Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Razor Technician: Tweaking Treasure from Trash -- A Second Chance

A strange thing happened the other day.  I shaved with the cheapo trash-or-treasure? (ToT) Chinese razor. . . . and I think I liked it. Remember, I wrote about tuning that razor that a while ago, culminating in this article (click here).

The trash-or-treasure? (TOT) razor as it arrived from China. It was set up in what I considered an unusable condition. With some never-say-die-spirited tweaking on my part to tame its shaving character a bit, it may have been transformed from an ugly ducking into a swan.

It's hard to be sure if I liked this first test of the new set up because it was my second three-pass shave in that day, which is a lot of shaving on my uber-sensitive skin. Also, I used a blade in the ToT razor that had already had a week's worth of shaves on it. What is more, my skin was already a bit abused by my fussy shave that morning with a less-than-ideal blade.

This is the ToT razor as it came out of the package. (Sorry that I didn't take any pics with a blade installed at that time.)

Still, I think I liked the shave with the ToT razor. I'm starting to view it as possibly more treasure than trash. After tinkering around more in the last few days with its set up, tuning it more to my liking, I finally tweaked it into a configuration that just might realize my dream. My dream is a super-cheap razor that shaves closely but comfortably: the Holy Grail of DE shaving.

Yes, the ToT razor has a huge blade reveal. Yes, it has a relatively large blade gap. Yes, its blade exposure is slightly positive. All those things can make the shaving character of a razor a bit on the risky side, especially if your skin isn't taught like an overstuffed turkey. However -- and this is a big however -- it has an unusually small blade angle: the smallest I've yet to see on any DE razor. This opens up some interesting potential.

This small blade angle was an unintended benefit to my reduction of the razor's originally-ridiculous positive blade exposure. I initially characterized it as being essentially a straight razor masquerading as a double edge. But as I brought the safety bar up to reduce the blade gap and the positive blade exposure, I didn't stop to think that I was also changing the shave plane in relation to the blade. Ergo: Voila! I made the blade angle smaller, which encourages more cutting, less scraping.

My initial shave Tuesday with the razor wasn't bad -- as I said -- despite the used-up blade and the second shave of the day. It was so promising, however, that I deviated from the week's shaving plan with the Merkur blade, and gave the ToT razor a spin yesterday morning with my favorite blade, the Personna red label, in the ToT razor. I really wanted to enjoy the ride as much as possible.

The first and second passes yesterday morning were uneventful: comfortable but not particularly close. The third, fussy pass opened weepers on my neck, which was the most difficult area to shave closely. This was due, I believe, to the rather large blade gap, reveal, and slightly-positive exposure. However, the small blade angles seemed to provide a low-harshness shave -- aside from the weepers, of course.

The result of yesterday's second shave with this modified-from-factory-condition razor was no residual irritation and a fairly close shave. The closeness may improve with me being a bit less careful on the initial passes; however, the mild blade angle of this razor may contribute to not only a mild shaving character, but also may make a close with-grain pass more difficult.

So comparing my expected result to the actual outcome of this latest test, it didn't shave quite as closely today as I might have predicted; I had to work a bit harder than expected to get a close shave. It was as mild as expected in the sense that there was no razor-burn-like irritation during or after the shave. It was risky in that careless side-to-side strokes on my mid neck did produce weepers.

One thing I did learn to study further is the significance of the blade angle in determining the irritation of the razor against skin. Though I have some conflicting evidence from previous razors (such as the Weishi 9306), I will continue to try to correlate blade angle and residual shave irritation. If I were to modify this razor again, I would probably open the blade gap just a bit, thereby also slightly increasing the blade exposure and shave angle as well to try for just a bit more aggression in the shave character of the razor's set up, but not increasing the shave angle enough to increase the potential for shaving irritation. 

Another test that could be done would be to shave with a slightly-more-irritating blade for my skin: a Personna Labs (blue) or Astra SP, to see if the post-shave irritation increases. This would tend to help determine if the non-irritating shave was due more to the mild blade angle of the razor, or just the suitability of the Personna red-label (Israeli) blade.

To summarize the overall outcome of the tuning that I've done on this razor, it has been transformed from a one that I wouldn't use (as it came from the factory) to a razor that I could use on a daily basis.

Happy shaving!

No comments:

Post a Comment