Like My Daddy Done

Posted: May 17, 2017 in Shaving Articles

In the traditional wet shaving world, the orthodoxies often run counter to what the average guy on the street used to do. It’s often all about a very complex series of passes, three or even more. While these methodologies work great, sometimes I like to vary how I do things to see if there are other viable ways to do it.

It has turned out, just about every time, that there are many ways to get the shave done. Just as there are a whole litany of tools available, there are a lot of ways to employ those tools.

My maintenance shave has been well documented here, in that it’s a with the grain pass, then an across the grain pass in the more “friendly direction”. That is to say, for me, going ears-nose direction (toward the center of the face) for most of the shave. Low on the neck, it would be the outward direction, as the grain of the beard changes down there.

However, I put my mind back to the old way, the way my dad taught me when I first started shaving. With the grain, then against, with a second lather between the two. It served me well for many years, at least as well as the cartridge razors I had on hand would do. I knew that this sort of technique would work well enough with an adjustable razor, because I could turn it up on the first pass, then down for the second. I have taken to using the Merkur Futur in this way, with 3 for my first pass and 1 for my second.

I dusted off an old-style Gillette Superspeed of the 40’s style (no date code), and it occurred to me that I hadn’t tried a mild razor such as that in the basic two-pass format. I wondered if I’d have to contend with too much hair on the against the grain pass, but it ended up working just fine. In fact, there was precious little difference in the result between the two and three pass method. The main difference being that there was a little less wear and tear on the skin.

I should point out that my second pass tends to be a combination of both against and across the grain, so it’s more like a pass and a half. That said, it’s the same thing with the three-pass, so it’s more like a four, if you add in all the little extra trips.

Also, a rather mild razor like the Superspeed needs a bit of sharpness in the blade. I used the Polsilver Super Iridium blade in this case. Through four shaves, it never let me down. I typically use the Astra SP in a Superspeed, but they tend to lose their sharpness a bit, and by the third shave, while comfortable, they aren’t quite giving you the same closeness. The Polsilvers did not exhibit this tendency.

What did I learn? Again, I learned that there are many ways to do things, and that anyone who is so reductive as to say that there aren’t is not giving you the full story. Experiment. Try different angles, different orders of your passes (probably not against the grain first!), and you might find that there’s a more efficient or comfortable way to do things. Finally, I learned that the old dudes had some good ideas. For shaving every day, being able to get a close shave without a lot of excess facial damage is a great option.

Cheers, and happy shaving.


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