First, let me say to anyone who is lurking or on the fence, just do it!
Received my package from Lee's yesterday, consisting of a Merkur HD, Derby blades, Vulfix brush, Proraso Pre/Post Shave, Proraso Cream, and Proraso Liquid Cream After Shave. I put it all to the test this morning.
After reading of some rough first attempts by others, I was prepared for a real blood-letting; however, thanks to all of the tips and advice available here, I pulled it off without so much as a nick. In fact, the result was noticeably better than my typical cartridge/multi-blade shave.
I used a thick, short coffee mug, which I placed in hot water while soaking my brush. I then splashed on some hot water and applied the pre/post cream to my face and neck. While my whiskers were softening up, following the tutorial in the "Getting Started Wetshaving" thread, I whipped up a great lather. I actually made a lot more than I needed; I was shocked at how little cream is actually needed. The Proraso definitely produces a pronounced cooling effect on the face, but nothing close to the "face numbing" I'd heard of; I really liked it.
With the HD, I simply paid close attention to blade angle, and used almost no pressure, basically letting the weight of the razor do the work. I loved the sound of the blade slicing the whiskers. I came away with a fairly close shave, as I said it was as good or better than what I'm accustomed to, but with much less irritation and burn on the neck. I have a pretty heavy beard, and I can see that at least a second pass and probably an XTG and maybe an ATG will be in order at some point, but I'm gonna stick with one WTG for a week or so.
I showered afterward and rinsed my face off with no soap, which left a very cool, refreshing sensation. I then applied the AS which was very soothing and left my face feeling smooth and clean. The scent left by the multiple Proraso products was mild, clean, and fresh, and definitely reminded me of the barber shops I went to when I was a kid.
The result is good already - but the experience is the thing. Those who've done it know what I mean.