What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements


Posted by Dirck on 20 November, 2014

Man, that’s quite a word, eh?  Classy, but absolutely dripping with menace.

…well, I guess it would be dripping, if it hadn’t all run out.  Still a wonderful word.

In the very early days of my activity here, I confessed to a youthful indiscretion involving the destruction and loss (not necessarily in that order) of a couple of authentically old pens glommed from an antique store.  I was then more given to early adoption of technology, but I was also interested in the ways of days gone past.  In addition to those pens, I also looked into…

Straight razors.  Scary!

I actually bought one, too.  After a couple of attempts to sharpen it without access to any appropriate stropping surfaces, I had a couple of goes at shaving with it.

Very tentative goes.  I’d first heard of Sweeney Todd when I was about seven, and the lesson stuck.  My youthful beard was somewhat reduced, but between the unstropped blade, the unwillingness to open a vein, and absolutely no sense of which angle to hold the thing at, the results were disappointing.  Not “head almost entirely separated from shoulders” disappointing, for which I am grateful, but the straight razor went into a drawer.  I’m sure my parents breathed a sigh of relief.

More recently, some correspondents have been talking about their entry into the Magical World of Wet Shaving.  Being in the bearded camp, my shaving has long been limited to a small band of neck (because “neck-beard” has troublesome connotations), and I have flitted between disposables and an elderly electric razor.  Moved to curiosity by these other chaps, though, I had a look at the site most of them get their stuff from.

I’m moved to give it a try, as I find that neither the blades nor the holder that constitute a safety razor are very expensive.  They’re more expensive, as a unit, than disposables, but there’s less wasted plastic involved.  The elderly electric razor remains on call, and the cost per use at this point is essentially nil, but it also doesn’t do a lot more to remove hair than that straight razor did, and appears to work mainly by generating enough heat to shrivel the beard it touches.

And now I’ve had a chance to try it.  My discoveries over the first couple of uses have been good and bad.  On the good side, it does a cracking good job of knocking down the beard, and there’s a lot less fouling of the blade than the disposables suffered which means I use less water in the process.  And it remains below 600° at all times, which puts it ahead of the electric.

On the down side… well, something in the difference of blade presentation between the safety razor and disposables means a habit I’ve been in of not applying anything to the skin but a little water is no longer viable.  The initial discovery of this was accompanied by a certain amount of yelling, and followed by a great deal of clean-up of the sort that Lady MacBeth would be familiar with.

Prosecution Exhibit A

Prosecution Exhibit A

So, now I have spent the money to get some rather well-smelling shaving soap and a proper brush to apply it (a nail-brush didn’t cut the mustard).  I now have a smooth neck without constant threat of beheading, without blistering, without adding unnecessarily to landfills, and without constant soaking of my collars in cold water to keep the stains from setting.

All thanks to a technology that slightly pre-dates fountain pens.  I’m pleased, and not very surprised.  Which is good– getting surprised by a razor usually ends poorly.

Today’s pen: Mabie, Todd & Co. Blackbird
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Sea

…and because it’s Thursday, there’s a progress report, too:

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 17 November
  • 18 November
  • 19 November
  • First draft, “The Dutch Walk”
  • The same
  • Ditto
  • 9 manuscript pages
  • 7 manuscript pages
  • 12 manuscript pages
  • 45 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 55 min.

5 Responses to “Exsanguination”

  1. Nice post. I used straight razors for years, and prefer them. There is a learning curve to keeping them sharp. I haven’t shaved in about six years now. I still have my razors if madness strikes me again.

    • I was pondering just getting the necessaries for putting that old straight razor back in service (“Sharper than a serpent’s tooth” AND a serpent etched on the blade; super cool!), but I considering the highly inquisitive six-year-old with almost no sense of self-preservation who’s running around the house, a safety seemed the wiser route to having literally razor-sharp things in the house.

      Someday, though….

  2. Tim said

    Bravo sir! But be cautioned, wet shaving can easily become as obsessive (with toys that is – razors, blades, brushes, soaps and mugs/scuttles) as fountain pens. Before long I bet you’ll be using a vintage Gillette (I myself use a Gillette Goodwill from the 30s), and have several brushes. Let the obsession begin I say! So head on over to the Badger and Blade and succumb to the inevitable.

    • Funnily enough, I did go to B&B and idle about there a while yesterday afternoon (slow work day). Reading their enormous straight-razor FAQ has moved me in the direction of leaving the one I’ve got entirely alone; you need a thing to plane the thing that is the first step in sharpening the razor?! Man, people who think fountain pens are a lot of trouble clearly haven’t looked into old(est)-school shaving.

      That being said… I think something in the butterfly mechanism line is in my future; it’s all gadget-y and cool.

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