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Shaving with the Old Type

I switched from the Astra to a FlyDear Super Platinum for today's shave with the Single Ring.

The result was a BBS shave, but maybe not quite at the level of my previous shave with the ancient one.

Three passes, WTG/XTG/ATG. Medium shallow angle. I might have gone slightly steeper today than a couple days ago.

The FlyDear felt rougher on the face, but I haven't noticed any irritation yet. My shaving lather wasn't quite as good this morning, either, so that may have played a role. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

It's worth noting that the FlyDear had a lot more play on the mounting pins, and I had to carefully adjust its alignment before fully clamping it. The Astra fit perfectly on the pins, by contrast.

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Second day with the FlyDear in my Single Ring.

I'm noticing some efficiency loss and continuing roughness with the FlyDear. Still a really good shave, BBS-minus, and no irritation.

Perhaps the ancient shaving machine has exposed why you can get 100 FlyDears on Aliexpress or Temu for the cost of a Starbucks drink. In other razors, I find the Astra and FlyDear almost indistinguishable, including as to longevity.

What I'm finding as I shave more with the Single Ring is that it's incredibly easy to use if your technique is solid. I'm only five days in with it, and it already feels like it could be my only razor. If I didn't have an epic case of RAD, that is. :D
 
Third day with the Single Ring/FlyDear.

Rougher (but not terrible) and didn't quite get to BBS.

I had a Fun Shave today where I felt freer to just move the razor and not be as slow and careful of angle. The Single Ring is forgiving of angle and will let you do that. That's contrary to what I've read elsewhere. You don't have to be scared of this thing.

Moving on to a new blade on my next shave, a Suneko. This is a very smooth and forgiving blade in my experience. I'm hoping it'll be a perfect fit for the Single Ring.

I'm giving myself a day off tomorrow. I'm not having any lingering irritation with the Single Ring, but my face deserves a restful Sunday just like the rest of me does!
 
I just finished three days with the Suneko Amorphous Diamond Super Stainless blade in my Single Ring.

The first shave was one of the best I've had in recent memory. Alas, the next two shaves were not up to that standard.

Day 2 was rough while still close, and day 3 was smoother but fell down into DFS+ range on three passes.

If I didn't mind burning through blades quickly, the Suneko as a one-and-done would be an amazing daily fit with the Single Ring. Amazingly smooth and close at the same time.

The last blade in this rotation with the Single Ring will be three days with a Nacet. After that, I'll come up with some conclusions for those interested in a pre-1921 Old Type.
 
I finished up my two-week rotation with the Single Ring using a Nacet blade for three days. Very close shaves, but also more blade feel. A smoother blade is probably best, and the Astra has been the best, so far.

Tomorrow, I'll write up a summary of my thoughts on shaving with the Old Type. It surprised me a lot.
 
So, for the benefit of anyone researching the Old Type, here are my takeaways after two weeks of shaving with my Single Ring:

  • The best razor I've tried. I don't say that lightly, either. Two weeks of easy and amazing daily BBS shaves with no irritation. Gillette nailed it on the first try back in 1903.
  • Easy to use. Shave steep. Shave shallow. Shave however you want. I didn't have to make any adjustments or shave gingerly. Very forgiving of angle and technique, contrary to reports I've read elsewhere. Not even especially sensitive to pressure compared to other DEs (though less is obviously better). The comb is "sharper" than later OCs, but if you're poking yourself with the comb, then I have to say you're WAY off target!
  • Unforgiving of bad prep. While it's forgiving of technique, you'd better have a SLICK face before you apply this razor to it. A poor lather will give you a rough ride compared to other razors I've tried.
  • Not bloody. I didn't generate any more weepers than I normally do. A beginner might have a different experience, though. I noticed that buffing toward the ends of the blade was a riskier experience than on many razors. Don't get stupid with it.
  • Medium aggression. There is considerable blade feel, but it's a comfortable shave. It feels alive--you can tell what you're doing at all times, and I never had any nasty surprises. I'm guessing reports of harshness are from damaged units. Evaluate carefully before you buy.
  • Medium efficiency. This is not a two-pass BBS razor, such as an R41. The classic 3-pass shave will get you to BBS every time, though, and it's sustainable.
  • Picky about blades; loves the Astra SP. I tried four blade types, ranging from the very smooth Suneko to the very sharp Nacet. I noticed the differences in blades more with this razor than with any other I've used. In most of my razors, the Astra SP and FlyDear are indistinguishable, but the Single Ring loves the Astra and hates the FlyDear. The overall best shave I got over the two weeks was probably the Suneko's first day, but it fell off quickly after the first shave, unlike the Astra. The Nacet felt a little too sharp, and I'm not sure I'd want to try a Feather.
  • Adjust blade alignment. It's true, you often have to align the blade on the pins before clamping it tight. The Astra fit snug and didn't require alignment, but the other three blades did. The FlyDear, in particular, was sloppy on the pins and needs more effort to align. I'm sure every blade variety out there will be different.

To sum up: everyone who loves DE shaving should try an Old Type. Not just for history's sake, but because it really is that good.
Why hasn't somebody copied the exact thin-cap Model 102 build in a more durable metal?

Would I recommend a Model 102 to a beginner? I might, on two conditions:
  • Do a ton of research and know what you're looking for, so you don't get one with bent teeth or a warped cap and/or base. Make sure you get good pictures of the assembled razor head from the front and sides, to see if the cap/base fit is good. It needs to be an exact fit across the entire surface of the cap and base. No gap.
  • Research and incorporate good shave prep before applying blade to face. That's good advice for any shaver, but essential for this razor.
 
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So, for the benefit of anyone researching the Old Type, here are my takeaways after two weeks of shaving with my Single Ring:

  • The best razor I've tried. I don't say that lightly, either. Two weeks of easy and amazing daily BBS shaves with no irritation. Gillette nailed it on the first try back in 1903.
  • Easy to use. Shave steep. Shave shallow. Shave however you want. I didn't have to make any adjustments or shave gingerly. Very forgiving of angle and technique, contrary to reports I've read elsewhere. Not even especially sensitive to pressure compared to other DEs (though less is obviously better). The comb is "sharper" than later OCs, but if you're poking yourself with the comb, then I have to say you're WAY off target!
  • Unforgiving of bad prep. While it's forgiving of technique, you'd better have a SLICK face before you apply this razor to it. A poor lather will give you a rough ride compared to other razors I've tried.
  • Not bloody. I didn't generate any more weepers than I normally do. A beginner might have a different experience, though. I noticed that buffing toward the ends of the blade was a riskier experience than on many razors. Don't get stupid with it.
  • Medium aggression. There is considerable blade feel, but it's a comfortable shave. It feels alive--you can tell what you're doing at all times, and I never had any nasty surprises. I'm guessing reports of harshness are from damaged units. Evaluate carefully before you buy.
  • Medium efficiency. This is not a two-pass BBS razor, such as an R41. The classic 3-pass shave will get you to BBS every time, though, and it's sustainable.
  • Picky about blades; loves the Astra SP. I tried four blade types, ranging from the very smooth Suneko to the very sharp Nacet. I noticed the differences in blades more with this razor than with any other I've used. In most of my razors, the Astra SP and FlyDear are indistinguishable, but the Single Ring loves the Astra and hates the FlyDear. The overall best shave I got over the two weeks was probably the Suneko's first day, but it fell off quickly after the first shave, unlike the Astra. The Nacet felt a little too sharp, and I'm not sure I'd want to try a Feather.
  • Adjust blade alignment. It's true, you often have to align the blade on the pins before clamping it tight. The Astra fit snug and didn't require alignment, but the other three blades did. The FlyDear, in particular, was sloppy on the pins and needs more effort to align. I'm sure every blade variety out there will be different.

To sum up: everyone who loves DE shaving should try an Old Type. Not just for history's sake, but because it really is that good.
Why hasn't somebody copied the exact thin-cap Model 102 build in a more durable metal?

Would I recommend a Model 102 to a beginner? I might, on two conditions:
  • Do a ton of research and know what you're looking for, so you don't get one with bent teeth or a warped cap and/or base. Make sure you get good pictures of the assembled razor head from the front and sides, to see if the cap/base fit is good. It needs to be an exact fit across the entire surface of the cap and base. No gap.
  • Research and incorporate good shave prep before applying blade to face. That's good advice for any shaver, but essential for this razor.
Excellent report. If ever you get the chance to get your hands on an old type modern clone (heads can be purchased at many places like IB and Fendrihan for under $10), it would be interesting to read your comparison.
 
Excellent report. If ever you get the chance to get your hands on an old type modern clone (heads can be purchased at many places like IB and Fendrihan for under $10), it would be interesting to read your comparison.

I'll get around to that eventually. I suspect most of those are modeled after the '20s era Model 102A, with the thicker cap and baseplate. I want to shave with one of those, too, to compare. I imagine the manufacturing tolerances have to be finer to make a thin-cap Old Type.
 
Excellent report. If ever you get the chance to get your hands on an old type modern clone (heads can be purchased at many places like IB and Fendrihan for under $10), it would be interesting to read your comparison.
Is this one of them? Kingston OC Head from Fendrihan. I like that some of the Fendrihan branded razors and parts are named after places across the N. Shore of Lake Ontario.

I'll get around to that eventually. I suspect most of those are modeled after the '20s era Model 102A, with the thicker cap and baseplate. I want to shave with one of those, too, to compare. I imagine the manufacturing tolerances have to be finer to make a thin-cap Old Type.
Apologies Profusion, I still haven't had a go with my Old Type 102A; or the Kingston OC Head. I've been exploring vintage injector shaving.

Thanks very much for the great research and summary, it's appreciated.

102A top.JPG102A bottom.JPG102A side.JPG
 
Excellent report. If ever you get the chance to get your hands on an old type modern clone (heads can be purchased at many places like IB and Fendrihan for under $10), it would be interesting to read your comparison.

I may have something relevant to say on this topic. My grandfather's thick cap ball end Old Type was my rotation with a Merkur 36 slant for the decades from the mid 1970s until I found B&B a few years back and turned shaving into a hobby.

I passed my grandfathers Old Type (and the Merkur) to the next generation. Then I went off to look at the many possibilities to replace those two safety razors.

Since then I have shaved with a variety of Old Types: standard Thin Cap, Single Ring, Bulldog, ABC, Khaki. I have even used some revived Gillette 3 hole blades.

In non-Gillette vintage, I have used Old Type designs from Leresche, Merkur and various unbranded. In modern take-offs I have used modern Merkur, Italian Barber, and Yaqi. Plus 'wantonly destroyed' Old Type heads that were annealed and then re-formed into slant razors.

First of all, the old thicker carbon steel 3 hole blades really mellow out the shaves from the more aggressive Old Type designs and clones. Maybe this is a function of re-honing the blades but I also attribute some part of it to the thicker stock a d different steel. I finally understood why safety blade hones were a popular product. It wasn't just blade pricing meeting frugality. Your Old Type shave with modern DE blades is more aggressive than the OG DE guys experienced for the first 30 years of the 20th century.

That said, I'll make some general observations:

Thin cap Gillette is more aggressive/efficient than thick cap.

Clones/knock-offs that directly competed with Old Types and News were more aggressive than the Gillette products. I doubt that this was intentional.

More modern clones (including my vintage Merkur) are uniformly much less aggressive and efficient than the vintage razors.

Now my historical perspective. Gillettes changes in razor design beyond the Old Type were driven by economic (patent, competition, profitability and cost) concerns rather than by any need to provide better shaves. The Gillette financial shenanigans that led to Gaisman taking the helm kicked off the era of DE innovation that eventually led to multi-blade cartridges.

Any improvements in shave quality were very limited for skilled, experienced shavers. The improvements in shave speed and simplicity have been considerable.

I would be fascinated to get my grandfathers' (born in the 19th century) perspective on shaving. But, as small town and rural men, I doubt that they thought or talked about it much. Indoor plumbing, airplanes, rural electrification, and broadcast radio were much bigger advances. Sunday shaves and dressing for church were darned important, though.
 
Is this one of them? Kingston OC Head from Fendrihan. I like that some of the Fendrihan branded razors and parts are named after places across the N. Shore of Lake Ontario.


Apologies Profusion, I still haven't had a go with my Old Type 102A; or the Kingston OC Head. I've been exploring vintage injector shaving.

Thanks very much for the great research and summary, it's appreciated.

View attachment 1873136View attachment 1873134View attachment 1873135

I'm sure I'll get a 102A sooner or later. Can't help myself! :D

I do have a 1918 thin-cap Old Type travel razor on the way, so I can try different handles. The original handle is busted like yours was, but I'll probably just solder or superglue it back together.
 
Now my historical perspective. Gillettes changes in razor design beyond the Old Type were driven by economic (patent, competition, profitability and cost) concerns rather than by any need to provide better shaves. The Gillette financial shenanigans that led to Gaisman taking the helm kicked off the era of DE innovation that eventually led to multi-blade cartridges.

Any improvements in shave quality were very limited for skilled, experienced shavers. The improvements in shave speed and simplicity have been considerable.

I would be fascinated to get my grandfathers' (born in the 19th century) perspective on shaving. But, as small town and rural men, I doubt that they thought or talked about it much. Indoor plumbing, airplanes, rural electrification, and broadcast radio were much bigger advances. Sunday shaves and dressing for church were darned important, though.

Thanks for your AMAZING post. 🍻

I've read that about Gillette. I generally agree, with two caveats:
  • Convenience. The development of the TTO made shaving just that little bit more convenient, and I can see why the three-piece razors largely went extinct after the mid 1950s. Apart from that, I agree that many Gillette developments were driven by marketing, cost-cutting, or patent protection.
  • Daily (or even more) shaving. The mildness that progressed from the NEW onward made it easier for the average guy to shave seven days a week. That said, I can use my Single Ring daily with less irritation than I get from my Gillette adjustables, so I guess progress is really just an illusion, after all. :D
My father switched to disposables/cartridges very soon after they were introduced, so I had to discover this all on my own. I get it from the convenience standpoint. I'm pretty sure my grandfather never switched away from DEs in the last decade or so of his life. My great grandfather appears to have stuck with straight razors through the entire first half of the 20th century until he passed away in 1952. He was a farmer and a formidable character, from what I was told, so maybe not a surprising choice. I have his straight and toy with putting it back into use. Perhaps when I'm retired and need a time-consuming hobby...
 
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I may have something relevant to say on this topic...
Thank you, that was a very interesting read.

During the 50s and 60s there was also the ”out with the old, in with the new” mentality in just about everything. When I started getting into this hobby, I asked my father if he wanted a DE razor, he scoffed and said “God no!”…zero interest. He adopted cartridges as soon as they came out and never looked back.


Any improvements in shave quality were very limited for skilled, experienced shavers.

Something I think most of us here eventually come to realize that with practice, the blades/razors we believed were horrible as newbies eventually become quite usable.
 
It would be interesting to know what the average gentleman of 1910 actually thought of the shave quality, coming to it from the world of straight razors. I wonder if shave standards were even the same.

I often ponder this very same question, and have posted my thought many times. It's pure conjecture of course, but fun to imagine myself in the shoes of the early 20th century gent.

I imagine that many men were thrilled with the advent of the DE razor for the convenience and ease of every day use vs a straight razor...

...and I don't believe there was an obsession with BBS then...or even now, outside of our group of enthusiasts. I'm thinking a socially acceptable shave ruled the day in 1910.
 
During the 50s and 60s there was also the ”out with the old, in with the new” mentality in just about everything. When I started getting into this hobby, I asked my father if he wanted a DE razor, he scoffed and said “God no!”…zero interest. He adopted cartridges as soon as they came out and never looked back.

That was my father to a T. When I told him I was switching to DE shaving about 12 years ago, he had a bit of a chuckle about it. He probably thought I was daft. I think he had the classic attitude of a good shave as a chore rather than an accomplishment.

I was minimalist and practical about DE shaving while he was still alive. Now that I'm knee-deep in vintage razors, I sure wish I could ask him what he shaved with in the '50s and '60s and what his technique was like. Of course, that thought just makes me miss him all the more.

From my early memories, I know he used the canned foam even while he was still using a DE in the early '70s. No shave brushes in our house! I vaguely recall his DE being a TTO, but of course when you're 5 you don't notice the details! It was probably a Super Speed.

I often ponder this very same question, and have posted my thought many times. It's pure conjecture of course, but fun to imagine myself in the shoes of the early 20th century gent.

I imagine that many men were thrilled with the advent of the DE razor for the convenience and ease of every day use vs a straight razor...

...and I don't believe there was an obsession with BBS then...or even now, outside of our group of enthusiasts. I'm thinking a socially acceptable shave ruled the day in 1910.

The dapper dandy in the big city probably spent a good bit of his morning getting a smooth shave or got his $0.10 shave at the barbershop. Since the barber worked on volume, a dandy probably got a better shave doing it himself.

My impression is that a barbershop shave was more of a working-class thing. A straight razor was not cheap in 1910, nor was the regular honing service. Plus, one had to have the luxury of time. A Single Ring was over $100--and the blades about a dollar--in today's money, so it was a luxury item too.

Portraits of the time don't show scruffy men, though perhaps that occasioned special primping or a trip to the barbershop.

Speaking only for myself as a pre-Internet guy Gen Xer, I know that I liked to feel a smooth shave from day one and NEVER talked shaving with anyone. I wouldn't have called it BBS, but I knew what it was.
 
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