Dollar Tree TTO

I had to wait a little longer than most, but the new Super Speed clone has arrived arrived at the local Dollar Tree! It looked like the boxes were still in the aisle when I picked up a couple of them on Sept. 13, but honestly, I hadn't checked in at all since asking about them the week prior. The cashier had sounded secretive, suggesting that they might not get the same supplies as the Southwest at all. Like I was going to hoover up the entire shipment or something... okay, well, that does sound like something I would do. But I allowed the huge styptic pencils to go out of stock without purchasing more than 1... and I'm patiently waiting for the return of 3-in-1 lubricating lotion, without complaint. Give me some credit, lady!

First impressions, the thing is definitely better built than a Nanjie, but not by a whole lot. The center bar and end caps are integrated as a single cast piece. Thinking of that as a wide "H," I discerned that it was bent toward becoming an "A," which held up the door opening mechanism a bit. I gave it a bit of a squeeze in a handly "C" clamp, which is what guys who don't have a bench vise use for such problems.

The chrome looks more like silver paint, and it is already coming off the plastic turn knob. But they ground the casting lines off the pseudo end-caps, and the knurl pattern, though obviously executed in the same rough manner as the Nanjie, is much deeper. The same roughness of finish is evident in the safety bar etchings, but inside is quite pretty smooth . It doesn't smell like wet pennies yet, with the retaining ring apparently also plated/painted in chrome.

Overall, it strikes me as an updated Nanjie. Will the chrome-painted nubs that hold the doors attached rub off, causing it to explode like my first Nanjie did? I don't think so. The doors and baseplate are a little thicker. I think all the revisions are correct, aiming to improve performance while keeping cost low. Indeed, the package claims the "holder is free." It's the ultimate razor and blades scheme! Speaking of the blades: punk jewelry fans will appreciate the complete lack of marking. They just mocked one up in illustration on the box and wrapper: "Pacific"/"Stainless Blade."

The Shave

I sure got a good feel of the edge, with a full 2mm of blade reveal from the narrow doors. This was somewhat balanced by the wider, gently-sloping type of safety bar, but the blade was pretty flat, too. Safety was pushed right to the limit on my chin, first shave on the blade. I was using the blade flex as a shock absorber, but that's something I picked up from years on the Rimei. This is not something I'd want a complete beginner using. HOWEVER: There comes a time, fairly early in everyone's shaving career, when only total blade exposure will do. To break the habit of just riding a poorly pitched blade on the safety envelope, cleanly planing the stratum corneum is preferable to splitting it a million times imperceptibly.

I, however, am not at that stage. I will add a narrow, center-support shim and get that blade to curve back to what I hope will be Rimei-like geometry.

No good options

While my second shave went smoother, I saw weepers in the midline and neck. Skin Bracer might as well have been Absorbine, Jr. -- maybe you have to feel the burn to appreciate the cooling. It doesn't seem like I will be able to pull off everyday BBS, though I haven't yet tried my perfect blade. (I actually like the Pacific SS blade just fine.) The scenario in my mind is, total noob, sensitive skin, heard DE was better. One could still:

  • shave every 2-3 days (YouTube: check)
  • only shave WTG (as if any beginner will ever take that good advice, but yes, I suppose this could work as a beginner DE)
  • tell yourself that's just what shaving does to skin -- suck it up

And that's my real problem with the Pacific Free Handle. We could have had a true ambassador in the Dorco PL-602. The material and distribution are impressive, and many DE shavers will get a kick out of this, but I fear this will end as free advertising for disposables. The narrow doors really need a design correction.

Sterling Is No Tech

What a little follicle digger! For first impressions, I played the dumb consumer and just slapped in the provided 7 O'Clock (Black) Super Platinum. Side-by-side vs. the $1.50 Yingjili, also loaded with its provided blade, designated 2298+something in Chinese, super stainless, with a picture of a diamond. This shaved smoothly, so I'm choosing the hieroglyphic option, like I did with the Ming Shi blade, and calling it Diamond. That glided well above the skin, such that, even loosening for a direct ATG pass left dry touchups in the cheek. Not so with the Indian counterpart. CHOMP! Right to the skin on WTG, straight to the root ATG. Raised a couple of small bumps, and a healthy burn with Dollar Tree splash.

And I thought Rimei was the little biter among Tech clones! At least it prepared me. I can't imagine a beginner doing anything but a complete face peel with this setup... and I wouldn't put it past Gillette to have planned it that way, as a foil for the Guard disposable system razor in the Indian market.

Examining the razors in retrospect, one sees that the Yingjili has a wider safety bar, making all the difference. Both cheapos have less curvature in the top cap than the '66 travel Tech they seem to imitate. Overall, the quality of the Sterling is better, with no edge distortion, a thicker baseplate with sharp angles, and cleanly turned aluminum hardware on the plastic handle.

I'm not sure whether the open hole on the end, making it essentially tubular, was such a great idea. I also noticed that the Sterling screw was smaller in diameter, probably to protect the weaker nut material. Both handles will fit the vintage Tech, but the Yingjili doesn't engage the Sterling screw, whereas the Sterling handle feels like it's threaded wrong on the Yingjili screw. I'll give the nod to Yingjili's nickel-plated brass nut, poorly finished though it is. As I've previously written, that makes a good visual match for the slightly worn, vintage finish of the Tech.

I guess if you were gung-ho on aggression, and not particularly interested in Tech razors, this would be your one-and-done. A better modern representative of what Techs are all about is to be had from Baili, and that's probably what I'm going to order next, to replace the one I destroyed in my DEvette phase. That one has a blue handle, not my cup of tea, but I can always pawn that off separately. I was going to order their new, long TTO for my wife anyway.

The Rimei cutting head remains the top-quality, critic's choice in modern Tech clones, both for finish and technical capability, though providing a nice, chromed brass handle for it is up to you. However, it's likely to be a matter of personal preference. Like more recent razors with low-angle geometry, it just isn't possible to suit everyone without going adjustable.

Water Softening The Hard Way

I am beginning to receive shaving intelligence from my second obsession, brewing kombucha, in return for the acid-toner insight from shaving that fueled my interest in the tonic beverage initially. When drunk and applied topically, kombucha ameliorates all my little skin dings, by lightening pigmentation and exfoliating. I can actually feel it tightening up atrophic scars above and beyond the skin-shrinking I get from Asquith and Somerset Citrus and Ginger exfoliating soap.

Skin Food For Real?

Some Kombucha acids are not merely a "peel" in the cosmetic sense, but a connective tissue strengthener, like hyaluronic acid and glucosamine joint pills. I've experienced that effect directly in my knees, through consuming the beverage, and having taken the pills in the past. I know I've said otherwise about cosmetics, but I suspect this stuff might actually be feeding the skin when applied externally, in a way. Not really, but like the vitamin D shaving oil -- there's a biochemical pathway in the tissue already, and this one happens to be constructive of collagen.

Of course, I'm not a scientist, and I could be totally wrong. Inhibiting inflammation and promoting exfoliation are powerful enough interventions, and might be the only supports to the repair functions here. But it sure feels that way. At night, when I think of it, I've been soaking a cotton pad, putting it on my facial blems like Stridex on a zit, then taping the same pad to that hyperpigmented scar on my shin, which I gave to myself by putting pumpkin juice on a scab.

Marangoni Effect Revisited

There's a curious difference between freshly-brewed "nute" (super-sweet tea, the food of the kombucha culture) and nute reconstituted from refrigerated concentrate (as in southern style iced tea). Boiling removes gas from the liquid, and it doesn't come back right away. This happens because steam bubbles passing through the liquid receive other gasses dissolved in the liquid, and move them out, more readily than they can return through the cool surface boundary. It's about equilibrium interacting with the "colligative properties" of the liquid -- just like the Marangoni effect I suspect of mediating the irritation of my thin skin.

In kombucha, the refrigerated nute doesn't sink my pellicle ("mushroom, SCOBY") that floats on the surface of the brewing vessel, but fresh does. Surface tension stops the cellulose matrix and its contents in the first case, and lets it pass in the second. Only when CO2 has built up again, due to the fermentation action of the yeast in solution, will more fibers rise to the surface (like a Cap'n Crunch plastic submarine, propelled by tiny bubbles), and form a new mat. Sometimes the old mother will rise, too, after a couple days, if enough of its mass is populated by living organisms.

The pellicle is like the stratum corneum of a kombucha culture. There are a bunch of fools on the reddit forum telling people to throw it away at the start of every batch, because it's just dead garbage. But in a continuous brew, it creates the selective environment that allows carbonation and ethanol to remain concentrated in solution (enough to flavor it, not to get drunk), instead of evaporating. It helps keep oxygen out, so the yeast get to work sooner, and you don't have to wait three weeks. The importance obviously decreases when it sinks every time, so I guess that's where these clowns are coming from.

Like people with soft water have an easier time with lather, perhaps. I boiled some water in a pot before going to bed, and filled my sink with it in the morning to shave, after it had cooled. It was obviously still "hard" in the sense of containing lime, because I could see it clouding up the water! Traditionally, the boiling effect is explained as removing the "temporary hardness" of calcium hydrogencarbonate. (Chemistry: still my least favorite subject.) 

I think it might be less deep than that, though. I came back to the boundary effect through a brewers' post about degassing (actually, I think the brewer was a scientist -- let's not give brewers that much credit):

To see how my de-gassed, temporarily soft (?) water would perform, I used my most critical shaving kit: Williams, PUR-tech, and Mimi (RM2001), with the same well-worn Ming Shi Diamond blade. Skin condition was poor, following an ill-advised Weishi shave with no shim, so I was looking forward to a gentle shave. And, I got it! The hair didn't turn to jelly or anything, but it did seem relatively easy to cut. Like the keratin itself was made fragile, rather than the structure of the hair being inflated with something.

Not that I waited around for it to be waterlogged: I didn't want to push Williams to dryness. But it held up better than usual. I face lathered directly, and didn't need to pre-treat the skin with a preliminary emulsion. It was a thin layer on second pass, and just some crema to rub in on third, with my small (or classically normal-sized) brush, but that's all I needed. Not only did it not dissipate, it stayed noticeably slicker than usual, with not a single skip. I did my final rinsing with hard water, because they say that's what it's good for. (Also, I forgot to set aside some clean, preboiled water in a mug.)

The reward: unbroken skin. Just a little neck tingle with dilute Aqua Velva Musk. My skin did feel very dry and tight on drydown, albeit perfectly comfortable, so I went back and applied moisturizer.

I wonder if soft water is the key external condition that makes for a thick stratum corneum. It's pickle and jelly season, a good time to be boiling things in the evening, so I guess I'll keep it up for a week.

Sign From On High

"Shave comfortably, Man!"
I know I've got welding goggles around here someplace, but I made a pinhole viewer, just because we need another toy around here so desperately... and this is basically what we saw on Monday, August 21, 2017 (only, sharper in person). Having fun in these final days of summer, with heavenly approval, apparently.

The razor parts have aligned to set me up for another long run with a single razor blade, it seems. I missed a few hairs with the Ming Shi diamond blade in the Slim, yesterday, but shifted it over to the Tech for a surface-oriented shave, nothing but Williams, and I have to say, it's visually better. I can feel the hair tips, rubbing backward now, a couple hours later, but I would have called it BBS. Traction from the dulling blade made the Tech unusually efficient, while its new light plastic handle made high-velocity buffing a breeze.

Maybe I can have it all -- the classic comfort, optimal blade use, and three-pass closeness -- using some of the cheapest kit available!

Frankenrazor Face-off

In the bucket under the sink, a monster has spontaneously assembled: the Schmidt R10 cutting head on the overweight Baili BD-191 handle. They're just the spare parts of what I would currently consider the ideal beginner's razor, but they look great together.

(Aesthetic technique: match knurl pattern to guard.)

Anchor heads aren't my favorite. I have bad memories from early days, when I myself was persuaded by internet fora to buy a crooked piece of shit Maggard razor, instead of going to the antique store like I should have done. It's the new tradition, and reportedly, quality continues to improve. The R10 was the best of the type I could find, when I still cared. It went in the bucket when I found it relatively less amenable to my sliding technique.

What's making me resurrect it now? I still read as many "neck bump" posts as enthusiasm, from beginners. But I just had a damn fine shave with the Ming Shi Diamond in a Sedef shavette. I reason that, since I can handle that blade with no traction control (or much control of any kind), I should be able to handle it with the relatively poor traction control of a pressure-modulated DE razor. In so doing, I hope to better understand what, other than marketing and aesthetic appeal, inspires the fanboys.

My Champion

Instead of the Baili, which would also require the Diamond blade to compete, I'm going to make use of the less sharp Personna (U.S) blade currently circulating around the medicine cabinet, in a side-by-side shave. My own beginner razor, a Rimei, paired with a Razorock bulldog handle, represents my personal maximum weight, length, and blade flex. The aggressive limit of the "classic" paradigm... igm... igm... "Mimi!"


Mimi was stronger on first pass, but missed more on second, ATG, under the chin. Not so surprising, perhaps, given a relatively dull blade; but, being perfectly customized to my person, I was able to push it to a comparable result with extra touchups after the third pass. Meanwhile, however, the R10 was smoking ATG, and I didn't think I'd find anything to shave on third pass -- but I did. It was a great shave, easy BBS, and not eating nearly as much skin as the Ming Shi adjustable.

Decision: R10, by easier shaving and better postshave. What an upset!

XXX Formula Duro

With the blades switched, Mimi was amazing on first pass: efficient, comfortable, tugging just right. Both razors were less inclined to exfoliate, but the monster was perceptibly less comfortable. It only took about two seconds for me to shift to an auditory approach, because it was quite loud, even when not in close contact with the skin.

Ease of use was more equal on second pass, but things reversed quite dramatically on third, with Mimi disinclined to cut any further. Any other day, it would have been a two-pass shave. But the modern Prometheus turned in a third pass just as loud and apparently effective as the preceding two. So I pushed her again, anticipating a smell of blood which never came. It was detail-oriented work, taking my moustache and jawline down to the roots, but not too dangerous, with the blade so well suited.

Thus, Mimi fought to a draw, because while both shaves were slightly more comfortable than yesterday, and the heavier razor demonstrated superior ease of use, specifically facilitating hair extraction mechanically, the more technical shave gave a longer-lasting result -- a difference only apparent after six hours. Mimi delivered a 10-hour BBS, which I believe is my personal limit.

I find playing barber entertaining, myself; today I got to use my "pushing skin toward the blade" move, on that perfectly N-S spot along the jawline, which is always fun. Or, like I said, I could have enjoyed a two-pass shave. But I'm not going to discount the value of an easy BBS, either. The statement of luxury made by the sculptural Baili handle doesn't seem so extreme, when backed up by that kind of shave.

Decisions, Decisions

Far from narrowing the field to a single razor, I find my discovery of the Ming Shi blade leaves me with even more, tough choices. In lathering, too, I'm slipping from palm lathering and prepping the skin with what sticks to my hand, to just whipping up an overwhelming mass of lather with larger brushes. Could I become the kind of shaver I normally enjoy making fun of?

$1.50 Razor Review

For so small an investment, I could not deny the insistence of certain redditors that the Yingjili 8306L Gillette Sterling knockoff was a great shaver and beginner's choice. I ordered late, but now join the chorus.

At first, I was disappointed that, despite the airbrushing in the source advertising, mine was indeed stamped "YINGJILI" on the top cap, similar to the "Gillette" imprint on late Techs. I've pooh-poohed this cutting head before, I think, in the form of the Yingjili aluminum-handled Tech clone. Again I could immediately spot the wavy blade, a "V" deformation inverse to a high point on the baseplate, caused by the diamond stamp. (That original razor ended up as a DE-vette, and eventually the head went into the trash, while the handle serves my Travel Tech.)


I considered this first impression so inauspicious, that I reverted to a Personna blue and a special preshave prep: fiber-loading with flaxseed drink before an oatmeal breakfast; and Shave Secret to meet the fiber and swell up my hair with gel, facilitated by a hot potassium bicarbonate soak and wipe. Cold Williams lather took up the residual oil, with my small PUR-tech brush looking just slightly too classy for the classic setup. The brush has been growing on me; my unbranded white cashmere has been sent to the travel bag for specific application with small lumps of soap. Synthetic brushes hardly "break in," but the tiny degree to which the fibers splay more easily makes a difference.

That shave was so good, it prompted an identity crisis of sorts. It was very much a revisitation of the "perfect shaves" documented in my post archives, the best representation of how I typically shaved until very recently, when I turned to "everyday BBS." The hair was simply wiped off my face, as in shaving fairy tales. The clone was as screaming fast as my real Tech, allowing easy, long strokes. And I actually thought I had the BBS, until an hour or two had passed, and a comfortable velvet arose.

Suddenly I perceived that my "classic" technique really formed around that blade. It's not that the Ming Shi I prefer now is any more perfect; it just does something different. I didn't need much aftercare with the Personna -- actually made a balm with Skin Bracer, one of my harshest aftershaves. Having a velvety shave is like having a beard, without the look or the heat. I couldn't stop stroking it.


But, to know this razor better, I loaded a fresh Ming Shi and went "neotraditional" for its second outing. Big honking BC Plissoft brush and Fresco Verde from Italian Barber, no special preshave, other than a hot bowl lather. I was surprised to find less edge distortion just from the blade change; I always thought Personna was a battle tank. I then loosened the handle a little bit for efficiency, and the distortion all but vanished. There was a lot of spring force holding the blade still, and with the light components, no chance of coming loose like the heavier Baili razors.

Yep, the razor is completely capable. The lightness and handle length was a bit dangerous feeling in the thick whisker areas under my chin; on the other hand, I can't remember a more effective ATG stroke on my moustache. I lost some stratum corneum, but much more hair -- no shadows. I nursed my tender face with alum and cocoa butter, at about the same time the velvet appeared in the prior shave.


Just based on the feel of the tool in use, though, I'd say the classic shaving style is more natural. It actually took me further in that direction than I had ever been, in a way, because the handle length doesn't allow my typical grip. Instead, I found myself sweeping the razor in a three-finger grip from the side of the handle. It felt like an artist's paintbrush, and I liked myself as the artist. But when it came to applying brute force, the stroke was not as well controlled as with a heavier, short razor. Furthermore, without the real gap adjustability, that is so important for a good low-angle shave, you're really asking for it if you go for BBS. (A criticism that applies to all Tech designs.)

Now I want all the razors of this type, and will probably end up paying more than I would have for a really nice razor. Rapira and Gillette both make them. This handle will definitely get tried with my Travel Tech in the meantime.

Great beginner razor? Absolutely!

Shim Your Weishi

This is a retraction of sorts, though I can't cite the error: I didn't think the Weishi could be effectively shimmed. It probably had to do with the type of shim I made -- narrow, as seen in the photo with a Feather brand, on the left. That may have been fairly effective with Tech and anchor-style 3-piece razors, which I got my start with, because they support the blade near center. It's not as easy to cut along the very edge, and I may have seen some wavy blade with initial, poorly-executed attempts.

But clearly, I have to revisit all of my less than ideal razors with the shims. Hell, maybe even the Slim! Because the narrow shim and the wide shim differ in how they affect the emergent angle of the edge, depending on how the top cap contacts the baseplate or analogous part. I've even heard of people putting the shims on the top side of the blade, perhaps for the purpose of altering that contact.

Anyway, I put one of the wide shims that I made for Chaoying under the same Ming Shi blade, and the Weishi became instantly efficient, and fully capable of BBS. Whereas, the narrow shim just made a rougher shave, and still couldn't reach into my follicles. This was a left-side, right side comparison; luckily, the rough side wasn't so rough that I couldn't finish it with the better shim.

So. If you're unwilling to give the internet your bank information, are averse to the vintage razor market, or you just don't have the moolah or real estate for more razors; you can still enjoy a custom-tailored shave. At least, it's not exactly like running around with pins in your suit. There weren't always adjustables, or a million models of razors available. Shims are fairly traditional.

I hereby retract all criticism of the Weishi. It's good to start learning to shave with complete safety against cuts, and in the end, it is a fully capable razor. The only fuss about it was having to hold the blade down by the ends, as I screwed the doors shut. Because of the bow in my shim, the razor was raised to where the doors could impact the edge.

One Slim Better Than Two Shims

Taking advantage of the Baili BD-191 cutting head's ability to be adjusted in two ways simultaneously -- the gap via shim, the angle via handle loosening -- I found myself reverting to my adjustable ways. The rougher shave provided by one shim with some handle loosening was good for WTG, but two shims with no handle loosening made the finishing smoother.

The feel of the cutting was reminiscent of the "efficient" low angle razors, but I found I had to apply high-velocity strokes to actually take down the hair. I wasn't expecting that. As a fighter, Chaoying was definitely wobbling. I lost track of how many shims were in there for one shave, and took some battle damage, myself.  Roughness nigh bumpiness on the contralateral jaw corner.

Then the Slim came forward and just laid waste. I didn't have to use progressive settings with each pass -- set to "5," in light of my condition, it easily bested the contender.

My theory of three-piece superiority was incorrect. If you have to raise the edge for the exposure that lends efficiency, the traction control provided by the safety bar is lost. Beyond the safety value, a hair extraction function is lost.

I still love the Baili, and think it's the best beginner razor out there. The way it starts on the safe side, like the Merkur 41C, transitions to a super learning tool for tug-and-cut method with shims, and with skill, is fully capable.

But if you haven't had it all together, at the same time -- the safety, the efficiency, and the ease -- you haven't had the best that DE has to offer. And that, my friends, is exactly what the Gillette Adjustable is.

Zeroing In

Good news for the suckers who bought a Viking's Blade "Godfather": you might have broke even by saving the cost of a Slim adjustable. (The more savvy first-time razor buyers who found the Razorock DE1, with a less dildo-ey handle, or the original Baili BD-176, can still lord it over you, unfortunately.) The battle of vintage vs. new has come to a sudden head in my medicine cabinet, and it looks like it's going to be a real fight!

The Undisputed Champion

The Slim long ago unseated a great 3-piece from its place in the cabinet by virtue of adjustability. Not in the "aggressive" direction, but in the mild -- reducing gap made unsafe blades workable, and worn blades perform to their maximum potential. I further used it to increase the edges' reach with successive passes. That's like starting WTG with a gentle TTO, aimed relatively more directly at the skin, and ending with an idealized, Tech-like capability to reach the roots without stabbing. I think it's more than fair to say that the Slim is the greatest razor of all time. Especially considering its original price, historically -- it was, and is, the ultimate legacy of King Camp Gillette's idealism.

The Underdog Contender

And yet, something of a clap-trappy impression is left by its mechanism. The touchy way it must be opened before adjusting, little rattling noises. The Tech is a more elegant razor, and was arguably more accessible to the common man because of its even lower cost. The same attraction brought me to the Rimei RM2001 originally, and today, the Razorock DE1 is an even better option. Where the Tech and the Rimei give the edge a good amount of exposure by default, the DE1 does not, instead relying on the old-style handle loosening adjustment. But that doesn't mean the gap can't be adjusted independently, either, because it can be shimmed.

The Equalizer

The narrow shim I was able to dig up, from earlier times in my technical development, was not suitable to the smooth curve of Chaoying's baseplate, the way it would have been to other razors with a raised portion or ridges in the center. The curve was exaggerated, and when compensated for with greater loosening, flattened the blade to the point where shaving was uncomfortable.

I tried to figure out some slick way to remove only the edge from a razor blade, but manual grinding on a sharpening stone wasn't working rapidly enough, and my blade shattered before I could work anything out with pliers and scoring, just from the teeth of the pliers. So I didn't have anything better to use before lathering up for the next shave, and was like, "Oh, shit" -- off to the kitchen, to hurriedly snip the edges off a blade using a pair of those toothy, penny-cutting scissors.

Surprisingly, that worked just fine. Although the non-edge was now curled and rough, it extended beyond the baseplate, and did not result in any wavy blade. Which I suppose also speaks to the vise-like grip of that cutting head.

Round 2

Slim takes it by a score of 10-9, because I had a good bit of burn with my splash. But the contender is showing some good stuff. Where the narrow shim had given a shiny shave (like other low-angle shavers, Ming Shi 2000S and Dorco PL-602), the wide shim preserved my skin texture. Maybe even improved it, as evidenced by the burn -- hey, a guy can hope!

The smoothness in operation was not as notable as those other mentioned razors, and certainly not the flight over skin that the Tech gives, with its relative inefficiency -- but a good balance of tug-and-cut and not missing any hair. I think that in time, I could shave off a third pass with this, and get my BBS in two. Overall, I could almost be persuaded that I was supposed to have this amount of burn with my aftershave, because it felt natural.

One Razor?

Let's just assume, for a moment, that my Ming Shi Diamond blades are the ultimate. My first minimalist milestone has been achieved. I don't have to try any more blades -- I'm done.

I'm not quite there with soap. Not that there will ever be just one puck, but I envision a small variety of "fresh" soaps and creams, with a seasonal spin. It's not going to be associated with or proportional to my perfume collection, in other words; I have faced that monster. Aftershaves, on the other hand, are loosely associated with soaps, and serve as EdT on days I'm not willing to wear any (which is to say, most days). Aqua Velva Musk goes the furthest in that direction, following Palmolive Classic, for example. Brut follows the hard boiled Razorock sandalwood, Dollar Tree follows the muskier AOS Sandalwood, Lime Sec follows Tabac, Duru Limon follows Fresco Verde. Some splashes are better at soothing the skin than others; the factors in making a choice seem hopelessly multiplied. I think I can at least stop buying more. The brush situation may be similarly tied to the whims of my skin.

But a new target in clutter reduction has risen on the horizon. Having expanded my hardware collection recently has ironically turned my attention to perhaps the least obtainable goal of the minimalist: a single DE razor. And I am thinking just as I did at the very beginning: a three-piece ought to do it.

What I learned from the Ming Shi 2000S, and the Dorco PL-602, I had already some inkling of with the Slim: gap adjustment is more important, the lower the natural pitch angle of the razor is. The aim of modern fixed razors that wouldn't cut it for me, with their unreasonable demands on the nature of my skin and hair, was finally achieved. I got that taste of a low angle and high exposure, without the usual penalties of nicks, burns, or residual velvet.

With the Slim, I had used the adjustment to compliment technique, and accommodate ill-suited blades, because I can shave with the non-adjustable counterpart (a Tech) just fine. With these latest razors, it was simply accommodating the poorly suited geometry of the hardware itself. The fixed counterpart of the PL-602 is a BiC. The fixed counterpart of the Futur is an anchor-style razor. My skin was fed into the breech in ideal fashion, yielding smooth shaves, but fed nonetheless. Visible, shiny, but oddly comfortable exfoliation resulted.

"Chaoying" Baili BD191, with a Schmidt R10 handle is my most beautiful razor. It occurs to me that where I have customarily used the handle-loosening angle adjustment to get some skin contact, I have never tried a shim. Unlike the Tech, which is like a Slim turned to 8 or 9, Chaoying starts with negative exposure and greater blade curvature. This may be concealing some hidden, useful element of efficiency (which the Tech decidedly lacks). Today, I just did the usual adjustment with the Dorco blade that came with the PL-602, and it was handled more easily than in the Super Speed.

Great Progression: Ming Shi Diamond

The Ming Shi 2000S (Futur clone) seems to require a fairly fresh blade to operate, at its low, low natural angle of attack. The supplied blade seemed up to the demand -- despite the initial weeper and over-exfoliation -- for a few shaves. And I guess that's what it takes for someone like me to experience no tugging. But once that performance was over, I put the blade through its paces.

Next down the ladder was the equally new and nearly as exfoliating Dorco PL-602 disposable. I've come to the belief that it's just the top cap made of ABS, and the rest a cheaper polystyrene, not that that's a huge distinction. It works well, the way an aluminum handle works with a plated zamac screw, but aluminum on aluminum might bind and strip. An evil kind of genius that meets the market where it's at, because let's face it, everybody IRL is shaving with disposables. That rock solid screw mechanism gives a gap adjustment allowing the close shave I am accustomed to -- and which BiC cannot supply. But it's only a couple more shaves after the 2000S before the blade nosedives into my skin. I could ride it the full month like a BiC Sensitive, but it wouldn't be a close shave.

Moving the blade to "Stella," Baili BD-177, was much too extreme. I couldn't feel the blade at all WTG! (My Tabac might have been a little dry.) So I tried the Rimei, which was fine for a couple more shaves, but notably more injurious to the skin than any of the other razors when it reached a perceptible limit. I must have used the Super Speed then, but honestly, I can't remember... such an underrated workhorse!

The blade ended up in my Slim, the ultimate dull blade milker. Set to "5," it's about 60% as aggressive as a Tech -- and that's pretty damn mild, which is what you need to keep a dull edge from diving into your face. I got through the better part of a week with a relatively shallow BBS. You know what the deal killer was? Sharp stubble. I got perfectly even stubble at bedtime, but it got sharper as the blade exceeded the bounds of the Slim's geometry.

Finally, today I gave the Weishi a shot. I guess I can't write off that damn razor, after all. Another nice shave, with a lot of scrubbing, but not quite BBS.

And that's where the story ends, because it's got to be BBS everyday, now. The Ming Shi blade was smooth in every razor from extremely low to extremely steep natural angles, high edge exposure to low. The Ming Shi 2000S and Weishi razors aren't even razors I would normally use. Got to get me some more of these! They're labelled MP-036 "Super White," and a diamond is pictured, so we'll just translate that to "Diamond." Good news for DE shaving, to see China putting forth such good product.

Brushes Getting Out of Hand

No way will I ever be able to sell my few remaining PUR-tech, classic-style synthetic shaving brushes at a profit, in this world full of giant $10 "Plissofts," like the one pictured below on the far right. (I couldn't even get that good a deal to begin with.) So, with an arbitrary clearance reduction, I guess I can finally afford to try one myself. It's clearly more firm, with thicker fibers than the newer synthetics, but just as fine at the tips. Perhaps it can help me avoid rubbing lather in with my fingers. At least interesting enough to justify expanding my lineup, second from right in the picture below:

~$80 in brushes (and I'm not proud)

Meanwhile, a reddit tip xeems to have decisively saved the Bestshave No. 6 (third brush). Soaking for three days in plain water unlocked the hair near the knot somehow, which was apparently the stink's refuge before fouling my lather. After one more wash with dish soap, followed by letting shaving soap dry in the knot, the rubber tires were undetectable. This soaking procedure is said to help against "lather eating," also. I see the wood handle was waterlogged near the knot, too, so I guess I might have tried something a little different there. Indeed, I'm pretty sure the consensus I read (red flag, right there) is that the knot itself must NEVER be waterlogged, lest the glue holes be expanded like a pothole.

So of course, I gave the Omega 10049 (leftmost) and Ever-Ready 250D (center) the same treatment. The former is new, the latter old, but never broken in -- I guess it doesn't really belong in the picture, except I find it beautiful; and who knows? Like the PUR-tech, it might hold the key to lather penetration. It started looking usable when I treated all the boars to the chemical approach recently. My grandfather's brush stub, used mainly on his moustache, is at least as stiff.

I didn't think the Semogue 620 had much fight left in it, such a poofy thing. I wasn't thinking about lather eating, though, and I guess it will be good to have one subject for comparison.

The Shaving Liberation Army Wants You, Dorco PL-602

What the --? How could anything surprise me anymore? Really!

I know what I don't know; I feel the lack of safety razor R&D in my bones. I've traced my pain back to the poison of corporate betrayal in my own lifetime. Like a four-year-old standing in the debris field of a terrorist-downed jet, I could tell roughly what happened, the pieces are all there. But I had never seen the plane in flight, until now.

The Dorco PL-602 looks like a piece of crap on video, and Google lets you know it's worth about $0.99 on the West Coast. Sure, I'd buy that for a dollar -- two DE blades included -- but shipping jacks it to 2 for $7 on ebay. That ain't right! But, since Uncle Ding had already screwed me on a Futur clone deal that was too good to be true, I had refund money to burn. Leisureguy hooked me up with a link to this new razor like an Uncle Ham, on his blog. He's not selling anything himself, though -- except many other razors, apparently.

So, will I be garage-selling my DE collection? Not yet. I'm already way impressed, though.

Hybrid Bred Right

It seems DE and disposable aren't mutually exclusive, as P&G would have us think, because they've clearly gotten together at Dorco, spawning the PL-602. It's made of that cheap, hard plastic that goes white when stressed or chipped -- ABS, I guess -- allowing fine details. There are fins at the blade corners sculpted into both the top cap and the guard, as well as hair-raking fins on the latter, ahead of the blade. It's nice and thick plastic, though, ironically giving it the (cheap) look of softer polypropylene in places, and a more polished look on the top cap.

It's hard to say exactly which detail, probably not feasible with cast metal, leads to the unique shaving character. Having just used the Ming Shi 2000S, I'm inclined to think the top cap has the greater effect. The normal round curve has been ground away, sloping steeply down to the edge, exposing an extra-low angle of pitch except at the corners. It strikes low enough on the hair to miss no stubs, without the excess traction of extra blades (in a modern disposable) or a twist of the single blade (in a slant DE). It also misses the skin pretty cleanly. Fins could obviously be contributing, there, raising the entire breech of the razor off the skin similarly to the plastic frame of a cartridge.

I hesitate to apply the term "efficient" (yet), because it took four passes to reach DFS. Almost BBS, I should say, because that is what I was aiming for, but I didn't dig far enough into one of my cheeks. Alum found a couple over-exfoliated spots, too. A little bit too much of the cartridge nature shines through, in the natural configuration, forcing pressure. I'm reserving final judgment until after a less safe shave. I plan to raise the edge to flush with the fins, like I do with Stella, if that's possible.

This already works quite a lot better than a Bic, though, and just a bit better than my favorite cartridge (if one can say such a thing), Supermax Swift 3. I ask you, the consumer: is paying three and a half times too much on ebay the best expression of political will? Because I can just as easily see this coming to Wal-mart at $2.50.

Opening Her Up

Using the notch between top cap and safety razor as a gauge, I loosened the blade to what I reckoned was zero exposure. (The side rails remain unreachable, so that's gonna be hard for anyone to check.) Against the notch, the edge looked about halfway up, whether loose or tight. If its angle changes, it is very slight; I see more extension. Not as cool as the Baili razors, perhaps, but much more securely fixed at the chosen gap/exposure by the long plastic screw mechanism.

Stubble tolerance is a subjective thing. The previous, "planing mode" shave wouldn't have made it 9 to 5 for me. Though the initial smoothness was impressive, I had stubble again around lunchtime. In "tug-and-cut" mode, I got a solid BBS and a perfectly even, 8- to 10-hour shave. BUT: I found myself doing dry pickups again. More stubs were missed ATG it seemed, this way. No other technical change was required between the two geometric configurations. Or so it seemed to me, an experienced DE user. A super-safe, yet efficient travel razor, with respect to both wallet and face, the PL-602 makes a good looking set, even, with a plastic, synthetic brush and a lump of Arko.

For the cartridge user, the Dorco PL-602 is a unique opportunity to dip a toe into DE shaving, requiring no assistance whatsoever. Nor could any cartridge-conforming fireman at the station, student in the dorm, or trucker at the truck stop make fun of one's endeavor to achieve a better shave, 'cause it looks like a humble disposable. Which it really is, in the same vein as the aforementioned Supermax system, a throwaway handle with replaceable blades.

But I'm sure no one will throw this away, even when the included blades run out. Much more likely will be an order of real shaving soap, some blades, and a brush. And a couple more for the buddies.

Classic Take on Modern Gear

Father's Day "gifts" (selected by myself, from Italian Barber, on behalf of the kids) met and exceeded as I knew they would, but in ways unpredictable enough to keep it interesting for me.

The Razor

More doubt clouded the unveiling of the Ming Shi 3000S than the soap and brush. I wished the modern razor to bring some progressive value to my personal routine, without corrupting my classic technique. The Torsionshobel, for example, provided an easy alternative to careful angle selection, without compromising my ability to slide.

This razor was not immediately successful, the included Ming Shi blade cutting into my chin on setting "3" (Just below median: there are 12 settings, 0.5 to 6, in 0.5 increments.) The lifter was fully seated against the razor body at the lowest setting, so I knew it was in good assembly; also noted, the asymmetry of the top cap design, allowing me to determine the "best" orientation for even blade exposure. But I may have been late noticing a problem with on-the-fly adjustments: as with the Slim, the blade can go off kilter vertically, so it's best to open first.

Not found: any quality problem, with the retaining springs convincingly crimped in their place; nor any hazard involved with the opening. I always load my blade onto the downturned top cap, which rests on a cloth. So this design works perfectly for me, saving the hassle of screwing on a handle while manually compressing the cutting head. Click -- done! The metal of the razor is obviously soft, with little dinged edges here and there, but the fit and finish are convincingly good.

I took some immediate joy in the shave, too, despite knowing well in advance that high blade exposure doesn't suit my skin. Incredibly smooth, not stabby; efficient, and it sings. It did take too much skin in three passes, leaving me shiny. Yet the BBS was legit, a 12-hour shave at least; and to be fair, it was my choice to skip astringent aftershave.

Next morning, I was at it again, this time taking advantage of the very anchor-like pressure modulation to forego progressive adjustments, controlling traction manually. Set it and forget it, I say, choosing the lowest setting that will reach the root, 2.5 in my case. That might make the adjustment mechanism seem like an unnecessary encumbrance, but remember, different blades do pull differently. Indeed, I won't know how to characterize the Ming Shi blade, until it meets the fixed reference of a familiar razor.

But I already had the razor dialed in after one use, easily sliding to the third pass, and hitting the roots with confidence. Nothing else shaves so deeply, so effortlessly. I can appreciate the straight razor comparisons now. If this razor is a contender for me, with my tug-and-cut bias, it's an absolute must-buy for any direct-stroking nerd.

The Soap

XXX LE Formula Duro is all about the fragrance, which compares to Tabac and English Leather, without choking on cloudy notes of powder or tobacco when sniffing the puck. These are replaced with fresh lemon and flowers, when lathering. I still like PdP No. 63 for modern pungency, but this is the epitome of classic, to my nose. Just beautiful.

The lather lacks the Tabac magic cushioning, but on the other hand, has no problem holding its wetness. Maybe it was my new brush, but I felt the soap took longer to dissolve completely after loading. Second pass brought thicker lather, and third needed a dip. When I pushed the remaining lather to see just how much water it could take, it could take a lot without collapsing, but the protection faded long before that, like Kiss My Face cream. So, it seems I was just dealing with an unaccustomed, good lot of glycerin, here. But there was no hint of irritation.

I would never think of replacing my English Leather cologne with Tabac, but XXX is testing my minimalist resolve. Luckily, for now at least, one reviewer on the IB site said the soap smells better than the juice.

The Brush

Instant gratification. The softness, the acrylic reflections, and the kingly size of the "black and clear" synthetic lent most of the presentation value to my holiday. In the lathering bowl, the pawn-piece handle wasn't prone to clinking, even though the knot isn't nearly as tall as the new Omega. And I had enough lather left over to do some pit cleaning. Yes, I do believe this modern size standard is better than the true classics, which were geared more for one pass shaving (though it isn't too hard to push beyond the natural capacity, using any lathering surface.)

Having a vintage black-and-clear Ever-Ready 250D, as well as the fancy, modern Semogue 620 to compare, I could see important differences. The older, seemingly more authentic "black" is just painted inside the knot cup, hiding the glue that holds it together; whereas this "black" was in the fashion of the artisans' dyed acrylic, actually making up the entire top portion of the handle material. Quality-wise, that's a wash: the old way shows bubbles, this way shows a blem at the interface, a piece of black intruding at the center.

I follow artisan brush makers' posts, and have always found the clear acrylic material beautiful in its own right, for example, in screwdrivers and dice. So I have mixed feelings about the "homage" treatment, when the actual tradition is still alive. To resolve this, I googled to find that Semogue seems to have used the same approach with their new synthetic. I guess it's settled, then.

Summer Oily Skin, Solved

Vermont is a green and humid place in summer, which is very easy to forget over the winter. My thin skin seems to need extra support from my shaving products against this dynamic atmosphere. I figured out that in the winter, dry soaps coordinated best with my natural oil production, and I also knew that oil cleansing could relax and tighten sebum-swollen summer skin.

Working moisturizing shaving soaps and creams into my summer routine is logically expected, but has been problematic in practice. Oil is the local currency of exchange in my skin; you can't just walk in, turn tables and declare glycerin the new ruler. Irritation and a sticky flood of oil swept me away from soaps I would otherwise love to be using: Kiss My Face and Stirling.

I think I may have just found the key to the camel, though, in the form of good old alum. Taking my cue from a forum comment, I tried pairing alum with balm (3-in-1 moisturizer) instead of the usual chaser, alcohol splash. The adsorbent salt seemed to make my stratum corneum, usually closed to aqueous media, function in the normal, spongy way. Tacky, poorly textured skin was smoothed and dried.

And now, for the past couple days, I have found that I can safely use my lump of Stirling Coconut, hardened to a triple-milled-like state by months of neglect in an open dish. I'm making lumps of all ring remnants, now, so I can load my brush in the same palm used to subsequently work the lather up. It's a very casual form of lathering, with a bit more dripping waste than my careful, paint cup method, but it does feel like the most natural meeting of the tool with the medium.

Voskhod Nails It

ZZZZZZIPP! The perfect stroke against the grain: keen traction to reach the sweet spot right above the root of the hair, sharpness to make the cut at a safely low angle, smoothness to forgive user error. Voskhod after less than a week of shaves (I'm not actually counting, and have been keeping an odd schedule). I snuck up on this Super Speed shave with a couple light shaves in the torsionshobel, and found I had enough skin to shave 3 times in 24 hours. So, I went for the BBS, and made it.

It doesn't seem that the edge is being worn back into the first bevel, like my face did to the Shark. I see just a little band of glint at the edge, then the wide, dull, coated ground portion. So I haven't broken any Excalibur threshold, here. The blade has merely been shown to be useful through its factory-designed range of wear.

First pass was the scariest, displacing skin forward on my chin and buttresses before the cut. I can't imagine that being much of a technical barrier, though. So, who knows how far this blade can go?

Voskhod Very Nice

Great success! :-) The BBS streak is over, but this may be just the graceful exit I was looking for. Consistent with other sharp blades right out of the gate, but noticeably better cutting. Smoother against skin on second use, it seems I've worn off enough of the teflon coating to truly keep a low angle and not miss any hair. But that efficiency means it doesn't want to slide down to root level at all.

Good! A little breathing room for my continuing technical improvement. I got a hundred of 'em, so even I should be able to learn something new.

My pre-Father's Day selections from the Italian Barber order were all perfect! Loving the new Omega 10049 ("Pro 49"). I've translated "professional" to mean, ideally suited to bowl lathering, with its lightweight handle disinclined to tipping the brush out, the concavity mating neatly with the rim of my 4" bowl. All my soaps would be covering their asses, if they had hands, because by the time it's broken in, I think it's going to take four passes' worth every time. It's already perfectly usable and soft on my face, though. Some sort of pretreatment was obviously done. And I already see the benefit of the boar bristle hydrating the lather with what would be lost from evaporation in the scuttle. The final, squeezed out lather is a bit stiffer, but definitely hydrated to the "crema" state.

At least, with the one soap I have tried, my new "Fresco Verde." I was aiming for an Arko replacement with XXX duro formula, but I think I already got it here. If Williams smells like hand soap, and Arko smells like floor cleaner, Fresco Verde is the smell of laundry detergent -- and I think I've already intimated how I feel about that. (Purrrr...) Maybe just a bit more aromatic/surface-cleaner like. But in the same line of nose development, definitely. Nothing could be more appropriate for a musty new boar brush.

Three birds, one stone -- and it hasn't hit the ground yet! Italian Barber really delivers the goods.

Supersize Me

I'm focused on shopping, not selling, this Father's Day, with the biggest order of my life on the way from Italian Barber. It was hard work for me to make free shipping, but I've never been immune to communicable acquisition disorders, despite my good advice to others. Let us pause, for a review of the competing theories.


Skill appreciates minimal product
Marketing a mix of revolution and fraud
Soap < $5
Aftershave < $6
Razor $5 to $30
Made in China
Cartridges: BOO!
Canned Cream: Pooh-pooh


Purchases afford minimal effort
Social media strategy: charity and intolerance
Soap > $10
Aftershave > $12
Razor $30 to $200
Imported from England
Cartridges: Don't ask, don't tell
Canned Cream: You go to HELL!

Capitalism Rules

As dishonorable as individual marketers can be, the free market reliably provides escape from the ugliness of ideology. I'm beginning to understand how the great ones straddle the line. (Tip of the hat, Joseph and Michael.)

The Futur clone was an obviously envy-driven buy, along with the acrylic "Razorock BC Silvertip Plissoft" brush. I guess I can tell myself I needed a larger brush with some plausibility, and point to my other black-and-clear acrylic brushes to defend my style preference. But it's obvious from the reviews that I'm paying $5 extra for being late to the party, and that razor is a classic case of keeping up with the Joneses.

More stoically, I ordered a classic black Omega 49 to replace my rubber-smelling No. 6; I hope it's nice and stiff. I did my homework to fill the citrus-shaped hole in my soap collection with XXX Duro, and continue blade exploration with Voskhod. More soap from the Sensitive line, in a Fresco Verde scent, was a no brainer.

Prioritizing Postshave

A forum request reminded me of my long-forgotten plan to make a single YouTube video, demonstrating my modern interpretations of the Gillette slide, Williams lathering -- probably not the cruder points of basin washing. It occurred to me that I could skip the lighting arrangements by going outdoors, taking advantage of the Memorial Day blooms for atmosphere.

And, this morning, that my skin texture has been somewhat degraded lately. I'm good enough for local display, but is this really what I would want immortalized on video, for all time? I'd be tempted to blame the SS-class blades that I'm still burning through -- a Cloud even struck blood on my moustache the other day. The last 5% of my performance grade might well be characterized as identical to the product selection challenges faced by a relatively insensitive, soft bearded shaver! Would my beard even be visible? Could I be mistaken for an enthusiastic youth?

Probably not. :) And I did think of a good visual demonstration for tension vectors. I'm finishing my shave with a Noxzema (cold cream) cleanse to deal with the self-consciousness. But ultimately, I think I will have to decide exactly how deep I want to shave on a daily basis.

Not Incommensurable

Classic shaving met neotraditional shaving on reddit, the past couple months, and I'd like to think it was mutually beneficial, unlike my time as a novice at Now that I've gone to the trouble of mastering DE shaving, that is... which, ironically, was only possible through patent disregard of most of the information available on the internet. I found the current generation of struggling shavers quite receptive, and tried to narrow it down for them similarly.

The trolls were utterly the same, incapable of development; but I think it's fair to say they aren't fooling many people into thinking that cartridges shave as well as a straight or safety razor. "The truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed."

The gem in the dialogue for me, this time around, was this interaction with /u/CAMEL_HUMPer. Doesn't there seem to be something fishy about the way he drew me out? I know a guy who lives on Camel's Hump -- a central Vermont landmark mountain, featured on our state quarter -- who once tried to help me with my shaving. Perhaps he is helping me still; for suddenly, I found myself translating the sliding stroke paradigm into "pressure and angle" terms. I wouldn't have thought it possible!

Sliding lowers the threshold of angle and pressure at which the cut is initiated. Less pressure toward the skin, lower angle: less skin damage.

Everything I write is gold, of course. My prose rose to apothegm quality when inspired by one of a few online acquaintances I found hanging out there, /u/FrugalShave:

The knowledge is culturally extinct. There is no Gungan city... just a lot of Jar Jars.

Waning Of The Weishi

Another reject from the bucket under my sink, Weishi 9306-H, received the broken-in Personna blade for a face-off with the Super Speed clone I selected for my doomed flea market efforts, Yingjili 8206-M. Actually, the comparison was an afterthought; I just wanted to know how my new technical prowess would reflect on the much too mild Weishi. So the Weishi got fancy IB soap, while the Yingjili got Williams, next day.

You don't want to be going for BBS with a Weishi. It left extra length on every reduction pass, and had to be pushed hard to reach the sweet spot right above the hair root, resulting in a cartridge-like burn (but a much closer shave, at least, for having the freedom to select the correct cutting angle). With better options coming from the same factory in China, and already taking its place in sets like the Dorco Prime, it is high time for the consistently criticized, overly-mild shaver to get out of Dodge.

The Yingjili, you may recall, was never intended for the western market. The name is Chinese (maybe some kind of pidgin, in the last two syllables) for "English." A marketing slogan, "Trust the English," referred to the razor design. The finish is a bit rough, with casting lines, but I think the fewer parts might actually make it more durable, especially for the price. And it has a truly old-school, brushed aluminum handle. It's developing world stuff, for sure, with a fair bit of wavy blade. But how does it shave, in the hands of an expert?

Pretty damn well, I'm proud to say. Where the Weishi excavated skin, the Yingjili gently brushed away, its considerable blade flex making the razor sing loudly. I had to scrub pretty hard for my BBS, but the alum prickled instead of searing, like after the Weishi shave. A splash of Dollar Tree "Fresh," and I was good to go, no dry shaving required.

Personna Non Grata

I thought I'd give myself a treat with the old #1 setup, Personna (U.S.A) blade in Rimei "Mimi." It was too hard to get BBS, as many hairs were missed ATG, requiring dry touchups again. Ruby didn't do any better; and my Super Speed gave a close, velvety shave -- the kind where the hair is sticking straight up, and the skin feels powdery soft (the mildest case of distressed leather). It seems that the BBS addiction has chased me right out of my own preferences!

There was a ready answer in the closet, however, in the form of the Razorock Torsionshobel. It did a much better job with the still-fresh blade, and I got my BBS back with that and Tabac. A mention of English Leather Lime aftershave in a pseudonymous forum inspired me to put the zing in the powdery underlayer of fragrance, with a mixture of lemon and lime splashes. I slowed the burn by doing a moisturizer cream rinse first, having seen a couple transient weepers during the shave.

That's an old affiliation, me and Personna, and not easy to get over. I've made much of my affection for the razors in my medicine cabinet, but my first impulse was to put Mimi and Ruby in the closet, and declare myself a slant afficionado! But I know, this is how it goes with technical progress. My standards of closeness have turned a corner, and it's probably going to mean the opposite: switching to SS/chrome type blades generally.

For now, though, and apparently whenever I may decide to take a break and luxuriate, the slant is in the driver's seat. I noticed that Merkur clone handles are now available on Amazon for under $10 (with a certainly horrible cutting head attached).

I also had to laugh: it seems someone's been reading my blog! I do like to looks of that scuttle...

Laissez-Faire Is Everywhere

Does your wife (or husband) do this to you? "Cook dinner," then leave the crusty, cold pans in the sink? Or "cook breakfast," and leave plasticized egg and cheese cemented to the kids plates? Thanks, honey: you made more work than you did (and that's probably why I never cook that shit). May I direct your attention to the spaghetti pot? Cold cereal? (Wouldn't help: one pound of pasta has to be dumped into a colander that fills half the dishwasher.)

At the turn of the last century, the half-assed nature of mundane dysfunction was identified by an Italian economist; and given his name, the Pareto principle, in the middle of the century by Romanian immigrant, engineer and educator Joseph M. Juran. Wikipedia tantalizes us with the fact that he worked on projects for Gillette, and that makes him, officially, one of the good guys.

But this evil he identified, aka the 80-20 rule, plagues us still. Every goldbricker in every corner of the world seems eager to apply it as "I can get by doing 20% of the work." I find this eerily reminiscent of my recent reflections on shaving proficiency. Perhaps just as relevant to the shaving community, "80% of sales come from 20% of the clients." Noobs and hoarders: you are the vital few!

The Sunday Shave Just Got Real Simple

There was a bottleneck effect with the ultra-thin, sharp Cloud blade, and I shaved with it very easily in Stella this morning. With these SS blades, the metal erodes quite noticeably at a faster rate from the edge inward, and this clue helped me understand. If you imagine a "natural edge" being ground in the shape of a curve by your face, and that curve progressing inward as the blade wears, that point where the first and second bevel meet presents as the maximum deviation, sticking out beyond the curve. It's going to be a lot less "sharp" there. But now that we're past that, this actually works a lot better for me than the Shark -- though I wouldn't necessarily attribute any higher value, since it wore so quickly.

My new Canoe shave also shaped up most elegantly this morning. Based on my reflections on tissue expansion from the last post, I concluded that a bit of oil in the lather has this inherent value for me, beyond oil cleansing, and beyond serving as a carrier for strong fragrances. So I just loaded my synthetic brush with the correct amount of cold water, set it in my Williams mug, and put a couple drops of baby oil in my non-dominant hand before carefully using the same hand to support the mug from underneath and load the soap. The oil was then incorporated along with the air, in my palm.

This lather was the least irritating I've ever put to my face. Cushion was minimal, only enough to get through first pass -- precisely when needed. I then had two passes worth of protective crema emulsion to work ATG with, within the follicles. The extra protection of the baby oil took some extra work to wipe off with a washcloth (still cold). But this was balanced by the simplicity of a direct splash of Canoe to dissolve the last of the oily residue. I felt the merest warmth on the tendons of my contralateral neck, where the lack of hair has been exposing my skin to the blade a bit much lately. Otherwise, nothing.

In short: I am now sure this is the correct function of aftershave splash. The "healthy burn" is only incidental to incorrect, modern technique, burned into the collective conscience by Skin Bracer ads in the 1970's. Every single element of a shave can be neutral and non-irritating.

JAWS is Dead

Is it the sea, or the seafood, inspiring all these nautical themes? We had some god-awfully fried assorted garbage at a seaside family restaurant, Newick's, on our trip; then had to revive our tastebuds at a chain restaurant, the Weathervane, on the way home. Finally, last night I broiled some salmon that had been sitting in the fridge for a over a week, and smoked 'em both. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I wanted to try some razors from the reject bucket (a plastic ice-cream bucket under my sink) with my new lathering, and improved blading technique. I boldly persisted with another SS-class blade, the Cloud DE that came with my shavettes. It's super sharp, alright. Chinese Feather, I think I've seen it described as. In the NEW LC, it cut me a couple weepers in the gap approaching my moustache immediately. I'm going to sell that razor, I think.

The six-bladed wonder from Dollar Tree got the other half of my face, but only to the depth of the stratum corneum, and only in spots. The rubbing in of lather did have a good effect, suggesting that much of the damage I normally associate with cartridges is not strictly surface planing, but intrafollicular. Still couldn't get any closer, though: borderline CCS/DFS, depending on how hard you touch the skin as you rub ATG. Nice and even, at least.

I had loaded the Razorock JAWS, but the damn thing was obviously uneven, and in an enlightened moment, I tossed that cutting head right in the garbage. Any sense of its bulletin-board, YouTube hyped value has long faded; I felt no more compunction than I would throwing away a shitty pair of nail clippers, at this point.

The Cloud blade had some good shaves in Chaoying, but it is wearing down even faster than the Shark, and at less than a week, seems to be nearing the end in the Slim. Being essentially too sharp to approach my skin, I'm not getting any closer a shave than I did with the disposable, either.

Let It Grow

Easter was like summer at the seacoast this year. I rolled up my jeans and skipped stones in the surf, really just exfoliating my nasty feet. (But hey, they made it through the winter without a crack.) We're so run down, I think I'm just going to file a tax extension. Just as Vitamin D causes some cells to self-destruct, the gain in solar power seems to generalize into this annual process of affirmation, (which we landlocked folk call "mud season"), where the dead weight is lost, and we ask what remains: Do I really want to live another year? Of course, the f--ing brakes start grinding, at the point farthest form home. The kids were kickboxing each other in the back seats by the time we got back. Yeah, I guess I can kinda buy into the Freudian death-wish idea.

Worst of all, I got confused when everybody decided to pack their own bag, and failed to bring a razor! But, it gave me a chance to consider the BBS I left with in a new light, and I decided it wasn't any good. My face had been beaten into submission; given the extra day, you could see better that it needed to heal itself. A poor skin texture developed with the stubble. I couldn't skip the WHOLE day, of course, and shaved immediately after the kids were settled back in their own beds. I even used the same dull blade, one last time, for good measure. But the shave stopped with a light, skewed ATG pass and the Slim on "7," so I can start fresh tomorrow.

I recently posted a comments to /r/wicked_edge about oil cleansing, and glycerin soap doing for the dry skinned people, what oil does for me. But I never thought of why, until today. You know how, in the classic diagram of thermal expansion of a solid, the hole in the block expands with the material? Which is kind of counterintuitive: you might think that it would "swell" shut. Well, I definitely think of glycerin as something that swells and inflames, but that is not necessarily so for the cheddar-faces of the world. Their follicles may expand coincidentally around the hair, giving them the same kind of benefit as my rubbed in lather when it comes time to go ATG. 

Which only makes me curious again about how oil cleansing works for me. I think it removes crud from around the hair, and since my skin feels tightened afterward, I conceived it as stretching, caused by volume reduction. But wouldn't that close my pores?

Nice Shark, Shiny Shark: Part II

Ruby dispatched the remnant of factory edge remarkably well. I noticed one side couldn't reach anything, hair or skin, at one point, and I wasn't done. So I moved back to Mimi for the next shave. At this point, the glint of the edge showed a smooth, bullet-point profile, as I once saw in a diagram of a brand-new Astra SP. The shine was somewhat quieter, now, to my eye, and I picked up the clue printed on the flat, beneath "Super Stainless": "Super Chrome." So the glint I saw was polished steel -- steel with a high chromium content.

Could it cut hair? Yes -- with difficulty. It took a couple of repeat strokes to perform the reduction WTG, especially in the middle. But having gotten there, the result was excellent. Given the rough treatment, it was certainly tempting to stop!

ATG needed a lot of force, heightening the stabby sensations at the root. I expected a little burn to go along with that -- but none, drydown was calm as can be. Skin texture quite acceptable, no rougher than my forehead.

I'm not sure I personally will ever be a super blade milker, of the 100+ class. With my wiry hair (and I did have a shot of soluble fiber last night before bed, and a good oiling before the shave), the low angle just feels rough. I can do it, I can appreciate the result. I'm just not quite sold. NOW I can bring in the Slim.

Still, I think this solves the mystery. If you can find the right blade, and this kind of edge is good for you, you're in... like ferrocerium!

Nice Shark, Shiny Shark

Contemplating my stubble and a mild burn last evening, and remembering how ineffective the blade had seemed during the shave itself, I went to the bathroom to transfer my blade from Chaoying to the recycling tin. Lest I forget, lather up in the morning, and then have to scramble to load a razor.

Another reason I do this at night, is to examine the glint of the edge in overhead light. What I saw was striking, possibly unique. The entire face of the edge bevel was nearly polished smooth, yet without having eroded to a narrow band. One edge had no other angle than that; the other had the slightest glint remaining at the very edge, which is what I usually see when the time comes. That's the remnant of original edge geometry; where it was absent, is where I got burnt.

The shave was certainly shit, and it wasn't the first poor performance, but there must be something special I can do with this coincidence of my shaving angle and the blade geometry, or the composition of the metal. It might be helpful, like honing or stropping, if I just stick with it and see. Maybe there's a lower angle to be reached in the Slim. Or, maybe I should just stick to what I know, and conclude, once again, that super-stainless class blades are just awful for me.

Wait a minute: we've done this before. The Slim may be good at dealing with blades that are shit for my face, but if the theory was that the blade is actually good for my particular skin and hair, only worn, and I haven't learned the technique to match, then Parker 87R "Ruby" is the right razor for the job. A steeper angle bias than the Slim is called for, when a blade is on its last.

No Respect

It's a busy weekend for my family. My son, out of his own enthusiasm, decided to enter the state scholastic chess tournament, and yesterday took a trophy for 5th place, from a field of 20 or so first graders! Guess I'm gonna have to learn the game, now. We got a notation lesson, and incidentally learned about the en passsant rule -- such noobs -- a half hour before play began. I was like, "you're probably not going to win any games, this year," because I can barely demonstrate how to end the game. I could download an app to his tablet, however. We discussed at length whether losing four rounds straight would be fun, before I even shelled out for registrations. I concluded that he was in it for the right reasons: just looking for a good game. But seeing the trophy table, and surveying the gymnasium, he still felt worthy of a fourth-place finish. I guess he showed me!

Today was the "golden birthday" for my 9-yr-old twins, but with all our other problems, we left it to the professionals at the gym this year, and let them arrange a swimming + pizza party. (I had a few gifts tucked away, at least.) Clearly, it was a Palmolive Classic kinda day, and that's all I used for skin preparation. I put more focus on taking down the stubble WTG, repeating as necessary, because I felt that was a weakness of yesterday's early morning shave -- not enough stubble, too much skin contact.

Ruby and the Shark performed fantastically, giving no sign of "foiling out," which is to say a flopping-over sensation. Yes, it took more repeats, but rubbing in the lather covered me, and if I shorten up my strokes, I think there is room for improvement. I'm still getting a little late irritation, indicating intra-follicular abrasion, but the skin was without any inflammation this morning, and I got more BBS than yesterday. I won't ever again make the mistake of disputing my champion razor.

More importantly, I see a new possibility, that I could be on course to shatter the 1-month blade use ceiling. If super-stainless class blades are softer and thinner, and there truly is one with an ideal angle, the way Personna was ideal in the platinum class, then I might use the self-stropping effect and keener edge to my advantage.

Huerbo, a Huge Shavette

I got my goodies from China, and they were pretty interesting: a HUGE shavette for the "DD77" blade, and a fairly normal-size shavette for DE blades. I must have attributed the size difference to perspective, rather than scale. Something fishy about that picture. All I can say, is, "That was unexpected." Because I kinda like the big fella, who came pre-named: Huerbo. I managed to fit the spatula over my cheek for a few downstrokes, just to check if this might be the magic formula for shavette success. No: for me, it was worth switching back to the Rimei on the fly, even though my Shark blade has reached a state of wear that does not suit the razor.

Sedef, bottom; Huerbo, top
Sedef, top; Strong Leopard, bottom

The combination off-white plastic and dull grey steel remind me of old electronics from the 1980s. These are business machines, competing with Feather Artist Club for barbers. The Cloud blade certainly seems sharp and smooth. I dry shaved the outer edges of my monkey paws easily, and was in no danger of losing the angle on my cheek. But if the rounded holder of the competition holds any mechanical advantage, I did not detect any here. This might be the Tech to their Super Speed.

A New Low

I have a much less clear concept of the current segment of my educational journey; from daily DFS, to daily BBS, and beyond.

Using the performance scale from the last post, I'd call figuring out soap formulations (avoiding the glycerin, while retaining quality of scent and oil, and optimizing hydration) at least a seven-point swing, bringing me to a solid B+, 87%. Any inflammation, at this point, could be easily traced to a direct technical cause; the skin condition level was brought up to be comparable to the hair removal.

Which, in turn, allowed a reconfiguration of strokes. Shit got organized. Everything was reliably reduced to skin level on first pass, and all attention could be focused below the skin surface. For the first time, suddenly, I could think about mastery. Every day, going to bed with no stubble. All day, looking hairless. And when I did, there was no turning back. Oddly, it felt less irritating to dry shave, than to leave anything sticking out of my skin. Sometimes, it seems just as harmless as cleaning the back of my neck -- but sometimes, a mark is left. For that mistake: A-, let's say 91%.

So here I am, working on the final touchups, below the jawline each day, and to my technique overall. Just a few more points...

More and Wetter Ways To Cheat

I think I'm correct in thinking that these touchups are the same as they always were, just immature hairs that won't respond to the usual effective attacks, because they aren't well rooted. The majority aren't wrong, when they say that with regard to BBS, let it be: some days you get it, some days you don't. There's a certain level of imprecision in life, that needs to be accounted for and accepted. Until you can't, which is where I'm at.

When I found that plunging the top cap almost straight into my fleshy underjaw picked up more hair, there might have been more going on than a low angle, or the benefit of rubbed-in lather. I think it's been called "scrubbing," when you rub as if the top cap were the operating part, to try and clean the hair off.  This might actually be the equivalent of my standard finishing skim above the skin surface, applied to the shifted frame of reference within the follicle.

Furthermore, just today I noticed that my fundamental injunction against stretching the wrong way, can be safely lifted when working against these final pickups, at the extremely low angle, and with lather rubbed in. Putting it all together, it occurs to me that that's really what the cutting head is doing. It's so damn far pressed into my face, that it can retract the skin with the safety bar, while bringing a steep, high velocity attack into the follicle! Though, from our macroscopic perspective, it looks like a crazy low angle.

Finding the Other Half of the Scissors

As I was commenting the other day on /r/wicked_edge, learning to slide the razor was like finding the other half of a pair of scissors. It was hard not to notice my rating: "-1" supposedly indicates "inappropriate content." That was hardly even a metaphor, because it actually feels that way on your face. But let's explore the idea as if it were, shall we?

From that moment, it would be pretty clear that using half of the shears like a knife, against a cutting mat, is very inefficient. If we represent a perfect shave as a percentage on a performance scale, I'd say I went from 25% to 80%, by learning to slide. I stopped hurting myself, I looked pretty good -- but I still had to accept less than the closest shave, or else plenty of minor skin inflammation remained.

Of course, there are finer points in using scissors, from raggedy-edged kindergarten efforts, to miraculous slices across yards of Xmas wrap suspended in mid-air. And, if one wanted to stick with the cutting mat, they would probably get pretty good at cutting, too. That's how it was done in the old days of photo layout, I think, at the printers. But you'd have invested in an X-acto knife of some kind, at that point. It still wouldn't be the right use of scissors. And that's what I mean when I say, if you're not sliding the DE safety razor, you aren't shaving right.

Take your time with a straight, take your skin with a cartridge, if you want to. Say some folk coax 40% performance out of square stokes, in a case like mine. I used to get a full 10 shaves out of my Astras. Say you don't give a shit about your ample stratum corneum, or the minimal recycling load of an extra half a gram of steel, or whatever. Not everybody WANTS to know shit.

Those people drop out, or get an "F." Be cool: stay in school!

Rubbing One Off With Williams

Circle round, boys. This one's almost too much to handle. I don't want to just spill it, but I can't hold back...

The rubbing is everything, in shaving to completion. The difference between yesterday's burn and today's relaxed comfort is total, with respect to the skin. No, the blade didn't magically recover any effectiveness in removing hair: that still took forever, I still had dry pickups, and I still tossed the blade. I didn't use anything special, just Williams lathered in a cold bowl -- today I was experimenting with non-aerosol body spray, one squirt on a smear of mineral oil.

But I got my BBS, and my skin feels like I just took a lazy WTG pass and quit -- even though yesterday's burn was pretty significant. I had serious doubts about shaving again with that blade. The Excalibur learning method proves its worth, yet again.

In practice, despite my plans, it was unavoidable to repeat strokes ATG, but I was able to isolate a fairly clean second pass composed of skewed strokes. Then, with crema squeezed from the brush, I went at the direct ATG with strokes as needed. But in the past, I might have gently spread the lather back over just-shaved areas with the razor itself; or, stroked the skin directly ATG with my fingertips, followed closely by the razor. Today, I did not reshave any area without a little, circular rub-in of wet lather. Or even, indeed, just the "slickness" of the water pass.

While re-lathering is wisely advocated before reshaving, rubbing it in is widely considered a pre-shave preparation. But in fact, rubbing it in has a huge technical impact during the shave; more than lathering itself, when working within the follicle. There's probably going to be a Turkish barber reading this, eventually, and laughing his ass off, because I'm pretty sure I've seen this move many times before on video. I thought they were just inspecting the grain, as I might do with my fingertips.

Thanks, I needed that!

Gillette Adjustable: The Honey Badger of Shaving

Using the final shave on this Astra SS to reinforce what I've learned about BBS recently, I loaded it into my Slim, and rubbed in the most aggressive lather I can tolerate, the Italian Barber Sandalwood. That soap is the last hope for the No. 6 brush, as well. Rotten rubber has fouled my fougeres for the last time! It comes across as more auto-mechanic, with the simple sandalwood, and I still love the feel.

The Slim was set at "5" to start, and that was plenty smooth for WTG, albeit exfoliating. I rubbed in some more lather, and went up to "7" ATG, following skewed strokes with direct, on what I believed to be ample slickness. I could already tell the blade just wasn't hitting it anymore, though, looking at the shadows remaining. The Slim could keep the blade from flopping over, and push the skin out of harm's way, but it was still a trade in skin to try to apply leverage. Did I really want to go a third pass?

I don't think I changed anything on the razor, but rubbing in the lather again made a huge difference. The Slim was able to find the root and drive the edge home without scraping or stabbing. Oh, it was a pretty forceful, two-handed operation, holding the skin back, but the cutting was surgical -- in the good way -- and every stroke smooth as butter. Neck no different.

Gillette Slim don't give a shit -- it just takes what it wants.

I'm going to stop double stroking ATG now, because I think I know what's happening, in my mental microscopic cross section. There's an even smaller dimension to "cushioning" than the bubbles that help the razor glide over your face. When shaving out a follicle, the hair and the follicle wall tend to stick together; but when you rub in a lather or oil, the tiniest angle opens between them, and this can be exploited, just like the wider angle between the skin surface and the emergent hair. It's like adding ball bearings to the mechanism of follicle retraction, which also pry the follicle open around the hair.

When I mixed just-like Brut with 3-in-1 lubricating lotion and smeared it over my face, it burned alot, but in a "healthy" feeling way, a sensation which has come up another time recently. I think there's a new dimension and scale to my skin damage as well, with the follicle wall alone involved, being merely abraded, rather than nicked. As opposed to larger splits of the skin surface in a rookie burn, opening in the direction of the nerve endings. (And, in the case of a thin-skinned individual like myself, actually reaching them.)

Since I have identified a technical improvement, but not fully applied it, I guess I can't toss this blade, after all.

Less Stabby, More Burn-y

I had another perfectly fine shave with the old "starter kit" favorite, fake Merkur, with "no issues" aside from the sensation of being stabbed in the neck follicles. I'm not looking to get rid of the razor, since I recently went to the trouble of fitting it into a makeshift storage case, made from a Russell Stover Valentine's chocolate tin, and the 1/4" foam packed inside some ladies' rainboots from Wal-mart. It's the razor I look for when I'm dying with a flu, because it can handle some erratic pressure.

But a more recent idea has formed in parallel, that the Baili BD191, with it's Old-Type angle adjustment, non-contact when tightened, could replace everything Merkur ever came up with. So I moved my increasingly dull Astra SS over to "Chaoying," a razor securely residing in my medicine cabinet. With a non-stock, Schmidt R10 handle: I would recommend the new Victory Shaver, aka RazoRock DE1, over the weighty original. "DE1," meaning, "your first DE," get it?

I was super proud of having predicted a more comfortable shave, because it was, until I started running out of skin on my neck. Whereas the anchor-head had stabbed at my hair bulbs, this one was scraping the surface, and I still had a lot of dry shaving to do to keep up the my new standard BBS. I would have thought the lower angle bias to be less scrapey, but I was forced to go steep because of the dullness -- and this razor has much less exposure, so more stubble was left.

Different, but not necessarily better. I guess I can back off my challenge to the ceaseless promotion of Maggard Razors on Reddit with a clean conscience. I would still observe a certain symmetry, though, between the authentic Merkur under Dovo ownership (a straight razor manufacturer), and the fakes under the ownership of an originally straight razor shop. I get the impression that in both cases, as well as in the region of the Pakistani-Indian manufacturing base, the safety razor is generally considered to be a beginner's tool. Like, if you want to really get your neck clean, you better learn to straight shave. So who gives a shit if the blade is crooked, or wavy? You're not supposed to shave that closely with it.

Whereas, the classic Gillette attitude was always, that the honemeister should henceforth be considered obsolete.

Not So Different, After All

I didn't mention that, with the extra oil in yesterday's mix, I was able to execute a BBS shave in one pass. Nothing miraculous about that; just didn't need to re-lather. Extra strokes, heavy water pass -- kinda cheating, if you don't equate that with "pickups." With the oily mess I had worked into my pores, straight aftershave splash made perfect sense. Hey, you don't suppose... that's how men started using aftershave? So today I kept the lather simple with Erasmic, but applied an old favorite pair to the before and after: Shave Secret and Florida Water.

Even more remarkably normal than that, I dug up the old anchor-style razor. Everybody's still talking about them on Reddit, the old SMS machine; and if I was willing to give cartridges another chance, how could I not? But my gosh, I had forgotten how much blade hangs out of that thing! I had some doubts, though my notes were very specific, clearing it for sliding technique. Would the BBS be maintained?

Surprisingly, yes! Apparently, the Astra SS in this state of wear is very well suited to a steeper angle bias, and the blade seemed less prone to flopping over than it had been in Stella. That is, greater curvature, and solid 3-piece design, compensated the scary blade reveal. In newbie days, my neck would have been a disaster, and I did note the blade stabbing a follicle now and then. I think the wear on the edge saved me, there, but perhaps the flat hairs were being pried up a bit too forcefully. My skin looks just slightly roughed up, but I'll certainly give it another go tomorrow.

If the crooked piece of shit DE89 clone I got from Maggard Razors all those years ago, along with a free "shaving oil" sample that showed clear separation between an oil and aqueous phase, had performed like this, might I have turned out... differently? All that I've learned, and I'm still not completely untouched on the neck. I would reasonably guess that today's knockoffs are just as hazardous to today's newbs. The ones that couldn't shave safely with a cartridge. It's not that it can't be done, it's just too damn hard to learn, with a razor that was designed to do something else.