March 1, 2007

Wet Shave Update

Posted in shaving at 11:39 pm by a11en

A tip of the hat to Merlin over at Merlin’sTower for talking about the wet-shave. I completely agree with him. A wet-shave is something I look forward to, compared to the chore that shaving used to be. It also produces much better results. I figured it was about time to update how things are going with my wet shaving. Before, I do, one disclaimer: I haven’t taken the plunge with an old style safety-razor and haven’t started in on straight-edges yet. I may get up the cojones to do this sometime this year (my small shaving goal), so, my method still includes a Mach3 at this time. [Feel free to convince me to get off my keyster and try one of these two out.] But, a standard shave for me now consist of using shave-soap and a badger-brush, as mentioned in my previous posts. Here’s a bit more about my process… (I’m no expert, so if you have suggestions, please let me know!)

Before I get into the shower, I soak my brush. I use a coffee-cup (an old RV mug if you must know) to soak my badger brush in hot water. So, before I get in the shower, in goes my badger brush into the water to soak. Immediately after the shower (trying to keep the beard wet), I usually start in on my shave. I first replenish my mug with piping hot water for the brush, and let the excess drip out of the brush before I start. My shave-soap at this time is Taylor of Bond Street Lavender. It’s lasted over a half-year now, with regular shaving every other day (luckily I’m fairly decent for a day- that might change in the future when I’m in the real-world… at school, this is more than adequate). I still haven’t hit bottom on my shave-soap bowl (nice wooden bowl), and hope to go for a full year! We’ll see. I lather (created in the shave-soap), shave, and repeat once (sometimes cross-grain)- but the first shave is usually adequate, and I use the second only to catch anything that was missed with the first (and touch up the side-burns etc.). After the shave, I go ahead and wash my face with my anti-zit soap, then I dry my face and use a 50/50 mixture of Bay-Rum and Witch-Hazel. A bit of a warning- pure Bay Rum, while smelling wonderful, and reminding me of my heritage, actually will feel as though your face is burning off your skull. So, I’d suggest you don’t use it, unless you really want to. 😉 For the longest time I’ve used WitchHazel, which is extremely cheap at your local grocer, for my after-shave. Does a great job. Finally, if I feel some sort of moisturizer is needed I use either Aveeno or my American Crew after-shave lotion. May be overkill, and mix of scents some may not like, but for me, this does a fine job. Again, some days I just stop at the Witch-Hazel, and I’m good. Some other little tips- I use the water from the soak of the brush to clean the brush afterwards, then use this water to take care of the stubble in the sink. I also tend to use a face-cloth on the front of the sink (usually at this time I’ve got my pants on in the bathroom- no need to scare your SO or anything…) to keep my pants dry from any splash around the sink. My method of using the soap and brush means that things get a bit messier than using a bowl to make your shave-foam. I tend to create the foam on my face, which removes a step, but tends to be messier and may not kick up those amazingly thick foams you sometimes see online. But, I gain the advantage of a great soap on the skin, and a brush that picks up my hairs and gives me the closest shave I’ve had with any method to date. [Again, I haven’t tried everything yet.]

So, very little has changed since I started. My soap is lasting forever, even when used copiously. I’ve gotten better at making my lather, of course, and also the addition of the Bay Rum is a fun change from just Witch-Hazel (remember my warning- you won’t soon forget if you try it yourself). But, all in all, I’m quite happy with the results. I’ve heard that things get even better with an old safety-razor, as well as with a straight-edge. Having the straight-edge available for interrogation use may also prove useful, so I may just go for that. A good friend of mine would say (about anything quite pointy and sharp): “You could make someone talk with that!” 🙂

I think the wet-shave may be taking me a bit longer in the morning than my old method, but it’s so much more effective that I can’t see myself returning to my old sticky shave-cream from a can (yuck!!). I’m still extremely happy with my Vulfix brush, amazing price compared to some, and it’s doing wonderfully. There is only one thing that I’m having mild trouble with- my little plastic brush holder (the brushes need to dry pointing down, so as to improve drying and extend their life). The brush holder, while cheap, just isn’t too stable- I could mount it on the wall, but prefer it seated, and in that position it loses the brush at odd-times (falling into the sink with a nice klunk klunk klunk…) So, when I have the funds, I’ll likely spring for a good brush holder, and a few other niceties.

There’s something about having these small luxuries in life that makes life more fun to live. Some may say the expense isn’t worth it (after all, the travel Mach3’s and some regular old soap may get the job done)… but, with how long my soap is lasting, how long the brush will likely last, and the cheap after-shave (Witch Hazel is like $1.30 for 4months worth)… I suspect I’m not doing that badly with cost. Besides, if your girlfriend is anything like mine, she spends the amount it costs for a single shave-brush during one trip to the cosmetics counter. This isn’t metro-sexual… if anything it’s uber-sexual… the manly man… after all, they had to kill a badger for the badger-hair brush… and considering the secondary use of a straight-razor, I think you could easily stop your friend’s laughing at the smoothness of your chin. Hell, I’d respect anyone using a single blade to cut their beard with. [Now, if only I could learn how to do that… the sheer loss of blood scares me…]

I strongly suggest trying out a good badger bristle brush (not the $5 store kind- that’s likely boar’s hair), and a wet-shave with good shave-soap. It has been a joy to do my shaving ritual, not a chore, and the results keep me coming back. [Merlin looks as though he’s doing a small series on the wet-shave, so don’t fail to visit his blog for the video and next installment!]

August 8, 2006

Update on FP’s, Wet-Shave, Now Habit, future posts…

Posted in FountainPens, Mac Software, Pipes, Procrastination, shaving at 7:37 pm by a11en

Well, a post has been long over due. I try to ensure that I don’t post nonsense here, so that those who visit will visit often, and get something out of reading my insane ramblings. 🙂 Maybe I’m hoping for too much. I’ve been incommunicado, as I’ve been concentrating on work, as well as somewhat unsure how to tackle my little hack. I’ll call that my “Book Underline Liberation Hack” or BULH… uh… well, you get the idea.

About my “BULH” (pronounced as Bull-@#$@?) hack: My biggest problem in posting a how-to on this, really, is that it utilizes a number of programs that you guys/gals might not be too familiar with. Some surely are, but some may not be. So, I think I’m going to start it as a series. I’ll talk about each program separately, point you to appropriate interesting links that may be of use to you, and then bring everything together in the end. Since it’s a bit of a crazy hack, and I haven’t made any scripts to help you in the hack, a lot of you guys may choose not to use it. But, hopefully the series will help some of you (who may not have decided to install some of the programs before). My ultimate goal is to give you a way to liberate and utilize all those great underlined sections in your books. I find they’re useful when I do re-reads, but often I don’t re-read, and would love to have those sitting where they’re visible to motivate my work. I think the first program up on the block will be Growl. Before this, let me brain-dump a few items of interest. I’ll work on my post on Growl over the next few days.

Fountain Pens

My strong suggestion for anyone who wishes not to get trapped on a slippery slope- is don’t ever try a nice fountainpen. I recently stopped by a local antique store. After looking around a bit, I ask the proprietor if she has any fountain-pens. She says: “Yes, but they’re not out and ready for sale yet…” She digs a bit… out pop some interesting older pens, nothing too exciting… as I look over them and tell her about my limited experience with FP’s, she digs some more, and out pop some big-dogs. We talk for around an hour, and all of a sudden, she says: “Would you be willing to help me?”… “If you help me figure out what these are worth, I’ll give you your pick.” I’m floored… I think on it for a day, and decide to help. So, in front of me sits the following after a stint of hand-polishing (there are more of lesser value as well):

  • Parker “51” Vacumatic, Third-quarter, 1947 (T47), gold-filled cap, straight line pattern, blue-diamond GF clip, black body
  • Parker Vacumatic Junior, Maxima size, Brown Pearl laminate, 1947
  • Shaeffer’s Snorkel Saratoga, green body
  • Conklin with nice green striated celluloid body, sac-filler
  • Cartridge Shaeffer’s yet to be determined
  • Epenco little sac-filler with wonderful marble celluloid body

Just those three pens on top of the list there were a joy to come by in the wild. There of course a lot of questions- one of the more important for the owner of these, is: Is it better to spend the money on repairing/refurbishing, or is it better to sell them as-is. Being a FP-fellow now, of course I’d love to take a crack at them, or send them away- they’re much easier to buy without being repaired. 😉 Any and all comments regarding this, please chime in!

The Wet-Shave Update

Finally got an amazing shaving brush. I purchased a Vulfix Super-Badger brush with a nice knot-size. Price was reasonable- larger than I’d ever spent on shaving accoutrements, but, reasonable. While walking through Marshal-Fields this weekend, I came across a small “The Art of the Shave” shop on the first floor. Talked shaving equipment with the salesman there for a bit. Turns out their smallest super-badger (silvertip) was double the price of the Vulfix brush I purchased a week ago. The brush was at least half as large as mine, to boot. Amazing price difference.

I have to admit that the brush is awesome. I didn’t need much soap on the bristle tips to get a fantastic lather on the face. Incidentally, I’m using that Lavendar soap by Taylor of Old Bond Street mentioned previously. Great soap. Now, I just need to find an after-shave moisturizer that fits nicely with the lavender. The brush hopefully will last me for many many years. I finally actually look forward to my shaves, instead of wishing I didn’t have to do it before heading to work. I’m starting to realize that money spent on things of luxury are often worth it, if they can be enjoyed for many years to come, and you aren’t neglecting an important expenditure. Oh, and that 12-hour 5’O-clock shadow procrastination I mentioned earlier- it’s true. I’m getting a closer shave just by changing to the badger brush and soap. Amazing. Highly recommend a good brush, and a good soap. [Incidentally, the soap looks like it’s gonna last me for a couple years as well!]

Now Habit Update

I need to spend more time on this in the near future. Some wonderful things found since I last discussed Fiore’s book. Unfortunately, keeping them in mind often is difficult. I’ve experienced a truth too often: No matter how late I stay up, there’s no way to add more time to my day. Important items often will slip by if I am not more conscious to choose to do them first. Fiore’s book explains the idea of the “unschedule”. It’s quite simple really- schedule your time for everything *but* your work. Sleeping, eating, playing time- showering, tooth-paste time, etc.- when this is accomplished, you see all too clearly how much time there is for work. Often there’s not much time to do your work, so realizing this helps you to make proper decisions about that unscheduled time you have. As well, you should commit to yourself to only do 30 minutes of work. That’s right… 20 hours total a week tops. 30 minutes of focused time. The reason is that if you attempt to do all the time you wish to accomplish in your head (say 18 hours a day, is what I’d love to be doing)- there’s no way you’re going to actually do it. In fact, because you know you should do 18 hours a day, you’ll find it *very* hard to start. Instead, 30 minutes of extreme focus without distractions often gets more done. It’s all a matter of starting. All projects get done just by starting, and starting and starting… over and over again, until the project is finished. Little starts of focused time.

Oh, a bit of a tip, as well- it appears that the infinity journal (both the normal and the mini) from Levenger will fit the Miquelrius journals that I find at Pendemonium and Barnes and Noble. So, if you’re looking for a real leather cover, and a ribbon book-mark for it, the cover will likely fit. Nice to know incase the one that comes with it, runs out. 🙂

Tobacco And The Sea

After a trip to Levengers at Fields, I walked over to the oldest family owned business in Illinois- Iwanries & Co. Paid for a pipe I had money down on, and perused their tobacco. Lo and behold- I find tins of Murray blended Dunhill blends!! I couldn’t believe it! So, I snagged a number of London Mixture tins. Happy with my surprise find, I walked down to the warf to pay a call on an old friend- The Abegweit. She’s now the Columbia Yacht Club club-house. A number of very kind club members talked with me about the old ferry, and invited me and the family back at a future date. I was floored at their kind offer. As a kid, I leaned over the Abegweit’s bow watching the ocean race by on my way to my grandmother’s house in Prince Edward Island. It was great to see the boat being well-loved.

As I walked, with my pipe in mouth, enjoying the tall-ships that came that weekend to Chicago, I was reminded of how the sea and tobacco were often the two things that most stirred man’s imagination in the days gone by. The days of shaving-brushes, and lavender soaps, wooden ships, and pipes…

July 18, 2006

The “Wet” Shave

Posted in FountainPens, Pipes, shaving at 3:55 pm by a11en

So, for ages I’ve been toying with the idea of doing wet-shaving. A bit of background as to where this was coming from…

Something about the old way of things intrigues me. Perhaps it’s just my limited experience:

  • Pipe smoking is just fantastic- if you’re gonna smoke, for the love of God, please smoke a pipe- everthing else is just ick (or a cigar- both of these are much much better for you than smoking cigarettes into your lungs). I’ll have a page on pipe-smoking in the future when I get some time. (For now I’ll assume that most of you won’t be interested in this.)
  • Handkerchiefs– ok, before you guys go ape-crazy and say: “That’s disgusting!”- have you ever pulled a tissue out of it’s box and seen particles fly all over the place into the air? When the voices in my head talk to me- they say that this is all part of the grand scheme to make me purchase more tissue, ’cause I always sneeze after using ’em. 😉 Normally, I figure it’s just too expensive to keep the powder out of the box during manufacturing. Let’s just say it’s so much better to use cloth than powdery paper. The trick is to buy lots and change them out every single day, so you’re always with a fresh hankie that isn’t nasty as hell. 😉 ‘Cause honestly, without a cold, how often do you use a tissue?
  • Fountainpens– are smoother and more enjoyable to write with than any of the ballpoint pens, gel ink or not. Not to mention there’s a huge array of amazing ink colors, and even the option to scent the ink for writing romantic love letters to your muse. Don’t even get me started on vintage pens, and proper paper…
  • Hats as umbrellas– Unfortunately, somewhere down the line, we’ve missed wearing hats. I don’t wear mine all the time, but to keep the sun and rain off your head, out of your face, a hat is an excellent thing. I’ve been in downpours, and between my hat and my teflon-coated barn-jacket, I’m dry as a bone. Everyone else is running for the hills when the rain starts. I just mosey down the sidewalk enjoying the rain: cool mother nature’s shower.

So, the things of old appeal to me for some strange reason. Weird, I know, because in the past I loved everything super-tech- hell, I have a Roomba for gosh sakes. 😉

Now, where was I?- Oh yes- If you think of luxury in a man’s bathroom, you have to somewhere see the badger bristle brush for shaving. It’s a classic. What person hasn’t seen a man’s brush and mug used in a movie for a shaving scene? So, for a long time I’ve been thinking about the “wet-shave”. When I saw a Burt’s Bee’s man’s shaving soap on sale one day at Wild Oats, I snagged it, and shoved it in the back of my cabinet. Then finally this week, I was purchasing some items for Chel at the local Walmart of all things and saw a “natural” bristle brush for like $5. Now, this is definitely not a badger brush- likely it’s boar’s hair. Luckily, a natural bristle is better than plastic bristle. So, I’m up there, but down in the fact that it’s gonna be a very rough brush and not hold as much water as badger.

So last night, I tried it out. I started by moistening my beard- did this by using a washcloth with hot water, held to the face for at least a minute… then washed my face with a good soap. Next I moistened again, and started my work with the brush. With a light hand and circling the brush on the soap, I could work up a nice lather. Definitely wetter and lighter than normal foam shaving cream. I worked the brush in little light circles on my beard, and ensured I had a nice lather on my face before shaving. With hot water in the sink, I proceeded to shave. I have to say it was an interesting experience!! I noticed the difference immediately. I got a very close shave. Much closer than I normally do. I tend to use higher-end cream shave foam and it just didn’t even come close to how smooth my face was when this shave was over. This afternoon, my face is as smooth as it normally is when I shave with a shave foam/gel. So it appears I got an extra 12 hours on my shave. Time will tell, however, if this is true, but, I’m sold. Next up is to try and find a great badger brush and try out some wonderful lavender soap. I’ve heard some wonderful things about Vulfix brushes, and being that some of my relatives were from the Isle of Man, I suspect I’ll be getting one sometime very soon.

For more info on the wet-shave:

Finally, some thoughts: I’m starting to wonder if in the race to achieve bigger, better, faster- we’re slowly losing sight of doing things “well”. Or perhaps Pirsig would say, doing things with “Quality” [2]. We’re so hell-bent on getting ink to paper, that we neglect our handwriting and enjoyment of nib on paper, use pens that lack a range of color that used to be standard, and come in throw-away plastic tubes ready for our consumption. We run from place to place in the rain instead of donning a hat, we don’t share a clean hanky with a lady who might need it as a gesture of care, and we don’t really care how we get the job done of shaving, as long as it’s quick and painless ’cause “we’re late for work.” We’ve also lost a bit of that old politeness that seems to take so long these days. I’ve heard all sorts of stories (from friends) of children disrespecting adults (especially surrounding the smoking issue)- horrible behavior completely foreign just 30 years ago. Now, I know it’s dangerous to yearn for the days of old, especially since they lack air-conditioning <yikes>, but- I think we’re loosing sight of some of the good things. Surely we can have both time saving devices and good things? Perhaps a few of these old good things that take time will actually help us slow down and enjoy our lives a bit more? 🙂 Maybe we can regain some of that “now-ness” for the things we’re about in our day to day lives: reminding us that living is a good thing- that we should enjoy it. What better way than to start our day with a bit of luxury in a wet-shave?