Blade Marathon Secrets
I've been asked quite a bit what I do to get so many uses out of a blade. I'm going to keep this page as my master list of info covering this question.
My Blade Marathon/Hypermiling Credentials
I have taken one blade to 337 uses, as of today (Nov 1, 2020), and another, a Feather, is old: in his 60s. Several others are in their 30s. The Feather's high numbers are especially noteworthy because many claim Feathers dull more quickly than other blades.
I've been using my Nacet since 2018, just before August. So it has definitely not been used consecutively.
So while I may have some of the highest usage numbers you've seen, it's just been with mainly one blade so far. A marathon takes a long time to run, as it turns out.
But, I'll share with you my experience, best guesses, and theories, and we'll see if that is any help.
So, how do I do it? Well, the first two, I believe, are the most important...
- I focus on very wet lathers. I find out how much water I can push into them just before they lose their creaminess. That's where I like to sit. I think the high lubrication/wetness helps to wear less on the blade.
- I focus on very light pressure. I hold the razor in a central location, very lightly, without spreading my fingers wide along the handle. I don't need that leverage. I want to have as free a floating head as possible. When the razor comes to a bump in my skin, I want the head to glide over it, rather than plow through it, or put down any additional pressure. If that freedom in movement causes me to miss a patch of stubble, I'm fine with that because I'll either come back with a touch-up or catch it in the next pass.
- If I'm having trouble in an area, I do not press harder. I just put some more lather on and try again, just as lightly, perhaps from a different direction.
- I don't always, but I usually dry the blade between uses. In some parts of the internet shaving world, there are shavers who cite this as very important. I don't know yet, for sure, but it's just what I'm doing anyway. I figure the prevention of micro-rust on the tiny edges is worth this. I dry it not by wiping, but by laying it flat on a washcloth and then patting it gently, and then flipping it over to repeat. Note that in the first 31 uses of my Nacet's long life, I did not dry the blade at all. So it may only come into play when you want to get more than 50 uses out of a blade or so, and may not matter if you're just trying to get from 3 uses to 15.
- I tolerate minor tugging. As long as it's not uncomfortable.
- And sometimes I may even tolerate strong tugging... for a shave or two, to see if the blade will bounce back. Usually it does, and I am able to keep going with reasonably comfortable shaves after that.
When a blade has given me a few tuggy first passes, I will start to try it in other razors, usually ones that are a little more aggressive than the one I was just using. Or ones with a very different geometry, like more curve, etc.
I have a few razors (e.g. Timeless .68 OC and CG Lvl 2), and adjustable plates (e.g. Karve E SB and higher), that are too aggressive for me to use with younger blades during daily shaving. I have found that, at various points in using a blade in the higher numbers, I'm able to bring those razors back into my shaving routine and enjoy daily shaves. I assume it is because the edge has smoothed out.
- I make it a priority to avoid touching the blade edges. I am assuming they are so fragile, even in the beginning, that a light touch could affect their performance. But, I could be wrong.
Theories and/or Things I cannot confirm are having any effect:
- I am almost always using razors that clamp down on the blade close to the edge, even from the bottom. I am thinking that less vibration will mean less wear on the blade edge.
- I take time, during the first pass, to work the lather well into the skin. If I don't do this, it feels like -- and it's just a feeling, mind you -- the lather sits on top of the skin instead of lubricating and protecting.
- I use cool or lukewarm water. I wonder if this helps to keep my skin from puffing up, due to warm water inflammation (no matter how slight). Less skin puffiness, may mean smoother contact with the blade and less wear.
- I don't shave against-the-grain. Even when not marathoning a blade, I don't. It gives me cuts and irritation.
- After most shaves, I place the blade on a washcloth and gently tap it with another section of the washcloth to remove standing water on both sides. There has been some research out there that may indicate that is is very important. The idea is that we want to prevent corrosion due to rust on the microscopic blade edge.
- I almost always use a balanced blade angle, where there is usually just as much pressure on the top cap as there is on the safety bar.
What I don't do:
- I don't wipe the blade, to clean it, or for any other reason.
- I don't strop the blade, like on my palm, or jeans, or anything. Of course, this also means I don't sharpen the blade either.
- for the first 240 uses or so, I did not dip the blade in alcohol or any other similar treatment. I will probably start doing that, however, just to stop any bacteria from causing problems.
- Some claim that proper prep is key. They usually mean a pre-shave, or a face wash, or a shower, or maybe all of them. I generally do none of those things before a shave. Just a splash of cool water before I work up my lather in my bowl, and then another splash of cool water before I actually work the lather into my face. I'm not saying that good prep is always unneeded. Prep may be critical for some people, but it doesn't seem to be for me.
- I have naturally oily skin. This could provide a degree of natural slickness or protection. However, the first pass usually does a fine job of lifting that oil up off the skin and cleaning it.
- I wear a goatee. This does reduce my facial area somewhat, but I have an exceptionally large head, which may equal things back out. For instance, I generally can't wear most hats you find in stores, even the adjustable or one-size-fits-all varieties.
- Do you just do a one or two pass shave, to cut down on the blade wear?
- Nope. In fact, for most of the blade's life, I do a 3.5 or 4 pass shave.
- Do you have a sparse beard, or very thin hair?
- After seeing many men's beards, I think my density is average. It might be a tick sparser than average: like maybe a 4 instead of a 5 on a scale of 10. But the coarseness of my hairs seems to be average or even a little more wiry than average.