(This essay concludes a series on shaving that began with Every Day Tasks: Shaving on the “Homestead”.)
Call me a Luddite if you will, but I use a shaving brush and soap to lather my beard for shaving. I can’t remember when I started doing this. It may have been way back when we learned that aerosol damages the ozone layer. I like old fashioned methods, and shaving with a brush attracted me.
Now, I doubt I’d ever go back. I can’t think of any shaving cream I could afford that works better than plain soap. That’s even more true now that we make our own (see Making Homemade Soap).
Trimming our soap for sale produces a lot of shavings and small pieces. I put them into a plastic food container, mash them with my thumb, and use them as shaving cream. The homemade soap, high in glycerine and other good things that most commercial/industrial soap manufacturers add to their product after the fact, makes a good foamy lather that softens my beard, treats my skin well, and lubricates my razor nicely.
I learned several years ago to “strop” my disposable razors as one would a straight razor. This simple practice enables me to get clean, comfortable shaves from one razor for months at a time!
Before I start to shave, I run my razor backward along my upper arm a few times, stropping the edges against my skin. This sharpens the blade minutely but significantly.
This method is free, simple, and fast. And, since I, like most people, carry my skin with me wherever I go, I’ll never lose this tool, forget it, or wear it out as long as I need to use it. Can’t ask for better than that.
I’ve tried to track razor use, but haven’t had much luck. I’ve made a couple of razors last about six months, shaving every other day.
In fact, I recently discovered that I could have used some of them longer than I did. I didn’t realize that a batch of shaving soap wears down to a point where the glycerine rinses out of it. It loses its lubricating ability, which makes the razor seem as if it’s dragging more—which it is, because of the lubricant, not the condition of the blade. In other words, some of my razors outlive my shaving soap!
By chance, I decided to use a razor I thought had worn out one more time. At that same time, I tossed a sliver of our bath soap into my shaving bowl so it wouldn’t go to waste. When I lathered up with this newer piece of soap, my “worn out” razor suddenly gave me yet another clean, close shave! I got an additional couple of months out of the blades before they finally did wear out.
This longevity is why I avoid razors with lubricating strips. They shorten the life of the razor. These strips wear away very quickly rubbing against one’s beard. Once they’re gone, the remaining razor housing moves roughly over the face, increasing discomfort, irritation, and cuts. Its efficiency depends on that short-lived strip staying in place. If I choose razors without the strip, I get far more shaves out of each one.