Sunday, January 25, 2009

Razors and Creams and Soaps (Oh my!)

It's been raining here in Southern California for the last couple of days, which I mentioned in my last post is kind of an unusual thing. While normally I love it when it rains, these days I've been rather ambivalent about it. The rain has definitely been nice, but it's also still been pretty warm at the same time. When it rains, I like it to be freezing cold. If mother nature is going to make it bad outside, she might as well go all out. Besides, there's something nice about waking up on a cold rainy morning in a nice warm bed, and going and having a nice hot shower, and of course a good shave.

This morning, I got to thinking about the effect of the weather on me and my Sunday morning shaves. Specifically it got me thinking about using a different shaving soap or cream to shave with depending on the weather. I've read about this a little bit on other shaving sites and blogs, but it never really registered on me until today as it came to me as a sort of revelation.
When I used to shave with cream from a can, I would just have one cream that I would use all the time. No matter what the weather was, either hot or cold, rainy or sunny, it would be pretty much shave with the same can of cream, why would I ever switch around? However this morning it dawned on me as I was lathering up the ol' sandalwood soap that it sure would be an even better shave if the soap or cream I used matched the weather, or heck even my mood.

Now, I'm not much of a collector. I tend to throw out things I don't use much. I've read about the dreaded "Shaving Brush Acquisition Disorder" or SBAD, and I don't pretend to be immune to it, but the idea of having 20 shaving brushes hanging around my bathroom doesn't match up with my personality much. BUT, I can sure see my self succumbing to the SSAD or the SCAD (Shaving Soap Acquisition Disorder and Shaving Cream Acquisition Disorder respectively).
The idea of using a nice eucalyptus shaving cream in the summer to get a cool refreshing shave, or a warm and cozy shave with a sandalwood soap when it is cold outside seems pretty neat. Heck, if I'm feeling sort of in the "Go getter" mood (Which is rare), I could use some sort of equivalent shaving cream or soap to get me going all the more.

So as winter begins to slide into spring, I will be looking for the matching scents and combinations. So far the sandalwood is still my only soap. This is perfectly fine for me for now, as I have been practicing my "lathering technique" using it. So I will be really ready for the new soaps and creams and get the best use out of them when they arrive.

As I mentioned in my last post, I've also been looking into which razor blades to use in my future purchase of a DE razor. I've decided that I will follow other's advice and get a sample pack of blades. From what I've read, the definitive answer to which is the best razor blade is "Whatever feels the best to you".
There are so many different brands of blades out there. The one thing I've never seen on any of the blogs and forums is anything particularly BAD about any one blade. As with the shave soaps and creams, there are different uses for different blades, and from everything that I have read, it all comes down to a matter of preference.
There are some blades that are not as recommended for beginners as others though, and the Feather brand blades come to mind. I've read that they are super sharp and have a tendency to cut first time DE shavers. So I've kept that in mind as I look around at the various on-line shops.

My goal for this blog is not necessarily for it to become a product review blog, or instructional blog. There are tons of other sites and folks out there that do a better job than I and I am certainly no expert, so I won't go into heavy detail about the different brands and benefits of one blade over another.
Suffice to say I'll be getting the Economy Sampler pack from West Coast Shaving that contains the Crystal or "Isreali", Derby Extra, DORCO Platinum, and Red Pack Isreali blades. I'll then be trying them out, and seeing if there are any blades that I enjoy using any more than another.

All of the differences between blades, differences in soaps and creams, differences in razors is one of the things that has really gotten me into the enjoyment of the shaving process, and makes the best day of the week even better.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Sunday Morning Shave Kit

It was a pretty nice Sunday in So. Cal. this morning. While the rest of the nation freezes, it's a balmy 75 degrees here. It's always nice in Southern California, which most people enjoy. I would rather it be 75 outside than have to wake up and shovel snow, but I do sometimes get tired of it always being sunny and nice. There's something to be said for a little change now and then, and waking up on a cold brisk morning has its charms.

I thought this morning I'd write about what I'm currently using to shave with. Since I'm just starting out, my shaving kit reflects my "noobie" status. As I learn more about the art and science of shaving, I plan to upgrade my tools. I'll also be going pretty slow, as I intend to get to know each piece and enjoy the process. For example, it will be fun to learn what makes a silver hair badger brush better than a pure badger brush by actually experiencing the difference rather than simply reading about it.

Which brings me to my brush. Currently I'm using a Vulfix No. 2198 Pure Badger shaving brush. From what I understand, Vulfix is a good, decent brand. Perhaps not the best, but not bad either. The company is located on the Isle of Man, in the British Isles, and has been in business for over 60 years.
I like the feel of the brush, it has some weight, the handle is made out of "polyester plastic rods and hand turned on lathes". It would be nice to upgrade at some point to something other than a plastic handle, but what I have now is light years better than nothing at all, so I am content for now.

The razor I use is a Gillette Sensor Excel. As much as I haven't had much preference for razors throughout my life, the Gillette has always done a pretty good job for me, so I've used that same brand for years. I've tried the latest Mach 3 razor, and just didn't like it. At the time I tried it I likened using it to "Trying to shave with a canoe". With 3 blades it felt just huge on my face, and it was hard to get around the corners and contours of my face. The Sensor Excel was just more "nimble".
The Sensor Excel, being a modern cartridge razor is anathema to the wet shaving community though. As such it is the next thing I plan to replace. From my research, the way to go is at least a double edged safety razor (DE Razor to those "in the know"). There are a lot of folks who are even using straight razors, and claim that is still the best shave you can get, but most folks agree, a good DE razor is good for beginners. After looking around at the on line community, I'll most likely be getting a Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Safety Razor. It is apparently one of the best beginners razors.
I will need to do research on the blades that are needed for the razor. Just like all the other pieces, there is a lot to learn even about the blades.

I'm using Classic Brand Sandalwood Premium Shaving Soap for my shaving. At this stage, there's no particular reason I'm using that brand soap, other than it looked pretty good. My girlfriend picked out the sent, and I do like the sandalwood. After this I will probably try a cream and see what the real difference is. Again though for now I'm content with what I have.

For aftershave, I'm using American Crew Aftershave Moisturizer. I'm using this mostly so that I can get rid of it. I don't particularly like it, but I also don't like to waste things, so I don't want to just throw it out. I'll be upgrading after it runs out.
It does the job, and I do really like the smell, but I know there are better products out there, and this tends to feel rather heavy on my face. I've known for a while that it is best to use an aftershave with no alcohol in it, and between that and the smell is why I started using American Crew in the first place.
I also like the "atmosphere" of American Crew. The packaging and way they market their products just appeals to me. I know I got suckered in by packaging, but still I like it better than the packaging of other products, and the atmosphere of shaving is a big part of what makes it fun.

Finally, I have a chrome shave bowl for my soap and a nickel stand for my shaving brush. To create the lather, and keep it warm, I've discovered a wonderful set of videos on YouTube that showed me how to use a latte mug and leave it in the water to keep the lather warm. I just happen to have a latte mug handy, and now that is in my shave kit as well.

So there you have it, my shaving starter kit. It all combines for a pretty good shave. I had a nice time today shaving after watching some interviews with president elect Obama this morning. As I was shaving I was thinking about him and the interviews, and I'm just very happy that the guy appears to be just a smart guy with good common sense.
The country is in pretty bad shape, and I hope that Obama can live up to the hype of all the news media. After watching his interviews both before and after the election, it seems to me that he has the ability to do just that. I think he's not only a smart guy, he's also realistic. I don't believe that after Tuesday everything that's going on in the country will instantly turn around, but of all the people I've seen running for president, I think he has the most potential of being able to put the brakes on our economy's downward spiral.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday Morning Shaving

For the most part I'm a shaving noobie. When I was a kid, my father didn't teach me how to shave (that's another blog :-) ). When I was about 15-ish I saw that I had a few hairs on my chin, and pretty much picked up a can of shaving cream, grabbed a razor and swiped the cream off of my face. Seemed easy enough, I don't even remember what kind of razor or cream it was. Probably a Bic, and probably some sort of Gillette shaving cream. I just shaved like I saw on TV and the movies. I did think it was pretty cool to shave, but just as a sort of "I'm a man now, I shave" kind of thing. I didn't get much into the act of shaving.

That's pretty much the way it went most of my life. Buy disposable razors, buy whatever shave cream or gel looked the best, and just shave. My beard doesn't grow very fast, and my skin for the most part has never really been sensitive, so I never had a need to be very careful. There have been many times in my life where I've shaved with the same disposable razor for months, and used plain ol' hand soap as shaving cream. It didn't bother me at all, although it did hurt more when I was shaving with hand soap, but it only lasted a few minutes, then I was done and on my way.
Throughout most of my life, I've always found I like the way I look with some stubble as well, so that's another reason I never really took to shaving in a big way. Also the fact that when I was young I didn't have a ton of money since I was just starting out, so spending money on shaving wasn't really a priority.

The one thing about shaving I knew I didn't like was using an electric razor. I've tried different electrics over my life, and have never gotten a decent shave with them. I know a lot of guys do use them, and the commercials all say you get as good a shave as a razor, but I've never found that to be the case. I've always found that shaving with an electric takes more time than shaving with a razor too, so that pretty much clinched it for me that razor shaving was the way to go.

Now that I'm older and have more disposable income, I've gotten more interested in taking care of myself, and spending time on my appearance and health in general. I suppose that's a function of age. I don't particularly look back and think I should have done this years ago. When you're young there are more pressing issues at hand than shaving.

So what's this Sunday Morning Shaving all about? Well, I tend to have a particular routine that I do on Sundays. I work hard Monday through Saturday, so I take my Sundays very seriously. I try very hard to put away all work (Most times I'm successful), and just relax on Sundays. Part of that relaxing on Sundays is the morning shave, which is part of a general routine I go through:

First, I wake up Sunday morning as late as possible. Like everyone else in the world I usually have to wake up early to go to work, and I hate waking up early. I'm not a morning person, so at least one day a week I sleep in.

I then make myself a really nice breakfast. Usually this consists of eggs, bacon, toast and orange juice, but it can be whatever I feel like. For most of the week I try to eat a healthy breakfast, usually by going with a bland no-sugar cereal with soy milk, so my Sunday breakfast is reserved for the artery-clogging, good tasting food.

After sitting around for a little while watching TV or something just digesting my breakfast, I then head to the bathroom, for my big grooming session, which consists of trimming my hair (I use clippers for my hair both to save money, and because I don't have a great mop on my head that I could actually do anything with at a salon), brushing my teeth, trimming any stray hairs on my body (Nose, ears, and any other gross places hair starts growing when you get older), and finally culminating with the shave.
Pretty much for the rest of the week, I don't shave. I work at a place that mostly doesn't care what you look like, and doesn't require shaving. As I said before I also like the way I look with the stubble, and my beard doesn't grow that fast anyway, so I just let it grow until Sunday. I'll shave if I have to, like if I'm meeting with someone important, but for the most part, I'm too in a rush in the mornings to get to work on time to worry about shaving. So shaving on Sunday is like hitting the reset button for my beard.

And now we come to what this blog is all about. I've done this routine for a few years now, and up until recently the shave was nice, but I didn't do it particularly well enough to write about it, or get into it enough to actually look forward to it other than part of the routine on Sunday Mornings, until this past Christmas.
I recently discovered the wide world of "wet shaving" and all the tools that come with that. The whole process got me interested in find out more, but what I really discovered was the use of shaving brushes in the shaving process. So for Christmas my girlfriend bought me a shaving brush, some shave soap, a bowl and a stand.
Well, using the shaving brush was pretty darn cool. More fun than I thought it would be actually. Something about having a nice shaving brush and using hot water and lathering up the brush and using it to apply a nice lather to my face just really contributed to getting a really good, relaxing shave. It's better than squirting shaving cream on to your hands and wiping it on your face. Once I did that for the first time, I thought, man this will be a really nice part of my Sunday routine.
So this blog is about my Sunday morning shaves, and also about what I learn about wet shaving, shave brushes, razors, soaps and creams, all of that stuff. Most of the time I'll be talking about shaving brushes. I've been having a great time learning about what makes a good shave brush, who the good manufacturers are, what they are made out of and all sorts of things. I love that there is a history of shave brushes, and that people are out there making hand made brushes, and just the atmosphere around men's shaving and shave brushes.
It contributes not only to a great shave, but also such a great Sunday morning routine that helps me de-stress and re-energize my batteries so that I'm better able to handle the stresses and rush of the upcoming week.

So if you're reading this, I hope you enjoy my posts, and get excited about this stuff as much as I am getting excited.
As I learn more about all of this stuff, I will post to my blog and hopefully as I learn maybe someone else like me looking for information will also learn and come to enjoy a great part of something that has a rich history.