I prefer mild, single blade razors. But sometimes a razor can be too mild under normal circumstances, even for me. Luckily there are ways to squeeze more performance out of a mild razor for a closer shave.
What Makes A Mild Razor “Mild?”
There are a number of engineering design specifications that go into determining how a razor shaves. But they boil down to how much of the blade edge is exposed to the skin. A “mild” razor exposes less of the blade edge than a more “aggressive” razor. While this may be an over-simplified explanation (and others may use different terms) it is enough to use as a background for this discussion.
Related Post: How Much Razor Aggressiveness Do You Really Need?
So if a razor is designed and built to offer a certain amount of blade exposure, can other aspects of the shave be manipulated to provide a “closer” shave? Take a look at these strategies.
Use A High Performance Blade
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If you have been using manual razors for any length of time–especially razors that use a single blade–you have probably realized that all blades are not the same. Oh, they may look the same, but there is a wide variety of blade characteristics: grindings, coatings, metallurgy, etc. This makes some blades “sharper” than others.
So if you have a “mild” razor try pairing it with a “sharper,” more efficient blade. For example the most commonly referenced “sharp” double edge is undoubtedly the Feather “Hi-Stainless” blade.
In my own experience, I bought a Feather AS-D2 double edge razor a number of years ago. This was a time when it was considered a high-end, luxury razor (before the recent proliferation of razor artisans. Nowadays it’s practically the “bargain basement” of the luxury razor niche’).
I was initially quite disappointed with the performance of the AS-D2…so much so that I seriously considered selling it off. I was using it with the blades I normally found quite good but it just did not give me a close shave.
But then I tried it with a Feather blade and, WOW, what a difference. The extra “sharpness” of the Feather blade combined with the smaller blade exposure of the razor combined for a close, comfortable shave.
Use A Blade “Shim”
As mentioned earlier there are a number of specifications that go into the engineering of a razor head, as it relates to blade exposure. One of those specifications is the blade-bar span, the distance between the blade edge and the line of the safety bar/comb that contacts the skin. Another is the blade gap, which is the shortest distance between edge and bar/comb.
Adjustable double edge razors can change the distance of this gap:
But what most shavers don’t know is you can manipulate this distance somewhat on a “regular” double edge razor too, by using a blade “shim.”
A blade shim is essentially a way of raising the blade ever so slightly from its normal position by inserting something beneath the blade. Shims can be made out of things like another blade cut-down to remove the sharp edge, a plastic card, or even tape. Here is an example video (courtesy Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements) though you can find a number of videos on Youtube:
“Ride The Guard” Of The Razor
Finally, another way of manipulating blade exposure is a shaving technique called “riding the guard.” Although it is the least consistent alternative of those discussed here, relying on the shaver to maintain the correct angle, it is also the most flexible because it can be adjusted “on the fly” during a shave.
Those using most single- and double-edge razors know you need to maintain a shaving angle of about 30 degrees for best results (pivoted and cartridge razors have this angle set for you).
Riding the guard involves intentionally using a steeper angle, bringing the razor’s handle closer to parallel to the skin. Although doing this can increase the chance of razor burn or other irritations (especially on the neck), done carefully it can provide a closer shave.
While all these alternatives have their advantages and disadvantages, they all provide a way to get a closer shave without resorting to purchasing a new razor.
Give these ideas a try (or add your own!) and leave your comments below!