The Derby Extra and other topics

Posted: November 11, 2017 in Shaving Articles
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When I first got into wet shaving, I did a lot of research. I looked at reviews on Amazon. I watched tons of videos (Thanks, Nick Shaves!) I read stuff in forums. I didn’t know anything. I had to rely upon the wisdom of others. What razor would work? How many passes? What soaps were best? What blades?

From there, I had to begin buying stuff, trying stuff, and coming to grips with what worked for me. In the end, no amount of reading about what other people have done or have enjoyed will get you all the way into the light. You have to try things yourself, or your knowledge is only theoretical and incomplete.

I bought some soaps. Some that worked. Some that didn’t. I picked up a collection of blades and started working through them. Many of the blades, I just didn’t know. They were altogether a mystery to me. Some were lauded in the forums. Some, however, tended to get a lot of derision. One of those was the Derby Extra. Half the shavers that I’d read about would say how dull and useless the Derby blades were. With each negative review, I’d filter the Derby down further into the lower stratum of my blade choices. Because they’d probably be crap. Because everyone seemed to think so. And they were cheap.

So, I went along, finding blades I liked and hated, until that fateful day when I finally tried the Derby. I had to, because by then, I was writing reviews online, and using a psuedo-scientific method to describe them, and everything. Great science, as it were, demands that we try things, even if we think we already know the answer we’ll arrive at in the end. Evidence is paramount. Or words to that effect.

I loaded the blade into my Feather AS-D2. I didn’t have high hopes. On paper, it looked like a poor combination. Gentle razor. Less than super-sharp (if I was being charitable with what I “knew”) blade. Sounded like it would be a case of a lot of skating over the stubble, juddering, and a poor shave. But…but that wasn’t what happened.

Weirdly, I got a fantastic shave. Comfortable. Close. No issues. Maybe it was a fluke. Other elements can make or break a shave. How your feeling. The prep. The lather. Tons of synergies or negative synergies. All the X factors.

Puzzled, I tried it again. It worked again. I doubted the evidence. I had to have another blade, another try, and in another razor. The Derby…the much-maligned Derby. It worked great in the Merkur 39C, too. I wrote a review. I tried to explain my findings. I probably failed. I ended up buying a hundred of the darned things.

If the Derby blade doesn’t work for you, I respect that. That they work so well for me is still something of a mystery. Lately, I’ve been using them in conjunction with Gillette Fatboys set on “9”. I use them for two shaves, then toss them. Given their price per blade, I never feel like I’m throwing money away. Good shaves, every one. Not quite as close as ones done with, say, a Polsilver Super Iridium blade, but the only person in the world who knows the difference is me. And it’s super slight.

The upside with using a smooth blade with a fairly aggressive razor is that the stubble comes off quickly, and without a lot of drama. I don’t have a perfect idea as to why the Derby blade gets such bad rap. One thought is that they might be one of the first blades a lot of people try, and they end up having bad experiences because they’re just starting out. I can’t support that thesis, but it’s my best guess.

I think pairing blades with razors is a lot like what we see with electric guitars and amplifiers/pedals. Some combinations work great, some not so much. It’s all in what you’re hoping to find. Some things obviously work great. A Fender Strat into a Super Reverb. A Gibson Les Paul into a Marshal JTM-45. With the things that work for almost everyone work well for you? Probably. But the fun, for the shaving hobbyist, is to find that combination that surprises you. The unheralded synergy that gives you a great shave, even when logic would say that it shouldn’t.

That’s enough of a ramble for me today. I’d planned to sing the praises of Cella soap today, but I’ll leave that soliloquy for another post.

Cheers, and Happy Shaving!

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