After a decade of avoiding arkansas stones, dove right into all densities of novaculite and convexing hones.
Water to soap ratio is the key to good lather. My experience is that boars nail this with their water absorption that is unique from other materials. But it doesn't happen until they're broken in. You have a Semogue boar, don't you? If you concentrate on figuring that brush out and using it lots, chances are good that it'll become a favorite. I'd highly recommend trying a Zenith also. Very small investment for a very interesting experience. Have fun!Interesting.
How is it different from the lather made by badger / synthetic brushes? Which do you prefer and why?
You have a Semogue boar, don't you?
Wow, that's a gorgeous brush! I 've found yourshaving website in Portugal to be a good place for Zeniths and Semogues.Thanks for your answer! I have an Italian brush called 'Atto Primo' (the first act).
It's great, check it out: Pennello da Barba con setole di maiale | Atto Primo - http://www.attoprimoitaly.it/prodotto/pennello-silver/
I looked for a Zenith, but I can't find em anywhere in the Netherlands.
The boar brush gets softer overtime when hairs split. I put it with its tips in cold water in the fridge for 2 days. So it feels quite broken in already. The Semogue SOC boars look the business as well. But my boar brush just had to be Italian.
Do you squeeze out the water from the brush, to get this perfect water/soap ratio?
Before I pull the trigger on buying expensive SR gear, I think I'd better give it a try first.
2020 is almost at it's end. The holiday season is a time for reflection. So I would like to reflect upon this (first) year of 'proper' wet shaving. So coming to you from the Netherlands, I would like to share how wet shaving has enriched my life, and what I have learned.
I also would love to hear your thougths:
What has wet shaving brought to you in 2020? What have you learned? What products did you acquire and why?
What are your goals for 2021?
How it all started
In 2020, at age 24 I first started the 'proper' wet shaving. So, how did that come about?
Nowadays, life needs to be fast, from our food, to our media, to the products we consume.
Shaving has become a way of slowing down for me. Even when still using a Gilette and a can of shaving foam, I have always found shaving quite a relaxing experience.
A trip to Florence, Italy is where I discovered the more classic grooming ritual of wet shaving. The city has really sparked an enthusiasm in me regarding traditional products and production methods. The city's packed with artisans and craftsmen, using traditional methods to create some real 'old world' quality products. During this trip we've visited tailors, shoemakers and leatherworkers, but also some perfumeries such as Santa Maria Novella and AquaFlor. These ancient establishments seemed so far away from the 'fast world' I was used to. The quality and tradition they exuded were just amazing. Unfortunately, during this trip I was still studying, so on a tight budget. Too bad the badger brushes had a three figure price tag.
Getting a bespoke suit, handmade shoes, or spend 150 euros on something like a shaving brush was out of the question. I realised the old world quality I was craving, was coming at a price.
Some time passed. And I got a job, with a good income.
Being a huge James Bond fan, I watched Skyfall later that year. The iconic straight razor scene just made sense. Straight razor shaving just seemed to fit in with the masculinity and coolness of Bond. The girls, the fast cars, the suits: Straight razor shaving is as much aspirational about Bond's luxury lifstyle, as the hot girls, the cocktails and fast cars. So it was settled then: let's save up for a straight razor shaving kit. I needed to save up, because Bond doesn't compromise on quality.
So the hunt began. And as always with buying new stuff, the fun is in the thrill of the chase. After reading countless forum threads, blogs and reviews, I was sure. It needed to be a Ralf Aust SR with a spanish point and an ebony handle. I read a thread on B&B that stated is was probably best to practice with a safety razor first. And since I was still hesitant about the stropping, grinding etc.: So I did.
My first DE razor
After lots of reasearch, I took the plunge: I bought a Mühle Rocca V4 with the birch handle. I figured an all stainless steel razor wouldn't corode over time, as a chrome plated one would. It came in a mimimalist but luxurious box. The first two shaves I was really careful, but nicked myself twice. Still: the results where very smooth. I started experimenting with lots of DE blades, and decided I liked the sharper ones best.
My current daily driver are the Astra Blue's, (cheap and very sharp). I keep my Feather blades for special occasions, when you need to look perfect.
After months of practice, beardmapping, tempering with products etc. I get a consistent BBS shaving result.
Enjoying traditional rituals and mindfulness
After the initial scaryness of DE shaving wore off, I began to really enjoy practicing this ancient ritual.
In my job I was under a lot of stress/pressure every day. The shaving ritual has become a way for me 'slow down'. Shaving helps me emptying my mind, and relieve the stress from the 'fast world'.
To be deeply engaged in one single activity and not thinking about anything else, is very relaxing. I suppose one could call it mindfulness.
For me this is perhaps the best part of wet shaving.
Contemplating which gear to use
The logic by which I try to collect my shaving gear, is that of tradition and geography.
I thought it would me most appropriate for me to start my collection, where my shaving journey started: in Florence, Italy.
So I bought some Proraso products. I like the Green and Azur collection best.
The quintessential Italian shave (according to Franco Bompierie of Antica Barberia Colla) is using a boar brush.
I tried some Mondial and Omega boars, but the quality was inferior when compared to an Atto Prima brush. The hairs are longer, softer and the handle is turned from solid aluminium. It still has that Italian barber style look, but without the flimsy plastic handles.
- Proraso Green preshave
- Proraso Green Cream / Croap
- Proraso Green aftershave
- Face lathering with an Atto Primo Boar Brush
I always feel very clean and fresh after this shave. It stimulates all the senses.
Any reccommendations for other fresh smelling typical Italian creams with pedigree?
My next goal is to assemble the perfect (at least to me) British shaving experience.
I did quite some research into which brush, which soap etc. At first I thought Silvertip Badger would be the way to go. It's the purist's choice.
But as much as I hate it, buying a badger brush is now out of the question. The animal cruelty in the farming of badgerhair is just unacceptable to me. I would feel guilty everytime I would use it. Unfortunate, because those Simpson's, Rooney and Kent brushes really look the business!
So for Christmas I treated myself to a synthetic Simpsons Trafalgar brush. Looks similar, feels very soft and I don't have visions of screaming badgers in a snare or cage while I'm shaving. So my mental state of zen while shaving is preserved.
For creams, I was experimenting with samples from TOBS. So far I liked the Eton College and Cedarwood creams best. Most traditional would be a soap or cream from one of the 3 T's. I'm looking for a fresh scent. I also tried Castle Forbes Lavender, and it performed beautifully! I liked the scent much better than the TOBS lavender. However, 30 euros for a jar is a bit steep.
Furthermore I am looking for a great English style shaving mug or scuttle. A 3 T's example with one of the Royal Family's Crest's on it would be great. As for the soap: you guys have any advice for classic English Cream / soap that outperforms Proraso, has heritage and a fair price? Maybe some British members can chime in, and give some advice on perfecting the quintessential British shave?
Reconsidering the initial idea of SR Shaving
Since my first year of wet shaving, I really enjoy the DE shaving. It's really easy, cheap and comfortable. As badass as SR shaving still looks, I am wondering if a SR would get me even smoother results. Would a SR experience be even more relaxing / satisfying? Or am I just romanticizing something because it looked so cool when my hero of traditional luxury, mr. James Bond was doing it?
Maybe the Mühle I'm currently using is just as efficient?
Before I pull the trigger on buying expensive SR gear, I think I'd better give it a try first.
Goals for 2021:
- Getting proper products for the English / British shaving experience
- Learning how to use a straight razor
- Deciding wether to start using a SR
- Visiting Solingen
- Go to Portugal once Covid's gone, and dive into Portuguese soaps and brushes
Thanks for reading!
Again, I would love to hear your thoughts and advice.
I wish you all happy shaving and all the best in 2021!
Best regards from the Netherlands!
Although it's true that beautiful women will queue up for the pleasure of shaving you with your new straight razor - just like James Bond movies - it's not all glamour, meaningful glances and expensive lingerie. When I think of straight razors I think of the workshop: the smell of oil and sawdust, an old radio, and rows of carefully-maintained tools with keen edges. You'll need to enjoy this kind of work. To keep a razor sharp you have to learn the craft of honing & stropping.
It's always good to learn a new skill though. The other day I had a sticking door which needed some wood shaved off so I dug out an ancient Stanley plane which hadn't been used for years, no edge on the blade. There was a time when I wouldn't have had a clue what to do but now, with all my sharpening experience, I took one look at it and instantly knew what grit to start on and what grit to finish on. About ten minutes later the blade was razor sharp again and slicing easily through wood.
Anyway, once you've mastered the art of honing there's the kudos and respect to be gained from grooming nonchalantly with a deadly blade of death. I kid you not but every one of my friends & family - without exception - have all asked me the same thing: "are you f****g mental?!"
PS: if you want to try it out without the hassle of stropping & honing get an Aliexpress Feather DX copy plus some Schick Proline or Kai Captain mild blades (Feather Pro Super at a pinch). Many users of traditional straights like their Feather DXs a lot. The blade is slightly shorter than a traditional straight but they feel very similar.
I hone my SR's just once. After that they get stropped on clean (not pasted) leather before each shave. After each shave they get about 50 laps on a 0.1um diamond pasted balsa strop. That is all. They never need honing again.Great post. Thanks for the advice. I could see myself finding satisfaction in honing and stropping. How often do you need to do this? What should I think off in terms of cost for all the sharpening gear, if I want my SR to be 'Feather sharp' ?
Best regards from the Netherlands.
Requiring a slightly more aggressive razor is common as we grow older and our whiskers toughen.My big shaving expenditures in 2020 were the Merkur Progress and the Fatip Open Comb Slant razors, some cologne and samples from Stirling, a tube of Proraso Green cream and some more blades, and a second fat-handled Tech and a travel shave kit with a Travel Tech from 1965. Quite a bit, when you think about it.
My journey has been from canned gels to Barbasol foam, to creams and then to soaps. Now, this year, I find myself drifting back to creams again. As for brushes, I began with an EJ badger, added an AP Shave Co. synthetic that at first I did not like much, and then a Semogue boar. This year I began to use the synthetic more and more, and it is by far the brush I employ most often. And for a time I was not completely happy with the shaves from my Gillette Slim -- this after using it with delight since 2014. Recently, though, I've come to a new appreciation of it (mostly by using a higher setting for my first pass).
As for 2021, who knows. I may try some more Proraso products, like the aftershaves or colognes.