The Graduates: In Good Standing

Certain razors are just so popular, everybody wants one. I'm not immune to the influence, just cheap. (I signed up for the $20 slant at Italian Barber, too.)

Stirling 3P1

The best anchor-style head in my arsenal, ironically, turns out to be one of the Pakistani-made Merkur clones I acquired fairly early on, and have been badmouthing ever since. Now that I've entered the twilight zone of blade longevity, with a prep of PdP and pumpkin juice only, it cranks out BBS in three passes and some extra touch-ups. It could be any YouTuber looking back at me in the mirror, with the fast, repeated strokes. The only thing a little different is my skewing. The ability to slide strokes is how this razor earned its diploma, in fact. A razor nearly indistinguishable in its geometry, the Schmidt R10, failed the final exam, seeming to nibble a bit too hard on the skin before executing its cut on the hair WTG. The only difference I can see is that the lip of the top cap is thicker or more square on the Stirling -- a sign of poor quality in finishing, but protective of skin.

If the 41C is a BiC substitute, this would seem to be the Good News. Doug Hansford and Mr. Gatza like these kind of razors a lot.  I can't control the blade well enough to take down hair at the jaw corners with precision, but I can control the traction, and with careful pressure, a few extra strokes, that's close enough to BBS for government work. I see slight abrasion warning me not to use alum, but dilute Lime Sec doesn't burn very much.

No blood or bumps, like I had in beginner days. The flawed "plane" design will continue to be a hazard to newbie necks everywhere, but I officially release it from my personal grudge. Unfortunately, none of the preceding can inform you which one is best to buy.

Gillette Slim

As the over-designed counterpart to the under-designed anchor style razor, the very popular Gillette adjustable deserves equal reconsideration. Probably half the Slims out in the wild (and 95 percent of the ones seen online) are "overclocked" to the second register of 1-9 settings. That's because the "9" of the lower register is only as gappy as a Travel Tech. Why would anyone want to turn down the aggression of one of the mildest razors in existence?

Well, I think I can finally provide an answer to this little anthropological mystery. With the factory-fresh keen edge worn off a blade, higher traction pulls more skin into the gap. A smaller gap therefore means less angular error and risk of cuts. Even though the blade is still free to flex a little more than it would in an open-comb design, it's far preferable to the cartridge combo of super sharpness and fixed pitch. Looking at the "1" setting, I wasn't sure I'd any catch hair, with the edge basically just laying on the guard bar. But it did, zipping through WTG without any skin contact. I still don't have the ideal numbers for me; going 1-5-9, I ended with SAS and a weeper. I'm definitely coming back to this, though. The spirit of moonshots and civil rights embodied by this razor inspires me... it's like a razor from the alternate universe in the TV series, "Fringe."

Not that the second register isn't useful, in the way shims are useful, to square-stroking beginners.

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