OneBlade has hit the wet shaving world with a some excitement, and some controversy as well. A single-blade, single-edge, all stainless steel razor with a pivoting head and a luxury price tag, the OneBlade razor aspires to be nothing less than “the best razor on Earth, period.” Is OneBlade the perfect razor?
OneBlade is the brainchild of Porter Stansberry, publisher of several financial and investment newsletters. Some of Stansberry’s financial projects have been controversial but OneBlade is an unrelated personal project: in 2002 he got a shave by an experienced barber (ed. note: gee…that sounds familiar! ) in Italy and was so impressed with the results he decided to try to recreate the experience for the guy at home. But he had no intention of starting another business and rather than take his idea to the crowdfunding sites, Stansberry hired a CEO, explained the concept and his vision of the brand, and told him to put together a staff and “go do it.” So for the next several years a group of designers and engineers designed and engineered their way to the OneBlade.
I was able to meet with OneBlade’s CEO, Tod Barrett, for a discussion about the blade, the razor, and the company just before their formal product launch.
According to Tod a lot of effort (and money) was spent on finding the right blade (even though blade sales would not be a focus). Double Edge (DE) razor designs were considered initially but ultimately the DE “philosophy” was scrapped in favor of a design that re-thinks the “safety razor” concept. Tod said “lets design a razor so that it may not be the ‘everyman’s’ razor but will work well for the man looking for a ‘shaving experience’.”
They initially researched creating their own blade by investigating ceramics, amorphous metals, and carbide alloys. But the technology for a shaving blade from those materials just was not up to the task. So they started looking at existing blade technologies and soon created a strong relationship with Feather. With Feather’s help a wide variety of blade types were tested. Single-edge (vs. double edge) designs were preferred but Feather’s typical single edge blades (such as the the Feather Artist Club and the Feather Pro Guard blades) were considered too wide for OneBlade’s purpose. After a lot more investigation they settled on Feather’s single edge spineless blade: this is a blade that is compatible with the vintage Valet Auto Strop razor but is now typically used for commercial purposes. Tod said this blade (Feather bought the Intellectual Property for it years ago) offered them just the right combination of “stiffness” (it is about double the thickness of the typical DE blade) and “sharpness.”
For the razor design, OneBlade looked at modern cartridge razors, particularly those of Gillette, for inspiration. Tod says Gillette got the pivot concept right: “the pivot is forgiveness.” On the other hand, while multi-blade cartridges make nicks and cuts far less likely, they also greatly increase the chance for redness and irritation. So Oneblade and their engineering design firm (Pensa) spent a lot of effort on the razor’s pivot and the razor head’s “registration surface” (the distance between the top of the razor head’s base to the bottom of the blade edge, where the shaver can feel the correct cutting angle). Tod says they really learned to appreciate what goes into making a shaving razor. He compares it to a medical instrument, with surprisingly tight tolerances for materials, geometry of head design, pivot, etc.
A much more detailed look at the development of the razor can be found at Fast Company.
The OneBlade “Heirloom Quality” Philosophy and Presentation Experience
OneBlade’s launch has caused some controversy in the “old school” wet shaving world. Some consider the shave “too gentle.” Others take issue with the single source for blades. A few gripe that it’s manufactured in the Far East. Many balk at the $300 price point. But Tod is very up-front and specific about OneBlade’s targeted market. “Our goal is to go to that guy that uses a cartridge right now and getting poor results,” he says. And to narrow their perfect customer down even more, that guy is an older (though the “Millennial” demographic is something they consider important too), executive type who doesn’t have an issue with price but is rather looking for a luxury “shaving experience.” “Enthusiast” wet shavers who use a straight razor, DE, or single edge razor are important points of knowledge and feedback for them but in the end a somewhat limited market for the OneBlade.
That “shaving experience” begins with the presentation of the razor. It arrives wrapped almost like a gift:
Inside is a cowhide box:
Removing the box cover exposes some brief instruction inserts (more information is on the OneBlade website) and foam protectors:
Finally, the OneBlade razor with stand:
Plus the pack of blades:
Note that blade subscriptions (for several different time periods) are available but not required.
Any purchased accessories (such as the custom-made Thater shaving brush) come equally well-presented:
There are some interesting details to the presentation as well, such as their “lifetimes” guarantee, good for not only the shaver’s life but his son’s and his grandson’s. It’s that “going the extra mile” feel.
So it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into how the OneBlade brand is presented and thought of.
My Shave Experience
OK, so it’s a great-looking product with a great presentation. What is the shave like?
I have been using one of the first OneBlade production razor’s off the line for a couple months now to get a solid feel for it’s use and performance.
As background let me mention that I’ve been wet shaving with “old school” kit, mostly DE’s but with a few straight razors and single-edge safety razors thrown in for good measure, for years now. I’ve tried a lot of razors and I have developed my own preferences…one being the Merkur Progress adjustable DE. I’ve often said that the Progress is my favorite razor and will have to be pried out of my cold, dead fingers. So it takes a lot for me to be impressed with a razor.
Dayum…the OneBlade is impressive.
After the first couple of “settling in” shaves to figure out some of the subtleties of working with it (more on that in a moment), the OneBlade gives me the closest, cleanest, most consistent shaves I have ever had…Progress included. Areas that I had to “work at” a little more to get superior results with a regular razor (like directly under my chin) just aren’t a problem with the OneBlade. It’s like the best of both shaving worlds–the consistency of a modern pivot razor with the comfort and simplicity of the single blade of an “old school” razor. For me it’s a truly great shave with less effort.
Now, that is not to say you can shave mindlessly with the OneBlade like some do with their multi-blade, LED-lit, vibrating cartridge razor. That focus and zen-like mindfulness of the traditional wet shave that so many enjoy as part of the experience is still needed (or at least still useful). And using the OneBlade does take some minor adjustments in technique (no matter if you’re coming from the cartridge world or the DE/SE world):
- The angle you hold the razor at is a little different than either a cartridge razor or a DE. It may take a shave or two to get the grip right. But I find the weight and balance of the razor good.
- There’s a tendency to want to feel the pivot work by pressing down on the razor. Don’t do that, just use very light pressure on the razor (like a DE) and “ignore” the pivot. It works but in the background so you don’t really notice it.
- Short shaving strokes work better for me than long sweeping strokes.
- A fresh blade for every shave is recommended by OneBlade and that did work best for me, but I found I can get up to 3-4 shaves per blade if necessary.
- A multi-pass shave with traditional kit (brush, lathering cream/soap) is still necessary for optimum results.
So…is the OneBlade the perfect razor? Well, no. The price will be a barrier to many, blade availability and choice is a concern, and there will always be some who just won’t be able to get a superior shave with it (like every other individual razor).
But it sure comes close for me! The OneBlade has replaced my Progress as my “dead fingers” razor.
Sharpologist co-founder Andy Tarnoff sent me a two word email about it: “Worth $300?” My two word answer: “Actually…yes.”
[Full disclosure: I was given a OneBlade razor to evaluate and give the company my feedback on several months ago. My opinions are my own however. If I knew then what I know now about the razor, I would have bought one anyway.]
[UPDATED January, 2017: Oneblade is offering a special deal to Sharpologist readers. CLICK/TAP HERE for more info.]
I realize my opinion is just one view so I have solicited comments from other OneBlade users.
[Editor’s note: Victor is a freelance writer and I asked him for his comments on the OneBlade razor he used.]
What the product is.
OneBlade is a razor, but it’s an iteration unlike razors we’ve seen before. It has a lot in common with its predecessors, but this combination of materials, blade choice, and design haven’t come together in this way before.
First, it’s made of stainless steel. Many Double Edge single blade razors are. This isn’t unique, but it’s a mark of quality decision making.
It has an articulated spring-loaded head. Many inexpensive cartridge razors have had this, going back to the Gillette Atra of the 1970s.
It uses a Feather brand Valet Auto-Strop-style blade. This blade shape dates back to the 1920s when razor manufacturers limited competition by patenting blade mounting methods and preventing competitors from making compatible blades. Back then, the razor used the letter shapes in VALET to mount the blade. Here, the OneBlade uses the two semi-circle cuts in the side edges of the blade to align the blade in the razor head. It will make a small positive “click” when you insert the blade, and removing the blade is a matter of lifting up on the back edge and pulling it out. The company advises if it’s hard to insert to put a small amount of soap on the blade before inserting it.
The handle is non-replaceable, and it’s unique, being mostly hollow and exceedingly smooth. Some prospective customers might be concerned this would mean reduced grip while shaving, but it turns out that’s not a problem with OneBlade.
When you buy a OneBlade razor, it comes in a hand-stitched leather box, with a stainless steel stand that fits the handle precisely. You also get a number of blades, depending on how you choose to purchase it, with a number of blades, or on a blade subscription.
The whole product is well-made, well-packaged, and is a nice experience opening the package and handling the razor. It weighs nicely in the hand, neither heavy or light. It’s weight is 88 grams with blade.
OneBlade posted a “How to Shave” section on their site, where they detail the steps of pre-shave, lather, and a 2-pass with and across the grain shave, followed by an aftershave balm.
Here again, it’s easy to see their dedication to quality with a complete disregard for cost. They offer a brush (not reviewed) made by Thater, badger silvertip in olivewood handle, for $399.95. Thater makes well-regarded brushes, and has been producing them since 1913 under the same family ownership. $399 is a bit steep for most Thater, but there’s no disputing it’s a good brush.
What the company thought they were setting out to do differently, or better
OneBlade set out to make a premium shaving experience. They felt that there wasn’t a set you could buy with every decision sorted out for the consumer ahead of time and every detail given fastidious attention. We know that many cartridge users leave cartridges for a Dual Edge Safety Razor (DE) or Straight Razor (SR). There used to be a larger number of Single Edge and single blade Injector razors, by manufacturers like GEM, or Schick. Those have mostly been forgotten by the shaving revival of the past few years. We can name the newcomers in one breath: Mongoose, Cobra, and Supply Provision’s Single Edge injector.
OneBlade doesn’t hide the fact that they spent 4 years designing, trying to find the perfect angle and exposure for blade mounting that would work across hair and skin types. For the DE world, people regularly have to experiment with blades, angle and (lack of) pressure. “What if a razor solved for all that?” was the question OneBlade set out to answer.
Who is their perfect customer, who is it for?
OneBlade is inevitably attracting some customers from the DE world who aren’t put off by the price of entry, but this isn’t who they had in mind when they started.
I think the OneBlade is really intended for high-end users coming from cartridge shaving.
What problem are they solving for that customer?
A new user coming from cartridge shaving will get the benefit of the pivoting head that overcomes a user’s mis-application of pressure, or holding it at the wrong angle, they’ll get the benefit of the single blade made by Feather, and they get the advantage of OneBlade’s guidance on how to properly prepare for shaving. Instead of canned foam or gel on a cold face, and shaving against the grain or without regard to grain growth patterns at all, OneBlade gives decent advice on preparation. As a new user, figuring out angle, pressure, blade samplers, and prep are the problems people face. OneBlade has made all of this simple.
What have they done right?
OneBlade did a few, critical things right. They put the work into making the blade easy to change, and easy to use with the right angle of blade-against-face. By doing this, they’ve reduced the possibility of nicking to a minimum.
They’ve packaged it all up in a premium set, so you know you got your money’s worth when you open it up. It’s got good instructions for each step, and feels like every part of the experience was given serious thought to answer, “how can this be *better*?”
It feels good in the hand, whether holding it at the end of the handle, or choking up on the handle closer to the head.
What were my overall experiences using it, and the conditions under which I used it?
I used the OneBlade on its own, and in comparison with several other razors. The other razors were:
- King of Shaves Azor 5
- 1938-1941 Gillette Tech
- Schick Injector M23 (Stick Schick)
- 1954 Flair Tip SuperSpeed
- Wolfman DC
- RazoRock Baby Smooth
- Standard Razor
When doing a comparison, I usually performed a 3 pass shave with both razors, using my comparison razor on the left side of my face, and the OneBlade on my right.
When I compared the cartridge based King of Shaves Azor 5, I used did the 3 pass one day, but another day used a 1 pass for the King of Shaves and a 2 pass for the OneBlade. I did this because the King of Shaves website specifically advises a 1 pass with the grain shave, (http://www.shave.com/know-how/) advising strongly against an against the grain pass. OneBlade advocates a 2 pass shave, with and across the grain. (see https://www.onebladeshave.com/how-to-shave/)
This morning’s 2 pass as recommended had my wife skeptical: “It feels rough!” When using a common 3 pass (with, across, against,) the shave was much smoother, although still not as perfect for as long as with some DE. The thing to remember here is that most cartridge shavers rarely do a 3 pass shave, and rarely remove all stubble to feel perfectly smooth. Knowing that, the OneBlade provides the better result.
I did not perceive the sprung atriculated head actually moving. When using most cartridge systems, I find that it takes too much pressure to actuate most of them anyway (exception: King of Shaves Azor.) What I did receive is a very nice first shave with an exquisitely machined piece of equipment. The materials and precision here are lovely to just look at. I’m afraid to use the base and razor together without the packing foam over the base, for fear of scratching it, it’s so well-made.
An interesting question is, do buyers of One Blade come from the DE world? From the Cartridge world? What is the consumer progression One Blade predicts? As a first shave from the DE standpoint, the Wolfman DC was easier and delivered better results all over, but that comes from the bias of having some DE technique built up prior to acquiring the Wolfman. It’s not a fair fight, but if that’s the purchasing path consumers take to One Blade then it’s not a fair fight anyway.
This is a 300 dollar shave system. Would I be impressed with the results for 300 dollars? Would I be impressed with them coming from a cartridge system? It’s worlds above the Fusion ProGlide, but is it 300-dollars-good? It’s a beauty to behold, for sure. 300… man. For people who don’t have an issue spending the money, it’s still important to deliver results 10x better than what you used before. So let’s do a little math.
There are 52 weeks in a year. I was changing cartridges once a week. At $24 (rounding up for shipping or price fluctuation) for a set of 4 cartridges, that’s 6 USD a cartridge, or $312 a year, not including the cost of the razor handle itself. The OneBlade is $299 for the razor, with options for blades, either a $27.99 30 pack subscription that comes with an additional 60 free blades, and is not monthly – you can set the delivery to 30/45/60/90 days, or a 74.95 set of 60 blades, or a 99.95 dollar set of 90 blades.
Let’s say that you do the smart thing and choose the subscription, which gets you 90 blades for your 27.99 and set your delivery time for your next delivery to 90 days out. You’re in for about 330 dollars so far, with a much nicer razor handle, an as-good-or-better shaving experience, and you aren’t beholden to constrained supply when the cartridge system becomes a market failure. (Hello, Schick Tracer! Azor 5!) Also, one of my two Azor 5 handles completely fell apart. The OneBlade will never suffer that fate. It’s too well-made for that indignity. The difficulty you face is whether you’d like to pay for pedestrian shaves over time, or pay nominally the same amount of money up front for the first-class experience?
Now, there are ways to get a first-class shave using a dual edge safety razor. But you may have to deal with issues like blade alignment. The OneBlade will never have that issue.
What are the downsides?
Initial expense is clearly a downside. There are premium DE Safety Razors available for 120-200, on a spectrum from iKon, Above the Tie, to Wolfman and the LASSco BBS-1. OneBlade comes in at 300.
Another thing to consider is, for the cartridge shaver coming to OneBlade, what are they meant to do with all these blades, used for one or two shaves? OneBlade should have considered a metal blade bank, so that the blades could be disposed of safely by recycling, where recycling centers permit it.
Every part of the experience, from soap, brush, to blade disposal should have been addressed. OneBlade sells two brushes, neither in a budget price range, and offers no instructions on what to do with blades. The tucks that the Feathers come in are cardboard, not the plastic variety that their Hi-Stainless DE blades are packaged in, so there’s really no clear path or advice for the new user. This seems like an oversight.
Summing things up, I’m glad for the time I’ve had to spend with OneBlade. It’s eminently well-made, and manages to merge the best of a disparate set of worlds: the single blade of the DE or injector, ease of blade change that outpaces either of those other systems, a pivoting head, and quality in everything supplied. It really has learned the lessons from all of shaving’s generations, where DE and injector fans largely are content to act as if history and innovation stopped sometime around 1972. Will it cause those fans to replace their favorite rotation? No. But as a luxury path for the cartridge user, and a new choice for the DE shaver, it’s a wonderful option.
[Editor’s Note: Tiffanyanne is a female traditional wet shaver and blogger. She recently got a chance to try the OneBlade. Her comments are HERE.]
[Editor’s Note: Bob contacted me after he learned I was evaluating the OneBlade and ended up buying one himself. I asked him to share his experiences with the razor. His comments were in emails that spanned several days and are consolidated here.]
The OneBlade arrived this afternoon (after 12 days of not-so-patient waiting). I had expected it yesterday, so when I shaved this afternoon, I had a 2.5 day growth.
Perceived value: The razor’s design is graceful and it looks and feels expensive and well-engineered. Great materials and packaging, too. I really like the weight of the base and that solid “click” when inserting a blade.
Efficiency: I did three full passes plus a quick touch-up pass. My problem areas are my chin (BTW, thanks for the video!) and the area of my neck just below it. It did an excellent job in both areas.
Comfort: The blade tugged a bit, but that I think that was because I hadn’t shaved for a few days. I expected to feel a serious sting from my alum block, but the sting was minimal. My beard is coarse, but not heavy and it doesn’t grow terribly fast, so the real test will be how efficient and comfortable it is when shaving a one-day growth.
Ergonomics: It’s very well-balanced and easy to grip, even with my large hand. The weight is just right; heavy enough to feel substantial, but light enough to be easily maneuverable.
Pivot: One big reason I bought this razor was that I hoped that the pivot would help to maintain constant contact in my problem areas. Based on the results, it seems to have done so, even though I wasn’t actually aware of the head pivoting.
Summary: I would never spend this much money on a razor that wouldn’t be my “daily driver” – it’s just too pricey for occasional use. For the last 10 months, my Mongoose has filled that role quite well, but it never shaved my chin and neck very well and I think that the extra-wide blade is the reason. Despite this shortcoming, I love the Mongoose but if the OneBlade performs this well on a daily basis, I may have to find a new home for the Mongoose.
So I am very impressed with just about every aspect of the razor and can’t wait to use it again. It’ll be interesting to see how my opinion changes after a few more shaves.
I was very aware of (and pleased with) the OneBlade’s very loud feedback. I suspect that it’s due to the handle being a flat piece of steel rather than a solid steel rod.
Follow-Up Shaves: I decided to see whether a bit of additional pressure would further engage the pivot (couldn’t tell), improve my shave, and/or whether it would irritate my skin. I had a tiny bit more irritation (barely worth mentioning), no tugging (which I had with my 1st shave) and no obvious improvement in the quality of the shave. I’ll go back to a lighter touch.
There doesn’t seem to be as much of a learning curve with this razor as I experienced with the Mongoose, but who knows? Maybe it’s too soon to tell and the shave will get a lot better with time.
Just an observation… I compared the pivot action on the OneBlade to my Gillette Fusion and my Feather MR3, both of which are gathering dust in my medicine cabinet. The action is almost identical to the Feather’s, but the Fusion pivots much more freely.
Now here’s the only downside to the OneBlade (for me). I am most comfortable using big razors and big brushes, so I wish the OneBlade felt a bit more substantial in my hand, but it’s not a huge issue. For now, I am very glad I bought it. If any razor is worth $300, this is the one.