08-25-2013, 01:36 PM
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Frequently I come across straight razor review threads or purchase threads that display a razor or two and then a bunch of congratulatory posts (for good reason, most of the time). At some point in the thread, someone will post that the razor is an excellent shaver.

I've often wondered about this 'excellent shaver' designation. Read on to find out why.


One thing I really don't 'buy' in the straight razor world are brand names. Undoubtedly razors manufacturers like W&B, CV Heljestrands, Filarmonica, etc. made good razors, but so did a lot of other razor makers. In fact, I've bought several vintage straights from unheralded makers and even some with no maker's name at all, and they've all been 'excellent shavers' after they were honed well.

I remember when you could get a CVH Mk 31 or 32 for $30 on the forums, and that wasn't so long ago. Then someone decided these were the cats pajamas, and the prices shot up many times. Prior to that Engstrom framebacks were regarded as the best Swedish blades (they seem to have fallen out of fashion at the moment).

We had the same story with Fillys, and the larger W&B's as well.

They're all good razors, and also can be 'excellent shavers'.

However size, grind and (to some extent) the type of point are way more important when choosing a vintage blade than the brand. Whether you'll find that a razor is an 'excellent shaver' will depend on those aspects much more than the brand.......that, and the honing job the razor gets.

Of course, a great brand matched to a perfect size, etc. will mean nothing if the razor is not honed properly, or is not stropped properly and taken care of. Even a perfect edge will not survive manhandling - at which point your razor is no longer an 'excellent shaver' ----- through no fault of its own.

Exclamation Maybe someone will point me to a vintage razor that was in decent shape that was not an 'excellent shaver' when it was honed well. That may set my mind at ease on this issue.

So, if most vintage razors can be 'excellent shavers' isn't the designation superfluous?

Of course, there are modern razors that are not excellent shavers - mostly razors from Pakistan and China. Even some of these can be great shavers when they're modified and honed properly.


What I'm saying here is that if you're new to the straight razor scene and you keep reading about the 'excellent shavers' out there, remember that almost any vintage blade in decent shape can be an excellent shaver if it's treated right. Sometimes you're never going to find a better blade than the $20 one you picked out from Larry at WD.


37 1,743
 08-25-2013, 03:24 PM
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Yohann, very good advice! Thanks for posting. Smile

89 21,190
 08-25-2013, 03:37 PM
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Hard to argue with anything you write, that's certainly been my experience as well.

1 131
 08-26-2013, 01:52 AM
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I agree with nearly everything you say here, but for the sake of discussion, not argument, I take issue with your general statement that "brilliant shaver" is a superfluous designation. By way of explanation, all I have to offer is what is meant when I use the term, a term I used quite recently in fact.

I have a lot of straights. Way too many. Let's just say it's x number of dozens. At least that many more have passed through my hands. Every one of these razors was honed, initially by others and for the last 6 months by me. Every so often, one of them, for reasons I can't single out, reliably and consistently gives me a tremendous shave.

The best example is a plain looking hollow ground razor from Karnak More Co. currently on loan to another SR user. The razor isn't particularly sharper than my others and there's no obvious reason it should so consistently give me a superior shave, but it does. Every time. I can't figure it out. It's a brilliant shaver. The shaver to whom it's on loan to is having the same experience with it as did another shaver I sent it to.

Same with a western style Japanese straight I have from Kikusui and another Japanese Frameback with no maker's mark. The combination of grind, weight, balance, steel and quality of the edge with proper honing means that every time I shave with them, the results are superior to other razors that have received excellent honing jobs or have more impressive provenance. It's as if the maker somehow hit it just right.

So while we're in agreement that we shouldn't be concerned with brand names (I've been disappointed in the one Puma and one Filly I've used) and that unknown razors can give just as good or better a shave, we disagree over the belief that some razors, for reasons I don't yet understand, exhibit a performance best described as "Brilliant".

Tawlk amongst yourselves.

5 298
 08-26-2013, 02:16 AM
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Two very interesting takes, I definitely agree with Yohann as regards the dramatic price increase with certain brands of razors, it's certainly not connected to the fact they are better shavers than other makes for sure, because I've owned Hejestrands and Wade & Butchers and they certainly do not shave better than my Japanese razors, and they are definitely not of a higher quality so I'm thinking this added cost attributed to certain brands is purely a false market.

12 2,060
 08-26-2013, 02:31 AM
  • Macko
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I have a Gold Dollar 66 honed by Stefan (mainaman) that shaves like a dream.

17 553
 08-26-2013, 02:51 AM
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oakeshott -

You're absolutely right about this.

I guess my point did not come across clearly. I didn't mean that no vintage razor can be better than average or a really 'brilliant shaver' (especially on a per-person basis). In my own collection of hundreds of razors, I have two that stand out. I won't mention brands except to say that they're not brands that get all the press on the forums. They're actually different in many ways - one's a 5/8" blade, the other is almost a full 8/8". Every time I use these blades the shaves are wonderful and are 'better' than I get with most of the others. And I hone all my blades myself, and so there should be little difference in how they've been honed.

What I take exception with is that someone will see a blade (usually of a certain brand) in a post on the forums, and then comment that it will be a 'brilliant shaver'.

It certainly may, with proper honing and care, but it's unlikely to stand out from the crowd unless it hits the almost-mythical sweet spot - something that seems to happen completely by chance.


Jamie -

Absolutely! I have a great respect for Japanese straights. But even among them I've found that certain brands hog the press. I've had really good Diamond, Scheon Burg, King Pelican and other straights. They've been beautiful, and I usually bought them NOS, meaning that they looked good too. However, the best Japanese razors I have are from a maker that gets absolutely no discussion on the forums. I have two of those razors, and they're both really good - they look good, feel good and they were a joy to hone and shave with.

Macko -

I too have a GD that's shaves really well. It is one of Seraphim's creations, and I love taking it out and using it.

37 1,743
 08-26-2013, 03:18 AM
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With that clarification, I'm left with nothing to disagree about.

One of the interesting things about straights, particularly vintage ones, is the degree of variation from blade to blade even among the same models of the same brand. If anyone watched the video of razor making at the Dovo factory, it's shocking how much handwork is still involved even in the making of a modern razor. 100 years ago it was more so. The variation from razor to razor that I've seen is pretty big. The only exception to that, and I'd like to hear what Jamie has to say since he has a big collection, are Japanese razors (speciifically the western style ones). Not saying there isn't variation, just that I haven't seen as much.


5 298
 08-26-2013, 03:59 AM
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Hi Mark,

This is my opinion regarding vintage Japanese straights I think the quality control and varying levels of quality is far less of an issue compared to vintage European American and British made razors, I'm always impressed with the blade peening and just the total overall quality finish of Japanese razors, I would say this is mostly down to the level of pride the Japanese craftsmen usually give over to their craft, and making blades and sharp things as always carried great deal of respect by their own people, I've often wondered if I asked a custom knife maker to critique a lineup of the best known brands of razors without any inside or previous knowledge as to which ones were supposed to be the best I'm very confident many Japanese razors would leap frog some of the better known brands purely on merit.

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