Ihad the great good fortune to stumble upon this site last week. Mycomputer had been down, which took me to the Apple store in theDanbury mall for a repair, and across the way was the "Art ofShaving" shop, which struck me as so absurdly pretentious I justhad to stop in. Once inside I became immediately entranced andrepelled. Here was a rank commercialization of what I've been up tomost of my adult life; what's the big deal? When my maternalgrandfather died I inherited his shaving brush and his Hoffritzcombless DE razor. I started using them that summer. This was around1982. You could still get Williams cream in a tube. That was somegreat shave.
Mygrandfather's brush, already having seen its share of service, gaveout after a couple months. That Fall I bought an expensive badgerhair brush at the Boots drugstore in Toronto. I remember when I toldmy father I'd paid something like sixty dollars for it - or was itthirty? - he balked at the indulgence. My dad had always used abrush, but I guess he went for the cheaper ones. Thing is, I stilluse that badger hair brush today, thirty years later. By now, it'spaid for itself. Hell, I may have MADE money on the deal. But that'snot the point . . .
Alongwith the Hoffritz, my grandfather had left behind a straight razor: aKing Cutter, made in Solingen by H Boker and Co.. The logo puts itsvintage between 1925 and 1934. I had kept it mostly as a curio. Imean, dudes would take that to their FACE?
Fastforward to the day last week where I wound up in the shaving store atthe mall, ogling the shiny new straight razors. PURDY. Headinghome, I rummaged through the stuff under the bathroom sink and foundOpa's straight razor.
Alittle online research and I wound up on this forum, lurking, and hadthe kismet to come upon a thread about Poughkeepsie area honing. Nextthing I know I am in touch with honemeisterandgenerally stand up guy KRODOR, who offered to hone my blade free ofcharge, I suppose just as a way of shepherding a newbie along. Hestopped by to pick up the blade on Thursday and said he could have itback to me by Monday. The next morning, Friday, he called to say he'dfinished the job and left the shave-ready straight edge in mymailbox. Three days early.
Nowit was just me and the blade.
Thegent at The Art of Shaving had assured me that if I was proficientshaving with the safety razor, the skill required for the move to astraight edge was pretty well already within my grasp. That wasencouraging, even exciting.
Standingin front of the mirror, alone with the straightedge in hand was analtogether different reality. Somewhere amidst those hairs on theneck sits the jugular, after all.
Istarted with my cheek. Fingers dried and applied above the sideburn,I stretched my face upward and had at it with a short, sharp swipe.Then another, adjusting the angle a little each time, aiming for whatI'd gathered from all the posts I'd read and the YouTube videos I'dwatched was the optimal, thirty degree angle. Which is kind of one ofthe cooler aspects of this whole process: you can measure thirtydegrees with a protractor, you can intellectualize the number in yourhead, but where the rubber hits the pavement, as it were, you gottahold that blade right.
Andthis is where the real, almost counterintuitive process became areality. I was nearly giddy with a sense of devil-may-care as I tookthat first swipe. And damn, those whiskers fell like wheat before Iscythe as I deftly let it happen. (At least that's what I thinkhappened; I've never harvested wheat with a scythe). Just the same,here I was, getting a little more elemental, a little closer to thesource, with something I had to do anyway. And it was great.
Thenit got scary.
Istood there, clean of whiskers on my cheeks, under my jaw and, oddlyenough, as I could have cut off my nose to spite my face in thebargain, my upper lip area (Zappa fans out there?). Still to come wasmy neck, my chin and a line along the frontal part of my jaw. Theseare detailed, close oriented parts of the face. Suddenly three inchesof blade was a lot of tool for that fine a territory.
Gentlereaders, if you're still with me, I let discretion be the better partof valor and picked up my Grandfather's safety razor to finish theseremaining patches. Next time, I thought.
Andso I was done.
Ihad a couple of observations. Last year sometime I bought a puck ofVan Der Hagen shave soap for $2.99 at the local Rite Aid. It's notbad, even quite good, and has done me well with the DE since I boughtit. Plus it lasts a ridiculously long time. It does contain a largenumber of ingredients, many of them barely pronounceable, which givesme some pause. For now, though, it'll do. More important here waswhat was revealed about lathering technique.
Thestuff I'd read online about how much more important lathering becomeswith a straightedge made me focus more closely on lathering up thebrush and my face. Just by paying more attention and taking more timeduring this phase of the shave, I got a much thicker lather going than I normally do for a shave with the safety razor. I conclude thatthe soap you use is less important than the technique you apply andthe time you're willing to take. (There's an obvious sexual metaphorwaiting to be exploited here, but I'll leave that to your perfervidimagination). A higher end soap might yield even better results moreeasily, but again, an adequate soap will do if used properly.
Mycheeks burned some. I put this down to my inexperience with the SEand the learning curve that comes into play when beginning tounderstand blade angle. At the same time, this burn wasn't like thatnasty irritation you get with a 27 blade Mach 54 kill-them-all technomarvel marketing gizmo or the like. It was nowhere near as intense aburn.
It'sMonday, and my beard is still pretty tame. The straightedge isundoubtedly close, and the shave it gives lasts. Whether I'll keep atit and try to ascend that learning curve or stick with the safetyrazor, time will tell. I'll keep you posted.