Recently I was looking for one of my old posts on the forum. I never did find it, but I did wind up reading some a lot of my early threads about technique, and was surprised to notice I'd forgotten a lot of stuff I thought I was learning about how to get better shaves. I guess I did a lot of experimenting like a lot of us do, and I really did find things that helped me as I was developing a feel for it, but after a little more than a year of daily shaves wit DE and SE razors I really don't think about technique anymore, and some of the stuff I learned early on, that really did help point me in the right direction to getting great shaves seems at best irrelevant now, if not downright wrong.
I was fortunate. My first few shaves with a DE were all great to my way of thinking. They felt better, and were closer, and with less irritation than I had been getting with cartridges, and they only took a little bit longer than what i had been doing. I'm quite sure I have the information I gathered right here prior and subsequent to those first shaves to thank for the good results I got. I experimented like most of us who've switched from carts to vintage DE and SE razors have probably done, and I documented for my own purposes as well as to share with others little tricks I found to make it work better, but the funny thing is over time I stopped thinking about shaving and just did it, and somewhere in there I seem to have thrown out some of what I was learning in favor of going by what feels right and what works. Currently my shaves are quicker, and at least as good as what I was getting early on.
Blade angle: Even at the start I knew this was more about feel than about visually aligning the blade or the handle to the plane of my skin. the diagrams helped with the concept, but now I find the very thought of it distracting. I've tried so many different razors and I can always find blade angle quickly by feel as long as I DON'T think about it.
Passes: WTG/XTG/ATG all well and good, and early on I was trying to map my face and figure out when to use what, but here's one of those things I forgot. Early on I was finding my neck particularly difficult to shave closely without irritation, and somewhere in there I figured out that if I did 2 WTG passes before doing ATG, it worked better. Now I do 2 or three passes depending upon the area, and I don't really think about it I just know where I need to go and what directions to go in, but it's more about feel than a wrote routine. On my head I'll do front to back, then back to front, and I'll stop when I don't feel any more hair. I feel both with my free hand, and with the blade itself. if it's cutting I can feel it, if it's not, I can feel that too.
NO PRESSURE: And here's the big one I realized just this morning. That NO PRESSURE mantra we chant at newbies? As uesful as that is for avoiding carnage while learning to use one of these blades it turns out no pressure is not necessarily the best pressure. Again I don't usually think about this stuff I do it by feel, and I'm finding the less the think about it the better. I have a hout 6 different razors in my regular rotation, and I've tried dozens, all slightly different, and each works best with a slightly different touch, but the thing that's the same is that they all hold a sharp blade, and I know by feel how I want that blade to contact my face, so regardless of the weight, or dimensions of the razor my hand is going to press with just enough pressure to give me the optimal shave. I noticed it this morning using my NEW Norfolk DE Luxe Tuckaway. I was actually pressing fairly hard. Not hard hard, but certainly not "No Pressure" and not "Just the weight of the head" but the amount of pressure I like to remove hairs with the perfect mix of efficiency and comfort.
And that's when it really clicked. All this technique we write about is useful for helping us get to where we can shave by feel, but that's all they're really good for. The ultimate goal should not be mastering the rules, but mastering the feel. The reason I no longer need 2 WTG passes on my neck ais that I now can get the same reduction with one pass using optimal angle and pressure, and I know those things by feel, not by angles and inch pounds. I still need to do three passes there, but that's not because it's some magical technique, it's because the hairs on my neck grow in 3 different directions, and I can feel that I need to shave this way AND that in order get them all.
Now I realize all the rules and techniques we talk about here are useful to help folks learn to get better shaves, but I would like to propose another technique that might help folks who've got the basics down, but maybe are still thinking more then feeling: close your eyes. If you are or were a shower shaver you may already have this down, but if you always shave in front of the mirror, and never shave the back of your head, or someplace else you can't see, this might really help you to feel instead of look. The handle doesn't matter, the head doesn't matter. The blade exposure matters, but maybe less than you think. In the end it's just the blade and your skin and your hair that matter. close your eyes, feel the blade on your face, feel the resistance as the hairs cut, listen and lean to know the sound of hairs being cut. Once you've learned to shave by feel and sound as well as by sight, everything else you ever learned about shaving will become extraneous.