Sunday, June 14, 2015

Steep-Angle Shaving

I probably spend a little too much time thinking about razor design and it application to various beards and faces. But this razor-design rumination does yield some interesting questions to be addressed -- and sometimes answers are forthcoming as well.

For example, a big question is why do many men prefer razors that are of an aggressive design such that if one used these instruments with the shave plane of the razor head actually against the face, the skin would be peeled up like sod being harvested for shipment? In other words, what is the use of a so-called safety razor with such a positive blade exposure that it is not safe at all, it's basically a small straight razor, with a disposable blade and a safety bar that is pretty much superfluous?

The answer, of course, is that these razors are (and must be) used for steep-angle shaving.

Steep-angle shaving was first called to my attention some months ago by Shawn, a.k.a. shawnsel, a kind reader, who has helped to keep me accurate and consistent with DE nomenclature and concepts. Steep-angle shaving is used with razors that have a positive blade exposure, and is basically a technique that keeps the razor top cap in contact with the face, but the safety bar is held away from the skin, thus (in concept) keeping the aggressive blade orientation from peeling the skin like one would peel a potato. Hence the term steep angle, which refers to the angle of the handle that is at a larger angle with respect to the face than it would be if one were keeping both the top cap and the safety guard in contact with the skin.

I have to admit that it never occurred to me that anyone would want to essentially negate the purpose of the safety bar. It just made sense to me to buy a razor with the necessary blade orientation to give a good shave using the safety of the safety guard.

This is why you don't see me using aggressive razor designs. I prefer to walk the high wire with a safety net below me, thanks very much. As I have written many times, it is my nature to be quick and often a bit over confident, which can create wounds if not careful when shaving. And careful is not my middle name (at least not exceptionally careful).

This is why my most aggressive razors will be the Rimei RM2003 or a vintage Gillette Tech (which I've just bought, by the way -- more on that below). These razors have a slight positive blade exposure, but not enough to do serious damage if I hurry too much or have some major brain cramp while shaving. Yet they are aggressive enough to provide a very close shave if I devote the necessary care.

Another aspect of steep-angle shaving is one's facial contours. As a registered-dietitian nutritionist, I am all too aware of the super sizing of the people of the USA. Too many of us are overstuffed -- so much so, so generally, that many can't even recognize a healthily-proportioned individual; we often mistake overweight and obesity for being a normal and healthy configuration of the human body! The only good aspects that come to mind of this enlarging of our population is 1) we might have more candidates for good sumo wrestling ;-), and 2) our chins, much of our necks, and other sharp contours of our face are disappearing into a round layer of subcutaneous fat, offering a smoother, more uniform surface to shave. This second aspect means that it is easier to use very aggressive razors because there are fewer tricky contours to shave over.

[By the way, if you want a good indicator of where you stand in this regard of being over stuffed, or not, there are three general guidelines:  you are likely over stuffed if....
  • If your waist measurement at the navel (belly button) is over 40 inches (your waist, not your pants size -- and if your waist is over 34 inches, you're not in good shape unless you're very tall) 
  • Your body-mass index is 25 or over 
  • Your body-fat-percentage estimate is 19% or more.]

Now that I have been enlightened to this steep-angle-shaving technique by shawnsel, I do apply it when I use even mild razor heads like the Lord L.6, and the afore-mentioned RM2003 and Tech razor heads. The angle adjustments are small, but still necessary given the positive blade exposures. (The L.6 has a negative blade exposure, but a large-ish blade span, which can make steep-angle shaving useful at certain spots on the face.)

Regarding the Gillette Tech I just bought via a well-known Internet auction site, the razor should arrive later this coming week. It is a 1965 version, and with the stubby, steel travel handle and travel case. I intend to try out this travel handle and weigh it comparing it to others such as the aluminium Lord LP1822L handle, but will probably use a normal-to-fat-'n-heavy handle for every-day use.

Happy shaving!


  1. I believe you have your definition of steep angle backwards....

    Steep (top cap doesn't touch the skin):

    Shallow (with positive blade exposure, the safety guard wouldn't touch the skin)

    Source (and a great thread to read though):

    I personally prefer to use aggressive razors at the steep angle (handle more parallel to the skin, pivoting on the safety guard until you just hear the stubble being cut). However, some people prefer to use aggressive razors at a shallow angle (or at least at a shallow angle on parts of their face).

    Also, steep angles are often used only WTG. For me, I can get a much better (and faster) WTG steep angle shave than I can get with a shallow angle ATG shave.

    Also, note, steep angle and shallow angle terms are borrowed from straight razor ... thus the terminology is relative to the blade (not to the DE razor's handle).

    Makes sense?


    1. Another clarification, these terms are really only relevant with razors that have a positive blade exposure. Mild razors with a zero or negative blade exposure aren't able to provide more than their one, set blade-to-skin angle....