Review of the Arko shaving stick

Very few products seems to polarise traditional wetshavers quite like the Arko shaving stick do; once you tried it you’ll either love it or loathe it.

What most people agree on though is that the tallow based stick works great – it’s easy to whip up a lovely lather weither you rub it on your face and face lather, or if you mash it into a bowl and use it for bowl lathering. Where opinions differs is on the scent – some say it smells fresh and citrusy, others think it smells like urinal cakes. And others again – like myself – leave it unwrapped for a while and get a pretty much unscented shaving stick…

Using the Arko as a stick is simplicity itself: I prep my face before I  rub the stick over my whiskers, and then I takes the damp / wet brush of the day and vigourously applies it to my face in a circular motion. The result is a nice creamy and rich lather that is worked into my beard – perfect for those days when I havn’t shaved in a while. There is always enough left on my brush for a second and third pass – and if it isn’t it’s easy to reapply and make more.

The Arko shaving stick provides a more than acceptable cushion and glide, at least on my skin. If you use it for face lathering it can be a little picky on the brush in my expereince; a brush with a decent amount of backbone is needed to work that lather into the whiskers properly. For bowl lathering every one of my brushes works wonders with the Arko, once they are loaded properly.

If you can stand the scent, the Arko shave stick will not disapoint – and it’s cheap at half the price.

Quick Review: Mama Bear Shaving Soap

Inspired by a discussion on The Shave Nook, I ordered two tubs of Mama Bear shaving soaps earlier this month – one Awakening and one Brazilian Coffee.

The soap is – as far as I can tell – built on a glycerin based melt-and-pour base. I’m not sure if Mama Bear buys the base or makes her own, but the result is pretty good either way; it lathers quickly, has good slip and cushioning, and don’t leave my skin terribly dry. Judging by the sheer amount of lather it whips up, each tub should last me a long time.

As for the scent… a mixed bag indeed:
The Awakening has a strong scent of menthol and other goodies, and actually chilled my face quite well while I was shaving despite the fact that I used hot water to make the lather. My Better Half on the other hand though it smelled like Vicks Vapor Rub, so she wasn’t too thrilled about it. I like it though, and that is what matters the most.
The Brazilian Coffee smells more or less like a cold cup of coffee while in the tub, but lathering it up makes the scent mellow quite a bit. If you’re expecting the intoxicating scent of a freshly brewed cup you will be underwhelmed though. It’s not a bad scent, just not great.

Overall I can recommend Mama Bear’s soaps if you’re in the market for a glycerin soap. For me, I think the two tubs I got is enough for the foreseeable future.

A suggested 10$ starter kit for new wetshavers

Despite my somewhat funny tagline in the header of my blog, traditional wetshaving can be had on the cheap without sacrificing much in the way of quality. To prove it, here is one suggestion for a starter kit costing less than 10$ from my favorite Turkish web-shop, consisting of items I have tried and enjoyed myself:

Total cost as listed is a whooping 9.54$! In addition an newbie wetshaver might want to borrow a bowl from the kitchen for lathering in – unless s/he wants to make lather directly on the skin – and perhaps an after shave or balm.

I could have suggested the Dalan d’Men shaving cream instead which retails for 24 cents less than the Arko cream, or even the 1.75$ Arko stick. But I have no experience with the former, and the later is one of those you either love or hate and as such may not be a good choice for a beginner.

In addition I would suggest that someone who is just taking up traditional wetshaving spend some time online, checking out the multitude of wetshaving blogs and forums that have sprung up the last few years. In particular I can recommend The Shave Nook – a friendly and including online community. I can also recommend picking up a copy of Leisureguy’s Guide to Gourmet Shaving, even if that book costs as much as my suggested shaving kit.

With a kit like this, and a steady hand, a fresh wetshaver can get about ten weeks worth of traditional wetshaving under their belt before needing to stock up on more supplies – and when they need more they’ll need just more blades and perhaps more shaving cream. The razor and brush will last forever, if taken care of – at the very least the razor and brush will last until the time comes to replace them with more expensive, higher quality gear.

Shave of the day 23rd July

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, Lavender
Lather: Mama Bear’s Brazilian Coffee
Brush: Turkish No7
Razors: Gillette Sensor with a fresh “Sensor Excel” cartridge
Post-shave: Cold water rinse, Alum block and Krampert’s Finest Bay Rum

I know… dabbling in the Dark Side again, after all this time of staying true to traditional wetshaving…

The Better Half uses the Sensor for her legs – despite my attempts to convert her to DE razors – and yesterday she ditched the old cartridge.So in the name of experimenting I decided to see if my recollection of using a cartridge razor was right – even at the risk of a horrible shave.

The result?

The Sensor is a mild razor – which is good, since I needed four passes and some touch ups to get close to the DFS I get from two passes and no touch ups with my DE razors. Honestly Gillette; if this is supposed to be “the best a man can get” then I suggest you all hand in your man-cards.

It’s half an hour since I finished my shave, and I’m already looking forward to areal shave with a DE razor…

On the upside, I got a much better result with the Sensor today than I ever got before I started traditional wetshaving – prep and technique must count for something.

Shave of the day 20th July

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, Orange
Lather: Mama Bear’s Awakening (peppermint, tea tree and menthol)
Brush: Vie-Long 14033 mixed horse-badger brush
Razors: 25C with a “Treet Platinum” blade and Franken-nought-four with a “Lord Platinum” blade
Post-shave: Cold water rinse, Alum block and Krampert’s Finest Experimental Menthol

Tried out a soap that arrived yesterday – wonderfully cooling and refreshing in the morning, keeping my face cool the whole shave.
Also used two razors with identical heads today, trying to judge if I like long or short handles the most – jury is still out.
Wrapping up with a cold rinse and Krampert’s Finest Menthol – a cool end to a DFS.

Review of the Egyptian Racer razor

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 razor from my usual Turkish web store. The Racer razor is – according to the place I bought it – manufactured in Egypt, and cost me a whooping 3.75 USD.

The majority of the razor is made of injection molded plastic, except the top of the head which is cast metal. It appears quite solid – at least as solid as most cartridge razors and much more solid than most disposables. It is a two piece design – twist the handle and the metal cap comes off. The mixed construction is well balanced, with the center of gravity shortly below the head. This makes for an easily maneuvered razor, while keeping it so light you hardly notice that you’re holding it.

Loading the blade is pretty straight forward with little to no slack, so unlike the Yuma you don’t really have to pay much attention while loading. The cap also covers up the sides of the razor blade, removing one possibility of cutting your fingertips open. The design allow for a pretty generous blade gap, while holding the blade almost flat. This means the Racer is a fairly aggressive shaver, more so than most of my other razors.

Comparing it to another cheap razor – the Yuma – I would say that the Racer feels less harsh but is more aggressive. It’s not a bad razor for a newbie on a budget – provided s/he is told to be careful and to make sure not to use any pressure. Combined with a good blade it gives a more than acceptable shave. It also is a decent second razor for a more experienced traditional wetshaver, perhaps as a semi-disposable travel razor. All in all I can recommend the Racer razor to, well, anyone who fancies a very cheap razor for whatever reason – just keep in mind that there is many better razors out there, if you’re willing to invest a bit more.

Shave of the Day 18th June

Pre-shave: Dr Bronner’s Magic Soap, liquid peppermint
Lather: Orange Essential Oil Shave Soap
Brush: Omega #10048 boar
Razors: Franken-nought-four loaded with a “Lord Platinum” blade and a Feather Popular with a “Feather Hi Stainless”
Post-shave: Cold water rinse, Alum block and Krampert’s Finest Experimental Menthol

Peppermint, orange and menthol makes for a very nice and refreshing shave in the middle of the work week.
The Frankenrazor works as well as can be expected, ie. pretty well – the handle of the Yuma is a little on the light side to balance the Merkur OC head properly.