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Thread: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

  1. #1
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    Default Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

    Every journey has a beginning and my journey begins from the land of Gillette. I was generally unhappy with the quality of my regualr shaving routine which consisted of a shower, gel shaving cream, and the gillette mach 3 'turbo' followed generally by patches of stubble, and occasional razor burn. You can see why I was unhappy with it. Being naturally drawn to projects, hobbies, and professions that involve sharp objects, I figured, "I'm gonna take up old school straight razor shaving."

    Next in my journey came the internet, as I imagine it did for most of you. Somehow I managed not to find SRP till later in my searching but we'll come back to that. At the beginning I figured I'd need a straight razor, a brush, some soap/cream, a cup, and a leather strap (strop). Upon poking around the various online retailers I found them all selling sharpening stones (hones) so I figured I'd need one or two of those as well.

    With costs adding up I started looking for what should be good compromises. I figured that any blade should sharpen about as good as the next so I found a cool "damascus" straight razor on amazon with 'mammoth bone' scales for $60. NOW, at this point I didn't have the guidance of SRP about the blade, but I figured even if the scales weren't real mammoth bone, who'd know, and at least that's the story I'd stick to. So I went ahead and made the purchase.
    Attachment 95699 - I think I'll call it Manny...

    Also on Amazon I found a brush/mug/soap kit for $30 which I thought looked decent and probably was of reasonable quality for a starter so I made that purchase as well. Amazon.com: Van Der Hagen Men's Luxury, Shave Set: Health & Personal Care

    This is the point in my journey where I began looking for strops and hones. Searching around amazon, ebay and various other online retailers for a decent strop or hone, I finally managed to stumble upon SRP. I had a bead on a strop, and had placed a bid on a 4000/8000 combo hone from ebay. Peaking around SRP it was like the heavens parted and the shaving gods smiled upon my poor visage. Luckily I got outbid on the hone and I have since adjusted my search parameters for a strop. What a wonderfully vibrant and detailed and supportive place SRP is! The beginners forum and SRP wiki is jam packed with information that I eagerly drank up and continue to reference on a daily basis. Some of the information was bittersweet (I would have bought a different razor) but it gave me confidence in the future of my journey.

    Finally my brush kit arrived! I was palpably excited, and having read the lather information for beginners the day before I felt confident that I could whip up a sweet batch of foam and go to town with my trusty old 'turbo'. SO, I broke the kit out and soaked the brush in some hot water while I showered, eagerly awaiting the day's shave. Having read the back of the box which suggested to put the puck of soap in the cup and to whip up the lather in that cup, and balancing it against the beginners information on lather on SRP which suggests using the soap in it's cup and a separate bowl to whip up the lather. SO, I left the puck in the plastic packaging and used the cup to whip up the lather. P-A-T-H-E-T-I-C... I was able to conjure up something that resembled a cream, but I would in no way call it a lather, but it lubricated my face enough to shave with and oddly enough I do think that my face felt smoother after this shave than my previous ones. Maybe that's just the placebo effect, but maybe not. Anyway, today after re-reading the lather info from the wiki, I found that I totally forgot the proper 3 fingered holding technique when loading the brush with the soap. I think for my next shave I'll try using the soap in the packaging and the cup separate but I'll be sure to use the proper loading technique, and maybe a bit more water.

    Today my razor arrived! WOOHOO!!! It looks very cool, and came in a nice leather pouch. And that's about where the good news ends. After reading on SRP about the difference between the real quality Damascus blades (~$300) and the crappy can't be sharpened "Damascus" blades (~$70), I sighed and said to myself, "Well, live and learn... At least I'll have a pretty show blade, and maybe I can use it for practice stropping." After reading about what I most likely purchased, I took the blade out and tested it on my arm hairs. Unfortunately they all survived unscathed. Maybe I just purchased a sweet butter knife?!? WELL, obviously I'm going to have to send it out to be properly honed by someone who knows what they're doing and in the mean time I'll need to purchase a plain-jane-work-horse of a shave-ready straight razor that is guaranted to be a good shaver.

    I am now looking forward to my next shave - the "Return of the Lather" (episode VI), where I can do the proper technique and hopefully whip up a lather thick enough to make my ancestors proud. The next steps in my journey are to send out my new straight razor (possible P.O.S.) to be honed professionally and purchase both a strop and a quality workhorse straight razor(shave ready). I'll continue to post in this thread as I continue along my journey as I still have a VERY long way to go (the never ending shave). I hope that some beginners will be able to read this and learn from both my mistakes and my triumphs.
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  2. #2
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    IT is a nice looking knife. Maybe it will sharpen up? Really you have made a good start better than mine. My first open blade shave was with a pocket knife that was "razor sharp" well for a knife it was. I used it dry and quickly abandoned the idea. Took many many months even after I had obtained a proper razor before I could get it sharp truly razor sharp and more months til I could get consistently smooth close shaves. I am still a noob.

    You are doing well enough. It just keeps getting better.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Havachat45's Avatar
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    Welcome to SRP Sunsnow.
    Your start is remarkably similar to mine although I got a Gold Dollar and two 'titanium' blades to start with.
    You don't say where you are located, however, if you are in Australia, I'll give that blade a go for nothing but return postage.
    No guarantees, except that I'll give it my best shot.
    I'm so glad you have found the best wet shaving site on the net and hope you share your journey with us.
    Hang on and enjoy the ride

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    Senior Member justinA's Avatar
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    Read 10x more in the beginner forums than you think you need to, literally till you start to notice patterns in the mistakes. Buy a razor from a reputable vendor, or the classifieds that is really shave ready, and buy at least one highly regarded soap or cream(my suggestion Castle Forbes) and get an alum block or witch hazel and a decent aftershave balm. This isn't easy to begin with, eliminate as many factors as you can, if the only questionable variable is YOU then you know what to improve, its worth the extra money initially to avoid buying bad products, experiment later.
    jaswarb likes this.

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    I must say, I have been using the van der hagen luxury shave kit to much success. I had to contact the company as after a month the brush was still shedding. By the time the replacement arrived it was dropping 1 or 2 dozen hairs per shave. Replacement dropped quite a few hairs for the first few shaves, levelled out at 2-3 per shave for a couple weeks and after about 4 months it appears to have dropped down to losing 1 or 2 hairs per shave. After 4 months it has performed really consistent.

    The soap has been fine and consistent for me. I am sure there are better soaps out there, and many many different smells. That fresh skin feeling was not a placebo effect. But in your beginning stage, i would recommend sticking with the van der hagen or any SINGLE KNOWN GOOD EASY SOAP until you get a good grasp of the lather process. When you get it down, it will make experimenting a better experience as you will get better lather (or fix it) as you try different soaps.

    note: my brush experience is limited to 3 van der hagan badgers (1st vdh set & replacement and i purchased a 2nd set for travel) and 1 williams boar used 1 time. soaps used so far mainly the vdh, col conk bay rum a few times, williams 1 time and a handmade soap from a forumite. honestly all 4 behaved/performed about the same except the williams IMO stank.

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    Senior Member Bonbon's Avatar
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    Well you are not alone in this world
    I started with 2 fake Pakistan titanium B&B razors and fake strop... it was awful... at least I had present this "razors" to my friend and he used them as knifes.
    After that I had rough time when I tried to explain to my wife why I need to spend $100 more after this experience....
    At least now you have nice leather pouch

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    Thankfully this did not happen to me. I would have been angered enough to make them shave or hone them until they were toothpicks.
    dlmarmon likes this.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sunsnow View Post
    Every journey has a beginning and my journey begins from the land of Gillette. I was generally unhappy with the quality of my regualr shaving routine which consisted of a shower, gel shaving cream, and the gillette mach 3 'turbo' followed generally by patches of stubble, and occasional razor burn. You can see why I was unhappy with it. Being naturally drawn to projects, hobbies, and professions that involve sharp objects, I figured, "I'm gonna take up old school straight razor shaving."
    Wow, you had the same experience as I did. I lucked out. I had someone sell me a nice razor and I got it professionally honed. I then found this forum and with the guidance I found here got me the rest of my equipment. I haven't spent a lot but I have a couple of nice razors and a new respect for what our ancestors dealt with for their everyday lives.
    Sounds like you learned a hard lesson. "Don't jump in till you know what's in the water." But you did get a nice display piece with that razor.

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    WOW Havachat45, that's very generous of you! Thanks! Unfortunately I'm stateside. I'll try sending it to one of the pros on the list to get it's hone on. Sounds like you know what you're doing and have become a proficient hone-guy. It gives me hope!

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    Havachat45 (04-27-2012)

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    Thanks justinA and BMX! That's great advice. I'm looking forward to my next shave, even if it's still with the trusty ol' turbo.

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