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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebigspendur View Post
    I say poppycock to the guys that think you need a big razor for a heavy beard and what is the proof of my claim. very simple, history. Unless you want to accept the fact that millions of men settled for bad and uncomfortable shaves through history.

    The deal is that in the early 1800s and before big meat choppers were all that were available. As the 20th century approached manufacturers were using various hollow grinds and realized that they could make a hollow grind way smaller than the meatchopper and still do the same job equally as well. I think a wedge is easier to make than a hollow grind so it wasn't ease of manufacture that made the hollow grind king. The fact is that once the hollow grinds became prevalent most men used them and used the 5/8s which was the most popular size with the 6/8s way behind. If men with tough beards couldn't get a good shave with a 5/8 or 6/8 hollow grind you'd think they would have demanded more larger sizes and more wedges but they didn't.
    Here's my theory about thebigspendur's theory.

    I don't question anything he's said here. But there's one thing missing in this history. The invention of the safety razor, and its swift ascendancy during World War I, when a whole generation of men used them in the trenches. The whole thing about the DE was that a man could shave himself with unprecedented ease. But the barbershop shave didn't go away for a couple more generations at least. Straight razors made in the 20th century have mostly been destined for barbers' use. These guys are professionals. As many a newbie on this site has noted, a nice heavy wedge is a lot easier to use successfully when you're an unskilled beginner. As many a pro (like mparker and the bigspendur) has noted, on the other hand, once you really know what you're doing you can get just as good a shave from a 5/8 extra hollow as from a 7/8 wedge – and the hollow one's more maneuverable and arguably more precise. A good deal of skill is key, though, as is a very sharp, expertly honed hollow razor. Wedges are more forgiving on both counts.

    So there you go: wedges were still popular when men were still, in significant numbers, giving themselves straight-razor shaves. Remember, these guys weren't hobbyists like us, spending half their waking hours pondering the art of the shave. We're nostalgic for the days when fathers taughts sons how to shave, but in all likelihood you can learn much more from Randy, Lynn, Joe, and others on this site than guys back then could learn from their dads. Prep, technique, razor maintenance etc. were probably pretty hit and miss, most honing done by someone else; and in terms of overall skill probably most guys then just weren't as good at straight-shaving as mparker and bigspendur are now. So the wedge grind endured through the 19th century.

    Once the safety razor took over the market for self-shaving, and straight razors became mostly professional instruments, it was perfectly natural that smaller hollow grinds would come to dominate. They're much easier to hone (and if you're shaving 30 faces a day you have to be able to do your own honing); they're easier to manuever precisely, and they give a lot of feedback.

    Just a theory.
    Last edited by dylandog; 01-10-2007 at 09:48 PM.

  2. #12
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    I dunno. The barber's remained professionally trained throughout this period yet they transitioned from heavy to light razors as well. My old W&B "Barber's Use" is an 8/8 near-wedge. My somewhat newer W&B "Barber's Rattler" is a 7/8 half hollow. My 20th century Clauss "Barber's Special" is a 5/8 full hollow.

    It's quite possible that it was the development of better metallurgy (harder and less brittle steel) and the discovery of better honing technologies (ceramic hones, chrome oxide) led to the sort of really sharp edges that allow the little full-hollow razors to shine, which in turn led to their wholescale adoption.

    One clarification to the previous poster: I am not an expert, merely someone who has been recently smacked with a cluebat on this issue. I argued for months that prep and technique weren't enough, that big razors and big grinds were necessary for shaving tough beards. I was chagrined recently to discover that I was wrong, and that prep and technique were in fact the key after all.

    Still don't like the Feather though. I'm still keeping it figuring that maybe one day it'll all become clear. Maybe.
    Last edited by mparker762; 01-10-2007 at 10:22 PM. Reason: clarifications

  3. #13
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    Mparker, I take your point about metallurgy, but I wonder if it really contradicts my theory. I mean, better metallurgy let hollows really shine, but as you and others have attested, you've got to be pretty good to use them effectively. The fact that straight-shaving was moving more and more into the hands of professionals in the 20th century could still have been a necessary condition for their ascendancy over the wedge.

    Still pushin' my theory.

    p.s. you're an expert as far as I'm concerned, because early on you gave me exactly the right tip to get me out of each impasse I was in.

  4. #14
    The Hurdy Gurdy Man thebigspendur's Avatar
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    Even though the safety razor was being used in ever increasing numbers as the 20th century progressed, like everything else it was the young guys who jumped on the bandwagon right away. Just like the change from pocketwatches to wristwatches Most older guys remained with the straights and don't forget straights were still being made in large quantities through the period of the second world war. It was almost the 1950s when they really started to stop production and even many kept up into the late 1960s though usage was almost nil by then.

    And true the wedge was more time consuming to hone but you could shave alot more people inbetween honings with one and many older barbers did prefer them.

    I think the key point here is people's mindset just like Mr Gillette was able to convince people to switch to his razor because it was the modern way to shave it the same with straights. The wedge is just old fashioned while the double hollow grind was the new fangled way to do things but hey some guys still prefer to drive a 57 chevy to an 07 one and some women prefer to drag their clothes outside and boil them and beat them with a stick and wring them out by hand and hand em up to dry rather than throw them in the electric washer and dryer. They would tell you the same things we do about shaving. Everything is relative. And when I find that woman I'll let you know who she is!
    No matter how many men you kill you can't kill your successor-Emperor Nero

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