Personna Non Grata

I thought I'd give myself a treat with the old #1 setup, Personna (U.S.A) blade in Rimei "Mimi." It was too hard to get BBS, as many hairs were missed ATG, requiring dry touchups again. Ruby didn't do any better; and my Super Speed gave a close, velvety shave -- the kind where the hair is sticking straight up, and the skin feels powdery soft (the mildest case of distressed leather). It seems that the BBS addiction has chased me right out of my own preferences!

There was a ready answer in the closet, however, in the form of the Razorock Torsionshobel. It did a much better job with the still-fresh blade, and I got my BBS back with that and Tabac. A mention of English Leather Lime aftershave in a pseudonymous forum inspired me to put the zing in the powdery underlayer of fragrance, with a mixture of lemon and lime splashes. I slowed the burn by doing a moisturizer cream rinse first, having seen a couple transient weepers during the shave.

That's an old affiliation, me and Personna, and not easy to get over. I've made much of my affection for the razors in my medicine cabinet, but my first impulse was to put Mimi and Ruby in the closet, and declare myself a slant afficionado! But I know, this is how it goes with technical progress. My standards of closeness have turned a corner, and it's probably going to mean the opposite: switching to SS/chrome type blades generally.

For now, though, and apparently whenever I may decide to take a break and luxuriate, the slant is in the driver's seat. I noticed that Merkur clone handles are now available on Amazon for under $10 (with a certainly horrible cutting head attached).

I also had to laugh: it seems someone's been reading my blog! I do like to looks of that scuttle...

Laissez-Faire Is Everywhere

Does your wife (or husband) do this to you? "Cook dinner," then leave the crusty, cold pans in the sink? Or "cook breakfast," and leave plasticized egg and cheese cemented to the kids plates? Thanks, honey: you made more work than you did (and that's probably why I never cook that shit). May I direct your attention to the spaghetti pot? Cold cereal? (Wouldn't help: one pound of pasta has to be dumped into a colander that fills half the dishwasher.)

At the turn of the last century, the half-assed nature of mundane dysfunction was identified by an Italian economist; and given his name, the Pareto principle, in the middle of the century by Romanian immigrant, engineer and educator Joseph M. Juran. Wikipedia tantalizes us with the fact that he worked on projects for Gillette, and that makes him, officially, one of the good guys.

But this evil he identified, aka the 80-20 rule, plagues us still. Every goldbricker in every corner of the world seems eager to apply it as "I can get by doing 20% of the work." I find this eerily reminiscent of my recent reflections on shaving proficiency. Perhaps just as relevant to the shaving community, "80% of sales come from 20% of the clients." Noobs and hoarders: you are the vital few!

The Sunday Shave Just Got Real Simple

There was a bottleneck effect with the ultra-thin, sharp Cloud blade, and I shaved with it very easily in Stella this morning. With these SS blades, the metal erodes quite noticeably at a faster rate from the edge inward, and this clue helped me understand. If you imagine a "natural edge" being ground in the shape of a curve by your face, and that curve progressing inward as the blade wears, that point where the first and second bevel meet presents as the maximum deviation, sticking out beyond the curve. It's going to be a lot less "sharp" there. But now that we're past that, this actually works a lot better for me than the Shark -- though I wouldn't necessarily attribute any higher value, since it wore so quickly.

My new Canoe shave also shaped up most elegantly this morning. Based on my reflections on tissue expansion from the last post, I concluded that a bit of oil in the lather has this inherent value for me, beyond oil cleansing, and beyond serving as a carrier for strong fragrances. So I just loaded my synthetic brush with the correct amount of cold water, set it in my Williams mug, and put a couple drops of baby oil in my non-dominant hand before carefully using the same hand to support the mug from underneath and load the soap. The oil was then incorporated along with the air, in my palm.

This lather was the least irritating I've ever put to my face. Cushion was minimal, only enough to get through first pass -- precisely when needed. I then had two passes worth of protective crema emulsion to work ATG with, within the follicles. The extra protection of the baby oil took some extra work to wipe off with a washcloth (still cold). But this was balanced by the simplicity of a direct splash of Canoe to dissolve the last of the oily residue. I felt the merest warmth on the tendons of my contralateral neck, where the lack of hair has been exposing my skin to the blade a bit much lately. Otherwise, nothing.

In short: I am now sure this is the correct function of aftershave splash. The "healthy burn" is only incidental to incorrect, modern technique, burned into the collective conscience by Skin Bracer ads in the 1970's. Every single element of a shave can be neutral and non-irritating.

JAWS is Dead

Is it the sea, or the seafood, inspiring all these nautical themes? We had some god-awfully fried assorted garbage at a seaside family restaurant, Newick's, on our trip; then had to revive our tastebuds at a chain restaurant, the Weathervane, on the way home. Finally, last night I broiled some salmon that had been sitting in the fridge for a over a week, and smoked 'em both. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

I wanted to try some razors from the reject bucket (a plastic ice-cream bucket under my sink) with my new lathering, and improved blading technique. I boldly persisted with another SS-class blade, the Cloud DE that came with my shavettes. It's super sharp, alright. Chinese Feather, I think I've seen it described as. In the NEW LC, it cut me a couple weepers in the gap approaching my moustache immediately. I'm going to sell that razor, I think.

The six-bladed wonder from Dollar Tree got the other half of my face, but only to the depth of the stratum corneum, and only in spots. The rubbing in of lather did have a good effect, suggesting that much of the damage I normally associate with cartridges is not strictly surface planing, but intrafollicular. Still couldn't get any closer, though: borderline CCS/DFS, depending on how hard you touch the skin as you rub ATG. Nice and even, at least.

I had loaded the Razorock JAWS, but the damn thing was obviously uneven, and in an enlightened moment, I tossed that cutting head right in the garbage. Any sense of its bulletin-board, YouTube hyped value has long faded; I felt no more compunction than I would throwing away a shitty pair of nail clippers, at this point.

The Cloud blade had some good shaves in Chaoying, but it is wearing down even faster than the Shark, and at less than a week, seems to be nearing the end in the Slim. Being essentially too sharp to approach my skin, I'm not getting any closer a shave than I did with the disposable, either.

Let It Grow

Easter was like summer at the seacoast this year. I rolled up my jeans and skipped stones in the surf, really just exfoliating my nasty feet. (But hey, they made it through the winter without a crack.) We're so run down, I think I'm just going to file a tax extension. Just as Vitamin D causes some cells to self-destruct, the gain in solar power seems to generalize into this annual process of affirmation, (which we landlocked folk call "mud season"), where the dead weight is lost, and we ask what remains: Do I really want to live another year? Of course, the f--ing brakes start grinding, at the point farthest form home. The kids were kickboxing each other in the back seats by the time we got back. Yeah, I guess I can kinda buy into the Freudian death-wish idea.

Worst of all, I got confused when everybody decided to pack their own bag, and failed to bring a razor! But, it gave me a chance to consider the BBS I left with in a new light, and I decided it wasn't any good. My face had been beaten into submission; given the extra day, you could see better that it needed to heal itself. A poor skin texture developed with the stubble. I couldn't skip the WHOLE day, of course, and shaved immediately after the kids were settled back in their own beds. I even used the same dull blade, one last time, for good measure. But the shave stopped with a light, skewed ATG pass and the Slim on "7," so I can start fresh tomorrow.

I recently posted a comments to /r/wicked_edge about oil cleansing, and glycerin soap doing for the dry skinned people, what oil does for me. But I never thought of why, until today. You know how, in the classic diagram of thermal expansion of a solid, the hole in the block expands with the material? Which is kind of counterintuitive: you might think that it would "swell" shut. Well, I definitely think of glycerin as something that swells and inflames, but that is not necessarily so for the cheddar-faces of the world. Their follicles may expand coincidentally around the hair, giving them the same kind of benefit as my rubbed in lather when it comes time to go ATG. 

Which only makes me curious again about how oil cleansing works for me. I think it removes crud from around the hair, and since my skin feels tightened afterward, I conceived it as stretching, caused by volume reduction. But wouldn't that close my pores?

Nice Shark, Shiny Shark: Part II

Ruby dispatched the remnant of factory edge remarkably well. I noticed one side couldn't reach anything, hair or skin, at one point, and I wasn't done. So I moved back to Mimi for the next shave. At this point, the glint of the edge showed a smooth, bullet-point profile, as I once saw in a diagram of a brand-new Astra SP. The shine was somewhat quieter, now, to my eye, and I picked up the clue printed on the flat, beneath "Super Stainless": "Super Chrome." So the glint I saw was polished steel -- steel with a high chromium content.

Could it cut hair? Yes -- with difficulty. It took a couple of repeat strokes to perform the reduction WTG, especially in the middle. But having gotten there, the result was excellent. Given the rough treatment, it was certainly tempting to stop!

ATG needed a lot of force, heightening the stabby sensations at the root. I expected a little burn to go along with that -- but none, drydown was calm as can be. Skin texture quite acceptable, no rougher than my forehead.

I'm not sure I personally will ever be a super blade milker, of the 100+ class. With my wiry hair (and I did have a shot of soluble fiber last night before bed, and a good oiling before the shave), the low angle just feels rough. I can do it, I can appreciate the result. I'm just not quite sold. NOW I can bring in the Slim.

Still, I think this solves the mystery. If you can find the right blade, and this kind of edge is good for you, you're in... like ferrocerium!

Nice Shark, Shiny Shark

Contemplating my stubble and a mild burn last evening, and remembering how ineffective the blade had seemed during the shave itself, I went to the bathroom to transfer my blade from Chaoying to the recycling tin. Lest I forget, lather up in the morning, and then have to scramble to load a razor.

Another reason I do this at night, is to examine the glint of the edge in overhead light. What I saw was striking, possibly unique. The entire face of the edge bevel was nearly polished smooth, yet without having eroded to a narrow band. One edge had no other angle than that; the other had the slightest glint remaining at the very edge, which is what I usually see when the time comes. That's the remnant of original edge geometry; where it was absent, is where I got burnt.

The shave was certainly shit, and it wasn't the first poor performance, but there must be something special I can do with this coincidence of my shaving angle and the blade geometry, or the composition of the metal. It might be helpful, like honing or stropping, if I just stick with it and see. Maybe there's a lower angle to be reached in the Slim. Or, maybe I should just stick to what I know, and conclude, once again, that super-stainless class blades are just awful for me.

Wait a minute: we've done this before. The Slim may be good at dealing with blades that are shit for my face, but if the theory was that the blade is actually good for my particular skin and hair, only worn, and I haven't learned the technique to match, then Parker 87R "Ruby" is the right razor for the job. A steeper angle bias than the Slim is called for, when a blade is on its last.

No Respect

It's a busy weekend for my family. My son, out of his own enthusiasm, decided to enter the state scholastic chess tournament, and yesterday took a trophy for 5th place, from a field of 20 or so first graders! Guess I'm gonna have to learn the game, now. We got a notation lesson, and incidentally learned about the en passsant rule -- such noobs -- a half hour before play began. I was like, "you're probably not going to win any games, this year," because I can barely demonstrate how to end the game. I could download an app to his tablet, however. We discussed at length whether losing four rounds straight would be fun, before I even shelled out for registrations. I concluded that he was in it for the right reasons: just looking for a good game. But seeing the trophy table, and surveying the gymnasium, he still felt worthy of a fourth-place finish. I guess he showed me!

Today was the "golden birthday" for my 9-yr-old twins, but with all our other problems, we left it to the professionals at the gym this year, and let them arrange a swimming + pizza party. (I had a few gifts tucked away, at least.) Clearly, it was a Palmolive Classic kinda day, and that's all I used for skin preparation. I put more focus on taking down the stubble WTG, repeating as necessary, because I felt that was a weakness of yesterday's early morning shave -- not enough stubble, too much skin contact.

Ruby and the Shark performed fantastically, giving no sign of "foiling out," which is to say a flopping-over sensation. Yes, it took more repeats, but rubbing in the lather covered me, and if I shorten up my strokes, I think there is room for improvement. I'm still getting a little late irritation, indicating intra-follicular abrasion, but the skin was without any inflammation this morning, and I got more BBS than yesterday. I won't ever again make the mistake of disputing my champion razor.

More importantly, I see a new possibility, that I could be on course to shatter the 1-month blade use ceiling. If super-stainless class blades are softer and thinner, and there truly is one with an ideal angle, the way Personna was ideal in the platinum class, then I might use the self-stropping effect and keener edge to my advantage.

Huerbo, a Huge Shavette

I got my goodies from China, and they were pretty interesting: a HUGE shavette for the "DD77" blade, and a fairly normal-size shavette for DE blades. I must have attributed the size difference to perspective, rather than scale. Something fishy about that picture. All I can say, is, "That was unexpected." Because I kinda like the big fella, who came pre-named: Huerbo. I managed to fit the spatula over my cheek for a few downstrokes, just to check if this might be the magic formula for shavette success. No: for me, it was worth switching back to the Rimei on the fly, even though my Shark blade has reached a state of wear that does not suit the razor.

Sedef, bottom; Huerbo, top
Sedef, top; Strong Leopard, bottom

The combination off-white plastic and dull grey steel remind me of old electronics from the 1980s. These are business machines, competing with Feather Artist Club for barbers. The Cloud blade certainly seems sharp and smooth. I dry shaved the outer edges of my monkey paws easily, and was in no danger of losing the angle on my cheek. But if the rounded holder of the competition holds any mechanical advantage, I did not detect any here. This might be the Tech to their Super Speed.

A New Low

I have a much less clear concept of the current segment of my educational journey; from daily DFS, to daily BBS, and beyond.

Using the performance scale from the last post, I'd call figuring out soap formulations (avoiding the glycerin, while retaining quality of scent and oil, and optimizing hydration) at least a seven-point swing, bringing me to a solid B+, 87%. Any inflammation, at this point, could be easily traced to a direct technical cause; the skin condition level was brought up to be comparable to the hair removal.

Which, in turn, allowed a reconfiguration of strokes. Shit got organized. Everything was reliably reduced to skin level on first pass, and all attention could be focused below the skin surface. For the first time, suddenly, I could think about mastery. Every day, going to bed with no stubble. All day, looking hairless. And when I did, there was no turning back. Oddly, it felt less irritating to dry shave, than to leave anything sticking out of my skin. Sometimes, it seems just as harmless as cleaning the back of my neck -- but sometimes, a mark is left. For that mistake: A-, let's say 91%.

So here I am, working on the final touchups, below the jawline each day, and to my technique overall. Just a few more points...

More and Wetter Ways To Cheat

I think I'm correct in thinking that these touchups are the same as they always were, just immature hairs that won't respond to the usual effective attacks, because they aren't well rooted. The majority aren't wrong, when they say that with regard to BBS, let it be: some days you get it, some days you don't. There's a certain level of imprecision in life, that needs to be accounted for and accepted. Until you can't, which is where I'm at.

When I found that plunging the top cap almost straight into my fleshy underjaw picked up more hair, there might have been more going on than a low angle, or the benefit of rubbed-in lather. I think it's been called "scrubbing," when you rub as if the top cap were the operating part, to try and clean the hair off.  This might actually be the equivalent of my standard finishing skim above the skin surface, applied to the shifted frame of reference within the follicle.

Furthermore, just today I noticed that my fundamental injunction against stretching the wrong way, can be safely lifted when working against these final pickups, at the extremely low angle, and with lather rubbed in. Putting it all together, it occurs to me that that's really what the cutting head is doing. It's so damn far pressed into my face, that it can retract the skin with the safety bar, while bringing a steep, high velocity attack into the follicle! Though, from our macroscopic perspective, it looks like a crazy low angle.

Finding the Other Half of the Scissors

As I was commenting the other day on /r/wicked_edge, learning to slide the razor was like finding the other half of a pair of scissors. It was hard not to notice my rating: "-1" supposedly indicates "inappropriate content." That was hardly even a metaphor, because it actually feels that way on your face. But let's explore the idea as if it were, shall we?

From that moment, it would be pretty clear that using half of the shears like a knife, against a cutting mat, is very inefficient. If we represent a perfect shave as a percentage on a performance scale, I'd say I went from 25% to 80%, by learning to slide. I stopped hurting myself, I looked pretty good -- but I still had to accept less than the closest shave, or else plenty of minor skin inflammation remained.

Of course, there are finer points in using scissors, from raggedy-edged kindergarten efforts, to miraculous slices across yards of Xmas wrap suspended in mid-air. And, if one wanted to stick with the cutting mat, they would probably get pretty good at cutting, too. That's how it was done in the old days of photo layout, I think, at the printers. But you'd have invested in an X-acto knife of some kind, at that point. It still wouldn't be the right use of scissors. And that's what I mean when I say, if you're not sliding the DE safety razor, you aren't shaving right.

Take your time with a straight, take your skin with a cartridge, if you want to. Say some folk coax 40% performance out of square stokes, in a case like mine. I used to get a full 10 shaves out of my Astras. Say you don't give a shit about your ample stratum corneum, or the minimal recycling load of an extra half a gram of steel, or whatever. Not everybody WANTS to know shit.

Those people drop out, or get an "F." Be cool: stay in school!