Monday, 30 April 2012

Shave of the day 30th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, orange
Lather: Mike's Natural  Orange, Cedarwood & Black Pepper Soap (sample)
Brush: Omega Shaving Brush #10048 Boar Bristle
Razors: Merkur 39C slant and Parker 22, both loaded with a fresh "Racer Super Stainless" blade
Post-shave: Alum block and aloe vera

A orange kind of shave today - very refreshing start on the week. The blade is the first blade out from the sampler pack I got from BestShave.net, the Racer blade is made in Egypt. Not the smoothest of shaves, the Racer seem to perform better in my 22R than in my 39C - the rest of the week will tell me more about how this blade performs for me.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Shave of the day 27th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Mike's Natural Pine & Cedarwood Soap (sample)
Brush: Omega Shaving Brush #10048 Boar Bristle
Razors: Merkur 985C with a Trent Platinum, and Feather Popular with a Feather Hi-Stainless
Post-shave: Alum block and aloe vera

My second shave with one of Mike's soaps. Got a better lather this time - not that the last one was bad. The Feather Popular keeps amazing me, a very mild shave from a blade that is very aggressive in my other razors. A Good Shave™.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Blades

Blades come in all forms and sizes... uhm, no. The beauty of traditional DE wetshaving is that blades do NOT differer in form or size - they are all the same as far as physical dimensions go. They are conceptually different from cartridge blades in that regard; while each different cartridge requires it's own proprietary razor (with a couple of honourable exceptions), all DE blades fits in all DE razors.

That does not mean that all DE blades are created equal - far from it. The differences in the actual blade might be minute, but the difference in opinion can make you wonder if people are even talking about the same blade. And just to make life even more interesting a blade can behave radically different in tow different razors.

Some things almost everyone can agree upon: Feather blades are really, really sharp, carbon steel blades rust more easily, and mind your fingertips.

There is no such thing as "the best blade", but there is such a thing as "the blade that works best for you in your razor". After you have honed your technique somewhat  and can get a consistently good shave using a DE razor, you might/could/should get hold of a sampler pack or ten. Most online shaving suppliers offers them, either as a selection of popular blades or as a selection of blades from a given country, region or manufacturer. The basic idea is the same; try the various blades and see which one works best for you. It could be that the blade you used previously works best - it could be that you can never go back to that first blade again.

It's all part of the journey of discovery. Who knows where you might end up?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Shave of the day 25th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Mike's Natural Soaps Peppermint & Rosemary soap (sample)
Brush: Turkish No6 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 985C with a Trent Platinum, and Feather Popular with a Feather Hi-Stainless
Post-shave: Alum block and aloe vera

My first shave with one of Mike's soaps - scent was strong without being overwhelming, and  while building lather was a bit trickier than the soaps I've used so far the result was more than decent. Pretty good shave too.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Shaving brushes


Just like a good lather is alpha and omega for an enjoyable shave, a good brush is alpha and omega for building a good lather. Luckily good brushes are easy to come by, both cheap and less cheap. If you're just starting out, a synthetic brush from Body Shop or a similar place is more than good enough. Modern synthetic is - apparently - a decent match for boar bristles, but with the added benefit of drying quickly. This also make them excellent brushes for travelling.

Choosing between boar and badger is a subject that is often discussed at great length in various online forums. Personally I have developed a liking for the third option; horse hair brushes. Not only are they cruelty free, being made from mane trimmings, but they also combines a solid backbone, springiness and the ability to hold plenty of water - all qualities that makes them excellent in my opinion when it comes to building a good lather. I also like my boar brush, especially when it comes to building lather from a soft cream, but I've yet to try a badger brush... good badger brushes are not cheap.

Much like finding the perfect blade, the perfect brush is a matter of personal preference. At the same time you don't need to have to perfect brush to get a really good shave, so don't worry too much about finding it right away.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Shave of the day 23rd April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, lavender
Lather: Crabtree and Evelyn Sandalwood soap
Brush: Turkish No7 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar and Parker 22R - both loaded with Personna Super Medical Prep blades
Post-shave: Alum block and Proraso Liquid Cream Aftershave

Last shave with these blades - starting to tug a bit in both razors. Nice blades though, definitely worth trying. The shave it self was a damn fine one, as pretty much every shave has been after I switched to DE razors.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Shave of the day 20th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Arko shaving stick
Brush: Turkish No6 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar and Parker 22R - both loaded with Personna Super Medical Prep blades
Post-shave: Alum block and Proraso Liquid Cream Aftershave

Building lather on the face is a slightly different technique, but I'm getting there... had to be careful with my lower neck today; the ATG pass on Wednesday was indeed too ambitious - first time in months I've gotten shave bumps, which threatened to erupt into a bloody mess this morning. Still; no nicks!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

How hordes grown - or how I learned to love Acquision Disorder

When our grandfathers shaved, they used the razor, blades, soap, and brush they could get in their local area. Perhaps they had a choice, perhaps there was just one to pick from. They would use it until they ran out of blades or scraped the last of the soap out of the bowl, and then go back to the same store and buy the same thing again. Efficient, but hardly exciting - even if the products probably were undeniable better than the canned foam and multi blade cartridge razors most stores stock today.

These days many of us live in a place where traditional shaving supplies are near impossible to get in local stores - the products have been squeezed out by the Big Name Multinationals multi blade cartridge system and pressurised dry foam in cans. The downside of that is not only that many of our friends and fellow men don't know the joy of a good shave, but also that we must turn to the Internet to buy what we need for our daily ritual. And the upside of that is that we're no longer restricted to the brands - or even brand, singular - that our local stores carry... the shaving products of the whole wide world is now ours to buy. The selection is staggering, and finding the right one is a daunting task for a newly converted wetshaver - from what I have seen in online discussion forums, it can be a daunting task even for those old hands who never succumbed to the lure of the multi-blade razors in the first place.

We're lucky enough to live in a time when the whole world is easily - almost too easily - accessible from the comfort of our homes: anyone with an internet connection can within minutes find other people across the world who are passionate about the same things - in our case that thing is traditional wetshaving. We can to our hearts content discuss the finer points of making lather, or nitty-gritty details on how one brush compares to another. And - and this is where the danger of hoarding starts raising it's head - you can easily be moved by glowing reviews of shaving products you never heard of before... be it brands from a different continent or something someone has lovingly crafted by hand on their kitchen counter.

Something else happened at (very) roughly the same time as the multi blade razors were pushed onto the marked: there was the growing realization (or perhaps the re-realization) that men - us big, burly, manly men - should be allowed, or even encouraged to be a little vain. Care about our looks a little further than checking for holes in our pants and scraping the stubble off with a bayonet... it is not without reason that the ads for the early multi blade razors emphasised the smoothness of the shave and how much the girls would like it. Suddenly boys growing into men were told that it was okay to use that nice smelling soap, rub some lotion into the cheeks and, y'know - smarten up a bit. Gets you a bit more positive attention from the girls too - or the boys, if you're tastes run that way. Your Mileage May vary, as it does with so many things in shaving and life.

As mentioned, we live in an age of global commerce. Checking out that barbershop in Turkey is just as easy as checking that one in downtown Houston - even if you happen to live in Norway. And the almost scary part is that it's all easy to place and order and have it shipped straight to your door. No more slugging barefoot through snowdrifts higher than your own head to buy a sorry piece of soap at the drugstore (uphill both ways off course, not that the youth of today would believe it), no more having to make do with the same old blade. Instead we can order new soap and new blades from anywhere we like, and while we're at it we might well put that cream the guys at the forum were raving about in the basket... oh, and lets pick up a yet another sampler pack of blades as well...and that brush that I didn't pick up last time...

The result? The box the poor postman has to drag through the snowdrifts (barefoot, uphill, etc) seems pretty huge when you finally receives it, and the contents can barely be fitted into your shave nook. And where did that new razor come from? The mysteries of online shopping is never more impenetrable than when you're unpacking.

Exposed to fellow shavers and tempting shops online, it's easy for a hoard to grow out of all reasonable proportions. Our forefathers are a testament to the fact that we don't really need four razors, five brushes and seven different soaps and creams in order to shave - but it is nice to to be able to mix and match, try something new, select just the right fragrance before we go out and face the world. We can embrace our manliness by picking something that smells of the great outdoors, or get ready to woo the girl (or boy) in our life with a light rose scent... the only limits is the sky and the size of your cupboard. And that is why I have gotten to rather enjoy my Acquision Disorders; while it does cost me a bit of money (but not much more than buying into the latest fad from the Big Name Multinationals would cost) it gives me much pleasure - not just in the morning spa-experience that a good shave is, but also throughout the day - every day.

Embrace your hoard. Reconquer the bathroom and fill it with products that both you and your partner in life will enjoy. Celebrate your ability to be a manly man with clear skin and a pleasant fragrance. Revel in your Acquision Disorders - but don't spend more than you can afford. And Pay It Forward or sell to a fellow wetshaver when you happens to find something in your stash that you can't understand why you got in the first place - after all, that makes room for more new supplies!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Shave of the day 18th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, orange
Lather: Col. Conk Bay Rum shaving soap
Brush: Prosaro boar bristle brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar and Parker 22R, both with Personna Super Medical Prep blades
Post-shave: Alum block

It's amazing how much water the lather can hold - and how quickly it whips together. The shave was my normal two pass - one WTG using the slant and one XTG with the 22R. I did do a ATG on the lower part of my neck - time will tell if that was too ambitious; the alum stung a bit more than usual down there when I slide it across my face after the last rinse.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Your Mileage May Vary...


Your face is one of a kind - a testament not only to your parents (and your parents parents, and your parents parents parents etc etc etc) but also to your life so far and your daily wear and tear. The contours and beard of your visage have been subtly moulded by forces internal and external... so off course it willl react differently to soaps, creams, blades, and aftershaves than my face does.

When you come down to it, that is one of the things I like about good old fashioned wetshaving: There is no One True Way™. Despite what the major international shaving industry giants try to tell you there is no one perfect combination of lather, blade and razor that will magically give everyone a perfect shave (and it's funny how the combo they try to push is always a little bit more expensive than what they tried to sell you last year... with a little less foam in the can, one more blade in the cartridge and one more pointless gimmick in the handle - most of it probably in the name of the all mighty bottom line).

No One True Way means you can, nay; must, experiment - not just with the equipment you use but more so with the ways you use your tools. It's a upwards spiral, really: Procure tools, learn to use them properly, find a better tool, relearn your skills, rinse and repeat - always improving, always learning, always getting better.

Building a consistently good lather was something it took me a while to master, but I still like to try out different ways of doing it. Some work better, some work less good - but I've found a few tricks that I've rolled into my 'everyday lather'. I am still searching for the perfect combo of blade and razor - right now I would say I'm 95% there, maybe a little less. That might be as close as I'll get, but again part of the fun is the experimentation. Brushes is a science all it's own - or perhaps closer to black magic. Some prefer badger, some swear to boar, some of us like horse the best... but synthetic is good too. And don't get me started on pre- and post-shave... all I know is that it's important.

What I'm driving at is that since you're one of a kind, your perfect blend of kit and technique will be one of a kind too. No one can tell you that what you're doing is wrong if it gives you a good shave - but many wetshavers out here will be happy to point you in the right direction if you can't get a good shave.

Your Mileage May indeed Vary... but that is the way it should be!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Shave of the day 16th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, lavender
Lather: Crabtree and Evelyn Sandalwood soap
Brush: Turkish No6 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 985C with a Trent Platinum and Parker 22R with Personna Super Medical Pre
Post-shave: Alum block

The combination of lavender and sandalwood was too great a temptation - and the shave itself was pretty durn good. I really enjoy having the ability to mix and match razors - one aggressive one for the initial stubble removal, one milder one for the second and sometimes third pass.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Shave of the Day 13th April


Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Proraso eucalyptus and menthol soap
Brush: Turkish No7 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar with a Personna Super Medical Prep blade and Feather Popular loaded with a Feather Hi-Stainless
Post-shave: Alum block

Friday the 13th might be an ominous day, but the peppermint and menthol made for a refreshing start today. The Feather Popular's reputation seems to be correct: it is a very mild razor which seems able to properly tame the extremely sharp Feather blade.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Your second, third and so on DE razor


At some point you're likely to want to pick up a second razor, either for a perceived need (like traveling), for giving yourself an even better shave, or simply for the pure joy of it. While recommending a second razor is even harder than recommending the first, here goes:
A slant bar is a good second razor if your goal is to improve your shave or experiment. The Merkur  39C  was my second razor, and one I can heartily recommend. The Merkur 37C has the same head, but with a short handle for those who prefer that.
A travel razor like the Merkur  985CL or 933CL is always a good option if you need or want a highly portable piece of kit. They break down into a tiny pouch about 4cm square, and are just as good as a normal razor when assembled. They are however quite lightweight wth short handles, so they do require a slight adjustment in technique. As an aside; if you want something even lighter - ie; you're traveling somewhere where a few grams of weight is make-or-break - you can leave one section of the handle at home. Mind you, I have not tried to shave with a razor that has a one inch handle...
Other than that, experiment. If your first razor was a cheap one, you might want to treat yourself to a more expensive piece of modern craftsmanship. If your first razor was a closed comb, try an open comb as the second - or vice versa. Try an adjustable razor, or get a true cheapo from a no-brand manufacturer and try that. Hit the flea markets and eBay and try out some real vintage razors. Not even your imagination is the limit when it comes to options.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Shave of the day 11th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Col Conks Bay Rum shaving soap
Brush: Prosaro boar brush
Razors: Merkur 985C loaded with a Trent Platinum, and Feather Popular loaded with a Feather Hi-Stainless
Post-shave: Alum block and Proraso Liquid Cream Aftershave

Quite excited about todays shave, since it was the first test with the Feather Popular and the Col Conk soap. Got a goad lather going after a little work, still can't quite place the scent though; it reminds me of something I can't put my finger on. The razor is very lightweight and seems plenty mild - good shave, even the spot under my right ear. Looking forward to using the Popular again, maybe paired with my slant bar.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Shaving sticks, soaps and creams


A good lather is alpha and omega when it comes to a really enjoyable shave. My first recommendation would be to throw out the cans of pressurised foam... go ahead, the rest of this post will wait for you.

Done? Good.

When it comes to lathering, some people prefer hard soaps, some prefer soft creams or and some like plain sticks. In all cases the goal is to turn in into lather, and in my experience all three does that just as well once you know how. Soaps and creams can be built into lather in a scuttle, a bowl or directly on the face, while sticks should be used to build lather on the face only, even if there is nothing stopping you from building lather from a stick in a bowl. Some people even will grate or squeeze a stick into a container to use as a regular soap, something which should tell you there really is no big difference between the two.
The difference between the three isn't all that great. Shaving soap is usually hard, like a bar soap, and often comes (or is placed) in a bowl or tub. Shaving cream at its most basic is just a shaving soap that is soft, and will usually come in a tub or tube. And a shaving stick is simply a piece of shaving soap that is shaped so you can rub it directly onto your stubbles. A stick can be packaged in a hard plastic tube or simply wrapped in foil paper.
In the end it comes down to personal preferences; I started out with shaving cream in a tube, but now uses all three kinds with more or less equal frequency.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Shave of the day 9th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, orange
Lather: Maca Root shave cream from Body Shop
Brush: Body Shop synthetic
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar and Parker 22R - both loaded with fresh Personna Super Medical Prep blades
Post-shave: Alum block

A Body Shop Shave today. I'm not sure if a synthetic brush needs soaking and breaking in, but I do it anyway - this is a brand new brush, bought so I don't have to get into my GoBag every time I want to use this style of brush. The shave itself was rather good for being blades I have not tried before - I suspect my next shave with these blades will be even better.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Shave of the day 6th April

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner's Magic Soap, lavender
Lather: Crabtree & Evelyn Sandalwood soap
Brush: Bestshave's Wooden Handled No 6
Razors: Merkur 39C slant-bar and Parker 22R - both loaded with Trent Platinum blades that has seen a few shaves already
Post-shave: Alum block and Proraso Liquid Cream Aftershave

Overall a pretty good shave, got a good lather with little work. Got a minor nick on my adam apple again - might be time to replace the blades soon.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Your first DE razor


My first DE razor - bought as part of a "beginners kit" -  was a Parker R22, a fairly aggressive razor but controllable enough to be a good introduction to old fashioned wetshaving. There is a lot of talk online about Parker having QA issues, so while my Parker is near perfect this isn't necessarily true for all Parkers out there. It's also a Twist To Open - also known as a butterfly - which makes it easier to change blades, but harder to keep clean.
The Feather Popular has gotten consistently good reviews and is considered a mild razor. It is also quite cheap, so if you're not sure if wetshaving is for you this could be a good choice for a first DE razor. Like my Parker 22R it's a Twist To Open.
The Wilkinson Sword Classic has many of the same qualities as the Feather Popular and can be easier to get hold of in some parts of the world. If online reviews are to be trusted, it is somewhat more aggressive but still plenty mild enough for a beginner.
Checking your fathers or grandfathers shaving kit might yield treasures - many people out there uses razors older than themselves every day... a decent DE razors simply wont wear out. Just be sure to clean it well and properly before using - I would suggest disassembling any finds, clean them with alcohol and a toothbrush before giving it a dip in an ultrasonic bath.
There are plenty of razors out there that will be a perfect first razor, catering to any wallet. I would however suggest staying with known brands for the first razor - if nothing else than for peace of mind and the relative ease it'll be to find reviews online.
A word of caution: Do NOT get a slant-bar as your first razor. They are quite aggressive, and require a fair bit of skill to use properly.