3pc DE Aggressive Razor Fundamentals - "Riding the cap"

Discussion in 'Shave School' started by Bama Samurai, Apr 27, 2016.


How do you like your razor?

  1. Mild and smooth

    64 vote(s)
  2. Aggressive and efficient

    45 vote(s)
  3. With two lumps and a biscuit...

    2 vote(s)
  4. Doesn't matter, Techniques Trump Tools!!!

    51 vote(s)
  1. Bama Samurai

    Bama Samurai with Laser-like Focus

    Ymmv - these are my personal experiences and observations. Your results may be vastly different, and I fully acknowledge some of this advice is not conventional. Proceed with caution if you are a new convert to traditional shaving. More aggressive basically means "easier to get cut with". Feel free to chime in and discuss! All opinions welcomed, new and old alike!

    When I was newer...aggressive razors tore me up! Here's how I figured it out...

    Part One

    What does "riding the cap" mean?

    To "ride the cap" of a three-piece DE razor (or any DE razor really) means to employ a shallow angle of attack through grip angle. The idea is that the top cap of the razor should remain in contact with the skin at all times during the stroke. This technique has a few advantages, and can be used with great effect on hyper aggressive razors, like Cadet, Muhle r41, or Fatip. First, a little about razor design...

    What makes a razor "aggressive"?

    Razor aggression is determined primarily by three factors. They are blade exposure, blade gap, and most importantly the geometry of the curve that forms the top cap. Despite what many believe, open or closed comb has zero effect on aggressiveness. Comb style only influences the interaction of the lather and the razor head as it glides into the stroke. Razors like the ones above feature a wide gap, lots of exposure and usually sharper curves than mild shavers like a Gillette Tech or Flare Tip SS. These aggressive razor heads place the blade under high tension and have a comb that "falls away" quickly, making it easy for a new shaver to either get scraped and burned, or in the worse case, cut. This makes the razor seem temperamental and difficult to use. The solutions (as well as the issues) are found in the techniques of application, not in the razor design.

    What is the advantage of an aggressive razor?

    In theory, when applied with proper technique, an aggressive razor is less likely to cause irritation.

    Yes. You read that correctly. Aggressive can be more gentle. Here's why:

    Aggressive razors require less strokes and pressure to cut the beard to skin level than a mild razor, all else being equal. Ask any of our straight razor experts if they feel daily irritation. Most of them will say no. It's because they're using optimal blade angles (15-25degrees) and little to no pressure. This allows them to shave comfortably to skin level by slicing through the beard almost head-on with the blade bevel. Tomorrow, in part two, it will be explained how this can be achieved by anyone--newbie or vet, with aggressive DE razors, through a technique called "riding the cap".

    3pc DE Aggressive Razor Fundamentals - "Riding the cap" - some geometry pix

    3pc DE Aggressive Razor Fundamentals - "Riding the cap" - a look at geometry

    3pc DE Aggressive Razor Fundamentals - "Riding the cap" - link to part two

    3pc DE Aggressive Razor Fundamentals - "Riding the cap" - The conventional angle wisdom of 30 deg is WRONG and hurts people

    Last edited: May 22, 2017
  2. ob1page

    ob1page Frozen in Phoenix

    Excellent post Chris! I'm looking forward to the rest
  3. PickledNorthern

    PickledNorthern Fabulous, the unicorn

    What he said. ^^^

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
  4. JR Reyes

    JR Reyes I scream for....chicken wings??

    Great thread for shave school Chris. Perhaps a few demonstration pics can help those who are visual learners.

    Maybe a comparison shot of razors with more blade exposure or blade gap.
  5. swarden43

    swarden43 "It's your shave. Enjoy it your way."©

    Excellent write-up, Chris!
  6. Jim99

    Jim99 Gold Water Shaver

    Good stuff! I can't wait for part 2.
    Carbide Mike and Bama Samurai like this.
  7. Metro

    Metro Well-Known Member

    I like aggressive myself. Currently using the Futur with steep angle and it's usually giving me stellar results! Great write-up.
    Matt0210, Carbide Mike, Tdmsu and 2 others like this.
  8. tuxxdk

    tuxxdk International Penguin of Mystery

    Looking forward to part two. Have tried riding the cap a good few times with negative results. Eager to try a different approach to success.
    Carbide Mike and Bama Samurai like this.
  9. Linuxguile

    Linuxguile dating an unusual aristocrat

    I attempted to give this a shot this morning with my Red Tip .. Made newbie mistakes and got burned. I think I had too much riding on the top cap and to compensate began to use additional pressure, big mistake. 1 nick, 3 weepers and a good bit of razor burn :(. I think next time I need to deepen the angle just a little and find the sweet spot that will efficiently cut through the whiskers without applying any pressure. One thing I did learn is that I belive i was shaving at too steep an angle before with the razor handle at about 45 degrees and could feel the blade quite a bit. When finding the angle on the top cap rather then the safety bar you begin to understand just how wide of a difference of angle you can use and still have the blade engaged on your face.
    BeShaved, BigMike, ob1page and 3 others like this.
  10. PLAla

    PLAla Bit Shy of a Full Puck

    Nice job, Chris! I'm quite interested in this. I've been working on lowering my angle since you've been advocating that, particularly this month. I'm using more of a 20-25 degree angle probably. I rarely get irritation so I think it works. The riding the cap idea is interesting. I agree with @JR Reyes that some visual elements would help those of us inclined to learn that way. Great job as usual!
    BeShaved, JR Reyes, ob1page and 2 others like this.
  11. opsimath

    opsimath Well-Known Member

    I agree completely. Over time in pursuit of the perfect shave, I've come to expect at least a little irritation or razor burn and so I too, am experimenting with blade angle.

    My irritation level is way down with a shallower angle (although it sometimes means additional passes - it's a balancing act) and my blades are lasting twice as long! Longer blade life was never a goal of mine, being interested in quality far more than quantity -- so this is simply a pleasant surprise. I notice it particularly with my R41; a razor noted for aggression.

    I really appreciate your deep thought and careful scrutiny of this interesting subject -- you put a lot of work into this, and your information is most excellent.

    I shall stay tuned. . . .
  12. gwsmallwood

    gwsmallwood Well-Known Member

    Obviously, the preferences here will have a lot to do with individual technique, hair type, and skin type. Less obviously, I think it also has a lot to do with what types of passes you use. I don't like, and my skin doesn't like ATG passes. I think that's the main reason I get along better with aggressive razors. I can get a closer shave with fewer passes that way. The rare times I attempt ATG passes, I usually go with a slightly milder razor (my mildest razor is probably my NEW LC).
    Bama Samurai and ob1page like this.
  13. JR Reyes

    JR Reyes I scream for....chicken wings??

    Did you sign up for the bunny razor tour? I wonder how it would work for you.
    Bama Samurai likes this.
  14. gwsmallwood

    gwsmallwood Well-Known Member

    No. I'm trying to focus on the 12 razors I have for a while. (4 adjustables, R41, Spitfire, Fatip, NEW Deluxe, MMOC, etc). I did a PAL adjustable passaround late last year. I actually really enjoyed it. I've been keeping an eye on prices and will probably go after one of those when the yearly sabbatical is over.
    JR Reyes and Bama Samurai like this.
  15. Bama Samurai

    Bama Samurai with Laser-like Focus

    Intro to Part Two:

    Weishi 9306 (Flare Tip clone)​


    DeFitch (r89 clone)


    Fatip Grande


    Top is mild...middle less so, bottom is aggressive. The key lies in the curve, and it is the curve that determines optimal blade angle...

    To be continued...
  16. Bama Samurai

    Bama Samurai with Laser-like Focus

    @JR Reyes and others.... Working on some diagrams before I explain the technique. May be in the morning...
  17. BigMike

    BigMike Well-Known Member

    I'm wondering if the shaving technique may be fundamentally different with an adjustable razor? I always hold my adjustable with and eye toward achieving maximum blade contact and audible feedback while letting the adjustment setting control blade angle. I then rely on technique and light pressure to avoid irritation. If I couldn't set the angle through the adjustment dial, my technique would obviously have to change. Just a thought. I look forward to you post on part 2.
    Mike-R41 and whiteboy_cannon like this.
  18. Bama Samurai

    Bama Samurai with Laser-like Focus

    My quick thought on this, I was about I log out, been a busy night.

    I believe all technique on DE razors to be the same-- it's about getting the head so that the blade bevel rests at a low (20-25deg) angle against the skin. This requires locating the angle "sweet spot" to maximize the "cutting effect" of the blade bevel. This is where each razor has its own unique sweet spot. A Gillette adjustable may be treated as nine unique three-piece razors. Every dial setting changes blade angle and tension within the mount, moving the sweet spot accordingly.
  19. Bama Samurai

    Bama Samurai with Laser-like Focus

    I like the line of thinking that aggressive can be more gentle. Next thread will be about the correct dial setting for a FB... Spoiler... It's nine!
  20. PLANofMAN

    PLANofMAN Eccentric Razor Collector Staff Member

    Moderator Article Team
    For me, the blade angle can change dramatically, depending on the razor.
    It's in German, but the shaving angles are fairly clear.

    Here's a post I did for the various Blackbird threads. The Blackbird is one razor that absolutely requires top cap riding.
    I was using my fingers to draw, so please excuse the somewhat shaky lines. I think this conveys the idea fairly well though.
    The wide red bar is the contact area, and the thin line represents the shave angle.
    Here's a more or less end on view of the angle.

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