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Around The World In 80 Blades - a shaving journal

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Hi, I already posted something along these lines in the Newbie area but I'm realizing this might be the better place for it. Sorry for the redundant post but from what I can tell this is where exactly the kind of thing I'm doing should go... so...

As a musician of limited means, living in a rather small apartment with my family, I don't have the resources to build, nor the space to store, a large collection of razors, soaps, brushes and accoutrements.

But blades? Blades are small, and cheap, and yes, there's a wondrous assortment of them on the market, from all over the world.

So I thought, why not take a trip around the world, from the comfort of my bathroom sink? And explore a bit of the history and culture around safety razors along the way?

And then of course as soon as my brain made the connection with the classic Jules Verne novel (Around the World in 80 Days), and it didn't seem like 200 people had already done it, I knew I had to make the commitment. I will not be doing this in 80 days, of course; more likely 80 weeks in fact. But I'll do my best to stick with it for at least one time around, with stops in all the places blades are made!

So today, to ring in a new year, I will set off on my journey. And I will start with a blade from where I live, in Germany - but also where my shaving journey began: with the ubiquitous Wilkinson Sword blade. The first DE blade I ever used, many years ago in Canada before cartridges swept the shaving world, and the first I tried when, more recently, I decided to abandon that grievous folly and embrace traditional safety-razor shaving again.

I am not trying to position myself as an expert reviewer, this is just my journey and my experience.
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A note on my process and equipment...

I am not an experienced or expert reviewer, but I’m also not a total newbie. I’ve been learning and developing my technique over the past 6 months or so, and am at a point where I can pretty reliably get a comfortable, close shave without much or any blood using just about any blade (of the 20 or so I’ve tried so far – let’s see how it goes when I get to some of the more obscure ones on my list!).

I have what I would call average skin and beard – not especially tough, and not too sensitive except around the neck where I can get some irritation if I push things too far. I don’t chase BBS shaves, but I definitely like what I gather is called a DFS+, which to me means very smooth and satisfying but not obsessive. That means at least two passes, sometimes three if I have time and feel like it, and some buffing in selected spots that need it.

I don’t shave every day, but every other day most of the time. I like to enjoy the ritual but I don’t want it to dominate my life. I will aim to use each blade for about a week, or 4 shaves. If I’m particularly enjoying a blade and it seems to be holding its edge, I will use it a bit longer; conversely if I find one that really isn’t working for me I will likely toss it sooner, as I’m not into suffering.

At the moment I only have a small handful of razors, but that includes two that I am very happy with: the Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements Double Open Comb, and the RazoRock German 37 slant.

Typically I use the RazoRock for most first (and some second) passes, and the DOC for second (or third) and buffing / touchups. This works well for me with most blades I’ve tried, so it will be the default approach for most blades to start with, though that might change along the way (and sometimes I switch the order just for the heck of it).

I also have a King C Gillette (seems to be a Mühle R89 head, and I’m not really big on the grip so if I use it it will likely be with the RazoRock’s handle, which to me is pretty much perfect), a Ming Shi 2000s (Merkur Future copy, adjustable and handy for a bit of variety), a Lord L6 (which I haven’t really enjoyed so far but will probably give another shot once in a while out of boredom) and my first, somewhat dubious acquisition: a ‘Maxon SBK’, obviously made in China and rebranded for the eBay market, and about which I can’t say much except that it’s black, medium-aggressive, and not great but better than it probably should be for the price. None of these get much use, as I find the RazoRock and the DOC better and more satisfying in pretty much every way.

Will there be more razors along the way? Probably, but as the name suggests, this is mostly about the blades.

I use a mildly-scented organic soap available in shops here and made by Speick, and a basic Omega brush (or occasionally my ancient Wilkinson Sword one which is pretty much played at this point). Might change or upgrade either of those along the way, who knows.

I use a Prorasa alum block, and an organic after-shave balsam from Alverde, again rather mildly scented. I’m really not into strong scents, but sometimes I spice things up with a drop of essential oil.

Pre-shave prep is usually just a shower, and/or a splash of hot water, and letting some warm lather sit for a few minutes to soften things up while I prepare everything else – which seems to do the trick, but as with all other aspects of this, I’m very much open to learning new tricks and improving or refining my technique / experience as I go along.
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Wilkinson Sword - first shave

These come in a kind of blocky plastic box of 10, individually wrapped in waxy paper with a few dabs of wax to hold it all together. I'm not a fan of wax or glue dots on blades, but these are not too egregious. I'm also not a fan of plastic, so a few marks off for that but of course the blades are the main attraction (and the plastic box will make a decent used-blade bank eventually). They are branded, somewhat understatedly, with ink on both sides.

The first pass, WTG (with the grain) with the RazoRock was very very smooth. Effortless and deeply satisfying glide. Especially in contrast to the last blade I used, a Gilette Platinum which tugged like crazy (but did a decent job with very little irritation, so you never know).

It was so good in fact, that I decided to do a full 3 pass shave to kick this thing off in style. Unfortunately the second, XTG (across the grain) pass was not as smooth and left me with a few weepers and some mild irritation on the neck. Not a bloodbath, but a bit of a letdown after the first buttery-smooth one.

I applied a bit of alum and let it sit while I switched the blade into the DOC for a final ATG (against the grain) pass and detailing. I was determined to finish the process I'd started, but decided to not go crazy with buffing...

Thankfully the 3d pass was much smoother and more comfortable, and didn't seem to exacerbate the irritation from the second, or make the weepers any worse.

After rinsing and a bit more alum stick, the result is a very close shave indeed - BBS inasmuch as I know what that is - with minor lingering irritation. A bit of balsam and moisturizer tamed that pretty quickly.

If I'm being honest, I think this is in fact one of the closest, most satisfying shaves I've ever had. Not a bad place to start! The mild irritation of the second XTG pass was a bit unfortunate but of course every journey has its ups and downs, and if you turn back just because you happen to step in a puddle with your first step out the door, you'll never get anywhere.

If all I were looking for was a good, sharp, smooth blade that was easily and widely available (though not the cheapest on the market - German-made blades are often priced a bit higher, though Wilkies are still quite reasonable), I could stop looking and quit while I'm ahead...

But we don't necessarily travel because we're unhappy where we are. Home can be very comfortable, but new experiences await us if we leave our comfort zone!
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Wilkinson Sword - second shave

OK, to get this out of the way: I realize that Wilkinson Sword is a classic *English* brand, and even though the blades are now made in Solingen, it's a bit unfair to identify it as a German blade. I will try to rectify that by acquiring, at some point, a NOS (New Old Stock) English-made WS blade and adding it to the itinerary...

This raises an interesting question, however - where should a blade whose history is deeply entwined with one place, but is now produced in another, be placed? I guess the answer is, it doesn't really matter, since this is my little virtual journey I can pretty much make and break the 'rules' as I choose, but it bears some thinking about given the complex and intertwined history and geography of the industry, as it were.

So for now, this German-made WS blade is what I have to work with, and for better or worse that's where this journey began. Its first outing exceeded my expectations; let's see how it does on shave number 2!

I decided to stick to a first pass with the slant, as that was so satisfying the first time around, but in an attempt to avoid the irritation, switch to the DOC immediately and keep to two passes.


I know my setup here is not likely to impress anyone, it's modest and likely to stay so for the foreseeable future (though there are of course a couple of things I have my eye on to spice things up a bit). However, for the moment, it is what it is and it works for me!

The first pass... felt much like the previous time, silky smooth with no tugging at all. Unlike the previous time however, there were a couple of minor weepers even on this first pass - nothing to get too freaked out about, but not ideal.

Switching to the DOC for a second, combination XTG/ATG pass with a bit of buffing in the trouble spots... again, no trouble, it didn't seem to make anything worse. This razor is remarkably mild but somehow, with a fairly sharp blade like this at least, remains quite efficient!

I was left in much the same state as I was after the first round: with a very close and satisfying shave, and a bit of lingering irritation that went away with a bit of after-shave balsam and a bit of time.

To revise my previous conclusion somewhat... if I were searching for the Perfect Blade, I'm not sure this would be it - I'm a bit put off by the weepers and irritation, despite the satisfying first pass and results (and despite careful prep and no unnecessary pressure). In another razor, it might be a different story - and indeed, in the DOC it seems to be smooth sailing - but I don't think the Perfect Blade should require to you change razors, especially if you're as happy with one as I have generally been with the RazoRock.

Nevertheless, I think I may try one of my other, less-oft-used razors for the next attempt, to see what new insights that might bring...
Wilkinson Sword - third shave

Before we start, and to pick up a thread from last time:

I managed to find some original, NOS made-in-England Wilkinson Sword blades! Not just any blades either, these are the revered original London Bridge blades (as opposed to the current-production one made by Gillette in China), which along with the (possibly identical) Light Brigades are apparently considered by many some of the finest blades ever made. So yeah, I'm excited for those to arrive!

So much so, in fact, that - depending on when they arrive - it may influence my itinerary, as it were. Up to now I've been planning to go eastward, as a lot of the biggest blade manufacturers are east of here, but of course I'm going to get to them sooner or later, as that's the nature of the journey. Let's see how things unfold!

For now, I have a German WS blade and a new razor: I'm away from home for a couple of days and I've decided to see how it gets along with the Ming Shi 2000s, essentially a clone of the Merkur Futur (at, of course, a fraction of the price) which makes a good travel razor as it can be very mild, hyper-aggressive or anything in between.

In general I'm not bowled over by this razor, to be perfectly honest. I like the fluidly adjustable profile, the build and finish seem on point (for the price, really, astonishingly so!) and it seems to shave well enough, but there is a kind of 'hollow' feeling about the head that doesn't work for me, and I'm always happy to go back to something with a nice heavy, solid head - I don't know if it's a smoother shave, but it's a more reassuring *experience* somehow.

I don't have a real Futur to compare it to, so I can't say for sure whether this 'hollowness' is a feature of the original, or only of the copy. My vague understanding is that the head geometry and mechanism is essentially identical, but the handle is a little lighter. Perhaps someone who has both can weigh in?


The first pass with the Ming Shi was actually quite smooth and pleasurable! More so than I remember it being with other blades (I can't remember what all I've tried it with, which is one reason for this shave journal). There was certainly no tugging, and I certainly don't feel like this blade is losing its edge in any appreciable way.

There were however a couple of small weepers, again not bad enough to hurt but it's always a bit annoying. Nevertheless, I decided to press on with a second and third pass, slightly *increasing* the blade gap each time - a technique I read about somewhere hereabouts, which is directly counter to other advice I've seen to do the opposite, but which makes a certain amount of sense to me: you're trying to cut shorter and shorter bits of stubble, so it kind of makes sense to use a more aggressive setting with each pass, not less.

In any case, both passes were fairly smooth and comfortable, so at the end I was left (again) with a DFS+ shave, a few lingering weepers and a bit of mild irritation that passed pretty quickly. Life could be worse, and overall I enjoyed the Ming Shi with this blade more than I expected to!

Wilkinson Sword – fourth shave​

Full disclosure: today’s shave setup was the same as I used the first time I tried a DE razor again after my long, long hiatus in Cartridge-land. Wilkinson Sword blade in a cheap eBay razor (a 'Maxon'!) which, while it feels decently made, does not exactly inspire in comparison to the somewhat more expensive, and hopefully objectively better, ones that have become my daily drivers. It has a rather long, thin but fairly heavy handle, nicely knurled and balanced, and a head that is probably a copy of something but I’m afraid I don’t know what. It says Rostfrei on it, which is German for ‘stainless steel’, but I *very* much doubt that. It’s a bit more aggressive than anything else I have except the Ming Shi on high settings.


That first shave was, and I’m being charitable here, not super fun. I learned a lot, but at the expense of a nasty cut above the corner of my mouth that gave my trouble for a couple of weeks as it healed. That was the moment I realized I needed to treat these tools, and my face, with a bit more respect and care. And while I’ve used the razor a couple of times since, it’s been with a much milder blade – a Derby extra, to be precise (which is what it came with, so it’s really my own fault I did the test drive with something as sharp as a Wilkie!). I didn’t love it, but it got the job done.

However, here we are again, and all I can say is, what a difference a bit of technique makes! (And I do mean a bit, as I still have a lot to learn and I still consider myself a bit of a novice… but not quite as reckless a neophyte as I was).
First pass was smooth sailing, nice clean glide and nary a weeper in sight. I don’t know whether my technique is that much improved, or the blade is a bit dialled in after 3 shaves, or I was just that much more careful after having been bitten by this combo last time… but I have to say this was really enjoyable!

Second and third passes went nearly as well, with a few little weepers appearing and a little tugging around the neck on the last pass, but not too bad. A bit of alum sting. A result I would call BBS, very satisfying, with hardly any lingering irritation.
I still feel like the final pass and detailing is a bit better with the DOC, but the difference between this and the RazoRock for a first pass is… not as big as it should be. But to verify this, I think there’s nothing for it but to have another go with that setup before I move on.

That would make 5 shaves (over 10 days) with this blade. I’m not at all convinced it’s nearing the end yet, I suspect it could easily provide a few more excellent shaves, and I remain impressed!

Wilkinson Sword – 5th shave​

At the last minute, back at home again, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try the WS in a razor I don’t use often, the Lord L6… and at the risk of sounding like a broken record… once again, it gave me a new perspective on a razor I had already formed a bit of a negative opinion about.


The Lord L6 is a bit of a legend at this point, a razor for a price so low it’s absurd, which a lot of people like, despite (or perhaps in some cases because of) its *very* light, long, narrow aluminum handle. I can’t say I love the handle, but I have been trying to like the head – whether with its own handle or a heavier one – and so far have found it hard to connect with.

I tried it with an Astra, I tried it with the Lord Platinum that it came with a tuck of (adding to its outrageous value)… but it just felt a bit harsh – though it’s evidently a copy of a fairly mild Merkur head geometry, and there’s nothing wrong with the plating – at least on the shaving surfaces (the finish on the sides and inside the head are a bit rough and ready, I will say).

However: this Wilkinson Sword blade made it glide on the first pass! Very smooth, no weepers at all, simply a pleasant experience. The second pass went almost as well, though there was a bit of tugging across the grain in the tougher areas around the chin. I do feel like the blade is starting to slow down a bit at this point.

So I figured I’d switch to the DOC for the final pass, and while I didn’t push it to the limit, it did the job nicely, not exacerbating the tiny weepers that had appeared (and which promptly disappeared again after a once-over with the alum block). All in all, a very satisfying DFS -not quite a BBS, which I will put down to the blade not being quite as sharp after 5 full shaves – with essentially no lingering irritation.

So while I could probably stretch this blade to another shave or two, I think it’s time to move on – after all, it’s not much of a journey if I can’t tear myself away from the first stop on the itinerary!

What’s next? Stay tuned and find out…

Tiger Platinum – first shave​

It’s time to move on! And for our first stop, we are going south, to a neighboring country, and one close to my heart as well: the Czech Republic. I’ve visited quite a few times over the last 20 years, mostly the lovely and fascinating capital Prague. We have close friends there, and once upon a time I ran the marathon, which was great fun. I’ve also consumed a fair bit of something the country is somewhat better known for: its wonderful beer!

So I was intrigued to discover, a few months ago, that there is a DE blade made there – in fact several, by Czech Blades in Jevíčko, a small town north of Brno. The company website tells a little of their story. I believe there is also a historical association with Astra, but I have been unable to verify whether the old Czech Astras, which predate Gillette’s buyout of the company/brand and moving production to Russia, were made by this company, or a predecessor of this company, or an unrelated one.

In any case, Tiger and Tatra blades have also been made there for a long time, including carbon-steel ones in the iron curtain years (I have some NOS ones which may make an appearance here at some point!). However, over the past few years they seem to have rebranded themselves substantially, and Tiger Platinums have attractive new packaging. It’s cardboard, no plastic wrap which I am happy about, and no wax or glue dots either, which is also great. The laser-etched blades are double-wrapped in paper, which does seem a bit excessive. But, that’s still not a huge amount of paper in the grand scheme of things, and the overall effect is certainly luxurious.


I loaded one into the RazoRock, which takes a little fiddling sometimes to get the blade really straight, and lathered up. First impression: not *quite* as smooth as the WS out of the gate. Not tuggy exactly, still quite pleasant, just a tiny bit more resistance and less of an effortless glide.

However: this blade *sings*! Accompanying the mild tactile resistance is a nice audible feedback. I don’t know what it means, but it’s a nice addition to the experience.

After the first pass I ran through it again across the grain, and this time it felt *better* than the WS – no weepers and no irritation. That’s an improvement!

After the final, against the grain pass with the DOC, which was fairly uneventful, I was left with, I would say, a very slightly less close shave then with the WS – I’m going to say a solid DFS if not DFS+, but not quite BBS.

I think it’s just not quite as sharp as the Wilkinson, and while I can’t necessarily say it’s smoother – there is that mild resistance and audio feedback – but what it lacks in ultimate closeness it makes up for by leaving essentially no irritation or razor burn, which to me is not a bad trade-off. The shave is still close enough to be very satisfying, just not quite BBS.

There are bigger problems in the world than that!
I don't have a RazoRock German 37 Slant, Tobias... but I think THIS POST may be of interest to you.
Thanks, that's very interesting indeed! I was wondering about it, in fact - because by nature there are angles involved, so the usual thing where you want it to look even and straight on both sides is, counter-intuitively, going against what the slant of the head is designed to do. Always something new to learn!
Release the Tiger! Part two

For my second round with the Tiger, I thought I would try the Ming Shi again, at setting 4 of 6. It was an interesting pairing - perhaps a bit smoother than with the RazoRock, but then again I have a feeling that this is one of those blades that gets a bit sharper on the second shave, as the coating wears off.


In any case it was a nice enough first pass, but the audible feedback from the blade somehow exacerbated the slightly unnerving hollow feeling of the head, and I decided to switch back to the slant for the second pass. Nevertheless, again I got no weepers, nicks or irritation from it, which is nice.

Second and third passes (third on the DOC as is my habit) were similarly without incident, and I took the risk of buffing a bit more aggressively to see if I could push the blade into BBS territory... Which I would say was successful, and without irritation beyond a little alum sting. Satisfying!

So interestingly, I feel like this is not the kind of Tiger that bites... Let's see how it fares in something else...

A note: I tried a new aftershave balm, from Alterra, another bio-cosmetic brand available widely in Germany. Different scent, a bit less astringent... not sure if I'm quite as happy with the performance yet. More testing needed!
But blades? Blades are small, and cheap, and yes, there's a wondrous assortment of them on the market, from all over the world.

So today, to ring in a new year, I will set off on my journey. And I will start with a blade from where I live, in Germany - but also where my shaving journey began: with the ubiquitous Wilkinson Sword blade. The first DE blade I ever used, many years ago in Canada before cartridges swept the shaving world, and the first I tried when, more recently, I decided to abandon that grievous folly and embrace traditional safety-razor shaving again.
Yes,sir. Blades are cheap, and an easy way to see how good your current daily driver really is. The Wikinson Sword from Germany is my current everyday blade at this time. I love the sharpness, like a Feather, and it is just mild enough, unlike a Feather. Paired with my Parker 91R, it is a great match for my face, and I can get them locally, and at $1.19 a tuck of 5 blades, pretty good value. I have some Feathers, only get about 2-3 good shaves from them. Parker Platinums were a surprise, and right up there with the Wilkies for me. Vokshods I have to " cork", but they are pretty smooth once you do. Also, Gillette Platinum is a very good blade for me . Smooth, sharp, can't miss. So, I have tried a few blades, and have settled on the Wilkinson Sword, as long as I can get them locally. I get 5-6 shaves from them, with no irritation. Good luck on your journey!! I will be reading...
Yes,sir. Blades are cheap, and an easy way to see how good your current daily driver really is. The Wikinson Sword from Germany is my current everyday blade at this time. I love the sharpness, like a Feather, and it is just mild enough, unlike a Feather. Paired with my Parker 91R, it is a great match for my face, and I can get them locally, and at $1.19 a tuck of 5 blades, pretty good value. I have some Feathers, only get about 2-3 good shaves from them. Parker Platinums were a surprise, and right up there with the Wilkies for me. Vokshods I have to " cork", but they are pretty smooth once you do. Also, Gillette Platinum is a very good blade for me . Smooth, sharp, can't miss. So, I have tried a few blades, and have settled on the Wilkinson Sword, as long as I can get them locally. I get 5-6 shaves from them, with no irritation. Good luck on your journey!! I will be reading...

It's funny, Wilkies are pretty expensive here in Germany, at least in brick-and-mortar shops (I haven't tried to source them online as I have some on hand, alongside a preposterous array of others ready for the journey ahead). I haven't tried any Parkers, heard some iffy reports about them but they are on my list anyway and glad to hear they work for you! Gillette Platinum surprisingly I did not get along that well with when I tried it recently, found it rough and tuggy - maybe it will be different next time around. I've tried a Voskhod, found it fair-to-middling, will revisit soon enough. And a Feather is... a Feather. I tried one in the DOC, liked it but was a little scared by it, haven't tried it in anything else... a rematch is on the itinerary but it will be a while... miles to go before I sleep! And much to learn...
Tiger Tiger, burning bright... Part three

I realized last time out that the DOC (Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements Double Open Comb) seems to never the star of the show - always pinch-hitting, kind of an always-a-bridesmaid-never-the-bride sort of thing. So I decided to give it a shave to itself...


The reason I don't always want to do three straight passes with it, is that - despite how remarkably mild it is with almost any blade - after a while it feels like dragging a literal comb around my face. It's not so much an irritation as just a friction that is not like the friction of a blade.

Not having any other open combs to compare it with, I can't say whether this is only a thing with this razor or a general open comb thing. It's not unpleasant, but I do kind of prefer the smooth glide of a closed comb and a nice polished cap, letting me feel the blade on its own as it were. But, as mentioned, it's so very good for buffing and details that I will probably never give it up.

Anyway. This was a fairly smooth shave, 'comb-iness' notwithstanding, without a single weeper and essentially no irritation, so once again the Tiger came through on that level... But despite a fairly no-holds-barred approach to the third pass and buffing, I was left with a decent but not inspiringly close shave.

I am beginning to think this blade may not have quite the same longevity that the Wilkinson Sword had. I am sure I could squeeze another shave or two out if it, but I may decide to quit while I'm ahead and push on, as time waits for no man, and all that...
Run for the hills! Tatra, part 1

Tatra is the other main brand made by Czech Blades. Perhaps they are marketed in Slovakia? In any case, the High Tatras mountain range, which forms a natural border between Slovakia and Poland, are apparently very beautiful, and I've long wanted to visit. They are iconic in Slovak culture, less so among the Czechs in my experience. But the mountain connection explains both my title here and the lovely, stylized graphic design featuring snowcapped peaks.

Tatras come in a few varieties; the Platinum ones are (as confirmed by company representatives) identical to Tiger Platinum, just differently branded. So instead I'm trying their carbon steel version.

I initially thought these were NOS discontinued blades but it seems they are still made and sold, in 3 versions yet (round, long-hole, and 'superfine') - "for shaving, around the home, as well as in industry", which does not inspire confidence. They sport similar packaging to the Platinum range, no plastic, double paper wrapper on each blade, no wax. Ink instead of laser etching on the blades, and overall the presentation feels a shade less premium than the Platinums. 'Clean smooth shaving and save money' is a cute touch on the back of the blade wrapper...


I'm not sure if these are available widely in Czech and/or Slovakia, and frankly (cue foreshadowing) I'm not inclined to find out...

Carbon steel does not necessarily imply dull or low quality. High-end, hand-forged Japanese knives are made of carbon steel. But I would wager not the same steel as these blades!


The first pass, in the RazoRock, was simply awful - rough, tuggy, brutal, more like shaving with garden shears, or a particularly cheap kitchen knife. It would likely more comfortable to train a rat to pull out individual hairs with its teeth. I could barely finish the first pass (on 3 days growth, to be fair) it was so painful. No nicks, cuts or weepers. Just pain.

The second and third passes (I stuck it out with the slant, hoping it would improve) were not as traumatic but a long way from pleasant. I think this is quite honestly the worst blade I've ever tried, worse than the store-brand Isanas which were bad enough that I didn't even want to put them in the itinerary. I knew there would be less-than-wonderful shaves in this journey, and it would be boring if they were all the same, but yeah - this is bottom of the heap so far.

The result, after much discomfort, was a kind of, well, acceptable shave, the kind I would probably have been satisfied with in the bad old days of cartridge shaving, but far from inspiring. For at least an hour afterwards, despite some after-shave skin care, I felt - not irritation, exactly; more like I had survived a kind of attack.

Still, I will give them one more shot in the DOC - but maybe just on a single day's growth, as I'm not keen to repeat anything like that first pass again. The website proudly describes that these blades "boast exceptional cutting properties and long life" but I dispute the former claim, and I am not enough of a glutton for punishment to find out about the latter!
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