I had the best shave of my life this morning, so I thought I would crow about it.
I used a Merkur HD 34C double-edged safety razor with a fresh Derby blade. I soaked my Muehle Black Badger shaving brush with a rubber handle in a cup of hot water before I got in the shower. I showered completely before shaving in the shower, using a suction-cup shaving mirror at eye level. I used a new cake of Honeybee Soaps Coffee Mocha Shea Butter Shaving Soap. This stuff smells so good! It smells better than actual coffee, if that's possible. The smell of rich chocolate and coffee wafts from the cake of soap. I have a small ceramic bowl, but it's a bit too large for the cake of soap, so the brush spun the cake at first when I tried to generate lather. Using a forward and backward movement across the cake, I was able to get enough lather started that when I rotated the brush against the cake, it kept building lather. After about 60 seconds of this, I took the brush, parted the hairs of the brush to expose the center, and put in a dollop of Taylor's of Old Bond Street Almond Shave Cream. I closed the brush around the dollop, and put the brush back against the cake of soap again for another 15-20 seconds. This time, it generated a stiffer, thicker lather, and the strong almond scent mixed with the coffee mocha was astonishing, rich, creamy, delicious. It smelled better than a hot café mocha with orgeat syrup in it. Seriously.
I applied the brush to my face with broad, circular strokes, allowing the badger hairs to gently exfoliate my skin. Once I had a nice coat of lather, I used the razor and applied the first cutting form from the Roberts Method of Wet Shaving: http://www.enchanteonline.com/pages/faqs/cuttingforms.pdf
This is where the razor makes downward strokes, ignoring the grain of the stubble. Each area of the face is like a facet of a gem, and each facet gets individual treatment, with the strokes gently overlapping around the edges of each facet. The razor meets the face at a 30º angle, with the rounded head of the Merkur HD gently sliding across each lubricated surface. I have a tendency to make my touch a bit too heavy, and I get a lot of nicks when I do this, so I'm trying really hard to lighten my touch. This time, no nicks, and I completed the form, and repeated it, reapplying the shave brush for each pass.
One way I vary from the standard form is that if I only use downward cuts, I miss the stubble just underneath my nose, that seems to go all the way to the nostrils. To get this tiny patch, I make two diagonal cuts, with the head of the razor just entering the nostrils about a millimeter or two.
For the third pass, I rinsed, and reapplied the shave brush. There's no need to go back to the soap, because the brush easily holds enough lather for four passes plus any further touch-ups I need to do. I used the second form, except I keep the lateral motion in the first and fourth quadrants. I start with the razor against the cheek, just under the bottom of the sideburn, and move it laterally across the cheek to the lip. Then I move to the area below the first stroke, and similarly down the face. I have a soul patch, so I shave laterally across the face up to the edge of the beard hair. For the upper lip, I shave laterally from the outer lip to the septum, once for each side.
For the fourth pass, I used the third form, except I shave the lip and chin the way I described above. Afterwards, there were a few stubble patches left on my neck, and a whisk with the brush followed by a sweep with the razor eliminated them.
I rinsed the cake of soap and the bowl with the shower head. I squeezed the excess lather off the brush (which after four passes and some touch ups, was still copious), and rinsed the brush off completely, and left it to dry upside-down in a brush holder. I dried off with a towel, including the face, and applied Thayer's Alcohol-Free Cucumber Witch Hazel with Organic Aloe Vera to my face. After brushing my hair, applying scent-free deodorant and cologne (Herban Cowboy's Dusk scent) I used Herban Cowboy's Carrot and Cucumber After Shave Balm with Dusk scent liberally over the shaved area.
It's very easy to get some foaming goo, and use a multi-blade cartridge and in one pass get the stubble off your face in the morning. But by doing so, you rob yourself of one of the great rituals of masculinity. I regard my shave with nearly the same seriousness with which I regard my morning prayers. I hope that's not too blasphemous, but the ritual is that important to me. My girlfriend is out of town at a yoga retreat this weekend, and I miss her. I got an email from my boss yesterday afternoon that leads me to believe I have a lot to work on between now and next Tuesday, and have to put a bit of spit and polish on how I do it. My mom just had her fourth chemotherapy session this week for breast cancer, and even though that's the last of the chemo, it weighs on my heart how much she has suffered this year, and especially in the last few weeks. Today is the eighth anniversary of three vicious attacks that killed nearly three thousand innocent lives, destroyed one of the great pieces of architecture of my childhood, and launched two wars that continue to this day. It might be a good day to feel terrible. After this morning's shave, I feel like Frank Sinatra. That's what a good shave can do.