Goatee Saver

Goatee Saver

Well really I am going to need to set up a humour category on here. These guys really cannot be serious. You can leave the device on after you shave and go to work with a genuine Hannibal Lecter style and image.

It reflects your personality. It declares your individuality. Your goatee is much more than just facial hair, your goatee style helps fashion your identity. We understand its importance to you. That’s why we created the GoateeSaver shaving template, the innovative grooming tool designed to give you the perfect goatee every time you shave.

The ultimate razor blade

In an earlier article I told you about an attempt to build the ultimate razor blade, with the Personna 74, which lasted ten times as long as a normal razor blade. Obviously this was pure folly, the razor manufacturers make money precisely because blades wear out. And the faster they wear out the more money they make.

Well now someone else is at it and in 40 years the technology has moved along a fair way. Now they can build the edge out of diamond, the hardest stuff known to man. Also they can engineer where each atom is, so the edge is just a few atoms across. This is the ultimate razor, by the laws of physics you cannot make anything sharper or more durable. It will easily split a hair and will last 1,000 times longer than a steel blade. So that is about 12 years in my usage. This is going to make the world’s blade manufacturers very happy.

Here is the press release:

Cutting Edge Technology Gets Even Sharper
Researchers from Germany Develop Innovative Razor Blade

Disposable razor blades could become a thing of the past if scientists at GFD have their way. The German high-tech company has developed a super-sharp razor blade made of industrial diamonds that could last more than 1,000 times longer than today’s conventional blade. Because GFD only produces the razor blade but not the finished razor, the company is currently exploring possible strategic alliances to develop this product for the consumer market.

The technological breakthrough achieved by GFD employs two specialized processes: the nanocrystalline diamond coating of a carbide blade followed by the plasma sharpening of the blade. To manufacture such a razor blade, a nanocrystalline diamond coating is first applied to a carbide blade, then the minute, jewelled layers are polished by an innovative plasma sharpening process developed by the GFD researchers. The blade is polished until the cutting edge is sharpened to only a few nanometers, therefore consisting of merely a few atoms. This process manages, for the first time, to combine the hardest material in the world with the sharpest possible cutting edge.

“This simple-sounding procedure is the result of years of research and development,” explains André Flöter, doctor of physics and the managing director of Ulm-based GFD, short for Gesellschaft für Diamantprodukte mbH.

In spite of the diamond’s extreme hardness, diamonds have in the past played a subordinate role as a manufacturing material. Reasons for this include the rarity of diamonds’ natural occurrence in the world and, until recently, the high cost of manufacturing diamonds artificially. It was not until the early 1980s that researchers began using a new procedure to manufacture diamonds artificially as a thin layer and at a reasonable price. GFD is one of the first companies in the world to master the industrial plasma sharpening of diamond coatings on a scale relevant to production.

In cooperation with Professor Hans-Jörg Fecht, a renowned expert on nanomaterials from the University of Ulm, and with the aid of public research funding, GFD has for many years been developing products in the area of cutting technology based on artificially manufactured nanocrystalline diamond coatings, which can be used in industrial manufacturing. Industrial diamond razor blades demonstrate a product life of up to 1,000 times longer than steel blades. The hardest material known to man ensures that the blade remains ultrasharp.

Flöter and his colleagues now plan to industrialize this new technology with the addition of business partners who specialize in wet shaving. “Potential partners should be well versed in marketing in the middle to upper price segment,” Flöter says. “Initial talks are underway. Thankfully one does not have to be a millionaire to be able to enjoy the new razor. If one adds together the costs of disposable razors over the period of one year, then our diamond blade could certainly be a reasonably priced alternative.”

Girls shaving on the front cover of magazines

This all started with the photograph of Italian actress Virna Lisi on the front of the March 1965 issue of Esquire magazine, conceived by George Lois as a comment on women’s liberation. It has been widely imitated ever since, by Esquire themselves and by others.

Here is the Virna Lisi original (note she is using a Gillette Super Speed flare tip, a proper razor):

Virna Lisi shaving. Esquire magazine front cover. March 1965

Here is a re-creation with Jessica Simpson, American singer and actress, also using a proper double edged (DE) safety razor:

Jessica Simpson shaving. Esquire front cover. May 2008

And they have done it with their editions around the world. Here is Hong Kong singer and actress Fan Bing Bing, once again using a proper DE razor:

Fan Bing Bing shaving, Esquire front cover. August 2009

Polish singer Maryla Rodowicz also used a DE razor on the front cover of Machina in June 2008. They even made a video of the photo shoot:

Maryla Rodowicz shaving. Machina. June 2008.

Anna Mucha (Ania Maria Mucha), an actress who was in Schindler’s List, is also Polish, here she uses a cut throat razor:

Anna Mucha shaving.

Myleene Klass, British singer, model and TV presenter, shaved (yes, with a DE) for the front cover of the News of the World’s Fabulous magazine in October 2009:

Myleene Klass shaving. Fabulous. October 2009.

Another using a cut-throat is Greek actress and 1984 Miss World contestant, Vana Barba (real name Vasiliki Barba), here featuring in Athens magazine in her native Greece:

Vana Barba shaving. Athens Magazine. March 2010.

Finally here is French actress and singer Nora Arnezeder using a Muhle R41 razor on the front cover of Be magazine:

Nora Arnezeder shaving. Be magazine.

Bait and switch on Amazon with Lord razors

Regular readers on here will know of my high regard for the Lord L5 razor, made in Egypt. Though very simple it is well made and delivers a very fine shave. This makes me very enthusiastic about the concept of owning their L6 razor, which is even more highly regarded. The L6 has a different, Merkur like, head with scallops in the guard bar. Lord call the L6 the “Premium” razor and it is more expensive than the L5.

On the Lord website you can clearly see the “Metallic Model” L5 razor and the L122 packaging that it comes in. You can also see the L6 “Safety Razor Premium” and the L1822 packaging that it comes in.

So when on Amazon I found a Lord Premium razor with a picture of the L1822 packaging I ordered one. I was double convinced that it was the right razor because it was more expensive than the L5, which you can pick up very cheaply on eBay. So you can imagine my disappointment when the parcel arrived and it wasn’t the L6 that I had ordered, it was the cheaper L5 that I already own. Obviously I immediately wrote to the supplier who replied saying that the L5 and L6 were the same! A more forceful missive from me elicited a refund and they told me to keep the razor.

Back on Amazon I found another supplier advertising the Lord Premium razor with a picture of the L6 in its L1822 packaging. Amazingly they also delivered the cheaper L5 in the L122 packaging. This time I was more forceful in my initial complaint and received an immediate refund.

It is good that both these traders have now changed their adverts. To claim they were selling one thing and then to supply another is plainly illegal. Slightly worrying the first vendor said they had sold hundreds of the razors with no complaint. Presumably the customers were just unaware of the different models.

What I think has possibly happened here is that when the vendors first advertised they really were selling the Premium L6 razor in the L1822 packaging. But when they restocked they found that they could buy the L5 more cheaply and thus make more profit. And that the customers wouldn’t notice.

Meanwhile I still don’t have the Lord L6 razor that I want.

Chinese razors

China has a population of 1,324,655,000, so there are very roughly  500 million men of shaving age. And an extremely popular means of shaving seems to be traditional double edged razors using the standard blade. So there may well be more real shavers in China than in the rest of the world put together! Obviously these shavers need equipment, which means that China has a rich razor manufacturing industry. Some of these razors find their way to the West, so we can get to play with them too.

So far I have come up with 11 main brands, but there are probably more.

Weishi safety razor

Weishi. These are pretty common, easily available on eBay. They even have an English language website. There are four different models, dependent upon the materials they are constructed from. We get the 2003, which is an all aluminium copy of a Gillette Super  Speed. It is very well made and is a mild shaver which is sensitive to being at the correct angle, when you get it right it is very effective. This is the razor in the starter kit that I sell.

Shenglong. A heavier razor than the Weishi 2003, probably made from chrome plated steel. This is another Twist To Open (TTO) razor, but this time the knob is just under the head. This is a very aggressive razor indeed to use, to the point where it is difficult to shave with. I have not seen these on eBay and bought mine from a local discount store.

Ming Shi

Ming Shi. Highly rated this is another TTO, it is quite light and is made from stainless steel, zinc alloy, copper and ABS. This is sometimes sold under the Shaving Factory name and seem to have a close association with Derby in Turkey. On eBay it is sometimes sold as Ming Shui. It is a fairly mild shaver but not as mild as the Weishi or a Gillette Super Speed.

Flying Eagle

Flying Eagle. Made by the Kwang Yung Safety Razor Set Factory in Shanghai, this is a 3 piece Tech type razor, available with different coloured plastic handles (including pink!) as well as with metal handles. Most versions seen in the West come in a nicely embossed travel tin and it is reckoned to be a fairly mild shaver. Sometimes these are known under the brand names Suifupai and Seagull.

Concord

Concord. Another three piece Tech type razor that is well spoken of. It is quite commonly available on eBay, sometimes at very low prices indeed. Well made it is another mild shaver.

Junjie

Junjie. This 3 piece Tech has a mixed plastic/metal construction and seems to be only sold in the West by Uxcell. For $3.99! There was an earlier TTO Junjie model.

Shogun. Pretty similar to the Concord, but with a shorter handle. Not so highly spoken of.

Vincent. Sometimes known as Bigwig Rifeng. Another TTO razor with the knob at the bottom of the handle. It has received some scathing reviews and can be bought on eBay.

Nanjie. This looks very similar indeed to the Vincent.

Timor

Timor. This is available from Connaught in the UK (and some other retailers). Yet another bottom knob TTO, available in three different finishes. Connaught say it is Made in China for Giesen & Forsthoff (Solingen).

SHV65

SHV65. A gunmetal or chrome TTO bottom knob razor that is on eBay. The supplier is Lloyd’s Tobacconist & Engravers.

It is worth pointing out that these are brands and not manufacturers. So two or more of these may be made in the same factory, even on the same production line. Also this is in no way an exhaustive look at Chinese safety razors, this is just what can easily be seen from the West using the internet. I am sure that there is a lot more out there. If you know of anything please add it to the comments at the bottom of this article.

These razors are mostly very cheap to buy and they make a change from the usual suspects that most Western traditional shavers use. So which ones to add to the collection? Definitely the Weishi and Ming Shi TTO razors, these are well made and well respected razors in widespread use. With the Tech type the Concord can be bought so cheaply that it would be rude not to. The Flying Eagle is more expensive but the handle and tin box are a bit special so it is worth it.

Method Shaving

If you are into real, traditional shaving and hang around the interweb you are eventually going to come upon this. I have no need to explain it myself as Mantic59 has done a great video:

Now this isn’t for me as it takes away the fun of experimentation and of using a wide range of equipment and techniques. It is just far too regimented. Here is a video of Charles Roberts using the technique:

As you can see the barrier that his Hydrolast products put up is so good that he can go at his face with a razor at 2,000 miles an hour, which is quite impressive. However he seems to shave areas of his face around 20 times, which makes me think that perhaps this same barrier is preventing the razor from working so well.

Anyhow if you are interested there are plenty of Method Shaving videos on YouTube. And here is a link to the Enchante website where you can find much more detail and buy the products.

Simpson’s shaving brushes #2

I have said before on here that one of the joys of real shaving is that we are all different, real shaving offers infinite variety in its various elements so we can pick and choose what works for us, we aren’t forced into a shaving “system” designed for someone else.

A shaving brush to most people may seem to be a very simple thing, a knot of hair in a handle used to administer lather to the face. But Simpson’s know that there is vastly more to it than that, which is why they offer such a huge array of models. They are trying to give as many shavers as possible the exact brush for them.

With the handle, variety comes mainly in the shape, size and weight. The one you choose has to do with your own personal ergonomics. For instance many prefer the squat functionality of the Chubby and the ring round the handle that provides a secure grip. Others may prefer the hugely different and elegant Persian Jar which has to be held and used in a different way. Both these brushes are available in three sizes and two different grades of hair. So two models of brush give us 12 different combinations. And there are over 20 models of Simpson brush, nearly all with a choice of different size and hair combinations, so the range is immense. Which is how it should be, you want the brush that is made for you.

With the knot we have huge variety again. Simpson’s offer three grades of badger, ascending in price they are Pure, Best and Super (which others call silver tip). Not all grades are available in all brushes. And paying for a more expensive grade doesn’t necessarily give you a better brush for your requirements. It depends whether you are using hard soap, soft soap or cream. It depends how thoroughly you want your face massaged and how soft you want it to feel. All personal criteria.

Knots come in different diameters from small travel brushes to absolute monsters like the Polo PL14, and they come in different lofts, or heights. There are three main shapes that the hairs in the knot can be arranged in: bulb, fan and flat top, but there are plenty of different shapes that are some way between these three. There is the density with which the hairs are packed into the knot, which for Simpson’s is traditionally very high. And there is how deeply the knot is cemented into the handle, which has a huge bearing on how it will behave.

As you can see Simpson’s really understand that we are not all alike and so they go to considerable trouble to tailor their manufacture so as to give everyone an almost bespoke brush.

Next, more about the different models.

20 bladed system razor

This excellent humorous video really has a go at the big global shaving companies and their marketing strategy. But their propaganda works, tens of millions of people are taken in by it and then pay a huge premium to remove the hairs from their faces. Whilst those who are not lemmings and who are capable of their own judgement know the exact perfect number of blades to have in a razor. And the answer is one.

Simpson’s shaving brushes #1

Simpson’s shaving brushes are amongst the finest in the world, possibly the finest. And today they are one of the very few traditional British shaving brushes actually made in these islands. With over 20 models, some available in different sizes and many available in a choice of the three different hair grades (pure, best and super), the Simpson’s range offers an amazing choice.

Originally a Simpson’s brush was something for the very elite in society, the outlay to buy one represented a big chunk of the average wage. However over the decades people have become materially richer and so these top end prestige brushes have come within the purchasing power of almost everyone. In fact a Simpson’s brush nowadays makes such a small dint in the average person’s disposable income that many traditional shavers have several of them.

A. Simpson & Co was set up in 1919 by Alexander Simpson, a Scotsman, in the East End of London. The business prospered and, in 1924, moved to Clapham where the business grew further and won awards. In 1941 the factory was destroyed in the German bombing of England and so the business moved to safe refuge in Somerset where they shared Nimmer Mill, a watermill which drove the machinery, near Chard with Coates.

In the early 1990s recession the company went bankrupt and was bought by David Carter and Francis Woodhouse who moved it to a more modern factory in Yeovil then, due to retirements, the company was sold to Vulfix on the Isle of Man in 2008, where the brushes are made today in Simpson’s fifth home.

A Simpson’s brush is handmade. The badger hair is sorted and then tied by a craftsman to make a knot, this is glued into a handle that has been hand turned on a lathe and then polished. They are made much more densely than most other brands of brush and if rinsed well after use and then allowed to dry with the bristles facing down should give around 30 years of daily service. After that you can have it refurbished with a new knot in the old handle.

Originally the brush handles would have been mainly bone and ivory (but also out of many other materials including solid gold) but when the thermosetting polymer Catalin was developed in the 1930s, this largely took over. Catalin is as hard as brass and takes a fine polish, however over time the surface oxidises and becomes yellow. This colouring in old shaving brush handles is known as “butterscotch” and is very highly valued. Today more modern plastics are used for new production.

Next we will be talking more about the brushes themselves.

Shaving with a camping knife

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