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Eleven Years On

Greetings, fellow travelers.
I joined this forum nearly 11 years ago, hoping to find support and community as I embarked on wetshaving in my early 20s. After a period of experimentation (and some tools supplied by generous B&B members from PIFs) I settled into a routine that produced results that satisfied me at the time, and I dropped off the forum. In the intervening years I have modestly expanded my equipment, though I'm still using the same two brushes from all those years ago. I've seen shaving primarily from a utilitarian, rather than a hobbyist perspective. However, I'm finding that I need to give a little refreshment to my routines. In the last 5 years I'm shaving almost daily, and I hope some new purchases and diligence in documenting my progress will provide me with better results--and perhaps my experience will be valuable to others.

Currently, my equipment is as follows:
RazorsMerkur 34C
Gillette Fat Handle Tech
Gillette Old Type OC
Gillette Flare Tip SS
BrushesOmega 49
TGN Badger in vintage Ever Ready handle
MWF (I've run out, currently)

I use exclusively AstraSP blades, probably for 7+ shaves before replacing--though I don't keep very close track. I've been reluctant to try other blades, but perhaps with a more organized approach I can maintain enough consistency to notice differences between blades.
I've ordered a replacement Omega 49 because mine has been in service for so long, as well as a RazoRock 400. Additionally, I've ordered a RazoRock GC .84 closed comb and Fatip Grande OC. I should probably get another soap into the mix, just for the sake of variety.
In the meantime, the Gillette SS was my most recent purchase and I find myself reaching for it somewhat frequently--especially on days when I need comfort and DFS more than BBS, which I struggle to achieve with the SS without irritation. I'm hoping the new razors I purchased will fill the gap in aggressiveness between the Merkur and the Old Type--I really only reach for the Old Type for WTG passes with heavier growth, I can't recall the last 3-pass where I used the Old Type for the entire shave.

My technique is pretty dialed and consistent--shower followed by Arko as pre-shave, face lathering and a consistent 3-pass with the necessary directional adjustments to accommodate my beard grain pattern. Alum block followed by rinse and balm.

As far as improvement is concerned, I'm hoping I can further refine my technique and get better results in trouble areas. I have delicate skin and struggle to balance comfort with the closeness of shave I seek. I also wonder if face lathering is a source of irritation, that perhaps prolonged skin contact with soap and the abrasion of the brush is contributing to the problem. However, I recall in my earlier days that my attempts at bowl lathering were hugely unsuccessful and I abandoned the method--though I'm sure my technique was lacking. Any recommendations for lighter-scented, gentler, or sensitive-friendly soaps would be greatly appreciated.

In any case, I'm glad to find B&B still kicking after all these years, with the same friendly spirit I remember. And to any newbies reading--life is a marathon, not a sprint.
12/12 SOTD

Since I'm working on being more intentional in my routine, I started today by removing blades from all my razors and giving them a quick scrub with a soft toothbrush and dish soap. Went for the Flare Tip SS and loaded a new Astra SP. I'm not inclined to swap blades between razors, so I'll use the journal to keep count on the number of shaves each blade receives.
Photos is slightly inaccurate as I used Cremo Original rather than the Tabac pictured. Managed to make a better balanced lather than usual today, I often struggle to get the needed cushion out of creams--seems like it only takes a few extra drops of water to make the lather looser than my preference.
Tuned into the local classical station and quickly got into a relaxed headspace.
Standard 3 pass, two weepers, alum finds light irritation along the jawline which I find typical.
Realizing I would like a second balm in the rotation so I get a little more variety. Shave is much closer than I expected, blade change was probably overdue. I'm noticing that I tend to rely too heavily on buffing in the ATG pass, when I can get a less irritated result by simply shaving more slowly with longer strokes. DFS+/BBS- above lip and on neck, true BBS on chin. Felt like the whole process produced natural results and I wasn't chasing any tough spots. With improved technique I hope to get better results on the upper lip.
My typical rotation means tomorrow is a Merkur and Omega shave, though I ought to revisit the Fat Handle Tech, which gets the least attention (even less than the Old Style) and perhaps try a cream with the Boar, or Arko. Need to remember to introduce new variables slowly. Considering the closeness of today's shave, I will consider the milder Tech for tomorrow.
Nice storytelling DC! And you have done amazing equipment coming your way. The Razorock 400 is a lather King - might even persuade you to retry bowl lathering. And the Fatip is just wonderful. Excellent razor.

Arko as preshave? I did not see that coming! I have not tried Arko and the opinions here are quite polarising. What made you decide to use it as preshave? (or does Arko have specific preshave products?).

Thanks for the reminder in the end quote. I am one of those newbies and I have more gear than you…

Cheers, and glad to see you back on board,

Thanks for your interest Guido.
Arko is a phenomenal shaving soap, in my estimation. I know the scent is polarizing, but the lather is always impressive. I think sticks also give excellent shaves by softening and lifting hair at the source, but of course YMMV. And the price is killer.
Years ago I think I received a stick in a PIF, and usually kept it with a travel kit. Since then I have continually restocked, given the excellent results. At some point, it entered my routine as a preshave soap--I apply a very small amount to my wet face, distributed with generous amounts of water--somtimes before a hot towel, sometimes after. It rests on my face while I'm loading my brush, and gets incorporated in face lathering. I think it helps make the WTG pass more efficient, though I'm questioning if it's contributing to any drying or avoidable irritation. None is apparent with today's shave. I've read somewhere (on the forum?) that soap is necessary to strip the whisker of oils, allowing water to penetrate the hair and raise it above skin level--that's what I'm hoping the Arko helps with.
Now I'm just dreaming of a smooth and comfortable Arko shave. Maybe tomorrow.
12/13 SOTD


New Astra SP in the Fat Handle Tech today. I haven't shaved with that razor in ages, so I wanted to keep my regular schedule and went for the Omega and Tabac.
Yesterday's close shave left me with only light growth to remove today. Routine was normal: shower, Arko preshave, built lather. In retrospect I should've done a hot towel to really prep the hair for cutting.
Tabac lathered nicely as it always does. Classical music got me focused--sort of. I had some anxiety about using this razor, as I haven't changed my routines much and I don't reach for the Tech frequently.

WTG goes effortlessly and straightforward as always. XTG reopens one of yesterday's weepers above the upper lip, and I get nipped doing a different approach to XTG between my bottom lip and chin--I was starting the stroke from center>outward. Probably should've kept my directions more "typical" since I was using a less-familiar razor. ATG gives a couple more weepers on the neck, but they're tiny. Chin goes smoothly, but I remain conservative and don't chase the stubble on the upper lip--that can wait for a future shave.
Post-shave is normal, alum makes a little conversation but nothing bracing. I add several drops of Thayer's to the Nivea.
Sitting here writing in the aftermath, I feel a touch of irritation on the neck--nothing that won't subside in the next 20 minutes. Overall, BBS-- across the board, neck and upper lip are little cleaner than yesterday.
Several things to consider in the post-game highlights:
1) consecutive days on new blades might be a challenge, so perhaps a blade will move between razors to give me a little relief.
2) something about the Tech doesn't come naturally, but I'd like to overcome that so I can use all the razors in my repertoire. I'm sure frequency of use will bring familiarity (and eventually, mastery)
3) between the bottom lip and chin is always a problem area. I struggle to contort my face in a way that presents flat surfaces for XTG. Should my standard strategy become WTG>WTG>ATG? I think the area also gets overlapped on earlier WTG passes and the skin becomes particularly delicate. Perhaps the XTG stroke should be more "horizontal" and go from outside>center, before an ATG stroke. Will experiment with a more familiar razor in the near future.

Thanks for dropping by :)
Perhaps the XTG stroke should be more "horizontal" and go from outside>center,
That’s how I approach the area between bottom lip and chin. I use a Gillette Slide on my cheeks until I get to the center piece so to speak. I kind of do the entire area more XTG or slanted rather than WTG or ATG. At least the first two passes. ATG on the top and lower parts separately (so I never do a full stroke ATG from chin to lip - that’s not going to fly on my face).

12/14 SOTD


Simple and easy, great shave today.
Moved the new AstraSP out of the SS and into the Merkur 34C, gotta say I'm relieved that I made that choice--blade is much more comfortable on shave #2.
Typical prep, remembered to use a hot cloth today before diving in. Listened to the last couple movements of The Nutcracker, 'tis the season.
Only used Arko today (in honor of Guido :) ) always a great lather--although I was a bit sparing in the amount of soap, could've been more generous and had a fuller lather for the final pass.
Despite that, it was great to return to the Merkur and I had an excellent shave, 1 weeper but much less irritation than yesterday. Upper lip is BBS-- but everywhere else is BBS/BBS+. Passes under the lip toward the chin felt controlled and comfortable, much smoother than yesterday. Tiny sting from the alum, but how else do you know it's working? Nice feeling of confidence after returning to my most-used razor.
12/15 SOTD

No photo because it's the same equipment I've been using (one of the drawbacks of a limited toolbox).

Very light beard growth after a nice, close shave yesterday.
Moved the AstraSP out of the Tech into the SS, so this is shave #2 on this blade.
Typical prep, upbeat soul music accompanies a hot towel.

Used Cremo Original with the Omega, which I haven't done for a long time. I think the lather had too much water or not enough cream, because I ended up with a pretty loose, low-cushion and quick-dissipating lather. Could've sworn I used enough product, but I find Cremo to be kinda finicky compared to hard soaps.
Shave goes straightforwardly, WTG always is really fast with the SS but I also feel like it barely removes any hair--probably just the mildness of that razor. XTG encounters no issues, but ATG I hit some snags; open up a bleeder near the corner of the lip, which I take as an indicator not to chase perfection and wrap things up. I should've considered the state of the lather (which continued to deteriorate throughout the shave) and taken more conservative paths in the ATG pass.

Alum easily handles a couple small weepers on the neck and the bigger nick near the lip. Not much more tingle than yesterday. Ready to head to work. Cheeks, chin, and jawline are BBS- with DFS+ on upper lip. Below and beside the lower lip is probably closer to DFS, but I am happier to have bits of stubble than a bunch of weepers.

Moral of the story: I am experienced enough to change strategy mid-shave if conditions are not ideal. I should pay better attention to the quality of my lather and adjust expectations accordingly.
12/16 SOTD

Light+ growth today, usual routine with shower and hot towel. Daft Punk's "Discovery" is the accompaniment.

Using the Merkur, keeping the same blade so it's shave #3 on this Astra. Changing the brush and soap approach from my usual, so it's the badger brush with Tabac--I basically exclusively use boar on hard soaps. Inexperience lathering with badger + hard soap is somewhat apparent, the results have good cushion and bulk, but there's just not quite enough for 3 passes--so I have to apply somewhat sparingly.
Unsure if it's the lather or wear on the blade, but XTG feels "draggy." Perhaps the lather was underhydrated. ATG feels labored and I'm careful not to push my luck. Two or three weepers appear without any pain, dehydrated winter skin is likely a contributing factor.
Alum gives a little tingle, I rinse and apply balm + witch hazel. Feeling my face now, I have BBS- on chin and upper lip (above average for my upper lip) but below the jawline it's closer to DFS+. So the results were pretty good, despite feeling like the shave was more of a struggle than a leisure.

Off to run errands and then headed to work. Have a good weekend, friends.
12/17 SOTD

Medium- growth, I guess yesterday's shave was not as close/durable as I thought at the time. After a shower I put on "By Your Side" by Breakbot and prepare for the shave.

It's an Omega day, and I choose to use some old soap scrap (I think it's AOS Lavender and MWF bits) along with Arko. Lather was good, but not in quite enough quantity--I'm noticing a pattern here.
I reach for the SS, the Astra in that razor is now on shave #3. All goes quickly on WTG and XTG, which is typical for the SS. But I'm starting to recognize the razor's limitations--Those first two passes aren't terribly efficient or effective, and I don't know if there's any technical compensation for that. So ATG is slow and methodical, can't tell if it's the razor or the blade struggling to mow things down.
Either way, a couple tiny weepers later, I have an all-around close shave with light irritation in the usual places. BBS- nearly everywhere. I think the milder razor probably calls for a newer or sharper blade to compensate. Tomorrow I might only do a two-pass and shoot for DFS to give my skin some recovery time.

Work beckons. Be well.
12/18 SOTD

Light- growth, yesterday's shave was apparently more thorough/durable than I previously thought. Absolutely drained from work, I approach the shave with the intention of doing a two pass and giving my face some recovery. A podcast babbles in the background.

It's back to the Merkur with Astra on shave #3. TGN badger whips the Cremo Original into what appears as reasonable lather, but over time something deteriorates and it has very little cushion. I felt like I used twice as much cream as normal, even. Where did it all go? WTG pass has acceptable lather and goes easily, but the XTG is needlessly difficult, lots of re-applying the thin lather just to have some kind of cushioning. My technique and conservative outlook for the shave pay dividends, only one weeper. Alum raises no sensation. DFS to DFS- everywhere.

All these old routines are about to get mixed up--new razors arrived. Next week I become a novice again.
12/19 SOTD


Best shave in recent memory.

Medium growth today. Loaded up a new Astra SP in my brand new RR GC .84SB. Usual prep with shower, hot towel, and light application of Arko before building Tabac lather with the Omega.
From the outset I planned to go with two passes and potentially use a different razor for cleanup if I was having difficulty, figuring that I might struggle to manage the increased aggression/bladefeel/exposure. Popped on "In Our Heads" by Hot Chip.
Lather looks spectacular today, plenty of bulk and the right thickness, definitely made enough for 3 passes.
The moment the GC hits my face, I'm floored. I have to remind myself to move at a methodical, careful pace. I can tell the wider gap makes for a larger variety of "workable" cutting angles than I'm used to. But despite this being my first shave with this razor, it feels comfortable and familiar (though shockingly heavy in the hand, compared to the rest of my collection).
WTG goes flawlessly, so I move into XTG with some caution. My anxieties are quickly put to rest, as the razor efficiently and comfortably goes about its business. After completing the pass, I figure the conditions are begging for ATG, let's give it a try.
Incredibly smooth, effortless ATG with zero weepers. I think it's the first ATG that I've ever had, in my entire experience, where I have no moments of irritation or weepers.
Alum finds nothing, the smoothness is uncanny. A very consistent BBS with a couple BBS- spots on the back of the jawline and above the upper lip.

My fear of changing my routines, especially trying more aggressive razors has melted away. Perhaps it was the key to closer, lower irritation shaves all along. Will be interesting to see how this razor fares over the life of this blade. I have another new razor (FaTip Grande) but will wait to bring it into rotation for another week. Hopefully I grow enough beard to warrant a shave tomorrow. I'm relieved that my technique is sufficient to get good results with this new equipment. For now, I am basking in the glow of a distinctly satisfying shave.

May you have the same.
The Game Changer has quite a following here and your review is consistent with what I am reading about the GC.

The Fatip is a different beasty and a very effective razor. Some experience blade alignment issues which is something to be aware of when shaving with the Fatip. I love mine!


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