04-25-2014, 10:35 AM
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A lot of discussion has gone on in various threads and posting about why razor and blade combinations seem to work differently for different individuals. Now the first two and in my view most important components of shaving concern the skin/beard type and the technique that has been mastered by the shaver. The dermatological and technique points are very large areas to discuss and is not the focus of this discourse which is Safety Razors and Blades.

Here are some of the issues that affect what is called aggressiveness or mildness of a razor.

1. Blade Gap - The gap between the cap (doors for TTO) and the base plate, or space from the head top and base in case of SEs and Injector razors. This allows space for the hair to protrude in front of the cutting edge in order to be cut. A larger gap allows more skin/hair to come into contact with the cutting edge of the blade. Different gap sizes allow one method of increasing or decreasing the amount of blade exposure to the skin. That gap is the element of adjustment on most "adjustable" DE razors.

2. Head Curvature - This is the curve of the head. That is the pivot that allows you to create the blade angle of approach (or flatness in terms of SEs and Injectors).

3. Blade Guard. This guarding apparatus is what supposedly makes a razor a "safety razor." This is often referred as the Comb or Guard Bar types by many users. If the blade guard has teeth that have open spaces (open gaps) that is an Open Comb. If it has ridges (teeth that are not gapped) that is considered to be a Closed Comb. If the gaps in the teeth seem to be more of a web shape (which are not quite totally gapped or closed) it is generally called a Hybrid Comb. Razors that have guards that are a straight bar providing space between the razor and the skin are called Guard Bar razors. There can be more variations but these are ones that are most commonly referred to. The type of guard can be used in combination with the blade gap to either accentuate or reduce the level of exposure to the skin.

4. Weight of Head and size matching of head to plate. How much the head and weighs (cap/doors and base plate combined for DEs) can quickly change the center of gravity of a razor which will be discussed below. Size matching is where the size (width) of the cap/doors is changed relative to the size base plate. This can be used to increase or decrease blade exposure to the skin as well as gaps and guard types. Size matching can also be seen on various SE and Injector variants (top versus plate) to allow more or less blade exposure.

5. Handle Length - How long the handle is. That acts as a lever. The longer the handle, the more precision angle you can make since it take more motion to create angle changes at the head. A short handle will react with a greater angle change because it takes less physical difference to move the head at an angle.

6. Center of Gravity - This is where the entire razor (head and handle) if held on a single point would balance. If the center of gravity moves forward toward the head, it can apply more pressure so that is important. A hollow handle and a solid handle will cause two razors of the same size with the same head and materials to have different centers of gravity.

7. Material types can also affect the aggressiveness of a razor. Heavier metal razors will react differently than lighter plastic razors of the same design and dimensions.

There are more areas beyond this that I have not listed. This seems like a large amount of information to digest, but the design of mechanical items is not always straight forward. That is why there were so many different variant designs just on the double edge razor alone from the 1900s until now. Throw in SEs and Injectors and the lists gets much longer. Hundreds and hundreds of small tweaks to larger variations to the various designs are documented pictorially in various books and articles on this subject that provide greater detail than what can be afforded here.

Now that we have discussed razors, there is more to a blade than simply sharpness that affects a shave.

1. The consistency of the edge is critical to the smoothness of a blade. You can have honing that produces the sharpest edge in the world that could cut a hair easily but if it is an irregular edge, caused by inconsistent stropping, and that sharpness will be your worse nightmare. Smoothness is accomplished by the accuracy and consistency of stropping pattern produced at the factory and the composition of the blade material as well. The balance of sharpness and smoothness is a serious

2. The hardness of the edge is what provides longevity to the blade, but also reduces absolute sharpness (life cycle versus absolute sharpness). You can have sharpness without smoothness which leads to irritated and skin nicks and cuts. You can have smoothness with limited sharpness which leads to a blade that last only a couple of shaves.

3. Various blade alloys also contribute to the blades life and handling. Generally carbon steel blades will provide a nice smooth shave for maybe the first couple of shaves and then will quickly dull and rust. Stainless steel blades, using mixtures of metals nickel, magnesium, chromium, tungsten, titanium, etc. to produce various alloys, allow for a harder stronger steel to be produced that is much more resistant to rusting. The harder steel allows an edge to be retained longer than carbon steel.

4. Coatings or lack of coatings also contribute to the blades life and handling. Coatings can serve two purposes, to provide and even harder edge to the blade, or to reduce friction while shaving. Some blades use stainless steel and then a coating of nickel, chromium, tungsten, titanium, ceramics, etc. are applied to increase supposedly increase smoothness and strength at the edge of the blade. Coatings such as Silicone, Ceramics, and PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene or Teflon DuPont Trade Mark name for PTFE) are used to reduce friction between the blade and the skin to allow the edge to move more freely during the hair cutting process. Please note that some individuals have skin sensitivities to various coatings and metals so that will also need to be taken in account by some when finding the right blade. Blade samplers are recommended for these reasons.

Lastly what can be some of the impacts of just one razor and a variety of blades can be seen on a study I did for myself some time ago which shows the variations and why it is important to find the right blade and razor for more successful shaves.

http://shavenook.com/thread-de-blade-cha...arts-added

The following two links are contained within the link above. This provides quicker access.

https://sites.google.com/site/gdcarringt...allenge-ii

https://sites.google.com/site/gdcarringt...i-addendum

The ideal strike is to have a sharp enough blade with a hard enough edge to last at least 3 to 5 shaves with a very consistent stropping pattern to allow you the smoothness to enjoy the shave.

Even though this is not an exhaustive view of these two topics, I hope this thread provides helpful information to the Traditional Shaver using Safety Razors and Blades.

Thanks for viewing.

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 04-25-2014, 01:34 PM
#2
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Gary, thanks for sharing such a detailed and informative post! Smile

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 04-25-2014, 01:47 PM
#3
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wonderful! what a great post Smile

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 04-25-2014, 02:09 PM
#4
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Good post and valuable. Sorry, but I don't have time to check the links. Maybe I missed something. Sorry if I did, my fault entirely.
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Well, yes and no. Generally I'm in agreement, but I get up to 20 shaves per SE blade (GEM SE ptfe) and I still don't know why. It's been discussed elsewhere. I suspect the superior lubrication from ultralather is responsible. But I don't make that sort of lather for blade life, but for my skin and the shave.

Too, proper care of a carbon steel blade will resist rusting. In my tests I actually thought I had a SS blade installed because it didn't rust for weeks (using it once a week), then at the end of the test I discovered it actually was a carbon steel blade. I thought it was a SS blade before the end of the test. I think water quality has an effect on this. Chlorinated water is acidic and promotes rusting. At least that's my contention, but for a fact chlorinated water is acidic (HCl). FWIW my water is soft, non chlorinated or anything else.

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 04-25-2014, 04:22 PM
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Thanks. Generally if a person is not getting a minimum of 3 to 5 shaves something is highly unusual. The person may have a super tough hair or is using a blade like the Feather that has very highly tuned edge to the exclusion of longevity or both. Injectors and SEs are thicker and should last longer, but I hear a range of differences of how long they last as well depending upon brand and type of steel used (again carbon versus stainless). Depends upon the user.

Water acidity does contribute to how long before a carbon blade will rust, but under the same conditions a stainless will require much longer exposure before rust sets in.

I wish that my water was soft and non chlorinated or anything else in it. I have hard, high calcium levels, chlorinated private water company water. The only option really is filtering which removes a little of these items or distilled water in a jug. In reality that is not that much of an issue to complain too much about. Biggrin

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 04-26-2014, 03:49 AM
#6
  • Elendil
  • Raggedy man, good night
  • The snow's back.
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Thanks for an excellent post, Gary. The last, and IMO, most critical factor is shaver experience. My ability to confidently use any DE razor is like night and day compared to when I started. Being able to judge whether any blade is smooth or sharp radically changes over time. It is one of the reasons why I think we do new wet shavers a disservice if we tell them to get a blade sampler pack right off the bat. I think every new shaver should choose a widely regarded good performer, like Astras, and stick with them for a month or two before searching for the ultimate blade. It is much easier to make that evaluation when all of the fundamental techniques have been established first.

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 04-26-2014, 04:57 AM
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(04-26-2014, 03:49 AM)Elendil Wrote: Thanks for an excellent post, Gary. The last, and IMO, most critical factor is shaver experience. My ability to confidently use any DE razor is like night and day compared to when I started. Being able to judge whether any blade is smooth or sharp radically changes over time. It is one of the reasons why I think we do new wet shavers a disservice if we tell them to get a blade sampler pack right off the bat. I think every new shaver should choose a widely regarded good performer, like Astras, and stick with them for a month or two before searching for the ultimate blade. It is much easier to make that evaluation when all of the fundamental techniques have been established first.

Thanks Bob.

I follow the reverse of that and I have discussed this in times past for this reason. "Some individuals have skin sensitivities to various coatings and metals so that will also need to be taken in account by some when finding the right blade." One persons dream blade Astra, can and is another persons nightmare blade and due to skin issues that may never change even when that person's technique becomes solid. That viewpoint comes from numerous discussions on various forum postings about blades. Astra Green Blades (instead of Astra Blue blades or Astra Keramiks which are no longer made), are liked by many and disliked by many, so I can't go and say that off the bat to a new user who needs to find the blade that works best for them. I also view razors and blades as a system so matching to the blade to the razor may also be necessary. One blade may work well for one razor and may not work well for another. Now I avoided the subject of skin types and technique because the discussion about hardware properties only.

I do agree about technique building very strongly, but after a suitable initial blade is found that the user can use with confidence with the razor they have. I defined a rule given to me loosely when I started Traditional Shaving and call it THE 30 DAY RULE.

THE 30 DAY RULE goes as follows: Find a razor, then a blade that will not cause issues with your skin (that may take a few different blades in a sampler pack to find a suitable choice or it maybe the first out of the gate) and select a soap or cream that is easy to generate good lather. Once you find those, and it may take a couple of weeks to find this combination, order a quantity of that blade enough for 30 days, and then spend 30 days using nothing else until you build up your technique. (Note that only one brand blade is used for 30 days after each blade or some blades in the sampler pack is tested to make the decision on the blade brand to use for 30 days.) The 30 day clock starts when you have the right blade for you.

After 30 days, change one and only one variable and work for another week then change another after another week. At that point you should be able to make better decisions because your technique is now in place.

That allows the early user to find a blade they can use daily and then stock up with a couple or three packs of those blades, one razor, one brush, and one lather. The 30 days of technique building begins.

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

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 04-26-2014, 09:16 AM
#8
  • Elendil
  • Raggedy man, good night
  • The snow's back.
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That's a fair approach as well, Gary. The general point is the same, get comfortable with technique before going crazy with mixing and matching. Personally, I went through 11 blades before settling on my first one. Now, they all work fine, but some are more comfortable than others.

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 04-26-2014, 09:49 AM
#9
  • freddy
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  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Gary, this is an excellent discussion so thank you for starting it.

I must say that what had me persevere to find technique, razor, and blade combinations was the very first time I was "brave enough" ( Rolleyes ) to use a DE razor. Although there may have been a few nicks, I was amazed at the smoothness of the shave and how long the shave lasted. This is what truly encouraged me to find what worked for me. (That, and realizing that I was not going to bleed out. 24 ) Because of that, my technique constantly improved and now, with many razors and blades at my disposal, I know what works and what doesn't. Isn't it true that the first step is always the hardest?

Again, thank you for a well thought out thread that has engendered a lot of great posts. Thumbsup

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 04-26-2014, 10:10 AM
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(04-26-2014, 09:49 AM)freddy Wrote: Gary, this is an excellent discussion so thank you for starting it.

I must say that what had me persevere to find technique, razor, and blade combinations was the very first time I was "brave enough" ( Rolleyes ) to use a DE razor. Although there may have been a few nicks, I was amazed at the smoothness of the shave and how long the shave lasted. This is what truly encouraged me to find what worked for me. (That, and realizing that I was not going to bleed out. 24 ) Because of that, my technique constantly improved and now, with many razors and blades at my disposal, I know what works and what doesn't. Isn't it true that the first step is always the hardest?

Again, thank you for a well thought out thread that has engendered a lot of great posts. Thumbsup

Thanks Freddy!

This thread was really sparked by what people see and discuss the most which is hardware. Soaps / Creams / AS / Fragrances are the next most discussed item but that may take several threads and people more into those areas that I am to discuss them. That hardware fixation is especially heavy for new users who simply don't know what they don't know but need to find out fast. Generally, but not always, the new user comes in tentative to the entire endeavor and begins to ask a lot of questions without focus. I remember going through same thing when I got started and I was concerned with getting very inexpensive hardware just in case I did not like Traditional Shaving. What happened was I stuck with the very inexpensive hardware, found the right blade at the time, and used some advice I received which I later fully developed into what later would become the 30 Day Rule listed above. That is when I developed what is something that cannot be seen or touched, but in my opinion is more important than hardware and software, which is technique. I learned to lather using a puck of current Williams until I used it up. That provided me the skills to be able to master most soaps and creams (even many considered hard to lather). I think if a person starts with very modest gear it forces the new Traditional Shaver to work on technique instead of letting expensive hardware serve as a crutch allowing bad habits to become entrenched.

I had wished something like this existed when I got started. The goal is a comprehensive, but not an overly exhaustive guide, for both newbies and more veteran users to allow for better communication and understanding. I hope this achieves its goal.

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 04-26-2014, 10:47 AM
#11
  • freddy
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  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Gary, for my first razor, I started off with an inexpensive Weishi; remember those? Smile Just as you state, because it was my one and only, I built up my technique on it and while I no longer use it, it will remain in my collection as a wonderful reminder of a first step away from cartridge razors.

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 04-26-2014, 12:03 PM
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(04-26-2014, 10:47 AM)freddy Wrote: Gary, for my first razor, I started off with an inexpensive Weishi; remember those? Smile Just as you state, because it was my one and only, I built up my technique on it and while I no longer use it, it will remain in my collection as a wonderful reminder of a first step away from cartridge razors.

Remember it, that aluminum Weishi was my first DE razor and I still have mine as well.

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 04-26-2014, 05:33 PM
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When I came back to DE shaving after not doing it for about 40 years, I got a Merkur model 180. Other than the fact that I was pressing too hard which caused me great irritation I had no problem. Did not draw blood at all. Unfortunately I was using what I now feel is the worst blade in the world, a Merkur. Once I changed to a Feather blade I had no problem.
I find little difference in blades with Merkur being the only exception. Even with different razors, most blades feel the same to me. I think the biggest factor that effects your shave is proper technique. All else matters little. Without proper technique you are not going to get a smooth shave and it will feel aggressive.

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 04-28-2014, 03:10 PM
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Part of technique is a proper understanding of the tools you are using. Two issues that can cause some people to sense very little difference in blades is the razor they use (some razors are much more blade sensitive than others) and the skin type of the person using the razor, but again technique was not the focus of this overview. That is a whole large topic in and of itself.

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 05-04-2014, 02:33 PM
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To all who have read this I hope it provides solid information you can use in the future. Thanks!

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