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Low Angle Shaving, Illustrated

I've mentioned this before, but without seeing, it's hard to fully understand.
I really ought to post a video on YouTube, but have no videocam.
So here's some quick shots made this morning.

Short story:

I used to shave pretty much in line with the conventional wisdom here, i.e low-pressure, razor angle similar to that seen in Mantic's fine tutorials. Got about 3-4 good shaves from a DE Feather blade like everyone. If I was quite careful, little razor burn.

I drifted into SE shaving for a while, and started to follow the adamant instructions that Gem pushed with the Micromatic: keep the head flat against the face. To do that and get it to cut at all, I had to apply pressure - a good deal of it. The elasticity of the skin then raises the stubble up to the blade, which is now cutting at a much lower angle.

The result was very close shaves plus greatly increased blade life, about 10-11 shaves per SE blade. Also no razor burn at all. No nicks. Somewhat counterintuitive, but the lower angle greatly decreased sensitivity to applying a bit too much pressure. In other words, at a steeper angle, a bit too much pressure would cause burn; at a very low angle, you needed pressure but there are no consequences from overdoing that a little.

When I transferred this technique to DE shaving, same results. To my astonishment, I now get 20 shaves or more from a Feather blade. I understand anyone's skepticism, but the results have been consistent over many trials. One trial with Astra and one with Personna blue Israeli indicate about the same blade life for those too.

Here's what I used this AM - Open Comb Micromatic, Gem (Personna) PTFE coated blade (shave #2 for this one), Miller's Wool Fat soap.


WTG on cheek, showing low angle, with flat top of head pressed into skin.



I also use longer strokes than most. As I go under the chin, the head must continue to follow the surface of the skin, and at first glance this might look like a different cutting angle, but it isn't. Keeping the head flat on the skin makes this adjustment easy.




Now XTG. Head still flat against the face. You may see how the skin is depressed under the head.



This is ATG on the cheek, and gives a good impression of angle + pressure.




Belatedly, it occurred to me that I should show how this works with a DE! So I grabbed the Senator, and here's the upstroke on ATG. Note the angle of the handle here, and compare that to that seen in pretty much any instructional video. That's how different.




So, there ya go. YMMV as always, and I'm not saying this is for everyone, but want to report my results and show exactly what I'm doing.

Happy shaves y'all!
- Bill
 
Interesting! Now on the DE, the handle looks almost parallel to the floor...is that correct? I'm having a hard time grasping how a DE held at that angle will cut anything....need more pics!!
 
Yep, I do the same. There is a certain minimum level of blade exposure that's required to do this, however. Most mild razors don't have a high enough range of angles to use them on the very shallow end, and seem to be geared more toward maximum blade contact in the 30 degree range or so. I've found the same with blade life and that's not too surprising. A steep cutting angle is going to inherently do more damage to the edge than a shallower one, from the hairs pushing on the blade edge from the side.

An exception on the blade exposure is open combs, however (and of course SE's). Their geometry (very shallow cap, and a guard that extends out well beyond the blade end) enforces a shallow angle inherently.
 
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Just curious, why scary? This is where I end up naturally, using the "put cap on face, then lower razor down until cutting happens" method (which is a pretty standard approach).

Great pics, and very intriguing, but I gotta tell ya: that looks scary as hell.
 
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Oh I see. Well, honestly I'd have to go look at a few razors, but it seem like most have pretty good corner protection, if I recall. In any case, I've never been bitten that way.

I think that I would dig in a little off-square, and the exposed corner of the blade would "get" me.

Mind you, this is more an observation on my dexterity and not the process itself.
 
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I took a picture of the two razors I have loaded with blades at the moment:

$blade_corners.jpg

For some reason I thought those corners weren't so rounded. Now it doesn't seem as intimidating.

On the SE I have, the corners are covered by the little clips.

Oh I see. Well, honestly I'd have to go look at a few razors, but it seem like most have pretty good corner protection, if I recall. In any case, I've never been bitten that way.
 
Yeah, I guess it does look kind of scary! That said though, you have that corner exposed (on those two razors at least) over the whole range of shaveable angles. Although it may be more pronounced at the more shallow angles. I just never really looked that close to notice that :). Interesting.

I took a picture of the two razors I have loaded with blades at the moment:

View attachment 226839

For some reason I thought those corners weren't so rounded. Now it doesn't seem as intimidating.

On the SE I have, the corners are covered by the little clips.
 
I got the best shave of my life doing just this. I was able to do 4 (that's right FOUR!) passes, when two is usually all my face can handle. I haven't had a chance to try it again or with a non-open comb razor, but with the results I got yesterday, I'm definitely trying it again. Thanks for posting; I thought I was just nuts!
 
I tried this "press-the-flat-cap" method when Bill posted it last time, and it works well. However, there is some danger around the bony parts for those with a less-fleshy face. I julienne'd a nice little divot on the jawline late in the week-long trial I was doing. I found it convenient to return to a conventional-yet-shallow angle and light pressure after that. :001_smile
 
I tried this "press-the-flat-cap" method when Bill posted it last time, and it works well. However, there is some danger around the bony parts for those with a less-fleshy face. I julienne'd a nice little divot on the jawline late in the week-long trial I was doing. I found it convenient to return to a conventional-yet-shallow angle and light pressure after that. :001_smile
I think it's all in the practice. The bony and rounded parts like chin area and jawline are always the most difficult regardless of method. One option (I did this initially but no longer) is to raise the angle and use light pressure on these spots.
 
Interesting. I'm always looking for ways to get a better shave without razor burn. I've been wet shaving for 2 months and only have one razor. It is a EJ DE89. Would this technique work on that razor? It seams to have a head too large for this to work. Makes me want to find a razor with a shallow head.
 
This is close to the method I use with the AS-D1. I feel mostly smooth clap with a touch of blade. My variation is turning the head so that it slices more like a slant. You can make as many passes as you want with zero irritation.
 
Well, you really will just need to try it. With any razor, there is a limit to the range of angles at which you can have the blade right against your face. Above or below that range and the blade doesn't make contact, so you can't get a close shave at those angles. Milder razors have a smaller range of angles, and in the case of most DE's, that range seems to be centered around 25-35 degrees. As such, you won't be able to shave close using a shallow angle (say, 10-20 degrees) because the blade won't make contact with your skin at those angles. Generally to get effective shaving at the shallow blade angles, you need either a razor that's inherently designed for low blade angle (SE's), or a razor that has a lot of blade exposure, like most open combs (although see below for an exception about adjustables). The easiest way to test a razor for it's shaveable angles is to use your arm hair. You can can play with different angles, while looking at the razor from the side, to see how far you go in either direction (shallow or steep), and still have the blade cutting hair close to your skin.

Note however, most adjustables create blade exposure by increasing the blade to guard gap. This favors shaving at steeper angles to utilize the exposure. Adjusting them higher doesn't change the ability to shave at lower angles. It is what it is, on all settings (I'll note I've not see the adjustment mechanisms on the modern adjustables, but I presume they work similarly to the Gillettes in principle). Again, it's just something you have to either try out, or measure with photos, like Bill did in his thread on blade angles:

http://badgerandblade.com/vb/showthread.php/162987-Photo-Analysis-of-Razor-Designs/page4

I'm working on some additional photos for a follow-up post to Bill's thread for several additional razors, including adjustables, some TTO's, and various other vintage and modern razors.

Interesting. I'm always looking for ways to get a better shave without razor burn. I've been wet shaving for 2 months and only have one razor. It is a EJ DE89. Would this technique work on that razor? It seams to have a head too large for this to work. Makes me want to find a razor with a shallow head.
 
Found exactly the same thing with the Feather AS-D1. 3 shaves per Feather blade the first couple weeks, now with low blade angle I can get 7 to 10 shaves out of a blade easily, and the shave is BBS, vs. DFS. Also with the higher angle and less pressure I was getting a weeper ever other shave or so. I haven't gotten so much as a weeper from the Feather in a couple of months now.
 
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