Ollie's shaving manual for beginners

Here's my newbie pro forma:

I don't know how much you know about DE wetshaving, so forgive me if this is patronizing - it's meant to be useful and save you some blood and money (two things well worth saving).

First, may I strongly suggest that you look at the Mantic videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/mantic59

Once there, try these three Mantic videos about lathering:

'Introduction to Traditional Wetshaving, Part 2: Lathering' (Ignore part one, it's for people who've never had a wetshave at all, ever.) Also check out the videos 'The Art Of Lathering' and 'How To Build And Apply Traditional Shaving Lather'. In 15 mins you'll know all you need you, but a good lather on softened (well-wetted) skin is essential: proper preparation pays.

Next, take a look at: 'How To Shave With A Single-Blade Razor.' This one (and the three about lathering) is all you need.

This is well worth it if you don't want to cut yourself up. Now you're ready.

Here's a step-by-step guide for absolute beginners:

First, get your face nice and wet for about a minute (after a bath or shower is ideal). Then brush up a lather with the cream or soap. (The second Mantic video deals with this.) Like certain other things (e.g. cars) shaving is all about lubrication.

Start with a 'one pass shave'. Go with the grain. Do not apply any pressure: the weight of the razor and the sharpness of the blade are more than enough. Aim for a DFS (= decent first shave). You can stop now or you can try a two pass shave . . .

Next try two passes: WTG (= with the grain) and XTG (= across the grain, usually horizontally across). Re-lather between the two passes but this can be done with what's left on the brush.

Next, try three passes: WTG (= with the grain) XTG (= across the grain) and ATG (=against the grain, usually upwards, at 180 degrees to the way the beard grows). Again re-lather between passes. Experts aim for a BBS (= baby bottom smooth) shave, but the name of the game is beard reduction not total and complete elimination! (You can keep shaving until you are utterly hairless -- one P G Wodehouse character going on a hot date makes a point of shaving "to the bone"! -- but doing that every day may not be the best thing for your skin.)

A few minutes spent in front of the mirror "beard mapping" is well worth it: look at the direction your beard grows in. The hairs don't just point down - but may sprout sideways at all sorts of angles. Because it changes from place to place on your face, when you shave different parts you may need to approach it from different angles.

For me the secret was getting the blade angle right. Start off too gentle with the handle of the razor parallel to the floor (i.e. the top of the razor's head on your face and no blade). Glide the razor down also while angling the handle downwards until you can hear/feel the sandpapery sound/feel of bristle being cut, then you've got the angle right. Remember the razor head has no movement, it doesn't pivot or turn. So you have to adjust the angle yourself.

Mantic speaks of the "facets" of a diamond: it looks round and smooth, but its lots of small straight planes. Shave those facets or planes and you'll get round your face's curves and corners with lots of short straight strokes.

Afterwards rise off with cold water to close the pores and use moisturizer (not alcohol / aftershave).
(You should get 3 -5 shaves out a blade.)

And that's it. It's an art but it's well-worth it. I have a light beard and I find DE shave in the evening (when I'm more likely to have time) will still look good the next morning.

If you get stuck (or need advice or want to buy stuff) the forums and website are good (e.g. The Shaving Room). Nice guys, great advice, good stuff.

Finally, stick with it: the results really are worth it. Closer, smoother shaves; better skin; making a daily chore into a private pleasure: you'll soon have a shave den full of different soaps and creams and an arsenal of razors and blades. You'll look and feel like Cary Grant and Steve McQueen (well, maybe.)

Try and stick with one set-up while you get the technique right (i.e. the same razor, brush, soap/cream and make of blade). When you've got the basic hang of it try changing components, but one at a time so you can see/feel/smell the difference and find out what you like and what works best for you.

Finally, hot water and a mirror. You'll need these. And now you're good to go!

Good luck & God bless

Almere, Netherlands
BoldSpice said:
I don't understand what you mean about using cold water to close the pores. Pores don't open and close.
True, but cold water lets the skin contract a little, thereby closing nicks somewhat, and making the shaved stubble sink into their follicles a little. Fact is that after splashing cold water on your face, it feels marginally smoother. And especially so after a further treatment with alum and then a good (preferably homemade :roll: ) after shave balm.
Good guide...I would add just small caveat for the heavier bearded convert.

As a new shaver with a fairly course beard I definitely appreciated being told to shave WTG and two passes only for a week or two.

Concentrate on correct head angle, short strokes and zero pressure , and just get your beard, skin and the shaver used to the experience.
They probably won't be the best shaves in the world but it does introduce the concept of beard reduction and more importantly "release" the new convert from the Gillette myth i.e "one pass, multi blade good" and that BBS should NOT be the ultimate goal.

After all how long does BBS really last? And how many times does the GF really get to stroke your chops? It will come in time if its right for you.
There ain't no harm in more than 2 WTG passes either, then you really get to identify what parts of your face and beard need more attention.

A week or three in, you've had a chance to study the direction of your beard growth, your technique is more solid, the other aspects of prep and post shave should have improved and your ready to add a new pass, you can then pick the most appropriate direction for that XTG pass.

This maybe all too slow for some but all the aspects of shaving have to improve together to get the best of results, for me that didn't include adding a different pass until I was ready and you will know when you are, just take your time.
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