Saturday, March 7, 2015

Weekly Shave Review: The Feather Blade and a Rating-Method Adjustment

This is the twenty-fourth of my weekly shave summaries. This week tests the Feather blade, which I previously wrote that I'd likely never use. Obviously I re-evaluated, and decided that since I had a pack of Feather blades in my inventory, I might as well give them a go.

My shave soap again this week is from the second pre-production run of Grandad's Slick 'n Creamy Shave Soap for Sensitive Skin (formula SS#11P1), which will be used for client samples.

Reminder about my skin type: 
  • Sensitive & thin skin, somewhat loose on neck
  • Lots of angles and dips -- paired with a moderately tough beard
  • Challenging to get a close, comfortable shave

Face care this week, unless otherwise specified:
  • Cool-water rinse only, prior to lathering
  • Grandad's shave soap lathered with a boar brush
  • (After-shave treatments are specified in each day's notes)

New in This Week's Review:
  • The Feather blade
  • Per last Sunday's article, I've modified my overall shave-rating methodology to equally weight shave closeness with shave harshess (comprised of ratings for wounds and non-wound irritation). This is accomplished by doubling the rating for closeness, and arriving at an overall shave-rating-average number by dividing the sum of the individual ratings by four instead of three.

What I Learned this Week:
  • The Feather blade's reputation is deserved: it's sharp and therefore can give a very close shave, but also can nip skin more than most blades.
  • However, the sharpness is subtle. Shaving with this blade isn't a lot different than shaving with some of the Russian-made blades; its just perhaps a touch sharper, which, if mishandled, like any blade, can lead to greater irritation and blood shed.
  • Also, I didn't notice the degradation of the shave quality as some others have reported in Internet postings. (This could be due to my moderate beard, or the obsessive care I take after each shave to rinse and pat dry the blade for best storage between shaves. Perhaps it's a combination of the two factors.)
  • Of my two regular-use razors, my face probably prefers the Feather in my Merkur 33 razor, which, because of the 33's mild-shave character, helps offset the additional risk of the Feather blade's sharpness. The slightly positive blade exposure of my RM2003 is too aggressive for my skin when paired with the Feather blade.
  • Even using the Feather in my mild-shaving 33 is overkill and requires more caution than I care to use. When I get careless as I often do, I open up small, otherwise invisible, healing wounds from previous careless errors. That, combined with the premium price on Feather blades, confirms my previous ratiocination that this is not the blade for me. (Either that, or I should increase my income and also invest in a styptic-pencil manufacturing company.) :-D
  • The Merkur 33 showing its safe, negative
    blade exposure, which is why I selected
    it for the maiden shave with the
    Feather blade.
  • In up-coming weeks, as I rotate through my blade inventory including using the remaining Feather blades, I will try them in some of my mildest razors (even more so than the 33) including the Wieshi 9306-F if it has been returned from being loaned out. I'm looking forward to the Weishi-Feather pairing to see the outcome

Next Week:
Next week brings a complete reversal of gear, using a Derby Extra blade in my RM2003 for starters.  This razor-blade combination is intended to match the mild-reputation Derby blade with the positive exposure but small blade angle of the RM2003 for what I hope will be close, comfortable shaves. 

This week's shave journal:

A non-fussy three-pass shave (WG, XG, AG) with the Feather blade in my mild-shaving Merkur 33 razor. Providing bit closer shave and with a bit more skin sensation than normal for such a generic process, I finished with a cool-water rinse, tea-tree after-shave lotion, and Gillette gel (white bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.4; Lower lip & chin - 4.3; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.18, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-4.5

Summary rating: 4.22**   A good maiden shave with the Feather blade!

This RM2003 razor has slightly differing shaving character,
when comparing one of its edges to the other. Both, however,
have a more positive blade exposure and smaller blade angle,
when compared to the Merkur 33.
This second shave with the Feather blade was in the Rimei RM2003, which has a more positive blade exposure but a smaller blade angle as compared to the 33. This means that the RM2003 must be handled with a bit greater care to avoid nicks, due to its slightly-positive blade exposure, but due to its smaller blade angle, scrapes skin less, slices stubble more, so its non-wound irritation tends to be low. Like yesterday, today's shave was another non-fussy three-pass process -- and I was probably a bit cavalier, a bit careless. I got an expectedly-close shave, with a little irritation, but also, not surprisingly, given the blaze-&-razor pair and my not-particularly-careful technique this morning, there was more blood loss. After-shave treatment included cool-water rinse, alum block, styptic, tea-tree lotion, and Gillette gel (blue bottle) supplemented with vitamin-E oil. It was a close shave marred by a few minor wounds.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.5; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.38, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating: 3.94**   

With Merkur 33 and Feather, I took a not-careful three-pass shave, and then did pretty much a fourth pass without re-lathering, and instead just re-wetted my face with water over the invisible remaining soap layer from the third pass. Even in a mild razor like the 33, the Feather blade is sharp and deserves more respect than I gave this morning; I nicked myself and had a few weepers. I finished the shave with a cool-water rinse and some tea-tree after-shave lotion. Later I'll probably add some gel or moisturizer for cold-air protection.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.0; Cheeks - 4.4; Lower lip & chin - 4.3; Under jawline - 4.0; Neck - 4.5.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.24, Irritation-4.5, Wounds-3.0

Summary rating: 4.50**  A good shave once again diminished by wounds from cockpit error.

Again with my slightly-more-aggressive RM2003 (as compared the the Merkur 33) and the Feather blade, I prove this is a too-aggressive combination for my face. I got a few weepers within the first and second passes, which is unusual for me. A non-fussy third pass completed the shave, which required styptic application following the cool-water rinse and the citrus-smelling tea-tree after-shave lotion. I think I choose to complete the week with the Merkur 33 only, and leave the RM2003 in the bathroom cabinet until I pull out a milder blade

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.8; Cheeks - 4.0; Lower lip & chin - 4.6; Under jawline - 4.4; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.16, Irritation-4.0, Wounds-2.0

Summary rating: 3.77**   Today's lesson is use a milder razor with the Feather blade.

With likely unseen residual damage (today, that is; obvious yesterday!) from yesterday's shave, I used the milder-shaving 33 for today's shave (and for the remainder of the week as well). Three passes (WG, XG, AG) with touch ups under the jawline gave a nice shave, with expected weepers on neck due to yesterday's minor mishaps. Finished the shave with cool water followed by just tea-tree after-shave lotion (no styptic necessary).

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.2; Cheeks - 4.8; Lower lip & chin - 4.4; Under jawline - 4.2; Neck - 4.4.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.40, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-4.0

Summary rating: 4.45**

Pressed for time, I took a no-fuss three-pass shave with the Feather in the 33. Three significant weepers on my neck in the first two passes -- probably prior, unhealed wounds. A mediocre shave finished with cool water, touches of styptic, and some tea-tree after-shave lotion.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 3.5; Cheeks - 4.5; Lower lip & chin - 4.0; Under jawline - 3.5; Neck - 3.5.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-3.80, Irritation-5, Wounds-3.5

Summary rating: 4.03**

The final shave of the week was again with the 33 razor. Once again I took a no-fuss, three-pass shave.The week-old Feather and the mild-shaving 33 are a nice combo for my face. No irritation and one pin-point weeper that disappeared with a water rinse characterized a pleasant shave. The closeness was limited by the nature of the 33 and the fact that I chose not to give the final pass any additional attention. I finished the shave with only a cool-water rinse and a pleasant splash of citrus-scented tea-tree after-shave lotion.

Closeness details: Upper lip - 4.5; Cheeks - 4.7; Lower lip & chin - 4.3; Under jawline - 3.2; Neck - 4.0.

Rating this day's shave*:     Closeness-4.14, Irritation-5.0, Wounds-4.9

Summary rating: 4.55**   A very nice shave to finish the week. I would prefer it to be a bit closer, but which might be more easily achieved with a different blade-&-razor combination.

*Rating Key:
Closeness -- a separate evaluation is done for each of these five areas: a) upper lip, b) cheeks, c) chin, d) under jaw line, and e) neck; then these five are averaged together for a single closeness rating. The following are the scale criteria:
5 – Smooth when rubbed against grain & other directions
4 – Smooth across grain but not against grain
3 – Smooth with grain only
2 – Not smooth to touch, but appears adequately clean shaven
1 – Not smooth to touch, and stubble apparent

5 – No perceivable irritation
4 – Minor irritation just after the shave, disappears quickly with time or applied balm
3 – Minor irritation that lingers for more than an hour but less than six
2 – Irritation that is perceived throughout the day
1 – Visible razor burn

5 – Absence of any wounds
4 – Pinpoint weepers only
3 – A total of three or less nicks, small cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
2 – A total of four to six  nicks, cuts, and larger-than-pinpoint weepers
1 – Worse than 2, above (first aid, quick!)

Regarding use of tenths of rating points: For closeness or irritation, each additional tenth of a rating point represents about 10% of the shaving area in question. For wounds, it represents gradations within a rating. For example, if I have, say, six pinpoint weepers only, I might give a wound rating of 4. However, if I only have one wound, which is a pinpoint weeper, that would likely get a rating of 4.9.

**Regarding the single-number overall shave rating: To give equal weight to shave closeness and harshness, I now double the shave-closeness rating, then add the values for closeness, irritation, and wounds, and divide that sum by four.

Happy shaving (and question everything)!

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