Lessons Learned from a Year with a Safety Razor

I started wet shaving with a safety razor (or a double-edged razor, DE for short) on Christmas Day 2013. That was because Father Christmas was kind enough to deliver me a brush, razor and soap. I’d never shaved with anything other than a cartridge razor and canned gel/foam before.

The past year has been something of a learning curve as I’ve stepped into the world of ‘traditional’ shaving. From humble beginnings I have jumped in with both feet though. I’ve been gripped by acquisition fever as far as blades and software (soap/cream) goes, I’ve even bought a few brushes. There has been so much in fact, that I put together a site reviewing the products as I go through them.

I’m still a novice in this area really, still learning the best techniques. I already have plenty more products lined up to try this year, and I might even try a new razor too (the one bit of my kit that has remained constant). Still, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on what I’ve been through.

Pre-Shave

Many people have seen the barbershop method of a hot towel, though mainly in the movies. Most of the guys I’ve followed tend to go for a shower first, using that to soften up their bristles. There seems to be a growing fashion for cold water shaving though, especially by those with sensitive skin. Then there’s the people who wash with a normal face/hand soap or apply a pre-shave treatment (typically an oil or gel).

Personally, I simply wet my face with warm water, attempting to soak it enough to help soften the bristles and provide some hydration ahead of my lather. I’ve had some good results with this, though I should probably try some other techniques for comparison.

I did get some pre-shave oil for Christmas (2014), initial use has been inconclusive, but I need to give it a proper try.

Brushes

I started with a badger brush, the undisputed top dog at any level (there are different qualities of badger hair, which affects the price). I have also tried some cheaper bristle and boar brushes as well as a synthetic brush. Not tried a horse hair one yet (something else that seems to be creeping up in popularity).

I have to say, my boar brush, which was much less expensive than any badger brush (under £10) has proved very good. It’s pretty big (has a lot of loft) and is sturdy (good backbone) so I tend to use it for harder soaps.

My synthetic is a small knot (i.e. is small) and doesn’t seem to either hold water or splay very well, so is my least favourite brush. I have heard good things about some of the bigger/more expensive synthetics, so may give one of them a whirl at some point.

I do have a craving for something with a big knot, but not so much loft as my boar, generally the price has kept me away from them though. Continue reading

The Opposing Forces of Consumerism

I listened to the audiobook of Adam Minter’s Junkyard Planet recently. It’s quite an eye-opening look into what happens to much of our waste, the stuff that gets recycled anyway. The phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ stuck with me (although it’s not new).

To counter the growing amount of waste the world generates we should first reduce, i.e. buy fewer things; second reuse, either ourselves or hand off to someone else who can reuse the item for its original purpose; and only then recycle.

Anyone who has seen the huge amounts of toxic chemicals both required and produced in recycling much of our waste (especially e-waste) can obviously understand why, not to mention the growing pressures with dealing with our waste in general.

toxic waste in living color

The problem is that our economies are built on continual demand for new things. When consumer demand dropped after the financial crash it threw most of the world into chaos. It’s been a long haul back to where we were and we’re not there yet.

So how do you balance these two opposing forces? On the one hand we need to buy less, and on the other we must continue to buy or many businesses will cease to function (and their associated jobs will go). Continue reading

Why Don’t Car Manufacturers Offer Upgrades?

When a manufacturer sells a car, that’s it, their entire income. Many of the forecourts where you actually buy them have a garage attached, willing to offer you servicing in order to continue making money from you, but little of that (if any) makes it back to the actual car company.

The average car has a lifespan of ten years. Most people don’t keep them for the entire ten years, they’ll likely have a few owners through that period. Still, it’s a long time not to be making any money from a product.

During the recent recession, new cars sales dried up and threatened to put many car manufacturers out of business (it did to some), while car owners preferred to hang on to their existing models a bit longer. Where work on repairs may have been enough for someone to consider a new vehicle, it was being done instead.

I happened to be reading an article about new car technology (as CES is on) and thought how it would be many years before it made it to me, even if it goes into this year’s models. Which made me wonder why car manufacturers don’t offer upgrades.

I’m not saying it would be easy, but if they started at the design stage they could build the capability in. The option to swap out components on the dashboard to give you new technology, for example. I use an aftermarket Bluetooth unit for hands-free in my car, but it would be better to have it built-in (at a reasonable cost).
Continue reading

My Wet Shave Method

I thought I would document my method of wet shaving, everyone’s seems to be different. It’s probably worth saying that I only wet shave every other day (although I’ve started on Saturdays as well), with an electric razor shave in between.

So here’s how I shave:

  1. Fill sink with warm water
  2. Soak brush in sink while filling (and shaving soap if I’m using a soap)
  3. Wet face with warm water
  4. Build lather (if on face, if in mug, do before wetting face)
  5. Shave with the grain (straight down my face, WTG)
  6. Re-lather from quantity generated previously
  7. Shave against the grain (ATG)
  8. Run my hand over my face and touch up any rough areas
  9. Rinse with cold water
  10. Have a shower
  11. (A while later I apply some aftershave balm)

Continue reading

Why Our Homes Remain Dumb

Jacob Kastrenakes has a piece over at The Verge called The Dumb State of the Smart Home. It talks about how current ‘smart’ devices aren’t capable of interconnectivity, largely because they don’t talk the same language.

I know a bit about this subject, because I put together some basic home automation myself. Nothing too fancy, mine just controls a lamp, on a timer. Mine’s a bit smarter than the units you plug into the wall because it changes based on sunset as to when it comes on in the evening, and only comes on if sunrise is after a certain time (i.e. it’s dark enough for me to need light) in the mornings.

To do it, I use a standard set of remote control plug sockets, and a USB dongle from a company called Telldus. I use the bottom of their range, which only talks one-way, it doesn’t receive data back. My application, as I said, is very basic.

The Internet of Things seems to have become a growing buzz-phrase this year, after talk of it forever. If it sounds like it’s on the verge of breaking into the mainstream, I can tell you now, it won’t.

Interoperability is certainly one reason. You see, my dongle transmits on 433.92 MHz. As you can see, that makes it compatible with a range of protocols, including X10, the grandfather of them all, having been around since 1975. Z-Wave and ZigBee use 868 Mhz (in Europe), which is another popular frequency. Continue reading

De-Icing with Warm Water

A frozen windscreen

When I tell most people that I don’t scrape my windscreen, I pour warm water on it, they look at me aghast. The old adage about it cracking screens is frequently mentioned. I’d like to set that straight.

I’ve used warm water on all of my cars, every winter for the better part of 20 years. Not once has it caused a screen to crack, not once has it caused a chip to expand.

I think this is a leftover from the days when windscreens were made solely of glass. In modern cars (any made in the last 20 years) they’re a composite, with layers of plastic and glass. It’s the plastic that stops the thing shattering (which I’ve seen an old screen do), and the mixture makes them much tougher.

There are some caveats, of course, I would recommend that you DON’T USE BOILING WATER. I think your screen could take it, but you don’t need it. I use water from the hot tap, which is more like 40 degrees (Celsius). Continue reading

Safety Razor Costs

I touched on this briefly in my previous post, but I thought I would break it out into more detail. One of the reasons safety razors are gaining in popularity is cost. As Mike Levine from Dollar Shave Club says in his video: “Do you like spending $20 a month on brand name razors? $19 go to Roger Federer.”

Using a cartridge shaving system, even a middle-of-the-road one, probably cost me £20-26 a year, plus £5 if I was to buy the razor. Not exactly a massive amount, but then I probably only bought 8-12 cartridges a year, plus a couple of cans of gel. I managed this, in part, because I used my cartridges well beyond the recommended length.

Those prices are derived from my local supermarket’s website. They don’t have a safety razor listed, but let’s call that £5. They have a 10-pack of Personna blades for £1.89, a shaving brush for £3.20 and a shave stick for 49p. So the blades and soap come in way under the equivalent cartridge costs, even if you add the brush it’s still cheaper. Continue reading