Slant Misunderstanding

It's like the Razor of Babel. Italian Barber's Torsionshobel seemed, to me initially, a monument to cartridge-like, high-traction shaving. If someone liked what cartridges were doing to their face, and just wanted to avoid ridiculous refill prices, I'd send them right there. The large plane surface enforces a certain range of pitch, yet to a degree which is still useful; and with a single, adequately exposed blade, is not nearly as destructive to skin.

What I failed to perceive is just how well it could handle a completely worn blade. With the angle of the edge becoming less acute through wear, the slightly steeper pitch carries even less potential for excessive exfoliation. I'm still using the same Personna (even abusing it, on a hand callus last evening), whereas the slant wound up in the closet fairly soon after purchase. Its modest pairing with an old Merkur clone handle seems like less of an insult now, as my buyer's remorse about the stock handle diminished over time, allowing me to appreciate the perfect fit.

An amazingly even, easy shave. But again, not thoughtless: with pitch de-emphasized, you are free to focus on direction and skew, hydration and everything else. You're still using the rigid joint between the cutting head and the handle to maintain the pitch, but it's supernaturally easy. I'm not quite BBS under the jaw corners... but again, the blade is pretty near dull. It makes perfect mathematical sense to me, in retrospect. I think what really screwed me up is actually the consensus around this design, emphasized by Michael Ham (Leisureguy). That's usually a huge red flag, for me.

I think it is likely that the more popular author has similarly overlooked something: the great number of shaves that can be performed by a single blade, when said blade is particularly well suited to one's skin, as Personna is to me.

Gillette Slim All The Way

When my #1 blade, Personna (USA), nears the end of its life, it becomes capable of great closeness, but at the cost of increasing roughness to the skin. Now, it's not the nicking kind of roughness, but it can rise to the level of a kind of abrasion, which neither looks nor feels good. Narrower-gap razors give an opportunity to use greater force without violating the skin's limits.

The Slim is the narrowest I've got (not "overclocked," please note). I take it down to "5" for second pass, which seems to be when I need the riskiest, moderate pitch angles. That's a "reduction" pass for sure. WTG, "7" is a good start, bringing some grazing downforce to the skin, but to get the closest shave, I need the full "9" ATG.

Today I was coming off a light previous shave, and applied my extra skin to a fourth pass. Rigidly holding a low angle, great force brought the edge to the bottom of my follicles. Chaoying might have been able to get more off my neck, but I was practically epilated where it counted, on my face, including under the jaw.

For the local Thanksgiving parade, welcoming Santa, I mixed up some Aqua Velva Musk balm, which was still pretty penetrating. It found very little damage, in the acute angle of the neck, with no subsequent burn. That razor held the low angle as good as any straight bar, and I have to wonder if it didn't have something to do with the recent cleaning.

When the Slim is tightened, the extra half turn or so to lock it does not flick the edge up and down, like some other TTOs. I think that makes a particularly solid prow of a dull edge, and with the fine gap control, it doesn't have to bear as much stress. I always thought of its longer handle and mechanical weight, compared to the Super Speed, as less than ideal. But I've grown to accommodate more of both dimensions with my modern razors. Doug Hansford points out, it's only as long as a Weishi overall.

Today, the Slim seems just about perfect. I seriously doubt any of the new adjustables coming out this year will measure up, or rather, down. But I doubt I'll ever find the disposable income to find out. Hopefully the prices for Slims will improve as a result of the new alternatives. *<};-)

Existential Thanksgiving

One might think I were a normal shaver lately. Casually switching from canned foam, to fancy Italian Barber sandalwood, back to Williams... hot, cold... It hasn't been all irritation-free and BBS, but you know how it is. You try that extra-diggy pass, you know exactly what you did wrong. I'm totally content with my handling of hardware and software (though, similarly, I still sometimes forget to rinse something off). It's just my skin throwing the curves, at this point.

Now, I realize that that's largely a function of what I ate, since discovering the soluble fiber cure for wiry hair. As if this weren't enough of a miracle, I have transcended, actually become one with shaving: eating my balm, drinking my aftershave. And in this new quest for overall good health, the seed of which was shaving, I am succeeding. What I learned from pumpkin juice and oatmeal is already helping me understand fermented tea. The fat is melting off of me. My gut seems to have a thriving acid mantle of its own. It's like someone pulled a nipple marked "inflammation," and I'm deflating.

I'm pretty sure I had a systemic candida overgrowth. I might have believed that was the root of it, too, if I hadn't studied organic acids and emulsifiers, etc., in the context of shaving. How the pumpkin allowed sebum to escape the tissue, and stimulated regeneration; how the apple dissolved the goo itself, and alkalizing made the skin tougher. Now it's kombucha with chia seeds, coconut oil... this folk health and beauty craze could herald the (economic) decline of medicine as we know it, not to mention cosmetics!

As with shaving, what seems to be needed socially, once one catches that drift of authentic tradition through direct experience, is some unadulterated education. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out a G+ feed that's always interesting in this regard, with a recent, interesting post:

None of that shit's gonna get me, I know that now. Not dementia, cancer, heart disease... though all feature prominently in my family's health history. Alcoholism did get a good piece of me, years ago, but now I've got the best part of it. Soon, I'll be just as dweezily-looking as any ancient Appalachian, headed for centenarianism. And for that -- my health -- I am especially thankful. I recognize the presence of the great Unknown, and appreciate it as the source of these blessings; and, fully refreshed, will gladly welcome the coming cold and darkness.

Skin Too Soft

It wouldn't make a very good product name, but that's what coconut oil is turning out to be for me, in the long-term. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, as it was already suggested by one blogger, in the context of oil cleansing, to transition to plain water when the skin had reached "balance." Also, its acid nature was immediately evident to me. But I'm not willing to give it up so easily. For me, it has assumed the place that glycerin takes in most people's hearts. I know I should just be eating better, but it's so easy and convenient to just smear on this anti-fungal moisturizer...

Perhaps I could blame the splash I was mixing it with, for turning it into the marinade of my personal steak. So today I indulged in a warm, Williams lather, with pumpkin juice and Shave Secret for prep, a fairly fresh Personna blade in the black-handled Super Speed. A bowl of oatmeal and ten pushups to pump up the hair, no messing around with harsh serum. I still saw a weeper, but taking care turned around the recent trend of rough shaves.

Then, to get my "fix," I tried Humphreys, then coconut oil, then alum, to try trapping the substance at the surface. The splash sent a shock of Williams and chemicals into my face, I think, as my lips looked pale and sickly afterward. With judicious use of the wet towel, I was able to soak for a natural finish. Yet still, as soft as a (hairy) baby, I'm afraid.

The lather stole the show. I know not many people believe Williams to be capable of doing what I achieved, so note this carefully. Here is where a floppy badger or horse can shine, whipping around the inside of a scuttle or smallish lather bowl. I used a full brush load (not dripping) of water in the soap cup, and then, because the brush would not hold that much protolather, transferred the liquid protolather to the scuttle in two loads. Mixing took awhile longer than I'm used to, at least a full minute. But I was close enough to the ideal mix that heat "cured" the protolather, by evaporating excess water. Then, when the brush inflated, I knew the lather was done. But before that, I pre-treated my face with some unfinished foam, and backed it off with a wet towel when I was ready to put the finished lather on, preventing its tiny quantum of glycerin from fleeing into my face. Thus, my Williams could rival (hydrated) shaving cream in a can in superficial appearance, despite its lack of oily enrichment.

OCM For Razors

People have been using coconut oil for all kinds of stuff:

At first I thought it was only the unrefined, presumably more acidic oil that could remove the rust from scissors, but I took the above as encouragement enough to try the refined version, which is cheaper. Yep, it worked. Refined is also the only kind I can afford enough of to think about immersing something. Like... a vintage DE razor!

Recently, Fendrihan posted an article advising mineral oil soaking as a final step in restoration. The shine made me envious. I cleaned my TTOs with dish soap when I got them, and some nasty chemical spray, and boiling water. I can't remember what order, but I vaguely remember a bulletin board discussion that made oil sound like the cause of gunk, rather than the cure, which I guess is why I never did that, myself. Especially mineral oil... if that went wrong, I'd never get it off.

Having become more familiar with the qualities of coconut oil, and hopeful that the finish of my razors might actually be improved, I collected the GEM, NEW LC, Slim, Super Speed, Travel Tech and soaked them for half an hour, maybe an hour in an old pan on the stove, as I figured out how I wanted to drain them. A dense nylon brush for nose pores reached the finely engraved crud, and with paper towels, showed some metal polishing power in gray oxidation.

What I wasn't expecting was the immediate freeing of the Slim's mechanism, to where it could be closed with one hand... one twirl. I had seen a lot of rubbery, gummy stuff removed before, but just a little more eeked out now, melted just that little bit better, from under the adjustment dial. Poking around between the riser and baseplate with a Q-tip didn't get anything new, just oxidation. To remove excess oiliness, I immersed the razors in a tall coffee mug filled with microwave-boiled water. I do not expect what is left to gum up, but it could; it's not nothing.

The razors are quite shiny and bright, though. Envy satisfied. I think the correct question now is, what is there that coconut oil cannot do? I saw a little tub of the virgin cold-pressed at the CVS, about twice the diameter of the tiny storage cup that I'm using. I'm thinking, they're right.

As for the inch of oil in my old pan, it's going to the carport, to condition some rusty old tools.


Some of my pumpkin seeds were left in with the "guts" and small pieces, soaking in brackish (sea salted) water for a couple days this year, as we rebounded from the kids' Halloween party. I thought I detected some fermentation going on, when I finally got around to them. The seeds, slow-roasted (below 250F) were awesome, and I still have several pumpkins on for Thanksgiving pie and cosmetics experiments. But I reserved some of this fermented soak water/juice for analysis as well. It is a little harsh for shaving, very dehydrating with with salt, and I suppose "pumpkin peel" enzymes. Ever gotten enzymatic laundry stain remover on your hands? Like that.

So I turned the new weapon on my foot fungus, or yeast, or whatever: foot soaking, then (with a fresh quart) washing my stinky slippers and cheap sneakers. I figured the slippers would be no loss, already decomposing, and the sneakers were poorly-ventilated, super Wal-mart clearance items that I was already avoiding wearing because of the smell. A reasonable person would have just tossed them both, but I gave them an hour of mindful soaking and wringing, first with pumpkin, then boo-boo juice, in the same plastic tub I had my feet in; blotting and rinsing, with a microfiber cloth of the auto detailing type that I use for shaving and bathing; and drying, with a final spritz of Witch Hazel, then setting them upside down on the recently re-activated furnace vents. By noon, they were pretty much totally dry, and smelling wearable again, but hardly odorless. The best I could do was to coat my feet in coconut oil, then wipe my hands on the shoe tongue and ankle.

Now they smell like some kind of pumpkin bread, but I really have to put my nose right up to the mouth of the shoe to pick it up. And even if I don't succeed in salvaging the footwear in the long run, I've given my feet a rubefacient, exfoliating and deep cleansing treatment, that just might bring the fungus wars to an ultimate conclusion.

Truly Classic Shaving

Meanwhile, the Wilkinson Sword has made its way in middle age to the Travel Tech, where it delivers perfectly velvety smooth shaves with nothing but Barbasol, just whisking hair away off the face without getting the edge and skin involved with each other.

I don't know how the hell cartridges ever caught on, in a world containing Skin Bracer. It takes this kind of gear, a coat of alum, and a gob of moisturizer mixed in for me to get any less than an outright burning sensation -- which I still wipe off and soak with a cold cloth!

It's Mourning In America

I've only actually drank, like, four cups of kombucha in total, as I'm still ironing out a niche for the "mother" mushroom. My first brew failed of sluggishness, as I chose a less than ideal tea and sugar, and the new SCOBY grew mold because I didn't reserve enough starter fluid. I performed a kind of fungus surgery, then, with vinegar, white sugar, and black tea infusion. Luckily the original SCOBY had sunk, and was spared exposure to the mold.

Anyway, I continue to be amazed at the health impact, like a fog has been lifted from my mind, and a weight from my body. A sad realization is dawning on me, that basically every good nutritive instinct I've ever had, has been turned against me by corporate commercialism and Big Sugar. I was coaxed away from comforting fiber goodness by sugary cereal, very early in life. A hugely destructive detour away from fermented foods was engineered by soda, and then, as a young adult, beer. Even my constant companion chocolate looks like it's occupying a seat that rightfully belongs to coconut.

Coconut oil is the bomb, as it turns out, not Dollar Tree moisturizer. By nature combining the qualities of fruit acid with fatty acid, a natural antiseptic if not antibiotic... I don't see any reason not to go full crunchy with cosmetics, except that I still prefer perfumery to essential oils. (I guess that's like the sugar for your nose.)  Put the coconut oil on before your splash. That's it: balm. You could tone it down to jojoba or cocoa butter, if your skin becomes too lively and pops out some acne, but that's the basic recipe: medium-chain triglyceride, aqueous emulsifier. Witch Hazel, U.S.P. as the splash, for full crunch.

Bringing It All Back Home

Going back to the village where I grew up for my great-uncle's funeral was a stressful, but necessary observance, as I struggle to process the continuing disappearance of an admirable generation. (Who didn't park at a desk, send all the money to Wall Street or Madison Ave. and flush it down a coke-spattered toilet. At worst, they could be called lousy plumbers, who also took a huge dump when they jumped to Reagan. One can't just blame the child standing next to the mess.) This branch of the family are pretty serious Christians. Which, I'm sure, is partly why they were always so good to me. I offered my best jar of grape jelly to the church ladies who put out the sandwiches, but you can imagine why I might have overdone the coffee. Probably also due to recent Halloween treats, my dermatophytes were inspired to rise with a vengeance in the evening.

Well, I didn't turn the other cheek; I struck like Eisenhower! First, I searched the September archives for the Egyptian skin saponification recipe, and gave it a nuclear-powered update with fiber. This took the inflammation and itch down to a blood-infused soreness, in places, which I hope represents a more productive immune response.

1. Eat half a banana, with peel.
2. Oil cleanse affected areas with jojoba.
3. Dissolve potassium bicarbonate in Witch Hazel, USP and scrub with cotton pad.
4. Repeat 2&3 with coconut oil.
5. Dermasil to re-moisturize.

As deathly gray as my pinky toenail is, it seemed to be thoroughly cleansed, or as they say for hair, "clarified." But I woke to more itching, if not flakes, and used a slice of banana peel to enable sleeping in. When I actually got out of bed (feeling much less depressed, thank you Lord), I read online that coconut oil would have been a better choice than Dermasil, as it is naturally anti-fungal. So I put a coat of that on, this time including my scalp, with a couple drops of tea tree & E oil mixed in as an afterthought.  On the internal front, I made a simple aloe juice cocktail with lemonade, and ate oatmeal for breakfast.

Postponing the shower until after my final leaf-raking session of the year, I mixed up a fresh pump bottle of boo-boo juice with potassium bicarbonate, and wet the hair/smeared the skin with it just before getting in. Then again with the coconut oil upon emerging.

I got that organic, unrefined coconut oil awhile ago at Christmas Tree Shops, and I'm not going through it very fast in the kitchen. I see the price has really dropped on the other kind, if I did want to cook more, so there's no reason not to use the good stuff exclusively as a cosmetic commodity, except for some generic acne warnings. Since I had it out, I let it take the place of moisturizer on my armpits, and so far, it's working well. Nice thing about that is, that since there is no glycerin to balance out, I can stick to the cheap Witch Hazel in the "odorless" preparation, instead of Humphreys. So far, so good -- no smell. My hand calluses are now nearly invisible and my hair noticeably darker looking, having been clarified like my toenail. Impressive stuff.

My shave, not so much, as I wanted to see what Williams would do with nothing but sweat. It did well enough, but my skin announced that it was clearly the end of the Racer in Stella, as only high-velocity strokes didn't dig. That meant a two-pass, three-hour smooth shave. Which I think is fine, given the lack of effort. Damn fine, even, since it was already almost suppertime.

The Ocean Within

Rakis, formerly desert planet Arakkis, home of the Fremen. Do you think those guys enjoy yard work, if not specifically raking?

Today I realized that I left out a major piece of the story arc in my concluding Disquisition, that will have to be edited. Why sweating was my first clue on this quest of the past couple years. After eating my oatmeal, and returning to the microwave to heat my scuttle, I took advantage of the otherwise wasted minute to do ten push-ups. Because I hadn't felt the wave of emollient fiber welling to the surface, as I had the first time. (It still wasn't distinct, and I didn't break a sweat, but that definitely got my blood pressure up.)

I also chose an extra-sucky oil cleanse (in the sense of drawing internal fluid) of charcoal face cleanser that I picked up at the Dollar Tree. Two drops of Shave Secret were then just compensating for dryness, really, though some of that got wiped, off, too, with a smear of Williams.

The Wilkinson Sword got transferred to the Super Speed for his bad behavior with Chaoying yesterday, and I can now say with confidence that the blade is a bit too sharp for me. But this was a fantastically effortless shave -- all I mean is, I can't safely get that edge into my follicles for BBS. Others have described it as a sharper Personna, and I agree. Perfectly smooth, great blade; I mean no criticism.

With my hair completely softened, first pass was totally efficient; I just had to keep it light on second and third. I don't think there even was a whole third pass, because I didn't dig, only skimmed, ATG. That's actually the kind of shave most men advocate anyway, by virtue of their softer hair. (I felt so un-violated by the high-flying blade that I tried a straight splash -- nope, that still stung. Skin still thin as it always was!)

So, I think it's bye-bye, bicarbonate, and with it, the problem of ammonia. I can get enough follicle pineconing from soap and sweat, working together, with a little fluid dynamic leverage. My little acid-base depot in the medicine cabinet will only need to be called upon in times of perceived imbalance.

Pain: A Definitive Guide

Some of us have thinner skin than others, and as such can read the title of this post as both topic and conclusion. Shaving for me has been an object lesson in the folly of consumerism, reinforced by pain. On the other hand, shaving served as a gateway to general good health, as I picked up modern shaving's slack in mindfulness and concern. I mean, look around this blog. On the skin side of things, I've gone WAY beyond Method Shaving, yet somehow ended up in the same sort of wild Orient, by setting off in a globally opposite direction. No faith in producers, no commitment to technique, just grinding away, at the facts and my face, until nothing remained but the authentic elements of a good shave.

Come to think of it, wouldn't I be justified in stealing either of those would-be trademarks? Method shaving would then be akin to method acting, instead of some weird martial arts camp. I'd still be taking down hair like Raiden from Mortal Kombat, with the elemental power of mental electricity, along with other forces of nature. Oh, no, not "power" again! Yep, I'm stealing that, too; not for myself -- in the name of The People. I've already identified this blog as "Marxist" for search purposes, but really, we've got to get beyond the German Enlightenment if we want all of our faces to survive (the Merkur Futur). Okay, okay -- how about "Axiological Shaving"?

I guess there are some things a thesaurus cannot help, and only marketing will do. But I digress. Some of you are just congenitally numb. Thicker-skinned, softer-haired men truly, literally may not feel that losing the stratum corneum is a bad thing, and I have to respect that. I at least have to assume you're not numb and dumb. Hm... but I can be quite dumb when shaving, despite being sensitive and educated. I would expect the relatively fortunate to be even more so. My natural skepticism simply buys me the time required for stubborn persistence. "Existential Shaving?"

Yeah, I think that's probably it, and my roundabout reply to podcaster Rick DeWeese, who was feeling the purposelessness at the core of his podcast's being last week. Keep at it, man! Honest YouTuber Michael Freedberg (10:30) opined that everybody gets the sort of weeping irritation he displayed, on occasion, and I can't disagree, having overshaved my neck with Chaoying and Wilkinson Sword this morning. Of course, I would suggest changing blades and technique before going razor shopping, and argue that sliding strokes are magical. Where it rises to the level of moral hazard is a statement like Arief Wibowo's "Blades hurt your skin no matter how tender you use them." Innocently offered in the context of aftershaves and cologne, that would tend to be true, I imagine, as a casual statement of statistical fact.

But shaving need not hurt the skin. I believe it is within everyone's capability to avoid weepers and razor burn, even though I've had more of both than I care to think about. If you feel or even visually recognize harm in shaving, you can use your good sense to shave and even live better. Rage, rage against the dying of the statum corneum!

Tiny Bubbles

I did a little experiment with the last of my pumpkin pop, just tossed it in the scuttle cup on top of a good amount of the base potassium bicarbonate, more than I would use. No smell in the bowl, confirmed. Faint smell when applied to my forearm (no oil applied there), little smell when applied to dry moustache area, moderate smell when spread over cheeks. Results say "skin reacting" to me, and I don't think there's enough acid in pumpkin juice to balance out this apparently more powerful version of baking soda, at least not the quantities I've been putting in the cup.

On Halloween, I had a notable late night shave taking a different approach. Too lazy to fetch another pumpkin pop from the freezer in the basement, I took a sprinkle of a more powerful acid -- citric acid -- from a new jar recently installed in the medicine cabinet. Together, citric acid and potassium bicarbonate make something like Alka-Seltzer, only without the aspirin.

Having eaten a ripe banana, with the skin (can't really call it a "peel" anymore), and still feeling dry, I again skipped the Witch Hazel, reserving it for the end. I wanted as gentle a shave as possible. Just for comfort, my own personal pleasure. Shave Secret took the lead, followed by the seltzer serum. I didn't try to remove the oil until after that. Finally, Williams, in the fastest palm lathering ever, probably 30 seconds from picking up the soap cup to finished lather. Somehow I just nailed it; loving the new puck, but perhaps the oil and serum residues contributed something, too. The sensation of the brushtips receded, and I wrung it through once just to be sure, but that was the right amount of water, alright.

Cold water shave. Stella and Racer, on his last legs. Didn't matter. Less than perfect hair softening still allowed remarkable efficiency, and with the blade loosened I took the time to pull the skin for erect follicles in the critical areas from the jaw up. Second pass was focused on skin preservation and no pressure, at moderate pitch angles; then I opened her up again for a close finish, with some slow strokes and some fast.

Alum declared success, with only an isolated neck tingle, and held back whatever alcohol was in the splash of Witch Hazel. Another soak, then cocoa butter. Essentially, it was a shave without fragrance, or much substance penetrating the skin at all. Though, in the end, the cocoa butter and some smelly liquid hand soap we had out for the holiday combined for a fruit and nut bar effect, that I really dig. Nothing for the skin to work through. No moisturizer, no injury, just cleanliness. It was the shave I would choose if my wife asked me to shave before sex.

Welcome Bacteria

My skin yeast and fungi are really on their heels now. I casually wipe behind my ears when I shave, but that didn't cut it today, as an unusual smell of death was evident. I had to go back for that liquid handsoap to break the nasty film. But I took it as a good Halloween omen, because of what I've been reading about SCOBYs, symbiotic cultures of bacteria and yeast used in brewing kombucha tea. The megadose of fiber I received from a bowl of beans yesterday undoubtedly had something to do with the newcomers. Just maybe a little sugar overdose, too, made a good growth medium. Taking a shower for our halloween party was thus like starting a new batch of booch. You want the bacteria to get a jump on the yeast, or it ends up too boozy and lacking in benficial acids and probiotic culture.

A more auspicious smell was found in my armpits, which didn't need any washing today, but tonight signal that they, too, are in transition, going more... well, let's just say, more like my wife. Since she's out of town for a few days, I'll be smelling myself and thinking of better times. Perhaps I'll transfer that particular bacterial film to my still evidently fungal pinky toenail. (Now THAT'S what sneakers ought to smell like!)

Seriously, though, I will stop and smell the roses, so to speak, celebrating the "coincidences" at the edge of mindfulness which continue to bless me. Fiber depletes B vitamins, and kombucha is loaded with B vitamins. I already loved oolong tea, and kombucha may have been brewed with oolong originally (at least 221 BC in China). My first real batch has a good looking bubbly film, with no mold. I can't wait for it to mature, so that I can build a SCOBY "hotel," and share with friends...

Ah, the familiar insanity of manic enthusiasm. This year's crazy project, next year's crazy flea market offering and crazy Xmas gift. It could circle back and be the third year's crazy shave serum, though. Try and stop me!