Month: January 2014

Review: Astra Superior Platinum razor blades

Part of me wishes these had not worked even slightly well, then I could have used the joke “Astra-ick.”  With that joke out of the way, let’s move on to how I almost cut my face off because I’m too cheap to throw away a used 9¢ blade that I didn’t even like:

As part of the on going experiment, the last two weeks I’ve been using Astra Superior Platinum razor blades.  Made in Russia, they are one of the brands that I knew about prior to starting DE shaving due to a former professor of mine recommending them.  I was thus tempted to start using them as my first blade for the trial, but I wanted to get a bit more experience and comparison under my belt first so that I’d hopefully enjoy them more as well as have a more impartial experience.

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The muted but professional style seems fitting for a product that saw its heyday several decades ago. Unlike Shark blades there are, of course, no sharks on the packaging. While certainly disappointing, this is completely understandable.

That being said, I went into it really wanting to like them, not the least reason of which is that you can buy a box of 100 of them for the cost of a movie ticket.

The first week, simply, did not go well.  The shave were bad, both in result and in the fact that they just weren’t that enjoyable.  Shaving wasn’t smooth, nor did my face feel such afterward, and I noticed that my face felt much drier than usual.  Within a couple hours of shaving things would be feeling sharp and bristly.  It hit bottom around Friday when I had what was probably the worst shave in years, with a good amount of blood and discomfort.  Had the cold rinse and aftershave not stopped it, I would have taken a picture.  It was not good.

By the end of the week I was disliking them so much that I was ready to cut their trial period short and move on to something else.  But, after thinking on it more I decided to go one more week for a couple reasons:

  1. It was a weird week, and definitely not normal circumstances.  There were snow days, snow delays, and general disruption of the morning schedule.  Maybe that threw me off.
  2. It might have just been a bad blade.
  3. It’s just one more week, and it’ll give you more information.

So with some trepidation I set a new blade, steeled my nerves, and set out on a second week.  Luckily and happily, it went a lot better.  I made extra efforts to make sure I was lathering well, and that I wasn’t rushing things.  Most important, I paid closer attention to the angle of the blade than I have in weeks, trying to make sure that I wasn’t being too aggressive.  This extra attention paid off, and while the fun factor didn’t go up much the shaves definitely improved.  By the end of the trial I was consistently getting shaves I was satisfied with, but never thrilled.

So how do they stack up?  They seemed to hold up fairly well, perhaps getting a bit dull toward the end of the week.  But I found myself neither enjoying the shave nor enjoying the results as much as I did with the Shark blades.  Shark seemed to give me a slightly closer, smoother, more even and longer lasting shave while also leaving my face feeling better.

Astra does stack up favorably against Derby in some regards, giving what felt to be a closer shave in most places.  But Derby’s shave simply felt better, and as a result I noticed that when I didn’t shave everyday the growth seemed to be more even and comfortable than Astra provides.

Despite really wanting to like them, I just didn’t have a great experience with Astra.  I’m sure they are a fine blade for many people, but for me it just didn’t work out…this time.  I still have three blades, and later in the experiment I’ll return to them and see if and how things have changed.  Perhaps with more experience, or warmer summer months, things will be different.

Conclusion: I got mixed results, both good and bad.  So, right now I’m going with good, with an Astra-ick.

Bam, that joke just came full circle.

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Grains…GRAINS…!

While improvements have doubtlessly been made since I picked up DE shaving, I’m still working out what exactly I’m doing with all this.  So far there’s only one part of it all that I feel confident I’ve got locked down, and that’s changing razor blades.

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of shave blogs advise that you shave at least once with the grain before going against.  I’ve been experimenting with this, and I’ll admit that it does give a rather nice shave. 

For day to day shaving though, I’m finding myself returning to my previous method: full lather, one slow and attentive pass against the grains, then a very quick with the grains  pass (no lather, water or something on the face if anything) just to make sure I didn’t miss anything and to try and keep it all even.

While I’ve never seen any websites advise such a technique, and while time may teach me why, it works for me.  And that, I think, is the wonderful thing about DE shaving: you are much more personally involved in what you’re doing.  Every face is different, and while there are fundamentals to learn at the end of the day it’s all about what works for you.  As you’re more closely involved in what you’re doing, you naturally pick up on what works best. 

In my case ingrown hairs and razor burn aren’t a problem, so I can shave this way and it works great for me.  I’ll still be using the beard reduction method when I’ve not shaved for a day or two, or when there’s something important and I really want a close and smooth shave, but for day to day I’ll probably go with my traditional method.

I have no idea if any or how many badgers were hurt in the making of this brush.

I have no idea if any or how many badgers were hurt in the making of this brush.

On a related note: I’m still working out how to get a good lather.  The two methods I’ve been using are lather on your hand and lather directly on your face (I’ll do a post about that some other time in more detail), and both have been coming up a bit short lately.  I think I’m not loading my brush as much as I have been, so that’s something I’ll need to work on.

What the heck is BBS? …and other vexing issues.

Friday was probably the worst shave I’ve had since I started this whole escapade.  I don’t know what happened, but my face got tore up.   It was not good; I was about ready to get a camera so the legions of fans of this blog could see the spectacle of blood they’ve all been hoping for, but luckily for me all bleeding stopped with a cold water wash.

Really, shaving that whole week was pretty lousy.  I’m using a new brand of blade from the mix, Astra.  Was it that I was getting over confident?  Was the blade too sharp or too dull for how I’d been shaving? Was it just a bad blade in the batch?  I don’t know, but all day Friday my face was tender and there was some noticeable red spots on my neck.

It served as an important reminder to me of something I’ve said all along: I have no idea what I’m doing.  Right now I’m the guy who’s read about how to water-ski without ever getting on a boat, and now is trying to get up for the first time.

A reminder of this also came while I was perusing some other shave blogs, and I noticed everyone saying “BBS.”  I had no idea what that acronym meant, and while that’s a normal feeling in DC where everything is acronymed I thought in this case I ought to figure out what they were talking about.  Turns out BBS means “baby butt smooth,” the pinnacle of shaving smoothness that can be obtained.

While I haven’t ever gotten that all around, I’ve had it in a few spots and boy does it feel smooth.  I guess that’s a good goal to work towards.  Today’s shave, also using Astra blades, is excellent.  Smooth, no bleeding, close, and my face feels great.  Two passes, one with the grain, re-lather, then one against.  Took extra time and paid close attention to the blade angle, trying to get as little tug as possible.  At times it felt like the razor wasn’t even in contact but rather the safety bar was simply wiping away the hair and lather.

Excellent.  Most excellent.

I also decided to spend all of about 20 seconds making this nifty side-by-side comparisons:

Nifty side-by-side comparison.

Nifty side-by-side comparison.

Sharks are my favorite blade thus far, and MACH 3 is what I used to use, so this is a good comparison for me.  100 blades translates to roughly 100 weeks of shaving, a new blade each week for just shy of two years.  With 8 cartridges I could shave for a year or so without too much trouble, and might be able to stretch it longer if I really wanted too, but the blades would be pretty dull by the time I was done with them.

While I might end up spending more money as it becomes a hobby than I would when it was just a chore, it’s nice to remind myself that it’s a hobby grounded in a good financial basis.  While cheaper cartridges could be probably found, especially if I went with off brand or Dollar Shave Club, it’s nice to see that great shaves can be had for less than 10 cents a blade (9.9 cents actually, I ain’t taking statistics for nothing). 

Picking My Razor: Three Piece Suits Me

I don’t buy for myself easily.  Law school credit for moot court participation should really be given to me anytime I spend more than about $5 on something I want.  Wills have been given serious consideration and reached their final conclusion in less time than I’ve spent deciding if I want to buy a $1 app for my phone.

So despite the potential financial savings of switching to a DE razor, it still took me weeks to come to a conclusion.  A substantial part of that was spent deciding which razor I wanted, which in turn was also trying to convince myself that spending money in the first place was actually worth while by finding the razor that justified it the most.

Complicating this was the fact that there are TONS of options.  These razors have been around for over a century, and so there are hundreds of types floating about in the internet ether available for purchase.  They range from models introduced this year, to vintage razors that predate my parents.  Razors that are mainly plastic and cost a few dollars, to razors that, based on their cost, must have been carved out of unicorn horn in the forges of Mordor.

My first step was simple: I asked on facebook.  Turns out several friends were already shaving like this, and so their input and suggestions were an invaluable place to start.

I wanted something that I felt would last me a long time, many years hopefully.  Changing to a whole new setup only to have the razor break would be extremely frustrating, or worse missing a great experience because I tried to cut corners on equipment, but so would spending a fortune only to find out that I couldn’t stand DE shaving and wanted to go back to cartridge.

Using their tips I turned to amazon, and quickly settled on three brands: Parker, Merkur, and Edwin Jagger.  All had excellent reviews, looked great, and were within the price range I’d set for myself ($40 or less).  But between these three brands are dozens of models, so I had to dig a bit deeper.

The first to get ruled out were the Parkers, for two reasons.  First, I decided that I wanted an all metal razor.  Something that looked and felt like it was crafted out of the fender of a classic American land barge.  The Parkers looked dang snazzy with the black faux ebony handles, but I wanted some thing a bit different.

The second reason deals with the mechanics.  There are three types of DE razors: two piece, three piece, and butterfly.  Two piece razors have half the head permanently mounted to the handle, with a rod running through the shaft from base to head.  The rod screws into the top head piece, locking the two pieces together with the razor between them. Three piece razors have a handle, bottom head/safety bar, and top head piece.  Rather tan a rod that screws from the base, the three piece screws in at the top edge of the handle. A butterfly razor has a permanently mounted head that opens like a Venus fly trap, the razor is deposited inside and then it closes back up on it.

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A three piece razor, with blade. The top piece has a screw set in the middle, which goes through the hole in the safety bar to form the razor head, the blade in the middle of them. It then screws into the handle, forming the razor.

I decided early on that I didn’t want a butterfly styled razor.  While they are reviewed well and have been around for decades, I wanted as few moving parts as possible.  Less things to break, less things to get gummed up with hair and soap, etc.  Honestly, I have no idea if that’s even a significant issue with those razors.  But the mental image was in my mind, so I decided just to avoid have the brain itch and just focus on to the other two.

After a good amount of asking and searching, it came down to the Merkur 34c and the Edwin Jagger de89L (the De89 Barely was my favorite, but I couldn’t justify the extra expense simply for a different handle pattern).  They both had a lot going for them.  The Merkur 34c was recommended by a friend who loves his, and from everything I’ve read it is one of the benchmarks by which other razors are now compared.  All metal, small, weighty, industrial styled and a two piece, it’s the Willy Jeep of modern shaving.

The Edwin Jagger de89L is relatively new, having been out for only a few years.  It uses the same three piece head design as the more expensive Muhler razors, with a lined, grooved handle that has a more classic style.  While not as widely reviewed as the Merkur, it seemed to compare well and the company had some excellent reviews concerning their customer service (sending hand written apology letter when errors were found, etc).  Plus, it was on sale at the time bringing it just under the Merkur in price.

I bounced between the two for probably a week and a half before committing, and I have not had a single regret.  I love the feel of it in my hand, the weight of the metal, and the solid feel that it has when taking it apart or putting it back together.  It feels like it was built to last.

What finally tipped the scales for me was that I liked the three piece design.  While it has more pieces it has no moving parts, which I really liked.  Though my friends assured me that they’d never had any issue with water or soap building up in the Merkur’s hollow handle, in the back of my mind I knew it was going to bug me on top of all the other stresses of trying to figure out how to use it and take care of it properly.

That being said, I wouldn’t mind picking one up down the line.  Now that I’m getting a little more comfortable with things, and have a razor that I love, a little experimentation wouldn’t be a bad thing.  But given the cost, that’ll probably have to wait a few years.

Till then I’ll be enjoying my Jagger.  Worth every penny!

Walk it off: When things go bad, it’s time to go home.

Living in DC means that it’s not a matter of if things someday go screwy, it’s a question of when.  It also means that your biggest problem isn’t the actual disaster, but the city itself. (While this blog is normally about shaving, as I mentioned in the “About” section I will from time to time cover other topics that I think are fitting to the concept of living a better, or less boring life.)

We’ve been attacked by terrorists before, and there are plenty out there who’d love to do it again.  Before my wife and I met she got snowed in to her apartment during Snowmageddon and was stuck there for three days till the road could get plowed.  Since I’ve been here we’ve had an earthquake, two hurricanes, the derecho storm of 2012 that left parts of the DC metro area without electricity or clear roads for over a week, major shootings, and a gun lock down on my campus.  Just to name a few.

I’ve been blessed or lucky, depending on how you see the world, thus far.  I’ve either been able to avoid the worst of it, I’ve been at home where there are supplies, usually both.  But that’s not something you can count on in life: eventually either the bad stuff happens to you or you happen to be right in the middle of it.  That’s why people have first aid kits, fire extinguishers, spare tires, etc.  Preparation might not save you from a headache, but it might be the Tylenol you need when you get one.

Funny story: Right after I moved here I was working a temp job that allowed me a lot of time to surf the internet.  While g-chatting with my buddy I realized I had no “zombie plan.”  The concept is simple: if you have a plan for zombies, you have a plan for anything.  Here I was in a city I was entirely unfamiliar with, commuting by partial subway, and no clue how to get home if things went sour.  So I spent an hour or so that morning researching ways to get home, figuring out what to do in case I needed to leave RIGHT NOW.  I finished, and got back to work.

Two hours later, the Washington DC earthquake hit.  The building shook, panicked people came running down the stairs and out the front door, the metro system was immediately shut down, and the wireless network imploded from everyone trying to call out.

In the midst of hundreds of people standing around outside, most having left everything in their office, I had all my things, water, and map of how to walk home from that very spot.  As it turned out the metro system came back on line shortly afterward, so I didn’t have to trek it.  But when the earthquake hit all I needed to do was pick up my backpack and walk out the door and I could have gotten home (albeit probably very uncomfortably, since aside from water and a map I was woefully unprepared).

So, we’ve been making “back home” kits, emergency supplies that are small and light enough to be carried just about anywhere you go, but which will be invaluable if something goes bad while you’re away from your home (where you presumably have much more substantial resources).  We finally got ours organized last night, which I’m both happy and proud of.

For me, this requires making it to suit some specific requirements:

  • Weight and bulk: I commute to school and work by metro rail and bus, and I don’t have a locker on campus.  Any preparations have to be something that I can carry with me, and which will fit with all the books and things I have to carry.
  • Versatility: Weather in DC can change rapidly, and I sometimes am in class until well after dark.  I can’t pick the conditions if something happens.
  • Security:  This goes both ways:  first, I need to try and provide for my own safety when walking through an urban and suburban environment, in a city not known for its lack of crime.  Second, I work in a high security area, travel through DC (which seems institutionally is opposed to self defense), and attend school.  So, whatever it is needs to be legal, administratively acceptable, and capable of going through security checks (x-rays, etc).

The result:

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My kit fits largely inside a steel document box called a “posse box,” which I fortunately had around from a previous job.  This provides crush proof storage without adding much weight, and also happens to be a good chunk of metal to have around.  Inside are some basic supplies in case I need to walk back home from the city (up to twelve miles or so, depending on where I am).  I additionally have a few other items stashed in the backpack, some of which I use more often.

Supplies include: food (granola bars and Clif energy bars), poncho, emergency blanket, chapstick, sunscreen, bandanna (cover for neck, respiration, etc), hand warmers, wet wipes, knit beanie (warmth and head cover), and a flashlight.  Within the short future I’ll be adding paracord, and some wool socks, plus other items as thought of or recommended.  Right now, total bulk is less space and weight than any of my books, less than two pounds total.

In addition, my laptop has a eight to ten hour battery life, so if I keep it charged while traveling that means I can trickle charge my cell phone for hours without adding any additional weight than what I already have to carry.  Good comms make for good travels.

It’s not enough to win Survivor or establish Blaketonia on a deserted island, but it should do the trick.  I have neither desire nor intention to sit around waiting for someone to save me if something were to happen, my job is to get home and that’s what I plan to do.

Why Am I Shaving Like This?

The first two questions I usually get when someone finds out I’m trying out traditional wet shaving are usually some form of “what is a double edge razor” and “why would you use one?”  There are a lot of lists out there giving reasons to do it (less irritation, less ingrown hairs, etc).  Here’s my story:

I knew about straight razor shaving, but aside from that I was neither aware nor concerned about other types of shaving out there until around the last year or so.  My first hint was when a shooting buddy of mine mentioned on an internet forum that he used a double edge safety razor, which I’d never heard of before.  So, like any inquisitive person my age, I googled it.

A modern double-edge safety razor.

A modern double-edge safety razor.

While safety razors (called such because it offered some protection from the blade unlike open straight razors) date back to the mid 1800’s, the double edge safety razor originated in 1903 when King (name, not title) Gillette patented the first design for one.  Selling just a few dozen his first year, within three years his company would be selling more than 300,ooo.

The advantages were simple: it was harder to cut yourself, the blades were easy to replace and had no need of sharpening, and the double edge meant that you could shave twice as often between changing blades.  Less work, more safety, more bang for your buck.

Close up of my razor head.  See the part in the middle that looks kinda like an old fashioned phone?  If you look close you can see the thin line of the razor.  It rests between the top cap and the bottom safety bar (the scalloped looking thing running the length of the head).  The top and bottom bar ensure that only a thin amount of the razor is exposed to skin, which you can see if you look close (the razor is a slightly different shade, flush with the top bar).

Close up of my razor head. See the part in the middle that looks kinda like an old fashioned phone? If you look close you can see the thin line of the razor. It rests between the top cap and the bottom safety bar (the scalloped looking thing running the length of the head). The top and bottom bar ensure that only a thin amount of the razor is exposed to skin, which you can see if you look close (the razor is a slightly different shade, flush with the top bar).

Shaving was cool for me right up until the time that I actually had to start doing it seriously, and then it got lame quick.  It was time consuming, expensive, and generally annoying. When I found out about DE shaving though my interest was peaked for a simple reason, cost.  While the start up cost would be more, the idea of not having to spend a ton of money on razor cartridges anymore was incredibly appealing.  Buying my razor was justified to myself through reasoning that if it worked out I’d save a lot of money in the long run.

Me and my wife last August, prior to my introduction to DE shaving.  I didn't grow a beard in the middle of summer for warmth.

My wife and I last August, prior to my introduction to DE shaving (being over dramatic due to a rain delay at a football game). I didn’t grow a beard in the middle of summer because I needed the  warmth.

Since I’ve started though, cost has become a minor issue to me (though I still think it will be cheaper, which I’m quite happy about).  Now, the two main reasons I’m doing it are that it gives me a much better shave, and it’s a lot of fun.  The better shave part is simple: my shaves are closer, with less irritation (not that I had much before, but noticeable on cold days), and the shave last longer.  With cartridges, by the afternoon my face was getting scruffy and by dinner if I wanted to look nice when going out I almost needed to shave again.  A good shave now will almost last me until the next morning.

And, as I said, it’s just more fun.  Why do people build computers rather than just buying one from the store, change their own oil, make workshops in their garage, or buy sewing machines?  Among the reasons, because there’s satisfaction and enjoyment to be had from doing a job yourself.  Watching something go from start to finish, building skills and talents so that the next time is better than the last, seeing a result and feeling personally connected to the result because of the effort and attention you put into it.  Those are feelings you can’t buy, only earn, and they are worth having.

Shaving this way allows me to have those feelings every morning, and feel the results throughout the day.  Shaving with a cartridge now just seems like bowling with the bumpers up.

So that’s why I’m doing this.  Is it cheaper?  Yes, for me I think it will be.  Is it a better shave?  Yes, for me I know that it is.  Is it enjoyable?  For me, absolutely.  It’s turned a chore into an enjoyable ritual, what more could I ask for?

Review: Shark Super Stainless Razor Blades

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As part of the on going experiment, for the last two weeks  I’ve been trying out Shark Super Stainless razor blades. Made in Egypt, the blades lacked the numbering system that I had gotten used to and so I was pretty much just winging it on which side of the razor to use each day. (Many double-edge (DE) razor blades have numbers printed on the razor, which I understand to be something that happens during quality control, and which some people use to keep track of which sides of the razor they recently used.)

Before I get into the Shark blades, a quick word on Derby razor blades.   When I purchased my razor it came with a pack of Derby blades, which I thought did a great job.  In fact, I considered just not bothering to see what other blades were out there because I was perfectly satisfied with the shave that they gave me.  While I don’t have a scientific measuring system for my tests, I’ll probably refer back to Derby from time to time as they are what I’m using as a rough benchmark for performance.  Now, on to the review…

I am very satisfied with the Shark blade. All of my shaves during the first week, from Monday to Friday, were some of the best shaves I’ve had with my razor thus far (several were easily the best shaves I’ve ever had at home). The shaves have been smooth, extremely close, and yet have given me less irritation than I’ve seem to have gotten from the Derby blades.

I suspect this might be because the blade is sharper (it feels like it is), and so it can shave closer with less tugging and irritation. Only one nick, the first I’ve had yet, and it was so minor that it was completely resolved with cold water and aftershave.

This week saw even more improvement.  Combining with better skill at lathering, and improved technique and practice at shaving, the last two days are probably my two best shaves since I’ve started shaving.  I posted yesterday about one, and today has been even better (far and away better, today’s shave really nailed it).

The experiment is just starting, but already I think it’s safe to say I’m not going back to Derby blades. While I have no complaints about Derby, Shark seems to have outperformed them where it counts: on my face. I’m glad I’ve got three more of their blades to enjoy.

I intend to hold on to them and start using a new brand next week.  Later in the year I’ll come back to the Sharks and see how they stack up against the wider field of competition.

Shave on!

One pass, two pass, red pass, smooth pass.

I shave against the grain, a habit that’s probably going to get me in trouble one day.  Every shave blog and traditional wet shaving instructional I’ve seen tells beginners not to do it, but each morning I find myself with an upside down razor merrily clear cutting the black forest.

So far I’ve managed to get away with it, I’ve only nicked myself once and that wasn’t really an issue of against the grain but rather getting quick and sloppy.  I almost never get razor burn or ingrown hairs, so that’s not really a concern either.  The worst I’ve gotten is a spot of blood here or there, which washes off and closes up with a good cold water rinse and aftershave. Instead, I’ve found that going against the grain from the start has several advantages for me:

First, it’s more satisfying when I’m shaving.  That slightest bit of resistance, suddenly giving way when the razor is angled just right?  Magical.  Going with the grain feels smooth, but this feels like it’s getting something done.

Second, it saves time.  My wife leaves for work before I do, and I generally make breakfast so she can get out the door with less stress and rush.  Going against the grain allows for a close, consistent shave with just one pass.  While I’m enjoying shaving as a process and experience, I do have day to day time constraints to deal with.

Today though I decided to do a couple things different.  First, I decided to try applying the lather in a “paint brush” stroke rather than circular (I’ll talk about this more in detail another time, simply out though: it feels wonderful).  Second, I decided to try doing the “beard reduction” method of at least one pass with the grain before lathering again and going against.

It probably only took an extra few minutes, but I’ve got to admit that the results feel pretty good.

I don’t know that it’s that much closer.  If anything, it might not feel quite as slick when I run my hand with the grain.  But, when I run my hand against the grain it feels noticeably better.  With one pass there will be an occasional scratchy/sharp hair that’s only really noticeable when I’m checking against the grain.  This time, while it doesn’t feel quite as close, it feels more even with no sharpness.  Also, no spot bleeding.  That’s a plus.

I don’t know that I’ll do this every time, but it’s something I’m going to keep working on.  When I get to the really sharp blades, like the Feather, it might be good to be used to doing more passes rather than a one swipe wonder.  I’d really rather not cut my face off, as that would put a real damper on the day.  What I want to find out is whether with more time, attention, and practice this will result in a uniform shave that is close, smooth, and worth the extra time and effort.

Cream of the Crop

Monday was a banner day in my quest to relearn shaving: for the first time since I started doing home mixed,  brush and lather shaving, I managed to make a foam that was pretty much perfect.  Not too wet, not too dry, just rich, silky, and foamy.

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FOAM (there was more, but I used it)!

I was so happy I ran into the other room to show Amanda.  And by show, I mean smear some on her while she was doing her makeup (just on her hand though, I’m not a jerk).

Shaving cream and I don’t have a long history together.  I figured out about ten years ago that I really didn’t need it.  I didn’t feel a lot different, it’s about impossible to cut yourself whether you use it or not, and it costs money.  I pretty much never got razor burn, so a splash of water on my face would be the most I used unless for some reason somebody gave me a can.

That changed with DE shaving.  Technically, I don’t know how it would go if I tried doing it with just water, as I’ve not tried it.  As I get more comfortable shaving this way I might give it a try just to see what happens, and if I cut my lips off or something I’ll be sure to post about it for the amusement of the internet.

In the meanwhile, I’m rediscovering shaving cream.  Shortly after I got my razor I picked up a tiny travel can of Barbasol and that lasted me a few weeks.  It wasn’t terrible by any means, and I didn’t feel a strong need to use anything else.

But with friends singing the praises of home lathering, and Amanda looking for a Christmas gift for me, it seemed like a good time to try it out.  I got a badger hair brush and a bar of actual shaving soap, and for the last ten days I’ve been trying it out.

I don’t know if it actually makes for a better shave in the sense of better skin, or cleaner cuts.  And I wouldn’t say that it is as big of an improvement as DE shaving was over cartridges.  But, it absolutely makes for a better shave experience.

First, it just smells better.  My current soap is Bayrum, and man does it smell nice.  Just this morning my wife announced during breakfast “you smell manly.”  Can’t go wrong with that, and since I’ve started the bathroom where I shave has developed a nice smell all day long.  Second, there’s something to be said to building a new skill and seeing results.  My first attempts were, to be mild, not great.  Now, while I’m still building the skill, I’m starting to see some good results and that’s making me want to be better.  And third, it does feel better.  Cream from a can is fine, but home lather has a nice warmth to it, and seems to just sit a bit better on the face.  Is it a huge difference?  No, but it’s noticeable.

Parallel to my razor blade test, I’ll also be trying out different lathers.  The CVS by my house sells a few simple shaving soaps and powders, which are dirt cheap compared to a lot of what’s out there.  I expect that you get what you pay for, but I’ll give it a try and see how it works.  Might as well, if it’s cheap and it works great then it’s attractive to me.

The Experiment

In November of 2013 I bought my first double-edge (DE) safety razor.

Unlike cartridge razors, which are intended to only use one of a couple blade types designed by whichever company made the handle, DE razors accept blades that might come from any of dozens of manufacturers.  Some of those blades are new, some have been around for decades, and different blades will give you a different shaving experience. 

I grew up shaving with a Mach 3, and so this was a whole new world to me.  I’d never had to worry about what type of blade I was getting, what the differences were, or finding the right combination of blade and razor to fit my face.  The handle went into the cartridge, and that was it.  Cuts were virtually non-existent, and I almost never even bothered with shaving creme, much less aftershave or any other shave treatments.  Shaving was because I had to (either for work, school, or some other reason), that was it.

At the recommendation of a friend who was already into DE shaving, after a month or so of figuring things out I picked up a razor blade sampler pack.  Since there are so many type of blades out there, sampler packs allow you to try just a few blades of a collection of brands so you can figure out what works best for you.  For a newcomer like me this was ideal, as I had almost no idea what brands even existed, much less which ones were good.

So for $15 I got a pack that included 46 blades from eight different brands, and last week I began my attempt to work my way through them.  With each blade lasting a week (they could be pushed to last longer without much problem, but a week seems like a good standard to go by), it’ll take me months to complete. 

In addition to documenting my shaving adventure, I’ll also include posts from time to time on various other aspects of my introduction to a new way of shaving: how I selected my razor, switching to homemade lather rather than shaving creme, what type of materials I’m using (shave soap, lather, brush, etc), and whatever else.

I’m figuring this out as I go, so we’ll see what happens along the way.

My starting tools:

Edwin Jagger De89L razor:

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Col. Conk shaving soap and badger hair brush:

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And razor sampler pack, purchased from bullgooseshaving.com

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Let the journey begin!