Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Right Tool For the Job

I don't know about you, but I surely wouldn't use a screwdriver to drive a nail. And I wouldn't use a pair of pliers to tighten a bolt. Obviously, it's usually a good idea that whenever possible to use the right tool for the job at hand.

Shaving is somewhat similar. Not only are there razors better suited to one's beard and skin, but there are also razors better suited to one's shaving process.

It remains my belief that much of the shaving world -- that is, beyond the rather small sub culture of shaving enthusiasts -- performs a one-pass, with-grain shave. As a result, many razors have been designed with that process in mind. However, despite the razor-designer's intentions, some razors are better suited for one shaving process over another.

Below, I'm going to give some examples, but keep in mind there are true for me. My examples may not be true for you and your skin and beard. My examples are merely.... well, examples.

1) I've continued to experiment with one-pass, against-grain shaves. (Note: the term, one pass, means one primary pass. No matter how many passes I take, I usually add several clean-up strokes to address areas not sufficiently smooth.) I have found that if I take slow against-grain strokes with light pressure, I can use my Merkur 33C Classic three-piece razor and get as good a shave as if I started with with-grain strokes and worked my way to against-grain strokes.

At the other extreme, when I take my Gillette Slim Adjustable set on its mildest setting, a single, against-grain pass is going to produce weepers and irritation.

Using my Gillette Tech (c. 1948) and the same against-grain single pass yields results somewhere in between.

2) However, setting my Gillette Slim to about 3 (out of nine), which is still a mild setting, I can do a one-pass shave that is largely with grain but includes some cross-grain strokes, and can get a good shave. I can't do that with the Merkur 33 and get the same closeness.

3) It's my opinion that more aggressive designs such as slant-bar razors or those with more blade exposure were drawn up with a single-pass, with-grain shave in mind. Oh, I understand that many shavers will use these for cross-grain and against-grain strokes -- some quite successfully; but for many of us these razors are best left for single-pass, with-grain shaves.

I also have found that three-piece razors -- at least the milder-shaving variety that I tend to prefer -- are much more comfortable shaving against grain as compared to one-piece designs (butterfly-door, twist-to-open razors). Even my Weishi 9306, though extremely mild, doesn't give the best against-grain results -- especially when doing single-pass, against-grain shaves. The Weishi 9306 is best used for multi-pass shaves.

As every handy man knows, it's best to use the tool that is best suited for the task at hand. Shaving choices are no different.

Happy shaving!



  1. It's interesting that you mention the issues with the Slim at a setting of '2'.

    Over on TheShaveDen, one of the members has been testing the performance of blades at various levels of aggression. He's been using a Slim set at '2' (mild), '6' (medium), and '9' (aggressive). Things seemed to be running along fine until he got to the Personna Red and its supermarket generic equivalent. With the the Personna blades, the Slim was almost ineffective at '2', but worked well at the other settings. Subsequent retests with two variants of the Tech, the 60's SuperSpeed, and a Weishi (all mild razors) produced very good results from the blade.

    This has led us to believe that something about the Slim at a setting of '2' is incompatible with certain blades. We've not been able to isolate a cause, however.

    Keep up the blog as I definitely have learned some thing from reading it.

  2. I am one of those that uses a fairly aggressive razor, with an aggressive blade, in a three pass shave (one WTG, two across the grain in different directions) and that works beautifully for me. My daily shave is a Rockwell 6S, plate 6 with a feather blade and a three pass shave as described above. Great shave, no irritation, no nicks and I do it every day.