Shave Chaperones and other Stories

Posted: December 15, 2016 in Shaving Articles

A work colleague of mine is getting into safety razor shaving, and had been getting an absolutely astonishing amount of irritation from his shaves. After his forays into shaving, he’d look like he’d just been savaged by a creature of the night, to be honest.

Because I knew his equipment to be good, I felt like I had to witness what he was doing, and to give a quick, in person demonstration to see if I could help him achieve his shave without catastrophic and life threatening injury.

We made arrangements to meet up one day at work and see what was going on. Not a problem for me, because I always have my kit in my car. He brought in his own shave rig and we set up in the locker room, where there was enough space to shave with observers hanging around.

Yeah, I know this sounds weird. Still, you can watch all the videos you want, and they won’t necessarily tell you all you need to know. Sometimes, someone has to watch what you’re doing and give you a pointer.

For the demo shave, I used my travel gear, with Arko, ’67 Superspeed, Plissoft “Bruce”, and Arko “Cool” aftershave, with Astra SP blade loaded in. I’ve documented this stuff in a previous article. Short and sweet – this is a no frills rig that gives a great, safe, comfortable shave. On the first shave of the Astra blade, this combination gives me a full BBS shave. A shave that can match anything else I’ve ever used. It did that today, with an audience, and all was as it should be.

My coworker started shaving, and it wasn’t too long before I figured out what was giving him all his irritation. He was not controlling the angle of the razor head, relative to his face. Specifically, he was increasing the angle of attack as he went down onto his neck. By rolling additional angle into the razor, you increase its aggressiveness, specifically to the skin. When he moderated his angle and controlled it more carefully, he was able to complete the shave in relative comfort.

Just like anything, wet shaving takes some practice, and sometimes, a bit of coaching. Probably the three most difficult things to get good at are:

  1. Lathering the soap. Getting the right water balance in the soap and swirling it to the correct consistency can take a little while to figure out. Sadly, the early shaves, when you need that protection the most, you tend to be still struggling to get your soap figured out.
  2. Not applying pressure. Because most shaving technologies require or allow a certain amount of “he-manning” to get the hair off, safety razors and straight razors will bite you if you press them. You have to trust the tool and let it do the work. Some get this faster than others. The color red underlines your mistakes.
  3. Finding the angle. Once you do, it’s basically a snap, but controlling the angle and keeping the blade cutting hair, not flesh, is an achievement you need to reach. If you have number 2 on this list figured out, this one won’t be quite as likely to give you trouble.

Days like this one remind me of a few things. The first is that basic gear can still give you a killer shave. The second is that it’s fun to help people learn. So often, a few simple tips given in person can overcome what seem like large problems.

Cheers, and happy shaving!


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