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OC Open Comb Razor
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||OC Open Comb Razor
All members of this forum appreciate the luxury of shaving with a double-edged razor. And we obsess over every detail of the experience. Some of us make custom brushes, some take scanning electron micrographs of razor blades, and some of us spend far too much time watching B/S/T and the bay. Richard has chosen to leverage his interest in our world to start his own razor manufacturing company.
I was happy with my lonely Merkur HD until coming across Richard and the adjustable razor pass-around in the Contributorsí Corner. He was always the gentleman while igniting a small AD under my feet. When I saw his introductory post offering Tradere handles, I signed up immediately.
The razor head arrived in the complete travel case. The plastic case isnít very aesthetically appealing, but it provides excellent protection for shipping. Although it is only the size of a paperback book (well, maybe a Harry Potter book), it is much larger than the travel cases commonly found with vintage razors. Iíll probably use it to protect the razor in case of earthquake or tornado, and take a more pedestrian razor with me when I travel.
Every detail of this razor has been meticulously planned and executed. The handle feels substantial, maybe slightly long for my preference. The knurling is exactly as advertised - subtle, yet deep enough to afford a firm grip even with soapy wet hands. The flare at the end can be used as a rest for the pinky to provide better control of the razor. Its flat bottom can be used to stand the handle on the counter during blade changes, so the handle doesnít roll away. Itís probably better to lay the handle on a towel, but the option is there.
The finish of the handle is satin, but the flat on the bottom is as shiny as a mirror. The head is highly polished, and some have commented that they would prefer that the finish be the same for both parts. I happen to like the look of the razor. The shiny end ties the handle to the head. And the satin finish in between seems to be carefully chosen to provide a better grip.
The razor is a traditional 3-piece design, although the head is more substantial than any razor I have seen, without a hint of looking industrial. The top plate has a comfortable amount of curvature without being so chunky as to make shaving difficult in tight spots such as under the nose. The ends of the top plate are convex and ribbed, providing a sure grip when tightening or loosening the handle. Bevels at the corners facilitate close work with a maximum comfort level. The underside of the top plate is a little rougher than the rest of the razor, but the dimensions are perfect - blades fit onto the posts perfectly, with zero play. The threaded post for the handle is machined from the same block of stainless, rather than being welded on. This is surely an expensive step, especially since a lot of stainless has to be machined away, but the extra strength of the post is assuring.
The bottom plate is highly polished all around. The mating surface includes slots for the posts in the top plate, so there is no play once the razor is assembled. The comb teeth are substantial, and protected against falls on the corners by the end tabs of the plate.
When the head is assembled, the comb teeth have a generous amount of space between them and under the top plate to allow lather and clippings a path to escape. The carefully planned open areas behind the teeth make it easy to rinse the head clean during the shave.
When the razor is assembled, the handle does make some circular marks on the bottom of the bottom plate.
With just over six monthsí experience DE shaving, I subscribe to the theory that technique is more important than equipment. Surely horrible equipment can make a good shave nearly impossible, but a BBS shave is certainly achievable with nearly any vintage Gillette or quality modern razor. That being said, various design elements can enhance the experience.
For example, the open areas around the comb make rinsing soap out easy. There is one corner, where the bottom plate comes into contact with the blade, that seems to take just a little more rinsing. You can just do a good job rinsing at the end of the shave, but I find myself making sure the area is completely clean after each rinse.
The blade exposure is just where Richard said it would be, affording a medium aggressive shave. It feels like a 5-7 setting on a Fatboy. There is some magic associated with the geometry of the top plate that allows a bit of blade exposure without feeling dangerous at all.
While not particular to this razor, the open combs leave some soap on the skin after the razor passes, which means you can cheat and do a minor touch-up stroke if you like. And by not removing all of the lather with each stroke, some remains on your skin until you rinse. This extra time seems to leave me with a smoother feeling during the day.
While a modern Jagger, M‹HLE, or Merkur is a fine razor, they feel like toys after using the Tradere. The heft of the Tradere allows you to control the balance by adjusting the location of your grip on the handle.
For the WTG pass, I tend to hold the handle with my thumb and first two fingers. Sometimes my pinky rests on the end of the handle for additional control. For the ATG pass, I hold it like a pencil.
To change the blade, unscrew the handle just like any other three-piece razor. Pick up the top plate by the ends, and tap the threaded post on a towel. Sometimes the blade comes off with the bottom plate, and sometimes it stays in the top plate until you tap it. Occasionally the blade cants at a slight angle between the finger grips at the ends of the top plate, and requires a few taps to release. When that happens I am tempted to grab the blade by the ends and lift it out. But the ends of the top plate prevent access to the ends of the blade. The only exposed parts of the blade are the edges themselves. Donít grab those! This isnít exactly a complaint, because the top plate is wonderfully designed for grip during assembly and for comfort during the shave. But I am accustomed to removing blades by the ends, and it is something to be careful about with this razor.
This is a solid, well-built razor with fantastic attention to detail. The precise angle and exposure of the blade relative to the top plate, the solid comb fingers with ample space for rinsing, and the surprising amount of grip from the knurling pattern make the Tradere razor my favorite razor by far.
While the price is high relative to modern cast razors, there is no comparison when you actually hold them in your hands. The cast razors feel like toys. And compared to other modern machined razors, the Tradere is well-priced. The razor is sure to retain its value or even appreciate, so you have the option of selling it on B/S/T for close to your purchase price if you arenít completely satisfied.