A “new old stock” (NOS) razor has been making a splash lately, the Bakelite Slant. Manufacturered in Germany decades ago, it’s currently offered in very limited supply by The Italian Barber (the best way to check for inventory may be to follow @razorockjoe on twitter), the NOS Bakelite Slant has been generating a lot of interest in parts of the old school wet shaving community so I decided to get one to try for myself.
The Slant Razor Design
For those of you unfamiliar with a slant-style double-edge razor, it has an intentionally odd head geometry, “torquing” a blade so it cuts hair at an angle rather than straight on. Think of it like a guillotine or a snow plow. Here’s a video I made a while back that touches on how it works:
The only slant design razor extant has been the Merkur Slant (models 37C and 39C), so I think it’s natural to compare them. The Merkur is an all-metal razor vs. the Bakelite’s, well, plastic material. Here are the Bakelite and the Metal versions side-by-side:
The Bakelite is a three-piece razor, while the Merkur has two pieces. As you can see the Merkur head is considerably smaller but it looks like the Bakelite razor torques the blade a bit more (though I don’t have any way of measuring it to confirm). The weight difference is dramatic: 0.5 oz. for the Bakelite vs. 2.6 oz for the Merkur 37C.
So…How Does It Shave?
Shaving with the metalic Merkur Slant has–for me–been surprisingly pedestrian: pretty much like shaving with any other heavy duty DE razor, such as the Merkur HD. That is, until it’s loaded with a high-performance blade like a Feather or an Iridium/Polsilver. Then it becomes incredibly efficient, mowing down anything in it’s path. On the other hand, I must be extremely careful of technique: A Merkur Slant/Feather combo requires close attention lest there be blood drawn.
I’ve also used lightweight, plastic razors before (including the Merkur Bakelite) and always found them OK but inferior to heavier, better balanced razors.
So I wasn’t about to try the Bakelite with a Feather on the first try. Instead I loaded my favorite “middle of the road” blade, an Israeli-made Personna (AKA Crystal). The Crystal works well for me and I find it “forgiving” but still “sharp enough” (“your mileage may vary” of course). Those previous experiences, combined with the middle-of-the-road blade, tempered my expectations considerably. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much out of the shave.
(By the way, the balance of my “shave of the day” included the WSP Monarch brush, RazoRock “Don Marco” soft shaving soap, and Ursa Major toner and aftershave balm. More on those products later….)
And the first few strokes on my cheek seemed to confirm that expectation. However, as I started to work at it and subtly adjust the razor angle and pressure I suddenly found a sweet-spot. The clouds parted, the rays of the sun shown down, and I may have even heard a Heavenly Chorus in the distance (though it could have been choir practice at the church the next block over). The Bakelite’s larger head presented a bit of a challenge under my nose but with some judicious schnoz-manipulation I was able to get by. My cynical expectations were smashed and I was rewarded with an excellent shave!
Subsequent shaves were equally good–close, comfortable, and smooth.
Perhaps it’s the (possibly) greater torquing but I find a high-performance blade wholly unnecessary in this razor. I don’t think this would be a good razor for a beginner, others just aren’t going to care for the very light weight and plastic look, and some may be put off trying it by the steadily rising price (supply vs. demand at work). But an experienced shaver should be able to eventually “dial in” the right angle and pressure to use it effectively and get a terrific shave.