Gift ideas for a traditional shaver

More Gift Ideas!

[Note from Mantic59: I have tried a lot of traditional shaving products, but nowhere near as many as “Leisureguy” has!  I asked Michael to suggest a few additional gift ideas as a follow-up to my previous post.]

One benefit of traditional shaving is that friends and family have an obvious focus for gifts. Unfortunately, unless they are also traditional wetshavers, they may not know what items would be appreciated as gifts—all the more reason to convince them to try this shaving method for themselves. :) But in case that’s not yet happened, I thought I’d print out some starting points for a list you might casually leave lying around or simply share a link to this post.

Razors: Razors can be a very pricey gift—the Feather Premium Stainless or the iKon S3S stainless asymmetric are both extremely good razors, but both are expensive (the Feather around $170, the S3S around $185). They’re gorgeous and shave impeccably, in keeping with the price.

A less expensive alternative is the Merkur Slant Bar—the 37C (chrome) or 37G (gold). That razor is in the neighborhood of $50, and if the intended recipient does not have a Slant Bar, this razor is well worth considering. While I would not recommend it for a first razor, after a new traditional shaver has learned the technique of the DE safety razor, he definitely should try a Slant, whose cutting action is quite different from other razors.

All DE safety razors except the Slant use a straight-ahead chopping action (cf. the Scottish Maiden). The trouble with the Scottish Maiden was that it crushed as much as chopped the victim’s neck, even when the blade was sharp. I believe a regular DE razor can simply push over short, thin stubble rather than cut it, leaving a rough patch once the whiskers dry and recover their strength. A Slant razor acts as a Guillotine, using a slanted blade to make a clean slice—with fine stubble the blade slides across the stubble, cutting it easily before it can bend.

But the Slant is not just for the fine, weak stubble—it’s a Godsend to guys with tough, thick, wiry beards and sensitive skin—a combination seen on many red-haired men, for example.

Another gift choice is a vintage razor—for example, a Gillette adjustable (the Fat Boy or Slim Handle or Special), which you can find on eBay, in shaving forums, and from some vendors that specialize in restoring and selling vintage razors. Or, in the Slant Bar line, look for a Hoffritz, a rebranded Merkur Slant Bar that’s frequently available on eBay, often in excellent condition.

Brush: On the whole, buying a brush is an easier proposition than buying a razor because the range of offerings is so much greater. The Wee Scot, for example, runs about $40 and is a dynamite tiny brush with a Tardis-like capacity for lather: it easily holds enough lather for a regular shave. Indeed, I have tried repeatedly apply lather from a Wee Scot, rinsing, applying lather as for another pass, rinsing, and so on. With the lather in the Wee Scot, I could have made 7 passes. It is not a toy—and it makes a terrific travel brush, fitting inside a prescription pill bottle.

Many shavers have yet to try a horsehair shaving brush, which I find are the best lather-makers of all brushes—and they are moderately priced. One of these would bring an enjoyable new experience to a shaver who has not tried one.

Boar brushes are inexpensive and can be excellent—or not. Boar brushes made by Omega are quite reliable, probably because Italians strongly favor boar brushes for shaving, and Omega is an Italian company that thus must satisfy a knowledgeable customer base. The Omega Pro 48 (model 10048) or Pro 49 (10049) are good starting points. (Note that these brushes require a break-in period of a couple of weeks, and require soaking before each use—I just leave the brush in hot water in the sink while I shower. [Update: Or, even easier, simply wet the knot well under the hot-water tap, then let the brush sit on its base, soaking wet, while you shower.])

Shaving soap: Scores of intriguing shaving soaps are available, with the artisanal soapmakers having the more interesting fragrances in general: an industrial soapmaker is not positioned to work with small runs or quirky fragrances. QED‘s Java Mocha or Bathtub Gin shave stick, for example, makes a more interesting stocking stuffer than a Palmolive or D.R. Harris shave stick, for all that the Palmolive and Harris sticks are indeed excellent. Honeybee Soaps offers a Fresh Lemon shaving soap (puck or stick) that smells exactly as the name implies.

Three superb commercial shaving soaps are Fitjar Såpekokeri, Martin de Candre, and Dr. Selby’s (called a shaving cream—it has a shaving cream’s detergent-like formulation–but is the consistency of a shaving soap). Each makes an unusually creamy, sumptuous lather that’s both pleasant and effective. Note that the Fitjar Såpekokeri contains SLS, in case your recipient must avoid that ingredient. (It’s a surfactant and foaming agent that is used in just about all toothpastes and shampoos, for example. Some skin conditions don’t respond well to its presence, but most people will encounter no problems.)

Another note, from the Martin de Candre Web site: The lid on the jar of MdC soap is only for shipping purposes. Once the soap is in use, lose the lid so the soap can dry between uses.

For a soap gift for the whole year, Vitos Extra Special Red Label, at $15, is a bargain: 2.2 lbs of a soft, tallow-based shaving soap with a bitter-almond fragrance. You just tear off a wad and mash it into a cup or bowl and lather away. Another benefit: it’s easy to share.

Shaving creams: Some shavers prefer shaving creams, and even those who like soap enjoy an occasional change of pace. Nancy Boy shaving creams, though intended to be brushless, work well with a brush and are excellent: kind to skin, protective, and good fragrances. Al’s Shaving is an artisanal maker who focuses on shaving creams, with a range of highly regarded offerings. Particularly nice for a gift is his 7-cream sampler. Each sample is good for around 6 shaves.

Castle Forbes shaving creams and Tabula Rasa are exceptional shaving creams, well worth experiencing. J.M. Fraser, another superb cream though modestly priced, is curiously effective and altogether a highly satisfactory shaving cream. It’s now available in a range of fragrances and sizes—but the original (1-lb. tub, lemon fragrance) is hard to best.

I think a traditional wetshaver would much appreciate any of the above. If you’re giving traditional shaving supplie to someone who’s not yet a traditional shaver, any of these would serve as well, though in that case I recommend that the gift also include a copy of my introductory guide to help him through the transition and the initial learning curve. (The book starts with an explanation of the benefits of this method of shaving and what the shaver can expect, so it will encourage the experiment.) Look at the reader reviews and decide from those whether it would make a good gift.

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  1. Zarba says

    Good article; but I wish Al’s Shaving Products would give his creams names that can be deciphered, like “Sandalwood”, vs. “Goodfellas”.

    Does Goodfellas smell like the trunk of a Lincoln Mark IV?

    I understand the desire to give the product unique names, but help us out, please.

    • says

      Well, his description makes it clear that it’s not sandalwood—“Goodfellas starts with citrus notes of different calibers that blend beautifully with a mild and delicate floral sweetness. These notes evolve and dominate the scent as it develops creating a very classic scent reminiscent of old times gone by.” I agree not exactly a list of ingredients, but OTOH does provide me with an idea of what the fragrance is in general.

      That said, I think the problem you mention is why he offers the sampler pack of his shaving creams—so you can get an actual personal experience of the fragrance and shaving cream performance without having to depend on a verbal description. I think it’s a pretty good solution, actually.

  2. Poramate S. says

    Thanks for another good post, Leisureguy.

    Most products listed in your list will make great gifts, but I somehow not sure that the iKon deserves to be among them.

    While I think iKon offer unique shavers, my personal experience with its owner is less than impressive. Seeing that he is based in Thailand, I mailed him and ask for the price, hoping it would be cheaper than ordering from stores in the US. To my surprise, it’s been 2 weeks and I still haven’t heard from them.

    This doesn’t seem like the proper way to deal with customers. And what makes me even less impress is that fact that he is still active on his Twitter account, but chooses not to answer customer’s e-mail.

    • says

      Did you send him a second email? Emails do sometimes get lost, so it’s not clear that Greg is “choosing” not to answer. I (and others) have found him to be responsive. In any event, I think the price is the same whether ordered directly from iKon or through a vendor. If you truly want the razor, it’s currently available, though iKon razors tend to have short production runs.

      • Poramate S. says

        Thanks for your reply, Leisureguy. It’s good to hear that at least there are those who’ve pleasant experience communicating with him. And no, I haven’t send second e-mail to him. The reason? I’ve found other razors that should be more suitable for a newbie wet shaver like me (namely the EJ DE89 line, or maybe Feather AS-D1.)

        By the way, I really enjoy reading the 5th edition of your book now. It’s a great guide for a newbie looking to venture in the world of wet shaving. Thanks for your effort, Mr. Ham!

        • says

          You’re welcome, and the Edwin Jagger DE8x series are terrific razors. It took me a while to realize how really excellent is that head design.

          That Feather Premium stainless razor is one of the most comfortable razors I have—comfort on the level of iKon razor comfort. Moreover, the Feather razor somehow totally tames the Feather blades. Plus great presentation.

          Delighted that the book has proved helpful.

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