03-25-2012, 01:50 PM
#1
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Note: This product review was first published 24 July 2011.

I have a variety of razors. I appreciate each one and how they provide subtle and some not so subtle differences when they shave. I have a ready arsenal of razors at the command at a moments notice.

If you ask me what my go to razor is, the one I go to in the clutch, that one razor is my Gillette Slim (or one of many that I have). It seems to be able to do every well in terms of countering the differences in blades by adjustment, ease of handling, and durability. It can maneuver well due to the "Slim" head. Especially around the ears since I head shave. It is easy to keep clean and has a classy chassis with looks straight out of the Mad Men sixties time period. I like my All American Slim, I like it a lot! It is my absolute favorite!

Now from the east, from the steppes of the Ukraine, a contender has arisen attempting to usurp the throne that the All American Slim rests upon.

The former Soviet Union attempted to produce an article to counter American devices throughout the time period we call the "Cold War." Although the Soviet Union could not match the absolute volume of U.S. production, it made a few items as good as or in some cases better than American items (those items tended to be military in nature and more rugged due to the harsh climate). Most consumer items resembling American items were inferior due to lack or resources and incentive due to the communist system. Demand was controlled by the central government which tends to stifle creativity and incentive to innovate. The consumers were told what they were allowed to have by the government. Many times the items were not available to purchase by anyone.

During the "Cold War," the Soviets produced razors to service a population roughly larger than the U.S at the time. The Russian Federation is now one of the major sources of blades for "wet shavers" world wide. During the end of the 1980s the Soviet factories were cranking out lookalikes of the Gillette Tech, Schick Krona, and most importantly a lookalike for my beloved Slim. I call it the Russian Bear.

Obtaining one of these was a little difficult since every time one came up a winner would bid to exceed the price that I bid at the last moment. A brand new Russian adjustable seemed out of reach until recently. I was fortunate to obtain one of these little gems for $45 including shipping, straight from the Ukraine. I wondered what I had purchased since I have seen many photos of these "new" Russian razors, which contained so many visible flaws such as bent bars, and mechanisms that seemed to be one step away from permanent lock up.

I have been performing a shaving test with my Slim for a few months so I would have a very good frame of reference as to the differences right away between the Bear and the Slim. Now I waited for the shipment which took a couple of weeks. My waiting was not in vain. A couple of days ago a package arrived with Ukrainian postage. It was the Bear. It arrived at last.

Upon opening I found a plastic razor container. I was neat and efficient. Inside was the Bear and a pack of 5 Sputnik blades. For my test, however, I had a blade that I was extremely familiar with in my Slim. That blade is the Astra Keramik. This discontinued blade was one of the very best ever produced by the Russian factories, sharp, smooth and long lasting. This is fitting blade to christen a new Russian razor. I have also included photos including comparisons to the Gillette Slim and the Gillette Super Adjustable for perspective.

The first thing about the Bear is that it does not have any paint on the adjustment markers. They are from 1 -9 starting from least aggressive to most aggressive blade gap. The markers are also inscribed and are very difficult to see compared to the Gillette Slim which are thick and painted.

Listed below are the measurements for comparison between the three.

Gillette Slim

Length 3.56 in or 90.3 mm
Width 0.44 in or 11.1 mm
Head Width 1.66 in or 42.3mm
Head Depth 0.40 in or 10.6 mm

Russian Bear

Length 3.84 in or 97.7 mm
Width 0.43 in or 11.0 mm
Head Width 1.69 in or 43.0 mm
Head Depth 0.40 in or 10.2 mm

Gillette Super Adjustable

Length 4.33 in or 110.0 mm
Width 0.44 in or 11.2 mm
Head Width 1.67 in or 42.4 mm
Head Depth 0.43 in or 10.8 mm


Blade Gap Measurements - These were all the measurements I could obtain between the razors.

The left most number is the gap in Thousandths of an inch, the next number is Millimeters and the last item is the Razor and Setting.

22 - 0.56 - Gillette Adjustable @ 1
24 - 0.61 - Gillette Adjustable @ 2
24 - 0.61 - Russian Adjustable @ 1
26 - 0.66 - Gillette Adjustable @ 3
28 - 0.71 - Russian Adjustable @ 2
30 - 0.76 - Gillette Adjustable @ 4
32 - 0.81 - Gillette Adjustable @ 5
35 - 0.89 - Gillette Adjustable @ 6
35 - 0.89 - Russian Adjustable @ 3
38 - 0.97 - Gillette Adjustable @ 7
40 - 1.02 - Russian Adjustable @ 5
41 - 1.04 - Gillette Adjustable @ 8
45 - 1.14 - Gillette Adjustable @ 9
51 - 1.30 - Russian Adjustable @ 9

Sense a pattern between the Gillette adjustable razors and the Russian Bear?

The instructions seem to state that this razor was made in October 1988 which if it is true then this razor is 23 years old MIB. The finish is very nice and shiny. In fact it is one of the shiniest razors that I have as far a light reflection. In comparison, the Slim that I normally use was made in 1966 which makes it 45 years old. It is still nice and shiny even though it has been used daily during the past two months.

Now we go to the shaving test. Normally if I use my Gillette Slim with a new Astra Keramik set at 3, I can obtain a two pass south to north direction only BBS with no irritation. When I loaded the Russian Bear, I put it on setting number one realizing that it would be more aggressive. The measurements did not lie. The Bear provided a two pass south to north direction only BBS with only a little irritation (one small weeper). This razor is slightly heavier than the Slim, but handled almost exactly like the All American Slim that served as its reverse engineered manufacturing pattern.

The differences between the two are, the Slim can get a lower gap setting to allow for even more aggressive set of blades to be used. This is a major advantage for the Slim. The second issue is internal fit and finish which cannot be seen, but can be felt and heard. When I twist open my Slims (which are over 40 years old) they open smoothly and without resistance or noise. This means that the internal tolerances are good and that the razors are not suffering from major levels of friction and fatigue. When I twist open the Bear, there was a little bit of stiffness even when opening and closing many times. Even with an application of PTFE (Teflon) based lubricant inside the razor, only a slight difference was felt. This follows the Soviet manufacturing philosophy of make it good enough to work and last, but do not work on making it too close to perfection, since that costs unnecessary time and resources in the view of the government controlled manufacturing requirements. I will have to monitor the mechanism over time to see if it holds up.

Now to the verdict.
The Bear may rise, but cannot overtake the All American Slim. The Gillette is just too well built even with twice the age and considerable use versus a new MIB Bear. I am not saying that the Bear is not a good razor. By many standards it can hold its own with the best of razors in the under $50 price range, new or used. The over aggressiveness at the lowest settings and potential mechanism wear is a draw back that holds it back in my view from being a Class 1 go to in the clutch razor. All in all it is a very good razor that I will enjoy using in the future.

[Image: 7015449301_9ee34469c8_b.jpg]

[Image: 6869339712_1f222d9021_b.jpg]


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 03-25-2012, 02:15 PM
#2
  • freddy
  • Senior Member
  • San Diego, California, U.S.A.
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Thanks for a great review on this interesting razor. I think I'll stick with my Super Adjustable and Slim, though. Wink

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 03-25-2012, 03:30 PM
#3
  • PDB
  • Junior Member
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Thanks for the very informative write up. I had not heard about these before. Now I wonder what other razors they made, and if there are any to be had in Poland. I have a friend at work that is from Poland and will be going there this summer. I have wondered if there are any great buys there, she could probably bring me back an item or two.

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 03-26-2012, 05:35 PM
#4
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(03-25-2012, 03:30 PM)PDB Wrote: Thanks for the very informative write up. I had not heard about these before. Now I wonder what other razors they made, and if there are any to be had in Poland. I have a friend at work that is from Poland and will be going there this summer. I have wondered if there are any great buys there, she could probably bring me back an item or two.

Most of these items would be in the used market in Poland if there are any available that are in good shape. This individual initially had a stockpile from a warehouse, but he has turned to selling used ones now.

Good luck in your search.

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 03-26-2012, 06:48 PM
#5
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Thanks for the review.

I'll stick to my Slim also.

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 03-26-2012, 06:53 PM
#6
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(03-26-2012, 06:48 PM)ShadowsDad Wrote: Thanks for the review.

I'll stick to my Slim also.

The Slim is still my #1 go to razor and was not knocked off its throne.

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 03-27-2012, 08:44 AM
#7
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Great review and pictures!

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 04-17-2012, 06:15 PM
#8
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Thanks to everyone who read this article and those who took the time to post.

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 04-17-2012, 06:58 PM
#9
  • TexBilly
  • Moderator Emeritus
  • Austin, TX
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GD, I had the chance to purchase one of these razors a few years ago but passed. Regret that at least for not owning a "novelty" version of one of the iconic Gillettes. Thanks for sharing your usual thorough analysis.

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 04-27-2012, 11:49 AM
#10
  • 1.41
  • Junior Member
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Great post! This is the first time I've seen anything on Russian razors and I've been lurking here for a while as well as other shave sites. THanks.

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 07-05-2012, 05:54 PM
#11
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Interesting post, now I have something to add to my WTB list.

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 07-05-2012, 07:55 PM
#12
  • syngent
  • Senior Member
  • Oshawa, Canada
User Info
even if i didnt like the razor i would ba happy with the case for my slim, and the instructions to frame and mount in my bathroom, would make a great conversation starter for sure,

and its tough to go wrong fulfilling a want and desried item for 45 dollars, even if it only lasts a couple of years

although i hope you get many more out of it, thanks for sharing this one GD, was a great read

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 07-05-2012, 08:13 PM
#13
  • Tonality
  • Attempted Soap Sabbatical
  • Boston
User Info
Very intriguing! I've noticed many of these vintage Russian razors on ebay lately. The one that intrigues me most is this variation purly because it's black and red and has a different door dial placement.

[Image: IBsCd.jpg]

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 07-06-2012, 06:43 AM
#14
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(07-05-2012, 08:13 PM)Tonality Wrote: Very intriguing! I've noticed many of these vintage Russian razors on ebay lately. The one that intrigues me most is this variation purely because it's black and red and has a different door dial placement.

[Image: IBsCd.jpg]

That razor is a copy of one of the later Schick Krona models.
I believe that Schick had grey body and black dial or the reverse scheme only.

[Image: 7514732658_57df586b72_b.jpg]

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 07-08-2012, 09:05 AM
#15
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Great and detailed review Gary. The Slim is my only TTO left, as it does everything I want or need from a TTO.

I love to read these reviews as you provide the data and information in more scientific, unbiased approach.

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 07-08-2012, 12:47 PM
#16
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(07-08-2012, 09:05 AM)Azarius Wrote: Great and detailed review Gary. The Slim is my only TTO left, as it does everything I want or need from a TTO.

I love to read these reviews as you provide the data and information in more scientific, unbiased approach.

Thanks Arley, I do what I can to try to stick to the facts.

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 07-10-2012, 04:47 AM
#17
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I'm not really an adjustable user.

Was there a great Russian Open Comb?

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 07-10-2012, 06:05 AM
#18
  • ben74
  • Administrator
  • Perth, Australia
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Interesting review, thanks for the info!

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