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Al's Straight Journal

I broke down after wandering too deep into the Str8 forums and finding the old GD mod competitions. Before seeing those I was happy with the shaves I've received from my r41, even if I was a little intrigued with straight shaving. Once I laid eyes on those works of art though, I had to step into the world of straights. It just so happened a new GD mod competition started up to feed this desire.

So, I ordered five GDs from China, then felt it would be good to learn to shave with a honed razor prior to trying out anything I mod & hone myself. Last week I broke down and ordered a sight unseen & strop kit from Whipped Dog. Saturday, both my package of GDs and my Whipped Dog order showed up in the mail, so I was off & running.

I figured I'd start this thread to keep track of my shaving progress.

Shave One- Saturday 5/9

I'm a little stubborn--when I set my mind to doing something, I want to show I can get it done. this may be what lured me to the r41 and now to straights. It is also what made me decide I wanted to go in for a full shave (at least two pass WTG/ATG on Saturday evening.) I wanted to show that this wasn't too big a challenge to tackle even if it would take some time to master technique. I did allow myself the caveat that if things got too bloody, I'd let myself back out.

I had a pretty good feeling my WD order would arrive on Saturday (the arrival of the GDs earlier in the day was an added bonus--though of course none were shave ready). As such, I hadn't shaved since Thursday AM, so had about 2.5 days of growth.

I debated on which soap to use. A few weeks ago I'd acquired some Sterling Black Ice, Electric Sheep, and a Nag Champa sample. I debated mainly between the black ice and the nag champa. The menthol in the black ice would give me a slightly numbed face, which I've found nice with the r41, but wasn't sure if it would cause problems with blade placement with the straight. In the end, I decided to risk it and went with the black ice.

I let the brush and soap soak a bit in some hot water while I took a shower, then came out and got to work. I've got the soap stored in a tin and lately have taken to rubbing the bloom water across my face from the puck. this is a little messy, but seems to benefit my lather. I loaded my brush (VB 2 band badger) and then lathered up on my face to a nice, thick rich lather--maybe too thick for the straight I worried as many seem to prefer a really runny lather from what I've read.

After that, I went to town. I call it foolishness, but I wasn't as nervous with the straight as I'd been my first try with the r41. I wiped the Vaseline off the blade that had coated it during its journey to me, then got down to business. I started off with my WTG pass, right hand, right side, keeping the shoulder close to my cheek, focusing on beard reduction. At first it wasn't taking too much off, so I re-lathered and went WTG again, playing with the angle. Wherever I put the angle, I seemed to be getting quite a bit of resistance, but kept pressing on. A very watery lather seemed to help most to allow the blade to move smoothly. After not too much time, I was able to work over both cheeks, then went on to my
chin, and lower lip. On the lower lip, I accidentally misplaced the blade for a moment--knew what I was doing right as it happened, but it was too late, I gave myself a small cut. Also somewhere along the way I'd had a very minor weeper on my right cheek. I used my alum block to stave off the bleeding, then continued with the shave. I re-lathered areas as needed when I went through, generally adding a lot of water to my lathering efforts & often doing more than one WTG pass on areas. Next I went to the upper lip and tried to pay attention to the feedback from different areas of the blade (toe and heel).

Once done above the neck, it was the moment of truth. I hadn't managed to kill myself yet, so I proceeded down onto the neck. I made my way around the neck, re-lathering as I needed to. once again, my technique didn't seem to be pulling off a lot of stubble, so I went back over areas WTG. Some areas, particularly around the contours of my jaw were a little difficult, but I managed.

Finally I finished my WTG efforts, I was faced with the choice of whether to proceed or not. I hadn't drawn much blood, so I figured what's the harm. I re-lathered (again very wet) then started out on my journey. Its been a couple days, but I think I actually began down on the neck rather than on the face. At any rate, I eventually worked through almost a full ATG pass. I started getting frustrated in some areas though, particularly around the jaw and also some rough spots on the neck, both of which resulted in some minor weepers. A few times I thought I misplaced the blade, but didn't wind up with any blood. As I worked through these areas, I started playing with blade angles to see if I could lessen resistance, even going to a steeper angle, which had worked for the r41. I'm not sure if these worked well or not (see notes below).

Finally with everything else done, I got to the chin and ran into some difficulties around the very base edges. no matter what I did with the blade, I couldn't seem to get it to overcome resistance in this last area. Rather than slice up my face, I gave in, hit that small spot with my r41 really quickly, touched up a couple trouble areas on the neck and called it a shave.

Overall, I wound up with a DFS over most of my face, maybe CCS in a couple small trouble areas. At the end of the shave I had some definite burn from my alum block and a number of small weepers that had stopped bleeding on their own. Following the shave, the sides of my neck was very red, but I'd worked that area pretty hard.

I finished up by stropping the blade. I hope I did it well. My biggest fear is accidentally rounding off the hone early in this endeavor.

Sunday morning I still had some irritation in some areas and also noticed a couple marks from the blade along the corners of my jawline where I'd felt myself misplace the blade. They didn't draw blood, but looked kind of like a cat had lightly scratched me.

Overall I was encouraged by my first effort. Like I said at the top, diving in the deep end from the start was important to me to show that this is something I can tackle without being afraid. Now that I've done that, I have no problem dialing back a bit to hone my skills. I may likely only focus on one pass, or maybe certain areas. I skipped shaving last night and this morning to give my skin some rest and to allow some growth for another go, probably tonight.

My main concern going forward is finding the right combination of angle, grip, pressure, and lather to overcome resistance for a smooth shave.
You're doing fine! Just about the same as most of us on shave#1, except you're probably a little more honest than I was. :lol: You'll have a few of those "lay the blade on skin and not continue right away with the stroke" kind of cuts. I know I did.

You self-proclaimed stubbornness will come in handy, but don't make the mistake of forcing the shave. Save that determination for when it won't hurt you; like in taking a day or two off when you are cut up or have too much razor burn. Psst. Been there as well. :001_rolle
Congrats on beginning your journey. Your stubborn determination sounds all too familiar (talking about myself, of course). I'm only 45 SR shaves in, but progressing well. I'll pass along some advice that was given to me from a seasoned vet, and helped me a lot: at this early stage, begin with a WTG pass with your DE, then proceed with the straight. This allows you to focus more on technique while not worrying about getting that close shave right off the bat. If you have a "tamer" DE, maybe try that.

Keep at it.
Congratulations on your beginning. I too saw your posts in the GD Mod thread. Your journal post here reminded me of my first full shave with a straight razor. All I could think of following that shave was there could be no possible way a straight razor shave would be as good as, or better, than a good DE shave. I could just not see it at the time. But, I am here to tell you that my straight razor shaves have been exceeding any DE shave I ever had for quite some time now, and I am very glad that I stuck with the straight to see it through.

I found that keeping things consistent (soap, prep. etc.) really helped me in the beginning. Effective straight shaving is a mastery of minutia of all of those things that you have pointed out (angle, pressure, drection), and for me it was not the time for experimenting with other things once I had them dialed in. Now that I am 140 shaves in, I can experiment some.

Good luck, and I look forward to following your progress.
congrats on a successful first straight shave!! sounds like you're doing a great job....it really does get easier with every shave...I'm only 30 shaves in and the quality of my shaves has improved exponentially as well as the comfort level.

Good luck and welcome!
Thanks for the feeback. I had shave #2 last night.

This time I went in without the expectation of doing a full two pass shave. I'd planned to do at least a WTG on the face, down to the jawline, but wound up doing a full WTG pass, with two WTG passes above the jaw.

Overall I had mixed results. Due to the good results I had with a wetter lather, I decided to try to use my VDH puck. I like the smell and since I got some Stirling soaps a little while ago, it has been sitting and evaporating in the bottom of my mug. I figured it doesn't have too much time left on it & wanted to give it a go. This was a mistake. I had a nice wet lather, but there was very little lubrication for the razor. I worked one cheek with it, then wiped it off and switched to the Stirling Nag Champa.

The switch worked out well. With the new lather I was able to get to work. I was still playing with angles and dealing with a lot of resistance, but I managed to get through the right side of my face at a speed quicker than I expected. I then went to the chin on my left side and promptly laid the blade down wrong and wound up with a pretty long scratch (1.5 inches) that started bleeding. I was a bit frustrated by that, and then after cleaning up the cut and trying to continue, I found myself frustrated with finding the right positioning on areas on the left side of my face. Eventually I was able to recover though. I did a second pass with good results, then decided to move down to my neck. I didn't work the neck too hard, just one pass (WTG) which didn't remove a lot of stubble, but I walked away feeling ok.

So in the end of shave 2, I wound up with only the one cut, but one that is pretty visible. It'll go away and not leave a scar. it was shallow, but from a visibility standpoint it is the worst I've done. I cleaned up with the r41, mostly on the neck, though I did a quick ATG pass all over. I wound up with a couple irritated areas on my neck and some minor weepers, but that was from moving too quickly with the r41--guess I need to remember to pay attention to that as well when I use it as clean up.
well done! I remember a few shaves in I just had to put down the straight during a shave and go with my DE...I got frustrated, was cut and was going to keep going....but I decided to try again the next day...IMO, sometimes that is a good idea if need be.
Sometimes, it is definitely best to put down the straight and pick up the DE to finish the shave. Tomorrow is another day. I get it that you hate to waste a shave, you only get so many in a lifetime. But when frustration sets in, it is best to move on. Trying again tomorrow is better than waiting several days for a cut to heal enough to resume.
Shave #3 last night. I'm starting to see some progress. I almost skipped the shave as I'd procrastinated and it was nearing midnight with a 5:30 wake-up, but I decided to push through anyway. I didn't have as much stubble built up. The previous days I'd had 2+ days of growth and I wanted to see if 24 hours growth might provide a better playing field.

Seeing as I was rushed, I didn't hop in the shower, but instead hit my face with some Trumper's skin food followed by a couple minutes with a hot towel. I went back to the Stirling Nag Champa, lathered, then let that soak as I stropped my blade.

I set out with the goal of doing at least one full WTG pass with the likely intent of following through with an ATG pass if all went well. I managed to get through my first pass very quickly--almost up to normal DE shaving speed. A few places I hit more that once, just trying to get it right. Since that went well, I turned and went with the ATG pass. With this one I had to take more time making sure my blade placement and strokes went where desired. Against my normal routine I started down on the neck and made my way up to the face. I eventually made my way through all of it and only wound up with a patch of minor bleeding under my right jaw line where I'd worked it a little hard. Afterward (and this morning) I have a little irritation under my jaw and a couple patches on my neck. All in all though I wound up with a CCS.

During the shave, especially the ATG pass I grew a bit frustrated when I was able to see stubble, could see my blade pass over the stubble, but the stubble remained after the pass of the blade...and another...and another... despite playing with blade angle. I need to work more on pulling the skin taut, as this doesn't seem natural, especially when the whole face is lathered and this is probably contributing to this problem.

Other than that, I was pretty pleased with the results, though overall the consistency of the shave quality is still spotty. Hopefully that will start to dial in with time. I'm not sure if I'll go for #4 tonight or if I'll take a night off--it depends on irritation I guess. Working with less stubble from the start seemed to be a good move.
Take the day off, and also ensure you shower before shaving. When you get things down pat and using a straight seems natural, then you can take shortcuts, but when starting out, take every small advantage that you can (and that includes good whisker hydration).
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Shave #4 tonight. Tonighted resulted in a much better shave than the previous shaves. Still getting the feel of things and I was reminded that I need to pay close attention to what I'm doing. I had already showered at the gym after swimming and steam room time (wish I'd brought my razor there).... So for prep, I massaged some skin food into my two days growth, then rotated a couple hot towels. After that I lathered up with Stirling Electric Sheep and let the lather sit on my face while I stropped the blade.

Once stropped, I refreshed the lather, adding in quite a bit of moisture, then I set about the shave. First WTG went pretty well, no nicks. On the second pass I went XTG on the face and S/N on the neck. this was the first time doing a XTG pass. Most it went well, but was a little awkward around the upper lip and I wound up catching myself with a very small nick as I hit the bump in the center of my lip. My S/N pass also went well. I made it through the pass without any problems and the hand positions are becoming more natural and more fluid.

I still had some slightly rough areas (actually they weren't as bad as I thought) so I decided to go for pass 3. I hit my right cheek, then went to the right side of my neck. I was trying to reposition the blade and wound up grazing my neck with the edge of the blade about an inch from my jugular and instantly I knew I'd given myself a good little slice. It was minor, but a wake up call that I need to pay attention to what I'm doing at all times. The area I was working on at the time was a few inches from where I cut myself, so I clearly wasn't exercising blade control. This was my first wound due to carelessness.

With that, though I was lathered, I decided to call it a night with the straight. I probably could have pressed through, but I'm a stickler for safety violations and something like that was good reason to scrub the last pass. I'm fine with nicks & weepers if they come from learning problems with technique, but carelessness is something else.

Anyway, I examined my face under the lather and realized the only area that needed touchups was just around the edges of my chin--two quick, small swipes with the r41 and a washcloth to take off the lather from 3/4 of my face and I was done. It turned out I had a pretty solid DFS all around (minus the chin area that had required the touch up from the r41.) The alum block gave some feedback and after cleaning up I was a bit glad I'd scrapped the shave. i had a little irritation (especially around the jaw line) but it wasn't near as bad as previous shaves.
good job! sounds like things are coming together....steep learning curve but it gets easier....and then you may have a lapse, but thats okay
Shave #5 this morning. Things are still improving by leaps and bounds. I wound up with another mostly DFS today, but aside from the trouble spots on either side of my Adams apple (where I didn't push it) the shave was all very smooth and even. Afterward my skin had that nice flow all over from some good blade exfoliation.

That isn't to say that the shave wasn't without a few hiccups. Early in the WTG pass I reopened the slice on my neck a bit from the previous shave. Nothing major and I sort of expected it to happen. Worse though was a stroke near the left corner of my mouth where the heal of the razor took a nice layer of skin. This was on the last stroke of my WTG pass. it wasn't huge or anywhere near life threatening, but it is probably the worst cut I've suffered thus far. It bled a bit until I hit it with the alum block.

After the WTG (and the wound clean up) I relatered and did an XTG on my face and a n/s on my neck. Both went well. I did wind up with a small nick on my upper lip again while trying XTG. I may just do WTG/ATG there even though the ATG is a little harsh.

All li in all, the corners around my jawline are probably the best I've done them with a straight and I was able to do all my chin with the straight as well, though that led to a minor weeper under the chin.

All said and done, this was the first time I haven't required any touch ups with the DE. I have a couple areas that feel irritated, but those are all where the cuts were. still a lot of progress to achieve, but overall I'm happy with where I'm at in just a week.
coming along nicely! don't worry even after 30 some shave like me you may find a way to cut yourself....like I did today!!
Shave #6 last night and I continue to see improvement. This was a (nearly) bloodless shave. I did 2.75 passes, only skipping a 3rd pass on my chin and moustache areas as I didn't want to press it. I wound up with a tiny nick of some sort under my right sideburn. Not sure how it happened, but it appeared after my last ATG pass and seemed to be from the center of the blade. I also wound up with a small nick in the cleft of my chin while doing touchups. Both stopped bleeding almost immediately on their own. The shave resulted in a DFS+, very close to BBS in most areas. I also had very little irritation following the shave.
good job! they do get easier and better....but if you're like I was, I got over confident and then bam! the razor let me know who was in charge!
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