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Beard and Blade Questions

How do you know if you have a fine/soft, medium, or tough/coarse beard? I thought mine was either fine or medium but I am having a tough time getting more than 3, 3 pass shaves from a blade. The Rockwell blades that came with my razor seem not at all smooth on my face, leaving me with nicks and weepers. I then tried a Derby blade, thinking I needed a milder blade. It was worse. I had to press down to get it to cut and was again left with nicks and weepers and not a very smooth shave. I then moved to Astra Superior Platinum and Gillette Silver Blue. Both seem to cut with no problem and feel fairly smooth with just the weight of the razor doing the work. My issue with them is that by shave number three I start to feel tugging and get some nicks and weepers around the chin and upper lip. A non-shave issue is that I hate the glue dots on the Gillette Silver Blue blades. The first time I used one I had a devil of a time prying it off my razor's top plate.

I am using a Rockwell 6C razor and find I get the best results on the R-3 base plate which has a blade gap of 0.019” (0.48 mm). One question I have is whether or not I should change base plates between passes. I have tried changing to the R-2 base plate with 0.014” (0.35 mm) blade gap for pass 3, but I cannot really tell if it helps. It feels like I get less irritation but the final result from the shave is not quite as close.
 
I thought when I first started that I had medium to light hair and sensitive skin. I went with milder razors with milder blades. Sure, the nasty rashes I used to get from carts went away, but I did have to go with 3 full passes plus some cleanups/buffing. Even though I didn't end up with all those splotchy bad irritation, my skin felt quite tender and aftershave burned like hell. I would also end up with a few nicks here and there. Present day, I've realized I have a pretty tough beard. Working that many passes each time just made my skin burn but still no red splotches. So now, I have some pretty aggressive razors and quite sharp blades and do 2 passes with a touch of cleanup. My skin really feels much nicer. Alcohol based splashes don't burn half as much. Experiment around. Try going more aggressive/efficient, less passes. Take it slow and easy, and see if that helps. Of course, get your technique down or you'll still end up with nicks.
 
Recognizing the extreme YMMV-ness of the issue, I tend toward tougher hair, where I have any. [grin] I've found the following work well for me:

DE: Astra SP
SE: Kai Captain Titan Mild Pink
Gem: Personna Stainless PTFE Coated

I also tend toward open comb razors, and especially with DE toward slants. Open comb versus safety bar doesn't tell the whole story, though. An SB razor with good blade exposure and a reasonable gap will shave me better than a cruddy OC.

Pre-shave prep is vital. I can do fine with a warm wet towel applied for a minute or so while I'm whipping up a lather. I don't use preshave oils or creams, just a warm towel. Works for me.

Lather is critical. You may need to experiment -- but I also suggest you check out the lathering tutorial. I have mild disagreement with the treatment of the brush, but in any event buying a $30 brush every couple of years ain't a big expense.

Technique is critical. I usually go for a two-pass WTG/ATG shave. Razors like the Parker Semi-Slant, Wunderbar, Gem MMOC, Hawk and SE1 tend to deliver a good shave and fewer passes keeps irritation down. With vintage, lather catchers, old Gem and Ever-Ready, etc. I generally do three passes WTG/XTG/ATG because they seem to do better if I put one more reducing step in the process, which with a slightly less efficient razor keeps irritation down because I'm not trying to hammer out two passes.

After-care is a cold rinse, followed by Nivea Men Sensitive Skin after shave balm. Leaves me feeling tip-top and ready to rassle alligators.

O.H.
 
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I don't think a dull blade causes nicks and weepers. But I think you do, and hence, are using more pressure and probably more aggressive shaving techniques to make up for what you think is a dulling, less effective blade.

My beard is mostly grey and tough. I average 15 shaves a blade, almost any blade. I've taken many to 30. Not because I have a soft beard. I probably don't react to the tugging like you do, as a bad thing. I like to feel the blade cut. When it no longer does that effectively, I change the blade.

The feel of the blade on our face is very subjective. One and done'ers like the feel of the first and only shave on a blade. If you get three, you get three. But try not to change your technique because of how you think the blade is. Bad technique causes nicks, not blades.
 
I suspect at least part of the reason why you got better shaves from the subsequent blades may have been because you had more experience with your safety razor and wet shaving in general.

As others have said above, lathering and shaving technique are essential. Having said that, not all shave products perform equally well. I got discouraged early on because I started with a Burt’s Bees wet shaving kit (2009ish?), and only after some frustrating, unpleasant shaves did I find this forum and learn that the Burt’s Bees bay rum shaving soap was trash.
So maybe the Rockwell blades aren’t making it easier for you; I’m not sure, I’ve never heard of them. But maybe attempting a third shave out of a blade isn’t necessary at this point. Think of how cheap DE blades are compared to multi-blade cartridges; you’re saving money even if you only use them for a single shave. Maybe go for two for now, until you feel all your techniques improve and your shaves are more comfortable.

Finally, I can tell you that I have a coarse beard, and with proper prep and a good lather, Astra SP blades cut right through it.

Keep at it, as you’ll never get any less experienced!
 
You might want to take a look at the Refined Shave web site.


This web site provides data on a large number of DE blades. There are some empirical test data and also some subjective evaluations based on face and head shaving. Not everyone agrees with the testing method, but I have found it to be a useful guide for me in selecting blades.

Rockwell blades, Merkur, Shark Super Stainess, and Derby Extra blades fall at the less sharp end of the chart (higher force required to cut). They do not work for me at all. it sounds like you have the same issue.

Astra SP blades are somewhat sharper. Many people love them. They are the least sharp blade that I can use. I do not enjoy using them, but I could use them if they were all I could get.

If Astra SP and Gillette Silver Blue blades are starting to tug by the third shave, it sounds like you may have a tougher beard. You might find even sharper blades may be better for you.

I have a tough beard and love BIC Chrome Platinum, PermaSharp Super, Nacet, 7 O'Clock Super Platinum black, and Personna Platinum (Israeli Red) blades. Since you are using the Rockwell 6C razor with a fairly mild R-3 plate, these blades may work well for you. Although not a part of the Refined Shave evaluation, I also find Dorco Prime Platinum STP301 and SuperMax Blue Diamond Platinum blades to be very sharp.

If the blades listed above are sharper than you desire, there are others that are slightly less sharp. I really like Astra Super Stainless (as opposed to Super Platinum) blades.

You might want to purchase a sampler pack that contains at least a 5-blade tuck of about a dozen different blades to see which you prefer. However, in many cases you can purchase a 100 pack of blades for only slightly more than a 5-blade tuck, so I have purchased many blades that way.

You asked about changing plates for different shave passes. People that have adjustable razors with a dial often use different dial settings for each pass. With an interchangeable plate razor like the Rockwell, that is a little cumbersome. My procedure is to use a different razor, equipped with a different blade for each pass. I start with a fairly aggressive open comb razor with a mid-sharp blade for my WTG pass and then work my way through several razors until I end up with a very mild Van der Hagen/Weishi TTO razor equipped with one of the sharpest blades for my clean-up pass. I find that works quite well for me, but others might find that to be a hassle.
 

BigJ

Ambassador
Welcome aboard!

Some great advice above!

My take is that you have tons of moving parts at this point. The biggest is that your technique is still evolving. Currently you are improving your prep, lather, razor angle and learning to use less pressure. As your technique becomes your shaves will improve considerably, even if your hardware remains the same!

That said, I recommend you purchase a blade sampler pack or two, then work your way through the options to see what suits your razor and beard! There is no substitute for trying things for yourself!

You might also look at the Excalibur club thread for tips. Some of those guys get 100 shaves/blade!
 
How do you know if you have a fine/soft, medium, or tough/coarse beard? I thought mine was either fine or medium but I am having a tough time getting more than 3, 3 pass shaves from a blade. The Rockwell blades that came with my razor seem not at all smooth on my face, leaving me with nicks and weepers. I then tried a Derby blade, thinking I needed a milder blade. It was worse. I had to press down to get it to cut and was again left with nicks and weepers and not a very smooth shave. I then moved to Astra Superior Platinum and Gillette Silver Blue. Both seem to cut with no problem and feel fairly smooth with just the weight of the razor doing the work. My issue with them is that by shave number three I start to feel tugging and get some nicks and weepers around the chin and upper lip. A non-shave issue is that I hate the glue dots on the Gillette Silver Blue blades. The first time I used one I had a devil of a time prying it off my razor's top plate.

I am using a Rockwell 6C razor and find I get the best results on the R-3 base plate which has a blade gap of 0.019” (0.48 mm). One question I have is whether or not I should change base plates between passes. I have tried changing to the R-2 base plate with 0.014” (0.35 mm) blade gap for pass 3, but I cannot really tell if it helps. It feels like I get less irritation but the final result from the shave is not quite as close.
I'd suggest experimenting with thicker lather, check razor angle, and if your getting tugging/pulling immediately dispose of the blade. I can get lots of not close shaves with razor using WTG and XTG. Once I shave ATG course areas I find it degrades the cheap blade quickly.

Try a feather blade with plate 2-3 in your rockwell?
 
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