Intro and Buying Guide

Recommended equipment

Recommended equipment

Over the years, particularly over the last ten years, men have been forced to pay more and more money for their disposable razors and disposable razor cartridges. At first these disposable razors had 1 single blade, then 2, 3, 4, then 5, and so on. Every time they stuck another blade in these goddamn things, they jacked the price up higher and higher. Let’s be honest with ourselves. The amount of money they’re charging now for these multiblade cartridges is obscene. These consumer goods companies are making fools of us, and yet we keep lining up to take it in the ass.

While we take it in the ass, paying stupid money for another measly package of overpriced disposable multiblade cartridges, the shaving experience gets worse and worse. Razor burn, razor bumps, ingrown hairs, and everything else that makes shaving a nuisance is becoming more common. We pay more, and the situation gets worse. I believe this is the main reason men are moving away from the disposable crap, and getting back into the trustworthy, traditional tools of wet shaving: a solid metal razor which you don’t throw away like some old rag, and good old fashioned stainless steel double edge razor blades.

I will try to sum up the essence of traditional wet shaving in one single sentence: take the daily shaving routine you hate; turn it into a ritual that you actually enjoy; get a better, more comfortable, closer shave- before you know it, a Baby Butt Smooth shave- and save a lot of money in the process. Get more, and pay less? Could this really be true? Look man, it’s true. I’m not saying I know some amazing secret that’s going to change your whole life for the better. However, what I can do is show you a way to stop taking it in the ass when it comes to these stupid overpriced multiblade disposable cartridges.

When I speak of “traditional wet shaving”, what I’m talking about is shaving using a razor which uses those small rectangular double edge (DE) razor blades that you see in the local drugstore, but never buy. Since the blades are double edged razor blades, this kind of traditional wet shaving is sometimes called “double edge shaving”, or “DE shaving”.

Some of the men who get into DE shaving get really deep into it, and some even become obsessed. They’ll go out and pay big money to buy antique razors from the 1940’s and 1950’s. And they’ll find one another on the internet and create online communities where they’ll talk about things, discuss DE shaving paraphanelia, create their own terminology, and come up with acronyms- for instance:

  • BBS: Baby Butt Smooth. A completely smooth shave. Also known as a “BBS”.
  • DFS: Damn Fine Shave. A near BBS.
  • CCS: Close, comfortable shave. A notch less than a DFS.
  • SAS: Socially Acceptable Shave. Good enough so that when you go outside or head to work, people don’t mistake you for some goddamn bum.
  • Weeper: A small nick.
  • Corking: Taking a double edge razor blade and pulling the edges of the blade through a cork, i.e. the cork from a wine bottle. Some people in the DE shaving community say it helps tone down the super sharp blades available today, like the famously sharp Feather brand blades from Japan.

Listen, you don’t have to get all crazy about DE shaving. DE shaving can be, and I believe should be, simple, practical, inexpensive and down to earth. In that spirit I will provide below a list of the items which I recommend that you purchase, if you’re interested in having your own DE shaving adventure. Yes, if you become obsessed with DE shaving, then there are tons of accessories out there that you could buy- but honestly you don’t really need them. If you buy the items in the buyer’s guide below, then you’ll have all the stuff you actually need.

The Razor – the Merkur 34C

The German made Merkur 34C is considered a best buy- a great balance of quality and price. It’s solid shiny metal, and it’s manufactured in Germany, like a beautiful Mercedes-Benz. It will last a lifetime. Go ahead and reach the customer reviews about this Merkur 34C on Amazon, reviews that were actually written by people who bought this razor. People rave about it.

Razor Blades

There are many different brands of DE (double edge) razor blades out there. Based on my research and experience, I believe that the best double edge razor blades for DE shaving beginners are the Derby brand blades. The Derby blades are not as insanely sharp as the Japanese brand Feather blades- but for this reason the Derby blades give you more margin for error. They’re gentler and a tad forgiving. I think Feathers are great for a guy with a little bit of DE shaving experience. Another advantage of the Derby blades is the price. On Amazon’s USA site, you can get 100 Derby blades for around 10 bucks. At this price, each Derby blade costs about a dime. Imagine that, a dime! Compare that to the price of one of those crazy multiblade disposable cartridges that they advertising on TV everyday. Anyway here’s where you can get yourself a batch of Derby blades.

Shaving Cream / Shaving Soap

There is a great deal of controversy in the DE shaving community about which shaving creams and shaving soaps are best. I did a lot of research and then narrowed it down to seven possibilities. From those seven, I chose two products to start out with. This first one is a cream. Being a cream, this product, from Proraso, is soft, easy to whip up into a lather, and it moisturizes the skin better, in my opinion, than the hard shaving soaps (I’ll get to the hard shaving soaps below). Proraso is an old school Italian cream with a nice smell that’s not overpowering. In order to use it, squeeze a little bit of it into a small bowl or into a wide mouthed coffee mug. Then get your shaving brush (described below), wet it with warm water (not too much water though) and whip the cream into a lather. It’s now ready to apply to your face, using the shaving brush.

This stuff, Tabac, actually comes from Germany, like the Merkur razor itself. This hard shaving soap works great, and is held in high regard in the wet shaving community.

Shaving Brush

There are so many different shaving brushes out there that it would blow your mind. And get this- the bristles on shaving brushes are classified, the same way that diamonds are classified according to the 4 C’s. The lowest priced, low end shaving brushes have synthetic bristles- the bristles are plastic. One step above that is the boar’s hair shaving brushes. Then comes badger’s hair, the best category. However- the badger hair brushes are themselves categorized. They start with “pure badger’s hair,” then “best badger’s hair,” and then, finally, at the top of the shaving brush hierarchy, the “silver tip/super badger’s hair”, the highest quality of badger’s hair. It’s like mink. This super badger’s hair brush costs almost 300 dollars. Don’t buy this brush unless you belong to the 1%.

After a great deal of research, I decided to choose this brush below, which is considered to be a very good balance of price and quality. I’ve been using it for years now and it’s a great brush. It comes with its own stand, which allows it to dry when you’re done with your shave.

After Shave Lotion

After shaving, I recommend that you apply some kind of an aftershave lotion. Aftershave lotions and balms can cost a lot, but there is a value priced aftershave balm that I researched and now use, a light lotion that you rub into the skin on your face after your shave. It’s very soothing and it doesn’t have a strong overpowering smell. It’s inexpensive and it works very well.

If You Cut Yourself

When you first begin shaving with a double edge razor, you might on occasion cut yourself. To deal with cuts, there’s an old fashioned, highly effective, inexpensive solution- it’s called a styptic pencil. It looks like a small stick of white chalk; to use it, you wet the tip, then apply the wet tip to your cut. It disinfects the cut, and it quickly stops any bleeding. A styptic pencil is a handy and inexpensive item which I do recommend you purchase.

That’s all you need in your basic DE shaving kit. On the bottom of this page, I’ll include a comments section, in case DE shavers out there want to provide feedback.

If you are wondering whether or not you need a shaving bowl, then I recommend you read the blog entry on shaving bowls and scuttles- DE Shaving Bowls and Skuttles- Just Say No.

7 replies
  1. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    Thanks for the overview, Phil. This is a great introduction to wetshaving, and I’m sure it’ll pique the interest of a lot of guys.

    Anything we can do to get more guys shaving with a badger hair brush, and a single blade is a good thing! Great site, by the way.

    • Phil
      Phil says:

      Dear Jordan,

      Thank you very much for your comment, I appreciate it. I will try in the near future to post some additional articles on equipment that I have purchased and used over this past year.

      If you have had a really good experience with some shaving product, and if you would be willing to write a review of it, and send me pictures, I would be happy to post the content on this website. It may be interesting and useful for others that are exploring and enjoying traditional wet shaving.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Kind regards,


  2. Barry Kade
    Barry Kade says:

    You left out a few common acronyms:
    YMMV Your Mileage May Vary. Used initially to describe the variation in how many shaves an individual will get out of a blade, but has expanded to refer to any variation in individuaul shaving experience

    RAD Razor Acquisition Syndrome Not yet listed in the official guide to psychiatric disorders, RAD refers to the shaving hobby on steroids with the search for the perfect razor resulting in buying anything that’s a bit different than what you’ve already got.

    RBAD Razor Blade Acquisition Disorder See above and you should be able to guess the rest.

    Now for my comment: Because YMMV, I think it would be wise to suggest a sampling of products. For the newbie here are my suggestions:
    Razor: The Merkur 34C probably is one of the razors most suitable to all. But it’s equal are any of the old Gillette adjustables. They are readily available on Ebay. Marginally bes (YMMV) is the Fatboy, manufactured from 1958-61. A decent one that will likely last another 100 years can be obtained for around $40. Almost as good are the Slim adjustable, made from 1961-1967(?) and the Super Adjustable aka “Black Beauty, made from 1968-77(??). These two can be had for something under $30, but may only last another 75 years. Because they are adjustable, they can be set for best results with different blades and even different shave passes.
    Blades: I started with Personna Comfort blades, known to the pretentious as “Lab Blues”. I found them to be pretty decent, but soon graduated to Voskhov (made in Russia by a Russian company), Astra (made in Russia and owned by P&G, sucessor to Gillette). I also like Dorco Prime and Dorco ST 301. These are all inexpensive and can be found in the $10 per hundred range or less. My RAD caused me to buy 700 Voskhod for under $50, and Astras by the 200s for under $18.
    The reviews on Amazon tend to be reliable when reviewed by more than a couple of hundred. If a blade has great reviews from 12 people, they may be the 12 who liked it out of 100 that bought it.
    Brush: I’m happy with a $5 Chinese badger brush I bought on the net somewhere.
    Soap: I shave mostly with some I made myself. I kept blending failures with more ingredients until I came up with an duplicatable combination that works. Proraso is a decent soap for $10 as is Van Der Haggen (sp?) Deluxe for about $7.
    Aftershave: A $3 bottle of witch hazel to which I’ve added 5 drops (no more) of peppermint oil and about 10 of eucalyptus oil feels great, tones the skin, and smells nice putting it on, but doesn’t leave any discernible odor.
    Too long?
    Shaving bowls. I’ve never tried a bowl made for shaving, nor a skuttle. I have a glass coffee cup that I fill with fairly hot water and let it sit while warming up my face. After loading my brush withsoapr, I spill out the water and use the cup to lather up the brush. That warms the lather, making it a bit more luxurious for no cost.

  3. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    For those who don’t get on with Derby blades (they give me a rash), I recommend Astra SP. There are also horsehair brushes, very nice but long even worse than boar to begin with. I’m a big fan of Proraso soaps but if you really want to be economical, Palmolive shave sticks are about 50p each. Arko is very popular but imo smells like a bucket of used cheap disinfectant.
    A nice cheap introduction into DE razors are the Feather and Wilkinson sword classic. They are both made from plastic but are very mild yet proficient shavers.


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