05-22-2012, 04:38 AM
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The slant concept

Since before the birth of the safety razor it was known that a diagonal cut was more effective than an straight cut. From cutting bread to cutting heads. The diagonal cut is what gave the guillotine its effectiveness. First guillotines were of the straight cut type, and required a very heavy weight to do their job. The diagonal cut of the French guillotine did away with the discomforts produced by a poor cutting straight guillotine to prisoners with a strong neck.

[Image: Halifaxgibbet.jpg] [Image: guillotine.gif]
The Halifax Gibbet (dating as far back as the 1200's) was the first guillotine ... a straight cut one,
until the much more effective French guillotine came about in the late 1700's

Back to the much more enjoyable topic of shaving, the effectiveness of a diagonal cut was stressed in straight razor times, and barbers were taught to cut whiskers in diagonally and oblique passes.

[Image: straightangle2.jpg]

The blitz of ideas and the variations on the oblique cut

[Image: escalera.jpg]

By the end of the 19th century, Kampfe took the first step towards the safety razor with his hybrid models: a segment of a straight razor blade mounted on a frame and handle. As Gillette popularized the safety razor at the turn of the century, a great revolution in shaving came about and with it a revolution in ideas. The imagination of inquisitive minds took them to revising and redesigning the safety razor many times over, in order to take advantage of the oblique cut.

[Image: US1389962-1.png]
Straight on one side, curved on the other. Does the idea of different cutting characteristics on each side sound familiar?

[Image: US1088674-0.png]
A very early (1913) flip-top concept ... flip-top are still sold today.

[Image: US979559-0.png]

[Image: US1725517-0.png]
An here is one for you SE lovers ... a cylindrical head SE slant !

To say the least, these razor designs are very curious. Round, square and triangular heads had their advantages, but all died away due to a very small problem ... the very thin and essential part of every razor. All of these strange razors shared an objective, to integrate in the razor head the advantages of the diagonal cut, but all of them used proprietary blades. At the time, the only blades that were cheap, easy to find, and of good quality were those of Gillette. The phenomenal success of the Gillette blade did away with the ideas and dreams of many shaving inventors. But inventors can't just stay put, and as it should be expected, they tried again to design oblique cut razors that used the Gillette blade. So again, a myriad of asymmetrical "tilt head" razors appeared in the market:

[Image: oblicuas.jpg]

[Image: tor1.jpg]

Others had a straight head but with an offset built in ...

[Image: US2093851-0.png]

As inventors squeezed their brains out, Gillette took a simpler route, and simply suggested the old straight razor oblique pass ... although now it had to have a name: the "Gillette slide", which was popularized again by Mantic is his advanced techniques video.

[Image: gilletteslide.jpg]
Gillette instruction leaflet illustrating the oblique cut

The birth of the slant

[Image: g_vigoenfotos_3664s.jpg]
Amazing Bramante's double helix stair case, at the Vatican Museums, is trully two staircases leading you to the "infinite" effect.

We could very well use the Gillette slide or shave with one of these contraptions we have just seen, but only one man had a brilliant idea. One of those designs that brought shaving one step forward to achieve what everybody was looking for: facilitating a very effective and close shave while maintaining smoothness.

Regarding razor designers and inventors, there are certain names that stick to my mind. We know a whole lot of different models, modern and vintage, but rarely think about the mind that created them. Names like Joseph Muros, Testi, Grange, etc. are involuntarily engraved in my mind due to how much I like their ideas and designs. May be remembering their names here is my little tribute to those knew a lot about shaving and have remained anonymous.
One of the big names in my razor inventor list is that of Thomas Wild, and it is to him that we owe the slant as we know it today. Contemporary of the Gillette Old Type, his patent dates of 1916 - and for me - Thomas wild is the Bramante of shaving.

[Image: US1171290-0.png]
1916 patent showing Wild's slant ... typical open comb and no gap design of the times.

Like most, I have always associated the slant with Germany, may be due to Merkur and its numerous rebrandings in the past. And like many things in internet, I took that for truth without much questioning. It came as a big surprise to find this as the earliest patent on a true slant, and it will take some getting used to thinking of the slant as a British idea. (I tried to search German archives to pinpoint the birth of the slant, but is a difficult task as history has done away with many German records. Anyhow, I haven't found the slightest suggestion of a German patent as early as Wild. So for now I regard the idea as British).

[Image: slantad.jpg]
Merkur has become synonymous with slant

The only slant manufactured nowadays is the Merkur, and barring the case that we find a vintage one (most probably also Merkur or a rebrand) is the slant that we usually refer to. It is not exactly like Wild's slant, but still the idea is the same. Anyhow, out there we may find many different slants, usually German, British and French, and even some adjustables. So not all slants are the same ...

[Image: nogap1.jpg]
Slant in the pure Old Style sense ... open comb and no gap

[Image: apolloconstantgap.jpg]
Apollo with a constant gap

[Image: ambi.jpg]
Modern and vintage Merkur. Aside from differences in gap we may also find lefties and righties

[Image: 2859583.jpg]
Fancy and adjustable slant? Walbusch B5 ... doest it remind you of another adjustable?

[Image: 47349847_0.jpg?tn=MEDIUM]
I even contacted this man, the one that would have easy to produce a re-edition of the WB5. Sadly, there is no interest in the idea.

So we can find many variations on the slant concept ... open comb, closed comb, gap and no-gap, constant and variable gap ... but ...

What does the idea of Mr Wild have that other non-slanted razors don't have?

What makes it so unique?

Differences between slants and normal razors are obvious, but ... What does this strange twisted head hide?

In my view, three are the main benefits of the slant head.

The diagonal cut

We have talked about this already. It simple easier to cut bread, hair, and heads, diagonally.

Helicoidal geometry

The geometry of the slant is deceiving if we don't observe it in detail. Not only the cutting edge of the blade is exposed diagonally to the direction of cut, but also the head design bend the edge into an helical fashion. In the word of the inventor

[Image: US1171290-0.png]

This geometry ends up translating into a head with variable aperture or gap (remember, not all slants are like this), a constant blade exposure, and a variable cutting angle.

and ... What does this mean?

A brief explanation ... there are three main factors that determine how a razor shaves:
  • Blade exposure
  • Cutting angle
  • and gap or aperture

[Image: MlhleR89.jpg]

Summarizing a lot (even with a picture this is kind of hard to explain so bear with me):
The greater the blade exposure, angle and gap the more aggressive the razor will behave. Each head combines these three factors to give a unique shave. For example, a razor like the one in the image combines a large gap with negative exposure. The large gap makes it aggressive while the negative exposure makes it mild ... both factors tend to cancel each other, and with a middle-ground cutting angle, the resulting razor is mild and tolerant to pressure. Give the same gap a big blade exposure and a greater cutting angle and you'll get something similar to an R41.

The essence of the slant (take the modern Merkur) lies in the way it combines these three factors. Detailed observation of the head easily reveals what happens. Along the length od the head we can see the interplay between gap and cutting angle. From left to right we find a large cutting angle (aggressive) with a small aperture or gap (mild) ... the aggressiveness of the cutting angle is tuned down by the small gap. Continuing towards the right side we can see that as the gap increases the cutting angle of the blade proportionately decreases. That is, as the gap gets wild the effective cutting angle gets benign ... again one tends to cancel the other.

[Image: MerkurSlant.jpg]

The end result of the slant's variable geometry head is a very good equilibrium between cutting ability and mildness. Naturally, we can find aggressive and mild slants, as with any other razor, and in the slant the unit of measure here is very small. Small changes make for a big shaving experience difference. We can get a good visual idea of the slant helicoidal geometry from Wild's own drawings (although his slant did not have a gap).

[Image: US1171290-0.png]
An elegant idea !

Blade rigidity

We may not think about it, but the chassis of cars and motorcycles flex, even surfers like more flexible or rigid boards. The same goes for shaving ... different heads that provide more or less rigidity to the blade and it is something that is easily noticed. This is in fact why I intensely dislike some razors and is one of the weak points in some adjustable at their higher settings, which allow for vibration and flexing of the blade resulting in a not so comfortable shave. The fact that the slant head sets the blade in a twist makes for an increased blade rigidity, and this favours a smooth shave.

This is no a great example, but the Budding blades would work in a similar manner:

[Image: buddingmower.jpg]
The Budding was the first lawnmower, patented in 1827, and it also wanted to take advantage of the helical geometry

With this poor example we can imagine why the "Gillette Slide" is just not the same as using a slant.

So the secret of the slant is a great cutting ability, without loosing in smoothness, and in my opinion not finicky at all when it comes to technique for as long as propre pressure is observed.

Finally, a few odds and ends come to my mind:

- It is a design that works

Thre are lots of razors with similar cutting capacity, but by design and because of favouring so much the cutting capacity they also have some negative characteristics (take for example the R41).
To get together in razor head a high cutting ability with enough smoothness, and without the tendency to bite is something quite infrequent. The slant does it and it does it easily.

- Is the slant the ultimate razor?

The quick answer is no.
The long answer is may be. We all have our preferences, some will love it and some will hate it. In both cases I believe it does not depend on the razor itself. The slant gives you a great equilibrium between cutting and smoothness, but some other razors do the same without much trouble. Few razors I have tried I have judged them as outright bad, and most can give me a close shave as the slant does. I should point out though, some require much more attention to technique (aggressive and mild ones).

- Does the slant shave closer that the rest?
Again, personally I have to say no. I believe that the secret of the slant does not lie in shaving closer that others, but in that it makes it much easier.

- Is the slant a face eater just for shaving experts?

Contrary to what we can read all over, I don't believe the slant to be a razor for experts. In fact I think it may be a good choice for the beginner. That said, my only recommendation is to be careful with the pressure exerted. Other than that it behaves as any other razor or it is even easier on technique. Getting a close shave with a very mild razor requires well honed technique. In the slant we are looking at a range of angles built into the head, so I think it may even be easier to to get a close shave with a slant.

Just don't get careless.

- The sharper the better

To get the best of this design a sharp blade is the best bet. It is true that the milder the razor the sharper the blade, and vice-versa, and some people tend to use not so sharp blades with the slant. The slant is not that aggressive, and it behaves excellently with the sharpest blades.

- A razor for everyone

Usually a slant is the recommendation for a tough beard and delicate skins. I understand the bit about delicate skin, but not the one on tough beards. If the slant shines with copper wire beards think what it can do with normal and weak beards. Just the same but even with more ease. To give the idea that the the slant is only for tough beards means that many will miss out on the goodness of the slant. I believe it is a razor for everyone.

Simply put, the slant is a good razor design, it shaves well and easy. It is a razor that has a great cutting ability and at the same time is very tolerant with technique. From the mildest Gillette to a Futur with that mouth wide open, with almost every razor one can get a BBS if technique is sufficiently good. What the slant does is simple ... it just makes it very easy.

- Put a twist in your shave

After a long time with the slant I can only recommend to put a twist (pun intended) in your shave. It doesn't shave better than others, it doesn't shave closer, but Mr. Wild has put great shaves in the hand of those that decide to try it.

For some is the ultimate razor, effortless, and for others is a razor that they just don't enjoy, but I believe it is a razor everyone should try. After all, it is not that expensive and if you don't like it, some one in the forum will be happy to buy it from you.

You can tell that the slant is a razor that I like ... come to think of it there are not many razors I dislike, each with its history, personalities, virtues, and defects ... but I'm sure few will be disappointed by this one.

Best shaves,


0 68
 05-22-2012, 04:59 AM
  • Howler
  • A calamophile and vintage razor lover
  • Fort Smith AR
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Excellent article a great read, very well researched.Clap

1 3,507
 05-22-2012, 05:01 AM
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Tony... THANK YOU!

This is one of the best articles I've read. You have conveyed what I've understood about slants & why the work better for me than non-slant DEs. I could never express it as eloquently as you just did. I'm looking forward to re-reading this on my desktop so I can take a closer look at those design drawings. I greatly appreciate the time & effort you put into this article.

31 8,065
 05-22-2012, 05:26 AM
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Tony, great article, sir! Very detailed and informative!

93 21,373
 05-22-2012, 05:33 AM
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Great article and pictures. Thank you for giving us all this great information.

149 14,459
 05-22-2012, 05:35 AM
  • GregK
  • Active Member
  • NYC
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 05-22-2012, 05:58 AM
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Excellent article! I do appreciate the effort you put into these. Thanks a lot.


39 1,750
 05-22-2012, 06:00 AM
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very nice. those slant razors are scary looking. Smile

40 5,829
 05-22-2012, 06:13 AM
  • bullgoose
  • The Enabler
  • Redondo Beach, California, U.S.A
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Excellent article Tony! Clap

54 22,448
 05-22-2012, 06:31 AM
  • skeptik
  • Active Member
  • The Piedmont, VA
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Tony, thank you for this article on the Slant.

0 295
 05-22-2012, 06:40 AM
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Thanks for another well written and researched article. I would disagree on the slant not being the best razor, I've used man, many razors and have yet to find anything comparable. The closest I've come were the early Gem SE razors; which after reading this can be a simple blade rigidity explanation.

When you asked about the Walbusch adjustable and received the "no interest" response, was it a no user interest or a no corporate interest? I could very easily see a Progress adjustable slant.

Innovation is gone or quickly and easily thrown out by the business types who only care about profit margins. The last real innovation to the DE safety razor was the adjustable. The most recent innovation in safety razors is the Cobra Classic.
These are significant innovations, not simple alterations to an existing design.

Wild's design was brilliant and very unique. To take a thin flat blade and twist it seems a bit strange, but you can't argue the end result.

Rigidity is very important to me for a smooth and comfortable shave. A blade that flexes on coarse hair (R41) is worthless to me. IMO, rigid blades have proved time and again to be superior over many years. Every SE has a rigid edge and despite never using one, I would only guess that injectors have a rigid blade. The Slant forced a flimsy blade to be rigid. The Cobra Classic has a rigid blade.

I've read many great reviews on SE razors, Injectors, the Cobra Classic and Slant (torsion) razors. Countless people use them and love the smooth comfortable shave they produce. I've found a few regular DE's that held a blade firmly, but not many. The best one I can think of off hand is the Gillette New long/short comb; which is a favorite of many.

The Slant does a great thing, it twists the blade for a more effective diagonal cutting angle and by either accident or design makes a flimsy blade rigid.

As a Slant fan I really enjoyed the article and appreciate the unsung inventors who brought us such great ideas. I'll always remember that Feb. 8 is the slant's birthday and that a possibly insane/brilliant man named Thomas Wild created my favorite daily razor.

On a side note, Tradere razors should call their upcoming open comb slant a Wild or a 1916. That would be very cool.

10 451
 05-22-2012, 07:04 AM
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A great article, Tony, thanks for all your work.

260 14,821
 05-22-2012, 07:21 AM
  • jfmii
  • Active Member
  • Pittsburgh PA
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Thanks for the excellent article! Being a new to wet shaving I really didn't understand shaving with a slant razor. Now I'm going to give it a try.

21 426
 05-22-2012, 08:13 AM
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Wow!!! Great article!!

1 223
 05-22-2012, 08:26 AM
  • Johnny
  • Emeritus
  • Wausau, Wisconsin, USA
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Tony, thanks for all the research and taking the time to write this. Great information and well put together.

189 26,353
 05-22-2012, 08:38 AM
  • gijames
  • Mile High Soldier
  • TN, USA
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Well Done Tony!


9 1,684
 05-22-2012, 08:58 AM
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(05-22-2012, 06:40 AM)Johnny9 Wrote: Rigidity is very important to me for a smooth and comfortable shave. A blade that flexes on coarse hair (R41) is worthless to me. IMO, rigid blades have proved time and again to be superior over many years. Every SE has a rigid edge and despite never using one, I would only guess that injectors have a rigid blade. The Slant forced a flimsy blade to be rigid. The Cobra Classic has a rigid blade.

I've read many great reviews on SE razors, Injectors, the Cobra Classic and Slant (torsion) razors. Countless people use them and love the smooth comfortable shave they produce. I've found a few regular DE's that held a blade firmly, but not many. The best one I can think of off hand is the Gillette New long/short comb; which is a favorite of many.

The Slant does a great thing, it twists the blade for a more effective diagonal cutting angle and by either accident or design makes a flimsy blade rigid.

Absolutely Johnny. This is exactly my experience as well. The only DE I enjoy is a slant, but I still get better shaves from a thicker & stiffer SE blade. I'd love to see a slanted SE. I guess that's another request for Tradere, though I'll just be happy if their new slant is an open comb!

31 8,065
 05-22-2012, 09:01 AM
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I have five slant DE's and they each deliver a very good shave, better than any conventional DE I have ever used. I get equally good shaves from my GEM and Ever Ready razors.

6 230
 05-22-2012, 09:02 AM
  • ben74
  • Senior Member
  • Perth, Australia
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Outstanding article Tony, your efforts are much appreciated.

101 18,026
 05-22-2012, 09:41 AM
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A great read, thanks so much.

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