Sunday, February 1, 2015

Considering the Best Finishing Razor

I'm going for the brass ring: the perfect shave. As I posted the other day, the plan was to use a mild, face-friendly razor for the with-grain (WG) and cross-grain (XG) passes. Then for the third and final against-grain (AG) pass, I propose using a more aggressive razor to eliminate the need for a lot of fussing and extra razor strokes beyond a complete third pass.

Yet what razor to use for that final pass?

Too mild of a razor defeats the purpose of even using a finishing razor. Too aggressive a razor will unnecessarily risk irritated skin or worse: increased rates of weepers and nicks.

In my available stable of razors, two have already been mentioned as the most likely candidates. One, the Merkur 37C slant bar, is certainly capable and aggressive. But perhaps it is too much so. The broad blade-bar gap is a concern. Same with the varying blade angle along the edges; at the left end of each edge the blade angle is irritatingly large. So too is the blade exposure a bit aggressive. When all these factors are combined, I thought the slant-bar 37C is too much of a risk, and should only be used if and when other options have failed.

That then left me with my heirloom razor, the hand-me-down instrument that I inherited from my father: the Gillette Slim Adjustable.

The Gillette Slim Adjustable razor on its mildest setting still has a positive blade exposure (above the shave plane) despite having a small blade gap, moderate blade angle, and small blade reveal.

Normally, I don't shave with this razor because, even on its mildest setting, its shaving character tends to leave my skin irritated -- that is, when it's used for multiple passes.

So I thought that, on its mildest setting, one, the blade gap is small, the blade angle is moderate (about 31 degrees -- just slightly more than the 30 degrees in my Merkur 33C), the blade reveal -- the amount of blade not covered by the top cap -- is relatively small, and yet the blade edge lies above the shave plane for a more aggressive attack than milder razors such as the 33C. All in all, this razor, even on its mildest setting, might be slightly more aggressive -- but certainly more irritating -- than my preferred 33C. So if I limited the use of this razor to just one, final pass, it may shave just aggressively enough on its mildest setting to provide the overall baby-smooth finish that I covet, without unduly irritating or nipping at my skin.

So, that was the plan: two passes with the 33C (WG and XG), and a final, finishing pass (AG) with the Slim set on one. After giving this new process its maiden test, I quickly realized the Slim set on one wasn't aggressive enough to accomplish its role. I quickly increased the razor to a setting of three (out of nine) and finished the shave there with better-than-usual results -- very good, in fact -- but not quite perfect. So in the next day's shave, I set it to four.

The outcome wasn't significantly closer with the Slim on four, but I did draw some blood through carelessness.

Perhaps going forward, I can vary the Slim's setting during the final pass. I can set it on two or three for the areas that routinely give me challenges such as my chin, but perhaps set it on five for extra-close shaving on cheeks and lower neck. And maybe a compromise setting of four may work best along the jaw line and just underneath. More experimentation is due.

Happy shaving!


  1. I started on 4 and moved to 5...i have found that the aggressiveness & irritation heavily depends on the blade with this classic. Astra gives me total comfort but not as close....Feather too much on pass 2 & 3....tried a Rapira the other day and was impressed...probably stick to Astra and stretch skin on pass 3 for closer cut.....heavy 3 day growth gets a feather

  2. No matter what blade I've tried or what setting, I can't get a comfortable multi-pass shave with my Gillette Slim. Regarding Astra SP blades, I like them, but don't love them. They are always just a touch more irritating than some of my favorite blades. However, that said, using an Astra in the Slim for a final finishing pass seems manageable even for mu ultra-sensitive skin. I really look forward in coming weeks to trying this approach with other blades -- especially given my new shave-rating system that will be introduced this week on and then further discussed in this blog. This shave-rating system will allow me to better compare the quality of shaves.