Friday, September 4, 2015

The Moth-ball Shaves

Since I have settled on the optimal shave for my face -- the ideal compromise between closeness and comfort, which is the two-pass shave -- I have been re-evaluating my razor inventory. In other words, I've been pulling previously-rejected razors out of moth balls (that is, from a bedroom closet) and reconsidering their use.

As regular readers know, my two pass shaves are generally with grain, then against grain, using oblique strokes as much as possible. The exception, which I haven't emphasized much, is shaving my upper lip, which is with grain, then across grain with a slight against-grain bias -- again using oblique strokes.

A key to this two-pass approach has been the rediscovery of the Weishi 9306-F razor as a finishing instrument. It is very mild, with a slightly smaller blade angle than is commonly seen, and a modest blade-bar span -- both of which tend to be face friendly.

Another key to a successful two-pass process is getting a good standard shave for the first pass. (I refer to a standard shave as a one-pass shave, which I believe is actually the traditional shaving process for most men -- both historically and currently, though not for shaving hobbyists, of course.) I believe that a foundation of a good standard shave is shaving with the grain (more or less), using oblique strokes as much as possible (as old Gillette instructions suggested), making my strokes short and not too quick, and using an anti-raking shaving pattern across the real estate of my beard.

Many of the razors that I've tried and rejected in the past were due to their unsuitability to my face using multiple passes. Typically my complaint would be irritation and minor wounds -- usually weepers, and those most often occurred on later passes, not the initial one. So, I thought the other day, these razors are probably designed to give a pretty good standard shave; why not give them a go as a first-pass-only razor, and use the Weishi for the final, clean-up work?

I first considered my Maggard MR3B razor head, which I've never actually used; I've only used its fat, heavy handle because I just don't want to use a three-piece razor that isn't guaranteed to self-center the blade when the proper process is used to insert it. Tempting though it is to give the original Maggard razor head a try, I still didn't do it; in the closet it will stay. Too much trouble.

Similar story for my Weishi model 2003-M: too light, and unlike its cousin, the 9306, it isn't precisely-enough made (I had to metal smith the new razor to get the blade to seat with straight edges), and, most importantly, the butterfly doors don't open enough to easily slip on a blade without risk of nicking the blade edges against the razor itself. Nope, Again too much trouble.

Yesterday, however, I did give the Merkur 37C, the slant-bar razor, a go. I got an adequate standard shave, but, despite the 37C's generous capacity and natural aggressive blade orientation, it wasn't quite as good as I get with my every-day Tech razor. This was probably due to the extra care I have to take to avoid wounds on my sensitive skin. As a result, the 37C goes back into moth balls.

That got me to thinking about my Merkur 15C, the open-comb classic. I have kept that around because of its unlimited shaving capacity (due, of course, to the open comb), and which I use to trim longer hairs on the back of my neck as necessary. I rejected it as an every-day shaver because I found it to irritate my skin when used with multiple passes, this despite its rather mild shave character. But I wondered what kind of a standard shave it would provide. So I used it this morning for the first pass, and got a very good standard shave.

As I suspected, this razor (like most, I have come to assume) provides an adequate one-pass shave. Like my Techs and Gillette Slim Adjustable, this mild-mannered razor with its open-comb baseplate is back on the table for use when I only have time for a standard shave, or as a first-pass instrument when I take my usual two-rriffic shave. I was so comfortable with it today that it's on deck again for tomorrow.

So to summarize my moth-balled-razor explorations, the following are those that have made the cut and remain on the team as initial-pass or stand-alone standard-shave razors:

  • Gillette Tech (both the c.1948 and 1965 designs)
  • Rimei RM2003 Tech emulator
  • Gillette Slim Adjustable (for me, set to 4/9)
  • Merkur 15C open comb
There are two razors on the bubble because I haven't given them sufficient playing time with the new perspective of a standard shave or a two-rriffic shave. They are listed below:

  • Merkur 33C classic
  • Lord LP1822L (the L.6 razor head with the long, light aluminum handle)

The razors that I've rejected as one-pass or first-pass razors are listed below with the reason for their exclusion:
  • Merkur 37C slant-bar razor: a bit too aggressive; I need to be too careful, which lowers my chances for an optimal outcome
  • Weishi RM2003 one-piece razor: just not of adequate quality; lacks precision in manufacturing, doors don't open wide enough; I'm going to put it in the recycle bin
  • Maggard razor head: looks like it would have the appropriate shave character, but because I take the blade out during or after every shave, I don't have the tolerance for a razor that isn't guaranteed to self center every time like all my other razors including the cheapest of the cheap Chinese razors
  • All my cheapo trash-or-treasure (?) Chinese razors: I have much better alternatives at hand, so why bother with these?
Also worth mentioning is the Dorco one-piece razor. A near clone to the Weishi 9306-F, it is the other razor in my stable that is a good finishing-pass razor.

Happy shaving!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting reading some of your posts and this one kicked of something in my head. When I started off DE shaving I used one razor depending upon how I felt.

    Fancying an adjustable I decided to try out first using two different razors for the same shave. Logically followed the path of aggressive razor first, mild one second of rate closer path. Then read something somewhere (Mantic possibly?) about the truth being the opposite.

    Revelation, in short.

    So I tend to kick off with a 50's Gillette Rocket (UK), and follow it with the Merkur Slant with Feather for second pass and tidying. Brilliant, and never - or incredibly rarely - get a nick.

    Never got round to the adjustable!