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DougK's random journey through the shaving universe

I've never been much for blogging, journaling, or whatever you want to call it, but this morning (while I was shaving, of course) I realized that I have thoughts about shaving-related things that I want to get out of my head, but I don't necessarily want to post them in threads. I may even throw in some non-shaving related thoughts on writing utensils, writing, computers, and photography from time to time.

I've now been shaving for forty-plus years and a member here for almost thirteen years. For perspective, here's my first post on B&B from Nov. 4, 2009, after I'd been wet shaving with a DE for a while. Seems like a long time ago...
Hi everyone,

I've been reading the forums and reviews here for a couple of months and decided to delurkify myself.

I'd been shaving mostly with cartridge razors (Trac II and Mach 3) and canned goo, with the occasional shave using a Braun or Norelco electric. However, as may be familiar to everyone here, the quality my shaves just never felt all that great, not to mention a constant battle with skin irritation. Finally, in a fit of frustration (and after watching Don Draper wetshaving in an episode of Mad Men) I hit Google to find some relief.

To make a short story longer, I found and ordered Leisureguy's book on gourmet shaving and then hit classicshaving.com for a Parker 91R, a bowl, a five-pack of Merkur blades, and some soap. I already had a brush I'd received as a gift with a fancy wooden Trac II handle some years ago so I was set.

Thanks to Leisureguy's blog I discovered links to this site and mantic59's videos, both of which have really helped me get my technique up to speed. So far so good: only one nasty cut (razor slipped out of my hand and left me a lasting impression to pay attention) and a couple of months of shaves better than anything I'd ever had before, plus a less irritated face.

However, because of all of your inspiration/influence/Jedi mind tricks, I've also expanded my shaving kit to include the VdH shaving set (love that soap!), an extra VdH brush, a L'Occitane travel brush, a Gillette ball end tech, a Gilette travel razor, and a Personna injector that just arrived today... not to mention the tubes of C.O. Bigelow and KMF cream sitting next to them on the counter. Amazing that I am still coming out ahead money-wise! Even if I wasn't, though, the quality of my shaves more than makes up for it.

I'm looking forward to spending some more quality time with y'all!

Doug K.
 
Heh and I just realized that shaving for forty-plus years means I started shaving when I was ten, which didn't happen. I blame it on a lack of caffeine; I started shaving around age 15, so about 37 years. Math is hard :)
 

thombrogan

Lounging On The Isle Of Tugsley.
Thank you for starting a journal. Hoping it provides you a snapshot of your journey and the refinements you’ve made and will make
 

"What's the best way to improve my shaves?"​


I've seen this question countless times over the years I've spent on the forum and it's the same question I asked that started me down this whole path. Well, I also asked "How can I reduce the cost of shaving?" but I'll save that topic for another day.

Here's the one thing I would say improved my shave the most: learning to make a good lather with a shaving soap or a creme. Nothing else made as significant of a difference to my shaving as switching to a brush and soap (or a shaving creme) and making my own lather: not a razor, blade, or anything else, but lathering did.

Note: I'm oversimplifying a bit because my face doesn't need more prep than a quick wash with soap and water and leaving it wet; if your skin needs more prep, you'll find out soon enough.​

As far as lathering goes, it doesn't matter if you bowl lather or face lather; try both and see what works for you, then stick with that method. Don't rush out and buy a fancy shaving bowl or scuttle in the beginning. Use what you have on hand until you know you need or want something better. In my case, I discovered that I hate bowl lathering and now exclusively face lather, so if I'd bought a fancy bowl, it would have been a waste of money.

What you absolutely do need is a good brush and a good shaving soap/creme.
  • Brush: Quality synthetic brushes are fairly inexpensive and a safe entry point; I didn't realize I was somewhat sensitive to animal hair brushes until much later on and thought my constant mild irritation was because of bad razor technique or the soap I was using at the time. You can always try boar, badger, or horsehair brushes later. If you're going to use mostly soap and bowl lather, you probably want a brush that has a stiffer backbone; face latherers or creme users may want something a little floppier or less scrubby.
  • Soap/creme: It's really important to find a soap or creme that works for you You don't have to spend a lot of money to get an excellent product. I usually prefer soap because it lasts longer and is more air-travel-friendly, but creme is a little easier to lather, especially in the beginning when you're learning. Start with a common brand like VdH, Palmolive, Proraso, or C.O. Bigelow because they're inexpensive, readily available, and work well for a large number of people. I prefer vegan-friendly products for a number of reasons, but that's only my preference; you do you.
In all honesty, if I had listened to this advice in the beginning, I probably would not have moved on to DE or other single-blade razors. Why? Because good lathering/prep solved almost all of my shaving-related problems. That said, if you still don't see the improvement you want, now you know that you need to switch to another type of razor. and will be able to focus on learning good shaving technique with whatever type of razor you choose.
 

"What are your favorite products?"​

I've used quite a few different types of razors including cartridges, DEs, SEs, injectors, and AC-style shavettes, a few different kinds of brushes, and quite a few different types of soaps, creams, gels, and foams; they all do the job of removing hair pretty well. That said, I do have preferences I've developed over the years and that's led to what I keep around for shaving. Everything on my list is either inexpensive or commonly available or both. I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to get into the gourmet aspects of shaving. I like to use products that aren't likely to disappear and that have stood the test of time. I'll add my usual disclaimer that I'm not telling anyone else that their preferences are wrong, this is just what I like and use regularly.
  • Favorite overall razor: Gillette Tech. It's simple, effective, and inexpensive. I've owned several ball-end Techs and they have all been excellent shavers when paired with a quality blade like a GSB or Feather. They're a great way to learn DE shaving without breaking the bank or slicing up your face. Gillette still makes a Tech-like razor with a plastic handle (same head geometry but stamped metal now), which is now my go-to DE razor along with Gillette Super Blue blades.
  • Favorite soap: Palmolive Classic shave stick. Cheap, smells good, and makes great lather. Sadly, I think this product has been discontinued, or at least I'm having trouble finding it. The original formulation of L'Occitane Cade also worked really well for me. I've also used Williams and Van Der Hagen, but I've mostly moved on to tubed creams.
  • Favorite cream: Palmolive Classic and C.O. Bigelow (tie). Both are inexpensive, easy to get, and easy to lather. I switch back and forth between the two depending on my mood.
  • Favorite brush: RazoRock BC Silvertip Plissoft Synthetic. I've had boar and badger brushes before, but this is my favorite. It holds water and lather well and is super soft on my face, which is important because I'm a face latherer.
I don't use after shave or cologne beyond the occasional splash of witch hazel, so I have no opinions or favorites in those categories.
 
I forgot to mention one of my other favorite razors above: the Wilkinson Sword Classic. I think it's often overlooked because it's made of Delrin and usually can be found for less than $10, but it is a fantastic razor: smooth, mild shaver and it covers the blade tabs so you don't nick your ear unexpectedly. It'd be a tough call to pick between that and the Tech if I could only have one of them.
 

"How can I reduce the cost of shaving?"​

I mentioned in an earlier post that this is one of the questions that I asked when I got tired of spending money on cartridges and canned foam and decided to switch. It's really not that hard to save money with traditional shaving:
  1. Focus on technique mastery.
  2. Focus on utility.
  3. Pick one setup and stick with it.
  4. Don't hoard products.
That's really all there is to it, but I think each point can be expanded on a little bit.

1. Focus on technique mastery. Learning how to make good lather and shave consistently with the razor and blade (or just razor if you've gone down the straight razor path) you have requires you to get to know your razor, brush, and soap/creme really well. This isn't something you can do with a once-a-month, weekend shave. You need to practice with the same setup every day, or at least every day that you shave, for a good couple of months at least; longer is better. Once you don't have to think about how to make your lather or how to use your razor and you start getting consistent shaves of your desired closeness, then you can think about experimenting a bit. Even then, don't change everything at once. Pick one thing you want to try (blade, razor, soap, brush) and keep the rest of the setup the same until you decide you like the change or you want to try out something else.

2. Focus on utility. Look, I'm not going to lie: I went down the acquisition rabbit hole just like everyone else did when they started and bought lots of stuff. However, I approached shaving with the mindset that I wanted to use products that I could walk into a store and buy. That meant Van Der Hagen, Williams, or Cade soap; C.O. Bigelow cream; and Personna blades. Likewise, the razors I chose were workman-like razors such as the Tech, Merkur 15C, Wilkinson Sword Classic, Feather Popular, or GEM G-Bar. Focusing on these razors meant it was easy to find new, NOS, or gently-used examples for good prices. The most I ever spent on a razor was about $100 for a Feather RX AC -- a great razor that wasn't for me, but did eventually lead me to discover SE razors that accept AC blades. Don't be needlessly frugal, but spend your money wisely and spend it once to get a product you like and will enjoy using.

3. Pick one setup and stick with it. This is the hard one, because one of the fun things about traditional shaving is that there's always something new to try. If your goal is economy, though, you have to resist the temptation. Pick one or two razors and blades, one or two soaps or cremes, a brush or two (a backup brush is handy if you live in a humid environment so that each brush can dry out between uses), and maybe an after shave or splash that you really like, and then stay with them. Don't buy anything else except to replace something that you've run out of or has broken. This will help you with the technique mastery I mentioned in point #1.

4. Don't hoard products. There's no need to amass huge stores of razor blades, soap, or creme; buy enough supplies for a few months or a year, but don't overstock. Buy things you need and then actually use them up. Buying product you don't need is just wasting money. The world of shaving supplies is not going to dry up by the time you use up what you have and you will be able to get more. Remember what I said about using the commonly-available, drugstore type products? Yep, this is another reason why I chose that focus. Cherished products will occasionally disappear (RIP Palmolive Classic shave stick), but by and large the old standards or something similar will be available. It also gives you an everlasting source of gift ideas for folks who want to know what to buy you for your birthday, Christmas, Father's Day, or whatever gift-giving occasion is being celebrated.

So having said all that, what shaving stuff do I have right now? I just ran out of cartridges for my Trac II and Bic 5 handles, so here's what I have on hand right now:
  • Wilkinson Sword Classic DE razor
  • 5-pack of Wilkinson Sword blades
  • RazoRock Hawk v2 AC-style SE razor
  • 2 packs of Feather AC Pro blades
  • RazoRock BC Silvertip Plissoft synthetic brush
  • EJ synthetic travel brush
  • 1 tube of C.O. Bigelow cream (almost used up)
  • 3 100ml tubes of Palmolive Classic creme
  • 1 can of Barbasol
  • Apothecary mug
  • Cade shaving soap dish
Other than a couple of Gillette Guard razors and cartridges for my wife, that's it. I really do strive towards the minimalist mindset as far as shaving goes, but I do like a bit of variety as well.
 

A week with the Gillette Guard​


I've been dipping my toes back in the pond of traditional wet shaving, using a RazoRock Hawk v2 with Feather AC Pros and a Wilkinson Sword Classic with the WS blades it came with. I'm getting pretty darn good shaves, considering how rusty my technique is, but even so I've been giving myself a bit of razor burn. I'd purchased a couple of Guard handles and a goodly supply of carts because my wife likes them for leg/body shaving, so I pinched one of the handles and a six-pack of carts and decided to try the Guard for a week with my trusty synthetic brush and C.O. Bigelow cream. I'm not a complete stranger to the Guard as it was my travel razor of choice a few years back, but I've never really used it as a daily driver.

The first day I did my normal two-pass cartridge shave (WTG, ATG) for a very comfortable shave, although not as close as I would like. The second day, I had a really good lather going and I decided to see what would happen if I threw in another pass or two after my first WTG pass. I lathered up and ran through a couple of XTG passes in opposite directions and was surprised at how close the shave was and still felt nothing while shaving, even on my neck. I closed out with an ATG pass and was left with a super close shave that lasted at least 12 hours. I've never gotten results like that from the Guard before and I was amazed, considering the total shave time was about five minutes. Zero irritation or razor burn, no nicks, weepers, anything, just a delightfully close and comfortable shave.

To save typing, days three through seven were exact repeats of the second day. I changed the cartridge today but I could probably have run the first cartridge another week before I really needed to switch it out. I've used the Guard in the past but have never gotten such consistently good results from it before. Today's three-pass shave (WTG, XTG, ATG) on a new cartridge was just as good as the previous six or so shaves.

I want to use the whole package of carts before I render a final verdict (also, I have another razor from UNO Shave Co. on the way that I want to re-evaluate after a lackluster first trial), but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't considering switching to the Guard full-time.
 

A week with the UNO Shave Co. cartridge razor​


Following on the heels of my week with the Guard, I decided to try a week with another single-blade cartridge razor, this time the UNO Shave Co. offering. I've posted a few times in the past about this razor and I'd come away underwhelmed. In the spirit of adventure, and because I hadn't bought a new toy in a while, I decided to order another and give it another go. The first five shaves were with one cartridge and I loaded a fresh one this morning.

I'm not going to describe the razor here (you can go to the company's web site for that, or start with this thread if you like), other than to say it's a very well-made and stylish razor, comfortable in the hand, and still a bit fiddly to load and change carts. After a solid week with this razor, here are my current thoughts on the razor, listed in no particular order.
  • The blade is really smooth is use and the head of the razor is easy to maneuver around your face and get into all the tight spots
  • The head rinses quickly and cleanly with no clogging.
  • It's a little trickier to use than the Guard because the head doesn't pivot and you actually have to maintain the blade angle during the shave, much like you would with a DE. Mashing it on your face and dragging it around like a typical cartridge isn't going to work, but you do have a visual indicator of the blade angle you need built in to the color scheme of the cartridge.
  • Like the Guard, I found myself able to do three or four passes with no problems whatsoever and achieved a very smooth shave. Today, I did a two-pass shave (WTG and ATG) just to see if I really needed the extra passes and got an excellent result on par with the previous shaves.
  • I found myself using a little more pressure with this razor than I do with the Guard or other cartridge razors, which is probably me trying to maintain the angle. I didn't get any irritation or anything from doing this, however.
So what's my verdict?

In short, I like the UNO much better now than I did in the past. It was worth spending a week getting accustomed to the razor and now I think I know how to make it work for me. The razor comes with a dozen cartridges to get you started; my first cart lasted five shaves, but I think I could have gotten another couple of shaves from it before I really needed to change it. At $10 for a dozen carts and assuming an average of seven shaves per cart, that's about $0.12 per shave. It's not quite as cost-effective as the Guard, but I have to say it looks nicer on the side of my sink and I wouldn't mind this as my daily shaver. It would also make a great travel option for those who travel carry-on when they fly.
 
Well, my next post was going to be "A week of shaving with the Bic 5 Hybrid"except for a couple of little things:
  1. The Bic 5 wasn't quite as comfortable as I remembered.
  2. I only made three shaves before I went back to the Guard.
I was honestly surprised by the results, because I remembered the Bic 5 as one of the few mutli-blade carts I liked. Now don't get me wrong, I still got good shaves and I didn't experience a ton of irritation or anything like that. However, they were no better than the shaves I was getting with the Guard or the UNO and that was a big surprise; previously, the Bic 5 was my gold standard for closest shave with a cartridge razor. My takeaway from this is that even in the cartridge world, it's tough to beat a good single-blade razor.
 
Well, my next post was going to be "A week of shaving with the Bic 5 Hybrid"except for a couple of little things:
  1. The Bic 5 wasn't quite as comfortable as I remembered.
  2. I only made three shaves before I went back to the Guard.
I was honestly surprised by the results, because I remembered the Bic 5 as one of the few mutli-blade carts I liked. Now don't get me wrong, I still got good shaves and I didn't experience a ton of irritation or anything like that. However, they were no better than the shaves I was getting with the Guard or the UNO and that was a big surprise; previously, the Bic 5 was my gold standard for closest shave with a cartridge razor. My takeaway from this is that even in the cartridge world, it's tough to beat a good single-blade razor.
I just tried the Bic1 and came away pleasantly surprised. One blade is all you need, anything more is a sales pitch.

~doug~
 

First thoughts on the Van der Hagen adjustable razor​

I was doing a little pre-blizzard shopping at my local Giant Eagle last night and wandered down the shaving aisle, as I often do, just to see if anything interesting was on the shelf. I was about ready to head for the checkout when I caught sight of the distinctive orange Van der Hagen package hanging on a low peg. At first I thought it was the normal VdH TTO razor but then I noticed that it was an adjustable Futur clone/knockoff. At $20.99 for the razor, a five-pack of blades, and a sample of shave butter, I could hardly say no and into my shopping cart it went. I unpacked it when I got home and while it's not artisan-quality, the build quality is pretty good; the razor is quite hefty, the matte finish is well done, all the parts fit together nicely, and the mechanism works smoothly.

This morning, I loaded the razor up with my last Wilkinson Sword blade and took it for a spin with some trusty C.O. Bigelow lather. I did my first WTG pass with the razor set to 1 (the mildest setting) and it was quite mild, to say the least. There's not a large shave angle to work with and I had trouble maintaining it, but it was comfortable if not terribly efficient. I lathered up for an XTG pass and did quite a bit better but it still didn't feel terribly effective, so I dialed it up to 2 and went for my ATG pass. This time I had no problem maintaining the shave angle, but I found the razor more prone to bite on this setting and gave myself a couple of nicks, which were easily dispatched with some styptic liquid. I ended up with no burn or irritation and a pretty decent shave.

This is my first adjustable DE razor, so I've got quite a bit to learn about using one. It seems to me the aggressiveness of this razor ramps up pretty quickly and the angle you need changes along with the adjustment. I found myself shaving with a steeper angle than I normally do, but it seemed to work out all right, never feeling like I was scraping my face with the blade instead of shaving with it. I'm not sure I want to go past 2 on the dial, at least until I get used to how this razor shaves, but I think 2 would have been better to start with and then drop to 1 for the later passes.

So far, it seems to be a decent razor and I like it better than the VdH TTO. I'll need more than a few shaves to render an informed opinion, but this will be an interesting experiment.
 
I decided to switch the blade over from my VdH to my Wilkinson Sword Classic this morning and also switched over to Palmolive cream (I used the last of my C.O. Bigelow yesterday). What a shave! Very close and very comfortable other than a little nick beneath my nose during the ATG pass that closed up with a quick dab of cold water. I've still got a couple of spots where I need to work on my technique, but I'm happy to report the muscle memory for DE shaving is starting to return.
 

thombrogan

Lounging On The Isle Of Tugsley.
Hoping your nick heals before St. Nick flies around. Whether Christmas is your thaing (Merry one if so) or not, he’s as judgemental as he is jolly.
 

Returning to shaving minimalism (for the hundredth time)​

I'll be the first one to admit it: I like buying new toys and trying new things. I also like having tidy surroundings without excessive clutter. As you might guess, these desires often come into conflict. With the new year right around the corner, it seems like a good opportunity to pare down the shaving kit once again. In the past, I've always attempted to do it with either a DE or AC razor and I inevitably wind up picking another razor, or another type of blade, or I need to replace the cartridge handle I tossed...and things start piling up again. Now, my definition of "piling up" certainly doesn't come anywhere close to some of the collections folks around here have (and I'm certainly not judging anyone for doing so if it brings joy and one can afford the hobby), but still, I think it's time for a bit of a reset.

I'm going to base this attempt to return to minimal gear on some things I've learned over the past couple of months:
  1. I'm not likely to be a regular DE or SE shaver no matter how much I try. I can't seem to get my technique sharp enough, if you'll pardon the pun, to sustainably shave with a DE or SE every day without building up irritation.
  2. I have no desire to straight shave. I've tried the AC shavettes and while excellent, I'm just not up for doing that every day, nor do I have any desire to maintain a regular straight razor.
  3. Multi-blade carts aren't working as well for me as they used to. I can go weeks without getting irritation, but eventually, they'll get me.
  4. I don't want to spend a lot of money or time on trying to find the perfect razor, soap, brush, or whatever.
So where does that leave me? Here's the daily setup I'm considering:
  • Razor: Gillette Guard. If for some reason I run out of Guard cartridges or can't restock them, the UNO Shave Co. razor is a perfectly acceptable backup option.
  • Brush: RazoRock BC Silvertip Plissoft synthetic brush with an Edwin Jagger synthetic travel brush for backup or travel use.
  • Cream: Palmolive Classic.
  • Soap: Unknown. I'd like to find a good replacement for my beloved Palmolive shave stick. I have a couple of Lea sticks on their way to try out and I'll see what those are like.
  • Miscellaneous: Shave Secret oil for a truly minimalist shave option, witch hazel for the occasional post-shave cooldown, and a styptic pencil or liquid for the rare nick or weeper.
I'll January 2023 GRUME to test drive this setup and hopefully stick with it through the entire 2023 shave purchase sabbatical. I have some other options available for variety's sake, but I think this is about as minimal as I can get.
 
Following up my last post, I'm still doing pretty well on the minimalism front and staying with the single-blade cartridge razors. I've finished off my first six-pack of Guard cartridges and I'm ready to try something different. Starting tomorrow, I'll begin working through a 12-pack of UNO Shave Co. carts. I'm still rocking the Palmolive cream and my trusty brush.

How have the shaves been? Pretty darn good, actually. While I don't think I've had a completely BBS shave yet, all of my shaves have been very smooth and comfortable, and all have easily lasted through the work day. I'm looking forward to finishing off the tube of Palmolive sometime in the next few weeks and switching to a Lea shave stick for a while. I may even open one up early so that I can try it out in combination with both the Guard and the UNO.
 
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