The Art of Shaving

I have always had a love/hate affair with shaving.  I love the routine and pangentry associated with shaving ones face.  I think most men, just go through the motions with 4 or 5 or 6 bladed modern razors … boring!

Several years ago, I fell in love with the idea of shaving with the “old fashion” single blade razor.  After much research on the equipment, techniques and advantages of the single blade over the newer razors, I dove in and purchased the basics.  My hope at the time was that the single blade would allow me to get such a close shave that I could skip a day.  With the 4 bladed razors if I shaved every day, I cut my face to shreds and my neck would be irritated for 2 days after shaving.  With the single blade razor, the closeness it great and I can get away with a day between shaves, but the irritation is still there.

The minimum equipment is quality razors, a handle, a brush, soap, soap cup and pre-shave oil (a good after-shave lotion is bonus).  I choose a short handled handle (some days I wish I had opted for a long handled handle – maybe an upgrade some days), german made for quality.  I love the black anodized handle, it looks classic.  For blades, I knew I wanted to try Feathers.  They are the sharpest, Japanese made blades available, however many online advise learning the techniques using less costly blades.  The set I bought came with 5 Merkur blades and I added a variety pack so I could see what brand of blades worked best for my face.

The brush.  Do not skimp on the brush.  I choose a badger hair brush from Parker, again with a black handle and chrome base. Paired with a classic chrome razor.brush stand, it looks quite 1950’s on the bathroom sink!  The badger hair is essential.  It absorbs water and stays soft, yet it reminds stiff enough to work up a great lather from the soap.  These brushes are not inexpensive, but they are worth every penny, and should last many years!

Blades.  As I mentioned earlier, you have to find the blade that works best for your face.  For me, it’s either the Japanese Feathers or the German Mercers.  They are both very sharp, and I can get 4 or 5 shaves out of each blade, thus if purchased in bulk, you can get them for much less that the cost of the modern multi-blade razors.  Some of the blades in the variety pack, looked very smooth, but felt like dragging a broken bottle across my face.  Some of those blades I can get a single shave from, and then I dispose of them, they are just not worth the cost.

Okay, so what I really like about shaving with a single blade is what I called pageantry.  what I mean by this, is that it now takes me a good 15 minutes to shave.  It’s best done after a nice hot shower, when the beard is more pliable.  First I draw a hot sink full of water and moisten my face.  Next is a pre-shave oil.  While I’m applying the oil, the brush is soaking in the hot water, then shake it out, so that it’s not dripping wet.  Using the brush to build up a good lather, and then apply it to your face – the best feeling in the world!  Okay, now you have to shave.  Only one stroke, no going over the same spot again and again like a modern razor.  I use three shaves.  The first is all down.  Then I re-lather and shave from ear to mouth, and shave up my neck to the jaw.  The last shave is from the mouth to ear and once more up from the neck to the jaw.  These three shaves in one, make for an extremely close shave.

The real key is to shaving with this razor is keeping the blade in contact with the skin at a 30-degree angle while pulling the skin tight.  And, of course, taking your time and enjoying the method.


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