Gentlemen, I recently had the pleasure of doing an interview with Ed (Weber Razor).
I often found myself wanting to know a little more about Ed and his stainless artwork, so
I figured why not ask for an interview to share with the wetshaving world.
He happily agreed, so without further adieu...
Ed, thank you for taking the time to discuss Weber razor and share a little
about yourself with us. There is a cult following of wetshavers who absolutely
love your razors and handles, myself included. The latest batch of DLC was
like the release of a new iphone, I typed as fast as I could to get my
order in before they sold out again. I am sure amazon's server was on the
verge of crashing once your tweet was put out there!! On a serious note,
as wetshavers we can't help but let our curiosity get the best of us,
so we would like to know more about the man behind the curtain, and the
wonderful shaving tools you elegantly craft for us...
Please, tell us a little bit about yourself Ed, what got you into
traditional wet shaving?
I started wet shaving around 30 years ago with a hand me down Gillette TTO
adjustable slim razor. Back in the early 80's blades seemed harder to
come by and I would bounce back and forth between DE and an old Schick
injector model. That was before the Interweb changed the world and now
there are so many options in blades and razors, it really adds to the fun
of the hobby.
Are you a machinist by day or is the Weber company more of a hobby for you?
Our razor business is still a part-time operation. We came out with a
machined open comb razor back in 2010. It had a 'W' on the top of the cap
and you either loved it or hated it (most people leaned toward the
latter). We started offering the closed comb version in 2011 and we have
far outpaced the sales projections that we had.
What prompted you to start the Weber razor company?
Back in 2010, there seemed to be only be a few larger companies, mostly in
Germany and England, that were producing razors. We thought it would be
interesting to produce an all stainless steel razor here in the US and
price it competitively with the chromed models. Since I was interested in
wet shaving, it seemed like a good choice for a small business.
Your razors stand out from the modern stainless crowd due to the
techniques used to manufacture them, the three handle variations you
offer, and most notably, your coatings. This brings up my next question,
why DLC and ARC? Prior to you coating your razors, these were terms we
never uttered on the shaving forums. What prompted your offering of razors
with these fantastic and very interesting coatings?
We were familiar with DLC coatings on higher end watches and that it was
used in the medical industry. It's hardness and lubricity seemed like a
good fit for use on our razors and we like the color contrast of the
handle with the black head. We started out with the classic style handle
and soon received lots of requests for the bulldog style and a color
matched head. We started producing the ARC heads but now have settled on
the un-coated polished version. Recently we introduced the Wave style
handle and we are definitely pleased with the response.
What is your personal favorite Weber razor?
I used to like a longer style handle (like the Slim) but in the past year
have really started to prefer the shorter, fatter bulldog. My current
razor is the polished head with bulldog handle.
What does the future hold for Weber razor in your eyes? What can we expect
to see a year or two down the road, any special plans for other coatings
or razor designs?
We plan on sticking with the closed comb all stainless razor for the
foreseeable future. The feedback on the color matching polished heads has
been very favorable, so we will be focusing on that as our primary
offering. We plan on continuing to offer the 3 handle styles (classic,
bulldog and wave).
Is there anything else you would like to add?
We'd like to thank everyone for the support this past year and we are
looking forward to a strong 2013. A few years ago when we started selling
our razors, there was a noticeable void of US producers. Now we are
seeing something akin to the micro brewing industry with new US producers
like Tradere and Above the Tie entering the market and offering the wet
shaving community more options, which is a good thing.
Well, I guess that's a wrap! In closing, let me say that I intend to fully
support any and all future endeavors Weber razor might offer. On behalf of
the entire wetshaving community, thank you Ed! Here's to a long and
wonderful future for the Weber Razor company!
For those who do not know Bob Quinn (Eskimo at TSN) or his site Elite Razors, he is one of our Artisan Vendors. I recently had Bob turn some custom handles for my short handled Merkurs and we got to talking and I found Bob an amazing fount of information. The handles can be seen in a thread in the DE razors section, but suffice to say they turned out better than I could have hoped for. Below is the interview that stemmed from our talking.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, could you please tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Southern California (Coronado) and promptly began traveling the world as a military child. I’ve been in the Atlanta area since 1989 with my wife and 5 children.
How did you get into the custom making of razor handles and brushes? How long have you been doing this? Do you have a second job to pay for this hobby?
I’ve been woodworking for about 45 years, initially focusing on big pieces. 10 years ago, when my twin boys came along, I realized that I could no longer take on projects that were measured in months and took up the whole garage. I built a workshop and began woodturning and have never looked back. Initially, I made custom pens, but then got into other projects, one of which was shaving brushes.
The custom razors came about by accident. I sold a brush to a gentleman who contacted me requesting a matching razor. I had never done one, but how could I say no? After a few false starts, I built my first custom Merkur 34C and the rest is history.
The other side of my life is as a Senior Business Analyst for a financial software company focusing on stock and bond processing, which has certainly helped to subsidize my exotic sawdust addiction.
You have stone, woods, resins and now wildlife skins. What is your favorite material to work with?
The last one I used…..
They are all different. The stone has a beautiful look and feel. The woods are always a pleasure and the results have a wonderful feel to them. Resins allow you to go so many places with color and the skins are just something different.
When you start with the raw material, can you “see” what lies beneath or is every piece a surprise?
Pretty much each piece reveals something different as the layers are turned away, particularly the woods. Some of my best pieces came from block of wood that didn’t look like anything special when I mounted it on my lathe. Shaving brush handles especially show off the material because they display so many different planes as the handle flows in and out, plus the base will show off the end grain. The same holds true for acrylics and stone as the patterns on these materials also shift as the piece is turned.
I noticed with the pieces you did for me that although all were done in Blue Dyed Box Elder Burl, no two pieces look the same. Totally different wood patterns, even different levels of dye (deepness of color). Is every piece unique?
Each piece of wood and stone are different from one another. Even the acrylics can appear dramatically different from one section of the same casting to another. I turn each piece by eye, individually. I use calipers to gauge size, but do not use any duplicating equipment, so each piece is truly one of a kind.
With the wood work you mentioned lathe turning. What is your process with the Stone and Resin handles? Do they come to you ready to attach or do you have to work with them as well?
Both the stone and resin come to me in square block or blanks that need to be drilled, mounted on the lathe, turned to shape, sanded from 150 to 12,000 grit and then buffed.
I have a couple other wood handled razors and I fear the wood decaying / aging over time. You guaranteed me this would not be an issue with your process. I also notice even when both the handle and my hands are wet, the handle is still tacky to the touch and there is no fear of slippage. Can you tell us about the process used?
I spent quite a bit of time researching and testing different finishing techniques and products when I began building these pieces. The environmental stresses are fairly profound for shaving equipment. Changing temperature and moisture are tough on most materials, but particularly on wood.
I quickly found that finishes that sit on top of the wood, such as CyanoAcrylate (CA) or Polyurethane can be breached and allow moisture to seep under the finish and affect the wood. They look great out of the box, but did not have the longevity that I was after. I have been using a marine sealant that was originally designed for sailboat decks as a finish on all my pieces. The product is absorbed by the raw wood, creating the perfect finishing product for this application. Unfortunately, it’s a time consuming (5-8 coats, depending on the wood) and expensive process, but the results are worth it. Unlike topical finishes, you can feel the grain of the wood and, like a sailboat deck, it retains a great grip when wet.
Do you use locally sourced stone? Tell us more about the materials.
While I have worked with natural stone in the past, the stone material I use for my shaving pieces is a product called TruStone. It is manufactured by taking 85% pulverized natural stone and combining it with a 15% resin compound. The result has the look, feel and heft of natural stone, but not the natural fissures that can compromise the integrity of the razor or brush handle when exposed to temperature and humidity changes. Also, it allows me to offer these pieces for a fraction of the cost of using natural semi-precious stones. A wonderful side benefit of the resin component is that it gives the handles a very good grip when they are wet.
The knots available for your brushes come from a variety of sources, tell us about that.
I generally use knots from The Golden Nib (TGN), Wet Shaving Products and Shavemac to provide differing levels of options to complete each handle. I generally stay in the 22 – 24mm range, but have built brushes with knots as small as 16mm up to 30mm, on request.
Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your sawdust making work?
I’m very pleased to be able to now provide just the handle for a 3-piece razor with fittings of solid Stainless Steel that are made in the U.S. and can be retrofitted to any of my handles.
Thank you very much for your time today.
Thank you and I just want to thank everyone who has asked questions about my work, offered opinions and challenged me to make something “different”.
This is the thirteenth interview in a series with the artists, authors, craftsmen, and vendors who make wet shaving great. Todays interview is with Bruno from Vintage Scent
Today’s Nook Interview is with Bruno, the owner and operator of VintageScent.com. This is actually my second interview with Bruno. In the first interview,we covered mainly shaving brushes, while this interview will focus largely on straight razor shaving and restoration. Bruno is also an accomplished straight shaver, honemeister, and has restored many pieces of yesteryear back to their former glory. I’d like to thank Bruno once more for answering a few questions about straight razor shaving.
What do you consider the necessary tools for a straight razor shave?
The must have tools are a finishing hone (like a barber hone or a Belgian natural hone), a strop made of real leather and, of course, a properly honed shave-ready straight razor.
Should a new straight shaver start with a shavette or dive directly into a straight razor?
I personally find a straight razor more comfortable and less aggressive than a shavette. I find a shavette feels just like a DE. There's the myth that one will kill himself if he tries to shave with a straight razor. I find it amusing to say the least. No adult male in his right mind would do anything foolish with a cutting tool, like slicing to hurt himself.
However, using a shavette might come in handy by adapting your hand and positioning yours fingers until you are comfortable. You can even pick a shavette without a blade to practice the strokes on your face.
What do you feel is the best starter straight razor for new straight shaver?
Any medium sized straight razors from a reliable source like Germany, France, UK, Sweden, Spain or U.S.
By medium sized I mean a 5/8'' blade so it's not too big for a newcomer.
Can you explain what numbers like 6/8 and 11/16 mean to someone who's considering straight shaving?
That's the height of the blade from the spine to the edge. Typically a straight razor is 5/8'' or 6/8'', but there are blades smaller and larger than those. It's a question of personal preference.
Bruno, can you explain a few of the different blade types?
Wedge = a blade without any concave grind, like the typical English blades from the XIX century.
Half Hollow = a blade with some stiffness due to a visible concave grind.
Full Hollow = a blade that looks and feels thinner due to the pronounced concave grind. It's very thin that they usually "sing" when stropped - this means that the amount of steel in the blade is so thin that it vibrates, thus making a sound, when it travels the strop.
Point = What's the format of the tip of blade. The round format is more popular because it's safer. There are others: Square, spike, French, Spanish, etc.
One of the keys to shaving with a straight is stropping. How often should a razor be stropped?
Right before every shave. Typically I strop 30 laps in linen and 60 in leather.
If someone picks up an old razor at an antique store or a new razor online , what is the process for getting it shave ready?
First the edge must be built or redone. The coarser stones (1k grit) are meant for that, to rebuild the edge. Putting the blade flat on the stone, we glide it through the stone, edge leading. After some dozens of passes, the edge should become visible. After some more, it should be able to plow some hair. Then it's time to move to the intermediate stone in the 4k grit area. This refines the edge from the previous grit. Then, the finishing stone is around 8k-10k grit. This polishes the edge and gives it smoothness and keenness. After that, strop and shave.
How often should a razor be honed?
I think one only needs a finishing hone to refresh the blade once you feel that the blade won't plow away the hair effortlessly. Once it begins to tug or pull, then it's time to hit the stone. Make 40-50 laps using no pressure, strop and shave.
You do quite a few restores of vintage straight razors. Can you run us through the process for restoring a Straight Razor?
Before honing a razor, I must be sure that the blade doesn't have any flaws like chips, dents or is warped. Depending on the case, the lower grit stones can take care of most chips, unless they're huge, if that's the case then there's nothing we can do because we can't weld steel to the blade, that would ruin the temper.
Once the blade is normalized, we proceed to the polishing of the blade to give it a nice mirror finished. A good handle is also important to the final look. I personally like horn handle, I think they give a nice touch to a straight razor.
What new straight razor accessories are coming to the Vintage Scent?
I'm constantly looking for straight razors, restoring them and putting them for sale. I don't sell production razors, because I feel that vintage razors are just as good, if not better, than the current production razors. Besides that, having a vintage razor is a collective item. I personally am a fan of the Spanish brand Filarmonica and am a happy owner of some nice NOS pieces.
Do you recommend a straight shaver start out with their whole face or start with a few easy places to shave?
I recommend starting only shaving their cheeks. It's the easiest area and the skin is not as sensitive as the neck, for example. Once the newcomer is more confident, he should proceed to shave the whole are above the jawline. Lastly, he should proceed to the neck area, which is the most difficult to master.
Is there a difference between good lather for a DE and good lather for a straight razor shave?
I honestly don't know because I don't use DE and never did. I use mostly soaps, but sometimes go for creams. I like my lather to be slightly liquid and not Santa Claus-beard style. When I apply lather I dip the tip of the brush in warm water and keep building on the face until I feel like the lather is not dry and can provide a good glide. As a rule of thumb, once I see the lather becoming slightly shiny, that's the sweet spot.
Again I’d like to thank Bruno for answering a few questions about straight razor shaving. You can find Bruno, a few straight razors, and the ever amazing Semogue brushes at VintageScent.com.. Thank you so very much Bruno.