BOTOC Darwin Pass Around - Reviews Thread
Good evening folks! Connie (username Intrigued) has graciously agreed to a small pass around of her treasured Darwin Standard, to collect some reviews of this interesting, and increasingly expensive semi-open combed razor. In addition, she has asked that I also review her Darwin Deluxe and do a bit of a comparison between the two.
I'll be kicking this off with my initial thoughts on these after a couple of shaves with each, then I'll be following up with more shaves for another couple of weeks to get a good feel for any differences or similarities between them. After I'm done, I'll be sending the Deluxe back to Connie so her poor hubby can get back to shaving with it! The Standard will be going on to:
bluebishop - Ken
kingfisher - Randall
jbradley - Johnnie
GDCarrinton - Gary
syngent - James
We'll use this thread to collect up all of the reviews. So, without further ado, let's take a look...
Standard on the left - Deluxe on the right.
When I received these last week, I was a bit in shock when I opened them. The finish, particularly on the Deluxe was just excellent. I couldn't believe something from the 30's or 40's could have plating this good. This was like new Muhle R41 level plating here. What I didn't realize (but should have... I just hadn't been paying enough attention in the BOTOC thread) was that these razors are not plated. They're basically a polished stainless steel, but more specifically a cobalt steel. Darwin LTD was a machine tool steel company (amoung other things), and they apparently fashioned these razors out of one of their cobalt steels. Cobalt steels are used in machining applications because they maintain hardness, even at high temperatures, and have some good wear charaterstics. So why make razors out of this stuff? That's a good question. There wouldn't be much reason to do so, as there are other less expensive steels formulated with a focus on corrosion resistance that would be cheaper, and easier to work with. I'm guessing here, but I suspect that these might have been giveaways for sales of their tool steels , or some other sort of promotion items. I happen to have two metalurgists in my family, both interested in these razors and their composition. With the help of a cobalt steel/alloy expert we know, we're going to see if we can figure out what sort of composition these might be, as well as some more history on the razors. In any case, as you can see, they're gorgeous :). If only Gillette had made their razors out of stainless!
Fit and Finish
As mentioned, the surface finish on these is excellent, with the Deluxe having been either more finely polished to begin with, or possible just not having seen as much wear. I'm pretty sure the standard would polish up just as well with some polishing compound, and some elbow grease.
Here's a shot of them broken down.
The standard is on the left; deluxe on the right. The standard has the more traditional bullets on the cap, that protrude through the baseplate. The deluxe is the reverse of that with studs on the baseplate, protruding up through the cap.
Both models are threaded on the handle, instead of having a threaded screw on the cap. The handles look like they've been turned from bar stock, then grinded in various way to create the details.
In terms of overall build quality, there are some inconsistencies. In fact, I'm seeing evidence that these razors had some amount of hand work vs a completely automated factory production. The heads look like they were cast with the holes, bullets and combs I think partially done by hand, with some room for error. The standard in particular is a bit sloppy.
Here's a shot of the baseplate of the standard. Note that the holes themselves are bit out of round, and they are not positioned uniformly relative to the sides of the cap. This mispositioning of the holes, makes the cap not line up with the baseplate properly. This affects the blade a little in that it's shifted a bit to one side, and two opposite corners of the blade have a little bit of extra gap underneath because of the shape of the baseplate. It's not made much difference to the shaves however, as far as I can tell.
Another build issue with the standard is that the comb teeth have some flaws. Here's a picture showing the issue:
If you look at the second and third teeth in from the left, you'll see that they're both thinner and shorter than the rest of the teeth.
BAH! I only seem to be able to attach 5 pictures per post, so I'll continue in the next post with the rest of the review.
James - 2011 R41 w/Ikon Handle, Feather, Arko (face lather), TGN Super Silvertip brush, Alum Block, Witch Hazel, Gillette Sun-Up AS
BOTOC - LOSER - SSB - ARKO - TOFLAC-U