I just posted my specific recommendations for a starting kit. I'd appreciate your comments, corrections, suggestions, etc.
UPDATE: Rik pointed out that I've been asked not to put links to my blog in the forum, but instead to include the actual text of the post. My bad. Here's the post, though I have not included all the links that the original post contains.
In my general guide to shaving with a safety razor [that's in my blog, thus no link---and at 8 pages, it's a little much to include in a post here - LG] I provide many options, but then the question arises: What do I specifically recommend to a potential enthusiast who wants to shave with safety razor and double-edged blade?
Fair question, and I’ll answer it here. I will point out that, should the experiment not work out for you, you can readily find buyers for the equipment and supplies on the ShaveMyFace and Badger & Blade selling threads. Indeed, you might be able to pick up some of your equipment there.
$30.00 Merkur Hefty Classic (”HD”)
$06.00 Feather blades
$35.00 Edwin Jagger Best Badger brush
$10.00 Proraso Shaving Cream (Green tube)
$00.00 Lathering bowl (deep cereal bowl—approx 5″ across, 3″ deep)
$03.00 Alum block
$13.00 Proraso Pre- and After-shave
$10.00 Pinaud 12.5 oz Bay Rum
$107 total, before shipping and any sales tax—not terribly modest, but a few corners can be cut. You can check out eBay to see if you can pick up a Gillette Super Speed in good condition. There’s general agreement that the 1940s is the best of the lot—here’s a photo of one (click photo to enlarge).
You can use the Prorase Pre- and After-shave as your aftershave, but some really prefer something else. The Pinaud Bay Rum is a classic, and the emptied bottle makes a great razor safe for used blades (cut a slit in the side). OTOH, you might prefer a moisturizing balm for your aftershave, and Neutrogena Razor Defense ($6.00) is available at your local drugstore. Generally speaking, a balm is soothing, an aftershave bracing, so you choose the effect you want.
And, as mentioned above, you should check out the selling threads in ShaveMyFace and Badger & Blade.
There are, of course, options in the other direction—e.g., getting the HD in gold instead of chrome ($40, but very nice).
Only the best
$100.00 Merkur Vision safety razor
$006.00 Feather blades
$185.00 Emperor 3 Super Badger brush (scroll down)
$013.50 Taylor of Old Bond Street Avocado shaving cream
$000.00 Lathering bowl (deep cereal bowl—approx 5″ across, 3″ deep)
$003.00 Alum block
$013.00 Proraso Pre- and After-shave
$010.00 Pinaud 12.5 oz Bay Rum
This amounts to $330.50 before shipping and sales tax, if my addition is correct. But this really is an exceptional collection. The Vision is adjustable, and I recommend that you start with it set at “N” (least aggressive) and adjust it upward day by day until you find the setting that’s best for you.
Regardless of your first razor, I recommend that your second razor be the Merkur Slant Bar ($30.00). It should be a second razor because it requires a light touch and a sure hand, so you should be an experienced wielder of the safety razor before using it. Feather blades work wonderfully well in it. It will not give closer shaves than the Vision, in my experience, but it’s a different shave. You can also get it in gold for $40.
And, of course, I recommend the four-pass shaving method: progressive reduction of stubble before a final upward pass. For beginners, it’s been suggested that starting with a two-pass method—a with-the-grain pass (for most men, that’s downward) followed by an E-W pass—is enough. Progress to the four-pass method as you gain experience.
It’s worth noting that a given brand of blade will get different responses from different people. Feathers are sharp, and that’s what’s required in a razor blade IMHO (given a good razor, the right setting if it’s adjustable, the right angle, light pressure, etc.), but some people prefer the Merkur blades or the Derby Extra or the Personna. (WalMart has Personna blades at $1.36 for ten: 14 cents apiece.) Whatever you start with, you’re likely to want to experiment. But you have to start someplace, and the Feathers have been great for me. YMMV
When you decide to get a second aftershave, I recommend Thayer’s Witch Hazel (alcohol free), which you can find at Whole Foods and in various health-food stores in Rose Petal, Lavender, or Original. Or get Thayer’s Extra Strength Aftershave with Aloe Vera.
Eventually you’ll want to try other shaving creams and also shaving soaps. The general guide provides some options for these, and don’t overlook the artisanal shaving soaps.
Target has a $3 cereal bowl that exactly the right size and shape and is also hefty—feels as though it will hold heat well. Or you can use a cereal bowl you already have.
The general guide includes links to tutorials (complete with photos) of lathering techniques for creams and for soaps. Check those out to ensure that you get satisfactory results.
Let me know if you have any questions. Good shaving!