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!"

Tabac!


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!

Rematch


With the blades switched... tune in tomorrow...

$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.)

Classic


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.

Neotraditional


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.

Verdict


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!