Inflection Points in shaving

Gollnick

Musical Director
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
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`In mathematics, an "inflection point" is where a function changes its slope. It's when there's an important change.

Twenty-some-odd years ago, I went to San Jose for a week-long professional conference with some friends. I was careful to fully-charge my Norelco Electric Razor the night before so that I wouldn't have to shlep the charger, a device roughly the size of a grapefruit, along. We arrived at the hotel about 3:00PM and agreed to meet back in the lobby in a half-hour to go shopping at Fry's and then to dinner. As I unpacked, I discovered to my horror that the Norelco had somehow gotten switched on by handling and vibrations in-transit and was completely dead. This is a professional conference; I couldn't go for a week without shaving. At Fry's, I looked in hope that they might have replacement Norelco adapters, but it was a misguided hope. What they did have and what I convinced myself to buy was a Gillette Sensor razor and a can of foam. The next morning, I who had never used anything except a Norelco electric razor approached my new kit with fear. And I discovered two things: first, why they call it a safety razor; no cuts, no knicks, no errors. And, second, I learned just how badly those Norelco electrics had been shaving me. This was an inflection point. I don't think I ever charged that Norelco again and can't honestly remember what even became of it.

As I recall, the Sensor was five bucks and change. Sensor blade cartridges were six for about five bucks and I easily got seven shaves from each changing the blade on Sunday morning whether it needed it or not. And once a year, maybe, you'd stumble into a bad cartridge that had to be replaced prematurely.

Over the years, the price of a package of sensor blades slowly crept up, six dollars, then seven, then eight. At some point, they dropped from six to five blades per package, but the price just kept going up. And, then, Sensor blades started disappearing from the stores. I tried Sensor Excell, but it was terrible. I tried a store brand, but was even worse. Lately, I've been mail-ordering Sensor blades for upwards of twenty dollars for a package of five, four dollars each. And the quality of the blades has gone downward too. It seems I only get about five shaves per on average and about one-in-ten is defective.

By the way, I am using the same Sensor razor I bought in San Jose over twenty years ago and it's just fine.

Finally, I decided I was sick and tired of paying Gillette one dollar per day for shaving. So, I bought a Merkur Futur, matching brush, and a neat stand for them (I'm told that a stand is good for the brush helping it to dry correctly which seems reasonable to me). I also got a cake of Classic Shaving Soap (lime), and a blade sample pack.

Monday was my first DE shave. I read a bunch of stuff on the Internet, watched videos, etc., and I was scarred. I started with a Dorco blade following West Coast Shaving's FAQ. I set the razor on two since a lot of the internet posts I had read seemed to settle on two. And, with great fear, I tried. I learned two things: first, why they call it a safety razor; no cuts, no knicks, no errors... just a very acceptable shave, on a par with what I had been accustomed to with the Sensor. And, second, that all of these internet resources may way too much of a big deal out of this whole process. It's not rocket science, folks. Monday's shave wasn't perfect by any measure, but my goal isn't the ultimate shave anyway (that you have to pay for at Ye Old Tonsoral Parlor in Portland). But, Monday's shave, my first DE shave, was entirely acceptable. The lather was poor because of too much water. I went against-the-grain as you have to to get the hair under my nose and on my neck with no problem at all.

On Tuesday, I changed the razor to three and used less water and had an even better shave.

On Wednesday, I used even less water and the lather was even better.

This morning, I switched to the other side of the Dorco blade and I got another very acceptable shave. I'm learning more how to handle some of the tricky parts. And, thus far, no cuts or nicks at all.

I'd say this is another inflection point.

The razor and brush are expensive up-front, but the Razor will last a lifetime and the brush or a decade or two. Blades on the old Sensor were costing me over a dollar a shave. DE blades will cost pennies per shave. And the saving soap is cheaper per blade than canned foam and you don't end up throwing the can away. So, this will be a long-term cost saver.

My advice to any man is to ignore all the internet buzz that makes DE shaving seem so complicated and so mysterious and just grab a razor, a blade pack, a brush, and some soap and dive in... the water is great.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2007
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I'm only 23, and luckily, I like you discovered the "older" shaving equipment. I've used a mug and brush with a $2.00 gillette DE razor I got at a garage sale for the last year. I'll never willingly go back to "canned" foams, and never willingly go back to the uber-6000 mega razors. (I won't start in on electric razors.)

The last two weeks I finally decided to spring for a straight razor. Figured I loved to sharpen knives so much it would just be a natural progression. I was right! I have two now with a combined cost of $33. One is a mid-century utility model and the other is a Boker that's who-knows how old. I've gotten both to shaving condition in short order and little expense despite less-than-stellar condition thanks to prior knowledge gained on this board. You don't HAVE to have $400s of stones this and stones that and $100s worth of strops and pastes. Wet/Dry sandpaper, my Sharpmaker, and a Cinch Strap (for saddles) made into 3 strops-two with pastes from the hardware store- are all I needed. Cinch Strap and pastes ran me $26. ($9 a strop! lol) The guys at another straight razor forum...well I think THEY think I'm full of hot air; Some redneck who thinks he can sharpen razors with sandpaper, skinny ceramic rods, and strops made of the "wrong" leather!

So:
A: Honing the straight razors aren't nearly as complicated as they make it. Use your head and just realize we're dealing with EXTREMELY specialized edges that will not tolerate abuse or hap-hazard treatment.
B: I've shaved twice now, with zero nicks, cuts, scrapes. It's all in the lather and prep work for shaving...the same as a DE. While I definitely recommend getting use to a DE before trying a straight razor, it too is no where NEAR as complicated as some make it sound.
C: None of this has to be as expensive as some make it. My DE setup costs:
Razor $2.00 (garage sale)
Blades $1.50 (For 10...$0.15 a piece, 50 cents a week)
Brush $5.00 boar brush at walmart....at least I think it was only $5.00
Soap I'm gonna say $5.00 again since I get it at walmart also.

That brings me in under $15.00 for the DE

St. Razor 1: $11.00
St. Razor 2: $22.00
Strops (3) $26.00
Hones (already had them all....you likely do to)
and lets assume you have to buy brush and soap again...$10.00

Brings you in under $70.

Now figure up what your electric shaver costs or what you spend in a year for disposables!!
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
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Straights are scary, I can live with buying blades;) As for all that mysterious wet shaving stuff I totally agree. I can remember my dad using his double edge razor and whatever shave cream non-can type that my mom would buy and no fancy prep stuff, and getting his shave done with plenty of pressure and in a rush every morning, I don't think the terms pre-shave and no-pressure ever entered into his shaving lexicon. I myself like the fun of searching out the perfect shave, just tried Taylors of Old Bond St. and feather razor blades yesterday and that combo is pretty much so far the best I've found. But I will continue to seek because I find the search itself enjoyable.
 
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Good to hear citizen. Those feathers are supposed to be untouched in the "scary-sharp" department but keep some other on hand. I've heard a few times on the boards that even the guys who love them can't use them too long. They have to rotate them out. They're just TOO sharp and take off more skin each day than they can grow back in a day.
 
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Soilarch
Too soon to judge but am day two of feather with no ill effects. My skin is fairly tough though, usually don't have problems unless the soap/creme I use disagree's with my skin or I start using pressure.
 
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Oct 15, 2007
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That's good.
One thing it sounds like we've both learned is it's usually OUR fault on the prep work as opposed to the blades fault.

Also, perhaps I should have been a little more specific. By rotating them out they talk like it will take awhile. I kinda got the impression that they'd use them for a month or so and then let there faces "rest" for a week or two.

Not all that important but in case your face really starts bothering you in a couple weeks thought I'd give you the heads-up that your not doing anything wrong. It's just the nature of the beast. Give the face a break from the feathers and go to something a little duller and then go back after awhile.

Have you compared them to other DE blades yet? I keep meaning to try some different blades but after a year the only blades I've used have still been the wal-mart variety. No complaints, but that nagging curiosity is always there in the back of my mind!
 

Gollnick

Musical Director
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
Messages
28,912
Today was another perfectly nice shave with the Dorco. My lathering is much improved now using much less water. My shave time is now only a few minutes longer than it was with the Sensor and I'm getting faster. My technique has improved dramatically in just five days.

All of this just proves my thesis that way too many people make way too much ado about this DE shaving thing.

it's usually OUR fault on the prep work as opposed to the blades fault.

This is just the sort of comment that adds to the perception of some sort of complex, elaborate, magic formation that has to be exactly learned and strictly followed.

My "prep work ritual" thus far is the same as it was for my Sensor: a nice, hot shower. No special, magic oils or lotions, no yoga meditations or secret incantations... just my normal, hot shower.
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
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Soilarch,
So far I've tried a bunch: Dorco's, Merkur, Wal-Mart Personna, Wilkinson Sword, Derbies,and now the feather's. Dorco's were my least favorite. Derbies are a great everyday blade. And Wal-Mart Personna's are not even close to being as bad as the internet experts would lead you to believe. Feathers though are great. You gotta stop buying at wally world though, you can get 100 blades for approx.$10 on e-bay or West Coast shaving, just make a decent size order at West Coast so it is worth the price of shipping. They also have great sampler packs, so you can try a bunch before you commit to a larger order of one brand. As for the feathers as great as they feel I'm not looking to make them a daily shaver as they are one of the more expensive brands, approx. $28 for 50 blades vs. $10 for 100 perfectly servicable derbies.
 
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
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805
Gollnick,
You gotta try some different creams though and your shave will get even better. I tried the classic shaving soap and was definitely not in love. If your interested in some Vars cream approx. 1/2 tube, and a chunk of crabtree and evelyn soap pm me, it's your gratis.
 
Joined
Oct 15, 2007
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297
Gollnick...you got me. My own statement does add to this supposed "mystery".

What I should have said is that if I try to skip something BIG...like shaving pre-shower or without using hot water or SOMETHING to soften the hair...I can tell, and I can tell big time.

My "ritual" is a lot simpler than most.

Put some general skin lotion on my neck (the only part I really shave)

Hop in the shower...do that routine...hop out

Turn the sink on and get some hot water in the brush swirl it around (I do not worry about the lather)

Rub it into my face and the lather will appear. If I need more or less water I can adjust as I go. Real simple.

Wipe clean

But some general skin lotion on my face and go.



Aside from putting lotion on before and after...and taking an extra 20 seconds to rub the brush on the soap and around my face it is basically the same as my EDGE gel and Mach3 days.
 

Gollnick

Musical Director
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
Messages
28,912
And I am not asserting that Dorco (what a stupid-sounding name ;) ) and Classic Shaving Soap are the best in the world. I have had exactly five DE shaves in my life an all with Dorco blades and Classic soap. That's not much experience to base such a statement on.

But, what I can say from practical experience is that using a blade selected because of an internet FAQ and soap selected because it was inexpensive, and a razor setting selected because it seemed like what others were using, I got a very adequate shave the very first time. So, I just don't think this DE shaving thing is as mysterious and complex and some people -- not present company -- make it out to be. I also suspect that this exaggeration of the complexity of DE shaving also scares some people away.

Let me be clear in that I am sure that if one wants to practice the art of DE shaving to its extreme, much ado is required. But, it is not necessary to go to the lengths and extremes that an olympic athlete goes to for most of us to enjoy a sport at a perfectly adequate level. Similarly, I think, from my experience thus far -- limited as it admittedly is -- I can say that any man can save a lot of money by switching to a DE razor without much trouble at all.

I certainly do intend to try more blades. I'm planning on trying the Merkur blades starting tomorrow.

And I thank Mr. citizensoldierNY for his generous offer which I will accept by PM. It would be a treat to try some other lather products since Classic was really selected for its price and availability.
 
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Aug 4, 2001
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Gollnick has had a shaving epiphany and great success so far with a DE razor. This is not quite typical though - getting the angle right, using the right amount of pressure against the skin, can all take a few days to get used to. I would just caution folks not to be discouraged if it doesn't go quite as well for you as it did for Gollnick.

Most folks will just grab a knife and use it without giving it a second thought, they won't agonize over blade steels or edge geometry like many people here do. The knife works for them, and they're happy. In the same manner, Gollnick has found a good razor, soap and brush, and they really do the job. What more does he need? Nothing.

Those of us who spend a lot of time on the shaving forums could also do quite well with one good razor, soap and brush. However, it becomes something of an obsession if you're not careful, and you will find yourself spending as much on that stuff as you do on knives. I applaud Gollnick for finding the right combination right off the bat, and it sounds like he will be able to avoid the pitfalls of the various acquisition syndromes. For many of us though... it's too late. :D
 
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Feb 21, 2008
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TorzJohnson,
What do you mean obsession??? I think it's perfectly healthy and normal to surf shaving sites for a few hours a week and posess approx. 3-4 razors at a time, a half dozen soaps and cremes, approx. a dozen aftershaves and balms and various blades , not to mention I need a new boar brush as I'm getting back into using soaps and my van der hagen is shedding like a husky in the sahara. And you call this an obsession;)
 
Joined
Jun 19, 2004
Messages
377
I don't understand why guys are using boar brushes.. Okay, I do understand, they're cheap, but as they say (I'm pretty sure this is how it goes), once you go badger, you never go back.

I started with a badger brush when I began my DE odyssey, and I just recently received a boar brush as part of a shaving kit door prize. The boar brush was tried once, and I'm quite sure I never will use it again, unless I forget how sub-par it was. It doesn't hold the moisture, it's hard on the skin, and it lathers poorly, compared to the badger brush. If you've not tried a badger brush, pick one up. They're fantastic.

Travis
 
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Oct 15, 2007
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297
Hamon, don't want to be argumentative but a boar brush has perhaps one thing going for it...(besides price)...they supposedly will work up a lather quicker.

Me, I use one 'cause I'm cheap! lol

They do soften up considerably with age...In fact I need to pick up a second one for "just in case" and compare how much mine has softened.
 

Gollnick

Musical Director
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
Messages
28,912
Yesterday, I switched to a Merkur Platinum blade and dialed the razor back down to two. Clearly, the Merkur blade is superior to the Dorco; it better be since they retail for about twice the price. This morning, I opened the razr up to three (as a Mercedes owner, I can tell you that German products like to be opened up a bit now and then ;) ). This morning's shave is without a doubt the smoothest, closest shave I have ever self-administered.

I realize that I haven't given Dorco a fair shake since the first few days were much more about me learning the techniques than the blade and, by the time I switched it out, the Dorco had five shaves on it. It's not fair to compare the five-shaves-old Dorco to a brand-new Merkur. So, I will loop back and retry another Dorco after this Merkur.

So, I'm not saying that my first DE shave was perfect, but it was entirely adequate. And it took less than a week for me to get to shaves better than my Sensor ever gave me.
 
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I have a Crabtree and Evelyn Best badger which works great, boar is reserved for the soap pucks and Badger for cremes. Plus when I travel the boar travels too. I won't be heartbroken to leave a $4 dollar brush somewhere vs. $40 for my badger. Boars a bit more exfoliating also.
 

Gollnick

Musical Director
Joined
Mar 22, 1999
Messages
28,912
It's time for an update:

As I planned, after the first Merkur blade, I looped back and retried another Dorco blade. I found it gave a very good shave. It's not as good, as smooth, as the Merkur, but quite acceptable. I then tried a second Merkur. I used each blade for four shaves not because I felt that either was worn out at that point but simply to be uniform in my comparisons. (I'll make trials of blade life later.)

Dorco blades, in bulk, retail for about twelve or thirteen cents each. Merkur blades, in bulk, are about twenty-five cents each. On one hand, one would expect the Merkur blades to shave twice as well for twice the price, and they don't. On the other hand, one might expect the Merkur blades to shave three or four cents per-shave better than the Dorcos and maybe they do that. My current conclusion -- admittedly based on very little experience -- is that Dorcos are quite adequate and a bargain and Merkurs are over-priced.

After two Dorcos and two Merkurs, I tried a Derby courtesy of Mr. citizensoldierNY. Derby blades seem to have an excellent reputation online. And I can see why. After my first stroke with a Derby blade, I said to myself, "You silly boy, you got the angle wrong and the blade cut nothing." Then, I looked closer and realized that I had the angle correct and the blade cut everything. This blade just works that smoothly. Derby blades, in bulk, retail for about fifteen cents each which is less than one cent per-shave more than Dorcos and, I think, well worth it. I can really see why a lot of people seem to like these Derby blades.

On the lather side, I've stuck mostly with Classic Shaving Soap and I now get what I consider to be a very nice lather from it, certainly entirely functional. And the whole lathering process now takes less than a minute. I read somewhere that soaps often don't lather well on the first use simply because they're dry out-of-the-box and that they'll improve as they absorb some water over the first couple of uses. That would seem to be the case with my cake of Classic as I don't think my technique has changes much since those first few dismal uses and yet the lather just gets better and better.

I have tried Mr. citizensoldierNY's sample of Crabtree and Evelyn soap several times now. The inital lather is quite good if slow, but I find that relathering for a second pass or a missed bit is like pulling teeth; you just about have to start over which slows the whole shave down quite a bit. I'll keep trying with it.

I have not yet tried the Vars cream as that strikes me as an entirely different process which I'm not ready to introduce into the fray yet.

My DE Shave with the Futur razor and Classic Shaving Soap consistenly takes about ten minutes from start to finish (finish meaning all equipment put away, etc.) which is just about exactly what my shave took with my old Sensor. Lathering the old way was faster, but I spent a lot of time rinsing the razor as the blades would clog up. About the only reason to rinse the Futur off mid-shave is just to quickly get the accumulated lather off so you can better see what you're doing; there's nothing much to clog on it. So, it's about a wash for time.

After a bit over two weeks at this DE Shaving thing, I have not had a single shave that I found unacceptable and I now consistently get shaves which are clearly superior to anything I ever got with the old Sensor. I don't think I'm acheiving the penultimate* shave by any means. But, that's not really my goal.

My goals: Get a better shave in about the same amount of time and for significantly less cost.

Let's do some math:

The last time I bought cartriges for the Sensor, they cost $38 and change for ten. One was bad right out of the box which was typical. (I still have two unused, but let's assume they're both good.) Each cartridge gives about five good shaves (you can get six or eight, but those last few are not nice). So, that's 84.4 cents per-shave.

A can of good shaving cream (not high-end stuff, but good stuff) is about four dollars and gives about 25 shaves. So, that's 16 cents per-shave.

So, the total consumables cost with the Sensor was about one dollar per-shave. Think about it: you're barely out of bed and you've already spend a dollar.

With the Futur and Classic Soap, the blade costs about fifteen cents and will give four or five shaves, that's three cents per shave. Judging from use so far, I'm guessing that my six-dollar cake of soap will give about a hundred shaves. So, it's six-cents per-shave for lather. That's a total of about nine cents per-shave.

Now, before I've even got my pants on for the day, I've saved 91 cents. And, I got a better shave in about the same time.

A Merkur Futur cost about $65. A good brush is maybe $65 more. A brush stand is $10. And a bowl for the soap is maybe $10. So, the capital investment is about $150. At 91-cents savings per-day, that will take 164 days to pay for itself, about five and one-half months. And after that, it's a 91-cent per-day savings, $332 per-year.

$332 per-year can pay for a hotel room and meals for a three-day weekend in Atlanta every year.

Of course, if you want to, you can take some of that $332 and allocate it toward higher-end lather. But you'd have to spend a awefull lot on lather to eat up $332 per year. So, you can have super-deluxe lather if you want to and still end up saving money.

And I remain convinced that this DE Shaving thing just isn't as complex or difficult or mysterious as a lot of the online resources make it out to be.






* The ultimate shave being impossible during this earthly life and available only at the barber shop in heaven
 
Last edited:
Joined
Feb 21, 2008
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Golnick,
Glad you enjoyed the derbies. As for the cost savings even more can be realized if you start off with a vintage superspeed , tech, or whatever and bargain brush and use williams soap and the like . I'll most likely never see a savings as I have a bit of an addiction, but if your going do something might as well go overboard.:D
 
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