Snapping back to the center of my shaving universe accentuated what makes it so great for me. To do what I have to do, pitch the angles I have to pitch, a fresh Personna in the Rimei is just the easiest razor to use. I can hold a low angle well enough to take the first pass in long strokes. There's enough exposure to nail my re-emergent XTG pass (shaving by ear) at near-zero traction.

What I cannot do is just plow ATG to the hair root. A certain steepness can be approached obliquely, keeping to the surface, and my skin likes that, even if the stubble is a little less blunt and velvety as a result. That's what I notice different from yesterday's shave, and some more missed hairs. I had to go back to the Adam's apple dry, which cerainly took as much skin as hair, to get the same stragglers as yesterday, now intolerable.

I then realized that I had forgotten to apply aftershave! Skin Bracer, better late than never, stung that spot and gave me some menthol coolness (rare for me), but I'm going to have to wash it all off to get comfortable. Noxzema, jojoba, Williams and the menthol residues aren't letting my skin relax. Might as well wait until I work up a sweat gardening.

No Turkey

My usual method of cheating the BBS concept, out of respect for my skin, is to moisturize strategically. If the hair can be plumped up before the cut, and the skin afterward, it could add up to a negative stubble elevation. I did some reading about the fatty alcohols, and one blog http://www.thenaturalhavenbloom.com/2011/01/ingredients-dictionary-cetyl-alcohol.html
described them as occlusive and emulsifier. so I'm a bit puzzled about my experience of poofiness. It would seem to be a disruption of the lipid "mortar" between the corneocytes, which I suppose would affect me more strongly as an oily dude. But at least it's a shallow effect, then.

So I added a squirt of generic fatty alcohol cleanser to my hair softening serum, and made that my preshave, combining the oil cleanse and the hair hydration. The hair did not feel soft, but maybe that was just because it was still very short. I made sure to wipe off everything, as that goop ruins lather, and proceeded with Williams, the Racer blade and Yingjili DEvette razor again, to ensure I stayed on the edge opposite yesterday's.

Alum only pricked on some high spots, cumulative surface exfoliation. Not the blade's fault, but I'm done with it. Cocoa butter put the plump in my skin afterward. If you rub ATG around my Adam's apple, you'll get some scratching on your fingertips. To the lightest touch, it's smooth; a cotton ball is quickly pulled apart, however. I guess I've still got some learning to do. Pretty close, though!

Watching A Blister Heal

Summer just started here, and to convert the patch of fallow sod that used to be a garden into a garden once again, I've been using some larger hand tools for a change. It's the same process of discovery as with razors -- for me anyway, as I refuse to avail myself of public education on the subject, which is relatively easy to find.

The long-handled spade is my preferred instrument. If the horse-drawn plow were a safety razor, this would be the straight. I can turn the earth without any technological aid, certainly not a gas-powered rototiller! It's the hoe that kicks my ass every time. Just not a natural instrument at all, for me. At least I wasn't swinging it like an axe this year, just using it to break sod apart from the larger clods of earth. Still, my hands took some damage, the worst blister on my non-dominant thumb.

I let it ooze and crack for a day, then covered it with a band-aid to go about my business among fellow men without revolting anyone. But that evening, again exposed to the air, it was oozing and cracking, being poorly situated near the largest knuckle joint of the hand. Hurting, I turned to the pumpkin juice-icle I use for shaving, inspired by the hot pain of inflammation. But, once there, I considered that people would put aloe on such an injury, and I do regard the pumpkin juice as similar in function.

The response was remarkable and immediate. I went back to the freezer a couple times. Before my eyes, the parts of the sore that still had recognizable skin structure, dried up and developed a scabby brown patina. Ooze still welled up from the deeper split, though it also crusted over, so on the second application I held the joint flexed for a few minutes. And that was it. The wound was dried and closed, the inflammation subsided, and the pain was gone.

The blister provided a macroscopic model of why pumpkin juice is a natural aid to declamation, and really shouldn't be called an exfoliator. If you unzip the cadherins holding the skin cells together, all manner of infiltration is facilitated in the wound, and in shaving, individual corneocytes can fly, fly away. If they remain locked, the wound has to split under the contraction of otherwise healing fibrils, and in shaving, the skin is also split under tension, with corneocytes departing in chunks.

Why did I not use pumpkin juice in my second-in-a-row BBS shave? That was an error. I had hoped witch hazel would pick up the slack, but this stuff is special.

Princess Power

One of the smoothest shaven men I have ever encountered was a flea market customer who recommended hair conditioner. Whether as preshave or lubricant I didn't gather or cannot recollect, but for me, it has to be preshave. Even then, fatty alcohols leave my skin poofy and delicate-feeling.

But I now have a solution for that: witch hazel solution, almost perfectly opposite in skin effect. Also good for erecting hair.

Disney princess conditioner was the nearest reach, and promised "no tears" -- all the better! First the conditioner, wiped off as a cleanser, then the extra, more aqueous, second oil cleanse.

Arko laid down some extra protection: I was going deep with my Yingjili TTO, for flea market day, and the same Racer blade.

Four passes is what it took to get there without crossing the traction threshold, but I got to the roots as planned, with the new skin-pushing to finish.

Don't know how long I can keep it up. It certainly sets a low standard for skin condition. I skipped the alum and indulged in a splash of Florida Water. A few hours later, as I get sweaty and oily, is when it starts to burn. Lightly, but clearly indicative.

I think when you invade the follicles, there's always gonna be that opposing side of the cavity, a tiny strip of skin behind the hair, that presents itself to the blade at an unavoidably vulnerable angle.

If I could get the hair to come out that far, then whack it off at a low angle, it would be much preferable.

BBS Forever?

I transitioned back to safety razors in the most natural way, with a new Racer blade in the Merkur open comb. That gave my skin an extra day to work out its issues. Then, straight to the Super Speed, in recognition of the high traction of that not-so-sharp blade. I reviewed "The Perfect Shave" to remind myself what steep angles of pitch were all about, and totally went for it. Smooooth, baby!

There was a cost in exfoliation, but I think I can accept it. My first thought was, "Oh, yeah, this is definitely better," referring to the low-angle, no exfoliation approach that has been my focus recently. But can I have one, without the other? Have I progressed to that point of technical proficiency where I can have BBS everyday? That's the eternal question, isn't it? I remember Bosse from Badger and Blade, how similar his story to my experience, and have long anticipated achieving that standard. There always just seem to be too many possibilities to explore!

Pushing skin toward the blade seemed to put the finishing touch on my new-school technique, freeing me from having to hold back on certain places where the hair insists on lying down. I can reach the root pretty much everywhere, without causing overt damage. I see Parker has this year introduced a reasonable facsimile of the mid-century Gillette Aristocrat, and I'm thinking about a new razor for Father's Day.
But I can already feel myself flip-flopping on the exfoliation issue. The coin could land either way, still.

One More Shavette Shave

Half a Racer blade was rattling around, ready to go, in the little kit where I keep the blades and the shavettes, so I pulled out the more familiar Sedef to see what my hands have learned from recent exploration.

Man, was I shaving fast! I already know the DE shaving pattern, of course. Understanding more clearly that this is essentially a razor with limited traction control took the brakes off XTG in particular. Because on WTG, you have to pitch up a little to catch hair, increasing the insidious downforce. The skin is shielded by the hair itself, but it's a drag nonetheless.

My dominant hand asserted itself and took charge with a very sketchy backhand grip. I suspect this was learnt from back shaving as much as from the Chinese shavette's tighter hinge. Incidentally, the synthetic leather washers that made that joint tighter on the new shavette, are now beginning to fall apart, suggesting that the screw was too tight to begin with.

There are a lot of not-so-clean spots that I would attribute to loose grip, and I caught a nick under my ipsilateral jaw. Saddest of all, I still couldn't beat Williams drying out before I got to the lower neck!

It's been fun, but I'm definitely ready to go back to safety razors now.

Valiant Demise of the Hair Shaper Blade

I'll stand by the advice given in the Disquisitions: assess blade wear on WTG, and if it isn't taking away enough hair, don't push it. But this was the first Personna long hair shaper blade to die before the onslaught of my beard, and I wanted to know the character of the blade and the tool. So I assessed skin damage instead. I pushed and sliced, tugged and cut, and completed a high-tension shave in two and a half passes. I only really buried the edge in my follicles below the jawline, but took some ATG swipes at the buttresses.

I did prepare with the most protective jojoba, witch hazel solution (low alcohol), and Arko. The neck was really just inaccessible, since the required light oblique strokes were no longer effective. I accidentally buried the heel of the blade in my Adam's apple, for the cut of the day, trying to push XTG harder. All of the alum sting, accordingly, was on the neck, with some feedback where I went steep on the chin.

The skin distress overall is recognizable, being like a DEvette after a comparable number of shaves. I can find some stubble stroking backward, again in that spot below the sideburn, but the overall impression is very smooth. If not for the injury, it would be a DFS; but for me, that's just too big an "if." Hopefully, knowing the complete range of applicable forces and angles will inform my technique as it did with DE.

Seems like a terrible waste of metal to throw away such a thick blade, so I tried to rescue the edges of this and the recently deceased SE blade, too, using the new shavette as a holder. I de-burred on the bottom of a ceramic cup, then draged them over a doubled newspaper for 50 laps. Perhaps not surprisingly, but still disappointingly, they wouldn't cut hair after that. So I recycled, as intended by design.

Reach Back Hair with a Shavette

I'm only talking about shaving in the broadest sense, here, of removing hair with a single edge, opposed only by skin. You could probably get someone to do this for you with a santoku at the lakeside barbeque, for an entertaining display. But it's not something I'd want to bring to anyone's attention, so here's a way to get 'er done, independently.

Open a shavette and wrap a good rubber band around the end of the handle a few times. Slide it up near the joint to restrict the tail, holding the razor straight open. On mine, that only keeps the folding within a wishy-washy 8 degrees or so, but it's firm enough to whack at long hairs in the middle of your back, holding the tip of the handle in your fingertips.

Of course, you should shave as much as you can reach "normally," though I'm not 100% sure the "freehand" and "backhand" grip terminology still applies when your arm is bent back upside-down... yeah, I guess so. And I should note that I only attack this problem when a blade has exhausted its useful sharpness on my face, which probably makes it less likely to whip.


Actually, I'm not sure where my Personna hair shaper blade stands right now. It was broken in well enough to pitch it up on my neck, giving me a very passable lower neck shave. The threatening feel of the open blade there can be a big drawback. I was whacking away with impunity around my mouth, too. But the concavities of the neck, underjaw, and even between the sideburn and jaw corner are not clean, despite three passes. ATG was not safe and smooth, forcing me to back off, and I got a nick under my chin on XTG.

I'll keep trying.

Single Edge Foils Out

Between blades and late for the parade, I splashed some witch hazel and whipped up some very wet Williams, then reached for my Clog-Pruf.

Still loaded with the first Treet Super (CVS) blade, who knows how many shaves it had on it? Couple weeks, maybe, plus neck cleanings and callus removals. I feel like I got my money's worth, like from a backup goalie... the razor that always makes the save.

The low angle shaver cleaned me up well enough. Not as velvety as yesterday, due to the stubs not being cut as squarely, evenly, or closely. But it raked over the cut on my chin safely, despite being quite dull. Yesterday's shave came to mind at the flip-floppy foil feeling, but since the edge had less left on it, no hazard.

As The Blade Turns

With guilty pleasure sometimes, I dramatize the interplay of the various shave elements on my face. I know these journal-like entries must be terribly boring to most, with no emotional investment in the characters. But from this shaving soap-opera I am able to glean many morals.

For one: asymmetrically ground edges are not safe. Almost as soon as I realized the Rapira SS had crossed the line from new blade sharpness to being broken-in, I sliced my chin on a steeply pitched, oblique stroke, for a nice, embarrassing injury on flea market day. I could feel the edge flop over on some other forceful strokes, too. Otherwise, the blade would just be getting good.

I tried to string out my skin with witch hazel solution on top of jojoba oil, wiped off with a hot towel as a preshave oil cleanse, then re-inflated the tissue with PdP No. 63. I could still feel some irritation from that, but it seemed less penetrating or inflammatory. The hair seemed pretty well erected before the soap arrived, too, and not so hard. Glycerin soap may be harsh on me, but it is good for digging deep. I basically wanted the oil to be more penetrating, to match its depth. Imagine the cells shrinking, and jojoba flowing in to the intercellular space.

Alum declared success (with the cut sealed in ointment), its momentary burn limited mainly to the concavity of the neck. From the way the blade wasn't hitting anything, I thought I was in for BBS, but the skin actually deflated with aftershave to reveal a comfortable velvet!

In For A Penny

I thought the Rimei could help me get it back, the soft fullness of a complete epidermis, but I guess it's going to take some time. Oopsie -- too close again! This time I started with skin-strengthening witch hazel solution (low alcohol version, Dollar Tree), and persisted with the hair-hardening PdP No. 63.

Maybe the soap IS a problem. Right away, WTG felt more aggressive than I wanted it to be. I recollect that it didn't help hair present itself for the Merkur, either.  It seems that the hair is somewhat bowled over before the cut is initiated, forcing a steeper pitch.Also, palm stropping the Rapira afterward, I think I felt the edges were folded over. I have documented asymmetrical edges on Rapira before.

Many suspects, but ultimately, I bear the responsibility under judge alum. I like nice smells, and I'm cheap. Sentence: five seconds of burn.

Still A Bit Rough

D'oh! I guess I'd fail barber school, using the DEvette: my balloon would pop for sure! While the blade was more firmly held, preventing flex, the pitch still naturally went too steep for effective traction control. In my practiced hands, that resulted in a minor weeper and alum sting slightly less than the Dragonfeng. And a slightly closer shave, which yet still looks shady because of excessive exfoliation.

Prepping with jojoba oil and lathering Pre de Provence No. 63, the hair was noticeably tougher for the Rapira Supersteel to handle. I don't think that was the main problem, though. Nor was it the bad set-up of yesterday's shave, being sort of too close.

Again, I'm sorry to be speaking of failure about a shave that a recent convert to DE might find delightfully pain-free and close. Since late last autumn, it has been my explicit goal to minimize exfoliation. More recently, I associated that aim with what I know of standard practice for barbers.

There are videos of barbers pitching the blade high, bringing fingers and thumb off of their perch square on the spine, to pinch the blade along its width. The digits may be performing the traction control function of our DE hardware, in that case. It also occurs to me that the large contact area of the blade itself -- it's length and lack of curvature -- may well distribute traction.

It felt like that was what I was missing, today. I'd adjust only enough to catch hair again, and -- gotcha! -- too much traction, edge at the skin again. Not digging in, like on someone who doesn't know to press behind the stroke, but there, nonetheless. Enough to exfoliate.

So have I resolved anything, here? I don't see any open blade self-shavers doing the meticulous blade control and focused skin tensioning  that barbers do. Since I have accessed some basic technique, the shavettes likewise remain an attractive option for me: a simple, low angle, skin-sparing shave. For a little extra reach on those whiskers under the chin, the DEvette is good, and for educational purposes, a half-sider is great. But since I have a shavette ready to perform the same function, I can let it go for good, along with the crazy blade flex razors.

I don't know... I might get self-conscious about graying pubic hair someday. (When's the last time you searched "shaving" from the top of YouTube?) I wouldn't want to mess around with a shavette down there. And the flex razors could be the fastest one-pass option -- on my face -- analogous to cartridges. Yeah, gotta keep 'em all, I guess.

Pardon Me -- I Exfoliated

I can't take back the skin, but I can apologize for suggesting that a DE with a lot of exposed blade is equivalent to a shavette. Using the Dragonfeng DF-813 in a traction-conscious manner, I could not avoid dulling my face. Blade flex converted all resistance to angular error. Forgot about that! One of my shavettes clamps half a DE close to the edge, on both sides; the other uses a thicker blade. They are distinctly different, almost opposite in function, to a razor with central clamping ridges.

The low angle worked pretty well, but it just wasn't right from the second pass onward. Pushing the skin toward the edge wasn't a complete disaster, interestingly. But it feels like, and looks like, a cartridge shave. (But isn't that a good thing? You must be new to the blog: welcome!) It probably didn't help that I chose this morning to revisit Stirling, because I could feel my skin blowing up immediately with glycerin. No blood, at least. And I found out: witch hazel solution doesn't necessarily keep the alum from burning.

Exploration must continue with the DEvette, tomorrow.

Ideal World

I enjoyed the comfort of the shavette shave (Personna hair shaper blade) quite a lot, and thought the skin condition very good compared to the controlled, high traction shaves as the Baili DE blade reached the end of its life. (Though I pusillanimously skipped the alum.) Part of me wants to start on a new adventure in shavettes, figuring out the strokes that make up more than just an acceptable shave.

What a giant waste of time that would be, though, with semi-safe razors like the Yuma and R41 around. The T handle isn't just for dummies -- it's better, at least for shaving yourself. It sets your hand off of your face, so you can see what you're doing AND use your dominant hand. Nice round tool handles make manipulation a simple act of will, as opposed to a solitaire version of Twister.

Proud though I am of U.S.-based Personna, and as respectful as I am of Feather Artist Club quality, I think the Turks (speaking of Yuma) laid the best foundation for a standard that reconciles the two technologies, for the betterment of society. What I'm noticing is something that the internet seems to have overlooked, that the blade holder on a Sedef, almost the same length as the hair shaper blade, was probably designed to accommodate the Dovo professional, long blade. Unfortunately residing in the same marketing prison as Merkur DE blades, at a ridiculously high price, this appears to be simply a longer DE blade, that you have to break apart before loading in a shavette just the same. It's weird, because Dovo's "Shavette" is what I would call a hair shaper: short, with a piece of black plastic where your thumb goes.

But just imagine (cue John Lennon's piano)... what if, at the age of 13 or whatever, instead of getting an electric piece of future toxic landfill, a young man could go to the barber, and have the professional select from an array of longer, large corner-radius versions of our familiar DE blades? He could get a little lecture on self-care, and buy a cheap DE before leaving, along with a good blade for home use.

Congratulations, you're a man. The worst years of your life have begun... now don't kill yourself!

Nope -- Still Can't Shave Like a Barber

I can blow off housework any day of the week, and all the kids are in school, but Sunday still seems like the best day to try shaving with a disposable straight razor. A nice breakfast in me, featuring the single spear of asparagus to emerge from the weeds before I busted sod... I think it's the demonstration of self-indulgence that makes it special. I think I can admit that much without joining the perceived conservative constellation of ignorance, passive aggression and latent homosexuality.

I've gotten used to the new shavette. I don't think it was really the cheap handle that kept my fourth finger off the spine, but the longer blade. I have no idea how I'd go about constructing non-parallel scales, so that's never going to happen, anyway.

But I still don't get a better shave, even taking skin avoidance into account. Better than before, with the same razor, yes. I have a different expectation of how the blade should be progressing, smoothly, in accordance with everything I've heard about straight razors. So I'll leave some stubble and add some draw, and not go for the root until I get to that spot under my chin -- and keep it at the lowest possible pitch, even then. The open blade is better at eliminating that shadow, but leaves a lot of stubble on my neck. An acceptable shave. Comfortable, close and even enough. I guess, for the first time, I can say that I could get along without safety razors.

Had a touch of sunburn on my forehead yesterday. Witch hazel solution seemed to stop it from developing, as burns sometimes do, at night. KMF-VDH croap is becoming a moisturizing habit, and seems to balance perfectly with the witch hazel as preshave.

Speaking of witch hazel, the pumpkin/U.S.P. mix has become noticeably cloudy, decreasing my confidence that there isn't some carcinogenic ester lurking in there. Oh, well. I'll always have the pumpkinsicles.

Pushing It with a Cheap Super Speed Clone

Today was supposed to be the opening of the flea market, but the combination of rain and wind is more than my little red canopy can stand. Even so, I customarily shave with the razors I sell on flea market day, and took it as an opportunity to review the Yingjili 8206-M, a cheaper competitor to the Weishi 9306. Steel doors and aluminum handle adorn a simplified construction with cast components.

The cutting head isn't as well-finished as the Weishi, with a thicker lip on the top cap that limits blade exposure pretty severely. Like the Weishi, it is relatively flat on top, compared to my Super Speed. You still only get one effective pitch angle, but it isn't because of any faceting! I wondered how these factors would impact the shave, with my decidedly tired Baili blade: more Super Speed like, or more Tech-like?

Neither, but the Weishi again came to mind. Also the Merkur OC, as WTG proceeded without skin contact. Quite a bit more easily than with the Super Speed, actually, which is certainly a new spin on a quality I previously despised. XTG, on the other hand, was simply less effective, whether due to the blade or the razor I couldn't say for sure. Because I took off one of the safety bars, I was beating one edge only. ATG probably would have been fine, because there was still plenty of stubble when I got to it, and it didn't bite me.

What redeemed the shave was pushing skin toward the blade, which was an entire fourth or fifth pass -- I lost count trying to do two XTGs. Rolling skin up ahead of the blade made it catch hair just like bulfrogging the neck. It worked best on flat areas, and particularly the jaw corners, whereas curved jawline and chin responded best to the usual method of applying higher tension behind the blade.

I couldn't quite figure out the sulcuses at the time, but I'm pretty sure this is where you'd want to pinch the flesh to make it pop up, in the barber approach. I stuck to the familiar method of pressing severely on another, skewed WTG stroke.

That was a lot of work, but it's a close shave, with many areas smooth ATG, and all nice and velvety. Alum test passed more convincingly than the Super Speed... but I used a more protective preparation of witch hazel solution, oil and Arko. There is no good reason not to flip the blade and do it again tomorrow, and I want to see if I can advance to the skin pushing on pass 2.

But after that, this blade is done. Twelve shaves is above standard, for a smooth blade.

Super-Versatile Super Speed

If you had asked me yesterday, pick the razor in your collection that is most unlike the Merkur OC, I probably would have said the Super Speed. The black-handled 1971 razor belongs to the final Gillette lineup before they pulled the plug on DE in America -- not generally thought of as the glory days. Yet there are those who love it.

I value its ability to milk dull blades, and was not disappointed today. The weird thing was, I was handling it in a different way, inspired by the Merkur. Where I would normally plane away lackadaisically on WTG, I planted the top cap and maintained a low pitch angle. Where I would normally attack ATG on second pass, I gingerly assumed a moderate angle and kept to the surface XTG. That inspired some repeated strokes, almost buffing.

There normally wouldn't be a third pass, or I'd skim for pickups. Today, I went a different way XTG, skewed ATG and added a technical feather to my cap: pushing skin toward the blade for ATG pickups. It just felt like the right thing to do -- in the context of controlling traction and staying at the surface, like a barber would.

Now, there were certainly a good number of extra strokes, as I was figuring this all out, but I'm calling the alum test a pass -- a couple of prickles slowly developing to reveal spots of tenderness. Visually, it's toward the high end of cleanliness, and an unequivocal tactile BBS. Prep of dollar tree witch hazel solution (not U.S.P., the little bottle) and Williams. No oil.

The outstanding result drew my attention to some differences between the Tech and Super Speed that I might otherwise have overlooked. A higher curve atop the Super Speed returns to the blade as a flattened surface. Placed against the skin, that would distribute blade-generated traction over a greater area than the contact patch of a simple curve, with minimal tension reduction behind the blade -- at a specific angle. The travel Tech's facets are on the sides, for maneuverability; the only way to control the traction of a dull blade with contact is to plunge it deep. But with the lower curvature, that won't be happening at the moderate pitch angle that a dull blade requires.

It isn't super easy to compare geometries between these razors and the open comb, because of the different baseplate, but the slope of the Super Speed aligns well with the high curvature of the Merkur.

Et Tu, Tech?

It's been two days since I put away the NEW LC and moved the broken-in Baili blade to the travel Tech (which is actually a full-sized razor, in my collection, thanks to a Merkur clone handle). I always thought of it as a less agressive option, but now, knowing what essentially untouched skin is like with the Merkur, I'm not so sure.

I can control the edge to keep the cutting at the skin surface, holding back from BBS, certainly. It isn't the plowing machine that the NEW was, and may be my most maneuverable razor. But I was still exfoliated, with a prep of Noxzema and Williams. The stubble is a bit uneven feeling. What seems like more below the jawline might be the same length as is hidden in my cheeks, only more stabby, like an array of pikes. Not velvety. Maybe I over-extended my neck, and didn't get the bullfrog effect... but the jaw corners are too sharp, also.

You know what I think it is? I wasn't shaving deep enough to tug and align tension correctly ATG. The Merkur can generate tug without shaving that close, thanks to its comb. Whereas the NEW couldn't help it because of the combination: tug drove it home to the depth of its Tech-like gap.

How many of these options do I really need? I know my skin isn't good enough to think about going deep with the Tech, so it's time for the Super Speed to step up on this shifting theoretical ground.

Controlled Traction

The NEW LC, with a broken-in Baili blade, wasn't having any of my skin-avoidance strategy. I quickly found the blade digging in, and below the jawline, I just gave up and drove it home. The alum burned on my neck, and it was a little blotchy, but I couldn't really complain -- it made for an unusually even BBS.

I certainly wasn't going to let up for Mother's Day: today, of all days, Mom has to be reminded of that fat baby-face from 1969! With a hot shower and some oil, I braced for impact with hair softening serum and Williams, and brought that blotchiness up around the corner. (And skipped the alum.)

Even with the high-tension, low-angle attack that this razor favors, ideas continued to consolidate. You'll notice I haven't yet promoted "progressive reduction" to the Canon of Dogma, and I don't think I'm going to. Even an electric takes off a little bit of the hair at a time. We're all just struggling to say something else, I think.

What that thing is, is "controlled traction." By varying the attack just enough to re-engage hair, you can keep below the threshold where the stratum corneum gets amputated. For some lucky bastards, that corresponds to square strokes WTG, XTG, and ATG. Some other lucky bastards don't even have to control the pitch of the razor.

And if I want to keep going, after I've reduced the hair to skin level, I still can. I really felt like I had to plump the skin up with cocoa butter (my first thought was moisturizer, I'll admit), and it still looks alot shadier than it feels. I whacked one of the old weepers under my nose. Mom probably won't be impressed, anyway, but I have done my duty.

Simple Seven Bathroom Commodities

If you know how to cook, your freezer is full of meat and vegetables, instead of breakfast sandwiches and burritos. Your pantry has rice, flour, sugar... not tumbling boxes of brownie mix. The bathroom cupboard makes a similar distinction.

1. Alum - doesn't lie: if it stings, you didn't shave right. Bonus underarm deodorant.

2. Baking Soda - half of a hair softening serum, and glycerin-free toothpaste alternative

3. Castor Oil - viscous base of shaving oil; puts the cleanse in oil cleansing

4. Witch Hazel - U.S.P. is an itch-defeating rinse for soap scum, but the alcohol reduced version makes a hair-raising preshave

5. Dietary Clay - strengthens barriers, inside and out

6. Jojoba Oil - the most sebum-like plant oil

7. Cocoa Butter - for plump, chocolatey skin

I almost included generic Cetaphil and Noxzema, but they're more like the best of the cosmetics. Cleansers that put most of the moisturizer where it belongs: down the drain. Bathroom versions of Ragu and Shake-n-Bake?

Closeness Relative To Exfoliation

The anticipated growth spurt followed my return to the Rimei. After the second shave. stubble was decidedly more noticeable and long. So I redoubled my efforts to make my most efficient, simple prep only as exfoliating as with the Merkur. In other words, I believe it was just that I took away too much skin, making the hair stick out more.

Witch hazel solution as oil cleanse, Williams for lather, no oil. Two passes, WTG and (the recently redefined) XTG yielded the velvety antithesis to BBS in two passes, perfectly close and even.  Followed by alum and blue Dollar Tree aftershave: not even a prickle. So far, so good.

The shave didn't last eight hours, however. Just a little too shady, and slightly rough. As the Sharks and Predators went into triple OT, I considered the risk to my pillowcase and decided it would be okay. Sometimes, too, the stubble seems to pry at sore nerves, but my skin was still a pleasure to stroke. Indeed, it seemed to ease the stubs back into the recovering follicles.

Next morning, the sandpaper felt a bit hairy and soft, but pretty much complete. I now felt like saving my witch hazel for postshave, not being very oily, and just washed with water. Three drops of jojoba oil would keep the blade off, with Arko providing the other half of my most protective, simple prep. This got three passes, and still wasn't as close, initially, as the preceding shave, but looked quite sharp. I left the sink confident the skin had been restored for good.

In summary, I've adapted a feather-light, barber style technique to safety razors, which usually are used to extract hair and plane the skin somewhat. It appears that BBS is not in the cards for me. I am nonetheless quickly developing a taste for the skin condition, which feels as if I were only shaving every three days. Hair that is well-supported by full-thickness epidermis presents less shadow than one might think. It's like a closer, healthier version of an electric shave.

There is some question whether that Baili blade was still barber-sharp today, so maybe it let me off the hook a bit. I think the NEW LC needs a shot at this...

Return Of The Weeper

Not all Chinese blades are too dull for me -- I think I've had a pretty good time with Flying Eagle and Rimei, documented somewhere here, along the line. After Tian Fu, I tried He Tian, which turned out to be another one-timer. That one finished by raking over the hair painfully, though I got a sense that fifty passses or so might have chipped the beard away eventually.

When I switched to Baili brand, yesterday, I knew I was safely back in the realm of sharp satisfaction. It was as clear as the difference between shaving, and not shaving. This company clearly set its sights on the Western market with good quality Tech and Super Speed clones as well.

But I was surprised to find little nicks and weepers, particularly two under my nostrils. I don't think it was the dull blade that got anywhere near skin. Well, I considered, I don't usually do a five-pass shave... and the last two were sort of reckless, when the resistance was suddenly taken away. I had also changed to a more surgically precise razor, my #1, the Rimei.

But then again, today, I found a weeper on the jawline, despite a more collected routine, trying to retain what I learned from the Merkur. It seems to be a hazard of less edge contact and better preserved skin, that when the edge does make contact, you're more likely to see this. I'm reminded of one well-known YouTuber who frequently raises them, despite insisting on "no pressure." Paul H. doesn't shave every day, and usually claims freedom from any burning associated with the blood. That was my experience, also.

I really hope that I can adapt my new approach of non-exfoliating, total skin avoidance to sharper blades and a more efficient razor, without seeing that on a regular basis.

Happy Teacher's Day

I started this blog with open mockery ("Introduction") of anyone arrogant enough to think that their online marketing bullshit qualifies as education. Now I find myself in that special class. When I got that call from the local flea market organizer, and lamented that what I really need is to reach the kids in college and high school somehow, she suggested I draft a letter. I typed this in my new email program, which, if sent, would officially make me an online marketer.

It didn't turn out very well, in my opinion, quickly going off the rails into a long rant, but I'm providing it below for your amusement. Could it be done?


Dear School Administrator:

I am pleased to offer a singular opportunity to reconnect young people with the lost art of shaving. I have been an educational blogger for two years (classicshavingacademy.blogspot.com); a local flea marketer for three years; and an ardent student of the double-edge safety razor for four years. 
It is a topic of study drawing on areas of home economics, history, and science. My own generous education, focused on biology and psychology (B.A. & B.A., 1991, Dartmouth College), a natural interest in physics, and especially, my unfortunately delicate skin, compelled me to learn more than I ever wanted to know about shaving. I now seek to help others avoid the painful trials I have endured, especially the wasted years of electric hair pulling, cartridge dermaplaning, and abrasion by disposables -- only to find the beard even more difficult in middle age!

But the market, cowed by advertising, is quite hopeless at the microbusiness scale. I find myself in permanent possession of a small, undervalued inventory that could otherwise free an entire school full of new shavers. My blog, too, has grown isolated, even while surpassing every profit-driven website in the understanding that it offers. While the most easily recognized authorities in shaving are barbers, licensed to shave other people, I have identified principles based on sensations to which the professionals have no access, allowing the more salient DE technique to be efficiently communicated. 
To any beginner, it is painfully obvious that education is the answer. But marketing and trade schools will never reverse the cultural damage that corporations have done.

Not that I have achieved non-profit status, myself. Would it be feasible to recruit an audience of 10 to 20, to an instructional space with a writing board, for a 1-2 hour program? Participants would be invited, but not required, to purchase razors: modern, Chinese imitations of the mid-century Gillette Tech or Super Speed, for the nominal fee of $5 (tax included). Many effective razors were designed before and since, but these two are the most unbiased in terms of technique, and safe. It will be especially useful to have an empty razor in hand during the lesson.

The original antiques are typically found in usable condition (after sanitizing), and greatly preferred over my humble offerings. So razors from home would certainly be welcome! Grateful accommodation would be made for adjustables, older Gillette designs, and even SE razors; for example, the GEM Micromatic. Unfortunately, some of these are oriented to a style of shaving that modern men are likely to deem insufficiently close, and thus more subject to abuse. If properly grounded in authentic tradition (guidance from a family member, not the internet), the early safety razors effectively widen a gateway back to straight razors. Costly maintenance (honing and stropping) then shifts emphasis away from shaving technique, and beyond the scope of this presentation.

A durable, synthetic brush and various supplies will be available for purchase after the class. Soap lather is far superior to canned foam and other lubricants. But the easiest start, which also helps in avoiding issues of skin sensitivity, is a "croap" (cream/soap combination) that I will prepare in advance, and for which a recipe will be provided. Finally, the benefit of selecting from various brands of blade under personal guidance should not be underestimated.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours truly,

Thad Launderville

Eeky Ekey

I'm coining a funny phrase to describe the opposite of "scary close," which is the over-exfoliating result of over-exposed or overly, picky-sharp blades. "Eek" as in heebie-jeebies, a purely anticipatory, non gore-based form of horror, and "Eke" as in barely successful, from the same neurolinguistic field as "meek" and "meager," I guess. You could also file this shave under "can shave with anything," because none of my prep, lather, nor blade worked well, yet I am unscathed.

I was making tea after some morning yard work, trying to beat the rain. I figured my skin was halfway well-prepared by sweat, but threw a wet washcloth in the microwave for 30 seconds to complete my prep, and reserved a few ounces of boiling water to see if I could make hot lather from Barbasol (aloe variety). It was warm, but the water in my brush melted the lather to a thin, aerated lotion. I added more dry foam to the top to even it out.

Noticing some skin distress late in the day yesterday, I recycled the Merkur blade, about a week old. But I wanted to keep exploring the tuggy side of things, so I dug deep and found some "Tian Fu" blades that came with some failed order of Rimei razors, where they sent Junjie instead. I don't know why I kept them, because I absolutely could not shave with them the first time I tried. Just not sharp, sticking only enough to stop the blade from moving forward. This one had a little paint on the edge, too (trying to resemble the old Gillette Blue blades, I guess, but more of a midnight eggplant).

In the Merkur 1904 OC, this edge got nowhere near my skin, but was free to hack and tug from all directions, and with the necessary oblique attack, was able to remove some hair. There was no possibility of loosening the blade; one stroke probably would have disassembled the razor. But I went through the cycle anyway. By the time I got to ATG, I was shaving on water and residue, and really was concerned for my skin. My technical solution was to stroke WTG with my fingers to find places that just weren't adequately shaven at all, with the razor head close behind; then press the same fingers down to hold the skin taut as the razor stroked backward to remove said spots. NONE of my face would pass a touch test ATG.

"Velvety," for sure. I'll be very interested to see if the morning "sandpaper" trend, of surprisingly short stubble following a non-aggressive shave, is broken by this. Then again, it could be that the skin is simply growing back to its natural, full thickness, keeping pace with the stubble. In that case, the stubble will seem to have a growth spurt when the skin reaches its limit.

Since I hadn't squandered any astringent on preshave, I cleaned up with pumpkin juice and witch hazel, followed by dilute Aqua Velva Musk and a little jojoba oil. Yesterday's Skin Bracer didn't sit well with me, and I think it may be that I'm just not able to process menthol. It's like, the alcohol that doesn't go away. Besides, I was surprised to find the dry shaving brush very floral with Barbasol. I don't know all my flowers, but I think Day Lily was the shocker, with some aromatic wood barely keeping it from smelling like Glade. (Definitely not Patchouli; I know what hippies smell like.) It must be the propellants holding it down, in use. Not so "barber shop," after all.