DEvette vs. DF-813

Well, I had to know: which shaves best? My half-sider DEvette is a Baili Victory cutting head with one safety bar completely removed. As it was stored with a travel Tech handle, I went with that yesterday, and shaved as close as I could. The beginning reduction with the intact side was most auspicious. Immediately I missed the Tech-style efficient reduction, way more solid feeling than the flimsy, over-exposed edge of the Dragonfeng.

Then, with the unguarded side, things got a little harsh; there was blood. Considering the previous day's weeper, I was not deterred. Alum told the story, though: this damage was not restricted to spots. I've had worse shaves; I didn't suffer throughout the day. But I wasn't enjoying the feels. Gains in closeness were minimal, and definitely not worth it.

This morning, back to the Long Feng. I did a new prep with pumpkin juice, shaving oil, and a hot towel, whch felt amazing, much deeper than just oil. Good thing, too, since I found that Dollar Tree moisturizer for post-shave. I face lathered KMF for a change, but maintained the extra pre-soak on lather. As usual, the molten stubble feeling continued to elude me. But, neither did I feel it necessary to use short strokes, casually plowing through the reduction.

I've been having doubts about second pass. I've found more confirmation in old Gillette instructions for my tension-alignment theory, where it is advised to simply stroke in the least painful direction. But today I was more open than usual to the possibility that that COULD be XTG, especially under my jaw.

Didn't save me any strokes: still took three and a half passes to get BBS. It's a little shadier than the DEvette, but pretty much the same idea. The technique is the same, and the result is more comfortable. So I've made my decision: I'm through with the DEvette.

Well, almost. It will be the subject of a final experiment to see whether preserving the corners of the safety bar makes a difference.

Long Feng Strikes Again

The Long Feng DF-813's ridiculous exposure is good at steep angle shaving, too, and today I went for two close shaves in a row, WTG-ATG-ATG except a few spots that like it steep. Really very much like shaving with a DEvette.

Since I went with cheap/homemade last time, I stepped it up a notch with Noxzema (like) preshave and Kiss My Face Moisture Shave prepared in a bowl, again "backing off" the first lather with a soaked towel for maximum hydration.

I wasn't really sure how it was going after two passes. I had hit a weeper over my throat. The hair didn't seem extra soft or anything, and I could clearly feel the blade taking skin. But I went for it anyway. A third pass got all that the razor was capable of getting, except spots along the jawline, which were silenced with a reasonable number of touch-up strokes. This is the kind of shave where I don't feel any hair for 3-5 hours, as opposed to the fleeting smooth of yesterday.
Better than alum was Florida water, applied full strength for some healthy burn, but soaked down and sponged off just the same. Then I put a little faith in industry for the finish with Dollar Tree moisturizer, expecting the burn sooner rather than later.

But it didn't happen. Shaving closer felt better in every way. I broke a sweat with some unexpected yard work, and while that did put a halt to my faceturbation momentarily, it didn't sting. I simply reapplied moisturizer after the shower.

Perhaps the squarest cut is achieved below skin level, whether due to slight changes in blade pitch, or support from the skin. Or maybe, some commercial products really do what they claim.

Every Trick in the Book

The Dragonfeng razor proved its mettle today, allowing a three-pass shave wherein two passes didn't touch my skin. It is an excellent low-angle shaver. At least, with a brand-new blade -- in this case, another Rapira SS. Fresh blade and low angle are frequently advised for comfort. But unforceful strokes, such as I would use with a new blade in the Weishi, set this shave apart. It's clear that this razor is a specialist in that range, like a prism breaking the "red" in a spectrum into different hues, and allowing the discovery of infrared radiation.

Meanwhile, I reached into the archives of my mind for a special pre-shave emulsion. I sprinkled some baking soda on my microfiber cloth, loaded it with water, and wet my face with that. Then, four drops of the cheapo homemade shaving oil (grapeseed, mineral, olive) and more water, plus a towel soak. Microfiber was on the TV yesterday as a "makeup magic eraser." (Don't ask me why I was watching Rachael Ray.) I used the wrung cloth to remove all oil from the surface, not seeking its protection.

Williams was my choice of lather. I did something I've long known how to do, but on principle, seldom do: lathered on the puck. I just figured it would be easier to clean the puck that way, given the ridiculous amount of water that cheap soaps like. Despite the oil prep, I still wasted the first lather on conditioning the skin, backing it off with a wet towel and relathering. I didn't rinse before the third pass, and kind of regretted it, but at least I remembered to after the first.

Potassium alum was my aftershave, kept wet for a minute and lifted (along with the soap residue) by a wrung cloth. I then used the cloth, soaked, to back off the salinity, dried with it wrung, and repeated. My microfiber towel has grown to be an indispensable shaving tool, though it's just the plain, auto detailing variety, not the $20 version.

Finally, a drop of Shave Secret sealed off the baby butt smoothness and conditioned my blade for storage. I usually first put the oil on my palm where the blade is stropped, and dab my fingers in it to distribute. This time I started on my fingertip, and shared with the palm last. I think that's better. I was rewarded with a menthol coolness that my sensitive skin VERY rarely has the opportunity to experience, as with menthol usually comes an alcohol burn. This was only the second occasion I can recall where the feeling was exclusively cool.

Dangerous Shave with a Safe Razor

Completing a series of shaves based on recent "Shave Like Grandad" posts, I overclocked my Slim and for the first time, shaved with it in that configuration. Setting "5" in that upper range is well beyond my standard two shims in the Rimei, and with a well-worn Rapira SS, a tad too bitey, catching some loose neck skin for a (manageable) cut.

I had accumulated pretty good evidence that the lower range of settings is "factory" correct, when I acquired the razor. I did a new search for this endeavor, and found that the instructions actually glossed over the issue. The range adjustment was simply not addressed, and while most instructions clearly picture the razor in lower range, this one has a diagram with both ranges pictured:
Comparing my razor to the diagram, I deduce that the "1" is in lower range, while the "9" is in upper range. I don't know German, but I'm pretty sure they didn't explain that in the text!

The history that emerges, in my opinion, is that the design was intended for range adjustment, but the marketing department didn't know what to advise. Well, let me tell you: if you need greater gap, for low-angle shaving and comfort, make the adjustment. But don't adjust any higher than you need. Based, for example, on the experience of others... lol.

Putting the "Wet" in Wet Shaving

Today was a weird one. My skin has undergone the seasonal change, when I would begin growing a winter beard. I didn't feel like shaving yesterday! Not that I wasn't concerned, critically assessing the stubble at bedtime. Somehow it didn't insult the follicles to rub. The hair was better integrated with the skin; it felt more... hard. And yet not dried out, on the inside. The bristle wasn't too scratchy to the touch, either, thanks to the DF-813 and Rapira.

The feeling continued in the morning, such that it influenced my shave selections most extremely: a yellow hand soap for lather, and the Weishi 9306-H to hold my blade. With a few weepers, plus a little soreness in that spot under my chin, I survived; shaven closely enough, I presume, to go another two days.

This culminates a long run of not very pampering shaves. I let my Stirling run out some weeks ago, and didn't refill, rotating between Williams and Arko, mostly. I still have my KMF-VDH croap, as well as the liquid from which it was made, but that seldom beckons. My glycerin frankensoap, even less so.

Water is hard

Three and a half years ago, I grabbed a puck of Williams and stuck it in a coffee mug... and burned the living hell out of my face. Like my beard had gone through an industrial dishwashing machine, a uniform pink patch of erythema, it looked and felt like the problem was chemical, more than physical. I had been working on applying "no pressure" for some time, like everyone said to do, so I blamed the soap, thinking of it as a tablet of unreacted lye. I dissolved all of it before reaching that judgment, at least. I thought hard water was not interacting well with the cheap soap, after hearing others explain their problems that way. Van der Hagen and Petal Pusher Fancies were my next two pucks, and I thought them each better in quality, respectively.

But there they sit, melted with other things, while I'm hitting the cheap stuff all the time now. How can I reconcile that early experience? Part of it was certainly learning the qualities of good lather, and how to make it. But today's handsoap "lather" wasn't that impressive, and it worked alright. My blading has come a long way, too, I could say.

Yet there is another factor, one more piece of mindfulness to snatch from the jaws of commercialism. It came to the fore whenever I mowed the lawn this summer. Those shaves where it seemed I couldn't hurt myself if I wanted to. Something in the skin. Possibly urea?

Is moisturizer good?

Translucent glycerin shaving soaps did not agree with me, providing my first setback on the soap learning curve and insight into how I might discriminate without having to buy them all. Meanwhile, I was learning about my skin for the first time (at over 40 years of age): how I had the "oily" type, with plenty, indeed excess, natural moisturization. Apparently, there can be too much of a good thing in "wet" shaving. It really did feel like the hygroscopic substance was exploding my skin.

Whereas, my preferred Stirling soap used salt as an ingredient, which separates glycerin in an aqueous phase during manufacture. So I read, at least -- and only to a degree, of course. Stirling is plenty moisturizing, and all artisan soaps contain glycerin. Balance is required. People with dry skin seem to love straight up glycerin shaving soaps.

Use Ivory Soap

These words were etched into some early Gillette razors, and given away to promote the soap. An informative advertisement disclosed the trick: lather on your face, but rinse, then reapply lather before shaving.

Why would that matter? If you don't, the lather quickly breaks down and/or dries up. True, Ivory is a slightly different product nowadays. People who make their own laundry soap say some excess glycerine has been re-introduced, which is evident as filmy deposits on the laundry. But that should be in the shaver's favor.

I tried amending my Ivory lather with shaving oil and baking soda, palm lathering. Better, but nothing to write home about, I gave it up, noting how utterly drained of life my skin became. Numb, actually. But it provided a reference point, near which soaps like Arko and Williams lie. Both are often compared to Ivory, and both benefit from pre-rinsing in the Ivory manner. Moreso than richer, more conditioning lathers, at least.

Water Mindfulness

I think it's a case of not seeing the forest, for the trees. I've always worried about soap ingredients reacting with my skin, when the primary technical concern should have been the osmotic pressure with which they imbue the water. Hydrating the hair, people well know, makes a shave much better. Hydrating the lather, also recognized. I'm cognizant of what aftershave does, alcohol or alum displacing water so that I can get some oil back into my skin. Now, finally, I think I can appreciate the chemical dynamics at work in my skin during the shave itself.

Face lathering puts a concentrated soap solution on your skin. That pulls water from both the epidermis, with its dead outer layer, and the sensitive dermis, where the follicles grow. Oh, it'll get wet, even macerated, in time. Just not as... inflated. You need both parts fully hydrated, so that the blade takes fewer layers in exfoliation, and the root is deeply sheltered from blade contact. But by the time you hydrate the lather, it is quite airy and less able to pass water back to the skin. A blade can easily bottom out in skin that has been left in this dehydrated state.

Scooping lather back into your brush and rinsing wastes a small amount of soap, but balances the water content in the skin. At least do a full rinse after the first, reduction pass, before the blade makes full contact. A less messy approach is to apply a soaked washcloth, providing a concentration gradient down which product may flow. I "back off" many aftershaves this way. It also supplies water sufficient to replenish the skin matix by osmosis.

Which soap is really best?

It seems I can shave with anything now. Maybe cheap is the way to go. I may even successfully restrict the glycerin in my least-preferred soap from over-penetrating, by bowl lathering and using an occlusive preshave. I've already cleared it for when my skin is artificially dried out, after swimming in chlorine.

But a perfectly balanced, richly conditioning shaving soap will always be a luxury worth paying for. It affords the most mindful wet shaver a modicum of ease, and the less perceptive, some latitude. I just wish it were easier to choose the right one at the start.

Additional reading:

Safe Shave with a Dangerous Razor

Trying Doug Hansford's recipe for a "Blue-Ribbon" shave was an unusual exercise in discipline for me, really showing up the liberties I've been taking with excess strokes and inadequate hydration. But since first reading about the two-razor approach, I've thought back to the half-sider DEvette and using the guarded side first.

Today I tried to split the difference using the Long Feng DF-813. It shaves much like a Tech with one of the guards cut off. The corners are covered, like the best examples of DEvette handicraft. But because of the greater blade flex, the low angle ATG isn't really so low. And you have to pitch back on the WTG to keep it from being steep angle -- there is no truly, fully guarded reduction.

It was going so well after one pass WTG that I thought I could keep it WTG above the jaw and still be close enough to improve on the recipe. I only improved on the comfort, though.

Oh, well. Who doesn't like a can of ravioli once in awhile? Stay tuned for the next great epiphany, though. It's in my worst subject: chemistry.

Blade Flex

Both of my birthday razors, Schön travel 4-piece and Long Feng Dragonfeng, had this characteristic in common. When pitched down to the point of catching the beard, they produced tremendous noise, as the flexible blade was played like a bad music box. "Burnt toast" would be the name of that reel.

And I expected my face to be burned, but it wasn't. I was able to reflexively back off the pitch, effectively shaving at a lower angle with respect to the skin, and a moderate angle with respect to the hair, as the blade bent into local opposition. The overall effect was a shave not particularly deep, but no hair missed, like the Schmidt R10; along with thoroughly exfoliated skin, like the DEvette.

Head geometries feature relatively large gap and narrow blade support, with well-sculpted, sharp edges on the top caps.

There is a corner ground off the Indian razor's baseplate.
The Chinese razor's top cap required filing for wavy blade.

While a bit too severe (and yet shady) to be my daily shaves, there is no doubt in my mind that anyone experiencing these results would call it BBS. Considering how easy it was to accomplish, I think this could be the standard formula for that result.

They're playing with black magic, in my opinion. Blade flex introduces a cartridge-like quality to the shaving experience. Still, I can't deny my fascination. No doubt, I'll be fooling around with these until my next birthday.


I've decided to spare you the pictures (sorry, ladies).

It is the dull blade's final duty. I do my shoulders and the back of my neck whenever a blade goes dull. It doesn't even require lather. The hair is easily picked off dry, at a steep angle. I think it's because on the neck, the hair is relatively fine, and on the shoulders, relatively sparse compared to beard. Thus, the edge cannot pulled into the skin.

The art consists in defining a natural-looking contour around the deltoid muscle, then bringing the line of the trapezius downward, taking the limits of reach into account. Although my shoulder hair grows in an even mat right down my back, divided only by the spine, I  make it mirror the chest pattern instead. A little peninsula near the armpit brings natural and unnatural borders together, completing the illusion.

Thus my outstanding physical feature -- broad shoulders -- is emphasized, without denying my ape nature.

Today it was a Feather in my new Long Feng "Dragonfeng," DF-813. I had tried to save the Feather with some newspaper stropping, but it was rough going. Maybe I shouldn't have hedged my bet with the Schmidt R10, and gone with something more forceful. But I'm horribly sick with whatever the kids brought home, and that damn blade already got too much of my lip.

I like the Yuma clone so far, though it is horribly crude. I had to compress the handle in a 4" C-clamp to put the cap on its hollow end in place. The edge of the top cap might need some filing. Can't wait to see what it can do on my beard.

Pumpkin Perfect Postshave

I was trying to sort out the pint-and-a-half mason jars in my freezer for this year's harvest, which for me is going to be just jelly and pectin, because I let the garden go fallow. Three cups is not the ideal portion for long-term pectin storage, because it expands in the freezer; however, that size happens to be freezer-safe, so I make do.

It IS the perfect size for near-term storage: two batches of jelly, yielding 22 cups. So a natural system is to invert jars to create a vacuum with minimal headspace, distribute what you can to friends, store some in the refrigerator until the harvest of ripe apples, and decant the rest after the sediment settles for long-term storage. The wastage can be tested for taste and pectin content, so it's not a total loss.

Anyway, one of the old jars I thought was applesauce turned out to be my old pumpkin juice, the extra that I stored after making cubes for what I thought would be a year's supply. (Actually, I only used about six cubes.) And I noticed something interesting when it thawed: it was nearly clear, purified by further freezing in a way similar to the original discovery.

Meanwhile, my dedication to discount store shopping brought me the ideal delivery system: silicone squeeze-pop molds. Family Dollar had these on clearance, I think for $5, but they're available under a variety of brands, as a Chinese import. A six pack took almost all of my one-and-a-half pints of pumpkin juice. I had been using a plastic push-up pop, which was fine but a bit clunky to keep in storage. It took some damage when my wife dropped it into the ice maker, in fact. I found it a bit fussy to replace the angled cap in use.

The only problem with these new molds was the seal, a bit compromised when the fluid froze and expanded. I see now I should have squeezed the bottom when filling, instead of leaving headspace. But it wasn't a big deal: I just had to clear some ice from around the loosened tops and close them up again.

Just look at the perfectly molded pumpkin face balm: like a little alum crystal! Works better than ever, too. Remember how Shave Secret smells like pumpkin spice? The circle is complete.

My Worst Shaving Injury Ever

The good news is, I missed my beard cleanly -- can shave again tomorrow! Error: insufficient inflection of the lower lip. I wonder if my lip sticks to my teeth on these occasions. I've done it before, with cartridges, too. Probably three times in my life, even to the point of an accidental lipectomy like this one.  A Feather and two shims take the record for divot size.

I was surprised how effective my styptic pencil was, turning the flow down my chin into syrup, and then a thin, pasty scab. I'll keep ointment handy to keep it from drying out, and no bragging about my ideal method of shaving this week... but I think I made out pretty well.

Flea Marketers Will Save The World

I was overwhelmed by birthday tributes this year, especially Amazon gift cards. I took it as an opportunity to survey the shaving goods, to see what's up on the low end of the market, even though I can't really afford any more inventory, and whether they found any reliable third-party sellers for the Rimei. Doesn't seem so, but the old version is still available as the "Concord," if you're willing to take the gouge at $10.45. Interestingly, Wet Shaving Products and Schmidt reversed their prices for the very good R10/El Grande R89/Edwin Jagger clone. Compare carefully, and some models of "Perfecto" seem to have the same cutting head.

I wonder who's going out of business first. Due to my sudden wealth, I was taking the guided tour, which may have given me the wrong impression. But after 46 pages of "relevant," as opposed to my accustomed "lowest price" route, everything seemed jacked to what I would consider suckers-only prices. (Even with a C-note burning a hole in my pocket.) The only hardware I could find to blow my birthday dough on was a travel set including the Pearl/Cadet four-piece razor. When I went to check it on Shave-a-Buck is when I became truly alarmed. Gone!

It seems to me that the "Traditional Shaving" social media marketing party I crashed when I started shaving DE is beginning to wind down. That conclusion jibes with my flea marketing experience, too, at a different socioeconomic level. The real-world presentation of fairly priced products is also non-sustainable.

Another razor caught my eye at Amazon: the Long Feng clone of Yuma, which seems to have all the cheapness and entertainment value, without the ugly stamp on the top cap. Vendor wanted more than $13! I almost fell for it, too -- I had to cancel when I woke up this morning. Went over to Aliexpress and got a dozen coming on a slow boat, for only about twice the money.

None too soon, with the bad financial news coming from overseas. Look at the bright side, though. Capitalists ruined shaving before. They may do it again. But when the last one has dove off his hi-rise, the taobao and flea marketers, consignment and antique stores will remain. Let's just agree now not to bomb any blade factories, no matter what happens.