Starting over with an open blade

Use a straight. You know it makes sense.
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TRBeck
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Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Wed May 08, 2019 3:27 pm

Well, 11+ years into this hobby, it's time for me to really learn to use a straight. I tried a few times in the first 2-3 years I was involved in wetshaving, but as far as I can tell, I last used a straight in 2011 or so.

I like learning new skills; I like tactile experience. I figured out how to make really good shaving soap. There's no reason at all I shouldn't be able to shave with a straight. Besides, learning new skills keeps me more engaged in the hobby than buying more stuff, and I need engagement with the hobby to balance my life generally.

I'm a teacher, and school is out in 2 weeks. This opens up about 65 straight days on which I will shave but not have to look good for work. By the end of that time period, although I won't be proficient, I ought to be beyond the worst in terms of blood, razor burn, etc. This is a perfect window for me.

The Plan
Buy two straights, probably both vintage. I have my eye on a few from reputable eBay sellers but am open to suggestions (I have owned a Joseph Elliot wedge and a Dovo full hollow and a Wapi and a full hollow Clauss with a French point, but that was so long ago I can't tell you much. Reading SOTD posts, it seems I really favored the stiffer feel of the wedge but did okay with the full hollow Clauss).
Buy a paddle strop for pastes. Having read a lot about maintaining an edge without going back to the hones. I have also considered just getting balsa and film, and maybe I should just go that route, but I like the idea of stones. Anyway, that's all down the road. A pasted strop is a necessity either way, right?.
Buy a quality but inexpensive strop. I had a Tony Miller heirloom latigo gifted to me by a family member but sold it a while back. I'm thinking something less luxe to start with here, but I did like having both leather and linen. Suggestions here are welcome.

Shave prep is dialed in - I make good soap, and I keep a couple commercial products on hand that I like (Speick, Palmolive), and I make good lather without a problem. It's going to come down to stropping, blade maintenance, and learning the actual shave technique. I wish I'd learned this much sooner. I used to take short strokes with DEs when I was learning, but I'm proficient enough and the razors good enough now that I will go XTG from nose to ear mouth to ear in one stroke and have no issues. Going to need to relearn some better habits.

I'm really excited, even though it will mean an outlay of cash. I'm selling a bunch of stuff in the next few days anyway, and I will try to keep my expenditures relatively low without compromising on quality. Any input on strops, razors, or even the paddle strop/paste/balsa thing would be very welcome. I'll try to track my experiences here as I acquire items and then begin using them in earnest May 25.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by EL Alamein » Wed May 08, 2019 6:03 pm

Tim, good luck, we are here for you.

Chris

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by Brutus » Wed May 08, 2019 7:36 pm

This should become an interesting journey.

Frustrating a bit in the beginning, but perseverance will pay off, after a while you will hopefully agree that it was worth the efforts, and after some big discoveries in the beginning you will eventually come to the point where discoveries become smaller and smaller and you will, as I hope, realize that you have come a long way, get better shaves than ever, and are well on your way on this journey.

And that is how I look at it, a journey.


B

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Wed May 08, 2019 8:04 pm

Chris, thanks. I have been combing through old threads here, particularly those in which you and Chris Moss trade wisdom on strops, hones, pastes, et al. I would love your thoughts on a good strop to get if I'm only going to get one and don't want to break the bank. I am thinking of a Tony Miller "Vanilla Steerhide" strop. Also am wondering about your opinion on paddle strops for paste and which pastes or CrOx crayons to get. Should I get a paddle strop with leather, just use balsa, or use a second hanging strop with paste?

Was looking at this on the Bay. I've heard good things about Herold strops, and it's very affordable. This and some pastes?

As for hones, I think I can put that on the back burner in the short term. With a pasted strop or paste on balsa, I ought to be able to keep an edge running right for a long time, right? And especially if I have a backup to use in the event that I screw up the edge?

I appreciate your thoughts. I've been reading Chris Moss's "Ultimate Honing" and a bunch of other posts from the past couple of years about stone preferences. Also, in your "Back to the Basics" thread, I read about the Jemico strop, and went down the rabbit hole reading other posts here about it, which did catch my imagination and my eye as one to consider, but it's a bit more expensive than the Tony Miller vanilla strop, and harder to come by besides. Anyway, any light you can shed is helpful.

As regards blades, I am eyeing a couple of wedges, and I do recall preferring the feel of a stiff wedge blade when I dabbled in straights previously, but I'm not sure that's much to go by. Would you recommend I get a wedge and a full hollow to feel the difference, or just pick something and go with it?

Gary, Chris Moss, any other guys here, feel free to chime in! I know there's a lot of straight razor experience from which to glean info.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by brothers » Wed May 08, 2019 8:46 pm

Tim, I have a feeling you'll easily pick up where you left off, and I know you have a strong drive to learn and succeed at whatever you set your mind to do. Best wishes!
Gary

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Wed May 08, 2019 9:03 pm

Brutus, Gary, thanks. It's all a journey, to be sure, and I find it more rewarding when it's a journey requiring the acquisition of skills and not just stuff. I look forward to the process. I've dabbled a bit but never made a committed, concerted effort to just focus on straight shaving.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by drmoss_ca » Thu May 09, 2019 3:59 am

The shaving part will come quickly, just don't expect perfection right away. Start out with single pass WTG shaves. When you want to go XTG in those spots where the stubble remains you'll need to be sure of your edge being properly sharp, or it will tug.

Let me know if you need any help.

C.
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Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by Oscar11 » Thu May 09, 2019 6:55 am

Good luck and enjoy the process.

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Thu May 09, 2019 7:27 pm

Thank you, gentlemen.

I am about to purchase the pair of razors - a W&B wedge and a full-hollow Genco. Totally different razors, but having read the thread about traveling and razor disparity here and not knowing enough to know my own preferences yet, what the heck?

I am also going to go ahead with the Tony Miller "vanilla" strop unless someone knows why I shouldn't.

And then a paddle strop and red and black pastes from Superior Shave (plus yellow and white pastes for treating my leather and linen respectively, especially as I now live in a pretty arid climate). Any recommendations for a green paste? I'm looking at Keith Johnson's "TomoChromo" but am open to suggestions.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by drmoss_ca » Fri May 10, 2019 4:37 am

My favourite chrome paste is the HandAmerican Liquid Chrome, but I don't think you can get it any more. Second place goes to Thiers Issard Chromox, available at Fendrihan.
If you need help with honing send them to me, or if you want the ultimate edge, use Tim Zowada's new honing service. I also have two full sets of Naniwa hones, and if you want one of them I'll sell for half the new cost.
"Je n'ai pas besoin de cette hypothèse."
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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Fri May 10, 2019 11:29 am

Thanks, Chris.

I will need to think about hone options, but the Naniwas were already on my radar, and I do appreciate that offer. Very appealing. I will get back to you after the razors, strops, and pastes are in hand and some of the other gear has been sold to clear some space and a bit of cash. I may also take you up on the honing offer, particularly with the W&B wedge.

I have always appreciated the gentlemanly spirit of SMF, but I have a renewed appreciation as I am reading through the Straight Razors section I have mostly ignored the past few years. Some truly brilliant conversations regarding pastes and strops, assorted hones, frequency of blade maintenance, blade grinds, etc. And given SMFs distinct lack of fanboys, the dialogue is devoid of breathless shouting about the latest and greatest of everything or hyperbole about how lapping film has rendered stones obsolete. I'm not opposed to lapping film nor any other blade maintenance solution - I don't know enough to have an opinion - but I enjoy nuanced conversation. Thanks for the wealth of information here, gents.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Fri May 10, 2019 12:50 pm

Everything is ordered.

Herold 91J paddle strop will get Dovo red and TomoChromo (TI was just a bit too dear for me to pick up right now, Chris, as I could snag some of the Tomo stuff for $10) green pastes
WD Poor Man strop will get Dovo black paste
Tony Miller Vanilla Steerhide strop for linen and leather (already a screaming deal from what I have read, it was on sale for May)
W&B 5/8+ wedge
Genco 5/8 full-hollow spike point

Razors are both coming from 'Bay seller pegasusimp, whose reputation seems very good, and are supposed to be shave ready upon arrival.

The Poor Man strop was only available in a kit, so I'll also be getting a piece of balsa pasted with red and green pastes as part of that deal.

I want to make sure everything is assembled ahead of the 25th, and I may in fact do a couple of straight shaves during the final week of school depending on time and circumstance.

I'm done reading about hardware for a bit, I think, and ready to start looking at technique for stropping and for the shave itself. I've done it, of course, but not much and not for a long time.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by EL Alamein » Fri May 10, 2019 5:56 pm

Tim, sounds like a good setup. A wedge and a Genco are excellent (given the wedge is of good steel, and I've honed many of them that were not so beware). Every Genco I've honed for customers honed up excellently so hopefully your's will as well.

I know you have the strop coming so get familiar with it as it is. I have no experience with Tony's strops though I did a fair amount of honing for him, but his strops all get accolades for as far as I've read.

I do encourage you to eventually get a vintage (I think they are now produced by another firm) Jemico strop like I and the good Doctor have. They are far and away most excellent. I use mine every day now even though it was once relegated to only travel strop duty. This is in the future though, get familiar with what you have at first.

Start there and let us know how you fair. We'll do what we can but much is in learning the hand basics of what you're about to embark on.

Chris

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Fri May 10, 2019 6:36 pm

EL Alamein wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 5:56 pm
Tim, sounds like a good setup. A wedge and a Genco are excellent (given the wedge is of good steel, and I've honed many of them that were not so beware). Every Genco I've honed for customers honed up excellently so hopefully your's will as well.
Chris, I hear you. I almost didn't buy the wedge, given what I've read about wedges and about Sheffield steel being hit-or-miss, but I do remember liking the stiffness of that Joseph Elliott years ago. The seller in question has a good reputation and actually runs a web store (The Imperial Shave) selling strops, vintage straights, etc., so I'm cautiously optimistic.

I hear you on the Jemico. I'm on the lookout. For now I will get familiar with what I have, but Naniwa hones and the Jemico are probably the next dominoes to fall.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by brothers » Fri May 10, 2019 9:22 pm

Tim, if you find a Jemico strop, you probably should buy it. :) That's what I did. Thankfully, this isn't rocket science.
Gary

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by EL Alamein » Sat May 11, 2019 6:09 pm

Tim, if you get a good wedge then it will be excellent IMHO. Hope you do so.

I believe the good Doctor has mentioned a few times that TI's perform like wedges because they are so stiff even if they are full hollows. I think this is why I prefer TI's. My TI's are all old forges though, supposedly from the 1920's from the marketing lure even though they were offered more than a decade ago as regular TI blades. I have my suspicions about this though. Either way the old TI's are excellent blades.

The new TI's seem to be of the same type just made of new steel. The one's I've honed came up marvelously but I just don't like the designs. They seem less elegant.

Some food for future thought.

Chris

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Sat May 11, 2019 8:10 pm

A TI has been on my radar since my earliest wetshaving days, Chris. I just liked the look of the ones I saw. Haven't shopped straights in a while, but the TIs were better-looking than Dovos. I'm trying to reign in my worst buying impulses but will keep my eyes on BSTs.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Sat May 11, 2019 8:11 pm

brothers wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 9:22 pm
Tim, if you find a Jemico strop, you probably should buy it. :) That's what I did. Thankfully, this isn't rocket science.
Roger that, Gary!
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by TRBeck » Wed May 22, 2019 7:46 am

Back to the straight this morning. i used the Genco 5/8 full hollow spike point for reasons I'll detail in a moment. The plan was this weekend, but I couldn't wait after receiving my razors yesterday. Very good shave. Slight irritation in a couple of spots and one weeper. No real blood and a pretty close cut. I am very pleased as it's my first time with an open blade in years.

I did not strop the blade, but will do so before tomorrow's shave.

I am a bit unimpressed with the honing of the wedge: I can see that the bevel is not uniform across the length of the blade. I will see if I can get pics that capture it. Anyway, I thought about returning the blades, but the whole thing has been a hassle already: I ordered them on the 10th, got them on the 21st, and had to sign for them even though I did not request this option when ordering. Fortunately, I happened to take the day off yesterday and so was home when they were delivered. I decided it wasn't worth the trouble of a return given that I'd pay return shipping, probably spend a good amount of time on communication, and still need to order another razor. I can always have it honed by someone else. Besides, the edge on the Genco looked better.

Tony Miller plain vanilla strop tomorrow. 25 laps on linen and 50 on leather is the plan, as I recall this yielding good results previously.

Time to sell some brushes and look at hones.
Regards,
Tim

Why should we not meet, not always as dyspeptics, to tell our bad dreams, but sometimes as eupeptics, to congratulate each other on the ever-glorious morning? - Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Starting over with an open blade

Post by brothers » Wed May 22, 2019 12:30 pm

Tim, one truth I've learned about buying straight razors is that one man's edge may be called shave ready and properly done, but the next man disagrees. A razor probably has one blade but hundreds or thousands of edges as long as it is useful. Few are perfect, thus the safety razor with disposable blades. Different generations and different circumstances. What I like about straight razors is the challenge to create and maintain the infinite edges, and even dare to use them once in a while. I'm not an expert and nobody pays me to make an edge, thank goodness! I can picture someone in history, Napoleon, perhaps. He probably had people who were under orders to keep his razors' edges shaving sharp. He may have shaved himself, or maybe commanded someone (a barber perhaps) whose job was to shave him. I say hogwash. I covet my own responsibility when it comes to shaving, right down to the razor's fragile edge and the fate of the random whisker now and then.
Gary

SOTD 99%: 12 soaps & creams, SilkSmoke synthetic, General V2 by Colonial razors, Kai & Schick, Superior 70 aftershave splash + menthol + 444 asb

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