Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Learning shaving products

with 4 comments

SOTD 28 Sept 2015

User cgdntx asked an interesting question on Wicked Edge this morning: “When you try a new product, how long do you give it?” He was specifically asking about Mitchell’s Wool Fat shaving soap, which initially some find hard to lather.

I immediately thought of my Apollo Mikron, which initially would give me a lot of nicks. But since I loved the look of the razor, I continued using it, and soon the nicks ceased and now it shaves easily, comfortably, and reliably, never giving me a nick. I was not conscious of whatever changes I made in technique, but it’s quite common for practical skills to be a matter of unconscious learning through practice.

The brush in the photo is another example. I bought it for the beauty of the snakewood handle, and when I got it I was disconcerted by the softness of the knot, and initially was disappointed. But then I reflected that the knot is what it is, and I should learn to use it. It turned out that with very little practice I learned how to load the brush well, and the knot’s soft feel has made it a favorite brush. I knew from the start there had to be a change, but it turned out that what needed changing was not the brush but my attitude toward it. Once I accepted it as a soft brush and learned to use it, the brush became a favorite because of its fine performance and great feel.

So this morning I was planning the use the brush already, and after reading the post, decided that today’s soap would be MWF. I wet the knot well, gave it a good shake, and brushed the soap briskly but (given the brush’s softness) not much firmness. Brisk did the job, though as the brush loaded, the puck seemed too dry, so I added a small driblet of water to the brush and loaded a bit longer.

Ample lather—and a very good lather—and the Merkur white bakelite slant did its usual marvelous job: perfectly BBS in three passes with no problems at all. This razor really is one of the all-time great slants.

A couple of drops of D.R. Harris After Shave Milk, and the week awaits.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 September 2015 at 8:31 am

Posted in Shaving

4 Responses

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  1. Michael, thanks for the thoughtful post today. So often in shaving, as in life, it is our expectations that determine whether things are perceived as going well or not. While I’m sure you’ve heard it said that the key to happiness is low expectations and while that is trite as far as it goes, the management of one’s expectations and those that others may have towards us is certainly important. If your expectations are unrealistically high you’ll likely often experience disappointment. This morning I set about my shave in the usual way, choosing to use the Tabula Rasa Steam Punk shaving soap and the Feather AS-D2 loaded with a fresh Bolzano blade. I expected a nice shave, however, after the first pass I thought something was not right. It was a 2 day growth but the drag was uncomfortable as well as unexpected. I picked up the Ikon OSS that was standing by with an Astra Platinum blade that I was planning to change after several very nice shaves and proceeded to have another very nice shave topped off with Captain’s Choice Bay Rum. I have determined that I will stick to using mainly Feather blades in the Feather razor as I find that combination to be excellent. The Ikon OSS performs very well for me with a broader range of blades.

    I have strayed from my original point, if I find that I am disappointed in the performance of a soap or blade or brush because it hasn’t lived up to the expectation that I may have formed after reading a review or (worse) a vendor’s description, I will put it aside for a period of weeks or months and then return to it with very little expectation and perhaps more patience. Sometimes I will find the thing to be as poor as I originally thought but more often I am surprised at how well it does perform. An example is the Astra Platinum blades that I mentioned above. When I first tried one in a EJ DE89, I wasn’t impressed. I tried it a couple of years after in the Ikon OSS and I am very impressed in how well it performs.


    28 September 2015 at 1:09 pm

  2. You might find the preface to the current edition of my Guide to be of interest, since I discuss expectations and experience in it. (You can read it using the “Look Inside” feature Amazon offers—choose the Table of Contents, then click on “Preface to the Seventh Edition.” You can’t read the entire preface, but you get a good chunk of it.)

    Of course, it’s not only expectations that change: when you returned to the EJ DE89, undoubtedly your technique and skill had improved in the meantime.


    28 September 2015 at 1:25 pm

  3. I’ve just re-read all 3 prefaces from the latest edition of your book which I acquired as soon as it was available in Canada and I couldn’t agree more. I especially like your discussion of the shave as exercise in mindfulness and the concept of flow.

    There is no doubt that improved technique and skill with the passage of time and practice contributed to my own experience. When I initially tried DE shaving several years ago it was with eshave products and a merkur razor. There was plenty of blood. I returned to a cartridge razor and still used the lather and brush for a period of time until I was shamed by my teenage son who also took up DE shaving at the same time but had persevered and was now reasonably skilled. I figured if he was doing it then I should give it another go. Enter the EJ DE89, which is an excellent introductory razor, and I have gradually grown my skill and confidence to the point that I’m comfortable trying a razor or a blade that formerly frightened me. I’m even trying to get my hands on a decent slant razor and I wouldn’t have gone near one of those a few years back. Unfortunately I’m not the only one it would seem as slants are sold out everywhere. The curse of my demographic cohort (1960) – last in line at the buffet gets slim pickings.


    28 September 2015 at 4:12 pm

  4. Yeah, my own birth placement turned out to be advantageous: a few years ahead of the baby boom, so pushed along by the population swell.

    Slants are amazing razors, and before the end of October I’m told that iKon will have the #102 in stock again. That is really an excellent slant.

    One interesting thing about mindfulness in shaving—the meditative and centering aspect—is how easy it is to miss or avoid it. I had a long exchange with one man who seemed almost proud that he got no particular pleasure from shaving, even though he used a brush and shaving soap and a DE razor. He sort of mocked the idea that lather on his face meant nothing, it was just a way of stripping stubble off his face and he felt no pleasure, much less mindful awareness, in the process.

    I tried to convince him that he could learn how to cultivate a mindful state of mind, and that in doing so his shave would become enjoyable and even a way of centering and calming his mind, but he didn’t want it. I did ask that, since he had to shave in any case, wouldn’t it be better to derive enjoyment from it rather than not, but he was resistant. It was hard to be sure, but it seemed almost as though the prospect of entering that state of mind frightened him. So he continues, so far as I know, treating the shave as a daily task. And, of course, most have encountered some who derive no pleasure from food, or music, or whatever. When the doors of the mind clang shut, they can be opened only from the inside.


    28 September 2015 at 4:55 pm

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