Ok, the Rockwell/Astra combo is rocking my shaving world, producing a shockingly close shave with only a little bloodletting, so the inquiring mind has asked, "Is it the blade, the razor, or both?"
Since the science isn't settled, I tossed the old Astra and loaded a Rockwell Swedish Steel blade into the razor, whipped up some high quality lather, and pulled the trigger on a classic two pass Saturday morning shave.
The soap is Barrister and Mann's First Snow, a seasonal soap that produces a huge, slick lather perfect for this test. Soap quality variable scientifically controlled.
The brush is a high quality two band badger, perfect for lathering and application to my leathery face. Brush variable scientifically controlled.
The variable here is the blade. The technique is the same: two careful passes, followed by any needed touchup with the remaining lather. The razor is the same. The lather is of the same quality. It's the edge that's different.
And in the end, it is in fact the edge that is where the action happens. Where energy, matter, physics, and technique come together to achieve a result consciously desired by a higher intelligence - me!
So, the result.
The shave is completed, the face has dried and recovered from the contest between woody whiskers, leathery hide, and a glittering edge wielded by a focused and determined wet shaver.
Cheeks: super smooth. A dolphin would be jealous.
Jawline: Good, but I can feel a subtle roughness when brushing my hand against the grain in one spot.
Underchin: A tough spot, but the result is great. There's one small area that still has a roughness, but that's probably caused by a touchup miss.
Jowls: The rubbery part. Good result, but a little bloodier than I like to tolerate. Again, I can feel some post shave roughness when going against the grain here and there. A third pass would normally be called for to address this, but since the cut is already too close, maybe a change in technique would solve the problem. I wouldn't want to ooze anymore blood out of this area than I'm already oozing, and a third pass would only make the shave a reddish mess.
Errata: Somehow, I nicked the back of my left hand during this process. I'm right handed, so somehow in all the swiping and gesturing I cut a quarter inch line just below the knuckle line with a safely razor. How that could even happen is a mystery. Maybe I should fire up the GoPro and film the next shave to figure out the answer.
Errata Errata: This Noble Otter Lone Star aftershave is great. I can't describe it correctly, but it's the polar opposite of the normal fruity/citrus juice I normally prefer. Leather from an old sweaty saddle would be the best description.
Conclusion: A high quality shave, but not quite the match to the Astra blade. However, this difference could be caused by a slight difference in technique, or even attitude and/or patience level during the shave. The fact that I managed to nick the back of my hand makes me suspicious I didn't take my time like I should have. I'll need to do five or ten more shaves to better determine the truth.
Repeatability. Classic science.