Month: January 2015

The Great Shave

Several years ago I walked into a small model train shop in Mobile, AL, wherein I found an extraordinary display.  Everything was meticulous, an incredible example of time, dedication, and attention detail.  I asked the clerk about it, and he told me that it was built by him and another enthusiast.  Reflecting on the other guy, he chuckled and remarked, “we were working one day on this, and he was using a jeweler’s eyepiece and a dental pick to paint pupils on a model duck.  He suddenly stopped, set down his tools, looked at me and said, ‘what on earth am I doing?’  He got up, waked out, and he never came back.” 

Hobbies have a way of swallowing your time, what begins as a distraction becomes an interest, an interest becomes a routine, and soon enough, if you find yourself immersed.  So found I at the end of last year, and Christmas afforded me a welcome opportunity to step away for a while.  So I grew a beard.

About week three.

About week three.

I make no claim to being the world’s best beard grower, but by five weeks it was thick enough to fairly claim that I was no longer “growing” a beard, but rather “had” one.  Long enough to be soft, as well as troublesome while eating.  School returned and I found myself rested, not just from my work but from my hobbies.  I was ready to get back into the routine. A wise and prudent man probably would have used some clippers to trim things down to stubble length, then clean it up with normal shaving. 

I am not that man.

Instead, I made ready to do battle on a scale never before attempted…by me.  I chose my tools carefully:  For lather, I went with Proraso green.  It’s a good, thick lather, and I hoped that the menthol would help alleviate any razor burn that the heavy work might cause.  For a blade I picked Treet Dura-Sharp.  Carbon steel and one of my favorites, it holds a strong, sharp edge.  It would only need to last one shave, but it would be a big one. 

With that as a start I softened things with warm water, then lathered up.  I don’t know that I’ve ever used more lather at once than I did then, working it from multiple angles to make sure it didn’t just gather on the outside but worked down to the skin.  Once ready, with razor in hand, I went to work.

The biggest problem I would have became rapidly apparent: there was so much hair that the razor quickly gummed up.  Hot water did the trick for that, by breaking down the soap binding the stubble together I was able to clean out the razor with a little effort but each pass quickly made a new mess.  With the deftness and subtle of a Cub Scout with a hatchet, I hacked away.

It took four passes to get things set right.  Two with the grain, the first to get to clear the hair, the second to clear the stubble.  Once across the grain, and a final pass with the grain to get things nice and smooth.  To wrap things up I first used a spice aftershave to tighten the skin, then a splash of Lucky Tiger face tonic to cool things off.

Remarkably, irritation was at most mild, and only noticeable when I’d rub a certain part of my neck.  The beard was gone (to some disappointment to my wife), and I was ready to get back in the grove.  I’ve grown to love my shaving routine, and I’m excited to have it back.

For now.

Oh Christmas beard, oh Christmas beard…

My wife jokes that when we were first dating and first married she could tell the day of the week by my beard, I’d shave on Sunday for church and then grew it through the week.  While she has been nothing but supportive of this bizarre shaving endeavor, she has at times expressed an interest in me growing something again.  For the Christmas vacation I decided to give her what she wanted and on the 19th the beard began its return.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped shaving completely, and for the last two weeks I’ve been working to keep my face from being an uncultivated wild.  For the first week or so, due to us traveling for the holidays, I pulled out the Dollar Shave Club razor they sent me a couple months back.

It was terrible, and here’s why:

When I was a kid my dad wisely made me mow the lawn on Saturday.  He also wanted me to edge the lawn, but I would usually just go over it with the mower and figure it was good (eventually we worked out a compromise where I would mow and he would edge).

Trying to use the DSC razor to fine trim a beard was like trying to use the mower to edge the lawn, it’s just not the right tool for the job.  The razor is great and cutting down lots of hair quickly and without hassle, much like a lawn mower.  But the cartridge head is large, the razor is bulky for anything other than simple passes, and the cutting edge is shrouded for safety’s sake so it is hard to see exactly where the shaving begins and ends.

Once we got back I switched to my DE razor, loaded with a Wilkinson Sword blade (which I thought would be good enough, but not so nice that I dislike using it for so small a job).  Much, much better.  I can see the razor so I can fine tune exactly what is getting shaved, it’s easier to maneuver, and since it shaves closer the line is more defined.  Excellent.

As I’ve watched the beard grow slowly back in, and as I find myself increasingly anticipating shaving it off, I’ve taken the time to reflect: in the last year I’ve tried six shaving creams, three aftershaves, three razors, and a dozen different razor blades.  I’ve liked most of them to some degree, disliked a few, and really enjoyed a small handful.  My top three favorite blades have been Feather, Gillette Silver Blue, and Treet Dura-Sharp, and it’s a close call between them for who’s in first.  So close in fact that I really can’t say, I’ll have to put them head-to-head.

With the new year having arrived I find myself wondering what the future holds.  I don’t know that this time next year I’ll still be writing about shaving, but then again, I wouldn’t have thought a year ago I would now have written over a hundred pages on the subject.

We shall see what happens.  In the mean while, I’ll keep shaving.