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Steep and Shallow Angle Shaving DEFINED



The illustration above was posted today in the DE razors forum (B&B URL), and @Cal, who helped me refine it, thought that I should post it here. Since the illustration applies to both double-edge (DE) and single-edge (SE) safety razors, it does seem to belong here, too.

The comprehensive illustration shows the blade and shave planes and the parameters that follow around the blade cutting edge for a blade loaded in a safety razor: blade angle, handle angle, blade exposure, guard span, cap span, blade gap, free-end distance, clamp distance. Free-end and clamp distances were measured for the first time with my photo analysis of the Edwin Jagger (EJ) DE89 head (B&B URL). Important details that could not be simply illustrated are included at the bottom of the picture. For example, I rigorously define blade gap based on personal experience in measuring the quantity with my accurate set of micrometer-measured feeler gauge blade combinations (B&B URL).

Blade gap is commonly associated with razor aggressiveness, but, at best, blade gap only loosely relates to razor performance. Blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle, on the other hand, are very important performance parameters with respect to aggressiveness and efficiency. Unfortunately, these three parameters are not easily measured. Photo analysis is the primary method for measuring the illustrated parameters, but physical measurements, such as for blade gap, should be used when appropriate to complement or supersede digital measurements.

Steep- and shallow-angle shaving are common terms (often employed without hyphens), but based on my Internet search, it appears that I am the first to use the term "neutral-angle shaving" (with or without the hyphen) and, within the context of shaving, the term "neutral blade angle". Neutral-angle shaving favors neither the guard nor the cap, justifying the use of the word "neutral", while steep-angle shaving favors the guard and shallow-angle shaving favors the cap. Accordingly, we have neutral, steep, and shallow blade angles. I encourage the use of these terms.

It is hoped that this picture or an updated version will become the standard reference illustration for safety razor parameters with respect to neutral-, steep-, and shallow-angle shaving.

Feedback is welcome. What do you think?
 
I have a tough beard that grows fairly fast, and sensitive skin. When I slip into the steep angle mode, sometimes unwittingly, my skin lets me know. I have to remind myself as I re-apply the razor from one area to another to maintain the shallow angle. Have been getting more than satisfactory results with the two razors I've been using lately, the RazoRock DE1, and the Dorco PL602, with the shallow angle method.
 

emwolf

Contributor
great illustration. my lazy method is riding the guard, but when I take the time to really zero in, I'm a very shallow person.
 
I have a tough beard that grows fairly fast, and sensitive skin. When I slip into the steep angle mode, sometimes unwittingly, my skin lets me know. I have to remind myself as I re-apply the razor from one area to another to maintain the shallow angle. Have been getting more than satisfactory results with the two razors I've been using lately, the RazoRock DE1, and the Dorco PL602, with the shallow angle method.
Interesting. I don't have the RazoRock DE1, but I do have the Dorco PL602, and you might be interested in my photo analysis and review of the Dorco PL602 (B&B URL), if you haven't seen it. The blade exposure is positive, but it is small and could be said to be fairly neutral. I'm surprised that you use it with a shallow-angle shaving technique. Do you apply more pressure when doing so?
 
great illustration. my lazy method is riding the guard, but when I take the time to really zero in, I'm a very shallow person.
Thanks, Ted. Personally, I haven't liked riding the guard when I've tried it, and I want to use the neutral orientation, neither steep nor shallow. However, I'll use a razor in the best way that works for me, whether that's with different angles or modifications or whatever, which is pretty normal, right?
 
I've found that different razors shave best with different angles. My BBS1 does very well with a neutral angle, and my WCS El Cap shaves best with a shallow angle. Most of my vintage razors vary between neutral and steep.
 
I've found that different razors shave best with different angles. My BBS1 does very well with a neutral angle, and my WCS El Cap shaves best with a shallow angle. Most of my vintage razors vary between neutral and steep.
It's possible that the adjustments that you make with your different razors is about trying to hit the blade angle that works best for you. One razor's steep blade angle can be another razor's shallow blade angle. Just a thought.
 
Great illustration. I am sure that illustration will of use to many, many folks looking for a better understanding.
I would ask (for purposes of further discussion) if Blade gap and associated Blade exposure play a major role in how aggressive a shave the razor is capable of delivering. Based on the illustration and the design of the standard adjustable razors I’m guessing the aggressiveness may be related more with the blades position relative to the guard more than its relation to the cap. I say this because the adjustable razors all seem to increase the blade gap in order to increase aggressiveness.

On the other hand, a straight razor has nothing but blade exposure and the aggressiveness of the a function of the angle of the blade. The smoother, more comfortable shave having a more shallow angle (like riding the cap).
 
Great illustration. I am sure that illustration will of use to many, many folks looking for a better understanding.
Thanks. I think so, too.

I would ask (for purposes of further discussion) if Blade gap and associated Blade exposure play a major role in how aggressive a shave the razor is capable of delivering. Based on the illustration and the design of the standard adjustable razors I’m guessing the aggressiveness may be related more with the blades position relative to the guard more than its relation to the cap. I say this because the adjustable razors all seem to increase the blade gap in order to increase aggressiveness.
Blade gap has little to do with razor performance, and you're right that cap span is not that important, but it is significant with respect to smoothness and angles. The major parameters are blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle. These factors relate to the "up and over" from the guard to the blade cutting edge and the "angle of attack" of the blade. They relate most to aggressiveness and efficiency. Adjustables that raise the blade and cap are similar to manually adding shims, but without the extra blade rigidity. Adding shims increases the blade exposure, the guard span, and the blade angle, so adjustables do this, too, and increase aggressiveness and efficiency in doing so.

On the other hand, a straight razor has nothing but blade exposure and the aggressiveness of the a function of the angle of the blade. The smoother, more comfortable shave having a more shallow angle (like riding the cap).
Straights are a whole other animal. :001_smile I've never tried one, but I think what you wrote is largely true. The lower the blade angle, the smoother the shave. Blade exposure and guard span are theoretically infinite compared to a safety razor.
 
My razors, much like my brain, are simple, and don't tend towards such detail. Gillette probably calls all those measurements something else, as does Schick, etc. I think the only measurement that is relevant for a straight is the angle caused by the distance of the razor's spine from your face. A slicing motion, while holding a good shaving angle, will give a smoother shave, but doing this increases the likelihood of a cut (any horizontal motion is more hazardous). Note: some think the actual angle of the razor's bevel/edge is important, but I haven't found this to be the case.
 
Excellent write-up and illustration. Thank you very much. I try to be a neutral-angle shaver, though I go shallow during touch-ups, I think.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
I shave both steep and shallow. Razor and blade combination depending.

With some razors, maintaining a very shallow angle is easier than with others.

For example, my NEW SC I use neutrally, naturally I think. Once I had understood what rabidus said about using a shallower angle I tried that and was very surprised to not feel the blade at all, during the entire shave and only hearing the stubble being cut, a strange sensation. To shave that shallow took more pressure with the cap against my skin that I would have normally used. I would guess, twice as much if not more. I was using the cap to make a wave the blade edge would meet and ride along, the crest of the wave as it were.

I did find the next day however that I had patchy growth telling me that I didnt maintain the correct angle, or more likely pressure, during the shave. I found that very fine angle/pressure combination with that razor, difficult for me to hold.

With the same razor and a Derby Extra blade, that I really enjoy in that razor, my typical 2 1/2 pass BBS shave with a neutral angle would consistently give me a 4 hour or so BBS finish while I was barely aware of the blade at all.

Using a very steep angle in the same razor, with only the teeth of the comb in the lather, gave me a 10 hour BBS finish with the same blade. The steeper angle being the more effective shave, but also offering much more blade feel. The gap the NEW SC offers, at .023" I believe, allowing me the choices between such a shallow and/or steep angle quite easily.

IMG_2114.jpg NEWSC.JPG

Options between steep and shallow are much less with either my post war tech, D2 SS or T1 Lady Gillette. All offering varying amounts of gap, but little exposure, and with all I use a neutral angle.

My 1940 Gillette Regent on the other hand offers little gap, but quite a lot of exposure. Using it with a neutral angle gives even more blade feel than my NEW SC at a very steep angle. I use it very shallow, think 80% cap or more, and find that angle very easy to maintain because of the blade exposure and the design of the safety bar.

My D2 SS on the right for comparison.

Regent.jpg D2SS.jpg

Along the same lines is my Fatip Grande. It offers virtually no gap at all but generous exposure. Shaving shallow with it is experiencing the definition of smooth. Again think 80% cap, if not more, but because it has such little gap, the smoothness is fantastic. I feel the design geometry of it is more meant to be used shallow as thats how the razor seems to sit against my skin naturally.

IMG_2111.jpg IMG_2182.JPG

With my Grande in certain areas I do use a steeper angle, think 60% cap along my harder to shave areas, jawline and two swirls either side of my adams apple and points/face of my chin.

With the Grande, its very easy to tell when even the slightest change of angle is taking place. For me it feels as if theres no blade in the razor using it shallow, but just a slight change to steep and it feels as though its all blade.

I enjoy your technical posts!
 

Ad Astra

The Instigator
Ambassador
More interesting stuff; thanks SBTN.

Apparently I use feel/intuition, like shooting a bow or slingshot. I use many razors and they're all different. Can tell the Aristocrat's angle is "different," but can't quantify.


AA
 
Interesting. I don't have the RazoRock DE1, but I do have the Dorco PL602, and you might be interested in my photo analysis and review of the Dorco PL602 (B&B URL), if you haven't seen it. The blade exposure is positive, but it is small and could be said to be fairly neutral. I'm surprised that you use it with a shallow-angle shaving technique. Do you apply more pressure when doing so?
The PL602 has an angle that it seems to naturally fall into. At times I use more pressure and shallower angle to compensate for the lack of weight. Most of the time it feels like I can toss it around almost like a disposable razor. (Bic sensitive single blade.)
 
The PL602 has an angle that it seems to naturally fall into. At times I use more pressure and shallower angle to compensate for the lack of weight. Most of the time it feels like I can toss it around almost like a disposable razor. (Bic sensitive single blade.)
Okay, I get that. You're right about the natural angle of it. I get how applying more pressure and a shallower angle can work for that lighter razor. The Dorco PL602 is really light. It kind of feels like a toy. :001_tongu
 
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