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Is the importance of shaving technique over-emphasized?

Interesting perspective!

For me, ‘traditional’ wet shaving is 95% technique. I can shave with most razors that I tried.

The question then becomes, ’What do I enjoy shaving with?’ In my case the answer is a ‘mild/moderate’ razor with a rigid design. That results in care-free, comfortable shaves. YMMV of course! :thumbup::thumbup:
 
It sounds to me like your technique is instinctive, & probably engraved in muscle memory. So much so, that you dont realise that you have technique at all!

It's only when you have to change your technique (for example, when switching to a more aggressive razor) that your muscle memory cannot change to adjust automatically.
Agreed. Try switching by using your other hand for the entire shave. Are you changing up your technique somewhat? What were the results with your off hand? I would guess some changes might be made to technique now and how does that impact the result?
 
I guess I'd say "yes and no." How's that for an unequivocal answer? :)

I can agree from the premise that some who are new to wet shaving don't want to spend their time on a learner razor, but instead want to unload their wallets for some high-end razor that may be well beyond their present technical skills. In an ideal universe -- well, in my ideal universe most would recognize their skill level and put in the time to build the skill. This is hand-eye coordination and there is no way to learn it quickly.

I've used razors that I thought were too much for me, because I'm one of those impatient people who wants to believe that wet shaving skills are imprinted on the Y chromosome. They were too much for me. So I went back and put in the time on some razors that weren't quite so demanding. I've also learned to assess my skills a bit more honestly and have also picked up a few pointers about evaluating a new razor. I have a few razors that really make me concentrate, which is a good thing. I have some I can run around like a sports car with no danger; also a good thing.

I will also say that the other piece here is that you can grow your technique with a razor that is too much for you in the early going. There may be better ways to go about it, but using the same razor shave after shave you will learn its quirks and foibles.

The more important question is: do you know how you learn?

O.H.

I don't know how I learn, O.H.! Obviously, it is brain function: you can walk because you have sub-routines burned into your brain that let you do it without actually thinking about it. When you get old like me, the sub-routines break down a little bit, and you can't walk as well hahahaha. Theoretically, you could burn such sub-routines in for every different razor, I guess, and then shave effortlessly with them all!

I am contending that there isn't much learning involved if a person picks the right razor, and would tend to agree that much learning is, indeed, involved if you pick the wrong razor. That was sort of my point: especially for folks new to DE shaving, they should be encouraged to switch razors if they are having problems, not admonished to work on learning the correct technique for a razor that is wrong for them. As some have pointed out here though, part of the fun for ya'll is learning to shave with ANY razor ... good for you ...
 
Just read some of the posts made by people who are brand-new to DE shaving. They tend to have a lot of problems with irritation, not getting close shaves, nicking themselves, etc. They might be using razors like the EJ DE89 or Merkur 34c. We encourage them to stick with it. No amount of talking will replace hands-on practice.

If they focus on hardware, they may keep switching razors, blades, soap, and so on, but that is not really going to help them as much as just continuing to practice shaving for about a month or so with the same setup. Eventually, they will develop their muscle memory and things begin to click into place.

Once they have developed their technique, they often post to say things are going well for them, they are getting good results. Their technique has become subconscious and automatic.

that makes sense to me ... muscle memory is really brain-driven memory though .. of interest: there is a series of 4 shows by David Eagleman called "The Brain" ... I think it is free on PBS.
 
I don't know how I learn, O.H.! Obviously, it is brain function: you can walk because you have sub-routines burned into your brain that let you do it without actually thinking about it. When you get old like me, the sub-routines break down a little bit, and you can't walk as well hahahaha. Theoretically, you could burn such sub-routines in for every different razor, I guess, and then shave effortlessly with them all!

I am contending that there isn't much learning involved if a person picks the right razor, and would tend to agree that much learning is, indeed, involved if you pick the wrong razor. That was sort of my point: especially for folks new to DE shaving, they should be encouraged to switch razors if they are having problems, not admonished to work on learning the correct technique for a razor that is wrong for them. As some have pointed out here though, part of the fun for ya'll is learning to shave with ANY razor ... good for you ...
How is a newbie supposed to know they have picked the "wrong" razor. Especially if they can get great results with that same exact razor given a few weeks practice?

People tend to scapegoat the hardware. "This razor gives me irritation", "This razor nicks me", etc. No, YOU give yourself irritation, YOU nick yourself. I have trouble believing something like a Merkur 34c is the "wrong" razor and switching razors will make all problems go away. The newbie will just make similar mistakes with another razor. A Merkur 34c is about as vanilla as razors get. Maybe other razors will shave closer, but getting a decent shave should not be a big problem.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
I am contending that there isn't much learning involved if a person picks the right razor, and would tend to agree that much learning is, indeed, involved if you pick the wrong razor.

I would challenge that by saying that is dependent on picking a razor, which best matches the techniques which have already been developed. However, what technique has already been developed, and therefore which razor will be the best match, will vary wildly from person to person.

Depending on how the person used whatever their razor of choice was before, there might be a steep learning curve irrespective of which double edged razor they pick up. Another person using the same original razor, may have developed a technique which is more conducive to double edged razors.

Technique is still essential. However the gap between techniques already developed, and technique needed for the new razor, will be dependent upon both the new razor chosen, and the pre-existing skill set of the individual.
 

thombrogan

Lounging On The Isle Of Tugsley.
"This razor gives me irritation", "This razor nicks me", etc. No, YOU give yourself irritation, YOU nick yourself.

Too true! My technique with my current razor; a RazoRock Hawk V3OC with the Wallace & Gromit-toothed safety comb; is improving a little bit so that the edge is hitting more stubble and less me - something it wouldn’t do if I didn’t spend the time with it.

I have trouble believing something like a Merkur 34c is the "wrong" razor and switching razors will make all problems go away.

It’s got little contact with its baseplate and there’s quite a gap between the bottom of the razor blade and the top of the safety bar. Pretty macabre in my book.

Ever wonder why you never get newsletters from Mantic00 through Mantic58? None of them survived the Merkur 34C.

A Merkur 34c is about as vanilla as razors get.

The complexity of vanilla is underrated in my book. My book is titled: “Think You’re Too Good For. Vanilla? Well You’re Not!”

Flavors aside, it’s a brilliantly designed razor and a perennial best-seller for good reason.

I thought my charming homage to the 34C/D89/R89 might shave like the real deal, but I was wrong. Instead, it had intermittent, variable aggression like @JasonJT ’s first double edge razor.
 

tankerjohn

A little poofier than I prefer
I don't know if I'm totally picking up what the OP is puttin' down. Of course technique is important. Of course the razor is important. This seems like the ultimate YMMV thing. Go with what makes you happy.

You guys are making me miss my old Merkur 34C. I kinda wish I hadn't traded it off.
 
2. Among these, the VB Chieftain had by far the most blade exposure. Regardless of trying, I was never able to shave with it without a relative blood bath. Now, it is possible that some technique training would have helped ... I contend that the razor is just 'too much' for me.
3. Among the others, mostly mild to at most medium type razors, there was no issue whatsoever in terms of technique. I mean, the angle is intuitive and obvious based on the design of the head of the razor - you can figure it out immediately, more or less. Granted, there is going WTG and XTG and ATG .... that isn't much in terms of technique. Pressing harder or not as hard is just sort of intuitive too ... not much in terms of technique.
You are likely correct- but it's your technique that wasn't up to achieving success with an aggressive razor, so a mild to mid level razor helped you achieve a good shave. And as has been noted, part of technique is being able to choose the tools.
4. In terms of pre-shave and soap and all that: it doesn't matter much for me as long as I have some soap on my face when I shave. Hand soap works as well as anything else for me.
Most of us can shave with almost any cream or soap, including hand soap. And, many of us can shave well enough with just water, or without, if needed. Good technique is the reason why. So, with a mild to mid razor the soap isn't making a difference for you only means IMHO that you haven't yet refined your technique to the point that you can differentiate the qualitative differences. And there are some very significant differences in lathers to be discerned. As you learn more, and if you branch out and try more, you'll figure it out.
So I guess my point is this: the razor made all the difference for me, not the technique. The technique was 2%, the razor was 98%. The notion that you can shave with anything as long as you learn the technique seems ... iffy to me, at best ... it's mainly about the razor. I think this is what should be emphasized to newbies. It seems misleading to me to tell them to stick with on razor and work on the technique until they get it down. If you are experiencing a blood bath, you need to get a milder razor, not just keep using the offending razor until you learn how not to cut yourself (which could be never). With a milder razor, the newbie won't cut themselves ... regardless of technique considerations ... I think ... YMMV: I am just throwing this out there.
I heartily agree, an aggressive safety razor is a very poor choice for a beginner, almost worse than handing them a straight razor. Because with a straight razor, the "fear factor" might be sufficient to discourage the use.

The reason you read so many posts recommending a mild razor, say starting out with a Gillette Tech, is that these razors tend to be easier to learn with, and thus help folks develop better technique and minimize damage until they learn. I can't recall any experienced shaver recommending a highly aggressive razor to a newcomer to DE shaving. And, yes, if one were to start with an aggressive razor, that person should change hardware, and fast. There is a place for all types of razors, except those with either truly defective designs or physical defects, in this hobby. But there is the right place and time.

In your case, you tried a tool that was inappropriate, but of your other razors do you note any differences in the shave? If not, I would be somewhat surprised, as mild razors, for me, do vary some. But, I suppose if they're all 34 or 89 clones than maybe they do shave the same. For me with mild razors the angles tend to be very similar, but the weight, handle feel, blade exposures, and the resulting satisfaction differs.

Think of it this way- the first time you try something you get an initial reference point, each time after that you expand your perspective. I chalk your initial post in this thread more to inexperience than anything else. Because so far for you, you haven't noticed much difference in your group of razors. Since of those you list, I've only tried a 34C and an 89, which is what I think the KCG is, but not your others, I can't say they're not the same, perhaps they're all clones or are very similar? If that's the case, they may shave about the same.

As to much of shaving becoming intuitive, I also agree- over time much of what I do is without a lot of conscious thought, much of it does become somewhat intuitive- that's for me the result of experience. Maybe you're feeling that, because with what you have and the level you're at, it is getting intuitive for you. That's often the point that many of us branch out and try some new things.

I wish you well on your shave journey, and as you gain experience, please share those here on B&B. I'd be interested in hearing, if in a year or two, after trying some varied stuff, if you still feel the same way.
 
This thread reminds me of a house guest we had over some years ago. He is married to a friend of my wife. The individual is stubborn and considers himself an expert on just about everything. He had never shaved with a DE razor before. His beard was quite thick and wiry. He used one of the multi-blade cartridge razors and complained that he never gets a smooth shave.

I showed him the razors I had at the time and back then I had many more razors than I have now. That day I had shaved with the older version of the Muhle R41. He asked if he could use it. I explained to him that it was an aggressive razor and it required care when using it. He declined my offer to show him how to use the razor. I put in a new Personna blade in the razor and told him be careful. He again told me he knew what to do.

About 20 minutes later he came out of the guest bathroom and asked for some bandages. His face was cut in many places. He showed me how he used the razor - he used a chopping motion as if it were a rake and used extensive pressure. His wife told him that he should have listened to me.

Two days later he accepted my offer of instruction and he got a decent shave with only one or two weepers. As he learned that day, technique matters, and that using a DE is not something that is intuitive.

Interestingly, he decided not to buy a R.41 but did accept the Black Beauty I gave him as a gift. I could never convince him to make lather from soap or cream because, in his words, "Gillette has perfected lather with its canned gel." However, his wife says he still uses the DE I gave him.
 
I've read the original post several times, but I'm still not exactly sure what to make of it. I'm a straight shaver exclusively nowadays and I never used a safety razor so a lot of the discussion doesn't mean much to me. As a straight shaver, I'd say a good edge is the most important factor, and technique is the second, by far. The rest, like blade width, grind, shape, and so on is pretty much down to personal preference.

Having said that, though, I have one straight that I jokingly call "The Autopilot" because it seems like it's impossible *not* to get a good shave with it. Like, I don't really have to think about it. It just works. Honed up fast, too, with no issues. So there may be something to a razor that just naturally works with your own inherent technique, and I suspect that is as true with safety razors as it is with straights.
 
How is a newbie supposed to know they have picked the "wrong" razor. Especially if they can get great results with that same exact razor given a few weeks practice?

People tend to scapegoat the hardware. "This razor gives me irritation", "This razor nicks me", etc. No, YOU give yourself irritation, YOU nick yourself. I have trouble believing something like a Merkur 34c is the "wrong" razor and switching razors will make all problems go away. The newbie will just make similar mistakes with another razor. A Merkur 34c is about as vanilla as razors get. Maybe other razors will shave closer, but getting a decent shave should not be a big problem.
I don't know about others, but I know my MicroTouch One does not work for me. It's way too mild, such that I have to repeat too many passes to get a BBS. This results in significant irritation.

I had chalked this up to my own inexperience, as the MTO was my first DE razor. It was my first DE after all. Even though I spent over a year shaving with it, I clearly didn't have good technique.

Yet, when I tried to use the MTO again (after having improved my technique with other razors), I got the same (bad) results. Of course, it's arguable my technique is not yet good enough to get a quality shave with the MTO; if I spent more time with it I'll get better. But as has been pointed out by many wiser members of this forum, life is too short to suffer bad shaves. I'd much rather enjoy the shaves I've gotten with my other razors than spend any more time developing my technique with the MTO.

That said, I absolutely believe technique is important. I can get a more/less irritating shave just by changing my lather's consistency. I can also get a more/less irritating shave by changing the steepness of the angle I use with my razor or the amount of pressure I use. I can get a closer/less close shave by how much skin stretching and puffing I do. All of this is a reflection of my technique.

Of course, the choice of razor matter as well. I got smoother shaves with my Fatip OC Piccolo than I did with my Fendrihan Kingston even though I used the exact same blade (as in I switched the blade from the Kingston to the Fatip OC). But the technique I developed using the Kingston (and some other razors) helped me to take advantage of the Fatip OC so that I got excellent shaves.

In short, technique is important, but the choice of razor also matters.
 
i think the OP was looking to see what kind of reaction he would get on this forum. The membership here is by and large people that are interested in technique, products and others to share our excitement in what to most men consider a chore.

These forums are a great place to learn technique and style. For me steep angle shaving is a technique but also a style. With my everyday and perhaps forever razor a Blackland Tradere SB, steep angle shaving doesn’t seem to make sense. First, the razor is held flat and not torqued or curved under pressure. Therefore a steep angle seems to be scraping at best. I tried it based on the recommendations of many (and also contrary to many). For me, the cutting of the blade is smooth and effective at a steep angle. Smoother and more effective than shallow or neutral. Had I not tried to improve my technique (which after many years back with a DE) I think is pretty good, the enjoyment of my everyday razor might not be there.

After almost 64 years on this planet, I want to continue to learn everyday and get better at what I do. I’m not a fool and know my best athletic days are behind me, but I strive to always be a better professional and person in everything I do.
 
How is a newbie supposed to know they have picked the "wrong" razor. Especially if they can get great results with that same exact razor given a few weeks practice?

People tend to scapegoat the hardware. "This razor gives me irritation", "This razor nicks me", etc. No, YOU give yourself irritation, YOU nick yourself. I have trouble believing something like a Merkur 34c is the "wrong" razor and switching razors will make all problems go away. The newbie will just make similar mistakes with another razor. A Merkur 34c is about as vanilla as razors get. Maybe other razors will shave closer, but getting a decent shave should not be a big problem.
I still use a 34C/ G three or four times a month. I like it, but then again, vanilla is my favorite ice cream flavor.
 
Part of the issue (and a fun part at that) is finding a common definition of "technique." To me it means the hand/eye coordination needed with a particular razor to remove facial hair without removing face. In which instance, if you don't think technique is important, try closing your eyes during the morning shave. :001_smile
 
My take on this is that you should use whatever works for you instead of keep trying while getting bad results time after time. Some people tend to think that since they can shave with a certain razor with ease while someone can't that his technique is the reason for that, but that's not always the case. After all, we all have different faces, skin, beards and also everyone's shaving style is at least slightly different and on top of that, we use different blades and have different preferences.

Even those of us who can shave with pretty much every DE razor ever made have preferences and just because I can shave with any razor it doesn't mean that I love every razor I come in contact with.

Asking for a advice about a razor is never a bad thing, but just because someone or a group of people find a particular razor really good it doesn't mean that you're going to feel that way and there's nothing wrong if you don't.

I usually know when a razor is good for me from my first shave and only a few razors took a little bit of time while the rest didn't impress me even after 20 shaves. Always try a razor a few more times with different blades to see if things can improve.

For instance, I find Techs in general and Rockwell 6S to be very mild and inefficient for me and even after spending some time trying to improve my ''technique'' and try new blades, the results were pretty much the same and I gave up on them. Some people are probably going to jump on me saying that it's totally my fault for that and not the razors, but I disagree. I can still get a nice BBS with them, but the shaves are not as pleasant as I want them to be and there's nothing I can do about it.

In short - keep what you like and sell/trade/gift the things you don't. Also, never, ever feel bad because a razor isn't working for you or let any fanboy of that brand or model telling you that it's your fault.
 
My take on this is that you should use whatever works for you instead of keep trying while getting bad results time after time. Some people tend to think that since they can shave with a certain razor with ease while someone can't that his technique is the reason for that, but that's not always the case. After all, we all have different faces, skin, beards and also everyone's shaving style is at least slightly different and on top of that, we use different blades and have different preferences.

Even those of us who can shave with pretty much every DE razor ever made have preferences and just because I can shave with any razor it doesn't mean that I love every razor I come in contact with.

Asking for a advice about a razor is never a bad thing, but just because someone or a group of people find a particular razor really good it doesn't mean that you're going to feel that way and there's nothing wrong if you don't.

I usually know when a razor is good for me from my first shave and only a few razors took a little bit of time while the rest didn't impress me even after 20 shaves. Always try a razor a few more times with different blades to see if things can improve.

For instance, I find Techs in general and Rockwell 6S to be very mild and inefficient for me and even after spending some time trying to improve my ''technique'' and try new blades, the results were pretty much the same and I gave up on them. Some people are probably going to jump on me saying that it's totally my fault for that and not the razors, but I disagree. I can still get a nice BBS with them, but the shaves are not as pleasant as I want them to be and there's nothing I can do about it.

In short - keep what you like and sell/trade/gift the things you don't. Also, never, ever feel bad because a razor isn't working for you or let any fanboy of that brand or model telling you that it's your fault.

Good post. This thread makes me curious to see if I can get a decent shave using the tin lid from an empty pork & beans can...

I can almost bet, the 100th shave will/would go better with it than the very first shave. If I fail to adjust and learn technique, I might just have to change my username to scarface... :)
 

JCarr

More Deep Thoughts than Jack Handy
This will be a popular thread! From the perspective of what will make a difference...in the tools category I would say it's 90% hardware and 10% software. When I think about that ratio, the two biggest hardware components in the equation are the razor and the blade. So...the razor you use makes a very big difference in the outcome and experience.

I will say that my technique has vastly improved since I started wet shaving with a double edge razor a number of years ago. I can now consistently achieve a BBS shave. That was not the case when I first started shaving. I have found DE razors that work much better for me since I started and that, as I said above, is a big factor. Nevertheless, there was a point when I had some of the better razors and was still not able to consistently achieve a bloodless BBS result. When I think about that, I have to admit to myself that my technique has vastly improved and it's made a significant difference.
The OP lists a number of razors in his list of what's been used/tried. Most of us have been there. I've found that the hardware makes a big difference. If it didn't, I would have stopped after I bought my first butterfly double edge. But if I went back to that butterfly double edge now, I would probably achieve a much better result than when I was first shaving with it many years ago.

The razor is very important...a big factor...but continued shaving and improved technique...even getting down a routine that is helpful...also plays a part.
 
Good post. This thread makes me curious to see if I can get a decent shave using the tin lid from an empty pork & beans can...

I can almost bet, the 100th shave will/would go better with it than the very first shave. If I fail to adjust and learn technique, I might just have to change my username to scarface... :)
The sky is the limit and unless you try, you will never know for sure.
 
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