Sometimes, you just have to give a product “the gong”. This is one of those times.

Here’s the story. I wanted to try the new Derby Premium razor blades. There was a deal for 25 of them, with a puck of soap thrown in. The soap was in a small box (no tin or cup). It was called GBS Ocean Driftwood.

I…will not dignify it will a full term review. Why? Because I gave it the short shrift. It did not survive long enough to even come to grips with the blade of my razor. Why? Read on, and I will tell you.

Scent: This is a nice, fresh scent. Not very strong. It smells like a lot of your average skin care products. Nothing to get angry about, but nothing in the scent department did much to win me over.

Lather: I attempted to get a good lather out of this soap, but it just wasn’t happening. After loading the wee out of it, the lather was still thin, filled with bubbles, and began to dissipate right away. I went back to the puck multiple times, fiddled with the water concentration, but it wasn’t happening. On the good side there was no sense of irritation from my face after minutes of attempting to get a decent lather going on.

End result: I washed off the GBS soap and went with Razorock Santa Maria del Fiore. It was the largest of possible differences, as the Razorock soap does just about everything right. Lathers fast, protects beautifully, and has an intoxicating scent that I can’t get enough of. Night and day difference.

After the shave was over, I went ahead and tossed the GBS into the trash. With all the great soaps I have to choose from, it simply wasn’t worth my time. Could I, after painstaking practice, get it to work adequately? Shrug. Maybe. Not interested. Too spoiled. If it was between this stuff and, say, Edge Gel (shiver), I’d make it work. Luckily, I don’t find myself in such dire straits.

I didn’t feel like it gave a good enough account of itself as a shave product to pass it along to anyone else. I don’t want to be the guy that ruins someone else’s shave with my hand-me-downs. This stuff just isn’t any good. Hey, sometimes, this happens. I’m just glad that the Derby blades it came with (spoiler alert) were actually good.

Cheers, and happy shaving.

P.S.: Don’t be afraid to pitch a bad product. Life’s to short to get bad shaves because your gear is underperforming.

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Ease of Lathering: Fairly easy. I wouldn’t say that the Sterling formulation bursts into lather quite as easily as a few soaps, but it is not difficult to get a lather going. Amount of water required is fairly typical, and lather, once worked, is stable and well-formed.

Protection: Stirling’s soap base is well sorted out. It provides good protection during the shave. It is not as voluminous as a few, but certainly up for the task. Every soap formulation has a slightly different quality to the lather. Some create a dense lather that is not very thick when applied, while others are much like Cool Whip, with a huge amount of volume, but sort of fluffy, with less cushion than one would think. The Stirling soap hits a good mid-point.

Residual Slickness: Featuring a tallow base and other good ingredients, Stirling has excellent slickness, allowing the shaver to go over skin after the lather has gone without a lot of danger. I would say that it’s one step below the absolute best in slick soaps, but it’s darned good. Same goes for post shave.

Scent: I love, love, love the scent of this soap. Lots of apple, lots of cinnamon and spice. This is a nice, sweet, autumnal scent. Great for the holidays, if you’re not up for the darker fall scents. No complaints.

Production/Value: I feel like Stirling soap ablates pretty quickly when being lathered, needing a bit more product than some soaps to product the lather. That said, this is a fine quality product, and is offered at a great price. For the quality of the ingredients and the performance it yields, no complaints can be made about the price per ounce. If you can’t find a scent you like in the large stable of Stirling soaps, you may need a new nose. Packaging for Stirling products is no-nonsense, with the sample sizes being wrapped in plastic and the full sized products in their characteristic green plastic. Other mid-priced products feature more interesting graphic design and packaging choices, but Stirling certainly has established a “brand” with their own.

Notes: I was fortunate enough that a coworker allowed me to try out a bit of Stirling soap. It is possible that the lathering may have been easier when loading right from the full puck, rather than a small sample stuck to the bottom of a bowl. Otherwise, I fully stand by all the observations I’ve made. I would buy Stirling soap, considering my good experiences. However, I’m not absolutely certain I would by the Hot Apple Cider. Why? Primarily, it is because I’m just slightly sensitive to the amount of cinnamon in the mix, and it causes my face to feel a bit hot by the end of the shave. Not irritated, per se, but I wonder if I’d become so if I shaved with it over several consecutive days. Otherwise, no qualms whatsoever.

Cheers, and happy shaving.

Safety Razor Review: Muhle R41

Posted: February 20, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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There are some iconic tools in just about any hobby. Some are iconic because of their popularity, their formative influence, and large scale success. Others become known for other reasons, sometimes achieving notoriety by the calamity or mixed results that swirl in their wake.

In wet shaving, few razors have more mystique than the Muhle R41. When the first of them was introduced in 2011, they were lauded as likely the most aggressive safety razor ever made. Ever. Some debated whether the word “safety” should even be included in the name. The early version of the R41 was known to tear through whiskers with such manic vigor that it would simply laugh at a week’s worth of growth, even with the thickest of wiry beards. The book on it, additionally, was also that the slightest miscalculation or moment of inattention would result on large scale carnage, with blood splashing against the shaving mirror and you crying out for help before you succumbed to your injuries.

Buying or trying the R41 became something of a red badge of courage in the shaving world. Often not metaphorically, as you would be left bleeding from the adventure. For the right person and the right beard, however, the big Muhle was perfect, giving them close shaves when all else would fail.

For most, though, it was simply too much, too perilous. They might get good shaves, but they’d also get irritation, weepers, or outright cuts. Shaving with the R41 was the stuff of adrenaline junkies, or for the guys who would otherwise have to shave twice a day. It was like a big bore handgun, a 427 Cobra, or barbell loaded with five plates on each side. Not for everyone. Not for every day.

In 2013, Muhle re-engineered the R41, making subtle changes to the cap and baseplate to make the razor a little less likely to bite than the original. In doing this, however, they aimed to keep that same take-no-prisoners efficiency.

The consensus with the 2013 is that yes, it was slightly safer to shave with, but it was still very aggressive. It still would not suffer a fool. And, pointedly, it was still not for everyone.

In my tireless examination of all things pertaining to wet shaving, I felt that the time had come for me to try out an R41 and satisfy my curiosity about how it would be. That, and make sure my “man card” was safe for another week.

Because I didn’t have a razor with this type of “bling”, I ordered the Rose Gold handled version of the R41, in the contemporary, redesigned format. With a mixture of fear and enthusiasm, I loaded up a Dorco ST-301 blade and lathered up.

Now, I typically shave every day, or nearly so. I knew going in that the Muhle was likely not a razor I would want to do three passes every day with. I hoped, however, that it might prove to be a great “maintenance shave” tool. That is, a two pass shave that would be perfectly acceptable, and easy on the face.

For the first shave, I had one day’s growth, and did a two pass shave, with and across the grain of the beard. It was…fairly undramatic. I felt no pain during the shave. I finished the first pass and did find that it was one of the most effective razors I’d tried, right up there with the Merkur 39C and the Futur. If you’re not too picky, and just want a basic shave, one pass with a tool like this may well be all you need. The two pass technique, regardless of what razor you use, can only go so far. There will always be a bit of roughness lingering here and there on your face. The very efficient razors just leave less stubble than the rest.

I don’t believe that the R41 delivered a shave much, if any closer than a Gillette adjustable on “9”. Comfort during the shave? Hmm. Similar. Both require respect. It’s a very different feel. The Merkur Futur on setting “3”, for me, seems equally effective. Possibly more sense of the blade, but nothing really feels like a Futur. The Merkur Progress on the higher settings is also nearly as efficient, and perhaps a bit less intimidating. The Maggard V3A head feels smoother, but shaves at least as well as the first shave I got from the R41. None of those, in my experience, can shave as close over two passes as a Razorock Hawk with an Artist Club Pro blade. That thing is and efficiency phenomenon. It should be mentioned that, in my experience, the Progress and the Gilette adjustables like a sharper blade, while the Futur doesn’t seem to care.

After the shave, I had only minimal tingle/burn from the aftershave, but…but this is where the troubles began. Without having any negative sensations during the shave, I found that I ended up with rather pronounced irritation along my neckline with the R41. This, while only going with the grain in that area. The rest of the face was intact and fairly happy, but the neck did not like the attentions of the big Muhle. Not one bit. It was not the first time I’d had to dig out the hydrocortisone cream after a shave, but it was one of the more surprising, since the irritation did not immediately make itself apparent. I should mention that this was using proven products that I know that my skin tolerates, so it was not a false positive situation.

It’s one shave. I was being fairly careful, but not walking on eggshells. I had only one day of growth. Perhaps the Dorco blade wasn’t the best pick. Lots of possibilities. I’m not going to give up on the R41, but I’ll have to let my face heal up for a few days before taking another run at it.

So, I came back after my face was happy with me again. It took the better part of two weeks for all the irritation to subside, but I was shaving every day, so that’s an inflated figure, I suppose.

For the second try, I loaded in a Derby Extra blade, my go to if I feel like the aggressive nature of a razor needs to be taken down a notch.

How did it go?

Uh…it basically didn’t go. It only took me a few inches of my first pass to call it and bring in a relief razor. Yeah. I usually can get away with almost anything on my cheeks. The sensation the R41 was causing in my least sensitive facial zone was not at all okay, and not what I’m looking for in a shave. This, with the gentle Derby loaded in, and a really good soap lathered up. It felt like I was performing the shave with a belt sander. Just to be sure, I tried a range of angles, and neither decreasing or increasing my angle of attack improved the comfort.

When a shave suddenly goes pear-shaped on you, what do you do? My advice is to switch to something that works. Soap isn’t lathering? Go back to the puck, or rinse and try one that does. Brush doing something you can’t fathom? Go to a brush you know to be reliable. Blade is terrible? Pull it and load something you know to be a good match with your razor. And…if you’re trying out a razor that feels completely wrong, really uncomfortable…just punt on it and use something that works. Even if it’s a cartridge. Even if it’s a dreaded electric. This isn’t a “no pain, no gain” hobby. Yes, there’s a learning curve, but if you know how to shave, and are accustomed to doing so with good results, listen to your instincts if something feels off.

And that is what I did. I pulled the Derby and loaded it into a Gillette Slim, turned up to 9. Even on its maximum setting, the Slim felt like an old friend. The shave came off great, and all was well. It wasn’t a case of poor quality control at the Derby factory. It was just fine, perfectly capable of cutting the hair. You can’t really go further toward the “comfort” end of shaving than a Derby. They’re smooth. Not super sharp. With most of my other aggressive razors, they tend to work quite well. Not, perhaps, so much with the mild shavers (except, weirdly, the Feather AS-D2, but I have no explanation for that.)

What did I learn? I learned that the Muhle R41 is just not a good fit for me. Can I “tame the beast?” Evidently not. And I don’t need to. There are a lot of great razors around, and I’m not crestfallen that the R41 isn’t among those I can enjoy. My aim here was to try it and see what the fuss was all about. I’ve done that. Was it an expensive experiment? Yeah. A little. I knew it might be from the start. The razor is beautifully made, and it will likely be a great tool for someone out there. Just not for me. I’ll find a way to pass it along. Thus, there’s no remorse here. We have to be willing to gamble a little bit to do GREAT SCIENCE, right?

Cheers, and happy shaving.

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Ease of Lathering: Very easy. Like a few other high quality creams I’ve used, this one produces a great volume of creamy lather. I always bowl lather creams, and this one responded in a way similar to Taylor’s. Perhaps just a bit thirstier, if I really squint at it. It was said that a number of the English soaps are actually made in the same factory. My instincts say that the St. James is not the same cream base as Taylor’s. The resting consistency and response isn’t quite the same. I am not sure I can easily say one is better or worse in regard to lathering capability.

Protection: The lather is quite thick and rich, fairly buttery. Ample protection is provided during the shave. You’re not going to find many creams that do it better.

Residual Slickness: I wouldn’t say that St. James overawed me with slickness. It was certainly sufficient while lathered, but did not leave too much behind. Just enough for my auxiliary passes. As with all the creams I’ve tried, it is not the final word in residual slickness. You’ll probably want a tallow soap for that. In terms of face feel, however, St. James is really good. It leaves your face feeling well conditioned and pampered.

Scent: While this soap has a very gentle scent at rest, it becomes present in a subtle way once the lathering begins. I would say that the patchouli scent is predominant here, while the mandarin is, at best, a background scent. The interesting thing is that the scent stays for hours after the shave, which is unusual. Especially so, considering the potency is fairly gentle to begin with. What I attribute this to is the scent coming from essential oil, rather than chemical chicanery. I am not head-over-heels for patchouli, but I don’t mind it. The quality of the scent is superb and authentic. It smells high quality and luxurious. For those with a greater appreciation for patchouli, it might be the very thing.

Production/Value: It’s sometimes hard to decide whether the price of a product is fully warranted. My feeling is that St. James is marketed toward someone who would rather have a rather luxurious presentation than quibble over the last dollar. There is a well-sorted element to the box, the tube (or tub), and the product itself. I don’t know if the product itself is any better than Taylor of Old Bond Street, but the “feels” are a step above. If that makes a difference for you, or if one of their scents (which are rather exclusive to their line) is exactly what you’re looking for, then the value is fine. If you just want a good shave, there’s cheaper options to be had. A good number of them.

Notes: It isn’t hard to sense the elements in this cream that mark it as a cut above the average. It is a rich, beautifully packaged product. It commands a higher price per ounce that I typically spend. I argue with myself about the merits of such products, when there are such excellent value options around, and superb products in the middle of the price range. I think that there’s something to be said for having a few products of this sort in your arsenal, if only for the “special occasion” shave. Then again, if you’re ticking off boxes and making asset vs. liability lists, it becomes clear that a product at this price per ounce is suffering from some diminishing returns issues. I would find it tough to recommend St. James cream to a beginning shaver, or one operating on a tight budget. For the well-heeled veteran, however, I think it could provide them with some great shaves. James Bond class shaves, perhaps. For me, it didn’t quite justify the cost differential between it and the Taylor’s cream, which is basically half the price.

Cheers, and happy shaving.

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In traditional barbershops the world over, one of the enduring traditions is to deliver straight razor shaves in the traditional style. Hot towels, warm-frothed cream, the whole deal. In the “dark times” when cartridge razors and electrics pushed traditional shaving to the bare edge of extinction, barbers still provided this service and kept the idea of an old fashioned shave alive.

In addition to full shaves, the most expedient and useful way to trim up neck hair remains with a straight razor. If you’ve ever been to a barbershop that had the whirling barber’s pole outside, it’s likely that the nape of your neck has felt a straight edge scrape across it.

Ah, but this modern world brings concerns that the days of yore were ignorant of. We worry over bloodborne pathogens. We worry that, somehow, Barbicide will be insufficient to fully cleanse a straight razor between customers. In many places, it’s illegal to use a solid steel straight razor to provide these traditional services. But all is not lost. There are devices called “shavettes” that use either half of a safety razor blade, or a special blade known as a “Feather Artist Club” design. These devices allow for the blade to be changed whenever necessary. In the case of a commercial barber, it would be changed for each new customer.

The Feather Artist Club blades are wider in cutting edge than a standard blade. They are somewhat thicker stock, but are not very deep, blade to tang. They remind me a lot of a wider Schick Injector blade.

Until quite recently, the Artist Club blades were used specifically in barber’s straight razors, and were largely unknown to most consumers. The shavers who had found them were typically using them in a razor that was either a folding or non-folding straight razor style device. The blades were known to be very, very sharp, and have good service life for most shavers, relative to a double edge razor blade. They were more expensive, both because of their more limited production and their higher production/material cost.

A few years ago, however, someone got the idea to create a single edged safety razor using these blades. At first, it was seen as a bit of a novelty, and the razors employing the Artist Club blades were at the far fringe of pricing, relative to most double edge razors. In recent times, though, companies have seen that an Artist Club safety razor could be made for a more reasonable price, allowing shavers who were not quite independently wealthy to get into the game.

As is often the case, my attempt to provide historical basis for my review has led me around Robin Hood’s barn, but I will come to the subject of this review at last.

Razorock/Italian Barber is known as a company that manages to create value products that still carry excellent quality. With some Artist Club safety razors clocking in at well over $150, Razorock was able to bring their “Hawk” razor to market at $20 or $25, depending upon finish. I believe that the twenty buck price may have been only on the first run, and that minor quality control tweaks have pushed the razor’s cost up a bit for any further production runs. Nonetheless, still a very affordable razor, the least expensive of its type that I am aware of.

How did they do it? Part of it, I’m sure, is the choice to use aluminum as their build material, rather than brass or stainless steel. Aluminum is fairly inexpensive for bar or billett stock, and it is also much easier to machine than a harder material. The downside? It needs some form of coating to keep it from oxidizing, for one. Aluminum is also very light, and so fans of heavy razors may find it to feel “flimsy” upon first experience. Finally, because aluminum is nowhere close to steel on the Rockwell hardness scale, it is less resistant to galling. This is particularly of concern, in the context of razors, where the handle threads and the screw from the top cap meet up. If you forget yourself and “he-man” the razor together too often, the threads could be damaged.

I ordered the “Black Hawk”, the example of the razor that has a black finish. I don’t know if the coating is a particle vapor deposition protectant, an anodizing, or a baked-on finish. The example I got had no voids or scratches in the black coating, and everything fit together nicely, with no play at all in the head. The handle has good, deep knurling, that will be functional when wet or soapy. This is nice to see, as some companies provide less than fully useful traction on their razors. From experience with other inexpensive Razorock hardware, I expected no less.

I purchased the Feather Artist Club Professional blades with this razor. This is the most commonly available type of blade fitting this form factor, as well as typically being the least expensive. The pack of 20 blades cost about $16, which is about the ballpark of what I’ve seen online (U.S.A. money, winter, 2017).

A small amount of concern has been voiced about the safety of loading the blades into a razor. Yes, you’re handling a very sharp, small object. Yes, a moment of inattention, clumsiness, or nervous tremor could yield a cut finger, but I didn’t find it to be perilous to any greater extent than using another three piece razor design.

The blade loaded in firmly and betrayed no slack in the mechanism. Blade exposure was even and moderate. The razor itself is light. There’s no getting around that. It has a good balance, however, and I did not find it to be in any way disconcerting.

After lathering up some Soap Commander, I put the razor to my face for its first voyage. I came into the shave with a little lingering irritation from an adventure with a Muhle R41, but was determined to see what the Hawk had to offer.

In handling, the Hawk is not a particularly challenging piece. Its head shape and geometry allow you to use it much like a Schick Injector (to me), and I think that people coming from an old-school cartridge razor, like the TRAC-2 or the Gillette Sensor would probably not find it terribly challenging. The main difference here is that you’ve got, clearly, a very sharp blade, and you also have a wider cutting track than we’re used to.

The first shave came off without a hitch. No cuts, weepers, or additional irritation on the pre-magled part of my neck. Reference level closeness on the shave (full three passes), and no “uh-oh” moments, even low on the neck, where a sharp blade can often nip me.

Some reviewers have commented on the Hawk being among the more aggressive/efficient models to use the Artist Club blade type. I found it to be quite a smooth and controllable razor, though it clearly confronts the hair with authority. It can certainly provide a totally acceptable shave in two passes, but I felt no discomfort going against the grain with it. To me, that’s where I gauge a razor’s aggressiveness quotient. If I can go against the grain without feeling like I’m being foolhardy, then it don’t count it as overly aggressive. If it can still provide a great shave over two passes, so much the better.

As the aftershave went on and there was but little sting anywhere, I counted this first outing as a great success.

During the day after my first shave (I’m a night shaver), I found that the Hawk provided lasting closeness right up there with the best I’ve seen. This is telling as to the actual closeness you’ve achieved. If you’re close enough, the stubble doesn’t show up for a good long while. The Hawk, using the Artist Club Pro blade, is not kidding around. It really cuts close in a three pass shave.

Going for another full-tilt three pass with my second shave, I found the razor easy to use and very comfortable. I overshaved just a bit, but that is my own fault. The learning curve on this tool is not daunting, and though people have termed it as an aggressive razor, it doesn’t feel perilous at any angle. Even the wide head doesn’t pose much of a problem for me. A note, though, that I maintain a Van Dyke beard, so I don’t shave my chin or upper lip. Others will have to advise you on the mechanics of shaving that area of the face.

After the shave, I went with an alum block, and it was not particularly dramatic. A tiny sting here and there, but nothing to be concerned with. Another super close shave. No irritation on my neck. I have to say that I’m a little surprised at how gentle the Hawk is around my sensitive spots. Impressive.

I tried, just for kicks, to use the Hawk exactly as I used to with cartridge razors (other than soap, prep, etc). I just did a with the grain pass, lathered again, and did an against the grain pass. Like my dad showed me. How did it work? Just fine. No blood, no foul, nearly as good a result as a three pass shave. Was the against the grain pass a little rougher than normal? Yes, a little. But it is certainly possible to get a great shave without going for the full three.

From there, I got to the place where I think that the Hawk is really at home, and perhaps as good or better than any razor I’ve ever used. The “maintenance” shave. That is, with the grain, and then the gentler of the across the grain directions, finishing the bottom of my neck with another with the grain partial pass. The safest possible shave, short of just doing two with the grain passes. This is what I do when I’m letting my skin rest, and still want to shave every day.

In order to get really good results from the methodology I just described, the razor has to be quite efficient. With my Gillette Adjustables, I crank them up to 8 or 9 for this. This is the way I like to use aggressive slants, as well. Does it go to reference level of closeness? Not quite. Good shaves, not perfect shaves.

In any case, the Hawk kills it using this method. Absolute comfort, and as close a shave as I’ve managed with this type of shave. This, it seems, may be the perfect usage case for this razor. For me. For now, to the best of my knowledge.

The effective lifespan of the Feather Artist Club Professional blades appears to be quite long, longer than almost every double edge blade I’ve ever tried. At 7 shaves in, the blade still cuts cleanly, and has not seemed to decrease in effectiveness. There’s been no pulling, roughness, or failure to give a close shave. Impressive.

In the end, the first test blade gave nine shaves before finally showing signs of being knackered. The Feather blades are significanlty more expensive per blade than the average double edge, but their seeming longevity may prove to defray some of that expense. I typically expect 3 good shaves from a DE blade. With blades ranging from about 8 cents to about 37 cents, grouping mostly around the 10 to 15 cents per blade range, that works out to somewhere between 2 2/3 cents and 12 1/3 cents per shave. With the AC Pro blades going for about 75 cents per blade, you can get down into the ballpark if you get 6 or 7 shaves. It appears that’s do-able, at least for me. Okay, we’re done with the mathematics part of the review.

Summing up:

The Razorock Hawk is a great value. Easily the least expensive of the Artist Club style razors, it comes out of the gates swinging as a value leader. Despite its low price, the Hawk is well machined, with tight tolerances, good knurling, a nice finish, and good handling dynamics. Yes, it is aluminum. Yes, it is light. That said, this doesn’t take away from the shave at all. If I had to compare it to any razors I’ve used in the past, I suppose I’d put it in the same camp as the Schick Injector type “I” and the GEM Featherweight, two storied vintage single edge razors. The Hawk, I think, shaves a little closer than those two razors. The Artist Club blades offer more choices (by a little) than the respective blades for those razors. Finally, I think that the AC blades are longer lived and have better initial sharpness than the Injectors or the GEM single edge examples (especially the GEMs, which dull out pretty quickly).

The Hawk is one of those rare razors that is efficient enough to deliver a damn fine shave with two passes, but also mild enough to be a daily shaver. I am always hesitant to term a razor a “gamechanger”, but the Hawk has certainly given me some things to think about. It has, at least for now, made me wonder if some aggressive non-adjustable razors in my stable have taken one step toward obsolescence.

If you’re willing to try a single edge razor, this one has the lowest buy-in, and I find it to be an excellent tool. I can’t contrast it with all the others being built today, but I think it will put most anything in its price range on the shelf. Highly recommended.

The Bittersweet Road

Posted: February 2, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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As we pursue a hobby, we will gather more and more data, more opinions, and deepen our knowledge of our chosen passion. As we gather more experiences, we are well served to go back to some of the products and techniques we have used in the past. We’re smart to re-evaluate the assumptions we formed when we first started up, to see if they’re still true (at least for us, at that given moment – what works and makes sense and feels right is often a moving target).

I’ve found that, for the most part, the “software” elements I started with have continued to be viable. Proraso soaps? Heck, yeah. They’re still good products and I fully endorse them. Arko, Palmolive, Cella…and on and on. These soaps work. I could live with any of them as my primary lather for a good while without having anything to complain about.

Now, brushes have been another matter. After finding the Plissoft/Plisson knot, I’m spoiled. The brushes I started with have become give-aways and loaners. The newer natural hair brushes I’ve picked up have had a tough time keeping their roster spots, even if they cost many times what a Plissoft does.

And on to razors. It didn’t take me all that long to discover that my first razor, a Parker 99R, was not perfect for me. It worked, and was of good quality. I found myself able to shave with it, and get good results. Better than I ever had with a cartridge. Better than I knew to expect, in point of fact. Still, as I learned more, I found that I came back to it less and less. In the end, I chose to give it to a friend who was just getting into DE shaving. I feel good about the whole experience. I “grew out of it”, and was able to pass it off to the next “youngster” in the hobby.

The Feather Seki Edge AS-D2 has been, in large part, formative to what I believe a double edged razor can and should be. Those of you who have carefully read my articles over the long haul may have detected that my mentions of the AS-D2 have waned a bit over the last several months. Yes, I’ve been in a bit of a buying frenzy for razors, and you have to try all your new stuff, but there is something else occurring here.

One of the things that has been at work is simply experience. I’ve used a lot more razors, shaved a whole lot more times. I know more about what works, and how good shaves can be. I have managed to procure a large sample set of razors. A preponderance of these have been vintage in nature, and I’ve found that, on balance, it is darned near impossible for anything to endear itself to me more than an old Gillette twist-to-open. They just work for me, in all the ways. But old razors haven’t been my only source of new experience. I’ve been sampling some new gear, as well. I try to learn, at least a little, every shave. Sometimes from a positive experience, sometimes from a part of my face that needs some attention with they styptic pencil. The unexamined life is not worth living, after all.

When I recently went back to the AS-D2, I found that…it just wasn’t quite as dear to my heart as it once was. Is it still beautifully conceived and built? Yes. Is it still a great shaver? Yes. But no longer my favorite, no longer the sine qua non of my repertoire. After having been “shaving around” with so many other razors, I found that it didn’t hit the closeness/comfort quotient as well as some.

It isn’t that I’m having feelings of remorse over buying the AS-D2. Far from it. I’ve just had to confess to myself that, for various reasons, it has been surpassed in my heart. My old ’58 TV Special Gillette can do certain things that the Feather simply can’t. My Slim Adjustable can do several. Newer razors like the Merkur Futur or the Razorock Hawk can deliver closer shaves.

Is it a little sad? Yeah. A little. But I have to chalk it up to experience. I also have to remember that I might feel differently in a year, or a month. Another thing to keep in mind is that, for anyone else in the world, my current opinion may be worth no more than the hot air leaving a fool’s mouth. And that’s okay, too.

Cheers, and happy shaving.

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Ease of Lathering: Tricky and difficult. The first time I tried to get a lather from this soap, it just…didn’t. I threw out that attempt and tried again to bowl lather, using the exact same technique I use with all other shaving creams. The second attempt was really not much better. I put it to my face and tried to get a decent coverage, and it just wasn’t happening. Annoyed, I went with another soap to finally get the shave going. The other soap lathered without incident, proving that I wasn’t the subject of some voodoo curse.

Upon the third attempt, I finally got enough lather to (barely) get a two pass shave. Even this provided less lather than I am used to, and ended up needing easily three times as much cream as any other product I’ve tried. Very questionable performance.

Protection: The quality of lather that I was able to create with the Pre De Provence cream was rather thin and barely adequate. I was able to get a safe shave, but even the least expensive soaps and creams have been able to provide more voluminous lather than this.

Residual Slickness: While it has proven difficult to say a lot of good things about this cream, the residual slickness was quite good. Which is important, because it produces so little lather effect that you find yourself shaving, mostly, on the residuals.

Scent: This product has quite a nice scent, very gentle. I would call it a light scent that seems primarily herbal in nature. I can’t imagine that anyone would be uncomfortable with this signature. It doesn’t strike me as either masculine or feminine. I found it to be pleasant. Sort of an “expensive hand cream” smell, I suppose.

Production/Value: In order to get even the bare minimum of lather, I found that I needed to use a great deal of this product. This cream is quite expensive per ounce, one of the more pricey products of its type that I have used. This stuff is something like six or seven times as expensive as the Derby cream, and requires at least twice as much product to get the job done. That means, in essence, it is twelve to fourteen times as expensive. Very poor value.

Notes: There are many fans of the Pre De Provence shaving soap, and it has been demonstrated to work well when purchased in the hard puck style. I can’t comment on this, as I have only tried the cream. However, as a cream, and as a shaver who has used several creams from various manufacturers, I can say that the Pre De Provence cream does not perform as required. It is expensive, lathers poorly, and requires a great volume of the product to get the job done. I highly caution you to avoid this product. If you wish to try the soap, I believe you may do well, but the cream is not well-formulated.

Readers, please let me know if you’ve had a differing experience with this soap. It’s possible that I got a bad batch, or there’s some trick that I’m not performing to get this soap to work better. I tried brushes and techniques that have been faultless with other creams, and nothing seemed to work. I don’t particularly writing negative reviews, and I have no desire to throw any artisan or company under the bus. I’d love it if everything performed great, and that it was smooth sailing on all fronts. Sadly, you sometimes hit a product that just doesn’t work, at least in your circumstance. That’s what I had with this cream.

Cheers, and happy shaving.