Monday, December 7, 2015

When to Use a New Blade?

If you've been reading my posts, you probably know that I've really been pushing the performance envelope of my blades. I've been routinely getting twenty or more daily shaves out of my blades, when in the distant past, I would use a new blade every Sunday morning.

So in going from seven shaves to twenty or more, I've seen some interesting changes in blade performance. My last blade, for example, the Gillette Silver Blue, gave me some pretty rough shaves for the first four days. Then the going got smoother, so to speak. Yet as I approached twenty shaves, I actually cut myself with this old blade -- and even while it was in a very mild-shaving razor, which both surprised me and got my attention.

I would attribute my wound with the old blade to several factors. I probably got very careless due to the older blade being not quite as sharp as when new. Having it in a very mild razor also doubtlessly contributed to my cavalier attitude. On top of that, because a much-used blade doesn't shave quite as efficiently, I may have been unconsciously pressing a bit harder than appropriate.

What was also surprising to me, when I put in a fresh blade, was how much closer of a shave I got. My two-riffic shave was really quite close in only two passes, but with the much-used blade, I was working harder for a less-close result. In using a blade for two and three weeks, the blade doesn't pull and tug at my whiskers, and it certainly doesn't become significantly more irritating; in fact, as I've written, it can actually improve and become less irritating over a portion of its useful life span.

What I have come to observe is that over a course of a few weeks of daily shaving, the blade shaves less closely. It becomes harder to achieve that rewarding near-baby-smooth closeness that I so appreciate. The shaves still look good early in the day, when I use an older blade, but they are much less rewarding to the hand, and the five-o'clock shadow begins to show in the afternoon.

If one is a value shaver, a blade might be used for three or even four weeks if one uses appropriate daily blade maintenance and storage. However, the outcome of the latter shaves in the blade's lifespan will hardly be barber close.

If one is a quality-of-shave shaver, then as soon as one's normal shave process still feels a little rough to the hand, and an extra pass is necessary to get the accustomed result, then a new blade is probably due.

For me, that means that when I can't get a rewarding shave in two passes -- with grain then against grain -- my blade is probably ready for the recycle bank.

Going forward with my current Voskhod blade, I'm going to start tracking its effective lifespan, not its maximum lifespan. More to come on that.

Happy shaving!


  1. Appreciate the eye candy (every day in my reading list)... still, getting surprisingly close shaves with tuggy blades. If it _misses_ hair, it's done for sure. Honestly, though, I don't know how to justify that distinction, since the result is, still, a not very close shave. Must be something about the way it feels as I'm doing it: knowing I hit the best possible stroke, and yet, the hair isn't gone.

  2. And a week later, now I've flipped back to assessing the skin and closeness. The difference: I figured out a way to make my hair softer, so suddenly skin damage came back to the fore.

  3. Once I experience a tug or unreasonable irritation I'll switch the blade. There are other places to be frugal so extending my blades beyond 4-5 uses just isn't worth it for a $0.15 item. Soaps on the other hand that's where money can be saved.

    Side note I shave my head every 3 days or so which no doubt impacts the lifespan.

    1. Okay, no argument from me. I do wonder, however, if you are using oblique strokes when you shave; they can provide not only longer blade life, but also a more comfortable shave.