|It's working! It's working! Ha ha ha! For some reason, we forgot to take a 'before' photo, so we have to jump to the halfway point. Should I stop here, Katie? "No, someone might confuse you for Harvey Dent."|
Admittedly, the knife is definitely not as sharp as a normal 4-blade cartridge razor, and it's probably good the shaving cream has lots of aloe in it. This was a first try on the straight blade shaving, but there's definitely more missing than just operator inexperience. So...what do we need to improve for the next attempt?
Quick searching of the internets suggests several details of preparation that experienced straight-blade shavers tend to, even when they're using the proper tools. In many fields of research, there is a saying that, "an hour in the library can save a month in the lab." In the Homestead Laboratory, it also seems that five minutes on the internet can save an hour in the bathroom. But anyway, what did we do wrong?
- Not fine enough honing. We topped out at 2000 grit sandpaper. Some sources recommend working up to a surface with at least 4000 grit, and even up to 8000 grit. Given the difference in the ol' arm hair test between 1500 and 2000 grit, this alone could account for a lot of the discomfort.
- No stropping. Even after honing with a very high-grit sandpaper, stropping with canvas and/or leather is required to straighten out the micro-teeth still present on the cutting edge from the abrasives. It's advisable to work sequentially down to the point where just the bare leather strop (or, more precisely, the silicates present in the leather) are able to quickly put a finishing edge on the blade. Chromium oxide is commonly recommended as a 'stropping compound' (with grit between sandpaper and leather silicates), although some folks also claim success with the more DIY-friendly wood ashes.
- Insufficient beard prep. Keeping a beard warm and pliable is a whole 'nother ball game compared to arm hair. If it takes an hour to get from one ear to the other, there's a lot of time for the beard hairs to cool down and decide they don't want to be shaved, after all. This was definitely part of the problem, even with frequent re-warming. Still, the current blade would probably work fine for eyebrows, if we wanted to shave them off for some reason.
- Wrong tools. Well, maybe. Using a random garden knife to shave certainly didn't make things any easier, but folks who know what they're doing seem to be able to make just about anything work.