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McVeyMac Straight Journal

As it was suggested several times, I thought that I would start journaling my progress with the straight. I am not real good about thinking to do this type of thing, but always when I have taken the time in the past with other aspects of my life, journaling always proved to be revealing.

In recent history, I have had a fascination for all things sharp. I have gotten back into knives in a pretty big way, and probably own around 100 that I have acquired over the past 5 years. In the last year, all of my acquisitions were hand made. I am well set up with Japanese synthetic hones for my knife sharpening, and was glad to hear that the hones that I already own are often applied to straight razors very successfully.

I am 57 y.o., and I learned to shave on a DE razor as a hand me down back in the early 1970s. After going to Paris Island in 1976, I switched to cartridge razors as they were the only ones available due to recruits using DE blades to slit their wrists for a ticket off of the island. I had been shaving with cartridges ever since until about a month ago or more when I gat a bug up my but. I initially had decided that I wanted to learn to use a straight razor, as I have become a sharp freak when it comes to my knives. I have even shave with some of them, albeit not very well or comfortably. At around the same time I got into DE shaving as well. I spent a lot of time here researching razors, blades and straights. I decided to get a Dovo 5/8" round nose as I start to learn the straight. The DE shaves that I was getting were absolutely fabulous, and I had forgotten what a BBS shave felt like. I got the pre-shave, the soaps, the badger brush, the after shave balm, and I was a happy camper. I soon started to incorporate the straight into my daily shave after about a week and a half of getting the finest shaves of my adult life on a daily basis. My initial strategy was to spend the first week with the easy WTG cheek passes to build dexterity, then finish with the DE. On the weekends, I would use straight only. The subsequent weeks would gradually incorporate more into the daily shaves during the work week until a was completely converted over to straight. Now for incorporating the straight:

Week 1 through 3:

Week one:

I started to shave with the straight. Dovo 5/8" Round Point just as received from the factory. I broke the seal. I stropped nylon about 20 passes and put about 100 on leather as this is the first time out of the box. First week Mon. through Friday was WTG cheeks only with strong and weak hand. First shave, the edge sucked and pulled a great deal. Finished shave with a two pass DE. Finished the WTG with the DE then went to ATG with the DE to finish. That night I took the Dovo to the 10K Ninawa Super Stone. I checked the bevel with a hand held cheap microscope, and determined that the 10K stone was refining to the apex of the edge for a large part of the blade. A little funky at the toe and heal where I was only getting refinement near the flats of the bevel, but the Tuesday through Friday shaves were greatly improved. On Saturday, I re-set the bevel with a 1K King, then 6K King, 8K Ninawa SS and 10K Ninawa SS. Stropped with CrO on nylon 7 times, bare Nylon 25 times, leather 50 - 55 times. Saturday and Sunday shaves were entirely straight, and man was I ever slow. The edge is very sharp, very keen and very smooth. Will do HH4 across the blade. Not much crimson during the week. A small nick from Saturday when I did a full shave, and a small weeper on Sunday.

Week two: Thanksgiving Week

Since I did not kill myself over the weekend, I incorporated a full WTG straight razor pass on Monday through Friday, then an ATG finish with the DE. Short work week. This was a completely good two days of shaving. Focused on getting the best WTG first pass with the straight. Some small nicks along the way, but nothing that persisted past a cold water rinse. Trying to get under and around the nose better, and trying to stretch and get the jaw line better on the first pass.

Spent a lot of time in B&B, and saw several recommendations to learn the straight by using the straight only. I just do not have the time during the work week, and I enjoy the BBS too much to not leave for the office without one. I am sticking to my strategy of doing what I can with the straight, then DE finish. I added a day of vacation on either side of the Thanksgiving Holiday, so this is a short work week. I have Wednesday through Monday to try straight razor shave only. Man am I slow on the XTG and ATG passes. When using weak hand, I cannot see the sideburn to start the shave. I can see just fine with the strong side. Trying to replicate, only opposite. Still no luck. Left hand XTG (ear to nose) on the RH face is a disaster. RH XTG (ear to nose) on the left face went pretty well. ATG on the neck is ok until just under the jaw line, then skip and jump. Chin XTG not working at all. Wednesday shave sucked (felt stubble; took forever). Thursday shave slightly better, but I am still spending a lot of time problem solving my attack and getting the angles and dexterity down. Fast forward to Monday. Monday shave a lot better with respect to feel than the Wednesday through Sunday ones, but each day got a little better and a little faster. Two handed ATG on the chin caused a little rash- Watch Angle! Monday I did a third touch up pass in some under the jaw line problem areas that are problematic with the DE as well. Result: Closest straight razor shave yet!!!! Felt good for about half the day, then palpable stubble began appearing.

My razor has only been honed by me from the factory. How good can an edge be????? Found a lightly restored Reynolds square point that was in excellent shape from a reputable restorer and honer. Ordered it and cannot wait for it to arrive.

Week three: Short work week of 4 days:

Back to my one pass WTG straight both hands with a second DE ATG finish, focus on making the single pass better. Able to achieve a good shave if I keep the skin tight with the one WTG pass. Cheeks BBS, chin and jaw line DFS, problem areas under jaw line/neck were not good but approaching what I can get with a single WTG. Overall, very good week. Wednesday, the Sheffield arrived, and it is SWEET!!!! Now I get to see how good my edge is in comparison. But look at that square Point! Thursday I used the Reynolds Sheffield. I never started a single stroke without my eye focused on the tip. Did one full WTG pass and slowed it down, always paying attention to where the tip was, and what angle it was. Great news, the entire shave was good, no crimson. The razor was only slightly better in smoothness to my Dovo, so I am confident in my honing and stropping. An I did not kill myself with the square point!!! Thinking that I will go to straight razor only during the work week starting Monday. I clearly learned a great deal during TG break doing straight only, and clearly this is the fastest and best way to learn.

Friday- Try again with the Reynolds a full WTG. RH, R cheek against the ear, no problem down to the Jaw Line. R cheek near the mouth corner, focusing on getting the corner of the mouth with the middle of the blade-OUCH!!!!!!! The looser skin on my cheek wrapped the point at the angle I was trying, and I got the deepest nick yet while shaving. Lessons learned! Put the Reynolds in the drawer and don't get it out until I have more skill and can focus on the tip, when the rest of the shave is more or less second nature!. Second, when using a square point, never loose focus on the tip. After the nick I immediately put down the Sheffield, and finished with the DE. This really set me back emotionally on straight razor shaving. Damn it hurt, was deep and I questioned my sanity. Not terribly large, about 1/8" or slightly larger.

All day Friday I was in B&B off and on looking for motivation, and found some, enough any ways. Questioning the sensibility of going to straight only on Monday. Saturday and Sunday I did full two pass straight razor shaves with no incident. Still pretty slow, but much faster from where I started. Focusing on a two pas with the first WTG and the second a combination of XTG and ATG on the neck and chin. Both shaves were DFS in total, with areas of BBS and acceptable problem areas. Not sure about straight only on Monday!

Decided to go straight razor only. Two passes WTG and a combo XTG/ATG. DFS except problem areas. Time was only slightly longer than what I need for DE shave. Not a bad result. All shaves have and still are: shower, facial cleanser in shower, Proraso pre-shave, Arko soap (lather in bowl), alum block, Proraso after shave balm. Not what I would call a good shave, but probably as good or better than what I got with those cartridges for all of those years.
Did another shave just as Monday, and tried to add efficiency. Did the WTG first, XTG/ATG second. Time is getting better. Decided to do a third touch up, especially problem area. Result, DFS overall, even the problem area. Now it is mid morning and I feel some other areas that were not that bad earlier. Still a significant amount of work and refinement to accomplish. But it was a good shave and good result. My entire SSS routine is at about an hour. As long as I have an hour to devote, I will continue to use straight only. Anything less, then it will be back to the one pass straight with DE finish, or DE only. Tomorrow I need to focus a little more attention under the nose. On the third touch up pass, I need to focus a little more on the entire jaw and neck area, not just the most problematic area.
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Sounds like you're off to a real fine start. I found that different parts of my shave dialed in at different times. And while I thought I may have had something figured out, working on a different area gave me some ideas for improving my shave in the areas I thought I was done messing with. Actually, I think this process continues . . . .
Sounds like you're off to a real fine start. I found that different parts of my shave dialed in at different times. And while I thought I may have had something figured out, working on a different area gave me some ideas for improving my shave in the areas I thought I was done messing with. Actually, I think this process continues . . . .

Thanks Larry for the vote of confidence and the encouragement. I probably should have been counting attempts/shaves, but I am not sure exactly where I am. My guess is around 24 shaves, give or take a few.

I sometimes wish I counted too. I didn't start my journal until way after 100, I think. It still is a helpful process, if only to be able to search on stuff you've used before, or for the on-line xAD support group. lol
The amount of time needed is also one thing making me think twice about making it a permanant thing. Will look at ways to make it possible though, such as changing the time that I shave. Hope you can find a way to keep that time block for it as you're off to a flying start.
As mentioned above, I am not too sure of the shave count to date with the straight. I am anchoring today as shave 25 and will count forward from here. This will not be off more than a shave or two either way.

Setup today was as usual. I have yet to get the lather exactly right. Yesterday was about perfect. Today I got it a little too wet, and it was dripping from the face. Looking for the happy medium.

Did a complete straight shave again, and focused on the one problem area on my neck under the jaw line. This area turned out very well, as did some other areas below the jaw line, but the other areas that were going pretty well with a BBS result did not turn out so well today. Overall I would rate it an almost DFS. Can't seem to put it all together in one shave. I am having a difficult time seeing the sideburn and razor when I go left. This AM I was able to find a spot that worked. I have no problem going right. I am not sure why this is. I do have an eye condition that causes glaucomatous like vision loss. I think that where I need to be is in a blind spot with my left eye. The spot that worked this AM I was clearly focusing with my right eye. I am normally right eye dominant any way. Today was the first time that I found a spot where I can see going left, so lets hope I can find it tomorrow and subsequent days.

Overall a good result. One nick where the heel of the blade started to dig in on my chin while doing a LH XTG on my cheek. But no blood followed. Just the sting of the soap. I'm sure a little line will show up later. I was able to work directly under the nose better today by rotating the razor as I performed the down pass. I have not tried this that far up the nose septum before, and it worked well. In the future I will try to focus on putting together a complete shave, paying attention to all fundamentals as well as techniques for known problem areas.
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Sometimes it feels like you're trying to focus a camera on a scene, but can only gets certain parts of the picture into focus at one time. Eventually they all come into focus, but for a while, the clear areas move about.

Enough metaphors. Sounds like you're on the right track. Sorry about the line; they happen . . . .
Sometimes it feels like you're trying to focus a camera on a scene, but can only gets certain parts of the picture into focus at one time. Eventually they all come into focus, but for a while, the clear areas move about.

Enough metaphors. Sounds like you're on the right track. Sorry about the line; they happen . . . .

off to a great start! Just keep your
patience, and the muscle memory
will come in time.

Thanks for the encouragements guys. Keeping the metaphor alive, I wish I knew where the aperture ring was so I could stop it open for a greater depth of field. Enough of the photograph metaphor. The line is just under the jaw line of the chin (not where it was when it happened), so it is not obvious to anyone else readily. So no explaining to do today.

Feeling my face now, it is clearly a better shave than this time yesterday, so I am feeling pretty good about it. I should have never started with the DE. The BBS I get with it has set the bar very high with respect to closeness. If I would have gotten this shave just coming from the cartridge, I would be tickled pink, and would be faceturbating all day.
I wondered for a long time whether my straight shaves were really as good as what I could do with a DE. I used one a couple months ago. It was close, no doubt. With a fresh edge I can shave with a straight as close. But it was nowhere near as comfortable to my face. Some of this may have been my DE ineptitude, since I only used them for a month or so before diving into straights. And one shave isn't perhaps the best test. But when I was done, I felt like I "wasted" a shave. We only get so many, you know. . . .
LOL, I am actually thinking about moving on to shaving my head once I get the hole face thing figured out:lol:.
Today was an early start, and I was pressed for time. I did one full WTG/NtoS pass with the straight, then finished with the DE. I tried to focus on getting the best possible one pass as I could.

Cheeks were good, but the neck area had lots of palpable stubble. Nothing out of the ordinary, but I was hoping for closer. For the future, I may focus on making the WTG pass better, especially under the jaw line and neck. I think that the angles I am getting around the bend are close, but they are not yet optimal.
This AM my attack was a bit timid for reasons that I am not sure of. I approached that shave with little confidence, and my resulting strokes were not achieved with defined purpose. At least compared to more recent shaves. Nothing was different in the mix of prep or razor.

Having said this, the resulting shave was not bad at all. It was far from perfect, but I was not embarrassed to bring this face to work, at least not from a facial hair standpoint. The normal under the jaw/neck problem areas were not bad, but also not perfect. I am trying to accomplish a very good shave in just two passes, one WTG/N-S. The second a combination of XTG on the cheeks and ATG on neck and chin. Perhaps I need to incorporate a third pass. My XTG have been ear to midline. Perhaps a midline to ear and a two pass ATG in the neck/chin. Perhaps I am expecting too much from a two pass shave at this stage of development?
Thanks for the input guys. I will likely keep it to a two pass with a touch up during the week, then I might incorporate a third pass on weekends when time is more abundant.

I bought myself a Christmas present that arrived yesterday, and when I got home from work I could not help myself. With all of the hoopla around the B&B award for razors under $500, I got on Nate's razor notice list and scored a Nate's Straight. Nothing fancy, just a clean lines beautiful Desert Ironwood scaled hand made razor. In the award writeup, Joel said that his example was the best honed razor he has ever used. This intrigued me as I want some standards by which to judge my own honing.

Razor, Nate's Straight 11/16" "Odd Ball" razor with Desert Ironwood, no jimping, 1/4 Hollow grind. (Very clean looking razor).
Rest of setup exactly as before.

Resulting shave, almost exactly as achieved this AM. Problem areas were just as problematic.

Thoughts on the feel of the edge. The 1/4 hollow provides a different feedback than a full hollow. It is not silent, but there is not much sound as it hits whiskers. The edge felt very smooth, but not significantly better than the bevel I put on my Dovo. Going against the grain was no smoother than my Dovo, and the whisker grabs the blade just as much as my Dovo.

Now, Nate may have spent more time with the edge of the Razor that he sent Joel, but if the razor that he sent to me is an example of as good as a shave ready razor gets, then I am very pleased with my honing results.

I love this NS razor. The size of the blade seems perfect to me. I also have a 6/8 Dovo in addition to the 5/8, and I am not yet a fan of the bigger blade. But the NS has an intermediate blade size, but is heavier than the 5/8" Dovo due mainly to the 1/4 ground. I do like the additional weight. It is a square point, but not excessively so. Felt a lot like my round point Dovo on the face, but there is a point that I must remain vigilent in my focus. No nicks, no burn, no weepers.

This beautiful blade is going in the drawer until my skills improve, and Saturday will be back to the round point Dovo.
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