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.

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