Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The Settling In Phase

Posted: April 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

In the course of wet shaving mania, we have many points when we’re engaged in the wild accumulation of gear. We can’t do anything but comb through our favorite places to buy equipment and software. We aren’t happy unless we’re testing a new razor or lathering up a new soap. We are in the grips of Gear Acquisition Disorder.  Money takes wing and flies out of our wallets like each bill was a migratory bird. Wet shaving isn’t alone in this phase. It could be said that, in comparison to some of the other hobbies you could get into, this malady isn’t that costly. Good luck if you start collecting speed boats or vintage guitars.

Regardless of the severity and type of your purchasing psychosis, it will typically hit a particular point when you’ve purchased so much stuff that it takes a while for you to even try all your new gear. You simply have to stop, because you have such a large backlog of things to take out for a spin that you can’t even deal with it. You’re broken. You’re the kid who’s crying at Christmas, because it’s all a bit too much, and you just want to play with your one action figure for a while before looking at anything else.

Sometimes, in that refractory phase when you’re slowly trundling through your messy wonderland of stuff, you’ll find that you have no real impetus to frantically jump around anymore. You kind of want to run with a few things you like. You need to. You’ve overdone it. You need to return to base and relax.

I find myself in that phase now. I’ve run through and tested so many things that I will have enough reviews to last me months, even if I bug you guys all the time. I’ve had great shaves aplenty. I’ve cycled through the vast majority of my razor collection. I’ve used a great litany of blades. Soaps and aftershaves have propagated through my shave den like an endless tide of suds and good smell. It’s been a good time. It’s been a little crazy.

I’m tired now. I have been for weeks. I’m just loading blades into the Merkur Futur as needed. I’m going through and using my old soaps that I had before acquisition madness hit me.

Here’s what I found.

1) I hate how much I love the Futur. I don’t want to admit how good it is. It doesn’t conform to all the things I think I believe about how razors are designed. It works when my logic says that it shouldn’t. I get such good, easy shaves from the damn thing. It can be turned down to be safe enough, but it has more “headroom” for aggression than I’ve ever needed. It’s a beast. The Futur doesn’t care that much about what blade it has. I have a hard time finding fault with it.

2) For me, Razorock soaps are the answer. I always get a great lather, and I always get a great result. I know that many people differ on this. All the way from the Amici soap, that goes for three bucks, to The Dead Sea, they kick ass. At the low middle part of their range, their vegan formula with argan oil might be the sleeper of all of them. This soap, featured in the soaps such as the Essential Oil of Lime and Lavender, is really great stuff. It could not be any easier to work with. The scents in the soaps are very much to my liking. The types of scents that I could use every day. I have A/B tested this soap against stuff many times the price, and I had a hard time coming up with anything that the RR soaps weren’t doing that the more expensive soaps were. Allowing for “status” shaves, I suppose.

3) It’s good to have your remembrance of your favorite products confirmed after an absence. I’d been using various and sundry razor blades. Many of them good. One or two of them sucky. I finally went back to my beloved Astra SP the other night. Ahhhhh. So smooth. The Futur isn’t the most discerning razor, but there was that beautiful glide on the face that some other blades can’t seem to do. I keep testing them, and I keep saying something along the lines of, “Yeah, but it’s not quite the Astra.” I almost get tired of saying it. I’m glad that at least it’s true. There is no better razor blade at the price point. There are only a few that perform better, regardless of the price. Bold statement. I believe it to be true. Even price-no-object, my second favorite blade, only losing out to the Polsilver Super Iridium. With cost inclusive, easily my favorite. The Astra works in every razor I own. I will stop rhapsodizing at this point. I trust you get the message.

4) Media overload. Yeah. Such big thanks to all the guys who create the Youtube videos. I have devoured an absurd amount of hours worth of the content out there. You’re all great. I’ve picked up such deep and varied knowledge about the hobby, and I’ve grown to feel like many of the presenters are like old friends by now. Still and all, I have to take a rest. I have gone through times when I watched hours and hours of shave videos a week, and loved every minute of it. At this point, though, I am standing back from that, and only watching videos if there’s a particularly interesting product involved. And, because I’m not in an acquisitive mood, not that many new products are catching my eye. I’m sure I’ll come back, but for now, the shaving hobby has taken me down a different road.

5) There is no one perfect tactic. I’ve tried so many different “schemes” for shaving. From the orthodox three pass method, to a variety of other approaches. There’s no one perfect answer. Not even for a single person. It depends on the day, the week, the season of the year. Right now, I’m primarily doing two-pass shaves, with a three-pass thrown in there once or twice a week. It’s enough. With an efficient razor like the Futur, I’m always neat and tidy as I go off to work. Mostly, no one cares as anyway, but it helps me feel like I’m pseudo professional. The main thrust of this little segment is to say that I’ve relaxed a bit. I’m not chasing the perfect shave quite as hard as I was. That’s good, because I’ve had a lot of stress in my life this year, and sometimes, my system isn’t ready for anything challenging right at that point. Sometimes, taking it easy and just shooting for “good enough” is the best policy.

Well, that’s about it for my thoughts. I don’t know if any of the topics I talked about today resonate with you out in Internet-land, but I thought I’d share them in any case.

Cheers, and happy shaving!

Ye Olde Reality Check

Posted: September 17, 2016 in Shaving Articles, Uncategorized
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I love the wet shaving game. The scents, the hardware, the ritual aspect…it’s all great. However, this last ten days on the road have proven that, when you come down to it, it doesn’t take high-zoot gear or super special stuff to get a great shave.

I’ve been using the Gillette 1967 Superspeed with Astra blades, Arko soap, and store brand Aqua Velva. It has provided completely comfortable, reliable, and excellent shaves. Pretty much baby’s butt smooth on the first shave of the blades, then somewhere between damn fine shave and BBS for the next two. No nicks, cuts, weepers, or irritation (collectively…for all the shaves combined. Never even any unusual sting when the aftershave goes on.) Great face feel all day, no issues to be found in the slightest. The Plissoft brush does all that you could hope, every time.

Not that the rig I have would work as well for everyone in all circumstances, but I’m certain that there’s an alternative that would work equally well, and for equally minimal cost. Every time. Like our granddads and dads may have done. One brush, one soap, one razor. No muss, no fuss. You like Old Spice? English Leather? Brut? What? Me, I’m an Aqua Velva man. It’s said that there’s something about us. Primarily, it’s that we smell like Aqua Velva sometimes.

What does it all mean? What’s the point of all the soaps, all the razors, all the GREAT SCIENCE? Fun. That’s it. It’s a hobby, and it’s fun to try things. That’s where all the additional energy goes, all the throwing of money at a problem that’s already solved. If I had to shave with the rig I’ve got, all the same gear, every day…I’d still enjoy myself, but it would get to be routine eventually. It would fall back into a simple activity, and only the little nubbin of artistry that is required to shave properly would remain. And for some, perhaps that is all they need. For the real shaving dorks, we need more.

Shaving on the Road

Posted: September 10, 2016 in Shaving Articles, Uncategorized
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For the first time since my headfirst fall into the churning madness of wetshaving, I found myself preparing to take the gig on the road. I had the pleasure and awful self-reflection of a man trying to decide what I would carry with me on a trip across the country. Sure, I could go easy and elect to not shave on my vacation…okay, no. Cross that out. I certainly couldn’t do that.

Well, I could just take a cartridge razor, and make do. But no. I have divested myself of every vestige of those dark days. I would have to, gulp, purchase a multiblade razor. That’s right out. I have not lost all vestiges of my self respect at this time, so I’m not about crawl back to a cartridge razor and admit defeat.

So, then, I needed to pick gear. It had to be fairly light. It had to be easy to use on the road. It had to be good enough and safe enough to trust my face to it when I’d probably not be in the absolute perfect conditions.

What did I choose?

  1. 1967 Gillette Superspeed (anodized handle). One of my most gentle and friendly razors, it’s small, light, and won’t jump up and slit my jugular if I look at it cross-ways. It’s also feasible to replace it, if it were to get lost by some awful circumstance.
  2. RazoRock Plissoft “Bruce” Brush: My fanboy-ism for the Plissoft brush is well documented. They’re cheap, they’re awesome. The “Bruce” handle shape is very compact. All win.
  3. Arko (in shaving bowl): Arko works. It’s very high-yield, so a little goes a long way. It’s a very neutral scent that won’t raise merry hell with others using your area. I won’t cry myself to sleep if I lose it.
  4. Arko “Cool” shave bowl: A distant second in the Arko balm lineup to the Extra Sensitive, but it works fine and has very unassuming smell. Small tube. Cheap.
  5. RazoRock Alum Block: Both my deodorant and my wound sealer, as well as an astringent if I need it.
  6. Astra SP Blades: Because you need a sharp blade to get the most out of the Superspeed, and they’re smooth. And cheap. My philosophy is to not carry your most precious and irreplaceable gear on the road. Because that’s kind of daft. Says me.
  7. <Related Equipment> Original Listerine, for an astringent/aftershave/mouthwash/disinfectant/other thing…

How was the first shave?

Frikin’ rad is how it was.

With my mom looking on, because she was trying to grasp the purpose of all my endless, soul-destroying drivel, I launched into the shave. It went swimmingly. Reference closeness, no irritation, and my mom saying, “It’s like an art-form.” Everything you hope for when you’re little. Okay, maybe not quite that much. There were no swimsuit models or Lamborghini Countach supercars.

Would I have gotten a better shave with my more premium gear? I don’t know. There really wasn’t much room for improvement. And it was portable. Life is good. Bring on the open road and all its sub-optimal shaving locales.

Super-Max Super Stainless Blue

1) Sharpness: Fair
2) Comfort: Fair
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: India
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves): 2 (Shortened test)
8) Notes: The first test shave revealed these blades to be somewhat inferior to the smoothness of their Platinum counterparts, and perhaps a bit less sharp. Still, the shave came off all right, and I was not left with bleeding or excess irritation. Just…a mild sense that the blades were not that great. The second shave, a maintenance, two pass shave, left me far from enthusiastic, with more irritation than I am used to experiencing. I decided that I had learned all I needed to about these blades. What I’ve learned is that they are perhaps acceptable if they are all you can readily find, but they fall behind most of the other blades I’ve tested in terms of comfort, while not being overly sharp. Not highly recommended.

As I have posted the review criteria for these blade tests in all my previous reviews, I am going to go ahead and omit them from here on out. If you are interested in looking at the methodology, please look back at the earlier tests, or let me know in the comments, and I’ll repost. 

-Patrick

Super-Max Platinum

1) Sharpness: Good
2) Comfort: Good
3) Value: Good
4) Availability: Good
5) Country of Origin: India
6) Passes “First Shave Test?: Yes
7) Longevity (# of shaves):
8) Notes: The first shave provided good smoothness and closeness very close to ideal. The blade seems to be of moderate sharpness, as it doesn’t fly across my face. That said, it was sufficiently sharp for me to get an excellent shave. While not as smooth as the very smoothest of the blade I’ve tried in this razor, it still allowed me to go over areas a few extra times without lathing my face again. Irritation was minimal, with only the characteristic raspberry on my neck that I always get from shaving. I did provide essentially ideal conditions for success on this shave, with lather aplenty and only a moderate amount of growth. We’ll have to see what the second shave brings. For the second shave with this blade, I went with a two pass shave, as it was the late afternoon of a Saturday, and I didn’t need world-eclipsing closeness. The blade aquitted itself well in this regard, leaving about the level of closeness that I have come to expect with a maintenance shave. No irritation here, nothing untoward. The final shave was back to the standard, and I found that the Super-Max blade again did just fine. I didn’t notice any real sense of edge dulling after three shaves, and so it appears to be a somewhat robust edge. All in all, the Super-Max Platinum blade proved to be a good middle-of-the-road blade. Not super sharp, not the final word in smoothness, but more than adequate in both metrics. I finished the final test shave with near-perfect closeness, and no negative irritation to report. Although it didn’t fly across the face like the sharpest of the blades, it got the job done. It may not have been as smooth as the Derby Extra, but it allowed me to go for a maximum closeness shave without chewing up my face. Certainly worth a look for those seeking a nice middle ground blade. I’m sure that, in their home market, the Super-Max blades have their share of devotees.

Shave Update, 12/4/15

Posted: December 4, 2015 in Shaving Articles, Uncategorized
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For the first time in a while, I dusted off my Escali badger brush for my shave. I was starting with the first test shave for the Trig blade in my AS-D2. I used the Proraso White preshave, following with the Palmolive Classic shave lotion. I don’t believe I’d used that combo before, certainly not with the Escali brush.

The Escali brush is softer and doesn’t grab soap from a hard puck as fast, but since this was a tube-based lotion, it was no problem. Perhaps I use a bit more Palmolive than I strictly need, but I always have more than enough thick, rich lather with it. It worked great with the badger brush, and I found that I was able to get ideal lather, much akin to yogurt in consistency. Between the pre-shave and the excellent slickness of the Palmolive soap, I set up the Trig blade to have its ideal chance to shave without incident.

Which it did. I would say that it was good, if not great, in terms of performance. Initial thoughts are that it perhaps isn’t quite as sharp as the Treet blade that I tested previously (both are made in Pakistan, which is why I make the comparison). Still, solid performance.

I wonder if there is a subtle change in my perceptions during these tests. As they go on, I get more comfortable with the peripheral equipment and improve my technique, thus giving successive blades a better chance to shine. At the same time, I suppose my “bar” gets raised higher in regard to comfort, closeness, ease of use, and so on. It’s harder to impress me at this point, especicially since I’ve tried several of the highest-regarded blades on the market already.

If you look at market reviews from those who purchase DE blades, it looks like the bulk of the reviewers who care to write in really like pretty much any blade they buy. This could be for a variety of reasons. For one, only a few blades I’ve tried have outright failed in terms of shaving. I’m not saying that they’d fail other people, but I just couldn’t get a decent shave with them.

I imagine, with modern production being what it is, there’s a good chance that most blades should be relatively consistent. I’m guessing that, in this day and age, getting a thin piece of metal pretty sharp is not the largest technical hurdle ever. Billions of dudes shave. Dudes have been shaving since antiquity. But I digress. Another reason that the good reviews seem to abound for most every blade is that, if you want to take enough time to write something, you either love the product, or hate it. Who writes a review about being kind of tepid about something they bought? Those people probably need to find a nice outdoor hobby. Also, it’s easier to write a glowing review than a scathing one. We’re taught as a society to feel a certain discomfort if we have to voice a negative opinon. (This, however, is something that some Internet Jerkfaces of Jerkitude have managed to unlearn, voicing only negative, destructive, and generally asinine opinions, all the time, about everything. You have my blessing to do bad things to these people, if you find them.) Wow. I digressed again. Sorry about that. Let’s see if I can get back on track.

Final thought about glowing reviews on ALL THE THINGS. Confirmation Bias. You can look it up. Basically, it’s a psychological response that causes us to accept or be prone to the acceptance of an idea that we want to believe going in. You see it all the time. People will like a thing if enough other people tell them that they’ll like it. Not everyone, but if you don’t encounter something with a critical eye, even strong minded people can fall prey to this. If you’ve purchased something, admitting that it’s not that great isn’t fun, easy, or psychologically satisfying. Because razor blades are not expensive, buyer’s remorse is unlikey to kick in. If it shaves your face and you’re not bleeding at the end, you’re probably going to be pretty happy with it. Final (no, really this time) thought: Often people will have far less than encyclopedic knowledge of all the other products that compete with the one they review. If you’ve only tasted Mr. Pibb, you’re likely to think that Mr. Pibb is the best soft drink in all the land. People who have been to a few soda fountains in their day may have a more informed opinion. (Note: I am not trying to make anyone who loves Mr. Pibb feel that they have anything to feel self conscious about. They do, but I’m not about to press the point in this forum.)

Am I immune to these downfalls? No. That’s why there is a formula to how I test products. I try to comment on all the products in the same way, test the products with a certain protocol, and take into account the same factors in each review. Perhaps you can take a small measure of assurance that I’m engaging in this mental fiddle-faddling about whether I’m being consistent. Hey. I’m trying. This is not Popular Science here. Just a weirdo risking his facial epidermis on a voluntary basis.

***

I continued on and finally finished the test of the Trig blade, though my day to day shave has been with the 39C Merkur. I have found that I can go against the grain beneath my chin with the 39C, if I’m rather circumspect about it. The two pass shave has continued to be my go-to for this blade.

The newest test blade is the Derby Extra. I won’t steal the thunder of the upcoming review, but suffice it to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the Derby. I hadn’t expected it to be a good match with the AS-D2, but I have thus far been proven to be a poor prognosticator.

Finally, I have to say that the Arko soap has to be about the highest yield soap in my collection. I shave and shave with it, always ending with well more lather than I need, and it appears that I’m not even wearing the puck down yet. It has to be the budget, no frills choice champion. While I think that the Proraso soap is a bit better in a few areas, the Arko’s price and awesome yield make it the clear penny-pincher’s choice. It provides great lather, and really has no downsides for me.