I've been lurking only shortly, having stumbled on 'wet shaving' a few weeks ago (and, subsequently, this website). Before I bought my brush and DE razor, I used what most people use: A Mach 3 and canned goo. Generally, my skin didn't feel very good after a shave and I used to get small, nasty looking razor bumps near my mouth the next day or the day after that. This was always paired with some irritation. Also, shaving was an awful chore.
My current shaving gear:
Merkur classic, Derby blades
Wars shaving cream
Omega Badger Brush (this one, it's quite soft)
A very small tube post-shave cream (no perfume)
Yeah, that last thing isn't really part of my gear. I've almost always shaved without aftershave.
Anyway. Now I don't get the bumps I used to get, which is good. Having only little experience (about two weeks), I assume it can only get better. Already on my first shave with a DE razor, my skin felt very different. Feeling my stubble after the shave (I'm not going for BBS until I get comfortable), it felt very different. It feels as if the stubble isn't part of my skin anymore. It feels quite good!
A few things I'm working on: Figuring out in which direction my stubble grows. I thought this wouldn't be difficult at first, but it seems on some areas of the skin the hair has 'borders' where the hair seems to grow in an exact opposite direction. My hair grows very quickly so I have had the opportunity to shave often, but I'm also wary of shaving too often and not letting my skin recover.
An aftershave seems to be a crucial part of the shave, so I'll work on getting some good aftershave soon (recommendations?) & work on improving my technique.
One final thing: I figured that the alum block can be thought of as a learning tool. If there's no irritation, I nailed it. If there is a lot of irritation, it means I need to improve my shaving on the areas that are stinging. Does this sound right? If so it seems to me that an alum block is a good learning tool for a beginner. I hardly ever get any nicks so I needn't worry about stopping bleeding. I guess there's something I'm doing right.
I look forward to joining in on the occasional discussion. I don't regularly post on any forums, so this might be my new home.