Rubbing One Off With Williams

Circle round, boys. This one's almost too much to handle. I don't want to just spill it, but I can't hold back...

The rubbing is everything, in shaving to completion. The difference between yesterday's burn and today's relaxed comfort is total, with respect to the skin. No, the blade didn't magically recover any effectiveness in removing hair: that still took forever, I still had dry pickups, and I still tossed the blade. I didn't use anything special, just Williams lathered in a cold bowl -- today I was experimenting with non-aerosol body spray, one squirt on a smear of mineral oil.

But I got my BBS, and my skin feels like I just took a lazy WTG pass and quit -- even though yesterday's burn was pretty significant. I had serious doubts about shaving again with that blade. The Excalibur learning method proves its worth, yet again.

In practice, despite my plans, it was unavoidable to repeat strokes ATG, but I was able to isolate a fairly clean second pass composed of skewed strokes. Then, with crema squeezed from the brush, I went at the direct ATG with strokes as needed. But in the past, I might have gently spread the lather back over just-shaved areas with the razor itself; or, stroked the skin directly ATG with my fingertips, followed closely by the razor. Today, I did not reshave any area without a little, circular rub-in of wet lather. Or even, indeed, just the "slickness" of the water pass.

While re-lathering is wisely advocated before reshaving, rubbing it in is widely considered a pre-shave preparation. But in fact, rubbing it in has a huge technical impact during the shave; more than lathering itself, when working within the follicle. There's probably going to be a Turkish barber reading this, eventually, and laughing his ass off, because I'm pretty sure I've seen this move many times before on video. I thought they were just inspecting the grain, as I might do with my fingertips.

Thanks, I needed that!

Gillette Adjustable: The Honey Badger of Shaving

Using the final shave on this Astra SS to reinforce what I've learned about BBS recently, I loaded it into my Slim, and rubbed in the most aggressive lather I can tolerate, the Italian Barber Sandalwood. That soap is the last hope for the No. 6 brush, as well. Rotten rubber has fouled my fougeres for the last time! It comes across as more auto-mechanic, with the simple sandalwood, and I still love the feel.

The Slim was set at "5" to start, and that was plenty smooth for WTG, albeit exfoliating. I rubbed in some more lather, and went up to "7" ATG, following skewed strokes with direct, on what I believed to be ample slickness. I could already tell the blade just wasn't hitting it anymore, though, looking at the shadows remaining. The Slim could keep the blade from flopping over, and push the skin out of harm's way, but it was still a trade in skin to try to apply leverage. Did I really want to go a third pass?

I don't think I changed anything on the razor, but rubbing in the lather again made a huge difference. The Slim was able to find the root and drive the edge home without scraping or stabbing. Oh, it was a pretty forceful, two-handed operation, holding the skin back, but the cutting was surgical -- in the good way -- and every stroke smooth as butter. Neck no different.

Gillette Slim don't give a shit -- it just takes what it wants.

I'm going to stop double stroking ATG now, because I think I know what's happening, in my mental microscopic cross section. There's an even smaller dimension to "cushioning" than the bubbles that help the razor glide over your face. When shaving out a follicle, the hair and the follicle wall tend to stick together; but when you rub in a lather or oil, the tiniest angle opens between them, and this can be exploited, just like the wider angle between the skin surface and the emergent hair. It's like adding ball bearings to the mechanism of follicle retraction, which also pry the follicle open around the hair.

When I mixed just-like Brut with 3-in-1 lubricating lotion and smeared it over my face, it burned alot, but in a "healthy" feeling way, a sensation which has come up another time recently. I think there's a new dimension and scale to my skin damage as well, with the follicle wall alone involved, being merely abraded, rather than nicked. As opposed to larger splits of the skin surface in a rookie burn, opening in the direction of the nerve endings. (And, in the case of a thin-skinned individual like myself, actually reaching them.)

Since I have identified a technical improvement, but not fully applied it, I guess I can't toss this blade, after all.

Less Stabby, More Burn-y

I had another perfectly fine shave with the old "starter kit" favorite, fake Merkur, with "no issues" aside from the sensation of being stabbed in the neck follicles. I'm not looking to get rid of the razor, since I recently went to the trouble of fitting it into a makeshift storage case, made from a Russell Stover Valentine's chocolate tin, and the 1/4" foam packed inside some ladies' rainboots from Wal-mart. It's the razor I look for when I'm dying with a flu, because it can handle some erratic pressure.

But a more recent idea has formed in parallel, that the Baili BD191, with it's Old-Type angle adjustment, non-contact when tightened, could replace everything Merkur ever came up with. So I moved my increasingly dull Astra SS over to "Chaoying," a razor securely residing in my medicine cabinet. With a non-stock, Schmidt R10 handle: I would recommend the new Victory Shaver, aka RazoRock DE1, over the weighty original. "DE1," meaning, "your first DE," get it?

I was super proud of having predicted a more comfortable shave, because it was, until I started running out of skin on my neck. Whereas the anchor-head had stabbed at my hair bulbs, this one was scraping the surface, and I still had a lot of dry shaving to do to keep up the my new standard BBS. I would have thought the lower angle bias to be less scrapey, but I was forced to go steep because of the dullness -- and this razor has much less exposure, so more stubble was left.

Different, but not necessarily better. I guess I can back off my challenge to the ceaseless promotion of Maggard Razors on Reddit with a clean conscience. I would still observe a certain symmetry, though, between the authentic Merkur under Dovo ownership (a straight razor manufacturer), and the fakes under the ownership of an originally straight razor shop. I get the impression that in both cases, as well as in the region of the Pakistani-Indian manufacturing base, the safety razor is generally considered to be a beginner's tool. Like, if you want to really get your neck clean, you better learn to straight shave. So who gives a shit if the blade is crooked, or wavy? You're not supposed to shave that closely with it.

Whereas, the classic Gillette attitude was always, that the honemeister should henceforth be considered obsolete.

Not So Different, After All

I didn't mention that, with the extra oil in yesterday's mix, I was able to execute a BBS shave in one pass. Nothing miraculous about that; just didn't need to re-lather. Extra strokes, heavy water pass -- kinda cheating, if you don't equate that with "pickups." With the oily mess I had worked into my pores, straight aftershave splash made perfect sense. Hey, you don't suppose... that's how men started using aftershave? So today I kept the lather simple with Erasmic, but applied an old favorite pair to the before and after: Shave Secret and Florida Water.

Even more remarkably normal than that, I dug up the old anchor-style razor. Everybody's still talking about them on Reddit, the old SMS machine; and if I was willing to give cartridges another chance, how could I not? But my gosh, I had forgotten how much blade hangs out of that thing! I had some doubts, though my notes were very specific, clearing it for sliding technique. Would the BBS be maintained?

Surprisingly, yes! Apparently, the Astra SS in this state of wear is very well suited to a steeper angle bias, and the blade seemed less prone to flopping over than it had been in Stella. That is, greater curvature, and solid 3-piece design, compensated the scary blade reveal. In newbie days, my neck would have been a disaster, and I did note the blade stabbing a follicle now and then. I think the wear on the edge saved me, there, but perhaps the flat hairs were being pried up a bit too forcefully. My skin looks just slightly roughed up, but I'll certainly give it another go tomorrow.

If the crooked piece of shit DE89 clone I got from Maggard Razors all those years ago, along with a free "shaving oil" sample that showed clear separation between an oil and aqueous phase, had performed like this, might I have turned out... differently? All that I've learned, and I'm still not completely untouched on the neck. I would reasonably guess that today's knockoffs are just as hazardous to today's newbs. The ones that couldn't shave safely with a cartridge. It's not that it can't be done, it's just too damn hard to learn, with a razor that was designed to do something else.

Can you Canoe? Discount Luxury, Part 2

I went back and wiped out the last 5 pucks of Art of Shaving sandalwood soap from that thrift store. Looks like someone else scored big -- a reader of this blog, perhaps? I actually felt bad for spilling the beans... I know donators hate this kind of conversation, and we market fleas must seem like true parasites.

Personally, the purchase redefined how I think of luxury soap, and I've already used it as a model for a cheap alternative. I found a big bottle of Canoe aftershave splash at Christmas Tree Shops, and bought it because the formula looked similar to Brut, with the addition of hydrogenated castor oil, which I trust from my Dollar Tree blue aftershave. I expected it would enrich Williams lather and be gentle. The smell was decidedly soapy, though I thought I smelled a touch of the blue spice with my nose to the bottle, under a chemical plastic base (odd, since bottle was heavy glass).

I was wrong, that was just lavender. I didn't realize how close Canoe is to baby oil until I got home and sniffed them side by side. Canoe is simply less sour. SO old-fashioned! But hey, I'm getting older. I know women prefer the "powder" category, and my wife happened to be with me in the store to give her approval. Not discussed: I remember my highschool sweetheart always smelling like Tide laundry detergent. Clean is just damn sexy, and always will be. It's hardwired. Cool Water is a recent iteration of this tradition, and I definitely find Canoe less constricting of my airway than that. Why analyze so much, anyway? $3.74 on sale! Well, because I've only ever given 8 oz. of commitment to one other aftershave. Another old-school fragrance: Florida Water.

Speaking of commitment -- HA! -- I just realized who liked both of these frags. My maternal grandfather. He doesn't get much play in my recollections because he got a divorce, before that was cool, and we didn't see him too much. I did take note of his aftershaves on a visit to Florida, though, before he passed. God, must have been more than 25 years ago.

That's what a traditional scent will do for you. I was also pleasantly surprised by the performance, with baby oil in place of plain mineral oil, in my Williams enrichment scheme. The same rich viscosity of the super-fancy sandalwood, with even more oily slickness. The same impressive scent level, but without demanding to be smelled. Whereas Florida Water puts me in touch with my Native American side, as a simple splash, Canoe is my middle-class nostalgic scent. Where other guys would have paid through the nose for vintage Old Spice, my objective has been met unintentionally.

Stella To The Rescue

Baili BD177 "Stella" handled both the aggressive Astra SS blade, and my habitual aggression, by giving me a nice, even, "velvety" shave, aka CCS. The bump near my contralateral jaw corner began to shrink. But the next day, I was backsliding, loosening the blade slightly for light touchups.

And today, I was back at it, taking advantage of Tabac to go BBS, with a thoroughly modern technique: ATG under the jawline on pass 1. Not to shave closer per se, but to avoid the skin, and coincidentally shaving closer than WTG. Planing the hair away in mid-air... or mid-lather, rather. I suppose this must be how the Feather and other picky-blade people operate, on a regular basis. Then, pass 2, back at the skin ATG, and pass 3, opened up and full leverage. I guess I was relaxed enough about the Adam's apple to earn a technical disqualification, had cotton been applied.

This razor is really growing on me. Cheap looking, but proves itself repeatedly. The picky blades are growing on me. The BBS is sticking.

BBS Is Chasing ME!

I am not the master of my own mien. There's a barber on my back!

When I set out to "shave casually," all I accomplished was to shift my laziness to the first pass. But I shaved the same patches out of habit, instead of the planned long strokes. Then I found I had missed some odd hairs because I was screwing around. But, because most of the rest was shaved close, those felt like they were sticking a mile out of my face. Again, habit informed my hands that the best way to do that was directly ATG, followed by significant touching up. But really, the missed hair was too long for that.

SO I ended up BBS again... but with blotches and weepers. I think I need dry touchups on the ipsilateral neck near the jaw corner.

I have seriously underestimated the force of habit.

And, Just Like That was over. I loaded my Williams insufficiently to balance the coconut oil smeared in my scuttle, leaving me with little more than one pass' worth of lather, after prep. I squeezed out a second pass by gathering all foam left on the puck, generating an oily crema, but it wasn't enough. I missed on the contralateral jaw corner, and no tentative, dry shaving WTG would bring it back. Even the most lax of rubbing tests, light rubbing with the back of my fingers, caught some stubble. One might have hoped that this would spare the bump on my jawline, near the missed stubble, but no. That got nailed on the first pass, thanks to my shitty lather.

Laziness, no doubt. It's really nothing to complain about, though. It hasn't been so long that I don't remember what to do: styptic, greasy ointment, aftershave. Damage barely visible. A DFS, any other day.

Anyway, I've been wanting to open up my strokes with the Rimei again, just let fly and have a good, casual shave. And so, the daily BBS exercise ends here. I've gained a new stroke, and a greater appreciation of rubbed-in lather.

Getting Social Again

Without announcing myself, I've started posting long-winded replies to /r/wickededge. (Did I say that right?) It seems like it should be a friendly place for bloggers, as it always seemed like Leisureguy's book promotion site to me, lol. But I'm sure we'll see if my sense of decorum is adequate, soon enough.

Shavettes In The Mail

I get a sense that the 62-mm, double cabinet-style blade that I like may be going out of style, so I dropped $10 for yet another Chinese shavette, fearing it may not be available much longer.

Even though I can load the Sedef with a little bit of work, making it the most versatile of shavettes, IMO, this one just flips open and clips shut, without having to snap the blade in half. We'll see if it holds tightly enough. And this deal comes with a bonus DE shavette with the same mechanism, if it turns out that I really dig it.

Here the blade is referred to as a Cloud DD77 type, but when you search that, a different blade comes up, with a hole in the center. The only other thing I've seen was a hair shaper, and I have no interest in those. I think they definitely ripped off Tondeo, but missed a beat when Tondeo itself changed its blade, or decided to drop the older blade altogether.

Those Who Cannot Do

So, four years is pretty good, right? To learn how to shave with a DE razor? Lol. By George, I think I've got it!

Williams whipped up just the way I like it, in a scuttle, no preshave. I did use my cleansing exfoliator formula (with fiber) last night, though. It's very dark orange now, pumpkin-slime looking, having gotten progressively cloudier... but oddly, smells clean, like artificial strawberry. I still don't know if that means it's carcinogenic or not, but it's a clue for me to research, at least.

The Astra SS blade is getting smooth. Me and my "Mimi" Rimei are working together like champion figure skaters, but in small patches, not long strokes. I finally hit home in that trouble spot under my chin, with an upward, forward, strongly skewed stroke that looked a bit dangerous in the mirror. Much of the finishing pass was accomplished with the top cap pressed full depth into my face, the very picture of efficiency.

The even resistance to my strokes feels like exfoliating in the tactile sense, but turns out perfectly okay on the skin side. I don't know. I am one shiny motherf--er, and I can see my moustache through the skin a little more clearly than usual. I diluted just-like Brut with a few drops of water and splashed, then broke out the Nivea Men creme I've been meaning to try. Not bad! Didn't feel like I had to wipe it off... probably should have, anyway, on principle. It seems to be compatible with the build-a-film deodorant method.

Dry Shaving Again

My "BBS" shave drew a comment yesterday, but it wasn't the good kind: my wife had a good view of my burn from the front passenger seat. Yep, a visible burn: one more injury to check off my list. But the thing was, by evening it was cool. My skin actually felt better than it had when I was hitting hair roots with a dull blade. I could almost see how exfoliating could work for a guy.

Aiming for a lower angle still, I switched from the Slim to Rimei 2003 "Mimi." I picked my KMF-VDH croap to soften up any microscopic scabs ;) and had a great shave, at least from the jawline up. Worked hard on the jaw corners this time, but the lower neck still came up short, forcing me to dry shave again. Looks a little pink, but not too bad.

I almost abandoned the BBS project, actually, because up until that point, it was a really nice shave. I could see some dry flaking, or light shredding, rather, of the skin surface, and felt I needed the cocoa butter, but what I saw was restricted to where it should be, in the SC.

Could I, too, jump from the smooth to the sharp kind of blade? The combination of a picky blade with a dangerous razor isn't one I'd normally be drawn to, given my skin situation, but it turned out to be perfect, given the conditions of this BBS exercise. Higher traction from the blade complements the low-angle, straight-razor style.

A Poor Start

I imagine the worst thing one could do to an edge is shave dry, but that's where I ended up today. I surmised from my re-reading of Bosse that he, like NeedsMoreMenthol, avoids digging as long as possible to prolong blade life, keeping to the low angle and "no pressure." This is indicated by a progression of razors from Tech to Super Speed to Old types, though I would argue that the latter, when loosened, is a free agent. But he avoided picky blades, only coming back to Feather with a highly developed technique.

I actually suspect that we shave exactly the same, only he is limited to a conventional vocabulary (probably multilingual, which is sort of the opposite of what I am), and is at a different developmental stage. I readily accept that I still have to put in the hours, and will avoid being chided by my internalized role model for overthinking.

Yet, a taste of heroism was within easy reach this morning, in the form of my Gillette Slim. And in place of the Feather, I chose my last Astra SS, the un-smooth brother of Astra SP. Dialed down to 5, even the most errant knight ought to be able to swing that. I lathered Williams the right way, this time, but only enough for two passes.

This was a great choice for picking up where I left off with the Personna Platinum Chrome, because the traction was excellent, and I could indeed continue improving my skills, efficiently shaving at the most shallow depth. Where it went wrong was, after drying down, part of a neck swirl and one jaw corner were not BBS. The spot I managed to take down safely, but I irritated the hell out of that jaw corner.

Rubbing It In

The general public can at least read the Excalibur thread on Badger and Blade (if one knows exactly that that is what one is looking for):

Somewhere in there is a polite inquisition by myself of the old master Bosse, (Politeness: vestigial chivalry? Christ knows, it has nothing to do with lawyers.) 'Tis he that I honor when brandishing Parker 87R "Ruby."  Looking at the distorted edge as clamped down in the cheap facsimile, I thought again about tossing the blade... she's no Aristocrat. But I know that she has the best exposure for my skin and hair's particular elastic characteristics -- the closest I'll ever get to an Excalibur.

Surveying for pointers, I noticed that while he favors oil for beard softening (I ate a banana with the peel on, last night), Bosse eschews rinsing between passes. My skin cries for hydration after the lather is removed, and I wouldn't deny myself that pleasure, with the dry soaps I favor. But I could take the time to rub the lather back in, like I do in the initial prep. Using my new luxury soap in this manner, I was able to safely hack away at my beard in extended battle. The idea to speed up my strokes, in practice manifested as tightened grip, greater applied force at a low angle of attack. There was a frightening moment when, after trying to loosen the blade, it was completely freed, and dug straight into my left jawline. No damage -- which just goes to show how dull this blade is.

I fought hard for my BBS, with a lot of buffing, but still missed a spot on the other jawline, and had to take it with a dry stroke after my rubdown with Witch Hazel and cocoa butter. (Bosse, interestingly, mentions a preference for another kind of emollient butter.)

Looks like I'll have to give it another six years of everyday BBS, before I'll be able to milk my blade for 100 shaves!  For now, this metal is going to the recycling tin.

Image result for Don quixote wineskins

The EOL BBS Dilemma

Crrrrunch! Ah, the satisfaction of a smooth blade taking the hair off at the root. This is why I let them get a little dull before tossing them. The skin is not exfoliated to the degree it is with a sharp blade.

There's some action deep in the follicles, however, as the blade comes into contact with an internal organ, said hair root. Mixing blue dollar store splash with dollar store men's moisturizer to make a balm, I feel some healthy sting.

Not accounting for personal development, I would have to conclude that, despite having had the best shave of a long series with this blade, it is time to pitch it, after less than two weeks. If I were shaving with a straight razor, I would hit the stones.

But I walk a different path. I will seek a technical solution. Today, I shaved with oil and Williams. Oil, I have theorized, effectively makes the edge less efficient, requiring a more direct cut. Sparing the skin, but making it easier to miss hair as well. I don't need it. I think I can speed up my strokes quite a bit, and try some softening tricks.

Williams in a mug

Slow stirring to dissolve the soap, followed by tilting the mug and whipping, with minimal puck contact, I did manage to get some lather in my No. 6 horsehair brush. The learning of the day was to drip some water into the foam, which sort of protects the puck if you're careful, so you don't just dissolve more soap. Still, I found it easier to work on my face, and it was not as good as bowl or palm lather. I appreciated the simplicity of it, though.

This challenge, which a great number of beginners unfortunately attempt, is actually the last thing one should try. It's the lathering equivalent of everyday BBS. Rather, I suggest one who has not yet experienced the wholesome goodness of Williams do it like this fellow:


Do you believe in imminent justice? For my recollection of chivalry, fate has awarded TEN pucks of The Art of Shaving Sandalwood soap (bowl refills), which I found at "Replays" in Burlington (the Blue Mall). This thrift store actually benefits the medical center we were visiting. (All good news so far, BTW. My wife's cancer was officially staged at "1" and was completely removed. May not even require chemo, but they are still testing everything thoroughly. Healing well.) I was just killing time, looking for a dollar store that used to be there.

The knightly sum I tendered, $20, would not normally buy even one of these soaps... and it was immediately obvious that I was in the presence of a new class of soap smelliness. There might have been something defective about them, according to the manager I spoke with, who related the source of the donation, the company that makes the soap.  I wasn't seeing it. Would a bit of haze on the puck surface cause rejection? It just looked a bit aged (2014) to me.

I purchased what I could, for me and whoever is lucky enough to find me at a flea market. Any students in the Burlington, VT area should certainly take advantage of the manufacturer's charity; plenty remains.

Some folks pitched a fit when they stopped using tallow in 2013. All I can say about that is, get yourself a puck of Williams, son, and learn how to lather soap! It took about 30 seconds to get more lather than I could stack on a brush. Tabac-strong perfume, but less chemical feel, making the former seem decidedly middle-class. There do seem to be a couple of chelating chemicals missing from the tail end of the ingredients list compared to current product. It would be sad if the googlearchy influenced anything, in this case.

First Shave

Oh, my. Corn oil? Who knew? Maybe because we're all corn-fed consumer cattle here in America, this seemed one of the least irritating, highly enriched soaps ever, despite the strong essential oil. Or oils... I will say, this sandalwood is more like incense than the earthy, single-note Italian Barber for sensitive skin. I can't decide if it's more like the library in an Ivy-league English department, or a woman's vanity. Says "aspiring," more than "masculine," to my nose. I also picked up some used penny loafers at the thrift store, but they didn't fit me... maybe they'll fit my wife. Like that.

I can see how it would be considered on the dry side, by the majority of artisan soap afficionados. Less so than Williams or Tabac, but in that lineage. For me, though, the lack of inflammation inspired me to upgrade my postshave from coconut (more actively moisturizing) to cocoa butter (emollient). I had to rub my palms more vigorously to melt it before adding half a splash of just-like Brut. Really great post-shave, as if I hadn't shaved at all after an hour or so. (Still pushing for BBS.)

Happy Housekeeping

Williams moves into its proper, Armetale mug housing, so that the blue "shaving rainbow" toddler snack cup can be occupied by the matching tan TAOS puck. I know red usually signals sandalwood in Italy... this may be revisited once things have set, making Tabac "powder blue."

Tabac, right, still showing the good value of its refill.

Hardest soap yet, BTW. To avoid damaging my cheap plastic, I shaved the perimeter of the puck and filled the corner space of my cup, which luckily isn't too far off the dimensions of the wooden bowl it was molded to fit. I skipped the softening step of pressing with my wrist bone, which was probably a mistake, and went straight to single knuckling the outer edge into place, leaving the center slightly raised. Finally, I placed a coin under the cup to support its raised center, then knuckled the center down. My knuckle was definitely feeling the burn, but wasn't bruised.

My Williams had turned mushy, which I guess is a good thing, as it was easily plastered into place. While I was at it, I transferred my ring of Arko to the red salsa bowl in the kids' drawer. You are the weakest link, lol. With Palmolive, Tabac, and TAOS, I'll need a very nice citrus-scented soap to fill the yellow cup, now.  And I think I'm going to start drying out my soaps.

Rex Quondam, Rexque Futurus

Google, or rather, the internet, is frustrating me more often than not lately. I therefore felt as if I had struck gold while researching the blade longevity question, and this information from "NeedsMoreMenthol" turned up. He personifies what I've theorized, with his very different facial constitution: coarse, erect hair. This he cuts at a low angle, with the blade elevated and long strokes, not fussing with BBS. (Just the sort of guy I'd try to sell a Rimei to.)

But he has visualized the forces opposing the edge just as I would, thus completing the picture. My hair isn't standing up, and that's why I'm unable to commit to a long run of low-angle shaves. I need to get down into the skin, for the bracing support it gives to the hair. I can utilize the techniques of a Tech, but it won't give me the closest shave. Funny thing is, I really appreciate both types of shave, and will never break the dyads of my razor collection. I'm on the BBS kick now, but can't imagine committing to Super Speed type razors exclusively.

The marketing citadel at Badger and Blade is really a prison. Once in awhile I consider editing my "Developing Touch" page for general readership, but unfortunately, it is a necessary element to the story. It's not just that people are hopeless consumers. The truth has been actively buried.

Going Creamy

I've been very defensive of my skin this past year, to the exclusion of high-glycerin soap. But Dove Expert Shave, with its modern surfactant formula, left me nice and dry. I actually looked like I needed a shave today, at the 24-hour mark, but felt overtired and lazy.

How about some Barbasol? It's proven to be more work than lathering, trying to hydrate the dry foam -- but at least the process is pretty mindless. The now gentled blade seemed to call for it, and I switched to BD177 "Stella" as well.

Surely it is possible to pick up the right amount of water in the brush to start, but I haven't gotten that far. I just wet the brushtip and put half a squirt of the foam on top. It went on dry, and I had to go back to the basin several times for a dip, because the foam prevents picking up much, once it's worked in. With real lather, you start with slippery soap solution and work for the cushion, waiting for the brush feel to recede. With Barbasol, you start with impenetrable foam and work for the slickness, waiting for the stickiness to yield.

When I got there, it wasn't so impressive as it looked to start -- an opaque, but thin layer of something obviously not soap. I was concerned I had overshot, and lost the cushion. But it still had that fart-like sound when slapped, and looked far better than what McConaughey was working with, in that Lincoln commercial...

Three passes later, the stuff I was squeezing out of the brush was very much like the crema I was accustomed to in my year of Stirling. Stella helped me dig deep, yet I remembered to use leverage under my jaw and force a lower angle. Chaoying had made me touch up dry, but Stella got it all.

But, I already feel like I'm losing efficiency. I remember not getting a month out of these Swedish steel blades before, so I may have aimed rather too high, saying I'd stick with it for all of March. The cross strokes mean I'm shaving the skin at least five times over, despite keeping it to three passes. I can't lift the edge off completely and still cut hair, now that the blade is broken in.

Anticipating failure, I'm going to work on this cream thing, see if I can't get it right. If I ditch the balm and go to a dilute splash, I think I can keep my skin from turning to goo.

Three Strikes and You're In

I could make fun of the neotraditional DE shaving practice of tossing a blade after three shaves all day long. Even when blades were dull as f--, which I'm guessing the original Gillettes were, you were expected to draw strokes and make it work for a month.

The range drops to as low as 10 shaves in other ads. I'm slowly coming around to the view that the old Gillette corporation was always probably as full of shit as any other corporation. They would have advised whatever was expedient to ensure profit, their primary function. In the twenties, Gillette was becoming embroiled in competition. When blades got down to 5 cents apiece (and you could buy a steak for that), they were already suggesting that you could change blades more frequently to get a closer shave.

Since the early advertisements also referred to shaves taking three minutes, and the results being "velvety smooth," you might reasonably guess that the old ads weren't talking about a month of BBS. And so here, at least lately, I see at least the possibility of siding with the modern DE tossers, taking a square ATG stab at the roots to conclude each shave. But supposedly, shaves could be "as close as desired" with the Old blades, too.

So I wonder, how is it going to pan out? I know from experience that the shaves only get better. I've gotten through the worst shaves, I think. I'm still nursing a red spot on the neck, which doesn't hurt, and a modern luxury shave with Noxzema and Dove Expert Shave seems to have brought a halt to any new damage, on the fourth use of the blade. I can estimate from post dates that I only put a couple weeks on each of the preceding blades, working up to everyday BBS. More exfoliation could hurt an edge, along with my face. But I doubt it will matter now. I'm going for the month of March madness... no, mud season madness!

How Smooth Does a Blade Have to Be?

Getting back in control of my own exfoliation, I surveyed the contents of my little storage box for blades and shavettes and selected Personna Platinum Chrome. It's a little on the picky side for me, usually, but now that I'm clear about pairing such blades with low-angle, Tech-style razors (including the Slim), maybe I'd have better luck. BD191 "Chaoying" is sort of a #1 by default, with the range to do whatever I want, and less hazard than the (more satisfying, in use) Rimei.

The first shave had me thinking maybe I should have tried corking. But the discomfort was all in the act of shaving, itself. Afterward, it wasn't skin-relaxed perfection. Still, it was nice to have a "real" shave, rather than a face planing. There's a degree of stabbing into the follicles that I'm willing to accept, if it means I don't have to be skin-shorn. And who's to say I wasn't still suffering the consequences of the disposables?

I felt injury-free enough to try my flaxseed-pumpkin-WH formula as an aftershave, to see if that wouldn't help thicken my hide. It was definitely pro-inflammatory, deep in the skin, raising an itchy bump in the spot where I am prone to get one. But it also evoked the feeling of the stratum corneum drying down intact. I guess that's why it itched: the differential stretching, within. I evened that out with a coconut oil cleanse.

The second shave, I tried a defensive prep: witch hazel first, then a lipid bilayer approach, with a mineral oil cleanse, and coconut oil in my Williams lather. It was pretty slick, and I held the BBS line, but I still felt the cumulative rawness of consistent follicle picking. It's weird, though. The skin feels really good after a few hours, as if it were just surface injury. Indeed, there was no late-onset burn yesterday, either.

Maybe there are different types of picking. One, where a dull, smooth blade snaps at the skin after sliding too deeply toward the hair root, stabbing straight into the follicle. ("Snakebite" sometimes visible on either side of the follicle.) Another, where a sharp, unsmooth blade takes a small scrape at the same injury site. Or is it a shallow scoop, being a low-angle injury? Yeah, probably.

If you're willing to vary the depth of the shave, you have the option to elevate the edge and avoid it. But if it's to be BBS everyday, the skin is going to be right there on the other side of every cut hair, backing it up. I think I'm going to find this problem inescapable technically. I suppose there is some hope that the blade will tone itself down.

Maybe the Wrong Day to Skip Deodorant

One of the greatest stresses a man can suffer, they say, is losing his spouse; his own life expectancy drops dramatically. Today my wife was up for major surgery, and it went our way, luckily. (Well, I'm sure her right breast feels differently.) But, even that relief was enough to break me down.

I probably should have shaved and washed up first, but I could barely manage to roll out at the ungodly hour of 5 a.m. -- or whatever it was, for I was not aware of very much at all, except some indigestion. My brain came online about a mile down the road, when I observed that the darkest hour really is before the dawn.

When all was said and done, I went a day and a half without grooming, and that was all the opportunity my right armpit needed to put an athletic t-shirt out of commission. I don't think that was the first smell one would have noticed on me, however; and the outer garment was spared. My build-a-film deodorant method may be the best discovery to come out of this whole blog!

Ooh, Edible Arrangements have arrived. Her allies are very powerful.

When You're Right, You're Right

Mr. Gatza, you called it! Half the blades gave me twice as good a shave this evening. An apparently well-worn SuperMax "system razor" with 3 blades kept me on track with the BBS, albeit a bit too late to keep me looking good, which might be considered cheating. I think it was called "Flexx-3" when I bought, but now I only find "Swift-3" marketing. (It's a different color, and they improved the blade coating, apparently.)

It's at least as cheap as the disposable was --  the whole "system" is disposable, at $3/10 cartridges. But the plastic spacers in place of extra blades meant that less traction was applied over a comparable area.  I also felt I could shave deeper, as if each blade had DE-like function... to a degree. That is, it felt very much like "shaving," WTG, though not all lather was immediately removed from the tracks of my strokes.

I know my old Sensor would clean the track WTG, and that's why I wouldn't relish going ATG with just the two blades. I don't think those had any dummy blades holding the skin out of the way. The best way to avoid clogging might be to avoid exfoliating; the Flexx-3 rinsed relatively easily, and I definitely had a tell-tale mask of cornification in the early morning/ last night, after the six-bladed wonder.