Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Argument Against Experimenting with Many Razors and Blades

It took me a while to settle on which razors were to be my daily shaving gear. My first DE (double-edge) razor was the 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable that had been sitting neglected for about 40 years in a cabinet in my parents' home. I experimented with this razor and some generic drug-store blades while I waited for my Merkur 33C razor and Personna Blue blades to arrive from my Internet-based seller.
Five razors from my small inventory of nine. Left to right: Merkur 37 slant, Gillette Slim Adjustable, Weishi 9306-f, Wilkinson Sword Classic, and Merkur 33C. (Not shown is a Weishi 2003-m, Shaving Factory TTO, Lord LP1822L (L6), and Chinese 3-piece razor.) I could have stopped with my first purchase, the Merkur 33C, recommended by an Internet article. (Better, though, might have been the 34C, the heavy duty version.)  I do not regret the purchase of the 37C slant; but all my razors are now packed in a closet save for the 37C, the 33C with a heavier handle, and, when traveling, the Wilkinson Sword Classic.

It was a recommendation from an Internet article on DE shaving that led me to order the 33C and the Personna blades. That writer suggested skipping the angst and cogitation that comes with many DE-gear-purchase decisions, and, instead, "just order the best," by which, of course, he meant the best in his experience and opinion -- and which, of course, I didn't fully comprehend.

After I impulsively placed an order based on that solitary writer's opinion, I did much more Internet research, and began to doubt my rash purchase. Then after I got harsh shaves from the Gillette with generic blades, I eagerly tried my newly arrived razor and blades, and, as a newbie, still got imperfect shaves. So with a typical newbie thought process, I began to focus on gear as the cause of less-than-ideal shaves. And so I acquired more gear -- primarily razors and blades, but also a different brush and several brands of shaving soap, cream, oil, and butter.
The various blades that I've acquired in the madness of gear acquisition. Several of these I've never yet used, but will in due time. This over abundance of blade brands could have been avoided if I'd had the foresight, or better advisement, to just by a single, moderately-priced, sharp, coated blade.

The problem with this try-lots-of-gear approach, which is encouraged by far too many posts on the Internet, is that a new DE shaver lacks the experience to even begin to sort out the many variables that contribute to the quality of one's shave. The variables always begin with one's technique. Then there are the ten variables of any given razor design. Add to that the variables of blade engineering, which include edge sharpness, details of edge grind, blade alloy, relative blade thickness and stiffness, and coatings if any. The combinations of variables is dizzying -- and I haven't even considered pre-shave prep and post-shave skin care! This means these variables are also impossible to sort out if one hasn't established a solid baseline of shave quality by gaining some significant experience over several months using a single, adequate-quality razor-and-blade combination along with a standardized daily shave process.

Today, I can clearly feel differences in the shave from one razor to another [UPDATE: that is, within reason; sometimes I can, sometimes not, depending on any pre-existing face irritation, number of shaves on a given blade, and blade-razor combination]. The same with blades, when there is a discernable difference to perceive; for example, there are clear differences between generic blades and the Lord Platinum blades that I chose early on. Yet there are also clear differences between the Lord blades and, say, the Personna Blues. Early in my DE-shaving experience, I could not perceive these differences, [UPDATE: and I still can't perceive a meaningful difference between many blades].

So what is the point of all this discussion? you might ask. Good question. I am emphasizing the point to newer DE shavers to initially buy a quality razor, which doesn't have to be expensive. At the low end, I would recommend the Wilkinson Sword Classic -- though I think its bite is a bit mild and may require an extra pass -- but it's so inexpensive that you will be able to upgrade later if you choose [UPDATE: and if you think it's a bit mild, learn to shave using oblique strokes]. If your budget is more generous, I stay with my recommendation that you can't go wrong with the Merkur 34C Heavy Duty razor, which is the heavier sibling to the 33C that I bought on one writer's opinion. Then put in a good-but-not-high-priced blade, which is both sharp and coated [UPDATE: such as the Dorco ST-301]. Then put many DE shaves under your belt with your chosen razor-and-blade combination before you start to experiment with other blades in small quantities as seems appropriate.

If you started with the 34C as your first razor, you could stop there with razor purchases -- though I don't regret getting the 37C slant, which typically allows me one less pass to achieve a very close daily shave.

Those are my thoughts this morning.  Happy shaving!

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