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Your First Straight Razor: Vintage Or New?

Nov 7, 2007
For many men, changing to a straight razor is a big step - and it's easy to get confused by what's on offer. This article examines some of what's available in today's market.

There's a school of thought that says that. as far as craftsmanship goes, we now cannot match the skills of our forefathers. Whilst this may be true in some areas (pyramid building, for example!) it can hardly be said of such a basic technological skill such as metalworking. Or can it?

Straight razors are, in terms of production, the end product of several processes: smelting, rolling, cutting, forging, tempering and polishing/sharpening. All these are well-known techniques, yet it would seem that the final products of today's makers - according to some - cannot match those of yesteryear. Why is that?

Part of the problem is that straight razors were, by reason of lack of use, very nearly consigned to the pages of the history books due to the rise in popularity in safety razors and, latterly, cheap disposable razors. The necessary skills for straight razor manufacture, particularly in the regions of grinding and finishing, narrowly escaped being consigned to the same pages of the history books as such arcane and ancient skills as flint knapping.

Yet some companies hung on - notably Dovo of Germany and Thiers-Issard of France, yet even these firms - now recognised as premier makers in this now-growing market - are struggling to cope due to the lack of skilled craftsmen. Indeed, it takes some six years to train a razor grinder - and it's not exactly the world's best-paid job. Yet demand continues to grow and the danger is that, put under commercial pressure to supply, quality suffers.

Yet these two companies have chosen to maintain quality standards. Instead, lead times for delivery of new stock have lengthened until no Dovo is quoting eight months from order to delivery - unheard-of in these days of same-day couriers!

So - if quality razors are in short supply, what are the alternatives? If we discount cheap far-eastern razors, made from poor steel and of questionable quality generally, there is only one source - the vintage 'pool' of straight razors left over from the days when they were in universal use.

The agreeable surprise is that not only are there still plenty of these around but also that - with a little care and attention - they shave just as well now as they did when they were made. When you also consider that most of them are well over a hundred years old (some much older) this may result in a verdict for the vintage razor over the new but let us not forget that, with care, today's new razors will still be around in the 22nd. century!

So, to return to the original question: vintage or new? it's really a matter of personal choice - it's my belief that quality is just as good in new razors as in vintage ones. One important thing to remember when making your choice is one of cost and here the vintage models score well. A refurbished, shave-ready vintage razor can often be purchased for one-third to a half of the price of a decent quality new straight razor - and it will shave every bit as well.

In conclusion, there are advantages to starting your straight razor shaving regime with either vintage or new models but, in the final analysis, the most important thing is to make your purchase from a knowledgeable, professional supplier who will give you the necessary advice vital to your enjoyment of using your straight razor - be it new or vintage.
About the Author
For more information on straight razors, take a look at The Invisible Edge for information about Vintage models or visit Dovo Razors UK to see brand-new items.
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