Evaluating shaving kit

Regular readers will know that there are two strong recurring themes in the articles here. The first is the near infinite choice that is to be enjoyed in traditional shaving. In every aspect of the shave you are presented with almost limitless options. The second theme is that of personal choice. Do what suits you, even if nobody else on planet earth is doing the same thing. There is no wrong and right, just use the available kit to remove your stubble in any way you want.

Whilst these themes make traditional shaving an endless treasure of discovery they can also be a little bit daunting. How do you choose what to use and how to use it?

One thing is to look at what other people are doing and saying. Often this is pretty rubbish. Firstly because everything is so personal to yourself, secondly because people tend to praise stuff they own and have spent good money on. I read some of the online user reviews of stuff and often they are just very wrong. All IMHO and YMMV of course. The Weishi razor is a very good example of this, it cuts excellently but only if you get the angle right. So when people say that the Weishi doesn’t cut very well is it the razor or is it their technique?

The best method is to evaluate yourself. This is so subjective that the only way is to use kit side by side. Use one razor on one side of your face and a different razor on the other side of your face (making sure they both have the same blade in them). Likewise with brushes, this morning I compared the Indian Disco boar bristle and the Turkish Jaguar boar bristle brushes, yesterday a Rooney prototype and a Morris & Forndran. This subjective, side by side comparison is incredibly revealing and comes up with results that you wouldn’t expect.

Also a good technique is to have a reference piece of kit, something you know very well indeed that you can use as a yardstick to compare against. I use the Edwin Jagger DE89L, the Iridium blade, the Simpson’s Duke and Mitchell’s Wool Fat soap as my references. All good standards.

It is also sensible to only evaluate one new thing at a time. If you are trying a new brush out you don’t want to be trying a new blade at the same time. It is too much to take in. Take it steadily and work your way methodically through new kit. Giving each new item plenty of outings to get a true measure of how it works for you.

One very good characteristic of the online shaving community is swapping, loaning or just giving kit to other shavers to try. This allows people to experiment with a far wider range of stuff.

Then there is knowing what you are looking for when you evaluate something. With razor blades it is supposedly sharpness, smoothness and durability. But there is more, something subjective. Sometimes with some blades in some razors I feel as if they are on the edge of digging in, nothing to do with the three factors, just something personal to me.

Likewise with razors, people go on about aggression but to me this is a long way from the whole story. Aggression is about blade exposure, but different shave heads vary in far more than this, when they are in action they are working in 3D, not the 2D of blade exposure. And they are moving, not static. It is for these reasons that some shave heads feel far milder than their cutting ability would have you think they should. The Eclipse Red Ring and the Edwin Jagger DE89L are both like this. All IMHO, it could well be different for you.

It is with brushes that we have the greatest variety, even two Simpson’s of the same model coming consecutively down the production line will behave differently. And how they are used varies wildly. Hard soap, soft soap, cream. Thin lather thick lather. Minimal application or father Christmas style. Face lather, bowl lather or hand lather. Painting or scrubbing. I could place my brushes in order of my personal preference and I can guarantee that you would place them in a different order.

Another thing to remember is that you change yourself. As you experiment your technique and understanding evolve. I can prove this; dig out an old piece of shaving kit that you haven’t used for a long time and give it a go. I bet it behaves somewhat differently than your memory of it was having you expect.

And finally a word about price. Expensive does not mean good. Palmolive shave sticks are one of the best shaving soaps in existence yet cost less than 50 pence, there is a Turkish horse hair brush for $2.45 that works better (for me) than some pretty expensive English badger shaving brushes. And the Lord L6 razor is exceptionally cheap and exceptionally good.

In conclusion you only know about something by using it on your face. And even then you need to compare it back to back with other kit to get a true measure. All IMHO and YMMV.

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2 Comments


  1. Bruce, I appreciate all your research. I would have saved myself some aggravation and enough shekels to sink a boat if I had done nothing but follow your recommendations over the past couple years.


  2. This article is reassuring, especially when expensive does not always equal good. I’ve tried several creams over the years, varying in price, yet my favourite is a cheap one – Erasmic. But this is the older formulation in a metal tube (£1.29), not the newer chamomile one in a stand up plastic tube. And a favourite razor – Wilkinson Sword Classic (around £5). Not as good as Edwin Jagger, but the WS Classic feels good to use.

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