shave

Old Spice- Early Glass Mug 01

A couple months ago while on vacation to upstate New York, we checked out a local thrift store and found an Old Spice shaving mug on sale for $4.  I knew nothing about the history at the time, but based solely on it looking old and seemingly like it would make a good blog post we picked it up.

Turns out it’s what’s called an Early Mug 01.  Why that?  Because it’s the first glass mug Old Spice ever produced.  A lot of good info on the history can be found here, but this is the short version.

Before 1948 Old Spice bottle and mugs were made by a pottery company.  But due to inconsistencies in pottery it wasn’t ideal for mass production, so they switched to glass.  The Early Mug 01 was the first mug to come off the line after the change.

There’s a few ways you can tell what it is, but the easiest is to look at the Old Spice lettering.  In the early 1950s the logo changed to much smoother “S,” rather than a sharp line cursive, and a more decorative “O” (a comparison can be found on the site linked above).  This mug was produced sometime between 1948 and 1950, after that they switched to the Early Mug 02 which was nearly identical, but which featured a ridged bottom to help get the soap up out of the water. 

It's unsurprisingly hard to get a good wrap-around picture of a mug.  Consequently, you don't get to see the word "Old."

It’s unsurprisingly hard to get a good wrap-around picture of a mug. Consequently, you don’t get to see the word “Old.”

You can also tell what it is by the markings on the bottom, with the single star on either side.

You can also tell what it is by the markings on the bottom, with the single star on either side.

To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of using it.  The sides are steep and the edges sharp enough that when I try to lather with it I tend to bang my fingers on it and the brush makes a lot of knocking noises.  My $1 Wal-Mart bowl is a lot easier to use.  But it’s a heck of a collection piece, and maybe using it will grow on me some day. 

I definitely got my money’s worth.

Horse Hair Shaving Brush- A Superior Way to Lather

Once upon a time, about a hundred years ago, horse hair shaving brushes were common.  Which made sense, with the automobile still ascending horses were much more common, and the rise of shaving with the advent of the safety razor meant that affordable shaving brushes were rising in demand.  That changed dramatically during World War I, when outbreaks of anthrax traced to horse hair shaving brushes resulted in public health investigations and drove away customers. 

Yes, I said anthrax.

Badger, boar, and synthetic brushes now rule the market.  But horse hair is still available, and for the last several months I’ve been using one.  I’m a happy convert, it’s been a great brush and I have no desire to go back.

The brush I’ve been using is this one, the Vie-Long 04312 Professional, which retails for about $20 on Amazon:

Fingers not included.

Fingers not included.

Horse hair brushes tend to cost less than badger brushes, meaning that you can get great quality for less money.  I would think the cost has to do with there being a lot more hair to a horse than to your average badger, but I really have no idea.  Whatever the reason, if you’re looking for an inexpensive shaving brush these are a great option.

The brushes take hair from the mane and tail of the horse, with mine being 25% from the mane and 75% tail (I’ve seen some info saying that it may be 50/50), the difference being that mane hair tends to be softer so when you combine them you get a good mix of soft but firm.  Unlike badger hair brushes, where the badgers are commonly killed in the process (most badger fur comes from parts of Asia where badger meat is eaten), horses aren’t harmed in the trimming process.  So if that’s something that’s important to you, then this is the better option of the two.

My first impression of the brush was that the bristles felt stiffer than my badger brush, but with use they have softened somewhat with use.  My second impression, upon wetting the brush, was the smell.  Be warned: horse hair has a funk to it.  My dog wanted desperately to eat the brush for the first few days, but after three or four days of use the smell washed out.

The most important part of a brush is, of course, how well it lathers, and there the brush has truly shined.  In my experience, the horse hair holds water as well or better than badger hair.  What that means is that the lather doesn’t dry out as quickly, staying moist on the brush and moist on your face.  In fact, using the horse hair brush has made switching back to a badger a bit difficult, as I’m finding that my water/soap ratio doesn’t work as well.

I’ve always lathered directly on my face, and the slightly stiffer brush works well for a paintbrush style application.  The stiffer bristles seem to pick up soap faster than a badger, and while the bristles aren’t so stiff that it’s uncomfortable or scratching they retain their shape well during lathering. Clean up takes slightly longer, as soap seems to want to hide deep in the bristles more than with badger and it seems to take longer to dry.  But the difference is at most marginal.

Horse on the left, badger on the right.

Horse on the left, badger on the right.

Based on the last several months of use, in my opinion horse hair is the superior product.  I still have my badger hair brush hanging right next to my razor, and I still use and enjoy it frequently.  But the horse hair seems to do the job better, while at the same time costing less money.  It lathers well, feels great, and in my opinion looks better.  I’m sold.

Reevaluating Personna Razor Blades

When I was a boy I once asked for roast beef on my sandwich, entirely because that’s what one of pigs in the popular nursery rhyme had. I hated it, refused to eat it, and wouldn’t touch the stuff for a couple decades. It’s now one if my favorites.

That tastes change is no secret, everyone knows it happens with time. What I didn’t expect was to get a lesson in how rapidly that can happen.

Personna Platinum Chrome blades were not well received the last two times I tried them, and I had written them off as not for me. But being a penny pincher, when faced with either throwing out blades I didn’t like or using them up I went with the latter and so I found myself using them for a third try.

To my surprise I found myself enjoying every shave with them. The shave were close, smooth, and consistent, and each morning I found myself increasingly satisfied. By the end of the week a blade I had little regard for had earned itself new found respect.

What changed? Was it my technique? Lather? Skill? I don’t know, but I like the results.

Book- The Year of Shaving Dangerously

I’m happy to announce that my first book just went on sale.  Titled “The Year of Shaving Dangerously,” it is an edited compilation of writings I’ve made throughout the year on the fine art of double-edge razor shaving.

The back page synopsis:

What you are holding is a primer to a lost skill. A beginner’s guide to old fashioned wet shaving with a double-edge razor. Written for beginners, by a beginner. 

Tired of paying a fortune for a mediocre shave and a boring experience I embarked on a year long experiment to find something better.

Packed with how-to instructions and over two dozen reviews, this book chronicles my mistakes, my successes, and most importantly, what works. The information I wish I knew when I started, and what I wish I knew years ago. 

There are three options for purchase:

1) Paperback through create space ($9.99)- Here

2) Paperback through Amazon ($9.99)- Here

3) Kindle book ($1.99)- Here

Buy ten copies!

Review: Gillette Super Thin

The thought has troubled me from time to time that perhaps I am too nice in my reviews.  I generally have good things to say about what I use, and while I like some things more than others I tend to come away with positive impressions even if I’m not going to want to use it again.  Perhaps, I’ve wondered, this undermines my other opinions by making almost everything a shade of wonderful.

Let me be perfectly clear regarding Gillette Super Thin razor blades: I hated them.

The offending party.

The offending party.

Manufactured in Vietnam, from what I can tell, and wrapped in paper that is actually an advertisement for a Gillette cartridge razor, I had heard good things about their sharpness and mild nature.  I don’t know if they are actually thinner than any other razor blade, I can’t measure that minutely, but I came into them looking forward to giving it a try (especially after just shaving the beard).

Shaving with them an uncomfortable, bordering on painful, experience.  When shaving with the grain it felt like there was a burr in the razor blade, while parts would seemingly glide over the skin there would always be a spot that seemed to be digging in.  Both blade edges, multiple blades, it was always there.  There was never any physical indication afterward that this was happening, so there seems to be no lasting harm, but it wasn’t fun at the time.  Across the grain seemed more normal, and against the grain seemed on the low end of average.

The quality of shave seemed to be average.  Neither the worst I’ve had, nor the best.  I will give them credit in that I never noticed any irritation, despite the discomfort while using them.  No rash, burn, or nicks.  But other blades have had similar smoothness, while lacking the outright discomfort of use.

The result is that they have made it onto the very short list of blades I actively dislike.  I might try them again in a few months, to see if the negative experience was a result of just being out of practice.  Or I might not.  Gillette makes blades that treat me much better, namely the 7 O’Clock Sharpedge and the Silver Blue, so if I am done with the Super Thin I won’t lose any sleep.

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.

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.

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.

Getting Myself a Shave Bowl

One of the first things I thought when I started DE wet shaving was that I needed to pick up a shaving bowl.  I had no idea what they did or how they worked, but it seemed like something I would need…I guess.

Subsequently, that was one of the first misconceptions about wet shaving that I found myself corrected on.  As it turns out, a shaving bowl isn’t necessary at all.

For months I simply lathered directly on my hand or face.  It wasn’t until I had worked my way through my first shave soap puck and needed to melt it down that I got around to actually trying a bowl out.  What I found was that while I wasn’t using it for building a lather, it did help significantly with loading the brush with soap.  So when it came time to get more soap I decided to find myself a bowl (my wife, ever patient with my commandeering the dishware, gently requested that I find an alternative container).

Shaving bowls can run for $10-15 or more online, but being cheap I had no desire to pay that much.  Instead, I hit up Wal-Mart and got this one for a dollar:

It came in several colors, I picked red because I thought it looked best.

It came in several colors, I picked red because I thought it looked best.

Is it specially intended for shaving?  No, but it fits perfectly in my hand, is a great depth and width for a brush, and oh yes, it costs a dollar.

I’ve never used shaving cream from a tube, which is usually then mixed in a bowl before application.  Nor do I use a bowl much for lathering, as I mentioned.  So what do I use the shave bowl for?  Loading the brush, which is getting the soap into the brush and bristles so that when you try and lather you have something to work with, is one of the most important steps in a good shave.  You can load directly off a free standing block of soap, and I did so for many months.  But I’ve found a bowl to be helpful, and so that’s what I decided to use it for.

First I molded the soap into the bowl.  The most universal method of this is, from what I am told, using a hand cranked grater to shred the soap, then packing it by hand.  However, if you know that the soap can be melted in a microwave (not all can or should) then you can save yourself a lot of time.  I decided to use Col. Conk’s Almond soap, I’ve melted their Bayrum scented soap before without problem so I assumed that the Almond would work just as well.

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.

IMG_20140717_175543771

Step 1: Put soap in the bowl.

Once the soap is in the bowl I used short bursts in the microwave to soften and melt the soap without cooking or bubbling it.  Eventually, in a minute or two, it liquified.

You don't have to cool it off, it does that on it's own, but I decided to put it in a bowl of cool water to help speed things up.

You don’t have to cool it off, it does that on it’s own, but I decided to put it in a bowl of cool water to help speed things up.

Once it cooled I had a full puck’s worth of soap in the bowl, ready for use.  Having used it for several weeks now, I can report that the bowl has been working great!  While a specialty bowl might bring some additional benefits, and melting it into the bowl means that until I use all of the soap the bowl is tied up (reducing its use if I feel like more soap variety), the low cost and ease of acquiring (as opposed to ordering online) makes it a welcome investment and tool in my growing shaving kit.

Cold Water Shave: That’s Brisk

A short update today, tapped out as I go to work.

Many shave guides extol the warm water shave as the only way to go, and admittedly, I normally use warm water as well. But today I was feeling like something a little different, something cool and crisp after my morning run and for a warm summer day.

Lathered with warm water like normal, using Proraso soap. Proraso has a cool tingle to it to begin with, and I thought it would go well with the cold shave. I ran the Feather blade in my razor under cold water, then got to work.

The cold metal combined with the Proraso was a great combination, once the air hit a newly shaved spot it felt like an autumn morning. I’d run the razor under warm water to break up the soap, then once clean I’d run it back under cold to get it ready for skin.

Two passes left me feeling great, then some spice aftershave to give a warming kicker. Perfect.

Headed into work now feeling great, smooth face and no irritation.