second stage is after the first shave or
two (possibly 3, but not likely), when that
marvellous initial edge has been dulled
just a bit. It's still very sharp, but it's
not quite as easy to cut yourself now, as
the blade has been 'worked in', so to speak.
This is my favorite stage.
The third stage comes when
the blade is beginning to get dull, and
the shaving gets harder. During this stage,
you'll often find yourself pressing harder
on the handle to get the same close shave
you were getting at stage 2 without difficulty.
This is another dangerous stage; using extra
force on the handle increases the level
of irritation, and increases the chance
of nicks and cuts. When you realize you're
in this stage, it's time to change blades.
How long each stage lasts
depends on a number of conditions, which
include (but are not limited to): the quality
of the steel, the initial sharpness of the
blade, the hardness of your hair.
For me, using typical Mach
3 blades, I tend to get 2 shaves at stage
1, maybe 10 shaves at stage 2 (at the outside).
Then it's time to change blades. Your results
may vary, so don't use my results thinking
that they're any kind of benchmark.
How do you increase the life
of your blade? There's a limited number
of things you can do, but they will make
a difference. Most importantly, soften your
hair before you shave. That is best accomplished
by wetting your hair well, and rubbing in
a good shaving cream and letting it sit
for a minute before you start. The water
and shaving cream will soften the hair and
make it easier to cut, which will extend
the life of your blade.
There's a company called GreatRazors.com
that cryogenically tempers razor blades,
and claims that this can make a typical
blade last 3 times longer than a non-cryo'd
blade. I've been using a cryo'd Mach 3 for
the past 5 weeks, and it's still going strong,
so it seems to live up to its hype. Check
out HeadShaver.org's personal favorites.