Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Micrometer Maniac: Gillette Slim Redux

In the past week or so, I have returned to my Vintage Gillette Slim razor. A shave with a Dorco ST-301 blade in the razor on a setting of one (its most mild setting) resulted in a good shave that has kept this instrument off the auction block.

However, when I put a fourth-use SuperMax Titanium blade in the Slim -- still set on one -- I had to take four passes to get a close shave, which left my skin significantly and unacceptably irritated. The question next asked must be, why? I took basically the same four-pass shave a day earlier with the same blade in my Merkur 33, and the shave was quite acceptable. On the day following the harsh Slim shave, I used the same blade in the Lord L.6, and got a good three-pass shave. So it wasn't the number of passes (based on the previous shave with the 33), and it wasn't the blade (based on the subsequent shave with the L.6). The shave soap was unchanged as well.
Gillette Slim set to one: A-B is the blade gap, and point A
indicates the positive blade exposure (above the shave plane).

Merkur 33: A-B is the blade gap, and point A indicates the
negative blade exposure (below the shave plane).

So why was the Slim much more harsh in four passes than the Merkur?

The dimensions of the razors may tell the story. Let's look at a head-to-head comparison:

                                            Blade Angle     Blade Gap     Blade Reveal    Blade Exposure
Gillette Slim (on one)            ~31 deg           ~0.6 mm          ~1.3 mm         Slightly positive
Merkur 33C                          ~30 deg           ~0.9 mm          ~1.3 mm           Negative

[* The tilde (~)  in the chart above indicates an approximate dimension.]

The blade gaps and exposures of each razor, in combination, may tend to equalize the respective shaving harshness of the razors. That is, the Slim has a smaller gap but larger exposure, while the 33 is the opposite.

However, it may simply be that the positive blade exposure on the Slim combined with its minimally-larger blade angle as compared to the exposure and angle on the 33 makes the Slim shave more harshly -- especially when the number of strokes against one's face accumulates such as when a four-pass shave is made. Another contributing factor may be that the scallops on the Merkur are much deeper than the small grooves in the stamped safety bar of the Slim, which may cause the Slim to limit the amount of lather on the skin until actually contacting the blade.

So in the future, if and when I use the Slim, it will be with my sharpest, coated blades to maximize cutting efficiency and smoothness, and, thereby, limit the shave to no more than three passes to limit resulting irritation.

Happy shaving!

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