Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: Recycling the Rapira & Stropping DE Blades

The Rapira Platinum Lux blade gave eleven complete shaves, but I recycled it this morning after starting the 12th because I imagined that it was pulling just a bit.

I replaced it with a trial Dorco ST-300 blade. I've used many Dorco ST-301s, but the ST-300 is unexplored territory for me. I have looked into the difference between the 301s and the 300s, and it appears that stories vary. Some folklore says they are the same blade, which doesn't make sense to me. After all, why sell the same blade in the same markets but with two different product numbers? Something must be different.

Anyway, I arm stropped the new ST-300, which left me with a very funny feeling: as though I was degrading a perfectly good new blade with this stropping business. The subsequent shave was fine, although the blade didn't seem out-of-the-wrapper sharp. Perhaps it was my imagination, but that was my nagging suspicion.

The other day -- prior to posting yesterday's article -- I got back to considering corking and stropping of DE blades after reading an old thread in The Shave Den. A self-proclaimed 50-year shaver initiated the topic, affirming that corking a new blade (in styrofoam) and pre-shave arm stropping of used blades resulted in smoother shaves, when all other things were equal. I'm sure that this fellow was onto something;  however, after considering further, I'm re-thinking my stropping experiment.

The reason for my re-thinking is that this long-time blade stropper didn't specify what DE blades he was stropping. And so we return to my concern about stropping a coated DE blade being counter productive by degrading the coating before improving the blade edge. If this long-time DE user was using uncoated blades, the stropping process may well have helped to maintain a smooth edge at the microscopic level -- resulting in a smoother shave. However, as I've written many times, I buy only coated blades, so stropping and corking may just represent unnecessary self-inflicted blade abuse.

So in a reversal of yesterday's article, I'm not going to be corking, styrofoaming, stropping, or otherwise tuning my blades. The only exceptions are in the following circumstances:

  • Using an old, nearly-worn-out blade with no replacement at hand: this would be a time for pre-shave stropping
  • Using an uncoated stainless blade: this would be a situation where a first-use corking (with styrofoam, not cork) would be appropriate, and pre-shave stropping in subsequent shaves

I will continue to do my post-shave blade-drying routine (pressing, not wiping), and my post-shave razor cleaning and drying.

As far as the new Dorco ST-300 blade from this morning's shave is concerned, I'll just use it without much evaluation because I may have already damaged it through my first-use stropping. I'll save the evaluations on this particular model for another blade that I haven't modified prior to use.

Smooth shaving!

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