Month: June 2014

Review II: Gillette 7 O’clock Sharpedge

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Look at all those sharp edges!

Because Gillette 7 O’clock Sharpedge were stand out blades when I first tested them several months ago, I found myself greatly anticipating using them again.

Much to my surprise I ran into trouble almost immediately.

The blades themselves were what I remembered. Extremely sharp, as the name implies, they cut through stubble quickly and easily.  But the results were problematic, after a day of shaving I found myself with sensitive skin that didn’t want a close shave.

To solve this problem I adjusted my method. Rather than making one pass with the grain and one against, I switched to one pass with the grain and one across it. This gave me a slightly rougher shave, but the irritation cleared up immediately. After a few days I switched back to with and against the grain, and the irritation didn’t return. I suspect the problem was that I got used to using more pressure and aggressive methods with duller blades, which the Sharpedge won’t let me get away with.

With the issue resolved I found myself having wonderful shaves throughout the week. Even pushing the blades past their normal week use to ten days gave me decent, though noticeably declining, shaves.

While I have enjoyed many of the blades I’ve used, these are among the few I am seriously considering buying in bulk. While they aren’t very forgiving, they shave excellent for me, and they are simply fun to use.  It’s hard to define that last category, but some blades just feel boring to me.

These aren’t one of them. I am now out of blades, and I’ll be keeping my eyes open to pick up more.

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Rebel Race Mud Run

Last year my wife and I ran our first 5k obstacle mud run as a couple (my first ever, she had previously run a Tough Mudder). We loved it, ran a second race that fall, and this weekend was our third.

The medal/dog tag we got for finishing.

The medal/dog tag we got for finishing.

There are a slew of companies putting on mud runs these days, and while we hadn’t run one put on by Rebel Race once you’ve done one the format is pretty¬† standard and simple: running through the woods, crawling over, under, or through muddy obstacles.

This race was no exception, and we had a blast!

I banged my knee on the first obstacle, luckily there was plenty of mud to help stop the bleeding.

I banged my knee on the first obstacle, luckily there was plenty of mud to help stop the bleeding.

We ran harder than we had in previous races, and when one or the other needed to slow or pause we did so as a team. There was plenty of shoe sucking mud, a prolonged run up the middle of a creek, things to climb or jump, and lots of beautiful scenery. At one point a large female deer even ran across the path ahead of us (likely terrified by the large number of people wandering through its neck of the woods).

It was a great experience. In our three races we’ve only encountered one negative person. Almost everyone there is supportive, encouraging, or at least happy to leave you alone. This race was no exception, with numerous strangers there to help cheer us on.¬† While this course was more climbing than crawling, resulting in less mud up top than usual, we still ended it a dirty, happy mess.

My wife is awesome.

My wife is awesome.

If you haven’t tried one, I highly recommend it. Whether you are running or walking, it’s about showing up, pushing yourself, and having a great time. I can’t wait for our next one!

Chopping Trees and Plowing Fields: Proper DE Blade Angle

When I was a kid my dad taught me an important lesson. We were clearing weeds from a dirt portion of the yard, using shovels, and I was not making much headway. Seeing this he showed me what I was doing wrong: it was the angle of the shovel. Too high and I’d just knock down the weeds, too aggressive and I’d be digging holes all day. But by holding the shovel so it scraped flush along the ground I could chop the weed off with ease.

Blade angle is perhaps the skill that takes the most practice. Cartridge razors don’t have this problem, as the cartridge allows the blade to sit at a consistent angle all the time. Whether that is the optimal angle for the shaver or not, it’s one size fits all.

But a double-edge (DE) razor is different.  Take a look:

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Looking at the head you can see three parts. Starting at the bottom is a scalloped comb/safety bar, a thin razor edge, and a cap piece holding it in place.  The safety bar and cap limit the amount of razor blade that’s exposed, thus the term “safety razor.” Its up to the shaver to make sure what is exposed is properly applied to skin.

Here’s a different view:

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On the left you can see the blade, just a millimeter or two exposed. When shaving if you hold the razor with too much of the cap against the skin the blade lifts up, either shaving the hair too high or missing it altogether. Similarly, holding it so too much of the safety bar is on the skin will result in the razor either dragging against the skin, or being lifted away.

Like the shovel, you want the blade to move parallel with the skin, connecting with the hair as perpendicularly as possible. The less contact with the skin, the less irritation.

This is, of course, easier said than done. Aside from being hard to see the blade angle while in the process of shaving, your face isn’t flat. DE razors require constant attention to the contours of your skin to maintain optimal shaving.

There are two good ways I’ve found to compensate for this. One, learn the angle of the handle when it is shaving well, and try to maintain that for each part of your face (shaving small areas at a time). Second, pay attention to the feel of the razor against the stubble. If it’s pulling or tough, you might be dragging the razor due to too steep of an angle. No sensation at all, check to make sure you aren’t too shallow (though a good blade, angle, and lather will greatly minimize the feel of shaving).

I’ve been working on it for months, and I’m still learning. But it’s part of the fun, part of the skill, and something I’m working to get better at.

Review: Lucky Tiger Aftershave & Face Tonic

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There stands the bottle.

I’ve never been an aftershave guy. Nor cologne, for that matter. Growing up I remember my dad having Old Spice in glass bottles (and an elk shaped bottle holder), and occasionally for Christmas I would get a small bottle of some type of cologne, but I’d often just forget to use it.

When I took up shaving with a double-edge razor I got a bottle of CVS brand spice aftershave. It worked well, and I grew used to the scent, the soft burn, and the feeling of tight skin that would come at the end of a shave.

But as I explored my options with razors, blades, soaps, and creams, questions naturally arose in my mind about what is out there for after the shave.

I first saw Lucky Tiger on a shelf at Grooming Lounge, and the old timey style of the bottle (plastic, made to look glass) and label intrigued me. I got a bottle a month or two later, just as spring has been arriving.

It was a good decision. Lucky Tiger has a crisp orange scent to it, making it a refreshing start to a spring or summer day. I grew up near orange groves, and my grandparents had orange trees in their yard, so it is a familiar and happy smell to me. The scent fads extremely fast, within a few seconds, giving a burst of citrus before going to your natural smell (allowing you to use other colognes if you want, I rarely do).

There is no alcohol, which took some getting used to. Much like mouthwash, I had associated the alcohol burn with the notion that it was doing something. For the first fee days I wasn’t sure it actually was doing something, and I almost regretted the purchase.

But I found Lucky Tiger is best appreciated with regular use. It is both an aftershave and a tonic, so it is meant to help keep your skin healthy. It leaves my skin feeling soft and slightly slick for hours afterward. At first I associated this with oily, but I soon realized that its just how my skin uses when I regularly use something designed to moisturize.

I still love the sharpness of alcohol based aftershaves, and that is probably be what I try next. But Lucky Tiger has earned a spot on my shelf. If you’re looking for something to invigorate and close up nicks, this may not be for you. But if you’re looking for a smooth and refreshing start, I highly recommend it.

Lasts Gasps of a Dying Soap

Col. Conk’s bayrum shave soap was the first shaving soap I’d tried. Before that it was either gels or Barbersol, applied with my hands. But after I purchased my double-edge razor my wife got me the soap and a brush as a gift, and I’ve been loving it ever since.

I wasn’t sure that I would. Lather didn’t interest me as much as the razor, and I wasn’t sure it would be worth the effort.

But what I found was a rich and rewarding experience. My first attempts, in hind sight, were terrible. Then I thought I got the hang of it, and it was fun. In hind sight though, the results here were also terrible. I just didn’t know enough to know that yet.

The last couple months have seen a lot of improvement. More foam, thicker and longer lasting lather, better protection.  When I wore through the puck, the melted remains in a small dish taught me about the benefits of using a bowl to load.

But the time is far spent, and there is little soap remaining. Probably just a few more shaves at most.

It lasted about 5 1/2 months. Not bad. A good soap apparently goes a long way. It also means it may be time to get new soap soon. It’s hard not to simply get another puck of Conk’s, but I’ve heard good thing about some of the other brands out there (such as Mama Bears) so I think I will try some out. Experiment.

In the meanwhile, I heartily recommend Col. Conk’s bayrum. I can’t speak to their other products, but this one treated me well.

Review II: Shark Super Chrome

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Shark Super Chrome

Since the previous couple of razors hadn’t felt much different than I remembered the first time I tested them, I expected the Chrome to be the same. I was wrong.

The Shark Super Chrome is the first razor I’ve retested where things felt noticeably different. The last time I remember thinking it felt much like other razors, but more forgiving. While the latter part remains true, I’ve found something else the last two weeks: they feel rather dull.

That’s not to say that they don’t shave well. I’ve enjoyed ample great shaves with these blades. They shave great out of the box and even better once broken in. But the change from what I remembered was so marked that at first I thought it was just a bad blade. When both behaved similarly, it seems more likely that it’s just how they are.

As I said though, they were enjoyable and are very forgiving. My morning shaves have gotten very quick and cavalier, which has the potential to cause problems down the road. But it was something I could get away with with the Chrome, and it was fun to back off from slow and deliberate for a couple weeks in exchange for quick and functional.

If you’re looking for sharp blades, these are still razors. But you can definitely find sharper out there. But if you’re looking for reliable blades that will let you get away with mistakes, these are a great option.

Breaking in New Blades

Occasionally you realize something that, in hind sight, you should have realized months before. Today was one of those days.

Since I started shaving with a safety razor I assumed that the first day shaving with a new blade would be the best opportunity to shave well with it. That each blade begain at optimal sharpness and smoothness, with each subsequent shave degrading the blade.

This morning it hit me like a lightning bolt: like many tools and machines, some blades need to be broken in.

Sunday has always been new blade day, and I figured it would be my best shave. But as I was pondering during this morning’s deforestation, I realized that Sunday shaves usually don’t feel the best. In fact, its usually not until Monday or Tuesday that the shaves feel closest and most comfortable.

Though this will take more observation, but I’m now believing that some blades peak around day two or three before declining on shave quality. While this may seem trivial, figuring this out will mean that if there is a big event to prepare for, such as a wedding, interview, date, etc, prior planning will help provide the highest quality shave by coordinating peak blade condition.

This really should not be as interesting as it is, but I’m kinda geeking out!