Shave of the day 29th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Mike’s Peppermint & Rosemary Soap
Brush: Cie-Long mixed horse-badger #14033
Razors: YUMA with a “Shark” blade
Post-shave: Cold water rinse, alum block and Krampert’s Finest EXPERIMENTAL Menthol

Last shave for now with the cheap and cheerful YUMA. While the handling is a little rough, the end result was a DFS.

Quick review: The YUMA 2.59 / 2.98 dollar safety razor

Bottom line up front: This is not a bad razor when you consider the price – but there are plenty of other, better razors out there if you’re willing to pony up a little more cash.

As part of my experiments in traditional wetshaving – and also with an eye to putting together a cheap starter kit I could PIF to people curious about old fashioned wetshaving, I picked up a very cheap Turkish razor. You can get this for 2.59USD from BestShave, or a whopping 2.98USD if you spring for the boxed version. The box is flimsy plastic and don’t fit the razor very well – allowing it to dance around during shipping – so you might as well save the 40 cents.

The razor in it’s presentation case. Notice the lack of supports holding the razor in place, and also the generous airspace between the lid and razor.
The YUMA head on. The actual surface treatment is decent, but not great – I can’t see this razor lasting terrible long with frequent use.
Obligatory beuty shot – the hexagonal handle is quite comfortable to hold, but very lightweight. It is also oddly slippery, meaning dry hands is a must when using the YUMA.
When disassembled it’s obvious that the YUMA has been designed to be as cheap as possible. Not only is the metal some unidentified for of pot metal, most likely heavily alloyed zinc, but they have also made the molds to use as little of it as possible – hence the very wide gap between the safety bar and the body of the razor head, as well as the     raised bars to lift the blade as opposed to a more traditional design where the center part of the head would be thicker.
The head and handle. Again notice how much care has gone into minimizing the use of metal in this razor. One downside of this is that the razor head is somewhat malleable –    if you look closely you can see that the curvature of the head is slightly uneven.
The YUMA reassembled and back in it’s box. All things considered it’s a fairly decent looking razor with a classical styling – reminiscent of the Merkur C42 in looks but not quality.
In use, the YUMA is.. .interesting. It feels harsh – at least with the Sharb blades – but provides a surprisingly smooth and mild shave. Some online reviews of the YUMA indicates that it should in fact be aggressive, I chalk that up to either the well known concept of YMMV, or possible to the lack of QC in production. The cheapness of construction also means that care has to be taken while loading the YUMA, to ensure an even blade exposure on both sides of the head. Care must also be taken while using the YUMA, since I found that the head have a disturbing tendency to work itself loose from the handle – which may be an issue with mine rather than a consistent feature with the YUMA. The YUMA handles much like any other short handled razor, although it is extremely lightweight. The hollow, lightweight handle acts as a megaphone, pretty much letting you hear each whisker as it’s cut. As mentioned a couple of times the razor feels fairly rough and harsh, but it does give a remarkable decent shave in the hands  of someone who knows what they are doing. It is also remarkable intolerant of any mistakes the user might make; this makes the YUMA a poor choice for someone just starting out with traditional wetshaving in my opinion.

I cannot in good conscience recommend the YUMA as someones first razor. I will however suggest that it’s a fun little razor to play around with for an experienced shaver, or to use as a travel razor. For less than three dollars it’s actually remarkable good value… but keep in mind that the value is that low.

Shave of the day 27th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Arko Ice Mint Shave Cream
Brush: Turkish No6
Razors: YUMA with a “Shark” blade
Post-shave: Alum block and Krampert’s Finest EXPERIMENTAL Menthol

Again I’m going almost all the way Turkish. I’m sort of impressed with the YUMA – while somewhat harsh, of questionable quality and a tendency for the head to work itself loose, it actually shaves remarkable well.

Kramperts Finest Menthol is still working great – I do hope this goes into production along his wonderful Bay Rum.

Overall a pretty DFS.

Shave of the day 25th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Arko Shave Stick
Brush: Turkish No7
Razors: YUMA with a fresh “Shark” blade
Post-shave: Alum block and Krampert’s Finest EXPERIMENTAL Menthol

Going almost all the way Turkish today – the YUMA is a cheap and cheerful razor made from pot metal (aka whatever fell into the pot). The shave was surprisingly good considering the harshness implement – my first impression is that the YUMA is NOT a mild razor at all.
I’ve also been lucky enough to be be beta testing a new aftershave – and it is just as good as Kramper’s Finest bay Rum, except it isn’t bay rum. Nice and mentholly scent, not too strong, not too weak – and cooling too. I think I have found my aftershave for summer.
Overall a DFS.

Shave of the day 22nd June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, orange
Lather: Orange Essential Oil Shave Soap
Brush: Vie-Long mixed horse/badger brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant and Parker 22, both with “Personna Platinum” blades
Post-shave: Alum block and Krampert’s Finest

Felt like an orange kind of morning – the combination of soap and brush made great lather. A good shave all round.

Quick Review: Arko Cool Mint shaving cream

Part of my last haul from my favourite Turkish webshop was a tube of Arko Cool Mint cream, so I decided to try it out using my Turkish No6 brush and the Turkish fairy tale bowl.

The lather was a little dry at first but adding a little extra water fixed that well enough, resulting in copious amounts of rich, creamy lather which lasted – no collapse in seconds like I’ve seen with certain other products.

Good cushion and smooth slide made for a good shave. So on that side of the board the Arko Cool Ice gets full score. On the other hand, the scent wasn’t particularly strong, nor was the cooling effect that great. Better than nothing, but nothing to shout from the mountain tops about.

Overall I can recommend this cream is you’re looking for something in a tube that gives a good shave.

Shave of the day 20th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, peppermint
Lather: Arko Ice Mint shaving cream
Brush: Turkish No6 horse hair brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant and Parker 22, both with “Personna Platinum” blades
Post-shave: Cold water rinse, alum block and Krampert’s Finest

A minty start for a long day – and a great shave too.

I’m a geek – a shaving geek

Note: This is a repost from my other blog – suitable updated, expanded and brought up to code.

Having spent a fair bit of time the bathroom most mornings, shaving my stubble off, I one morning received a revelation: I am a geek*.

Not that it’s a great shock to me; I’ve been pretty sure of my status a a geek since I was in school.

What caused the revelation is that I suddenly grasped what part of being a nerd is: A nerd will pursue an interest in depth, with great enjoyment and with scant regard for what the “normal” people think.** For example; If a “normal” person needs a computer, s/he will buy a desktop or a laptop and use it until it needs replacing. If a geek needs a computer, s/he will end up with, well:

  • Two desktops in use (mine and my better half each have one) with dual screens
  • Two desktops on standby, with three screens between them
  • One laptop in use
  • One laptop on standby
  • Three Netbooks (two for me, one for my better half)
  • Two tablets (a Samsung Tab2 and a HP Touchpad)
  • and one ultra small form factor computing device…

Anyhow, back to my mornings: As mentioned, I was getting the stubble of my face while I was letting my mind drift and enjoying myself immensely. Actually enjoying shaving myself is still somewhat of a novel experience for me, since for the majority of my adult life shaving have simply been a chore at best and resulting in a bad case of razor burn at worst. Electric razors have always felt like they were ripping my beard out, and the various latests, greatest razors put out by Gillette have been like dragging a dull knife over my face – didn’t matter if it was two or five blades, nor what can of foam I used. Shaving was a chore and something I just got over with as soon as I could.

Not so no more.

Shortly before I deployed to Africa for a twelve month Tour of Duty my better half directed my interest towards the recent resurgence of classic shaving; that is shaving with a brush, some soap or cream, and a simple one-blade, two edged safety razor of the kind your grandfather used. I figured I would give it a try and ordered a starter-kit from an online retailer in Norway – at the very least I would not have to worry about charging my electric razor or getting cartridges for my system razor while in Sudan…

Remember my comment on what will happen if a geek needs a computer?

Well, these days a typical day starts with me picking out the days combo of razors, brush and lather, before doing a bit of prep: a throughout wash of my face with pure castille soap while the brush soaks in warm water. After the prep I load the brush up, make lather and starts shaving – smiling all the time.

So yes, if a “normal” person needs to shave, he’ll pick up an electric razor or whatever wunderbar new system one of the big names sells at inflated prices. If a geek needs a shave, he might end up with a new hobby and an array of kit:

  • A Parker 22R butterfly razor – a good first razor, and a wonderful one for the second pass.
  • A Merkur 39C slant bar – a more aggressive razor, and not one for those just starting out.
  • A Merkur 985CL open comb travel razor – sits somewhere between the 22R and 39C, and usually in my GoBag. I sometimes takes it out and uses it at home though…
  • A Feather Popular razor – remarkable mild, but requires a fairly light touch
  • A Racer razor from Egypt – untried so far, but gotten good reviews online
  • A Yuma razor from Turkey – cheap, untried but also gotten good reviews
  • Two Body Shop synthetic brushes – a decent enough brush and a good one for travelling; it dries quickly. So I got one in my GoBag and one at home.
  • An Omega Shaving Brush #10048 Boar Bristle (box branded as Prosaro) – came with my starter kit and is pretty okay; handle is a bit on the big side for me.
  • A Turkish No6 horse hair brush – wonderfully stiff and can make good to great lather out of anything.
  • A Turkish No7 horse hair brush – same knot as the No6 as far as I can tell, but with a different handle.
  • A Vie-Long #14033 mixed horse-badger brush – still in the process of breaking it in.
  • A tub of Maca Root shave cream from Body Shop – procured before I started with classic shaving, and a pretty decent shaving cream. Contains a fair bit of nasty chemicals though… will probably not get a new one once the current tub is empty.
  • A tube of Proraso eucalyptus and menthol cream – part of my starter kit and my sole cream while in Sudan; I like both the scent and the soft glide it has. Used to live in my Gobag, but have been ousted by a newer cream.
  • A tub of Proraso eucalyptus and menthol soap – pretty much the same as the cream, but as a soap. A little harder to build the lather, but that’s partly down to skill.
  • A tub of Crabtree and Evelyn Sandalwood soap – smells great and works great.
  • A stick of Arko shaving soap – some people online swears to it, and some swears at it. Like everything about classic shaving, your mileage may vary considerable. I rather like it myself, once the strong scent had worn off a bit (hint; leave it unwrapped).
  • A tub of Col. Conk Bay Rum shaving soap – my first bay rum. The scent is subtle and good, but it reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on – not anything bad, mind you.
  • Several samples of tallow, lanolin and kokum butter shaving soaps from Mike’s Natural Soaps: Lavandin & Eucalyptus, Barber Shop, Rose & Cedarwood, Orange, Cedarwood & Black Pepper, Lime, Peppermint & Rosemary, Pine & Cedarwood, and Unscented
  • A tube of Nivea Shave Cream – a solid performer, generously PIFed from a fellow shaver. Sits in my GoBag most of the time, I’m always careful to put it back after using it at home.
  • A tube of Rise Shave Gel – generously PIFed from a fellow shaver.
  • A tub of RazoRock XXX Shave Cream – generously PIFed from a fellow shaver.
  • A tub of Orange Essential Oil Shave Soap – smells great, generously PIFed from a fellow shaver.
  • A refill pucks of Mitchel’s Wool Fat Shaving Soap – generously PIFed from a fellow shaver.
  • Samples of Martin de Candre and TFS Bergamotto Neroli Soap – both solid performers, both generously PIFed from a fellow shaver.
  • A tube of Aubrey Organics North Wood shave “cream” – for use without a brush. Not too impressed with the glide, okayish for travelling. Backup for the tube in my GoBag.
  • An alum block – an antiseptic and astringent, it’s used to clean and seal any minor nicks. Stings a fair bit if you got a larger nick, and tastes really weird if you get it on your lips.
  • Proraso Liquid Cream Aftershave – a pleasant smell in my opinion, YMMV though.
  • Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum Aftershave – generously PIFed from a fellow shaver, and a very nice aftershave indeed. I miss it badly when I’m shaving from the GoBag.
  • Three bowls for making lather in – a copper bowl from Turkey, an “at home bowl” (intended by IKEA as a cereal bowl), and a Turkish acacia wood travel bowl.
  • A selection of blades; Feather Hi-Stainless, Trent, Zorrik Super, Merkur Super, Willikins Sword, Gillette 7 o’clock, Astra Superior, Lord Platinum, Shark Super Chrome, Personna Platinum, Derby Extra, Persona Super…

Off course you don’t need so much to make shaving enjoyable again; on my recent ToD to Sudan I had only my Parker 22R, my synthetic brush and the tube of Proraso cream – but I find that having to make a couple or more choices in the morning adds to the enjoyment. And compared to some people out there my combined kit is definitely on the small side…

The actual shave itself has become somewhat of a ritual, a very comfortable and manly ritual. First I’ll wash my beard stubble with some Dr Bronner’s all natural castille soap, which helps soften up the stubble and prevents the oil on my skin from breaking down the lather. Having done that, I’ll rinse off and start laying out the tools of the trade; my razors and the combo of brush and soap / cream I’ve decided upon. After soaking the brush in warm (not hot) water, I proceed to adding wetness to the stubble with the brush. This both softens the brush some and gets the water down between all my stubble. Then it’s time to build the lather, and how I do that depends a bit on what soap / cream and brush I’ve picked. Some combos work best if built in a bowl (I started out with a cheap plastic bowl, upgraded to a cereal bowl and have just bought a cheap copper shaving bowl), some combos turn out better if built directly on my face.

Having built the lather, it is time to apply it. No reason to put on an inch of lather – the idea is to create a lubricated surface for the razor to glide over, as well as softening the stubble even more. At the end the brush is still heavily loaded with lather, which is good. Putting the brush aside, I rinse the “heavy cutter” of the day under hot water – not to clean it but to prewarm it – and starts the actual shave. Slow, short and controlled strokes does the trick – letting the weight of the razor do it’s work as I guide it. First pass is with the grain, and leaves me with a shave just as good as anything I could manage in the past. I’ll rinse and put away the first razor, rinse my face and apply lather again.

Yes, a second layer of lather for a second pass. I’ve found that my brushes will easily hold enough lather for three passes, even if I mostly stick to two. The second pass is usually with a milder razor, and going across the grain of my beard. Short, controlled strokes, letting the razor work for me again. When done correctly, and with a decent blade, you can actually hear the sharp edge cutting the stubble down to nothingness. A second rinse, check for any obvious misses and then stroke my block of alum across my neck and face to clean any minor nicks and cuts. Then it’s a simple matter of rinsing and putting away the razor, the brush and the bowl, plus cleaning all the little beard bits from the sink. Some people goes for a third pass too, usually against the grain, but I’ve found that two is enough for me.

It may sound complicated, but overall it takes about the same time as using a cartridge razor and cleaning up the resultant mess in my face. My skin is happier, I got a new hobby and gets to enjoy my mornings. And it is cheap to get started too; the initial outlay may be a bit more than using the “latest and greatest” thing from Gillette or the other Big Names in shaving, but when you look at the math it turns out that it can be significantly cheaper in the long run:

A Parker 22R – my first razor – costs 295 kroner (it is far from the cheapest DE razor around), and a pack of ten (10!) Feather Hi Stainless blades costs 40 kroner. Since each blade lasts about a week, that’s about 0.60 kroner a day for shaving.
A Gillette Fusion Power Stealth costs 185 kroner, and a pack of four (4!) cartridges costs 139 kroner. If one cartridge lasts two weeks – which is what I got out of the old Sensor cartridges that is about 2.50 kroner a day for shaving.

In other words, you pay about as much for a razor and a pack of blades independent of your choice of cartridge or DE razor – but you can shave for two more weeks with the DE razor before needing replacement blades. Start factoring in the cost of new blades, and the gap keeps increasing. Your costs may vary depending on where you live off course, but the basic premise holds true: Classic shaving can be significantly cheaper than using cartridges – if anything the cost difference should be greater in most countries. It is also better for the environment; no plastic waste, less packaging and the blades can easily be recycled. On top of that it provides a better, closer and more comfortable shave – so why not give it a try?

A basic starter kit can be pretty cheap; if you live in the US (for example), you can get a basic DE razor for less than 10 USD, a ten pack of good blades for less than 2 USD, a shaving brush for less than 5 USD and a shaving stick for under one USD.

If you’re even cheaper and buys from cheaper places, you can actually get the whole kit for ten USD – plus shipping, off course.

All told a modest outlay that will save you money in the long run, as well as providing you with some personal spa time each morning. You do deserve a bit of pampering, don’t you?

*) Or nerd, or tech-head, or whatever other description you prefer.
**) Other definitions of geek / nerd includes:
– A person who is interested in technology, especially computing and new media.
– Geeks are adept with computers, and use the term hacker in a positive way, though not all are hackers themselves.
– A person who relates academic subjects to the real world outside of academic studies; for example, using multivariate calculus to determine how they should correctly optimize the dimensions of a pan to bake a cake.
– A person who has chosen concentration rather than conformity; one who passionately pursues skill (especially technical skill) and imagination, not mainstream social acceptance.
– A person with a devotion to something in a way that places him or her outside the mainstream. This could be due to the intensity, depth, or subject of their interest.

Shave of the day 18th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, Orange
Lather: Col Conk Bay Rum Shaving Soap
Brush: Vie-Long 14033 mixed horse-badger brush
Razors: Merkur 39C slant and Parker 22, both with fresh “Personna Platinum” blades
Post-shave: Alum block and Krampert’s Finest

A DFS – it’s so nice to be back in my nook and having options in the morning. The brush is coming along nicely and my fairytale bowl works great too.