Bobvis has never been so wrong.

He is unimpressed with the progress of technology in the area of shaving. Fair enough. He’s right that shaving doesn’t take substantially less time with a lot of the newer inventions than they did with the old. It could also be said that they don’t provide a better shave.

But he goes after my razor of choice:

On November 15, 1904, Gillette (the man) patented the safety razor. I have used one of these types of ancient razors, and I have also used the Gillette Mach3, which the company spent more than $750 million to develop.

$750 million.

To develop a razor with a third blade.

The third blade is not a substantive improvement on 2 blades.

I think there might be some slight benefit to two blades, but if there is, it is still debatable.

I suffered for years with one-blade disposable razors. Years! They were awful and made me never ever want to shave. Years later I would use two-blade disposable razors and they are not nearly so bad. I would rather not shave than ever, ever, ever use a cheapo one-blade razor again. Ever. Maybe Bob doesn’t have this problem because he has a smooth neck or thick skin or something, but the thing about single-blade razors is that they leave you with all kinds of nicks and cuts or you have to spend forever doing so gently enough that you don’t. And even if you don’t, razor burn is not unlikely. The two-bladers I sometimes reluctantly use are very significantly better, though still wildly imperfect.

From the one-blade disposables I graduated to electric razors. Those weren’t very good at actually shaving me. And if I ever did get in close enough for it to actually shave me, I could count on razor-burn. So I suffered along until I found the Mach3. Which was truly a godsend.

The thing about the Mach3 is not that it saves me time, which it actually does. Nor is it that it makes me more shaven, which it does as well. It’s that I can use it without the constant fear of cutting myself or razor burn. It happens every now and again, but pretty rarely. I do think that some of that can be attributed to the extra blades. The extra blades let me apply the blade very softly and be relatively assured that it will shave most of the stubble without replacing the stubble with burn bumps and blood. That speeds me up. And I get more shaven because it allows me to shave my neck daily because it is a much more casual affair. It’s not just the blades, though. The springs help a lot. But even when using multi-blades without springs (like the above razors), it is still worlds apart from the single-blades that I only use when I forgot my blades, at my parents house, when I have to shave to go to church, and don’t have time to go to the store.

But even if it isn’t the blades, the springs, bendiness, and hatch thingees (I must confess I don’t know as much about razors as Bob seems to) of razors should count as “technology”, right? Technological improvement? I would think it does.

I am in many ways a cheapskate. I buy cheap toothpaste, cheap dental floss, cheap hair gel, cheap clothes and cheap most things having to do with my personal appearance. But I do not skimp on razors.

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11 Responses to Cutting Technology

  1. Brandon Berg says:

    You two are talking about completely different things. Bob’s talking about the old-fashioned non-disposable safety razors that take the double-edged blades, not those plastic single-use Bic razors. I’ve never actually used the latter, but I’ve heard from people who’ve used both that they’re vastly inferior, essentially for the reasons you give.

    A good double-edge safety razor (so-called because the blade is sharpened on both sides, not because there are two blades) should have none of those problems. It does have a bit of a learning curve—I cut myself a couple of times—but after the first few times I had no trouble at all. I can’t even remember how I cut myself; I probably just moved it sideways a bit or something stupid like that.

    My Gillette Super-Speed (a 50-year-old razor I got off eBay for $5) with Merkur blades does for me everything you say the Mach-3 does for you, at less than half the price (a ten-pack lasts me 50 shaves or so and costs $5 on Amazon). My perception has been that it causes less razor burn for me than the Mach-3 does (why drag three blades over your face when one will do the job?), but I wouldn’t swear to it. I certainly can’t say that I’ve noticed that Mach-3 has any

    I don’t know why the Bics suck so much. I think maybe they just use cheap blades that don’t hold/never had an edge. I tried using off-brand blades from the grocery store once, and they were pretty bad.

    I’d recommend giving a good double-edged safety razor a try. You can get one cheap on eBay (boil it if sanitation is a concern), so the total outlay for a razor and ten blades would be well under $20. Just make sure to get Merkur blades (the Excalibur at the mall in New City has them).

  2. Bobvis says:

    What Brandon said about what I was saying (though not out loud).

    The single-blade cartridge razor is probably the worst shave available to man.

    Seriously, dude. I don’t know exactly what it is. If you go to some of the forums that talk about the old-school razors they will explain that it is that they use lower-quality steel and some other differences.

    The reason you need three blades in the first place is because each blade sucks so much. One good blade wielded with a knowledgeable hand is much better. If you don’t believe me, go to a barber shop with a two- or three-day beard and get a shave. They will lather you up and give you the best shave of your life with what is basically a knife.

    A double-edge safety razor isn’t for people who don’t have trouble with their beards. It’s for people who have so much trouble and have tried everything and finally gave up and saw what people had to say online.

    By the way, you’ll also notice that you can get all the hairs off with *1* pass with your double-edge. I bet your Mach3, while significantly better than what else you’ve tried, needs you to sweep and then lift and reset again to get a really good shave.

    Also, the blades actually end up being cheaper than the cartridges.

    Oh, and it helps to have a brush that you can use to apply your shaving cream to.

  3. Bobvis says:

    Oh, and regarding electric razors, everything sucks except Panasonic. The Panasonics are the only ones with sufficient power.

  4. Peter says:

    I’ve used an electric ever since I started shaving as a teenager. My father was an electric user – even going so far as to use a cordless model while driving – so it was sort of an unspoken understanding that I’d use an electric too.

    While it’s true that electric razors aren’t capable of cutting quite as closely as blades, I’ve found that over time my face has adapted so that there’s actually very little difference in the end result. How this is possible, I don’t know, but it’s definitely happened. The one exception is when I haven’t shaved for a few days, for instance after a long weekend. When the beard stubble is long enough the electric shaver doesn’t do a particularly good job. In those instances I’ll use a disposable blade razor.

    Lastly, I’m very happy that all the comments so far have come from men. When women discuss shaving, it find it very … disturbing.

  5. Spungen says:

    Mr. Spungen has similar issues to Trumwill. He uses Gillette Fusion. I think they have five blades. They’re so expensive, they’re usually in a locked case at the store.

    For leg shaving, I’ve found one-bladers don’t give a close or lasting shave.

  6. David Alexander says:

    I’m a Norelco junky, and like Peter, I grew up with a dad who used electric shavers, so when it came time to begin shaving, I ended purchasing my own Philips Norelco razor. After sampling a disposable razor, I decided to stick with the electric razor since they’re so easy to use and don’t require shaving cream to work properly.

    When women discuss shaving, it find it very … disturbing.

    I am now intimate with the details of my non-date girlfriend’s shaving regime… 😛

    I am in many ways a cheapskate.

    I’m a cheapskate who saves up money to buy expensive stuff. You’d be surprised how much Nautica one can buy with various discounts at Macys and the outlet centres…

  7. Brandon Berg says:

    After sampling a disposable razor, I decided to stick with the electric razor since they’re so easy to use and don’t require shaving cream to work properly.

    Actually, neither does a safety razor. When I’m in a hurry, I just shave in the shower with water. It’s a bit rough the first few times, but after that it doesn’t hurt at all. I’ve even done this with a straight razor, though it doesn’t work as well.

    I got the idea from Jeffrey Tucker. He overstates his case (or has never used a decent shaving cream), but it’s by no means necessary.

  8. trumwill says:

    Okay, so I didn’t entirely understand what Bob was saying. And I was inaccurate in saying that he has never been more wrong than on this. He’s obviously been more wrong.

    (errr, cause he was probably right…)

    The Bics are the worst. I guess I think of them as the “default” because that’s what my father uses. Disposable razors are one area where it’s definitely better to have two-blade.

    I may give your y’alls razor a try, though part of me thinks “if it ain’t broken…”. Fighting that inclination is the other inclination of “if it saves money…”

  9. trumwill says:

    I really don’t get fancy with my shaving. I actually shave in the shower while I’m letting the conditioner soak in my hair. A brush would probably get in the way.

    I only have to shave on my face once. If I don’t have facial hair I can’t go over it twice without at least a little burn (even with the Mach3). The sides are easy as pie, assuming that I don’t miss anything (I need a shower mirror). I go over my neck twice: once down at an angle, once up. The fact that I go once also helps me to prevent missing places cause I know if I have cream that I missed it. Not sure if the second is necessary. The biggest thing for me is knowing what angle does the trick. It seems that on my neck it’s a 90 degree angle “v”. On my right jawbone, it’s one angle but on my left it’s another. It’s really kinda strange.

    I am extra-cautious with my shaving in that in addition to the running water of the shower I also use shaving gel. I found that gel does a better job than cream. I’ve found that shaving with water without gel and shaving with gel without water both lead to more cuts and bruises. I actually started shaving in the shower not as a time-saver, but because if I cut myself in the shower, running hot water seems to minimize the damage and start the wound faster on the path of closing.

    My father uses Bics and cream. I started off using the same and made such a hash of it that I was extremely averse to shaving altogether. It didn’t help that I was too impatient to scrub myself down with water first. Without the water, whether with cream or gel, I can always count on burn. But one by one I swapped them out with better products until I got my current awesome set-up where I shave while letting the conditioner in my hair settle. Of course, since starting work at Mindstorm, I only shave my neck on a daily basis.

  10. Webmaster says:

    I go with the Mach 3. Admittedly I’ve never used a “straight razor” and the one time I used a “classic” razor, I got a pretty nasty cut.

    I shave (these days) neck, face, and head. The “completely bald” look seems to be better for me than the Captain Picard.

    I fear for what would happen to the various bumps on my head, were I to try to use a “straight” or “classic” razor rather than my somewhat tried-and-true “Mach 3, then touch up with an electric” method.

  11. Peter says:

    One drawback of electric razors is that they suffer from the Summertime Blues. No, seriously. Because your face has to be dry for an electric to work properly, performance can be significantly degraded during hot humid summer weather (or anytime, if the bathroom is steamy after a shower). We have room air conditioner units but not central AC, so I encounter this issue during the summer. Some mornings it’s so bad I have to use a disposable blade razor.

    There are electrics that can be used in the shower,* but I’ve never had one and from what I’ve heard they’re not quite as good as conventional ones.

    * = in cordless mode, duh

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