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Newbie Shaving Diary

Seeing as there's some positive reaction to my suggestion of posting a shaving diary, I'll start one up. It might be helpful to other people new to DE razor shaving. Mods: if this isn't the right forum for it, feel free to move somewhere more appropriate.

I'm going to keep using the same razor/blade/cream/brush/aftershave combo, and similar technique, until the Merkur blades run out. I figure by that time, I should have a good grasp on how things are going.

I'll post after every shave, noting what's working, what isn't, what I'm changing in my technique, and maybe some rambling thoughts for the day.

Weapons of choice:
Razor - Merkur HD
Blades - Merkur Super Platinum
Brush - Men-U Synthetic
Soap - Mitchell's Wool Fat
Aftershave - Speick After Shave Balm

On to the first shave, copied & pasted from my introduction post:

Week 1, Day 1
I had a first crack with the DE razor tonight, after reading as much as I could on this site. I need to work on getting a good lather I think, but at least I produced something that actually covered my face on my second try. The Men-U Synthetic brush holds a LOT of water, I discovered on my first attempt.

The shave itself was as I expected it to be - not as good as I have been getting with 15 years of experience with a cartridge, but still reasonably good. I paid attention to the blade angle and my beard grain, doing a couple of N-S passes (which may be either with the grain, or up to 3/4 against the grain, depending on the part of my face), and a S-N pass which I seem to need to get any shave at all done under my chin.

I did a couple of things that I'm used to doing with my Mach 3, like going over an area twice without re-lathering, and at times was pushing a bit too hard, which I will keep an eye on next time. The shave turned out pretty well actually, only had a couple more bleeding spots than with the Mach 3, but my face felt like it was on fire, especially the parts under my chin. Re-lathering made this feeling disappear between passes, and the aftershave balm made the feeling disappear completely.
 
Week 1, Day 4
Yes, I really do go 3 days between shaves (more like 2-1/2 days, Day 1 was an evening shave, today was a morning shave), and my beard was just getting to "sandpaper" level, only just enough for a razor to bite into. No ingrown hairs from last shave, but the rash thing on my lower neck is still there.

As mentioned, it was a morning shave this morning, post-shower. I don't really notice much difference in softness post-shower with such a small amount of growth.

I still need to work on my lathering technique, it seems to evaporate pretty quickly. I really should switch to using a bowl or mug instead of my hand, but I'm not sure if my mother-in-law would take too kindly to be grabbing a random piece of crockery kitchen :biggrin:

Shave went reasonably well, face isn't burning as much as the first time. I'm going back to doing 3 passes, like I did with my Mach 3. A N-S pass (mostly WTG), a Centre-Out pass (mostly XTG, some ATG), and a S-N pass (mostly ATG), plus a couple of quick Out-Centre passes at the bottom of my neck to catch those bits ATG.

A couple of bleeding spots appeared after the ATG pass, but no more than with my Mach 3. I managed to get my first cut on my top lip, think I was both pressing too hard and not stretching my lip down enough.

Overall, very impressed with this shave. It's closer on a used blade than my Mach 3 was on a new blade. It is pretty much BBS already.

Points for next shave:
1. Work on the lather!
2. Remember the lighter touch
3. Remember to stretch the skin
4. Blade replacement might be needed
 
This is interesting and a neat idea, I am going to follow your journey. I just started out myself so it should parallel my experience. Or not. ;)
 
And good idea using one set-up for while, my only suggestion would be try use a different blade other than the Merkur. The Murkur gave me some issues when I started so perhaps a Derby Extras or IP Reds would be a good starting blade.
I don't seem to have any issues with the Merkur blades (maybe the many tiny nicks IS the issue, or maybe I just prefer an aggressive shave, after 15 years with various cartridge razors?), but the reason I'm starting with them is because I have the most of them, which gives me a chance to get my technique down pat without changing any variables.

What issues were you getting with the Merkur blades?
 
When I was new, I tried Merkur blades. I found them to badly pull, and skip. I quickly decided that they were garbage blades. No other blade I had performed in that manner.

I decided to revisit them 3 months later, and I found they were no where near as awful as I thought. They were mediocre in every area, and thus overpriced, but they certainly were serviceable.

I say all of that, just to point out that I think the Merkur blades might be less forgiving than others (like a Derby or Red IP) of a newbie who hasn't yet honed their technique.
 
When I was new, I tried Merkur blades. I found them to badly pull, and skip. I quickly decided that they were garbage blades. No other blade I had performed in that manner.

I decided to revisit them 3 months later, and I found they were no where near as awful as I thought. They were mediocre in every area, and thus overpriced, but they certainly were serviceable.

I say all of that, just to point out that I think the Merkur blades might be less forgiving than others (like a Derby or Red IP) of a newbie who hasn't yet honed their technique.
+1 What he said
 

Luc

Moderator Emeritus
I don't seem to have any issues with the Merkur blades (maybe the many tiny nicks IS the issue, or maybe I just prefer an aggressive shave, after 15 years with various cartridge razors?), but the reason I'm starting with them is because I have the most of them, which gives me a chance to get my technique down pat without changing any variables.

What issues were you getting with the Merkur blades?
I got the same thing! Merkur were no so bad but they were not that great too. I think they were not so bad because I didn't know anything else...

If you can try another blade, you will know right away what I'm talking about (Derby, Astra, Feather).

EDIT: Overall, I am not considering Merkur as bad, only overpriced. Yes they work, they are just not the best blade on the market, even less at that price! If you would get them for free, I would qualify them as average. Not too good, not too bad.

If you get another blade, please, do not get a Wilkinson Sword at Coles, those are in the same category than Merkur (WS in OZ are made in Brazil, ok blade but $12 for 10 blade is a bit rich).
 
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Thanks for the comments about the Merkur blades. Judging by the comments, the blades could be classified as "average, but expensive". I got these blades as part of a sample pack (and 1 freebie with the razor itself), so I'm not worried about the cost so much, and given that I'm just starting out with DE razors, leaving somewhere "better" to go is a good idea once I've got my technique down pat, and I'm not changing any variables in the mix so I can concentrate more on the technique.

Week 1, Day 6
2 days since my last shave, and there seemed to be just enough stubble there to be able to shave. No ingrown hairs, and my wife says my face is looking healthier. Normally I would leave it 1 more day, but I thought I'd give it a shot and get some extra practice in.

You may remember that my last comment was something along the lines of "I might need to replace the blade next shave". I didn't replace the blade, and it seems that was a mistake. WTG was fine, XTG started getting a couple of weepers, and ATG got a whole heap more weepers, the biggest at both edges of my upper lip. At least I know what a "blunt" blade feels like now :blushing: Don't get me wrong, the blade still cut reasonably well, but it was a lot harsher, and didn't cut quite as close.

I also discovered that an Outside to Centre pass doesn't really do much on my face except move lather around :rolleyes:

On a brighter note, I think I am getting the hang of getting a lather. I tried it in a mug today - but I think the mug was the wrong shape, its top lip curled back in. It looks kind of like a sphere with the top chopped off and the bottom flattened, and a handle stuck on. There was a decent amount of room INSIDE the mug, but my hand didn't quite fit. I did manage to get a reasonable lather from it though, it didn't dry out as fast this time. The bubbles looked pretty big, and it didn't quite have merangue consistency. I'll try and find something better before the next shave, maybe one of the rice bowls from the kitchen...

My wife also likes the Speick aftershave a lot more. "After 10 years with the same aftershave, I was getting a bit sick of it". I wonder if she might be an enabler for the *AD which I'm trying to resist? :biggrin:

Anyway, notes for next time:

1. Replace the blade!
2. Find something better to make the lather in.
3. Technique seems to be pretty good now, but don't get too carried away.
 
2. Find something better to make the lather in.
I have found a large, deep cereal bowl to work excellent. Since I am prone to dropping things, plastic is much better than glass/ ceramic....:lol::lol:

The bowl tends to work better, if the sides have a gentle slope up to the top, rather than being straight upwards. If they go straight up, the brush tends to clank against the side of the bowl, while generating lather, which some people find annoying. :smile:
 
Update time! Thanks for the pointer michiganlover, I used a deep rice bowl today. My mother-in-law didn't say anything :)

I also seem to have developed RAD, I purchased a couple of straight razors from an antique store yesterday...

Week 2, Day 1
As noted, I switched to a deep rice bowl for making my lather today. It worked extremely well, so well that I think I had enough lather for maybe 8 or 9 passes :eek: Guess I don't need as much soap, but too much is better than too little, and it's all part of the learning process.

I'm also starting to think these Merkur blades aren't quite agreeing with me. They seem to be a bit like German people - they do their jobs exceptionally well, but feel a bit harsh (when you talk to them in their native tongue). I'll keep going with these blades for 1 or 2 more replacements, to make sure I've got the DE technique down pat. Either that, or I'll switch when my face falls off :biggrin:

I replaced the blade this time, but the shave comfort didn't seem to improve much, so maybe the last blade wasn't really dull yet. So far, I think my 2nd shave has been my most comfortable one, not sure why. Maybe the blade has a sweet spot for me after being used once or twice? Or maybe it's just my face still adjusting to the sharper blades of DE razors, as opposed to the M3? Oh well, food for thought.

I did 3-and-a-bit passes - N-S, Centre-Out, S-N, and a last ATG pass to get anything I didn't get with the 3 passes. Result is BBS, but I'm starting to wonder if the irritation is worth it? It seems with my beard, ATG and XTG don't do much, leaving me with sandpaper face, ATG leaves me BBS but a bit irritated.

I also seem to have 2 problem areas - my chin, and my upper lip at the corners of my mouth, and I'd like some suggestions for how to "fix" the issues.

I always seem to cause my upper lip at both corners to bleed a bit when I go ATG. In my case, ATG is somewhere between S-N and 45 degrees towards my nose.

The front of my chin seems to have issues being shaved closely, I keep getting feedback from the razor that says "there's more stubble there, go back again", for about 8 passes, then suddenly "no more stubble, but enjoy your new hole in your chin".

Anyway, notes for next time:

1. The rice bowl worked very well for lather. Less soap required!
2. Keep going with this blade, and the next in the pack from the Merkurs at least. After that, try out the different blades. I always say you should try something new at least twice - the first time you don't really know what's happening, the second and subsequent times you have a chance to take in the experience properly.
3. Stop shaving chunks out of the sideburns (they extend my hair line straight down my face to the bottom of my ears). Have to cut them back, clean them up and grow them out again now :mad:
 
Another update, for those following along at home.

Week 2, Day 3
My lather didn't work so well today, which I did in the same rice bowl as yesterday. I think I had too much water and not enough soap. Still learning that art.

I also think I've figured out what's causing the biting of the razor into my top lip on the ATG pass. When I shave my top lip, I pull it to the opposite side of my mouth (by moving my entire lower jaw). When I do this, directly below the patch that I always seem to scrape raw, are my canine teeth, which stick forward a little bit than the rest of my teeth. Maybe I'm just using the wrong angle there, but I did try lowering the angle immediately when I felt the harsh scrape of skin coming off.

I also swear there were less little bleeding spots today. Maybe my theory of the 2nd shave with the Merkur blades being better than the first is holding true? Or maybe it's just my developing technique.

The razor also did something kind of strange today. As I was doing the Centre-Out pass over the top of my cheek, the blade was jumping along, even leaving patches of shaving foam it was jumping so high. Maybe that's a sign of not enough pressure?

Notes for next time:

1. More soap, less water. Keep using the rice bowl, it seems to work well.
2. Give my face a rest for 2 days, for my upper lips to recover, and to see if I'm shaving too often for my face. Next update on Saturday.
3. Technique seems pretty good, but keep concentrating on blade angle.
 
Update Time!

Week 2, Day 6
Yep, I left it 3 days. On one hand, I'm glad I did as it gave the problematic upper lip corners a chance to heal a bit. On the other hand, the extra growth caused the razor to pull continuously on the WTG pass. For some reason, the pulling wasn't as bad when I used my left hand to shave with on the left side of my face. The XTG and ATG passes were fine. Maybe I just need a new blade every time I shave more than 2 days of growth?

Used my rice bowl for the lather again, and turned out a pretty good one. Wasn't an insane amount like it was on Monday, but I still had plenty more than I needed.

Shave itself was good, very few little nicks this time. Must mean my technique is getting better, although every time I say that I usually have a worse shave next time :biggrin:

Notes for next time:
1. Lather seems to be coming along well, keep it going.
2. Shave technique seems to be going well, keep concentrating on the blade angle.
3. STOP CUTTING INTO THE SIDEBURNS! I keep hacking bits out of my right sideburn, but not my left :mad:
 

Luc

Moderator Emeritus
This is going well.

you might need to change your blade.

Also, try to cut around the sideburn in a straight line or perpendicular. That's how I shape mine, I go as close as I can but still keep it safe, then I follow the line straight down or go perpendicular to the sideburn!
 
Update time!

I changed the blade today, and I think my theory of the Merkur blades being harsh on the first shave seems pretty true. I'm going to try a different blade next time the blade needs a change, probably next week sometime (I'm in Melbourne this weekend and next Monday, and I doubt they'd let me take a pack of razor blades in carry-on luggage).

Luc, I seem to hack into the side of my sideburns when I do a S-N pass - the blade kind of wanders towards my ear a bit. I think I just haven't discovered the width of the blade yet, it's a bit wider than a M3.

Week 3, Day 1
Shave felt a bit harsh, as seems "normal" with new Merkur blades. It is still BBS with a couple of weepers.

I'm still working on getting the lather right - not sure what I did last week to get the great lather, wish I could remember. The lather today seemed to be evaporating by the 3rd pass, but it lasted long enough for my needs.

Notes for next time:
1. Keep experimenting with the lather to get it right. It's acceptable, but not perfect yet.
 
I'd have given up on Merkurs well before now :wink: In fact, I didn't get past the 2nd blade.

Reading your posts, 'aggressive shave' and irritation seems to be a feature. How is that going? If you're still getting it, I'd really look at the pressure you're applying. It may not seem much, as sharp blades will mask all sorts of heavy handedness - until you're finished.

The weight of the razor head only is what you need, anything like enforcing the blade on the skin, as with carts is going to flare your skin up.

Believe me, BBS isn't worth the flare ups; it will come with time and technique. I'm still waiting, but in the meantime I get very good comfy shaves. If I try and force the issue, thinking I've got my technique sorted, I know all about it.
 

Luc

Moderator Emeritus
Update time!

I changed the blade today, and I think my theory of the Merkur blades being harsh on the first shave seems pretty true. I'm going to try a different blade next time the blade needs a change, probably next week sometime (I'm in Melbourne this weekend and next Monday, and I doubt they'd let me take a pack of razor blades in carry-on luggage).

Luc, I seem to hack into the side of my sideburns when I do a S-N pass - the blade kind of wanders towards my ear a bit. I think I just haven't discovered the width of the blade yet, it's a bit wider than a M3.

Week 3, Day 1
Shave felt a bit harsh, as seems "normal" with new Merkur blades. It is still BBS with a couple of weepers.

I'm still working on getting the lather right - not sure what I did last week to get the great lather, wish I could remember. The lather today seemed to be evaporating by the 3rd pass, but it lasted long enough for my needs.

Notes for next time:
1. Keep experimenting with the lather to get it right. It's acceptable, but not perfect yet.
It's a matter of time to get used to it then.
 
I'd have given up on Merkurs well before now :wink: In fact, I didn't get past the 2nd blade.

Reading your posts, 'aggressive shave' and irritation seems to be a feature. How is that going? If you're still getting it, I'd really look at the pressure you're applying. It may not seem much, as sharp blades will mask all sorts of heavy handedness - until you're finished.

The weight of the razor head only is what you need, anything like enforcing the blade on the skin, as with carts is going to flare your skin up.

Believe me, BBS isn't worth the flare ups; it will come with time and technique. I'm still waiting, but in the meantime I get very good comfy shaves. If I try and force the issue, thinking I've got my technique sorted, I know all about it.
Well, that's the thing. I'm new to DE shaves, so I'm not entirely convinced that it's not my technique that's causing the harshness rather than the blades. I do think my technique is pretty reasonable - I usually hold the razor with just thumb and forefinger, and let the handle balance back on my palm, so the razor is either resting on my face, or on my palm. I've switched to short (1-2cm) strokes, rather than the M3-style entire length of the face in one stroke.

I've considered only doing a single WTG pass, or just a WTG and XTG pass. A single (or double) WTG pass doesn't work too well for me, as it leaves behind too much stubble for my liking. A WTG+XTG pass isn't much better, so for me an "acceptable" shave is full WTG+XTG+ATG, which ends up being BBS.

I will pay special consideration to pressure next shave and see if it improves, but I will also be switching Derby blades next week to see how much that changes the equation.
 
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