Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another Trial Shave with the Gillette Slim Adjustable

Since doing the detailed analysis of the shave-head-design characteristics on this razor, the vintage Gillette Slim Adjustable, I have been considering giving it another trial shave. I have vacillated though; some days I'm willing to do it, and other days don't want to risk the irritation that may occur due to the combination of positive blade exposure (above the shave plane) combined with the effective razor gap -- all even on the most mild setting.

The Gillette Slim Adjustable razor from 1963. Available settings change not
only the  blade-bar gap, but also the blade angle and the blade exposure -- each
becoming more aggressive, potentially more harsh, as the setting moves from one
to nine. For a daily shave, because of my sensitive skin I would set the razor to one.

Putting my reservations aside, I resolved to have a one- or two-pass shave (depending on my game-time decision) with the razor set to its most mild setting. Bear in mind that this mildest setting still provides a blade angle slightly greater than my preferred Merkur Classic Model 33C (respectively 31 versus 30 degrees), and a blade exposure that is slightly positive (as contrasted to the Merkur 33, which has a negative blade exposure). These characteristics of the Slim as well as past shaving experiences predict a harsher shave than the 33 on my sensitive skin, which is the reason for my ambivalence about giving the Slim another go. But I did follow through.

The blade exposure on this razor is positive, that is, above the shave plane even
when the razor is set to one, its mildest setting. This is a bit of a concern for me,
with my sensitive skin. The actual blade-bar gap is the distance A-B, not A-C as
one might think at a glance. The blade angle at this setting is about 31 degrees,
which is just slightly larger than my preferred razors, the Merkur 33 and Lord L6.
To have a fair comparison, I used my normal minimalist beard preparation, which is limited to  only cool-water wetting prior to lathering. I did this trial on a Sunday, when I could most easily get away with merely a good-enough shave that is likely to result from less than three passes. On the other hand, however, being Sunday, this is the day when I use a fresh blade right out of the wrapper. In this case, the blade for the week was the Dorco ST-301 -- a coated blade that I have used in the past with satisfactory results. The shave soap was my Arko stick.
When using shave soap from a shave stick, a clean empty yogurt
container at hand while shaving can hold used lather swiped from
underneath the razor prior to rinsing between strokes. This cache
of used lather can be used if the brush doesn't have sufficient
lather for all the passes you choose to make. After the shave, any
lather that remains is rinsed down the drain.

Since this shave was done on the first day of my weekly blade cycle, though I was using a different razor than my usual, I did stay with the routine of using Arko shave stick to lubricate the shave. I applied a bit less to my wet beard than usual, however, because I was only trying to generate enough lather for two passes, not three. As it turned out, I had ample lather in the brush for three full passes. Fortunately, when using a shave stick, it is my habit to swipe lather from underneath the razor head and deposit it in a clean yogurt cup prior to each cleansing water rinse of the razor during the shave. This gives me extra lather available, if needed, which saves me from having to re-use the shave stick mid shave.

The with-grain first pass went surprisingly well. I re-lathered with the residual in the brush and took a cross-grain pass, which also went well, but with a single weeper in a usually-difficult patch below my right ear. As I rinsed the lather from that second pass, things were progressing so swimmingly that I decided, what the heck, and went for the third pass against the grain.

After the water rinse of the third pass, things were both low irritation but not close enough below the jaw line and on most of my neck. So re-using the once-used lather from the yogurt cup, I did a fussy final half pass to clean up the worst of the remaining stubble on mid neck and under the jaw. Which also opened a smallest second weeper under my jaw line.

I sometimes use this product mixed
with vitamin E oil to moisturize and
protect after my shave.
The results were about as close as usual -- maybe not quite as close on my lower neck, where I was especially careful, and where the grain is both highly directional and, largely, in the problematic cross-neck orientation. However, the shave was a bit closer than usual on my chin, where the hair grows out rather straight without much grain.

There was no discernible irritation after the water rinses, which washed away any remaining lather and also calmed the two minor weepers. So as an irritation indicator, I took an alum rub, and, as usual, it revealed a bit of irritation on my neck and under my jaw line. I used a Noxzema-and-water wash to remove the alum. Then used a bit of the available-in-every-drug-store Gillette after-shave lotion in the blue container, mixed with three drops of vitamin E oil as an after shave balm to sooth, moisturize, and protect.

So I have to admit that the Slim-Adjustable razor isn't the irritation monster that I had previously thought -- at least not when it's set to its lowest setting, one. In the past, I had shaved with this set anywhere between three and six, which I would no longer do because of the increased blade exposure and blade gap in that range.

This shave has completed the process of changing my mind about this razor. Two weeks ago, I was planning to sell it despite it being one of the few items of memorabilia remaining from my father, who died over 19 years ago. Now I will keep this razor and likely use it more frequently.

Also, as a result of this reconsideration of the Gillette Slim, I will shave again in the near future with my Weishi 9306-F to confirm that it gives a similar shave to the Slim. I'm confident this will be the case, and after that, I may offer it to a friend or two, who are resisting the shift to modern DE shaving.

Happy shaving!

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