05-08-2013, 01:58 PM
#1
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Preface:
I picked up a cheap Gold Dollar straight in the hopes of figuring out this whole process. I received a nice linen / leather strop from a friend, and thought I was all set. I checked out the youtube videos on straight shaving and gave it a go. Oh my. Not at all good. A couple more shaves and it was just a mess. I just gave up and went back to my trusty Joris razors.

There has been a brief flood of straights up for sale lately, and my hero Obie pointed out a couple good for beginner straights, and since we're only a couple hours apart, offered to host me at his house for an in person tutorial. This is a record of my journey to use nothing but straight razors for 7 days. No touchups allowed with anything but the straights.

Below is my daily journey.

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 05-08-2013, 01:58 PM
#2
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Day 1)

I chose not to shave the day before so that when I had my lesson it would be obvious where I was doing well and where I was missing. I arrived at Obie's lovely home around 11:15am and got to meet his wonderful family. If you have not yet had a chance to deal with Obie, I highly suggest you take the time to say hello to him. Very cordial, very understand and just a wealth of knowledge about shaving, and some interesting non-shaving stories as well.

I purchased a Fromm straight from the forums here from Obie so that was waiting for me in Milwaukee. I packed up my strop and one of my favorite brushes (Semogue SOC 2 band) and headed up. I also brought with me the Gold Dollar I had used twice as he said he'd check the hone.

Well when I arrived Obie set to brewing up a lovely Assyrian style tea for me, and we sat down and had a cup before making our way to his shave den and bathroom. Obie's wife must be very understanding as she gave up the en suite bathroom for Obie and his collection.

Before beginning, Obie walked me through the process. How to strop, the actual best angles to use etc. Luckily I was using the correct holding technique, but that was about it, I was not expecting such a shallow angle of blade for the shave.

I lathered up some AoS Sandlawood soap (the good stuff, the Valbora made stuff) and set to work. Obie was incredible patient. He gave me lots of praise for angle use, pointed out areas where I need to change the angle of attack, and so on. I think I did pretty well on the cheeks with my WTG pass. The neck area was "OK" with a single pass done there as well. Learning the "scooping" technique for the above the lip area was challenging and in all honesty some parts were clean shaven and others still had 2 days growth. The area below the lower lip and above the chin was about the same. Some nice and clean, other areas ….. not so much. Finally I attempted to tackle the chin / jawbone area. OK, this did not go so well. I just could not get the proper angle down. I just stopped there as I had yet to nick myself and to me that was a good start.

I lathered up for a second pass, and honestly cannot remember if I did a WTG or XTG on my cheeks with the second pass. I did my neck WTG once again, and at that point since I was nervous, I called it quotes for the first lesson. The lib / chin / jawbone area didn't look so good. Some clean areas, others still had two days growth. On the bright side, no nicks, cuts, or jugular slashing.

Obie was very gracious and showed me his entire collection. Oh my ….. so many good lookers.

I did pick up a second straight from him, an ~1850s square point by Worsterholm. I think it'll be a few days before I try that one out.

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 05-08-2013, 01:58 PM
#3
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Day 2)

Today was more relaxed for me. No offense to Obie who was wonderful, but it was just me, getting into the zone and putting to use what Obie had taught me. I opted to once again scuttle lather. I chose Proraso Green with matching pre-shave. IT's hot here today and I thought it would be refreshing. I paired it up with a 2010 Semogue LE Silvertip and once again the Fromm. I tried to do the best I could stropping the blade, I think it was probably "fair" at best.

I lathered up and went to work. A nice and easy WTG pass down each cheek using the right hand for the right cheek and left hand for the left cheek. I moved to the neck and did a WTG pass there as well. I took my time with the lip area and chin area. I somehow managed two very minor nicks between the chin and the lower lip, but I know one of those was a pimple forming from the sweat of the last couple days. I somehow managed to do the jawline and get rid of what was now three days growth without incident. I relathered and did an XTG pass on my cheeks, a hybrid XTG / WTG on the upper lip and the same on the lower lip / chin area. For the neck line I did an upwards pass which I know for most folks is probably an ATG pass but for me and the way my hair grows it's partially XTG and partially ATG. A final XTG touchup on the jawline and I rinsed.

Not bad, I could still feel some stubble, but it was nothing anyone could see. There are a couple dozen hairs literally at the very start of my lips which I missed, but I decided a third pass would be pushing it for my second day.

This is definitely a much more of a thinking shave, than my DE shaves which depending on the razor I could do blindfolded. 2 days down, 5 to go on my quest for seven days of nothing but the straights.

[Image: F5EIvaw.jpg]

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 05-08-2013, 01:59 PM
#4
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Day 3

Well like a small child on Christmas day I had to use a different razor today after 2 days with the Fromm. I recall from a few years ago that switching razors while learning the nuances of DE shaving was a bad idea, but I just had to try something different.

Today I chose a George Worsterholm Wedge with a muted square point. I paired this up with my custom Shavemac D01 2-band and Martin de Candre. I chose to face lather as the last couple days have been bowl lathering and I wished to return to my more standard routine.

What can I say, switching to the square point was most likely not a good idea. Overall I was able to produce a decent shave, my cheeks are nice and smooth. My neckline is not as smooth as yesterday but it is quite passable. My jawline ..... well some areas are awesome, others I really want to grab my Joris to do some touch up.

So that was the good part. The not so good part, while using my non dominant hand (left) to do the XTG on my left cheek I had that moment when you know you've used too much pressure and the voice in your head goes $#!*. The square point although muted caught me. I knew it did. There was no blood and for after a minute you start thinking .... hmmm ok I got lucky. Well not so much. The blood did come. Nothing horrid, I am not scared or anything, but it certainly is worse than anything I have received even from my first use of an R41. My second oh nuts moment hit when I started doing the XTG pass on my upper lip. I literally just set the blade against the lip but at a very wrong angle (90 degrees, yes I am an idiot). I didn't even start to shave, but I knew it was a mistake. Say this for Obie, he hones a sharp blade. Biggrin I went ahead and finished up the lip and chin area without further incident and then put the razor down. A rather stingy use of alum, followed by a final rinse and a splash of Alt Innsbruck did the trick.

Things learned today. 1) As thick as a straight blade looks, it can do just as much damage as the thinnest Feather blade, and you won't feel it either. 2) I've got to start using my left hand for things, or learn to shave my entire face with my right hand and a straight. 3) My lather remains too dry. I never really notice this when DE shaving as each pass is relatively quick, but with the time I am taking using the straights, the lather is drying on my face before I can get to each area. Perhaps lathering in sections is the way to get around this for now.

That's it for today, tomorrow back to the Fromm. (BTW, I have two more razors coming from Obie so I should be able to get them both in before the seven day adventure ends).

[Image: tvPSx6f.jpg]

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 05-08-2013, 01:59 PM
#5
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Day 4

I woke up this morning and my face was still feeling a bit haggard from yesterday's shave. The right side of my face near my ear was particularly itchy. I assume I was a bit too rough in this area with the square point yesterday. The nick on my upper lip is gone, but man oh man, the one on my left cheek is larger than I remember. It's a good inch long.

Anyway, on to today's shave. I have had a complete original formula Art of Shaving Sandalwood cream, pre-shave oil and balm sitting on a shelf waiting for me to put it up for sale. I decided to reach for it as I thought that maybe a soothing pre-shave oil would help me in this journey. I grabbed the Fromm round point.

I set the brush to soaking, filled both halves of my LadySea scuttle with piping hot water, washed my face and popped on the pre-shave oil. I then set out to strop the Fromm. While I am sure Obie or other pros would have found a million things I did wrong stropping, what I will say is this. I think I did a decent job of "rolling" the blade back and forth, as time went on I started getting better at the X pattern, and most importantly I didn't "catch" the blade on either the linen side or the leather side.

I won't go into much detail on the shave itself, overall it went OK. Not great, not horrible. One tiny nick on my chin, but it was healed up by the time I rinsed. I did between 2 and 3 passes today. I managed to get almost everything around the lip line today and the only thing I do notice is that I wish I was confident enough for ATG work on the cheeks. I'm not comfortable enough for that yet, so there is some stubble when rubbing ATG on my cheeks.

I will note two items. First, the round point does allow me to feel a bit more comfortable with the process. After yesterday I am a bit less concerned about gouging my skin with the round point as opposed to the square point. Secondly, man I love the singing of the full hollow of this Fromm compared to the wedge I used yesterday.

Overall, not a bad shave. While again not perfect, I am 100% presentable for public display.

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 05-08-2013, 01:59 PM
#6
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Day 5

OK, technically this is day 6 as I took a day off from shaving. On Saturday I received 3 straights from Obie. The first being my original Gold Dollar 208 which I could not get to give me a decent shave to save my life. Obie checked out the edge and deemed to not a good hone / edge and said he'd re-hone it for me. Upon receipt Obie informed me that it took a lot of effort to get a good edge on the 208. Why do I mention all of this????? Well ......

Today's choices of gear were the Gold Dollar 208, my SOC 2-band, Mike's Hungarian Lavender and Lavanda AS. I will say I was looking forward to shaving today after my off day on Saturday. However, this shave was poor from the get go. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not get a good angle. Lots of tugging on the beard from the very first stroke. Honestly it never improved. Three passes in, and it felt like I had barely made a single pass. One very minor nick on the upper lip, but after three passes and a ton of time, I had to go as this is Mother's Day after all and I had places to be. Aside from my first day of shaving at Obie's this was by far the worst shave I have had. I don't think my technique reverted back to caveman days and for now I am going to put this off on a cheap Chinese razor, but tomorrow will tell if it was the razor or the operator.

[Image: QiBUqWf.jpg]

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 05-08-2013, 01:59 PM
#7
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Day 6 (Monday)

Well, yes, I am writing this on Tuesday. Monday was very busy for me. Getting straight (pun intended) to the shave........

I chose my new John Williams 5/8 hollow round point for the shave. I paired that with a nice scrubby Semogue SOC 2012 LE as I was also doing a P.160 review at the same time.

I am already beginning to notice weight differences between different razors. The John Williams feels remarkably light. I continue to struggle with the left hand portion of things. To me this is odd as I was born left handed, but parochial elementary schools in the 60s thought this was the work of the devil or something as they forced everyone including me to make our right hands dominant.

The shave was generally good. I didn't manage to slice myself open or anything, one nick if I recall which I think overall isn't too bad. This was a two pass shave and I honestly was glad to have it over with. I am missing the simplicity of my Joris shaves right now. I know I have to keep working with the straights to get to that point as the Joris took time to master as well. After rinsing my face I noticed areas of "missed" hair, but as I was not going anywhere for the day other than taking Grace for a walk I decided to not push things. She never complains about stubble when licking my face.

Overall not a horrible shave but also not the smoothest. There was a decent amount of stinging from the AS. So far the Otto Fromm is my favorite razor in my current lineup.

[Image: M9mncpi.jpg]

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 05-08-2013, 01:59 PM
#8
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Day 7

Well for those of you following along, you know I had a miserable shave with my square point Worsterholm Wedge. A major slice on my face from where I was careless and the square point while muted still managed to catch me. I've been avoiding square points since then. I did however promise Obie I would use every one of my straights over this trial period. So for the last day of my 7 day adventure I chose my remaining straight a Wade and Butcher square point full hollow. I paired this up with MdC.

Initial thoughts were that this felt great in my hand. I don't know what it is, but it just felt at home. I did the majority of my passes and strokes with my dominant hand. It took me quite some time to remember to switch off hands. My GF and I are going to see The Great Gatsby at the early show, and I wanted to look particularly good today. I took my time and made three full passes. The last pass and a half on the left side were done with my left hand, but again, it just does not feel natural and will take me time to remember to switch hands.

I had no issues with this square point. I don't know if it is just a more forgiving razor, or the fact I was subconsciously more careful but I came away nick free. I managed to clean up all the little stray hairs around my lips, this is one area I have been looking forward to using my Joris for tomorrow, but there is nothing to clean up now. My cheeks are somewhere between a DFS and BBS. There is minor stubbling on the ATG pass when I feel my face, but considering I didn't do an ATG pass that is pretty good. The only complaint I have is that the left side of my neck is suffering a major case of razor burn. Lots of stinging still going on from the Alt Innsbruck.

So what have I learned from all of this? Can I shave with a straight and get a good result? YES! As of today is this my preferred way to shave? No. Will I continue this journey? No doubt. I am not sure yet what I will use tomorrow, but at the moment I am thinking I will use the Wade and Butcher again which considering as recently as Monday I could not wait for Wednesday to get here so I could use my Joris .... this must mean progress was made today.

I actually have three more razors coming my way due to a trade I have made, and I am looking forward to trying out 2 of the 3. Obie has received them and is honing them this week, but he reports my 4/8 Hearwing is more like a 3/8 which is a tad scary to me. That's awfully narrow.

[Image: of5NDyA.jpg]

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 05-08-2013, 06:31 PM
#9
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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Awesome start!

Stick with it.

It's a delicate balance of confident progress and feather light touch.. And use copious skin stretching. Makes a HUGE difference for me.

Nice that you and Obie can get together


Posted from somewhere east of Montauk

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 05-08-2013, 10:53 PM
#10
  • Johnny
  • Super Moderator
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Way to go Doug. Hang in there and soon you will be a master.

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 05-09-2013, 02:07 AM
#11
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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(05-08-2013, 01:58 PM)wingdo Wrote: This is definitely a much more of a thinking shave, than my DE shaves which depending on the razor I could do blindfolded.

Doug, this is exactly why I decided to try straights.. My DE shaves are on automatic. The results are fantastic, but lost is the zen-like experience. Zen might be strong, but I bet every one of you gents and ladies know what I mean.

Really looking forward to your next installment.

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 05-09-2013, 07:21 AM
#12
  • Johnny
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  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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I think the main part of my "zen" takes place in the preparation. Putting the blade on the face (no matter which razor I choose) is just the icing on the cake.

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 05-09-2013, 07:30 AM
#13
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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Hi Doug

Nice write up and I look forward to reading the remaining "reserve" posts...

Take care, Mike

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 05-09-2013, 09:14 AM
#14
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(05-09-2013, 07:21 AM)Johnny Wrote: I think the main part of my "zen" takes place in the preparation. Putting the blade on the face (no matter which razor I choose) is just the icing on the cake.

I have to agree with this Johnny. On the days I want a nice calming Zen-like experience. While Zen in the most proper context is a specific branch of Buddhism, even practitioners will tell you Zen is a state of mind. The prep time, (stropping if you use a straight), setting everything up just right for you, the entire ritual ...... It can be very Zen-like. When you reach that spot where you are able to tune out everything from the outside world except the moment you are living in .... that is as good as it gets.

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 05-09-2013, 09:43 AM
#15
  • Johnny
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  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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In reference to your day three shave, this is the exact reason I prefer round point straights. The square point does have certain advantages, but sometimes the risk outweigh the reward.

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 05-09-2013, 10:11 AM
#16
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Well, when you're teaching your hands to do something new, you have to really focus on learning the task at hand. Once you master the task, then the zen aspect can come into it's own.

While shaving, I am very concentrated and in the moment. Very focused.

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 05-09-2013, 10:19 AM
#17
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(05-09-2013, 09:43 AM)Johnny Wrote: In reference to your day three shave, this is the exact reason I prefer round point straights. The square point does have certain advantages, but sometimes the risk outweigh the reward.

Well I have two more razors coming from Obie One round point one square point. If I cannot master the square points, there will be a couple very nice reasonably priced square points going up in BST in a few months. I do hope to be able to get it down, but it's going to be more challenging than the round points, that is for sure.

(05-09-2013, 10:11 AM)asharperrazor Wrote: While shaving, I am very concentrated and in the moment. Very focused.

You are spot on there Lee. As I said, with some DE razors I literally could get a good shave blindfolded. Even my beloved Joris razors, while concentration is required, my mind can wander while shaving without any issues. Not going to be the case with the straights. Ever. Overall today's shave (day 3 above) was OK. Neither nick is terrible, and both nicks taught me something. I think that is all one can hope for. Learn something from a mistake and don't leave a visible scar. Tongue

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 05-09-2013, 11:29 AM
#18
  • MikekiM
  • Senior Member
  • Long Island, NY
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(05-08-2013, 01:59 PM)wingdo Wrote: Perhaps lathering in sections is the way to get around this for now.

I've made the decision to do this.. Or more so, relather my neck and chin before proceeding to shave there. Seems the lesser evil to a runny lather.

Square points scare the begeezus out of me.



Sent from East of Montauk

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 05-09-2013, 11:36 AM
#19
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I have found that lathering in sections is often the only way to get through a shave without ending up with dried out lather at the end. There are a few soaps that stay wet no matter how long I take, but those are the exception and not the rule (RazoRock Napoleon's Violet and Vitos Extra Super spring to mind).

My razor is a square point, it caught me a few times, but it also made me pay better attention. Square point aren't evil, they just like to keep you focused.

Sent from my Transformer using Xparent Cyan Tapatalk 2

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 05-09-2013, 11:52 AM
#20
  • Obie
  • Senior Member
  • Glendale, Wisconsin
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Doug,

You are doing fine, my friend. Stay with it. We've all been where you are. We've all clunked along like a peg-legged pirate. It's part of the straight razor experience. Part of the journey. Not long from now, when one morning everything seems to flow like a leaf on a quiet stream, you'll pull a fist and yell a big "Yes."
Now some thoughts:

Hold your razor as if holding a bird. If you squeeze it too hard, you'll choke the bird. If your grip is too light, the bird will fly away. Keep your grip somewhere in the middle. This also gives you a chance maneuver the razor better in your hand.

The George Wostenholm is an 11/16 wedge with a muted square point. The Otto Fromm is a 5/8 hollow ground round point. Different worlds. Each requires a specific technique. For the wedge, opt for a more shallow angle by lowering the spine a wee bit. Short strokes. Zero pressure. Many cuts happen when the razor is put on the face: often too hard. Always look for a soft landing.

The Wostenholm is also a heavy razor; therefore, you must compensate for this by keeping the pressure as light as possible. The razor's weight is all the pressure you need. On the other hand, the Fromm is a light razor. Here, too, you must compensate by not forcing the blade hard on your face. Balance is essential in straight razor shaving.

Stretch. I even stretch with the double edge.

I am an advocate of switching hands: right side right hand, left side left hand, and in parts crossing over. There is no rule that dictates switching hands. Many shavers use their dominant hand only and they do admirably. Nothing wrong with that. I, however, prefer switching hands for a number of reasons: Good field of vision, and a good way to improvise.

This requires training your non-dominant hand from the moment you decide to shave straight. I did from the first shave. Sometimes when I think about it, I pull a fist and yell "Yes." So start using your non-dominant hand for all the mundane activities: opening cabinet doors, brushing teeth, unscrewing bottles, and so on. I still do it, although by now using my left hand has become a habit.

There is more to shaving with the straight razor than removing facial hair. Each element requires its own skill: stropping, shaving, switching hands, honing, and so on. It's a colorful ritual that incongruous to today's fast food pace and mentality. It's natural for me, for I am a man of the 19th century. That I belong there. After all, I often feel that way, as if I had lived in the 19th century in my previous life. What better reminder of my time back then than a daily shave with brush, soap and straight razor?

There is a lot more to say about straight razor shaving. That for another time. For now, I am proud of you picking up the straight razor and following one stroke with another.

If I may suggest this: One week is not enough to get a taste of straight razor shaving. Because during the first week you're struggling so much that it's hard to get a full taste. Why not make it two weeks? Because by the second week you'll realize how much you've improved and really begin to enjoy your shave. Why not make it a month's journal? You're under no obligation to finish your task in one week.

Either way, you've already accomplished quite a bit. Every day you'll enrich your life even more. Don't think about selling the square points already. That's a defeatist attitude, my friend. Instead learn to embrace each razor for what it is.

One thing at time. Little by little. One short stroke after another.

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