Eating and Drinking for a Better Shave

Though I am not rushing to publish a new "perfect shave" routine based on apple pectin, I have internalized enough minimalism from my closest blogging colleagues to recognize the potential for simplification. By eating a slowly digested soluble fiber snack before bed, one could hope to have softer stubble in the morning, and one less prep material to juggle, maybe more. So I'm going to hang out on this post for awhile, correlating things ingested at night to shaving results in the morning.

Aloe Juice

I bought this shelf-stable (preserved) jug from Wal-mart with a mind to make shaving pops, but there was so much of it that I just started drinking it occasionally, as part of my alkalization program. My stubble was very short and soft after drinking a cup before bed, and six hours of sleep. Skin was supple. I took the opportunity to prep with Humphreys, followed by pumpkin juice + potassium bicarbonate serum. The latter evoked a strong smell of carbamide on application, as if urea had permeated the skin along with any fiber. Of course, I had to follow that with Arko lather.

It should be noted that I had a late supper of a couple bologna Reuben sandwiches, which may have helped pollute my skin. Hair was softened, but the Super Speed wasn't quite as efficient -- expected from the skin rubberization effects of carbamide. Some tiny cracks in the stratum corneum were just visible, after balmng with moisturizer + Lilac Vegetal.

Oatmeal encourages eating the cereal at night, and apples, too. For better reasons than I, touting the digestive and metabolic impacts of fiber. I'm having trouble getting the habit going, though, still preferring Mounds et al., so I'll just have to report on shaving after breakfast. (Note to self: how many no-bake cookies does it take to soften one's beard?) It doesn't take long to feel the emollient effect hitting the skin, when you have dry, wiry stubble. I know the fiber has arrived before even putting the bowl down, so there is no doubt in my mind that the benefit is freely distributed through the body, and not restricted to the digestive tract. I wonder if having borderline hyperlipidemia draws it out, in the case of one who needs it, like myself.

I skipped WH entirely and used shaving oil, followed by pumpkin juice/KHCO3 serum. My new "scuttle" served a bonus comfort function by melting the pumpkin pop, when the bowls were reversed: footed plastic inside water-containing ceramic, fresh from the microwave.  There wasn't anything to wipe off my face, dry like a sponge, but I soaked it all in with cold water, then applied warm Arko, again inspired by a strong ammonia impression. (So, I guess it wasn't the Humphreys.)

Super Speed and worn Personna Platinum Chrome were more effective than in the preceding shave, though I had to lift the blade a little on WTG to correct against a little too much exfoliation. It seemed to me like there was a bias, where the breakfast-derived fiber seemed to soften skin more, without having time to really work the hair. But the shave was still right up there with the best: I have to press a little ATG to find a few stubs that weren't quite cut evenly. I conclude that the people who advise shaving immediately upon waking, without eating, are not oatmeal lovers.


A significant source of insoluble fiber only, I expected to be underwhelmed. My blade seemed to have reached the end of its life, gaining a bit too much traction on the skin. (Still enjoyably efficient, but lacking what slants have -- the large contact surface to balance that.) And missing some more of the flatter-lying stubs at the jaw corners, so seemingly, all attibutable to blade wear. On WTG, especially, the hair seemed to put up little resistance.

The carbamide smell remains a persistent clue. Today I put the pumpkin juice on separately, after the bicarbonate, keeping with the same shaving oil. Salt didn't raise the stink, it only rose with the juice. And the usual mixed serum doesn't stink until applied. So it's either the oil, or something in me (urea, most likely) releasing that ammonia. The serum is certainly not a gentle one to my skin, judging from the ocean sting. But I also found an effective soother for postshave: Witch Hazel, U.S.P., applied as splash.

Another fierce BBS shave... can't justify tossing the blade... will have to change the oil to learn more, I think.


The next bunch I bought finally ripened, so I had one for lunch, with the peel on, before an afternoon shave. I definitely felt the stubble, rolling out of bed for a halloween party at the local library, but I didn't look like a bum -- good mileage out of yesterday's close shave. Today's was even better feeling, but I can see it's a little more shallow. This is how a blade should behave, approaching the end of its life. Assuming I don't run out of apples, could be a couple more shaves in it. Prep was jojoba oil, then pumpkin juice/bicarb serum. The oil felt a little too thick for the purpose, but very protective.

This post seems to have struck a major chord: more views than ever! If you're waiting for a pumpkin gel recipe, forget it -- you'll have to come buy at at the flea market next year! But to replace "The Perfect Shave," I did write a Disquisition summarizing this chapter of the blog, and indeed, concluding the whole thing. While I may or may not have pointed out a valid space for product development, I honestly don't think shaving gets any better than this.

Health goals derived from this project are leading to new Marxist obsessions, too. I grew a SCOBY from store-bought kombucha, and have my own "booch" brewing on top of my furnace. New questions have been raised. Why do dermatophytes seem not to enjoy soluble fiber, while cellulose sustains fungi all over the world? How did the government record a case of acidosis caused by overingestion of an alkalizing substance? The rabbit hole has already got my ankle...

Oh, and the ammonia release was still strong, but less than yesterday, so changing the oil had some impact.

Eureka! (#3)

Ho-ly Shit. Holy SHIT!

1. no witch hazel -- skin felt too dry to take it
2. apple juice pectin -- frozen pop
3. Shave Secret (out of homemade at the moment)
4. potassium bicarbonate (pinch dissolved in water in palm)
5. Wet towel soak AND WIPE
6. Williams (no prelather, just whipped it up on face)

Happenstance avoidance of the WH led me down this path, to see what pectin and oil could do alone to defend the dermis. I figured it could give a sort of cushion against insult, if not a distinct chemical barrier. I also expected it to work with oils in the hair to erect stubble. It didn't give that feeling, though, when simply wet down with water. To help the hair softening, I tried the new version of baking soda in this way, as a serum, for the first time.

That was totally effective, and that's when the epiphany hit me, because I felt a little saline sting, like ocean water. Those magical swimming experiences that I hold as ideals of grooming -- stubble breaking off under a fingernail in the ocean, perfect hair condition at the lake.  It wasn't just the water, or the sunscreen. The missing ingredient... was APPLE! Yes, I'm sure of it. Those were picnics! I specifically remember my aunt asking, "What's that on your nose?" in a case of spontaneous sebaceous filament ejection at the lake, and enjoying an apple on the same occasion. Also wondering where to dispose of a core, without encouraging seagulls, on a stubble breakage occasion. Could have been some watermelon and potato salad involved, too, I guess... but the fiber. It came from within ME.

Since it's supposed to be poorly absorbed by the digestive tract (giving it its cancer-curing power in the lower intestine), I'm not sure how that happened. I think what the literature means is that, since there is always so much fat in our digestive tract, it tends to gel up and pass through. A confounding fact is the existence of roughage, water-insoluble fiber. But pectin is water soluble. And soaking for prolonged periods, as in swimming, would bring it through the final microns of the skin, to the hair cuticle at the surface, by osmosis. Mystery solved!

This shave was pretty near perfect. No experimental "perfect shave" program will be launched, just got to get pumpkin juice in there again, for a touch of flaking, and probably bring back the WH. Today, the skin was calm on drydown, even before I could get to the closet for balm, so all I did was finish with jojoba oil. Super Speed and the worn Personna Chrome just killed it, super efficient. It was nice to get back to the vintage shelf, I have to say. All of the modern razors have more blade exposure (taking into account the adjustments required to make them shave close) than my Gillettes.


The value wet shavers attribute to water has been largely misplaced. It's not just the fluid going in, but the substances coming out that matter, or make the desired effect of hair softening possible. Water soluble fiber is THE CURE FOR WIRY HAIR.

Gel: Pre or Post?

Continuing to examine what appears to be the essence of apple's health benefit, jelly-maker's homemade crabapple pectin, I tried the way of knowing that had previously revealed the nature of pumpkin juice: sebaceous filament extraction on the nose. The results were even more striking. Whereas pumpkin had made it easy for the follicles to stretch and release the nasty green goo, pectin changed the crud itself, into something that slipped more easily from the pore.

Much more easily. My little spoon extractor looked like it was filling with applesauce, evoking exactly the kind of disgusted satisfaction that nose squeezers crave. But I didn't even think my pores were that bad! It's not like they were wide open and dark. I've been on top of this for awhile. I only have to do the pumpkin juice and extraction once every month or two. Day to day, I take a skilled, shaving-like approach to cleaning the pores, with a slightly exfoliating microfiber cloth or a square of dry toilet paper, using skin tension behind the strokes.

This stripping was way beyond the standard of what a man would find necessary, more like that of women who wear makeup, perpetually dissatisfied with the natural look of a nose. And my first impression was that it was just not good for the skin, as abrasion-like intrafollicular damage was evident in places. But it told me that whatever malic acid may do as an AHA, apple does not have the lamellar reorganization ability of pumpkin. I gave the healing a jumpstart with a brief application of pumpkin juice, followed by "Psoriasis" salicylic acid creme (Dollar Tree).

This morning, not surprisingly, I decided that cured Witch Hazel would be enough of an oil cleanse! But I tested my tolerance by going straight to PdP No. 63. Ruby and a worn Personna Platinum Chrome gave a close shave that wasn't entirely comfortable, though not bloody. I cleaned it up with alum. Then, feeling I might suffer some burning, I made a balm of pectin, applied thin, followed by a couple drops of Vit. D shaving oil.

The same bulking up effect of the fiber, with the oil, made this very soothing and smoothing. I think this must be the operating principle behind "skin food" and post-shave gel balms. Which raises the question: is it only because that stuff costs $30 a jar that people don't use it as protection during the shave?

To me, post shave gel represents the same old, tired dynamics of cartridge marketing: the idea that shaving is supposed to be strongly exfoliating, and one should prioritize smoothness to the touch over burn avoidance. But I can imagine going with oil and bentonite pre, and possibly bulking it up with fiber after.

What's In YOUR Poop?

This "pectin" I've been using as a preshave is really just the heat-extracted juice of underripe crabapples. Some sources say you can use ripe Granny Smith, but I seriously doubt it would compare to this particular sample. There is usually another step to simmer down the juice, to concentrate it, but it was ridiculously thick this year, due to the quality of the fruit. I got a serious workout squeezing the bag, and probably should have just used more water in the first place. The apples were harvested after the usual time of ripeness, and had black blossom ends, but never wanted to ripen, suspended in development as little green knots.

Why document this? Shouldn't I be making a product and selling it to you? Well, I wouldn't rule it out, and I'd be glad to stimulate an artisan's mind in that direction. I don't want to pretend I know all the stuff that's in cooked apple juice, either. I am primarily concerned with the progress of shaving culture, though relying on jelly making tradition when I tell you that pectin, a kind of dietary fiber, is improving my thin, oily skin. If I had a heart attack tomorrow, and didn't write it down, this tenuous line of transmission, across four generations, could be lost.

Though that is unlikely, with all the fiber I've been eating. My guts are in as good a shape as my skin, judging by the smell of them. Oh, yeah, you get some quality flatulence, when you eat a banana with the peel on! That's mostly what I heard about fiber, growing up. Shredded wheat -- tried it, didn't like it. Then they figured out that it lowers cholesterol; but still, ads push it as awful things like Cheerios, whole grains, oatmeal. As if those are even valid choices, when Cap'n Crunch is available!

Once again, shaving has served as the gateway to health for me. What organ of the body, other than the skin, can you directly manipulate and play with experimentally? (Don't answer that.) I feel the water soluble fiber bulking up the oils in my skin, preventing them from exiting the corneocytes, making the stratum corneum more thick and spongy and capable of holding shaving media. But thanks to the malic acid in this particular gel, no flakes, either.

So I theorize. It's the direct experience that's important, that makes a Gen X-er believe. I may actually eat some oatmeal with my apples tomorrow -- with a healthy squirt of maple syrup.

Modern cereal bowl, left. Mid-century cereal bowl, right.

UPDATE. Hello, calcium, my old friend... see Figure 2 in this pdf for the science tip.

Hoarding Lite

I totally forgot to mention the new blade, Wilkinson Sword, in Chaoying earlier. No complaints, though I won't know how to characterize it for sure until I get it in a more familiar razor. I found them on a lovely fall outing to the state park where I was married, where we all took a mile hike, onward to Ocean State Job Lots, the magical place where all As Seen On TV things wind up. Maybe they're expanding to YouTube? Paul H. Films inspired me to snag Nivea Men creme, too. Other acquisitions worth mentioning...

TABAC! It comes in a jar, but you don't have to buy the jar to get a puck, a fact easily overlooked when figuring the net value, still under $10 for a puck that I would consider to be full-size. I don't know if it was somebody's link, or the stars aligned when I was poking around Amazon, but it finally occurred to me to get some, and I'm glad I did. It smells like a powdery old-school cologne, like English Leather or British Stirling, perfectly at home in my collection. Not nearly as nice as PdP No. 63, but I expect I'll actually be able to use this for shaving more often. Since I also had a puck of Williams waiting to be smashed into the shaving rainbow, I took some photos, so you can check out their dimensions side by side, and after kneading, independent of the shape they were marketed in:

Similar hardness, but the smaller puck was harder to spread (thin), ending with many loose pieces.

Sharpologist recently posted a glowing report from a man who received an expensive comb made of animal horn. I had been investigating wooden combs for myself, since, thanks to Italian Barber, I now know what sandalwood smells like. When I put in my order, however, it was for the cheapest version of the two materials -- wood not specified. Such cheapness is not usually rewarded, but this time, I was very pleased. Neither comb creates static, or scratches the scalp. The wood exfoliates gently and distributes oils, while the horn styles the hair as if by telekinesis. You can see the horn comb in my expanding collection of matchy-matchy grooming accessories:

L to R: Boo-boo juice, in pump bottle from a dollar store; Cup that once held a bamboo plant; Mini crock
(both from recycling facilities); Baili special offer badger brush; Great Gatherings bowl from Big Lots;
Spray bottle from a local discount store; Horn comb from Amazon.

With Williams ejected from the bowl, and my skin tolerating a fair quantity of glycerin on a regular basis, I think I'm going to try warm lather again. My plan is to microwave water, heating the bowl, carry it to the bathroom in a slightly larger plastic salsa bowl, into which I will pour the water on arrival. Make lather in the ceramic, then drop it into the salsa bowl atop the remaining hot water. It tests nicely for buoyancy vs. weight -- should be a fine little poor-boy scuttle, IF the plastic doesn't melt.

Should I have gotten a black salsa bowl instead of red? Red for "hot" makes sense. Red is one of my favorite colors. Red, white, black and chrome are fine matches, to my ink-and-paper way of thinking. The trouble comes when the rainbow soap cups come into the picture, clashing with the only other color present. It sounds stupid, but I bet I'll be drawn to PdP in the crock, just on aesthetics. I so wish I could be a one-soap guy!

The shaving rainbow, composed of Dollar Tree travel snack cups for toddlers.
Blue - Williams, Green - Palmolive Classic, Yellow - Arko, Orange - KMF-VDH croap, Red - Tabac. 

All The Way With Chaoying

Since my skin felt just about perfect yesterday, I thought today would be a nice time to reset my sights on shaving perfection. Cured Witch Hazel set the foundation, followed by crabapple pectin and Noxzema with bentonite. I wanted Williams, but not the dregs left in my cup -- guess it's time to chuck that puck -- so went with Palmolive Classic.

A truly luxurious gel layer adhered to my skin throughout the shave; Charles Roberts would have been proud. I think I'm going to take this year's jack-o-lantern pieces and guts and process them as I would green apples, and see if I can extract some similar biopolymer.

"Chaoying" is the name of the final razor in my pretty, modern razor collection, for the BD191 with Schmidt R10 handle. Chinese names are not like Western names, Google revealed. This one means "surpass England," based on a government manufacturing initiative from the late fifties; "England" standing for Western manufacturing. I doubt Baili had anything to do with that, but with tongue in cheek, I proclaim: "mission accomplished."

I used Chaoying's blade loosening ability for greater exposure at the lowest and steepest angles of pitch, the first and final passes. But in the critical moderate angles of the second pass, which I shave skewed ATG/XTG to minimize traction, the blade was tight to the safety bar. Oh, and loose for skimming on the "hydroplastic envelope" (water pass), which is how I did the touch-ups for BBS. I saw one weeper right under my nose, where my attack was obviously interfered with by an enormous obstacle. Otherwise, perfect.

Streamlined Balm Deodorant

I did a heap of leaf raking this afternoon, with the kids compacting them. My skin was crawling when I woke up this morning, so I was unfortunately clean from a shower before all that sweating. Actually, I don't care anymore. I've gotten so good at targeted skin care, the bath schedule doesn't matter much to me.

It gave me a good opportunity to try altering my underarm antiperspirant formula, anyway. Since I've switched to balm instead of splash, I thought I would try giving the pits a pleasant smell. After balming my face with a pea-sized dab of Dollar Tree Men's 3-in-1 Lubricating moisturizer mixed with a splash of Dollar Tree blue aftershave, which I also wiped off and soaked with a wet cloth, to save my thin skin from dehydration, I reloaded with the same for my pits, wiping again. Then ammonium alum, with a spray of water to keep it sliding/dissolving on the skin, and fan drying with the cloth.

I've tried incorporating splash in other ways, and it's generally proven counterproductive, not a viable substitute for the witch hazel toner in the "odorless" method. It seems as though alcohol primes the skin and hair for bacterial colonization, and additionally opens up the floodgates for nutrient-rich sweat. But for little more time investment than smearing oneself with a commercial product, this formula gives about the same smelly result. The benefit is, you can make it out of any splash or cologne, and "reduce" ecologically.

Don't take my word for it, though. During a family pig pile on the master bed, my wife prompted my six-year-old son to smell my armpit, thinking I was still committed to the odorless antiperspirant. To her surprise, he reported: "Smells nice!"

Racer and "Stella"

Baili razor BD177 got a name today, after pairing up with my cheapest, smoothest blade. I was like, "duh," shoulda thought of this a long time ago. I forgot to tighten the blade down, having planned to play with the TTO's version of angle adjustment, and still didn't get burnt. It was like having a three-week old blade in the Super Speed. ME LIKEY! It's fast and cheap, and I don't expect the blade to last more than a week, but that could easily be my daily shave.

I did play with loosening the blade slightly, and found it very effective, flicking the edge up and down like in the BD191, and very secure, though controlled by a much smaller turn of the knob. So now I consider Stella's metallic odor in the same light as I look upon the chrome rubbing off the BD191 baseplate -- if that's what makes it work so well, from bare metal-metal contact inside, I'm all for it. I still hold some hope that the copper odor is just a misplaced layer of cosmetic finish.

Knowledge Of Fruit

Poring over lists of things that are alkalizing, I saw apples were in the "moderately" category, and started my day with one, plus 4,000 IU Vitamin D3. The wife and kids picked a bushel of 'em recently, so I've been eating them two at a time, and liking how I feel. Given how slimy the crabapple pectin popsicle was, it occurred to me that I could rub the core on my skin for preshave, as I once had with a cucumber slice.

Some pulp was rubbed off by the stubble, but a little rinsing still left a nice, slimy film. As I was doing this, my mind again connected with memories of Gramps. I actually think he might have shown me the same thing, only it was so difficult for a 4-year old non-shaver to encode a memory of what would have appeared to be nonsense. The probabilities are so incredible that I myself don't trust the recollection, so take this one with a grain of salt -- or a whole pinch, which tastes pretty good on an apple.

But do try it, because it is an excellent preshave! I got effective hair softening AND a nice skin softening post shave effect.

My Williams just isn't lathering up right anymore, and I think it's because all the sodium salt has been dissolved over time, leaving the less soluble potassium fatty acid-ates, and the scum of other metal ions from my hard water. So for once  I am actually using it like a mug soap, lathering right in the cup, because there's no way to get too much soap in the brush anymore.

Speaking of brushes, that Baili bargain brush is so insubstantial that I'm almost sorry I recommended it. It reminds me of what I've read of Parker brushes, so I think the bar was set too low on a corporate basis. I should also report that my beautiful rose gold TTO is smelling like a cheap hoe, as an oxidized copper odor is emanating from the knob. But Ruby's quality shone brightly today, giving me a nice, close shave for a change.

I'm still totally enamored with the BD191 cutting head, at least. There is a slight chip mark in my swapped handle which shows that the play in blade loosening is about 1/3 turn, a huge difference from the 1/8 to 1/4 range cited for most razors of the type. Tightened down, I finished off its blade by using the razor to exfoliate my feet, which I've been neglecting a bit lately. When you take a Tech or a GEM to calluses, you can get a ribbon shaving of cornified skin. This razor just takes it off gradually, with a much more natural-looking, declamation-like effect.

I once said that women interested in dermaplaning might still find some use in modern cartridges, but I retract that position. This is the way to go for that, and it gives some insight into why the razor is so darn good for my skin.

General Disappointment

Story of my life! Poking around Leisureguy's blog (say what you will about his shaving instructions, the man is a voracious reader in liberal politics), I found my way to an interesting report about men not participating in the labor force. That is, men like myself.

As it happens, I've been struggling with committing to a job application this week, a work at home opportunity for medical data processing. My wife's stepmother is a higher-up in medical office work, so I have a pretty good sense of the prospects and job security. I happen to be supremely qualified for this particular one, basically cataloging cancers. Indeed, the first career aptitude test I ever took, back in prep school, said I should be in data processing. (And we didn't even have the internet, in those days!)

I'll tell you the problem. Progressive though I am, the powers that be are hell bent on leading us back to the Clinton 1990's. I was there as a journeyman typesetter, another kind of skilled worker, enjoying pretty near the same kind of pay progression. And it sucked. Classifying workers as specified cogs in the corporate machine makes them appear to be replacable. They used to send some typesetting to outside help -- probably working at home -- and picking up that shitty work was our #1 daily source of stress. It ground the gears until the whole outfit flew apart in a labor dispute and subsequent sale of the company. Just another capital transaction, to economists. Total life disruption for working folk, as the presses went idle. My job ended up in India.

Hospitals apparently are a stronger anchor for jobs. But from the information before me, despite some insight from Obama's leadership (they are absolutely right, I'm not doing housework all day) they still don't get it. Their unpaid training ("free education") is aimed at young adults with no kids: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., plus four hours homework, for ten weeks. But really that's just grooming for the subsequent abuse, as you're expected to keep the same schedule at work, confined to a room in your own house. (Though hopefully, professional development/continuing education doesn't take 4 hours a night.) Really makes you glad you sold your soul to the bank to "own" the whole property...

Now, I'm with the late Gore Vidal, on the Republican Party being "as dead as the Whigs in 1846." I was an independent before the wars, and still am, in my own mind; I just vowed never to vote for that one party, ever again. But, f--, Democrats: YOU'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT ECONOMIC INJUSTICE. Or it won't work -- I won't work. Skilled workers won't ever eat shit and poop money, no matter how deep the collusion between government and corporations.

So when I hear some fascist spout off about gays or women, I do know where they're coming from. In many ways, liberation has ruined the workplace. Nor will I let black voters off the hook, for poo-poohing Bernie (at least as CNN told it). Not helping the cause, my equals! For every sucker willing to get in line for this stale, old, capitalist American dream roller coaster ride, we'll all be waiting that much longer. (For JUSTICE.)


Was I going to say anything at all about shaving? Let's see... my face is certainly geting dry and flaky with all the glycerin I've been giving it, in toner and balm. I gave up on the heavy BD191 handle and switched to my favorite, Schmidt R10. I had to be sure, because the handle nut is of larger diameter, and will scrape a circle of brass into the baseplate. It looks alright, I think.

I've also been playing with a new shaving popsicle made of crabapple pectin, just some cloudy dregs I saved, leaving it to settle in the back of the fridge. I didn't get much this year, from just some knotty accidents of pollination on a few branches, but it was almost as thick as the commercial stuff. Pectin is an emulsifier that can form a natural polymer, and so an interesting material in all areas of bathroom research. With a prep of Vit. D oil, cured witch hazel, pumpkin juice, and the pectin, it seemed to make an alcohol-free shaving gel! But I chickened out and put Williams on top, for a gentle CCS. That damn razor fooled me into overshaving again the last time, so I continue to struggle with myself in relation to the low angle.

Iffy Stiffies And Williams

I moved the challenging Personna Platinum Chrome from BD177 to Ruby and confirmed that the Parker TTO is just all around better for me, with an easy BBS. But today the BD191 called me back, for a shave that left the skin essentially untouched. Something about the contrast of these three razors is especially instructive, teasing apart three distinct angles of pitch without overly limiting exposure. I don't know that I'll ever decide on one, though, since my skin is far from constant.

Today, coming off a pretty rough week, I was motivated to preserve skin, and focused on limiting the blade's traction: by gradual direction changes, by tightening the blade down on second pass, and by only taking two passes. I was rewarded with a perfectly even, velvety smooth shave. That is, stroking upward anywhere on my face would catch stubble, but stroking downward anywhere would feel smooth. More importantly, my skin's healing continued, barely interrupted by some improvised Lilac Vegetal balm.

Will I be able to live with the stubble, later tonight? Well, if not, I will certainly be free to shave again. But I'd like to start building some epithelial thickness for the cold season ahead. To that end, I used Humphreys as preshave, which gave me a clue as to the etiology of a possible Williams Collapse Syndrome, or better, "emulsion dissatisfaction." Putting a splash of Humphreys directly on the puck, you will recall, makes Williams lather spectacularly rich. Today, putting it in my skin seemed to do the opposite, by reversing the mass transfer of liquid via the Marangoni effect. I had also used baby oil as a cleanse, so there is another suspect. My lather was already struggling in my palm, and failed on my face.

Once again, the cure was readily accessible: reload and face lather. Making lather isn't like making jelly, thankfully. I tried making wild grape for the first time this weekend. Nothing clear about that jelly -- BLACK. But yummy. I made a small mistake, and the first batch didn't try to set right up in the pan, like my crabapple does, which gave me a scare -- it took me all weekend to pick enough for two batches, using the last of my own pectin, from a special crabapple tree I have in my yard. But a little less than a gallon bucket full of blueberry-sized grapes yielded more than a gallon of tart jelly, in the end.

The annual tradition always reminds me of soap making, because it's about the same level of craftsmanship. I traded two jars of crabapple jelly for my first puck of artisan soap -- Petal Pushers Fancies. One for one would have been a fairer trade... and I'd ask two pucks for a pint nowadays, because I notice everyone's using "stearic acid" as an ingredient. That's worse than using store-bought pectin to make jelly. At least the pectin reacts with sugar to make a gel; stearic acid is only a salt molecule away from being soap itself. Someone else actually made soap, then distilled it to produce this "ingredient."

That is, there is no such thing as "saponified stearic acid," an attempt at deception seen in some of the lists. Saponification is the separation of an ester into alcohol and fatty acid, and stearic acid is the latter type of product.

I don't know any equivalent kind of cooking, that is analogous to saying "I made soap... using soap as an ingredient." I guess Shake-N-Bake... since we don't actually "make" chickens. It does taste great.

Need For Speed

Considering the chatter every new $200 razor gets, don't you think someone -- anyone? -- would notice a new TTO that rivals the classic Super Speed in quality AND price? The Baili BD177 (179 in chrome) is big news, in my book. Maybe it's because I once used an inflation calculator to assess the real original cost of the classics. Guangzhou Weidi Commodity Co., Ltd. isn't a small machine shop, or a kickstarter project. The Chinese are actually in a position to fill the gigantic shoes of Gillette. The only question now is, how the products are received.

BD177 is nowhere near as gentle as my black-handled SS. I'd guess it's more like a red-tip, though I've never encountered one personally. Again Baili has wisely chosen a revered, not so easy to find design upon which to build. Beginners will fare somewhat better here, though I certainly don't think they are being catered to. (BT171 is still in the catalog.) It's technically easier to burn myself with a steep pitch bias, and no protection to adjust compared to the BD191. But I am not so easily fooled into doing so.

So far, Ruby's seat on the "modern" shelf is secure, because she never burns me. And I find the BD191 more intellectually stimulating. But this one's too pretty to go in the bucket.

Not For Beginners

So it's been a week, and I've gradually worked the BD191 down to the hair roots. Given its mild first impression, the journey was surprisingly perilous. A quarter turn on the handle brought my Personna Platinum Chrome to the right depth, but it was a decidedly low-angle shave, digging hard at the roots. But then the blade was very selective in which hairs it would cut, inviting over-shaving. I think that because dormant and immature follicles have less deeply rooted hair, and there's no extraction factor in play, they, along with the many oddly-angled hairs, cannot brace for the cut and just get plowed over.

Still, my skin loves this approach. It's like a shavette with just the bare minimum of safety, or presumably, a Gillette Brownie. And I just had a flashback to when I was 4 -- that's how my grandfather knew the Old Type, but since I didn't know anything about Scouting, either, I had no idea what the hell he was talking about. Or Gram, for that matter. Oh, yes, I'm sure they were both conversant in the entire Gillette product line, talking over my head between the bathroom and adjoined livingroom.

I love that connection with the past. I just don't have the old-timey discipline. There's so much going on with the blade side of things, I don't have the attention to give to hair softening, either. The natural pairing, given the effort I'm willing to put in, is the Italian Barber, alone. Both are about physical skin protection. Finally, a balm can be improvised by combining Dollar Tree 3-in-1 Lubricating moisturizer with a little splash.

And maybe that's just where most shavers are coming from, on a day-to-day basis.

I Killed The Lather

Williams is an extremely simple soap, but that doesn't mean it isn't still beyond scientific understanding. One of the common complaints about its lather is that it "disappears." I thought I had it dicked, but damned if it didn't do it again today.

This weekend, while out and about touring (foliage season) I passed on some fakey shaving soaps at an expensive market, because I could read the ingredients well enough to know that they used the wrong kind of lye. That generally leads to a similar phenomenon, of a "shaving" soap that just lathers like a bath bar. You can try that for free with Ivory and some oil, a pinch of baking soda... not good.

Playing with Ivory taught me the old trick, featured in old Ivory advertising, of pre-lathering, which is smearing what sticks to my hand in palm lathering on the beard, for the purpose of pre-saturating the skin. Williams and other low-glycerin soaps respond very well to this technique. Theoretically, the lather I put on after wiping that off and hydrating with a wet cloth doesn't have to deal with water migrating to the skin, because it's already been done.

Today there seemed to be a substance migrating the other way, though, destroying the lather after precautions were already taken. I went back to the bowl, and still couldn't whip it back up. I think it could have been alum from a prior shave, trapped in my skin somehow. Strange that I wouldn't have encountered this before, though. I also used pumpkin juice and boo-boo juice, but I thought that was a good thing. Actually, I haven't been mixing baking soda and pumpkin juice lately, and I guess can see how those might have unlocked the skin more than the soap.

Very weird. It was like, one minute lather, then pffft -- it was gone. Luckily there's never a shortage of Williams. I just rinsed and face lathered, for a fantastic lather, no further problem.

I added an instructional note to my post about the BD191, based on today's shave. That thing is growing on me way too fast, for a razor that has yet to deliver BBS. I just want to celebrate its existence... like the Merkur and the Tech had a fat Chinese baby, and it's irresistibly adorable! I welcome the opportunity to develop my technique further, and meet the challenge presented by its beauty. Probably just breaking in a single blade will help... but it's too late, I'm a goner.

BD177 Plenty Of Blade

I wouldn't call either of my new Baili razors a "game-changer" in the milieu of my bathroom, but I have no doubt they're going to take America by storm, in the marketing sense. I couldn't bear to wait for the stubble to come back on my upper cheeks tonight, and had an evening shave, just to see how the TTO measured up. It seemed a little more biased toward going deep and steep, but it's hard to say, since the starting stubble was so light, and it WAS reaching it at fairly low pitch. I didn't choose a very efficient skin prep, yet this razor allowed me to dig repeatedly under my jaw AND do some dry shaving, despite already being a little irritated when glycerin soap was applied.

Not surprisingly, this razor was much more my speed, and a real competitor to my #1, Parker 87R. The Baili has similar heft and flash, but again, is obviously the result of a completely different kind of production. On one hand, every polished surface of the Baili razors, inside and out, is a mirror. I don't think the shaving world has ever seen anything like that! But as previously mentioned, the trade off in mass production seems to be a lack of machine work. A little squeak when the knob is tightened could be perceived as the factory's robot signature. Sounds to me like the same factory as the Weishi, and I think a reference in the early marketing suggested as much.

It doesn't add up to "luxury" quite as convincingly as the heavier Baili 3-piece; but, neither does Parker's TTO formula. And at $20 less, it's a clear winner, unless some other style "speaks" to you. Personally, I'm loving the rose gold finish, something I once suggested for my wedding rings. (Vetoed.)

BD191 Crazy Mild

I love it! The new BD191 heavy ZAMAK razor from Baili isn't a "clone" at all, but a clear continuation of Tech evolution. It gives me hope for humanity that the blade exhibits no flex at all, and seemed incapable of injury at any pitch, more like the Merkur 41C Old Type clone. Perhaps this razor could be unscrewed a fraction of a turn, same as the open comb, for greater first-pass efficiency. Unlike the Merkur, the effect continues through a wide range of operability, making it equally Weishi-like. It can even bear some pressure modulation, like the anchor style that this razor essentially makes obsolete.

My concern for the beginner then becomes, that with little immediate consequence for shaving at a moderate pitch, it might be difficult to learn how to shave correctly. It also seems unlikely that this new flagship, despite its visual cues, will ultimately alter the direction of current trends. It should serve to effectively relieve Merkur of that responsibility, for the mainstream. I wish this had been my first step toward luxury, instead of that screwed-up Maggard razor.

The metaphor I like to use for razors like this, is learning to drive with the family Buick. It may be a great all-around car, but you need a compact car to really figure out the physics of driving.

Driver's Ed

So, what you're going to do, here, is put the razor in gear with a slight unscrewing of the handle, about a quarter turn. (Much more secure than the 41C screw, looks like half a turn would be no problem.) Use your lateral blade guards, arcing vertically from the bar guard at the corners of the blade, as a visual gauge of blade exposure.

Now pretend you're shaving with a shavette, and pull your skin up at the sideburn, before pulling out with a low-angle, skewed stroke. Continue at a low angle, and maintain skin tension, through the first lathering, then tighten the handle down to shave against the grain, at least for now. (You can shave however you like when your skin gives you a license.)