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Technical Breakdown

There has been a lot of excellent discussion on this board that has gotten into some fine detail about the specific techniques of Method Shaving (and shaving in general really). I’m starting to see some questions overlap each other so I thought it might be time to do up a quick list of skin/blade/mix techniques and how they relate to each other.

As you may or may not know, Method Shaving gents use the term “velocity” to describe wetness; the higher the velocity, the wetter the mix, and therefore the wetter the shaving surface (both beard and skin). While that suffices as a quick definition, velocity actually means more than wetness. It describes how blade, skin, and mix interact with each other.

High Velocity / Low Velocity

Mix: Loose / Tight

Stroke Speed: Fast / Slow

Stroke Length: Long / Short

Razor Pressure: Light / Firm

Sharpness: Hot / Cool

Blade Angle: Steep / Shallow

Skin Tension: Slack / Tense

Blade Exposure: Closed / Open

Passes: Many / Few

I’m not going to go into detail about each of the technical aspects as I have written articles on the subject (www.methodshaving.com). Furthermore, the quantification of these techniques is still being worked out every day. That is what has been great about the discussion that has been going on here. Hopefully this framework gives guys something else to chew on and helps to stimulate even more specific discussion on technique.
Adam and Brett:

A point came up on another board which I find puzzling and I wonder if you have any input.

Several people say that if they don't shave for a few days they get a better shave than shaving every day. As part of this they say that it's easier to shave a thick stand of whiskers than light stubble. These are str8 shavers.

Have you ever heard anything like this before?
How is it possible?
Doesn't it have to take more prssure to do a stand of whiskers than a light stubble?

I have noticed this on occassion as well and have some thoughts. I think two things play a factor here. I preface this with the fact it my opinion. First I beleive some merrit to the natural secretion of sebum along the hair folicle play a part. Remember that sebum and jojoba are identical at a molecular level. A few days of build up of sebum is a nice added layer of protection and as you know a shave with a touch of good oil can result in a spectacular finishing result.

Next I beleive reduction is playing a big role in this equation as well. The more growth you have the more reduction you will have to do and the less likely you are to get to skin to soon and cause irritation. Even more so is the difference in mentality with straight shavers. It is common practice with a straight shaver to subscribe to the philosphoy of "grain shaving" and to attempt near perfection in as few passes as possible. This is how many barbers were taught, as we have learned in previous threads, and is near dogma in the world of learning straight shaving. When a shaver is left with more than a days worth of growth they are forced to practice a more reduction oriented shave, whether intentional or not. This in turn leaves them in a beter position for that "against the grain" finishing pass.

well that is my $0.02 on why.
That's certainly true. But isn't easier to cut a fine stubble than actual hair?

honkdonker said:
I don't find the beard any harder to shave if it is long or short, as the thickness of the hair is the same no matter what its length.
Another great point Joe. This is a question that I have tossed around in my head for quite a while. I don't think there are any scientific facts as to why the first shave after a couple of days off is generally perceived as closer and less irritating. All we have are opinions. Here's mine (subject to change without notification).

I think it is easier to cut a couple days worth of growth because the hair is longer, heavier, and stands up to the razor better. Thus it is easier to chop it off closer to the base. Kind of like how it is easier to mow the grass if it's a little longer. This plays right into the hands of most traditional shavers who try and cut as close as possible with one stroke. I'm sure that the additional sebum also plays a role (as Adam pointed out).

When I was a common shaver the Monday morning shave was the only one that was remotely comfortable. What I noticed was that it is much easier to shave close; however, the zero irritation part was just a mirage. In other words, I could always get a close shave, and while it was comfortable at the time (probably because my skin was well rested), I would always get razor bumps that would show up late in the day (from shaving too close with a multi-bladed razor). From that point irritation was inevitable. My terrible technique would turn those razor bumps into hamburger for the rest of the week and so the cycle of misery would continue.

I currently shave six days per week most weeks (and on the seventh day he rested). As an experienced Method Shaver, I find my Monday shave to be the most difficult of the week. It is harder to reduce a beard that has more mass. On the other hand, if I use a more traditional approach on Monday it is easier to get the closeness that I seek.

This is another example of how Method Shaving technique is a better long-term approach and helped me break out of the cycle of irritation. Using the traditional approach you get one easy shave and five or six tougher ones. Using MS you get one slightly more difficult shave and five or six easy ones.
In the B&B DVD - I screw up making methodshave style lather, and make it too dense, but an an addendium of me adding water to the mix and you can watch it literally explode. In retrospect it might have been a good thing!

I am sure you may have tried it but I find the reduction of multiple days of growth to not be an issue if you use a fresh feather and shorter strokes than usual on the first pass.
I agree with the fresh blade, but since Monday is new blade day it's not an issue for me. I usually compensate for the extra growth by cutting Form 1 twice instead of once. I'm guessing that you take shorter strokes to keep the blade from dragging. You can also deal with that by closing your razor if you are using an adjustable. Forinstance, I normally have my Gillette set on 2 when cutting Form 1. On Mondays I'll dial it down to 1 for the first orbit and then move it up to 2 for the second.
Remember, we weren't making just any comparison. The original question is cutting down to skin against the grain. So you need to visualize whiskers leaning towards the razor. The razor contacts them and slides down the hairs towards the skin. In effect, it's hooking the hairs and drawing the razor and skin together. I didn't make this up, I figured it out from what I was experienceing.

That needs to be compared to whiskers that have been brought down to fine stubble that is barely above the surface of the skin. When I go ovet those as lightly as possible with a minimum blade angle, I feel cutting and no irritation. When I do it with whiskers that are too long I can't cut with that minimal pressure and I feel the skin being abraded. I may not get irritation at that point, but it's not far away. Oh yes, and I add shaving oil before the last cut, altough I would never do it at the start of a shave.

Whether you think you actually feel a difference physically or not doesn't matter as much as the effect, and if you haven't tried it, you'll never know. On the other hand I have been successful with it and so have quite a few people that I suggested it to, including Chris Moss, who is quite a seasoned shaver with all types of razors. Also, it's probably something you're already doing to some extent unless you do a single pass shave. It's just a refinement of the basic multi-pass shave concept. Reduction also happens to be one of the principals adopted by method shaving.

If you tried it, it might work for you. It might mean adding an additional pass before you go down to skin. Who knows what problem you're having? You'll neveer find a solution if you don't try things.

honkdonker said:
Actually Joe, in my opinion, it physically isn't any harder to cut, as the diameter of the hair is exactly the same no matter what the length.

I find that since the stubble is shorter, there is more leverage on the skin when you attempt to slice through it, which, in my case, even when using the lightest stroke and sharpest blade, can sometimes cause irritation.

In my case, it has less to do, I think, about the hair length, than to do with the healing of my skin. People who can shave totally smoothly each morning are fortunate, in my view, as some of us, despite the best products and skills, face irritation when shaving that way. Granted, things are better with top flight stuff, but since each of us is unique, results that one are not always transferable to everyone else.

But principles are and you just need to adapt them properly to each person to do the best you can. That's why I'm always experimenting, and I've been wet shaving for 45 years. My Futur is 40 years old!

honkdonker said:
since each of us is unique, results that one are not always transferable to everyone else.

No question! But oftentimes it just requires a little adjustment. I have my own skin issues, so I'm constantly experimenting.

honkdonker said:
What works for one shaver will not always work for other shavers.
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