My first safety-razor wet shave experience

March 1, 2009 at 4:58 pm (Uncategorized)

Results are meh.

A couple of caveats: This is the first time I attempted it, so I’m very novice. I do not “fully” shave – I have a goatee, and thus only shave my cheeks, neck, and under the jawline. Also, I attempted to try to do it “on the cheap,” using mostly low-priced stuff found locally, which was probably why the results were not great.

Anyway, on to it:

I’ve never been a fan of blade shaving. Yeah, it shaves my beard a little bit closer, but pretty much every blade razor I’ve dealt with from the ultra-cheap disposables to the more expensive “replaceable cartridge” razors have been a bit of a pain in the the butt, left my skin really irritated, and in the cases of the “multi-bladed” razors often left me with crap like red bumps and/or ingrowns.
It just wasn’t worth the pain-in-the-ass-ness to get a slightly closer shave.

However, a while back an entry at the Art of Manliness blog caught my attention, entitled “Learn To Shave LIke Your Grandpa“.
It discussed the art of classic wet shaving, the tools used for it, and the advantages of using such shaving methods, from cost and environmental impact to the quality of the shave, down to the almost meditative quality the activity has for a lot of guys, between the relaxation of applying the warm lather to the concentration needed to shave with a blade without slicing your throat open.

I looked into it a little more, and read up on techniques and products, probably my most read web site being Badger and Blade. I found articles about what types of razors were good and bad, reviews of different blades to go in those razors, of shaving soaps, aftershave creams, and all the other items used for the activity.

Due to a mix of impatience to try it out, and not wanting to spend any more money if I didn’t have to, I ended up starting my shaving gear with the following:

Early 60’s vintage Gillette SuperSpeed safety razor:


When it came to trying to start out at low cost, I basically had the choice of buying some cheapie new razor somewhere like eBay or Amazon, almost all of which have gotten poor reviews, or buying an old, used razor of a model that has gotten pretty good reviews.
The SuperSpeed got pretty good reviews over all and more than one indicating it was a “good choice for beginners.”
I found this one for $6 plus a few bucks for shipping on eBay, cleaned it up and sanitized it, and for all I can tell after 30+ years it’s still as good as new.

Shaving Brush

This is a cheapie $5 brush I found at Wal-Mart, made of boar hair. It’s not bad, but badger hair brushes are supposed to be much better (but of course are also much more expensive).

Personna Double-Edged Blades

Another Wal-Mart purchase, $1.80 gets you 10 blades.
These got very mixed reviews, ranging all the way from “work better than the expensive brands” to “tore the hell out of my face.”
As that makes it hard to judge, I decided to try ’em for myself.

Gillette Shaving Gel

This is one of the items that fell into the “because I’m impatient” category. This “goo in a can” is pretty much shunned by the wet shaving community, but it’s what I had on hand. I do have a puck of hand-made shaving soap on the way that I’ll have to talk about later.

Every Man Jack Post-Shave Cooling Gel

Part of a fairly new line of masculine-targeted bath & shave products available at Target, this “mint” scented after-shave was the first one I decided to try out.

SO: The Results

I decided to try my first shave right after getting out of the shower and drying off this morning.
I filled my Star Trek coffee mug with hot water and let the it sit with the brush in it for a couple of minutes to warm everything up, then dumped out the mug, squirted in a dollop of the shaving gel, and began lathering with the brush.
I applied the resulting lather to my face using the brush, and noticed the following: the lather you get from the shaving gel really, really sucks. No matter how much I tried, I could not get a thick lather to apply with this stuff.
But deciding to carry on anyhow, I grabbed the razor, and gently applied short strokes downwards on my cheeks and upper jaw.
I was surprised to notice a fair amount of “tug” as the blade cut through the hairs, something I had read usually isn’t present with these types of razors. This may be a result of the blade itself, as if you recall some of the reviews fell into the “wow these really suck” range. I plan to try a sample pack of other blades soon, and I may find one that works better.
The crappy shaving gel probably didn’t help matters either.

The first run didn’t do so well – even though I felt some tugging it barely seemed to have an effect on my scruffiness. I re-lathered, and repeated the process – and this time the result was pretty decent. I can still feel a slight amount of stubble on the cheeks and jaw, but overall the result was pretty good.

My neck was another story however – this has always been a problem area for me, from everything from electrics to disposable blades. It’s very coarse hair that does not take well to being cut, and with an electric usually requires several passes, and with the disposable blades usually required shaving against the grain to get any noticeable result.
The safety razor was unfortunately no exception – gently passing it downwards (with the grain) over these hairs seemed to have pretty much no effect whatsoever. So, even though I realised it’s strongly advised to avoid it for us beginners, I shaved against the grain.
Even this did not have great results – it’s still noticeably stubbly, and along with that there are a number of little blood splotches, where apparently the blade managed to cut so close as to cut into the follicle while at the same time not managing to do a very good job of cutting the actual hair.

I decided to end my experience there, and applied some of the “post-shave cooling gel,” to immediately have the sensation that my face felt like it was on fire. Yes, although I hadn’t previously noticed it (and wouldn’t have bought the stuff if I had), this “cooling gel” has a fair amount of alcohol in it. It took probably a good three minutes or so for the “burning” sensation to die down.

So – not a great first experience, but I have not written it off. And I believe the following is going to be needed as I trial-and-error my way through the learning experience:
1) A good shaving soap (already on order)
2) Sharper “less tugging” razor blades (will be ordering a sampler soon)
3) A non-alcohol based aftershave lotion (which I thought I had bought but learned the hard way I didn’t. Although I may give it another try just because I’d hate for almost the whole bottle to go to waste).

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3 Comments

  1. Graumagus said,

    Bah! Shaving is for the weak!

  2. mantic59 said,

    Hang in there! It’ll get better! Shaving is for the *strong*. Check out my youtube videos for a referesher on technique.

  3. shadoglare said,

    Hey Mantic, thanks for stopping by my blog. I’ve actually seen a few of your videos and think they’re pretty cool.

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