Author: Alpha Brush & Shaving Co.

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Vlasta – My Journey To The Dark Side

Hi, I don’t think many of us have shared our full shaving journey so I thought it might be nice to share with you all my journey to the dark side. First of all a couple of observations/truisms:-

  • If you think that getting into wet shaving will save you money then my advice is “Don’t start”. It won’t. You will get sucked into a deep deep rabbit hole of razors, blades, the latest whizz bang soap, pre-shave oils, balms, creams, after shave, eau de cologne, brushes, knots – the list goes on and on. Unless you have a WILL OF IRON then you will spend more, a lot more. I write this from the back seat of my abandoned car using Starbucks WiFi…
  • If you think your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend or sugar mammy will understand why you are doing this – they won’t. You will end up hiding your purchases and rationalizing with them that you will sell some of your stuff to make way for more – you won’t. I write this sitting on a pile of soaps, creams and razors – at the last count more than a dozen brushes, twenty or so creams and soaps despite having had a give away for what I told myself was more than 50% of my den. Thirty or so straight razors from a simple Dovo to a custom Drew Dick – and I still want more… Snailforge, Ali’s Blade, an Iwasaki kamisori – oh yes I have a list a mile long. Not forgetting the DE’s. Way more shave stuff than I can use in a lifetime.
  • You will never, ever be satisfied that you got the perfect shave. So don’t chase it. Let the technique guide you. Not every day will be the perfect shave and most will be at DFS level. Don’t sweat it, you are the only one that knows.

So, words of wisdom over. Here is a blow by blow “diary’ of how I came to be a wet shaver. I have cut and pasted most of the stuff from another forum I am involved in and only my own and relevant replies. My journey from cartridge user to addict:

My forum name on most wet shave forums is ‘Vlasta’: –

16th February 2017

Hi Chaps and Chapettes,

OK – I am almost there…. except my razor is still on its way from Japan. I am all kitted up with:-

  • Edwin Jagger Best Badger Brush
  • Feather PG15 and Pro 20 blades
  • Geo. F Trumpers Lime Cream Soap
  • Alum Block
  • Proraso Repair Gel

My razor – a Feather SS Japanese Straight Razor in Lime is in the mail from Japan and due any time!!

Now – in the meantime I am using all the above good kit with a cartridge razor – a Gillette Mach 3 – you know it is OK for a nanny-razor and with my new gentle technique – no more razor burn!

My question is this: I have been trying to use my non-dominant hand for the left side of my face to prepare myself for the day my straight arrives, and the dominant hand for my right side, and I am finding it difficult to control the razor with the non-dominant hand. Tell me, is there any compelling reason why I should use my non-dominant hand?

A member wrote that a shavette was maybe not the best choice for a beginner. Especially not a Feather SS AC Kamisori style…

17th February 2017

I am a bit scared now by the comment above on my choice of razor for a first purchase….. should I also buy a proper str8 and start learning with that before trying my Japanese Feather? I went to a local shop today and they have a nice Dovo 5/8″ with Olive Wood handle for $310 – is that a good deal?

Advised by members that this is NOT a good deal…

18th February 2017

Right…. ordered a Dovo str8, strop, strop pastes, Dovo storage pouch from www.thesuperiorshave.com – all for about a hundred buck less than my local store charged for only the razor.

So – my ordered line up was:

  • Dovo #4580 Straight Razor
  • Dovo 185-35001 Strop
  • Dovo Yellow Paste
  • Dovo White Paste
  • Dovo 9022021 Burgundy Sheath

The guy at Superior Shave honed it to shave ready before sending it to me.

24th February 2017

Right guys – I have my swag – photos coming soon. Now I need to gird my loins for that first shave… feeling scared about it. I am going to start with the Dovo str8 not the Feather shavette. My 30-day setup will be:-

  • Jagger Best badger Brush
  • Dovo str8 “Silver Steel” Primo with black ebony handle – honed by @Jarrod from TSS
  • Geo. F Trumpers Lime Cream
  • Regular alum block

28th February 2017 – THE DAY!!

I am now officially on the dark side.

The BIG day arrived friends – first the equipment. Apologies about the Photobucket watermarks but this is the only record I still have of the fateful days line up.

  • Geo F. Trumpers Lime Cream
  • Dovo straight razor bought from and honed by @Jarrod
  • Razor storage pouch from The Superior Shave site too
  • Strop – Dovo – not had the need to use it yet
  • Jagger Best Badger brush
  • Shaving Bowl – kids cereal bowl – photos on request only….
  • Alum block – standard stuff

Time – 10:00 was my start time. I finished about 30 minutes later.

Prep: Run hot water, 60 degrees, soak shaving brush for 1 minute. Soak hot towel and apply to face for 30 seconds x 2.
Lather: – dabbed wet brush into cream to just cover tips. Whipped up a nice creamy foam in my cereal bowl then put the cereal bowl in another bowl of hot water to keep it warm – like a bain-marie.
Application: Applied lather to face as per all the videos!!

Time to shave and I am not kidding I was scared. Will it slice my face? Will I score a jugular hit on the first stroke and spout my life blood all over the bathroom?….. I pucker up. I loop left hand over my head to try and tighten skin on my right cheek and then I am off – very VERY gently at first I make my first pass on my right cheek. The razor sings. IT IS ACTUALLY CUTTING WHISKERS… and not flesh. It feels great… I am on a roll now. I finish my first stroke and I am alive. I feel ALIVE. I wipe the razor on my wet towel and think to myself “This isn’t too bad. Not too hard at all”. I rub my fingers on my alum block to get grip and go for stroke 2. Still alive. I go down to the jaw line and beyond onto my throat. I cannot believe it I am actually shaving with a wickedly sharp razor on my throat and it feels safe, it feels good and by jingos it IS good!!

Next I am confident – I go for the right hand side – the same. I live. No cuts yet. No nicks yet. I do the WTG pass on my left cheek and YES I used my left hand. I am now in the zone. I go for a WTG pass down the front of my neck – all good. Next – the chin. This is where I though I would slice myself for sure – noooooo. I did not. Not even a nick on my Adams apple

Thoughts – my first pass was a success in that I managed to do it ALL without cutting myself. It was not the closest shave in the world though and this did disappoint me so I put that down to nerves and being too gentle. My soap tended to dry out – how to fettle this?

Subsequent passes – another WTG and better result. Third pass XTG – getting better and better. Fourth pass – ATG on all surfaces. I came out of it alive with only two teeny-weeny nicks, one on my left cheek near the side-burn and one on the tip of my chin – I mean really teeny – a pin prick.

All in all I made four passes and got what I would call a reasonable level of shave and certainly better than with my Mach 3 thingos. Not baby bottom smooth yet but I am sure it will come with practice.

Warmdown – Rinse, alum blocked and then Khiels after shave balm. I washed all equipment. Put the brush to dry in the breeze and dried and oiled my razor ready for next time.

It takes me a couple of days to grow whiskers enough to go for round two but I am going to do it. More results soon

BTW – no top lip report – I am growing a moustache so won’t be shaving the top lip for a while, if ever…

SOTD 8th/Jan/2018 and Review of Martin De Candre Fougere

Hi – a revisit of a soap I have had for a while and only ever use on special occasions – the first working Monday after Christmas is pretty special no?

The line up:-

A couple of observation on what was a great shave – the Drew Dick did it’s work very well but there is a story there… I forgot to strop. So I started shaving, only the third time with this razor and it is tugging and painful – whoa!!! Then I realized I had forgotten to strop!! I normally strop 25/25 linen/leather before every shave and naively thought it was just part of the ritual… now I know differently. I stopped the shave and stropped – phew back to normal!!

The soap – essence of a nice forest clearing, ferns, green cut leaves and dew on the grass – that sort of smell you never get sick of. I love it. This is a hard soap and my technique is to scoop a bit out of the jar, it is a nice GLASS jar, and put it into my bow to bloom with some warm water. I add my brush to the mix and let them soak. The soap lathers easily but it is thirsty – a nice slick and fragrant shiny lather. Superb.

The Brush – a Shave Nation big Blue, and big it is weighing in at over 7oz. The knot is superb and yes those are gel tips. The handle is matt finished aluminium and anodised blue. It is grippy even when wet due to the sand blasted finish and the finger notch in just the right place.

Now back to the soap – it performed superbly and I was left with a nice hydrated skin and a great scent all day. I think MdC really nailed what is meant by fougere – better than B&M Reserve Fern in my opinion. Is it worth the money? In my opinion yes it is. The soap is hard aI mean HARD and will last a long long time. I use about a “almonds” worth for each shave so at this rate and given my rotation it will be years before the MdC wears out.

The First Shave Of 2019 (1/1/2019) and a more in depth review of the Augustini Kamisori

I hope that everyone has a prosperous and happy 2019 and a lot of great shaves too. I had my second shave on the Augustini Kamisori and I wanted to show some more photos and my observations about this razor.

First a health warning:

The Kamisori is a superb blade to master. It is at the pinnacle of Japanese razors and it takes some skill to use. It is NOT for the novice wet shaver and nor is it for the novice straight razor shaver. Wait until you are comfortable with a sharp blade and can almost shave blindfold before you try a Kamisori!!

However, if you do master  a Kamisori it will give a superb and comfortable shave – you will be well rewarded. The kami I am using is a blade I bought from Augustini Razors in Melbourne Australia. It has a traditional left handed asymmetrical grind as you will see from the photos below. It is beautiful in every way – a true masterpiece of the art. IF you want one like the one I am using then contact Augustini through Instagram HERE.

The line up:

Lets first look at what makes a Kamisori – traditionally the Kamisori is made of a soft iron ‘handle’ with a hard steel cutting edge with either three layers or 2 layers (san-mai or ni-mai) this was done in order to keep the price down and is in line with how swords are made – soft body/hard edge. In this case the complete kami is made up of the same hard steel. A Kamisori is ground to be ‘handed’ either left or right handed although some modern Kamisoris do have a ‘western grind’ more like a traditional straight razor. Kamisoris were originally meant truly ‘for barber use’ so I am guessing that the handedness was for the barbers preference not the shavers. I use my Kami in both hands – (lets wait for the thunderbolts from the traditionalists….). The Kamisori I show here is left handed grind. The side with more grinding is called the ‘Ura’ and the flatter side is called the ‘Omote’. The makers mark would usually be found on the Ura on a Japanese razor however Augustini has not marked the blade – I think he should as it is a superb razor and something to be proud of – mark it Luke!!

So here are my observation on what was a superb shave:-

  • The heel of the razor – the point at the front – is superb and slightly angled and therefore muted – it will not dig into my face flesh if I lose concentration.
  • The toe is at almost 90º and is super sharp – beware of this digging in – you CANNOT use the Kamisori like a pencil. The blade needs to be parallel to the face at all times.
  • The handle is super shiny, just the right weight and very highly polished – dry hands or alum is essential

The shave was superb with even the ATG pass a delight.

A tip for a Kamisori shave is to use a very slick soap like Man of Siam Cadwgawn or something like TOBS Avocado  – something that leaves a residual slickness on the face after the pass – why? because the angle at which you shave with the kamisori is very shallow and the Omote will slide against the skin – if there is no residual slickness then it can drag and skip a little. Nothing to worry about just one thing to watch out for.

If you are a serious straight razor user then mastering the Kamisori should be on your ‘to do’ list and you would be hard pressed to find a finer example than this Augustini Kamisori.

 

 

 

SOTD and a Cry For Help – I stained my Razor!!

So guys,

I will post the SOTD below BUT I NEED HELP. I am on holiday in a very hard water area and I left my blade wet just a little too long and I stained the blade of my Drew Dick razor!! Can anyone help me on how to remove a water stain?

The Line Up:

  • Razor: Drew Dick 9/8″ Half-Hollow with Black Scales
  • Soap: Man of Siam Cadwgawn
  • Brush: The usual boar
  • Bowl: Van Yulay Blue resin

The Cadwgawn soap proved its worth again today as I used my Big Dick for the first time. A true super lather. Pics below.

SOTD 23/1/2018 SOTD 22/12/18 Augustini left handed Kamisori, Man Of Siam Cadwgawn soap and an ΑΛΦΑ T-400 with a Long John boar knot

I am in Australia on holiday and what better way to shave than with an Australian razor and some soap from Jack Jarvis – purported to be an Aussie too. So today’s line up is:

  • Augustini left handed kamisori by Augustini razors of Melbourne, Australia
  • Jack Jarvis Cadwgawn shaving soap by Man Of Siam (Jack Jarvis late of Sydney, Australia)
  • Van Yulay shaving bowl in blue resin
  • Alpha T-400 brush with a nice long 80mm boar knot

The razor – I ordered this razor on December 4th in anticipation of my going on vacation to Australia (save postage costs…) I finally picked it up on 19th December on arrival. It is an awesome piece of work – super polished and shave ready. It comes with it’s own leather pouch and you can choose the stitching colour – I chose red.

The soap – packaged as pictured. Scent notes are lavender, rosemary and clove. The lavender is subtle and the clove evident with the whiff of rosemary – smell like a trader!! The main thing I was worried about was lathering, the place I am staying in uses water derived from an Artesian basin well and is HARD – I mean super hard. I bloomed the soap for 5 minutes and soaked the brush while I stropped the razor on linen and leather. I loaded the brush tips for about 30 seconds and then transferred to the lather bowl – it whipped up a storm – super thick and glossy lather. A superb shave – WTG and 1 x ATG. A DFS for my first run on this razor.

Conclusion – the Man of Siam soap lived up to it’s reputation as a super latherer and the Augustini razor was a wow!!!

 

Merry Christmas to all.

SOTD 7th December 2018 & Man Of Siam Thai Ginger Zest Soap Review

Hi – you know how it is when you travel, especially as I do a lot, and find yourself in a shaving wilderness – scouring the pharmacies and stores in the vain hope that you might, just might, find something other than Wilkinson Sword or those terrible Japanese and Korean brands of shave gel? Well I found myself in Thailand and as I do I started my quest for shave products – local stores – nada. Pharmacies – nada. Not even a pack of razor blades only the same old dull disposables. So – back to the hotel and onto Google – the usual searches for soap, razors and so on. I googled “Shaving Soap Thailand” and about 5th from the top a result catches my eye: Man Of Siam – I quickly go to the site and note that they have shaving soap made in THAILAND – wow!! I am here for another 4 days so I quickly email the site and get a response from Jack, the site owner (strange name Thai bloke eh?…Actually, the He is a She named Nittaya…) that they have stocked out on the Thai Ginger Zest but they do have the other soap Cadwgawn . I quickly do a deal with Nittaya to buy both soaps and have them shipped to my home in Hong Kong once they are BOTH back in stock. . So – it was with baited breath that I received them this week. Safely packed and shipped all the way from Thailand. I wanted to try them both but opted for the first one I noticed, the Thai Ginger Zest. My other shave line up was:

  • Rigarazor 8/8 near wedge
  • Van Yulay Black Bowl
  • T-400 brush with the old faithful 24mm silver tip head
  • Proraso preshave cream

Prepped with the proraso and bloomed the soap a little – it is quite a hard soap definitely not a cream. Maybe what they are calling a ‘croap’. Prep over, razor stropped and I am ready. I swirl the brush in the soap for about 40 seconds to load the tips then get down to lathering up. Wow – the lather is easy to make (soft water in my place but Nittaya tells me that hard water is okay too). Within 30-40 seconds I have a nice bowl full of delicious lather. I lather up and its a winner – the fragrance is not overpowering, nice ginger zing with a citrus grapefruit background note. First pass is WTG and is so close that I decide to do a second ATG and then a third ATG. I am sat here with a nice fragrance doing this review. All in all the soap is a winner and I can’t wait to try out the Cadwgawn.

Asia, where I live, is a nightmare for wet shavers who like quality products an we have to rely on Amazon and eBay or those trip to the US or UK where we can buy stuff from real shops! Man Of Siam is a welcome oasis in the desert and I will be back!! Follow the link and see for yourself Nittaya’s range of quality shaving gear from Muhle and others as well as these superb Thai made, all natural ingredient, soaps.

 

LINK: Man Of Siam

 

SOTD 26th November 2018 – Mystery Soap, TWO brushes and a found copper bowl!! – Oh and an iKon x3 Slant bar

Today I made a mistake. I packed two brushes for travel. My trusty Alpha T-400 with a white horse knot and also my Jayaruh #215 with a boar knot harvested from an Omega – I forget which one…

I prepared the shave with 3P cream. I want to stress this cream is a whizz-bang pre-shave and also a miracle cream that can be used for shaving, preparing, aftershave and all-sorts – even sunburn and mosquito bites!! Here is how it is described:

The 3P Pre-shave is rather like prep but more of a thinner cream rather than a whipped cream like Prep. 3P also can be used for cooling sunburn, treating mosquito bites as an aftershave balm and – well according to the packaging it is a miracle cream!! – I get a menthol kick, nice and cooling sensation with a whiff o ammonia. it is nice. Here is a description of it….

Get your 3P HERE

(3P Prepara – Preserva – Protegge)

Fresh scent of camphor and peppermint oil.

3P Cream makes your hair smooth and supple.
The shave will thus be avoided for the benefit of shaving and skin irritation.
Provides smoother shaving and prevents irritation.
Can also be used instead of foam and shaving cream.
Suitable for all skin types
Experiences to 3P:

If you have ever had the pleasure of enjoying a traditional wet razor by an Italian champion Barber, you will surely know the importance of pre and post creams.
The shaving preparation always starts with a few hot towels, combined with a pre and post cream.

The three most popular are Proraso Pre and Post Cream, Prep Pre and Post Cream, or 3P Pre and Post Cream.

Although all three are similar in principle, of course everyone has its fan community.
3P refreshes a bit more with the camphor and peppermint oil as opposed to the others.
3P effectively prepares the face for a smooth and sexy shave.
3P is also an excellent aftershave balsam; Simply massage a little on the finger and into the still moist face.
3P provides protection, moisture and helps to treat small cuts.

Thanks to the small and resistant plastic tub, you can also take 3P with you in the hand luggage when traveling or in the gym.
TIP:
Many Italian men use 3P as a stand-alone shaving cream, especially with strong or those with heavy and sensitive beard hair. 3P is also a shaving foam, a true all-rounder

So, back to my story – two brushes – so I decided to use them both AND to make use of an item I found in my hotel room, – a beautiful hammered copper bowl. You might say what use a bowl that is 1. Not meant for lather inadvertent 2. Is not your own. It might harbor germs and all sorts right? Well no – copper is a natural anti-bacterial. That is why it is often used for drinking vessels. So I DID was the bowl and then lathered up with both brushes.

  • Bowl: Found copper bowl
  • Brushes – as above
  • Soap – mystery soap – brought a container of soap but have no idea what I put into it!!
  • Razor – iKon x3 Slant Bar
  • Blade – Feather on shave #2

Superb DFS – 3 passes and a super-slick lather. I loved every moment of it!! The lighting was also perfect in my hotel room and I found a handy mirrored table on which to take some arty-farty shots!!!

SOTD 6 November 2018 – Gillette Tech and TOBS Avocado – Van Yulay Bowl First Use

I know I am late posting this, but just did not have time to upload the photos to my Mac and so on. So here it is…

  • Lather – TOBS Avocado
  • Prep – 3P
  • Razor – Gillette Tech
  • Blade – Feather
  • Brush – Alpha T-400 batch #1
  • Knot – 26mm HMW
  • Bowl – Van Yulay Honeycomb type

I prepared properly with a nice face wash, no special soap, and then applied a nice layer of 3P whilst I soaked my brush in tepid tap water (no really cold water here – I am in Thailand on business at the moment). I slapped in about a teaspoon of the TOBS soap into the VY Bowl and started lathering. I tell you this is going to become one of my regular bowls. I have had it a while, months in fact, and had not used it once. Today was THE day. The bowl not only has the ridges to help lathering but also a repeat of the same honeycomb on the rim at the bottom so there is NO chance you can drop this bowl even with wet hands. It is a resin material too so I am sure almost unbreakable. The honeycombs inside also retain a little water so you don’t have to dip so often and all in all it was a superb bowl and I lathered up with a super thick, teeny-weeny bubbled lather and started shaving. A simple 3-pass – the usual WTG, XTG and ATG.

The Gillette tech and feather blade combo just mashed through the growth – seriously this inexpensive razor just does what it says on the tin – it is superb, just heavy enough, grippy handle – all in all a very satisfying shave. The TOBS Avocado cream soap is one of my go to soaps too – I love the fresh, green, vegetable fragrance which to me smells like cucumber and not avocados although it does have the slickness of an avocado mash.

The story behind the Tech… – I bought a set of two Bakelite shaving stick tubes from a lady in Australia – she now only sent me the tubes but also a leather case to keep them in and nestling inside a little compartment was the Gillette tech. pictured here [I emailed her and told her and she said “good luck, no charge!!” – so this razor was FREE!!!