This is kinda long, but I'm trying to be complete and share my impressions so far. Maybe someone has some guidance after reading this dissertation.
I've been shaving with a DE and "real" lather for more than a month now. My beginner's setup is a Weishi DE razor, C.O. Bigelow cream, Kiss My Face lime cream, and a (surprisingly soft) boar brush from Men-u, which I think is actually made by Omega.
I *think* I'm good at lathering now. I can generally get enough good thick lather for 3 to 4 passes. The KMF sometimes seems to dry out a bit towards the 3rd or 4th pass, or if I let it sit too long on my face, but generally speaking I think I've got lathering down.
I bought sort of a sampler pack of blades from Shoe Box Shave Shop by choosing a few blades that had consistently good reviews, and then decided to add on blades from what that store calls the "high performance pack".
I think my beard is pretty thick, and it grows pretty fast. As an indication, I need a hair cut every 6 weeks or I look ragged. My beard is similar: You can definitely tell at the 24 hour mark that I have not shaved.
I started working through my blades and I'm getting a little confused as I go on. I wasn't expecting the results I got. Here are my long-ish impressions so far:
Derby Extra: Started with this, scared as hell that I'd cut myself to pieces. It wasn't bad. Just a few nicks and it wasn't all that uncomfortable.
Israeli Personna Blue Crystals: Ouch. The very first shave with this blade hurt. I tried 2 more times, after waiting more than a week in between, and they were awful. Threw the blade away.
Israeli Personna Red pack: Scrapes a bit, but doesn't hurt my face at all. I wish I could get closer, but even after 4 passes and touch up with J hooks and blade buffing, my face is comfortable.
Going back to the Derby Extra after the Red Personna showed me how rough they were. Two bad shaves (presumably while the coating gets knocked off), then 2 fairly good shaves, and by the 5th shave it's bad again (presumably dull by then). I think I'm done with these blades.
Gillette Permasharp Green Pack: Seems way sharper than others. Still snags a bit ATG. I think I love this blade, but then I apply alum and realize how harsh on my face it was. Inspection afterwards shows dry, flaky looking skin as if I need moisturizer. 5 shaves and I'm done with this blade, but not unhappy.
Going back to the Red Personna, I get several smooth comfortable shaves, again wishing I could get closer (even though the Gillettes won't do it). Very comfortable. Only minimal burning here and there with Alum. Even with 4 days of growth, this blade leaves my face smooth (for me) and comfortable.
Gillette Sharp Edge, Yellow Pack: Owie, owie, owie. Sharp blades for sure, but rough and pull bad ATG. My face burns before I touch the alum. Applying it confirms, I have roughed up my face badly. I give it 3 shaves, the last of which I do the absolute minimum of overlapping strokes, watch my pressure, *and* don't do any touchups. I still get razor burn and the alum tells me my face isn't happy.
Shark Super Stainless: Ahhhhh. Doesn't seem as sharp as the Gillettes, yet also doesn't pull ATG like they do. A couple of tiny nicks, indicating they are sharper than the Red Personnas, but not bad nicks at all. 3 passes plus somewhat aggressive touchup (J hooks and blade buffing) and I have as close a shave as any other blade has ever given me. It's still not BBS or maybe not even DFS, but good for me. ZERO irritation. The alum block didn't even burn! I've only done one shave with this blade so far, which brings us up to present day.
At this point I should mention that the philosophy on each pass of only going over each area once doesn't seem to work for me. I generally am hitting each area 2 or 3 times on each pass, as I still hear/feel hair being cut and it seems like I'm leaving a lot behind. One stroke per pass always leaves lather behind too, while a 2nd or 3rd stroke on that same area generally clean that off, along with more hair. Even after 3 to 4 passes, I feel roughness ATG, and after touchups with J hooks and blade buffing, I *still* am not totally smooth.
I tried being very "by the book" with the Yellow pack Gillettes as I indicated above and I ended up with a passable shave, but not *nearly* as smooth as I get with other blades and doing multiple strokes per pass. ...and this blade still ate my face up badly.
Do I need a more aggressive razor? More passes? 5? 6? I could spend 45 minutes shaving at this rate... I thought I needed a sharper blade, but the Gillettes are showing me that's not necessarily true.
Final notes: I still have the following blades left to try, in the approximate order I'm thinking of trying them in:
Gillette Super Platinum Black Pack
BOLZANO SuperInox Titanium
Feather Hi-Stainless Platinum
Then some miscellaneous singles that are nothing special.
Thanks for reading if you got this far. Maybe I'm never going to get that elusive BBS shave. Maybe my face is just too babyish for ultra sharp blades. Or maybe my technique is still no good. Any advice is welcomed.