September 20, 2008
For my 15th or 16th birthday, my parents gave me an electric shaver. At the time I only needed to shave every few days, and the speed and convenience of the electric was a good fit for my teenage approach to shaving.
Over the years I've had many replacements of that original shaver, all but one have been three-head, rotary style models. I tried one foil type shaver from Braun, which I didn't care for. For the most part the shavers have done a decent job of trimming my whiskers, but I have always had problems with razor burn. And once in a great while one of the hairs that got stretched and cut by the twin blades, would become ingrown and painful.
I've only rarely shaved using a disposable or cartridge style razor, and on those occassions I had lots and lots of razor burn. I just wasn't used to the defoliation effect of those twin blades scrapping across my skin, particularly my neck.
One day last spring I read an article online about shaving the way my father and his did. With a real safety razor, not one of those disposable cartridge jobs. The author of the article made a good argument for the improvement in the shave itself, and in the whole shaving experience. He cautioned that one would need to unlearn the bad habits multi-blade catridge systems promote, but he also promised that the end result would be well worth the effort.
Of course to shave the way my father did would require getting a safety razor handle, and some safety razor blades. You can order the blades online, and you can order a handle online too. Quite by happenstance, on our first full day in Winnenden Germany this year, we walked past a store called "Chris Messerschmiede." A store selling all kinds of knives, blades, and, you guessed it, razor handles. After going inside and examing several of the handles he had for sale, I settled on the one pictured below.
It is surprisingly heavy, and has a very good feel in my hand. The butt end of the handle unscews to allow removal of the blade keeper. When the knob is fully tightened the keeper slightly bends the blade, bringing the cutting edge into perfect alignment with the edge of the guide.
Since I never really used disposable or cartridge razors, I don't have too many bad habits to unlearn. I do have to learn how to shave again, however. I've used the new handle, and the starter blade it came with, several times now. All the shaves have been wonderfully close, and razor burn free. I think I like old-fashioned.
10.9.2008 Update: I found A guide to the gourmet shaving experience to be an excellent read.