Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Adventures in Pogonotomy - Part 1

Two months ago, I started shaving using an old fashioned double edged Razor, I have to admit that I had my reservations regarding this, but all the indications from those who do it on a daily basis were that it was a better way of getting rid of the day to day fuzz and (When you’ve got over the initial hit for getting the equipment) far cheaper than going with conventional cartridge razors (You know, the ones that look like they’re sponsoring the latest wolverine film...), so with that in mind, I started using them.

I haven’t stopped using them yet...

However, the interesting thing that I’ve noted is that there’s a whole community out there of people who have it down as all manner of different things, there’s hundreds of groups for traditional shaving, forums, all the products in the world for every type of shaving you can imagine 

(First person not from one of the forums who can tell me what this is without googling it gets a pint), and then some, but the one thing I’ve noticed above all else is that for some, it’s just a matter of replacing the cartridge with something a little more traditional, for others...

It’s a Religion!

Given that using said razors is far easier once you’ve got used to the technique of going slow and not making multiple scraping passes over your beard because the cartridge can’t handle any sort of beard growth, it then becomes a search for the right combination of things to use to get the perfect shave.  I started off with a Merkur 34c 

and Merkur Blades, recommended for all beginners, and to be honest, even with those, I ended up looking like the Red Skull (see for the full story, and from then I’ve been experimenting these last few months with a few other things.  The first thing I’ve done is get a variety of new razor blades to test things with, as evidenced below.

So clockwise from the top left we’ve got Treet, Gillette, Wilkinson, Shark, Derby, Merkur (which the flash obscured sadly), and then Feather.  There’s a shaving shop in leeds ( that does all the things that you need for a good shave, and particularly when you’re going to get something like this, it does good to be able to smell the product first hand or in the case of a new shaving tool, handle it yourself to see if you like the feel of it.

I’ve already tried the Merkur and found it to be an excellent blade once you got the technique down, but they are rather expensive (more than all the other blades shown put together), so I’ve also tried the Treet Blade, which was reasonable, but seemed to nick more than the Merkur, and the Feather...

Feather blades, for those who don’t shave, can only be described as hungry, Japanese made, and like the Katana’s of old, sharp enough to cut leaves floating downstream.  The spirit invoked however, must surely be that of Muramasa, not Masamune, because while they do give an excellent shave, close to the face and with no resistance from the hair at all, once slip and they’ll slash through anything they contact (as my work will attest when I turned up with a plaster on the side of my head because not even the Alun block would stop the bleeding), which makes them a good choice for removing recalcitrant fuzz or if you think you need a few more manly duelling scars without actually getting into a fight for them.

This mornings shave was the Wilkinson blade, similar in nature to the Merkur, but it glides more easily on the skin (or I’m getting better at this) and almost no razor burn at all, which is a particular hazard when it comes to shaving with traditional razors.

The other thing I’ve varied is the choice of shaving soaps, I haven’t got as far as using preshave creams and balms and all such other things yet (wait for it...), but I started out with the same shaving foam I used to use when using cartridge razors, which was the spray stuff which foams up and you can’t see your face under it (Lethal when shaving this way), then a regular high street product, which was Groomed shave cream, better and allows you to spread it thinly and see your face beneath the coverings (and thus avoid battle scars...)
I’ve since switched to Taylor of Old Bond Street Lemon and Lime shave cream

and the difference is remarkable, it’s lighter and whips up better when using a brush, and it also doesn’t dry my skin out (and that’s probably the most metrosexual thing you’re ever going to hear me say), which makes it easier to go for a second pass.  I haven’t started using the more expensive aftershaves and post shave creams yet, but I do suspect that it’s coming.

The thing here is that when I was shaving with cartridges, much like a number of other men I know, I would use the cartridge till it was well past it’s useful range, just hacking away till the cartridge had no effect beyond annoying me, simply because of the cost of the things.  Shaving wasn’t a pleasure, it was something you did when your face started itching, and only then, which made it harder to get all the hair off and onwards in a vicious circle.  Worse yet, it was a chore, and a bore, because you scraped your face once, then tried to wash all the hair out of the cartridge, then single scrape again and on and on.  With a Safety razor, you just flick it in the water and the hair is gone, if you need to clean the razor properly, you can just unscrew it and clean it up before using it again.

So, as time goes on, my adventures in Pogonomoty will continue, and I’ll let you all know how they go...