Tag Archives: shaving

Shaving: Part 2 – How to Half-Shave

Ritual, art, membership to a cabal of manly-men-boxing-fools in a brew pub — these have never been associations I’ve had with shaving. As Tim has already indicated, our dad gave us a pretty abridged shaving tutorial. Along with scant demonstration, he may have mentioned, “Try not to kill yourself.” Whether he did or did not impart this final kernel of wisdom, there was no follow-up lesson or even a check-in to see if we had garroted ourselves.

As a result, for pretty much all of my shaving-life, I have half-shaved at best. My father’s lack of teaching surely contributed to this, but so did the milieu of the ’90s. In the social circles I traveled then, there was no stigma associated with whatever you decided to do with your facial hair. By the end of the ’90s and the early ’00s, I was shaving maybe once a week. Eventually I found a decent beard trimmer and with it, my shaving became more erratic. Sometimes I had a beard, sometimes I had a shadow, sometimes I was clean shaven, sometimes I had an experimental look, but most of the time I had some amount of hair on my face. This was largely because in those instances when I was clean shaven, I would never continue to do so beyond a couple days because I’d either forget to keep up with it or I got razor rash.

Still, I do razor shave on occasion, and when I do, for nearly two decades it has been with a Mach3. As Tim has also duly noted, the Mach3 is really the bane of shaving. After it materialized in 1998, the facial hair horizon was forever leveled. It is as if no other razor had ever existed since or after. With it, razor cartridges were to forever be things that existed behind locked glass, and the only thing better than three blades was more blades.

Razor, Stand, and Brush
Merkur 34C Heavy Duty Classic Double Edge Safety Razor, Stand, and Escali 100% Pure Badger Shaving Brush
About a year and a half ago, I decided to razor shave; accordingly I dug out my Mach3. Problematically, I had no idea which blades were old, new, or rusted. Because I don’t razor shave that often, this frequently happens to me, and when it does I inevitably just go out and buy all new blades. This time, however, out of spite for the Mach3, I decided to explore other options. This eventually led me to buying a safety razor. While this does potentially mark me as a hipster, after reading up on them, I decided that I shaved infrequently enough to invest in something as arcane as it was asinine.

Continue reading Shaving: Part 2 – How to Half-Shave


Mike wanted me to write some stuff about shaving. He needs to follow up with his side of the story.

I started this post over a year ago. I only wrote the previous paragraph before I got side-tracked.

Learning to shave

Dad had a beard. I think at some point he gave Mike and I some cursory advice on how to shave, and that was it. I think it consisted of:

  1. Make sure your skin is wet. Shave after showering.
  2. Shave with the grain before you go against the grain.

I can attest that the first point is valid. The second… it took me several years to learn that if I shave against the grain, at any point in the process, I’m asking for trouble. So I stopped. I know that by college, I had stopped that step completely.

So that was it. Everything else was trial and error. Anyone who has ever done lab experiments knows that when your output variable (your feedback) is delayed by a couple of days from your inputs, it takes a while to figure things out. Couple this with the fact that you have to keep repeating the input actions every day or so, before you get the feedback, and it becomes a very long and drawn out process. Does my face hurt because of how I shaved this morning, or from 3 days ago?

Lastly, I didn’t necessarily realize that there was something I could do about this. I figured for a long time, “This is what it is.” It wasn’t all that bad and I didn’t know any better.

So it basically took about 15-20 years of shaving before I wised up. And I eventually did. A close shave is the worst type for me. Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what the shaving industry markets. I see Mike essentially stopped shaving; that’s how he deals with it.

I blame the Mach3.

The Mach3

The Gillette Mach3 was released in 1998 according to Wikipedia. To put that in perspective, I turned 19 in 1998. I don’t remember when I started shaving (13? 14?), but I didn’t shave that long before the Mach3 came out, and I certainly didn’t have heavy facial hair before then either.

Now, for those of you who aren’t intimately familiar with my facial hair, I don’t have a lot of it. I shave every other day (something it took me a few years to realize). I most certainly don’t need 3 (or 4 or 5) blades to knock back my 5 o’clock shadow. I used this razor, or variants thereof, for the better part of 15 years. It sucks for me. Too close of a shave which led to irritation. Also, the heads on these things are huge, which makes it hard to shave certain areas, like under your nose.

Sensor Excel

For some reason, back in 2007, I bought a Sensor Excel and some blades. I think it was because I was a poor graduate student, and the thought of spending a week’s worth of food money on razors got on my nerves a little. The Sensor is a 2 blade razor. Probably all I needed. I used it once or twice and then forgot about it for some reason.

I started using it again about 2 years ago. Ingrown hairs and razor bumps are for the most part a thing of the past. I still only shave every other day, and only with the grain. The replacement blades are getting hard to find, so I order them off of Amazon.

Oddly enough, the regular Sensor blades aren’t quite as good as the Excel blades, but they do in a pinch. I just have to shave at a slightly different angle.

Wiki says the Sensor and Sensor Excel were released in 1990 and 1993 respectively and are discontinued. I think the blades I buy are imported from other parts of the world.

The future

At some point, I’m not going to be able to get these razors any more. I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do. I’m not going back to 3, 4, or 5 bladed razors.

I’m getting to that point in my life where I don’t want to dick around with this shit, so whatever the decision ends up being, hopefully I won’t have to make another after that.