Do we try to know too much?

Thoughts and input on anything related to wet shaving or men's grooming.
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TRBeck
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Do we try to know too much?

Post by TRBeck »

"He tries to know too much." So said my brother when describing a gentleman he and I knew as teenagers. The guy was very nice and very intelligent and very curious. He read constantly and was forever throwing out factoids and theories about health, nutrition, sports, technology, cooking, and just about any other topic that came up. We both liked him, to tell the truth, but at times you got the sense he was so busy trying to know things that he forgot that it was okay sometimes to just enjoy his life without dissecting it.

So I was digging through old forum posts last week, and I found a bunch of threads from 4-5 years ago where guys were discussing the knot and loft sizes of some Simpson brushes. At the time, basically, the only way anyone had any actual info on specs was by looking at Em's Place. Em had calipers and posted the dimensions of the Simpson brand brushes on her site and that was that. Around the same time, Jim started posting Rooney dimensions at Vintage Blades. Today, I can pop onto virtually any shaving store online and find the precise dimensions of most any brush I want. I can order brushes and knots to spec if I want things dialed back a millimeter. I can go to The Superior Shave and see the exact weight, knot, loft, handle height and handle diameter of every individual Simpson he has in stock - not to mention an actual pic of the particular specimen I'm buying. Many guys have their own digital calipers just for this purpose and know the dimensions of their brushes down to a tenth of a millimeter.

A few years ago, there were debates over whether the 3 Ts were reformulating. Today, I can easily find the precise ingredients of every variant formula of most any shave soap or cream that's come down a production line in the past decade. Guys parse palmate percentages and stearic acid is a part of the daily forum vocabulary. We know exactly what we're looking for to determine whether a shave soap or cream will work for us and throw out opinions and speculation about various products' performance based on the formulation listed on the box.

I know the weight of my razor handles and heads. There are guys out there measuring blade gap variation in Merkurs. I even know a few nutballs who weigh their soap pucks to see how much soap they're loading into the brush per shave. :wink:

I'm all for curiosity. I'm all for knowledge. I'm all for understanding why a thing works or doesn't. But I'm wondering if it's all just a bit much. I had a Duke 3 in Best from the pre-Vulfix days when I first got into this. Really a great brush, that one, and it did everything I wanted it to. It was soft-tipped and scrubby, dense but not a lather hog. I have no idea what the dimension of its knot and loft were, and if I knew, it wouldn't have lathered any better than it did. At the time, I remember guys offering the opinion that a Polo was a similar knot and loft in a different handle, and I bought one, and it wasn't exactly the same, but damned if it wasn't a great brush that performed close enough to the Duke as to be no different to anyone but a persnickety wetshaver with too much money and time. My LH Super Adjustable shaved me perfectly before I knew what it weighed. I had some Blenheim Bouquet soap that had tallowate listed fifth in the ingredients, but it was the better of my Harris soaps with tallowate listed second. Some stuff just works, you know?

This is top of mind for me for two reasons. The first is that I broke down and bought a Simpson recently. It's too long-lofted, according to the official specs. But it's an incredible brush. By any objective standard, it would be tough to improve upon it. The thing lathers like mad, has excellent backbone, is incredibly dense and holds a ton of lather, releases said lather exactly as it ought to, and feels great on the face. That said, I'm going to be attempting to locate a shorter-lofted specimen. I wish I didn't know that it's supposed to have less loft, because I don't know how my perception is influenced by that knowledge. I only know that I perceive that this brush would be better with 3 or 4mm less loft. In practice, that might hold up, but the truth is, even if I like the brush better, it's not going to outperform what I have.
The second reason I've been thinking about it is the Vintage Blades soap I got last week. I have no idea what's in the soap, how much stearic acid or palmate or anything else, but it lathers very well and has given me several consecutive shaves of absolutely top quality. I imagine if I knew the ingredient list I'd have had a preconceived notion of how it would perform, but instead, I just lathered it up. And it was great.

It can be fun dissecting minutiae, and I love it as much as anyone. I certainly would be hungry for all this knowledge if it wasn't accessible. But it's been nice for the past few days to take this brush and soap to my face everyday, forget what I think I know, and enjoy my shaves.

Regards,

P.S. Yes, I'm aware that I just wrote a multi-screen post about overthinking. I'm embracing the irony.
Last edited by TRBeck on Mon Nov 28, 2011 1:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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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churchilllafemme
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Post by churchilllafemme »

Tim,
I appreciate the thought and curiosity of your question and your musings. I suspect that just like in almost everything else, it is important to maintain a balance, to simultaneously use both sides of our brains. Carl Sagan and Buckminster Fuller were fine scientists, with broad and deep understanding of their fields, but they never seemed to lose their childlike wonder or awe. I had a friend who was a physics grad student, and on a camping trip one time, while we looked at a rainbow, he commented that although he understood just exactly why it appeared to our eyes the way it did, it still was a miracle and a delight. I suspect that one can X-ray and laser the great renaissance and impressionist paintings and gain a lot of insight into the composition of the canvases and paint pigments and the various brush techniques used, but the "magic," the greatness, is in how it all is brought together by an individual's human eyes and hands and how we perceive the whole of it. For me the same applies to the various shaving items that we use and enjoy and wonder about each day.
_______
John
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Squire
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Post by Squire »

You guys are way too cerebral, I shave so I can rub up against women.
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Squire
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Post by Thalay Sagar »

Tim, this is SMF. of course we are a herd of obsessive-compulsive hobbiests. If we weren't, Gordon's thread count, for example, would be 563. Really, how much is there to say about this stuff? (And we are a quiet forum, relatively speaking.) For me, at least, the problem seems to be that instead of being satisfied with what works, I am chasing the illusion that a better shave exists around the next brush or soap or whatever. That and redirecting a evolutionary need for infidelity. Without doubt I would do better heeding Oscar's advice to "to enjoy our shaves". Or as Al Davis said, "Just shave, baby."
Best,
Chris

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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SRD
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Post by SRD »

Squire wrote:You guys are way too cerebral, I shave so I can rub up against women.
I am in the camp with Squire on this one :D
Dave
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franz
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Post by franz »

Tim,

Count me guilty of overthinking many of the things you mentioned. On the one hand it's natural for those of us who treat shaving as a hobby to geek out about specs, weights, ingredients, etc. On the other it is possible to overdo it and miss the forest for the trees.

Re: your Duke 3, have you considered that a 51mm loft might be the ideal configuration for your tastes?

Sometimes overcoming the voice in the back of your head that says you shouldn't like something -- based on whatever cockamamie idea you've gotten into your head, like the specs are wrong, this-soap-does-not-contain-this-magical-ingredient-therefore-it-sucks, etc. -- is a pleasurable challenge in itself.



BTW, I have no idea why the software is correcting the lowercase f in f-o-r-e-s-t to Forest.
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Post by M6Classic »

Thalay Sagar wrote:Tim, this is SMF. of course we are a herd of obsessive-compulsive hobbiests.
No, not all of us.

Buzz
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Post by Thalay Sagar »

Buzz, as to you, I stand corrected. :lol:
Best,
Chris

“Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”
― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
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Squire
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Post by Squire »

Buzz even my staunch individualism can be swayed by a glowing report of something new.
Regards,
Squire
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Post by M6Classic »

Squire wrote:Buzz even my staunch individualism can be swayed by a glowing report of something new.
Somehow, Squire, I have great difficulty imagining you exhibiting herd behavior. Kind of like imagining Our Good Doctor declaring himself a minimalist.

Buzz
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Post by RazoRock »

Squire wrote:You guys are way too cerebral, I shave so I can rub up against women.
+ 1,000,000 :D
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Nitrox
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Post by Nitrox »

Squire wrote:You guys are way too cerebral, I shave so I can rub up against women.
Another agreement here. SWMBO likes when I'm clean shaven and not scruffy. :D
Bruno

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shave every day and you'll always look keen."
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Post by m3m0ryleak »

I'm sure I read this in someone's novel when dead trees made up more of the media, but the author offered up a rather zen like observation that too many confuse the tool with the task.
Tony

"They say that dreams are growing wild just this side of Burma Shave" - Tom Waits
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matt321
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Post by matt321 »

Found these two quotes I thought might apply somewhat: 8)

We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot

We know too much, and are convinced of too little. Our literature is a substitute for religion, and so is our religion.
T. S. Eliot
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Rylos
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Post by Rylos »

The true definition of being an expert (in whatever field you choose):
To know more & more about less & less until you know absolutely everything about nothing.
>Brian< Victory or death... or at least a DFS!
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Post by Quarterstick »

My advice is to do what makes you happy. If hypothesizing about things like potential soap reformulations or knowing details like the name of the badger your brush bristles came from (mine was Lollipop) puts a smile on your face, then carry on. If the details become a hinderance, then simplify.

SMF allows me to access a community of interest where I can learn and share, both the absurd and the valuable. It makes me happy. However, I will not be rubbing up against women (plural). Nothing good can come of it with the Missus.
Andy

An elephant for a dime is only a good deal if you need an elephant and you have a dime.
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Squire
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Post by Squire »

Buzz I reserve the right to be inconsistent, like Bilbo I'm ready for a new adventure.

"A man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a Heaven for?"
Robert Burns
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Squire
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Post by marsos52 »

Tim i totally understand where you are coming from..

sometimes i like as much info as possible before i spend my money

even is all the specs and reviews until one personally tries it,,
you never really know

marc
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Post by brothers »

It' a blast, and I love it all.

It's the hunt and the kill. The excitement of something new and of interest. Even a bigger bonus when the new thing or information actually is relevant in complex ways. That goes for "facts about stuff", as well as "stuff". We're hunters.

Right now, it appears that some guys are talking about the "ratio" of a given brush. They're posting lengthy threads where they discuss things like "my favorite brush has a ratio of 1.68 and the ideal for this brush would be 2.5." What the heck??? :shock: The math part of my brain never developed beyond knowing if my brush has a knot of 22 and a loft of 60. Beyond that, I'm absolutely lost, and I desperately wish someone would explain the new brush math to me so I can get in on the action again. :lol:

Tim mentions brushes, and in my experience, it started out with simply the giant step of getting a badger brush, and I was in heaven with my first score, a Tweezerman, that now makes a laughingstock of the poor guy (as I was) who thinks he's broken through to a new level, not knowing there are grades of badger hair and the brushes come in different sizes that actually are of interest to the cognoscenti who are obsessed with such trivia! :lol:

I love the always changing amount of detailed information that is available to the inquiring mind.

Oh, and for the record, my wife likes the stubble, so I have to keep making new freshly cultivated stubble every day, just for her!
Gary

SOTD 99%: Every other day, soaps & creams, synthetic / boar / badger brushes, Colonial General razor, Kai & Schick blades, straight razors any time, Superior 70 aftershave splash + menthol + 444
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Gary Young
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Post by Gary Young »

Yes I think you all try to get too much information on a brush!!

We never used calipers to measure knot sizes - the Simpson knots were/are traditionally handmade so a degree of variance should be expected. That is the joy of a handmade product - each person has a unique version of their chosen style/design. A millimetre here or a millimetre there has no real significant sway in the performance of the brush (and I would argue this point out quite happily!! ;))
Apart from using scales to weigh the hair (we would know the weight required for each knot size, etc it was all a matter of touch and experience). Same as with the handles. We never measured, with calipers, each handle once they were turned. Yeah we might use a set of callipers as a 'memory jogger' when turning the first of a batch (we would lay the callipers against an original 'pattern' handle and then gently mark the rod being turned to get a few pointers) but once you got your hand in on a run it was pretty easy to keep uniformity (well 'easy' after a few years of learning to turn handles!!).
It is difficult when machine made knots and brushes can be produced to tight tolerances. I guess it is automatic that you then expect this to be evident on handmade brushes as well.

Gary
Gary
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