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Wet Shaving Guide

1.  Intro
  • What is wet shaving
  • Problems with cartridge razors
  • What makes a single blade better
  • Why should you make the switch
2.  The DE Safty razor a.  What is a double edge safety razor? b.  Differences in major manufacturers (Merkur vs. Parker vs. Edwin Jagger /Muhle vs. Maggard vs. Vintage gillette) c.  What is aggressiveness/mildness/efficiency? d.  Recommendations for a newbie 3.  Blades a.  describe why they are different (coatings, manufacture facilities, etc) b.  Recommendations for a newbie 3.  Brushes a.  What is the purpose of them b.  Differences between Badger, Boar, Horse, Synthetic. c.  Differences between Badger hair grades d.   Recommendations for a newbie 4.  Soaps/Creams a.  What is the difference between a soap and a cream b.  Explain what a soft soap is. c.   Explain how to lather a hard soap d.  Explain how to lather a cream e.  Explain how to face lather f.  Describe difference between essential oil soaps and fragrance oil soaps g.  Recommendations for hard water h.  Differences in soap bases - Tallow, Oil, etc. i.  Recommendations for newbies 5.  Pre-shave products a.  purpose b.  Describe differences between oils, lotions, and soaps, and how they each work. c.  Recommendaitons for newbies. 6.  How to shave with a  DE a.   Beard mapping b.   Describe The multi-pass shave c.   Technique -  Angle & pressure  (basic text description, link to good, descriptive youtube videos, maybe mantic59?) 7.  Post-shave routine a.  Explain purpose b.  Explain Alum Blocks c.  Differences between After shave balms, after shave splashes, after shave lotions (liquid), after shave lotions (thick), after shave gels, moisturizers. d.  Explain difference between liquid after shave lotions/splashes, and liquid colognes e.  Recommendations for newbies   8.   Straight razor sections (written by Brad, likely).  


What is Wet Shaving

Wet shaving is the act of shaving using water, lather, and a manual razor blade.  There are two types of razors used for wet shaving - Safety Razors and Straight Razors.  Safety razors are further subdivided into double-edged razors, single edge razors, cartridge razors and disposable razors.  In this guide, we will generally be talking about Straight Razors, Double Edge Razors, and Single Edge razors.  Cartridges and Disposable razors would not be considered a traditional wet shaving method.

Problems with cartridge razors

Cartridge razors, especially multi-blade cartridges can cause many problems for users.  There are several problems with multi-blade cartridges.
  • Razor Burn:  The average person shaves over spots multiple times.  With 3, or even 5 blades in a cartridge, this can easily mean 25 or more blades pass over a single spot.
  • Ingrown Hairs:  Multi-blade cartridge razors are designed such that the first blade in the series of blades is doing the majority of the work.  Since the first blade is doing most of the cutting, it dulls considerably faster than the rest of the blades.  As it dulls, it starts to pull hairs.  After the first blade pulls the hair, the blades following it cut the hair; many times below the surface of the skin.  This is the #1 cause of ingrown hairs.
  • Clogging:  Multi-blade cartridges clog so quickly that any stroke longer than around an inch does not cut effectively.  The razors are incredibly difficult to rinse out and the majority of time spent shaving is trying to make the razor shave effectively
  • Cost:  Most multi-blade cartridge razors are $3.00 - $4.00 per cartridge.  This quickly compounds to an annual cost of $200-300 to keep a sharp blade in your razor.

What makes a single blade better

Switching to a single blade remedies all of the issues above.
  • Less Irritation:  less blades means less times a blade
  • Less Ingrowns:  Since hair isn't pulled and is cleanly cut flush with the skin, the number of ingrown hairs are significantly decreased
  • Less Clogging:  Both straight razors and DE razors either don't clog at all, or are extremely easy to rinse out, even when taking off several days of growth.
  • Less Expensive:  DE Blades cost anywhere from 12 cents to 50 cents; a savings of  87-97% versus cartridge razors.

Why you should make the switch

  • Irritation, Cost, Clogging, and ingrown hairs are all reduced as per the above benefits.
  • Environmental – The packaging from constant throw-away products like canned gel can add up.  With DEs and soap pucks, there is considerably less waste.  Straight razors generate zero waste, only soap puck packaging.
  • The Challenge – Shaving with a DE razor can be a challenge.  Soon enough (over a couple months), you will master the DE.  A sense of accomplishment can come from this feat.  Although at first, it may take you 4-5 times longer to achieve a shave because of the learning curve, I got to the point where I was SAVING time with the DE – because it clogs less often and needs to be rinsed out less often than a cartridge razor.
  • The Shave - Shaving with a DE is not only rewarding, but your shaves will be as-smooth-if-not-smoother than your old Fusion.  You also have more control, since the blades are not forced at a particular angle for the entire shave like a cartridge razor.  This can be good for trouble spots, to increase or decrease cutting angle at-will.
  • Nostalgia – Many DE and straight razor shavers reminisce about being a child watching their father shave with a DE or Straight – and starting to shave with one sometimes makes us feel connected to those moments, and connected to their relative in some way.  Some people are lucky enough to have a razor passed down from a relative.  I myself have a DE razor that was my grandfather’s.  He passed away in 2010, and I remember him every time I  pull out that razor and shave with it.  Some DE and straight shavers also just like to feel connected to the past — to know that you’re following the same ritual that men have been doing for the last 200 years.  Pulling out a 50, 100 or 200 year old razor makes you think about who used it, and how many lives it has been a part of.
  • That feeling that you get – there is an odd, satisfying feeling of holding a nice, hefty piece of metal in your hand while you shave, as opposed to a cheap piece of plastic.  It just feels right.
  • From chore to hobby – combine the things above, and you turn what was once a chore into something you look forward to every day.  Maybe, you decide to pick up a second or 3rd razor, and you get to rotate them.  Maybe you try a different scent of shaving soap / cream.  Many times, when a coworker or family member finds out you are into vintage shaving stuff, they give you “some stuff they found in the basement”  Its happened to me a few times!  Going hunting for stuff at flea markets and antique shops is a lot of fun as well.  It doesn't always have to cost you money, either –  Sometimes you can pick up a few cheap items at a flea market, try them out for a bit and decide what you like, and offload the ones that you didn't care for on e-bay.  Probably make a few bucks in the process!

The Double Edge Safety Razor

What is a DE Safety Razor? The double edge safety razor was originally patented by Gillette in 1904.  Gillette-Safety-Razor-US_Patent_775134The razor uses a very thin blade with two cutting edges.  the user flips the razor through the course of the shave to get the most life out of the blade.   The DE safety razor didn't really take off until World War I, Gillette-Khaki-Set when Gillette secured a US Government contract to send all army troops off to battle with a Gillette razor kit.  When the soldiers returned home, their new shaving habits stuck, and demand for replacement blades created a sustainable market for Gillette.  The safety razor's popularity spawned many other companies to patent different styles of DE and Single edge safety razors. Eventually, by the early 1970s, with all of the patents expired and hundreds of companies producing blades, Gillette needed something new and protected by patents to create profits.  This was the birth of the cartridge razor.  Ever since then, the constant "improvements" and added blades and features are driven by the need to have a patented, protected source of revenue. Today, there are still several manufacturers of DE Safety razors.  Merkur, Edwin Jagger, Parker, Feather, Maggard, Weber, Above the Tie, Bevel, RazoRock, and Fatip are just a few of those available on the market.  They come in a wide range of styles, materials, and prices.   The Difference between Manufacturers (unwritten content)   What is Aggressiveness? (unwritten content)   Recommendations for a newbie There are many DE razors that will work just great for beginners; but to help you decide, here are our recommendations:
  • Maggard Razors if you're on a budget.  Our recommendation:  The Maggard MR1
  • Merkur (closed comb models) if you want to support a German company.  Our recommendation:  The Merkur 42C
  • Edwin Jagger if appearances are important to you - they have great fit & finish.  Our recommendation:  the Edwin Jagger DE89KN14bl
  • Parker if you're dead set on buying a TTO (Twist to open) one piece razor.  Our recommendation:  The Parker 22R
  • Muhle if you don't mind spending more for a fancier-handle (use same head as an Edwin Jagger).  Our recommendation:
  • Standard Razors if you want something machined, and think a light razor would be good for you
  • Feather AS-D2 if you want all stainless construction and precision Japanese manufacturing
My specific recommendations would be