Clean, Comfortable Head Shaves

It's been better shaving since I left my nicks to recover, got caught up in a tight schedule, and found that the subsequent shave, after skipping nearly a whole day, was the best yet. Allowing 100% efficiency on the WTG pass, longer stubble shields the skin and ensures that every follicle gets a nice tug. Hysteresis may be real -- over the time span of several minutes between passes.

To be more specific, since I'm not in this for marketing, I think it takes 36 hours for my stubble to emerge completely, so I cannot get an ideally close shave every 24 hours. I have to save up my growth for special occasions, like Thanksgiving perhaps.

Getting a good few shaves -- top and bottom -- from Shark Super Chrome in the Travel Tech with Yingjili 8306-L handle. Holding nothing back, now, it is tremendously easy to generate leverage in a variety of previously very awkward positions around the back of my head. My thumb has taken the top spot on the handle, much of the time, ironically making me feel a bit like an ape. As long as it doesn't get too skippy, control is sufficient.

Brush is Not Acrylic

And not one fine artist shaver came forward to correct my mistake... what a cultured lot you are! ;) The YouTube search returns for brush repairs included the phrase "acrylic brush," but that actually means, brush for acrylic nail polish or paint, so... fine, I'm the dumbass. Also, eyeglass frames are made of acetate -- which does share two letters with acrylic, but no money from big wheel for me. I refer you to a more current-affairs shaving blog for further speculation on the "tuxedo" type brush material:


Been having some rather shitty shaves lately, but I believe all of my razors are back in rotation with respect to my head, at least. Baili BD-177 "Stella" made quick work of both shaving domains tonight with a Wilkinson Sword blade, but left a couple spots bleeding, some new kind of nick I don't get on my face. Earlier this week, some keratinous shit (solar keratosis) was erupting from both sides of my forehead, as far back as the right ear, and the razor showed no mercy. Well, I'm smooth now! I tried a 3-blade cartridge in the shower, and that went about how you'd expect. I'm really appreciating the covered blade tabs of the Baili razors, because I do like to go digging near my ears. When that tab hits, it feels like there's going to be a ruptured artery, with a painful, horrible POP! Hasn't happened yet, though.

My skin seems to have completed its toughening transition in about a month -- which is simply the turnover time for my shave-exfoliated epidermis, I suppose. I'll probably start growing hair back after Thanksgiving. The bald spots will still be there, though I do feel a nice little rough patch coming up from the southern hair jungle into the desert of my crown. I've dabbed with Nizoral now and then, when I get a shower, which they say is poor-man's Minoxidil. I also have that Dr. Miracles ointment from the Dollar Tree when I want some moisturizing. Coconut, jojoba... I play it by ear, so nothing like my usual bathroom research trials.

Black and White Knot is Heat Shapable Acrylic

I've been loosely following the introduction of Tuxedo et al. black-and-white synthetic knots, biding my time until prices come down to Earth. A makeup brush came to the Dollar General, largest retailer in my village, that matched the general description of the softer variety; indeed, it appears to be the same brush featured in one of my favorite lathering videos from YouTube.

Recently, a Virginia Sheng black-and-white brush dropped into my price range, and looked like a potential mate for my Armetale Williams cup -- fake pewter meets fake ivory. I knew it wasn't going to be authentic "Tuxedo," or as soft as the little kabuki I'd taken to represent that quality. I was surprised, though, to find it as stiff as my Pur-tech from the same vendor.

I now own classic and modern sizes of three distinct kinds of brushes, whose characteristics apparently have the power to reliably attract me: a soft synthetic type that holds water like a mop; a stiff synthetic type that acts more like a whisk, and a broomy boar type that gently scrubs. These form the cohesive heart of my collection, with just a couple (boar) outliers.

Until I noticed that my big, new black-and-white brush had a bad perm, flipped over to one side. It looked as though some chemical in my Williams enrichment scheme had permanently damaged the brush. But when I googled for other cases of brush damage, the hits returned a bunch of makeup and paint brushes being repaired by immersion in boiling water... and those brushes were acrylic. AH... yes, I had been using boiled water lately. And, as a lifelong eyeglass wearer, I've bent earpieces that way, intentionally, to make them fit better.

So I set out to "fix" my brush, on the assumption that it, too, was made of acrylic fibers. Nuked a mug of water in the microwave, and immersed my brush nearly up to the handle. Without thinking much, I did as the YouTubers did, and sort of shaped my brush manually, by running it between my thumb and index finger. Repeated a couple times, until I felt it was symmetrical enough.


As you can see in the photo, the brush now compares to my grandfather's StanHome mixed boar/badger knot, with a "flame" profile. That's his worn-out stub on the far right; I found a less used-up one at an antiques store. Not pictured: the little brush stand, not really a drying tool, so much as a shape retainer for the knot as it dries. Here, qualities of badger and boar are combined in one, stiff but non-absorbent, soft-tipped fiber type. Most notably, the extra tip density lets me dip for a precise aliquot of water to bring to my little Williams mug; where before, the brush took enough water for four shaves.

I unfortunately have to inform you that the glue bump on Vig Shaving synthetic brushes seems consistently sub-standard and very palpable. I never noticed it too much in my smaller Pur-tech, but with everything scaled up, it's right under my fingertips. I picked at this one with an acne tool to get it under control, and lost a few bristles in the process. Clearly, too, bristles that deform in very hot water could be perceived as a serious liability by many shavers. The heavy acrylic handle, while lending a quality hand feel, might tip balance the wrong way, in some setups.

But for me, this might be it -- The One Brush!

Williams -- just Williams

Blade Smoothness Revisited

Shaving my head has allowed me to see myself as a new student, going through the learning process from the beginning. First, it justified the endorsement I once gave in an Amazon review, mostly on principle, of the Merkur 41C, as a great beginner razor. Now, back to my preferred Tech, I'm getting re-acquainted with the pleasures of the smooth, less-picky blades that helped me learn to shave. 

Today, with my last Baili platinum, I chose not to approach my beard with ginger precision, quick strokes and a lot of skewing, which has lately been leaving me with less-than ideal skin texture in the jaw corners, and more stubble than I would like at bedtime. This morning, following a cue from recent head shaves, I leaned on the top cap and plowed deep, just like I used to in the good ol' Personna days. I think that's the fundamental difference between smooth and sharp: the degree of leverage versus light touch. Then, subsequent to that choice, in the balance of angle selection, is a choice between slightly more burn and some missed hair. I did have to go back and dry shave the jaw corners, gingerly, to maintain my accustomed illusion of hairlessness.

No bumps, though, because no picking or stabbing. Those missed hairs seem pre-selected, not to pull the blade down into the skin when treated that way. I think they're the poorly rooted ones. A strong aftershave of 3-in-1 Lubricating Lotion mixed with Aqua Velva Musk gives a "healthy" burn, evenly distributed and not painful. The general inflammation level is slightly less than the ideal sensation of shrinking on drydown, but still completely neutral, not a "razor burn" in any degree.

Any creeping doubt in the back of my mind, that my habitual use of sharper blades, and daily BBS, would eventually justify the "no pressure" forum clown posse, is dead. This is absolutely how shaving works. Only the amplitude of the power changes, to a greater efficiency, when you move up to a sharper blade, and a lighter touch.

Twice Daily

Shaving, that is -- though Mo' Shave November is intimately concerned with glandular health...
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VehHn55raYg (song by The Wurzels)
At night I shave my head, and in the morning, my face. All that shaving in one stand was getting tedious, even for one who enjoys it. The thrill of discovery has passed. I do still hope to become more efficient.

On the other hand, this is a great opportunity to use up those blades that I find less than ideal, as the scalp isn't nearly as picky, and my head hair will kill any edge before it gets broken in, anyway. I don't mind taking a few extra strokes, just for now. I'm still not modulating the pressure correctly (erring on the light side, I think), and struggling with hand coordination, too. Slowly, the position and direction of each hand, tracking over the back of my head, are coming into alignment, as I learn to shave blind. Good skill to have in the bank, I suppose; I've always admired the blind folks on the forums.

The best news, though, is that I'm back to my new favorite razor, the Travel Tech. I toyed with using separate razors, but it's cool; I'm finding new degrees of light touch, even with smooth blades. Which do stab and raise a bump here and there, and leave an odd stub or two under my jaw. Generally, l'm just as comfortable as when I had the straight-legit BBS. The only slight disappointment, is that I am resigned to bedtime stubble, once again.

Mo' Shave November

I don't have a vintage Gillette New Improved. I do have a Rimei with a brass Razorock handle, that is similar to the later "NEW." The straight bar is just a little nicer to my skin and filtrum. That's the part under my nose. Oh, dammit -- I forgot to grow a moustache for Movember again. I blew all my donating money on non-Republican political candidates for last November, too. I guess that means I'll have to be the organized opposition to No-Shave November, then... ;-)

Shaving -- The Facts

November: Time to STF Up

Cancer Isn't Real

Guns are for Everyone

Stop Playing With Your Balls

Double Your Prostate, Double Your Fun

Participation entails trolling online bulletin boards and, of course, shaving your head. No moustache, but still pretty creepy. Isn't that true of any form of personal grooming, when turned to collective intents? Oh -- case in point: priests, which I think is the fundamental vibe my new look is tuned to. Took me awhile to pick up on reactions, but with the glasses, yep, I see it now. I'm Father McShavenhead. Friar Curly. I could have passed for Jewish before, but I'm like, extra white, now. (Jesus, am I empathizing with skinheads?) Definitely not Native American enough for my liking, at the moment.

Shaving my head has certainly been a learning experience, though. The Rimei had to be handled a little more carefully than the Merkur, but got it done almost as well. I got one nick on the top (where few will see it), and I can tell it's not quite even, though it was completely smooth initially. I guess this means I'm good enough to try the Tech again, but... do I really want to? I'll give myself the month to think about it. I still make odd errors of confusing left and right, working on the back of my head.

The Rimei face shave was a welcome step back to the familiar, at least. The skin-friendliness of the Merkur that I noted in the last post did not endure, unfortunately. Makes me think it was only good that time because of the prior, Ming Shi shave. If I shaved my head with the Rimei tomorrow, I bet it wouldn't be as good, either.

Tabac was the second reliable workhorse pulling today's shave, and I realized something. Witch Hazel is especially compatible with it, smell-wise. I think that if I worked with animals, and had more need of deodorant, Tabac would be my favorite over Williams. The "build-a-film deodorant" method reached the height of its power with Tabac as pit-wash, Witch Hazel and alum as dual astringents, and lanolin foot creme (I think) as the oil film. (It was either foot creme or hand creme, I stole from my wife some time ago in a little circular storage container for some forgotten purpose.) I guess I'm okay with lanolin, anyway.

Uncle Fester Endorses Merkur OC

Uncle Fester was a big hit at Mall-o-ween. I bought one of those LED space lights in the form of a light bulb as a prop and hope to construct some fake dynamite for the real holiday. (Sparkler for a fuse?) The Futur clone gave me a pretty efficient shave with a Wilkinson Sword blade, much more efficient than the DE89 clone with a fresh Voskhod. I smartened up and turned the razor down to 1.5 for my head.



But that wasn't nearly as comfortable as yesterday's shave. I had hardly any sting under the Skin Bracer, and that's one of the most irritating I've got, with the menthol. The Merkur open comb took a bit more time, but was not exasperating, like with the Schmidt R10. I think the pitch bias is similar, but the gapless razor doesn't let anything flex out of the effective range. My Wilkinson Sword was still beaten dull by merely fine head hair. But, of all the razors I've tested, this time around, the Gillette Brownie clone displayed the least change in attitude when it came time to shave the beard. Loosening the blade was a more effective adjustment than the Futur clone's dial.

It was BBS top and bottom, though not very deep. The stubble was cut very square and comfortable, not at all annoying come bedtime. It raises my skepticism about the New Improvements Gillette came up with after the Old Type. Isn't it worth working a little harder, and shaving a little less close, if it means that not a single new hair root will be damaged? The skin surface, essentially untouched? The Futur clone may feel more like a straight razor to me, but that could just be because I don't shave very well with a straight razor. In its results, manner of use, and historical proximity, I think the the Merkur OC better deserves the comparison.

Which is not to say, open combs are aggressive. That still sounds ridiculous. But having found something that this razor shaves very efficiently, I can see how someone with weak, straight-protruding hair would say that.

I've often written of my paternal grandfather, may he rest in peace, because my earliest learning about shaving was from that side of my family, at around age 4 (when I was not a shaver myself, but a vocal critic of shaves). I'm feeling that connection to the past again, now that I'm bald, because I look a lot like Gramps. I'm more on top of the unruly eyebrows, etc., coming to this at an unnaturally early age, but this lesson seemed to come from the other side of the mirror, dimly lit with an LED lamp because we had a storm and lost power. Like a friendly spirit, come to visit... Happy Halloween!

Welcome Comfort

A week before Halloween, the autumn skin hardening, a brief wave of uninhibited epidermal growth following the cessation of vitamin D production, passed. The weather remained balmy, by and large, under tropical air currents. I've not been restricted at all in my soap selections, mainly using the excellent Italian Barber soaps, and the moisturizing has presented no problems. I really think the phenomenon is entirely about solar radiation, and the only reasonable intervention is gentler shaving, with chemical exfoliation at night.

Now, it is the bone beneath my scalp that challenges me, as I cycle through my best razors to discover which is best suited to head shaving. The Tech certainly got the job done, but with quite a burn; will have to come back to that, after I get my strokes together into a couple efficient passes. Chaoying was excellently smooth, and still pretty close, between the Tech and the slant, but relatively prone to bite, at least with the Personna blade. I'm glad I got those O-rings, but I'm sure it would have gone better with the blade tighter than my face requires. A fully capable razor, indeed, besting even the Slim set on "7."

Which brings me to the razors I would have prejudiciously feared to use on my head: the Ming Shi 2000S and the Schmidt R10 (with heavy BD191 handle). Can I hope that the bony substrate is not capable of flexing too far into the gap of these can-openers?

All-morning shave


The R10 felt like a metal bar being dragged over my head, but didn't bite me once. Sensing that BBS was within reach, I went for it, and found it to be a test of endurance. I didn't note the time, but my legs got tired from standing in front of the mirror. Eventually, I was scouting the path of the razor with my fingertips on every stroke, and even then, the razor missed. Come to find out, down on my face, it wasn't entirely the razor's fault -- that blade was dull. I remember the Mad Scientist of Wet Shaving noting that the DE89 was rather abusive to the edge; perhaps this clone is, also. That, and I've been shaving a lot more territory lately.

I guess I can afford to give up a Voskhod to this razor, given the excellent result: I finally got down to the chrome of the dome!  Unfortunately it was flaking, as if still adapting to atmospheric exposure. They do say it takes awhile. Could have been the unusual soap choice hindering exfoliation, too: Kiss My Face, my only cream, rich with botanical ingredients. I lathered a few times, but mostly just rewet to slick as the shave slowly progressed.

Speaking of slick, I witnessed the power of boiled water again today. I had my No. 6 brush soaking in cold tapwater, then squeezed and set it in the kettle water. Immediately, an oil slick surfaced. And after the shave, I didn't feel I needed any alcohol, so did a cream rinse with some thick lanolin stuff, followed by some boiled water I had reserved. I could just feel it emulsifying instantly under my hands, probably well enough to shave on. Since I'm now in the habit of making tea daily to feed my kombucha cultures, might as well put that kettle on first thing in the morning.

Socially Acceptable?

Definitely "bald"

I mistakenly turned up the Ming Shi, and gave myself a cut below the eye. I don't know what I was thinking, trying to get aggressive WTG; but I remembered an easier way to get a less close shave, with TTO "Stella," BD177. Stubble before bedtime is now decidedly more acceptable than the skin damage I was seeing, cut aside.

Needing a haircut, I suspected the seasonal change was driving my scalp toward dandruff, by thickening that skin, too. So I figured I'd use Stella to bring a safe degree of exfoliation there, too. Head shaving is very different, I quickly discovered. It was quite a struggle just to get down to the skin, because the follicles were so dense (in most places), albeit with finer hair. Blade wanted to skip... I had to use that weird modern shaving technique, like I've done under my chin, of going ATG to avoid digging.

The Razorock Torsionshobel fixed that, making it feel like shaving, at least. But I had to call it quits before getting a nice shine, and gave my face 2xWTG to match.

Smooth


It might have just been the relative impression next to the head shave, but the Cloud I've been using seemed tired, and I picked a good ol' Personna in the hope of falling into old habits. Which is to say, smooth shaves, which yet destroy cotton pads. Once again, it seemed a bit rough shaving my face after coming down off the dome. I have to conclude, shaving one's face is just much harder than head shaving.

And I DID get down to the skin, this time, so it was DFS to match. Shaving my head may have inspired me to groom my eyebrows, nose and ear hair like never before, late that first night, but it put a moderating perspective on my summer BBS habit.


Chipping Away at the Exfoliation Problem

The first flakes of snow fell over Vermont this morning. In my bathroom, I only saw the flakes of paint/plating peel off the clip spring inside my Ming Shi 2000S razor, where it rubbed against a post. After the poor shave with the Merkur OC, I fell back to my Tech, but clumsily dropped the well-worn Ming Shi blade. Now with a Cloud blade, I still wasn't getting skin as smooth as I like, but at least I had the satisfaction of a close shave.

That Tech, with its cheap Yingjili plastic handle, sits ironically on the top shelf in my medicine cabinet with the two other long-handled razors, Ming Shi 2000S and "The Monster" R10 with BD-191 handle. I don't usually consider these other two as preferred razors, but they do appeal to me at times, and so it was today with the Futur clone. I am trying to remain mindful, not to go "aggressive" with hardening skin, yet the appeal (or, a peel) was irresistible.

I amped up that bourgeois vibe with XXX duro and BC Plissoft. None of these Father's Day acquisitions were expensive, but they really do give a luxurious shave! Just a note of appreciation to Italian Barber, once again.  And gosh, what a beautifully scented soap that is: fresh, but gentler than Fresco Verde, invigorating my crusty sinuses in floral lushness. So I can see how the mucosal status might be guiding my daily whim. It's also one of my more moisturizing soaps to the skin, again raising a red flag for skin hardening.

If I moisturize, I don't exfoliate as well; remember the foot experiment? It might be more pliable, but the leather thickens. Perhaps that woldn't be such a terrible thing for one as thin-skinned (on the face) as myself. Perhaps my fear that glycerin will ultimately reduce my natural moisture, and leave me flaking this winter, is holding me back from something great. I'm no longer a regular swimmer, having shifted to running; that should be to my advantage, this year.

The soap didn't irritate at all, today, that's for sure. I was a good boy and stopped after two passes of the razor, too. Instead of a third lather, I washed my face with an exfoliating soap. Asquith and Somerset -- man, would I like to have a shaving soap version of that! Maybe someday, I'll have the $$$ to explore British shaving soaps. I walked away without a balm, but will go back for that. It's not BBS, but it IS really smooth, because I didn't raise the skin texture, and visually, it's clean. I think I might stick with this. Or, at least the razor and the closeness; not sure I can stick with the rich soap.

In Praise of Erasmic

I've come upon a new angle from which to view my confusing collection of soaps, aftershaves and colognes, revealing some patterns. I got a distinct, lemony chill vibe earlier this week, by preshaving with Noxzema, splashing with Duru. In between, the "fresh" Fresco Verde lather picked up a cooling quality from the preshave. And today, Shave Secret pre-mentholated my Erasmic, followed by Lime Sec + 3-in-1 Lubricating lotion ("Portuguese") balm.

Before this, Erasmic was just an inscrutable "soap" smell to me, spicy and powdery; but in this context, it clicked into a more defined mental place: the less perfumed, working-class counterpart to Tabac. Lavender and Bergamot, I imagine the perfumer would say; but it wouldn't surprise me to find a big tank of English Leather at the factory, either. I sniffed the two soaps side by side, and they did seem very similar. So odd, that I never noticed before! I think I've had a bottle of English Leather in my possession since early childhood.

And then, my other soaps fell into the spice-lime or lemon-fresh categories also, with two outliers: Palmolive Classic as an alternative fresh, and The Art of Shaving Sandalwood as a pure, dry powder scent. I think it's the lavender that has always clouded my olfaction. It's such a common scent, I'm almost noseblind to it. Or maybe, too many diaper changes caused me to suppress my awareness of it. I remember when I mistook it for spice, in Canoe. I may still be mistaking it for a spice, in Shave Secret.

Erasmic is not as slick and protective as Tabac, which makes it sort of the lavender counterpart to lemony Williams. Yet, it lathers much more richly, which I think must imply more glycerin content. Preshave oil brings it back to near the same comfort, post shave. I guess it's equally well considered the spicy counterpart to Arko, then, with lather qualities falling halfway between.

I was already shifting to English Leather and Lime Sec (my recreation of English Leather Lime) for fall, and I needed a dry soap for the seasonal changes in my skin. It's easy lather makes it perfect for a good boar scrub, too. Erasmic is the soap of the season!

Gentlest Shave

The Ming Shi Diamond blade is holding up well, and I've been sticking to Baili BD-191 "Chaoying" in an attempt to avoid the autumn face hardening -- an excessive exfoliation that seems to be related to reduced sun exposure. I would say atmospheric humidity also, but it's been balmy as ever around here, this year.

Yesterday, I finally picked up the O-rings to make blade loosening adjustments hold better. I felt pretty secure loosening up Chaoying, actually. But not the gentlest razor of all, my Merkur 41C open comb. So I tried that out. With just Williams, I liked the look of my skin, but it wasn't BBS. I guess that's the good thing about a sharp blade, like the Ming Shi, that it doesn't need to be chopping against the skin to make a clean cut, despite the tough, flexible nature of my hair.

Fool that I am, I did not find this shave satisfactory. I took a few dry swipes, and lost the skin benefit, too. Nothing too terrible, but it prickled under Aqua Velva Musk, and raised what has become, I am afraid, the new norm in texture on my face. I just saw the smoothness long enough to learn the difference.

Autumn Leaves

The balmy New England "Indian summer" came to an abrupt end, this week. I'm way ahead of the game, though, this year. No need to wait for the stratum corneum to raise its horny defense. I liked the Travel Tech with YJL Sterling clone handle so much, it's practically all I shave with now. Loaded with the Ming Shi Diamond blade, super close is the default. So instead of my skin hardening, it's just been getting tender. Time to switch things up!

Parker TTO "Ruby" couldn't keep up with the Diamond, and has been demoted to giveaway status -- I've got a nephew in mind. Baili TTO "Stella" now takes the role of gentle, steep angle bias, with just enough bite to get the BBS, when the blade is loosened slightly. But I save that for the end; my skin gets the benefit of being completely untouched for two passes. Indeed, the first pass just feels like "evening out the stubble." How dramatically shaves can change, even now! Not long ago, I thought that razor had too much bite. I considered it a little... crude. Could it become my ultimate razor?

Well, between the Tech and that, it just goes to show, money isn't everything. Speaking of Chinese manufacturing and relatives, we've been scrambling to collect the family woodwinds for my fourth-grade daughters. I'm getting misdirection from my brother's family, and I was freaking out over the prospect of renting: $30/month! Yamaha seems to be the Gillette Fusion of music. Well, just as in razor manufacturing, China is showing up the crooked middlemen of the West. Shopping for new carry cases, I found a very attractive instrument with lots of bonus items for just a couple hundred dollars online, through Amazon.

http://www.kkmusicstore.com/mendini-by-cecilio-nickel-plated-body-keys-e-flat-alto-saxophone-tuner-case-mouthpiece-11-reeds-more-p-238.html

Not in hand yet, but a player can tell from vids -- pretty much exactly the same quality as my early 80's, Indiana-made rent-to-buy. When/if I get the Armstrong back (nice play on words: heavy as hell, which they also say about this new one), I can help twin #2 with her duets.

As if in service of my razor simile, I opted for nickel plated brass (to better match a clarinet, actually). But the story really is very similar. American manufacturing gave up in the seventies -- not enough profit, too much durable, quality product in circulation. Europe picked up the slack, letting our workforce get good and dead... and then China took it all over with dirt cheap labor. Now, with the benefit of computer-assisted design and manufacturing, quality is progressing once again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KeIOB4R-SCI

Dollar Tree TTO

I had to wait a little longer than most, but the new Super Speed clone has arrived arrived at the local Dollar Tree! It looked like the boxes were still in the aisle when I picked up a couple of them on Sept. 13, but honestly, I hadn't checked in at all since asking about them the week prior. The cashier had sounded secretive, suggesting that they might not get the same supplies as the Southwest at all. Like I was going to hoover up the entire shipment or something... okay, well, that does sound like something I would do. But I allowed the huge styptic pencils to go out of stock without purchasing more than 1... and I'm patiently waiting for the return of 3-in-1 lubricating lotion, without complaint. Give me some credit, lady!

First impressions, the thing is definitely better built than a Nanjie, but not by a whole lot. The center bar and end caps are integrated as a single cast piece. Thinking of that as a wide "H," I discerned that it was bent toward becoming an "A," which held up the door opening mechanism a bit. I gave it a bit of a squeeze in a handly "C" clamp, which is what guys who don't have a bench vise use for such problems.

The chrome looks more like silver paint, and it is already coming off the plastic turn knob. But they ground the casting lines off the pseudo end-caps, and the knurl pattern, though obviously executed in the same rough manner as the Nanjie, is much deeper. The same roughness of finish is evident in the safety bar etchings, but inside is quite pretty smooth . It doesn't smell like wet pennies yet, with the retaining ring apparently also plated/painted in chrome.

Overall, it strikes me as an updated Nanjie. Will the chrome-painted nubs that hold the doors attached rub off, causing it to explode like my first Nanjie did? I don't think so. The doors and baseplate are a little thicker. I think all the revisions are correct, aiming to improve performance while keeping cost low. Indeed, the package claims the "holder is free." It's the ultimate razor and blades scheme! Speaking of the blades: punk jewelry fans will appreciate the complete lack of marking. They just mocked one up in illustration on the box and wrapper: "Pacific"/"Stainless Blade."

The Shave


I sure got a good feel of the edge, with a full 2mm of blade reveal from the narrow doors. This was somewhat balanced by the wider, gently-sloping type of safety bar, but the blade was pretty flat, too. Safety was pushed right to the limit on my chin, first shave on the blade. I was using the blade flex as a shock absorber, but that's something I picked up from years on the Rimei. This is not something I'd want a complete beginner using. HOWEVER: There comes a time, fairly early in everyone's shaving career, when only total blade exposure will do. To break the habit of just riding a poorly pitched blade on the safety envelope, cleanly planing the stratum corneum is preferable to splitting it a million times imperceptibly.

I, however, am not at that stage. I will add a narrow, center-support shim and get that blade to curve back to what I hope will be Rimei-like geometry.

No good options


While my second shave went smoother, I saw weepers in the midline and neck. Skin Bracer might as well have been Absorbine, Jr. -- maybe you have to feel the burn to appreciate the cooling. It doesn't seem like I will be able to pull off everyday BBS, though I haven't yet tried my perfect blade. (I actually like the Pacific SS blade just fine.) The scenario in my mind is, total noob, sensitive skin, heard DE was better. One could still:

  • shave every 2-3 days (YouTube: check)
  • only shave WTG (as if any beginner will ever take that good advice, but yes, I suppose this could work as a beginner DE)
  • tell yourself that's just what shaving does to skin -- suck it up

And that's my real problem with the Pacific Free Handle. We could have had a true ambassador in the Dorco PL-602. The material and distribution are impressive, and many DE shavers will get a kick out of this, but I fear this will end as free advertising for disposables. The narrow doors really need a design correction.

Sterling Is No Tech

What a little follicle digger! For first impressions, I played the dumb consumer and just slapped in the provided 7 O'Clock (Black) Super Platinum. Side-by-side vs. the $1.50 Yingjili, also loaded with its provided blade, designated 2298+something in Chinese, super stainless, with a picture of a diamond. This shaved smoothly, so I'm choosing the hieroglyphic option, like I did with the Ming Shi blade, and calling it Diamond. That glided well above the skin, such that, even loosening for a direct ATG pass left dry touchups in the cheek. Not so with the Indian counterpart. CHOMP! Right to the skin on WTG, straight to the root ATG. Raised a couple of small bumps, and a healthy burn with Dollar Tree splash.

And I thought Rimei was the little biter among Tech clones! At least it prepared me. I can't imagine a beginner doing anything but a complete face peel with this setup... and I wouldn't put it past Gillette to have planned it that way, as a foil for the Guard disposable system razor in the Indian market.

Examining the razors in retrospect, one sees that the Yingjili has a wider safety bar, making all the difference. Both cheapos have less curvature in the top cap than the '66 travel Tech they seem to imitate. Overall, the quality of the Sterling is better, with no edge distortion, a thicker baseplate with sharp angles, and cleanly turned aluminum hardware on the plastic handle.

I'm not sure whether the open hole on the end, making it essentially tubular, was such a great idea. I also noticed that the Sterling screw was smaller in diameter, probably to protect the weaker nut material. Both handles will fit the vintage Tech, but the Yingjili doesn't engage the Sterling screw, whereas the Sterling handle feels like it's threaded wrong on the Yingjili screw. I'll give the nod to Yingjili's nickel-plated brass nut, poorly finished though it is. As I've previously written, that makes a good visual match for the slightly worn, vintage finish of the Tech.

I guess if you were gung-ho on aggression, and not particularly interested in Tech razors, this would be your one-and-done. A better modern representative of what Techs are all about is to be had from Baili, and that's probably what I'm going to order next, to replace the one I destroyed in my DEvette phase. That one has a blue handle, not my cup of tea, but I can always pawn that off separately. I was going to order their new, long TTO for my wife anyway.

The Rimei cutting head remains the top-quality, critic's choice in modern Tech clones, both for finish and technical capability, though providing a nice, chromed brass handle for it is up to you. However, it's likely to be a matter of personal preference. Like more recent razors with low-angle geometry, it just isn't possible to suit everyone without going adjustable.

Water Softening The Hard Way

I am beginning to receive shaving intelligence from my second obsession, brewing kombucha, in return for the acid-toner insight from shaving that fueled my interest in the tonic beverage initially. When drunk and applied topically, kombucha ameliorates all my little skin dings, by lightening pigmentation and exfoliating. I can actually feel it tightening up atrophic scars above and beyond the skin-shrinking I get from Asquith and Somerset Citrus and Ginger exfoliating soap.

Skin Food For Real?


Some Kombucha acids are not merely a "peel" in the cosmetic sense, but a connective tissue strengthener, like hyaluronic acid and glucosamine joint pills. I've experienced that effect directly in my knees, through consuming the beverage, and having taken the pills in the past. I know I've said otherwise about cosmetics, but I suspect this stuff might actually be feeding the skin when applied externally, in a way. Not really, but like the vitamin D shaving oil -- there's a biochemical pathway in the tissue already, and this one happens to be constructive of collagen.

Of course, I'm not a scientist, and I could be totally wrong. Inhibiting inflammation and promoting exfoliation are powerful enough interventions, and might be the only supports to the repair functions here. But it sure feels that way. At night, when I think of it, I've been soaking a cotton pad, putting it on my facial blems like Stridex on a zit, then taping the same pad to that hyperpigmented scar on my shin, which I gave to myself by putting pumpkin juice on a scab.

Marangoni Effect Revisited


There's a curious difference between freshly-brewed "nute" (super-sweet tea, the food of the kombucha culture) and nute reconstituted from refrigerated concentrate (as in southern style iced tea). Boiling removes gas from the liquid, and it doesn't come back right away. This happens because steam bubbles passing through the liquid receive other gasses dissolved in the liquid, and move them out, more readily than they can return through the cool surface boundary. It's about equilibrium interacting with the "colligative properties" of the liquid -- just like the Marangoni effect I suspect of mediating the irritation of my thin skin.

In kombucha, the refrigerated nute doesn't sink my pellicle ("mushroom, SCOBY") that floats on the surface of the brewing vessel, but fresh does. Surface tension stops the cellulose matrix and its contents in the first case, and lets it pass in the second. Only when CO2 has built up again, due to the fermentation action of the yeast in solution, will more fibers rise to the surface (like a Cap'n Crunch plastic submarine, propelled by tiny bubbles), and form a new mat. Sometimes the old mother will rise, too, after a couple days, if enough of its mass is populated by living organisms.

The pellicle is like the stratum corneum of a kombucha culture. There are a bunch of fools on the reddit forum telling people to throw it away at the start of every batch, because it's just dead garbage. But in a continuous brew, it creates the selective environment that allows carbonation and ethanol to remain concentrated in solution (enough to flavor it, not to get drunk), instead of evaporating. It helps keep oxygen out, so the yeast get to work sooner, and you don't have to wait three weeks. The importance obviously decreases when it sinks every time, so I guess that's where these clowns are coming from.

Like people with soft water have an easier time with lather, perhaps. I boiled some water in a pot before going to bed, and filled my sink with it in the morning to shave, after it had cooled. It was obviously still "hard" in the sense of containing lime, because I could see it clouding up the water! Traditionally, the boiling effect is explained as removing the "temporary hardness" of calcium hydrogencarbonate. (Chemistry: still my least favorite subject.) 

I think it might be less deep than that, though. I came back to the boundary effect through a brewers' post about degassing (actually, I think the brewer was a scientist -- let's not give brewers that much credit):


To see how my de-gassed, temporarily soft (?) water would perform, I used my most critical shaving kit: Williams, PUR-tech, and Mimi (RM2001), with the same well-worn Ming Shi Diamond blade. Skin condition was poor, following an ill-advised Weishi shave with no shim, so I was looking forward to a gentle shave. And, I got it! The hair didn't turn to jelly or anything, but it did seem relatively easy to cut. Like the keratin itself was made fragile, rather than the structure of the hair being inflated with something.

Not that I waited around for it to be waterlogged: I didn't want to push Williams to dryness. But it held up better than usual. I face lathered directly, and didn't need to pre-treat the skin with a preliminary emulsion. It was a thin layer on second pass, and just some crema to rub in on third, with my small (or classically normal-sized) brush, but that's all I needed. Not only did it not dissipate, it stayed noticeably slicker than usual, with not a single skip. I did my final rinsing with hard water, because they say that's what it's good for. (Also, I forgot to set aside some clean, preboiled water in a mug.)

The reward: unbroken skin. Just a little neck tingle with dilute Aqua Velva Musk. My skin did feel very dry and tight on drydown, albeit perfectly comfortable, so I went back and applied moisturizer.

I wonder if soft water is the key external condition that makes for a thick stratum corneum. It's pickle and jelly season, a good time to be boiling things in the evening, so I guess I'll keep it up for a week.


Sign From On High

"Shave comfortably, Man!"
I know I've got welding goggles around here someplace, but I made a pinhole viewer, just because we need another toy around here so desperately... and this is basically what we saw on Monday, August 21, 2017 (only, sharper in person). Having fun in these final days of summer, with heavenly approval, apparently.

The razor parts have aligned to set me up for another long run with a single razor blade, it seems. I missed a few hairs with the Ming Shi diamond blade in the Slim, yesterday, but shifted it over to the Tech for a surface-oriented shave, nothing but Williams, and I have to say, it's visually better. I can feel the hair tips, rubbing backward now, a couple hours later, but I would have called it BBS. Traction from the dulling blade made the Tech unusually efficient, while its new light plastic handle made high-velocity buffing a breeze.

Maybe I can have it all -- the classic comfort, optimal blade use, and three-pass closeness -- using some of the cheapest kit available!

Frankenrazor Face-off

In the bucket under the sink, a monster has spontaneously assembled: the Schmidt R10 cutting head on the overweight Baili BD-191 handle. They're just the spare parts of what I would currently consider the ideal beginner's razor, but they look great together.

(Aesthetic technique: match knurl pattern to guard.)

Anchor heads aren't my favorite. I have bad memories from early days, when I myself was persuaded by internet fora to buy a crooked piece of shit Maggard razor, instead of going to the antique store like I should have done. It's the new tradition, and reportedly, quality continues to improve. The R10 was the best of the type I could find, when I still cared. It went in the bucket when I found it relatively less amenable to my sliding technique.

What's making me resurrect it now? I still read as many "neck bump" posts as enthusiasm, from beginners. But I just had a damn fine shave with the Ming Shi Diamond in a Sedef shavette. I reason that, since I can handle that blade with no traction control (or much control of any kind), I should be able to handle it with the relatively poor traction control of a pressure-modulated DE razor. In so doing, I hope to better understand what, other than marketing and aesthetic appeal, inspires the fanboys.

My Champion


Instead of the Baili, which would also require the Diamond blade to compete, I'm going to make use of the less sharp Personna (U.S) blade currently circulating around the medicine cabinet, in a side-by-side shave. My own beginner razor, a Rimei, paired with a Razorock bulldog handle, represents my personal maximum weight, length, and blade flex. The aggressive limit of the "classic" paradigm... igm... igm... "Mimi!"

Tabac!


Mimi was stronger on first pass, but missed more on second, ATG, under the chin. Not so surprising, perhaps, given a relatively dull blade; but, being perfectly customized to my person, I was able to push it to a comparable result with extra touchups after the third pass. Meanwhile, however, the R10 was smoking ATG, and I didn't think I'd find anything to shave on third pass -- but I did. It was a great shave, easy BBS, and not eating nearly as much skin as the Ming Shi adjustable.

Decision: R10, by easier shaving and better postshave. What an upset!

XXX Formula Duro


With the blades switched, Mimi was amazing on first pass: efficient, comfortable, tugging just right. Both razors were less inclined to exfoliate, but the monster was perceptibly less comfortable. It only took about two seconds for me to shift to an auditory approach, because it was quite loud, even when not in close contact with the skin.

Ease of use was more equal on second pass, but things reversed quite dramatically on third, with Mimi disinclined to cut any further. Any other day, it would have been a two-pass shave. But the modern Prometheus turned in a third pass just as loud and apparently effective as the preceding two. So I pushed her again, anticipating a smell of blood which never came. It was detail-oriented work, taking my moustache and jawline down to the roots, but not too dangerous, with the blade so well suited.

Thus, Mimi fought to a draw, because while both shaves were slightly more comfortable than yesterday, and the heavier razor demonstrated superior ease of use, specifically facilitating hair extraction mechanically, the more technical shave gave a longer-lasting result -- a difference only apparent after six hours. Mimi delivered a 10-hour BBS, which I believe is my personal limit.

I find playing barber entertaining, myself; today I got to use my "pushing skin toward the blade" move, on that perfectly N-S spot along the jawline, which is always fun. Or, like I said, I could have enjoyed a two-pass shave. But I'm not going to discount the value of an easy BBS, either. The statement of luxury made by the sculptural Baili handle doesn't seem so extreme, when backed up by that kind of shave.

Decisions, Decisions


Far from narrowing the field to a single razor, I find my discovery of the Ming Shi blade leaves me with even more, tough choices. In lathering, too, I'm slipping from palm lathering and prepping the skin with what sticks to my hand, to just whipping up an overwhelming mass of lather with larger brushes. Could I become the kind of shaver I normally enjoy making fun of?

$1.50 Razor Review

For so small an investment, I could not deny the insistence of certain redditors that the Yingjili 8306L Gillette Sterling knockoff was a great shaver and beginner's choice. I ordered late, but now join the chorus.

At first, I was disappointed that, despite the airbrushing in the source advertising, mine was indeed stamped "YINGJILI" on the top cap, similar to the "Gillette" imprint on late Techs. I've pooh-poohed this cutting head before, I think, in the form of the Yingjili aluminum-handled Tech clone. Again I could immediately spot the wavy blade, a "V" deformation inverse to a high point on the baseplate, caused by the diamond stamp. (That original razor ended up as a DE-vette, and eventually the head went into the trash, while the handle serves my Travel Tech.)

Classic


I considered this first impression so inauspicious, that I reverted to a Personna blue and a special preshave prep: fiber-loading with flaxseed drink before an oatmeal breakfast; and Shave Secret to meet the fiber and swell up my hair with gel, facilitated by a hot potassium bicarbonate soak and wipe. Cold Williams lather took up the residual oil, with my small PUR-tech brush looking just slightly too classy for the classic setup. The brush has been growing on me; my unbranded white cashmere has been sent to the travel bag for specific application with small lumps of soap. Synthetic brushes hardly "break in," but the tiny degree to which the fibers splay more easily makes a difference.

That shave was so good, it prompted an identity crisis of sorts. It was very much a revisitation of the "perfect shaves" documented in my post archives, the best representation of how I typically shaved until very recently, when I turned to "everyday BBS." The hair was simply wiped off my face, as in shaving fairy tales. The clone was as screaming fast as my real Tech, allowing easy, long strokes. And I actually thought I had the BBS, until an hour or two had passed, and a comfortable velvet arose.

Suddenly I perceived that my "classic" technique really formed around that blade. It's not that the Ming Shi I prefer now is any more perfect; it just does something different. I didn't need much aftercare with the Personna -- actually made a balm with Skin Bracer, one of my harshest aftershaves. Having a velvety shave is like having a beard, without the look or the heat. I couldn't stop stroking it.

Neotraditional


But, to know this razor better, I loaded a fresh Ming Shi and went "neotraditional" for its second outing. Big honking BC Plissoft brush and Fresco Verde from Italian Barber, no special preshave, other than a hot bowl lather. I was surprised to find less edge distortion just from the blade change; I always thought Personna was a battle tank. I then loosened the handle a little bit for efficiency, and the distortion all but vanished. There was a lot of spring force holding the blade still, and with the light components, no chance of coming loose like the heavier Baili razors.

Yep, the razor is completely capable. The lightness and handle length was a bit dangerous feeling in the thick whisker areas under my chin; on the other hand, I can't remember a more effective ATG stroke on my moustache. I lost some stratum corneum, but much more hair -- no shadows. I nursed my tender face with alum and cocoa butter, at about the same time the velvet appeared in the prior shave.

Verdict


Just based on the feel of the tool in use, though, I'd say the classic shaving style is more natural. It actually took me further in that direction than I had ever been, in a way, because the handle length doesn't allow my typical grip. Instead, I found myself sweeping the razor in a three-finger grip from the side of the handle. It felt like an artist's paintbrush, and I liked myself as the artist. But when it came to applying brute force, the stroke was not as well controlled as with a heavier, short razor. Furthermore, without the real gap adjustability, that is so important for a good low-angle shave, you're really asking for it if you go for BBS. (A criticism that applies to all Tech designs.)

Now I want all the razors of this type, and will probably end up paying more than I would have for a really nice razor. Rapira and Gillette both make them. This handle will definitely get tried with my Travel Tech in the meantime.

Great beginner razor? Absolutely!

Shim Your Weishi


This is a retraction of sorts, though I can't cite the error: I didn't think the Weishi could be effectively shimmed. It probably had to do with the type of shim I made -- narrow, as seen in the photo with a Feather brand, on the left. That may have been fairly effective with Tech and anchor-style 3-piece razors, which I got my start with, because they support the blade near center. It's not as easy to cut along the very edge, and I may have seen some wavy blade with initial, poorly-executed attempts.

But clearly, I have to revisit all of my less than ideal razors with the shims. Hell, maybe even the Slim! Because the narrow shim and the wide shim differ in how they affect the emergent angle of the edge, depending on how the top cap contacts the baseplate or analogous part. I've even heard of people putting the shims on the top side of the blade, perhaps for the purpose of altering that contact.

Anyway, I put one of the wide shims that I made for Chaoying under the same Ming Shi blade, and the Weishi became instantly efficient, and fully capable of BBS. Whereas, the narrow shim just made a rougher shave, and still couldn't reach into my follicles. This was a left-side, right side comparison; luckily, the rough side wasn't so rough that I couldn't finish it with the better shim.

So. If you're unwilling to give the internet your bank information, are averse to the vintage razor market, or you just don't have the moolah or real estate for more razors; you can still enjoy a custom-tailored shave. At least, it's not exactly like running around with pins in your suit. There weren't always adjustables, or a million models of razors available. Shims are fairly traditional.

I hereby retract all criticism of the Weishi. It's good to start learning to shave with complete safety against cuts, and in the end, it is a fully capable razor. The only fuss about it was having to hold the blade down by the ends, as I screwed the doors shut. Because of the bow in my shim, the razor was raised to where the doors could impact the edge.

One Slim Better Than Two Shims

Taking advantage of the Baili BD-191 cutting head's ability to be adjusted in two ways simultaneously -- the gap via shim, the angle via handle loosening -- I found myself reverting to my adjustable ways. The rougher shave provided by one shim with some handle loosening was good for WTG, but two shims with no handle loosening made the finishing smoother.

The feel of the cutting was reminiscent of the "efficient" low angle razors, but I found I had to apply high-velocity strokes to actually take down the hair. I wasn't expecting that. As a fighter, Chaoying was definitely wobbling. I lost track of how many shims were in there for one shave, and took some battle damage, myself.  Roughness nigh bumpiness on the contralateral jaw corner.

Then the Slim came forward and just laid waste. I didn't have to use progressive settings with each pass -- set to "5," in light of my condition, it easily bested the contender.

My theory of three-piece superiority was incorrect. If you have to raise the edge for the exposure that lends efficiency, the traction control provided by the safety bar is lost. Beyond the safety value, a hair extraction function is lost.

I still love the Baili, and think it's the best beginner razor out there. The way it starts on the safe side, like the Merkur 41C, transitions to a super learning tool for tug-and-cut method with shims, and with skill, is fully capable.

But if you haven't had it all together, at the same time -- the safety, the efficiency, and the ease -- you haven't had the best that DE has to offer. And that, my friends, is exactly what the Gillette Adjustable is.

Zeroing In

Good news for the suckers who bought a Viking's Blade "Godfather": you might have broke even by saving the cost of a Slim adjustable. (The more savvy first-time razor buyers who found the Razorock DE1, with a less dildo-ey handle, or the original Baili BD-176, can still lord it over you, unfortunately.) The battle of vintage vs. new has come to a sudden head in my medicine cabinet, and it looks like it's going to be a real fight!

The Undisputed Champion


The Slim long ago unseated a great 3-piece from its place in the cabinet by virtue of adjustability. Not in the "aggressive" direction, but in the mild -- reducing gap made unsafe blades workable, and worn blades perform to their maximum potential. I further used it to increase the edges' reach with successive passes. That's like starting WTG with a gentle TTO, aimed relatively more directly at the skin, and ending with an idealized, Tech-like capability to reach the roots without stabbing. I think it's more than fair to say that the Slim is the greatest razor of all time. Especially considering its original price, historically -- it was, and is, the ultimate legacy of King Camp Gillette's idealism.

The Underdog Contender


And yet, something of a clap-trappy impression is left by its mechanism. The touchy way it must be opened before adjusting, little rattling noises. The Tech is a more elegant razor, and was arguably more accessible to the common man because of its even lower cost. The same attraction brought me to the Rimei RM2001 originally, and today, the Razorock DE1 is an even better option. Where the Tech and the Rimei give the edge a good amount of exposure by default, the DE1 does not, instead relying on the old-style handle loosening adjustment. But that doesn't mean the gap can't be adjusted independently, either, because it can be shimmed.

The Equalizer


The narrow shim I was able to dig up, from earlier times in my technical development, was not suitable to the smooth curve of Chaoying's baseplate, the way it would have been to other razors with a raised portion or ridges in the center. The curve was exaggerated, and when compensated for with greater loosening, flattened the blade to the point where shaving was uncomfortable.

I tried to figure out some slick way to remove only the edge from a razor blade, but manual grinding on a sharpening stone wasn't working rapidly enough, and my blade shattered before I could work anything out with pliers and scoring, just from the teeth of the pliers. So I didn't have anything better to use before lathering up for the next shave, and was like, "Oh, shit" -- off to the kitchen, to hurriedly snip the edges off a blade using a pair of those toothy, penny-cutting scissors.

Surprisingly, that worked just fine. Although the non-edge was now curled and rough, it extended beyond the baseplate, and did not result in any wavy blade. Which I suppose also speaks to the vise-like grip of that cutting head.

Round 2


Slim takes it by a score of 10-9, because I had a good bit of burn with my splash. But the contender is showing some good stuff. Where the narrow shim had given a shiny shave (like other low-angle shavers, Ming Shi 2000S and Dorco PL-602), the wide shim preserved my skin texture. Maybe even improved it, as evidenced by the burn -- hey, a guy can hope!

The smoothness in operation was not as notable as those other mentioned razors, and certainly not the flight over skin that the Tech gives, with its relative inefficiency -- but a good balance of tug-and-cut and not missing any hair. I think that in time, I could shave off a third pass with this, and get my BBS in two. Overall, I could almost be persuaded that I was supposed to have this amount of burn with my aftershave, because it felt natural.

One Razor?

Let's just assume, for a moment, that my Ming Shi Diamond blades are the ultimate. My first minimalist milestone has been achieved. I don't have to try any more blades -- I'm done.

I'm not quite there with soap. Not that there will ever be just one puck, but I envision a small variety of "fresh" soaps and creams, with a seasonal spin. It's not going to be associated with or proportional to my perfume collection, in other words; I have faced that monster. Aftershaves, on the other hand, are loosely associated with soaps, and serve as EdT on days I'm not willing to wear any (which is to say, most days). Aqua Velva Musk goes the furthest in that direction, following Palmolive Classic, for example. Brut follows the hard boiled Razorock sandalwood, Dollar Tree follows the muskier AOS Sandalwood, Lime Sec follows Tabac, Duru Limon follows Fresco Verde. Some splashes are better at soothing the skin than others; the factors in making a choice seem hopelessly multiplied. I think I can at least stop buying more. The brush situation may be similarly tied to the whims of my skin.

But a new target in clutter reduction has risen on the horizon. Having expanded my hardware collection recently has ironically turned my attention to perhaps the least obtainable goal of the minimalist: a single DE razor. And I am thinking just as I did at the very beginning: a three-piece ought to do it.

What I learned from the Ming Shi 2000S, and the Dorco PL-602, I had already some inkling of with the Slim: gap adjustment is more important, the lower the natural pitch angle of the razor is. The aim of modern fixed razors that wouldn't cut it for me, with their unreasonable demands on the nature of my skin and hair, was finally achieved. I got that taste of a low angle and high exposure, without the usual penalties of nicks, burns, or residual velvet.

With the Slim, I had used the adjustment to compliment technique, and accommodate ill-suited blades, because I can shave with the non-adjustable counterpart (a Tech) just fine. With these latest razors, it was simply accommodating the poorly suited geometry of the hardware itself. The fixed counterpart of the PL-602 is a BiC. The fixed counterpart of the Futur is an anchor-style razor. My skin was fed into the breech in ideal fashion, yielding smooth shaves, but fed nonetheless. Visible, shiny, but oddly comfortable exfoliation resulted.

"Chaoying" Baili BD191, with a Schmidt R10 handle is my most beautiful razor. It occurs to me that where I have customarily used the handle-loosening angle adjustment to get some skin contact, I have never tried a shim. Unlike the Tech, which is like a Slim turned to 8 or 9, Chaoying starts with negative exposure and greater blade curvature. This may be concealing some hidden, useful element of efficiency (which the Tech decidedly lacks). Today, I just did the usual adjustment with the Dorco blade that came with the PL-602, and it was handled more easily than in the Super Speed.

Great Progression: Ming Shi Diamond

The Ming Shi 2000S (Futur clone) seems to require a fairly fresh blade to operate, at its low, low natural angle of attack. The supplied blade seemed up to the demand -- despite the initial weeper and over-exfoliation -- for a few shaves. And I guess that's what it takes for someone like me to experience no tugging. But once that performance was over, I put the blade through its paces.

Next down the ladder was the equally new and nearly as exfoliating Dorco PL-602 disposable. I've come to the belief that it's just the top cap made of ABS, and the rest a cheaper polystyrene, not that that's a huge distinction. It works well, the way an aluminum handle works with a plated zamac screw, but aluminum on aluminum might bind and strip. An evil kind of genius that meets the market where it's at, because let's face it, everybody IRL is shaving with disposables. That rock solid screw mechanism gives a gap adjustment allowing the close shave I am accustomed to -- and which BiC cannot supply. But it's only a couple more shaves after the 2000S before the blade nosedives into my skin. I could ride it the full month like a BiC Sensitive, but it wouldn't be a close shave.

Moving the blade to "Stella," Baili BD-177, was much too extreme. I couldn't feel the blade at all WTG! (My Tabac might have been a little dry.) So I tried the Rimei, which was fine for a couple more shaves, but notably more injurious to the skin than any of the other razors when it reached a perceptible limit. I must have used the Super Speed then, but honestly, I can't remember... such an underrated workhorse!

The blade ended up in my Slim, the ultimate dull blade milker. Set to "5," it's about 60% as aggressive as a Tech -- and that's pretty damn mild, which is what you need to keep a dull edge from diving into your face. I got through the better part of a week with a relatively shallow BBS. You know what the deal killer was? Sharp stubble. I got perfectly even stubble at bedtime, but it got sharper as the blade exceeded the bounds of the Slim's geometry.

Finally, today I gave the Weishi a shot. I guess I can't write off that damn razor, after all. Another nice shave, with a lot of scrubbing, but not quite BBS.

And that's where the story ends, because it's got to be BBS everyday, now. The Ming Shi blade was smooth in every razor from extremely low to extremely steep natural angles, high edge exposure to low. The Ming Shi 2000S and Weishi razors aren't even razors I would normally use. Got to get me some more of these! They're labelled MP-036 "Super White," and a diamond is pictured, so we'll just translate that to "Diamond." Good news for DE shaving, to see China putting forth such good product.

Brushes Getting Out of Hand

No way will I ever be able to sell my few remaining PUR-tech, classic-style synthetic shaving brushes at a profit, in this world full of giant $10 "Plissofts," like the one pictured below on the far right. (I couldn't even get that good a deal to begin with.) So, with an arbitrary clearance reduction, I guess I can finally afford to try one myself. It's clearly more firm, with thicker fibers than the newer synthetics, but just as fine at the tips. Perhaps it can help me avoid rubbing lather in with my fingers. At least interesting enough to justify expanding my lineup, second from right in the picture below:


~$80 in brushes (and I'm not proud)

Meanwhile, a reddit tip xeems to have decisively saved the Bestshave No. 6 (third brush). Soaking for three days in plain water unlocked the hair near the knot somehow, which was apparently the stink's refuge before fouling my lather. After one more wash with dish soap, followed by letting shaving soap dry in the knot, the rubber tires were undetectable. This soaking procedure is said to help against "lather eating," also. I see the wood handle was waterlogged near the knot, too, so I guess I might have tried something a little different there. Indeed, I'm pretty sure the consensus I read (red flag, right there) is that the knot itself must NEVER be waterlogged, lest the glue holes be expanded like a pothole.

So of course, I gave the Omega 10049 (leftmost) and Ever-Ready 250D (center) the same treatment. The former is new, the latter old, but never broken in -- I guess it doesn't really belong in the picture, except I find it beautiful; and who knows? Like the PUR-tech, it might hold the key to lather penetration. It started looking usable when I treated all the boars to the chemical approach recently. My grandfather's brush stub, used mainly on his moustache, is at least as stiff.

I didn't think the Semogue 620 had much fight left in it, such a poofy thing. I wasn't thinking about lather eating, though, and I guess it will be good to have one subject for comparison.

The Shaving Liberation Army Wants You, Dorco PL-602

What the --? How could anything surprise me anymore? Really!

I know what I don't know; I feel the lack of safety razor R&D in my bones. I've traced my pain back to the poison of corporate betrayal in my own lifetime. Like a four-year-old standing in the debris field of a terrorist-downed jet, I could tell roughly what happened, the pieces are all there. But I had never seen the plane in flight, until now.

The Dorco PL-602 looks like a piece of crap on video, and Google lets you know it's worth about $0.99 on the West Coast. Sure, I'd buy that for a dollar -- two DE blades included -- but shipping jacks it to 2 for $7 on ebay. That ain't right! But, since Uncle Ding had already screwed me on a Futur clone deal that was too good to be true, I had refund money to burn. Leisureguy hooked me up with a link to this new razor like an Uncle Ham, on his blog. He's not selling anything himself, though -- except many other razors, apparently.

So, will I be garage-selling my DE collection? Not yet. I'm already way impressed, though.

Hybrid Bred Right


It seems DE and disposable aren't mutually exclusive, as P&G would have us think, because they've clearly gotten together at Dorco, spawning the PL-602. It's made of that cheap, hard plastic that goes white when stressed or chipped -- ABS, I guess -- allowing fine details. There are fins at the blade corners sculpted into both the top cap and the guard, as well as hair-raking fins on the latter, ahead of the blade. It's nice and thick plastic, though, ironically giving it the (cheap) look of softer polypropylene in places, and a more polished look on the top cap.

It's hard to say exactly which detail, probably not feasible with cast metal, leads to the unique shaving character. Having just used the Ming Shi 2000S, I'm inclined to think the top cap has the greater effect. The normal round curve has been ground away, sloping steeply down to the edge, exposing an extra-low angle of pitch except at the corners. It strikes low enough on the hair to miss no stubs, without the excess traction of extra blades (in a modern disposable) or a twist of the single blade (in a slant DE). It also misses the skin pretty cleanly. Fins could obviously be contributing, there, raising the entire breech of the razor off the skin similarly to the plastic frame of a cartridge.

I hesitate to apply the term "efficient" (yet), because it took four passes to reach DFS. Almost BBS, I should say, because that is what I was aiming for, but I didn't dig far enough into one of my cheeks. Alum found a couple over-exfoliated spots, too. A little bit too much of the cartridge nature shines through, in the natural configuration, forcing pressure. I'm reserving final judgment until after a less safe shave. I plan to raise the edge to flush with the fins, like I do with Stella, if that's possible.

This already works quite a lot better than a Bic, though, and just a bit better than my favorite cartridge (if one can say such a thing), Supermax Swift 3. I ask you, the consumer: is paying three and a half times too much on ebay the best expression of political will? Because I can just as easily see this coming to Wal-mart at $2.50.

Opening Her Up


Using the notch between top cap and safety razor as a gauge, I loosened the blade to what I reckoned was zero exposure. (The side rails remain unreachable, so that's gonna be hard for anyone to check.) Against the notch, the edge looked about halfway up, whether loose or tight. If its angle changes, it is very slight; I see more extension. Not as cool as the Baili razors, perhaps, but much more securely fixed at the chosen gap/exposure by the long plastic screw mechanism.

Stubble tolerance is a subjective thing. The previous, "planing mode" shave wouldn't have made it 9 to 5 for me. Though the initial smoothness was impressive, I had stubble again around lunchtime. In "tug-and-cut" mode, I got a solid BBS and a perfectly even, 8- to 10-hour shave. BUT: I found myself doing dry pickups again. More stubs were missed ATG it seemed, this way. No other technical change was required between the two geometric configurations. Or so it seemed to me, an experienced DE user. A super-safe, yet efficient travel razor, with respect to both wallet and face, the PL-602 makes a good looking set, even, with a plastic, synthetic brush and a lump of Arko.

For the cartridge user, the Dorco PL-602 is a unique opportunity to dip a toe into DE shaving, requiring no assistance whatsoever. Nor could any cartridge-conforming fireman at the station, student in the dorm, or trucker at the truck stop make fun of one's endeavor to achieve a better shave, 'cause it looks like a humble disposable. Which it really is, in the same vein as the aforementioned Supermax system, a throwaway handle with replaceable blades.

But I'm sure no one will throw this away, even when the included blades run out. Much more likely will be an order of real shaving soap, some blades, and a brush. And a couple more for the buddies.

Classic Take on Modern Gear

Father's Day "gifts" (selected by myself, from Italian Barber, on behalf of the kids) met and exceeded as I knew they would, but in ways unpredictable enough to keep it interesting for me.

The Razor


More doubt clouded the unveiling of the Ming Shi 3000S than the soap and brush. I wished the modern razor to bring some progressive value to my personal routine, without corrupting my classic technique. The Torsionshobel, for example, provided an easy alternative to careful angle selection, without compromising my ability to slide.

This razor was not immediately successful, the included Ming Shi blade cutting into my chin on setting "3" (Just below median: there are 12 settings, 0.5 to 6, in 0.5 increments.) The lifter was fully seated against the razor body at the lowest setting, so I knew it was in good assembly; also noted, the asymmetry of the top cap design, allowing me to determine the "best" orientation for even blade exposure. But I may have been late noticing a problem with on-the-fly adjustments: as with the Slim, the blade can go off kilter vertically, so it's best to open first.

Not found: any quality problem, with the retaining springs convincingly crimped in their place; nor any hazard involved with the opening. I always load my blade onto the downturned top cap, which rests on a cloth. So this design works perfectly for me, saving the hassle of screwing on a handle while manually compressing the cutting head. Click -- done! The metal of the razor is obviously soft, with little dinged edges here and there, but the fit and finish are convincingly good.

I took some immediate joy in the shave, too, despite knowing well in advance that high blade exposure doesn't suit my skin. Incredibly smooth, not stabby; efficient, and it sings. It did take too much skin in three passes, leaving me shiny. Yet the BBS was legit, a 12-hour shave at least; and to be fair, it was my choice to skip astringent aftershave.

Next morning, I was at it again, this time taking advantage of the very anchor-like pressure modulation to forego progressive adjustments, controlling traction manually. Set it and forget it, I say, choosing the lowest setting that will reach the root, 2.5 in my case. That might make the adjustment mechanism seem like an unnecessary encumbrance, but remember, different blades do pull differently. Indeed, I won't know how to characterize the Ming Shi blade, until it meets the fixed reference of a familiar razor.

But I already had the razor dialed in after one use, easily sliding to the third pass, and hitting the roots with confidence. Nothing else shaves so deeply, so effortlessly. I can appreciate the straight razor comparisons now. If this razor is a contender for me, with my tug-and-cut bias, it's an absolute must-buy for any direct-stroking nerd.

The Soap


XXX LE Formula Duro is all about the fragrance, which compares to Tabac and English Leather, without choking on cloudy notes of powder or tobacco when sniffing the puck. These are replaced with fresh lemon and flowers, when lathering. I still like PdP No. 63 for modern pungency, but this is the epitome of classic, to my nose. Just beautiful.

The lather lacks the Tabac magic cushioning, but on the other hand, has no problem holding its wetness. Maybe it was my new brush, but I felt the soap took longer to dissolve completely after loading. Second pass brought thicker lather, and third needed a dip. When I pushed the remaining lather to see just how much water it could take, it could take a lot without collapsing, but the protection faded long before that, like Kiss My Face cream. So, it seems I was just dealing with an unaccustomed, good lot of glycerin, here. But there was no hint of irritation.

I would never think of replacing my English Leather cologne with Tabac, but XXX is testing my minimalist resolve. Luckily, for now at least, one reviewer on the IB site said the soap smells better than the juice.

The Brush


Instant gratification. The softness, the acrylic reflections, and the kingly size of the "black and clear" synthetic lent most of the presentation value to my holiday. In the lathering bowl, the pawn-piece handle wasn't prone to clinking, even though the knot isn't nearly as tall as the new Omega. And I had enough lather left over to do some pit cleaning. Yes, I do believe this modern size standard is better than the true classics, which were geared more for one pass shaving (though it isn't too hard to push beyond the natural capacity, using any lathering surface.)

Having a vintage black-and-clear Ever-Ready 250D, as well as the fancy, modern Semogue 620 to compare, I could see important differences. The older, seemingly more authentic "black" is just painted inside the knot cup, hiding the glue that holds it together; whereas this "black" was in the fashion of the artisans' dyed acrylic, actually making up the entire top portion of the handle material. Quality-wise, that's a wash: the old way shows bubbles, this way shows a blem at the interface, a piece of black intruding at the center.

I follow artisan brush makers' posts, and have always found the clear acrylic material beautiful in its own right, for example, in screwdrivers and dice. So I have mixed feelings about the "homage" treatment, when the actual tradition is still alive. To resolve this, I googled to find that Semogue seems to have used the same approach with their new synthetic. I guess it's settled, then.

Summer Oily Skin, Solved

Vermont is a green and humid place in summer, which is very easy to forget over the winter. My thin skin seems to need extra support from my shaving products against this dynamic atmosphere. I figured out that in the winter, dry soaps coordinated best with my natural oil production, and I also knew that oil cleansing could relax and tighten sebum-swollen summer skin.

Working moisturizing shaving soaps and creams into my summer routine is logically expected, but has been problematic in practice. Oil is the local currency of exchange in my skin; you can't just walk in, turn tables and declare glycerin the new ruler. Irritation and a sticky flood of oil swept me away from soaps I would otherwise love to be using: Kiss My Face and Stirling.

I think I may have just found the key to the camel, though, in the form of good old alum. Taking my cue from a forum comment, I tried pairing alum with balm (3-in-1 moisturizer) instead of the usual chaser, alcohol splash. The adsorbent salt seemed to make my stratum corneum, usually closed to aqueous media, function in the normal, spongy way. Tacky, poorly textured skin was smoothed and dried.

And now, for the past couple days, I have found that I can safely use my lump of Stirling Coconut, hardened to a triple-milled-like state by months of neglect in an open dish. I'm making lumps of all ring remnants, now, so I can load my brush in the same palm used to subsequently work the lather up. It's a very casual form of lathering, with a bit more dripping waste than my careful, paint cup method, but it does feel like the most natural meeting of the tool with the medium.

Voskhod Nails It

ZZZZZZIPP! The perfect stroke against the grain: keen traction to reach the sweet spot right above the root of the hair, sharpness to make the cut at a safely low angle, smoothness to forgive user error. Voskhod after less than a week of shaves (I'm not actually counting, and have been keeping an odd schedule). I snuck up on this Super Speed shave with a couple light shaves in the torsionshobel, and found I had enough skin to shave 3 times in 24 hours. So, I went for the BBS, and made it.

It doesn't seem that the edge is being worn back into the first bevel, like my face did to the Shark. I see just a little band of glint at the edge, then the wide, dull, coated ground portion. So I haven't broken any Excalibur threshold, here. The blade has merely been shown to be useful through its factory-designed range of wear.

First pass was the scariest, displacing skin forward on my chin and buttresses before the cut. I can't imagine that being much of a technical barrier, though. So, who knows how far this blade can go?

Voskhod Very Nice

Great success! :-) The BBS streak is over, but this may be just the graceful exit I was looking for. Consistent with other sharp blades right out of the gate, but noticeably better cutting. Smoother against skin on second use, it seems I've worn off enough of the teflon coating to truly keep a low angle and not miss any hair. But that efficiency means it doesn't want to slide down to root level at all.

Good! A little breathing room for my continuing technical improvement. I got a hundred of 'em, so even I should be able to learn something new.

My pre-Father's Day selections from the Italian Barber order were all perfect! Loving the new Omega 10049 ("Pro 49"). I've translated "professional" to mean, ideally suited to bowl lathering, with its lightweight handle disinclined to tipping the brush out, the concavity mating neatly with the rim of my 4" bowl. All my soaps would be covering their asses, if they had hands, because by the time it's broken in, I think it's going to take four passes' worth every time. It's already perfectly usable and soft on my face, though. Some sort of pretreatment was obviously done. And I already see the benefit of the boar bristle hydrating the lather with what would be lost from evaporation in the scuttle. The final, squeezed out lather is a bit stiffer, but definitely hydrated to the "crema" state.

At least, with the one soap I have tried, my new "Fresco Verde." I was aiming for an Arko replacement with XXX duro formula, but I think I already got it here. If Williams smells like hand soap, and Arko smells like floor cleaner, Fresco Verde is the smell of laundry detergent -- and I think I've already intimated how I feel about that. (Purrrr...) Maybe just a bit more aromatic/surface-cleaner like. But in the same line of nose development, definitely. Nothing could be more appropriate for a musty new boar brush.

Three birds, one stone -- and it hasn't hit the ground yet! Italian Barber really delivers the goods.

Supersize Me

I'm focused on shopping, not selling, this Father's Day, with the biggest order of my life on the way from Italian Barber. It was hard work for me to make free shipping, but I've never been immune to communicable acquisition disorders, despite my good advice to others. Let us pause, for a review of the competing theories.

Classic

Thrifty
Skill appreciates minimal product
Marketing a mix of revolution and fraud
Soap < $5
Aftershave < $6
Razor $5 to $30
Made in China
Cartridges: BOO!
Canned Cream: Pooh-pooh

Neo-traditional

Indulgent
Purchases afford minimal effort
Social media strategy: charity and intolerance
Soap > $10
Aftershave > $12
Razor $30 to $200
Imported from England
Cartridges: Don't ask, don't tell
Canned Cream: You go to HELL!

Capitalism Rules


As dishonorable as individual marketers can be, the free market reliably provides escape from the ugliness of ideology. I'm beginning to understand how the great ones straddle the line. (Tip of the hat, Joseph and Michael.)

The Futur clone was an obviously envy-driven buy, along with the acrylic "Razorock BC Silvertip Plissoft" brush. I guess I can tell myself I needed a larger brush with some plausibility, and point to my other black-and-clear acrylic brushes to defend my style preference. But it's obvious from the reviews that I'm paying $5 extra for being late to the party, and that razor is a classic case of keeping up with the Joneses.

More stoically, I ordered a classic black Omega 49 to replace my rubber-smelling No. 6; I hope it's nice and stiff. I did my homework to fill the citrus-shaped hole in my soap collection with XXX Duro, and continue blade exploration with Voskhod. More soap from the Sensitive line, in a Fresco Verde scent, was a no brainer.

Prioritizing Postshave

A forum request reminded me of my long-forgotten plan to make a single YouTube video, demonstrating my modern interpretations of the Gillette slide, Williams lathering -- probably not the cruder points of basin washing. It occurred to me that I could skip the lighting arrangements by going outdoors, taking advantage of the Memorial Day blooms for atmosphere.

And, this morning, that my skin texture has been somewhat degraded lately. I'm good enough for local display, but is this really what I would want immortalized on video, for all time? I'd be tempted to blame the SS-class blades that I'm still burning through -- a Cloud even struck blood on my moustache the other day. The last 5% of my performance grade might well be characterized as identical to the product selection challenges faced by a relatively insensitive, soft bearded shaver! Would my beard even be visible? Could I be mistaken for an enthusiastic youth?

Probably not. :) And I did think of a good visual demonstration for tension vectors. I'm finishing my shave with a Noxzema (cold cream) cleanse to deal with the self-consciousness. But ultimately, I think I will have to decide exactly how deep I want to shave on a daily basis.

Not Incommensurable

Classic shaving met neotraditional shaving on reddit, the past couple months, and I'd like to think it was mutually beneficial, unlike my time as a novice at badgerandblade.com. Now that I've gone to the trouble of mastering DE shaving, that is... which, ironically, was only possible through patent disregard of most of the information available on the internet. I found the current generation of struggling shavers quite receptive, and tried to narrow it down for them similarly.

The trolls were utterly the same, incapable of development; but I think it's fair to say they aren't fooling many people into thinking that cartridges shave as well as a straight or safety razor. "The truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed."

The gem in the dialogue for me, this time around, was this interaction with /u/CAMEL_HUMPer. Doesn't there seem to be something fishy about the way he drew me out? I know a guy who lives on Camel's Hump -- a central Vermont landmark mountain, featured on our state quarter -- who once tried to help me with my shaving. Perhaps he is helping me still; for suddenly, I found myself translating the sliding stroke paradigm into "pressure and angle" terms. I wouldn't have thought it possible!

Sliding lowers the threshold of angle and pressure at which the cut is initiated. Less pressure toward the skin, lower angle: less skin damage.

Everything I write is gold, of course. My prose rose to apothegm quality when inspired by one of a few online acquaintances I found hanging out there, /u/FrugalShave:

The knowledge is culturally extinct. There is no Gungan city... just a lot of Jar Jars.

Waning Of The Weishi

Another reject from the bucket under my sink, Weishi 9306-H, received the broken-in Personna blade for a face-off with the Super Speed clone I selected for my doomed flea market efforts, Yingjili 8206-M. Actually, the comparison was an afterthought; I just wanted to know how my new technical prowess would reflect on the much too mild Weishi. So the Weishi got fancy IB soap, while the Yingjili got Williams, next day.

You don't want to be going for BBS with a Weishi. It left extra length on every reduction pass, and had to be pushed hard to reach the sweet spot right above the hair root, resulting in a cartridge-like burn (but a much closer shave, at least, for having the freedom to select the correct cutting angle). With better options coming from the same factory in China, and already taking its place in sets like the Dorco Prime, it is high time for the consistently criticized, overly-mild shaver to get out of Dodge.

The Yingjili, you may recall, was never intended for the western market. The name is Chinese (maybe some kind of pidgin, in the last two syllables) for "English." A marketing slogan, "Trust the English," referred to the razor design. The finish is a bit rough, with casting lines, but I think the fewer parts might actually make it more durable, especially for the price. And it has a truly old-school, brushed aluminum handle. It's developing world stuff, for sure, with a fair bit of wavy blade. But how does it shave, in the hands of an expert?

Pretty damn well, I'm proud to say. Where the Weishi excavated skin, the Yingjili gently brushed away, its considerable blade flex making the razor sing loudly. I had to scrub pretty hard for my BBS, but the alum prickled instead of searing, like after the Weishi shave. A splash of Dollar Tree "Fresh," and I was good to go, no dry shaving required.