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Struggling Newbie

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Struggling Newbie

Postby Bnarducci » Sun Jun 21, 2015 9:15 pm

Hi all,

New to DE shaving and to the board. I have about 10-12 DE shaves under my belt (merkur 34C, plisson synthetic brush, Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood, and various blades). I am really struggling getting the hang of the technique and have watched dozens of "tutorials" on proper angle and pressure, and am not seeing improvement. I am particularly struggling with the first pass with any type of multiple day growth, as I feel like I'm shaving with a butter knife. Lots of tugging and irritation, while experimenting with different angles. Second and third passes are much better, leading me to believe Im not totally going down the wrong path.

My old disposables (Gilette Fusion) give me great shaves, but I am really interested in DE shaving and learning the proper technique, especially if it comes along with saving a few bucks. Should I expect the first pass to be this rough? Any ideas on what I can be doing wrong? Much thanks in advance!
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby CMur12 » Sun Jun 21, 2015 10:24 pm

Welcome Bnarducci!

Most often tugging and irritation result from incorrect blade angle, which causes scraping and poor cutting.

For me, a couple days' growth is easier on the first pass because it's so easy for the blade to find them. My beard is coarse, but it isn't very dense. If you have a very dense and coarse beard, you may be at a disadvantage with several days' growth. Nevertheless, a DE razor like the Merkur and a sharp blade should get through it without a problem.

If you have a heavy and/or coarse beard, you want to use one of the sharper blades. These would be most of the Gillette/P&G blades, Personna Med Prep/Hospital Use, etc. The Feathers are the sharpest of all blades and are short-lived for many shavers. They usually aren't recommended for new wetshavers, but if you have an especially tough beard they may be worth trying.

Are you praciticing good beard prep, with a good wash and soak to soften the beard before shaving? This could make a difference, as could the quality of your lather. If the lather is too thick and cushiony (i.e. Viscous), I find it more difficult to make effective cutting contact with the beard. Most wetshavers seem to favor cushiony lather, while I find that it impedes the cut. I prefer to make a wetter lather (start with a thick lather but keep adding water) that is slick but has little cushion.

Once you get a sense of the angle and what it feels and sounds like when the blade makes a proper cut, it will all become much easier.

Keep at it and you'll find your way.

- Murray
Give me Soap or give me death!
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby ShadowsDad » Mon Jun 22, 2015 12:19 am

You mentioned coming to blade shaving from cartridges. I guarantee you that you're using far too much pressure. There could be other things wrong as well, but I KNOW that you're using too much pressure. Cartridges demand pressure to work and blade razors need the exact opposite- no pressure at all.

We tell noobs to use "no pressure" and they read that to mean back off a little with the pressure on the razor. That couldn't be further from the truth. We really do mean no pressure against the skin. It's counterintuitive, but a bladed razor will work best with no pressure. You want just enough "pressure" ( how I dislike that word right now) to prevent the razor from skipping along your face. That's it. If the skin deforms inward under the razor it's too much pressure; back off. Yes, it's that little pressure. Its been described as allowing only the weight of the razor against your skin.

If you tell us specifically what you're using for gear we can help you further. There's a lot of junk out there designed to be sold and not really used (IMO). The nice thing is that good gear doesn't need to be terribly expensive unless it becomes a hobby or one demands the most expensive.

One thing to avoid at this point... DO NOT change gear choices for each shave if you have that potential. Stick with the same soap, blade, razor, etc. until we figure out what you're doing. But we need more information. We've all been where you are and we're very willing to help.
Last edited by ShadowsDad on Mon Jun 22, 2015 6:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby brothers » Mon Jun 22, 2015 3:39 am

Welcome to the forum, and thanks for joining us. I know you're working on the angle. I've found that the smaller the angle, (placing the head of the razor almost flat on the face - it makes the blade appear to be just shy of a 90 degree angle to the whiskers - with the least pressure possible) the less pulling and tugging there is, and the smoother the shave. As you have said, It does take practice, and when you've found the sweet spot, keep doing it until muscle memory starts to take place, and then you can focus on other aspects of your technique. I have learned to keep my eyes focused on the exact place where the blade meets the skin at all times, avoiding temptation to daydream or to move the razor too fast as it passes over the skin. I wish you good fortune, and look forward to hearing more from you as time goes by. Best regards,
Gary
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby fallingwickets » Mon Jun 22, 2015 4:12 am

welcome to smf.....advice already offered says it all.....keeping fingers crossed you get the angles and prep right sooner than later. once it comes together youll be sorry you didnt switch sooner!

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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Squire » Mon Jun 22, 2015 5:27 am

Hey Bnarducci, welcome aboard. It's easy to overthink these things but the simple approach is if something doesn't work then try something else. The good thing is we have plenty of opportunity to practice.

Tell us about your shave prep, what are you doing to soften up those whiskers?
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby jww » Tue Jun 23, 2015 5:35 am

Welcome to SMD Bnarducci --- great user name, btw.

You will see that there will be recurring themes in responses to help/assist you. Squire hits on one particularly that we often forget in this day and age of immediate information. And that is that learning to shave with a DE razor takes time. Most of us took weeks (for me it was the better part of 3 months) before we were totally comfortable with the correct technique. And then, we allow hubris to set in and have to remind ourselves that you can't assume that all will good tickety-boo.

As discouraging as it may be, the key to this is to just keep at it. I found that this was a test of my patience in building and developing a new skill that I was keen on acquiring.

Try to not get too discouraged --- anything that's worthwhile to learn takes time.

Best of luck.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby ShadowsDad » Tue Jun 23, 2015 7:19 am

And sometimes we forget what we learned and have to learn it yet again.

My R41 had been giving me fits and "was causing me problems". Of course it was all me and I knew that. I was being to blasé in it's use and it responded as they are prone to do. Last night drove that fact home. I handled it the way it needs to be handled and produced a shave that I expect from it... a perfect BBS, that 10 hours later is still a BBS.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Bnarducci » Wed Jun 24, 2015 7:56 pm

Hi all,

Wow, thanks so much for the encouragement and information, much appreciated. I must say, it's been a frustrating start and definitely not something I expected would take so much time and effort to master. From the advice and comments above however, I feel more motivated to keep at it, and that the discomfort I am experiencing is not the norm (once the technique is mastered). For those of you asking about my routine, I always shower prior to shaving, so I feel that my prep is pretty standard. As mentioned, I have a Merkur 34C, with a Plisson synthetic brush, and use Taylor of Old Bond Street shaving cream. I bought a 100 blade sampler pack that has Shark, Feather, Astra and various other blades that I have been trying out. I actually had the best experience with the Feather, which I've heard (as mentioned above) is the sharpest of blades. I'll make sure that I am sticking with a consistent setup until I feel like I am making progress and getting the hang of the technique, and I'll be sure to update you all on my progress. Thanks again!!
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Squire » Wed Jun 24, 2015 8:59 pm

Shower is about all I do now and that works for me. A milder razor may be an option as well.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby CMur12 » Wed Jun 24, 2015 10:25 pm

Everyone's case is unique, and a Merkur or Edwin Jagger/Muehle works for most gents. Nevertheless, I started with a Merkur and it was just too aggressive for me. When I switched to a much milder razor (a Weishi TTL and then a Gillette Tech), my shaves improved significantly and learning accelerated.

Though I don't use as mild a razor now, I still use a mild razor to get the best shave with the least irritation. A mild razor doesn't shave quite as close, but handled skillfully a mild razor can still provide a normally close shave.

The best razor, for me, that I have found in eight years is the Merkur Progress, at its lowest/gentlest setting. (I actually have a "Mergress," which is a progress with a custom, machined adjustment knob at the end in place of the normal plastic one.) This razor, at this setting, gives me the best combination of gentleness to the skin and effectiveness of cut/shave that I have yet found.

I would heartily recommend the Merkur Progress, as its adjustability goes from very mild to very aggressive, which allows you to account for skin and beard, while allowing you to dial it up, if needed, as your technique develops. The temptation to keep changing adjustment is the reason adjustable razors aren't always recommended for beginners, but it does prevent you from having to buy one razor after another until you find one that is gentle/aggressive enough for you.

I would recommend getting a Progress and setting it at the lowest setting. Stick with that razor and that setting until you get your technique sorted out. Then you can consider a higher setting. Keep in mind that the lowest setting that will get the desired results is the best setting.

Good luck and don't give up!

- Murray
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Squire » Thu Jun 25, 2015 7:00 am

Also one of the vintage Gillette Adjustables which are widely available and for the most part still reasonably priced. Low setting though I think is the point. One of my daily drivers is a Schick Krona which is a mild razor, still fairly common, still comparatively cheap. While I wouldn't call the Merkur 34C an aggressive razor there are milder ones out there and I think comfort is the first priority here.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby lanolite » Thu Jun 25, 2015 8:45 pm

Great idea. An Adjustable was a big help to me starting out and I still use it most of the time even though I rarely adjust it any more.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Squire » Thu Jun 25, 2015 9:11 pm

I use a Gillette Adjustable regularly as well but rarely set it above two.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby mustang_john » Fri Jun 26, 2015 12:24 pm

Hope you persevere with it, it will all work out in the end, I was similar to you little over a year, and now I'd never think of going back to electric as I once used.
Keep at it fella :)
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Racso_MS » Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:12 pm

WELCOME TO THE FORUM

REMEMBER...

It's not a race...
It's your face...

Take your time and enjoy...
Best Regards From the Deep South...
Remember; It's Not A Race, It's Your Face...
And As Always, Enjoy Your Shave...
(Racso) Oscar...
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Bnarducci » Fri Jul 03, 2015 7:31 am

Hi all,

Just wanted to give a quick update, as I have a few shaves under my belt since my previous post. Things are still a bit rough on the first pass, and I think it's more a function of blade angle, length of strokes and speed over anything else. As mentioned previously, I have a blade sampler pack, and have used the feather blades with much better results. They are definitely sharp, but I am having a much easier time on the first pass, even though there is still a bit of pulling compared to my cartridge razors. I have really focused on easing off with pressure, and feel that at times I am almost backing off too much, resulting in more pulling and dragging.

Overall, I'm feeling better about the transition and getting more comfortable with the process. Thanks again for everyone's advice and encouragement!
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby ShadowsDad » Fri Jul 03, 2015 8:32 am

Excellent!

By the sound of it you like sharp blades. I'm going to add smooth to that as well. That's a fairly common theme among shavers on this forum.

Other blades you might like are Personna hospital use (med prep) blades, SuperMax, Gillette 7:00 yellows, and Iridium. How do I know? I like sharp smooth blades as well, and those are in my top few blades. That does NOT mean that you'll like them, but I'd be willing to bet that out of those at least a few will work great for you. The sharper the blade the easier it cuts as you found out. The smoother the blade the more comfortable it will be.

Have I suggested a SE (single edge) safety razor yet? Lots of us think they give a much better shave than DE razors; most likely due to the stiffer blade. If you want more SE info get back to me.

Have a great Independence Day!
Brian

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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby Squire » Fri Jul 03, 2015 3:02 pm

Good report Bd, may I suggest shaving a little slower may help with the tugging.
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Re: Struggling Newbie

Postby CMur12 » Fri Jul 03, 2015 5:14 pm

I'm surprised that you would still be getting tugging, especially with Feather blades.

If the problem is blade flex, due to the thinness of DE blades, you might be better served by the SE (single edge) razors that Brian referenced or an Injector razor, as both have very stiff, solid blades. The problem with both of these is the limited choice in blades.

You can buy current production Schick Injector blades made in China, which are decent (much better than those previously made in Germany). The only other options (Personna and various store brands) are all made by ASR, now owned by Energizer and facing extinction. The same goes for SE blades, as GEM, Treet, Blue Star, and such are all ASR brands also facing extinction. If you were to go the SE route, I would buy up a lot of blades now while you can.

- Murray
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