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The Great Rigid Blade Experiment

Just kidding about it being "great". It started early this week. I've been using my Rockwell 6S almost all the time lately, couldn't tell you why. I've also honed my lather building skills and can now get really nice, slick lather consistently that really works for me. In reading about all the rigid blade stuff lately, I decided to try a shim. I've been using plate 4. I was thinking of going back to 5 or 6, but figured I would try a shim with plate 4 and that would probably be close or equal plate 5.

So I dug an old Rockwell blade out of my blade bank. I don't like these blades, but one thing I can say for sure about them, they are noticeably more stiff than my Astra and Personna that I'm using right now. Given that, I figured they would make the best shim out of the used blades.

I already had two shaves on a Personna Lab. I had my usual 2 day growth. I did my usual routine with a shower and whipped up a bowl of Arko. I used the Rockwell shim with my Rockwell 6S with plate 4. Fantastic shave. One of the best I've had in weeks. Just shy of BBS. I don't try for BBS any more. It's just too hard on my neck.

I waited my usual two days and then did the exact same routine, only without the shim. Same blade. Horrible shave. Not even DFS and lots of irritation. Hmmmm. Well, that doesn't prove anything yet. So today I did something I hardly ever do: I shaved 24 hours later because my stubble was bothering me so much. I did everything the same except I put the shim back in and only used WallyWorld canned goup for my lather. I got an easy CCS with no irritation or weepers. Hmmm. Maybe there is something to this "rigid blade" thing.

The following is the experiment I will conduct for the next 16 days of shaving, starting in two days.

I will use two blades that will be used for 4 shaves each. I will alternate between using a shim between each shave, so each blade will have two shaves with shim, two shaves without. The first blade will start with a shim, the second blade will start without a shim. I will do my best to have everything the same except for the shim. The only inconsistency someone might point out is that the gap will be greater with the shim, possibly leading to a better shave. After using the Rockwell for almost two years now, I will say, "I don't think so". There is very little difference between plates 4, 5 and 6. Sure, you can detect the difference, but it's still the same *kind* of shave, if that makes any sense. Using a shim *seems* (so far) to give a different kind of shave.

It will be interesting. I've already warned my wife that this experiment could lead to a Timeless purchase. Why? Because I really don't like using a shim, aside from the shaving part. I completely clean and dry my razor after every shave. I don't like pulling the shim and blade apart with the water friction and all. It's only a matter of time before I slice myself. I also think it's only a matter of time before I make an absent-minded mistake someday, and my wife or myself will pick up a shim, only it won't be a shim...

So there it is. My big, fat Rigid Blade Experiment.
 
I wish there was a plate 7 for the 6S. I use the [email protected] with 2 shims to get the effectiveness I like. 1 shim and there will not be a difference. More than 2 and then smoothness deteriorates.
 
Plate 6 with two shims. That's quite a blade gap! I cannot help but think you might be changing the angle of the blade coming off the top plate. I would think there is no way the blade can bend as much with two shims, thereby changing the angle. You might be improving the angle for yourself, but using three shims could be changing it too much, and you lose the smoothness. Just my thoughts of possibilities.

Congrats on finding a winning combo. I tried a shim with plate 6 once. It was too much for me.
 
I wish I had shimmed the Rockwell 6s while I had it on the pass-around. I tested its rigidity while I had it, and realized it wasn't that rigid, but didn't actually take the next step and shim it. I only created shims for the first time yesterday though. First use of one was today with my Parker Variant and an old Shark Chrome. No clue how many shaves that thing saw, it got binned after the shave. Not because I got a bad shave, but because it was not smooth any longer which is the main reason I had used it in the Variant. The shave was actually spectacular. Less irritation than any with the Rockwell 6s. And close, holy cow is it close. Just now I'm not BBS on my face, but still DFS+ there and neck has been solid DFS+ all day. I felt a lot of blade with the Variant and the shim which kept me on my toes. I'm so impressed that I'll probably try shimming several of my other razors to see if I can get better shaves out of them. The DE89 is probably the one I need to try most, as that thing could never give me a decent shave.

This rigid blade and shim thing is also making me consider a timeless... Wish there was a pass-around for one of those haha!
 
I've also honed my lather building skills
When I read this I imagined you lathering up on a hone.:001_smile

If you put the shim under the blade you will get increased rigidity and increased blade gap. If you put it above the blade you get the increased rigidity, and the blade stays where it would normally be with cap raised slightly higher. I have put a shim above and below and theoretically you could put any number of shims in, with any number of different combinations of shims above and below the blade, but as you say, if a razor will shave without a shim, than why bother. It helps to illustrate the importance and difference in rigidity, but ultimately makes me want to find a razor that works without them.

The Fine Slant has the most rigid blade I have experienced up to this point. Just sayin'.
 

BigJ

Ambassador
If you put the shim under the blade you will get increased rigidity and increased blade gap. If you put it above the blade you get the increased rigidity, and the blade stays where it would normally be with cap raised slightly higher. ... It helps to illustrate the importance and difference in rigidity, but ultimately makes me want to find a razor that works without them..
Great points!

I prefer a rigid blade and simplicity. It took me awhile to find the razor that just works (rigid 3-piece design with the optimal blade gap for me) without modifications. YMMV for sure!
 
JWK1,

Have you considered thoroughly shaking a razor after use to dispel most moisture, and then using a blow dryer for 30 seconds to finish drying the razor and the blade, as an alternative to complete disassembly and manual drying?
 
JWK1,

Have you considered thoroughly shaking a razor after use to dispel most moisture, and then using a blow dryer for 30 seconds to finish drying the razor and the blade, as an alternative to complete disassembly and manual drying?
Alternatively, a quick dip in a wide mouth container that contains 70% or greater tubing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol will displace the water as well as sterilize the razor. I open and rinse the razor and blade, then assemble loosely, quick dip in the rubbing alcohol and tighten everything down and leave in the cabinet. Dry and fairly sterile.
 
Agreed, though sterilization is not really needed unless one is afraid of his own germs. :001_smile

I find there is a lot of overkill among us folks who have shaving as a hobby. Whatever.
 
I did a quick estimate with a side-view picture of a Rockwell 6S with one of the plates and a blade. (I got the picture off the Internet.) The clamp distance (from the blade cutting edge to the clamp point of the blade) is about 4.6 mm according to my quick digital analysis with lines in PowerPoint. By comparison, this is shorter than the digitally measured clamp distance of 5.44 mm that I got for the EJ DE89 head (B&B link). A clamp distance of 4.6 mm may still be too large for some, though. Shims increase blade rigidity, along with blade exposure, guard span, and blade angle, but given @JWK1's comments about his experience with the Rockwell 6S, maybe the increase in blade rigidity with a shim is really helping, as he suspects.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
Rigidity is real! As has been said by rabidus many many times. Its the one factor that helped my shaving far more than any other.

It would be impossible for me to shave the way I am now, a single ATG pass and maybe one small clean up for a BBS shave, without using a rigid design.

The other factor in that equation, in regards to comfort of that shave for me, is having as little gap as possible. Many call Fatip razors aggressive, and they may be as they have blade exposure, but its also the smoothest razor I've ever used because it is extremely rigid and has the least gap.

Its smoother and more effective than my NEW SC and the NEW SC is a very rigid design, but it has .023" gap which is .010" less than the Timeless .68 head.

Fatip Grande vs NEW SC blade gaps.

IMG_2111.jpg IMG_2114.jpg

Below are my thoughts on gap or lack thereof and how it affects me and my shave in relation to my skin and comfort level during and after a shave:

Irritation is something that I've always battled because I think, I have sensitive skin. I can get irritation from either dull blades and needing to apply more pressure forcing them to cut more effectively, or from sharp blades that just shave me too close. The latter however being a weakness in technique more than anything, or perhaps, a side effect of a sharp blade combined with gap in a razors design.

One thing I've noticed is, this Grande is a more comfortable razor for me to use than my NEW SC. As much as I do like that razor, its very rigid and a very good design, I'm learning that I dont like the gap it has and I'm beginning to think I really dont like any gap.

Its my thinking that with the gap my NEW SC has, the wave of skin ahead of the blade, for lack of a better term, can get slightly pinched between the comb and the blade, essentially forcing that tiny amount of skin against the blade edge increasing friction on my skin. Think of a Gillette adjustable and turning the dial up. That adjusts the gap, and makes the razor more aggressive while at the same time, making that pinch point larger to cut a broader area more aggressively.

That also may be one reason why the NEW SC is so effective. That very slight pinch is helping to force the hairs too be cut. This is why I learned with that razor that 2 1/2 pass shaves were good, 3 passes still being okay. The more passes I'd use, the more irritation I would end up with because it would accumulate with the number of extra passes. With my NEW SC, smoothness of a blade was more important than sharpness of a blade.

The Fatip razors, being an extremely rigid design with no gap whatsoever to speak of give me a more comfortable shave because theres less friction against my skin. As long as I get the angle right, with a sharp blade, the stubble has no escape. The razor cant skip because of the rigidity, and with a sharp blade, the stubble cant bend or flex. Combined with the exposure, these razors are the ultimate in efficiency in my mind. I just need a sharp blade to cut my coarse dense growth as easily as possible, and at the same time I appreciate the smoothness from certain blades.

It will be interesting. I've already warned my wife that this experiment could lead to a Timeless purchase.
This rigid blade and shim thing is also making me consider a timeless...
No one needs to pay the prices of a Timeless or Wolfman to get a very rigid design. Few would argue that the Wolfman WR1 is one of the most rigid designs and in a direct comparison to a NEW SC across several shaves, this was said:

So I have come to a decision and picked a razor. It was hard for me to discern and so I shaved quite a few days before coming to this conclusion.

I used the same soap for all shaves and it was super runny. Absolutely no cushion, just a slippery medium which enabled me to feel the cutting action of the blade. Shaving WTG & XTG there was no difference I could feel. But where it gets tricky is ATG, I felt no difference anywhere until I shaved the mustache area. This patch of hair for me is dense and the individual hairs are thick. So for any razor, this is a challenge. I once tried ATG with my ATT H2 and I could feel the edge of the blade flex down in to my skin.

Both are very very smooth and with no blade flex. But it was only ATG on my mustache where there was a trace of difference. So the top spot for rigidity is the Wolfman. But I'm talking a minutia of difference.

It is so small a difference I had doubts so to be certain, I had been shaving with both everyday till SEptember 1st, shaving half my face with one and switching to use the other on the other half. I would switch razors to the other half the next day and I have been getting consistent results.

So Wolfman it is. But if the Wolfman is a 10 in rigidity the SC is a 9.8. So there it is
You could buy a Gillette NEW SC for around the $30 mark, or possibly even less and you just came very very close to the same shave as with a Wolfman.

I would even suggest its a more comfortable razor in use than the .68 Timeless because it has less gap. The Timeless is however heavier, which also plays a role.

You could buy a post war Gillette Tech for around $10 and have another extremely rigid, albeit very mild razor.

You could spend $20 and buy a Fatip Piccolo or $30 for a Grande and your quest would be at an end. The other things that would come to a quick end would be weepers as long as your technique is up to it and issues with shaving ATG would cease to exist for the vast majority of shavers that do have ATG issues.

Fatip razors arent the scary monsters some may think they are. They do however, need to be tried to be understood and for the cost of them, they are I believe the best kept secret in all of wet shaving simply because of the undeserved reputation they have as being so "aggressive".

Rigid razors and the head designs inherent to them and less rigid designs came to me by accident one day when I shaved with my Gillette NEW LC and that razor, even when shimmed, wouldnt BBS the two trouble areas on my neck.

Gillette NEW LC Not Cutting It

While a shim did help, it still didnt give me the shave I wanted. My NEW SC gives me the shave I want in 2 1/2 passes as does my Gillette Regent.

My post war Tech, being a rigid but mild razor can take as many as 6 passes, even with a Feather blade as it has little gap and little exposure. My issues being with it, it takes too many passes to get to the same BBS shave. With that many passes, especially with a Feather blade, I get irritation.

My Fatip Grande can do in one pass, what my Tech takes 5 passes to accomplish. Less passes means less irritation. Less gap means, to me at least, a more comfortable shave. More blade exposure as long as its in a rigid design, means a more effective and closer shave. Rigidity means a smoother shave.

Apologies for the long winded post, but I believe this is the type of information that needs broader circulation and understanding. Rigid razors could help anyone, but it will help some more than others.
 
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Wow! So much info concentrated here! Just my own two cents. Yes, I also have come to agree with @rabidus that a stiff, tightly held blade is much more efficient and generally more comfortable than elsewise. I have an ATT R1 (.58 gap - rather than Timeless with .68) and haven't played with shims, but I can say that the KAI Stainless Steel blade is stiffer than others. Also, it's center cutout is smaller and tighter than others, so that it is held more rigidly than other blades in the same razor. I am very fond of the result.

Still, I may decide to go solely with Artists' Club SE blades, which are the stiffest of all, and held vice-like in most SE razors that use them.
 
Shave #1, fresh blade

Personna Blue
Plate #4
Rockwell Shim

All shaves from here on out will be with Plate #4 and Personna Blue blades.

Two day growth. Usual shower face prep. Great Shave, very minimal weeper action on the neck, gone by the end of clean-up. Very little irritation post shave. Close to BBS. Next shave in two days without shim.
 
Esox, if this experiment of mine strongly supports the rigid blade advantage, I very well might order a Fatip. You and rabidus offer some strong arguments.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
Esox, if this experiment of mine strongly supports the rigid blade advantage, I very well might order a Fatip. You and rabidus offer some strong arguments.
The easiest way to find out if you need a more rigid design would be to pick up an inexpensive post war Tech. Mine gives a feeling of being even more rigid than my NEW SC. It has less gap so to me if feels smoother and more secure. It is an incredibly smooth shaver, but because its so mild and has such little exposure its ineffective for me. The only quibble I have is with the ball end handles being so small so I'd personally opt for a post war fat handle Tech, or use another handle.

If however you like using Feather blades, the ball end handle is enough. Larger and heavier handles to me seem to change the razors characteristics and make it a more aggressive shaver, which you do not need with Feather blades.

Everyone should have a post war Tech. :)
 
@Esox I keep finding myself reading threads where you make detailed relevant responses and it's by total coincidence. I got the fatip piccolo and I love it for all the reasons you mentioned above and more.

I consistently find my best shaves from an efficient razor with minimal gap and a middle ground blade. I've got some serious hairs an 9 out of 10 razors I've tried just haven't worked for me. The FaTip's are the real deal.
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
@Esox I keep finding myself reading threads where you make detailed relevant responses and it's by total coincidence. I got the fatip piccolo and I love it for all the reasons you mentioned above and more.

I consistently find my best shaves from an efficient razor with minimal gap and a middle ground blade. I've got some serious hairs an 9 out of 10 razors I've tried just haven't worked for me. The FaTip's are the real deal.
They work very well yeah. I was stunned on my first stroke with my Grande. I didnt know a razor could be that smooth and that efficient without being a straight razor.

The post war Tech works, but it's too mild and needs a very sharp blade to work well for me at all. Feather and Gillette Yellow are the only blades that go in it.

The NEW SC works really well, but now I understand I dont get along with the gap it offers. Polsilver/Blue Diamond Titanium is the perfect match in it.

My Gillette Regent works just as well and offers less gap, but being a TTO design and not a 3 piece, I can feel that difference and its not as smooth for me, but yet gives me a closer shave with Polsilver. Perma-Sharp Super in it is Nirvana.

My Grande is in a class of its own with any blade sharp enough.
 
I also agree with rabidus that blade rigidity is key to an irritation-free shave.

I love my post-war Techs. I use them on UFO handles. I do not find them too mild. Two passes on the face and three on the neck to DFS. If you have the right combination of blade, blade angle, pressure, and weight, they can actually be quite efficient.

I used to have a Fatip and I agree that it is a smooth shaver. I got so tired of futzing around with the blade alignment that I sold it. I may have to get another one some time.

I shave a lot with SE razors now, and I have found the same thing holds true there. They say the SE blade is rigid enough, but I have found that SE razors that clamp the blade more tightly are smoother shavers. Thus, I favor the bullet-tip over the 1912 and the Micromatic open comb over the Streamline.
 
I wish I had shimmed the Rockwell 6s while I had it on the pass-around. I tested its rigidity while I had it, and realized it wasn't that rigid, but didn't actually take the next step and shim it. I only created shims for the first time yesterday though. First use of one was today with my Parker Variant and an old Shark Chrome. No clue how many shaves that thing saw, it got binned after the shave. Not because I got a bad shave, but because it was not smooth any longer which is the main reason I had used it in the Variant. The shave was actually spectacular. Less irritation than any with the Rockwell 6s. And close, holy cow is it close. Just now I'm not BBS on my face, but still DFS+ there and neck has been solid DFS+ all day. I felt a lot of blade with the Variant and the shim which kept me on my toes. I'm so impressed that I'll probably try shimming several of my other razors to see if I can get better shaves out of them. The DE89 is probably the one I need to try most, as that thing could never give me a decent shave.

This rigid blade and shim thing is also making me consider a timeless... Wish there was a pass-around for one of those haha!
It would be interesting hearing how the shim effects your DE89. I'm going to be shimming mine soon, as well.
 
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