Shave Update, 1/3/2016

Posted: January 3, 2016 in Shaving Articles
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It occurred to me that I may have been searching for something that had already been found. Yep. I think that we do that more than a little with the hobbies and pastimes of our lives. In this case, I was continually going down the list of different razor blades, looking for something magical or wonderful. As you might expect, and might have even read about, I have found some really good blades, and a few duds. More than a vew middle of the road performers. Probably about par for the course, whichever endeavor you’re involved with. Bell curve stuff.

After considering this, I loaded a Feather Hi-Stainless blade into my Feather AS-D2 razor. Like you’re supposed to. It’s always good to touch base with your reference shave, anyway, so I went back, doing a shave with Proraso White and the aforementioned combination. What did I get? A comfortable, very close shave. Like you’re supposed to. Now, I’d given myself a minor irritation with my previous shave, and it would have perhaps been the better part of valor to go easy, but I didn’t, and I got away with it. Why? Because the AS-D2 is a razor that will only jump up and bite you if you’re acting the fool, or if you’re using a blade that lacks all refinement. In my experience, that is. These are subjective tests that rely upon my judgement, after all.

So, the Feather/Feather combo is a good one. The best? Shoot, I don’t know. I’ve had excellent shaves with more than a few blades. The Wilkinson Sword, the Astra SP, most recently with the Derby Extra. This razor is safe with sharp blades. The sharpest, even. On the other hand, it is flexible enough to get great performance out of a less-sharp option, like the Derby. One of the reasons (other than keeping my own epidermis from getting shredded) that I chose to do most of my tests with the AS-D2 was that it wasn’t absurdly aggressive or perilous to shave with. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try out blades that have failed with the D2, but man, be careful.

What do you get with those, the sharpest of the sharp, that you don’t get with other blades? It’s somewhat subtle. Essentially, you get your razor to take off more of the stubble with each pass. Especially the first one. The blade doesn’t hang up with the stubble or slow down. You feel like, even after a single pass, you could probably look presentable at work. Does it, in the end, make a huge difference by the end of the shave? It varies, but with proven performers, not a whole lot. A slightly duller blade just has a bit more to do in later passes. The Derby, not known for a lot of sharpness, got me some of the closest shaves I’ve had with this rig. The real thing that a blade that begins with reference level of sharpness will probably get you is a few more shaves before it gets dull enough to be a hazard. A hazard? Yep. I said it. The point at which you begin using force to get though the beard is the point at which you hurt yourself. If you have a gentle hand, sharp is perfectly safe. Dull and coarse is not. Says me, anyway.

***
The maintenance two pass shave with the Wilkinson Sword went swimmingly. It’s really all about not doing the third pass with the Merkur 39C. Perhaps I could get away with it with a Derby, but with a sharp-end blade, it’s going to irritate me. This last shave, a farily speedy affair with Palmolive Classic from the tube, was about as close as I’ve been able to achieve with a two pass shave. Damn near as close as some of my less-than-stellar three pass outings. I’ve like the Wilkinson blade a lot, and it continues to impress with really good sharpness combined with a smooth cut.

I certainly haven’t tested every blade I have (there are a good number of Lord and Crown blades left from my sampler pack), but I’ve tested enough to have a good idea of the qualities that work with my razors and my face. To be honest, I’m not that excited about any of the blades that remain. I’ll probably test them, sure, but I’ve become a bit less enthusisatic about doing a full three shave sequence if I’m not feeling it for a particular blade. I’m prepared to give a blade that doesn’t have great prospects the short shrift.

The blades that I’m still interested in testing include the Polsilver, the Perma-Sharp, and a few others, primarly from Russia and Scandinavia. Perhaps the top of the line Dorco, if I can get a small enough pack. Buying a hundred blades to simply get a try with a blade is not in the plan. Not because of fiscal restraint, but because I don’t want to have a thousand blades hanging around, of which I only like three hundred. Seems wasteful. Especially when I already know of at least three blades that I would happily use through a fifty or hundred pack.

***
I’ve carried on with the course I set, using the Feather blade in my AS-D2 razor until I began to sense signs of roughness. With the benefit of the ultimate sharpness of the Feather blade, the AS-D2 flat out shaves every vestige of hair off your face. You do have to be just slightly more careful, but not too bad. I wouldn’t give a Feather to a beginner, but if you have your technique down, all is well.

If I’m honest, I could easily close the book on the whole testing element of wet shaving. With the AS-D2 and a Feather blade, I could do just about anything I ever needed to. I could use a one or two pass shave to give my face a break, and then do the full three pass when smoothness was paramount. In terms of the other accoutrements, I could also pare down to only a few soaps. If pressed, I suppose I would pick, if I could only pick one, the Proraso White. Not because it is necessarily my favorite, but it always lathers perfectly, has enough of a menthol coolness to make my skin feel good, and protects as well as anything I’ve tried. I haven’t gone brush crazy, like some wet shavers do. I like the Omega synthetic in terms of function, though it isn’t the most luxurious feeling brush. Now and then, I like to use the Escali. It’s a bit gentler, with a slightly different feel on your face. I recognize that neither of these brushes are anywhere close to “the best” brush, in terms of what the experts say. Shrug. I don’t care that much. They work fine. If one of them begins to wear, I’ll gladly try a new brush then. For aftershave, I suppose I could pare down to Aqua Velva or some version thereof, Witch Hazel, and some form of moisturizer. I have been trying a Coconut Oil product I picked up, and thus far, I really, really like it. More details as I’ve used it a bit more.

All of this is a mental exercise on my part, though. I still want to try more blades, more of all the various gear out there. I don’t know that I’ll be going at it hammer and tongs for a while, though, as I’ve found a good number of products that work well for me.

Cheers, and Happy 2016!

Shave Update, 12/20/15

Posted: December 20, 2015 in Strength Stunts
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The Derby Extra razor blade has impressed me. Big time. I really didn’t feel like it would do so, after reading reviews and hearing the general impression of it. The book on the Derby is that it’s very smooth, and not very sharp at all. The smoothness part: confirmed. The knock against its sharpeness, to me, is not quite as true. Now, I do feel that the blade was starting to show a little deterioration after 3 thorough shaves, but hey, these are about as cheap as DE blades come. You don’t expect them to last in the same way as the premium price brands. That said, the third shave was great. Probably one step down from that “best shave ever” smooth that you will sometimes get, but damn, really excellent. Better than I knew that shaves could get prior to going with the traditional shave gear. I won’t step all over the review (that will already be out by the time this posts), but I’m just tickled.

Other thoughts: Proraso shave soap is just good stuff. I have the white, green, and red, and all of them work wonderfully. I would say that the red may be *slightly* less protective, but the smell is so awesome. The green has that strong menthol happiness that I enjoy so much, and has great protection. The white probably has the best protection, with a nice lemony scent, and a light menthol hit. All of them lather so damn easy and have such creamy suds that I can’t see how anyone would dislike it. That said, I have heard that some people can’t get along with Proraso for one reason or another. Big world. Lots of folks. Opinions vary. Mine certainly have not. If you’re not allergic to it, and can find a scent you like, the Proraso’s highly recommended.

I can now say without fear of hesitation that my day-to-day favorite aftershave is the Renewal Rite-Aid Aqua Velva knock off. A few reasons. 1) It is a dead ringer for Aqua Velva, but cheaper, and with a better dispenser (more controllable flow). 2) Menthol. They are not shy about the menthol, and I love that chill shot on my face. 3) Scent doesn’t become cloying, and gradually fades. Not the case with some other scents, that can end up being just a bit too much after a while. 4) Face feel. This AQ clone seems to hit the magic amount of glycerin, so that your face feels protected and smooth, but not oily or tacky.

***

I shaved with the Merkur 39C and had a nice maintenance shave, then went into a new test blade, the Super-Max Platinum. The first shave went well, with me using Proraso White and the fake AQ I mentioned above. I have face lathering pretty much down pat at this point, and that’s helping me have good shaves with regluarity. I feel like that eliminates one variable with these tests. If the blade doesn’t perform, I believe it’s *mostly* on the equipment at this point.

***

I ran through a trio of test shaves with the Super-Max Platinum, and came away with a good respect for that blade. Although I don’t think it would unseat the Personna as my favorite middle-of-the-road blade, it provided good shaves and didn’t draw blood. If those were the most convenient blade to purchase at some point in the future, I wouldn’t shy away from them.

Generally a good week shaving. The Palmolive classic shave cream continues to impress. I think it may be in contention for the most protective lather I’ve worked with. Very comfortable. One interesting thing – I think that it may actually take longer to lather than a few of my hard soaps. It takes a good amount of water titrated into the soap to get it to the best consistency. That said, if it takes longer to work with, it’s only by a matter of, say, one minute during the course of the shave. I wish that I could get the stuff at “home market” prices, instead of having to pay for the import from Europe (which still leaves it as somewhat affordable, if not the outright steal it is in the EU countries). Ah, well. One cannot have all of the things. That’s what they keep telling me. I did see that the shave stick version of the Palmolive was available for a better price. I’ll have to give that a go when my supply of cream dwindles.

A general thing I’ve noticed is that all of the traditional soaps are very efficient. You can get a lot of shaves from one tube/puck/etc. If you’re not compelled to do Great Science and try all the brands, traditional wet shaving is fairly inexpensive. On paper. The urge to try stuff is a siren song that few can resist. We keep trying to find “it” after we already have “it” in our hand. Because we’re a little crazy. Sigh. It is fun, though.

***
The Super-Max Stainless Blue razor blade was kind of a dud. I stopped the test after the second shave. It just wasn’t justifying my additional time, as I’d already had a sub-par second shave with it. Neither sharp nor smooth, it could only be termed an iffy choice. At least, as far as I could see.

From there, I went on to try a Wilkinson Sword in my Merkur 39C…which was fine, up to a point. Doing a full three pass shave flirted with irritation, however. I’ve been on the fence about a full three pass shave with the 39C, and I suppose I still am. The Feather razor is just better for that purpose. I don’t hurt myself. The Merkur, however, is always a bit of a gamble going beyond two passes. In point of fact, I should to a non-critical two pass shave every time with the 39C. It’s what I bought the damned thing for. It’s just that I sometimes get carried away. Well, the good thing is that I didn’t bleed much, and I can take a day off of shaving to allow myself to recuperate. I believe that, on balance, the Personna blades are the way to go with the big Merkur. Or…maybe the Derby Extra, provided that I decide to get more.

…and that’s about it for this round. See you further on down the road.

Super-Max Super Stainless Blue

1) Sharpness: Fair
2) Comfort: Fair
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: India
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 2 (Shortened test)
8) Notes: The first test shave revealed these blades to be somewhat inferior to the smoothness of their Platinum counterparts, and perhaps a bit less sharp. Still, the shave came off all right, and I was not left with bleeding or excess irritation. Just…a mild sense that the blades were not that great. The second shave, a maintenance, two pass shave, left me far from enthusiastic, with more irritation than I am used to experiencing. I decided that I had learned all I needed to about these blades. What I’ve learned is that they are perhaps acceptable if they are all you can readily find, but they fall behind most of the other blades I’ve tested in terms of comfort, while not being overly sharp. Not highly recommended.

As I have posted the review criteria for these blade tests in all my previous reviews, I am going to go ahead and omit them from here on out. If you are interested in looking at the methodology, please look back at the earlier tests, or let me know in the comments, and I’ll repost. 

-Patrick

Super-Max Platinum

1) Sharpness: Good
2) Comfort: Good
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: India
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves):
8) Notes: The first shave provided good smoothness and closeness very close to ideal. The blade seems to be of moderate sharpness, as it doesn’t fly across my face. That said, it was sufficiently sharp for me to get an excellent shave. While not as smooth as the very smoothest of the blade I’ve tried in this razor, it still allowed me to go over areas a few extra times without lathing my face again. Irritation was minimal, with only the characteristic raspberry on my neck that I always get from shaving. I did provide essentially ideal conditions for success on this shave, with lather aplenty and only a moderate amount of growth. We’ll have to see what the second shave brings. For the second shave with this blade, I went with a two pass shave, as it was the late afternoon of a Saturday, and I didn’t need world-eclipsing closeness. The blade aquitted itself well in this regard, leaving about the level of closeness that I have come to expect with a maintenance shave. No irritation here, nothing untoward. The final shave was back to the standard, and I found that the Super-Max blade again did just fine. I didn’t notice any real sense of edge dulling after three shaves, and so it appears to be a somewhat robust edge. All in all, the Super-Max Platinum blade proved to be a good middle-of-the-road blade. Not super sharp, not the final word in smoothness, but more than adequate in both metrics. I finished the final test shave with near-perfect closeness, and no negative irritation to report. Although it didn’t fly across the face like the sharpest of the blades, it got the job done. It may not have been as smooth as the Derby Extra, but it allowed me to go for a maximum closeness shave without chewing up my face. Certainly worth a look for those seeking a nice middle ground blade. I’m sure that, in their home market, the Super-Max blades have their share of devotees.

Razor Blade Review, Derby Extra

Posted: December 7, 2015 in Shaving Articles
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Razor Test – Feather AS-D2

Testing Protocols:

1) Feather AS-D2 Seki Edge All Stainless Razor
2) Proraso White Shave Soap; pre-shave treatment as needed
3) Escali Badger Hair Brush, soaked in warm water with 30 second load of soap
4) Three Pass shave
a) With the Grain
b) Across the grain from ear toward nose
c) Across/Against the grain (Cleanup as needed)
d) Lather after each pass
5) Comparative Baseline: Feather High-Stainless
6) All blades brand new
7) All grades assume the Feather is as stated below in subjective score
8) Grades (worst to best) Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Amazing

Feather High Stainless: (Baseline)

1) Sharpness: Amazing
2) Comfort: Great
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: Japan
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: You Betcha!
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 3 or more

***

Derby Extra

1) Sharpness: Good
2) Comfort: Amazing
3) Value: Amazing
4) Availability: Great
5) Country of Origin: Turkey
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes!
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 3
8) Notes: I have to admit, I entered into my first shave with the Derby with some preconceived notions. I didn’t think it would suit the AS-D2 razor well. I though it would be a laborious and thankless exercise that would probably be reasonably comfortable, but would yield, at best, mediocre results. Well, my career as an oracle is over before it starts. The
first shave with the Derby was smooth, efficient, and very close. The rumors of the Derby being approximately as sharp as a marble seem to be thus far unfounded. I found that it was both smooth and plenty sharp on the first go-round. Like the smoothest of the razors I have tried so far, it seemed that I would have really had a tough time actually irritating myself
or cutting my face. At the same time, the first pass took the stubble down quick, with the end result after three passes being on par with some of the best shaves I’ve had. Baby smooth, while having no hot spots or wear and tear. If the Derby can keep up this kind of performance for the rest of the test, I will have to consider having a permanent supply of them around. The amazement with the Derby blade continued on the second shave. It was utterly comfortable and smooth, as advertised. The surprise was how well it cut through the stubble. No chattering, no slowness, no tugging. I didn’t have to buff across my face to get things smooth. When I say smooth, I’m not kidding around. We’re talking the best results I’ve seen with this razor – shoot, any razor. I don’t know what to tell you. Day-um, I guess. The third shave revealed that, for me, the blade was beginning to dull a bit. Nothing serious enough that it prevented another superb shave, but it seems like the sweet spot is to quit at 3 shaves for me (doing thorough 3 passers). Your results, as with all the observations I make here, may vary. I leave the test feeling as if I had all my assumptions knocked askew. The
Derby ranks high in my likeability, and with its amazing price point, I feel like it will be tough to think of reasons why I wouldn’t want to have some on hand. I say give these a try. Don’t judge them on what others say. You may well fall in love.

Razor Test – Feather AS-D2

Testing Protocols:

1) Feather AS-D2 Seki Edge All Stainless Razor
2) Proraso White Shave Soap; pre-shave treatment as needed
3) Escali Badger Hair Brush, soaked in warm water with 30 second load of soap
4) Three Pass shave
a) With the Grain
b) Across the grain from ear toward nose
c) Across/Against the grain (Cleanup as needed)
d) Lather after each pass
5) Comparative Baseline: Feather High-Stainless
6) All blades brand new
7) All grades assume the Feather is as stated below in subjective score
8) Grades (worst to best) Poor, Fair, Good, Great, Amazing

Feather High Stainless: (Baseline)

1) Sharpness: Amazing
2) Comfort: Great
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: Japan
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: You Betcha!
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 3 or more

Trig Silver Edge Stainless

1) Sharpness: Fair
2) Comfort: Good
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good (Essentially, if I can get the blade via Amazon in multiple pack sizes, it’s good. Great would be reserved for seeing it at the local drug store.)
5) Country of Origin: Pakistan
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 3 (just, palpable dulling by third shave)
8) Notes: I got a pretty decent shave from the first foray on this blade. A wee bit of irritation in the neck crease area, but not bad. What I would characterize as good smoothness was the result. There were still very small hints that hair grows on my face here and there. Initial feel of the sharpness is that the Trig is not on the sharp end of the spectrum. It gets the job done, certaintly, and doesn’t just tug and grind to do it, but I noticed on the first pass with somewhat significant stubble that it took a few extra moments to get the hair removed. Sharper blades tend to zip right down my face, regardless of the stubble they encounter. I gave this razor the best possible chance for success, as the lather on this first shave was perfect. The second two shaves with the Trig could best be described as “decent” or “adequate”. No pain, blood, or irritation, but somewhat disappointing closeness for a three pass shave, and a little more work/scrubbing than I experience with the sharper blades I’ve used. I would say that this blade would rank below the Treet blade, and would not be one I would seek out as anything special. It’s totally acceptable, but in no way exemplary.

Shave Update, 12/4/15

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Shaving Articles, Uncategorized
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For the first time in a while, I dusted off my Escali badger brush for my shave. I was starting with the first test shave for the Trig blade in my AS-D2. I used the Proraso White preshave, following with the Palmolive Classic shave lotion. I don’t believe I’d used that combo before, certainly not with the Escali brush.

The Escali brush is softer and doesn’t grab soap from a hard puck as fast, but since this was a tube-based lotion, it was no problem. Perhaps I use a bit more Palmolive than I strictly need, but I always have more than enough thick, rich lather with it. It worked great with the badger brush, and I found that I was able to get ideal lather, much akin to yogurt in consistency. Between the pre-shave and the excellent slickness of the Palmolive soap, I set up the Trig blade to have its ideal chance to shave without incident.

Which it did. I would say that it was good, if not great, in terms of performance. Initial thoughts are that it perhaps isn’t quite as sharp as the Treet blade that I tested previously (both are made in Pakistan, which is why I make the comparison). Still, solid performance.

I wonder if there is a subtle change in my perceptions during these tests. As they go on, I get more comfortable with the peripheral equipment and improve my technique, thus giving successive blades a better chance to shine. At the same time, I suppose my “bar” gets raised higher in regard to comfort, closeness, ease of use, and so on. It’s harder to impress me at this point, especicially since I’ve tried several of the highest-regarded blades on the market already.

If you look at market reviews from those who purchase DE blades, it looks like the bulk of the reviewers who care to write in really like pretty much any blade they buy. This could be for a variety of reasons. For one, only a few blades I’ve tried have outright failed in terms of shaving. I’m not saying that they’d fail other people, but I just couldn’t get a decent shave with them.

I imagine, with modern production being what it is, there’s a good chance that most blades should be relatively consistent. I’m guessing that, in this day and age, getting a thin piece of metal pretty sharp is not the largest technical hurdle ever. Billions of dudes shave. Dudes have been shaving since antiquity. But I digress. Another reason that the good reviews seem to abound for most every blade is that, if you want to take enough time to write something, you either love the product, or hate it. Who writes a review about being kind of tepid about something they bought? Those people probably need to find a nice outdoor hobby. Also, it’s easier to write a glowing review than a scathing one. We’re taught as a society to feel a certain discomfort if we have to voice a negative opinon. (This, however, is something that some Internet Jerkfaces of Jerkitude have managed to unlearn, voicing only negative, destructive, and generally asinine opinions, all the time, about everything. You have my blessing to do bad things to these people, if you find them.) Wow. I digressed again. Sorry about that. Let’s see if I can get back on track.

Final thought about glowing reviews on ALL THE THINGS. Confirmation Bias. You can look it up. Basically, it’s a psychological response that causes us to accept or be prone to the acceptance of an idea that we want to believe going in. You see it all the time. People will like a thing if enough other people tell them that they’ll like it. Not everyone, but if you don’t encounter something with a critical eye, even strong minded people can fall prey to this. If you’ve purchased something, admitting that it’s not that great isn’t fun, easy, or psychologically satisfying. Because razor blades are not expensive, buyer’s remorse is unlikey to kick in. If it shaves your face and you’re not bleeding at the end, you’re probably going to be pretty happy with it. Final (no, really this time) thought: Often people will have far less than encyclopedic knowledge of all the other products that compete with the one they review. If you’ve only tasted Mr. Pibb, you’re likely to think that Mr. Pibb is the best soft drink in all the land. People who have been to a few soda fountains in their day may have a more informed opinion. (Note: I am not trying to make anyone who loves Mr. Pibb feel that they have anything to feel self conscious about. They do, but I’m not about to press the point in this forum.)

Am I immune to these downfalls? No. That’s why there is a formula to how I test products. I try to comment on all the products in the same way, test the products with a certain protocol, and take into account the same factors in each review. Perhaps you can take a small measure of assurance that I’m engaging in this mental fiddle-faddling about whether I’m being consistent. Hey. I’m trying. This is not Popular Science here. Just a weirdo risking his facial epidermis on a voluntary basis.

***

I continued on and finally finished the test of the Trig blade, though my day to day shave has been with the 39C Merkur. I have found that I can go against the grain beneath my chin with the 39C, if I’m rather circumspect about it. The two pass shave has continued to be my go-to for this blade.

The newest test blade is the Derby Extra. I won’t steal the thunder of the upcoming review, but suffice it to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Derby. I hadn’t expected it to be a good match with the AS-D2, but I have thus far been proven to be a poor prognosticator.

Finally, I have to say that the Arko soap has to be about the highest yield soap in my collection. I shave and shave with it, always ending with well more lather than I need, and it appears that I’m not even wearing the puck down yet. It has to be the budget, no frills choice champion. While I think that the Proraso soap is a bit better in a few areas, the Arko’s price and awesome yield make it the clear penny-pincher’s choice. It provides great lather, and really has no downsides for me.