10-09-2014, 09:28 PM
#1
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Perseverance and Giving Products or Techniques a Fair Shot
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As I write this, I'm coming from the point of another revelation of sorts in this wet shaving thing we do.

A couple of months ago I purchased a 1912 styled Treet SE copy of a Gem Junior Parade. You know, the one with the fat, stubby bakelite handle. I had read with glee on the forums devoted to SE razors what a wonderfully mild, smooth and comfortable shave the 1912 head gave, and I looked forward with some anticipation to giving it a go.

I found some Dorco SE blades at a local grocery. They were clearly labeled for use with Single Edge Safety Razors, so I was good to go, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. Shave after shave with this razor was terrible. Tuggy, and very uncomfortable. It felt like I was trying to shave with broken glass. Or a serrated steak knife. Just incredibly uncomfortable, and the razor felt highly aggressive. I was afraid I was going to literally shred my face. Even with the aggressive feeling, it took four passes and a ton of touch up just to get a mildly passable shave.

Understanding that every razor is different, I chalked it up to my unfamiliarity to this razor. "Maybe if I play with the blade angle a bit," I thought. Nothing wrong with the razor, so it's got to be me, right? But shave after shave over the course of a month, or a bit more, and no improvement. So I began to think of this razor as something I was not meant to shave with. "I'll just put it up on the shelf with my other razors. It'll look great beside them. I don't need to shave with it".

Then one day I was at CVS, and finally they had their SE blades in stock. Not made in Korea. American Safety Razor Co. It can't be that simple, can it? But it was. Those blades turned that razor into a smooth, sexy shaver! Just got done with a shave with her tonight, and it was fabulous!

Just in the last day or two, in conversation with an experienced wet shaver, I found that he was having difficulty getting a quality lather from a very popular soap that most say is a champ to lather. It reminded me of a soap early on that I had been PIF'd. It was a Rose scented tallow soap that had been PIF'd to a member of one of the communities I am a member of. I had won a PIF he posted, and he sent it along as a "mystery gift" included with the PIF. He had had it a while, and could not remember where he got it from, only that it was a handmade tallow soap. I tried and tried to lather that soap, but all I got for a couple of months was an airy, bubbly mess that disappeared 30 or 40 seconds after it hit my face. But the Rose scent was lovely, so I kept at it, pulling it out 3 or 4 times a week, and finally, over the long haul, I got a stable, thick lather from it. It lathers as easily as any other soap I have now, and I love it.

I relate these two stories to make a point.

I see posts on the forums all the time from guys who say something like "I tried this blade/razor/soap/brush, etc., etc.,and they are just not for me" Sometimes these are very expensive products, sometimes not. A lot of the more expensive stuff ends up for sale.

I really think we do ourselves a disservice many times by not hanging in there a bit. Case in point for me was the straight razor. Anyone who uses a straight knows that the learning curve is very steep. It is a skill that requires patience and perseverance to aquire. A great many give up and go back to a DE or even an SE. I had my struggles with that blade, too. Again, I'm glad I stuck to it. I cannot imagine not being able to shave with a straight. In fact, in each case above, it was a sheer determination and an attitude that said, "I'm not giving up!", that made the difference. And in each case, I am so very glad that I stuck with it.

Think about this.

We live in an age where patience, and to some degree perseverance toward a goal, is valued less and less. Look at Youtube. If you can't say what you want to in 3 to 7 minutes most people won't watch. They'll move on, even if what is being said has value, they don't have or won't take the time.

For us, as traditional wet shavers, that's one of the things that drew many of us into this hobby. Wet shaving is a chance to slow down, a chance to be a bit meditative. Often we refer to the experience as "zen-like". I really think we should apply this attitude not only to the shave itself, but to the products and techniques as well.

So the next time you have a problem with that razor/blade/soap/brush, slow down. Look at it from a different angle. Try to come at it from a different point of view. Or set it aside and think about it a while before you pick it up and try again. You just might find something wonderful. Will that always be the case? Probably not.

But look at it this way.

We call ourselves traditional wet shavers. We liken what we do to what our grandfathers and great grandfathers did. Yet, you see a lot of posts from time to time asking how the older generation got along with one type of razor, one choice of blade, or soap, or the cheap brushes available at the local drug store.

Perseverance is the answer. They did not have all the options we do, so they stuck with what they had and made it work. Again, an anecdote from my own experience.

When I was 13 or 14 and just starting to shave, I started with a Gillette DE, a can of Barbasol, and the only DE blades available in my neck of the woods, Wilkinson Sword. I shaved with them for 10 years or more, and got good, comfortable shaves from them. I didn't complain about whether the blades were sharp or smooth, and then go looking for a different one. There was nothing else in my little one horse town. So, I made it work. I adapted, stopped worrying about it, and got on with the shave.

Now I'm not saying that all the choices we have nowadays is a bad thing. Indeed, vive la difference, as far as I'm concerned. But all that variety out there actually just reinforces the idea in my mind that a bit of perseverance before I chuck something out of my shave den just might be a good thing. It just might lead to the discovery of something else I don't want to be without.
Another little anecdote, if I may?

When I was younger, my Dad was in the Army, so we moved alot. I'd just get done making friends, when here I was in another school, having to start all over. And guess what? Some of the guys who ended up being my greatest friends started out as enemies. I mean, we locked horns the first time we met, and it was the mutual respect discovered in a fight with each other that brought us together and formed a lasting bond between us.

So, if you run across a product or technique that doesn't work the first couple of times, don't surrender. Stay and fight a bit. You just might find a lifelong friend.

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 10-10-2014, 12:36 AM
#2
  • Johnny
  • MODERATOR EMERITUS
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Well stated Mike.

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 10-10-2014, 01:01 AM
#3
  • BobH
  • Senior Member
  • Thunder Bay Canada
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Good post and so true.

Bob

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 10-10-2014, 01:25 AM
#4
  • Agravic
  • Super Moderator
  • Pennsylvania, USA
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Nicely written, Mike ... and very true.

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 10-10-2014, 03:57 AM
#5
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Well said, Mike! I don't feel I have given the straight a fair chance yet, but I definitely want to some day.

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 10-10-2014, 04:16 AM
#6
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Very well said.

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 10-10-2014, 04:36 AM
#7
  • Deuce
  • Just a guy
  • Cave Creek
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Absolutely true. Case in point-blades. When I started, I had the worst time with most blades. Now that I'm revisiting all the ones that didn't "do it" for me, I've found most are pretty good. Why? Experience and patience

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 10-10-2014, 04:42 AM
#8
  • tdmsu
  • Banned
  • Metro Detroit
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Great post!
I sometimes give up too soon and I've resolved to end that bad habit.

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 10-10-2014, 05:51 AM
#9
  • vferdman
  • Artisan
  • Western Massachusetts
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Excellent, post! However, there is another point of view here. Most of us need our faces to be presentable for work, family, etc. These folks need to have a good shave on their face most days of the week. Months of torn up, irritated facial skin is just not an option. Many of us get into the wet shaving because we are sick and tired of over-priced, ineffective cartridges and disgusting, unhealthy canned goo. So we move to what I consider a much healthier and possibly thriftier (yeah, right!) way of shaving. We still need that good looking, healthy clean shaven skin on our faces to present to the world. This is where "difficult" products get thrown out most of the time. I agree, wet shaving requires practice and patience, but with our blessed amount of choices out there we can actually find something that will reduce the slope of our learning curve and bring us to the point of competency and good looking and good feeling shaves quicker.

My experience is fairly typical. I started with EJ DE89, Proraso soap, an okay best badger brush, etc. All the usual starter tools. It took me typical few weeks to get good shaves. Then I started off on the various ADs. I tried many, many different DEs, blades, soaps and brushes. Almost three years into it, I am down to one daily driver DE (1922 Gillette Big Fellow with New Improved head), a handful of soaps and my blade preference is broad (I can make any blade work). At this point I feel no need to experiment, I do want a reliable, good shave every time. I will try new soaps because of scents (like I will try different foods for flavor), but if they don't perform, they are out! I don't have the patience to make MWF work. I tried it several times and I simply don't like it. I don't like the way it smells, I can't seem to make that "magic" lather so many people talk about and I don't like paying more for it than Mike's soaps, which I love everything about. There is simply no reason for me to persevere with MWF (I am picking on this particular product, but I use it as a proxy for others that do not work right away). Straight razor is a different deal. I know I am not going to get good shaves with it until 100 shaves or so. So, I accept it and if I choose to practice with it, I realize I will not be getting a good shave that day, so I plan the activity accordingly. I am very happy to go back to my DE and get a good shave after the straight practice. I love straights and want to learn to shave with one, but I need to balance that with needing to be presentable and also fitting into time constraints. However, DEs, soaps, brushes, etc. I have a short fuse for. 90% of my shaving is utilitarian and I need it to work reliably, fast and produce good results. If there is a product or a tool that hinders that, I toss it and go on with life. I can persevere with so many things out there, shaving is just not something I need to put that much effort into if I don't have to. There is art, cooking, exercising, meditating, and so many other things that I would give time to rather than a soap that refuses to lather.

So, I agree with you about people's short attention span (most folks have not finished reading either of our posts because of length and I was actually chided several times on forums for being too verbose) and no willingness to actually put some effort into a task, but persevering over a product or a tool that is not working when there is plentiful choice in the category seems wasteful of one's time. I would rather spend an extra minute talking to my kids than trying to make a razor that is a poor shaver (for me) work. To that end I ditched all Gillette TTOs. Not single one I tried, including the venerable Fat Boy satisfied me. So I sold all of them and will never try one again. In fact, I am not sure I will ever go beyond my three DEs: Big Fellow, Progress and Cadet/RR OC. There is simply no need. I am so happy I achieved my goal of having a better way to shave with very inexpensive blades that do not have plastic to throw away. I will try soaps and brushes, though. That's like tasting new foods. Always an adventure.

Thanks for an insightful post!

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 10-10-2014, 09:14 AM
#10
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Thanks for the replies, everyone. Much appreciated.

Vferdman, I appreciate the time you took to respond and give your point of view. To reply to some of what you said....

I'm not saying that every product we run across that doesn't perform, or every skill or technique we struggle with should be something we spend weeks or months trying to make work. The examples I gave stuck out in my mind because there was something about them that made me really want to be able to use them. Because of that, I latched onto them like a pit bull until I won the battle with them. There was something about them that really made me enthusiastic about them, that fired my imagination and I became quite passionate in my desire to use them. In my mind, passion is one of the biggest factors in why I wet shave. I really have a love for it.

But I would also say that if I was slicing my face open daily with a razor or blade, seriously, I'd stop. I'm definitely not saying to ignore common sense. I'm just saying that when we find a product that appeals to us, or one that excites us, and the first time or two there is difficulty, maybe we should hang in there a bit longer. Not give up so easy. If we think that it might be worthy.

One other piece of advice I gave was to set it aside and think about it for a while before trying again. I've read posts from guys on every forum I belong to where they state, "Man, I bought this, it didn't work for me, so I sold it. A couple months later I bought one again, and now it's wonderful!"

Sometimes it takes a bit of time spent with something. Sometimes it takes setting it aside and getting some distance before approaching it again.

All of us have to decide when and if something warrants that kind of treatment. I can only say that I am glad for the times that doing so paid off for me.

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 10-10-2014, 09:31 AM
#11
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Well said!!

I try to make any new product work. I way I see as well is during our Dads and granddads time they only had 1 or 2 items to choose from. That's it. Agreed we're kinda spoiled at the many selections one has. Also buying something new is just a click away. Anywhere in the world!! Besides, I don't want to spend money and not have it work for me.lol

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 10-10-2014, 10:19 AM
#12
  • Howler
  • A calamophile and vintage razor lover
  • Fort Smith AR
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Excellent post.

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 10-10-2014, 11:13 AM
#13
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vferdman, I read through your entire post. So I guess I'm more patient than most people.

However, the only thing I now remember from it is that you shave with a Big Boy with a New Deluxe head.

I WANT one! Heart


Just being jealous, that's all. Cool

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 10-10-2014, 12:06 PM
#14
  • freddy
  • Banned
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Both Mike and Vladimir have offered excellent well thought out opinions and, as far as I'm concerned, both have validity. These types of posts permit us to pause for thought and, ultimately, a way to make our daily wet shaving experiences better. Thank you both for your excellent insights.

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 10-10-2014, 08:37 PM
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(10-10-2014, 12:06 PM)freddy Wrote: Both Mike and Vladimir have offered excellent well thought out opinions and, as far as I'm concerned, both have validity. These types of posts permit us to pause for thought and, ultimately, a way to make our daily wet shaving experiences better. Thank you both for your excellent insights.

+1

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 10-11-2014, 08:14 AM
#16
  • geezer
  • Senior Member
  • Menomonie, Western WI
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Well said! Every razor I have seems to make my face like a different blade! So, in my less than humble opinion, a blade sampler pack from one of our vendors is a great idea. especially when getting to know a new purchase. Try a blade a day since they are so cheap.
And...angle Angle, ANGLE!
Nay new folks are used to pulling the wobbly cartridge razor with the handle straight down. That is not the way to use a vintage or new safety razor. Get the blade almost parallel to the skin and a lot of troubles go away!
~Richard

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 10-11-2014, 08:32 AM
#17
  • vferdman
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  • Western Massachusetts
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Mike, I am not saying any of what you say is in any way wrong or invalid. In fact, I think I have arrived to a lot of what you say by actually doing the opposite. After one of my RAD episodes when I had a dozen razors I realized that when I try a different razor every time I shave I am actually negatively effecting my technique. Each razor is slightly different and requires a slightly different approach. So not giving it more than one shave at a time is not smart. So I picked a razor I liked (Merkur Progress, still one of my very favorite DEs) and used it for almost 6 months exclusively. My technique improved exponentially after that. That's wen I realized that most of the quality of our shaves comes from practice and not for a particular product. This also got me to jettison most of the products that were not quite right for me (like all of the Gillette TTO, even though I really love these thins for the machines they are) and concentrate on my practice using the tools that I know are agreeable with me. I am now down to three DE and really only use one of them most of the time.

So I think we are in agreement in that the practice is key, not a particular product. If you like something, you can make it work through practice and persistence. I just choose not bother with things that do not immediately click with me. But I do persist with the tools I do like and the benefits of that are great.

Again, thanks for a great and insightful post. I really appreciate that in a sea of one liners.

--
Vladimir

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 10-11-2014, 11:20 AM
#18
  • SRNewb
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Vladimir, thanks again. And I did not see your post as opposing or being negative toward mine. In fact, I really appreciate you taking the time to respond in such a well thought out, well articulated way. The purpose of what I wrote was not only to give my point of view, but to encourage discussion and encourage guys to think a bit differently. Your post was definitely in line with that goal!

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 10-13-2014, 01:44 PM
#19
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here here!

There are many of a soap that I PIF'd very early on in my shaving journey that I used only once or twice and labeled "junk"..... many years later once my skills had improved, I decided to revisit a few of them. Some stayed in the junk pile, but A LOT of them actually turned out to be great, they just needed the patience to dial them in. Not each soap lathers the same, not each razor shaves the same.... so unless you've given it some time to settle in (and given yourself time to learn it) then you're really passing judgement too early.

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 10-13-2014, 03:41 PM
#20
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great words everyone. great words. i feel inspired.

when i started out it fared well right from the beginning. almost. but the last 20% seemed impossible to achieve - the important 20% that is. i analysed myself before - during and after each shave - for several months - and became obsessed for perfection to the point that most people in my surroundings - including myself - gradually realised that my path was somewhat unhealthy. really. i often had heureka moments when i woke up or when laying in bed - but it seldom turned out successfully. but to go back to my former habit - shaving once a month - if that - with nasty remedies - was no option.

i am indeed the kind of fellow that easily gives up and turn away if i feel much pressure. but i had to trick myself to persist. consciously i had acquired shaving remedies for quite a pile of sheet (as i usually name the largest banknote we got in norway - and singular even if plenty: laken) - with the hope that my equipment should somehow oblige me to continue. and i did. i am indeed also the kind of fellow that completes what i have started if my feet are burning - otherwise i would have ended up in an asylum many years ago.

finally - one day i managed to make a fantastic lather and it was my first game changer. and i understood what i had done and could repeat it. every time.

then i had a revelation with a particular razor - mighty good - my one and only and my dearest remedy of them all. 2 passes only - no touch up.

the puzzle was complete - and the funny thing is that after this i manage to get good results from most razors and blades and soaps and brushes.

in the end - it was possibly all the hours of - yes - self-education that had paid off. the many hours of labour. to manage a good shave is in many ways a craft - like making well made origami - or great cooking. repeating. again and again.

i would like to say - you loose the moment you give up - because then there is no more hope to fulfill the path you have set forth - unless you walk a new path Biggrin

please have a good day.

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