By way of intro - I have a full beard, so shaving amounts to the areas of the cheek and neck. I started the beard because shaving was so painful (heck, it was the '70s - everyone had one). Back then, I'd only shave every 3-4 days, too. I've been using brushes for 25 years - just the basic boar type that one would find at the pharmacy. Similarly, I've been using Williams or whatever shaving soap was alongside. Nothing fancy, and not much in the way of results, either. Over the years I used a variety of disposable twin blade razors, switching over to cartridges at some point. Used to get 3-4 weeks on an M3 cartridge, before it became too uncomfortable. But, I could get a shave in 2 minutes.
Flash forward to last fall, I came across a link here from 43folders, and started educating myself (the madness begins). I discovered creams when I went to Target and got a tube (and tub) of Proraso. Made a great lather in an old cereal bowl and discovered how much difference a Good Lather can make to the morning ritual. (at this point the morning routine is still <5 minutes, with most of the time spent with brush and bowl). I'd tried a DE razor a few years back when I bought a plastic-handled Gillette DE and a packet of generic blades at the local Walgreens. I decided to give it a try again. With this razor/blade combo, the results actually took a step back as I experienced razor burn and bumpage around the neck area. Of course, I assumed that the problem must be the tools, so I ordered the obligatory HD and a tub of Taylor's Avocado.
Now, I've got the right tool and a highly rated (although oddly scented) cream. I'd like to say that things got better, but they didn't. Starting to lose faith here. I'm sticking to it, but occasionally I slip back to the M3 to let my skin recover. Along with the Taylor's, I got a alum bar, which feels great on the cheek, but only brings up the irritation on the neck. Kind of highlighting the mistakes - ouch.
Things proceed, with marginal progress, for several weeks. Then, at about the same time, a couple of things made life much better. I decided to leave the Merkur blades behind and ordered 100 Derbys on E-bay. Also, the lightbulb went off - it's either too much pressure or wrong angle. Since I'm barely touching my face with the blade it must be the angle. Oh, heaven! The Derby + the angle change = much fewer red marks! (and, the Taylor's Avocado starts to smell pretty good).
At this point, the B&B brush deadline approaches. I've been lurking around here for a couple of months, and I talk myself into getting one of the brushes. So, I registered as a user and was literally just about to push the button on the order when #1 son calls and is need of additional funds for school. The timing was bad, we had already dumped large amounts of money on Spring tuition for both (yup, two kids in college). (Notice, the signs of SBAD - on one hand, kid's college tuition, on the other, a new brush...hmm...). So, I bailed on the brush. I remember someone's comment about missing out and regretting it - yup, did and still do.
Around this time, I noticed Kyle's post on pre-shave prep. Tried that. Amazing difference, although I can't do the full hot-towel thing. Works great on the beard, but it seems to soften the skin a bit too much. Much more comfort and closer, too. Wow. Probably as big a difference as the angle + blade change.
Geez, that old boar brush sure is looking less than satisfactory, though. It sucks, and not in a good way. The more I look at it, the more convinced I am that this is the One Thing that is keeping me from total DE Nirvana. After days of obsessing, going back and forth on bristle type, handle shape, brush shape, and manufacturer, I finally found the funds and pulled the trigger. I ordered a nice brush in silver tip badger. Gad, the wait starts now - last week's ice storms have clogged up air travel (and hence shipping). It seems interminable.
Well, it arrived yesterday. I eagerly tore into the packing - total DE Nirvana (tDEN) is here! Opening the box and -- guess what, it's just a brush. This is it? I don't know what I expected, but, well, it is just a brush. Oh, well, how bad can it be - I just burned roughly $100 - but it's only money. Sigh. But, looking at the bristles I am impressed. The bristles seem to come to a point and I don't notice any signs of trimming.
When I got home, I was anxious to give this thing a try. I dipped the brush into the water. It was the most amazing thing, the brush just soaked up the water. Fascinating - the water just disappears. I really don't know why one would soak a brush like this for any length of time, because it holds plenty right off the bat. The boar brush would definitely change as it soaked, holding much more water and softening the bristles, but this silver tip brush doesn't seem to need either. My first bowl of lather wasn't exactly the best, being much too watery, but it was noticeably easier to whip up. The second was much better - once again getting the correct ratio of soap to water is proving difficult.
Throughout the evening, as I wander past the bathroom, I stop by and give the brush a caress. It is amazing - not quite like touching a mink coat, but similar. Just can't get enough. Wow. The old boar bristle is starting to feel like a overgrown pastry brush.
Flash forward to this morning, and the first actual shave with the new brush. Taylor's Avocado. I now know what is meant by "lather explodes." This brush really sucks up the lather, too. It's still just a brush, but it is growing on me... 30 minutes later and I'm still playing with the soap and the bowl.
The experiment continues. Still haven't achieved tDEN, I've now got a serious soap/cream jones and I'm trying to avoid SBAD. It's just a brush, it's just a brush... Thanks, guys.
But, all that aside, this is an interesting community of gentlemen from whom I have learned much.