The One

There are a lot of threads on shaving forums dedicated to the question, “If you could only have ONE…what would it be?”  That one thing could be anything: one razor, one cream, one brush, etc.  The question is asking what product is your most trusted, most favored, most relied upon.  It’s one of those questions that people ask so that they can get to know the people that they’re talking to better, but it’s also used by newbies to help them try to get a better handle on the myriad and seemingly endless list of shaving products that are available to them.

Most folks do not have a good answer for this question, not because they don’t have a favorite soap or most often used blade, but because the idea of limiting themselves to just one product is intimidating.  How can you choose just one when there are so many good products out there?  The reality is that, before entering the world of traditional wet shaving,most of us did use just one razor and one cream or gel, and never thought twice about it.  Most of us would have found it insane to have a collection of razors or creams.  But, like so many other things in life, when you find a better way to do something you want to know more…and in the world of traditional wet shaving there is a whole lot more than any of us could have ever imagined.  The question isn’t difficult to answer because of all of the products that we use on a regular basis, the question is difficult to answer because of all of the products that we COULD use on a regular basis.  After a brief period of experimentation most of us settle down and gravitate toward a core set up that is only occasionally altered.  I may have dozens of soaps, but I really only use four or five on a regular basis…the rest are just there for when I’m feeling squirrelly.

I have thought about this “one product” question a lot and while my answers have always been a bit mercurial and evasive, the truth is that I do have a solid answer.  There is one cream, one soap, one razor, etc. that I would gravitate towards if I could only have one set up.  I do have a set up that always does well and that always produces excellent results.  I think that most folks, if they’re really honest with themselves, would be able to say the same.  For me, the other razors, and soaps, and things are nice, but are hardly necessary.

My core set up is almost boring in how common and simple it is.  There is nothing particularly spectacular about the products that I find most trustworthy, nor is there anything in my set up that could not be easily replaced.  There is no one of a kind soap or hard to find razor, there are just good, solid products that can be relied upon each and every time I use them.  While I may have a few honorable mentions in each category, when I am really honest it wouldn’t be difficult for me to have just one set up to use every day.  Without further ado here is my “just one” set up:

–Pre: Shave Secret.  I love this stuff.  It’s easy to find, smells good, and works beautifully…all for under $4.
–Razor: RiMei.  A solid, low cost razor with an excellent grip and a well designed head.  It’s just top notch.  It’s a very close contest between this razor and the Parker SRW, but the RiMei edges the SRW out by virtue of that fact that it’s quicker, easier, and less expensive.
–Blade: SuperMax Titanium.  There are many good blades and a few that come very close to the SuperMax Titanium (Lord Platinum, Astra SP, and Croma Diamant), but no blade exceeds the Titanium.
–Brush: Mixed loft boar/badger.  Until recently I was never really blown away by a brush, but this one has done it. It’s a Chinese knot from eBay paired with a simple plastic handle.  It looks great, and performs extremely well.  There are softer brushes, brushes that hold more heat or water, and brushes made of better materials, but there are no other brushes that make me gravitate toward them over and over again.
–Lather Bowl: VDH Premium Shave Set Bowl.  I bowl lather roughly 75% of the time and when I do I use either a $1 La Coccina salsa bowl or the VDH Premium Shave Set bowl.  I use to dislike the VDH bowl because of its small size, but lately I have discovered how to use that to my advantage, creating denser and more concentraited lather in the smaller area.  Thanks to this revelation I now find myself using this bowl almost exclusively when I bowl lather.  It’s a nice, compact bowl that’s easy to find and inexpensive to buy.
–Soap: Van Der Hagen Deluxe/Glycerin blend.  I take one puck of Deluxe and one puck of Glycerin, melt them and mix them together, and pour the mixture into either a Kingsley dark wood bowl or a twist up shave stick container and I end up with the perfect soap…all for under $10.  It smells good and works great.
–Cream: Kiss My Face Cool Mint.  When I’m in  hurry or need a cool down, KMF Cool Mint works wonders.  It’s fast, easy, and not so cold as to completely freeze my face.  11oz. costs less than $8, and I can often get it on sale for as low as $5.
–Post: SAL Alum.  This stuff is inexpensive, effective, and easy to use.  I know that my skin is safe when I use SAL Alum.  The only thing that even comes close is T.N. Dickinson Witch Hazel, but when I need my skin ready to be abused by sweat and heat without having to worry about irritation, I always turn to SAL Alum.
–Blade Disposal: Tin can blade bank.  There are a lot of options for blade disposal, but none are as effective, customizable, and low cost as a DIY tin can blade bank.  50 cents gets you years of safe blade disposal, for me there was never another option, the tin can blows everything else away.

So that’s it.  Nothing fancy.  Most of that stuff I can get locally and none of it costs more than $10, but it’s all good, solid gear.  I know what to expect from these products and I can recommend them without reservations or qualifications.  In fact, it’s the exact set up that I used today…and my skin is baby butt smooth, so really what more could I ask for?

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My Latest Desert Island Experience

Last week’s desert island shave finished up well, I enjoyed my products and really felt sort of sad to be moving on to something else.  It’s always nice to find something that works really well.  I did replace my Union Cutlery straight razor with a Parker SRW, but other than that I stuck with all of the same gear.

This week I began with the Parker SRW, but switched to the Parker SR1 after the first day.  The Parker Disposable Blade Straight Razors (DBSRs) really do an amazing job and are quickly becoming my favorite razors.  The Parker SR1, in particular, is nice.  It has a slightly longer handle than the SRW and weighs a bit more as well, it also feels a bit more like a normal straight razor in the hand.  I used a superlather of Klar Kabinett soap and Kiss My Face Key Lime shaving cream.  The Klar I decided on for a couple of reasons.  The first reason is that the soap is being discontinued and it just seemed like a good time to use it.  The second reason is that this soap was given to me as a sample several months ago and I have yet to use it up, mostly because I just was not that impressed by it.  The KMF Key Lime I chose to pump up the Klar, I figured that the superior performance of the KMF would produce an excellent superlather and the nice lime scent would go well with the artificial rose scent of the Klar.  I’m sticking with my Comoy/Vulfix376S Super Badger brush, it is nice and soft and seems to excel at handling large amounts of lather.  For my blade I am using SuperMax Titanium, it is my favorite double edge blade and I never have any issues with it.  I’m also using The Art of Shaving Ocean Kelp Preshave Gel to help keep things nice and smooth and during the second day my SAL Alum came in, so I began using that as part of my post shave.

Today is the third day of this week’s desert island shave, I’ve chosen to do a run down of today’s shave because it does a good job of highlighting the highs and lows of the week so far.  I did my usual prep of a hot shower followed by a warm water splash and then applied a little bit of AoS Ocean Kelp Preshave Gel.  The gel smells nice and adds a little bit of slickness, but I actually prefer the preshave oil.  The gel is water soluble and seems to lose some of its effectiveness when my face is extremely wet.  I have chosen to face lather for a change of pace and have found that I have a slightly difficult time keeping my lather from splashing everywhere.  The Vulfix brush is a bit too floppy when it is really loaded down and although it does well with bowl lathering, when I try to get my lather worked up using just my face it gets a bit messy.  Beyond the mess, this superlather whips up quickly and easily and provides a nice slick and thick lather.  The Key Lime mostly overpowers the rose scent of the Klar Kabinett, but enough breaks through to make it an interesting combination.  I did a three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave followed by a cold water rinse and an application of alum.  The results were a baby butt smooth shave with no irritation, but my first ever nick while using a DBSR.  The nick occurred on my final pass and only happened because I managed to accidentally hit a mole.  The mole is nearly flush with my skin and rather small, so I rarely even notice it, but it is there and it made its self known.  Moles are vascular, so even though it was a tiny nick, it bled a lot.  A little pressure and some styptic easily stopped the bleeding.  The SAL Alum applied easily thanks to its rounded form and plastic base, it made my skin nice and tight and helped to keep my skin irritation free.  This shave is pretty typical of the rest of this week’s shaves–some issues, but mostly good.  I like the superlather of the two products well enough, but I won’t be sad to move on from them.  The Vulfix brush, while nice is starting to show its limitations.  Next week I will pick a different brush to take its place.  I can see myself using DBSRs exclusively if they continue to perform as well as they have been, I really like them and will probably be using them for the rest of the month.  Sometimes extended use of a product will make it shine, other times it will overstay its welcome, but it’s always nice to get a good feel for your gear rather than switching out every day, I highly suggest that every one gives “desert island” shaving a try every once in a while.  Just puck some gear that you like and stick with it for a week, the results just might surprise you.

Pre: Warm water splash and AoS Ocean Kelp Preshave Gel
Razor: Parker SR1
Blade: SuperMax Titanium
Brush: Comoy/Vulfix 376S Super Badger
Soap: Superlather of Klar Kabinett and Kiss My Face Key Lime
Post: Cold water rinse and SAL Alum

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Product Links:

Parker SR1:
http://www.razorsdirect.com/catalog/item/7409120/9008946.htm

SuperMax Titanium:
http://www.razorbladesandmore.com/content/10-supermax-titanium-sweedish-steel-blades
http://www.razorbladesandmore.com/content/100-supermax-titanium-sweedish-steel-blades

Klar Kabinett:
http://www.bullgooseshaving.net/klkashso.html

KMF Key Lime:
http://www.pureformulas.com/key-lime-moisture-shave-34-fl-oz-by-kiss-my-face.html
http://www.pureformulas.com/key-lime-moisture-shave-11-fl-oz-by-kiss-my-face.html

Vulfix 376S Super Badger:
http://www.westcoastshaving.com/Vulfix-376S-Super-Badger-Shaving-Brush_p_553.html

SAL Alum:
http://www.connaughtshaving.com/allumblock.html

AoS Ocean Kelp Preshave Gel:
http://www.amazon.com/Art-Shaving-Pre-Shave-Gel-Ocean-Kelp-2/dp/B005NWHOPE

Product Review: Kiss My Face Green Tea & Bamboo Shaving Cream

Although wet shavers in the USA are largely reliant upon the internet for their gear and information, it does not necessarily have to be this way. Not long after getting into wet shaving I discovered that there were a lot more locally available products than I realized.  A little research and some scouring of local shops revealed a treasure trove of soaps, creams, and other gear.  One of my favorite locally available products turned out to be the Kiss My Face line of shaving creams.

Kiss My Face shaving creams come in either 3.4oz. tubes or large 11oz. pump bottles and are usually available in health food stores for excellent prices ($5 for the tubes and $8 for the bottles).  Kiss My Face (A.K.A. KMF) is known for its amazing scents, easy lather, and ability to pump up other difficult products when used in superlathers.  KMF creams are also frequently sold by online retailers, making them one of the most widely available shaving creams around.

My favorite of the various KMF creams is the Green Tea & Bamboo shave cream.  This particular cream has a nice fresh green scent that works well with other “green” scented products such as L’Occitane Cade, Pre De Provence, and Proraso White.  I often use it to help bulk up a lather, but I also use it by its self.  This cream requires a bit more water than many other creams, but rewards you with copious amounts of ultra slick, cushioning lather which lasts for a long time without drying or thinning out.  KMF’s skin care qualities are there, but are not significant enough to really tout them as a selling point for this cream.  Overall, I would say that KMF Green Tea & Bamboo is an excellent cream which performs well above its modest price tag.  This cream deserves a spot in every wet shaver’s rotation of products.

Ratings (1-10, 1 being the absolute lowest and 10 being the absolute best):

Scent Quality: 9
Scent Strength: 7
Lather Quality: 9
Slickness: 8
Skin Care: 7
Overall: 8

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Ingredients List:

Aqua, Myristic Acid, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Potassium Hydroxide, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Retinyl Palmitate, Allantoin, Camellia Sinensis (Green Tea) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Arnica Montana (Arnica) Flower Extract, Hydrastis Canadensis (Golden Seal) Root Extract, Equisetum Hyemale (Horsetail) Extract, Alchemilla Vulgaris (Lady’s Mantle) Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus (Lemongrass) Leaf Extract, Citrus Aurantium (Lime) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Flower Extract, Saponaria Officinalis (Soapwort) Root Extract, Nasturtium Officinalis (Watercress) Leaf Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris (Bamboo) Extract, Natural Fragrance, Hydroxyethylcellulose

Product Link:

http://www.pureformulas.com/green-tea-bamboo-moisture-shave-34-fl-oz-by-kiss-my-face.html

http://www.pureformulas.com/green-tea-bamboo-moisture-shave-11-fl-oz-by-kiss-my-face.html

Shave Of The Day (20 May 2013)

Today I am doing an easy shave.  I have a lot to do, so for once I am just going to take the easy road and enjoy a quick, but effective shave.

My razor of choice is the amazing Union Cutlery 5/8 square point full hollow straight razor.  I can not say enough good things about this razor.  It cost me very little, cleaned up nicely, and after a visit to Larry over at Whipped Dog, shaves extremely well.  I highly recommend Union Cutlery razors for anyone looking to get into vintage straight razors.  I am using Kiss My Face Cool Mint because it is a bit hot out today and because Mondays are Menthol Mondays over at The Shave Den.  KMF Cool Mint is an excellent cream that lathers well and has a nice, subtle cooling effect, it does sort of smell like toothpaste, but you get past that pretty quickly.  If you like menthol, but have issues with face freeze, then KMF Cool Mint might be a good choice.  My brush is the Muhle HJM 41-P-3H tortoise shell boar brush.  It is a bit too scratchy for my usual tastes, but it lathers up products quickly and easily and the handle looks nice…I may have to reknot it with something better one of these days.

Following my usual prep, I performed a typical three pass with the grain/against the grain/across the grain shave followed by a cold water rinse and an application of The Art Of Shaving Unscented After Shave Balm.  The shave was great, a wonderful baby butt smooth shave with only a little mild irritation due to my attempting to rush through the process.  The cold water didn’t really take care of my issue, so I dabbed on the AoS A/S balm, which did the job.  My skin feels smooth and soft and I am ready for the day.  What more could you ask for out of a shave?

Pre: Hot shower and warm water splash
Razor: Union Cutlery 5/8 full hollow
Brush: Muhle HJM 41-P-3H tortoise shell boar
Soap: Kiss My Face Cool Mint
Post: Cold water rinse and AoS Unscented A/S Balm

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Product Links:

Whipped Dog Honing Services:

http://www.whippeddog.com/services/view/honing

Muhle HJM 41-P-3H tortoise shell boar brush:

http://www.shoeboxshaveshop.com/mu41babotosh.html

Kiss My Face Cool Mint:

http://pureformulas.ecomm-search.com/search?catalog=yhst-37598795206756&.autodone=http%3A%2F%2Fstore.yahoo.com%2Fyhst-37598795206756%2F&query=kiss+my+face+shave&x=0&y=0

The Art Of Shaving Unscented After Shave Balm:

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Shaving-After-Shave-Unscented-Sensitive/dp/B000FGTTTW