Sitting at a desk in Ramsgate and all is quiet and peaceful. The face opposite the screen that this is being written on is not as lovely as it once was. It’s a very recent change too. Now this degradation in loveliness isn’t down to ageing or substance abuse or even catastrophic trauma (for instance the face catching fire and being subsequently extinguished with an ice pick), it’s down to what can possibly be described as a severe case of late starting.
Many middle aged chaps, it seems, get hobbies that seem a little at odds with their age and assumed development. For example many men in their late forties and fifties go out and buy 150BHP motor bikes and become born again (and often dead) bikers, or they find God or they become very environmentally conscious and become active at saving trees, whales and planets. There are many such examples I’m sure you’ll agree.
In allatsea’s case it started off innocently enough. A desire to learn how to sharpen kitchen knives to a high standard (eg to be capable of shaving arm hair) became hours spent watching ‘how to’ tutorials on youtube. It also involved vast sums of wonger spent on Belgian (natural) whetsones and Japanese (synthetic) waterstones, even larger sums spent on acquiring Damascus steel and Japanese multilayer steel kitchen blades, countless hours of practice at honing said blades and much hacking away at hair on forearms.
This activity seemed to satisfy the old endorphin chaos in his brain until one evening he started researching how to hone a traditional open (cut throat) razor. Was there a difference in technique? Well yes there is but that’s neither here nor there………sadly. What happened in the following few (very few) days was both upstoppable in a tsunami like manner and the cause of the mutilated and tragically wounded state of his boat race.
To hone a razor you need a razor to hone. He bought one, online, from a very respectable and internationally known dealer. While it was in transit, he bought another one from the same dealer. While they were in transit he bought a whole bunch of vintage ones via ebay. Hmmm. RAS (razor acquisition syndrome) on speed it seems.
All these razors, and very beautiful they were too, arrived together one fine Saturday morning. Two of them were purchased as ‘shave ready’, eg they were honed and stropped ready for immediate use. This is the case when you buy from a respectable dealer, they say. The intention then, seemed to have slipped or rather grown from wanting to learn how to hone them to actually wanting to use one …….. to actually shave with.
Again youtube came to the rescue. Dozens of tutorials videos on how to shave properly with a traditional DE razor (safety razor) and a cut throat are available and were avidly watched. This kind of shaving and grooming is enjoying a massive renaissance in the west apparently, there’s a big shift away from ‘disposable’ razors and (cross myself and say a few prayers), electric shaving. Allatsea was most certainly caught up in the rush.
Two things become apparent very quickly.
Firstly, when a chap takes time to lather up properly, luxuriate in his warm bathroom surroundings, make a leisurely three pass shave using a DE razor with a sharp blade, lathering up again between each pass and finishing with a gentle aftershave balm (not an alcohol based lotion), it is the most wonderful, sensuous, gorgeous experience. It’s so good it actually makes you wish you had several faces and needed to shave every hour or so, seriously.
Secondly it became all too obvious that at the age of 56, allatsea had been doing it wrong all his life and he felt very cheated that he hadn’t learnt properly when he was a young slip of a thing. It’s something that dads just didn’t teach (certainly not in this case) and that young men don’t appear to talk about and learn from each other. Strange but true. Allatsea, in a petulant and childlike moment, felt oddly cheated by this. He still though, wishes to thank mantric59 on youtube and the splendid book ‘Sharp Practice’ by Anders Larsen for ending his long hiatus in ignorance and making him a ‘born again shaver’. Thankyou.
However not all was well!! Revelling in this new found ‘life-skill’ and wanting to make it complete, the urge, no, the need to take this wonderous new ablution to its natural and proper conclusion became very apparent. Very forceful in fact. The die was cast. The shave would have to be carried out with a straight razor, not a DE.
The two ‘shave ready’ razors lay on the table. Which one to use? Three inches of cold super sharp steel being dragged across a man’s throat and face does rather focus his attention to the matters at hand, the risks become all to obvious, even to the terminally enthusiastic. The vids on youtube highlight these risks but point out that with a light positive touch and a bit of practice there’s nothing to worry about. No pink foam and red water. They said.
A dummy run with a 6 inch ruler, rehearsing the angles, head position, grip and mirror placement didn’t throw up any unexpected problems. The time had come.
And that dear readers is how the beautiful allatsea mush got into such a two and eight. Practice is one thing, a nice steady hand and smooth strokes was no problem at all. Put a stingingly sharp Thiers Issard blade on your delicate skin and it’s a different matter. UuuuugHHHHHHH!
Having forked out the best part of the national debt of Greece on acquiring the finest shaving implements known to mankind, allatsea is NOT going to give up and revert to a Gillette G2. Mastering, if that’s the right word, the straight razor, is going to be long and painful process. Thank goodness for alum blocks and working on nightshifts.
As for honing a dull old vintage razor? Well there is partial success to report there but it’s still very much work in progress. I’ll crow or moan as appropriate when the time comes.
Styptic pencil anyone?