I wet shaved for a year-and-a-half before I tried Method Shaving. It was not an easy transition. I absolutely barbequed myself the first couple of times. It was so bad that I though I was having an allergic reaction to the Cube. I called Charles and told him this. He said this was a common reaction that had nothing to do with the Cube. It was simply lousy technique. It took a good two months before I had any real proficiency with the blade. I kept bouncing back and forth between MS and my old method. As time passed I sort of blended the two together. Little by little my shaves got better. Each time I reached a plateau I would add a little more MS and take away some the old way. It is very tough to jump full-blown into Method Shaving, especially if you have been wet shaving for any length of time. Method Shaving is not always instinctual and has a fairly steep learning curve.
Here are some of the mistakes that I made early on;
Mixes that were too thick when using an English cream and too thin when using HydroLast. If you want to cut MS style you need water and lots of it. English creams cut very slow and really need to be blown up with water before you can cut MS. This is where the big bucket brushes come in. Mixing in a bowl just doesnít get the mix wet enough. Priming with the cube, mixing in your hand and blowing it up on your face is the only way to hydrate those puppies. Feather blade not recommended.
HydroLast can wash out if you donít use enough Cube or an inadequate brush (or both). We always chirp about water, but HydroLast is so thin by itself that if you donít use enough Cube it will sink into your brush and wash right out the bottom. Prime that sucker more than you think you should. Also, brushes with no gutters and a smaller breech (ala the SMF brush and I know because I have one) hold a lot of water and not enough cream. They can be used in an MS environment but require some jockeying and are tough to learn on.
Using way too much blade exposure. My first cracks at MS were done with a slant bar. HUGE mistake. An expert MSíer can pull it off but not a beginner. Use no more blade than is necessary to do the job. The blade exposure on the weak side of an HD (or the equivalent on an adjustable) is the absolute maximum you need. Less is preferable.
Failure to understand reduction. The normal way to shave, and the most instinctual, is to cut as close as you can with the first pass and then pick up loose garbage with the next. Once your skin is irritated, youíre done. The idea is to chop the whiskers down bit by bit. It keeps the blade off the skin and keeps you in a position to finish the shave correctly. Imagine that you are cutting the hair in half with each pass.
Too much skin tension too soon. I was a big skin stretcher before I tried MS. Skin tension is only needed to cut skin close (and then less than you think). Since we are not trying to shave skin close until the final pass, very little if any skin tension is needed when cutting the forms. Understanding this is what allowed me to turn the corner on my lower neck. I used to tear the sides of my adamís apple to shreds. Once I stopped stretching my skin piano wire tight early in the shave, my neck cleared right up.
Fear of working outside the box. When I first started MS I had the same misconception that almost everyone else had. I thought that if you deviated, even one little bit, from what was written or what Charles said then you werenít Method Shaving. Method Shaving is a framework. Every shaverís face and beard are different and have slightly different needs. It is impossible to describe or provide general instruction for every situation that a shaver could encounter. Thatís why Charles has always taught shavers personally. You canít help someone through their own speed bumps without direct interaction, but it is still up to the individual to fill in the blanks (and part of the fun). As the interest in Method Shaving (and wet shaving in general) continues to grow more and more people will be learning by reading. That is unfortunate but unavoidable. What it means is that shavers will need to understand that the information on MS is a framework and not gospel.
The products are not that important. The HydroLast line of products is the only one available that matches up with the high velocity (extremely wet) environment that MS needs to be at is best. I have tried nearly every wet shaving product out there in conjunction with MS technique, and while many can be made to work, they are far from ideal. The Cube, the paste, and the large bucket brush are necessary to create the best mix. The Feather blade is the only thing sharp enough to shave with the necessary speed.
Razors are less of an issue but either the Merkur HD or the Progress are the best available for MS. Cutting Balm is designed to provide extra protection for the finishing pass. And Charlesí post shave moisturizers and tonic are absolutely the finest available. Throw in the fact that these products are pure and chemical-free and you put your skin in a position to be at its very best.
This is not a comprehensive list, but I think it gives a good overview of what most beginners struggle with. Most other problems are specific to the individual shaver and require individual attention. Either through direct interaction with Charles himself, interaction with experienced MS guys on the forums, or through the shavers own research, study, and ultimately, experimentation.