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Explain "Efficiency" to me...


Head Cheese Head Chef
Perhaps I'm opening a can of worms. But why not. What does efficiency mean where DE or SE razors are concerned?

At face value I would think that a more efficient razor would remove more whiskers with less effort...

Efficient = achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.

I find efficiency to be somewhat of a variable in my den. I would consider my Merkur 37c to be my most "efficient" razor for shaving several days growth. I don't know if it is the gap or the slant, but a WTG pass seems to reduce my beard considerably more than my other razors (straights and Artist Club/shavettes aside). After the first pass the "efficiency" proves more elusive.

I could, and do at times, make a 2nd XTG pass and a 3rd ATG pass with the 37c. Across the grain I'll be OK but the final pass against is not efficient. Why isn't that second or final pass more efficient you may ask. Because I am now working harder to keep myself from nicks or harm. It's not that I can't, but it takes MORE effort. Alas that is by definition inefficient.

Given the same days growth I can shave with one of my Techs. 1st pass will leave more behind, second pass will break even and my final pass will undoubtedly result in, at minimum, a DFS if not baby booty smooth.

I'm sure many will say that just by stating that my 1st pass with a more aggressive razor resulted in an increased reduction in whiskers that is more efficient. I would say that, for me, if I take efficient at its definition that is not necessarily the case.


Lounging On The Isle Of Tugsley.
If we make “efficient” a more nebulous phrase for “the razor makes your whatever you shave end up with the post shave you wanted in the least amount of time,” then a person’s most efficient razor will usually be the one that individual uses most often. Maybe it’s a Blackland brass Blackbird, maybe it’s a VDH Super Speed copy. Could be a disposable.
I think that efficiency in our world is not about effort but rather time to achieve the desired outcome as @thombrogan stated. I tend to measure efficiency (qualitatively as I really have no way to measure quantitatively) in a one pass WTG shave. It is the safest shave stroke as you mentioned. Basically 5 out of 7 shaves are shaves for work and it's a one pass and done except the chin area which always needs more passes. On my days off when I want a very close shave, I care not about efficiency. Taking my time and executing a "perfect" shave is the order of business.

Eben Stone

Staff member
Could be a disposable.
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For me shaving efficiency means the least amount of effort to achieve a desired facial outcome, or the best performance for the same amount of effort. I am lazy by nature so I am always looking for an easy way to do something. For shaving this translates to me as the best shave I can get in one pass or less with targeted touchups.

I subscribe to the below Bill Gates theory of efficiency:

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

We discussed this in @APBinNCA 's journal. It's worth mentioning that back when I started with DE, nobody ever used the term. It seems to be a recent phenomenon. I think we are on a similar page on this one.

For me, efficiency = whisker removing ability / unpleasant aggressive characteristics.

Apparently, this is not what other people mean. There seems to be a widely held view that efficiency = whisker removing ability, i.e. how much hair gets taken down in one stroke. That makes sense to me. However, I find my definition more useful in what it can tell me about a razor.

You can have a razor that has very aggressive geometry and, as a result of that, it is able to remove a lot of hair. Many folks would say that makes it an efficient razor. But if it does that accompanied with lots of flex, chatter and harshness, to me that is not efficient. (Exhibit A: the R41).

Conversely, you can have a razor that is not that aggressive, but seems to be very effective at removing hair given how mild and comfortable the razor is. Even if it doesn't remove as much hair with one stroke as a very aggressive razor, the fact it does its work so effectively, with what seem to be relatively low levels of negative aggressive characteristics, means that it is efficient. (Exhibit B: Pre-war Tech).

Obviously, not everyone has the same experiences with these specific razors, but I use them as illustrations of my point. We all want a razor that is efficient for it's given level of aggression, but we don't all want the same thing in terms of mild or aggressive geometry.
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We discussed this in @APBinNCA 's journal. It's worth mentioning that back when I started with DE, nobody ever used the term. It seems to be a recent phenomenon. I think we are on a similar page on this one.
Thanks for bringing this up and providing a nice summary of what we debated about. I have to warn anybody curious, just stay away from my journal right now. It's turned into a bit of a clown house with an occasional SOTD snuck in! I am not kidding, in fact I need to update my own bookmarks for these useful conversations.
I'm currently trying to make my SHAVING more efficient, rather than trying to use a RAZOR to get more efficiency, if you know what I mean.

I decided, a couple of months ago, that I was likely over-shaving quite a bit. So, I made the conscious decision to only do two passes, and to not do any touch-ups.

The first few times I did this the shaves weren't as close as I was used to, nor were they as close as I wanted. Rather than add back another pass, I altered the way I was doing the two passes to get better results. Then, tried again with the next shave.

Over the course of time I have gotten to the point where nearly every shave is very satisfactory with just the two passes, and it doesn't matter which razor I choose.

So I feel like there can also be efficiency in technique, and not just in equipment.
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Efficiency means different things depending on who you ask around here.

I think high efficiency means you get the results you want in a relatively short period of time.

For a lot of people, efficiency is more or less the same as aggressiveness. This might not actually save you time if you have be extra careful to avoid nicks or irritation.
I think any shaving topic can be considered a can of worms, because shaving might look easy and simple enough on paper, but the whole experience is a bit different for everyone. What we tend to forget or ignore after a while is the fact that we enjoy this unconventional way of shaving, because we tailor it to suit our personal needs, because cartridge and electric razors are not everyone's cup of tea and they don't work equally well for everyone and the same goes with the DE, SE and even straight razors.

I've started DE shaving with very mild razors and I was happy at the time. Then shifted to the higher end of efficiency with razors like R41 for instance and it took me some time to learn how to use them properly, but after a while, I've decided to try the in between. Or at least that's what I like at the current moment and things might shift towards very mild or very aggressive razors at some point, who knows?

For me, efficiency means that I have to do less strokes and less/as little or no touch up at all. A 3 pass shave is what I've been doing for years now and I see no reason to change it. It takes me somewhere between 10-15 minutes, which is quite acceptable on my book. I like razors that combine a very high efficiency and at the same time are also very smooth with a moderate blade feel that allows me to go across my face in any direction without getting the slightest hint of irritation, cuts, nicks, weepers etc.


I shaved a fortune
For me, I like what I call "Mild to Medium but efficient" razors... razors that give me a 12 hour shave in comfort... very light alum sting at the end, no whiskers popping through on my chin or mustache area for 12 hours.

I started with the Claymore Evolution... I had never paid attention to whiskers reappearing. It wasn't on my radar. @Mr. Shavington was the first to tell me the 12 hour shave was his personal goal. I've told the story many times but Richard bought a Claymore Evolution, at least in part, to help me along my shaving journey. He got 10 hour shaves from the Claymore Evo and I started paying attention and found out... that's how long my shaves with it were lasting as well.

Since then, I've added a few razors that are all what I call a half a step up in efficiency. They would never be called aggressive or even highly efficient, but they took me from 10 hours to 12, repeatedly...over the last year and a few months... A relaxing, smooth, comfortable yet close shaves are my goal.... I have a few razors now that provide that.
Well, let's start with what's "inefficient" at least for me...an example would be repeated passes until the desired result is achieved or gotten as close to as possible. Right now anything OVER 3 passes with some buffing (for the always problematic areas) is inefficient in my mind. The PILS razor, while beautifully designed, falls into that category for me.
Also with repeated passes can come irritation, soreness and at times frustration which can result in possibly changing techniques or compensating for the razors capabilities. I should say that all my razors require slight differences or adjustments in technique. But nothing that isn't almost intuitive.
Time doesn't enter this for me because that would mean trying to be faster in all areas (prep, soap & brush selection:laugh:, blade choice, razor etc) which defeats my shaving for enjoyment and self pampering to increase efficiency.



Remember to forget me!
I take comments about a razor being efficient, as a watered down, frilly around the edges way of saying that it's an aggressive razor. Personally, I don't pay too much attention to that, as my focus is elsewhere.

I want to know if I am efficient with that razor. The focal point being what the operator is capable of, not the kit. I might be more efficient or less efficient with "Razor X" than someone else is. That someone else might be the reverse of me with "Razor Y". The razors are the same, but being handled differently. On different beards.

As such, I read a post saying "Razor X is more efficient than Razor Y" as someone not taking their own personal biases into account. My current razor is a RazoRock Game Changer 68, which is a very mild razor. However, I am now quite efficient with it. I have "wiped away" five days growth with it, and still got an irritation free, near dolphin smooth shave with it, in little more than two passes.

My efficiency in shaving with that item, has greatly increased with time and practice. The razor's properties have not changed.
I shave every day, and I always do a two pass shave plus touch-ups. Within those parameters, efficiency is a measure of the closeness of the resulting shave. Aggressiveness is how smooth the razor feels while I'm shaving and how much irritation or damage it inflicts during the shave. I also include in my measure of aggressiveness how careful I feel I need to be with the razor to avaoid cuts or nicks.

Both of these measures are not only subjective, but they are also unlikely to be entirely relevant to anyone else. Variations in technique, beard growth, skin type, etc. can easily result in my efficient and non-aggressive razor being someone else's inefficient nightmare razor.


Lounging On The Isle Of Tugsley.
If I go too long between using a particular razor I’ve tamed and using it as though it was the previous shave, it can be my smooth nightmare. Like having a bottle of Colt 45 malt liquor the night before my work week starts. Or having a bottle of Colt 45 right before said shave…
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