Monday, June 22, 2015

Rethinking Moderate Razors, What's in the Cabinet?

In the past, I've repeatedly proclaimed my preference for rather mild razors. My list of preferred instruments (in order of preference) included the following:
  1. Merkur Classic (33C)
  2. Lord L.6
  3. Rimei RM2003
Razors in my personal inventory that I avoided (and continue to do) because they're a bit too mild for me include the following:

  • Wilkinson Sword Classic (the mostly-plastic two-piece razor; mine is paradoxically both too mild and, at the same time, too harsh -- the harshness likely due to a slight waviness in any blade that is inserted into this particular razor)
  • Weishi 9306-F one piece
  • Dorco brand  one piece 
    (Both the apparent-clone Weishi and Dorco razors generally shave fine, but are too mild to offer the super-close result that I like to get once in a while in three passes.)
Did you notice that I wrote the first paragraph of this article in the past tense? This is because it seems my preference is evolving. From my former list of preferred razors, I'm using the Merkur Classic less frequently. It just doesn't shave as closely as I like even in three passes. Two passes -- forget about it. To approach baby smooth, because of the razor's negative blade exposure and modest blade-bar span, I have to apply the razor against my skin with some pressure. Yet in doing that, I've made bad habits for the use of other, more aggessive razors. In all likelihood, this Merkur Classic being my second DE razor and my first purchased one, it may have negatively affected my technique and thereby my appreciation for razors a bit more capable.

My preferences have been shifting upward slightly on the aggression scale. This is reflected in my increased use of the Rimei RM2003, which I initially liked for that occasional close shave. I have been using the L.6 razor head less frequently as well. The L.6, like the Merkur Classic, also has a negative blade exposure, which makes it tough to get a great shave without a touch of excessive force of razor against skin. Yet this razor head is slightly more aggressive than the Merkur Classic because the larger blade-bar span allows skin to bulge slightly outward allowing a slightly closer shave, but with the additional risk of nicks and weepers.

In the past couple of weeks, while I was test-driving the pre-1960s (and likely pre-1950s) Tech razor head that was loaned to me, I initially was very dubious about buying yet another razor such as the Tech. Yet I ultimately decided to take the plunge and acquire Travel Tech I've mentioned recently. My change of heart about the purchase was due to my evolving preference toward razors of slightly-less-mild character.

Also, as I had recently threatened to do, I once again pulled my Gillette Slim Adjustable out of the closet shoe box and had a shave with that. The first pass was set to six out of nine. Second pass was at four, and the final pass was at two. Though the shave was characteristically a little harsh, leaving some residual skin irritation, I think it will stay in the bathroom cabinet as a two-pass work-day instrument using moderate settings such as six for pass one, and four for pass two.Using similar thinking, I was tempted to pull out the Merkur Slant Bar (37C) once again, also as a two-pass work-day razor. I tried this many months ago, and abandoned the practice; but it was time for another go. After an initial first pass using a light touch, it was just too irritating. I finished the shave by putting the blade into the Rimei RM2003 with the tiny handle from my Travel Tech. After that, I cleaned and dried the slant as usual, then put it away in the shoe box in the closet for good. I've confirmed that if I want more efficient shaving, I'll simply use oblique strokes (a.k.a. the Gillette slide) with a straight-bar razor head.

Besides these days using a lighter touch in my shaving stroke, there are other contributing factors to my preference shift -- after all, my skin is just as sensitive as ever. For one, I think that experimenting with steep-angle shaving has added useful variety to my technique (thanks, Shawnsel!), which helps me appreciate slightly more razor aggression in the form of a slightly-positive blade exposure.

Also, my changing attitude about shaving outcome has contributed to my changing preferences. On my every-day shaves, I'm much more inclined to use a two-pass shave (with grain, then against grain) and call the outcome good enough. Of course, it won't be baby smooth, but it looks good and, actually, feels good to the hand as long as one doesn't rub against the grain with too much pressure.

So What's in the Cabinet Now?

Here are the instruments at hand, currently in my bathroom cabinet:
  • 1963 Gillette Slim Adjustable
  • 1965 Gillette Travel Tech razor head
  • Rimei RM2003 razor head
  • Maggard MR3B handle
  • Rimei RM2003 handle
  • 1965 Gillette Travel-Tech handle
Happy rethinking!

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