06-21-2015, 03:41 AM
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A month or so ago one of our extremely talented artisans - Brian Brown - announced that he was starting a line of 'production' razors. These differ from his 'customs' in that the blanks are pre-cut in Germany. He still grinds, tempers and finishes them, so while they may not be available in a custom size and shape, they are still essentially hand-made in the USA. 

In some ways, this is similar to the Hart Razors that have been around for a while. I've had two Hart Steel Razors - one 6/8" and the other 7/8", and I'll be using them as a comparison in this review. 

Brian offered one to me to try out and see if I had any feedback on the razor. It was a square-point 6/8" razor. I didn't take pics of the razor myself (I forgot), so I'm using Brian's pic of the razor here:

[Image: brown_razor_works_1.jpg]

LOOKS and GRIND: This is a lovely, functional shape. The razor has a straight edge, clean lines and the tang and tail are really well-done. Jimps are filed on the top and bottom of the tang, and they're deep. They look good. The tang has 'Brown Razor Works' engraved, and it looks professional. The blade has a mirror-finish that matches the best I've seen. 

The scales are green G10, and are lovely without being too ornate. I like that they're actually pinned on both ends (unlike the Hart razors that I had). They are well-balanced with the razor, and I was really happy with the overall balance of the razor.

The grind is where this razor separates itself from the Hart Steel and other razors. Most of the current customs and semi-customs are 1/4 hollow grinds. I don't actually care for 1/4 hollows. I prefer more hollow grinds. This razor has a grind that is very close to a full-hollow. I'm not sure how Brian does this, but he's obviously got very good at grinding. I was very impressed with this aspect of the razor. The only (slight) flaw here was a very slight variation in the bevel width, which probably reflects how hard it is to get these fine grinds just right. 

EDIT: The grind is hollow, but has a little belly in it too. I confirmed with Brian that all the BRW razors will have a belly grind. The overall grind makes this razor sing a bit when you strop it. 

STROPPING and HONING: One thing I've found with some custom razors (and I've had a few) is that sometimes they look great, but are not that easy to handle. What I mean is that maintaining a consistent stroke when stropping or honing is a constant struggle. This is usually because of a lack of balance between the blade and scales - either the blade is too heavy or the scales are too heavy). 

This razor gets the balance just perfect! The combination of the fine grind and the lovely scales makes this razor so well-balanced that it feels a lot lighter than it is. This also makes it a pleasure to strop. Also, the tang is just the right width and the grip offered is just about right, allowing for easy flipping of the razor on the strop. The finish on this razor also is very good - not causing any damage to the stropping surface. 

When I received the razor, it already had an excellent edge on it and it really didn't need to be honed for any reason. However, I wanted to see how the edge responded to honing, so I reset and finished the edge. 

It was just like any other well-ground razor. It was easy to reset the edge and it honed up quickly and well. 

SHAVING: This is the main point of getting a razor like this. So, how does it shave? 

The answer is that it is an excellent shaver! My thoughts on straights and shaves are that as long as they can take and hold an edge, and as long as they suit your preferences for size and grind, and are honed well, they all shave really well. This razor matched my preferences very well - I loved the grind! I loved the size! I loved the edge!..........and so it shaved like a dream!

What I found is that again the balance was so good that it was a very nimble razor around the face. Maintaining a no-pressure stroke was very easy and the shaves were all close and comfortable. 

The grip afforded by the jimps, while subtle, was just enough to make a difference, while not being spiky or uncomfortable. The scales stayed out of the way, and the feel on the face was smooth and comfortable. 

Quite honestly, this razor shaved as well as any straight has ever shaved and it was more of joy to use than some much more expensive straights. 

CONCLUSIONS: I was not sure what to expect from this razor. I was expecting a vanilla hand-made straight - like the Hart Razors. It was a bit better than that. It was better-finished, and way better balanced than the Hart razors. The biggest difference between them is the grind - I like hollow grinds, and so I preferred this razor to the Hart