Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm sure only fellow Monty Python nerds will get that title. 

Any who, I figured I'd do something totally different than normal and blog about something else in my life.  Today I'll cover shaving.  For most guys shaving is seen as a chore.  There is no joy in it, no pride and there is certainly no craftsmanship involved in it anymore.  The blades are numerous, sharpened by chemicals, the "shaving cream" is nothing more than "goop" that comes from an aerosol can and the act itself is usually carried out in the shower just like any other maintenance-type grooming.

I used to HATE shaving.  It chewed up my face, gave me bad acne and burned for almost an hour after I got done.  I tried everything; 2 blade, 3 blade, 4 blade, different types of shaving gels, creams, and soaps.  My beard is not coarse by any means, but it is quite dense, so if I wanted to keep a razor as sharp as it needed to be, I had to change out the cartridges out every third shave.  That got really expensive and my face was not getting any better treatment.  So how did I solve this?  I grew a beard.  Well, that got old and I decided to start shaving again, but this time I went all out and started shaving my head for the first time.  I'm not going bald by any means, actually it pisses a lot of people off when I shave my head because, to quote, "You have such gorgeous, thick hair".  That was when I discovered HeadBlade products.

HeadBlade is a company that makes products exclusively for guys that shave their heads.  They make shaving creams, aftershave and even a razor system designed for shaving your head.  Well, the razor sucked just like every other razor I had tried in my life, but the shaving cream was what I got the "Ah-Ha" from.  I started to use the shaving cream on my face as well as my head and I begun to see good results on my face as well as my scalp.  Then it dawned on me, shaving was not about just the razor but the total system that you use.  I then started doing research.

Come to find out there were bigger and better things out there for shaving and to boot the vast majority of them were not all that expensive.  First I started working on building a better lather.  I started out with Kiss My Face shaving creams and using a brush.  For those of you that have never shaved with a brush and hot, hand-made lather, you are doing yourself a great disservice.  If you change nothing else about your shaving, this is the one thing to convert over to.  A good lather will make a shave ten times better.  Invest in a good brush, not the crappy boar hair brushes you get in the pharmacies and Walmart, but a good badger hair brush.  A crappy brush makes a crappy lather, just like crappy soap makes a crappy lather.  There are some good videos on YouTube on making your own lather.

Once I became pretty proficient in making a good lather and saw better, but not good results into my shaving, I went for a different razor system.  I looked for all kinds of different options and the two that made the most sense were the double edge razors, like your grandpa used to use, and the straight razor, like you see in the movies.  Straight razor shaving completely intrigued me.  Buy on razor for the rest of your life, sharpen it to your liking and you get a clean close shave every time.  I already had the vast majority of the hones I needed to get the job done, all I needed now was a razor and a strop.  Being the handyman that I am, I wanted to do things my way.  I went to eBay and found some old razors and strops I could restore.  I cleaned the razors, reconditioned the strops, and started honing the razors.  After about a week of making sure everything was in order I did my first straight shave and loved it.  I've fallen in love ever since.

Shaving has become more of a part of my evening wind-down time.  I take pride in it, hell, I even look forward to it.  This evening I just took all of my stuff, put it on the coffee table and shaved while I talked to my wife.  If you look at the picture at the top that is all the shaving stuff that is required to do a shave wherever you want.  It is a scuttle(white thing to keep the lather warm), Silvertip Badger brush, shaving cream, a straight razor, a mirror and a damp cloth.  I also had to strop the razor, but the strop was not in the picture.  Being the nostalgic nerd that I am, I took the badger knot that I ordered and installed it into the shaving brush handle that my Dad used when I was a kid.

Now I have an eight razor rotation that I use.  I'll use three at a time and just mix and match depending on how my mood is at the time.  Sometimes I like a light full hollow ground blade and other times I like the heftier wedge blades.  I have the following as of right now:  Wade and Butcher with real tortiose shell handles, a BBB Bingham brothers, Henkels Platinum #401, King Double Temper, Boker Extra Hollow #201, Our Leader, a Colonel Conk branded Dovo, and a Black Demon.  As you can tell I  have quite a fancy for these things and have sought out some of the more obscurely named razors.  In addition to the Black Demon I also have a razor that is labelled Lucifer, but it was broken in transit.  I probably would have been too weirded out to shave with it anyway.

As you can probably see, the vast majority of these blades are stained, or have a patina.  I love a good patina, not only does it protect the blade, but it shows that the razor has history.  Not just some thing that someone used to shave with at one point but a tool, used for a purpose.  Patina tells a story to me just like the pits and scratches on the old shotguns and rifles that I restore(another blog post for another time).  Who am I to take that away just to make the metal more aesthetically pleasing to someone else?  But, that is just one man's opinion.

So try it out.  If not straight shaving, at least try making your own lather.  But watch out, it is just as easy to get addicted to acquiring new soap, creams, and brushes as it is new razors.  Right now I have three different soaps, two different creams, two double edge razors, eight straight razors, two complete brushes and two vintage brush handles that need new knots.  To make it worse, that is considered pretty bush league compared to some of the collectors (read addicts) out there.

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