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I'm embarking on my SR shaving journey

Be careful when stropping with your Bismarck. Damaging the strop can also easily damage the edge. A properly honed edge is very delicate and can be easily damaged.

Try lowering the attachment of the strop. I prefer my Strops attached at about navel height. It's just a personal preference thing.

Yeah, I think Gravity was taking over before I could flip the razor. Need to find a good attachment point that's waist high
 
Shave #7
Today was my 2nd day with the Bismarck. I stropped about 50 passes before the shave, and it definitely was able to clip hairs from my arm. Got 1 real cheek gash and about 5 weepers (all around my chin area). But overall it just wasn't a very smooth shave.

Obervations
1. I feel really comfortable on the WTG pass. Skin stretching, using both hands, and getting no cuts/weepers at all. Smooth shaving experience.
2. WTG just doesn't reduce much stubble for me (even with a DE).
3. S->N pass on my neck/under chin is super comfortable and confident. But this is where my good/relaxed shaving ends.
4. Across the grain on my cheeks is from lips/nose to ear. I just cannot find a way to do this comfortably yet - I haven't built the muscle memory of which hand, what position for the blade/scales, stretching hand, etc. Whatever I do leads to the feeling of the blade catching/sticking. I'm so concerned with getting the other things right that I'm sure I end up more than a spine width away from the skin.
5. It takes me so long to get through that 2nd pass, that my lather has usually started to fizzle out at the start of a 3rd pass. At that point I should just stop or switch to a DE. (yet I've been too stubborn to remember to do that).
 
When shaving E→W or W→E on the cheeks, I open the scales up about 180° and shave with the scales vertically down. I only shave with my dominant hand.

BTW, ears to nose/mouth is mostly ATG for me.
 
Shave #8:
Much more confident shaving both WTG and XTG. Only went ATG on the cheeks and neck and left the chin alone. No major gashes, but a few chin weepers from the XTG. Shave wasn't particularly smooth and definitely patchy. Finished with a DE razor (ATT H2), and got BBS. Was a refreshing way to end the shave.

One thing I've noticed in the last 2 shaves... If I hold the angle too steep (<1 spine width), the blade feels slow and sticky, like it's trudging through mud. If I open up a bit, it glides more smoothly (but possibly more irritation?). Why is it feeling sludgy?

PS, there's nothing like time with a straight razor to make your DE shaving improve :D
 
You are right about your DE shaving improving with SR shaving experience.

As for your blade angle, that is a typical experience with a SR not having a great edge. A not-so-sharp edge doesn't really shave unless the blade angle is increased. This is like the 30° often mentioned on YouTube. Then it will shave but as you noticed, not that smoothly.

Once you get your blade's edge properly dialled in, you will find that blissful shaving will occurs with a blade angle of ½ to 1 spine thicknesses from the skin.
 
Shave #8:
Much more confident shaving both WTG and XTG. Only went ATG on the cheeks and neck and left the chin alone. No major gashes, but a few chin weepers from the XTG. Shave wasn't particularly smooth and definitely patchy. Finished with a DE razor (ATT H2), and got BBS. Was a refreshing way to end the shave.

One thing I've noticed in the last 2 shaves... If I hold the angle too steep (<1 spine width), the blade feels slow and sticky, like it's trudging through mud. If I open up a bit, it glides more smoothly (but possibly more irritation?). Why is it feeling sludgy?

PS, there's nothing like time with a straight razor to make your DE shaving improve :D

Just to be sure we have our definitions straight, the shallowest shave angle would be with the spine touching the face, or a gap of 0. So < 1 spine thickness (less than one spine thickness) would be a good shave angle, and a gap of > 1 spine thickness (greater than one spine thickness) would be a steep shave angle.

If your razor is very dull then it will not shave with a shallow (tight) shave angle. It will skip a lot. If it is very sharp then it will not shave well with a steep (high) shave angle because it will cut or exfoliate a lot. A very high shave angle is not shaving. It is scraping.

Is My Razor Sharp? The Treetopping Test | Badger & Blade

Most professional edges are not actually very sharp. There is a time element and a PITA element to overcome. If it treetops strongly at 1/4" above the skin of the forearm, getting several hair tips with each pass without disturbing the base of the hairs, it is very sharp. If it gets one or two hair tips per swipe at 1/4" above the skin, it is a good edge, just not spectacular. If it won't treetop at 1/4" reliably but it will get a hair or two at 1/8", then it is just barely what I myself would consider shave ready, and this is the usual level of sharpness for a professionally honed edge. Can vary slightly with hair texture of course.
 
Hey @Slash McCoy and @rbscebu,

Need advice on subpar results with my balsa stropping.

I've gone ahead and built my balsa wood strops. 1" acrylic from TAP, 3" x 12"x1/4" balsa wood. .5u, .25u, and .1u diamond paste. I used rubber cement to mount the balsa to the acrylic, then lapped with 320 grit sandpaper that was spray glued to a large flat tile from Home Depot. I applied the paste extremely sparingly, so you really can't see any gray on the wood after spreading out with my finger and an old t-shirt.

The other day I did 50 passes on each, then stropped 50 times. Today was the first time I started a shave with it. I definitely felt too much resistance which means my blade isn't sharp enough.

I bought the razor from The Superior Shave and had them do their additional honing, and I have only shaved with it 6 or 7 times, stropping before each shave (except the first).

Any advice on where I'm going wrong here?3 strops.jpg0.1 micron strop.jpg
 
Did you shave with this SR before you put it through the diamond pasted balsa strop progression?

If you did, was your first shave after your initial diamond pasted balsa strop progression better or worse?
 
Remember, diamond pasted balsa stropping does not make a bad or mediocre shaving edge into a good shaving edge. It only makes an already good shaving edge even better.

@Chard52142 was recently having problems with his balsa progression results but is now overcoming them. He also might like to chime in here with what he has learnt.
 
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Sounds like your edge wasn't sharp enough to benefit from the balsa progression. But you could try going a few hundred laps on the .5u balsa and then the usual 50 to 100 on the other two, and see what that gives you. The balsa, properly set up and properly used, removes only an incredibly small amount of steel. That's why it works so well. That also means that the edge needs to already be pretty sharp for it to work.
 
Remember, diamond pasted balsa stropping does not make a bad or mediocre shaving edge into a good shaving edge. It only makes an already good shaving edge even better.

@Chard52142 was recently having problems with his balsa progression results but is now overcoming them. He also might like to chime in here with what he has learned.
Hey, thanks @rbscebu! What both of you and Slash said it's true. I have another razor whose edge is not good and it just did not work even after a few rounds with the balsa...albeit I did not go a few hundred rounds on the 0.5, I'll send it out soon to be work on.

What I learned was although the rest of the razors were made shave ready on Jnats..felt smooth but just not efficient enough...until I put them through the full pasted balsa progression. What further learned was I was unable to get TTT from Jnat edge but pasted balsa edge...wow! I learned from reading both of your tips on experience and shave angle...that I am new and should not expect great results immediately (it may come) and keep a real shallow angle because that pasted edge really can sure exfoliate my skin...hahaha

@icemanjs4 I am not sure what's wrong with your pasted balsa since I am a novice too but I can inform you that having a few straight razors can sure help to know if I am doing it right. If 1 of the razor doesn't work but 2 others work...then that pasted balse is ok. Well, I have a few, some cheap and some medium quality. One of my favorite shaves came from a Gold Monkey...hahaha, imagine a cheap razor felt better than some expensive ones. Well, I put the expensive razor through a few rounds of pasted balsa and now it's great too...

I look forward to hearing how your journey goes...
 
Hey all, thanks for the replies.

I do believe I received the razor with a very sharp edge - so that's not the problem. I've had some great conversations with Jarrod from TSS and we think we've identified the problem.

The razor was honed in the classic European way, ie on convex whetstones rather than flat - leading to a perfect razor edge, rather than a wedge shaped bevel. Trying to polish on a purely flat balsa strop (with both tip and spine touching the wood), is actually trying to polish to a wedge shape - which isn't matching the originally ground tip.

This all makes complete sense to me.
 
Shave #9
Starting to really get the hang of this. Came away with a DFS, but not a BBS (fine by me). No gashes, and just a handful of weepers. My stropping technique is also improving drastically. Since the first day, I haven't nicked the strop once (I should be careful I probably just jinxed myself).

There are still parts of my shave where I haven't "found my grip" yet. But at least I'm less afraid of experimenting now that I know what I'm dealing with. I also love how much more tolerant of errors the straight razor is compared to the shavette. There are a few places where I get the feedback in time to save my face!

The journey continues.
 
Once I started getting BBS with my SR I found that I had nothing to shave the next day. That's when I had to drop my final ATG pass and just do a WTG and an XTG. As my technique further developed I was about to increase this to WTG & 2 x XTG and still have something to shave the next day.

Who said that SR shaving was easy?
 
Shave #10
Today was a breakthrough in learning. The 1st half of my shave was mediocre at best - still felt like I was fumbling and the blade would stick at the beginning of some strokes. Then 2/3 of the way through the shave I decided to quit while I was ahead and not too irritated, and maybe just clean up a few spots.

Well touching up one or two places led to me touching up my whole face. I suddenly found a motion and blade angle where it almost felt like the whole blade was lying on my face and there was BARELY any pressure where the edge met my skin. The razor was now gliding smoothly and effortlessly, and I felt so much less risk of cutting myself.

End result is a really good shave, with less irritation than I've had from a SR and 0 cuts or weepers! Huzzzah!

Here's to hoping I don't forget what I did when I shave tomorrow :D
 
Shave #10
Today was a breakthrough in learning. The 1st half of my shave was mediocre at best - still felt like I was fumbling and the blade would stick at the beginning of some strokes. Then 2/3 of the way through the shave I decided to quit while I was ahead and not too irritated, and maybe just clean up a few spots.

Well touching up one or two places led to me touching up my whole face. I suddenly found a motion and blade angle where it almost felt like the whole blade was lying on my face and there was BARELY any pressure where the edge met my skin. The razor was now gliding smoothly and effortlessly, and I felt so much less risk of cutting myself.

End result is a really good shave, with less irritation than I've had from a SR and 0 cuts or weepers! Huzzzah!

Here's to hoping I don't forget what I did when I shave tomorrow :D
Doesn't it feel great when your daily shave is a noticeable improvement on yesterday's shave? Keep at it. You're getting there.

Basically, the sharper the edge, the shallower the angle for a smoother more comfortable shave.

I cannot explain why but I am still discovering that the less pressure against the skin that I shave with, the better (closer) the shave result. As an engineer, this just doesn't make sense to me but the results speak for themselves.

Don't be too afraid of drawing blood. With well over 500 SR shaves I still occasionally see a spot of red in my lather, about once or twice a week. I don't concentrate on not drawing blood anymore. I concentrate on the shaving technique - which is still improving.

I'm waiting for the day (probably in a few weeks time) when you will be saying "Why didn't I start this in my teens?".
 
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@icemanjs4, how are the results of your diamond pasted balsa stropping going?

Here is what I do. I start with a shave-ready edge off film or rocks and shave with it to make sure that it is there. Before the next shave, the blade is put through a balsa strop progression and I shave with it again. This has always shown an improvement.

I continue putting that blade through a full balsa strop progression (0.5μm, 0.25μm, 0.1μm & 0.1μm hanging) after each shave until eventually there is no further noticeable improvement in the edge. Once that edge level is reached, I then continue with the same, minus the 0.5μm for a few shaves. Then I delete the 0.25μm for a few shaves followed by the 0.1μm, ending up just using 0.1μm hanging.

This method gives me an edge that is as good as or better than most DE blade edges.
 
I have ca 400 shavette shaves and still learnig the magic of light touch and low angle. It is easy to do light touch on flat surface like cheek. But much more complicated on curved surface like chin and jawline. Trying to follow curvature makes it harder to maintain light touch.
Low angle - I practically try to drag the spin around my face. This low angel thing is coming naturally.
And third observation - the lenght of the blade. With the more length of the "real" straight razor blade ( a cabinet blade for shavette user) you have to observ which part of blade touches your face. This is especially important on concave surfaces (on my skinny face on left and right of neck and on my lip right under my nose).
Grips. Find you way to comfortably hold your razor - 270 vs 180 degrees, holding from upprer and lower part of shank vs. sides of shank, normal grip (blade towards ear) vs reversed (blade towards nose) etc.
 
Shave #11
I find that the 1st 2-3 passes go fairly smoothly, yet I'm still left with a significant amount of stubble. Then I go to a touchup pass - and here's where all the learning really comes in as I slow down and experiment.

Today I learned that I'm doing too much blade buffing, and not enough sliding the razor across the skin smoothly. I think the constant lifting then dropping the blade is leading to irritation. This is exciting though because everyday I feel like I'm learning something new.

@rbscebu As to the diamond stropping - I'm in a bit of a middle ground. My bevel wasn't set on flat stones, but rather convex stones (so the bevel is curved like the rest of the blade). Even mild honing/polishing on a flat balsa wood strop is slightly reshaping the bevel. That said, I haven't had a chance to experiment with modifying the strop to add a curve. So for now I'm limiting myself to only the final 0.1u strop followed by stropping on leather. That seems to work wonders on the edge so I'm happy for now.

BTW, I'm only using my "practice strop" which is Fast Bridle leather from Tony Miller while I perfect my technique. It's forcing me to learn good X-stroke stropping. Since the first day I haven't nicked the strop - so I'm feeling more confident. But I'm saving the good Horsehide strop until I've gone a few weeks with no nicks.
 
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