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Looking back on first year with DE

So I guess I'm not a newbie anymore. On or around this day last year, my Henson AL13 mild came in the mail and I had my first shave with it. I'd been using a Gillette Sensor with Sensor Excel cartridges and canned gel for about 30 years, apart from a few years with electrics. I mostly just switched because it was hard to find the carts in the grocery store anymore, so I wasn't looking to get into anything, just get a new razor. Figured I'd get a blade sampler, pick a favorite, and carry on with my new razor, 100 of some blade, and canned gel.

That plan changed pretty fast. It's been interesting. I certainly didn't expect to be hanging out here every day a year later, still getting advice, exchanging experiences, and trying things out. I've learned a lot in that time, much of it from the ladies and gentlement of this community.

I don't know if anyone will find anything useful in this post since so much is YMMV, so maybe this is just me being self-indulgent, but I'm going to look back at what I've learned in the last year anyway.


I'd recommend the AL13 mild to anyone starting out. And I could probably be perfectly content getting a 15-minute DFS with only occasional weepers at this point with this razor plus a favored blade, an inexpensive brush, and any decent soap or cream, if I wasn't such a perfectionist.

I have since acquired 3 other razors. The AL13 medium is a small step up in efficiency and my current favorite. The aggressive AL13 is significantly more aggressive and will take more getting used to. I also have a Lupo 58, which is another good razor. I was happy to discover that I can now pick up an entirely different DE razor and get a good shave. I also learned that I think I prefer the Henson, though I'm still very glad I tried the Lupo.

YEAR 2: I'm well on my way to being a Henson fanboy. I expect in the next year, I'll settle on the medium or aggressive Henson and buy a TI22. I'll keep the equivalent AL13 for travel, and sell the other 3 razors.


I didn't think that there would be much difference between blades, they're just thin pieces of sharpened steel after all, but I got a sampler because everyone said I should. Turns out they were right!

My current top 5:
1. RK
2. Voskhod
3. Shark SS
4. Shark SC
5. Silver Star

YEAR 2: Finish my sampler - I keep getting sidetracked trying other new and interesting blades - and buy a sleeve of the winner. Probably keep doing some blade participation PIFs. And probably buy that massive 150-blade sampler from razorbladeclub and dive in!


Having not used a brush for my first 30 years of shaving, this seemed like an extravagant and unnecessary accessory. I wish I hadn't resisted getting one for as long as I did.

I got good advice early on to start with any 24mm Plissoft, Yaqi, or PAA that looked good to me - all are good quality, under $25, and 24mm is a medium size. It takes some trial and error to figure out what one likes, best not to spend a fortune and hope you guess right.

My first and still primary brush is a PAA Starcraft. It's nice and soft, but got me thinking that I might like something smaller (both handle and knot), and maybe a little more backbone/scrub. My second one is a Maggard travel Timberwolf. It works for travel, but I definitely prefer something bigger (again, both handle and knot) for everyday use. And I like the Starcraft's hybrid shape better, which made me think I may prefer a fan. My last brush is a Boti 22mm N3C fan. Handle is perfect size, a 22mm knot is about right, and I like the fan shape. It's not quite as soft as the other 2 though, and a little more backbone/scrub would be nice.

YEAR 2: After much overthinking, I've decided a 24mm G5C will be my next brush, I just need to decide on a handle. If it's as good as I expect, I probably won't keep the Starcraft or Boti. If it's not, I'll probably try a Muhle STF.

Soaps and creams

I really wish I hadn't tried to make do with canned gel. It's fine for cartridges, but it's not even remotely slick enough for a DE. I should have used it to finish my cartridges and just binned the rest. I also wish I hadn't bothered with brushless creams like Van Der Hagen or Cremo. They're slick enough, but I found that they would start to dry before I finished a pass and I'd have to splash on more water, and they really didn't save any time over just using soap or cream with a brush.

Another mistake I made was buying too much early on. I bought a stick of La Toja, a tube of Speick cream, and 3 sticks of Mama Bear, then soon after I added 4 sticks of Razorock to an Italian Barber order to use up a gift card. I thought I'd prefer the milder scents, and while they all perform well, it turns out I really love the Mama Bear scents, as well as Southern Witchcraft Samhain and Proraso green (received as PIFs from generous B&B gentlemen). So now I have 4 1/2 sticks of soap to finish that I have little interest in using.

YEAR 2: I probably won't need any more any time soon, but when I do, I want to try some Stirling, some more Southern Witchcraft, and some Captain's Choice cream.


I started with Nivea sensitive balm, which was excellent. Then I went cheap and tried Blade - some drug store brand - and it's ok at best. Then I got samples of Nancy Boy, which is even better than Nivea, but not by enough to justify the cost. I also tried a sample of Southern Witchcraft splash with the soap sample - it's a good product, but I feel too self-conscious wearing scented aftershave.

YEAR 2: Try Stirling unscented menthol and/or unscented glacial balm. Pretty sure that long-term, I'll either be using one of those or Nivea.


My biggest mistake with technique was trying to do too much too soon. First 2-3 shaves should really just be WTG. Then at least a week or 2 just WTG and XTG. Unfortunately, all the shaving videos are experienced shavers showing you how easy it is to get a 3-pass BBS shave. Furthermore, seemingly all Henson reviewers want to tell you that it's so mild, the only way to cut yourself is if you try to. It made for a frustrating experience, being unable to get BBS and getting weepers (or worse) nearly every shave. Add on the fact that it was taking nearly 30 minutes to shave versus about 5 with cartridges, and it's a wonder I actually stuck with it.

Happily, I did stick with it, and technique is slowly getting better. Over time, I've picked up a few tips and tricks to get better results on the neck and jawlines. I've gotten more efficient, reducing the passes and buffing required, and as a result, I get fewer cuts and weepers than I used to. Of course, there's still room for improvement. Shaving still takes 20+ minutes most days, and I still get at least a spot of blood somewhere almost every shave. It's an ongoing process, and I try not to get too frustrated, though I still do occasionally.

YEAR 2: I suspect technique will continue to evolve well beyond year 2. I'd really love to get to where a typical shave is closer to 15 minutes, and completing a shave with no blood is not unusual, while still getting DFS+/BBS- results.


I shaved a fortune
Congrats, @T Bone, on your first year. I'm at the half way point... 6 months in on the 15th.

I love the hobby. Learning new things adds interest to this old man's life. The only rabbit hole I've ventured down is the shaving brush one. That was a very enjoyable journey. I don't regret many of the purchases.... just a couple semi uninformed ones early on.

As you know, I just added two Vintage Gillette DE razors to my Claymore Evolutions. That will be it for this calendar year. I'll add one modern DE razor next year sometime.

In the mean time, every shave continues to be fun.... relaxing... pleasurable. I found a way to fix the red bump issues I was having, thx to the threads here and my dermatologist..... All in all, a very interesting and engaging 6 months.

Congrats again. Many happy shaves in your second year.
Congrats, @T Bone, on your first year. I'm at the half way point... 6 months in on the 15th.

I love the hobby. Learning new things adds interest to this old man's life. The only rabbit hole I've ventured down is the shaving brush one. That was a very enjoyable journey. I don't regret many of the purchases.... just a couple semi uninformed ones early on.
Congrats to you as well. Your shaving brush posts have been informative and helped me sort out my next purchase.
In the mean time, every shave continues to be fun.... relaxing... pleasurable.
That’s been the best part. I was never one who hated shaving before. But it was just something I did. Now I actually enjoy it.
Congrats again. Many happy shaves in your second year.
Thanks, and many happy shaves to you, my friend!
Time flies when you are having fun!! Since we are both in the class of 2021, I would say you are not a newbie, :biggrin:!

What are you going to do your Master's in, blades, soaps, brushes?
Haha, gotta be blades. I’ve been eyeing the ginormous razorbladeclub sampler for a long time now!


I shaved a fortune
Enjoy the ride and all the detours. I kinda miss the excitement of discovering something new with my daily shaves. Happy shaves.
After my brush collection was complete, I had that buying frenzy hangover. It took me several days to get past that.

I seem to have settled in now.... Enjoying what I own... adding a couple Vintage DE razors.... No new soaps or any other software. I'm set there.

I'm only 6 months in, but have been adding stuff to my gear every week, it seems. I've been enjoying every shave so far and I trust this will continue, even without adding more "stuff". I am reminded of the bit George Carlin used to do about "stuff". It's so easy to get accustomed to accumulating more and more stuff. Not there is anything inherently wrong with doing so.

I tend to be a person who likes using the same tools repeatedly. I was always that way with my carpentry tools, as I've mentioned previously. I like two or three kitchen knives, depending on the task. I have a few nice Spyderco folding knives but only carry one when we're in the States. I'll change it up when we travel outside the US since it's no longer made. It isn't rare or anything.... but a Native 5 spear point is too nice to risk. I have to check whatever knife I'm taking...

Anyway, I'm getting to that point with my shaving gear now... as I said.. settling in.
I am glad you stuck with it! Your increased participation in the Henson razor club, and it becoming un-blacklisted, was one of the reasons I kept checking in when the lights were a little dim in there. Now you are moving on to more rabbit holes and that is still fun for the rest of us to watch!
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