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First Week (a wee log of first DE experiences)


Because of my job, I do shave on weekdays, but I have never particularly enjoyed it. My initial reactions to shaving were to go electric, and I used a Remington for a few years, and a Panasonic. As one could imagine, the shaves were... adequate, but only barely--and the hassle of an electric device badly outweighed the convenience (I went to college at a military academy, and so convenience was at a premium--there was no such thing as a leisurely morning shave).

Shortly after graduation, the frustrations of electric shaving got the better of me, and I moved to cartridge razors (the Gilette Sensor Excel, at the time) and foam-in-a-can and gel-in-a-can. The economics and mess of the gel-in-a-can bothered me, though--not to mention the perils of traveling with something pressurized in a container which travels to altitude.

And so eventually time passed, the cartridge razor evolved to the Mach 3, then Mach 3 Power, and I decided to at least make the switch to shaving soap (and tried a few) and a brush. Because I am a cheap bastard, I took a cheap brush--an Omega boar-bristle brush.

To be honest, the Mach 3 Power + brush lasted me quite a while, particularly when paired with a decent soap (Col Conk's Amber). I have heard many people complain about the quality of the M3 shave; I never really had a complaint (the powered vibro-shave is a strange feel, but not terrible). A few weeks ago, however, two important things happened to make me reexamine my shaving regimen:

1. I ran out of Col Conk and had to try a substitute. The local supply which carried Col Conk's glycerin soaps was out, but had a house brand, which I thought I'd try. To my surprise, the shave was not very good, and to my greater surprise, my face stung afterward. This made me revisit my choice of preparations.

2. The Gilette Fusion razor was announced, to my chagrin and alarm. The price of replacement blades for the M3 was obnoxious; that for the Fusion looked to be prohibitive. This made me revisit my choice of razor.

So, holding my M3/Omega/Shaving Soap in reserve, I laid in about $100 for a Vulfix 2234 Super Badger brush, a Merkur HD Classic, 10 Merkur blades, and a tub of Taylor's Rose--then hit Target for some Proraso cream and "aftershave milk". I took a week off from work for various reasons, and it seemed like as good a time as any to learn the whole wet-shaving drill.

I'd seen a lot of advice from old heads, and a lot of "wow, been shaving for 3 weeks and it's great" posts from new folk, but I thought it would be nice for those contemplating the switch to see some sequential posts about the experience starting from day 1. So here we go.

Excellent idea. I wish you the best of luck as you begin wet shaving, and I look forward to hearing about your progress.

The Kit: Merkur HD/Merkur blade, Vulfix brush, Taylor's Rose cream, Proraso aftershave

The Razor: After hearing so much about the heft and feel of the Merkur, I was frankly expecting something larger. It's solid enough, with good machining, but it's a tiny little thing. Unscrewing the knurl on the bottom let the pieces slide apart easily.

To my surprise, the hardest time I had with the setup was getting the blade out of its wee wrapper! The wax-paper cover is lightly stuck to the blade, which means getting the wrapper off is a bit trying the first time out, because I was also terrified of bending the blade (the blades are quite flexible, but I've accidentally dinged a cartridge blade with an almost invisible effect which scored grooves on my face--so I was very careful). I eventually gave up trying to do it neatly and basically ripped the paper off the blade--inelegant, but it works.

I was a little surprised at the curve of the blade, but of course that makes good sense, since you want the same angle on both sides--the blade has to curve in order to do that. Good so far.

The Brush: I had scoffed for some time about the very idea of a $50 shaving brush. My Omega was doing just fine, wasn't it?

The answer, in short: no. The Vulfix was much, much softer and more pleasant. While I haven't tried the Omega with the Taylor's Rose, the combination of a good cream and the badger brush produced a superior lather. It's a very different effect, actually--the firmness of the Omega was actually not bad (it felt like you were "working the lather in" and exfoliating a bit), but the warm rich lather and soft bristles of the Vulfix was a much more soothing "enfolding" effect. I'd be curious to compare the "lather power" of both brushes, but so far I'm very pleased with the Vulfix.

The Cream: I had tried the Taylor's Rose at the recommendation of several reviews. I do like the smell, but I have to admit that it's very, very powerful. Very. I will certainly use it to its end, but I probably won't reorder it without trying several other scents.

This time, I used a wet brush and dipped the ends in the cream to load the brush. I'm not sure that's the best choice, because it left a fair amount of water on the surface of the tub--probably not disastrous, but I don't like it; I may try scooping a wee dollop out and putting it in the bowl before lathering.

The Bowl: Nothing special--I borrowed a thick-walled chili bowl from the kitchen--sturdy, with a good heft. Besides, this one had a chip in it.

The Shave: This is where things get interesting.

I had not shaved for five days prior to this first attempt. Looking back, I think that's probably not the way to experience your first wet-shave with a DE razor; I had quite a bit of growth. I had wanted to see if the DE had the same "clogging" problems as the cartridges (hint: it does, if not slightly worse). So my first few strokes were a bit frustrating.

Having said that, I was also overly cautious. I had read several posts where folks advised something along the lines of "hold the razor with the handle perpendicular to your face, then tilt it down until the blade just makes contact" in order to find the right angle. Since I was worried about cutting myself, I was too cautious here and made a few strokes with the blade not quite touching my skin. Combined with the 5-day growth, this gave me a few bits of "pulling", which wasn't particularly pleasant but wasn't terrible either.

One thing that surprised me about the Taylor's cream was that it washed clean. Very clean. We have slightly hard water, so "very clean" means that when you draw your hand (or razor!) across your even slightly-rinsed face, you get that "buddabuddabudda" feel. What this meant was that there was no backtracking allowed--the wet razor shaved, and was wet enough to rinse my skin clean enough that going back over the same territory necessitated re-lathering. This was not the case with the M3 and Col Conk soap--the combination of the glycerin soap and the M3 "slime stripe" made backtracking fairly painless. That's not really a hit on the DE, just a different reflex.

I did have to go over areas multiple times to get what approximated a close shave; I'll put that down as first-timer's inexperience. I will say that I did not get a particularly close shave at all, even after multiple tries... but I was being conservative. A more realistic evaluation: I didn't cut or nick myself at all during the entire shave. Hurrah!

The Aftershave: First time I had used a non-alcohol aftershave--I had given up on aftershave treatments due to the "AAAAAH, IT BUUURNS!" feel of alcohol-based post-shave treatments. The Proraso was very pleasant and came in a sturdy glass bottle that just "felt good" to use. Unfortunately I used a bit too much on my first attempt, leaving my face feeling a bit gooey; I rinsed and repeated with a reasonable amount (about a dime/nickel in my palm) and was very pleased with the result; soothing but cooling. Very pleasant.

So: in short, a pretty good introduction, though I'm not completely sold yet. I had to nip into work for 10 minutes to have a group picture taken and mentioned that I had shaved just for the picture--a colleague remarked "wow, and you have a shadow already!" (about 2 hours after the shave). So I'll have to ease into a more aggressive shave and multiple passes (across-the-grain and so on).

Still, Day 1 was pretty painless--which should give any newcomers a bit more comfort if they have any apprehension.

Tomorrow: Same thing, but using the Proraso cream. Should be... cooling.
Mr. Putz (do you have a first name?.... :wink: )

Nice post, and I am sure it will be a help to other new folks. Keep in mind that a single blade, compared with a M3, will not produce smoothness with one pass. Most of us use multiple passes at different directions to get the glass-like shave we crave. For a new person, however, I recommend sticking with one N-S pass for a while so your face can become accustomed to the new regimen. This won't produce a smooth shave, but it will give you time to work on your technique. After you are comfortable with that, you can start adding across- and against-the grain passes.
Scotto said:
Mr. Putz (do you have a first name?.... :wink: )

Nice post, and I am sure it will be a help to other new folks. Keep in mind that a single blade, compared with a M3, will not produce smoothness with one pass. Most of us use multiple passes at different directions to get the glass-like shave we crave. For a new person, however, I recommend sticking with one N-S pass for a while so your face can become accustomed to the new regimen. This won't produce a smooth shave, but it will give you time to work on your technique. After you are comfortable with that, you can start adding across- and against-the grain passes.
Here I thought he was VP of Utz potato chips, so I was going to post:
:em2300: Welcome Chip,
Until you become an old hand at this DE game, you may wish to try 2 N-S (with the grain) passes to get a bit of a closer shave. The game we play is the gradual reduction of the shrub that sprouted since the last encounter with the DE blade game!
Good points!

Originally posted by Scotto:

Mr. Putz (do you have a first name?.... )

I was wondering if I was going to get called on that. Yes, I do: Vic. I have simply been "vputz" on the internet since about 1992 or so, and have simply gotten into the habit of signing electronic correspondence that way!

And do you have a first name, Mr. Cotto? :biggrin:

Originally posted by Guenron:
Until you become an old hand at this DE game, you may wish to try 2 N-S (with the grain) passes to get a bit of a closer shave.

Good point--and luckily, I'm way ahead of you, because of course it is...


The cream: Proraso--the stuff in a tube.

For roughly the same amount of cream as yesterday's Taylor's Rose, I actually got less lather (we have pretty hard water, so in both cases about 20 swipes with the brush netted me about a brush's worth of lather--enough to coat my face twice, but not much more).

The consistently of the lather from Proraso seemed... gooier. I'm not sure how better to put it--just a bit more "sticky". It had a good consistency and I think was a teeeeny bit slicker than Taylor's after a pass with the razor (and so supported a bit of backtracking, but that's a habit I should get out of anyway).

What surprised me about the Proraso was the eucalyptus oil. I had read here and elsewhere about its cooling effect, but the magnitude of the cooling effect was greater than I'd expected. Very eye-opening--and the end-of-shave rinse with moderately cool water felt like I'd dipped my face into an ice bucket. Bracing!

But--it did produce a very good shave, and it's less expensive than the Taylor's (and can be got at Target) so I think it would make a good "everyday" cream--and frankly I like the cooling effect (though having called it an everyday cream, I think I wouldn't like the cooling effect every day, which is another good reason to have a rotation rather than a "use the bottle/tub until its gone without varying things" strategy).

The scent is, well, very "barbershoppy", for lack of a better term. I'm not sure which I prefer more--the extremely powerful rose scent of the Taylor's or the sterile "barbershop" scent of the Proraso. They both have their place. I think that (because the eucalyptus is so potent) the Taylor's is the kindest to new shavers, but the Proraso is a good product and I'll keep it around.

The Shave:

Emboldened from yesterday's success, I went for two passes--with the grain and across (not against) the grain. Like everyone's face, mine has grain which performs all kinds of logistic miracles--straight down at the sideburns, horizontal at my jawline and sides of neck, and straight up at the bottom of my neck, which means that the term "N-S pass" is a bit misleading. Shaving across the grain was a little bizarre in some areas, but worked quite well.

I paid special attention to the sound of shaving this time (which may get me to turn off my bathroom heater while shaving). The aural cues were very useful in telling me when I was actually cutting hair--which is handy, since of course by the time your second pass comes around you've had to lather up again and can't see what's what. Sound cues were very helpful.

Traversing the Reversal: I'm pretty sure everyone has to deal with this, but I have a line across my throat where the hair pointing down from the chin and the hair pointing up from my chest collide in a sort of rude fault line. This had been a tricky area for the M3, because no matter which way I approached it I would get some pulling as the shave went abruptly from "with the grain" to "against the grain". The Merkur handled it with aplomb.

This is when I had a bit of a revelation, one of those things which is hideously obvious to a regular wet-shaver but a bit opaque to a newcomer.

You see, I had been comparing the with-the-grain shaves of the M3 and the Merkur and ignoring against-the-grain. Against-the-grain shaving is something that the M3 couldn't do, so I hadn't thought of it much. Commercials for the Gilette cartridge razors invariably show a young fellow shaving a strip of lather up the length of his neck under his chin to the tip (upward), a maneuver which would have pulled like mad on my face. Against-the-grain shaving was simply a special effect, as far as I was concerned.

Yes, this is probably horribly obvious to you, but it was interesting to me because In an arena of one-pass with-the-grain shaving, the cartridge razor wins, and that's the arena I was coming from. Of course the cartridge wins! That's what Gilette has been specializing in: making a decent shave as simple as possible. Simple means one-pass, with the grain. I don't blame Gilette for this: it's what they do; it's like blaming Windows for dumbing down the user interface for computers: of course they do it--it's what they do!

By assuming some of the risk and the burden of learning, the wet-shaver gets a simpler tool which allows for more flexible use (read: across/against the grain). If the cartridge razor is the Windows of shaving, the DE is the Linux of shaving--a slighly longer learning curve, but easier to use once you get the hang of it, and producing better results (I suppose if you wanted to continue this metaphor, the Shick Injector would be the Ubuntu Linux of shaving, and I suppose the straight blade would be the Gentoo or BSD of shaving, but this has gotten out of hand already...).

An exterior observer (my wife) feels that the current shave is on par with what I was getting earlier, which to me is very good results from two days. If I was sensible, I'd keep this up for a few more days, but there's been no irritation, and so I'm going to try three passes to-morrow. But first, because it was bothering me in the car...

Yet Another Brief Treatise on the Economy of Wet-Shaving

This has been done before, but I wanted to do it myself and see how it compared. In short--how long before wet-shaving becomes a better deal than cartridge razors based on pure economy? Ignore the creams, because you could use creams with either setup; just focus on the hardware. Making it more "worst-case", I'll ignore that I bought the Omega brush with the cartridge. Assume one change of blades per week to keep things simple, and rough prices (ie not buying blades in quantity).

My old kit:
Fixed Costs:
Mach 3 Turbo: $12
Continuous costs:
Blades: 4 for $10, or $2.5/week​

My new kit:
Fixed Costs:
Merkur HD Classic: $30
Vulfix 2234: $60​
Continuous costs:
Blades: $10 for $5, or 0.5/week​

12+2.5x=90+0.5x -> x=39 weeks

So in about 9-10 months, even buying DE blades at $5 for 10, you've broken even, and every year after that you will save $104 in blades.


In truth, I tended to use my cartridges far beyond a week because of their cost, to the detriment of my face--I'm much more likely to swap out DE blades every week since they're so cheap (and quality blades can be had at better prices than $0.50 each!). So, on only day 2 I have a comparable shave, a significant economic motivation, and no injuries so far.

Oh, and I made myself a manly shaving stand out of 1/2" PVC pipe. But that's another post.


I am very interested in seeing how this turns out. I guess I must consider myself a shave-geek since checking the posts on this site has become the norm for me- instead of reading the paper. I'll be waiting for your wednesday post.

i noticed you said you did 20 swirls of the cream before you used it.

next time, try lathering it up for a full 2 minutes. i think it'll work better. you can add a touch of water if you think it needs it. that will produce a bit more cream.
Two minutes of working the lather, eh? That might explain some of my problems...


The Shave: Back to Taylor's Rose. This time I scooped a dollop out of the tub into the shaving bowl instead of transferring it with the brush. Not much of a difference in lather consistency, but I did get a pretty anemic lather--easy to believe if one of my problems is simply a lack of lather-working.

I'm not sure if there's any real difference between "pick up some cream with your brush" and "scoop out a dollop with your finger" except that with the latter route you don't drop as much water atop your cream. It certainly is more fussy, though, so if the cream is OK with a bit of water on it, I think I'll stick with the brush delivery.

With the grain--easy and comfortable. Across the grain--easy and comfortable. Against the grain...

Ow. Not a bad ow, but definitely more pulling here and a definite stinging sensation. I persevered--carefully--and was rewarded with a fantastically close shave which has persisted for hours. No nicks, no scraping, although there are one or two reddish blotches on my neck where I probably was a bit more aggressive than my skin wanted me to be.

So on the one hand--well, I was frankly hoping for a completely painless shave against the grain, but on the other hand--it's a great shave, and didn't really hurt much at all (I was just so unaccustomed to pulling that it was a surprise). This is my third day with this blade, so I doubt it's really dull yet--I think that's just the way it is. On the other hand, I'm using some pretty anemic lather--I'll try a longer build tomorrow.

I did learn something new, though...

The Aftershave: I'd read on Cory Greenberg's shaveblog (understanding that it's just one guy's opinion, but sometimes worth reading) that rose hip and jojoba oils made for good aftershaves. I couldn't find rose hip, but I wanted at least one other choice from the Proraso, so I grabbed a $6 bottle of jojoba oil and used five drops, rubbed between the palms, and then all over my newly peeled cheeks.

Very soothing, actually! I'm not sure I'd go this route every day, but the truth is it felt pretty good. The Proraso was good, but felt a bit like it was trying to shrink my face (my face felt "tight" for the next few hours--not bad, but tight). With the jojoba oil, my face felt quite pliable and very soft. I think the Proraso makes a great everyday aftershave treatment, but the jojoba oil is good for when you need to feel soft to the touch. Careful, though--seems easy to get too much and be a bit waxy. Use with restraint.

It was also a good day for the battle of

Brush Vs Brush

As mentioned, I had arrived at this set after having used an Omega boar brush. I'd already written that the badger brush was notable softer and more pleasant, but I wanted to do an actual comparison of the two.

See pic 1 for a photo of the contestants:

The Omega is obviously the giant fellow on the left; my new Vulfix is the wee badger on the right. There's not a great difference in bristle length, but the Omega is obviously bigger.

I wanted to see if badger hair really did hold more water, so I soaked each in the sink, gave one light shake to "dump" the loosely-held water, and wrung each into a pint glass. The Omega (on the left) is cloudy because it's had years to absorb soap and other gunk; the Vulfix has only had a few days of my bad habits. But the difference in water yield is notable; see pic 2.

It doesn't look like much, but given that the badger bristles were shorter (and the knot was smaller), you've actually got a decent amount more in the right-hand glass. I'd think with comparable bristles and knots the badger would hold about twice as much, maybe more. That's more than I expected.

I then tried a short lather test by loading the Omega and giving it a dab of Proraso and 20 swirls (which I now know is probably too little). The result: almost no lather at all (pic 3):

Now, knowing that I'm not working the lather enough, keep in mind that I've been wet-shaving for three days on about 20 swirls of lather with the badger brush. It's been a bit thin, but perfectly usable. So I consider my "is the badger brush really worth it?" question to be well and truly answered.

I also tried (just for the heck of it) trying to build a lather with heated bottled water as opposed to the very hard water out of our tap. The result? Yes, better lather, but not better enough to justify the trouble.

So, tomorrow: second day with against-the-grain shaving, and hopefully a better lather build.

It's worth noting that I'm sold on the wet-shaving concept (for quality of shave and economics, not on the particular enjoyment of the process yet) after three days, which is pretty good return on investment. Now it's just refinement.
Cool post.

Based on your description, I'm thinking your lathering technique needs work. Check out Joel's excellent post: Here

You don't necessarily need boiling water or a heater, but you need to discover the right water to cream ratio and 20 swirls is gonna be way, way too few.

Also, you may want to stick with one type of cream and aftershave for the first few weeks. By switching back and forth with different products, you're gonna make it difficult to distinguish your technique - what's good and what's bad about how you're shaving (ie - blade angle, speed, pressure, direction, etc) because your face feels so different every day.

Good luck.
Agreed on the variation--the reason I'm swapping around so much right now is primarily to try and sample things during my week of vacation, post first impressions of products (so that other new shavers can get some minor feedback), and settle on a standard that I like before pursuing repetition (so far, it looks like the Taylor's for the cream--I like the Proraso but it's a touch face-numbing and I'd rather have full sensitivity while I'm getting things down so that I can feel when I do something wrong. I'll probably move the Proraso into the rotation after a few weeks as summer approaches. I'm undecided on the aftershave yet).

Thanks for the advice-->Vic

Aaah! Blood! Blood!

Well, okay. Barely a nick. But it was about time, really--I was intentionally shaving closer than I probably should have.

The Shave: The last of my permutations, Proraso cream and jojoba oil for aftershave. Three passes (with, across, and against the grain).

It's that last one that gets ya.

Actually, the against-the-grain shave on the relatively flat planes of the cheeks is pretty easy (holding a finger to the back of my jaw to help stretch the skin against the razor prevented a lot of the pulling I experienced yesterday). And to my great surprise, my problem area wasn't around the nose and upper lip as I'd expected, or my neck (which I'd also expected) but rather the immediate underside of the point of my chin, where the skin is relatively loose and difficult to stretch.

However, the fact that I've gotten the rest of it down pretty well is encouraging; the underside of my chin is really the only problem area I have, which is better than I expected on day 4 of DE shaving.

I did, as recommended, whip the lather for longer. The result was thicker lather (as expected and desired) but, I have to admit, not particularly more lather (this using just the water on the brush and a dollop of cream). Part of that could be the hardness of the water involved, but in any case it was plenty of lather for three passes and a thin layer on each, so I'm satisfied.

From this point I'm definitely using just the Taylor's for a few weeks to keep things regular (and the proraso is just a wee bit more bracing than I want in the morning while its chilly--actually got snow this morning). I'm not sure on the aftershave yet; both the proraso and the jojoba oil are pleasant and soothing, so I may just swap off on those; I don't think they make much of a difference in the shave process itself, since obviously they are, er, after the shave.

So, things are settling down nicely; one more day, a weekend for the face to recover a bit, and I'll be wearing it to work on Monday.
OK, now that you kind of got your cream down, add a bit more water. do exactly the same thing, but after you whip it for awhile put some drops of water in. whip it around for awhile and put a couple more in. adding more water should add more volume to the cream. don't add a lot at one time or too much as it will thin out the lather. you can always add more, you can't take any away. this will get you more lather, more than enough for 3 passes.
Oh, it did. Today I had lather falling off my brush, going up my nose, etc.

Yeah, I know... I added too much water at once. But it worked!

And finally, it's...


Last shave of the first week; I go into production mode next week.

The Shave: Taylor's Rose and Proraso Aftershave, for one last look at those.

Better lather, as mentioned earlier; I did use the brush to pick up the cream from the tub, and I just like that better than scooping out some and putting it in the bowl. With a slighly less wet brush, I didn't leave any standing water. Plenty of lather, and decent consistence (though as mentioned above I did get overzealous and add a touch too much water at once, so the lather was a bit runny, though perfectly usable).

I've at least diagnosed some of my neck problems, and they're what I should have expected--changing contours of skin, and my failing to change the angle of the blade enough (I thought I was compensating, but I wasn't). Combining that with a couple of fingers right above my adam's apple to stretch the skin and I was able to get a good shave under the point of my chin (my problem area from yesterday).

Unfortunately, I forgot those lessons around the corners of my mouth, and got two good nicks there--not bad, just embarassing.

I'm still torn on the Proraso aftershave. It's nice, and I suppose does tone the skin, and feels/smells pretty good, but it leaves my face feeling very tight; in terms of feel, I do prefer the jojoba oil. I'll still alternate between the two.

So my first experimental week of shaving comes to an end. Thanks for the support and help folks have offered; been a fun little evolution o' shaving. And hey, at least I brought you the $5 PVC shaving stand...:lol:

It has been a long journey in a short time and you seem a better man for it. I look forward to hearing future epiphanies.

As an a/s treatment, you could use a light coating of jojoba, followed by some proraso. Also, I find that any time I use jojoba (or rosehip seed oil), it is easy to put too much on and get that "oily" look/feel. To combat this, I've been finishing with a dusting of Pinaud shave talc and have really been enjoying the results.
i like dumping all the water out of my brush and just dipping the brush into the tub. you get just a little bit of the cream all over all of the bristles. i think it works a lot better and you are less likely to use too much.
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