Danger in the Morning

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Slivovitz, Nov 1, 2011.

  1. Slivovitz

    Slivovitz Well-Known Member

    Would you worry about shaving with one of these? Straight1.jpg How about this? featherac1.jpg Does even a "safety razor" seem safe to you? How about this vintage Gillette Tech? Tech.JPG The Kampfe SCS lather catcher looks a bit scary, doesn't it? KamfeSCS.JPG On the other hand, the good old Trac II is nothing to worry about, right? TracII.JPG

    My own answers: I've given considerable thought to straights, and decided against them for now, but it has nothing to do with perceived danger. It's just that I don't want to spend time learning the blade maintenance skills for a traditional straight. On the other hand, those skills are a major part of the straight razor tradition, so using a disposable blade one, like the Feather AC in the second picture, seems almost like cheating. Also, the Feather razors are insanely expensive; I never buy anything with the idea of trying to sell it if I don't like it, so I wouldn't buy one unless I'm serious about trying to use it. There are also Shavettes, but supposedly those really aren't much like a real straight.

    I figure it should be safe enough, though, it's just a matter of watching what I'm doing. I'm not worried about my hand slipping, and ending up with a tremendous scar. That's my story; do you believe me?

    When it comes to dragging sharp blades across our faces, or other parts of the body, of course safety concerns are going to come up. If anyone doubts the reasons I just gave for not trying straights, I don't blame them; the idea of shaving with something like that can easily give somebody the jitters. Perhaps the "real" reasons I gave are just rationalizations. It's not just straights, however; to many people, an ordinary double edged safety is a pretty scary device as well.

    Who among us has not encountered the claim that "you'll tear yourself up with those things?" The speaker may well be some old timer who remembers using a DE, and not fondly. Indeed you can tear yourself up, if you don't pay serious attention to prep and lather, if you don't work on blade angle, if you apply too much pressure, if you just don't pay attention to what you're doing. There is skill involved, and if you don't realize that, then anything that goes wrong will get blamed on the razor. My first razor was a DE, and I believe I did cut myself fairly often. My Dad gave me some fairly solid tips on prep, but I don't believe he said anything about blade angle. Or perhaps I just wasn't listening (teenagers!).

    Once you actually spend some time learning how to use these razors, the worry tends to go away. Every now and then, someone will complain that he's still getting cuts after sticking with it for a month or more, but most people pick it up pretty quickly. An experienced DE shaver will tell you that the Tech in the picture above is a pussycat, and most of the other common DE razors are easy to tame.

    Then somebody suggests trying SE razors, and the worry starts again. Does the Kampfe SCS lather catcher in the third picture look a bit dangerous? Suddenly you're dealing with a different type of blade, and you're getting advice on changing the blade angle radically. You read where somebody tore his face up with a Gem Micromatic. Maybe it's better to stick with the good old DE razor, you know that one is safe. You read that an single edged razor is like a "straight on a stick", and somehow it doesn't make you feel better.

    Not to worry. Oh sure, you can cut yourself, but chances are that you won't. That Kampfe razor is actually not terribly aggressive; the uncovered blade just makes it look fierce, which is why I picked it as an example. Yes, SE blades are stiffer, and require a much different blade angle than a DE, but this is easily learned. Some models are fairly aggressive, others are quite mild, but they all deserve to be included under the general category of "safety" razor.

    Some people actually want to seek out the more dangerous razors, or the ones that they think are dangerous. They will look for the most aggressive DE or SE they can find, or learn to use a straight. Personally, I think that the best reasons for this would be to improve your shave, or to learn new skills. If somebody else just wants to score man points, though, who am I to say he's wrong? Of course, if you're looking to impress others, or yourself, it might be best to hone up your hunting knife, and shave in cold water from a creek.

    If you're looking for safety, though, and don't want to use an electric, wouldn't it be better just to stick with cartridges? You can't hurt yourself with one of those, can you? At least they must be safer than traditional single blade safeties, let alone straights.

    Claims about what is safest should be accompanied by evidence to prove them, and I don't have any statistics available. Certainly people do get little nicks and weepers even with cartridges, but on a common sense basis, you might give yourself a much worse cut with a straight, or with some single blade safeties. It's just a shave; why take a chance?

    We all have to decide for ourselves what chances we're willing to take, and I've decided that using my traditional razors isn't really much of a risk. On the other hand, I do remember the bloodiest shave I ever had. It was during Navy boot camp, and I'd been told in no uncertain terms that my shave didn't meet Navy standards. I was given two minutes to improve on it, and when I returned, my face was covered with blood. The razor I'd used was a Trac II cartridge razor, much like the one in the final picture.

    If you rush, no razor is safe. If you take your time, they all are.

    Well, reasonably safe.
  2. gorgo2

    gorgo2 geezerhood

    Great article. Reminded me of a line from a men's fashion article I read many years ago, long before wet shaving caught on again: Be careful when you shave. If you mess up this step, it won't matter what tie you choose.
  3. swarden43

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

    Well done. I enjoyed it.
  4. Williams Warrior

    Williams Warrior Well-Known Member

    Nice job as always.
  5. fishcrow

    fishcrow Birdman of TSD

    Very well done article great job.
  6. GDCarrington

    GDCarrington Burma Shave

    Excellent article.

    Always remember, relax but be vigilant when you shave!
  7. battle.munky

    battle.munky Has the menthol.munky on his back!

    Really well written Sliv! Good job, I'm off to the river for a shave now ;)
  8. Slivovitz

    Slivovitz Well-Known Member

    Thanks for all the positive comments. I'm playing it safe this morning, Paul Revere injector.:)
  9. Howard

    Howard Active Member

    One of my heroes is the guy who holds the Guinness Book of World Records record for fastest shave with a double bit axe. His son wins every other year or so but the two of them haven't been beat to my knowledge. They shave their faces with these axes in about 7 seconds. He's also my hero as he's a serious honer who has gone so far as to challenge some long held notions with evidence such as photos of edges taken with an electron microscope. For example, after many years of being taught to use arkansas stones with oil by my father (he was a furrier and that was my first trade), this guy showed evidence of better edges coming from using arkansas's dry rather than wet. I tried it and he was right. And who am I to argue with a guy with credentials like his! So, in response to Slivovitz's posting, you take your chances and judge the level of safety appropriate for you. When I use my Schick hydro 3 I get nicks more often than I do from straight razors. Don't really care much about the bleeding as it eventually stops (wet alum block pressed onto the nick helps). Still haven't taken the plunge and honed up my Collins double-bit for a shave though . . . .
  10. Bird Lives

    Bird Lives Future Root Beer King of Turkey

    +1..Great Article and I enjoyed reading it....And Bob...we want pics...are you using a Bowie knife or the double bit axe?? Jeff was a fan of that prehistoric rock...what was it??
  11. Johnny

    Johnny Little Boy Blue

    I've read this article four times and every time I do I get something different out of it. A few of my observations if you don't mind.

    1. Shaving with a straight is an art and someone who can hone, strop, and shave with one has my respect. I shaved with one for many years until my hands lost their steadiness. You do need steady hands for this application.

    2. I own a Feathers Artist Club SS and consider it very much a straight except for the honing and stropping.

    3. I get a lot closer shave with my old Schick G1 than I did with my EJ DE87. Think maybe it has something to do with the stiffer blade and running it down the face like you would a straight.

    4. I've never cut myself with a 2, 3, or 4 blade Gillette, but I've darn sure taken off way more skin than needed.

    5. Take nothing for granted and never assume you are the master of the blade. When that day comes, you will cut yourself.

    Slivovitz, very well written. :happy088:
    swarden43 likes this.
  12. Howard

    Howard Active Member

    Mother Ann of the Shakers said "Work as if you had a thousand years to do the job and as though you were going to die tomorrow". Work intensely and deliberately.

Share This Page