We all come to the point in our hobbies when we become aware of things that, without fail, will bug the crap out of us.
I am certainly at that point with wet shaving.
Let us, then, discuss my pet peeves, insofar as safety razors go. Hold onto both hat and head, because the winging is about to commence.
1) Overly slippery handles. Grr. It’s got a wickedly sharp blade in it. It’s near my face. My hands are wet and soapy. Why, why, why would it seem like a good idea to make the handle of a razor slippery? What on earth is the thought process there? I honestly don’t know. It only seems to be a sensible design choice.
But – but it appears that what I perceive to be sensible is not universally accepted as being so. There are a good number of razors that have handle finishing that I don’t agree with. I will list a few of those I’ve found wanting, not by name, but by the sins they’re guilty of.
a) Smooth as a carrot. Yes, they make them this way. Chromed or otherwise finished in a perfectly smooth fashion. Smooth things don’t have any grip.
b) Pretend traction. Just because there are lines of some kind, or vague bumps in the smooth surface, that does not mean that we’ll be able to get any purchase on the implement when we’ve got soap all over our fingers. Tsk, tsk.
c) Weird roundness. The butt end of a razor handle should be squared off. End of transmission. It has no reason to be otherwise. A round back end does nothing but keep the small fingers from balancing there and enhancing the control of the razor. Sigh.
d) Twisty McSwingaround. I understand the idea of the barber pole grooves. It catches the light. It’s pretty. It seems like it would do great. Well, not for me. Yes, you can hang onto the razor, but it is hopelessly prone to want to spin around sideways as I use it. Infuriating. If I’d known, there would have been a few razors I would never have purchased.
e) Half Assed Knurling. The least of the sins, I suppose, this is knurling that simply isn’t cut deep enough into the metal to really give the grip you need. Try harder.
What should a razor handle be modeled after? I’ll give a few examples. For vintage razors, I’ll say that you could look a long time without finding a better design than the Gillette Aristocrat (late 40’s). The Fatboy and Slim Adjustables are also great. These are quite complex traction patterns, and might not be ideal for every manufacturing technique.
For modern razors, the Feather AS-D2 is everything it should be. Deep, checkered knurling in stainless steel. Matte finish, similar to a bead-blast. Good weight, great traction, correct length.
2) Inordinately long handles: I have big hands. I was led to believe that this would mean that I needed a long handle to shave comfortably. Yeah, no. I like a standard to short handle for a razor. The length of a Superspeed at the short end, to the length of a Slim Adjustable on the far end. Yes, I can do okay with longer handles, but for me, they’re in no way necessary, and sometimes make it harder for me to shave my neck easily. If the razor is so long that I need to engage in special gyrations in order to maintain the blade angle at the base of my neck, that’s too long for me. Nuff said.
3) Mild, but bitey. We’ve encountered a few of these razors. They’re really comfortable on the early passes, lulling you into a false sense of security. Then, every time, you end up getting irritated or bleeding by the end. Not a great mix, this. While any razor can bite, one that feels mild but frequently nips is not preferred.
4) Aggressive, but to no perceivable end. There are some razors I’ve use that come across very harsh, really beating up the skin, but don’t seem to take the hair off very well. There are too many good razors around to waste my time on these. Into the shoebox of despair they go.
5) Drunk painters. Yeah, like an inebriated house painter, these tend to leave little remainders of stubble at odd intervals across my face. Only a dedicated cleanup pass can really get the shave where it needs to be with a razor like this. If it only happens from time to time, I’m willing to take the blame. If a trend develops…
6) Blade snobs. If you can get a good shave with a razor, but only on the first shave of a particular brand of blade, that doesn’t particularly endear me to that implement. Everything has its ideal operational requirements, but if it’s downright temperamental, that irks me.
7) Needs a chaperone. If you have to twiddle about endlessly with the razor in order to get the blade to line up equally on both sides, it’s got issues. Issues I’m not that enthusiastic to deal with. I always look closely at the amount of blade and the gap when I’m loading in a blade, but if a razor consistently needs to be adjusted, that doesn’t impress me much. It speaks to loose manufacturing tolerances or a design that allows too much play in the mechanism. You deserve better. I…well, I probably deserve to get what I get, but I still WANT better.
That’s all my grievances for the moment. As I’m through winging, I’ll let you go.
Cheers, and happy shaving.