Monday, August 27, 2007


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I wetshave. What is wetshaving?

Rather than:
- squirting largely unidentifiable gunk onto my face
- dragging the penultimate example of planned obsolescence in the world across my cheek
- following that with overdrying alcohol-based aftershave, and
- throwing away a can and untold razor cartridges every month

- Rub my face down with a hot towel
- use a brush and mug to lather my face up
- get my double edged razor really hot and wetshave

Like many of my hobbies I had ostensibly intelligent reasons for picking it up that didn't really pan out. While old style double edged blades cost next to nothing, last forever, and could even be sharpened if I felt like it, the initial outlay of 60$ for quality equipment took a long while to pay off.

Once you figure it out, it really does work a hundred times better. Admittedly an electric shaver would probably work as well, but one of those isn't going to last me the rest of my life. It also passes from tool to heirloom, rather than from medicine cabinet to trashcan.

I will admit that there is the slightest touch of machismo involved here, but of the harmless and dare I say mildly charming variety. Starting the day the same way my grandfathers did while finding my own ways of doing it is a source of pride for me.

Things I've learned so far:
- Just because the bristles are soft doesn't mean you can't be rough with your brush. Despite any fears you may have, you will sometimes need to grind it into the soap to get a good lather. If you avoided synthetics and boars hair and went for the more expensive badger hair brushes, it should work just fine. For a long time I had too thin a lather while shaving and it frustrated me. I was given a stiff synthetic brush as a gift that I could get a good lather on, but the brush disintegrated quickly. I started muscling my badger hair brush into the mug a little harder and all has been great since.
- Turning off the water and listening to the razor go across your face is the best way to tell whether you're doing it right. Listening to the bristles get cut is a better guarantee of closeness than going against the grain and risking cuts and ingrowns.
- Patience patience patience! You'll figure out your own routine in time. It took a while for me to get it down, but now I shave in under 5 minutes.

I shave with a Merkur travel safety razor. I figured if I was going to splurge, the razor needed to be as functional as possible. This one disassembles and fits into a small pouch for transport. In retrospect though, having to travel with blades is something of a pain and I can't really bring my brush with me, so it's functionality is limited. Plus the handle is mighty short. So while I wouldn't buy this model again, I would definitely recommend Merkur's products.

The internet is rife with wetshaving converts. Kevin Kelly's Cool Cools website has a good writeup of Merkur razors.

As for soaps: there are plenty of different shaving soaps out there. Generally anything glycerine based will work well. I've used kiss my face olive oil soaps in the past and have been generally pretty pleased. Colonel Conk makes a specialty line of soaps that work very well. There's a good run down of all sorts of shaving soaps here. As for post shaving, lately I've used a very small amount of Jason's aftershave and I've been pretty pleased with that as well. The stuff is cheap and lasts forever.

I'm not sure how many other men really share my urge to experiment here given shaving is typically done first thing in the morning when anything but a rigid process will result in severe injury. I can say though that I'm thoroughly enjoying taking a bit more pride in my morning routine.

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Generally, things that are posted here go through the following steps:

1. I write something
2. I reread it and make edits
3. Repeat step 2 at least 4 or 5 times, usually with the intercession of sleep
4. I post it up here
5. I make more edits and changes (optional but usually done)

Usually somewhere in the many repeats of step 2 I get distracted by something else. To this end I have a whole slew of pinball entries that have never gone to press. Most of them have to do with introducing a grand scheme of designing my own pinball machine from scratch, a voyage so epic that it needs an epic blog entry (if only to convince myself I'm capable of actually following it through to completion).

All this is to say that it seems as though a trickle of new readers have shown up, and as a result I should probably get off my butt and post some of this stuff. Starting ...oh ... now.