Monday, November 30, 2009

Nanny's Silly Soap Company

The internet has made it possible for anyone to run a business from home. The lady behind this venture has been selling a range of natural handmade soaps on Ebay. Her shaving soap has been through a number of changes after consulting some of the lads on the shaving forums. I ordered a puck of the latest formulation today - will add a review here later!
If you want to know a little more, here's the website:

Nanny's Silly Soap Company

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nancy Boy Inc

Here's the story on their website:

After 15 years in high-profile jobs at multinational ad agencies, helping diverse clients like Levi’s, Clorox, L'Oreal and, yes, Cher develop and strategically market their cleaning products, lotions, potions and colognes, Eric was clear that hawking cheaply-sourced, low-grade goods to unsuspecting customers at upwards of $500 an ounce was skirting the boundaries of fair play, if not good taste. This crazy game—up to 90 cents of every dollar devoted to marketing and packaging versus 10 cents that actually goes into the bottle—is legal, but after a while, something about the bald-faced lying makes you feel like a bald-faced liar.
Eric convinced his partner Jack to leave his cushy job as a Vice-President at the Federal Reserve, a difficult decision because it was nice to be able to influence monetary policy whenever it was time to refinance the mortgage. With a renegade team of like-minded professionals, they set out to turn the beauty business' style-over-substance business model on its head. First rule: no advertising or gimmicky expensive packaging; rely instead on word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Second rule: take the unspent marketing money and plow it all back into the products. Third rule: be so confident in their superior quality, offer an ironclad satisfaction guarantee. To do it, they partnered with a family-owned laboratory in Berkeley, in business for over 60 years and the only pharmaceutical-grade lab specializing in the 100% natural essential plant oils that make Nancy Boy products so unique.
Seven years later, Nancy Boy's over-the-top success story is proof positive that the market is choosing truth over hype, quality over image, and personal, unbiased opinions over manufacturer-produced ads and spin. If you stop and think about it, you didn’t find us because of a magazine ad, direct mail piece, TV spot or online banner. Someone told you about us. And that’s the proof in the Nancy Boy pudding.
Eric, testing out the competition's products. He is smiling through his tears.

Jack made a fortune as an early '60's Gerber Baby but later squandered it on horses and fast women.

And here they are: Nancy Boy Inc

I have not tried their shaving cream yet. But they are raved about on the American Forums, so had to be here.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Mama Bear

I asked Sue (Mama Bear's Soaps) to tell me about the background to her business based in Florence, Wisconsin, USA. This is what she said:

I started making soaps about 5 years ago as a hobby.. but just about the time that I retired, I started selling soaps for the first time on ebay instead of just giving them all away to friends and family.. Then I got picked up along the way by the American Shaving Forums and started selling lots of soap.. I couldn't believe that I could actually sell something that I loved making so very much.. so when I moved to the Northwoods of the US here in Wisconsin (up by Canada) I looked for a house with a large basement.. found it, bought it and built not only a soap kitchen down there but also a brewery. Now I can go downstairs anytime I want to and 'play'.. trust me, it's not work to me, I love it!

About a year after I moved up here I found a small store in town that was really ugly, but cheap.. and I bought it and fixed it up and opened my store in town which is just as cute as can be and I love it!

I had decided when I retired I was going to learn all of the things that I wanted to learn about and never had the time.. learning to make things such as soap, things that weren't always available at the corner store. I was incredibly curious about botanicals, how they were grown and what the benefits of them were and I have to admit I have always been a fragrance junkie.. both natural and synthetic... and it all kind of came together as Mama Bear's Soaps. I feel like I am doing what I was meant to do for the first time.. and I have never been happier.. it brings me so much joy to make a natural item with my own hands and make people happy with those items.

I have a part timer who runs the store day to day for me.. come summertime it will be a fulltimer... we don't get many tourists this time of the year. And yes, I make all the soaps but that could change down the road if I can't keep up with it someday. I also make the colognes, shampoo and the aftershaves that I sell. There were actually 3 sales rooms in the store, so I added gifts also because of this being a tourist spot, but actually have discovered that many of the items are enjoyed locally which came as a surprise to me. I am enjoying finding my 'place' in this new community. I will never get rich off of it but at my age, that is the least of my worries.... I am just concerned with being happy these days and I get that from my products and the store and that is good enough for me.

Sue has a big following on the shaving forums and a reputation for outstanding products and service. I have her unscented shaving soap. It's very good indeed!

Take a look:  Mama Bear's Soaps

Lathering with soap

Now that I am using a straight razor, I really must improve my lathering technique. Here is a really useful series of photos describing a good way of making lather from soap which is on Mama Bear's website. More about that later. Here's the link:

Soap lathering

And here is another on the Straight Razor Place Forum

Soap lathering

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Taylor of Old Bond Street

"The TAYLOR Tradition has always been to manufacture products with as pure and natural ingredients as is practicable. We refuse to compromise quality under any circumstances. Our product range includes the luxurious and the unusual."

The third of the famous three Ts - not quite so extravagant with their claims.
I have the Mr Taylor cream.An excellent product and great value.
Find out more here

Geo. F. Trumper

"Geo F Trumper is recognised as the finest traditional gentlemen's barber in London and is known throughout the world for its matchless range of gentlemen's fragrances and grooming products."
A modest lot, our London barbers! I have their coconut shaving cream. Lovely to use. Another must visit London venue.
This is what they have to offer:

Truefitt and Hill

Truefitt and Hill are the self styled aristocrats of the barbering business. How about this little bit of understatement on their website:

"In years to come, Truefitt & Hill will be a household name - but only in the best households."

I have T & H rose shaving cream. I won't be without it. One of the best around.

I really must pay them a visit. In by best clothes. Of course. You can check them out here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

By wednesday!

How quickly things move on! I am now using my straight on most days. I am following a very simple regime. A down pass, then up pass with my straight with just a little more effort to extend my range according to time and my mood of the day. Then I finish with an ATG pass and tidy up with my DE razor. I'm getting really smooth shaves, very few nicks and a skin feeling afterwards so good I know I'll never go back to DE shaving alone. There will be days when lack of time means I'll leave the straight alone. But when ever possible the new regime will reign. I guess of all the lessons to be learned for any shave it is to take your time and relax. The need to hurry spells trouble! Better not to shave at all.

So to all wannabe straight razor candidates, if Fido can take to it, there's hope for everyone. As a cack -handed, impatient type who doesn't like to fiddle around with anything that might be troublesome I was always a doubtful straight shaver. I'm not in any hurry to complete a shave with a straight alone, so the DE will have a part to play for a while yet. But the day may come....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's Sunday

I'm settling down with my straight razor. But I wonder if I really want to give up including the use of a DE razor to tidy up. My upper lip and chin area are really a no go for my straight. I have trouble avoiding skin imperfections such as awkward moles with my DE. And some against the grain areas are virtually impossible to tackle with the straight. So I am making two passes with the straight and a relaxing final session with my DE. A fabulous feeling afterwards, nice and smooth. The best of all worlds? Or am I just a wimp? Am I bothered?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Straight Razor Guide

This is worth a look

The Art of the Straight Razor Shave

A lot of useful information

Men's Grooming Advice

I have mentioned several times the value of the shaving forums. Here is another comprehensive source of advice and tips about men's grooming, including shaving, put together by Seth on his website. It really is useful stuff.

Advice and tips

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Grooming Health

I had an approach from Seth at Grooming Health to provide a link to his website.
I really don't want my blog covered in adverts even if there was interest. But I am quite happy to respond to this specific request. Seth started his online business in 2005. He charges a flat rate of 99p for UK deliveries and supplies a wide range of grooming products. His web site includes a lot of helpful advice about male grooming.Worth a look.

Grooming Health - see it here or on my links section.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shaving Forums

Shaving Forums are a rich source of information, advice and fun. These are ones I have had a good look at:

The Shaving Room  -  a small group of mainly UK members. (172)

Badger and Blade                                                             (18723)

The Shave Den                                                                 (2822)

Shave my Face                                                                 (6143)

Straight Razor Place                                                         (15843)

Shaveready                                                                        (133)

And two people have submitted over 20,000 posts.

This is a lot of action!

It's wow day!

Fido's special day:

Rinse/face wash with MWF soap.
Hot towel
Lather with Yardley's shaving soap/ Simpsons Duke 3
Hot towel.
Castle Forbes pre shave.

Re-lather, up and down passes with straight razor.
Final pass across, chin and tricky bits with Jagger DE/red personna

DR Harris milk moisturiser

End result - best of all worlds. Beginning to believe that it is only possible to have my skin like this with a straight. Other factors will have contributed like the MFW/Castle Forbes/Yardley combo. This was the ultimate birthday/christmas day treat. Martin de Cadre (still in the box until Christmas) is going to have to work hard to better this.

Glad I'm retired though. This takes time. And I have plenty of that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yardley Shaving Soap

This explains how I got this soap.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Settling down

I have slipped into a new routine. A down pass and up pass avoiding chin and upper lip with the straight. Then across and the bits missed using a DE razor. It's working well. Lovely smooth shaves. I'll stick with this for now and see how it goes. Straight shaving has a number of downsides:

Time and skills needed for stropping and honing.

Time needed to attain skill in using the razor - much more difficult than DE shaving.

Glide of the razor less comfortable than DE.

The shaving ritual of wiping lather on to towel during shaving is more messy than rinsing a DE in the bowl.

And at this stage it seems very difficult to shave against the grain on my neck. That will be a big challenge to master and I'm not trying yet.

On the plus side, my first impression is that the closeness of the shave leads to a softness of the skin which I was not getting with DE shaving. For me, this is what it is all about.

I'm not interested in stropping and honing. Not interested in the nostalgia of straight shaving. I just want the best shave possible and the feeling that goes with it. So it will boil down to one thing. Does the improvement in the end result justify the effort involved?

I intend to become as proficient as I can at all aspects of straight shaving over the next few months. And perhaps I will come to enjoy the new ritual. Then I will decide if I want to keep it up.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things are looking up!

Things are looking up.

Ruth went out for the evening. Time to play. Had already shaved early morning but so what?
Gave myself a serious talking to. What was my first round of golf like? Total disaster. Should have packed up there and then. Soldiered on, had lots of practice, then years of delight - on and off. The point is - all things involving a degree of skill take time to learn. It's often best to find out how good you can become at something. When you do, that's the time to decide on keeping it up or not.

So off to the stash, tools selected then strop and action. Gradually things seemed to look up. The blade started to feel a bit more comfortable and I got a bit bolder and managed two passes. Kept clear of the tricky bits. It was a relief to tidy up with my Jagger DE, but I did quite a bit with the straight without nicks.

Had the day off today - off out to friends. So it was a nice easy Jagger session.

More time at the weekend. It will be back to the straight. But I do still wonder. If choosing between a two wheeled bike and a penny farthing, why would I choose the latter?

To be continued.........

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Straight progress

Well I have all the gear. But will I enjoy the experience of using it? It's a case of so far, not so good. I guess my problems are these:

I'm really not interested in taking responsibility for maintaining a razor in perfect shave ready condition. This involves becoming proficient in stropping and when necessary the use of pastes to prolong the period before honing is required. Then honing - many do it themselves and get great satisfaction from doing it. That doesn't interest me either, so I would send it out for honing.

Then there's the shaving. So far, I have been too tentative. I feel I have a lethal weapon in my hand so I have become so cautious its impairing my shaving progress. The odd skin imperfection is just waiting to be nicked and I'm trying to avoid it. So its slow, slow, slow. Even when I manage a correct movement of the razor across my skin it feels nothing like as comfortable as the glide of a DE razor. So I'm struggling with my early efforts.

I started this post on a forum:

The Straight Razor Place

Experienced straight shavers have offered encouragement and advice. All confirm that it takes time to become skilled in straight shaving, but it is said to be well worth the effort.
I am sure it was - for them.

But will that be right for me? It was so much easier to master DE shaving again. But straights are different. It will be several weeks of trial and error before I can start to enjoy the promised land. So will I continue the journey?

Well, I have decided to pause now until I receive my video produced by Lynn, the founder of the Straight Razor Place. Then I will follow his advice and see how it goes. I am not the sort to give up something too quickly. Everything new requires study and sometimes practice.

Time will tell.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Razor Blades Reviews

This is an extraordinary thread. If you are doing some research on razor blades look at this:

Blade Reviews

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Neil Miller - has another satisfied customer

I'm delighted the way my approach to straight shaving is working out. I now have:

A cheap Ebay razor and strop - just to get used to handling a straight, grips etc. and practising stropping without concern about damaging anything. And I am so glad I did, having made a complete mess with my early grip of the razor and stropping pressure. After a couple of days, things are improving.

A very fine razor and strop. The photos don't do them justice. Neil gave me this information about the razor - it adds to the feeling of connecting with the past by going back to traditional things:

"The razor is one made for Maurice Viane who had a gentleman's shop in Knightsbridge at the time of the Great War and probably up to or shortly before WW2.  His son Edgar was killed in action in Poland in 1917.  The steel came from a company called Edgar Allen & Co., who owned the Imperial Steel Works in Tinsley, Sheffield, so it is a carbon steel, Sheffield forged razor.  The Imperial works were opened in the late 1800s and the furnaces installed in 1912 were still in operation when the site closed in 1988.

I would put the age of this razor between 1930 and 1950.  It has a round point - safest to learn with - and is slightly less than full hollow ground, giving it quite a firm blade which is not as hard to get used to as the really wafer-thin hollow ground razors.  I had three of these razors and this is the best of the bunch - it is elegant but understated, it's appeal lies mainly in the steel used and the fineness of the cutting edge.  This particular example has taken a very keen edge indeed!"

The strop - latigo leather/heavyweight cotton double hanging. Together with pastes and advice about maintaining the strop in good condition.

And finally, I have sent two good quality vintage razors for Neil to restore about which I will post later.

It has been a real pleasure to deal with Neil. It is reassuring to have someone who makes or restores the things you use regularly who is there for consultation when you need them. I can happily recommend him to anyone who wants to take up the challenge of straight shaving.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dawn of a new era.

My straight razor and strop is due to arrive tomorrow. I got in touch with Neil Miller, took his advice, and I'm getting ready for the start of a new era in my shaving. I'm not rushing into action. I've picked up a cheap razor and strop on Ebay which I will use for strop practice before I use my new tools.
I'm studying lots of information about straight shaving on the forums. There are some really kind and helpful people out there, willing to give freely their advice and assistance. Another example of how the internet is changing people's lives. It so speeds up your ability to acquire new skills.