First-class tools are necessary at the very outset. No matter how skillfully one may handle inferior tools, they will invariably produce poor results.
Probably as many failures have resulted from the use of poor razors, strops, or soap as from the lack of knowledge how to use them. In order that the best possible results may be attained, good tools and skill in using them should go hand in hand.
The shaving outfit should consist of one or two good razors, a first-class strop, a mirror, a cup, a brush, a cake of shaving soap, and a bottle of either bay rum, witch hazel, or some other good face lotion. These constitute what may be considered the necessary articles, and to these may be added a number of others, such as a good hone, magnesia or talcum powder, astringent or styptic pencils, antiseptic lotions, etc. which, while not absolutely requisite, will nevertheless add much to the convenience, comfort and luxury of the shave.
The most important article of the shaving outfit is of course the razor, and upon its selection your success or failure in self-shaving will largely depend. Never purchase a razor because it happens to be cheap; a poor razor is dear at[Pg 12] any price. You want not the cheapest, but the best.
A good razor if rightly used, will last for years, and will be a source of continual pleasure when used, whereas a poor razor will do inferior work, irritate the skin and make the face sore, and be a continual source of trouble and annoyance. If you have such a razor, the sooner you throw it aside and substitute a good one, the better.
The principal point to be considered in selecting a razor is the quality of the steel. By “quality” is meant its temper or degree of solidity, and its consequent capability of receiving, even after a series of years, a firm and fine edge. This is undoubtedly the first point to which the purchaser should give attention. By what means though, can he judge of the temper of a razor without using it? The unassisted eye is not sufficient. Its power extends no further than to the discovery of defects the most striking and injurious. The irregularities in a[Pg 13] razor’s edge, which arise from improper tempering and lack of skill in working, are usually so minute, that they may remain undistinguished until the razor is used. They will nevertheless very sensibly add to the friction the razor produces on the skin and particularly if it happens to be thin and tender. There are two ways of judging of the temper of a razor; one of these is practically infallible—viz:—the examination of the blade and its edge by means of a microscope.
It will be readily admitted that the real excellence of a razor is in direct proportion to the firmness and unbroken regularity of its edge. When a razor is too brittle, in consequence of having been either to much heated in the process of hardening, or not sufficiently cooled in that of tempering, it cannot possibly take a good cutting edge, no matter how much skill may be employed in honing and stropping it. Such defects are quickly detected by the use of a microscope[Pg 14] in the hands of an experienced and attentive observer.
The other method of testing the temper, while not infallible, will nevertheless be of assistance even to the most inexperienced. It consists of catching the point of the blade under the thumb nail, and then letting the nail slip off quickly. If the blade gives a good clear ring, you may conclude that it is well tempered, but if it does not ring full and clear it is an indication that the blade is tempered unevenly.
CARE OF THE RAZOR
Take good care of your razor. Many a fine razor has been spoiled by carelessness and neglect on the part of the user. The life of a razor will depend entirely on the care given it. Never put it away until it has first been wiped thoroughly dry, using a piece of chamois skin for this purpose. Even this will not remove all the moisture, so the blade should be drawn across the strop a few times, or else left exposed to the air for a few moments until the little particles of moisture not removed by the cloth have evaporated. Then you may replace the razor in its case with the expectation of finding it in good condition when you next use it.
Rusting must be prevented, especially upon the edge, which seems to rust more quickly than any other part of the blade. A tiny rust spot on this delicate line, by causing the metal to soften and crumble at that point, will soon end the usefulness of the razor, unless the edge is ground back past the rust spot. In such a case there is always the liability of not getting a good edge.
In wiping the lather off the blade never use a glazed or coarse paper. Tissue paper is the best. Many overlook this point and by drawing the blade straight across a glazed or hard finished paper, turn the edge, and then wonder why the razor has lost its keenness. Draw the blade over the paper obliquely, away from the edge, in the same direction as when stropping it.