05-02-2012, 07:44 PM
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GEM Damaskeene, 1912, and Junior (GEM '24 far below)

It could be effectively argued that the GEM Damaskeene is the finest shaving implement ever produced. If I had to argue against that, I have no idea what the argument would be.

All of these razors have heads that I would consider to be a modified lather catcher, but the lather catcher part is so vestigial that I never heard it called a lather catcher anywhere before. I don’t intend to start that trend here. I only mention it because these razors are an obvious evolution of the lather catchers that preceded these models.

[Image: FrontalCropped.jpg]
____________Damaskeene___________________1912________________________Junior

Even a superficial glance at the Damaskeene, 1912, and Junior shows the family resemblance. They are essentially the same (frontal view), except for what either is or isn’t imprinted inside the head. According to an expert on the subject (not me- I’m about as inexpert on razor evolution and identification as you could ever imagine), the 1912 model began with the Damaskeene and in 1919-1920 the Damaskeene inside the razor head was discontinued and the razor continued in production as the 1912. (That info courtesy HoosierTrooper)

[Image: RearViewCropped.jpg]
_______________Damaskeene______________________1912____________________________Junior

[Image: SideViewCropped.jpg]
_______________Damaskeene___________________1912________________________Junior

A detailed examination of the three razors shows the 1912 to have a more squat head. If you look at the rear of the razor, notice the flat piece. Measured from the spring cover slot to the handle it measures ½" on the 1912 and 11/16" on the Damaskeene, . That measurement on the Junior is 5/8", so all of the models are slightly different with Jr being in the middle of the 2 extreme measurements. Other than that measurement, the heads on the Damaskeene and 1912 appear identical (more on this later); both having a curved blade cover. The Jr has a flat blade cover. All models were produced with various handles so good luck figuring out if yours is “genuine”. To my eye the Junior is a lower grade of the 1912, lighter gauge metals used and even a plastic handle was put on it. That is to my eye, reality is another story. The Damaskeene and 1912 heads both weigh 20 grams on my postal scale which is only accurate to 5 grams. The Junior is actually heavier at 25 grams, so what my eye sees isn’t real. My Junior has an original metal handle, but some come with a plastic handle which to my eye is huge. The Junior with the metal handle weighs 60 grams and the plastic handle reduces that by 15 grams to 45 grams. The tested weights of the Damaskeene and 1912 are 60 grams and 55 grams respectively. Depending on the handle installed those weights will be different for you. Widths of the 3 heads are virtually identical at 1 11/16". The depth of the head from the comb to the cover “thumb lever” on the Damaskeene is 1 1/4", the 1912 and the Junior are both 1 3/16", so the Damaskeene is all around the slightly larger head. I won’t compare handles because you can get pretty much any handle GEM produced. For those who prefer a larger handle they are all pretty much the same length handle. There is a fat plastic handle option for the Junior. FWIW, while the Damaskeene and 1912 handles can be interchanged, the Jr handle is a different thread. I’m very in tune to the razor/human control interface (the handle) on my razors and I had no issues with any of these. All allowed a good solid grip with no feel of slipping. For me they were all handles that I can live with.

Waits Safety Razor Compendium tells me that the Junior being reviewed is a 1919, but it’s stamped 1912. It’s because of the 1912 stamp that it’s here in this review. FWIW, there is also a GEM Junior shown in Waits Safety Razor Compendium as early as 1906, but that is a full lather catcher and is a significantly different razor. Don’t be confused by that; this particular Junior is not a full lather catcher.

I used ARKO to test all of these razors to make that portion as similar as I possibly could. The first shave in the review began with the 3rd shave on the blade, a GEM SS ptfe coated triple facet blade (Ted Pella 121-3). (The same blade was used for all of the testing)

I have a long history with the Damaskeen, and I can’t help but bring that into the review. The Damaskeene is both a very attractive razor with it’s closed comb and it’s a fantastic shaver. It feels incredibly mild, and appears to be able to do no wrong, yet it gives a shave that easily rivals far more aggressive feeling razors. Remember I stated, “It could be effectively argued that these razors are the finest shaving implements ever produced.” ? That is exactly why. It is as close to a perfect blend of razor qualities as I’ve ever found in any razor. The shave produced is close, comfortable, and if it draws blood you either screwed up badly, or had a blemish. It will slice bumps as easily and painlessly as a whisker. The audio feedback is nice with the typical “spreading butter on toast” sound as it mows down the whiskers. Gents, while my favorite razors are far more aggressive feeling razors, if all of my other razors disappeared overnight and all I had was my Damaskeene I would feel little loss. This is one very nice razor. With the MicroMatics I disliked the lack of blade feel with the two bar comb models. I don’t have the same problem with the closed comb on this razor. I think I could stay mentally focused on the coming day while shaving (in La-La land mentally) and not get hurt with this razor while still getting a great shave. Forgive me if I don’t test that though. I prefer to stay focused on the shave.

One observation, and not of the razor so much as humanity, myself included. Many SE folks, myself included, frequently suggest to noob SE razor users to get a Featherweight or Heavy Flat Top as a first razor because they are mild. I have no idea why the Damaskeene isn’t suggested more often. It is very well behaved and feels quite mild. But why do they give such a close shave? For me this is still an enigma and I never did explain it to my satisfaction. It is a very efficient razor that produces a shave more like an aggressive razor. I think the fact that it is so well behaved makes it a good candidate for a noob SE razor. They are just as easy to find on ebay as the FW (Featherweight) and G-Bar, the price may be slightly higher, but they are a far more attractive razor IMO. Comparing a Damaskeene to a FW is to compare a Ferrari to a Yugo. Both would get the job done, but one you’d want to show off and would have pride in, the other is just transportation.

The 1912, or “Brooklyn” razor is called that because “Brooklyn, NY” is printed inside the head. Before beginning this review I questioned my sanity in doing so because these razors are all alike right? That was my thought before starting this. This razor definitely proves me wrong. While it looks like the basic Damaskeene, it’s a significantly more aggressive feeling razor. It shaves great but doesn’t have the same sophisticated feel to the shave experience as the Damaskeene has. Don’t assume I mean to say it’s not a good razor though, there are those of us who like this sort of razor, and I’m one of them. It surprised me, that’s all. I did expect them all to shave quite similarly. This razor has the Damaskeenes good looks but is a little rough around the edges during the shave. This razor is also more aggressive than the Open Comb MicroMatic IMO.

The Junior...Yet another razor in the family that proves one can’t assume that just because all the bases are stamped “1912" that they are all the same. Same blade, same soap, another different shave. This test shave is with the metal handle that the razor originally came with.

The Damaskeene was mild (for a SE) with a great close shave that said “aggressive” (only the closeness of the shave said that, not the actual shave experience). The 1912 was substantially more aggressive, and the Junior is the “just right” razor. It’s mid way in aggression between the other two. It has the great “mowing the whiskers” sound of most SE razors, is aggressive enough to feel the blade, and gives a nice close shave. OK, so why are they all so different? I couldn’t just leave that alone. I’ll get to that in a bit. There were no surprises with this razor. The major difference is with the mid level of aggression. It’s a nice razor despite being so “cheap” looking. I’d class this as similar to the Open Comb MicroMatic in aggressive shaving.

Some juniors come with a plastic handle that is actually quite fat at the base. I had one on hand so decided to shave with it at least once for this review. I don’t care for large handles, but I was in for another surprise. I don’t think I’d want it for an everyday handle yet I was pleasantly surprised at how nice this was. Slippage was non-existent, and the razor was definitely lighter. One minor problem, and I don’t like using that particular word here because it’s too strong, was my inability to see beyond the fat handle. I had it happen once when working under my nose. One would soon get accustomed to that and after a time not even notice it. I suspect that’s what happened with me because after that one minor incident even though I worked around my nose a little more, I never noticed it again.

OK, so why the huge differences in the shave experience of this family? I took my glasses off (really) so that I could see tiny differences in the heads and what I came up with I hope is shown in these pictures. They are the Damaskeene first, then the Jr, then the 1912. Notice the blade in relation to the curve of the comb. The Damaskeenes blade is relatively far away from the comb, the Jr a little closer and the 1912 is almost on the curve. The difference that I noticed and show here is in blade exposure, though there may be some other more subtle differences that I didn’t see.

[Image: 1BE_Dama_Cropped.jpg]
Damaskeene

[Image: 2BE_Jr_Cropped.jpg]
Junior

[Image: 3BE_1912_Cropped.jpg]
1912- the blade is for illustration only

The GEM Damaskeene is arguably "one of" or "the best" single edge razor to ever have been produced, but the others show they are part of the family. They all give a fantastic close shave, the Damaskeene has almost no blade feel and they progress all the way up to “Yikes! There’s the blade!” sort of aggressive feel. I like these razors a great deal. If someone has basic shaving technique down pat I feel confident that one of these razors will perform admirably and produce an easy BBS. They are also plentiful and inexpensive. The Damaskeene is gentle enough for a noob to SE razors, but I wouldn’t suggest it to a novice shaver as a first razor. There is something for everyone in this family of razors.

These will definitely stay in my rotation.

Since first writing this review and posting it elsewhere it was brought to my attention that there are probably further variations in these models. It was a Jr. that someone had acquired, he reported the shave to be "unbearably mild".

There is also an open comb Damaskeene that I obviously didn't cover here.

Edit #2: I've also read of folks stating their Dmaskeenes are more aggressive feeling than my experience. I have one in my possession now that is more aggressive than my first one, so there ARE variations in the shave feel.

Another model in the family is the GEM '24. It's definitely part of the 1912 patent family, but different enough to warrant mention. The head looks something like a Damaskeene with the attractive curved cover, but the handle is fluted. It's a gorgeous razor. The shave is a duplicate of the Jr. shave with it's "just right" balance of aggressiveness and efficiency. I like the '24 a great deal.
[Image: croppedtoshowthe_24.jpg]

Note: Gents, I'm just a guy with a razor, some soap and a blade. I have no special qualifications to review anything and I'm especially weak in identification. Where I'm going with this is that if you see a mistake, and there will be plenty, let me know so that I can fix it. If you have an opinion on the razor and want to post your review in the thread, even if it conflicts with mine, that's welcome also, so don't hesitate. Sometimes there are variations in the same model and this is how we find them.

Good shaving guys!

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 05-02-2012, 08:44 PM
#2
  • Tonality
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Another incredible SE review! Again, great timing on these. I'm curious though, I always thought the iconic handle of the 1912 was the fancy scrolled one, is that not so? I have a handle similar to your 1912 and Junior on my EverReady shovel top and thought that was what it was produced with.

I'm on the lookout for a Damaskeene for use during the 4th week of SE May, all I head are glowing praises for it, so I think I should see for myself. There's a couple on the 'bay I'm watching.

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 05-02-2012, 09:08 PM
#3
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A great review, Brian! I have a 1912 Damaskeene and 1912 Gem Jr, both nice shavers when loaded with a sharp blade. I can consistently get 7-10 close comfortable shaves with my Schick E2 injector, bur only 3-5 with the 1912 Gem SE razors. I've tried the Gem stainless and Gem Blue Star carbon steel blades. The Blue Star blades seemed a bit sharper but degraded quicker than the stainless blades.

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 05-02-2012, 09:16 PM
#4
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[quote='Tonality' pid='27574' dateline='1336020243']
Another incredible SE review! Again, great timing on these. I'm curious though, I always thought the iconic handle of the 1912 was the fancy scrolled one, is that not so? I have a handle similar to your 1912 and Junior on my EverReady shovel top and thought that was what it was produced with.

/quote]

I'm far from an expert, but the consensus over on The Original Safety Too site is that they were produced with many handles with no rhyme or reason to it.

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 05-02-2012, 09:18 PM
#5
  • Tonality
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Just adds personality I guess. I'm a fan of the scrolled handles.

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 05-02-2012, 09:20 PM
#6
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I do too. IMO, that's probably the prettiest handle ever made.

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 05-02-2012, 09:23 PM
#7
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Another great detailed review, Brian!
You are starting to get me very, very interested in SEs, just when i sold two of them! Oh,oh!

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 05-03-2012, 08:06 AM
#8
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I really enjoyed your pictures of where the edge of the blade rests near the comb when compared amongst these razors. That definitely explains quite cleverly the difference that most people note in these razors. I don't have a Damaskeene for comparisons but I can concur that the 1912 and Jr. definitely shave different. I'm not sure why but I don't find them to be nearly as aggressive/efficient as the OCMM though as the OP does. Any of these razors that I have require at least 1 if not 2 extra passes to get the same closeness of shave that I get with the OCMM. Many times due to these extra passes I also come away with more irritation. Therefore, the 1912 and it's isotopes do not see much face time for me.

Again, another fine review by ShadowsDad and I'm still blown away that you were able to find that difference in blade location on the comb. I never would have thought to check that. Very cool!

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 05-05-2012, 12:16 PM
#9
  • Tonality
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I may have a 4th head type to add to the 1912 collection. The cased Gem razor with a lined handle I recently bought is different than the standard ornate handle 1912. I didn't notice until today when I looked at then side by side. The lined handle has a shorter head with a flatter profile, yet the flip top appears slightly more rounded. The blade exposure appears to be set further back and shallower than the standard 1912 as well. At first I thought it was some sort of alternate Damaskeene, but given the shape it's actually very different. I took a few pictures side by side with the ornate 1912 for comparison.

[Image: btuqzl.jpg]

[Image: x2nFOl.jpg]

[Image: gNVIAl.jpg]

[Image: xMR7ll.jpg]

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 05-05-2012, 01:57 PM
#10
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I wonder if that's a '24 or later 1912. I dunno, that's speculation. I see the lined handles in Waits about that time and later.

If you have a copy of Waits Safety Razor Compendium the relevant info begins on page GEM 8.

The Gem '24 I just got from John today clearly is based on the 1912 patent.

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 05-05-2012, 02:29 PM
#11
  • Tonality
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I wasn't really aware that there was a separate 1924 style. The head is still stamped "pat'd 1912" around the handle attachment ring, so I assumed it was also a 1912 model.

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 05-05-2012, 08:08 PM
#12
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Well, it's based on the same 1912 patent, so I would think you'd be safe in calling it a 1912. I certainly don't know enough about identification to say you can't. I think it's just the handle that's different. Waits doesn't show a lined handle until '24, that's all I was getting at, not that it wasn't a 1912.

Why not review it and put it here? That's what I plan to do with the GEM '24 I got today. But looking at the blade exposure I suspect the '24 will shave like a straight 1912 ie. not a Jr or Damaskeene.

FWIW, I remember reading somewhere that there is an EverReady head from the same 1912 patent. I wish I could remember which it was. I'd call that a 1912 also.

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 05-05-2012, 11:00 PM
#13
  • Tonality
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I don't think it will shave like the 1912 at all, the head profile is quite different. I plan on using the standard 1912 this week then the '24 the following and will give a review then.

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 05-09-2012, 12:35 PM
#14
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The GEM '24 belongs in with 1912 family since it's based on the 1912 patent. As Tonality wrote, where the handle screws in is written "Pat'd 1912".

I could write a long winded review of it, but I can also shorten it to a few words. That's my plan, a few words.

I like the Junior, so don't construe what I'm about to write as a negative on the Jr. . The Junior head has always struck me as appearing "cheaply made" compared to the rest of the family. The rest of the family excudes class and refinement, to my eye the Junior has none of that, yet to my tastes it shaves the best of them all. It's the Goldilocks razor; it's "just right". It has enough aggressiveness to get the job done efficiently, yet not so much that one must be on guard 100% of the time. Bear in mind I was just discussing the head, they have some of the best handles ever made IMO.

What does this have to do with the '24? Near as I can figure the '24 is the classy, refined version of the Junior. It shaves very much like the Junior, the head geometry is very similar to the Jr. but it looks more refined. The handles are different. The handles on the later 1912s ('24 and on) have finely fluted handles. I have an issue with handles that aren't knurled or somehow give a good purchase for the fingers to hold. I had no issues with this handle and I don't know why. Other than the flutes running the length of the handle it's smooth. Go figure. Anyway, it worked.

I think I know why the Junior shave head appears that way to me. The Jr has a single plane for a razor cover and the others all have a curved cover. (is that the name for the part?) I think it's that simple; curved vs flat.

Anyway, I think the Jr is the best of the 1912s, and that includes the '24 as well since it shaves the same as the Jr. . Along with the Jr it's the best of the bunch, and it looks classy.

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 05-09-2012, 01:12 PM
#15
  • Howler
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Great article and review.

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 05-09-2012, 03:15 PM
#16
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(05-05-2012, 08:08 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: FWIW, I remember reading somewhere that there is an EverReady head from the same 1912 patent. I wish I could remember which it was. I'd call that a 1912 also.

I have an Ever-Ready 1912 in brass that is identical to my Damaskeene except the blade cover is flat as opposed to arched.

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 03-14-2014, 10:09 AM
#17
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I am realizing there are many variants in the 1912 family in terms of details like stamping on the flip top and so on.

I would like to ask: is the flare outside the comb of the bottom plate also indicative of what we call the "regular 1912?" And are there "regular 1912" heads that can fit the bigger thread handles, or did they only have the smaller thread like the Dame?

Asking because the GEM Jr. in the family seems too mild, and the Dame definitely was for me.

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 03-14-2014, 08:23 PM
#18
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Tom, to the best of my knowledge the patent covers the thumb tab and the rear pivot. If a razor has those it's a 1912.

Of course I don't mean the later razors like the Featherweight that have similar characteristics long after the patent expired.

The GEM Jr you mentioned has a larger thread. The ER '24 also uses the larger thread. Lest someone think something other... No I didn't drag that out of my memory. I went to the cabinet and checked.

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 03-14-2014, 10:14 PM
#19
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Thank you, Krampert. I was confused particularly with the later-manufactured 1912 razors because I was unsure if the same "rules" applied to them or if GEM was mixing and matching GEM and GEM Jr parts bins by then.

I feel pretty good classifying the GEM Jr as such when it is labeled "Junior" on the back. But a couple, including some ER 1912s look like GEM Jrs. I think I've got to go back to the cabinet later and check again to make sure I'm not confabulating!

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 03-15-2014, 04:03 PM
#20
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Ok, to clarify the ones that were confusing me:

"1912" ER with blank back has the flared sides on the bottom plate (on either side of the comb) but shaves like a Junior. Big handle threads. I suppose this is a Junior.

"1912" STAR looks like a Junior. Big handle threads. So this one must be a Junior, I think.

"1912" GEM with short head, flared bottom plate but accepts small thread handles. Maybe this is a travel "1912?"

And finally, one head identical to the one above in every way but takes big thread handles. Is this really a Junior?

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