Month: May 2014

3 Pass Shave v. 3 Blade Razor

I was recently asked the question: if I use a Mach3 razor, is that the same as doing a three pass shave?

The answer is no, but it’s a good question.  Another time I might do an actual result comparison by doing by, but for now I’m just going to explain the difference.  For those unaware, this is a Mach3 razor:

Three blades for the price of twenty!

Three blades for the price of twenty!

It has three blades mounted in succession, the idea of which is to give you tree cuts at the hair with one pass. It’s understandable why one might think this means that one pass is the same as three passes with a safety razor. But it’s not.

The primary difference is that a Mach3 cuts the hair in the same direction with each blade, while a three pass technique with double-edge (DE) safety razor is generally considered to involve one pass with the grain, one pass across the grain, and one pass against the grain.

Why is this important?

When a razor connects with a hair the hair resists. When you shave with the grain the hair has more opportunity to bend when pressed by the razor, which reduces the closeness of the shave. By gradually increasing the hair’s natural resistance to the blade by moving across and then against the grain, while at the same time reducing the hair’s length with each pass, it allows you shave optimally against the hair on the final pass while reducing the likelihood of irritation, unevenness, or other problems associated with shaving against the grain outright.

A Mach3 can also be used this way, of course. In fact, pretty much everyone I talk to that uses a multi-blade cartridge ends up making at least two passes with it (one with and one against the grain).  However, you are then making just as many passes as with a DE razor, meaning you’ve now had nine blade passes over the hair.

That’s if the later blades are even connecting properly, of course.

The secondary benefits of multiple passes with a DE razor over one pass with Mach3 is that it allows the hair time to recover, while also ensuring that each time your blade is passing it is at a pressure and angle that you desire.   If the hair bends while being cut by a Mach3, there simply isn’t much time for it to straighten before the second and third blade hit it. But by giving it time while you complete your first pass, lather, than shave up to the location again, you allow more time for the hair to recover, which in turn improves your ability to shave it.

And of course, one of the best benefits of the three pass method with a DE razor is that DE shaving is a lot of fun, and it gives you more opportunity to enjoy it!

So that’s the difference.  It boils down to the fact that each pass of a three pass technique is intended to be different than the first, while each blade of a Mach3 is supposed to do the same thing as the others.  If that works for you, good deal.


Review II: Personna Platinum Chrome

Probably my favorite shaving photo to take.

Probably my favorite shaving photo to take.

When I first reviewed the Personna Platinum Chromes I remember noting how sharp they were.  Since then I’ve used other blades that feel sharper to me, so I was interested in how I’d like these now that I have more experience under my belt.

First the good things: these blades hold up.  While the first week was a bit slower, I’ve been using three pass shaves for all seven days a week of the last week and the blade did great.   With a new blade on Sunday by the time Saturday came around I wasn’t noticing pulling or tugging associated with a dulling blade.  Keeping the stubble short might have helped that, though I would think that the additional passes would have taken a toll.  But they held up well until the end.

Second, while they aren’t the sharpest blade around they feel like a good middle ground.  The sharpest razor doesn’t always work best for someone, they aren’t a one size fit all item.  Rather, you should try to find the sharpest blade that works for you, regardless of where it falls on the spectrum.  The Personna fits well in the middle.

Finally, enjoy them.  Are they my favorite to shave with?  No, but unlike the Astra (which shaved decently but which I just didn’t enjoy) despite any shave shortcomings I didn’t find myself frustrated or disliking the experience.

There were two downsides I noticed to these blades:

First, for the life of me I just couldn’t seem to get a consistent shave out of them.Some days would be close, others would be rough; some parts of my face would be smooth, the same part on the other side would be alright.  I just can’t seem to get an even shave day to day with them.

Second, while I did like them, other blades just feel more fun.  That may be an odd way to describe razor blades, but I just enjoy shaving with other blades more.  While two blades might get you to the same goal, it seems silly not to notice which one gives you a better experience while getting there.  The Personnas do a good job, and I don’t dislike them, but I just like others more.

But as I said above, they are good blades.  I enjoyed using them, they hold up well, and give a workable shave for day to day use. 

Review: Proraso (Green) Shaving Cream

I thought "sapone" was the scent...turns out it's Italian for "soap."

I thought “sapone” was the scent…turns out it’s Italian for “soap.”

Several months back I asked around about what soaps I should try out, and the name that came up the most was Proaso.

Proraso is an Italian shaving cream, sold in either a tub or tube (like toothpaste).  It comes in three varieties, green, white, and red, with white and green being the most common.  I decided to pick up a tub of green, which is the standard formula.  I’d never tried a shaving cream that you mix before, and I was excited to see how well it worked (plus, I’d heard the tub was really useful for travel and mixing once the soap had run out).

 I’ve been using it for two months now and I’m happy to say that this stuff is great.

Mixing it is similar to mixing up a shaving soap.  You wet the brush, load the soap onto the bristles for 20-30 seconds, then mix up a lather however you prefer.  Personally, I apply directly to the face and I’ve found a good loading is plenty for three applications plus extra.

The first thing I noticed was the smell, which I believe is eucalyptus.  It was strong and eye opening, much different than the bayrum I was used to.  The second thing I noticed was the sensation: this stuff makes your skin tingle.  The best I can describe it is it’s like having wet skin with a cool breeze.  Not enough to make you cold, but to make you feel crisp.  I notice it a little bit on application, but really feel it as the skin is exposed through shaving.  This sensation fades some with daily use, but alternating with other soaps means that it’s more noticeable on days you use it.

The cream provides good protection, even with thin applications.  It also applies much more evenly than I’ve gotten with shaving soap.

There are a couple downsides to Proraso.  First, it can be a bit tricky to get the right mixture of water.  Too much and it’s runny, too little and it will dry out on your face before you can get to it.  Second, it is stickier on the razor blade, so it takes more effort to clean the blade of soap and hair.  Finally, it seems to leave a dusting of soap particles on hard to reach places of the razor, even with a good washing after use.

But these haven’t stopped me from enjoying it thoroughly.  With practice the mixture gets more consistent, with warm water the soap and hair cleans easily enough, and a weekly in depth cleaning of the razor when you change the blade keeps everything in order.

Once I run out I will be hard pressed not to run back out and buy more, it’s great stuff and I highly recommend it.

How My Shave Hobby Developed

When I first began looking into getting a safety razor, it took all of five minutes to realize that there was more than just a hobby base surrounding it. There’s an entire sub-culture. Ok, that might be a bit extreme, but that’s sure what it looked like to my novice eye.

That there existed dedicated hobbyists to shaving seemed bizarre to me. It’s shaving, that thing you do in the morning because you have to. Why would anyone make that their hobby? I resolved to myself that while I might get a razor, I was not adopting a lifestyle.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was hobby starved. For years, since I was a kid, my hobby was computers and video games. When I hit college I picked up firearms, enjoying the mechanics, camaraderie, and skill required. But these pursuits got hit hard the last few years for a couple reasons.

First, I just didn’t have the time. I got into law school and then got married after my first semester, and so what little free time I had away from work and school was reserved for family and church. While my wife is extremely supportive of both hobbies, I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to them like I used to (especially since my preferred range is half an hour away).

Second, I just can’t afford them like I used to. With the costs of books, a family, and tuition, I can’t afford a good gaming system. Similarly, the massive gun and ammo runs that have occurred following Pres. Obama’s elections have driven prices sky high in the shooting world (though they are beginning to drop some).

I had been priced out of my hobbies, both in costs to time and money.

However, at the same time it also created a fertile field for shaving. My initial efforts, meant to cave me money, inadvertently laid the groundwork for a new hobby: research, involvement, and commitment. When my wife gave me a brush and shaving soap for Christmas the foundations were in place, and things advanced rapidly.

What made this different from my other hobbies, and substantially more maintainable on a student budget and schedule, were the same things that had been the previous undoing. The additional time commitment was minimal. I was already shaving every day for work, so the change meant just a few extra minutes in the morning. I could afford to be involved in it every day if I wanted, with barely a noticeable change to my existing schedule. And, were I to stick to the basics, the hobby would actually save me money over how I was previously shaving, and is cheaper to pursue than either videogames or shooting. For the cost of the ammunition I would use for one day of shooting I can have buy months’ worth of soap, blades, or aftershaves.

It's not much, but it does the trick!

It’s not much, but it does the trick!

And so, contrary to what I expected when I began, I have witnessed myself fall headlong into the shaving hobby.   Though my collection is small, I have numerous blades, two kinds of soaps, and two kinds of aftershaves, with many others I would like to try.

I still love video games, and I still love shooting.   I look forward to when I can do them more often. But I’m glad to have found a new pastime in the interim.  

Save Your Soap: Melting Old Soap Into a New Puck

For Christmas my wife bought me a puck of Col. Conk’s Bayrum shaving soap.  Unlike shaving cream, shaving soap looks much like a regular, round bar of soap.  Specially made to create a good, protecting lather, I prefer it to shaving cream and have enjoyed using it for the last five months.

Unfortunately all that use takes a toll.  When using a brush to create a shaving lather you first “load” the brush, which means getting condensed soap into the bristles to then put onto your face.  Due to a combination of brush shape and my natural tendency to load from the middle of the bar, what started as a bar about one inch thick was eventually worn down to a soap donut.

It's not LIfeboy, but this donut is still not good for eating.

It’s not LIfeboy, but this donut is still not good for eating.

This created a problem for lathering.  When loading a brush soap naturally congregates in the middle of the bristles, so having soap without a middle means that it is very difficult to load the brush properly.  The result is a thinner lather that does not last long either on the brush or face.

After a bit of internet research I came across a solution: melting.  While it does not work for all soaps (such as triple-milled and I think also soaps that are tallow based), for others you can heat the soap to a melting point, then reform it into a new shape.

To do this I put mine in a small, microwave safe glass bowl (my wife was very supportive of microwaving soap in her dishes).  I’d heard some say to start with 5 seconds, others said 30.  I went with 10 seconds to start, then checked it to see if more was needed.  To my delight, the soap had completely melted (and was smelling great!).

Liquid soap in a dish!

Liquid soap in a dish!

After letting it cool the result was a solid block of soap, evenly thick and perfectly smooth.  While I could have tried to get it out of the dish, I decided just to leave it in until I use it up (or we need the dish).  If I needed to get it out I might try floating the dish in warm water to soften the portion touching glass, but we’ll cross that bridge later.

I tried it out this morning, which also meant that I was trying out lathering soap in a bowl for the first time.  I’ve always just lathered on my hand or directly on my face, so I was interested to see what the result would be. 

It worked great.

Melting the soap gave it a nice smooth surface.  Before loading I soaked the brush in warm water, and spread a few drops of warm water on the top of the soap to soften things up.  With about 10-15 seconds of swirling I had a brush loaded thick and ready for application.

Ready to go to work.

Ready to go to work.

The bowl really helped to get the soap into the brush.  Both the first and second application were far thicker than usual, creating a smooth, protecting lather.  I expected the soap to be running low by this point, but going into the third pass the brush was still loaded heavily with soap.

It's like the Energizer bunny of shaving.

It’s like the Energizer bunny of shaving.

The result was probably the best lather I’ve ever had, from the beginning to the end of shaving.  It was so successful that once I find a permanent shaving bowl I might just try melting soap directly into it from the start rather than waiting for it to be worn down through use.

And to think I was contemplating just chucking the left over soap and getting a new bar.  What a waste that would have been!

Washington Monument Re-Opening

Few monuments are as iconic of Washington, DC as the Washington Monument.  Built over several decades in the mid 1800’s, it stood as the tallest structure on earth for four years (surpassed by the Eiffel Tower) and remains the world’s tallest free-standing masonry structure.


The obelisk towers over the National Mall, dominating the other monuments.

It was damaged in the 2011 Virginia earthquake, and has been closed for almost three years now.  Yesterday the monument re-opened, and we managed to get in on the second tour!

Oooh, fancy!

Oooh, fancy!

While tickets are normally reserved online, for the re-opening they were available on a first-come-first-served basis.  We got down there nice and early, lining up at the monument kiosk/center.  Half an hour later we had tickets in hand for 1:30, and several hours to kill.

Located just east of the monument, I have no idea what's in this building aside from restrooms.

Located just east of the monument, I have no idea what’s in this building aside from restrooms.

We first headed down to the Lincoln Memorial.  Located about a mile west of the Washington Monument, with the WWII memorial and reflecting pool directly in between, it’s a pleasant walk in good weather.  The Lincoln Memorial itself is extremely impressive, and the massive amount of stone creates for a naturally cool interior where you can see the famous statue.

The National Parks Police officer there also had a chair, but Lincoln's is far more impressive.

The National Parks Police officer there also had a chair, but Lincoln’s is far more impressive.

Even from there, the Washington Monument looms across the reflecting pool.



We visited the National History Museum, the Smithsonian Castle, and got some lunch at Good Stuff (by the capitol building).  After that it was time to head back for the tour, and after some security checks and ranger instructions we were inside!  While you used to walk all the way to the top (if this is still offered, I want to do it sometime), you now take an elevator up the middle of the column.

It was one of the most impressive elevators I've seen.

It was one of the most impressive elevators I’ve seen.

The view from the top was spectacular.  In an area where you normally can’t see for any great distance, we were able to spot buildings and landmarks over ten miles away (nothing compared to Arizona or Utah distances, but for the East coast it’s a long way).

Looking to the west, WWII memorial and Lincoln on the line, Arlington Cemetery  across the bridge.

Looking to the west, WWII memorial and Lincoln on the line, Arlington Cemetery across the bridge.

Looking to the South, the Jefferson Memorial and Reagan National Airport.

Looking to the South, the Jefferson Memorial and Reagan National Airport.

Looking to the north.  The White House, Treasury, OEOB, etc.  In the distance, on the horizon, is a white building: the Mormon temple, over 10 miles away.

Looking to the north. The White House, Treasury, OEOB, etc. In the distance, on the horizon, is a white building: the Mormon temple, over 10 miles away.

Looking to the east.  The capitol building and most of the Smithsonians visible.

Looking to the east. The capitol building and most of the Smithsonians visible.

It was a really incredible experience, if you’re ever in DC I recommend you get some tickets.  It was my first time, but I hope it won’t be my last.

The Rise of the 3 Pass Shave

A modern double-edge safety razor.

A modern double-edge safety razor.

For years while I used a cartridge razor I would only make one pass while shaving: against the grain.  It was quick, it was simple, and it got the job done.

Since switching to a safety razor I have almost completely abandoned that method.  If I’m really rushing I might try it, but for day to day shaving I largely adopted a two pass method: lather, shave with the grain, lather again (with what remains on the brush), shave against the grain.

This has been my daily routine shave for months.  Starting in April, however, things began to change.  Right around the time I was testing the Feather blades I decided to try out using a three pass method, which I had seen numerous blogs and websites recommend. 

The method is simple: lather, shave with the grain (WTG), lather, shave across the grain at a right angle (XTG), lather, shave against the grain (ATG).  You can reload your brush for lathers, or you can just load it once if the soap will last you all three lathers.  When shaving across the grain, I start at the ear/sideburn and shave toward the nose, then work my way down the neck, leaving the mustache area for last.

It’s taken some getting used to, but it is slowly replacing my two pass method of shaving.  I still use two passes for most daily shaving, it saves a bit on time and gives a very nice shave.  But for special days, like Sundays, date night, etc, I’m using three passes almost exclusively.  It leaves my face just a bit smoother, gives a more even shave (perhaps simply because the extra pass is another chance to catch stray hairs), and the shave lasts noticeably longer. 

And if you’re enjoying shaving, it gives you a few more minutes before you start the day, something I won’t complain about!


Review II: Astra Superior Platinum


Featuring probably the ugliest picture I’ve taken.

Normally my reviews come out on Thursday or Friday.  That’s when my razor blades are ready to change and so it makes sense to wrap things up all at once.  This one is a bit early because the result is abundantly clear: I’m just not a fan.

In my previous review I wasn’t thrilled about them.  In fact, they were the only blades I used where I wasn’t looking forward to shaving.  The last two weeks have been more of the same.

Performance wise they actually aren’t bad.  With either two passes or three they got a reasonably close shave.  The blades hold an edge well, and shaving five times a week they were still feeling sharp by the end of it.  While the shaves never felt as close and as smooth as what some of my preferred razors provide, they were just fine for work, school, or church. 

So why don’t I like them? 

For starters, the shaves just didn’t feel great.  While they looked fine and felt close, they didn’t leave my face feeling as clean and groomed as what I like.  The only two major nicks I’ve gotten have both been from Astra blades.  And, while I can’t exactly explain how, shaving with them just isn’t as much fun.

I know a lot of people love them, and if they work well for them then great.  But they’re just not for me. I’ve used them for four weeks and that was enough, I gave away my last Astra blade a couple days ago. 

Maybe someday I’ll change my mind about them, but for now I remain unimpressed.

A Nice Shave: Just What the Doctor Ordered

My first semester of law school I got engaged, and we had our wedding over the winter break.  It was stressful, but since then law school hasn’t seemed too bad and I thought I might have gotten over the hump early.  Yesterday we adopted a dog, in the middle of finals.  I might have been wrong.

This is Malcom, we call him Mal for short. 

He made himself right at home on the office futon.

He made himself right at home on the office futon.

When we first met my now wife and I connected over a mutual enjoyment of the tv show “Firefly”, so the dog was named after a character.  He’s really a nice thing, and currently is passed out next to me chasing squirrels or something across imagination land.

He REALLY like chasing squirrels.

He REALLY like chasing squirrels.

As with any dog, potty training is…on going.  He’s got a lot of energy, and loves to get up into whatever you’re doing.  That’s great for a lot of things, for studying and taking tests, not so much.

I found myself struggling this morning.  The dog wasn’t wanting to go to the bathroom outside, I hadn’t gotten cleaned up, I was stressing tests, and with the wife at work I was on my own to handle things.  At my wits end I decided I needed to do something for me: time to shave.

I didn’t get the prep I usually do.  Just some warm water splashed on the two day growth.  Hot water with Proraso shaving cream felt wonderful.  I’m at the end of the week with my Astra blade, and I normally don’t like them much even new, but it felt perfect today.  The result was not the best shave I’ve had, but it was relaxing to do and it felt terrific to be feeling somewhat clean and normal again.

It’s going to be a heck of a trip having a dog.  I just need to remember that it doesn’t mean I can’t be a human.