09-02-2012, 02:16 PM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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This is the eleventh interview in a series with the artists, authors, craftsmen, and vendors who make wet shaving great. Todays interview is with Dr. Chris Moss, an admin and genius as far as I’m concerned from Shave My Face

Today’s interview on the Shave Nook is with one of the most prominent wet shavers the world over.  Have you ever admired the beauty of a Moss Scuttle?  Have you ever gazed in wonder or wondered what a Shavemac Adjustable Brush is?  Then you’ve happened upon 2 ideas  that Dr. Chris Moss brought to the shaving world.  Not only is Dr. Chris Moss a superb physician, but he’s also a darn good inventor and author as well.  His book “The Art of The Straight Razor Shave, A Basic Guide” has been downloaded thousands of times and has become a guide and handbook for anyone who’s ever been interested in the art of straight razor shaving.  I am pleased and honored to do an interview today with Dr. Chris Moss.  Dr. Moss, welcome to the Shave Nook.  

Dr. Moss, what is your ideal shaving setup? 

I like really hot water, a favourite straight razor (usually a Friodur 8/8), a strop that's comfortable to use with a nicely broken in surface, some soft soap and a big fat old Simpson brush. I say "old" as one of my concerns with brushes is that even among expensive models the quality of badger hair is changing and I'm concerned that we are seeing only young badgers being trapped any more. You can imagine what that probably implies for the badger population in China. Fifteen years ago the super and best Simpson brushes had very thick-shafted hair and are rather like a cross between badger and boar as far as hair thickness, stiffness and feel are concerned. Gorgeous to use! Anyway, after the shave I'll use some Coral Skin Food at this time of year, but in the winter I shake up some Eucris hair dressing and rub that in my face - the small amount of oil quickly absorbs and is a great moisturiser for the miserable winters in Nova Scotia. I never ever do three passes with a straight - not for years. Much of the time I can get a satisfactory shave with a single downwards pass. It has taken some practice to get the honing and the shaving technique (plus good prep with hot water and soap) to the point where a single-pass is up to my standards, but it can be done. If I'm wanting to be silky smooth for a weekend at the opera (my great weakness) I'll follow with a second pass across the grain. The single pass looks good all day, but feels stubbly by the evening, while the two-pass shave both looks and feels good all day.
As far as honing goes, I use Shapton Professional hones all the way to 30k. I do use one layer of electrical tape on the spine, largely because I hate the squeaky noise of the spine going along the hone. I don't know that I can tell the difference in the resulting edge I create. The only secrets to honing aren't really secret at all: set the bevel right with a coarse enough hone - it will save you lots of time, and be very careful, gentle and controlled with the finer finishing hones. An effort to use no pressure here makes a big difference in the shave! I don't use pastes much these days, but if a honing hasn't gone well and I can't be bothered to start over, I will use some HandAmerican Liquid Chrome and or some Flexcut Gold on rough Illinois #827 strops. The Flexcut eats away metal pretty aggressively, so I use only a few strokes, then polish up that edge on the chrome. This keeps the razor shaving until I hone it properly. I have quite a lot of strops, but my favourite is the Dovo/Jemico red russian 2x23" for daily use. I don't dress it at all, and consider one of them well run-in when the slightly velvety surface has become smooth and shiny. 

What prompted you to design the Moss Scuttle?  How did you find Sara Bonnyman?  How pleased are you to see that the Moss Scuttle has become so popular?
3 Moss Scuttles, the one on the far right is the Prototype
[Image: OriginalMossScuttles.jpg]

[Image: rightpic.jpg]

At the time I was doing multiple pass shaves, and loved the hot lather I got on the first pass. I was looking for a way of keeping the lather warm for the second and third pass, and dreamed up the double-walled heated bowl. It doesn't serve the same purpose at all as an old soap scuttle - the original scuttles were a way of shaving when hot water for shaving had to be carried upstairs from the kitchen range. This version is only coincidentally like them and as I was using creams then, and I used to refer to it as a 'cream scuttle' as a nod to tradition. I soon found I could keep a thin puck of soap in the bottom, or even use the soap in it's own bowl and simply store the brush and lather in the scuttle between passes, so perhaps it's as well the term 'cream scuttle' didn't catch on. My first efforts to make one involved some pewter bowls and the discovery that my soldering abilities aren't what they might be. Within a few days I had thought of a ceramic pot instead, and Sara Bonnyman is a skilled local potter so I faxed her a drawing and asked if she could make it. She quickly did so, and I still have that prototype. She made the production versions more elegantly shaped, being rather artistic. The prototype could only be loved by an engineer! I believe she has sold over 2,000 of them (and goodness knows how many copy-cat scuttles have come along afterwards). I should have asked for a royalty!

Tell us a bit about the ShaveMac Variable Loft Brush. What was your reasoning behind the brush?

I wanted to explore the different feeling on my face of various brushes. Sometimes I liked a short-lofted scrubby Duke 3, sometimes a softer longer-lofted Persian Jar 3. It didn't take much to imagine the plug being allowed to travel up and down in the handle to allow for a variable setting. I had a good relationship to Bernd Blos at Shavemac, having bought rather too much stuff from his store over the years, so I sent him my drawings and asked if he would be interested in making one. He thought about it for a few days and decided to try. The first brushes had a metal thread inside and were heavy in the handle. Later he came up with a plastic thread and it was a bit better balanced. Unfortunately there was a lot of hand-manufacture in each one for him, and the price was higher than I hoped. I'm sure a Chinese factory with access to the ability to custom-mold plastic parts for the handle could make one that would be light and durable, perhaps a bit smaller in handle diameter and also cheaper! Like the scuttle, the variable loft brush is an open-source shaving item, and I don't mind if someone wants to try it out one day. Just include my name somewhere and I'll be happy! Despite the weight and balance problem, the brush did prove the concept; it functioned as a big floppy brush like a BK8, all the way down to a tight little rubbery scrubber like a CH1. Cranking the loft down also lets you extract the lather hidden in the brush just like squeezing it out with your hand would do. Here are the extremes:

[Image: L1001037.jpg]

Hard to believe it's the same brush!

[Image: L1001041.jpg]

Dr. Moss have you designed anything else that’s yet to come out? What have you put to paper that didn’t pan out or just remained an idea?

Oh, I'm always making things - but not all are shaving related. To be honest, most ideas don't work out for one reason or another, but I still have the fun of coming up with them and believing in them, even if only briefly! Just lately I have been experimenting with dehydrating creams in a film-dryer - preserving, say, a tub of Coates, or a reformulated Taylor cream so that it won't go off for many many years. It takes about 48 hours in there to turn it into a firm soap harder than soft Italian soap but not as rock hard as a triple milled English.

[Image: P5200001-1.jpg]

[Image: P5200002-2.jpg]

dave note: It looks like a brilliant and excellent way to make creams into croaps. I must send a few tubes of Old Spice to Dr. Moss so he can make Old Spice Soap again!!
Your book “The Art of the Straight Razor Shave, a Basic Guide”
is simply brilliant, easy to read, and is the quintessential guide for a person who’s interested in learning the lost art of straight razor shaving.  It’s something that I’ve read twice during my two brief flirtations with straight razor shaving.  How long did it take you to write, and did you have any idea that it would become a handbook for straight shaving?

Kind of you to say so! It actually took one weekend only, which seems rather quick in retrospect. I keep thinking about what I would change in it now, having more experience in honing than I had then. I also hope no one ever does three passes with a straight every day - pretty hard on your skin! I didn't expect it to be anything other than a guide for beginners, and expected that other more detailed works might turn up as more and more people started using straights. But then a strange thing happened - there is a huge repository of knowledge on the internet and no really needs to put it in a book, even if they could. I bet a nicely photographed and printed coffee-table book full of gorgeous straights would sell a few copies though….but someone else can do it, not me! Curiously, in 2009 a friend in Toronto, Allan Peterkin, asked if I could let him use my photos from the Guide in his book 'The Bearded Gentleman : The Style Guide To Shaving Face' so they have gained a second life being viewed by an audience rather different to the usual shaving forum types.

Dr. Moss, I’ve been told to ask you about your soap collection. Word is that it is legendary. If you don’t mind divulging, how much soap do you have and is there a possibility of a picture of your collection?

This is a state secret, comrade! I have about 100 types of soap (and quite a lot of spares especially of discontinued lines or especial favourites) and probably around thirty creams (ditto for spares). My ready use soaps are all in wooden bowls just because I like them - this is a photo of the Shelves of Shame when the collection was growing:
[Image: IMG_0305-1.jpg]

Obviously, this makes me some sort of a nutcase, but hopefully a harmless one! I hope others can enjoy themselves as I do when facing a beard each morning!

Honestly Dr. Moss, I think that just makes you much like the rest of us.

Thank you so very much for agreeing to this interview Dr.  Moss.  You’ve done so much to help new wetshavers and old wetshavers alike, and I’m sure we are all very thankful for it.  You can purchase a Moss Scuttle for yourself at Sara Bonnyman Pottery and you can download Dr. Moss's excellent guide to straight razor shaving.here.

116 3,804
 09-02-2012, 02:21 PM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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I have to say honestly that this interview was a lot of fun. Dr. Chris Moss supplied all the pictures in the thread and I have to track down one of those Shavemac brushes. That has to be one of the most ingenious things I have ever seen.

116 3,804
 09-02-2012, 02:22 PM
  • bullgoose
  • The Enabler
  • Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A
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Thank you for a great interview! I have always enjoyed reading Chris's posts on SMF but this is the first time I have seen a picture of the Variable Loft Brush. Ingenious!

It looks like you were holding out on showing the full soap collection. I seem to recall several drawers full of Woods of Windsor Tallow Soap alone. Biggrin

45 15,938
 09-02-2012, 02:36 PM
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What a fantastic interview with Dr Moss. Dave as usual you did a tremendous job. I can't get over the beautiful scuttles, shave brush and collection of creams that Dr Moss has accumulated.

98 12,359
 09-02-2012, 02:42 PM
  • Harvey
  • Senior Member
  • North Hills CA
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Wow ...this is a man who knows what he likes.....very interesting and now I must expand my soap collection....CoolTongue

6 1,902
 09-02-2012, 02:45 PM
  • Johnny
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Dave, excellent interview again. You need to start a second career. And thanks for including one of my pictures in your review.

Dr. Moss, thanks so much for doing this interview and allowing us to post it on The Shave Nook.

Excellent!! - Bravo!!

173 23,289
 09-02-2012, 04:01 PM
  • tgutc
  • Senior Member
  • Michigan
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Great interview as always Dave! That picture of the shelve is AWESOME!

45 3,955
 09-02-2012, 05:13 PM
  • mikeperry
  • Senior Member
  • St Louis via the UK
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Thank you Dave for yet again conducting a first class interview Thumbsup

Dr Chris Moss, thank you for the very! enjoyable read and accompanying photos Euro

23 1,872
 09-02-2012, 05:17 PM
  • Dave
  • Moderator Emeritus
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I seriously want to send Dr. Moss 2 or 3 tubes of old spice for him to work his magic on.

116 3,804
 09-02-2012, 05:58 PM
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And I thought I was the only person that never does 3 passes around here! Great interview.

3 315
 09-02-2012, 07:12 PM
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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What a great interview. Dave, excellent, as always. Thumbsup

Dr. Moss, thanks so much for taking the time to do the interview and also for the wonderful photos. It is a pleasure to have you visit here at The Shave Nook.

2 11,211
 09-02-2012, 07:14 PM
  • MickToley
  • Hi, I'm Mike and I'm a shave soap addict
  • Brooklyn, NY
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(09-02-2012, 05:58 PM)RazoRock_Joe Wrote: And I thought I was the only person that never does 3 passes around here! Great interview.

You're not alone. I do a two pass all the time, WTG & ATG with a couple of touch ups.

10 1,120
 09-02-2012, 07:41 PM
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Another great interview Dave

Dr.Moss's photo of the Shelves of Shame was stellar

7 414
 09-02-2012, 10:48 PM
  • Teiste
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Salt Lake City,UT
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Excellent interview!Thanks Dave and Dr Moss.

86 7,123
 09-02-2012, 10:51 PM
  • gijames
  • Mile High Soldier
  • TN, USA
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Thank you both for the interview! Smile

9 1,684
 09-03-2012, 01:28 AM
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..............great and very informative interview!

39 1,046
 09-03-2012, 01:58 AM
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Thank you, both of you Smile A very good read and a couple of intriguing ideas as well... now, if I just had an unlimited amount of tinker time...

3 3,438
 09-03-2012, 12:24 PM
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Thank you both for the great and informative interview!
Wow, talk about a collection!

74 20,791
 09-03-2012, 01:19 PM
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Thanks. Good work. I enjoyed reading this, I particularly liked seeing the prototype scuttle.

0 140
 09-03-2012, 02:11 PM
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Excellent interview!. I enjoyed it immensely!

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