Vintage Shaving KitIn the interest of full disclosure, this story has links to a few products on Amazon. If you decide to buy these products from these links, I get a portion of the money. In the future, I may include such links to products, but do note that in all cases, these are products I have personally used and tested, and are products I believe in.
I will only include such ads when it facilitates the purchase of quality items.

An act of defiance.

A few years ago, I received a new razor blade in the mail. It came with two cartridges, and the handle. Just when I thought that three blades were enough to cope with any stubble i might have, the cartridge came with FOUR blades. I went through the two free blades in as many weeks, and since I had the handle, I thought i would just buy the blades for the handle.

I got to the store, and found that these blades cost $16 for three! I had never thought about how much i was spending on razor blades, so I looked at my old brand, and found that I was spending about $12 for a pack of four. I looked at the other brands, and this was about the standard pricing.

Then, scanning the racks, I found that I could pick up 10 old school safety razors for $5. I remembered that my grandpa gave me a safety razor about twenty years ago, and I still had it. In an act of technological defiance, I grabbed my old school razors at a fraction of the cost, and split.

Since I had my grandpa’s razor, the price of admission was free, but if you are a newcomer, you are going to have to get a handle. The most economical way to do it is to go to a second hand store. They usually have them lined up for five bucks a pop. In a lot of cases, they usually have new ones with cases for ten bucks. Until you know what you like, it really doesn’t matter which brand or style you get. Just get one that feels good in your hand. One of the brands that I have tried in the area of new razors is Merkur.

So, at this point, I had spend five bucks, for more than three times as many blades. But! Would one old school razor blade do the work of three modern blades?

But will it cut?

I ended up throwing a blade into my forty (at least) year old razor, and let it rip. To my surprise, I found that after I got used to how the razor worked (the angle and such) I was getting the best shave of my life. Over the years, I have found some tricks to getting an even better shave, and to my surprise, the best results were had with some of the most economical products.

Here are the things I learned. It took me awhile of wandering on my own. Armed with this info, you can have a barber shop quality shave every day, at a fraction of the super mega ultra blade cost:

  • You should always make two passes when you shave. The first pass goes WITH the grain, to knock your stubble down, the second pass goes AGAINST the grain. This will give you a baby butt smooth shave.
  • Take a look at your safety razor edgewise. You will see that it has an angle of about 30 degrees. This is the angle that you want to have flat on your face. Keep this angle as you move across your face, and you will keep that stubble in line.
  • Once you are comfortable, you might want to try a real shaving cream. The stuff they sell in the mega stores come in two styles. Cheap fluffy soap, and expensive but not so effective creams. None of these products are really suitable for shaving. Once you have tried a real cream, you will never got back. Some brands I have used: Proraso and Taylor of Old Bond Street. Although they are a bit more expensive than their discount store counterparts at first, I find that each product lasts several (four to six!) months.
  • If you venture out into using real shaving creams, you are going to need to pick up a brush. Brushes usually go from $15 – $40. My suggestion is to get a nice Badger Brush in the $25 neighborhood. Mine has lasted for years, and I have not thought it was worth my while to replace it for a bigger model.
  • If you decide to try other brands of razor blades (discount stores usually only carry their store brand), I have found that Merkur safety razor blades are considerably more robust than discount brands.

So, do you save money?

In retrospect, I was spending about $15 a month on shaving supplies. This has been cut to:

Razor Blades$2.40
Shave Cream$2
Total:$4.40 per month

So yes! Shaving like grandpa did saves a good deal of money, and works better than the latest blade technology.

How To

Okay, I found this video on youtube. While I think that all the information is valid, I found that since I shave in the shower, I can do it in five minutes, tops. So keep that in mind when they give you start hearing all the lengthy time estimates:

For a wealth of wet shaving information, and to learn to perfect your form, make sure to check Mark’s website and his youtube channel. Thanks, Mark for the excellent work.

So, if you decide to go this route, please let me know how it worked out for you. I would love to hear about your experiences.

Photo courtesy of Coffee Black and Egg White Photography

Addendum – 12/13/09

After using both Merkur blades and generic blades, I came to some conclusions. They are posted as a new entry on this blog.