Later On

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

Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

Very nice toy

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The Grandsons would like this—not to mention their dad. (Requires broadband)

Written by LeisureGuy

22 September 2006 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Techie toys, Toys

For car fans

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Some family members are big fans of automobiles. Here’s a free digital magazine about cars to satisfy the inner mechanic/driver.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 September 2006 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology, Toys

New shaving toys

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First, this relatively rare (comes up on eBay once or twice a year) Wilkinson “Sticky” razor arrived about an hour ago. I was able to get it from a fellow forum member, and I will give it a go tomorrow morning. A really beautiful razor, it won several design awards.

Next, a couple of Omega brushes, including the little cutie. Omega Silvertip brushes feel amazingly soft and full and luxurious. That, too, will get a go tomorrow morning.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 September 2006 at 6:20 pm

Posted in Shaving, Toys

For when you’re bored

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A birthday calculator.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 September 2006 at 7:47 am

Posted in Toys

More on Moleskine

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The Moleskine is indeed a wonderful notebook, and here’s a blog devoted to it.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 August 2006 at 8:07 pm

Posted in Daily life, Toys

New kitty tree

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The Younger Daughter’s two cats, Ajax and Tessa, are enjoying their new kitty tree, pictured above: the Mont Blanc from They were a little shy of it at first, but soon decided to take it out for a spin—i.e., to take a nap on the hammocks.

Check out the king-size models—some of them are veritable kitty castles. Megs also has one of the Pussicat kitty trees. I bought a smaller model, then added pieces later—bad idea. It’s much more cost-effective to buy the biggest model that your cat(s) will ever want than to add pieces to a smaller model: the price per individual part is rather dear.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 August 2006 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life, Toys

The Younger Grandson and shaving

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Kid shaving set

I got the above shaving set for The Younger Grandson, and he loves it. He turned 3 in April, so he’s still very much into make-believe. When he’s in the bathtub, he gets his bathtub ducks together, and one by one he follow this routine: he brushes the duck thoroughly with the brush, then totally covers it with foam. Then he uses the toy razor to carefully scrape the foam from the duck, and finishes by holding the duck up to the mirror so it can see the result.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 August 2006 at 6:36 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

The wonderful Moleskine notebook

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I mentioned the Moleskine notebook earlier—one of the few notebooks to come with operating instructions (disguised as a sort of history of use). The notebooks are wonderful to use. The pocket size is quite handy, and the larger size makes a terrific journal. Ribbon page marker, elastic band to keep it closed, a file pocket in the back… Absolutely terrific.

The name, though, drives me crazy.

UPDATE: It drove me crazy because I was ignorant. One of the benefits of learning is that many sources of irritation are thereby removed. The Eldest points out in comments that “Moleskine” is not an English word. Not an English word—what will they think of next?

As is too often the case—and not just for me, gentle reader—a rant is delivered on exactly the wrong topic at the wrong time. My advice (to myself): check carefully before ranting. /update

Although it’s spelled Moleskine, it’s pronounced “Moleskin,”

UPDATE: I was wrong. The pronunciation, as noted in comments and on their Web site is mol-a-skeen’-a. /update

as if that terminal e is simply silent and doesn’t in fact do a job (which is to change the vowel from short to long). Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

8 August 2006 at 12:40 pm

Posted in Daily life, Toys

Shaving recommendations

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Last revised 11/22/07 – Method Shaving link

NOTE (21 Dec 2016) The links in this post are old and most do not work. The best current information is in my comprehensive beginner’s guide to gourmet shaving available as a trade paperback: Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way. The book, now in its 7th edition, is a reorganization and substantial expansion of the information provided in the blog, and contains all the information needed to make the transition to shaving with a safety razor and double-edged blade. It includes many links to resources on the Web, including a list of vendors. A great gift for friends who are thinking of making the switch to traditional shaving.

You may want to begin by reading the post that started me down this path. It’s not so comprehensive as the book, but it contains more information than this brief post.

Should the experiment in shaving with a double-edged razor not work out for you, you can readily find buyers for your equipment and supplies on the ShaveMyFace and Badger & Blade selling forums. Indeed, you might be able to pick up some of your equipment there—along with good advice. For example, here’s a basic budget starter kit for the newbie on a tight budge (a student, for example). If you pick the cheapest option in every category, the total cost is only $35.25, including the sampler packet of blades. That’s the cost of ten disposable Fusion catridges.

Normal budget

$30.00 Merkur Hefty Classic (“HD”)
$12.00 Blade sampler packs (see below)
$06.00 Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil Soap
$30.00 Edwin Jagger Best Badger brush (no VAT for export)
$10.00 Proraso Shaving Cream (see comment)
$09.50 QED shaving soap or shaving stick (your choice of fragrance)
$00.00 Lathering bowl (deep cereal bowl—approx 5″ across, 3″ deep)
$03.00 Glycerine (at local Whole Foods, health-food store, or drugstore)
$04.00 My Nik Is Sealed (styptic liquid in roll-on applicator)
$03.00 Alum block
$13.00 Dominica Bay Rum (but see balm option below)

$135.50 total, before shipping and any sales tax—that is, about the same as a new Gillette Fusion razor and 27 of its disposable cartridges. You might save a bit if you check out eBay to pick up a Gillette Super Speed in good condition. There’s general agreement that the 1940s version is the best of the lot—here’s a photo of one (click photo to enlarge). If you prefer a razor with a larger handle, the Edwin Jagger razors have the same head as the Merkur HD (though with additional polishing and Jagger-specified chrome or gold plate) but larger handles. They are quite elegant and excellent razors.

Novices fail to realize that the quality and closeness and comfort of the shave is due about 30% to the razor and 70% to the blade. Because the blade is disposable and cheap, the novice focuses on the more obvious and expensive razor. But the razor—once you have your technique developed—is not so important as the blade.

Because each brand of blade has those who love it and those who hate it, you must try a variety of brands to see which one(s) will work for you. Do not neglect this step. If you just pick a brand of blade and stick with it, it’s possible that you will decide traditional shaving is hopeless for you, when the only problem is that the brand of blade you’re using doesn’t work for you. You will be amazed at the differences you experience from brand to brand—and also amazed that the brand you find is smooth, sharp, and comfortable strikes some as shaving with a cheese grater. The link above takes you to a post providing complete information about the currently available sampler packs, including for each pack the contents and the price per blade.

The Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil Soap is specifically made as a pre-shave soap. Wash your beard and partially rinse with a splash of warm water, then lather. It makes a noticeable difference in the quality of the shave.

The styptic liquid My Nik Is Sealed is much nicer than a styptic pencil and leaves no white deposits on your face as the pencil does. It will quickly stop bleeding from a nick.

The alum bar is a wonderful face treatment at the end of the shave (more info at the link). For some reason, a number of men seem to be trying to use a styptic pencil sideways in lieu of an alum bar. This is highly misguided: different substance. Get the alum bar.

Use the glycerine as your every-pass pre-shave: rub just a small amount over your wet beard before lathering for each pass. You can read more about this technique in the main shaving post.

You’ll notice I included both a shaving cream and a shaving soap. You might as well practice with both. Proraso is a popular shaving cream, though some men’s skin does not do well with the Proraso eucalyptus-menthol formula, especially in the winter months. So you might want to go ahead and spring for the Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado Shaving cream (see alternate kit below).

QED’s shaving sticks are soap in stick form: you rub the stick all over your wet beard against the grain, then use a wet shaving brush to build the lather directly on your face. The Mocha-Java shaving stick is particularly delectable. If you prefer soap in a tub, let me recommend Special 218. When you order, it’s easiest to email or call Charles directly (email:; phone (401) 433-4045).

For an aftershave, Bay Rum is a classic. OTOH, you might prefer a moisturizing balm after you shave, and Neutrogena Razor Defense ($6.00) is available at your local drugstore. Generally speaking, a balm is soothing, an aftershave bracing, so you choose the effect you want.

And, as mentioned above, you should check out the selling threads in ShaveMyFace and Badger & Blade.

There are, of course, options in the other direction—e.g., getting the HD in gold instead of chrome ($40, but very nice).

Only the best

$30.00 Merkur Hefty Classic (“HD”)
$12.00 Blade sampler packs
$06.00 Musgo Real Glyce Lime Oil Soap
$75.00 Rooney Style 3 Small “Super” brush
$13.50 Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado shaving cream
$09.50 QED shaving soap (pick the fragrance you like)
$00.00 Lathering bowl (deep cereal bowl—approx 5″ across, 3″ deep)
$03.00 Glycerine (from Whole Foods, health-food store, or local drugstore)
$04.00 My Nik Is Sealed (styptic liquid in roll-on applicator)
$03.00 Alum block
$13.00 Dominica Bay Rum (note balm option below)

This amounts to around $169.00 before shipping and sales tax, depending on which size Emperor brush you choose. About 64 disposable Fusion cartridges—and this really is an exceptional collection. After much thought, I changed this recommended kit: instead of the Vision, which turns out to be more than most novices want to deal with, I’m sticking with the HD. If you want something a bit more posh, try an Edwin Jagger razor.

I recommend a Rooney brush. I personally prefer the Style 2 super to the Style 3 listed above, but the Style 3 Size 1 (small) seems to have more general appeal. If you want to splurge, you can get the Rooney Style 2 Small Finest, at $210. It is somewhat more resilient than the Super Silvertip, and has a longer loft than the Style 3. The Finest also has almost pure white bristle ends.

For an alternate, check out the 22mm Silvertip brush from Superior Brushes. You get to specify color and style of handle, and it’s quite a nice brush at a good price.

As above, I included both shaving cream and shaving soap/stick. See above for ordering from QED.

Regardless of your first razor, I recommend that your second razor be the Merkur Slant Bar ($30.00). It should be a second razor because it requires a light touch and a sure hand, so you should be an experienced wielder of the safety razor before using it. Sharp blades work wonderfully well in it. For me, the ideal combination is the Slant Bar with an Astra Superior Platinum. The Slant Bar with a sharp blade is the ideal tool if you have a thick, wiry beard and sensitive skin. Read more about it here, including an explanation of why it works so well. You can also get the Slant Bar in gold for $40.

In learning how to use the shaving tools, you will find the series of videos made by Mantic to be quite helpful. Use those to complement the information your read in this post and in the comprehensive guide.

J.M. Fraser’s Shaving Cream is very good and also inexpensive. It has a light lemony fragrance, creates a good lather, and gives a fine shave (scroll down at the link). It is somehow particularly effective at softening the beard. This shaving cream would work with either of the collections above.

When you decide to get a second aftershave, I recommend Thayers Witch Hazel (alcohol free), which you can find at Whole Foods and in various health-food stores in a variety of fragrances (see at the link). Or get Thayers Extra Strength Aftershave with Aloe Vera—a great aftershave for traveling, since it has no fragrance.

Eventually you’ll want to try other shaving creams and shaving soaps. The general guide provides some options for these, and don’t overlook the artisanal shaving soaps. These are really wonderful and create great lather.

Target has a fine selection of inexpensive bowls that make good lathering bowls. Look in the housewares section, next to kitchen equipment. Or you can use a cereal bowl you already have. It’s best if the bowl’s interior is a relatively dark color: that makes it easier to see and judge the lather.

Another option altogether: Method Shaving

It was quite a while before I tried a Method Shave, and when I did, I was stunned at what a good shave I got. You can read about my experience, and I certainly encourage you to give it a try. Like everything in shaving, YMMV, but my own experience was extremely positive. I don’t necessarily cotton to the jargon, but the shave itself is jargon-free and quite good. Something in the products really produces a fully prepped beard and well-protected skin. At the link, you’ll find also Mantic’s three videos on Method Shaving. It’s definitely worth a try.

The razor recommended for Method Shaving is the Merkur Hefty Classic (“HD”), though the Edwin Jagger Chatsworth or Georgian would certainly work as well: just a more finished Classic head with a better (in my opinion) handle. The Shavemaster Brush would make the lathering a bit easier (see link in previous paragraph), and the supplies are pure Method from Enchante: Cube, Shaving Paste, Activator, Cutting Balm, Aftershave Conditioner, and Aftershave Tonic. In my opinion, the Method should definitely be a component of your shaving portfolio of practices.

For samples of a variety of shaving products, check out this comprehensive list of sources.

Use the ShaveMyFace and Badger & Blade and The Shave Den forums to get help with specific details—for example, if you have what is known technically as “Kirk Douglas chin”: a deep dimple in the middle of the chin, difficult to shave; or if you have extra-sensitive skin that’s prone to break out when you use regular shaving products; or if you have a problem with skin irritation when you shave your neck; and so on. All these problems are more are discussed and, generally, solved via the pooled experience of the shavers in the forums.

Let me know if you have any questions. Good shaving!

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 August 2006 at 9:40 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

First shave with the slant razor

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Merkur slant bar

The Daily Adventure was extremely nice this morning: new things to use. To begin with, a potential new lathering bowl: a heavy hemispherical bowl from a French line. Problem: too large, inside too smooth (somehow). I switched back to the large soup cup for now.

I used my Savile Row brush, but I’m becoming more and more attached to my Simpson Emperor 3 Super badger (scroll down at the link). Not too large, not too small, but just right—and not too floppy, not too stiff: just right. And holds water and lathers wonderfully well. A great shaving brush. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

28 July 2006 at 9:11 am

Posted in Shaving, Toys

Learning to shave

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I’ve learned so much since I returned to wet shaving that I occasionally think, “Why didn’t my dad teach me this?” But of course, my son could ask the same question. My dad, like me, just didn’t know.

One of the things the Internet and the Web have brought is an easy way to pool the accumulated knowledge that’s spread across many persons and a wide area. Indeed, the pool becomes, for us, the entire English-speaking world, which spans the globe.

So day by day, I learn more—and as I do, I update and revise my shaving guide for the novice. Today I learned about the alum block. As someone said in this thread:

I use an alum block every day regardless of whether I’ve nicked myself. The alum block is an antiseptic, reduces razor burn, stops minor bleeds, and tells you how well you’ve shaved: the more it stings the harsher your shave. My shave isn’t complete without one.

Use: after finishing your shave and rinsing your face—first with warm water, then with cold—wet the alum block and rub it over your face, before applying aftershave.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2006 at 9:23 am

Posted in Shaving, Toys

The Daily Adventure, Monday edition

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The 1940s Gillette Super Speed is a very nice razor, and the Swedish Gillette blades work like a charm—just in case you were wondering. I got a perfect lather—like whipped cream—with the Taylor Sandalwood using the Vulfix 2235 in the lathering cup—when is the Moss Scuttle going to arrive?—and did what is becoming my usual pattern: two passes downward, the second with a certain amount of shaving on the diagonal, and one pass upward, rinsing and lathering between passes. Fine shave, and the Taylor’s No. 74 was the perfect finish.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 July 2006 at 7:29 am

Posted in Shaving, Toys

Anticipating tomorrow’s shave

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Gillette Super Speed Gillette Super Speed
It’s odd how fascinating the ritual of shaving can be when one becomes obsessed with it—though that, of course, is the nature of obsession. I now routinely enjoy the memory of my morning shave and turn over in my mind what tomorrow’s shave should be.

For example, I’m thinking now that it’s time to try the Taylor’s Sandalwood shaving cream, after reading some discussion of it. My Vulfix 2235 will work well with the Taylor’s shaving cream.

And I have a “new” 1940s Gillette Super Speed (photos are of that model, though not my particular razor) that I’m eager to try after reading how highly it’s regarded. Since my Swedish Gillette blades arrived from the dealer in the UK, I can now use the Gillette Super Speed with Gillette blades, as is only appropriate.

This morning I used Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel (purchased at Whole Foods) as the aftershave: very soothing and comfortable, with a luscious scent that faded faiarly quickly. But since I’m using the Taylor’s shaving cream, it seems fitting to use the Taylor’s No. 74 aftershave. (This morning I used the Vision again—another great shave—with the Cyril R. Salter French Vetiver (select “Salter” from the menu on the left) shaving cream and the Rooney shaving brush.)

I assume that with time the obsessive part will fade, as have other obsessions in the past: Esperanto, rubber stamps, fountain pens, stationery, fencing (sabre), etc.

Written by LeisureGuy

16 July 2006 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

Shaving soaps

with 9 comments

Shaving creams are probably more popular, but shaving soaps have a great appeal: taking an inert block and making from it a thick, creamy lather seems like the stuff of miracles. At first I used a lathering bowl—scroll down at the link—but now I enjoy building the lather directly only my beard. Of particular appeal are the handmade soaps crafted by small-business artisans.

I used one of those for this morning’s shave: QED‘s Patchouli/Tea Tree/Peppermint, which has a “wake-up-and-smell-the-patchouli-tea tree-and-pepperment” aroma, a great awakener. The soap is a pellucid light amber, poured directly into a screw-top plastic case. (As noted in the main shaving post, the lather is not developed in the soap container, which is used only to charge the brush. See link in first paragraph.)

It was simply terrific, and I have ordered many more soaps from QED. Some of my favorites: Special 218 (this one really is special), Tangerine and Spearmint, Grapefruit and Peppermint, Bay Rum, Sandalwood. If you look at their menu on the left, at the bottom you’ll see “Other fabulous toiletry products offered by QED”, and that will take you to the appropriate page. Or just click here. (You’ll note that they also sell the Merkur Vision, as well as the Merkur Slant Bar in gold.)

Charles, the owner, also makes and sells shaving sticks: sticks of his soaps, which you use by rubbing one all over the wet beard against the grain, then taking a wet shaving brush and building the lather directly on your face.

Shaving sticks are nice for travel and also useful in the final touch-up phase of your shave: holding the stick in your left hand, feel your wet face for rough spots, hit them a lick with the stick, and then shave—no need to lather for the touch-up. I highly recommend the Mocha-Java shaving stick—chocolate and coffee essential oils give a fragrance so delectable that he labels it “Not for consumption.” It seems to me that using a shaving stick to rub the wet beard directly with the soap softens the beard more, with the result that I get a better shave—YMMV.

Charles is quite helpful, answers emails promptly, is pleasant to talk to on the phone, and is, I at first thought, the very spitting image of William Powell (a photo on the explanatory enclosures he includes with your order)—only then I found it was William Powell.

Another source of good handmade glycerine-based shaving soaps is Mama Bear. Her soaps, made with shea butter, aloe butter, extra glycerin, and natural vitamin E, receive high praise in the discussion groups and are available in a wide variety of fragrances. The first three I bought: Clove & Tangerine, Cedarwood & Lemon, and Eucalyptus. Check out the choices at the link. Tahitian Vanilla is very nice. And I especially like Vanilla Cream. Several of her fragrances are available as shaving sticks. (I really do like to use a shaving stick.)

Mama Bear also sells a good alum bar and also a very nice little wooden drying rack. See the bottom of this page.

Honeybee Spa Soaps sells a wide variety of shea butter shaving soaps (see her menu on the left at the link), originally sold only as pucks but now also available in jars. She makes quite nice custom fragrances, including things like Homemade Cheesecake – “Delicious graham crackers and sweet cream butter, notes of creamy vanilla, sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese, with a hint of almond.” She also has several fragrances that mimic well-known aromas from specific brands of men’s toiletries. And I very much like her Lilac—a fragrance hard to find—and her new Fresh Lemon. Her Coffee Mocha is nothing short of sensational. And you can order any of her fragrances in a shaving stick.

A couple of notes: she does do international shipments—just email her for details. And the eBay site overstates the postage you have to pay. After you’ve selected what you’re ordering, email her and determine the actual postage. You can then enter a credit at the eBay checkout to bring the postage down to the correct amount. If you’re ordering the soap pucks themselves (i.e., not in the jar), three of the pucks are just under a pound, and six are just under two pounds, so you can readily determine the postage for US orders (since she ships via Priority Mail): $4.05 for 1-3 pucks, $6.05 for 4-6 pucks.

Emily of Em’s Place makes a very nice glycerine shaving soap in a variety of fragrances (and unscented), and also makes quite a nice lathering shaving cream. It’s not a thick cream like the English creams, but thinner so that you can squirt it directly onto the wet brush. This format seems ideal for those who shave in the shower. I’ve used both her soaps and creams with great satisfaction. Like QED, Em’s Place sells a full line of shaving brushes and razors.

Saint Charles Shave is another supplier of a range of shaving products, including excellent handmade shaving soaps and wonderful fragrances. These can be ordered in a wood container or as pucks to refill a container you already have. I have tried several of SCS soaps now, and they are extremely good. Great stuff. The SCS Bay Rum Aftershave Balm is also very nice.

Finally, from Germany, there’s Olivia’s Shaving Soaps. Motivated by the praise they have received in the discussion forums, I have a couple on order from her, along with a some of the Italian Cella shaving cream: a smell of bitter almonds and well liked by some. It comes as a blob in a plastic wrapper, and it’s about the consistency of warm candlewax. You press it into the container of your choice. Some have said that it takes a bit of trying to coax a good lather from Olivia’s soaps.There. That should keep you busy.

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2006 at 9:17 am

Posted in Shaving, Toys

I have a Vision

with 42 comments


This is yet another report on The Daily Adventure (formerly known as “The Morning Shave”). Today I had my first shave with my new Vision. The photo (even clicked) doesn’t do justice to its size and heft.

When I first started this new interest, I almost ordered the Merkur Vision, on the basic American principle of “bigger and more expensive is better” (cf. the Hummer, a comparison made explicit in the Vision’s description). But the fact that almost all holders for razors were labeled “Does not fit Vision” made me pause.

So I called Classic Shaving to talk to their shaving consultant. He said that most people found the Vision too big, wouldn’t fit under the nose, etc. He recommended, if that was the direction I was going, to go with the Futur, which I did.

Then I contracted RAD (Razor Acquisition Disorder) and decided I really needed some additional morning options—in particular, a safety razor that didn’t require a setting decision (both the Futur and the Vision are adjustable).

I picked a Merkur 1904 (pictured), which (in marketing parlance) “you never have to adjust” (i.e., you can’t—cf. “you never have to change the batteries”). I got a terrific shave with it—and it was easier to use than the Futur. (The critical reader may note a seeming contradiction between wanting more choices (more safety razors) and wanting no choices (nonadjusting safety razors). The critical reader is invited to adjust the criticism downward a tad and recognize the symptoms of RAD.)

But then I noticed something interesting in the discussion groups: Vision fans: shavers whose go-to razor was the Vision, shavers who declared it the best safety razor ever. Sure, there were those who hated the Vision, but why so many loving it? Read the rest of this entry »

Written by LeisureGuy

15 July 2006 at 8:26 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys


leave a comment »

After reading quite a few references to this site, I went and took a look. Lots of blanks for do-it-yourselfers, including badger-hair shaving brush plugs (you turn the handle yourself, mount the plug, and you have your own custom shaving brush). Lots of exotic woods.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 July 2006 at 12:12 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

A brief guide to the gourmet shaving experience

NOTE: A considerably expanded version of this post (as a book of over 200 pages, including photos, reference links, and more) is available as a Kindle book and as a trade paperback:  Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving the Double-Edge Way. At the link you will find a complete list of Amazon sites that carry the book linked to the relevant entries. The book is priced to encourage purchase at the beginning of the transition to DE shaving, since the book is intended to serve as a guide and reference in that process.

This post is a beginner’s guide to wet shaving: how to shave with a safety razor and not hurt yourself. (Because the safety razor uses a double-edged blade, it is sometimes called a “DE razor.”) The book provides all the information you need to begin traditional shaving (including on-line sources for equipment and supplies), and it also makes a good gift for friends contemplating that step. It includes a chapter on dealing with skin problems, such as acne, razor bumps, and ingrown whiskers, as well as information on boar and horsehair brushes in addition to badger brushes and synthetic brushes. Modern synthetic brushes are excellent, and you can get a first-rate synthetic for $10-$12. The book has more detailed instructions, reviews more products, presents more sources, and so on. Look at the reader reviews to decide for yourself whether it would be helpful to you.

This book is a likely good buy for any man who answers “Yes” to question 1 and “No” to question 2:

Question 1: Do you shave just about every day?
Question 2: Do you actually enjoy shaving and look forward to your shave?

If he answers “Yes” and “No”, in that order, the book would be a good purchase and an excellent gift, based on what previous customers have found.

At one reader’s suggestion, let me begin with a teaser:

  • Do you enjoy shaving? Is it something you look forward to each day?
  • Do you know where you can get good multiblade cartridges for 9¢ each?
  • Do you search for aftershaves that promise to “soothe”, “heal”, “restore”?
  • Have you ever tried the lather produced by a shaving brush and a good shaving cream?
  • Has anyone ever explained how to use a safety razor with a double-edged blade?

If you answer “No” to two or more of those questions, fead on.

The book contains more information than you will find in this post, including fuller explanations and photos—to illustrate correct blade angle, for example. But this post will get you started.

The primary question from men considering the traditional shave with brush, shaving soap, and safety razor is, “Why bother?” Or, as a friend put it, why put aside all the modern technology of pressurized cans of formulated shaving foams and gels and the modern multi-blade razor cartridge that allows you to shave while still half asleep?

The answer varies by person, but for me it is the sheer pleasure that the morning shave now affords. Shaving has moved from a routine at best, a chore more often, to a wonderful ritual from which I emerge feeling truly pampered. I now look forward to shaving each day, and that feeling more than repays the little bit of equipment required. The daily shave: a daily pleasure. How many guys can say that?

The reason many men are choosing to shave with a safety razor, however, is much more down-to-earth: the multiblade cartridge uses a tug-and-cut approach that, for many, causes ingrown whiskers, razor bumps, and skin irritation. These men turn to the double-edged blade and safety razor for the comfort they achieve once they learn how to use the instruments, which might take a week.

The safety razor

First, how to use the safety razor—unless you’re willing to undertake the learning curve for using a straight razor.

If the straight razor is of interest, see and also The Art of the Straight Razor Shave, by Chris Moss. You can download the PDF from this page. Ready-to-go straight razors—sharpened and honed and ready to shave—along with accessories are available from Edson Razors, Gemstar Customs, Maggard Razors, and WhippedDog.

Using a safety razor puts you in charge, and going from a multi-blade cartridge to a safety razor is akin to going from an automatic transmission to a manual: you can get better performance by being more in control, but you must learn how to use it, practice your technique, and pay attention to what’s going on.

Hold the razor gently but firmly, as you might hold a pet canary: firm enough that the bird will not escape, but not so firmly that the bird will be injured. If you grip the razor with too tight a grip, your hand will tire and perhaps cramp and you will not get good tactile feedback as you shave.

Using the safety razor

In putting the razor to your skin, the first issue is pressure. With the safety razor, you must not use pressure to try to get a closer shave: pressure must be light, the razor and the blade doing the work—exerting additional pressure will cause problems (cuts, razor burn, etc.). As described below, you obtain a closer shave with more passes, not more pressure. Because of the cost of multiblade cartridges, men who use those attempt to keep using the cartridge as long as they can, and as the cartridge becomes dull, they exert more and more pressure. The result is a habit that, with a DE safety razor, will bite you. Keep the pressure light.

The key is progressive stubble reduction over multiple passes.

Other than pressure, the key variable in using the safety razor is blade angle. Try this: put the head of the razor against your cheek, the handle perpendicular to the cheek and parallel to the floor. Gradually bring the handle down toward the face as you make a shaving stroke, pulling the handle to drag the head down your cheek. When the handle has dropped around 30º from the initial perpendicular (depending on the razor you’re using), the blade will make contact with the whiskers and begin to cut as you pull the razor. If the bathroom is quiet, you can hear when the cutting begins.  That’s the angle (more or less).

You will note that with a DE safety razor the handle is held rather far from the face, unlike with a multiblade cartridge razor, which is designed for the handle to be close to the face. So if you’re accustomed to a multiblade cartridge razor, the angle will at first require conscious attention, though in time it will come automatically.

The right cutting angle is different for different razors. You’ll have to experiment to find the right cutting angle for each of your razors.

Proper technique with the safety razor consists of using light pressure and the correct blade angle over your entire beard area, including the neck. When you can do that, you’ll learn that the closeness and comfort of the shave is 30% from the razor and 70% from the blade. So read carefully the section below on blades.

Recommended safety razors

For a beginner—and even for an experienced shaver (such as myself)—I recommend one of the razors I listed in this article. All the razors listed are, for most, excellent: very comfortable, not inclined to nick, and very efficient. Prices vary according to material and manufacturing method and range from about US$5.00 to US$100.

These are (except for the Dorco PL602, which (like the others) is an excellent razor) three-piece razors: handle, baseplate, and cap, with the cap screwing into the handle with the baseplate between, the blade going between baseplate and cap. An error that some novices make is to assemble the razor with the baseplate upside down, with the result that the razor works poorly, if at all. Look it over carefully and make sure the baseplate is right-side up. (One advantage of the three-piece design, beyond no moving parts, is that you can swap handles and indeed you can buy handles separately—and sometimes razor heads as well.)

You can also use a vintage razor—an old razor on eBay or at a flea market or the like, here’s a good discussion on how to clean it. Some vintage razors sold on eBay are, it should be noted, completely cleaned and sterilized. But others require you to provide the elbow grease.

The blade

Once you’ve picked the razor, the next step is choosing the blade. The comfort and smoothness of the shave (once your technique is good) will be about 70% from the blade you use, and only 30% from the razor.

It’s important to note that a given blade will get different responses from different people. List any brand of blade, and some guys will say it’s the best blade ever, some will say it’s the worst, and others will say it’s so-so. You have to try a blade yourself to see whether it will work for you. Your best bet is to buy sampler packs that include a variety of blades. The post at the link contains detailed information about blades and the sampler packs currently available and how to use them.

Never buy a large supply of any brand of blade without having first had a shave with that blade. You really cannot predict how the blade will work for you, regardless of what other people say about their experience—whether their experience was positive or negative. Some blades I’ve hated turn out to be the best possible blades for other shavers.

In all razors using double-edged blades, the blade is held between a top and a platform, with only the edge exposed, and as the razor is tightened to grip the blade, the blade bends over the slight hump of the platform, the edge becoming rigid. (Single-edged blades, like those used in Gem razors and Schick Injectors, are rigid to start with because they are thicker, and thus do not have to be bent in the razor’s grip as do the thin, double-edged blades.)

When you finish shaving, there’s no need to remove the blade from the razor or even to loosen it. Just rinse off the razor in hot water, give it a shake, and put it aside to dry. The only time you need to remove the blade is when you’re ready to replace it.

True lather

It’s important with a DE razor to use true lather. “True lather” is what I call a lather made with a shaving brush from shaving soap or shaving cream and water. Almost all men who have tried both true lather and canned foam agree that, in terms of shave quality and enjoyment, it goes like this:

Worst: cartridge razor + canned foam
Better: DE razor + canned foam
Better yet: cartridge razor + true lather
Best: DE razor + true lather

The shaving brush

Using true lather requires that you use a shaving brush. The four main categories are:

  1. Badger is the traditional favorite, and offers a good starter silvertip badger brush at a low price. Silvertip badger, where the tips that touch your face are cream-colored, are generally the best badger brushes.

  2. Boar is a popular choice (my favorite is the Omega 20102). Boar brushes should be soaked for a while in hot water before each use. Just wet the knot well under the hot-water tap and let the brush stand while you shower. When your shower’s done, the brush will be ready. Note that new boar brushes will tend to kill the lather until the brush has been used a few times—breaking in an Omega brush will take a week or two of shaves, but you will see the lather live longer from shave to shave in the first week.

  3. Horsehair brushes are excellent lather-producers and not costly. Vie-Long is the dominant vendor—check

  4. Synthetic brushes are now first-rate and many shavers prefer them to all others—plus they are inexpensive: you can get a really excellent synthetic for around $10. Check for his Keyhole synthetic, or Maggard Razors for their 22mm synthetics or Phoenix Artisan for their Green Ray synthetic. (I find 24mm a little large for my taste, and 26mm seems enormous.).

When you complete your shave, rinse all the soap out of your brush with hot/warm water, and then do a final rinse of the clean brush using cold water.Over time brushes may become slightly waterproof from hard-water deposits. has instructions on brush cleaning.

Shaving soap

You use a brush to produce lather from a shaving cream or a shaving soap. Shaving creams are easier to lather and novices for that reason often prefer shaving creams. I did so myself, but then as I learned to make a good lather from a shaving soap, I found that I preferred soap lather to shaving cream lather. Most shaving vendors offer a good range of shaving soaps. Check Van Yulay, Italian Barber, Maggard Razors, and Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements. Note the soaps’ ingredients, and note some soaps are ultra-premium—but all are quite good. (The Guide includes in the appendix a lengthy list of vendors in various countries.)

5. The water

One problem with shaving soaps, however, is that they are sensitive to hard water: if your tap water is hard, the minerals in the water combine with soap to produce soap scum, and that makes forming lather from a soap difficult. You can try shaving with demineralized water (either distilled water or, more commonly, “purified” water, sold at drugstores for use in steam irons, steamers, vaporizers, and the like (about $1/gallon). Use it both as a diagnosis and a workaround. It’s easier than it sounds because the volume of water required for a shave is so small. With very little practice, 1/2 cup is plenty. Pure distilled/”purified” water makes a somewhat fluffy lather, so you mix in a little tap water for better lather density.

That approach does require heating the water unless you like a cold-water shave (I don’t), and heating the water is not so convenient if the bathroom’s not on the same floor as the kitchen. An alternative is to run the sink half-full of hot water from the tap and soften it with a small pinch of citric acid. You can compare the results to a purified-water shave to judge how much citric acid to use, but generally a small pinch is enough for a sink half-filled.

Good lather

The defining characteristic of a good lather is that it’s dense and heavy: microscopic bubbles and a substantial amount of water. Larger bubbles indicate either too much water or water added so fast that it could not be worked into the lather. Your whiskers are softened by absorbing water, and heavy, wet lather will hold water against the stubble in addition to lubricating the skin so the razor glides easily.

Em’s Place has more information on lathering from both soaps and creams And note that razor-skipping when you shave (razor head not gliding smoothly across your skin, but seeming to “stick” and then skip) might be a problem with the lather. One problem novices sometimes have is in loading the brush. Use a brush that’s merely damp and add water as needed. Brush the puck of soap briskly and firmly. Here’s an example:

Before you apply lather (or pre-shave) at the sink, wash your beard with soap and water and then leave it wet after rinsing. I have recently found that Whole Foods 365 brand glycerin soap makes an excellent pre-shave, and at $2/bar it is not expensive. Any high-glycerin soap can be used. Wash the beard and then partially rinse with warm water and apply the lather. It makes a noticeable difference in the quality of the shave.

The grain of your beard

Before you start applying razor to stubble, it’s important to know the direction the stubble grows: the grain of your beard. About 10 hours after shaving, rub your beard firmly with the tips of your fingers. Pick a spot, and rub in different directions at that spot. One direction will be roughest—that’s against the grain. In the opposite direction at that spot, it will feel smoothest: with the grain. That direction is your beard’s grain direction at that spot. This interactive map will help. You probably will need to refer to the map only a few times before you know it, but making the map may reveal some surprises in grain direction.

Go over your entire beard, determining the grain direction at every spot.

The importance of grain direction is this: your first pass is with the grain (WTG). The second pass is across the grain (XTG). Only the final pass is against the grain (ATG), and in the beginning you’ll probably want to skip this pass, introducing it gradually as described below. If you have a curly beard and tend to get ingrown whiskers, do not shave ATG in the areas in which you get ingrowns: do the second XTG pass (in the opposite direction) for maximum smoothness instead.

Executing the shave

The safety razor has two sides, and in shaving you flip back and forth, using both edges of the double-edged blade. Flip the razor over to the “clean side” after a few strokes and then rinse it off when it’s covered in lather. After each rinse, give it a good shake—or two or three—to remove as much water from it as possible.

Once you complete the first (WTG) pass, rinse your face and re-lather (lather is always applied to a wet beard). The second pass is across the grain (XTG), and this will further reduce the stubble. The XTG pass is also useful for cleaning up the upper lip, under the nose.

Rinse, and—when you first start shaving with a safety razor—do only the two passes. When you first start learning the safety razor, don’t try ATG. Reasons: first, until you master blade angle and pressure, ATG is likely to cause cuts and/or skin irritation. Second, in the ATG pass, you’re holding the razor pretty much upside down, and you’ll find it requires more practice and concentration to keep pressure and angle correct in that maneuver. I suggest initially you do the ATG pass only on the sideburn area and cheeks, which are relatively flat. As you gain experience and skill, gradually extend the area shaved ATG until you’re doing your entire beard area (except those areas, if any, in which you tend to get ingrown whiskers).

After you finish shaving, rinse your razor in hot water and put it on its side to dry. You do not need to remove or dry the blade, or even loosen the razor’s grip on the blade. In general, it’s a good idea to minimize handling of the blade. And it’s better to have the razor out where it can dry, and not put it in a drawer—especially since the blade’s edge is more likely to damaged in a drawer.

There’s a good variety of aftershaves. Here’s a useful summary and reference. Generally speaking, you can choose between an aftershave (bracing) or a balm (soothing).

Shaving, it should be noted, is a path of continuing experimentation. You will want to try different razors, blades, brushes, soaps, creams, techniques—everything.

More detail and additional topics are available in the Guide, of course.

Take a look at my Shave of the Day posts.

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Written by LeisureGuy

10 July 2006 at 8:10 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

Interesting shaving idea: the Moss Scuttle

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Moss scuttle

This is a revision to bring the post up to date.

The Moss Scuttle is a refinement of the lathering cup—it’s a heated cup to hold the lathered brush. (The bowl part of the Moss Scuttle is, most find, too small to use as a lathering cup.) The post at the link explains exactly how it’s used (with photos). The short version: it has two compartments. Fill both with water as hot as you can get it from the tap.

As it turned out, my tap water didn’t get hot enough for the Moss Scuttle to satisfy me. I have the water heater set so that pure hot is just right for a shower.

So I got a Sunbeam Hot Shot and used boiling-hot water in the Moss Scuttle, which did keep the lathered brush hot. But: DO NOT soak your brush in water that hot—it ruins the bristles.

Leave the hot water in the Moss Scuttle while you shower. Then after the shower, empty out all the hot water, and fill only the inner (bottom) compartment with hot water: this will keep the upper cup hot. Rinse the brush with hot water, then charge it with soap or cream and develop the lather in the (hot) upper cup. The result: warm lather—very luxurious. After the first lathering, let the brush lie in the hot cup while you shave with downward strokes, then re-lather (the brush still warm) before shaving with upward strokes.

I would develop the lather in my soup cup, then transfer the fully lathered brush—which easily contains enough lather for 4 passes—to the small Moss Scuttle, where it fit snugly against the hot walls. But then I found that, for me, the lather would degrade under the heat. YMMV.

You can order it here.

UPDATE: Here’s my (later) post on the gourmet shaving experience, a guide for the novice.

UPDATE 2: My own Moss Scuttle has arrived!

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2006 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

Make your own vortex shooter

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When I was a kid I had Flash Gordon (or was it Buck Rogers?) gun that shot a vortex of air across the room. They made a comeback not too long ago, and are wonderful to confuse kitties—though the little devils quickly learn the sound of the gun’s being cocked and vanish when they hear it. Here’s how to make a large one out of a plastic wastebin.

Advantage (WRT kitties): no sound when it’s being readied for a shot. Disadvantage: it’s enormous.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2006 at 9:31 am

Posted in Cats, Toys

The morning shave

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This morning I tried a new technique—developing the lather in a bowl—I just learned about from one of the shaving discussion groups
(look at the series of photos). I asked about the technique, and I was told:

There have always been some shavers who used bowls, cups, or mugs to lather up the brush, especially with the soft creams. There basically three ways one can go; just scoop up the cream and lather it directly on the face, lather it up first in the palm of your other hand, or, lather it up first in a bowl or cup. Personally, I prefer #3, although with hard soaps, I’ll sometimes resort to #2. At Trumpers in London, some of their barbers lather in a bowl, some in their hand.

As it happens, I have an excellent hemispherical bowl with a handle—it was originally a soup cup—that I had been using as a shaving mug. I took out the soap, washed the bowl clean, and used it this morning with a dab of shaving cream (“about the size of an almond” seems to be the rule) on the brush. While readying things, I let hot water run in the bowl, so when I emptied it to develop the lather with the brush, the bowl was hot—important unless you have a preference for cold lather.

I got wonderful lather, and had a terrific shave. I did use the Proraso pre/post-shave cream, and my Futur safety razor was set at 1.5. For now, I’ll be leaving it at 1.5: close shave, no nicks, why change?

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2006 at 7:44 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving, Toys

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