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For New Shavers, the JCinPA's How to Get Off to a Right Start Guide!

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
This was definitely way before my time here. What was the purpose? Super hot "bloom" water?

For the most part, shaving is shaving. We all use a razor, lather product and razor of our preferred type, the process is fairly similar with a few twists like use or don't use a preshave product, but for the most part we all do pretty much the same thing.

Every now and then, however, like in anything else, I suppose, some fad takes hold and runs through the community like wildfire. Nowadays, most members agree temperature of shaving water has zero effect on your shave comfort or quality. Very hot water can set some with sensitive skin up for irritation, and some guys actually like to cold water shave in the summer. As long as your face is properly hydrated you are good to go, hence the popularity of shaving right after a shower.

But maybe because someone posted a youtube video of a barbershop shave about ten years ago where they were using super hot towels before the shave, everyone started saying you just had to hold a hot towel to your face before shaving. Well, you guessed it, people noted the barbershops had towel heaters, and it was off to the races! People were posting putting electric tea kettles in the bathroom so they could get scorching hot water for their towels. Folks posted pictures of their small microwaves in the bathroom, where they'd zap a wet towel before slapping it on their face.

Older forum members will remember this, I think. But like most stupid stuff, this was a flash in the pan and died out pretty quickly. First, it was a PITA to do this. Second, it probably caused a lot of excess heat neck irritation, but the fad didn't last more than a few weeks, as I recall. Now we're back to just splashing water on the face before the shave.
 
So, this is an enthusiastic wet shaving community, full of wonderful and helpful people! We'll give you advice on Double Edge (DE) razors! DE razor blades! Single Edge razors (SE), and SE blades! Straight Razors (SR) and hones, stops, and everything SR shaving! And we'll get you started with a dozen soaps and creams, a dozen blade sampler, how to get started in collecting vintage razors! You name it, we will help you! :lol:

Except it may not be too helpful right at the beginning. Razor geometry varies dramatically, blades vary incredibly in sharpness, smoothness, and longevity. Some products lather easily, others are a little tougher, and some may irritate your skin.

The problem with all of this is you can be smothered by extremely experienced shavers who are incredibly well-meaning, but they can overwhelm the beginning wet shaver, and greatly lengthen your learning curve. So herewith, some guaranteed tips to get you started easily and successfully. I don't pretend to have patented The Way, but it is a good way to get your shaving legs under you.

1. Get ONE razor and stick with it for a month of shaves. That means about 25-30 shaves. If you shave twice a week it will take longer, but do not change razors for your first 25-30 shaves.

2. Get ONE blade, and stick with that for the first 25-30 shaves.

The reason for this is that you are learning a new skill. It's not rocket science, but it is a new activity and involves fine motor skills, and you are scraping a sharp blade across sensitive areas of your neck. You need to limit all variables in the shave so that your first 25-30 shaves are focused on building your skills and learning your face and beard growth.

I recommend getting a popular mild-medium razor that is favored by a high percentage of us to start with. The King C. Gillette is a good choice. An Edwin Jagger DE89 or Muhle R89 are good choices (exact same heads). A Merkur 34C is a good choice. In vintage razors, a Gillette fat-handle tech or plain Super Speed Flare tip are good choices, but get one razor and stick with that for 25-30 shaves. It really is not a big deal which one you start with as long as you avoid very aggressive razors. Avoid open comb razors at the start.

I recommend a popular smooth blade, the Astra Superior Platinums are a good and economical choice. Might you find a better blade later? Of course. But the problem with blade samplers in the beginning is you have not locked down your technique, and when the blades start feeling way different you won't be able to determine if it's your technique or the blade that is the issue.
After this post everyone will tell you I'm wrong, some will tell you they hate the ASP, some will tell you that YOU have to find your own blade, and none of them are wrong, per se, but I'd ignore them if I were you. Whatever blade you start with will, in fact, not be the blade you run with 6 months from now, but I'd make two points.

a. You can't know, a priori, which blade will be your favorite, and no matter how vociferously someone else argues they have found blade nirvana, it may not be the same for you, so it really doesn't matter what blade you start with, does it?

b. The blade is one of the two most important factors in how you feel the shave after the razor. Blades feel so different that if you are jumping through a blade sampler and start getting uncomfortable results you won't know if it's the blade or your technique. The rest of us who have been at this would. We can judge blades, you cannot. Yet. So stick with one blade.

3. Lower the heat!

You do not need to prep your face with hot water. A few years ago people were keeping tea ketttles in their shave dens to heat up their face towels with hot water to prep for the shave. A nice shower is good prep. If you don't do that, by all means hold a wet towel to your face for a while, but warm water will do fine. Temperature will have no effect on your shave, but super hot water in the prep will set you up for irritation. Comfortably warm is fine. Cool is fine. Trust me, it won't affect your shave.

4. Use some easy, less scented lather products.

You won't know this for a while, but some folks get skin irritation from products most of us don't react to. Cella's almond scent sets some people's skin off, for example, albeit rarely. Some folks have a reaction to lanolin or bentonite clay. Lavender and other scents can cause skin irritation. I'd stick with very low scent products, like Taylor of Old Bond Street Jermyn Street or even their unscented shaving cream, or Haslinger's Schafmilch soap, stuff like that for the first 25-30 shaves. Cella Extra Extra Bio, I think, is an excellent choice, as well.

5. A good synthetic brush is a good starter brush, and economical.

And it dries out quickly and thoroughly after every shave. Set up your den with one razor, one blade, one brush, one or two lather products, and shave for a month of shaves, 25-30, and you'll be successfully having close comfortable shaves in no time at all.

THEN go nuts! Collect razors! Get a blade sampler! Try a dozen lather products! Try a Straight! Try a vintage injector! You'll probably be hooked and have a blast. I highly recommend YouTube videos by a guy who goes by Mantic59 and another called GeoFatBoy. Both will get you started off right.

Please understand I am not denigrating any of the tips experienced shavers share around here, and they all want to help. But it can be overwhelming and can really undermine early success for new shavers, IMO. Lock yourself in, read and watch all you can, but do not change anything for your first month of shaves, and you'll cut months off your learning curve. I guarantee it.

Good luck and good shaves!

P.S. I almost forgot! Use whatever after shave products you already use and like, when you start this learning process. Some folks are adamant that you need balms, and others just love the alcohol splashes (I'm in the latter camp). But use what you already like at first, there is no need to change that. You'll be playing with after shave products soon enough. One thing I do recommend, though is to get some Thayer's Witch Hazel with Aloe, unscented and skip the alum block at first. They do the same thing, essentially, but the WH is a lot less irritating for many of us. This is all about the easy start guide. I finish with the Thayer's witch hazel followed by an after shave splash. Get yourself a styptic pencil, though, those stop nicks a lot faster than an alum block. Put the alum block in the "play with later category", along with the blade sampler, if you want.
Really good advice and Newbies should follow these guide lines for technique improvement. K.I.S.S (Keep it Simple Shaving) works for me and many others.
 
Very nice write-up indeed! Also, the add'l tips from others. I'm glad I stumbled onto this thread. I've been DE shaving off/on for several years, and due to my own impatience have not mastered it. I am determined to get it tho!
 
All great advise. With all the choices in razors I have, there is always something to be learned with a Fixed Four. Stick with the same tools for a month of shaves.
1) Razor
2) Blade
3) Soap
4) Brush

Man I need a shave

Doug
 

JCinPA

The Lather Maestro
Very nice write-up indeed! Also, the add'l tips from others. I'm glad I stumbled onto this thread. I've been DE shaving off/on for several years, and due to my own impatience have not mastered it. I am determined to get it tho!

And you will!!! I did not mention this, but this advice is good for not-so-new shavers, as well, if at the beginning you went the rotate between 6 razors and a blade sampler routine. I found this out by accident when I got bored here and just went to shaving every day with one razor, one blade, two brushes, and just a few lathers for several years. I could shave in my sleep now.

It does not take that long, but if you want to hone your technique, settle in with one razor and blade for a couple months and concentrate on being present in the shave, and your technique will skyrocket. If you've been at this a while, and have lathers you like, use whatever, you're past the lather learning stage now. Just a month of shaves or maybe two, is all it takes.

Ironically, once you've done that, you can go nuts and you'll be able to shave with anything. In the last couple of months, I've shaved with my birthday Red Tip, a fat-handle tech, a 1940's super speed, a 1950's flare tip super speed, a Gillette FatBoy, and two Schick injectors, an M and an E type. And I'm running through a blade sampler again. If you start out this way, you'll never be able to shave as well as you could. But if you start out locked down, then all this playing around becomes very fun, and you end up being able to get close and comfortable shaves with just about anything.

I'm certainly not opposed to variety, after all it is the spice of life. But lock down first.
 
I could see possibly using a kettle to put hot water in a scuttle. But the hot water out of the tap in my bathroom is hot enough for any lather making.
Precisely. I still have a kettle in the bathroom for that purpose. Most workdays the missus takes her bath before me and that can lead to limited hot water for my ablutions. I heat up some water, fill the GP scuttle and then proceed to shower.
 
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