12:4:12 Update on Old-School Shaving

Last July, I wrote about old-school shaving here. I was exploring the early 20th-Century shaving technology men have now abandoned for electric, disposable, or pricy cartridge-system razors. King Camp Gillette's invention, double-edged blades, has increasingly become a commodity good sourced from the oblivion of third-world countries.

Which is precisely the origin for most of the double-edged blades I evaluated. A total of 25 different blades made in Egypt, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Russia, Turkey and elsewhere. After I finished my comparisons, I settled for Japan's Feather, noted for its samurai-blade sharpness. This blade easily shaves your beard with the moving weight of the razor alone. The edge is surgically keen.

And while I used the Feather blade for three months, I never felt it wasn't without an extra measure of vigilance. You won't feel the cut or nick. No warning, just a blossom of blood on your face. Feathers call for a feather-touch.

[Derby Blade]

The Feathers were easily good for the week of seven shaves I expected. What was not so good was the unexpected task of stanching blood in the morning, when I wanted to keep moving.

So doubt crept into my shaving routine.

At first, I blamed the accidents on the Weishi (Chinese) razor I used to wield the Feather's edge about my beard. My Weishi wasn't manufactured to tight tolerances. Although I liked the butterfly flaps and light aluminum body, more than once the razor's blade-clamping mechanism loosened. A Feather blade edge at a new angle-of-attack on your face is bad news.

The Weishi had to go.

I replaced it with a pricier razor, sans butterfly flaps: the Edwin Jagger from Sheffield, England. A tool that reeks precision manufacture.

Despite the upgraded razor, I found the Feather blade would still occasionally give me a red blossom surprise.

I was out of town and took along my new Edwin Jagger with one of the Derby blades that came as a bonus. I'd tried the Derby in my evaluation and it did a workmanlike job. Not the sharpest of blades, but very safe and reputedly good for many shaves.

So shaving with the Derby for the first time in months, I was pleasantly surprised. An extra pass or so, sure, but as close as the Feather, without the crippling paranoia of gotcha!

I came back to town, and after another week with the Feather--to be sure--decided my face deserved the Derbys, Turkey's finest blade.

My advice now is get the best razor you can justify. But only as sharp a blade as your beard demands.

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The Cat at Light's End

Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection, The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:

.mobi (Kindle)
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)

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