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What I have learned- If I was starting over what would I do differently?

Jim

Moderator
I have seen many sore faced newbies surfing into the B&B, watching their progress through the various and sundry 'ADs is a fairly predictable event.
Without a doubt, the more seasoned and experienced members have some clear preferences for type and style of products and hardware that they enjoy.

The greatest resource that we have here at the B&B is the experience and depth of knowledge that we share so freely.
This post is an attempt at short cutting some time and expense for the fledgling wetshaver.

If you have been wetshaving for two years or more, have tried a broad range of products, have a clear preferences or favorite setup, please post. All members are free to comment and ask questions.

Photos encouraged!
 
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Jim

Moderator
My favorite shave varies from day to day, IF I had to chose one new setup to purchase today, it would be one of the following-

Razor - 3 piece razor- My favorite is a EJ Lined Chatsworth or a Gillette NEW

Blades - Feather

Brush/es - Rooney stubby, Rooney Finest 1/1, pre Vilifix Simpsons Chubby1, Tulip 2

Creams - Castle Forbes

Soaps - DR Harris, Penhaligon's,Trumper's, AOS

Aftershave- DR Harris, Saint Charles Shave splashes, Penhaligon's balms


If push came to shove I would more than likely pick D.R. Harris, Arlington suite of products.

This outfit would satisfy me without compromise.


 
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Kyle

Moderator Emeritus
Great idea, Jim. :thumbsup:

My fav's are:

Razor - right now Merkur's HD and LH reign supreme
I have ventured away from these two only a couple of times in the last year.​
Blades - Red IP's, Crystal, Derby
I go back and forth between Reds and Crystals primarily.​
Brush/es - Rooney Finest, Simpson's PJ3, Simpsons CH1
The PJ3 is the mainstay and I go back and forth between the other two with preferences changing about every 3-4 months.​
Creams - Taylor's & Castle Forbes
I rarely use creams anymore, but these two are tops when I do.​
Soaps - DR Harris (Arlington is the champion), Penhaligon's
I do include 6-7 other soaps in the rotation, but Harris' Arlington and Penhaligon's English Fern have been getting the most work.​

If I had to pick one setup, it would be: Merkur LH, Red IP's, Simpson PJ3, DR Harris Arlington.
 

ouch

Stjynnkii membörd dummpsjterd
Moderator Emeritus
The goal is to get some seasoned feedback to the new members,perhaps to help them skip a few steps to shaving nirvana
I won't be much help here, as I believe it is the very nature of hobbies to obsess over things. I recall, when I first discovered this thing of ours, how I would drive into a CVS lot, as if guided by some unseen hand, to see if they had the "other" Surrey soap, or explore the limited selection of men's products at the local C&E with glee.

I think that hobbies go through phases-
Wow, this stuff exists?
I have to try some of these.
I have to try all of these.
I must get everything.
I have everything.
I have to simplify.
I really love this but can live without that.

Helping newbies seperate the wheat from the chaff is a great idea, and can save some folks a ton of money, but it wouldn't have helped me. Without question, I now have a lot better stuff from which to choose, and am firmly in the zen camp of less is more, but make no mistake about it- I'll never have as much fun as I did in the early days when I was awash in the wonder of it all.

We may learn from our mistakes, but I wouldn't trade a second from that period of time, however misguided I may have been.
 
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Kyle

Moderator Emeritus
Very insightful, Jay. I was much the same way. Even to this day when forced into a shopping trip with the wife and kids, I'll stray over to grooming section of whatever store we are in with great hopes of discovering a product that I'd never seen before. I'm not sure that the thrill of the hunt ever really dies.
 

scoopster

Moderator Emeritus
Thigns I have learned and or would do differently now:

  • Especially early on, I would not have switched so many things around. I acquired a lot of different razors, blades, brushes, soaps, creams and aftershaves rather quickly and changed more than one of these at a time on almost every shave. This significantly slowed down my progress towards getting good shaves. Once I calmed down I was able to focus on perfecting my technique and also to more accurately judge the effect of a specific thing in my routine that I was changing.
  • I would watch razor markets at B&B and Ebay more carefully before buying a vintage razor. The first few razors I bought I overpaid for. If I was more educated about the market I could have saved money purchasing vintage.
  • I wouldn't have lurked so long on B&B before becoming a member. Even for a forum this large this is a very friendly, welcoming place. There were so many "power posters" in what I perceived was an exclusive club that I was a bit cautious about making myself heard on the forum. Turned out that wasn't an issue at all. And what's the worst thing that can happen - a custom title? :wink:
 
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Kyle

Moderator Emeritus
One thing that I wish I could go back and change:

When I was putting together my first kit, I was determined that I could/would find great products on the cheap. I relied on my own research too much and should have listened more closely to the advice of seasoned vets.

My first kit was a Tweezerman brush, Alabu goatsmilk shave soap, a Merkur 1904 classic open-comb, and Merkur blades. I not sure that I could have picked a worse product from any of the categories. This combo was so terrible that I almost gave up after a couple of weeks. Upon my dear wife's insistence, I transitioned into a second kit made up of the items I should have purchased to begin with.

Bottom line - Spend the money to buy quality the first time. If it doesn't work out, you can sell quality, but if you buy junk, you're stuck with it.
 

scoopster

Moderator Emeritus
I would have purchased more two-banded Pre-Vulfix Simposns before they went away.

On the flip side, don't get too hung up about trying to stockpile things that have gone, or are going away. You can't buy an infinite supply and realistically how long will it take you to use up the stash of stuff you already have in your cabinet? There are still a ton of great products out there in good supply.
 

jlander

Moderator Emeritus
I won't be much help here, as I believe it is the very nature of hobbies to obsess over things. I recall, when I first discovered this thing of ours, how I would drive into a CVS lot, as if guided by some unseen hand, to see if they had the "other" Surrey soap, or explore the limited selection of men's products at the local C&E with glee.

I think that hobbies go through phases-
Wow, this stuff exists?
I have to try some of these.
I have to try all of these.
I must get everything.
I have everything.
I have to simplify.
I really love this but can live without that.

Helping newbies seperate the wheat from the chaff is a great idea, and can save some folks a ton of money, but it wouldn't have helped me. Without question, I now have a lot better stuff from which to choose, and am firmly in the zen camp of less is more, but make no mistake about it- I'll never have as much fun as I did in the early days when I was awash in the wonder of it all.

We may learn from our mistakes, but I wouldn't trade a second from that period of time, however misguided I may have been.



I think I would make 2 small changes

Wow, this stuff exists?
I have to try some of these.
I have to try all of these.
I must get everything.
I have everything.
Storm blew everything away.
I really don't need as much as I had.

The spoiler is is exactly what I thought!
 
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Suzuki

Moderator Emeritus
Some good advice here.

I think that everyone's ultimate preferences in terms of hardware and products change and there's a lot to be said for experimentation. The only thing I would have done differently is to have bought less stuff when experimenting (for example, 6 soaps from the same soaper instead of one or two).

With that said, here's my main suggestion - try ONE of everything. In other words, if you want to try a new brand of soap, cream, aftershave, etc. buy one to see if you like it before buying it in every flavour under the sun.

Get a good basic set up and know how to use it, the suggestions above are good, but here are my suggestions:

Razor Keep it simple and go with a standby - Merkur Classic, LH Classic or HD or a middle of the road SS (Note: I'm not a fan of the SS razors, but lots of folks do like them). Skip the adjustables - they'll likely only screw you up.

Blades Start with a sampler of the tried and true blades, some vendors flog samplers with all sorts of exotic blades - don't bother, most of them are lousy. Stick with the tried and true and you'll know that if you're getting bad results, its not likely that its because you're using a box cutter blade that's been repackaged as a razor blade.

My personal favourites are Crystals, followed closely by Red Personnas - I'll throw in a Wilkinson or Dorco every now and again, but the Crystals and Reds account for 90% of my shaves.

Brush Get a good brush - if you're doing this on the cheap, my view is to spend $15 and get a good boar - the Omega Professional is my recommendation, seconded by the Vulfix 404 boar/badger - I regularly use these two boar brushes, find them far superior to the cheaper boar brushes or scritchy pure badgers. Yes, boar's smell like stinky wet dog for about a week or two, but if you shampoo the heck out of them the destinkification process can be accelerated. While not sexy, boar brushes (especially the good ones) are great value and get nice and soft within a few weeks and continue to soften with use - they work great with soaps, creams and, once broken in, with face lathering.

If you decide you want to buy a badger, I suggest skipping the cheaper brushes and go directly to a mid-grade (Simpson best or Shavemac finest) or higher grade hair. Pick a middle of the road size in terms of size (I suggest 20 to 22mm) and loft (50mm give or take a couple) as this sort of brush will be a good all-rounder. I really think the Rooney size one brushes are some of the best values out there and the style 1 or 3 are great all-rounders.

Also, don't be afraid to buy a used brush - while some are grossed out by the concept, I've not heard of anyone catching anything from a used brush - especially if you shampoo it well with hot water - if you're willing to do this, you can save a ton of money.

Soap As said above, try ONE each of a hard soap (try to get something with tallow - this means Tabac, Penhaligons (check to make sure) and DR Haris), a glycerine soap (TGQ, QED, Conk, VDH, Mama Bear). Also consider trying a shaving stick - they're loads of fun and the Palmolive stick can be had for $3 - $4 (less if you live in Europe), is tallow based, and just performs great for the price.

Cream Try one good cream in a flavour you like - I think Proraso, Fraser and TOBS are great creams - they lather well, are slick and are reasonably priced. I'm not a cream guy, but the Frazer and TOBS are the creams I'll used if I'm in the mood.

Aftershave I think no shave is complete without some good 'ol alcohol-based aftershave. In my view, the Aqua Velva classic is a great one to start with - nice classic scent, nice kick of menthol coolness, some glycerine for the skin and cheap to boot. I have a big bottle of each of the original and original sport (Canada only) in my cabinet and they both get a lot of play. The scent fades very quickly and doesn't interfere with colognes. If you want something a little different, the Proraso splash is great and a reasonably good value (also has a kick of menthol, which I really like).

Balm A balm is good if you live where it gets cold/dry or have dry skin. The Nivea sensitive balm (white box) is readily available, reasonably priced and very good.

Lots of newbies run from one product to the next hoping that will help them get the perfect shave. The key in my view is to start with a decent set up and get comfortable with it. My suggestion is that if you want to try new things, do it one product at a time so that you can isolate what is/isn't doing it for you.

Last, but not least, there is no miracle product out there, and technique trumps product 99% of the time and I would have spent more time working on technique than switching up products when I started out.
 
It's really hard to believe that I have "settled" on a "normal" shave, but I think at this point it's safe to say I have. I may not post a ton on here, but I read quite a bit and started wet shaving about 3 years ago now. I just purchased my first straight, so a new chapter may be starting...but here's where I'm at right now:

Brush: My new Shavemac D01 21mm knot 50mm loft. This size and hair is really the best combo I have come across, I am really a big fan.

Soap: DR Harris Arlington.

Razor: Schick Dial Adjustable.

Blades: I like the Schick Platinums, but I don't have anymore. New Schicks are OK too.

Aftershave: Blenheim Bouquet splash. I like it better than the balm.

Cologne: Blenheim Bouquet.


I almost didn't put the Arlington because it's already in this thread a couple of times...but it's honestly the best soap I have tried. I think new shavers tend to buy something like Mama Bears or maybe a second hand QED from the BST because it's the cheap way to try a popular soap. The triple milled soaps set up a much better shave and Arlington is the winner in my book.
 
Things I would do differently:

Cave in to online ordering right away. While the thrill of the hunt for local stuff is fun, online is the surest way to get the good stuff you need right away.

Quit wasting money on cheap lathering products. High quality triple milled tallow based shave soaps, like AOS or T&H are very cost effective and facilitate great shaves.

No GEMs.

The late 40's style Super Speed has been the end of the road for me for over two years now. I have no burning desire to try other razors, although, someday I will probably buy a slant.
 
While I'm not the sort that anyone should look to for guidance, I would offer these tips.
  • Don't start with an adjustable.
  • If you ignore the first rule, don't adjust the adjustable until you get a really good feel for using it.
 

Alacrity59

Wanting for wisdom
Moderator Emeritus
Contributor
good God . . .

+1 on what suzuki said . . . I read it all . . . makes sense to me.
 
Good thread

RAZOR-Gillette New
BLADE-Derby
BRUSH-Savile Row 3xxx series
SHAVING CREAM-Trumper's Rose
SHAVING SOAPS-Mama Bear's in a scent you like
AFTERSHAVE-Trumper's Coral Skin Food and Aqua Velva
EDT-Floris 89, Czech & Speake 88, Grey Flannel
 
My favorite shave varies from day to day, IF I had to chose one new setup to purchase today, it would be one of the following-

Razor - 3 piece razor- My favorite is a EJ Lined Chatsworth or a Gillette NEW

Blades - Feather

Brush/es - Rooney stubby, Rooney Finest 1/1, pre Vilifix Simpsons Chubby1, Tulip 2

Creams - Castle Forbes

Soaps - DR Harris, Penhaligon's,Trumper's, AOS

Aftershave- DR Harris, Saint Charles Shave splashes, Penhaligon's



If push came to shove I would more than likely pick D.R. Harris, Arlington suite of products.

This outfit would satisfy me without compromise.


Could not agree more except that I love my Futur and only one soap with no tallow; which I should review in the near future
 
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Doc4

I'm calling the U.N.
Moderator Emeritus
"If I were starting over, I wouldn't buy all that crap I now regret, and just buy the stuff I know I like ... "

Ah yes, the old 20/20 hindsight. Ah, but like Ouch I went a little nutz-o and obsessive and had to track down every possible item ... had delusions of "discovering" an obscure soap that would become the next Holy Grail of Wetshaving ... and wandered the aisles of every desolate drugstore in every two-horse town I passed through, in the hopes of some ancient shopkeeper having a dusty supply of lord-knows-what wonderproduct.

And if I hadn't bought all that stuff that I now say "meh; it's okay but I won't replace it that's for sure" about ... you know for certain I'd be obsessing over it ... "maybe KMF is the greatest shave cream ever!!"

Coulda ... woulda ... shoulda ... tallow-first Penhaligon's shave soap and Charles Tyrwhitt shave cream ...



My One Key Piece of Advice:

Learn to make lather ... by sticking with one product. My lather when I began was substandard at best. It slowly climbed to "mediocre". I had a bunch of different soaps and creams, and hopped back and forth trying a different one every day. Then, I stuck with one soap (SCS Fairway, fyi) for a month. Yes, a whole month, although if memory serves I would take every 4th day 'off' to use a cream. My lathering improved quickly after a couple weeks ... using the same product every day really helped me get the technique down, by seeing how slight variations would affect that same product ... kind of like going to the driving range and working on your 4-iron.
 
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