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Finding the promised land...

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Finding the promised land...

Postby Karstedt » Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:07 pm

I wish my dad had been old fashioned shaver. After about 12 years of shave hating, I've finally come to the old school methods. I'm only in my 3rd week and I've already said goodbye to the awful neck irritation, bumps, and ingrowns I've suffered from all my life (even with electric shavers).

I suspect that I have extremely tough whiskers though. I swear that if I hung upside down, I could hang the razor on my stubble and it would just dangle there. I started with the Merkur Super Platinum blades, and tried a red Personna today. The Personna seems slightly sharper, as it tugs less, but I still think it would hand off the side of my face upside down. I don't know if these are just less than very sharp blades or what. I'm moving to a derby on my next swap, since people seem to consider them quite sharp.

I'm also not getting a particularly close shave yet. I've gotten very aggressive on the easy part of my cheeks though and done up to 7 passes (2WTG, 2XTG, 2 somewhere between XTG and ATG, and some j-hooking) trying to widdle it down, but in the end it still feels like sandpaper when rubbed ATG. I don't do ATG passes at all, because the razor basically just snags on the stubble. And my primary goal has been to shave without irritation or cuts, which I have been very successful at (only got a couple nicks my first few tries, and scraped my neck a bit 4 or 5 times.).

I'm using the Merkur 23C, classic long handle. A pink VDH puck, and cheapo Omega Boar brush. I do the full shower, lather, hot rag, rinse, re-lather prep too but the whiskers still seem tough as nails. My lather doesn't seem as nice as what I've seen in the videos and I'm wondering how much that is contributing the toughness. So far, the lather feels best when it's just starting to develop on the brush. It's not very creamy and doesn't make for a very thick or cushioning layer, but it seems slickest at that point. If I keep working it until it gets closer to what I see in the vids, it feels too light, and loses it's gloss and moisture after about 10 seconds on my face. I would write it off to the soap and brush, but mantic gets a really nice looking lather from the VDH soap and cheap brush in one of his vids. I just can't seem to get it rich and creamy. It goes from thin and creamy, to light and airy.

Any tips beyond what I've been doing for identifying bad lather or getting through my tough whiskers. My skin has always been very sensitive to scraping and gets bumps and ingrowns pretty easily, so I'm not inclined to use additional pressure (as that will scrape) or do any skin stretching (a sure fire way to get me ingrowns). I'm actually quite happy with the shave I'm getting, I just want to know how to get that BBS if I want it. Do I have to go ATG to get it? Do I need a more aggressive razor? I don't feel like I'm just missing the right angle, I've been very slow and precise with my face nearly against the mirror trying to get my cheeks smooth. I hear what I think is the cutting with each pass (even the 7th). It just never ends.

Any other super tough beards find that they need some higher end soap/cream?
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Postby Squire » Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:35 pm

Hey Karstedt, welcome aboard. I would go with a milder, not more aggressive, razor, a cake of first rate shaving soap such as Trumper, Harris or T&H, and a better brush. I can shave with bath soap and a Bic but better stuff makes for better results.
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Postby bernards66 » Tue Jun 14, 2011 7:47 pm

Welcome, and ditto what Squire wrote above. Also, with a classic DE razor, proper technique is the name of the game and that takes a bit of time for most gents to develope. The angle of the blade to the skin is crucial. Press the razor head directly onto your cheek with the handle parallel to the floor and then slowly pivot the handle downward just until you feel the blade touch your skin and STOP! That is the angle that you want to maintain throughout the shave. This take a bit of practice, but once you get it down you should be able to get a very close shave in no more than three passes regardless of the toughness of your beard. Some currently made sharper blades you might try would include those blue pack Gillette Platinums and the yellow pack Gillette 7 O'clocks. Both are made in St. Petersburg, Russia and are available from various online vendors.
Regards,
Gordon
Last edited by bernards66 on Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Drubbing » Tue Jun 14, 2011 8:16 pm

I wouldn't change a thing razor wise, that's only going to slow your learning down. What you have doesn't cause you issues and has already improved your face, so there's no need to change right now - just learn to use it all well.

You're 3 weeks in, that's barely a start. Getting a really close shave takes time patience and practice. For a newb (and me) it all starts with good lather. You simply cannot get a decent shave, or learn to glide the razor without it it. Practice this, you don't have to shave.

Load up that boar, they need it. Soak it well and squeeze it, then get water into it to build lather. Keep trying with it until you get get to know the difference between too dry and too wet - then you'll know where the sweet spot is. IMO some of mantics soap tutes are terrible; there's one where he spins the brush 3 times on the soap. 30 secs minimum is what you'll need.

Get a decent lather, then blade angle, and keeping it consistent through good glide, will be a lot easier. You might never be able to shave ATG, but you can't right now because you can't shave close enough yet.
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Postby marsos52 » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:31 am

hi, actually for just starting out ,, the things you tell us is not a bad start..

in time you will improve with each process.. try to learn the direction your beard goes ..that helps toward shaving and makes for less passes

having a thicker lather helps with cushion,, so load that brush alot

your technique will improve as time goes on.. get the blade as level
(less angle as possible) to your face. this gives smoothness and closeness

i like short strokes on a inch or so..

try different ways till you get results that you want..

enjoy
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Postby Drubbing » Wed Jun 15, 2011 3:49 am

marsos52 wrote:
having a thicker lather helps with cushion,, so load that brush alot


Have to disagree there. Yuo don't need to make stuff that looks like a Santa beard for it to be good.

A thicker lather is unnecessary - the blade will have cushion and glide if the lather is good, arguably anything thick is just wasted, as it doesn't contact the blade and skin anyway.

Also, thicker lather can be a sign it's too dry, and this again will affect slickness glide and cushioning, for worse, not better.
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Postby SRD » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:58 am

Great advice given already. It simple boils down to using good quality products and most importantly GOOD TECHNIQUE. This is a learned behavior.
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Postby Squire » Wed Jun 15, 2011 9:49 am

Hey Kar, back some of your points:

I use high end triple milled shaving soap because it produces a richer, thicker lather. A more concentrated lather helps soften my whiskers so they are less resistant to the blade's edge.

The glycerin based soaps are made by a cold pour process, essentially melting ingredients and pouring them into a mold. Why they don't call it hot pour is puzzling but we use the terms that are generally accepted. An advantage to this process is the scents can be as intense and varied as one could wish. In the past I have melted VDH soap and added my own cologne, Harris Sandalwood being a particular favorite, and if it wasn't strong enough melted and added more. These soaps produce a beautiful but somewhat thin lather which is perfectly acceptable for many shavers. Good enough for most I expect but by their nature cannot produce a lather as dense and rich as one made by the triple milled process.

Razor choice is just that as there are many and varied ones to be had. If your fixed head Merkur feels right for you who's to argue. A 38c does not work for me but a Futur does. I think it's personal like choosing a golf club, what feels best often works best. I do recommend a milder one though for those early on the learning curve. With a sharp blade and good technique they work as well as any.

Some blades are sharper than others, some edges are coated, and some aren't worth the bother. I generally follow the sharp edge/mild razor principle, or, conversely, lesser edge/aggressive razor. Of course you can put a Feather blade in a cranked up Futur if you like but I wouldn't recommend that as a starting point.

Much is made of technique without an explanation of what it is. I don't use terms like 'j-hook' because they have no fixed meaning. It's all very simple really:

1) for the first pass I shave in the direction of beard growth following the contours of my face.

2) for the second and any other passes I shave across the beard growth pattern following the contours of my face.

All the rest is practice until you can do it with your eyes closed.
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Postby Karstedt » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:47 pm

I gave the boar brush a squeeze before loading (a lot) as Drubbing suggested, and it does make a better lather. I think the drier brush must pick up more soap from the VDH puck, and I really didn't add any water after that so I think my lather has pretty much been water heavy from the very start. Even with the better lather the blade still doesn't "glide" though. I feel the blade stall slightly at each hair before being able to cut it, it's not quite tugging but definitely not smooth and slick either. I'll order up some quality soap and see if that will soften my whiskers better and get me closer to a gliding blade.

I read somewhere around here that the slickness of your face when you rinse between lather should indicate if you're getting enough lubrication. How accurate is that, and how much does it depend on the lather itself vs the soap/cream. I would say my face is only slightly slicker than plain water when I rinse.

Thanks for the responses. I'll give some triple milled soap a try, Squire, and see if that softens things up a bit better.
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Postby Drubbing » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:59 pm

Karstedt wrote:I gave the boar brush a squeeze before loading (a lot) as Drubbing suggested, and it does make a better lather. I think the drier brush must pick up more soap from the VDH puck, and I really didn't add any water after that so I think my lather has pretty much been water heavy from the very start. Even with the better lather the blade still doesn't "glide" though. I feel the blade stall slightly at each hair before being able to cut it, it's not quite tugging but definitely not smooth and slick either. I'll order up some quality soap and see if that will soften my whiskers better and get me closer to a gliding blade.

It'll take more practice than that.

Your blade angle is probably still off too. It's not a one month to mastery deal, I'm afraid.
Last edited by Drubbing on Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby jww » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:16 pm

Welcome - you have had plenty of good advise already.

I echo that this wet shaving thing has plenty of angles, and arguably the most important one is being patient while you develop your technique. Many a man has left the brotherhood because he rushed things too much, and didn't have the patience to develop his skills.
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Postby i_shaved_something » Wed Jun 15, 2011 7:44 pm

Welcome aboard!
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Postby Squire » Wed Jun 15, 2011 8:08 pm

Kar the lather you're getting now is probably the best that soap is capable of producing.

How thoroughly are you rinsing between passes. I ask because I'm not sure what you are doing to your face.
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Postby Karstedt » Wed Jun 15, 2011 10:15 pm

Squire wrote:Kar the lather you're getting now is probably the best that soap is capable of producing.


That's kind of what I'm thinking. I can do a lot with it, taking it from one stage to the next. It actually doesn't change very much once it gets going until the point that it breaks and turns to mush. It gets slightly airier and fluffy if I really whip at it, which I don't like because if feels drier. It never really gets what I would call glossy for more than the few seconds right after you run the brush over it. It looks good, it feels good on my hands, I just don't get that gliding action or soft easy to cut whiskers. The blade/razor resistance feels like sweeping bricks (with a broom); and it seems, from what I've read, that the goal is to get it feeling more like sweeping glass

How thoroughly are you rinsing between passes. I ask because I'm not sure what you are doing to your face.


Just a couple of splashes, and run my hands over it once. I haven't been under the impression that a thorough rinse is beneficial.
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Postby Squire » Thu Jun 16, 2011 6:06 pm

I will splash a small amount of water on my face between passes just to keep my whiskers wet, anything like a rinse would not improve my shave.
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Postby harper » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:45 pm

Interesting that Squire pats a little water on his face between passes; I pass my shaving brush quickly under the water coming from the spout in the sink to do the same thing. Water is the key factor in wet shaving because it allows the razor to move down (or wherever) your face without stopping. It also softens the beard but I use other things to help do that ... some Trumper's skin food after washing but before putting any lather on. I prefer a cream to a soap but that is purely subjective and like Squire I can and have shaved with ordinary hand soap. Over time we all work out what works best for us but sometimes finding out involves a lot of trial and error.
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Postby CMur12 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 9:59 pm

I spray water on my face between passes (from a small spray bottle/atomizer), but I don't rinse.

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Postby desertbadger » Mon Sep 05, 2011 1:31 am

Welcome to SMF!

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Postby crankymoose » Mon Sep 05, 2011 5:56 am

Welcome to SMF

For my beard if I let try to shave it on 2-3 days growth it is particularly hard and wiry after 4-5 days it gets softer as it gets longer and shaving every day keeps it cut before it gets a chance to get wiry.

For me I found proper prep of the beard including hot towels and or showering before shaving can really make a difference much more so then any variety soap or cream and at last count I am at down to 15 creams and maybe 30 soaps so don't believe the hype of the over priced products prep is more important.
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Postby bernards66 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 9:10 pm

I dunno Jim. For me, all the more complex variations of prep; hot towels, pre-shave products of various kinds, etc. never seemed to make any difference. Even shaving before the shower and not after it doesn't seem to effect the shave I get. I just splash some hot water on my face and commence to lather up....nothing I've tried has worked better. Note: I do shave every day without fail. But the product I use to create the lather can make a very marked difference. For example, with most brushless products the shave is not as close, and inexpensive hard shave soaps do not create enought cushion for me to avoid irritation. So, once again, I guess, 'YMMV'.
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Gordon
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