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ok- so I decided to start learning to wet shave. I’ve heard the legends of the ‘svelty’ Smooth single blade wet shave that makes no bumps, burns, or ingrown hairs.

In tackling this learning curve, I have encountered beard mapping, lathersmithing. Multiple pass growth reduction, and a whole host of other foreign thoughts.

For both financial and learning curve sake, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to learn a safety razor first, even knowing my eventual goal was straight razor shaving.

Now, as I experience frustration with the safety razor, I begin to wonder- am I signing myself up for double thenaggrivation? Should I start in on tutorials and videos for straight shave, or do enought skills overlap and translated that learning the safety razor will, indeed help smooth the transition?
You don't have to learn to use a double edge razor before learning to use a straight edge razor but learning the double edge doesn't take long. Using a straight edge is much more involved. You will probably want to be using a double edge razor while you are perfecting your straight edge technique.

The two aren't all that related but it sounds like you are having some issues with a safety razor. Without knowing your issues I would say that the answer is probably to use (much) less pressure than with a cartridge razor.

The only reason for having problems with a safety razor, generally speaking, is just poor technique encouraged by cartridge razors, where you can dig into your skin and still not get cut.

You only need the weight of a safety razor with no additional pressure.
Having just passed my 100th SR shave after about 4 years of DE shaving, I heartily recommend figuring out the DE first.
  1. Learning DE shaving is easier and has a shorter learning curve so you get positive feedback much more quickly.
  2. Once you've mastered the DE razor, you can go slowly with the SR (starting with cheeks only), without growing a forced neckbeard. Use the DE for all the non-SR bits (and cleaning up the SR areas when necessary).
  3. Many other shaving skills transfer from DE to SR. Lather building, face prep, post shave pampering are all things you can master that will serve you well as you learn what not to do with the SR.
  4. Knowing the pleasure of successful DE shaving will help get you over any hurdles with the SR because you know the Nirvana that's in your future.
DE tips ...
  • No pressure against your skin. Guide the razor along your face, don't pull it. Think of removing lather as opposed to removing whiskers.
  • Shoot for an "acceptable" shave. Don't chase a "perfect" shave.
  • Prepare for your shave. Hydrate your whiskers to soften them. Shower first or wash your face and enjoy a hot washcloth. Work the lather into your stubble, don't just wipe it on.
  • Take your time. There are no prizes for finishing faster than last time.
  • Alum block after to see how you did. Yes, it may sting where you had problems, but you'll know where the problems were and the alum will help close nicks and weepers.
  • Finish with an aftershave balm or lotion to hydrate your skin and help it settle.
Best of luck! It's a fun journey.
Thank you both for the encouragement.

I was going to give the DE a few more tries before asking for specific help in the safety razor section of the forum. My trouble mostly centers around trading comfort for smooth - I can get a real comfortable shave that's 'meh' close - looks ok, but wouldn't want the wife to check. Or I can get a real close smooth that gets my face lit up all over by the alum block.

Rumple seems to have hit exactly the thought process that started me on the safety razor - making a proper lather, mapping out the trouble areas, face prep, etc, were all things I figured I could take directly from one to the other. I guess I'll keep at it for awhile longer.
ok- so I decided to start learning to wet shave. ...

In tackling this learning curve, I have encountered beard mapping, lathersmithing. Multiple pass growth reduction, and a whole host of other foreign thoughts.

We have a great ability here to over think things, make it more difficult than it need be. Make a slick lather, not fluffy, not "cushiony", not fancy, just plain slick. Step up to the sink and shave. You will quickly find what works for you.
FWIW - I'm a recent convert to straight razor shaving, and I jumped right in from cartridges. For the first few shaves, I found that the cartridge was fine for cleanup work, and I was able to compare against the areas where I used the straight. YMMV, just know that it can be done!
I'm no fan of DE safety razors, but in the short run in transitioning to a straight, I can recommend the Focus R21 shavette with DE half-blades. Angled frame and plastic housing there are really great for dialing-in as to skin contact with the edge, and the handling and ergonomics are analogous to a straight. Prior to this, I have used a more unwieldy Parker shavette on the rare occasion and was always getting unexplained nicks as compared to my normal use of a straight; but with this Focus, my shaves are quite close with only the lightest of alum block tingle when applied. And for $13 shipped, there really isn't anything to lose. Too bad Jarrod doesn't sell dedicated half-blades for this one.
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Step one, use whatever cartridge razor you are used to, and learn to make a good, consistent lather with real soap or cream, and a brush.

Then transition to a DE or SE razor. Not lots of them. ONE. A well regarded one, and one type of blade. Most of us slowed our progress by falling into the trap of wanting to try every product ever made, all at once. Learn to get A-Grade shaves with that set-up.

Get a straight, honed by a old hand who knows what he is doing, a strop, plus a un-shave ready razor and whatever hones you need to fix it up. Learn to straight shave with the shave ready razor, and use it as a benchmark when learning to hone the other one.


Remember to forget me!
... or do enought skills overlap and translated that learning the safety razor will, indeed help smooth the transition?

I've been shaving with DE for 25 years, but only really been using straight and shavette occasionally over the last few months. There are a lot of significant differences, and I'm not yet getting consistently good straight shaves, or even being what I would consider fluid with manoeuvring a straight. But I haven't cut myself with a straight yet. Not once.

My experience with the DE has given me good knowledge of pressure free shaving, maintaining angles, understanding of my beard, and my lather is good. I believe that my own style of DE shaving (everyone does it a little differently), has put me in good stead and simplified the transition to straight. Yes, I have issues with the "handle" being off to the side, but if I shave with a Rolls Razor type (which is like a straight razor on a safety razor handle) I can get an easy, safe, and comfortable shave, providing I've sharpened it properly.

Personally I would suggest mastering the DE first. Notice I said master it, and not just get competent with it. You've not just got to learn new stuff, but coming from cartridges, you have to unlearn old habits too.

When you feel ready to try the straight, get yourself a DE bladed (or half blade) shavette. This eliminates the honing and stropping requirement, and means you can focus purely on the shave. In some ways, using a straight actually can seem easier and nicer to use, so when you do finally nail the shavette, the only real learning curve to the eventual move to straight will be the honing and stropping, and the shavette experience will guide you as to what you need to try and better.


Goose Poop Connoisseur
I just started using straights about three months ago and haven’t found it difficult at
all but I’ve been shaving for over 50 years. I have found the straight razor to be the most comfortable and easiest on my face. I think today was my 81st SR shave and it was 100% BBS in two passes. Now I’m retired and don’t have to rush in the morning so when I started using a straight I used it every day and that sped the learning up a bit. I would suggest getting a shave ready razor (vintage or Gold Dollar) and just give it a try. You can get a “Poor Man’s Strop” from Larry at whippeddog.com cheaply (never start with a pricey strop because your first strop is doomed) and if you don’t like it you won’t be out much. I may put some well honed razors on BST in a couple of weeks if I can figure out how to do it and Larry at whippeddog.com sells vintage razors honed to shave ready but not restored for good prices. You will find all the help and support you need if you decide to go straight here. In any case, a straight razor is nothing to fear. Learning to use one is no more difficult than a DE in my opinion and you have complete control of blade angle. A DE isn’t a stepping stone to straight. It is just a different way to shave. Go for it. :2guns:
I have been using a straight for about six months, and have been wetshaving for four or five years. I would recommend developing proficiency with a safety razor first. A lot of the skills you will master while using a safety razor will help you when you do make the transition to straights. For now, just focus on your technique, and don't get discouraged. I remember my first shaves being a little rough, but you will quickly get to the point where you are getting super close shaves with no irritation.
I was in your same boots a few years ago. Bought a DE kit from Target for something like $40. Came with a DE razor, some blades, a brush, and a stand. I was pretty happy with things initially. Switched to feather blades and was much happier, until the DE razor mechanism seized. Bought a Mercer razor for another $40 and was happy for a few years. I wouldn't say that I saved money over just jumping to a SR, but definitely was saving a ton over cartridge razors.

Decided a month or so ago to go ahead and jump into SR shaving. Man I wish I had earlier. I've only had razor burn once, and that was when I was just going at it too aggressively. It is all a learning curve, but not a super steep one. I have nicked myself plenty, but nothing I needed to put a bandaid on. You don't need the face mapping and whatnot right away. Just some decent shave soap/cream and a good razor. Allow yourself some time to learn how the get the technique down. Watch a bunch of youtube videos. Save yourself some time/money/grief and get a shave ready SR from one of the users here. You can dig into all of the deeper stuff, like face mapping, later.

Slash McCoy

I freehand dog rockets
DE to straight seems a very natural progression, but if you are just fascinated by straights and are currently using throwaways, there is no need to get a DE just to use as a stepping stone. Better to first improve your cart shave by using proper wet shaving technique, and then just get a shave ready straight and strop and go for it. If you don't want to spend the bucks right away, get a shavette from Sallys and some Feather blades online. From using wet shaving methods with your carts you will already have a soap or cream, a cheap badger brush, and maybe alum, styptic, and a good AS. The shavette is a lot more similar to a straight than a DE razor is. More learned skills will cross over to straights this way, vs using DE as a gateway shave. But if DE looks like it could be your thing, then by all means have at it with a vintage Tech or a Gillette adjustable or one of the many decent DE razors being made today. Then after the novelty wears off and you have reached a plateau, reconsider the straight razor.

You will be amazed at how much better your cartridge shave can be, if you use all the tricks straight and DE shavers use. Stretching, mapping, regulated pressure, prep, good lather, you put it all together and that old Trac II will surprise you. In comparison, just smearing barbasol on your dry face in the morning and dragging a cart or a good news over your mug is torture. Practice the wet shave routine and your first real shave, whether DE, SE, straight, or shavette, will go much easier.
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