My transition from Mach3 to Double-Edge shaving

Truth be told, when I first read that Dan was looking for people to write for his blog I wasn’t sure what I could contribute. I mean sure, I’d been shaving with a DE razor for just under a year, but did that give me ‘expert’ status? Enough experience to pass my collected shaving wisdom onto newcomers?

Then I realised that what I could do is just recount my shaving story so far. After all, being twenty-six, I had scraped some sort of blade across my face for a number of years, using a variety of different methods and equipment. In the process I’d made many mistakes, as well as many happy discoveries, turning me into perhaps not an expert shaver, but certainly a happy one.

The first razor I used was the ubiquitous Gillette Mach3, along with a cheap Wilkinson Sword boar brush and a stick of Palmolive shave soap. I guess this was picked out for me by my Dad, seeing as he used a similar set-up with a Gillette Atra in place of the Mach3. I don’t remember him teaching me how to go about shaving but I guess that was the advantage of the Mach3, you could just drag it across your face and it did all the work for you. Just rub the brush all over the soap, lather-up and shave away. At least I was already on the right road of using a traditional shaving brush and soap. It was therefore unfortunate that after a couple of years shaving this way I got seduced by the assortment of foams and gels out there and promptly took a step back.

merkur razor
Merkur produce quality safety razors - Photo by YGX

Between the ages of nineteen and twenty-three my shaves may have been pain-free but they had turned into a chore, and not even a closely shaven chore at that. Due to a pasty Englishman’s complexion coupled with dark hair I had what’s referred to as a bluebeard, a dark shadow of bristle peeking its way through my skin, mocking my Mach3’s attempts to achieve that fresh-from-the-barber’s-shop look.

Things changed when, like many recent converts to traditional wet shaving, I discovered Mantic’s videos on YouTube. This led me back onto the path from which I’d strayed. I dusted off my brush, bought myself a fresh shave stick and soon started wondering how I’d been such a numpty in going for all those gloopy gels and foams. I also ditched the Mach3 as I was fed-up with paying out for expensive replacement cartridges; I switched instead to swivel-headed, two-blade Gillette disposables. This set-up was better. The dry tautness which came from the gels and foams disappeared and shaving itself became less of a chore, but I still wasn’t getting particularly close shaves. I didn’t seem to be able to shave across or against the grain of my beard without irritation, even with the help of Mantic’s videos.

Then in April of 2008 I went on holiday to Italy. Naturally what got me most excited wasn’t the prospect of seeing Pompeii or devouring plate after plate of delicious Italian cuisine, it was knowing that I’d be able to buy some Proraso products (available in most convenience stores) and an Omega boar brush (available in most of the pharmacies). The Omega boar was a significant improvement on my old Wilkinson Sword brush, by now shedding at least half a dozen hairs a shave.

I decided it was time to take the final step in my shaving conversion, lose the disposables, and brave-up to the world of double edge. So I trawled eBay and scored myself a job-lot offering of a Lord razor with a Merkur-style head, some Speick cream and a Wilkinson Sword shave stick. I got some no-name (said to be Personna) DE blades from Boots, lathered-up and started to shave. The first thing I realised was that going from two-blade disposables to DE wasn’t as huge a leap as I’d anticipated. I could hear when the blade was cutting properly, it travelled smoothly over the skin and the hairs waved goodbye, what had I been afraid of? I then re-lathered and went for an across-grain pass, to my surprise the blade happily obliged. With my Mach3 and disposables I’d always felt resistance going anything except with the grain, this was much better. I thought I’d better stop there for my first few shaves but I was definitely hooked, already my skin felt smoother.

Over the next few months my technique gradually improved. I learnt what my face could handle in terms of which direction I shaved, how many passes I could get away with and which blades I preferred. My by-now new hobby saw my collection of soaps, creams and razors slowly expand, as the contents of my wallet rapidly shrank, and I woke each morning actually anticipating my daily shave.

Things were going so well that on his last birthday, I decided the time was right to try and infect my Dad with the shaving bug. I updated his own Wilkinson boar brush with a pure badger, and expanded his usual routine of Palmolive stick, followed by Palmolive stick, followed by another Palmolive stick with some Taylor’s cream and a puck of Culmak soap. I also found him a Gillette flare-tip rocket to try and wean him off his by-now triple-bladed razor. So far he loves his new Culmak, badger and Taylor friends, but is sticking to his triple-blade for the time being. This leaves me in a moral dilemma: continue to coerce and instruct him in the ways of the DE? Or leave him be, give in to my desires and persuade him to part with his rocket, so it can be become friends with my other Gillette’s?

So far I’ve stuck with trying to show him the pleasures of double-edge shaving, but how long my resolve stays strong only time will tell.

More articles by Richard Wall

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