Skip to content

Confessions of an Ordinary Shaver

Listen to this article

I do not have a shave den. Nor do I have rows of razors, brushes, blades creams and soaps, some of which are in my rotation and others vying for inclusion. I, by DE shaving blog standards, am rather boring: I have one razor (Feather AS-D2), one brush (some flavor of Parker badger brush), one stack of the same blades, one cream and one soap – I superlather. To round out my “ordinary” (boring?) credentials, I have only one after shave product in my cupboard. Yes, variety is the spice of life, but on the other hand, if something is not broke, why fix it?

The Beginning Of My Wet Shaving Career

I have been wet shaving my whole shaving career. I was born during the “end” of the Eisenhower administration – hey it’s the difference between being in my mid-fifties vs early sixties. Regardless, I’ve been shaving for a non-trivial span of time. As a DE shaver, one might say I’ve come full circle. As a teenager, I recall removing adolescent facial fluff with my Father’s DE razor – a gold plated TTO model, no doubt long ago delegated to a land fill. I then spent a long time wandering in the desert of cartridge razors.

My, fortunately less than 40 years of wandering, took me from the Gillette Atra, to the Sensor, the Mach3, and finally the Fusion. I think my favorite was the Sensor. This is probably due more to my discovery of Noxema’s brushless shave cream than the razor. Noxema used to sell a brushless shave cream in a big blue tub. Sometime in the early 1990s, it was discontinued. I recall contacting all the drug stores in Ithaca, NY where I lived trying to track down all the extant stock in the county. I even called Noxema in a futile attempt to purchase any remaining stock they had. Because I currently live in Cincinnati, OH, I get to blame Proctor & Gamble for all my consumer-oriented woes. P&G acquired Noxema in 1989 and discontinued their brushless shave cream in a tub a couple years later. To me, P&G represented the evil empire with respect to shaving long before they acquired Gillette and the Art of Shaving.

The Next Ten Years

The next ten years or so seem lost in the fog of a shaving mirror. Maybe this was due to my changing jobs, relocating, and starting a family, or maybe it was my dissatisfaction with my shaving options: Mach3 razor with Kiss My Face shave cream, or a Fusion razor with Cremo? I also recall a multi-year flirtation with shaving oil. Regardless, my personal experience with redemption began during a stint living in Italy. You think Gillette cartridges are expensive, try buying them overseas. An Italian friend/work colleague confided that no self respecting Italian male would ever shave with a cartridge razor. Evidently, in the land of Proraso the DE razor was still king.

After returning to the USA, this friend sent me a facial care package: a Merkur razor (the same model he used – a razor passed down to him when his father died), a brush, and a tube of Proraso – green I believe. I am please to report that I have been cartridge-free, except for travel, for over ten years. I have gone longer stretches between using a cartridge razor than carcinoma removals in my dermatologist’s office.

Shower Shaving

feather as-d2
The attentive reader will observe that I confessed to owning a Feather razor, not a Merkur.  I shower-shave; I dropped it, it broke. Evidently, plated zinc alloy is not all that strong – who knew? I replaced the Merkur with a Muhle R89. Nice razor, milder than my open comb Merkur. One day, in the shower, I dropped it, it broke. So I invested in a stainless steel job – the Feather AS-D2. I have yet to drop it. It was expensive, so I figure I am just being too cheap not to take extra care when handling it.

Yes, I know that shower shaving is both environmentally wasteful and expensive. Sometimes this even bothers me enough to migrate my shaving back out to the sink, post-shower. Shave quality is sooooo much better/superior in the shower, it is worth it to me. It’s warm and steamy in the shower; who wouldn’t want to linger there, especially in the winter. Odd factoid: During my cartridge days I shower shaved without a mirror; touch and habit were sufficient. With a DE razor, I lack the confidence to go mirror-free; even after 10+ years of 6 days a week of 2-pass DE shaving. Talk about being a wimp.

I hate experimenting with creams, soaps, and blades. Mathematically speaking, the state space is too large and the frequency of experimentation too infrequent. Furthermore, the quality brands are not cheap. For me, after one (ok, maybe three) shaves I know if I am happy with the purchase or not. Simply put, if the new product is not superior, or at least close to equal of my previous best/favorite, I see no reason to continue using it.  I know others enjoy shaving research for its own sake, and I am very happy to be the beneficiary of their tireless good work, but personally my goal is to optimize my shave; nothing more.

What should one do with a product, if after two shaves you know you don’t want to keep using it? Throw it away – too expensive. Give it away – to whom? (and also expensive unless reciprocated) Sell it on eBay/Craigslist – now that is just creepy. I know there are some shaving-related on-line communities that have active “used” cream and soap markets. I, however, am not a sufficiently active participant in those communities to be allowed to sell/buy. Translation: I will read reviews, but have never posted anything.

So, I buy a cream or soap only after multiple shaving gods (those tireless shave product researchers who hopefully don’t use their own $$ to acquire samples) declare it the best stuff they’ve ever used. I don’t pay much attention to scent. To my sense of smell, after 5 seconds or so, the sent is gone.  (I don’t know who this Greg fellow is, but he must have one heck of a nose.) Hence, I focus solely on lather quality – fortunately Greg (and others) also report on this as well. The shaving gods seem pretty parsimonious with 10s, so any cream/soap with a lather quality of 10 is one I am willing to consider.
If it all smells the same after 5 seconds, and lather quality is all that matters, what is the point of having multiple creams/soaps at a time in your non-shave den? Use the product until it is just about empty and then re-order. For the cream end of my superlathering I have been using Wm. Nuemann’s Old Fashioned Soda. I am confident their other scents are just fine, but this is the one I read the great reviews for. I also have enjoyed Al’s products, but prefer Nuemann’s pump dispenser – more convenient, especially in a shower setting. For the soap end, I’ve been using Mike’s Natural Shave Soap. I am quite confident that when one or the other needs replacing, I’ll just reorder. What can I say, as a boring shaver, it’s not about choice, it’s about repeatedly having the best shave I am aware of getting.

The same is true for my post shave balm: it’s all about quality. Village Barber is what I’ve been stocking and restocking for some time now. I do recall reading somewhere that Lab Series Razor Burn Relief Ultra (who comes up with these names?) was one of the only aftershave products that had no face irritating ingredients. But if I am completely happy with my current product, why spend more for a different product just to run the experiment?

Blades have never presented the same conundrum. Once upon a time I watched a YouTube video about some guy’s opinion of the five smoothest blades. While I may be missing out on some amazing blades from Lower East Uzbekistan, I have limited my experimentation to these five. I learned that, for me, while the Astra worked best in the Muhle, Personna med-preps get the nod for the Feather.


So to summarize what I’ve learned on my journey: It’s ok to use the same razor, brush, cream/soap, blade, and aftershave each day. It’s not about variety or staving off boredom, it’s about consistent quality. After all, like most people, I also use the same toothpaste and deodorant every day. (The deodorant is one of those crystal rocks – I’ve had the same rock for over a decade. Yep you guessed right, purchased while living in Italy.) A little EV olive oil in the winter before exiting the shower goes a long way. No aftershave can correct what poor technique has wrought – if you keep searching for a better/more effective aftershave, the aftershave is not the problem. Finally, the fewer “products” you apply daily the better; the law of unintended consequences will surely catch up with us all.

About The Author:

Michael Goldweber: I make my living as a Professor of Computer Science at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. My primary goals in life are to spend as much time as possible cycling (bicycle touring to be most precise) and living overseas; though outside of Canada, I have yet to bicycle tour overseas. I am fortunate in that my wife and only child share these two passions. So, please wave or say HI to the next immaculately shaved cyclist you see in southwestern Ohio, it will hopefully be me.
Guest Guest

Guest Guest

15 thoughts on “Confessions of an Ordinary Shaver”

  1. I’m also a single set-up shaver, although I do have a second razor and brush (since I started with them). I started on a TTO from a local barber shop, it was easy to use, but way too mild for my coarse facial hair, so it didn’t get great results (probably didn’t help that I paired it with milder blades). Pretty quickly, I upgraded to Merkur Futur adjustable, so that I can cater the aggressiveness to the accumulation of hair that I had, and I figured it was something I would never outgrow (I’ve been using it for 3.5 years now and still love it). I also started with a badger brush (from the same local shop as the razor, I had used a cheapo synthetic before with Proraso soap, while I was still using cartridge razors), but after I figured out some of the neck irritation I was getting was actually an allergic reaction to the badger hair, I got a synthethic Silvertip from Edwin Jaegger… great lather and great shave, with no allergic irritation… as for cream, I’ve stuck to Trumper’s Coconut Oil (mild scent, excellent performance) and Trumper’s Lime skin food as an aftershave… I have experimented a little with alum blocks, simply because it depends on what they have in at my shave shop, but my preference has been the ShaveX… (I initially tried a few blades, but have stuck with Feather’s for years)
    I completely agree if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it… I get great consistent performance out of my gear/products, so I have no plans to mix it up… (unless one of the products gets discontinued, in which case I might need to hurt someone…)

  2. A fellow Cincinnatian! I find myself following a similar mantra, almost set in my ways, and repeating my buying habits in shave gear. Good read, the icing on the cake would have been if you also worked for P&G!

  3. I have to agree with the scent comment. Very few of the soaps I have at my disposal has a lingering scent. It fades after a few seconds and has no impact on the greatness of my shave.
    Like so many other shavers, I am somewhat of a hoarder myself and enjoy rotating everything, but the scent part is the least important aspect of the whole shave.
    Good write up, and to quote an esteemed member on The Shave Den forum.
    It is your shave, enjoy it your way 🙂

  4. Decided to cut the (electric) cord about eight months ago and I’m still in the discovery phase in the wide wide world of DE shaving. Found a comfortable match in my Merkur 34C and Gilette Blue Silver blades.
    Just one significant issue: just one significant issue: The blade does not center properly and one side is noticeably more aggressive than the other. This really slows things down. Is this common? I don’t think I have ever seen this issue addressed in my wanderings across the internet shaving sites.
    Thanks for any input.

    1. Hi Jim,
      I have a solution that will help your blade alignment.
      The easiest thing you can do is push gently on one of the side tabs on the blade as you assemble it – forcing the round post into the notch of the diamond on the blade.
      That’s still kind of a nuisance to me, so I have a solution I’m writing up soon.

  5. I can relate to you 40 years in the wilderness with cartridge razors. I was right there with you…but in all fairness to us, it’s not entirely our fault. I was young, inexperienced and trying to learn on my own how to shave with a DE safety razor (you can imagine all the nicks & weepers).
    Along comes Gillette with something called a Trac II and a TV commercial showing a father teaching his son how to shave with a DE razor. I’ve never forgotten the last line of the commercial. After all the instructions, the commercial shows the father and son standing side by side looking in the bathroom mirror and the father says “this is a styptic pencil”!
    So if course I bought a Trac II. It took me 40 years to realize I’d been had!

  6. This article reminds me that shaving can be a simple grooming issue, or a hobby. It used to be the former when I was younger, now it’s a pleasure.

  7. Well written. I couldn’t agree more.
    I use one razor – a Mühle R41 with Mühle blades – and two brushes, one horse and one badger. I use two kinds of soap – one for winter and one for summer.
    And I shave in my bathroom. Not in a cave nor a den.
    Further more I simply don’t get the idea of BBS. We’re grown up men, not babies!

  8. I’m on the fence about using the same products everyday. If you find a great quality razor I could see keeping that but, for creams, oils, etc.. it’s nice to change it up. Maybe have a new smell something refreshing to change up here and there. Just my 2cents though.

  9. Great article. I don’t have a shave den either, if I did it would be at the laundry tub in the basement between the cat litter and the washer. I do have a shaving temple…a cardboard box that I keep on my shaving experimental stuff in. I agree, when you find something that works well go with it.

  10. I guess I will just pile on the praise here. It seems we’ve had fairly similar paths down the shaving route–though not identical. Like you I started with DE, went to cartridges and ended up back at DE. And, like you I also shave in the shower (nothing beats it, IMO). I’ve only dropped a razor twice, and stupidly caught it, reflexively–so no damage to the razor. Luckily no damage to my hand, either. I need to learn to let it drop (though there is possibly more danger in that scenario, if you get my drift).
    And while I have a few razors and brushes, I pretty much stick to two of each. I do like to mix up the lather, though. Even then, I’ve pretty much settled into to two-to-three in my normal rotation.
    And, as far as I can tell, a “shave den” is what I call a “bathroom, with a lot of shaving stuf”, no offense intended. (Don’t even get me started on “BBS” shaves.)

  11. Just wonderful post. I must admit to two razors,101 and 102 but agree on the amount of soaps ect. Thanks for tour thoughts.

  12. Greg (not the one in the article)

    I don’t know how it’s possible, but you read my mind. Until I started reading some forums, I wasn’t aware that there was a thing called a Shave Den. I’ve always shaved in the bathroom. I confess that I have 3 razors, but I use my Merkur 34C most exclusively. VDH soap/Cremo Cream super lather is what I use. My aftershave is simply Thayers Witch Hazel. I don’t care about scents. I can’t figure out why there’s a need to smell like something. Great article.

Comments are closed.