Tag Archives: consumerism

A Damn Good Shave – Part 2 Lathering Technique

In my last [post] I told you about the process of wet shaving.  This time I’ll be going over the details of lathering.

As I mentioned, you begin with a hot soak or a shower to soften the hairs and prep the underlying skin.

Manly men use real shaving soap!The next step is to build the lather.  Now if you’re new to the process, I’d recommend spending a good amount of time just trying to build lather and get that part down, before you begin to attempt shaving.  As you might imagine, having good product is a key to this, but if you’re new – how do you know what’s good or not?

Easy.  Ask around.  There are plenty of [forums] with reviews and descriptions of commonly used items that can get you started.  Don’t get hung up on picking a particular scent, just take a sniff and if it is pleasant enough – go for it.  Depending on your location and proximity to various stores, you should have a few choice product options.  Every mall has a Body Shop store, so I usually recommend a tub or tube of their [Maca Root cream.]

I’ll talk about creating lather in a bowl here, though many users lather up on their face.  The process is pretty much the same for either, as well as for soaps or creams.  I’ll talk about the types of bowls in another post.

The brush should be moist, and I normally do so by filling the bowl up with hot water and letting the brush soak in it for a minute or so to absorb some of the liquid and soften the badger hair much as we do for the facial hairs.  The water should be dumped, and the brush gently wrung out to remove excess water.  You “load” the brush by constricting the brush hairs into a clump using your thumb and forefingers, and then continue either by swishing this in small circles on the product to get it to stick to the brush, or spooning out a small dollup (typically half a teaspoon) into the bowl and then begin.After a beating

The goal here is to create a lather that is thick, like cool whip with formed peaks, but not too thin, airy, or runny that collapses back into soapy liquid shortly after being whipped into being.  Sometimes, between the soap on the brush, and the water absorption in the badger hair, you hit that sweet spot right away.  Other times you might need to whisk the brush ’round and around in the bowl, pumping it a bit to impart some air into the mix to fluff it.  And yet other times it might be too dry with not enough liquid, making the swishing and lather creation stiff and difficult to swirl up.  In those cases I’ll typically dip just the very tips of the loaded brush into water, or just add a few drops in to liven things up.  You can always add more water, but once you’ve got too much it can be difficult to compensate, so start small.  Frankly, it can be difficult to build a good lather, or even recognize when you’ve got it just right, until you have some experience under your belt doing so.  Here’s a [video] that can help.

The last step in lathering is applying it to the face.  Simply take this out of the bowl using the brush, and swirl this in small concentric circles.  I usually begin just below the ear in the side burns area, and move across the face, then down the neck.   Feel free to gather more lather from the bowl as needed.  You may find other online tips mentioning “painting” the face, as though you have a paint brush, rather than a shaving brush.  I also do this, but usually after having swirled the lather into place, to help even it out.  You’ll know at this point if you’ve formed your lather correctly, if it seems to expand a bit after it rests on your face a few moments, softening the edges.  If you’re face lathering, the only difference is that instead of building lather in the bowl, you’re doing so directly on the face after having loaded the brush.

One last reminder for lathering.  Make sure to practice as a beginner.  Set aside a half hour or so, and practice loading the brush, then whipping it up just in the cup of your opposite hand.  Get a feel for the water to product ratio, and intentionally use too much of one or the other to see the results.  Once you feel you’re a pro, move onto doing so in the bowl, and repeat.  You may find yourself going through a bit of product, but most of the time your initial purchase can last for a year, so a few practice batches at the start can be well worth it, and get you up and running quickly.

I hope you’re taking these posts to heart.  Feel free to comment and let me know if I’m not telling the whole story, or skipping over the details.  I’ll next describe how to handle the razor and efficiently remove the hairs from your chinny chin chin and more.  (Part 3)

See you next time.

Share

A Damn Good Shave – Part 1 The Basics

My Shaving GearAn old friend recently reached out to me, because he had had enough of the newer, better, greater claims of Gillette and Shick, and their ever rising costs with lackluster results.  The disposables are poor quality at best, and even some of the alternatives from Merkur and Parker have been said to be prone to pitting and breakage.  He had heard, and I confirmed, that old style double edge razors, from the likes of Gillette and others from a half century ago or more, are far superior in results, comfort and closeness than any of the modern day equipment.  I can’t speak much of the failure of the modern variants from Merkur, and would only add I myself have not experienced this myself.

I thought to lay out the recommended steps of traditional wet shaving in a series of posts, both for his benefit, and yours. :)

So I’ll begin with a description of what wet shaving is all about.  Whether it is referred to as classic shaving, wet shaving, barbershop style, DE (double edge) shaving, traditional shaving, or straight edge shaving, it is all the same process.

You begin by moistening the face, either by use of hot towels or taking a warm shower to open the pores and soften the facial hairs.  Sometimes if I don’t feel like taking a shower, I’ll just splash water as hot as I can take it, on my face and neck continuously for 2-3 minutes.

This is followed by using a shaving brush, usually made of badger hair of varying degrees, and a specialized shaving soap or cream to whip up lather.  Canned creams are known to dry out the skin, and contrary to popular belief facilitate the shave, but leave the face in worse shape than before it began.  Sometimes this lathering is done directly on the face, and other times in a bowl, scuttle or mug.

This lather is applied to the face, usually with the brush itself, and then is shaved off with the razor in a series of angled swipes.  If done correctly, it will minimize razor burn and cuts, while removing the facial hair and lather one stroke at a time, and progressing from spot on the face to another.  The remains are splashed off with warm water, the razor briefly rinsed, and the steps repeated, with a different direction used for the swipes to achieve an even closer shave.  Each cycle is also called a shaving pass.  This is usually repeated for a total of 3-4 passes, depending on beard thickness and desired closeness, with an ideal of “baby butt smooth” (BBS.)

After the final splash removes the lather and cut stubble remnants, a topical astringent is applied to the face and allowed to dry, usually Witch Hazel, and sometimes in conjunction with a block of alum for accidental shaving cuts.  After it dries, a cold water rinse is next to close the pores, and followed by applying aftershave or balm to soothe and care for the skin.

While the steps may seem a lot, in practice this can take perhaps 20 minutes on average for an experienced shaver.

Shaving in this manner is typically more cost effective, more comfortable and with better shaving results, and can turn what many see as a dreaded chore, into a luxurious time of enjoyment for a regular manly ritual.

My plan is to follow this post with the details of lathering and razor techniques, the aftershave, and suggested gear.

Check back soon!

Share

I Want Just The Right Boot

I have one pair of shoes I wear to work every day.

For a while there I had two pairs, and I would wear the black ones some days, and the brown on others.  For the last 12 years or so, my favorites have been Doc Martens ever since I found a nice pair of two tone wing tips when I was working in NYC.  Some years I’ve had Chukkas, but it has been mainly oxford styles.  With my last pair (the current), it seems the quality went down some though.  As with a lot of manufacturers, they decided to outsource more, and most of their stuff comes out of China nowadays.  So the leather isn’t quite as nice as it had been, and the stitching wore out faster than it had before, and I decided it might be time to look at something else.  Besides, if you’ve ever worn Docs you know they’re not light on your feet, and I was getting tired of lugging  around the extra weight.

After my usual casting around the internet, I decided American made was the way to go.  This seemed to come at a higher price though, but I figured if they lasted me twice as long, then twice the price is worth the quality and craftsmanship.  The taller Chukka styles appealed to me, and I eventually found myself looking in the 6 inch boot category.  I needed something that was dressy enough to go with my daily work clothes of ‘country club attire,’ while casual enough to avoid the overly shiny look most dress shoes have.  I came across an article at The Art Of Manliness, and I fell in love with the throw back design of the dress boot and the Wolverine 1000 Milers.

Now comes the kicker – the price.  I expected to pay more, but the Wolverine’s run $350 on average.  I’m not the type of guy who’s going to spend that much on shoes, even if they do last longer than most.  So I looked to see what was just as good, but at a more reasonable price.

I almost went for a pair of Red Wings.  The Iron Rangers had a nice blend of rugged and classy, and I found a site I could get them for $240 shipped.  Orvis had some rebranded pairs on closeout, but I missed them by a day while I thought about it too much when they were listed at $130.  Still, I hoped I could do better – and did.

In the end, the LL Bean Katahdin Iron Works Engineer boots won me over.  Originally $159 (now $179 after the new year,) I scored a pair on sale for $134.  Solid leather, quality hooks, goodyear welted soles, and made in America with a lifetime satisfaction guarantee.  It turns out they are made by Chippewa, another brand well known and respected more for their work boots than dress boots.  People have stated over and over their pairs have lasted 10 or 20 years, and that was the tipping point for me.

So how’d they do that?  If you have a good pair of shoes or boots, and care for them properly they can last as long just as easily.  It seems to boil down to three aspects – Cleaning, Oiling and Protection.  So long as the last two are covered, then the shoes almost clean themselves.  Build up wipes off with your basic moist rag very easily.

I’ve been wearing the boots just 2 days now, and I had read it takes anywhere from 2 weeks, to 2 months for them to fully break in.  To speed it up a bit, I applied some mink oil to the boots.  Even though they are brand new, they sucked up the oils like a sponge, and made the leather more pliable and softer so it molds to my feet faster.  In the picture above you can see the boot on the left untouched, and the one on the right applied with the mink oil.  As a side effect it often darkens it as well, but I preferred them a deep dark brown anyway.  Once the oil seeps in overnight, you want to apply protection.  I’d been using SnoSeal on my hiking boots for years, and others agree it gets the job done right, along with Obenaufs Leather Protection as top tier products.

Repeat the clean, re-oil, and reprotect every 6 months and you’ll be glad you did.  Quality products not only look better, and can last longer, but remember that price doesn’t always end at the register.  You pay yourself back with care as well.

Make ‘em last and do it right.  See you in 20 years.

Share

Born Again Shaving – Week 4 update

So here we are.  4 weeks into spring, and 4 weeks into my latest hobby.

I’ve got some experience under my plate now, and a better handle on what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right.

Probably the best thing I could recommend, is get some help!  There is a lot of resources out there, and I’m really starting to like the people at Badger & Blade the best.

One of the posts I came across was one of those time machine ones.  You know – the one where if you knew what you know now and could start over again – what would you do different?

Lots of good answers on this one here.  Check it out for yourself.

Along with those posts I also stopped by the only area shaving shop for some advice.  Gentlemans Best over in Southington CT.

After some talking with Ray (hell of a guy by the way,) I’ve decided to try a few things to make life better.

First tip – stop changing things around so much.  I’m hopping around from one soap to the next before I’ve gotten a handle on how to manuver the razor around my face.  Plus I’m still figuring out how to best gauge and build up the lather.  Best bet is to stick to the same soap for at least a week before I switch out.  I’m going to work my way through one whole sample to the next from now on, rather than one bit here and there.

Second tip – after shaving, splash a hot water rinse on and pat dry, apply Witch Hazel, then splash cold and pat dry again, then balm or aftershave.  The warmth helps sooth, the hazel tightens things up, and the cold makes it all close back up nice.  So far so good on that point.

Third tip – change up the razor blade once a week or every other week.  Not just to keep things sharp, but also change out the brand after 2-3 weeks.  After similar soaps at that point, you can get a better gauge on whether a new blade brand is working out or not.  So far my jump from the Merkur to Derby’s is one I should have done earlier.  Remember different blades work better or worse for different people.

Fourth tip – Lots o’ soap!  When you’re using shaving soap (as I’m leaning towards), let a tablespoon or so of water soak on top before you dip the brush.  It makes it much easier to load the brush, and easier in turn to lather it up.  You can always add water back in.

I think I’m ready to up my brush to a better quality one, and I’m working my way through the many samples.  I have to agree that Mama Bears Soaps are still pretty darn good, and my favorite brand thus far.  A nice smell, good lather if you soap the brush enough, and my face seems to like it too.

I’ll keep you posted as I learn more.  Know any good tips you’ve come across?  Share yours as well!

Share

Shaving Soaps And Creams – Ask And Ye Shall Receive

Samples Baby!

So now, at the 3 week mark since I’ve begun using a Double Edge Razor, its time to figure out what kind of soaps I should use.

It all comes down to personal preference in the end.  Some soaps and creams are easy to whip into a lather, while others have a great scent.  Some let the blade glide  on your face easily, and still more have quality oils and moisturizers to minimize razor burn and make your face feel as good as it looks.  Depending on what you really want, you’ve got lots of choices.

I’ve been reviewing some forums and sites including the comments at Amazon products, The Shave Den, Badger & Blade, Shave My Face, and The Shaving Room. There are your high end products, mid range, and inexpensive ones.  Now to be fair, you can get a great soap and lather with an inexpensive brand just as much as the expensive one.  Sometimes marketing plays a big role.   There are a number of fans of Mama Bears Soaps, yet her handmade soap pucks are just under $8 for 5oz.  On the other hand people also say that G.F.Trumpers Lime Cream is the best, yet that runs $17 for a 2oz tube.

Much as different people have different preferences, no brand can really fit everyone to a tee.  In a nutshell, use what you like.

I like a good strong scent.  But more importantly I need to have a lather that can glide over my face of coarser and thicker hair than most.  I’ve seen some people alluding that certain soaps work best with more pre-shave preparation such as using a facial oil or moisturizing cream just before applying the lather.  Or even mixing it in with the lather, but after having used a hot towel.   In my mind, the more you have to do in advance, the poorer the product.  By all accounts all that should be needed is a hot shower, or wrapping a hot towel around the face, and splashing additional water on just before you lather up.

So this was my perspective.  I had purchased my razor with some soap from Col Conks at Amazon right from the start, and later looked over the counter at the CVS and found some VanDerHagen Select soap as well.  A few reads later, and I’m over at the Crabtree & Evelyn at the mall, and find they sell out frequently.

Then, on the way out the door, the saleswoman hits me with inspiration – samples!

Why spend $8, $18, or $28 on soap you won’t like, or that won’t get it done the way you want it to?  I set my mind to it to get samples for $2 or less wherever I could (most were free.)  Crabtree & Evelyn couldn’t give me the hard soap sample, but I was able to get some of their shaving cream and some aftershave balm to boot.  Bath & Body Works?  No samples, but they did have a small tube of the C.O.Bigelow for $5, and they offer a money back guarantee that lets you try it at home and return the unused portion for a full refund.

In a mad rush I began emailing and visiting sites of all the brands I’ve read about.  Col Conks said ‘Sure!  Just send us your address!’  G.F.Trumpers said they don’t give away samples, but offer a whole pack including after shaves for about $5 shipped from the UK.  Mama Bears Soaps offers samples, but as she has so many scents, she charges a nominal dollar for a good sized soap chunk of the preferred type, enough for perhaps 2-3 shaves.  I heard back from Taylor of Old Bond St, but they don’t do samples at all.  ”Too much effort for such as small amount,” is what they said.  Well, that’s about all the effort I’m putting into getting some of their soaps then.  Paid, sample, full size or otherwise.Manly men use real shaving soap!

So now that I’ve begun receiving a few of these, I’ll be sure to let you know the results.  Hopefully I can better judge the quality and what works for me better, as my technique and experience improves.  If nothing else, the variety of scents has me more excited than ever, to grab that brush and shave away.

Share

Old School Shaving – A Lost Art

So now that we’re out of beard season, I’ve begun regular shaving once more.

I’ve never been a big fan –  always going for as many days as I can without looking too much of the caveman variety.  Besides which it was a pain.  Literally, when I went for more than 3 days, and the blades pulled more than sliced the hairs.

My Shaving GearI ran out of fresh blades so I went to the store to pick some up.  I know the prices have been heading north, but this time they’ve gone too far.  $22 for a 4 pack?!  I’ll be lucky if it lasts 2 months!  I had enough, and decided to go Old School.

I’ve been interested in straight edge and double edged razors in a nostalgic “how they used to do it” way, but it always seemed such as hassle to me on the surface.  After reading a few articles and watching some videos I finally decided to take the plunge (Mantic59 has some really good ones)

Going this route means an investment that can last years, and save you money in the end.  You’ll need a razor, a brush, some soap or cream, a bowl or mug, and probably a stand.

Most everyone likes the Merkur brand of razors, and other than a few variants the basic models come in a regular or long handled version.  You know what they say about big hands?  So I got the long handled model (180), along with 10 spare Merkur Double Edged (DE) blades.

The next big item is the brush.  Gotta go Badger on this one (check the link).  Authentic Badger hair brushes hold water very well, which helps hugely when you’re whipping up the froth.  FYI though they stink.  It smells like wet dog the first few times you use it, but it wears off eventually.  They range in type and prices from $13 on up to $150.  A really basic Boars hair brush can be picked up at your local pharmacy, but for just a few bucks more I got a very highly recommended Tweezerman “Best” Badger brush that ranks with ones 4X its price and has a lifetime warranty.   I’ve heard stories of guys getting high end Silvertip on eBay for less than $30 if you keep your eyes peeled.

I mentioned to my wife to be on the lookout for a thrift shop mug or bowl, and she surprized me with an equally inexpensive bowl she saw at the Christmas Tree Shoppe.  The lion faces on the side were what drew her in, but I appreciate the way the base can be held in one hand, and that the sides roll back in a bit keeping the lather contained.

A stand is pretty much optional, but if you’re looking to stick with this, I would recommend getting a decent one to keep the brush dry.  Metal ones work well, but I always like wood and found one on Amazon.  A little pricier than I would have liked, and doesn’t fit my razor too well, but a drill bit later to widen the handle channel and it works just fine.

Now the final choice – the soap or cream.  This is what really got me most excited once I got the process down.  The biggest difference between the canned stuff and this, is that these all have good moisturizers and make shaving faaaaaarrrrr better.  The choices are simply endless.  Sandalwood and Cinnamon or Musk with Tabac?  Citrus and Lime or Lavender?  Cream or soap?  Many of the soaps are purchased within a container or wooden bowl, but this is used for storage, while the mug or other bowl is used to prep the lather.  Initially I used some Colonel Conks Bay Rum soap, then some C.O. Bigelow shaving cream, and then some Van Der Hagen Select Shaving soap.  The Conks was my first batch, so while it worked out in the end, it was too runny and too watery due to my inexperience.  The C.O. Bigelow is loved by many people as the state side version of Poraso – a well respected Italian brand.   I thought as a cream it was easier to whip it up into a good lather.  The Bigelow has a decent scent with Eucalyptus, and tingles with Menthol.  As for the Van Der Hagen it is easily the cheapest at just $2 a puck, and whipped up just fine once I got the hang of it, but frankly it is bland compared to the others.  No tingle, no scent,no nothing – just gets the job done with a basic soap, and it looks like I would burn through it pretty quick too.

Now as for the shaving part, I seemed to do pretty well.  My problem was getting a decent lather up.  After 3 shaves and twice that in attempts to bring about a nice foam, the key I’m finding is to use just a bit of water, but not too much.  I start by soaking the brush in super hot water in the bowl for half a minute or so.  Then I dump the bowl, shake the water off the tip in a pumping action, and swirl the brush onto the soap puck until I get lather started (a minute or two).  Transfer this to the bowl and swirl away some more, and within a few minutes you’ll have a nice thick dense foam.  Add a little water if it seems difficult to whip away.

Keep going if you see bubbles, and you’ll go from this:

Loaded with Soap …To this: After a beating

Slap this on your face, while grinding it in circles.  This raises the hairs, preps and moisturizes the skin.  Let the razor glide on your face rather than pressing in, and work in sections.  Rinse with cool water to close up the pores and follow up with a decent aftershave or balm (no alcohol, read labels!)

Now it wasn’t an overnight transition.  I’ve read, and seen myself that it takes your face about 2 weeks to adjust.  You’re shaving the hairs now, not the skin on your face, but the razor is far sharper.  Expect a few scrapes, red streaks, and blood patches until you get the hang of it.  I would shave at night if I were you, otherwise your coworkers might wonder how the rest of the household survived the attacks.

After having toughed it out now though, I would have to admit it is indeed the best shave I was never looking for, nor expected.  But compared to the past, I now look forward to shaving, and seeing if I can improve my technique.

Go ahead – take the plunge!  Your manhood demands it!!  :)

Share

A visit to Beer Nirvana (aka Halftime, my favorite beer store)

So while I typically am not a fan of driving an hour and a half away for work, every once in a while there are the perks.

For the few clients and times I head into Poughkeepsie NY, I get to go to Halftime Beverage.

To be honest I had never heard about the place until I happened to pass by it on a previous client visit into the area.  The enormous bottlecap logo was the draw, and I’m always on the lookout for a good beer store.

So what makes a good beer store in my mind?

A combination of selection, prices, options, and a staff that knows their beer.  At Halftime, they’ve got it covered.  You laugh at the door sign, until you’re hooked too :)

Halftime BeersNot only do they have a few thousand beer varieties available, you get it all for a decent price (not full retail).  They have the occasional sale, size options like a 6 pack or the big boy 22 ounce, but perhaps the best of all, is that you can get every bottle as a single.

I can’t say how many times I’ve just wanted to try a beer, without committing to the cost of a whole six pack.   Usually when I do it works out, but sometimes I get god awful stuff like the Blueberry Sour beer I got last summer – yeugh!  This way I get to try out the entire line of Dogfish Head, all at the price of a single six pack of theirs :)

Another topper is that they’ll give you a free beer glass if you spend somewhere north of $50 too.  Not sure of the exact amount, but lets just say I’ve gotten one every time…

So here was my shopping list this time around:

  • Affligem Tripel
  • Sly Fox Ibcubus
  • Sierra Nevada Glissade
  • Abita Abbey Ale
  • San Miguel Dark
  • Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock
  • Ommegang Three Philosophers
  • Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale
  • Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
  • Dogfish Head Old School
  • Flying Dog Garde Dog Biere De Garde
  • Goose Island Pere Jacques
  • Goose Island Bourbon Stout
  • Goose Island Nut Brown
  • Goose Island Honkers Ale
  • Troegs Troegenator Doublebock
  • Troegs Hop Back Amber
  • Troegs Rugged Trail Brown

Can you tell I was on a brown ale kick this time? :)

I HIGHLY recommend the Goose Island Pere Jacques.  The one they have there is the Dubbel 2007 bottle, and having aged 2 1/2 years it is unbelieveable, complex, flavorful, and one tasty brew.

FYI, my other favorite stores are Stew Leonards Discount Liquor in Danbury CT, Mountview Wines in Naugatuck CT,  and Fairground Liquor by the airport in Danbury CT.

Any others you can recommend?  Share please!

Share