• Conversation with Mantic59

    Mantic59 is a legend in wet shaving through a series of informative and entertaining videos. Mantic59 is the signature for Mark Herro, a gentleman wet shaver who has inspired thousands into reaching beyond the electric shaver or the plastic cartridge razor to discover new worlds. His videos cover almost every aspect of traditional shaving, from making the proper lather to shaving with the double edge safety razor. Nothing on the straight razor yet, but thereís always hope.

    Obie: Didnít I read somewhere on Straight Razor Place that you contemplated a fling with the straight razor? What happened to that?

    Mark: Still working on it. I had to re-shoot some of the raw video. The most difficult part has been trying to maintain continuity as I have been learning straight razor technique. I have had to shoot when I got the chance, and if I cut myself, I had to wait till my face healed.

    Obie: When may we expect a video, then?

    Mark: Hopefully April. Sooner if I can.

    Obie: Altogether how many shaving videos have you made?

    Mark: Last I checked I have 66 plus public videos of my own, and a few hosted. These are videos by request by others on my channel. Plus a few unlisted videos, which are not publicly viewable unless you have a link. Theyíre videos for special purposes.

    Obie: All of us who embrace this traditional way of shaving, whether using the straight or the double edge, have a story. Whatís yours? You were not always a wet shaver, were you?

    Mark: No, I was not. I used a rotary electric shaver for 30 years. Buzz-buzz, zip-zip, done in two minutes. In 2004, my wife and I were in Las Vegas for our wedding anniversary and she bought me a barber shave at the Art of Shaving at Mandalay Bay as an anniversary gift. It was life-changing.

    Obie: This obviously was a straight razor shave. Youíre a double edge man. What did the double edge razor, then, give you that other forms of popular shaving did not?

    Mark: A happier wife. But it has become something akin to meditation for me, too. Itís a great way for me to settle my mind and experience some great sensations at the same time. Thereís nothing like the feel of warm, fragrant lather.

    Obie: Your wet shaving experience comes with the addition of making videos about the art and the craft of it. What led you into making these videos?

    Mark: In the late spring of 2006, a casual comment in a discussion thread on the old MSN Wetshavers forum ó now defunct ó suggested that, ďSomeone needs to do a video on how to shave.Ē The general consensus was that the idea is appealing but probably too difficult to do. The thinking was you really need to see lather in three dimensions and be able to feel it to truly understand it. Also a lot of the background techniques really need to be shown in person. And it was also felt that the video technology of the day wasnít quite up to the quality that was necessary to properly demonstrate shaving.

    Obie: Obviously that didnít stop you.

    Mark: No. I kind of looked at it as a gauntlet being thrown down and took it upon myself to give it a try.

    Obie: Do you follow a specific form? Not only that, but what is your focus for these videos?

    Mark: I wanted to present the basics in a way that was informative, entertaining, and, above all, accessible. Also that you could find products locally to at least get started or to get the feel of traditional shaving. At the time YouTube had a ten-minute time limit on videos.

    Obie: So then how did you tackle that obstacle?

    Mark: Rather than make one very compressed video I decided to break up the information into logical sections ó concepts, lather, shaving ó each with its own video. I didnít want to concentrate on me either, which is why you see a lot of stock images on the videos. That breaks up the monotony of seeing the same face again and again. It also re-enforces the concept being discussed.

    Obie: Having a degree in the engineering side of TV/radio broadcasting obviously has been enormous help to you. You were also familiar with creating a video. How does each video you make start? Do you get suggestions form viewers or do you search for the subject and proceed from there?

    Mark: Both, suggestions and search. The early videos were about common topics that were hot on the shave forums at the time. Keeping lather warm, for example. Scuttles had just come out. As the videos became more popular, I started getting requests, too.

    Obie: What is your method in making these videos?

    Mark: Once I decide on a topic I research it to get my facts straight. Some topics take more research than others. Then I rough out an outline of what I want to show and discuss. Next usually comes a first draft of a narration script. Then Iíll shoot some raw video. At that point I usually do a little back-and-forth between narration and maybe shooting some additional video. Then editing/narrating and finally rendering the video. I usually upload a video to Tubemogul, since I can distribute it to multiple destinations at once, if I desire. Now that I have my own website at Sharpologist.com I will take the narration document, add the appropriate links, if needed, and post that along with a video embed. It takes about a month from beginning to end, part time, of course.

    Obie: How do you stage each video?

    Mark: I used to use our master bathroom as a set, but I moved to a second bathroom on the other side of our house so that I can work when I have a chance. Thatís usually late in the evening after my wife has gone to bed. I set the camera on a tripod on top of a cabinet or on a shelf directly in front of the bathroom mirror, depending on what I need to do. Along with the regular bathroom lights I also have some portable lights on clamps I can move around as I need to.

    Obie: Are there any retakes or is each video a straight shot?

    Mark: Itís rare that I get a shot Iím satisfied with on the first take. Even if Iím happy with it, I will usually shoot a few re-takes just in case.

    Obie: How much editing do you do?

    Mark: I generally spend five to 10 hours editing each video. That doesnít count the hunting around for and the downloading of old footage that viewers have come to expect from me. Sometimes I want to spend more time, but if I start to obsess about it, Iíll never finish. At some point I have to be satisfied with what I have and go with it.

    Obie: What equipment do you use?

    Mark: My equipment is surprisingly modest. I started with a Panasonic PV9 camcorder that I won in a raffle. Now I usually use a Canon HV20 camcorder that I got for about one-third of its list price at an electronics storeís going-out-of-business sale. I have a stand-alone M-Audio USB studio mic, a cheap lapel mic from Radio Shack, some clamp lights, and a very inexpensive, semi-homemade autocue teleprompter. In the beginning I used the free WindowsMovieMaker video editor, but then moved on to more powerful software. Right now I use Sonyís Vegas editor.

    Obie: Do you have any advice and suggestions for someone considering making a shaving video?

    Mark: As a matter of fact Iím working on a video called How To Make A Shaving Video Your Viewers Will Love. Basically, plan out the basics, donít try to shoot the entire thing all at once, and use a video editor to polish the video instead of uploading one long raw file to YouTube. It doesnít have to be fancy, and there are basic video editors on the market that are free. And if you take video of yourself, try to position the camera around eye level. Placing the camera so that it shoots up towards your face from below tends to distort your features.

    Obie: Most shaving videos sound and look amateurish. What especially is frustrating about them is the excessive amount of talk. Talk, talk, talk ó thatís a killer. Some have so much talking at the beginning that by the time the lathering and shaving start youíre bored to death. What suggestions and advice do you have for these gentlemen?

    Mark: Usually the talking is necessary, but one long static video shot of someone talking is what turns people off. Take a few additional video shots of what youíre talking about from different angles and splice them in with an editor. Using on-screen titles to re-enforce what youíre discussing can be a good idea, too.

    Obie: You seem to have a wealth of knowledge about wet shaving and the double edge razor. Where does all that come from?

    Mark: The foundation is from the shaving forums, no doubt about it. The old MSN Wet Shaving forum was gold for me and I was sorry to see it go. The old timers, some of whom are still around, passed on their wisdom and formed a solid knowledge base for me to work from. I still regularly read the shaving forums. My browserís shaving bookmark opens 19 tabs. I donít post much any more, though. I also have to give Charles Roberts of Enchante a big shout-out for patiently spending time with me in my early days. I know he can have a polarizing effect on the shaving community, but I learned quite a bit about traditional shaving. That in addition to learning his ďMethodĒ shaving. Iím grateful to him.

    Obie: Your weapon of choice is the double edge. What comprises your collection?

    Mark: Merkur Progress, Futur, Vision, Slant, HD, Bakelite. Edwin Jagger DE86. Parker 90R and 99R. Weishi and a few other Chinese clones. Feather Popular and Portable. Goodfella. Plus a few odd-ball vintage and cartridge razors. I have a Weber, a Muehle R41, and a Parker 92R coming in the mail.

    Obie: What are your preferred double edge razors?

    Mark: My Merkur Progress will have to be pried from my cold, dead fingers. Or maybe Iíll just be buried with it in my cold, dead fingers.

    Obie: You obviously use soaps and creams with the brush. Letís start with your brush collection. What do you have?

    Mark: Excluding a few drug store cheapo brushes, I have a Tweezerman, a Saville Row SR23, a couple semi-custom forum brushes ó SMF 1 Shavemac and SMF 3 Rooney. I have a C&E BBB, a Shavemac VLB, a ďgreysĒ brush from emsplace/shaveplace. A New Forest brush. A couple synthetics. And I just got a limited edition Simpsonís ďRoverĒ that Iím really digging. My usual rotation is the emsplace, the C&E, and the Rover, though.

    Obie: Any preferences in soaps and creams?

    Mark: I gravitate to strongly-scented products. My favorites include Speick cream, Castle Forbes Lime ó like getting hit in the face with a key lime pie. Also C&E Sienna, cream and soap, DR Harris Arlington soap, Truefitt & Hill Trafalgar ó I like Grafton too. Recently I got hold of some NewYorkShavingCo. creams that I really enjoy, particularly their Tonsorial scent.

    Obie: What do you suggest as a starter kit for someone considering wet shaving with the double edge razor?

    Mark: I get asked for recommendations a lot, but I really try to avoid giving them, because there are just too many variables. I will tell people what products are well-made and popular and let them decide what to try.

    Obie: I came across one of your newsletters where you discuss some of the mistakes wet shavers with the double edge razor should avoid. What are some of these?

    Mark: Lack of proper prep, wrong angle, and too much pressure ó thatís a biggie. I try to stress they are learning a new skill and to expect a learning curve.

    Obie: What do you consider some good habits?

    Mark: I think prep, a great lather, and lack of pressure are the keys.

    Obie: Lynn Abrams probably has done more for straight razorís popularity worldwide than anyone. You, on the other hand, have done your share in promoting the double edge razor. How do you see your role in spreading the word, so to speak, for what obviously is one of lifeís great pleasures?

    Mark: I married late in life, so I donít have any children. I like to think of my legacy as a kind of shaving father figure. If I canít teach my son how to shave, maybe I can teach other sons or grandsons.
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