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The Wanderer's Journey

Although I have posted about my shaving journey to date in various threads, I figured I'd start a journal to cover where my journey goes from here. I have a fair bit of experience under the belt already, but what I plan on exploring next is essentially unknown to me.

I will endeavour to use this journal to cover my thoughts on DE shaving, which is where most of my wet shaving experience lies, as well as my journey into the unknown with restoring, maintaining, and using hollow ground razors.
 
Like so many other people, my journey started with cheap disposables. They worked, of a fashion, but there was scant enjoyment or pride to be had. While still in my late teens, I decided to move to DE shaving. The options available were the Wilkinson Sword Classic razor and blades, or cheapo own brand stuff from Boots the chemist.

I decided to go with Wilkinson, and stuck with that same razor and blades for about 20 years. I tried a few cartridge systems along the way, which had been bought for me as gifts, but when it was time to pay extortionate amounts for replacement cartridges, I reverted back to the Wilkinson Classic. Not only did it works better than the cartridges, it was also cheaper to run.
 
A few years ago (less than five), I decided to broaden my horizons and added three new DE razors, and bought (plus was gifted) various different blades to try out.

After spending so long with the Classic, the learning curve on each new DE razor was quite short, and all of them gave me the same results once I had tuned in to them.

Likewise with the blades, as I had so many and they were so cheap, I would run a blade for a week then throw it out and try another. They all seemed pretty much the same. I lurked on a couple of shaving forums, and heard people raving about some blades and decrying others, yet I couldn't discern much difference between them. I know now that it was because I wasn't trying them long enough. Being Excaliber Club material, without even knowing that club existed, I wasn't taking the blades anywhere near their full life. Wilkinson blades had often lasted me well over a month, though not shaving every day, and as the concept of actually counting shaves was alien to me, I'm still unsure now what blade life I was getting.
 
When I added my other razors and blades, I also picked up a few ye olde vintage razors, but they got stuffed in a cupboard as they were far from shave ready. It would be several years before I decided to get my arse in gear and look at restoring them, and that is what eventually led me to B&B.

Once I signed up I discovered the Excaliber club and the Minimalists, and signed up there too. It was nice to find a couple of groups which kept kit simple without collecting being a primary focus, and also which took pride in blade life rather than three shaves and replace. Had the forum been all about collecting and short blade life, I think I'd have felt quite out of place.

I'd actually had a full beard for two years prior to joining, and hadn't started shaving again when I signed up, so this gave me time to find my way round the forum before breaking out the razors again. While the reason for joining was the vintage stuff, I decided to start shaving again with the DE and get some "datum" blades established for the Excaliber Club.

I have only managed to expire one blade so far - a short lived Shark Super Chrome which conked out after 11 shaves. I had already racked up 27 shaves on a 7 O'clock Yellow by the time the Shark croaked, and the edge on the Yellow looks almost perfect compared to the edge of the Shark. Now I know that I can't discern blade differences until I can rate their full life, it is going to take me a long time to find my favourites. I came here with a mixed tub of over 100 blades, only really knowing for certain that WSC gave me a great blade life (but not being able to quantify that) and placed my first bulk order for 100 German Wilko's.
 
So my journey and journal starts with me being set in my ways with my routine, using only Mitchell's soap and a cheap boar brush, killing off a Shark blade early, but not knowing how long I can go on a "better" blade.

My razor arsenal consists of an Edwin Jagger 3D Diamond, a Parker 22 Interceptor, a Merkur 985 OC travel razor, and my old faithful Wilko Classic. All these give me great shaves, yet nearly all of them are loathed by members here. That doesn't make me want to try other DE razors though. If I can get great shaves with these four, there is nothing to gain by trying others - I can't get better results that what I already get.

The four vintage razors are where the "hobby" aspects will be for me. One Edgar Allen straight, one Rolls, one Darwin hollow ground, and one Wilkinson Empire. The straight and the Darwin supposedly hail from the same city as me (though that's not strictly true) so there is a bit of "meaning" to those two. I still haven't started to restore any of them yet though, and I am in no rush to do so. Once they are restored and tested, my exploration will be pretty much complete, so I might as well take my time. I'll not be wanting to explore every model under the sun, or start collecting obscure razors, I am after all a minimalist when it comes to shaving.
 
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The Edgar Allen straight is stamped "Made in Sheffield", but I haven't as yet been able to determine which site of the sprawling (now defunct) Edgar Allen empire, the razors were made at.

The Darwin razors were easier to pin down to a site, due to the literature included with them. While razor manufacture was killed off many years ago, there is still a Darwin engineering company producing castings at the same site.

What isn't exactly clear is whether this is in Sheffield or Rotherham, as it is very near the border. However, what a lot of people don't realise, is that to be stamped Made In Sheffield it has to be produced at a site with a Sheffield postcode, which actually extends to the neighbouring towns of Rotherham, Barnsley and Chesterfield.
 
Veering back to an earlier topic, that of trying out different blades, there are pros and cons of achieving good blade life. Obviously there is a cost advantage to a blade lasting for a month or longer, but it also takes AGES to get any results.

Ditching blades before they expire doesn't give any feedback once you reach a certain level of competence with a razor, and it's only seeing how long they last that truly sets one apart from another. However, if blades last you a month, that's only 12 that you get to try in a whole year. If they last two months, that's only 6 blades that you get to try.

As the Shark blade I mentioned earlier only lasted 11 shaves, and the Gillette Yellow is still in great condition at 27 shaves, it has been suggested that the Shark might have been a duff blade. I do have one more of them left, but if I test that one when the Yellow eventually fizzles out, it's going to be quite a wait before I can start testing anything else.

With 19 different blades in my blade tub, it is going to take quite a long time to find out which blades (along with the Wilkinson Sword) might become my favourites.
 
With the main exploration for me being the vintage razors, I have been positioning myself to get them restored. There wasn't much response to a thread I started about them, and so I think there is less enthusiasm for than here than I hoped.

I have been able to glean plenty of knowledge on honing though, and later this month I should get a couple of sheets of lapping film. I already have two unused combination Japanese waterstones to start them on, and a piece of polished granite to use the film with.

I also have some new leather to make a replacement strop for the Wilkinson Empire which came without it's strop, and for replacing the leather in the Rolls and Darwin should I be unable to reclaim/refresh the existing pads. I will try to clean them up and rehydrate them first, but they are not flat, and might not recover well enough.

All I have tried so far with any of the vintage razors, is shaving with the Empire using a modified GEM blade. I was told the razor could be used this way, and thought it might be a good way to understand what the Empire should be capable of if I can rehone the hollow ground blades well enough. It was the single worst shave that I have EVER had!

Not only did the blade chatter badly, and chew my face up pretty badly, but the rolling guard also served for entangling and ripping out hair from the goatee that I was shaving up to. It went back in it's box and I haven't tried it again since.

I think the Darwin will be the sensible start point for the refurbs. The blade should be easier to rehone than the Empire, and unlike the straight and Rolls, is an adjustable safety razor, and so is the nearest to what I am used to.

The first thing I need to do before honing the blades, is give the mechanics a good clean, and see if I can tidy up the leather hone and strop that the blade will be finished on once the bevel has been reset.

This journal will probably bounce back and forth between the restorations and learning curve of the vintage, and thoughts and comments about my continued DE journey.
 
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The plan today was try to get rid of the several decades of dried in honing paste from the Darwin hone/strop. The leather is quite dried out, and heavily caked in old paste.



I found details of a mixture online that someone had used for doing the same thing with a Rolls Razor strop, basically just a mixture of dish soap and baking powder. The plan then was to try and reinvigorate the leather with some moisturising cream - leather is skin after all ...



Mix up and apply ...



Scrub with a nylon cleaning brush ...



Keep applying it and scrubbing it, until the mixture is thick with the old compound, then wipe off with tissue and rinse the brush. Repeat and repeat and repeat, mixing more paste as needed, repeat and repeat till your arm aches and you run out of baking powder, and ...



Still caked in it!!! :a31: :a52: :cursing: :censored: :a31:

There's got to be an easier way than this!

I've rubbed in some of the moisturising cream, and will repeat this again tomorrow. If I can get some moisture back in the leather and the compound, the compound might be a little more willing to let go ... hopefully ...
 
I'll chuck a running log in here of the blade lives I have had on a blade type since signing up here. I've obviously seen people updating where they are at any given time, but not seen many historical logs which give a full list. I've only ditched one blade so far, but as each blade expires, I'll copy, paste and update this. I'll also keep them in number order (worst performing first) for neatness.

Most Shaves Per Blade:

11 - Shark Super Chrome
28* - Gillette 7 O'Clock Yellow

* - Still in use
 
Worked a little more moisturiser into the leather today. It's only taking a little at a time, so I'll keep this up for a while, just trying to introduce a small amount every day.

I also took receipt of 100 Wilkinson Sword Classic blades today. I managed to get a good deal online, less than what it would have cost me to buy 30 blades from a store in town. These, and my other blades, have all been transferred into a little cheapo plastic toolbox. It also gave me chance to sort out just how many blades I need to test, now that I've started counting my shaves.

The order might change, but here's the blades that I've already got, which I need to work through for the table I started in the previous post:

Wilkinson Sword Classic
Polsilver Super Iridium
Super-Max Blue Diamond Titanium
Astra Superior Platinum
Gillette Silver Blue
Feather Hi-Stainless
Super-Max Stainless
Voskhod
Derby Extra Super Stainless
Rapirs Super Stainless
Rapira Platinum Lux
Rapira Swedish Supersteel
Gillette Super Nacet
Gillette 7 O'Clock Super Stainless
Treet Platinum
Personna Blue
Israeli Black
Bluebeard's Revenge

.... and then back to the second Shark Super Chrome. If I average 20+ shaves per blade, it's going to take me over a year to work through these and find out which might be my favourites. :crazy:
 
My inclination would be to put one shave on each blade as a fast way of whittling down the list. After all, anything less than an outstanding shave on the first innings is unlikely to get better subsequently.
Ditching blades before they expire doesn't give any feedback once you reach a certain level of competence with a razor, and it's only seeing how long they last that truly sets one apart from another.
Maybe that holds true if you deem them to perform the same initially, but i'm willing to bet some of that list will make you wish you could retire them after 5 shaves!

Anyway, an interesting read and worth following.

T
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
Thats a good selection of blades and yep, you'll be a while sorting them out lol.

When I was testing blades I didnt use them for their full life. I picked a blade and had a shave, if I liked it, it got a few more shaves. If I didnt like it, it got tossed and I came back to them a few months later to see if my impressions had changed. They have not.

If I dont get a good shave first go, I generally dont bother with it again, life is too short.

For the most part the blades I like, I like in all my razors, but each razor seems to have a favorite*.

NEW SC - Polsilver/Blue Diamond Titanium*, Derby Extra
Gillette Regent - Perma-Sharp Super*, Derby Extra, Polsilver
Gillette SS - Gillette Yellow*, Polsilver
Gillette post war Tech - Gillette Yellow*
Fatip Grande - Gillette Yellow, Polsilver, Derby Extra, Gillette Black. All favorites lol.
 
My inclination would be to put one shave on each blade as a fast way of whittling down the list. After all, anything less than an outstanding shave on the first innings is unlikely to get better subsequently.

Maybe that holds true if you deem them to perform the same initially, but i'm willing to bet some of that list will make you wish you could retire them after 5 shaves!

Anyway, an interesting read and worth following.

T
Thanks, T.

I think it takes a shave or two just to understand the edge, one to test the waters, and the second to start bringing it up to proper shave speed.

I'm always cautious on my first outing with a new blade, even if it's a brand I'm familiar with. By shave three, I'm normally confident enough to start long stroking, and going right from the top of the beard, round the jaw and down the neck all in one swipe. I was still doing this quite comfortably around shave 5 with the Shark blade that faceplanted early. Any less than three shaves, and I don't feel that I've even started to use them properly yet.

Feathers are the only blade that I haven’t taken beyond 5 shaves. They felt like a cheese grater on the first pass, and didn't feel any better by the end of the second shave, so they got booted out.
 
Thats a good selection of blades and yep, you'll be a while sorting them out lol.

When I was testing blades I didnt use them for their full life. I picked a blade and had a shave, if I liked it, it got a few more shaves. If I didnt like it, it got tossed and I came back to them a few months later to see if my impressions had changed. They have not.

If I dont get a good shave first go, I generally dont bother with it again, life is too short.

For the most part the blades I like, I like in all my razors, but each razor seems to have a favorite*.

NEW SC - Polsilver/Blue Diamond Titanium*, Derby Extra
Gillette Regent - Perma-Sharp Super*, Derby Extra, Polsilver
Gillette SS - Gillette Yellow*, Polsilver
Gillette post war Tech - Gillette Yellow*
Fatip Grande - Gillette Yellow, Polsilver, Derby Extra, Gillette Black. All favorites lol.
For me, a new blade is like a new pair of leather shoes. You don't really know if you're going to like them till they've broken in a bit - and if they're comfy from the start, they're probably going to get sloppy by the time they're bedded in.

Although I spent a couple of decades with just the Wilkinsons, I'd still tiptoe through the first couple of shaves till they settled in, then start taking them to full race speed later.

Even though the Feathers got booted early, I need to try them again, and try to get past that initial harshness to give them a proper trial. I don't think that first shave means anything, unless that if I can take it to full race speed in the first shave, it probably isn't going to last as long. :D
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
For me, a new blade is like a new pair of leather shoes. You don't really know if you're going to like them till they've broken in a bit - and if they're comfy from the start, they're probably going to get sloppy by the time they're bedded in.

Although I spent a couple of decades with just the Wilkinsons, I'd still tiptoe through the first couple of shaves till they settled in, then start taking them to full race speed later.

Even though the Feathers got booted early, I need to try them again, and try to get past that initial harshness to give them a proper trial. I don't think that first shave means anything, unless that if I can take it to full race speed in the first shave, it probably isn't going to last as long. :D
I do just the opposite. I shave the same way every shave and focus on the blades that let me do that comfortably.

You and I agree on Feathers. I really wanted to like them, thats why I bought 100, and ended up getting refunded for them, buying another 100 and then getting 200 in the mail lol.

I've tried them in all my razors and I just dont get along with them past the first shave, and the first shave isnt great. Using a fresh Feather in my Tech took me 6 passes for a BBS finish. In my Grande with a fresh Feather, 3 passes.

A Gillette Yellow in my Tech is a simple 3 pass BBS, in my Grande 1 pass and a tiny clean up for the same BBS.

I honestly dont get the hype over Feather blades. At $35CAD per 100, they're a bit pricey too.

Sharp Super Chrome I didnt like either, even on subsequent shaves months later. Bic Chrome Platinum was another.

I do have 2 tucks of Treet Platinum. I really didnt get along with them in my NEW SC and have yet to try them again in my Grande, but I will.
 
I think the ones that you rate highly, are fairly high up on my list to try, so it shouldn't be too many months :001_rolle before we can compare notes on them. :001_tongu

I daren't do my first couple of shaves at full speed. I've come a cropper in the past with that too many times before. If I'm ever going to start letting the red messy stuff out, you can be pretty sure it's by getting complacent on the first couple of shaves.

I think this might be partly because I've already gotten so used to taking blades as far as they'll go over previous years, and becoming accustomed to having to use a bit of force on the last few shaves to overcome the growing drag of a tired blade.

If I let muscle memory loose on the first couple of shaves, I'll end up planing the top layer off my face :lol:
 

Esox

I didnt know
Ambassador
I think the ones that you rate highly, are fairly high up on my list to try, so it shouldn't be too many months :001_rolle before we can compare notes on them. :001_tongu

I daren't do my first couple of shaves at full speed. I've come a cropper in the past with that too many times before. If I'm ever going to start letting the red messy stuff out, you can be pretty sure it's by getting complacent on the first couple of shaves.

I think this might be partly because I've already gotten so used to taking blades as far as they'll go over previous years, and becoming accustomed to having to use a bit of force on the last few shaves to overcome the growing drag of a tired blade.

If I let muscle memory loose on the first couple of shaves, I'll end up planing the top layer off my face :lol:

The Planer Effect. Its real!

That can happen to me much more easily using razors with gap or very mild razors. I can tend to apply too much pressure with a milder razor like my Tech because it doesnt feel like its doing anything lol.

With my NEW SC because of the gap I need to shave at about 1/2 my usual speed with my Grande. If I shave as fast with it, my skin can bunch up in the gap and when that wave cant travel any further, it will flatten the top of that wave. The saving grace with gap is that you can feel that tension building. The razor tells you to slow down.

The Grande with virtually no gap, gives no warning. It can be a harsh mistress in teaching technique and bit me on the right side of my mouth the first several shaves while I sorted out the skin tension and direction I needed so that didnt happen.

It can also happen to me when using say a Derby Extra which is a mild and forgiving blade, and then changing to a Polsilver or Gillette Yellow. The Grande reminds me on first contact, careful! lol
 
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