Weekend Minimalism: Straight Edge Razors

Note: This was written by Rob, and is re-posted from April 2011.

It’s Friday, aces!

Today I have another bit of old tech for you! One of the things I love about old technology is that it can force you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Straight razors do just that. It will take a mundane daily ritual and make it fun, or at least interesting. If nothing else the sight of yourself in the mirror holding a piece of raw steel to your neck will erase any doubts about your manliness.

Sweeny Todd?
Sweeny Todd?

The biggest advantage of straight razor shaving, is that you can use the same blade indefinitely. This means less waste. It also means you will always shave with a good blade.

If you’ve shaved with a disposable or cartridge razor, this skill will come pretty easy for you. As you can imagine, it is easier to cut yourself with one of these, and most likely you will suffer the occasional nick, but this has been the extent of my injuries. Really, you won’t end up in the emergency room if you use common sense. Once you get the hang of it, shaving becomes something to look forward to, rather than a mundane face scraping.

The razors:

Pictured above from left to right are an Obeera (Solingen, Germany), Keen Kutter (USA), and a Bengal (USA). These are all vintage blades, and all shave just a little different. New razors run from $3 to about $200. As you can imagine, the $3 razor is something that you would not wish on your worst enemy, and the $200 razor is perfect for a shaving fanatic. This is where vintage blades come in.The fact is, great razors were made right here in the U.S. for a long time, and from very good steel at that. Typically, you can find these for $20 or less (my Keen Kutter was $3.50). Then you send them off to get honed for about $15-$25. A great deal of razors were also produced in Solingen Germany. These also tend to be extremely good blades. If you must have new, then Dovo, Thiers-Issard and Boker still produce amazing products, just make sure that when you order it, it’s “Shave Ready” or you will need to send it off to get honed. Typically a razor will need honing about twice a year. You can send it out, or learn this skill yourself.

Shaving needs:

Also pictured are a Strop, Shaving Brush, and Shaving Soap.

The strop is an icon: the sound of steel hitting leather promising a sharp edge. The strop is there to “dress” the blade for use, it will remove corrosion and microscopic burrs from the cutting edge, rather than letting your face do that job. It takes a little time to get the hang of but before long you can strop 30 laps in a few seconds. This one is from Rupprazor.com.

The Shaving Brush and Soap are pretty self explanatory. You wet the brush and use it to make a lather from the soap. The deal here, is that in my opinion, commercial shaving cream is way too thick. With this setup, you will soon develop just the right lather film for your skin.

Eventually you will want a hone, so that you can maintain your own blade, but first get one honed professionally, so you get an idea of how a good blade behaves.

Final Thoughts:

If you are busy, and can’t set aside 15 minutes for a proper shave, then this is not for you. If you do a rush job, you’ll finish it up with band-aids. If you don’t mind taking the extra time, then why not give it a try? Consider that you are replacing countless landfill-bound cheap plastic razors with a fine piece of craftsmanship. And if you buy vintage, then you are paying a skilled craftsman to hone it. This is putting your money right back into the American economy, rather than a landfill.

Zero Waste Wednesday: Looking at the Top Offenders

Well, folks, today I’m going to dig through my garbage.

We’re still filling about a bag a week, and I’m wondering what’s going into it. And there’s only one way to find out. So here goes!

–Food take-out box

–Junk mail

–Boxes for mailing Priority Mail (from when I tried to have an e-Bay store)

–Foam coffee cup


–Plastic wrap from a package of toilet paper

–Broken wings from a model airplane

–Styrofoam packaging material

–Newspaper from packaging

–Old shoes

–Wine Box

–Mac and Cheese Boxes

–Puzzle with a piece missing

Well, the good news is that most of this is from “purging” clutter from out house. I will continue to “purge,” but I will take measures not to accumulate so much more clutter. So I can cross off: mailing boxes, broken airplane wings, and the puzzle.

How can I keep the rest of this from ending up in the trash?

Take Out Box: The logical solution would seem to be bringing reusable containers when eating out. Perhaps laptop lunch boxes or plastic TV dinner trays.

Junk Mail: It’s hard to get rid of. I am trying the form on this site, and I will let you know if it works. Here is a site that offers more tips in preventing and reducing junk mail. The majority of my junk mail are credit card offers, so I used the link to opt out of these.

Coffee Cup: Yes, we have our own mugs. But perhaps we need to get travel mugs to keep in the car, just in case.

Diaper: We quit using cloth diapers when the Bean outgrew her last batch, because we thought we would be potty training soon. The Bean has struggled with this, but at this point, cloth diapers would not be worth the time and money. We just need to continue potty training.

Plastic from Toilet Paper: I can’t see any way (that I am willing to use right now) that would eliminate this completely. We can reduce it by buying larger packages of TP.

Styrofoam Packaging: I haven’t wanted to focus on recycling, because we used to rely on that solely as our waste-reduction method. Materials piled up faster than we could eliminate them, and took over our house! However, recycling may be the best method for this. If you do not have a drop-off location nearby, you can mail it in inexpensively. Here is more information.

Newspaper from Packaging: Again, this might be one time when recycling is the only answer. However, if you are going camping, or it you are planning on having a bonfire anyway, it would make a good firestarter.

Old Shoes: Athletic Shoes can be dropped off at Nike and Converse stores, where they are recycled. As far as other shoes, I think the key is to buy shoes that hold up and are repairable.

Wine Box: Boxes do create a lot less waste than bottles. So, break it down and recycle.

Mac and Cheese Boxes: We need to stop buying pre-packaged foods, when the same foods are available in bulk. With a reusable bag, we could buy the same amount, for close to the same price, without any waste.

So those are some of our goals! We’ll take a look at our trash bag next Wednesday and see if there has been any improvement!

Off the Grid Tuesday: A Lot of Work

When I mention our goal of getting off the grid, or at least reducing our dependence on it, people usually have the same reaction: Do I know how much work that will be?

We decided to start driving a grease-powered car. We had to talk to the restaurant owners, pick up the oil, run it through our filtering system (that we made ourselves), and pump it into the car. While we were setting this up, Rob read that when you handle your fuel this much, you will naturally want to conserve it. This was true. We weren’t paying much at the pump, but we were more aware than ever of the energy required to run our car.

When we take the time to make our own food–bone broths, bread, tortillas–we take the time to enjoy it. We use leftovers creatively, so that we don’t waste them.

Most homes are units of consumption. People are now called “consumers.” All we are expected to do is consume, to use. Once, homes were places where things were created as well. There is a freedom in producing within your home. When you fill that car and take a free road trip, when you bite into that warm and tangy loaf of sourdough, or when you velcro on that homemade cloth diaper. Yes, this all takes work. We spend much more time producing things for our home, than most people do. However, we find this to be much more gratifying than watching a television show.

It is empowering to get your hands dirty, and to make something. It is extremely pleasing to eat a soup that has simmered for longer than a day. This is how we choose to spend our time.

Off the Grid Tuesday: No, You Don’t NEED Air Conditioning

I forgot that we “pulled” this plug, because it was never really plugged in!

Rob and I both grew up without much in the AC department (even though our parents both got central air after we moved out!). I had a pool, and he had a river. So it was all good.

We have owned AC machines at both of our houses, but we haven’t used them much. The sound of those kilowatts running all day is a bit disturbing, especially in a poorly-insulated house. And we’ve not huge fans of staying inside on sunny days. So we pulled the plug.

Now, I used to be a big wimp about summer, until I worked at a day camp for 5 years. We were outside. All day. With little-to-no shade. And I didn’t die. Nobody went to the hospital. In fact, we had a great time.

So, here’s how we do it:

1. Stay hydrated. There was a water fountain going all day at the camp. You’ve got to drink hydrating beverages. That means no excessive caffeine, and not a ton of alcohol. Water, iced green tea, etc. are great. We pretty much have a glass with us all day. For long boating trips, I make a gallon and a half of iced tea. And then, on hot days, we drink water after that.

2. Get your hair off your neck. This is the second biggest one for me. Rob has short hair, and Beanie’s hair is pretty short and thin still. But if you have long hair–and especially really thick, long hair like me–you have to tie it up. I feel a hundred times better once it’s off my neck.

3. Dress for the weather. Yeah, you don’t want to run around naked. But, it is all right to wear a tasteful tank top and shorts, or a sun dress. And forget socks; they add a LOT of heat! I go barefoot, unless we’re entering a business (not one in a marina–they don’t care whether I wear shoes or not!). Then it’s sandals.

4. Turn off the lights, pull the shades–but open the windows. This keeps our house pretty comfortable. Just beware of the second story, if you have a two-story house like we do. It might be a good night to camp out in the living room!

5. Use that basement! It’s magic, if you have one. Instant central air. Set up a little game area. When I was a kid, we all slept downstairs, on the floor, in the summer!

6. Get some box fans. Family Dollar sells them. They’re great. And cheaper than AC, by far! In our boat, we put one in the front hatch, and we’re good. At home, we put one in a window on the main floor and in our bedroom window. They help a LOT!

7. If all else fails, get wet! At day camp, we would just start spraying each other with the hose, or have a water balloon fight. At home, we get out the sprinkler, kiddie pool, or make a trip to the public beach. On the boat, well, there’s water everywhere! If you have nothing else, jump into the shower, but keep it cool. I did this with Beanie a few times, when she was a baby. Get your hair good and wet, and you’ll be fine for a few hours.

So, enjoy the summer, stay cool, and don’t use any extra energy in the process!

MOONRAKER UPDATE: The insurance adjuster is supposed to be coming today, and it’s scheduled (once again!) to be pulled. We’ll know later in the day or tomorrow.

Zero Waste Wednesday: Why We’re Doing It

I thought cutting down on waste could wait. Then I spend last week in our boat.

Garbage is a problem in a small space. We’ve moved it twice, but it keeps growing. Marinas have dumpsters, but they are a walk. When we anchor out, we will not have trash facilities.

So, I will be learning about reducing waste. And I will share my education with you.

Here are the things we’ve learned so far:

–Paper towels and napkins are evil. They will fill the trash like nothing else. We brought our washcloths from home (you can buy a pack at the dollar store!). We just throw them in the laundry.

–Potty training is nice. We’re doing it on a boat. Good luck, us.

–Forget individually packaged snacks. At least get something all in one box. Or, better yet, fruit or veggies!

–When you’re on a boat, pop cans are waste too. Iced tea is a much better choice.

–If you drink, get a box of wine. Less waste, and it will stay fresh.

As we continue down this journey, I will keep you up to date!

Off the Grid Tuesday: OTG Laundry!

Well, yesterday I finally unplugged the refrigerators, then ran out to the kilowatt wheel to check my progress. Rob informed me that I’m a dork. But doesn’t everybody wish they had a power meter inside their house?

So, today’s off-the-grid goodness…

One day, while we were exploring the Habitat for Humanity ReStore (which I strongly recommend, by the way!), Rob and I found this:

It’s a combination washer/dryer, that fits on our counter! It will not do large loads, so we will need to do laundry frequently. If we use it on our boat, we will need to make sure we get detergent that does not produce suds. Homemade detergent is great for this. I always keep mine powdered though. It takes up less space that way.

So, if we feel like being on the grid, when we’re somewhere with shore power, we can use this to wash and dry our clothes. No more bothering with the laundromat! When we’re anchored out, the washer is able to run off of our 12-volt battery, through an inverter. We will have to line dry afterward. Luckily, Moonraker has plenty of lines!

Off the Grid Tuesday: What’s Next

The fridge is the bane of my existence.

Last August when we headed to the boat, we turned off the furnace and the stove. We shut off the water, so that the pump and water heater were not running. We turned off every light.

What was our electric bill? $70.

We have two refrigerators. They both ran, empty. And that’s what they cost us. When we return to the boat on Friday, I’m unplugging them.

There is a growing movement, online, of people living without any refrigeration. For more information, look at this website. We have tried living this way, and discovered some of its merits. For example:

–We ate fresher foods.

–We were forced to plan our meals better.

–We ate less meat.

However, we decided that level of voluntary simplicity was not for us, for these reasons:

–We spend much less money if we shop for 2 weeks of groceries at a time.

–We do like to eat meat, and the frequent trips to the grocery store were leading us to spend more.

–When we cook meat, we plan on leftovers and bone broth; both require refrigeration.

–We like to home brew, and the bottles do need to be refrigerated to stop the fermentation.

So, we started looking at smaller, more efficient fridges. Happily, one would pay for itself in a couple of months!

And then we saw something better.

It was hideous. It was $50. It didn’t use any electricity.

So why is this a practical idea? Am I going to buy ice in the summer? Of course not! We spend most of our summer on the boat. Right now, the fridge on the boat is broken, but it will be fixed. Or replaced with a small, travel unit. When we anchor out, we will fill it with ice (or not eat meat that day!). Not exactly off-the-grid, but not $70 a month either.

Then, in the “off” season, we will only have a couple of months before winter. We will use our travel unit from the boat then. And after it freezes–we simply leave totes full of water outside and get free ice blocks!

It’s worth a try. I’m unplugging the fridge. And if that ice box is there when I get back from the boat, I just might buy it.

Off-the-Grid Tuesday


Every Tuesday, I will be sharing some ideas for living a lifestyle that relies less on natural gas, electricity, gasoline, etc. We would like to eventually live completely off the grid, due to both our desire to be green and our desire to save money. For the time being, however, we are trying to eliminate one electrical appliance a month.

So far:

–Rob had a treadle sewing machine. He loves the speed control, which is significantly better than an electric machine. It is also able to sew through thicker fabrics, which will help when he makes Ili some cloth pull-ups, when the time comes.

–We don’t keep any “vampires” (appliances that are always drawing electricity) plugged in.

–Our stove/oven does not use any electricity.

–We line dry when it’s warm outside, but we are not yet living in the marina.

–We replaced our stereo with an crank Victrola. This might just be more fun than economical though!

–We only use laptop computers, which use much less electricity.

–We have a Saturn SL, which gets great fuel economy. We experimented with Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO), with some success. Right now that car is sitting, unused. More about that at a later date.

So that is what we are doing now! We would love to heat, at least partially, with wood, and to heat water with wood. We have also considered solar panels–if not on our house, then definitely one for the boat (which only uses 12 volt)! Our refrigerator uses $70 in electricity per month, so we would like to upgrade to something smaller and more efficient (or an ice box!).

What are you doing to use less energy?