My suggestion is to look at your post. Over thinking it may not be a strong enough term for this treatise on how you shave your face. I would say you're already a "hobby shaver."I am NOT and do NOT want to become a "hobby shaver." I don't want to collect hundreds of razors. I don't want to scour to globe for every brand of blades and try them all. And I don't want to collect and try every kind of pre-, shave, and after- product. I'm not interested in experimenting with every new shaving technique.
I throughly understand and respect those who do choose to make shaving into a hobby. If I would let myself go there, I easily could because I understand how rewarding a good shave is. (Keep in mind that I am also a man who owns about 800 knives, so I understand what collecting is.)
But, right now, I am limiting myself: I just want a good shave at a good price.
So, I have my Merkur Futur. I've got a couple of older Gillettes courtesy of Steve; they're nice and I do use them every now and then. But, I mostly use my Futur. I know exactly how to maneuver the Futur into every place on my face. I'm comfortable with the handle. I think I've got this part of my shave dialed-in.
I've got my Futur-style brush. It's my only brush. It works fine for me. I see no reason to experiment further with brushes. I think I've got this part of my shave dialed-in.
I've got very oily skin. As a result, I need no moisturizing aftershave product. In fact, using one would be a bad thing for me. I experimented early on with a few aftershave products, but I have found that, for me, nothing betters a cold-water rinse and a splash of rubbing alcohol. It's dirt-cheap and seems to fit my skin just fine. I think I've got this part of my shave dialed-in.
I've never tried any pre-shave products. A hot shower is best for me. Failing that, I just wash my face with hot water and soap taking my time to do so over about three minutes. I think I've got this part of my shave dialed-in.
I spent about 18 months trying blades. Personally, I think you've got to try six or eight pieces of a given blade brand to really get the feel for that blade. And I think you really do have to shave with a blade brand for at least a few weeks before you can reach a conclusion (In most cases anyway. There can be cases where a blade just clearly doesn't work for you and, after a few shaves with a few blades of that brand, you can reach a conclusion about that blade. I have, for example, said of Crystal-brand blades that they gave me a greater sympathy for the Palestinian cause because I too have now experienced Israeli violence and aggression. But I did shave ten times with five different Crystal blades before issuing that condemnation. Oh, and let me say this: if you like Crystal blades and they work for you, then that's great. I'm glad for you (especially since it will mean that you're not competing with me for the blades I do like)). Anyway, after all of these 18 or so months experimenting with blades, I determined that: 1) Dorco 301s are a bargain; a great price for a good shave. 2) Derby blades are great. 3) BIC Chrome Platinum blades are excellent and an excellent value. 4) Feather blades are best, but they're expensive especially when you consider that I typically get only about four shaves from one. I think I've got this part of my shave dialed-in.
I experimented early on with several lather products, but I was very, very fortunate to be introduced early on the The Gentlemen's Quarter. Wow! The prefect soap at a very reasonable price. I thought I had this part of my shave -- and, therefore, the entire shave -- dialed-in.
And then the world collapsed. Well... maybe not the entire world... that's a bit melodramatic. But my shave collapsed. On that fateful morning, I finished the last bit of my TGQ cake of soap, so I fetched another from my stock and realized that there was only one left on the shelf. Time to order more. So, I went to the web with my charge card in-hand and was shocked to find The Gentlemen's Quarter... gasp!... closed! The horror of it.
She promised to re-open in the spring, but two things became very clear: First, my remaining TGQ soap wouldn't last through spring; and, second, the spring "date" was likely to not be met. I had to launch anew my exploration of soaps.
I'm a face-latherer. I load the soap onto the brush and then build the lather up on my face. This is the fastest and easiest method short of shooting the lather out of a can. And you don't have to do the dishes when you're done. I allocate about two minutes for the making of the lather. Yes, I know that this doesn't necessarily produce the optimum lather. If I would put more effort into it, I might get a better lather. But why? With TGQ soap, I could, in about two minutes, have a very pleasant and entirely adequate lather. That's what I'm after.
When it comes to evaluating lather products, I take the same approach as blades. You usually can't say anything after one or two uses. Each product works a little differently and you need to dial-in (a favorite expression of mine) and it's just not fair to judge a product unless you give it that chance.
Remember, my goal is an inexpensive shave. So, some of the exotic imports were not on my list.
The shaving soaps from Momma Bear's Soaps are widely well regarded.
Before I talk about the soap, let me get this off my chest: I HATE THE PACKAGING OF MOMMA BEAR'S SOAP! I am not a raving environmentalist whacko. But I do think there are some simple things we can all do to help the environment. One of those which I practice is to seek out products which are recyclable and which are less packaged and which have recyclable packaging. This is one thing I love about DE shaving. Multi-blade cartridges are a commingled recycling nightmare; they really aren't recyclable at all. And they come in huge cardboard packages with metallic inks and plastic coatings. Inside of the box, cartridges are then in plastic trays. This is all so unnecessary. Bic Chrome Platinum blades are made of high-grade stainless steel and entirely recyclable. You can collect them up in a steel blade bank box and, when it's full, just toss the whole thing in your recycle bin. An electromagnet will pull them out of the recycle stream. Recyclers LOVE what comes off those magnets because it's highly-recyclable, high-value materials for them. This stuff goes off to become new steel parts at a tiny fraction of the cost of making virgin materials. I love it! But, even before that, these blades come wrapped in waxed paper which is perfectly recyclable. Five blades are put into a small cardboard box which is fully recyclable. And 20 such boxes go into a larger cardboard box. The packaging is minimal and 100% recyclable. Perfect.
Now comes Momma Bear's Soap. The only way you can get it is in a plastic tub. The tub is too small to load a brush in it without making a mess (watch the video on their site to see what I mean). And I don't want to use it out of a plastic tub; I want to use it out of my polished stainless-steel soap dish (a dish likely to last me the rest of my life).
Getting the soap out of the tub is tough. Yes, it can be done. You bang on it enough and it comes out. But, I really don't want to engage in any boxing sparring with my shaving soap; I prefer people for that. Unwrapping your shaving soap shouldn't count as an aerobic workout.
The empty tubs can be repurposed, true. But shaving is something you do everyday and eventually you run out of things to do with the empty tubs.
Some plastics can be recycled. So, I turned over the Momma Bear's tub and was pleased to find a recycling mark... until I realized that the number in it is seven; seven means other or unknown plastic type. In other words, not actually recyclable. This thing is headed to a landfill.
Anyway, on to the soap.
I started with Lime and Bergamot 100% Natural Shaving Soap. I like a citrus scent early in the morning. (Bergamot is an especially-fragrant type of orange). But, while I shaved probably 35 or 45 times with this soap, I was never able to get dialed-in on it. I could eventually get an adequate lather out of, but never great. It was either runny or dry. And the scent was disappointingly weak.
I next tried Momma Bear's Extreme Clean Glycerin Shave Soap. This is supposed to smell like Bulgari Extreme which is a favorite summer cologne scent for me. I have a bottle of it. And so I can tell you that there's only one word for the scent of Momma Bear's Extreme Clean: FAIL! It's not unpleasant, but it's not Bulgari Extreme. The soap was quite good. The Glycerin formulation seems better than the 100% natural product.
I moved on to Black Code Glycerin Shave Soap. This is supposed to smell like Armani's popular Code cologne. This is another cologne which I like and own a bottle of. TGQ has offered a Code smell-alike version too and I have found it close, but weak. There is only two word for Momma Bear's copy of Armani Code: nearly-perfect. The smell is perfect and the lather is the same as the Extreme Clean soap which means quite good.
I found with both of the Glycerin formulation products from Momma Bears that the lather is short-lived. Getting a second lather for a second pass takes a lot of work. Even taking a second stroke can require relathering.
I was pleased to find at the Sherwood, Oregon Farmer's Market a vendor selling locally-made, artisanal soaps including shaving soap. This area is famous for its lavender which we grow as a crop. So, I opted for the Lavender version of di Orto shaving soap. This is the worst lathering product I have used. I've tried and tried dozens of times and could not get dialed on this product. The lather is runny or dry. You can't even get through a single pass without having to relather because the lather just collapse. Forget about it.
Next, Williams Mug Soap which can be purchased locally from Walgreens. This stuff smells... well... soapy and not pleasant at all. After a few dozen tries, I was able to get an adequate lather from it. But it's very dry.
Finally, Van Der Hagen Glycerin soap which I got at the local grocery store, 2.5 ounces for $1.19. It took only a few tried to get dialed-in on this soap. It's easy to use. The scent is pleasant enough. The lather is not in the TGQ league. This lather suffers rinsing issues: it's difficult to rinse it off both your face and out of your brush. I had to make two or three more rinse passes to get it all off my face and it clearly took longer to rinse out the brush. But, even so, it's nice to know that such an adequate soap is readily available for such a low price. This is a good thing to know about.
Where to go from here? I don't know. I'd welcome your suggestions.