So my Merkur 34C and sample blade pack from WCS arrived this week and today was my first DE shave. First things first, though: because my wife wants her mother to make a gift of shaving gear for the holidays this year, I have not yet picked up a brush. Therefore, I'm working with AOS Sandalwood cream and a hand-lather. What I've found is that by doing the same steps of Kyle's prep, but using my hand instead of brush, I'm still able to get a relatively decent lather going on my face. I've been practicing this for the last few weeks with the Mach 3 in prep for the move to DE. Anyway, I took a nice shower, put on a little Anthony Logistics pre-shave oil and some hand-lathered AOS cream, and covered that with a hot towel for a few minutes. The great thing about this when doing the hand lather is that there is a lot of water left in my beard/on my face, so I am able to get a surprisingly thick lather without the brush. So, I relathered and went in for the first shave. I have a Derby loaded in the HD, and I went for very short, slow strokes with a focus on 1) my blade angle and 2) NO PRESSURE! I think I was pretty successful with both of these. The blade angle seemed good - there was clearly beard cutting happening - and I did a very good job with "no pressure". First WTG pass: not too bad! no nicks or cuts, very little burn, generally good beard reduction. Relathered, second WTG pass: also pretty good. A wee bit of burn, but certainly no worse than (and probably better than) what I am used to with the M3 3rd relather and a very gentle, slow XTG pass. On my cheeks, this was particularly good - nice and close. Chin, neck and upper lip area are still tricky for me XTG. I stopped at this point. I think it's a pretty good shave for my first time out with the DE (and no brush). I had been getting a fairly good shave with my M3, so certainly at this point I wouldn't say the DE is closer than M3, but I certainly enjoyed the shave and can see how, with a bit more practice, I'll be super-close and irritation free. Thanks, everyone. I'm definitely enjoying my new hobby.