Review: Treet Dura Sharp

Classy and classic.

Classy and classic.

The most significant difference between modern safety razors and wet shaving compared with how it was done a century ago is that today almost all razor blades are made out of stainless steel, while prior to the 1960s razor blades were made out of carbon steel.  Carbon steel rusts easier, and so with the introduction of stainless steel carbon steel, despite many feeling carbon held a superior edge, it was almost completely abandoned.

Almost.

Treet Dura Sharp is one of the few razor blades still on the market that’s made out of carbon steel.  Manufactured in Pakistan, it is coated in PTFE (Teflon) which provides some protection against rusting while also giving a sharper, longer edge over just carbon.  Having never used a carbon blade before I was curious how well it would work. I’m sold.

I don’t know if the razor is quite as sharp as a Feather, nor quite as smooth as the Gillette Silver Blues.  But they have been some of the most enjoyable blades I’ve shaved with, and they are in serious competition with those two for the spot of my favorite blade.  They feel sharp, gave a close shave with no irritation, nicks or bleeding, and they have a satisfying feel (and sound) as they cut through the stubble.  The result was a good shave throughout the week, though they had begun to lose some sharpness by the fifth shave or so, and a blade that even if not the best in one category did everything well in an enjoyable, balanced package.

The drawback here, of course, is that since it is carbon steel whether it would rust.  I had heard a few different methods of preventing it, with the two leading methods being simply making sure it was well dried (I did this by shaking and blowing it out), or by dipping it at the end of the shave in some rubbing alcohol and letting it air dry (the idea being that the alcohol will displace water, and then dry faster).

I tried both methods, here are the results:

After one week use, alcohol dipped on the left and simply dried on the right.  The spot on the blade edge either was fluff or appeared during the week since the blade was used.

After one week use, alcohol dipped on the left and simply dried on the right. The spot on the blade edge either was fluff or appeared during the week since the blade was used.

Rusting was minimal in both cases, confined to where the razor head clamps down on the blade.  There is slightly less rust using the alcohol dip, though during the alcohol week I found myself enjoying how the blade aged through use somewhat less than without.  If any actual difference occurred, then to me it would seem that the blade ages better naturally rather than trying to extend its life.

The rusting though is so slight that unless you intend on using the blade longer than a week there seems little cause for concern.  They are cheap enough that even if you only shave one or twice a week and can extend the calendar day use of a blade longer than a week then if rusting is a problem you could replace it more often without much added cost. For me though it’s not a problem, I change blades every week and if it can survive in Virginia then I suspect it can survive most places.

I highly recommend this blade.  Having tried a fair number at this point, it is easily in my top three and might even be my favorite.  It’s sharp, smooth, and enjoyable.  With ten blades a pack I’m looking forward to eight more weeks of fantastic shaves.

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A Brief and Questionably Accurate Explanation of Carbon and Stainless Steel Razor Blades

You have probably never asked yourself whether you use a carbon or stainless steel razor blade (perhaps because normality abounds in your life).  It’s not a question that gets asked often, and because nearly all razor blades are made out of stainless steel, whether in a cartridge or double-edge, it’s a question with an easy answer.  But that wasn’t always the case.

The exact history is somewhat murky, but here is what I’ve been able to learn…

When Gillette introduced the double-edge safety razor in 1904 all blades were made out of carbon steel, and this continued for almost 60 years.  Using carbon steel created a significant problem though: because of the water involved in shaving there was significant risk that a blade would become rusty even over just a few days use, requiring either close care or frequent replacement.

To combat this Gillette turned to metallurgists to do science-y things.  By 1945 they began experimenting with coating the blades with a thin layer of other material to protect them, and in short order they turned to polytetraflouroethylne (PTFE), better known as Teflon.  They discovered that they could create a blade which, though initially slightly inferior than an untreated razor, would break in after a shave or two and then provide a sharper, longer lasting edge (for those of you interested in details of this, which go over my head, check out the above link).

This all came to a head in the 1960’s, when stainless steel was introduced.  Depending on who you ask it was either Gillette or Wilkinson Sword who was the first to bring stainless steel to market, but by the mid-sixties it was conquering the market.  The blades, often coated with PTFE as well, would last far longer than carbon steel resulting in much reduced need to purchase replacements.  With patents expiring, fierce competition, and emerging products that required less purchases, it is little surprise that within a decade of stainless steel blades hitting the market that Gillette introduced the first cartridge razor blade, setting the course of modern shaving.

So if during that brief window stainless steel so thoroughly stomped on carbon steel, why use them?  Stainless is so preferred, after all, that there are only a handful of brands that use carbon and most of these can be tough to come by (and only one that I know of that doesn’t use PTFE, a Treet brand nicknamed “black beauty”). 

The edge. Carbon steel hasn’t completely died off because they offer a great edge.  There is some debate over whether stainless steel or carbon steel blades are harder, and which one degrades faster, but most seem to agree that carbon steel offers an unusually sharp edge at the very beginning.  While some say that the carbon steel dulls faster, others contend that the material allows for the edge to be kept far longer than with stainless, and even stropped for longer use.

At the same time, while carbon steel razors are comparable to stainless steel blades, their relative price has plummeted over the decades.  Even if the blades are not cared for closely and require more frequent replacement, the cost is still so low that it is not economically prohibitive.  If you use twice as many blades, replacing them more frequently, the cost difference amounts to just a few dollars a year (if that).  The economic incentive of stainless, while still there, has been greatly reduced.

While the benefits of the two can be debated, what can’t be dismissed is that stainless steel remains the dominant force on the market.  It is ironic that a method which draws so heavily on heritage and use of techniques and designs that have been around for a century primarily uses blades that appeared within the last few decades. 

But if you want to try the type of razor blade that safety razors were originally built for you’ve still got options.  Not many, but they’re out there. 

Review: Wilkinson Sword

Why shave with a knife, when you can shave with a sword?

Why shave with a knife, when you can shave with a sword?

In hind sight, maybe I shouldn’t have put that question in the picture caption.  It would have gone well at the start of the article.  Oh well, absolutely not too late now, but we’re moving forward.

Wilkinson Sword is one of the biggest shaving companies in the world, but you probably know them by another name: Schick.  For reasons that I’m sure make sense to someone, Wikipedia says company is marketed as Schick in North America, Australia, Asia, and Russia, and Wilkinson Sword everywhere else. As I have been unable to find any Schick labeled double-edge razors, it would seem that portion of their market is handled exclusively through the Sword portion.

But I digress. 

The Sword has been a  good razor blade.  I encountered some roughness on the first shave or two, but once broken in it gave a decent shave through the rest of the week.  I did notice is that they seemed harder to clean off, the soap and hair seemed to want to stick to the blade a bit, and the first shave almost felt dull compared to what they did after a day or two of use.  But the shaves were close, even, and consistent throughout the week. 

And…average.  While it was a good shave, I really can’t think of any thing that stands out about them except that few other razors had as little irritation as it did.  But since very few double-edge razors give me significant irritation, it’s really a marginal benefit.

They’re good blades, I’ll give them that.  But while there wasn’t anything really bad about them, I don’t find myself having a desire to keep using them. 

Review: Col. Conk’s Shave Soap- Almond

Though my experience remains limited, Col. Conk's has been my favorite shaving soap thus far.

Though my experience remains limited, Col. Conk’s has been my favorite shaving soap thus far.

For the last four months my primary shaving soap has been Col. Conk’s Almond.  I bought it in Wall, SD, at a giant general store/restaurant/tourist trap they have there (it’s probably half of the entire town), along with a couple other Conk’s scents.  Every kind they had, in fact, except lime. Because who wants to smell like limes in the morning?

Admittedly, before then I would have also asked “who wants to smell like almonds in the morning?”  Or ever, really.  But it seemed like a good idea at the time and I’m glad I took the risk because it has been a pleasure to use.

I’ve used Col. Conk’s before, and for all I know this is the exact same stuff except with a different fragrance added.  Previously the soap sat as a block of soap on a dish, but with this puck I melted it down into a shave bowl right from the start.  My technique was then to go in about ten minutes before I would shave, cover the soap with about a quarter-inch of hot water, then let it sit while I got cleaned up and prepared.  Once I was ready to shave I’d drain the water, then use a wet brush to load the softened soap and lather on my face.

It worked like gang busters.

Previously I was getting inconsistent loads which resulted in some thin lathers that weren’t always enough to get the job done.  Perhaps because I’m now more experienced I’ve great lathers almost every time, and when the load has been insufficient a couple drops of water on the soap and a quick reload got me into good shape.  It does seem to have resulted in the soap not lasting as long as the previous puck of Conk’s I used, but that might be a result of me not lathering properly previously.  Even if this goes though more soap than necessary, when it’s still lasting four months I’m not feeling too bad.

The soap provided great protection, and a refreshing scent that made for an enjoyable shave.  The scent started extremely strong, dropping off quickly over a couple weeks time, however despite the decline it remained present when lathering up until the last several weeks.  I still catch it from time to time, but I think it might be that it’s just on its last leg.

I haven’t been using it exclusively, I’ve also been using Proraso, Dollar Shave Club Shave Butter, and Barbasol. But Conk’s has been my favorite, hands down.  It smells great, feels great, and works great.  I’ve got two more pucks to go through, one Bayrum and the other Amber, and when I’m done I may just find myself stocking back up on Almond.  I’ve highly enjoyed it.

Review: Perma-Sharp Super

That's not punctuation I recognize...

That’s not punctuation I recognize…

After shaving with the Perma-Sharps for two weeks I’m still not sure how I feel about them, though it’s entirely possible that by the time I finish writing this review I’ll have talked myself into one opinion or another. 

It’s an odd blade.  The store I bought them from says they are made by Procter & Gamble, but they don’t bear the Gillette trade name which P&G owns.  They are manufactured in Russia with an English name, which isn’t unusual unto itself, except that the package then has what Google translate tells me is Turkish printed right on the front.  And when it comes to shaving, it’s one of the few blades that have really grown on me.

Most of the time if I’m going to like a blade I can tell pretty quickly.  With the Perma-Sharp it was very different.  My first shave with it left much to be desired, the next day continued to be unimpressive.  But by the third day I found much of what I disliked disappearing.  By the fourth day those things weren’t even noticeable.  By the fifth I had figured I just had a bad start. 

Then I changed blades, and it was back to square one.  Once again though by the third day or so it was shaving great and I was happy with it. 

I’ve had blades that required a bit of time to break in before, I even wrote a blog post about it.  But I’ve never had one with such a steep and noticeable curve.  The first couple shaves the blade felt rough, uneven, pulling and tugging when it should be cleanly cutting.  But after a shave or two this had vanished, replaced by a reliable, sharp, consistent blade.  In fact, by the end of the week I hadn’t noticed a decline in sharpness or shave quality.  It was living up to it’s name.

Hence my uncertainty about it.  On one hand, for the first shave or two I simply didn’t enjoy it.  By about Tuesday it was doing well, and it was a pleasure the rest of the week.

Next time I use them I’m going to try out a trick I’ve heard about, that if you run an overly aggressive razor through a cork that it will even out the edge and give a more comfortable shave.  Perhaps that will do the trick.  For now, when I get critical about it I remember how smooth and sharp it felt during a time of the week that many razors struggle, but I can’t ignore the rough few days at the beginning. 

Movember- Why I’m Still Shaving

Movember is upon us again, a time when men stop shaving their mustache in an effort to raise awareness about men’s health issues such as colon cancer (or simply because they’re riding the cultural wave).  It’s a worthy cause, but not one I’ll be participating in for a couple reasons.

First, I look awful in a mustache.  I shaved a beard down to one once, my wife took one look and literally covered her eyes and hid. Actions spoke louder than words. Jack Kemp once said, “Winning is like shaving- you do it every day or you wind up looking like a bum.”  I’m not sure what I looked like, but I had to shave it off before she would stop winching every time she looked at me.

But the larger reason that I’m not shaving is this: Shaving for me is a manly tradition.  A combination of tools, skill, patience, focus, and practice.  I use a double-edge razor for many reasons, one of which is that it takes work.  Work is good for the mind, body and soul, and it’s something I don’t want to go without.

By all means, grow your beard.  I’ve done so, and I likely will again.  But it makes no sense for me to deny myself of a manly ritual in an effort to demonstrate manliness, and in the case of a mustache, which has the very possible side effect of making me look like some hipster. 

That’s not how I roll.

Dollar Shave Club Review- Shave Butter and Moisturizer

As I said in my last review, the DSC shave butter and moisturizer did well as part of the complete DSC experience.  But it’s one thing to keep irritation down when the tool you’re using is a cartridge razor, it’s nigh impossible to cut yourself with one and if your skin isn’t inclined to get sore easily you can shave with just about anything.  For years I simply used water.

But the question remained: how would it do under double-edge conditions?  A DE razor can give you a closer shave with less irritation than any cartridge…if you use it right.  And part of using it right means having a good lather and aftershave to go along with it, or in this case, shave butter and moisturizer.  To find out if it would hold up I loaded up a Feather razor blade and gave it a try.

The results were very promising.  Throughout the testing I noticed no noticeable razor burn from the shave, and my skin definitely felt good especially with a cold wind that settled in the last few days.  Two applications of shave butter was enough to get three passes with the DE, one for the with the grain and across the grain, one for against the grain.  The shave butter rinsed well out of the blade, and what spots that were missed were likely a result of the user.

But for as well as it worked, there were a few things that have left me ready for a change.  First, while it is extremely convenient to just squeeze something out of a tube I miss the enjoyment and ritual (and warmth) that comes from mixing up a warm lather from a block of soap. It’s relaxing and refreshing.  Second, because the shave butter is almost completely clear it makes it difficult to see where you’ve shaved and where you haven’t.  Of course by the end of the shave you should easily see where you still need to shave, but during the initial pass or two when you’re trying to reduce rather than remove it can make it difficult to tell what still needs to be done.

A couple things I’ve noticed about the moisturizer:  First, while it soaks in just fine after you put it on I found that it left my face feeling oily for several hours afterward.  Or maybe that’s just what moisturized skin feels like.  It was especially noticeable after exercising, as sweat would seem to draw it out of where it had soaked in.  Second, I noticed during the time I was using it an increase of smudges and smears on my cell phone.  I think it has been a result of touching my face and picking up some of the lotion residue, then touching the screen.  I don’t know that’s the reason, perhaps I just noticed something that was happening before, but it seemed to be.

Really though these complaints, if they even fall to that level rather than less than enthusiastic noticings, are minor compared to the good results that I have had from using them.  If the DSC razors are up your ally, these likely will be too.  They’ll stay on my shaving counter and I will use them from time to time, but I’m looking forward to getting back to soaps and splashes.

Dollar Shave Club Review- The Whole Kit and Caboodle

Journalistic integrity requires a writer to say when they are reviewing a product whether they paid for it or it was given to them for review, that way people are aware whether there has been inducement.

What they sent me.

What they sent me.  Apparently the razor they sent is the four bladed “Lover’s Blade.”

Or something like that, I think.  I’m not a journalist, and I have no idea what their ethical standards happen to be.  I just write a blog, and if companies want to send me stuff then so be it.  Which Dollar Shave Club (DSC) did, and so here’s my unvarnished opinion on it:

If I didn’t already own a double-edge (DE) razor I would seriously consider getting a subscription.

To get the full experience I decided to go all in: DSC shaving butter, razors, and after shave moisturizer (I’ll review the shave butter and moisturizer as part of DE shaving next week).  While the heart of the DSC marketing strategy is selling razor cartridges for cheaper than what you can get Gillette or Schick in stores, and the razor is the most important part of a shave, I’d heard good things about the shave butter and I wanted to judge it with all factors leaning in it’s favor (I went into it skeptical, and I didn’t want any bias against cartridge razors to tip things too much).

The razor itself seems to be solidly built, perhaps more so than a Mach3.  The weight feels heavier, and the cartridge seems to fit more securely to the handle, giving it an overall feel of being higher quality.  Where it falls short is the ergonomic design they have tried to put into it, while it works well for shaving downward if you try to hold the razor to shave across the grain or against the grain the ergonomic curves made it awkward for me to hold.  In that regard the Mach 3, with it’s straighter handle, feels better for those passes, though your mileage may vary.

At first I wasn’t very impressed with the shave results.  I started with a two day growth, and the shave I got was, at best, adequate.  Without careful attention it was easy to miss spots, making the shave as long as what it normally takes with a DE razor.  It took two to three passes, with, across, and against the grain, to get a close shave, which sort of seems to defeat the point of a multi-blade razor.  Additionally, the size of the four razor head made it difficult to get right under my nose, and there’s no single blade trimmer on it.  However after a couple days of shaving I found the results improving noticeably, which might mean that some of the above problems were user related.  Within a few days I was getting consistently good shaves, which while not as close as what a DE razor offers were still rather good.

The shave butter itself seems similar to the shaving cream sold by Trader Joe’s, which worried me a bit at first because when I’ve tried the Trader Joe stuff it (though working well shave wise) had a tendency to clog up my razor.  Either the two products are different or I just didn’t notice it this time, because I had no clogging problems with the shave butter.  With some hot water it washed out well, and I found that a single application of shave butter was often enough for two or three passes.

The moisturizer took some getting used to.  I’ve never used a lotion or moisturizer consistently, and I found the instructions to apply liberally to have been misleading: don’t.  A little bit goes a long way, and after using the shave butter it generally took a few moments to really soak in.  My face would feel slick, almost oily for several hours afterward, and if I worked out within a few hours of applying the sweat would seem to mix with whatever the moisturizer had left to make it feel like it had just been applied.  Perhaps this is a just what having moisturized skin feels like.  If it’s not for you, of course, you could always just use a regular aftershave and not order it when you get the razor.

The results have been that after a couple days use I found myself getting good shaves with no irritation.  The skin butter seems to work well with the razor, the razor seems to shave as well as any other cartridge blade, and the moisturizer seems to do it’s job of cooling and soothing any potential burn spots. 

However, I don’t see myself signing up for it.  Were I still using a cartridge razor, then this would be an extremely attractive offer.  Cartridges are extremely expensive, and the idea of having new razors for dirt cheap along with shaving lather and aftershave stuff shipped right to the door sounds like a heck of a deal.  But at the end of the day the shaves, though quite good, were just…dull.  Not the razors themselves, mind you, those were quite sharp.  Rather the lack of skill involved, the lack of effort required, it made the experience an extremely easy and effective chore, but a chore non-the-less.  Within a few days I found myself missing my DE, not simply because of the shave it gives, but because I missed the detail, the effort, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing the fruits of your own labor. 

Cartridge razors simply don’t offer that, and while DSC gives a good shave it’s too simple for my taste.  That said, if you’re goal is simply to get a close, clean, irritation free shave, then this is right up your ally.  It’s a solid setup, and the price is hard to argue with.  At just a few bucks a month it is considerably higher than a safety razor (DSC advertizes on Facebook that it’s razors cost $4 a month, which can get you half a year or more of safety razor blades), but substantially less than if you bought Gillette cartridges in the same amount.  If safety razors aren’t for you but you still want to put a hurt on that scruff, then this seems like a good option.

Review: Gillette Silver Blue

Why Silver Blue?  Shouldn't it be Bluish Silver?  Or Silvery Blue?  It makes no sense, but credit for sounding cool.

Return of the camera phone pictures!

Before trying Gillette Silver Blue, manufactured in Russia and sold by Gillette, questions naturally arise in one’s mind:  Why Silver Blue?  Shouldn’t it be Bluish Silver?  Or Silvery Blue? Perhaps we’ll never know, but what I do know is this: these are some fine razor blades.

After spending a week with one of Gillette’s other products, the Mach3, it was great to get back to a double-edge razor.  I missed the weight, the skill, the balance.  The slow methodical work that results in a great shave.  It was a risk trying out an unknown blade, might have spoiled the fun if it turned out to be a poor fit for my face.

Luckily, that was not the case. I found myself getting consistent, close shaves.  In fact, very few blades that I’ve tried held an edge as well as they did.  By the end of the week, when most blades are showing signs of struggle, the Silver Blues still felt sharp and smooth.  Very few blades shaved as close, very few gave so little irritation, and even less had both.

The only complaint I have about the blades isn’t related to the shave at all.  Depending on how a brand packages their razors, they can come out of the paper with little dollops of glue on the blade.  Sometimes it’s dry, other times sticky. In the case of the Silver Blues it was stickier than usual, which by the end of the week made for a mess to clean up.

But really those were small potatoes compared to the great experience they provided.  They were a joy to use and gave some of the best shaves I’ve had since switching to a DE razor.  The only blade that in my mind currently stands with them are Feathers, which means that at some point I’ll probably need to do a head to head comparison.  I don’t know that I’ll give them the top spot just yet, but they are a fierce competitor.

In short, the Silver Blues are some of the best razor blades I’ve used.  Sharp and slick.  I highly recommend them.

A Taste of Things to Come

After a brief lull in experimentation things are back to their uncharted ways around here.

First, a new sampler pack arrived from Bullgoose Shaving bringing with it a slew of new blades to try:

Not one of their pre-made packs, I really just picked a bunch that seemed interesting.

Not one of their pre-made packs, I really just picked a bunch that seemed interesting.

Pol Silver, Gillette Super Thin, Gillette Silver Blue, Perma-Sharp Super, Treet Dura Sharp (my first experience with a carbon steel blade), and Wilkinson Sword. I’ve already started using them and reviews will begin showing up in the near future.

Second, this week I received a package from Dollar Shave Club (well, their PR people):

This picture shows up roughly 800 times a week in my blog feed since I get anything tagged "shaving."

A picture like this shows up roughly 800 times a week in my blog feed since I get anything tagged “shaving.”

Inside I found wet wipes (which I won’t be reviewing), their shave butter (which I guess you use instead of shaving cream), a pack of four blade razors, and some aftershave/skin moisturizer.  Cartridge razors aren’t particularly interesting to me these days, but if they’re going to be nice enough to just give it to me then I’ll take the time to give it a try.  That will likely happen once I wrap up with the current razor brand I’m testing, and I’ll try it both as a full system as well as try out the shave butter and moisturizer with DE razors. 

Looks like October will be an interesting month of shaving!