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!

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