10-25-2015, 06:08 AM
#1
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Hi everyone. As I just said in my introduction, I've used a double edge for a couple years now but am now wanting to get a little better shave. I'm wondering about my upgrade path.

I guess I lucked into a pretty good razor to start with: I got a vintage Gillette G2 "Fat Boy" off of eBay mostly because it reminded me of what my dad used. While it's far from pristine, it seems to work just fine. Is there any point in upgrading in terms of a significantly better shaving experience? Thus far I've just used the only no brand name blades either my grocery store or drug store stocked. I'm guessing blades will be the biggest difference? To that end, I have a sampler blade variety on its way. Good move? I think my soap is either Clubman or Old Spice. Do soaps vary all that much? I know I want to upgrade my brush because mine feels cheap. Are there things to look for in a brush? I'm kind of thinking vintage to match my razor. Thanks in advance!

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 10-25-2015, 06:41 AM
#2
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You have what is  a highly regarded razor by lots of people. If you're happy with it I see no reason to change. You can dial it all the way up to "magical 9" if you need to and that variability will give most folks a great shave. A razor doesn't need to be pretty to give a great shave.

I would definitely get a blade sampler to find out what type of blade you prefer. The supermarket blades aren't very good IMO, so  think you'll definitely see a difference with that change. I could tell you the blades I like in DE, but that might or might not mean anything to you in your shave, so I won't. There's only one way to find out what will work for you and that's for you try different blades and make notes.

You don't say what you're using for lather. If it's canned goop, that will be another upgrade worth doing. IMO there are few shave soaps that are used with a brush that can't outperform most canned stuff.

Without knowing more, and you don't give us much to work with, I can't give you more help.

Personally I prefer single edge safety razors (SE) and use very few DE razors, but that's me. They give me a different shave experience that I prefer, but I do still use basically 2 models of DE razor. You might try a vintage SE razor. But look around the relevant section here before taking the leap if you do leap at all.

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 10-25-2015, 07:12 AM
#3
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I am also a SE-user and vastly prefer them, especially injectors. The only DE I still use (although rarely) is the Feather Popular. It is the only one almost as comfortable to shave with as an SE. I agree with everything else Shadowsdad said. For brushes, I'm going to recommend you a Semogue silvertip (any). They have a firm backbone, unlike most silvertips, have high quality handles, and are reasonably priced. Also look at synthetics from Muhle, EJ, and Plisson. I really don't recommend boars because they are rough, require lengthy soaking to be soft, they don't last as long, and you pay for them in the long run by how much product they use.

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 10-25-2015, 09:51 AM
#4
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Welcome to the forum and you are opening a very large can of worms, as they say, by asking your questions. There are just way too many items that are very good, so your wallet might not greatly appreciate the responses we offer.  Biggrin

Having said this, I would suggest keeping things simple. Try a sample pack of blades to see which you prefer, get samples of some artisanal soaps, and look at getting an inexpensive badger brush, or a good boar brush such as Omega or Semgoue. You may also want to consider an inexpensive synthetic brush.

Good luck.

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 10-26-2015, 06:56 AM
#5
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+1 on Celestino's advice to start simple.

I do think soap makes a difference, and there are plenty of great artisan (e.g., Mystic Water, Stirling, etc.) and commercial (e.g., Tabac, MWF, etc.) soaps out there to try.  Samples are real money savers, especially if you find some you just don't like.  Otherwise, you end up with full size pucks that you have to trash, sell, trade, or give away.  Check out places like Garry's Sample Shop, Maggards Razors, etc. for lot of samples, or go directly to some artisan soap sites.

Brushes are also a huge area to get into with lots of opinion on what is 'best'.  The recommendation to start with some inexpensive boar, badger, and synthetic brushes is a good idea.  Whipped Dog is a great vendor along with Omega and Semogue.

Your budget will help you determine how quickly/seriously you want to go with your research.  In the end, find some things you like, and enjoy your shaves!  For most us us, there will always be another soap, another razor, another brush, another aftershave that looks interesting, or might provide that 1% better shave experience.  That is what keeps things fun for me after a year of wet shaving.  There are so many things I haven't tried yet!

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 10-26-2015, 08:37 AM
#6
  • leonidas
  • Senior Member
  • Jerez de la Frontera
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.............i would recommend a boar brush   -  the bad boys of wet shaving..........
..... they are inexpensive, great performers, and will 'tear up' any hard soap...........
.........plus if they wear out......... another can be had for a small price...............

............synthetics are good too.......... low maintenance and relatively inexpensive.............

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 10-26-2015, 11:01 AM
#7
  • Rufus
  • Senior Member
  • Greater Toronto Area
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Wet shaving is insidious, particularly if you have an enquiring mind.  Welcome to the world of Aquisition Disorders...let your journey begin. Biggrin

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 10-26-2015, 11:36 AM
#8
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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Somebody has to be contrarian, so let it be me.  

As to the main hardware, just remember that what most of us call the “razor” is really just a handle-plus-vice to hold the blade the way that you want it held.  What cuts the whiskers or stubble is the blade.  If your old Gillette holds the blade the way you want the blade held, then there is no upgrade path there.  If you use your car mainly to commute to and from work on crowded urban freeways and to go to the grocery store for victuals, then a well-maintained 25 year old Toyota Corolla will get you to work and back, and will hold your bag or groceries just as well, as a Porsche Panamera, just not in as such ostentatious style as the latter.  (But I’ll return to this subject — briefly — below.)

While I shan’t disagree with or discourage you from trying blade samplers, I shall caution you not to raise your expectations too high about the ultimate information you will get from them. In comparing — not from a sample pack, obviously — Gillette Silver Blue blades with Wizamet Iridium Super blades, for instance, I found that I had used about a dozen blades of each, averaging about six shaves per blade (in other words, about 144 shaves total), paying careful attention to minute differences, and keeping notes, before I was satisfied that I could put separation between them.  Before that, you could have put one of either blade in my razor and challenged me to discern whether it was a GSB or an Iridium Super, and my guesses, and they would surely have been guesses, would have had a random distribution between correct and incorrect (after all, I would have had a 50-50 chance of being right on any individual test).  So a sample pack containing one to five blades of each kind probably will not allow you to make any decisions that you could have any confidence would be valid a month later.  On the other hand, a sample pack will allow you to make a rough cut:  if you try two blades of the same brand and after unwrapping each of the two blades and using it once you are left with a bloody face and uncut whiskers, you probably have a sound basis to decide that there never will be a third try with that kind of blade.

Two years ago, as a category, synthetic brushes were at the bottom of the lowest grouping; now the better synthetic brushes — based strictly on their performance in whipping up good lather — are very near the top of the top grouping, and a very good synthetic brush will cost you a tenth the cost of a top-of the-line silvertip badger brush.  The Stirling 26mm synthetic brush is actually a high-end brush within the category of synthetics, and it sells for $23.  What’s more, you can take the synthetic with you when you travel because:  (1) it dries out very quickly, and (2) if you should leave it behind in a hotel room, you are only out $23.  It is really hard to come up with a rationale for any brush purchase other than a synthetic brush these days.  

As to soaps, I cannot disagree with the posters who got to this thread ahead of me, but I remain contrarian as to the relationship between price and performance.  Some of the very best performing shave soaps and creams sell for under $15 per puck/jar/tube, and you cannot get a better lather from any soap that sells at a higher price.  Scent, which is very highly subjective, is a separate matter, and the price tag placed on exotic perfumes in soaps is neither a matter that can be discussed rationally, nor one where any user’s personal values can be deprecated.  Degustibus non disputandum est.

Back to the Porsche Panamera and the Toyota, I do not wish to imply that there is never a reason to choose the more expensive Porsche over the less expensive Toyota.  There is nothing irrational about loving the smell of real leather upholstery or wanting to listen to the sixth movement of the Mahler Third on a high end stereo system while stuck in traffic.  And there are materials choices in the design of the Panamera that may inspire more confidence than the design of the older Toyota.  There are similar differences in razor choices; most modern under $50 razors have heads made from a plated lead alloy that is brittle (can shatter if dropped to a hard surface) and subject to rapid corrosion and even disintegration if there is so much as a pinhole gap in the plating that permits water to get to the lead alloy beneath the plating.  Plated brass (many of the lower cost razors made in India are plated brass) or machined aluminum or sintered or machined stainless steel razors all avoid the potential hazards of plated lead alloy — but plated lead alloy razor heads can provide superb shaves as long as they do not meet untimely deaths. And higher cost razors sometimes cost more because more money is spent on tight dimensional tolerances and stricter quality control.  You are more likely to see a wavy blade edge on a blade mounted in an inexpensive razor than in a blade mounted in a Pils or a Feather AS-D2, for instance.  

We now return you to my non-contrarian colleagues who are correct in most of their advice.

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 10-26-2015, 02:39 PM
#9
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(10-26-2015, 11:36 AM)Mel S Meles Wrote: Somebody has to be contrarian, so let it be me.  

As to the main hardware, just remember that what most of us call the “razor” is really just a handle-plus-vice to hold the blade the way that you want it held.  What cuts the whiskers or stubble is the blade.  If your old Gillette holds the blade the way you want the blade held, then there is no upgrade path there.  If you use your car mainly to commute to and from work on crowded urban freeways and to go to the grocery store for victuals, then a well-maintained 25 year old Toyota Corolla will get you to work and back, and will hold your bag or groceries just as well, as a Porsche Panamera, just not in as such ostentatious style as the latter.  (But I’ll return to this subject — briefly — below.)

While I shan’t disagree with or discourage you from trying blade samplers, I shall caution you not to raise your expectations too high about the ultimate information you will get from them. In comparing — not from a sample pack, obviously — Gillette Silver Blue blades with Wizamet Iridium Super blades, for instance, I found that I had used about a dozen blades of each, averaging about six shaves per blade (in other words, about 144 shaves total), paying careful attention to minute differences, and keeping notes, before I was satisfied that I could put separation between them.  Before that, you could have put one of either blade in my razor and challenged me to discern whether it was a GSB or an Iridium Super, and my guesses, and they would surely have been guesses, would have had a random distribution between correct and incorrect (after all, I would have had a 50-50 chance of being right on any individual test).  So a sample pack containing one to five blades of each kind probably will not allow you to make any decisions that you could have any confidence would be valid a month later.  On the other hand, a sample pack will allow you to make a rough cut:  if you try two blades of the same brand and after unwrapping each of the two blades and using it once you are left with a bloody face and uncut whiskers, you probably have a sound basis to decide that there never will be a third try with that kind of blade.

Two years ago, as a category, synthetic brushes were at the bottom of the lowest grouping; now the better synthetic brushes — based strictly on their performance in whipping up good lather — are very near the top of the top grouping, and a very good synthetic brush will cost you a tenth the cost of a top-of the-line silvertip badger brush.  The Stirling 26mm synthetic brush is actually a high-end brush within the category of synthetics, and it sells for $23.  What’s more, you can take the synthetic with you when you travel because:  (1) it dries out very quickly, and (2) if you should leave it behind in a hotel room, you are only out $23.  It is really hard to come up with a rationale for any brush purchase other than a synthetic brush these days.  

As to soaps, I cannot disagree with the posters who got to this thread ahead of me, but I remain contrarian as to the relationship between price and performance.  Some of the very best performing shave soaps and creams sell for under $15 per puck/jar/tube, and you cannot get a better lather from any soap that sells at a higher price.  Scent, which is very highly subjective, is a separate matter, and the price tag placed on exotic perfumes in soaps is neither a matter that can be discussed rationally, nor one where any user’s personal values can be deprecated.  Degustibus non disputandum est.

Back to the Porsche Panamera and the Toyota, I do not wish to imply that there is never a reason to choose the more expensive Porsche over the less expensive Toyota.  There is nothing irrational about loving the smell of real leather upholstery or wanting to listen to the sixth movement of the Mahler Third on a high end stereo system while stuck in traffic.  And there are materials choices in the design of the Panamera that may inspire more confidence than the design of the older Toyota.  There are similar differences in razor choices; most modern under $50 razors have heads made from a plated lead alloy that is brittle (can shatter if dropped to a hard surface) and subject to rapid corrosion and even disintegration if there is so much as a pinhole gap in the plating that permits water to get to the lead alloy beneath the plating.  Plated brass (many of the lower cost razors made in India are plated brass) or machined aluminum or sintered or machined stainless steel razors all avoid the potential hazards of plated lead alloy — but plated lead alloy razor heads can provide superb shaves as long as they do not meet untimely deaths. And higher cost razors sometimes cost more because more money is spent on tight dimensional tolerances and stricter quality control.  You are more likely to see a wavy blade edge on a blade mounted in an inexpensive razor than in a blade mounted in a Pils or a Feather AS-D2, for instance.  

We now return you to my non-contrarian colleagues who are correct in most of their advice.

Thanks Mel! Not sure if it's your contrarian verbiage or that I've actually begun to form some opinions, but your detailed response inspires one of my own.

I come at this from both a pragmatic and nostalgic aesthetic. Your razor analogy would have hit closer to home with me had you contrasted the Toyota to either an MG Roadster or a '63 split window Corvette. So as long as the old Gillette isn't doing me a disservice, I'm probably fine with it though as noted in my original posting, I may upgrade to a better example should I run across one. At the same time, should I one day be feeling wildly frivolous and impulsive, I could see myself springing for that Merkur Buck Rodgers looking one based purely on the visual. (With the hope that the visceral satisfaction would be there as well.) When I go for a reasonable, modern razor, as I'm sure I will one day, craftsmanship and my own version of contrarianism will likely win out even at a lesser price point than the Merkur.

The blades stymy me. First, I know from my grocery store purchases that quality control must be horrendous on these things. That or they are continually buying from the lowest bidder because one pack varies greatly from the next and sometimes I've run across a real stinker or gem within the same pack. But beyond consistency, it seems odd to me that there isn't some sort segmentation amongst the available blades. For instance, there are both solid state and tube amplifiers, but I immediately know I'm more likely to find something agreeable amongst the tube ones, so I steer towards them. With blades it seems that it's a wide open field. I don't see anyone saying all Russian blades suck or German blades are fantastic or anything like that. It seems like it's a wide open playing field. So I think in keeping with what you're saying, I look toward the sampler to narrow the contenders by process of elimination. I'll be curious to see if somewhere down the line I can see some commonality between those I like or those I dislike.

Soaps so far seem to be the arena of the most mysticism. I can tell you this much: I don't have the wallet or the self-esteem to go for what I now see as the higher priced offerings. Ultimately, I think my decision will come down to nostalgic brands like Clubman, Noxema, Old Spice, etc and the artisan offerings. There isn't much allure to me in the esoteric, factory offerings, but that being said, I'd ordered Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood along with my sampler blades before ever coming on here.


Thanks for the explanation of synthetic brushes! That was a bit of information I hadn't yet run across. I'll have to try one though there will be a strong aesthetic pull to either boar or badger at some point I'm sure.


But now here's something I learned just this morning. Even with my present materials, there is a huge improvement to be had! Incorporating some of what I've read here and learned from YouTube already made a big difference and it seems I'm learning more by the moment. As with so many things, it's not all about the tools at all.

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 10-26-2015, 03:32 PM
#10
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This is the only way you can tackle this issue,

[Image: qSVNYZ5.jpg]

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 10-26-2015, 03:41 PM
#11
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Blades can make a world of difference.  There's a lot of general consensus on what's good, but ultimately they're a very individual choice.  I recall a post where someone said they bought 1000 Derbies.  I'd never do that (too tuggy for me), but they were the right choice for someone.  The nice thing about blades is that they're cheap, even in sampler packs, so it's not too expensive to find what you like.

Soaps can make a huge difference in your shave as well.  Price doesn't always equate to quality, but I think in soaps, it does to a point.  Some people can get great shaves with inexpensive soaps, but I can't seem to (mostly because many of them use synthetic detergents that my skin doesn't like).  Luckily, there's an abundance of mid-priced soaps that work very well for me.  You'll find a lot of consensus on what's good, but plenty of disagreement on scents.  Thankfully, there are lots of sample sizes available.  I think I saw Maggard's mentioned above.  They do have a good assortment.

Brush-wise, most will do the job, though the more expensive ones will feel better on your face.  The exception here is synthetics, as has been mentioned.  I'm not a huge fan, but many are, and the prices are very manageable.

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 10-26-2015, 04:08 PM
#12
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(10-26-2015, 11:36 AM)Mel S Meles Wrote:

Two years ago, as a category, synthetic brushes were at the bottom of the lowest grouping; now the better synthetic brushes — based strictly on their performance in whipping up good lather — are very near the top of the top grouping, and a very good synthetic brush will cost you a tenth the cost of a top-of the-line silvertip badger brush.  The Stirling 26mm synthetic brush is actually a high-end brush within the category of synthetics, and it sells for $23.  What’s more, you can take the synthetic with you when you travel because:  (1) it dries out very quickly, and (2) if you should leave it behind in a hotel room, you are only out $23.  It is really hard to come up with a rationale for any brush purchase other than a synthetic brush these days.  


just don't tell the people that spend tens and thousands of dollars on Silvertips...

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 10-26-2015, 04:14 PM
#13
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I love where this thread is going to end up  24

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 10-27-2015, 04:47 AM
#14
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(10-26-2015, 02:39 PM)BigCabDaddy Wrote: At the same time, should I one day be feeling wildly frivolous and impulsive, I could see myself springing for that Merkur Buck Rodgers looking one based purely on the visual. (With the hope that the visceral satisfaction would be there as well.) When I go for a reasonable, modern razor, as I'm sure I will one day, craftsmanship and my own version of contrarianism will likely win out even at a lesser price point than the Merkur.

Well, you made a direct hit on my gut with that comment.   Wink  I currently own two DE razors, a Standard Razors "Raw" and a frankenrazor pieced together from an iKon Stainless DLC Slant head and a Maggard MR5 handle.  I like both of the razors, and would be hard-pressed to make a snap choice between them were I told that I could keep only one.  Why, then, other than the chance to grab one at a good price, did I jump on the opportunity to purchase a Feather AS-D2 last Friday?  I certainly do not need another DE razor.  Certainly, I have been swayed by the reports of others — even those who gave up on the AS-D2 because they found it to be too mild — that praised the Feather for its quality of fit and finish and its seductive feel in the hand.  It may be (as the old advertising slogan went) that “nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee,” but the same sentiment seems to apply to the non-shaving attributes of the Feather AS-D2, and I could not resist the urge to see whence comes this unanimity of sentiment.

(10-26-2015, 02:39 PM)BigCabDaddy Wrote: The blades stymy me. First, I know from my grocery store purchases that quality control must be horrendous on these things. That or they are continually buying from the lowest bidder because one pack varies greatly from the next and sometimes I've run across a real stinker or gem within the same pack. But beyond consistency, it seems odd to me that there isn't some sort segmentation amongst the available blades. For instance, there are both solid state and tube amplifiers, but I immediately know I'm more likely to find something agreeable amongst the tube ones, so I steer towards them. With blades it seems that it's a wide open field. I don't see anyone saying all Russian blades suck or German blades are fantastic or anything like that. It seems like it's a wide open playing field. So I think in keeping with what you're saying, I look toward the sampler to narrow the contenders by process of elimination. I'll be curious to see if somewhere down the line I can see some commonality between those I like or those I dislike.

Zap!  Another direct hit!  When I composed the “contrarian” post above, I considered, and discarded, making an analogy between vacuum tube audio electronics and solid-state electronics in the discussion of the sudden ascendance of synthetic brushes.  (I discarded the analogy because, unless you are old enough not only to remember the analogous (no pun intended) time of inflection in the home audio world (roughly 1962-65) but also to have been an audio reproduction enthusiast during that time period, you would not understand the analogy, and the explanation of its relevance would have had to be so long that the analogy would get lost.  The first consumer amplifier line — the Harman-Kardon Award Series — that beat the “paper” specifications of the Marantz and McIntosh (and Harman-Kardon’s own Citation line) tube amplifiers was introduced into the market just about the time that I graduated from college.  Imagine my disappointment when I heard an Award amp-based system and learned that good specifications ≠ good sound.)

But as to blades, there is something like consensus among the population of this board and the “other” board that all of the blades that come out of Procter & Gamble’s PPI facility in St. Petersburg (Polsilver SI, Gillette Platinum, Gillette Silver Blue, Astra SP, etc.) are pretty darn good, and that the blades from the other big Russian plant in Moscow (Ladas, Voshkod, Rapira, etc.) punch well above their weight class; and there is something approaching consensus that the two brands of blades that are made in Japan (Feather and KAI) are the sharpest, or at least high among the sharpest, DE blades one can buy, although there is less agreement whether very sharp necessarily is a good thing.  There also seems to be something approaching consensus among those who have used both Merkur blades and a range of alternatives to Merkurs that Merkurs are not very good. German-made blades, in general, are a source of contention:  there are both lovers and passionate haters of Bolzano and German Wilkinson blades, and very mixed reviews of Croma Diamants.


(10-26-2015, 02:39 PM)BigCabDaddy Wrote: Soaps so far seem to be the arena of the most mysticism. I can tell you this much: I don't have the wallet or the self-esteem to go for what I now see as the higher priced offerings. Ultimately, I think my decision will come down to nostalgic brands like Clubman, Noxema, Old Spice, etc and the artisan offerings. There isn't much allure to me in the esoteric, factory offerings, but that being said, I'd ordered [Taylor of Old Bond Street Sandalwood along with my sampler blades before ever coming on here.

Here is a very personal, YMMV-qualified, suggestion:  Get one puck each of Haslinger Schafmilch (irregularly comes into stock and goes out of stock at Smallflower) for under $8.00 and Provence Santé Green Tea for under $7.00, and a travel-size tube of Kiss My Face Lavender Shea shave cream for a bit over $4.00; for a grand expenditure of $19 and change, you will have three excellent shaving soaps (one of them a cream) that eventually may fall out of your ultimate rotation, but which are good enough that you will have a lodestar to guide you in your exploration.  It really helps to have a standard to compare other offerings against, and among those three soaps there is not a clinker in the bunch. Any soap that puts them in the shadow (ahem — whisper — Mystic Water, mayhap) you can be sure is a very good soap indeed.

(10-26-2015, 02:39 PM)BigCabDaddy Wrote: Thanks for the explanation of synthetic brushes! That was a bit of information I hadn't yet run across. I'll have to try one though there will be a strong aesthetic pull to either boar or badger at some point I'm sure.[/size][

Here, sitting on the shelf, is an excellent (not the very top of the line, but very well above average) and very well-used Vulfix 2234S Super Badger brush.  I purchased it sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s, and used it exclusively (I did not own any other working brush) daily for about a quarter-century; it never lost bristles, and is still as good as new. But, about a year and a half ago (at the time, as much out of curiosity as for any other reason), I purchased a Mühle 33K252 “Silvertip Fibre v2” brush, and since then, the Vulfix badger brush has pretty much stayed in its place in the stand on the shelf:  I have used it probably only three or four times since, mainly for nostalgia.  Just sayin’.

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 11-01-2015, 12:40 PM
#15
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I think it's also worth noting that these 'tests' can take more time than you think- even at 5-6 shaves a week by changing only one variable, to find what works for you, will not happen quickly. Change one thing at a time and be patient. (Also worth noting: when I started DE shaving I was totally unable to take my own advice!)
Oh, and then in 6 months your technique will have improved to the point where you'll want to do all of the testing over again!

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 11-01-2015, 01:19 PM
#16
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(10-25-2015, 06:08 AM)BigCabDaddy Wrote: Do "insert software type" vary all that much? I know I want to upgrade my "insert hardware type" because mine feels cheap.


I'm not far from you on these questions. Lots of reading to educate myself on the particular soft or hard products I want to upgrade keeps me from looking foolish when I step into a local shop. I live in a very small Mayberry type metro. I've visited every supplier within a half hour drive. Not much to see in men's shaving products, but I can purchase soaps, brushes, aftershaves, DE blades, and vintage razors as opportunity arises.
 Being able to hold, see, smell stuff has been my gateway to knowing my preferences, thereby making internet shopping less mysterious. So take your budget and an off day to do a circuit of your local shops. See if anyone sells Pinaud AS, or Tallow soaps. Check the ethnic corner store, they may carry exotic products for the right price.
Good luck shopping, and many happy shaves.

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