Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Why I Favor Certain Razors

I've rotated through all my at-hand razors in the past week or so. If you're a regular reader, then you know that my at-hand razors -- the ones I keep in my bathroom drawer -- are six:

I have these razors at hand and no others for two fundamental reasons,on which I elaborate below.

Non-irritating Shave

First of all for me, to make the grade, a razor has to offer me a non-irritating shave. I've had many razors that can give a close shave, but those that I've rejected seem to have a shaving character that riles my skin. An example of this, and the only irritating shaver that I keep at hand, is my vintage Slim. I retain this razor as a small tribute to and reminder of my dad, who was its original owner. I had a shave with it this week for no particular reason other than to take it for a spin, and even though my objective was just a comfortable every-day shave -- not particularly close -- it was still irritating and resulted in a few unwelcome weepers.

Other fine and commonly-appreciated razors that, for me, were just a bit too irritating have included Gillette Techs, the mild Merkur 15C open comb, every one-piece razor that I've tried (including some very non-aggressive designs such as the Weishi 9306F), the Rimei RM2003, and others that don't spring to mind just now.

All my favorite razors have the key characteristic of being about as non irritating as one can expect given that they are instruments designed to repeatedly rake sharpened steel across sensitive skin.

The degree of straight razors' non-irritating quality relies, obviously, on user skill. The user's skill has two primary factors: judgement in having the blade edge be appropriately sharp, and the ability to shave safely and comfortably with the instrument. A big part of a non-irritating shave with a straight is in keeping the angle of blade to skin sufficiently small that the stroke is more slicing rather than scraping.

My preferred double-edge (DE) razors have design qualities, which I suspect (I haven't been able to empirically verify this) largely involve the angle of the blade in relation to the top cap and shaving plane, that encourage this more-slicing-and-less-scraping angle of the blade to my skin.

Closeness Capability

I do like rather mild-shaving razors. I have no interest in taking a Muhle R41 for a spin, for example. However, I don't like total-lap-cat razors either. For example, a razor that I preferred for quite a long time was the Merkur Classic, the 33C. Yet over time I found that though it offered me a relatively non-irritating shave, I felt I had to work a bit to hard to get a very close shave. So I ended up giving that one to my teen-age son as a starter DE, and he seems to be adequately satisfied so far.

The DEs that I keep at hand, without exception (including the Slim), all have the ability to give me a close shave. The adjustables, obviously, can be dialed up in intensity. The PAA (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements) DOC is a comfortable and mild-shaving instrument that can be made more aggressive by a slightly-less-snug tightening of the handle. This morning, for example, using this design quirk by tightening the handle to not-completely snug, I got a close, comfortable shave in a single lathering -- taking full advantage of the DOC design to maintain lather on the skin by using anti-raking and long reciprocating razor strokes.

My straight razors are a bit of the exception here. My skills with the straight are not adequate to get as close a shave as I can with my DEs, but, as I've written before, the fun and satisfaction of wielding a straight razor does compensate for the low probability of achieving a near-baby-smooth result.

 Razor Characteristics Unimportant to Me

Though razor heft (that is, weight) matters to some, it's not terribly important to me. Perhaps it is just coincidence that none of my favored DEs are lightweights. The Variant and 2000S razors are fairly heavy and the DOC ain't a lightweight, though, as a three-piece, classically-sized razor with it's unique combed top cap, it isn't a true heavyweight either.

The exception regarding razor weight involves my PTB barber straight. I find its lack of heft gives me both tactile and auditory feedback that I found preferable to the heavyweight shavette that I initially tried.

Another often-discussed characteristic is razor balance, which is immaterial to me. I think concerns with razor balance border on silly actually, but opinions vary and to each his own.

Happy shaving!

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