Caveat Emptor

We have all had transaction that turned out to be less than stellar.  Maybe that used bike had a weak chain that busted off on the first use, or that amazing deal that you got on a computer turned out to be for the CPU only, or that cased Schick Injector that you bought off of eBay was pure junk…in the end, whenever we buy anything we should all keep in mind that Latin wisdom: caveat emptor, or let the buyer beware.

I consider myself a pretty good buyer.  I worked in sales for years, I have dealt with shady situations, and I am fairly good at recognizing when something is not all that it appears to be.  Unfortunately, even I end up on the wrong end of a bum deal every once in a while.  Sometimes I’m too impulsive or I make a purchase contrary to what my research and instincts are telling me and I end up with the shaft.  It happens and I can either deal with it and learn from the mistake or I can whine and go on the offensive in attempt to force the seller to rectify the situation.  More often than not the latter course of action ends up costing more in the long run, so I usually try to just suck it up and move on…after all, I should have known better.

Recently I was looking for a cased injector.  I found several on the B/S/T sections of various forums, but none of them really grabbed me.  A quick eBay search netted me several results, but only a few were priced reasonably well.  One such auction caught my eye.  The razor was being sold by a professional eBay seller who quite obviously had no real knowledge of vintage razors, there were only a couple of mediocre pictures, the case looked beat up on the outside, and the razor was described as having a crack in the handle.  Every instinct told me to walk away, but I kept thinking, “Eh, I can clean that up and a little epoxy should fix the handle well enough.”  So, in spite of my better judgement, I bought it.

At his point I can already imagine some of you folks shaking your heads.  I know, it was a poor choice and I regretted it almost instantly, but the story does have a somewhat happy ending, so stick with me.

The razor arrived rather quickly and was well packed, both of which struck me as good signs.  When I opened it up the case turned out to be in worse condition than I thought, but still looked salvageable.  The razor had some gunk and a small crack on the handle, but appeared to be in otherwise excellent condition.  All in all, I was fairly happy.  Then I began to clean.

The case’s fake leather lining came loose instantly, revealing a ton of corrosion and gunk.  I scrubbed everything with soap and water, sanded off the corrosion on the metal, let it all dry, treated the fake leather and the metal with some oil, and glued it back together.  It was more work than I expected, but it came out serviceable, even if it was still somewhat ugly.  The razor was another story.

I sprayed some scrubbing bubbles on the razor and then went at it with a cotton swab, but as soon as I applied a little pressure to the razor’s head the handle literally crumbled into pieces.  I blinked a few times before gathering up all of the pieces and sitting down at the computer to figure out a solution.  I considered returning the damn thing, but it only cost me about $9 and returning it would have been a huge headache.  I looked up custom injector handles, but apparently that is a mostly untapped market (although apparently a few people have done this).  My first instinct was to glue the handle back together, coat it all in epoxy, wrap tape around it, and then put a clear coat on top…but the thing was in about fifty tiny pieces and would have been way too labor intensive to be worth the effort.  That’s when I remembered a custom dip pen handle that I had.

About a year ago my wife bought me a nice, hand turned cocobolo dip pen handle as a present and while I Iiked the way it looked, it just didn’t perform well, so it sat in my desk mostly unused.  As I sat at my desk, staring at my dip pen and trying to come up with a solution, it occurred to me that the shaft of the razor head might fit nicely into the dip pen handle’s nib hole.  So, I pulled the last of the bakelite handle off of my useless Schick, and wedged the razor head into my dip pen handle…and it actually fit pretty well.  With a plan in mind I finished cleaning up the razor head, cut off about an inch from the end of the dip pen handle, rounded off the end, and epoxied the head into the handle. I would’ve used cement or something a little more secure, but two part epoxy was all that I had on hand and it’s pretty good stuff, so it’s what I used.  The razor ended up looking pretty decent and, after setting properly, the epoxy seems to have created a pretty secure bond between the metal and wood nib hole and the metal razor head.  Now all I had to do was shave with it…which I did this morning, but that is a story for the SOTD.

In the end, I managed to find a solution for a bad situation and came out from it alright, but it could have gone in an entirely different direction if I had not had just the right tools and parts to create a solution.  I have no one to blame for making a poor purchase but myself.  It’s my own fault for forgetting: caveat emptor.





First Use Of The Gillette Old Type Head And Shave Of The Day (16 July 2013)

So, I couldn’t resist the pull of new gear.  I ended up doing a mid day shave with the Old Type head on the Sik Bay handle.  I decided to do a PIF themed shave and only used gear that had been given to me or that I acquired for free.  The Gillette Old Type head (given to me by a member of The Shave Nook), the Sik Bay handle (which was thrown into an order from as a freebie), a Wilkinson-Sword blade (given to me by a member of The Shave Den), The Body Shop Maca Root shaving cream (given to me by my wife) and a Comoy/Vulfix 376S Super Badger brush (given to me by another member of The Shave Nook).

I did a three pass wtg/atg/xtg shave followed by a cold water rinse, which resulted in a DFS with zero nicks and mild irritation on my neck.  It took a little effort to get the angle right and I had to keep reminding myself to use the comb as a lather guide rather than a placement guide, but I eventually got it down.  Going against the grain was a little bit difficult because I kept trying to revert back to my usual DE angle, but that adjustment will come with practice.

This razor head has a reputation for aggressive shaves, with that fact plus the added bonus of never having used an open comb razor before I was feeling a little bit intimidated going into this shave, but it turned out well.  I do have to say that shaving with this razor feels less like shaving a typical DE razor and more like shaving with a Rolls Razor.  The angle and the aggressiveness are both fairly similar even though the blade on a Rolls Razor is a completely different creature.  I really enjoy using this razor and even think that the way lather slides between the open teeth is kind of cool.  My one complaint is that I had a much harder time judging how aggressive I could be, which resulted in a less than completely smooth neck and one or two patches of minor scruff on my jaw line.  I know that with a little practice I will get the ins and outs down.  In the mean time I will continue to work with this razor head and finish up by calling this a successful first open comb shave.

Pre: Hot Shower and warm water splash
Razor: Gillette Old Type/Sik Bay frankenrazor
Blade: Wilkinson-Sword
Brush: Comoy/Vulfix 376S Super Badger
Soap: TBS Maca Root shaving cream
Post: Cold water rinse


Gillette Old Type Head

The entrepreneur King Gillette revolutionized the world of wet shaving when he patented the disposable blade double edge safety razor (the patent was submitted in 1901 and approved in 1904).  This new razor was included in the issued field gear of every American service man during World War I, and the returning troops were even allowed to keep these new razors upon their return state side. In one fell swoop Gillette managed to create a huge new market for a relatively simple and easy to manufacture piece of equipment with a built in huge demand.  Eventually Gillette would move on from the first design to create many new and different styles of razors, but this first disposable blade double edge safety razor (currently known as the Gillette Old Type) remained a popular razor.  The Gillette Old Type three piece razor can be found relatively easily in antique shops and on-line sites, thanks in large part to its initial wide spread use and popularity.  It is still a fairly popular razor with many dedicated collectors and users.  A razor that came out 110 years ago (the Gillette Old Type was first released in 1903) and is still used and loved today must have a lot going for it, so when I was given the opportunity to use this historic and storied razor I jumped at it.

I was gifted a Gillette Old Type razor head by a generous member of The Shave Nook shaving forum.  I have never used an open comb razor before and am really looking forward to trying out this razor head.  It fit reasonably well on my Sik Bay plastic razor handle and more or less fit on my Edwin Jagger DE86 handle (it did not tighten down all of the way on that handle without a blade, but seemed to lose pretty much all of its play once a blade was installed).  I have a Gillette fat handled Tech coming soon, so I am betting that the fat handle will work out better, but until then I’ll use what I have on hand.

The head was a bit beat up aesthetically speaking, but in perfectly functional condition.  I cleaned, sanded, and polished the head to reveal some pretty brass and an extremely nice looking razor head.  I left the bottom of the base plate alone because it still had most of its plating on it.  One of the end teeth is slightly bent, but not enough to worry about, so I left that alone too.  I’m very happy with how well this head turned out and I look forward to using it.  I planned on skipping my shave tomorrow, so I may not pull it out until Wednesday.  I’ll keep you fine folks posted, but until then here are some before and after pictures (my tablet’s camera does not have a macro option, so you’ll have to forgive the mediocre quality):


Before shot #1


Before shot #2


After shot #1


After shot #2


After shot #3


After shot #4


On the Sik Bay handle #1


On the Sik Bay handle #2

Perceptions And Limitations

I was thinking about perceptions the other day.  Our perceptions are colored not only by our experiences, but also by our lack of experiences and by the ways that we want others to perceive us.  If you want to be seen as competent and knowledgeable, but lack experience, then you will tend to see any questioning of your abilities as an attack, whether that is true or not.  If you are not well traveled, but want to be seen as worldly and sophisticated then you will tend to see anyone who is actually well traveled as a threat.  No one starts off knowing everything, we all have to learn along the way, but most of us still want to be seen as competent and interesting folks who fulfill a vital role.  It’s Human nature to want to feel important, and there is nothing wrong with that.  What is wrong is when we are unable to recognize our limitations and to be honest about our shortcomings.  If a person can not admit when they need help or when they aren’t quite as spectacular as they would have everyone else believe then it leads to conflict.  Eventually, no matter how amazing you may be, someone else will come along who is smarter, faster, more knowledgeable, or just plain better at a particular task.  It’s inevitable.  You can either learn from the experience and grow, or become bitter and shrink.

I had all of these thoughts in my head when an incident from several years ago suddenly popped into my memory, as if to illustrate the point.

Back when I was new in the Navy, and had just graduated from Naval Hospital Corps School, I was feeling invincible and important.  I was temporarily stationed at Naval Hospital Great Lakes while I waited for a class to open up at Field Medical Service School.  I was learning something new every day, and I felt as though I possessed a vast wealth of knowledge and skills.  Unfortunately for me none of this new found knowledge or my freshly acquired skills seemed to show on the outside.  To everyone who knew me outside of my Corps School class I was still just goofy Nick.  I had been living in Kalamazoo, MI before joining the Navy and Great Lakes, IL. was a short train ride away, so I had ample opportunities to return home on leave, but every time that I made the trip I felt myself getting more and more frustrated by the way my friends would treat me.  They would see me in my dress blues and act as if I had been away forever, but as soon as I changed into normal clothing it was as if, in their eyes, I became the person that they had always known, no different than I had been before I left for boot camp.  It was frustrating and it bothered me a lot, but I eventually just let it go.  I knew who I was, and I was OK if my friends didn’t quite see my new self just yet.  I figured that I still had a lot to learn and that eventually my friends would realize that I had changed, there was no need to boast or brag about my limited accomplishments just to make myself feel more important.  Beyond those initial understandings, I also realized that when you brag too much that eventually someone will come along to knock you off of your pedestal.  Not long after having this revelation I ended up being that someone for another person, an unfortunate person who did not realize that bragging is a bad idea in mixed company.

One day, while I was home on leave, I was out with my girlfriend at the time when she managed to drag me along to one of her friend’s houses.  Many of her new friends were stuck up college girls who truly believed that they were what they studied (‘Oh, I know ALL about photography, It’s my major, so if you need a good shot you should probably ask me, because I like, KNOW photography.’).  These girls would take every opportunity to flaunt their limited knowledge and skills and to put down my girlfriend in the process.  My then girlfriend was quiet and non-confrontational, so she rarely ever stuck up for herself.  I never understood why she would hang out with these people and I hated seeing it, so I avoided her so-called friends like the plague, but occasionally it was unavoidable and I would end up dealing with annoying college girls all night long.  On this particular day we were visiting a girl who had absolutely never done anything important in her life and had never accomplished anything for herself, she paid her way through life using her daddy’s bank account and co-opted the accomplishments of others to make herself feel more important.  I hated her with every fibre of my being.  This girl was busy blah, blah, blahing away when something she said grabbed my attention.  She was jabbering on about some Navy guy that she had dated and how amazing it was to be with someone so brave and important, someone who was willing to risk his life for our freedom.  She then mentioned that he was an important Navy Mess Specialist.  I smiled at that.  Mess Specialists are important, the run the galleys, the organize the food supplies, manage the berthing, etc.  The Mess Specialists that I have known were all good guys and I liked them, but I would hardly hoist them up as brave Navy sailors, fighting the good fight.  They are important functionaries, not combat hardened soldiers.  The girl must have noticed my smile, because she paused long enough to look me over and then made her fatal mistake by saying,

“Nice peacoat, my boyfriend gave me one too, but mine is real.”

I laughed and told her that mine was real too.  She sneered and asked me where I got it.  So I smiled and said, “It was issued to me, in boot camp.  I’m a Navy Hospital Corpsman.”

The girl blanched at that and began to sputter something about his coat probably being older, and that’s why it looked a little different.  I just smiled and shook my head.  The rest of the visit was pretty awkward and I mostly sat in silence as I contemplated the example that I was just handed about why boasting over minor feats is such a bad idea.

On our way out I smiled politely and said, “Making yourself look important by putting other people down never works out, does it?”

She looked down at her feet, and shut the door on me.  I felt kind of bad about that, but she had spent the whole night subtly putting us down while she talked herself up, so I felt as if she had it coming.

A lot of things could be taken from that event, but what I chose to take away was that if you have to throw your accomplishments (or the accomplishments of your friends) in other people’s faces, then maybe you haven’t really accomplished much at all.  Being proud of your self is Human, being boastful is just stupid.

Eventually my friends realized that I wasn’t just goofy old Nick anymore and treated me with more respect, but it didn’t happen because of any skills or knowledge that I could flaunt at them.  It happened because those skills and knowledge made me into a better person, someone who didn’t need to boast or brag to gain respect or attention.  I also realized that no matter how much I learned or how many amazing things I did that I would always still be goofy.  There would always be someone out there who could run faster, jump higher, and know more than me, but no matter how great someone else may be they could never be me.  That knowledge helped me to be happy to be me, flaws and all.

Upcoming Events And Ideas

The last few days have been extremely busy for me.  My birthday was on Friday (May 24th), on Saturday (May 25th) I had to clean up the house for the guests coming to my daughter’s birthday party which was on Sunday (May 26th), her actual birthday as well as Memorial Day was on Monday (May 27th), and I had to do a crazy amount of clean up on Tuesday (May 28th).  All of this has left me with almost no time to write or post.  I have a few short stories and flash fiction pieces in the works, but I need some time to get them polished up before I can post them.

As of right now I am also participating in a “Desert Island” shaving week over at The Shave Den.  This is a week in which you pick one set of products and stick with those products.  It’s an excellent way to really get to know and appreciate a particular combination of products, but it means that my Shave Of The Day posts would be pretty repetitive.  So, instead of regular SOTD post, when the week is over I will post a sort of short story/journal of life on a desert island with only my shaving gear to keep me feeling civilized and connecting me back to reality.  It’ll be a sort of long form J. Peterman catalogue for shaving gear and it should be fairly entertaining.

What all of that means is that right now there is a lot of dead air on this blog and I do not have much to fill the space with.  To help give me a little breathing room and to give you fine folks something informative and entertaining, I will be posting some product reviews.  Shave soaps, shaving creams, after shaves, preshave, etc.  I am hoping to give you folks some insight into the various products that I use as well as a way to keep you coming back until I have more robust offerings.  I hope that you’ll enjoy the reviews and that you will look forward to my upcoming posts and stories.

Scorched Earth Ban

I have been a member of many different internet forums.  Some of them are more lax than others when it comes to disagreements or rules of conduct, but all of them have had a fairly good system of checks and balances to ensure that no single member or moderator ever over stepped their bounds.  In all of my time interacting with various forums I have had many instances in which I ended up butting heads with other members or even moderators, but it was almost always in the spirit of debate and very rarely did any of these arguments or confrontations ever get out of hand.  I know when to be politic and when to be aggressive when it comes to my ideas and values.  sometimes it pays to realize that you will not change the other person’s mind or when a fight is just not worth it.  With all of my experience in dealing with online forums I had never, not even once, been banned from a forum.  I always sort of assumed that any banning that occurred was done with the utmost care and only after all other avenues of reprimand had been exhausted.  A banning is an extreme tactic that I had seen employed only a handful of times and even then only after the offender had expressed zero desire to cease whatever activity was creating the issue.  I believed in the ability of a moderator, any moderator, to set aside personal feelings and desires and to act as an enforcer of forum rules.  Unfortunately all of this changed when I was banned from an internet forum for the first, and only, time.

I had been a member of the forum Straight Razor Place for about a month when I was suddenly banned for life without explanation and without having actually broken any rules.  My banning came because I had disagreed with a moderator and backed up my disagreement with researchable and reproducable information.  I had not used inflamitory language, I had not attempted to act as a shill to market or sell goods, I had not made any threats, I had never posted anything that caused any concern prior to the post that got me banned, and I had not actually posted anything that I would ever have imagined would result in a ban.  I tried to post on the forum somewhat regularly, but really was just trying to keep up a respectable presence while I learned what I could to make my straight razor experience better.  I felt the need to give back to the community that I had been learning from, so I posted as often as I could.  I belong to two other shaving forums, so I really didn’t have a lot to say on SRP, but I made the effort.  One of the things that I noticed the forum lacked was much information on various soaps and creams, so I posted a list of various US based artisan soap makers on the forum and invited others to contribute to the list.  I included my thoughts on the products that I had used and what thoughts I could find in regards to the products that I had not used.  I had posted this same thing on the other shaving forums with good results and figured that I could really help some folks to see that there were many options when it came to these under the radar products.  All went well until a moderator posted a somewhat inflammatory statement that he found it odd that I would recommend products that I myself had not tried, that I would recommend products known to cause burns due to heavy lye content, and that I would post links to companies no longer in business.  I was annoyed by this post because the statements were false and misleading.  I responded by telling the moderator that: 1) I was not recommending anything, just posting a list.  (I even stated this fact in the original post.)  2) Only one product had ever been accused of having an improper lye content and that instance had been, by all accounts, an abberation for that company, which had been dealt with and corrected.  3) Every last company that I had posted a link to was currently in business, I had either contacted them or ordered from them all recently and if he were to check the links he would see that all of their sites were up and running.  What happened next shocked me.  I had been away from the computer for maybe five minutes when I came back to see what he had to say.  I found that my account had been terminated and I had bee banned for life with no explanation.  I received no email, no warning, and was given no chance to defend myself.  I was angry and surprised beyond belief.  My first instinct was to do everything in my power to attack and confront the moderator in question and the forum in general, but I set that idea aside and simply moved on.  After all I had not been a member for very long and I was not that active.  I figured that any complaints that I might voice would be met as my one-sided attempts to smear a “well respected” member of the forum.  I deleted the forum from my Tapatalk account and tried not to think about it too much.  I chalked it up as a learning experience.

Yesterday a friend of mine, who is also a current member of SRP, contacted me to ask what happened to my posts.  I told him that I had been banned and that they were probably archived.  He then dropped a bomb:  all of my posts, whether I had started them or not, had been deleted.  All posts that had responded, even vaguely, to anything that I had ever said were deleted.  Any mention of me or any “likes” or comments that I had ever made had been deleted.  In essence, any evidence that I had ever even been a member had been completely and utterly destroyed.  I was aghast.  I could understand archiving the posts started by a banned member and even deleting inflammatory posts, but deleting EVERYTHING that I had ever touched or that even referenced me seems pretty extreme.  I do not understand how a forum can operate with such a disregard for its own rules, nor how a single moderator can be given so much free reign that he is allowed to dub a member persona non grata for the simple act of disagreeing with him.

I know that some folks will believe that I have not presented the facts completely or that I must have done something else to merit a lifetime ban, but I tell you now that my accounting of what happened is accurate and as complete as I can make it seeing as I can not put copies of the posts up for everyone to see.  A few months ago it would seem unlikely to me that something like this could happen at a well regarded forum such as the Straight Razor Place, but it did.  I write this partly to vent my frustration and anger, and partly as a warning.  Internet forums are not bastions of democracy and good will.  They are, at best meeting places where good people can share their thoughts and feelings about certain subjects, and at worst tiny despotic kingdoms where people in power can mold and shape the narrative being told in any way that they see fit.  Since my initial banning I have found many other former members of SRP who were banned in similar fashions, with zero notice and with no explanation whatsoever.   It shocks and saddens me to know that I was ever a part of an organization that sees its members ideas and privileges as unimportant and that, instead holds its moderators and administrators up as the one and final say in all things.  I will never again be able to look upon internet forums with the same joy.  I have lost the ability to see forums simply as a place where ideas and opinions can be traded and debated freely, now it’s difficult for me to see anything other than landmines to be avoided and dictators to be appeased.

Honing Straight Razors On Lapping Film and Shave Of The Day (11 May 2013)

Many new straight razors users become overly obsessed with learning how to hone their blades.  This happens for many of the same reasons that they are attracted to straight razor shaving in the first place: to be self sufficient, to never have to pay for blades (or the sharpening of blades) again, to appear more manly, etc.  I am no exception to this rule.  Not long after I had made the decision to learn how to shave with a straight razor I made the further decision to learn how to hone a straight razor.  I knew that having to send my razors off to be professionally honed two to three times per year would quickly outmatch the savings that would come from not having to purchase DE razor blades.  I also knew that if I never learned how to hone that I would feel as if my straight razor experience was not a complete one.  I read up on honing, watched YouTube videos, and generally became acquainted with the techniques and theories of straight razor honing.  I decided to buy some lapping film so that I would have a simple and inexpensive way to try honing and to determine if it was even worth the effort (after all, if the forums were to be believed, there was a good possibility that I might not even be able to learn to successfully hone any time soon).  If everything went well I still planned on buying a full set of stones, but I didn’t want to spend nearly $200 on equipment just yet.  Lapping film is a high grit particulate on a plastic sheet and is used mostly for polishing fiber optics and jewelry.  You use it more or less the same way as you would a normal hone, but unlike honing stones, it does not need to be lapped or soaked, costs a tiny fraction of what a set of stones cost, and can be cut to size.  You just wet it and smooth it out and it grips onto whatever you use as a mount.  Just make sure that your mount is perfectly smooth or you will end up with a mess rather than a well honed razor.

I bought a polished marble piece of tile at Home Depot to use as a mount for the film and cleaned out a spray bottle to fill with filtered water.  I then went online and found a set of 3M 12, 5, and 3 micron lapping film for less than $10 (including shipping).  I ordered some 1 micron film from a different site, but as it turns out they had an 800 piece minimum order…so I am still on the lookout for a well priced piece of 1 micron film.

My lapping films came a few days ago and I immediately went to work with them.  I tried to hone three different razors with three slightly different techniques.  The first razor, a Robeson ShurEdge 4/8 (I am unsure of the grind, but it seems pretty wedge like), did not go well.  To hone this razor I spent a while working with the 12 micron film (about 150 laps) before moving on to the next grits.  I finished up on my balsa strop using chromium oxide and iron oxide and then took it to the linen and leather strop.  When I had finished the razor could shave arm hair and kind of pass the hanging hair test, but failed to shave well.  Next I worked on a P.H. Hahn full hollow.  With this one I began by doing circles on the 12 micron film before moving on to the laps, everything else was basically the same…including the poor results.  I was getting very discouraged, but I decided to give it one more go.  I pulled out my Sterling 5/8 extra hollow and began by doing 100 rapid half laps on the 12 micron film on either side of the blade until a small burr formed across the entire edge.  I then went on to do the normal laps on the 12 micron followed by laps on each of the other grits and then finishing up on the balsa strop and linen/leather strop.  This time the razor was able to shave hair after the 12 micron laps and passed the hanging hair test after the stropping.  I oiled up the blade and put it aside for the next day.

Today I pulled out the Sterling razor and gave it a try.  I performed a two pass shave (with the grain/against the grain) using RazoRock Napoleon’s Violet and my #6 Turkish Horsehair brush.  I finished up with a cold water rinse and an evaluation.  The shave went well and was actually my first successful shave using a round point razor.  It wasn’t as clean a shave as I get with my Union Cutlery, but thanks to the round point it was also less bitey.  I ended up with zero nicks, very little irritation, and a serviceable shave.  My jaw line could have used a clean up and my neck wasn’t as smooth as it could have been, but I was presentable.  My honing technique needs improvement as does my shaving technique and I probably really need a sheet of 1 micron film, but I feel like I am making real progress and can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I will continue to work with the film as I save up to buy a set of stones.  I will continue to work on my shaving technique and strive for that elusive straight razor only baby butt smooth shave. And one day, in the not too distant future, I will be the one doling out advice to new and uncertain straight razor shavers and smiling as they stumble along and reach for straight razor perfection.

YouTube Videos Featuring Straight Razor Honing Using Lapping Film:

Product Links:

Lapping Film (make sure that you purchase lapping film and NOT lapping paper):

RazoRock Napoleon’s Violet:

#6 Turkish Horsehair Brush: