Safety Razor Update!
My first post about shaving with a safety razor was 12 July 2014. So, it’s been roughly two and a half years ago since I’ve started this journey. It’s something now that I don’t even have to think about; it’s part of my routine. But, like a lot of hobbies, one can get really sucked into all the “stuff” that goes along with it—new soaps, aftershaves, blades, brushes, and, of course, razors. I now have 6 safety razors (and I’ve given away some as gifts) but I only use a couple with any regularity. I still have my Maggard MR18 but I also have the MR1 handle (it’s shorter). The MR1 is my “go to” razor. The shorter handle of the MR1, for me, offers more control and maneuvering around the contours of my face. I also have an Open Comb head (OC) that works on either handle. The Open Comb head allows for more blade exposure and more cream/soap and hair to escape the razor. I generally use the OC when I haven’t shaved for several days. I also have a small travel razor from Merkur, a German company (I got it at a flea market for $2! I know!), a really old Gillette that I don’t know the model of (I’ve only used it about half-a-dozen times), and a 1965 Gillette twist-to-open I received Christmas 2015.
A couple of the razors I see a lot of YouTube shavers use are the Gillette “Slim Adjustable” and the Gillette “Fatboy”. These razors are twist-to-open (TTO) and adjustable, meaning you can adjust how much the blade is exposed. Since I watch a lot of shaving videos (as I said in that first post, they’re therapeutic, and Paul and Kevy are hilarious) I’ve been wanting to get one of these razors and I’m always on the lookout for one when perusing vintage stores or flea markets.
The other day, while my wife was checking out the gemstones at a local gem show, I ventured into a large flea market in an adjacent building. After going through almost the entire building, I stumbled upon a woman who had just what I was looking for—a Slim and a Fatboy! I picked up the Slim first and looked it over carefully. I noted that one of the hinges was bent. This allowed more blade exposure at the end of one side but everything else worked fine. I then picked up the Fatboy. And now I knew why it was given that name—that little guy was heavy! All of the parts seemed to work, too—the TTO knob worked fine, the doors opened and closed without issue, the adjustable piece twisted and “clicked” at the different stages of 1-9. It even had the little red indicator showing which setting the blade was on. I decided on the Fatboy and paid the lady her asking price of $10.
I purchased this knowing that it was in good working condition (as far as I could tell) and that I was sending it to Razor Emporium for their “Tune Up” service. So, I mailed it off and waited with bated breath…
The people at Razor Emporium are the best! I got email notifications about the whole process—when they received my razor; when it was checked in; when it passed inspection; when it was placed in queue; when it made it to the technician working on it; the condition of the plating (some of the nickel was very worn); and when it shipped back to me. I loved the way they kept me informed throughout the task. I highly recommend their services. They also offer a replating service called “Revamp” where, along with a Tune Up, they’ll re-plate your razor. Whichever service you choose, Razor Emporium sends back your razor cleaned, sanitized, and ready to use.
Here’s some before and after pics:
I’ve been using the Fatboy exclusively now for a few weeks and it’s been fantastic. Every shave seems to get surpass the previous shaves because I’m learning how to handle the razor and settings better. Having an adjustable razor has made a lot of difference in my shaves—I’ve been able to do more passes with less irritation than I normally would. It’s easy to “over-shave”—trying to get the closest possible shave—that leaves my neck red and irritated. Using the Fatboy almost never irritates me. If it does, it’s because I’ve over-shaved an area and not paid attention to the way my skin was feeling.
Wet shaving or DE shaving is a lot like the Buddhist practice of mindfulness. You must be in the present moment and paying attention or suffer the consequences. I know. One morning I was half-asleep and started shaving and not paying attention and cut myself. It wasn’t a deep cut or anything like that, just enough to wake me up and focus my mind on the subject at hand. The whole process of wet shaving is similar to a religious ritual:
First, you must first prepare the face—washing the face with very warm water for several minutes hydrates the skin, opens the pores, and softens and lifts the whiskers.
Next, depending on the bush, you soak the brush and shake or squeeze out the water (you want it wet but not dripping).
Then you create a lather using a shaving cream or soap (I prefer soaps, either Mike’s Natural Soaps or Sterling Soap Company). You can bowl lather—taking a little soap and placing it in a bowl and start lathering—or face lather. I prefer face lathering. Just taking the wet brush and loading it with soap then start lathering it directly on your face (see Nick Shaves for a great example of this technique).
Now you heat the blade under hot water and start the shave. Most people do three passes—with the growth, across the growth, and against the growth—and then “pick ups,” i.e., going over any remaining stubble. I generally only do two passes—with the growth and across the growth—but as I noted above, with the Gillette Fatboy, I was able to do a full three passes and then the pick ups.
The post shave ritual is just as important as the shaving ritual itself. Once I’ve finished the shave, I use Thayer’s Witch Hazel (unscented). Witch hazel is a natural astringent and, given some time, your face will be a lot healthier. It has tons of other benefits, too. If you don’t have it in your bathroom, you’re really missing out!
Next is an aftershave and then a moisturizer. These are personal preferences but are very important to protect your face. After all, you did just glide a razor blade across it!
All of these steps keep a person in the moment. The ritual of shaving one’s face is just that—a ritual. I wouldn’t call it a routine because routine, in my mind, means one can be somewhere else mentally. Ritual infers attention and intention. If either is missing while shaving, well, a sharp blade will bring you right back to the moment.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC