• Beginners' Tips March 2015

    Over capitalisation

    A lot of new members seem to dive in to this hobby head first, buying everything they can get their hands on, then try to learn everything at once, shaving, stropping, restoration (I question the use of this word in some circumstances), honing, building lather and then wonder why it isn't going too well.

    I would recommend starting by getting a nice soap, not necessarily expensive just a good product that performs well, made by a reputable company not an obscure ďartisanĒ soap maker. That way you will be able to get solid advice from others who have used the product (a theme through lots of areas of wet shaving). At the same time, sort out a brush. Again it doesn't need to be an expensive badger, a decent boar will serve you well enough. Semogue and Omega are two well-regarded, inexpensive makers who both have quite a wide product range.
    Now that you have these you can start learning to make a lather whilst you choose a razor and strop. Itís up to you whether you bowl or face lather, both have pros and cons. I would recommend starting out bowl lathering as it is easier to see what is going on.

    Which brings me quite nicely to bowls. Yes you can buy an expensive scuttle. Yes they do look pretty, but 2 bowls work just as well. If you look around your kitchen you may well find a deep bowl and a shallow bowl. The shallow bowl needs to have a rim the same circumference or larger than that of the deep bowl. Half fill the deep bowl with hot water (experiment here, I canít tell you what hot is, it is a personal call but hot tap water should suffice) and sit the shallow one on top, voilŗ a scuttle. I prefer cold water shaving but I did used to do this when I hot water shaved.

    Which in turn brings me to cold-water shaving. Cold is as cold as you like, just not hot. I have refrigerated water in the past for shaving but now I use whatever comes out of the tap, some of us like it and some donít. For starting out pick one or the other and do it for a while, or you are just introducing another variable. I wonít go too far with this as there are a heap of threads on the relative merits of both.

    Next you will need to choose a strop. There are heaps out there, just choose something by a reputable vendor in a mid-price range. You should be practising your stropping too whilst choosing your gear. A strip of fabric/ belt/ strip of newspaper and a razor analogue (the oft mentioned butter knife, though anything razor shaped object with a flat edge will do) in my view should be used to get a feel for the flip, pressure and types of stroke Ė even with a 3Ē strop you should not just be going up and down, either an X stroke or wiper stroke should be used.

    Lastly a professionally honed, shave ready razor Ė it doesn't need to be new or expensive or fancy just something that will work. Commonly 5/8 or 6/8 hollow ground are recommended which is exactly what my first razor was. You donít need several at first. However, you will probably want either a second razor or an alternative method of shaving for when your first razor needs maintenance (keep your old cartridge razor if you have a few cartridges left) but you certainly donít need loads, and most certainly not when you are just starting out. Every razor is different to use and will introduce variables which will make knowing what the issues are much harder. I used the same razor for 3 or 4 months, then I used a different razor for about 8 months with the odd loaner thrown in to let me try new things.

    Finally, there are all of the pre and post shaves, hot towels and other fluff. As a pre-shave a basic vitamin E cream worked for me and it also doubles as a post shave healing balm. I use basic aftershaves (brut, old spice etc.) and donít subscribe to hot towels and such like. I believe that a good shave should be achievable without all the side orders.

    After almost 2 years I now own 3 straight razors, have sold, given or traded 3 razors and have 2 gold dollars floating around somewhere to practice stuff on, though they are in the hands of others now. I have 2 strops, 4 brushes (2 that actually get used, 1 that I made and 1 badger that I really donít like), a fair amount of soap and cream (a lot of which were gifts), 2 D/Eís and a small selection of hones Ė a topic for later in your shaving journey. With what I have I am more than set up for life (except for consumables).
    This article was originally published in forum thread: beginners tips march 2014 started by edhewitt View original post