Buying A Vintage DE Razor May 22 2015
BUYING A VINTAGE DE RAZOR
There are many reasons to go vintage when buying a safety razor. They're eco-friendly, look good, can last a long, long time (Many vintage razors out there have outlived their original owner!) and can be had very cheap. Combine that with the fact that there are plenty of companys still making the DE blades to use with them and there really is no excuse not to add one to the shaving stash.
But what to look for? Given that many DE razor manufacturers were pumping out factory loads of them since the very early 20th century then there's a lot to choose from.
The most famous and probably most collected are the Gillette razors. There are a lot of them to choose from but the main one's that you see for sale are the Gillette Techs, Slims, Fatboys and SuperSpeeds. These are all very good razors and provided they are in good condition will offer many years of excellent shaving.
Alongside the Gillettes are a plentitude of other manufacturers with a long list of vintage razor designs to their name. Some, like Wilkinson Sword, are still making shaving related products to this day while others such as Laurel, Kirby Beard & Co and Leresche have long ceased manufacturing. Part of the fun of vintage razor collecting is learning about the different manufacturers, their stories, heritage and the people behind them.
But what is good condition for an old razor?
First off is appearance. A vintage razor with a bit of scuffing and the odd blemish on the finish is nothing to worry about. A scrub with a gentle cleaner and an old toothbrush can have surprisingly good results and you may even fancy popping it in an ultrasonic cleaner for a deep clean. A lot of time the accrued grime and marking is simply old soap and will easily come away.
Sometimes the original metallic coating will have come away and exposed the brass underneath. If this is the case then it's really a matter of personal preference. Some people like this as it adds character and makes no difference to the performance of the razor. Do watch out for any cracks, chips or rust though - you can't scrub that away and unless you have a real penchant for restoring old metal or paying out for somebody else to do it then it's really not worth the investment of time and money.
Secondly is the working order of the razor. Many are simple 2 or 3 piece razors where you pop the blade in and tighten it up. Nothing much to go wrong but make sure to look at the thread of the screw, any joints where the screw meets the head and any important joints. If there's rusting or chipping on these particular parts then it's probably better to look elsewhere.
Some other razors such as the Gillette Fatboy, Slim or Superspeed are 1 piece razors. These will have an adjustment mechanism on the neck of the handle, which varies blade exposure and the "aggressiveness" of the razor, and a twist-to-open (TTO) mechanism which is usually operated at the base of the handle by twisting opens up the top of the razor so you can pop a blade in without taking the razor apart as you would a 2 or 3 piece. With these razors it's worth taking the time to click through all the adjustment settings and making sure the TTO mechanism works smoothly and closes properly and evenly. If you can't get hold of the razor before buying then ask the seller questions about the working order of it and certainly don't buy if the answers aren't forthcoming.
Another type of vintage razor worth checking out is the Single Edge Razor. The two most seen are the EverReady and the GEM. These will often have a "shovelhead" design with a flip top lid to hold the blade firmly in place. Combined with a guard rail this delivers a smooth and close shave and it is a mystery to many why anyone would use anything else! Models such as the 1912 are bona fide design classics. They can be bought cheaper than a vintage DE and providing the guard rail is in good condition with no missing or bent teeth and the hinges on the head are working fine then they really are worth trying out and make a nice change from anything else in your shaving collection.
These take single edge (SE) blades which look similar to window-scrapers. Make sure to buy one specifically marketed for shaving though and not something from the hardware/DIY store made to actually scrape windows - could be painful.
A bit of caution is advised though - not all vintage razors are equal!
One very often seen vintage razor is the Rolls Razor which you should probably avoid. These were made as self sharpening razors and had all kinds of engineering trickery to keep the blade edge sharp. Although now cheap and plentiful on sites such as Ebay the odds of finding one that is actually useable are very remote and you can't easily buy and fit spare parts for it. There are a few experts to be found who restore these but it's a real labour of love - verging on madness!
There are also other razors which were made to use proprietary blades. Razors like Wardonia, Segal, Ronson and Durham Duplex will only work with a specific type of blade made by the manufacturer. And since these companys are long gone and nobody is making blades for these razors anymore they're essentially collectibles and curios and pretty much useless for actually shaving with.
There are ways with some of them to modify a modern DE blade to mimic the proprietary blade but it can be a lot of work for sometimes little reward. If in doubt just ask Google or your preferred search engine whether or not the razor takes a DE blade - I can pretty much guarantee someone, somewhere has tried it out and posted about it somewhere out there on the World Wide Web.
Overall though it is very easy to find a nice vintage razor. So long as it looks in good nick, everything works like it should and you can get blades for it then that's all there is to it. Pricing can be a little difficult as, like most things, fashions change. Look around, see what you like the look or sound of and then look on sites such as Ebay for an average price.
Some shaving supply sites sell vintage razors though the price may be a little higher but there's generally an assurance that you're buying from someone who knows their stuff and won't sell you a duff or useless razor. Many wet shaving forums have boards where members often sell razors at "mates rates" to other members.
And if in any doubt then ask the seller. There is no such thing as a stupid question and any seller worth his or her salt will gladly answer any question or extra pictures online.
Using a Shavette December 07 2014
USING A SHAVETTE
The shavette is similar to the old fashioned straight-edge or "Cut throat" razor in style. The biggest difference being that a shavette uses disposable blades which are easily changed rather than the honing, sharpening and stropping of the blade that a cut-throat requires. They're very often used by barbers as the ease in changing the blade is a time saver and also for hygiene reasons - as much as I trust my barber I wouldn't want him using the same blade on me that's been used on the previous guy.
As with any other method of shaving it is technique, good practice and finding what works for you that will result in close and irritation free shaves when using a shavette. The technique can be a little tricky at first and there is a definite learning curve like anything else you learn it soon becomes second nature. Once mastered the shavette can give you a shave as close as anything out there. Just follow a few simple rules and you'll be looking smooth in no time.....
1 - Put a blade in your shavette.
This can be a little fiddly at first but take care and you'll get there. Emphasis on take care - bleeding fingers do not help when shaving! Fully open up your shavette, pop the blade onto the pins on the blade cover, slide the over blade cover over the top and then fix them both in place using the hinged holder.
I promise it's simpler than I make it sound - here's a handy picture.
If you don't have single edge blades then a double edge blade can be snapped in half to create two - Leave the blade in it's wrapper and then gently fold it along the middle till it snaps. Just take care!
2 - Prep your face.
Absolutely essential! It's a lot easier to shave your beard when the hair and skin beneath it is soft and thoroughly hydrated. Giving your face a good scrub with a facewash or pre-shave treatment either over the sink or during your shower is sufficient. Just make sure you're good and thorough.
3 - Lubricate.
When shaving you've got to put a cushion between your skin and your blade and the best way to do it is using a quality soap or cream in combination with a shaving brush. Shavesticks, shaving soaps and shaving creams are almost always far superior to canned foam or gel. They often contain less chemicals and use more natural ingredients and adding in the exfoliating that occurs when using a brush to apply the lather the benefits soon mount up. A good soap will also last you months if not a year or two!
4 - Start shaving.
Hold the shavette firmly with the blade at an angle of approximately 20-30 degrees to your face - any more and you increase the chances of a nick and much less you won't be getting a good clean slicing action through your stubble.
Start with the cheeks and remember that it's important to use short and smooth strokes running with the grain of your beard growth. Don't apply pressure to your face as you would a cartridge blade and instead let the weight of the razor do the work. Also keep your wrist locked so as to maintain the angle. Use your arm and shoulder to move your hand.
Eventually you'll get to the trickier parts such as the chin, neck and under the nose. Just remember to keep a good angle, the lightest of touches and stretch the skin with your free hand where possible to flatten certain points and make them easier to get at. If you want to shave across the grain or against the grain remember to lather your face again. I'd say it's best to keep it to a single with the grain pass while learning though.
5 - Post-Shave
Now you're clean shaven and hopefully not bleeding it's time for a bit of post shave treatment. Clean off your face with clean cold water and pat dry with a clean towel. An alum block or styptic pencil can help with any minor nicks if necessary but the most important is a good aftershave balm. A good quality balm will help alleviate any irritation (which shouldn't be an issue with practice) but even with no irritation a quality post shave treatment will help condition the skin, has all kinds of beneficial vitamins and oils and leaves skin healthy and hydrated.
And there you have it! Smooth chops and irritation free skin. There are more than a few videos on Youtube which show how it is done and the very excellent UK shaving forum The Shaving Room is full of helpful people with an encyclopedic knowledge of shaving matters.
Rob - BobbyShave.com
The Not So Sacred Rules Of Wet Shaving October 16 2014
The odds are that if you're reading this then you have an interest in traditional wet shaving. This could be a passing interest or full on obsession or somewhere in the middle but you probably do have an interest. If you don't and you're just idly seeing what the internet has to offer there are probably more entertaining pages you could go and look at. Click on it. I promise it's safe and nothing terrible*
But back to the issue at hand - Wet Shaving.
Now there are a lot of articles around the internet on wet shaving and a lot of them are informative and full of sound advice. There are however quite a few that are written by people who clearly know very little about their chosen subject. A whole class of writers who just seem to write articles on wikihow and other dubious advice sites with little or no quality control and seem to write articles just for the sake of writing articles.They've never held a safety razor in their life but will still write an entry about how you should do it. Their usual journalistic modus operandi is to read a few articles themselves and then regurgitate them into something that they can claim as their own.
This lazy way of writing isn't confined to open source internet sites either. A huge number of newspapers, magazines or TV shows will occasionally run features on wet shaving and many other subjects with a similar lack of effort going into doing any research into the issue. More often than not these will either just be a massive plug for someone, flavour of the month reporting or a quick way to fill a page or a couple of minutes.
For my first blog entry on Bobbyshave I thought I'd address 3 of the more often repeated sacred rules that aren't actually all that sacred. Or even a rule for that matter.
1 - Opening and closing pores
Many will tell you that you should start a shave with a hot wash and finish with a cold wash. The reason being that the heat will open your pores to help get the gunk out and the cold will close them up to keep new gunk from getting in. This reasoning is incorrect however because pores don't actually open and close. They may sometimes appear smaller or larger, especially if clogged up with this gunk, but they don't actively open and shut. Pores are holes in the skin that let sweat and sebum (aka gunk) out.
A good warm wash to start with is a good thing but nothing to do with opening pores. It'll help you get clean, soften the hair and hydrate the skin. All great things to do when prepping for a shave. And a cold splash afterwards will help get rid of any residue of soap or cream and will help soothe any minor nicks or burn you might have if your shave hasn't gone perfectly. It certainly won't close the pores. The overall truth with pores is that you don't want them to close. If they shut then you can't sweat. And then your body won't regulate temperature very well and you'll be very uncomfortable and quite ill indeed.
And then your head will explode. That's a stone cold fact**
2 - Always with the grain
Only shaving with the grain (WTG) of your facial hair, or any other hair you choose to shave (It's cool, I'm not judging you***) is all good and well. But you may be able to get a closer shave by also shaving across the grain (XTG) and against the grain (ATG). Many badly researched articles will tell you XTG and ATG only guarantees irritation, bumps, burn and all manner of horrors. This is not true in a lot of cases so long as you're pairing a good razor angle with a good protective lather then you should be OK.
A 3 pass shave going WTG, XTG and then ATG is very often the way to a fantastically smooth shave.
There are some people who have difficulty with ATG regardless of how well they prepare and how good their technique is but to suggest it is unsuitable for everybody is just plain wrong.
3 - Old fashioned razors aren't as safe as modern cartridge razorsAgain they're wrong. DE or Safety razors, or indeed any other tool which features very sharp and erm...slicey metallic edges, are perfectly safe so long as they're used correctly. You'll need to use a different angle to cartridge razors and different techniques but they are perfectly safe and there's no reason for your bathroom to look like an abattoir. It's true that you can't attack your face in a carefree manner with a DE razor but so long as you pay attention to what your doing you'll be OK.
And there you have it, three oft-repeated falsehoods completely obliterated. I'm going to go on Wikihow now and find out how to write a snappy last paragraph which reinforces the main article and neatly ties in with the opening paragraph. You can either go and have a shave, frolic under a moonlit sky or look at some more entertaining internet pages.