Ease of Lathering:
This is a cream, so the ease of lathering is very good. It produces voluminous lather with a very limited amount of swirling around. The stiffness of your shaving brush should have no great impact on this, as it doesn’t have to “dig in” to the surface of a soap to lather up. With creams, I bowl-lather. My technique is to put a small amount in the lathering bowl (about as much as you’d put on a toothbrush), then swirl it up with a damp brush. I add water as required, and look for a thick, whipped-cream consistency. This is easy with most creams that are formulated correctly. Derby is perfectly satisfactory in this regard.

Good protection provided by this soap. It creates as much lather as you need, and reaching the water content level is not very difficult. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have a thick and protective lather for every pass.

Residual Slickness:
The Derby cream leaves plenty of slickness for most purposes. I wouldn’t say that it’s quite as slick as some of the very rich soaps I’ve used, but it will give you a good shave. With the amount of lather you can make, however, don’t be stingy. Dab a bit more on your face if you want to take another pass across your skin. There’s no reason to save it for the sink drain. If you are spoiled by a very rich soap that features tallow and perhaps lanolin or argan oil, you might not have quite the same amount of slickness than you might expect, but again, just put a bit more lather on your face, and you should be just fine.

One of the things you may sacrifice with a budget soap is scent. Not the case here. The lemon Derby cream smells good, with a clean and natural-smelling lemon aroma. It isn’t a powerful smell, but it’s pleasant. The scent isn’t going to linger for a long time, so it shouldn’t clash with other products you might use afterward. Other citrus scents mix well with this one. I frequently use a lime pre-shave with this one, finishing with Thayer’s Lemon Witch Hazel. I can tell you that this is the best scent in the Derby cream line. The Menthol cream smells weird, and the Lavender is very faint, at best. If you want to get a Derby cream, my strong recommendation is to get this one.

The Derby creams, provided you can get them without insane markup, are really inexpensive. I only shelled out about four dollars per tube for mine. As such, excess complaining is probably not warranted. I find that they create a lot of lather from a small dab of cream. Perhaps not quite as much as the Taylor of Old Bond Street creams, but they are about a third or a quarter of the price. Great value. There are a lot of inexpensive soaps and creams out there, but if you’re looking for a nice lemon cream, this is a good option.

This is a nice quality cream. A value conscious shaver could do a lot worse. It’s certainly leagues ahead of every canned cream and gel you could find. If you like the lemon scent, this will probably suit you just fine. The other creams in the line work just as well, but don’t smell that great to me. Especially the Menthol, which smells kind of bad to me. As an aside, it has no real menthol feel, either. (Bronx cheer)

This is not as “clean” a soap as the artisan offerings you’ll find. It has Parabens in it, as most of the budget products seem to do. If this is a problem for you, there are certainly other soap lines that have a more natural ingredient list. They’ll cost you a bit more, in many cases. In the end, most soaps you’ll find produce a lot of shaves per ounce, so it’s up to you to decided what price point you’re comfortable with. If maximum value is your motivating factor, a cream like Derby can still give you great shaves. Even if you have no need to pinch pennies, it’s a nice option for a citrus shave.

Finally, if you don’t like to use a brush or wish to have something travel-ready that can be applied with your hand, this should work just fine in that regard. That, of course, goes for any shave cream of this type. It does use more product without a brush, and so using a cream that’s quite expensive tends to be a poor value choice. At the cost of Derby (provided you can get it at without an import fee), using a little extra is nothing to be concerned with.


For a lot of people, this is “The Razor” in the safety razor collecting game. The original 195 Adjustable Gillette. The Fatboy.

Prior to this razor’s appearance in 1958, razors were what they were. They had a level of blade exposure, and you liked it, or you lumped it. I’ve mentioned the Fatboy in a few other features, as it is the granddaddy of the whole family. It set all the rules and basic assumptions. Twist to open. 1-9 dial below the handle (or, in a few cases, at the bottom, just above the opening knob).

Why is it, you may ask, that the Fatboy holds such allure, when the Slim Adjustable and the Super Adjustable after it carried on with the same basic mechanic? Well, I suppose there are a few possible reasons.

The first? Well, it WAS the first. It was the classic, earliest iteration of the idea. It also didn’t run for that many years, being produced between ’58 and ’62.

The second? The fat handle makes the razor one of the heaviest models that was produced in the vintage era. Think of a slightly longer Aristocrat without a hollow handle, and a heavier head (because of the adjustment mechanism). Add to that heft the ability to tune the level of blade exposure, and you have yourself quite a machine.

The third reason, perhaps, is that groundswell wherein everyone begins to talk about a particular model, and it develops a golden halo around it. The demand goes up. Supplies dwindle. It’s a must-have. Prices skyrocket. Having a Fatboy is like having a ’67 Corvette with an L88 427 engine in it. It doesn’t have to make logical sense. It doesn’t have to be a reasonable urge. It just is. And that’s okay.

I’d been able to find the razors I was looking for with some ease. Great ease, in fact. Just strolling down to Jitterbug Antiques on my lunch hour from time to time had netted me a whole stable of great old razors. I didn’t have a Fatboy, however. Slims abounded. Super Adjustables were present and awaiting purchase. A Fatboy, however…that was a rare and unseen beast.

Until now. I had talked with the shop owner about it, and he said he had a line on one. I checked. I checked again. At last, the blessed day arrived. I came in. The proprietor made his way into the backroom and fished one out.

It was a Fatboy. But…it was in pretty rough shape. Its adjustment knob was stuck. It had a significant amount of “brassing”, such that the nickle plating was worn, showing the brass below. The razor was generally cobby, a fixer-upper.

But the price was right, less than I’d paid for either of my other adjustables (which were, however, basically pristine after a polishing). I snapped it up.

What followed was the most laborious clean, lube, and polish I’ve had to do. I eventually got the adjustment knob unstuck and functioning, and after a significant level of effort, got it into a fair state. I mean, you can’t polish plating back onto a razor. Even Semichrome won’t do that. Still, it was working normally again, and looking as good as I could manage. It’s certainly a “user” grade razor, and even a re-plate would probably not fully remediate all the battle damage. That said, it’s kind of cool to know this razor was really used. Daily use, I’d say, over the course of probably decades.

Does it still shave? Heck, yeah. It really does. On setting 4 with a used Polsilver Super Iridium blade. it absolutely eliminated every bit of stubble. After shaving on 4, I think that 3 may be the sweet spot for me on most days. This thing seems just a tad more, shall we say, determined at any given setting. Not by a lot, but just enough. Even blades like the Derby Extra shave really well on 3, for me. At least for my particular model and my needs, turning this thing up to 8 or 9 seems like it would border on foolhardy. A three pass shave on 3 literally spoils me, giving a baby smooth result every time. One begins to understand why the cult of the Fatboy exists. It’s not that the later models of adjustable have anything to apologize for, but man, this thing is a beast.

My collection has a capstone now. It’s possible I’ll want a “pretty” razor that’s re-plated and pristine at some point, but the idea of using this old warhorse is really where it’s at for me right now.


Ease of Lathering:
Very Good. The WSP rustic soaps are quite soft, with the consistency of putty. I grabbed some from the tin and put it in the bottom of a mug to use it. I would say that the ease of lathering is much like other soaps of this consistency, such as the Razorock XXX, Captain’s Choice, or Cella. My impression is that the soap is just slightly on the thirsty side, but certainly not in any way a bother.

Very Good. I was able to create a dense and useful lather with the standard process, which is that I swirl the brush at each quadrant of my face, then fill in with some linear strokes. From there, I assess how much water the soap needs, adding it in with the same quadrant based method. When the lather is to my taste, I paint it smooth and get down to business. WSP creates a thick lather that contributes to a safe and comfortable shave.

Residual Slickness:
Very Good. When doing a rinse between passes, a small layer of soap yielded a nice, slick feeling on the skin. On areas where most or all the soap was gone, I felt no sense of perilous action when I ran the razor over for additional cleanups. This soap does as it should in this regard. No juddering or slowing of the safety bar could be detected with any of the razors I tested.

Fougere means “fern like”. It’s one of the primary categories of cologne and cologne-scented products, from what I gather. For the average dude, fern-like doesn’t mean much. If we are aware of what ferns smell like, this knowledge doesn’t give us any feeling one way or another. They’re ferns. They grow at the forest verge. Whatever. We are not cologne makers, after all. We do other stuff.

This soap, as I understand it, is supposed to give a similar scent to the Drakkar Noir aftershave. I remember Drakkar Noir. It was pretty popular with the young dudes back in the 90’s. They used way too much of it. It was kinda cloying at times. That was probably misuse, rather than anything wrong with the cologne. Everything must be in proportion, I guess.

Let me put it into language you might find easier to understand. Brut aftershave/cologne is a fougere. In fact, the Fougere Noir smells like a rather gentler and earthier version of Brut to me. (Anyone scandalized by this notion, I beg your pardon. I often find that I lack the nuanced knowledge that would be required to fully convey some of these scents. I’m sort of like the guy at the wine tasting who shrugs and says, “This stuff tastes pretty good.”)

Scent strength? I would say moderate to slightly powerful. This soap is in no way overpowering. I don’t anticipate that the smell would send anyone into fits of terrible anger and disgust. If you’re a fan of Brut (as I am), it will probably be intriguing. Final note on scent: this is not a soap that “comes alive” when lathered. The smell that it evinces at rest carries through at the same strength, and without any great change in character that I can detect, when you lather it up. It’s just closer to your face. Unless you’re not shaving your face. Then, it’s closer to…well, I’ll let you fill in that blank.

Soft soaps tend to erode a good bit faster than a hard puck soap, but still provide a lot of shaves per ounce. WSP soaps are at the very affordable end of an artisan soap, at a similar or slightly higher price than the Razorock soaps. Just a hair cheaper than Cella and Proraso, these are great values for the money, considering all the great scents you can try in this formulation. I purchased a sampler pack with all the various scents in one ounce tins, which works out at a higher cost per unit of soap than the full tins. Still, the samplers allow someone to have a chance to try out any or all of the scents they’re interested at a far smaller cost and space allocation. Also, the small tins could be great as a travel size. It is soft enough to grab out a small daub and stick it into a bowl or mug with a spoon. I find this easiest to do with a teaspoon, but it could be done with just a finger, if you didn’t have anything handy.

My experience with going through the sample is that an ounce of this soap goes a long, long way. Further than a soft soap has any right to do. Without economizing at all, it took tons of shaves to break through and make a hole in the center of that thin layer at the bottom of my mug. Good value from WSP.

This is my first try with WSP Rustic soaps, though they come highly touted. I ordered straight from their website, and found it to be a very nice purchasing experience. Their website is well designed and classy, their shipping swift and without error or damage, and their status update emails handy and professional.

I like this soap a lot. They have hit on a formuala that lathers and performs well at the soap base level. The scent is nice, although it isn’t necessarily an every day scent for me. All the Rustic Shave Soaps are vegan formulations, with all vegetable based ingredients, if that is a concern for you. For those who feel that a soap can’t have adequate slickness without beef tallow, I invite you to try WSP soaps out. I think you might be surprised. That said, they do have a tallow formula, as well (Formula “T”).

I intend to use this soap as the exemplar and single “full” review with the WSP Rustic soaps. From here on, I may do mini reviews as I get into the various scents. Of course, if any of them diverge from their stablemates in regard to performance, I’ll be sure to include that in the further articles. My intention is to “Titanic” through this first puck, to use the terminology of Youtube personality Michael Freedberg. What that means is to just use the puck right down without hopping back and forth between soaps like a jackrabbit on crank. That’s my intention, though my inclinations are probably more in line with said drugged-up bunny.

WSP, Wet Shaving Products, is making some good soap down in Chandler, Arizona. I think you’d be well pleased, were you to try one out. I plan to pick up one of the tallow-based soaps in the future, so I can compare and contrast the performance of the two formulas. The “book” on shaving soap is that it is more difficult to make a great vegan formulation than one based in beef tallow, so I have no reason to think that a soap maker who does great with a vegan soap would drop the ball with one using tallow. But that’s not science. That’s supposition, and we all know how I feel about science.

Razor Blade Test: Dorco ST-300

Posted: October 15, 2016 in Shaving Articles

1) Sharpness: Good
2) Comfort: Good
3) Value: Amazing
4) Availability: Great
5) Country of Origin: Vietnam (Korean company)
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 3
8) Notes: A great deal of debate has arisen about the differences between the razor blades from Dorco. Some say that the ST-300 and ST-301 are altogether different, made in different factories with different grinds and different coatings. Some say that the 301 is the cat’s whiskers, while the 300 isn’t fit for human consumption.

Then again, other people, including people who purport to be company reps, say that the only difference is in the packaging, with the 301s having a plastic container that has a used blade vault in the back, and the 300s having a simple cardboard container.

What should you believe? I don’t know for sure. I know that the prices of both versions of the blade are out of this world. Amazingly inexpensive. I know that the 300s tend to be a little cheaper, but they’re both at the very lowest price per blade you’re likely to find. We’re talking less than six cents per blade if you get 1,000 of the ST-300s (as of August, 2016, U.S.A.). The 301s are only marginally more expensive. Depending on where and when you look, it’s a toss-up as to which one will clock in at a lower price.

I tested the ST-301 blades somewhat thoroughly, and found them to be a very nice blade, money aside. They performed a lot like the Personna Lab Blues. Good sharpness, really good smoothness, no surprises. In that review, I was forced to admit that I had a bit of a negative bias toward the blades coming in, and had the resultant dinner of crow. Would it happen again with the ST-300, a blade that is somewhat maligned in the reviews? Read on and find out.

My first shave with the 300s was in my Gillette Black Beauty set on “5”, a setting I found to work well with other blades and provide a comfortable shave. The blade itself looked well produced, with a crisp logo and a generally well-sorted appearance.

So, what’s the early verdict? Boy, I have nothing bad to say about this blade thus far. I can’t tell you it’s the same blade as the 301, but I can’t point to anything that indicates that it’s not. I got a close shave with no irritation, blood, or drama. I take close shaves seriously, and my “test” shaves are always aiming for a baby smooth result. Though I’ve relaxed my stance in regard to which razors I’ll use during a test, I still feel that I can give you a good assessment of a blade’s qualities. Your mileage may vary, of course. Horses for courses, as it were.

I don’t know if Dorco is currently operating at a loss or at a minimal profit, trying to create a market presence and brand awareness in the West. That might be the case. Perhaps their operating costs are lower, or they benefit from the economies of scale, having already tooled up for the Asian market. I leave that to the business guys. Still, all my experiences with the brand thus far have been positive. I’m impressed. I’ll carry on with test, but I can tell you, barring the blade going right to crap, I’ll be recommending this one.

Shave two, and the Dorco faced a stern test. Could it perform in the 1918 Gillette open comb? Short answer. Yeah. Killer shave. Smooth as could be, no blood, no sting.

The third shave found me with a heavy heart for reasons I won’t go into here. I found myself wondering why I stood at the mirror and what the purpose of the shave might be. Still, despite what befalls us, we must carry on with the work of the day. I loaded the Dorco blade into the Merkur 39C “Sledgehammer”. I didn’t much care if I irritated my face or not. I was going to do a three pass shave with the big brute and damn the consequences. Well, it turned out to be quite a good shave. Only the mildest irritation at the neckline, very good closeness. In actuality, probably the best three pass result for this razor. I did give it the best possible chances, with using the RazoRock “Mr. Joe” preshave (which is really amazing) and the RazoRock “Essential Oil of Lime” soap. The combination of those two creates a lather suitable to the Olympians – the ones that shave, in any case.

I carried on with a new blade, going for another round of testing, just to make sure that it wasn’t a fluke blade. Science, remember. Everything for science. I loaded the new blade into the Merkur 34C HD razor, and had a very pleasant shave. Again, very nice performance from the blade. I have neglected the 34C as a razor, and each time I go back to it, I do find it to be a fine tool. Effective, but quite gentle. There is a reason that it remains a popular option for new shavers and salty dogs alike. I would say that it’s probably a bit easier to get a close shave than some of my others. However, coming to it after having some enforced discipline with a less forgiving razor makes it quite relaxing. I needed a relaxing shave on that day, as it had not been a fun week for me. Even the wonderful smell of Cella could not entirely lift my bleak mood. And perhaps it shouldn’t have. We are not machines. We cannot always function unhindered by emotion.

I had a nice shave with the AS-D2 for my second shave of the test. No complaints. The Feather razor isn’t super fussy, so I had no reason to think it would have a problem, but it is good to touch base with your de-facto standard here and there.

For the third shave in the second blade of the test, I tried the razor out in a new and inexpensive razor, the RazoRock Quick Change. This shave also came off with no issues, proving that one needn’t spend very much to have an effective and comfortable shaving experience.

In the end, I didn’t feel like the ST-300 blade had anything to apologize for.  It’s sharp enough, smooth enough, and seems to last easily through three shaves. I didn’t push it with this blade, because what would the point be? It can be had for less than eight cents per unit. I would have no real reservation with buying a large pack of these blades. In point of fact, I ended up buying a hundred pack of the 301s, which were cheaper on that given day. I can’t say that there’s much difference between the 300 and the 301. Your results and opinions may vary. For me, both of the blades have turned out to be a superb value, and the miser’s wisest choice, provided you like a moderate, smooth blade. Highly recommended.


The Gillette Knack’s introduction date is a topic of some debate. If the most familiar source for info on Gillette date codes is correct, it was introduced a year AFTER mine’s date code. So…mine purports to be from quarter 4, 1967. Perhaps they spooled up production in late ’67 to introduce it in ’68. I won’t get into that weird realm of the theoretical. Okay, no promises. Who knows? I probably will. I’m obstreperous that way.

Back to business. The Knack was re-branded the Double Edge, it seems, in 1972. It may well have had another moniker late in its run. Something in my memory banks says that it was called something like the G-1000? Eh. I have no solid evindence of that. I probably dreamed it after being slipped something in my drink. I believe that the Knack, or whatever iterative name they chose to give it, carried on until the bitter end in regard to Gillette’s double edge razor sales, but details are sketchy.

The Knack had a British equivalent, called the Slim Twist. The commonality between all the models of this oeuvre was that the twist knob was directly below the head, with the remainder of the handle having no moving parts. This close-coupled design allowed the handle to be made of resin (plastic), and be shaped with a constant taper toward the end. Some of the Slim Twist razors had a significantly different handle, and typically bore an off-white plastic, rather than blue or black. The alternate handle was more of a rounded rectangle, narrowing to something of a wedge at the distal end. My understanding of the two razors is that they pretty much shaved the same and had the same head design. Someone who has both in their stable can confirm or deny this, if they choose to chime in.

My view of this design is two-fold. On one hand, I appreciate the efficiency of the design. Having the mechanism not work from the distal end of the handle, but rather over the shortest distance possible is kind of brilliant. You could do anything you wanted to do with the handle. Making it shorter or longer would require no real change to the mechanism. In addition, the shorter push rod opening and closing the unit means that the resistance is low. It also means that material costs are decreased. The torque on the push rod is less, and a shorter piece of the same stock is relatively far more resistant to twisting, shearing, and bending forces. Finally, it’s possible to tighten and loosen the doors with one hand.

However…the Knack is like a front wheel drive car. All the “go” parts are in the same spot. Efficiency aside, that has a dramatic effect on the balance of the device. This makes the Knack its own animal in terms of handling dynamics. It is top heavy. It has to be. Okay, it doesn’t have to be. If one wished to affix a heavy, all metal handle to it, the balance point could be anywhere. But…there we go into the theoretical. Built as it was, with the materials Gillette chose, it has a strongly top-heavy bias. Not that it is at all heavy in the scheme of things. It probably weighs half what some of my burlier razors do. Stretched over its relatively rangy total length, it feels quite svelte. Sort of like a lollipop you can shave with.

Many view the Knack as a sign of the cheapening of the Gillette product, which had enjoyed a whole lot of years as an all metal line of razors. Still, you can’t keep time from progressing, and new materials will take their turn upon the stage. I myself tend to appreciate all metal razors more than those that contain plastic parts. Truth be told, the Knack is the one of only a few razors I own that isn’t entirely metal of one sort or another. Being a sucker for expensive materials is, I suppose, a quirk I bring to safety razors from my prior obsession, that of a pocket knife collector. I’m actually surprised that I don’t own a razor made of titanium or something. They start making them available, this fool will probably be in line to get one.

Materials Discussion: (Digression alert)

I feel that I should point out that, in most cases, safety razors are not under such stress as tools that they require space age materials. Gillettes were made of brass and usually coated with nickel. They last nearly forever if they’re cared for and do not meet some unexpected calamity (like falling out the window of a fifth story walk-up, caroming into the street, and being smashed flat by a passing road grater. Most razors today are made from Zamak, which is a zinc alloy that is often classed as a “pot metal”. It’s cheap and easy to machine. Most razors made of this material are then given a hard coat of chrome, as Zamak itself is prone to oxidation. Step up from there, and you’ll find brass razors, coated with all the typical plating metals, such as nickel, chrome, gold, and rarely rhodium (which is awesome, but really pricey). The top-line razors are made from stainless steel, typically marine grade, such as 303 or 410 stainless. While this isn’t expensive metal, it’s much more demanding to machine, and also far, far tougher than any of the materials listed on the cheaper razors. It’s tough to find a razor for under a hundred dollars that’s made of all stainless. I know that titanium is used in at least one razor, made by Wolfman, but it’s rare. Some razors are also made of aluminum. The extreme lightness of aluminum makes it a less than ideal medium. It also tends to be very soft as a material. Finally, good old plastic. The earliest razors made of plastic date back to the 30’s, I believe. Early (and even current) razors were made of a type of plastic called Bakelite. Interesting stuff. It is a hard, unbending plastic, and has been used in some well-beloved razors. Your more standard, slightly porous, fairly bendy plastic has been used in some razors, too. In the handle element, the resin has no real downside except for a dearth of weight (unless lightness is what you’re looking for.) In the head, though…I’m not sold on it. I know some people like the Wilkinson Sword Classic razor, and a few others that make extensive use of plastics, but I remain somewhat unconvinced. Those are the biases I brought to the review of the Knack. You see, I’m actually getting back to the point, just as you’d given up all hope and decided to end it all.

<End Digression> 

I wasn’t really expecting anything particularly noteworthy from the Knack. I figured it would be a good shaver, but I primarily got it because I wanted to have an example of that model for my collection.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The Knack feels natural in hand and shaves really well. I find myself going back to it in preference to a lot of other razors I quite like. I find that, weirdly, I suppose, I can get every bit the shave with the Knack that I can with my Feather AS-D2. That doesn’t seem likely or rational, but there you have it. Looks are not everything. Nor is price. It is a pretty safe shave, quite mild, but it can get in there and give you an excellent shave. This is especially true with a blade on the sharp end of the spectrum. In this way, it is similar to the Superspeed design, with which it shares many similarities in head dynamics.

The Knack is worth your time, and worth a spot in your collection. Not revered as many of the other Gillettes might be, but a nice design, nonetheless. This is a vintage razor that should be available in good condition, and for a small price tag. I’d recommend trying out out if you rather like a two tone razor, and have had some good luck with mild shavers in the past.


There is a significant amount of commentary available online in regards to the amount of aggression that is most useful in a razor. One of the confounding elements of these discussions is the fact that, to some degree, the aggressive nature of a razor is subjective and ill-defined. What does it mean to be aggressive? Is it the blade angle? The blade gap? The amount of blade interaction with the skin? Is it the amount of hair that it removes with each pass? It could be any, all, or some of these qualities.

For the purpose of this particular inquiry, I’ll run with this definition: An aggressive razor has significant “blade feel” on the face, and will create irritation or cuts without good prep and good technique. An aggressive razor is not for the ham-handed nor the beginner. An aggressive razor will not suffer foolish behavior. There are efficient razors that are not aggressive. These tools remove beard growth while being fairly safe and easy to use. I would call the Feather AS-D2 one of these. It removes hair with the least amount of drama or possible injury. There are also aggressive razors that are not terribly efficient. This, of course, is the least optimal scenario. An example of this would be a straight razor that was not sufficiently honed to cut cleanly. If you end up with a lot of irritation without getting the stubble under control, that’s not a good deal.

In most cases, however, the well-respected aggressive razors are also efficient cutters. A few examples of agressive razors that I have in my stable include the Merkur 39C, the Gillette “Old Type” open comb, and the Gillette Adjustables when turned up above “5”. I use and enjoy all of these razors. Each one has its own set of qualities, which I’ll lay out the good and bad for each one, to illustrate the tradeoffs you might expect.

The Gillette Old (Military model) is a small and fairly light razor. It’s open comb design give a lot of blade exposure and it biases the blade significantly within the housing of the top cap. It is an interesting razor, in that the peril is not in the later passes, but the first. When performing the first pass, the old Gillette requires care and patience, as it really digs in. I have never hurt myself with this razor, but it makes it clear that it won’t protect you from yourself. Once through the first pass, however, it tends to be comfortable and far less dangerous in sensation than a lot of razors. It gives a superb shave, but I keep it as a “once in a while” razor, as it requires more attention. It’s also in great condition for a nearly-century-old razor, and I don’t want to put too much mileage on it. Does it shave closer than my milder razors? Hmm. Yes, by just a little. The difference is probably only important to a shave snob. Would it be better if you wanted to do a cursory shave, just to be socially acceptable? Nope. It is efficent, but much more challenging to use, defeating the purpose of a quick shave.

The Merkur 39C “Sledgehammer” is essentially the opposite of everything I said about the Gillette. It’s a really big razor, a very heavy piece. It’s new-production, rather than an ancient veteran. It’s a slant head, rather than an open comb. Of all my razors, the 39C yields one of the most comfortable first passes. It doesn’t care if the blade you loaded is super sharp. That hardly appears to matter with the geometry of the slant. It doesn’t care how much stubble there is. It’ll plow through whatever you’ve got. It is really efficient, so if you’re not fussy about ultimate closeness, it’ll get you from “three day bender” to “fit for work” in one or two passes. It’s the boss if you can’t stand going against the grain in the classic three pass shave, but want a good shave. Very efficient. Comfortable and safe, except…if you want to go for full-tilt closeness, it’s very easy to nick yourself in the against the grain or across the grain passes, or to overshave, because the very thing that makes it so effective also makes it capable of peeling away too much skin. Can you safely do a full three pass without hurting yourself? Yes. Probably. But you have to have your skin toughened up a little, and you have to have good prep and good technique. Does it give a better ultimate shave, if you’re willing to take the risk. Ah, here’s the rub. It really doesn’t. I can get just as close with a much milder razor. With less danger.

A note: it’s perfectly possible to irritate yourself or cut yourself with a mild razor. This is especially true if you have to take a lot of passes to get it done. In that case, you can easily fall prey to putting pressure on the razor to get it to cut better, or to simply overshaving and irritating your skin. On with the show.

Gillette Adjustables (as well as adjustable razors from Merkur, or instance) can allow you to dial in as much “bite” as you wish. Gillettes have settings from one to nine. I’ve tried everything from three up on a few different models. What I’ve found is this: with a sharp blade, I get my best and most comfortable shaves on three (except on the late-model Black Beauty, where five is the number). With a blade that isn’t very sharp, turning the dial up by a few notches will give you a better experience. If you’re dealing with a great deal of stubble, turning up the dial for the first pass will allow the razor to better tackle the longer hair, but I’ve found that, for me, the benefit of the higher numbers diminishes after the first pass. Of course, others have found different conclusions. The Gillette Adjustables provide a great opportunity to study the effect of aggression changes during a shave, all other things being equal. Do they become more efficient when turned up? Yes, especially on the first pass. You can absolutely elect to do a less critical shave routine with a higher number and get good results. In my experience, though, there are no razors, regardless of how aggressive and efficient they may be, that can shave as close in two passes as a milder razor does in three.

For me, I’d rather have that extra closeness of the third pass, and a milder razor can allow me to take that pass with a better chance of comfort. I have a thick beard, but it isn’t super coarse. I wouldn’t say that I have hopelessly sensitive skin, but I do have some sensitive areas, especially on my neck. I night shave, predominantly, so I don’t need to rush things. All my findings are based upon these elements. As with anything else, if your shaving situation is different, you might come to a whole different conclusion.

In terms of the view from my house, though, the answer to the big question in this article is – NO. More aggressive razors don’t really cut closer. They often cut FASTER, but things tend to even out over a full three pass shave. If a razor is so mild that it’s just gliding over a lot of hair and not cutting it at all, it either needs a much sharper blade, or is not suitable to the task at hand. Says me. For what it’s worth.

Ease of Lathering:
Easy. Like all the other soft soaps or “croaps” I’ve used, this one loads into the brush easily, and can be brought to a creamy lather without doing anything involving black magic voodoo. It is easy to overlook this quality, as it is so frequently  present in the modern soaps. Still, being easy to load and lather should not be taken for granted. The chemistry involved in the soap making process is not inconsiderable.

This soap, when lathered to the consistency you prefer, should provide you with good to excellent protection. I found that, whether I had a quite thick and yogurt-like consistency, or a bit lighter layer (perhaps on a later pass), it worked just fine. To be frank, most of the shave soaps you will find on the market (that are from reputable “real” wet shave companies) are going to provide pretty darned good performance. Yes, there are differences, but there are several known formulations that work well. You might discover that you prefer tallow-based soap, or glycerin-based. You might find that you like to have lanolin, or coconut oil, or a particular combination of saponifiers. Scent, of course, can be a great decider between soaps that perform in a similar way. Suffice it to say that the Captain’s Choice soap will not leave you wanting in regard to protection.

Residual Slickness:
I found that the residual slickness on this soap was quite good. I was able to take secondary passes without reapplying the soap, even with the Gillette Aristocrat razor, which is a design that acts much like a squeegee on the face, leaving very little soap behind. As should be mentioned, going over skin without a significant soap layer is not a technique I’d advise for the beginner. If in doubt, always dab a bit of lather on. Soap is a lot cheaper than Band-Aides. The whole point of the game is to shave off the hair without shaving off the skin. It tends to be more fun when you’re not engaging in macro-dermabrasion.

My sense is that the scent of this soap, and its accompanying aftershave, will be greatly divisive. This is a soap with a strong scent. Its top note is juniper berry, I believe. It is meant to be a woodsy smell, and it clearly is. I find it to be almost an aggressive scent at first, almost antiseptic. There is an element of Pine-Sol here. I do tenderly love Pine-Sol, myself, but I don’t associate that type of scent with a shave product immediately. I bought this scent because it was totally different than anything I had. Different is what I got. With the soap itself, the scent isn’t going to linger. So as long as it doesn’t turn you off during the action of the shave, it won’t interfere with your further activities. If you’re considering it for purchase, I would say that there’s an element of gamble. You won’t hate the performance. You might dislike the scent, though.

Captain’s Choice provides a high quality product, packaged well, that should perform as expected and contain the best ingredients. Their prices are a bit higher than the mass-market shave products, but right in line with what other companies are charging for a similar quality product. You’re not getting ripped off here. On the other hand, it isn’t Palmolive or Arko. The additional room left in the plastic soap jar makes it a bit easier to load from the container without getting foam all over the sink. That is a thoughtful inclusion on Captain’s Choice’s part.

I wouldn’t recommend this scent as one of your first soaps or aftershaves. It’s too much of a niche thing for that. Too big a chance you’ll fail to dig the bouquet. Also, with any soap with a good amount of essential oil in it, you run the risk of a bad reaction. If you know yourself to be allergic or sensitive to coniferous oils or juniper, I’d think it would be better to pass on this one.

I believe I can generalize, however, on the quality of the soap. No reservations in that regard. Perhaps the sandalwood or bay rum would be a better first choice, if those scents tend to key into your sense of what shaves should smell like. I can say that the Captain’s Choice aftershave in sandlewood is superb. Perhaps my favorite aftershave smell. The Bay Rum gets great accolades, as well. If you have a few “safe” choices for soap, however, and are looking for something a little outside the mainstream, this might just be the thing. One final note. This might be a far better “winter” scent. There’s an element of this that reminds you of being out in the woods, cutting down trees.