
    The 2000S gets the nod here, but it's really a non issue. Both are easy to use. The Variant top cap has the threaded center post, while the top cap of the 2000S has the twin posts that snap easily into the handle-baseplate assembly. (I recommend that both are assembled and disassembled inverted over a wash cloth or small towel.)
  • Adjustability:
    I guess the Variant has a small advantage in that its one-to-five-plus adjustability is really a one-to-eleven option, but I never use that second-rotation adjustment range, which strikes me as crazily aggressive. Usually a setting of four is about as aggressive as I get on both the Variant and the 2000S.
  • Smoothness of shave:
    Smoothness is largely about the angle of the blade edge in relation to the shave plane determined by the top cap and safety bar. I think that both of these razors are pretty damned smooth shavers. However, after this morning's 2000S shave with a fifth-use Personna blue blade as compared to yesterday's Variant shave with the same blade in its fourth use, I'm tempted to say the 2000S is just a hair smoother. This is hardly a conclusive opinion, and may vary according to blade wear, blade model, and even razor adjustment setting. It's just that every time I declare the Variant to be my favorite razor, the 2000S' smoothness of shave seems to whisper its reminder in my ear.
  • Price:
    The 2000S is the clear winner here. The Variant is currently (and has been) $57. The 2000S can be had for less than $20.

My conclusion is that if you are on a tight budget and can keep your hands dry during a shave, the 2000S is the razor to buy. If you're not on a budget and price is no object, either or both are the way to go.

The Variant is available on Amazon as is (was?) the Ming Shi 2000S, though the 2000S required a bit more searching to find it. (I couldn't find it on Amazon today. It may or may not be the same razor as the look-alike Q-Shave razor, which is much easier to find on Amazon. For a sure thing, Maggard razors had an inventory of 2000S razors.)

Happy shaving!