At the urging of Marcel den Herder and Mauro Cattana, I made an attempt to shave with a straight edge or cut-throat razor.
Men who shave that way may do so because they are attracted to things old and traditional – shaving with a straight edge razor is said to be a masculine ritual comparable to pipe smoking. Happy mortal he who knows the pleasure that a pipe bestows.
Being a straight edge razor naïf – I was using Gillette Fusion before this – I didn’t want to plunge straight into the whole ritual of honing and stropping so I decided to start with the Japanese Feather Professional “Artist Club DX” model which uses disposable blades.
The DX is precision machined from solid 316 stainless steel and satin finished.
The blade holder can be easily and completely disassembled for thorough cleaning.
The handle pivot is assembled using a removable screw assembly which also easily permits adjusting pivot tension.
The razor design incorporates a “Monkey Tail” style tang to better accommodate multiple fingers and file jimps for a secure thumb grip.
The razor handle is made of a special polymer that has exceptional heat and chemical resistant properties which allow complete razor immersion in boiling water, sanitizing solutions, or even placement in an autoclave.
As for the disposable blades, I opted for “Pro Guard” blades – 15 in a cartridge, see picture below – which are designed specifically for comfort and safety. By wrapping the blade in a protective wire cage a comfort margin is maintained between the blade edge and the skin. I was told that the wire guard also virtually eliminates nicks and cuts. I thought these blades would provide the quality of a straight razor shave and the safety and convenience of a safety razor.
Wrong – the first time I shaved with it, I was cut in three different places on my face!
And scouring shaving forums – yes, you can find anything on the Internet – I seem to hear people saying that Feather blades are actually less forgiving than regular straight edge razors! Some men reported that their faces were “filleted” by them!
However, I am also reminded that the author of a “shaving manual” (published in 1905) sent by Marcel has said that “if you cut yourself it is your fault not the blade.”
On to another try!
And while doing it, I also remembered what Marcel himself has told me. He said “do not worry about cutting yourself, the more you worry the more likely you will cut your skin. Be like the samurais of old who didn’t fear death and you will become a great warrior.”
I’m happy to report that my second shave was perfect – no cuts, no bleeding – and my face felt as smooth as a baby’s bottom!
And it’s been the same since – except for one morning when I was half asleep!
Now I’m wondering if I should move on to the straight edge razors!
The honing and the stropping are the two parts missing from the ritual now.
The badger hair brush, the shaving soap, the lathering, the alum block and the aftershave, these are all there now except for the honing and the stropping.
I also notice an active trade in vintage straight edge razors.
Some of them have handles made from tortoise shells, horns, bone, etc.
Hmm, lots to think about…
Long story short – I’ve since gone on to acquire several – yes, several – straight edge razors, including a “singing” one.
Yeah, I know, I’m crazy.
Once I get started on something, I can’t stop.
It’s ok, like pipes, the advice is a different one a day.
So I’m a happy camper.
And you know what?
The Feather is definitely way sharper than any of them.
Once you’ve mastered the Feather, regular straight edge or cut-throat razors are nothing!