Ease of Lathering: Super easy. As with all the Razorock soaps, this soap is very easy to load, and lathers without any difficulty. It is very easy to get spoiled by RR soaps, as they just do their thing without any drama. No voodoo, no fussing around. The book on this soap is that it is a thirsty formula, where you really have to be willing to keep putting water into the mix to get the perfect lather. My experience is that there is no special treatment needed. I lathered it the exact same way as I typically do, and the soap worked perfectly.

Protection: This soap is a tallow formulation, though coconut oil is still the primary element. This is the same as the other tallow formulations that RR offers. Not a primary tallow formula, but a great vegan formulation, with tallow added to give you a little bit extra. Their new “super tallow” formula features aloe and argan oil, but that’s not what’s going on with this particular soap. It appears to be their previous formulation, like you’d find on the XXX soap, for instance. There is, however, one big difference. This formula features a thing called Fuller’s Earth, which I gather to be a mineral or clay that is said to improve face feel and protection.

I’m not well enough versed in the making of soaps to evaluate this claim, but I can tell you that this is another great soap by RR and Italian Barber. It gives excellent protection, with very voluminous lather.

Residual Slickness: I believe that one of the advertised advantages of Fuller’s Earth is that it has great slickness and treats your face well. I can’t gainsay any of these claims, as I had no issues whatsoever with the slickness or post shave while testing this soap. Once again, RR’s soap game is tight. At least for me, with the water quality here in Salt Lake City, and with the way I lather up soaps. As with any of my tests, they may not agree with everyone’s experience.

Scent: I was not totally sure what to expect with the scent of this MFer. It is a nice, gentle cologne scent, with some citrus notes. Not a lot of floralcy. In general, I find it a scent that has enough potency that you are aware of it, but not so strong as to be objectionable, even if you are not tolerant of scents in general. I’m quite fond of the scent here. I am seriously considering getting the themed aftershave. No issues here. I would say that you could probably mix a variety of aftershave scents with the small amount of lingering scent that this soap would leave behind. My sense is that it would not interfere, as it is a gentle, somewhat complex scent that shouldn’t punch through what would likely be a much more powerful scent riding above it.

Production/Value: Once again, I have to simply recognize that Razorock/Italian Barber provides absolutely top notch value. At the price point, there are no qualms or concerns that I can raise about what you’re getting for the money. For a high quality soap that can provide wonderful shaves, this one goes for ten bucks American (2017). That’s a damn good deal. With the Razorock soaps, which are fairly soft, they do ablate when being loaded. That said, they still give a lot of shaves per ounce. Great stuff.

Notes: If you’re into the scent profile you see, there’s really no reason not to try a Razorock soap. They are not currently fielding a bad soap formula. If you like tallow, get it. Highly recommended. And no, I’m not being in any way encouraged, remunerated, or supported by Italian Barber. Every product you see here has always been paid for, unless a friend has lent or given it to me. (No Razorock soap has ever been reviewed here that hasn’t been personally purchased.) Make of that what you will.

In wet shaving, there are some classic soaps that have done great service for many decades. Recently, I had the hare-brained scheme to do a bit of a comparison between them. A shootout, I suppose. I’m sure that my contentions will raise a certain number of eyebrows, but I’m just going to put my thoughts out there, for what it’s worth.

The Competitors:

1) Cella, the classic soft Italian soap from which pretty much the whole croap thing arose.

2) Proraso Green, another great Italian soap, this one with a cooling menthol and eucalyptus feel.

3) Mitchell’s Wool Fat, the tallow and lanolin soap of legend, for many reasons.

4) Tabac, the quintessential German shaving soap that tends to show up on Tuesdays…for some reason. <g>

Round One: Ease of Use

4th Place: Mitchell’s Wool Fat. Say what you want, “The Fat” isn’t the easiest soap to get a perfect lather out of. It’s one of the few soaps I’ll recommend people bloom. Even then, getting the correct load and lather isn’t like falling off a log.

3rd Place: Proraso Green. Even in third place, this is an easy, easy soap to work with. All the Proraso products are. Perhaps the only negative things I can say are that it ablates a little more quickly than the other soaps, and that it tends to leave a powdery residue on the sink and razor.

2nd Place: Cella. Cella is easy to lather, easy to load, and generally awesome. The only points it loses is that its classic container is a bit small, making it harder to get the brush down into the soap, and that it ablates somewhat quickly, being a soft soap.

1st Place: Tabac. I don’t believe I’ve ever used a hard-puck soap that lathered so easily. Through some magic of chemistry, this soap, without blooming, without any special treatment, can whip into a thick lather as easily as a croap. At the same time, the rate of use per shave is almost impossible to measure.

Round Two: Scent

4th Place: Mitchell’s Wool Fat. This is just a “clean” smelling soap. Really, it smells like bath soap to me. That might be perfect for some shavers, but I like to have a nose-full of something engaging while I’m shaving.

3rd Place: Tabac. At first, I wasn’t into the perfume-type scent at all. I’ve really come to like it a lot more over time, but it’s not a favorite for me.

2nd Place: Proraso Green: Good old, medicine-chest smell. I like the antiseptic smell of the menthol and eucalyptus. Others may have a differing opinion. Anyroad, there’s nothing left behind when the shave is done, so it’ll let your aftershave go forward unimpeded.

1st Place: Cella. The sweet almond smell of this soap always puts a smile on my face. It has just enough to bloom and make you feel like you’ve combined dessert and shaving for a few minutes. The smell goes away at rinse, though, so it won’t be fighting your cologne.

Round Three: Protection and Face Feel

4th Place: Proraso Green. While this soap has perfectly adequate protection and quite voluminous lather, it falls behind the other soaps here in terms of protection. The cooling feel nearly pushes it past the next competitor, but the quality of the other soaps just overwhelms the clearly mass-market Proraso a little.

3rd Place: Cella. This is a great old tallow soap. It works great, and is very slick. There are only a handful of soaps that can clearly best it. Some of those soaps showed up for this battle royale, though. I can say that, if this was just the soap of soaps, all I could get, I don’t know that I’d ever really have anything to complain about.

2nd Place: Mitchell’s Wool Fat. Yes, you heard me. Second. If it were just post-shave feel, it would be first, but because the lather from The Fat is more perishable and harder to get to that perfect, thick, creamy lather, and to keep it, Mitchell’s has to take the silver medal.

1st Place: Tabac. Last time I used this soap, I looked at myself in the mirror and just said, “That’s probably the best lather you’ve ever made.” Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of great soaps out there, and many of them make a heck of a lather. The combination of thickness, slickness, face feel, and durability of lather here is just legendary.

Round Four: Post Shave

4th Place: Cella. There’s no loser here. All these soaps work. Cella’s tallow formula isn’t the most nutritive you’ll find from a tallow-based soap. It’s fine, but this is tough company.

3rd Place: Proraso Green. This placing is pretty much solely because of the menthol and eucalyptus, which gives you a nice cool finish. Splash some mentholated aftershave on after a Proraso Green lather, and you’ve got a fantastic warm weather shave. I’d go with Aqua Velva, myself, but there’s a matching AS splash that many appreciate, as well.

2nd Place: Tabac. With a great tallow-based formuala, post shave feel is really excellent here, while the soap still washes away without a huge production (some high-fat/oil soaps can be tough to wash off). Few can climb the hill and challenge this old warrior.

1st Place: Mitchell’s Wool Fat. Tallow and Lanolin. A lot of lanolin. Say anything else about The Fat, but you can’t take anything away from its post shave feel. It’s kind of the king in that arena. Even more modern soaps with similar compositions don’t seem to be quite as soothing and nutritive. It’s this soap’s one true thing.

Final Standings:

I don’t want to say any of these great old soaps are “losers”. It should be mentioned that Proraso and Cella are both quite inexpensive, with Proraso being available for as little as around six bucks sometimes. None of these soaps are wildly pricey, but the two Italian soaps are certainly more affordable.

4th Place: Proraso Green. It’s a great hot-weather shave, a great workingman’s shave. It suffers a little in this difficult company, but deserves to be in anyone’s shave den.

3rd Place: Mitchell’s Wool Fat. The things that this soap does well, it does wonderfully well. It can be tempermental, though. It isn’t easy mode all the way down the line. That, and the lack of fragrance, holds it back in this test. Still, everythone should try it.

2nd Place: Cella. Just a great soap. Easy to work with, smells wonderful, and is available for a great price. No complaints here. It’s no wonder they sell this stuff by the kilogram.

1st Place: Tabac. It took me a while to fully appreciate this soap, and all its wonders. I’m still not as big a fan of the old-school, floral scent as some, but in terms of performance, yield, and just straight-up class, Tabac wins the day. For me. This year.

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have other thoughts and opinions on the subject? What did I get wrong? What soaps did I miss? There could be a round two, maybe.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

 

In my first trip into the land of inexpensive mechanical keyboards, I found that the new generation of Cherry-clone ‘boards provide a lot of bang for the buck. They work well. They are sometimes hampered by a few strange design choices, but they can give you all or most of what you’d get from a “premium” keyboard. Never content to simply go with the majority answer, I needed to dig deeper. I needed to do more SCIENCE. I…ah…needed to spend more money.

Design Choices:

One of the most popular keyboards in the value-price sphere is the Velocifire. The tenkey-less goes for about $30, while the full size goes for around $40. They are somewhat less outlandish in design than their competitors. Unlike the bulk of these ‘boards, they do not use a “floating” key style atop an aluminum top plate.

This choice has some significant effects upon the way the ‘board presents and performs. It could be seen as a negative economy, doing away with the metal top plate and the floating key set. From a materials perspective, that may well be true. The metal plate will add some rigidity to the device. The floating keyset, however, may actually put the key caps and switches in a more vulnerable position. My sense is that the origins of having a bezel around the keys was to protect them.

The downside of having a metal top plate is often an increase in noise. Not just the specific noise that the switch of the keyboard makes, but the odd mechanical sounds and the sound of bottoming out. Metal tends to be a resonant material, allowing vibrations to ring out more than something like plastic would do. Thus, putting it into a structural spot where it’ll have something impact directly upon it or impart some vibration into it can cause the mechanical nature of the keyboard to be louder.

It’s possible that the increase in volume will not be a positive change. For some of us, we really like the loud ‘boards. Others are distracted or confounded by them. If we’re working in a noise-sensitive enviornment, we don’t want the keyboard to be officious. (Or do we? Evil laugh inserted here.)

The other choice that the Velocifire ‘board makes is to use the Zorro switchs. To be honest, this was the primary reason that I grabbed this ‘board. I hadn’t had experience with this switch, and science dictates that I must continue to explore until I have a broad understanding of the topic at hand. That’s the answer I’m going with, anyway.

In Practice:

The Velocifire is the quietest mechanical keyboard I have. I can’t point to a particular element of its design that brings this about, but it is no louder than a membrane keyboard. That will be a great boon to the noise-sensitive among us. Even typing hard, it really doesn’t have much of an acoustic signature.

The look and feel of the ‘board are fairly nice. The backlight has only off, medium, and full in terms of settings, but the teal blue is an interesting color, and it doesn’t look too funhouse-mirrors on the desk. With the backlight off, key legend visibility is about normal for this type of keyboard. That is to say that it is fine in normal light, but cryptic when the room around you is dim. The appearance of the ‘board is innocent enough when the backlight is turned off. The backlights aren’t particularly bright, even on full blast.

The typing feel is quite light. About as light as would be practical for most typing implementations. Brown-style switches are typically low effort, and the Zorros carry though with this. I would venture that they may be slightly lighter than the other switches of this type, but I wouldn’t swear to it. Typing action is smooth and quick, with low effort. The tactile feel is not very strong. The key presses are smooth, but going side-by-side with real Cherry MX Browns reveals their lack of sophistication. They are a little mushy, to be honest. This still allows for decent and comfortable typing, but if you prefer a more pronounced typing feel, the Zorro switches will dissapoint, as they are fairly vague.

The packaging was typical for this type of product. The device arrived at my location without issue and with no damage. It is not as minimalist as some competitors. I make no value judgement about that one way or another. In the end, we throw away the box as soon as we know the darned thing is going to work.

In Summary:

Again, this is a lot of value for the money. The Velocifier is perhaps the least “gearhead” of the cheap mechanicals. It’s quiet, looks normal, and has smooth, soft key feel. It’s possible that you could put this in front of the average keyboardist and their only question would be, “Where’s the number pad?”

There’s not much to adapt to, no loud sounds or heavy key resistance. The advantages of a mechanical switch keyboard are there, without many of the perceived disadvantages (cost, noise, effort, oddities of function or style).

The Zorro switches appear altogether servicable over the length of this test. I will hold this review for a few weeks to make sure no reliability concerns marr the early performance of this device. (Nothing untoward happened. I use the keyboard at work. It’s fine, and functional, just not terribly inspiring.)

In terms of feel, I do feel that the Zorro switches fall below the level of the Cherry and Outemu switches I’ve tried in the brown variant. That said, you may prefer the lighter and softer feel, as every typist has their own proclivities.

Usage Case:

This keyboard would serve as a great first mechanical, and should have broad appeal across different user preferences. It is mild mannered, functional, inexpensive, and quiet. Although it may not have quite the “thing” that a louder or higher effort ‘board might have, it more than makes up for any perceived lack of character in that it doesn’t have any real counter-indications.

If you are a typing snob, but don’t want to bring your expensive ‘board into danger, this one might be great for you. If you need a work keyboard for an office environment, this would do fine there. If you prefer to type lightly or have issues with hand fatigue, this keyboard will allow you to type with the minimum of effort.

The groups who would not like this keyboard include those who really must have a fairly stiff key feel to type accurately. Also, if typing simply isn’t typing for you if you aren’t making a hellish racket, this thing is going to be underwhelming for you. Finally, those who need really strong tactility are going to be a little disappointed with the brown switches (in any form or application), as they are not as tactile as some other switch types.

It’s a great time to be a keyboard afficionado. For barely more than a quality rubber dome keyboard, you can get something like the Velocifire, and be typing like a boss. Recommended.

Cheers, and happy typing!

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(Okay, it started out to be a quick take, but the knife ran away with the spoon, and I got rather long-winded. All apologies.)

I’ve tried a lot of soaps at this point. Many, many. I am not exactly a sheltered neophyte when it comes to Razorock soaps, to say the least. I think of myself, to some degree, as being spoiled and hard to impress. So…what can an honest, inexpensive little soap like this do to make me look up and pay attention? Let us begin.

I have another soap that uses the same vegan formulation as this soap. It is the Essential Oil of Lime. This is a coconut based formulation with argan oil to give it that little extra kick. It’s probably one step up from the most basic of the Italian Barber/Razorock formulations (due to the argan oil). I’ve never found a lot of fault with the Lime soap, so I didn’t have any negative thoughts going in. Then again, I’d just been bowled over by RR’s new “super tallow” formulation, and I thought that I’d probably be able to find some faults. Super things…being better than non-super things. That was the thinking.

Um, well…

I am having a hell of a time coming up with anything bad to say. Very quick to lather, very voluminous, and protected great. If you find that you either require or prefer a vegan formulation, this one will treat you just fine. I didn’t find it drying in post shave, but I typically use some sort of balm on most days. For a lot of the year it is very dry in the Mountain West. Winter, most especially (that’s when this was written). You almost can’t keep your skin hydrated. So, there’s that weakness in my test, I suppose.

What else is left? The scent. I am a big fan of lavender. For a long time, I did not know this was the case. Lavender? Younger me sort of scoffed at the notion. I wasn’t a wimp. Lavender was for…I didn’t know what it was for. Maturity set in at some point. I would say that this is an earthy, straightforward lavender. No spicy notes, no fancy footwork. Scent strength is moderate, not overpowering, but there’s definitely enough to give you a nice jolt of lavender. If you’ve smelled the lavender soap of the English bath soap made by Yardley, this is very similar. Perhaps just a tad bit darker and earthier, and a little stronger. They are a good match, though.

For six bucks American (2017, perhaps a sale price), this is a killer deal. The soap performs and smells as well as you could possibly expect it to. Once more, hats off to the guys at Italian Barber. This hobby doesn’t have to cost a lot. Razorock, at every opportunity, is proving that point. I would have a somewhat hard time giving you logical reasons why this soap gives up anything to ones costing two or three times as much. Shoot, even at double the price I paid, soaps are still considered a value bargain. If you like lavender, especially in a straight, no chaser kind of way, this is a must-have. On a final note, this is certainly a soap that could work with shavers of all genders, provided that they’re looking for that woody, soothing smell of lavender.
Minor soap box issue: I’d just like to say that any scent is totally fine for any shaver, irrespective of gender or other construct. If you like the scent, use it. We often make suppositions that a female shaver won’t be into some types of scents, and that some scents that we have been trained to consider feminine won’t appeal to the dudes. These are just generalizations. Everyone’s nose should lead them to where they need to be. If you like smoke and leather, have fun. If you’re all about spice, that’s great. If you’d prefer a lot of floral notes, that’s a hundred percent okay. My only request is that you don’t apply so much cologne or perfume that evidence of your passing lingers for several hours in the elevator. That seems excessive, and causes people sneeze more than they need to. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Cheers, and happy shaving!

 

61-RgkiopEL._SY355_There are a lot of great mechanical keyboards available in the market today. Many of them come with backlighting as a feature. This means that, in order to take advantage of said feature, the letters on the keys need to allow light to pass through.

There are a few ways to do this. The first is to paint the surface of an otherwise translucent key cap material, then ablate the paint with a laser. This is the easiest method, but the paint can, over the course of time, begin to wear away or become damaged.

The second is the “double shot” techinque. This takes the “solid” or opaque key cap, then injects additional material of a translucent quality to fill the voids that the legends require. This is the best and sturdiest way to build a key cap. The legend cannot wear off, because it is a structural element of the key.

Even inexpensive keyboards often use this technology now, which is great. Their keys are made of ABS plastic, which is perfectly useful, but not the absolute best material available. More than the material, the character of the legends, the font/style of it, tends to be a little underwhelming. For some reason or another, the companies feel that a “gamer” font is the best to use for all backlit keyboards.

Many of us who like mechanical keyboards beg to differ. Like me.

No worries. There are a lot of aftermarket key caps available for any Cherry MX key stem-equipped ‘board.

However…there is a value issue. If you get a very inexpensive keyboard for, say, $40 or so, do you want to spend more than the whole ‘board cost on getting a nice set of PBT key caps? Hmm. That seems like a possibly bad way to do things. If you had an expensive ‘board that just needed a sprucing up, spending $50 or more on a new set of caps might seem okay, but on a cheap ‘board? Maybe not.

Luckily, the same market that brings us the inexpensive keyboards also yields some inexpensive keycaps of good quality.

That’s what we’re here to talk about. (I know. You’re saying, “Finally, dude. Crap.”)

I found a bunch of double-shot, backlight-capable PBT key caps on Amazon. They were markted as “Bossi” key caps, but they appear to have been made by Kannanic. Not that either company is familiar to me. Bossi does sound cooler, I guess. Like an Italian who takes charge of the situation and makes you type harder. Shrug.

The great thing is that, if you were willing to wait for possibly a long, long time, you could have them for well less than $20 for a set. Yes. Double-shot PBT caps for less than a twenty. Awesome. Sign me up. I ordered a crap ton of them, because reasons.

The first “project” ‘board was a Quisan Magicforce 68, nearly new. It certainly didn’t “need” new caps. The ABS caps that come with the ‘board are perfectly serviceable and legible, though they are a bit flashy and weird. Still, not too bad.

The Magicforce features a white backlght, so any key cap color would work fine with it. This, of course, is not always the case. If you want to use key caps with multi-color or RGB keyboards, I’d recommend using white, gray, or black keys, as these will not create unaccountable and negative issues with some of your color choices.

I chose to mix two key sets, a gray and purple, with the alpha block being purple. In order to replicate such a feat, you’d need to purchase two sets, of course. Since I can re-mix the two sets using an opposite color saturation or otherwise sub in those remaining keys, I don’t see that as an issue.

Let’s go through my experience, as well as some thoughts about the product and the way it was delivered.

Shipping and Packaging:

It did take some time to get the key cap sets. I had free shipping from China, which was nice. I ordered them at the outset of the month, and by the last week of said month, they were at my door, unharmed and in good shape. They arrived ahead of schedule, so I have no room to complain.

These key sets come in a two-piece plastic grid that holds them in the 104 key format, so that, if you’re careful, you can pick them out one by one and put them on without any hunting around in a pile.

Of the various ways to package key sets, this is far better than just throwing them into a bag. Yes, it makes the package a little more bulky, but I think it’s worthwhile. It took me a fairly short amount of time to do the full change as a result of this packaging methodology.

The two halves of the exterior shell are stapled together, so you’ll need to gently pry the staples out to get to the keys. This is easily done, I think, at least for me. I just stapled the halves back together with the remaining keys when I was finished. Presto, all ready to sit around awaiting my next adventure.

Initial Impressions:

I compared these keys to the ABS keys coming off the ‘board, finding that they were significantly thicker than the stock keys. They aren’t as thick as the massive keys from the days of yore, or even, perhaps, as thick as something from the modern day, like the premium Vortex brand. I didn’t have one of those to compare. They are sturdier in mass than a standard key cap, however. I can say that with certainty.

I didn’t notice anything sloppy about the key caps, though some of them had the faintest impression of a sprue line at their base. This would not be visible in a ‘board with a top bezel, and I find it to be essentially invisible to me, even in a floating key setting. I may not be the final definition of OCD, however. Your level of detail-orientation may vary.

The legend on the keys is fairly business-like, though some small elements of the gamer aesthetic bleed through on a few keys and choices. Still, worlds less intrusive than most. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a key cap of this type that cleaves any closer than this to the older aesthetic.

Compared to the standard key caps, the difference in material and thickness result in a different sound upon typing. This ‘board features Gateron red switches, so the switches don’t have any sound of their own. This makes it clear that, yes, the sound of the ‘board is fairly significantly impacted by the caps. The sound of the PBT replacement caps is deeper and more robust. Just better in all the metrics.

Being PBT, the key caps feature greater tactile feel. PBT is a more robust plastic, and it resists abrasion or ablation in use. Thus, the makers can design in a bit of a rough texture. On ABS, this texture would wear smooth, but PBT allows the texture to last for a great long time.

If you’re concerned that these inexpensive caps will not have that “PBT goodness”, you needn’t be. It’s there. You’re golden.

In Use:

I found that, during my initial test of this version of the Magicforce, I had some issues really connecting with the keyboard. I would make a lot of mistakes. I felt like the red switches were just a bit too light for me. Insert excuses and rationalizations here. Not bad, but not my favorite.

After re-capping, this is a totally different machine. To begin with, it looks cool now. Not just cool, bue classy. The purple and gray go together like peanut butter and jam, and they look right at home on the brushed aluminum top plate of the Magicforce. Instantly, it looks like one of those boards you’d pay upwards of $130 to get. Not only that, it is how I want it to be, rather than however I can get it. Total cost, even with both key sets? $100. And remember, I still have enough keys in both the sets I culled to cap another ‘board and a half. Thus, I could “dress up” one keyboard with some alternate keys, and I could still cap a whole ‘board. Not cheap, yes, but not nearly as expensive as a custom job could be.

The typing feel. Oh, it is different my fine friends. I didn’t know if it would be, but it really is. Almost all the reservations I had about this keyboard are now gone. I don’t know how this could be, but the texture on the key caps, and the feel of the increased reciprocating mass on the caps makes a huge difference. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s not my imagination. I’m typing way, way better with this thing. I don’t get it, but that’s what is happening. I’m really trying to make sure it’s not confirmation bias, but I can’t see how such a bias could allow me to type more accurately and faster. I don’t know, maybe that is possible, but damn, I’ll take it.

Final Thoughts:

For most, a single color would suffice in this case. I just find that I like the contrast between the modifier keys and the alpha block. The look, to me, is worth another $20. Functionally, I can say that you should expect a somewhat significant upgrade in key feel and the quality of the sound on your inexpensive keyboard if you employ keys made by this manufacturer. As to their availibilty, I can’t tell you. They were all unavailable when I went back to them after my order. I would suppose that they only make production runs at intervals, and you sometimes find yourself out of luck or waiting a long time. That was one of the reasons why I bought up a stock of them when I could.

I now have a keyboard that isn’t quite as cheap as it was, but it’s pretty darned rad. All for less than $40 more than list price. If you got the least expensive of the decent mechanicals that use the Cherry MX key caps, you’d be out around $35 or $40. With one set of these, you’re up to around $55 to $60, and have a great typing tool that looks sounds, and feels a lot more expensive than it is. This, then, is the reason we got into keyboard hot-rodding in the first place.

Cheers, and happy typing!

Shave Soap Hotrodding

Posted: June 20, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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In a recent review, I wrote about The Body Shop’s Maca Root shave cream. It is a very high performance cream, perhaps the slickest cream available from any vendor I have tried. It performs at least on par with the best of the English creams, in my view. However, this product has a very neutral, somewhat uninspired scent. I am not alone in this assertion, as this generally seems to be the only complaint levied against the product.

As much as I liked the performance of the Maca Root cream, I found myself using it only rarely, as there are so many great soaps out there, many of which have wonderful scents to fill the shave den with joy.

The Idea: 

But…perhaps I missed the great opportunity that the Maca Root cream presented. We aren’t without agency and recourse in our shaves. We can experiment, combine, and customize our shave experience to suit us. The lack of a strong or present scent in the Maca Root product, combined with the great performance, makes it a great candidate for “mad science”.

The first soap I did this with was the Mitchell’s Wool Fat, as it also has a lack of scent profile (other than just a sort of soapy smell). While that does work, Mitchell’s is tricky enough to lather without starting to complicate things with a lot of additional ingredients (for me). The Maca Root cream, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to lather, so there is no impediment to the experimentation.

The Components: 

Pinaud Clubman Special Reserve is a grand old scent, available for cheap. It is, unlike some of the inexpensive cologne/aftershaves, quite strong and lasting. To me, it’s a great smell, one that reminds me of dudes when I was a young kid. I really like it, but it’s a bit too much for me to wear in most situations, as I get fatigued with the scent well before it begins to die away. Thus, it has languished a bit.

A little light popped on in my head, and I started thinking about how the potency of Special Reserve and the great performance of the Maca Root cream would go great together. With this in mind, I went in to have my nightly shave, and put them in combination.

The Method:

I put a slightly greater volume of the cream into my lathering bowl, dipping a finger into the cream and depositing about as much as a few stacked dimes in the bottom. I then shook about as much of the Special Reserve into the bowl as I’d use to splash on my face (a few healthy shakes). With a soaked, squeezed brush holding a bit less water than I’d normally use, I went to work. The lather built like you’d expect, and the great scent of the Special Reserve filled the shave den. The water balance was just fine, and the potency of the Special Reserve worked right into the lather with no additional difficulty. Success, at least this far along.

The Results: 

With the great lather that one expects from the Maca Root cream, I now had a nicely fragrant shave cream. The added scent totally dominated the light scent of the underlying cream, and there was no negative interaction there that I could smell. The shave came off great, and though some of the scent lingered after the shave, it wasn’t nearly as intense as splashing it directly on the face. For me, I shower after the shave, so I didn’t have to worry about having a long engagement with the Special Reserve, and growing tired of the smell.

What Did We Learn?

If you have a reasonably potent aftershave or cologne scent that you’d like to utilize in a shave soap, but said soap isn’t made (or at least is not in your possession), you can make it happen. Just take a high performance, low scent soap base, then beat the added fragrance into the lather and you’re off to the races.

For the base, I think it’d be hard to go wrong with The Body Shop’s Maca Root cream. It’s so easy to work with and performs so well, that you’d be somewhat hard-pressed to find fault.

It isn’t simply fragrances that can be added. I’ve added some Osage Rub to give a menthol and eucalyptus kick, along with some lemon essential oil. That shave was a beautiful, summery affair, reminding me more than a little of Proraso White. All you need is your imagination and a few additives to experiment with. I’m sure that all the old-time scents you can still get at the drug store, like Old Spice or Brut, could easily be put into the mix with good results.

Final Word: 

Don’t stand around the shave den lamenting products that are good, except for that one thing. Don’t look into your morning coffee and sadly wish for a scent that no one seems to want to make into a soap. You have the power to do some hotrodding and get what you want. You might have everything you need to make it happen, already in your shave stash.

Cheers,  and happy shaving!

 

 

K552-1

Yet another in the growing group of inexpensive mechanical keyboards, the K552 is manifestly similar to a few of the others I’ve tried. It is a tenkey-less model that uses a metal top plate and floating keys. The switches are Outemu blues, and they feature single color backlighting, red color only. Key caps are double-shot ABS. There are nine levels of brightness available for the backlights, as well as fully off. As I’ve come to expect from this type of cap, the contrast isn’t the strongest with the backlight all the way off. In a normally-lit room, however, it should be sufficient to locate the letter you’re looking for, or the home row.

None of the brightness levels are overly intrusive. Even the lowest of the illumination settins works to significantly improve legibility. The font featured here on the key legends is about what you’d exect. A bit “gamer”, but useful enough. I’ve mentioned before all these backlit keys seem to be manufactured by the same few companies, or at least to a similar standard.

The structural rigidity is significant. Unlike some of the other models in this price range, the K552 features a one-piece plastic under-tray that exends all the way around the sides and beyond the surface of the top plate. This adds a more substantial feel to the keyboard. The flip up feet have a rubber traction wrap on them, wich is appreciated.

In Use:

If you’re familiar with the blue switch ‘board, this one provides the same typing feel as others of its ilk. It has the Outemu switches, which I’ve found to be just a bit heavier and more tactile than other Cherry-based switches. As well, they seem to have a bit crisper click sound. I’ve very close to calling the Outemu switch my favorite of the clones in the blue type. I like them fine, and think they’re a great value for the money. The noise will be an issue in a shared environment, so prepare yourself for that.

Kumara makes a brown-switch version of this same ‘board, so that might be the better choice to lower the noise level down a bit. My undersanding is that the switch type is the only difference. There are also other versions of the ‘board that feature no backlight (even less money), multiple color LED (non changing), and RGB programmable LEDs. The RGB is, of course, more money as the addition of the more expensive LEDs will add complexity and material cost. Even the most expensive version is less than $60 at current prices (Spring 2017). Because the RGB feature is not important to me, but is a feature that others are interested in, the value of these various versions is subjective. For reference, the single color backlight is about $35 at this time. The non-lit version is under $30, if maximum value is your watchword.

The K552 is a good typing machine, and feels very solid under your fingers. It has no sag, squeak, or other unaccountable mechanical sound during the typing process. Since I didn’t mention it before, the device arrived in perfect condition, and everything works as expected. The small lip around the outside of the key block doesn’t quite function as a bezel, but it gives a little protection to the floating keys, such that impacts from the side are less likely to bear upon the outside perimeter as heavily. Think of it as sort of a meta-bezel.

At this point, I’ve become altogether familiar with the 87 key layout, and don’t really find it to be an impediment at all to my work. I don’t do a lot of numerical entry, however. If you’re all about the Excel spreadsheets and data entry, you’ll want to shop for a ‘board with a numeric keypad. They are out there, and often just a small amount higher in price than their TKL competitors.

As with other blue switch ‘boards, this will likely not provide any significant advantage for gaming. Depending on your preference, you might find it slightly stiffer than you’re used to, but no blue switch is ultra-stiff, so you needn’t worry that it will be unworkable for the average typist.

Because everything about the layout is standard, you have no adaptation to do in terms of reach and spacing. ANSI layout is maintained right down the line. There are function layer commands for things like media control and auto-launching some Windows features, like the calculator. The LEDs can be turned up and down with this FN key command layer, as well. All is as expected.

Summary:

All in all, you get a solid and useful keyboard for your money here. I wouldn’t say that it is particularly stunning looker, but it is a “quiet” enough design that you have some dress up options at your disposal. Because of the raised “Redragon” logo panel, it would take a bit of work for you to arrive at an altogether custom appearance. You could sand down the logo and repaint the top plate a different color, but that is a bit more work than you may want to do.

The red LED will be something of a limiting factor for key replacement, as you’ll want to make sure that you select alternate key caps that will go well with the red lighting (unless, of course, you plan to simply turn the LEDs off altogether). If your key caps are altogether opaque, the red light will still propagate from beneath the keys. Of course, if you have a keyset designed for backlighting, that will do just fine. I may re-cap this keyboard when I have some caps in hand with which to start a project. I’ll touch base with the results.

Usage Case:

I see this is a nice option at the cost. It goes for about what the Drevo Tyrfing and a few other keyboards cost. I still feel that, for customizing, the Tyrfing is one of the best options. That said, it has a particular acoustic component that may not be to everyone’s taste. The Kumara provides a nice option, and I think that it would serve well. I believe that it is a step up on fit and finish as well as build quality, when compared to the cheapest mechanicals.

For a home user or someone in a situation where typing noise is not a factor, this offers a lot of performance for the dollar, and may also serve as a an interesting option for a “project ‘board”. For someone looking to dip their toe into the waters of mechanical keyboards, or someone who wants a device that they can try customizing without worrying about ruining a very expensive device, this could be the very thing.

Out of the box, it provides good tactility and audible feedback, looks fairly nice, and has a sturdy feel. That’s a lot to get for less than forty bones.

Cheers, and happy typing.