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!